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the stars are floating and we are flying

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Shouto floats, sometimes.

Not in the physical sense, he doesn't mean it like that. He doesn't have a Quirk that allows him to fly or affect gravity like Uraraka's does, as much as he sometimes wishes he did.

He's aware of his body weighing him down and keeping him tethered to the earth, feet and legs sometimes so distressingly heavily that Shouto finds it difficult to get out of bed. 

(“Get up.” his father looms over him, a familiar scowl on his face. “If you stay down like this then your opponent won't hesitate to kill you.”

Shouto presses his cheek to the floor, chest heaving and muscles spasming, and thinks, would it be such a bad thing to be ki-)

Mentally, emotionally, he'll float.

Sometimes Shouto is acutely aware of when his mind separates itself from his body. His ears will ring, and he'll forget about the sentence he's stringing together, mind growing fuzzy and thick. (He must always say the right thing in the end as nobody ever calls him out on it otherwise.) 

Sometimes he'll find himself tuning in mid conversation to see his classmates’ lips moving but he's not able to comprehend what they're saying, the words jumbled and foreign to his ears.

When the world starts to blur and fade, that’s when he knows he's going to float.

The worst times are the ones where Shouto will blink in his dorm room and then two, three blinks later he'll find that he's sitting in class or standing outside the hospital his mother's in, snapping back to himself with gaps of time missing from his mind. He never has any recollection of how he gets there, let alone what day or time it is. It'll startle him, scare him maybe, but he's learnt to keep his face blank over the years, masking most of his emotions, and is quiet enough in general that nobody ever picks up on his silences as anything abnormal.

Well that's what he had thought at least.

He thought that people wouldn't pick up on his distant gazes or long pauses, would brush them off as aloofness or arrogance.

He thought that because he was quiet anyway (reserved, his sisters voice whispers. You don't always have to be so reserved around me, Shouto.) his days of silence would be brushed aside, most likely be considered as rudeness, but he didn't mind that. 

He thought that maybe people wouldn't notice because Shouto doesn't try to engage, doesn't let himself get drawn in to their class activities, stays quiet and true to himself, and yet-

“Are you okay?” Kirishima’s face is closer than Shouto remembers, eyebrows furrowed and lips downturned in the corners.

He looks concerned, his brain supplies. Weird.

Shouto blinks again, mind fuzzy, and then Ashido is leaning against the desk next to him with a concerned frown of her own, sharing a look with Kirishima when Shouto keeps quiet for what must be too long.

He blinks again, trying to force the murkiness back, murmuring a small “I'm fine.” that does nothing to appease his classmates if their next shared look is anything to go by.

Shouto takes in his surroundings and notes that all of 1-A are in their classroom, most sitting at their desks whilst others, like Jirou and Kaminari, are milling about so that they can chat to their friends. He isn't sure how he got here, the last thing in his mind being his reflection in the mirror, face pale and toothbrush being held in his shaking hand. He can't have lost more than an hour though as Aizawa hasn't arrived for class yet.

“You sure?” Kirishima presses. Todoroki blinks again, confused as to why Kirishima's eyes are shining worriedly, but the other boy continues before Shouto can repeat that he's fine. “It's just that you weren't at dinner last night. Or breakfast this morning. And uh, you're looking pretty...” he trails off with a grimace, hand gesturing in Shouto’s direction.

“You just pointed to all of me.” Shouto says blankly. He wonders just how bad he must look for Kirishima to point it out, wonders what is so off about him that his classmates have decided to voice their concerns to his face.

“You're shaking.” Yaoyorozu’s quiet voice points out from his left.

Is he?

Shouto looks down to where his hands are sitting on his desk and figures that shaking is one word for it. His fingers keep jerking and twitching whilst trembles run up his arms and down his body. Now it's been pointed out to him, the fog fading from his mind even more, he notices that even his legs are trembling under his desk.

That's odd, Shouto thinks. He tries to throw his mind back to try and recall why he'd be shaking but he comes up blank.

“Do you need to go to the nurse?” Ashido asks him, voice hushed. Kirishima had also been quiet when he’d spoken, and he notes absently that they've formed a small half circle around him, effectively blocking him from everyone else's view.

(His eldest brother is stood to one side of him, eyes staring down at Shouto with a mix of awe and worry, whilst his sister is sat down on her knees in front of him, hands gentle as they hold his own shaking ones.

“It's okay.” she says quietly. “It's going to be okay.”

Shouto’s huddled in a corner, tears running down his cheeks, whilst his siblings surround him in a protective circle. A door downstairs bangs open and they press in closer, faces grim and determined, as all of their postures grow stiffer. His brother twists to face the door and takes a wider stance, one hand reaching out to touch Fuyumi's hair whilst the other curls into a fist at his side. He looks as if he's going to try and physically protect Shouto from their parents with his body alone and it makes Shouto cry harder.

“W-what's going to h-happen?” Shouto hiccups.

Around them, the room is ruined. There's ice covering the floor, creeping up the walls in frosty tendrils, whilst the chair he was sitting in earlier is scorched. The smell of smoke hangs heavy in the air and Shouto knows there's no way his parents won't notice (that his father won't notice) the changes in the room, the change in Shouto.

“It's okay.” his sister repeats, eyes wet but hands steady where they hold his own burning one's. “You'll be okay.”

“He's g’na know I've got my Quirk.” Shouto sniffs. “What will happen?”

“I don't know.” His older sister sounds scared and it makes him sob. “I'm sorry, Shouto.”

They hear their fathers’ heavy footsteps climb the stairs and his sister squeezes his hands as they draw closer, her eyes holding his gaze as the door slams open.)

They're trying to be nice. Shouto thinks. They're trying to stop the others from noticing.

His skin feels sticky and he realises that he probably hasn't showered in a few days, let alone eat, which would explain the trembling.

It's been a long few days of being half aware, small flashes of time missing between longer periods of feeling fuzzy and absent. He'd received a text from his father earlier in the week and it was nothing discriminating, nothing harsh, just a simple i hope you remember your training Shouto. you can be better than all of them. If anything, it had been kind, or as kind as it gets when his fathers involved. It had still been enough to set him off though, enough to cause days of fluctuating in and out of being here and being nowhere at all.

“Todoroki?” Yaoyorozu’s hand touches his shoulder and he tenses (he doesn't flinch) and she stills, hand hovering above him.

“Hey.” Ashido’s frown deepens in what must be concern, or maybe some other emotion Shouto doesn't know about, eyes sad, but he can't help but read her posture and think she's angry.

“Sorry.” he says automatically, mind taking in the tense postures and furrowed eyebrows surrounding him and supplying the words that have always had the chance of diffusing the situation. The others seem to loom over him and he knows seeing it as looming is stupid, is ridiculous even, because only Kirishima and Ashido are standing and if Todoroki could bring himself to stand up he'd easily be on their level, if not taller. “I'm fine.”

“You don't look fine.” Kirishima says bluntly.

“Don't worry about it then.” Shouto returns, probably a bit too harshly. “Leave it alone.”

“Todoroki-kun.” Yaoyorozu’s sounds more worried now which is the opposite of the reaction Shouto was going for. “If you're sick then I'm sure Aizawa-sensei will let you skip class and rest if you need to.”

“You should all be in your seats already.” Aizawa’s voice rings out, bursting the small bubble they'd been in. Kirishima and Ashido hesitate, sharing another look and glancing towards Shouto and then, when his appearance doesn't soothe their worries, towards Yaoyorozu. He sees her nod out of the corner of his vision and, after Aizawa slaps his hands on his desk, the other two slink off towards their seats.

Shouto pulls his still shaking hands from his desk and rests them on his legs, not wanting anyone else to notice his trembling, breathing in deeply through his nose and trying to ground himself. It's hard to do when his brain is still half submerged in fog and the sounds of the class talking is creating white noise in his ears. The room starts to blur around him and he squeezes his nails into his shaking thighs, trying to focus on where Aizawa is saying something at the front of the class.

He can feel Yaoyorozu’s eyes on him as he watches Aizawa’s lips move, words not registering in his mind, but he blinks once, and the room starts to fade. Another blink and the room is half empty.

“Todoroki?” Yaoyorozu’s gentle voice rings in his ears, swimming around the mess of his brain. “Hey, you with me?”

Her face is in front of him then as she crouches by his desk, dark eyes soft and worried as she slowly reaches her hand out to lightly touch his arm. He doesn't tense up when her fingers touch him this time, brain registering her posture and tone as calm and safe.

“Shouto?” she says in a softer voice.

(“Shouto?” he hears his sister call. It makes his footsteps falter as he twists around to try and find Fuyumi, eyes desperate and heart beating faster after almost a month without seeing her. His new training routine is so rigorous and draining that he’s done nothing but sleep in his spare time, unable to find the time or energy to sneak into the part of the house were his siblings reside.

Fuyumi is standing in the courtyard, eyes wide and mouth open in shock. She's taller than Shouto remembers her, hair longer and skin paler. She's still familiar though, familiar and safe, and Shouto feels his eyes tear up at the sight of her.

“No.” his father snarls, grip tightening around Shouto’s wrist as he yanks him forward. “That's not your life anymore Shouto. Remember that.”)

He blinks as she squeezes his arm, face familiar and not so familiar at all. “It's time for lunch.” she explains, using her grip on his arm to help pull him up.

Shouto nods, disorientated at the loss of time and blurring faces but not wanting to let that show, dreading the thought of alerting someone to the fact that he's been floating all morning. He'd rather let Yaoyorozu think he's sick then let on to anything else.

“Alright?” she asks, bending down to pick both of their bags up and sling them over her shoulder. “You seemed pretty out of it all morning.”

“Tired.” Shouto supplies. Yaoyorozu hums in reply, taking his hand in hers when Shouto makes no effort to move. She gives him a gentle tug and he follows her easily, trusting that she'll take him somewhere safe if not back to the dorms. Yaoyorozu has never been anything but kind to him and his trust in her has grown into something more stable after their rescue mission for Bakugou.

“You do seem tired.” She agrees as she leads them out of the now empty classroom. “I'm guessing you're hungry too, right?” Shouto’s stomach rumbles in reply and he can feel his cheeks flush, looking away from Yaoyorozu’s knowing eyes.

Her palm is warm in his and it’s the first time in a long time Shouto can remember somebody actively touching him without any intention of hurting him. It's strangely grounding and Shouto feels the fog in his head recede slightly, thoughts becoming clearer and his body’s state registering in his mind. His stomach is cramping from hunger, which is probably to be expected as Shouto can't actually remember the last time he ate a proper meal. His head is pounding behind his eyes and his throat feels dry and scratchy, his skin thin and blood thick where it's being pumped through his veins.

He's still shaking, knees feeling weak and legs heavy, and if it wasn't for Yaoyorozu’s oddly strong grip on his arm then he figures he would've lilted to one side by now.

He feels like he owes Yaoyorozu’s kindness some honesty and chooses to share a half-truth with her. “I've been a bit sick.” his voice is scratchy and it hurts to speak. “A headache. I forgot to eat because of it.”

“You haven't eaten?” she asks, sounding sad and a bit frustrated. She doesn't sound angry though, which Shouto takes as a win.

He apologises regardless but Yaoyorozu waves it away, looping her arm through his. “You're lucky it's lunch.” she tuts. “I'll have to feed you up before judging whether it's okay for you to come to this afternoon's lesson or not.”

“You can't actually decide whether I come to class or not you realise?” Todoroki feels touched by her statement nevertheless, left side of his face feeling hotter under her concern.

“Who's deciding whether we get to go to class?” Ashido’s voice rings out as they enter the hallway. She's leaning against the wall with Jirou next to her, both of them seemingly having been waiting Yaoyorozu to leave the classroom. “Because I'd do anything to get an afternoon off.”

“Not you.” Yaoyorozu scoffs. “This idiot here.” she jostles their arms, making Shouto stumble, but pulls him back to her side easily, taking on more of his weight when the hallways shifts sideways and he can't find his footing.

“Woah,” Ashido jumps forward to help support him. “Careful Todoroki.”

“What's up with him?” Jirou demands and then, voice wary. “He's not contagious, is he?”

“Stupidity isn't contagious.” Yaoyorozu says snootily. She glances at Shouto and says in a softer tone. “Sorry Todoroki.”

He isn't sure if she's apologising for the insult or for making him fall, but he accepts it anyway, bowing his head in forgiveness and keeping it low as he tries to regain his spinning vision.

Ashido links her arm with Shouto’s spare one and helps Yaoyorozu support him as they slowly make their way towards the lunch hall. He feels embarrassed at needing the support but he's too tired to shrug them off, so he focuses his attention on the floor instead, trying to keep his steps steady as his classmates continue to talk around him.

“What's up with you then, Todoroki?” Jirou asks. Shouto can't bring himself to answer, feeling too sick and lightheaded to say what's happening to him. Luckily Yaoyorozu doesn't seem to mind supplying the answers on his behalf.

“He hasn't been looking after himself.” she sounds fond, if not slightly annoyed, and it's a tone that confuses him. “He's forgotten to eat, and by the looks of it, sleep as well.”

“That is stupid.” Jirou agrees. “What's up with that?”

“He said he’s had a headache.”

Ashido coos next to him, fingers rubbing circles into his arm. “If you're not feeling well then you need to speak up.”

“A classic man.” Jirou murmurs.

Yaoyorozu snorts. “Like you weren't the one hiding that nasty cough the other week.”

“Whatever.” Jirou sniffs. “I bet Todoroki just doesn't know how to look after himself because he's so used to his mom doing everything for him.”

Her words shouldn't jar him as much as they do but Shouto finds his breath hitching, footsteps stuttering, and if Yaoyorozu and Ashido hadn't been holding him up then he probably would've fallen again.

It's not like any of his classmates would know about his home life, he knows. He'd told Midoriya about his mother before the sports event but bar that he hasn't spoken a word of it since. He hasn't been able to bring himself to do anything but think about it, new thoughts and memories doing nothing but haunting him day and night.

Why would any of his classmates know about his mother? Why would they know what she did? What his father made her do?

(“Unsightly.” his mother's voice is unhinged, full of hate and fear, and it's not a tone that's ever been directed at Shouto before. Her grip on the kettle is shaking and he takes a step back in confusion.

“Mom?” he asks hesitantly.

“So unsightly.” she repeats, grip tightening on the handle. "So ugly.")

He blinks when a tray is placed in front of him. He looks around to see that they're in the canteen now, Jirou and Yaoyorozu sitting opposite him whilst Ashido is by his side, arm still looped with his.

It's been worse than this before, the floating, but usually nobody in class will be paying him this much attention. To fade away whilst walking with people from his class is horribly embarrassing, shameful even. Shouto desperately tries to force the murkiness in his mind to the back, shaking his head in the hopes to help clear it and letting his bangs fall into his eyes.

“Thank you.” he murmurs absently. He's not quite sure who exactly got him a tray of food, but he knows that it couldn't have been him.

“Don't worry about it.” Yaoyorozu flaps her hands again, face kind when Shouto chances a glance at it. “Just make sure you eat it all up, okay? I can't have you passing out on me.”

It takes a nudge from Ashido to prompt him into grabbing his chopsticks, but the motions of eating come easily to him after the first bite, hand lowering the chopstick to and from his plate as he chews robotically.

He wonders if any of the girls had noticed his... Slip up. He wonders whether they'd been aware that although Todoroki was with them, he wasn't really there at all. A big part of him hopes that they didn't notice anything amiss. He can't face their questions, their concern, and he really doesn't want to disappoint them by not having any of the answers either. A small part of him though, a tiny ember at the back of his mind, hopes that they did notice. A part of him wants help, is almost desperate for it, but Shouto stomps that thought out before it can catch alight.

“Sorry.” Jirou says, foot nudging into Shouto’s under the table and directing his attention to her.

One hand is pushing pork around her plate whilst the other is fiddling with the cord hanging from her ear. She's nervous his mind supplies. Her eyes are big and genuine as she stares at him and he cocks his head in confusion, wondering what he's missing.

“For making a comment about your mom.” she continues when Shouto does nothing but blink at her.

Oh. Right, that.

“I didn't think it'd upset you. So, I'm sorry.”

He chews slowly, considering his next steps carefully. People apologising to him is unknown territory and Shouto doesn't want to offend Jirou by handling it wrong. It’s not like she was to know what happened between him and his mother. The media had only ever gotten wind of the fact that her and his father split apart but they never had any content behind it. Nobody could know that he hadn't seen his mother in years or that she'd backed him into a corner as a child, eyes wide and unseeing as she-

(“What are you doing mommy?” Shouto feels his back hit the wall as he stares at his mom, at where she's staring at him like he's a stranger whilst her hands tighten into a white knuckled grip on the kettle.)

It’s not like anyone would know what happened.

“It's okay.” Shouto says. “You weren't to know anything was amiss with the subject of my mother. You don't have to apologise.”

“I do.” Jirou insists. “I shouldn't have made a comment regardless. I'm sorry.”

He doesn't think there's anything to be forgiven but he doesn't want to upset Jirou further, so he murmurs a quiet “I forgive you.”, feeling pleased when her shoulders lose their stiffness.

Shouto can’t help but feel guilty still, can't help but feel like he owes Jirou an explanation of why he was upset, and he wants to let her know that it's his fault for not being able to move on from something that happened years ago. It's not like he hasn't been able to tell someone from his class before, he'd actually felt relieved after he had, and Midoriya doesn't treat him any differently for it. He doesn't see why these three girls would either.

“My mother is at a hospital.” he says, pausing when Ashido makes a sad noise next to him.

“I'm so sorry to hear that.” she squeezes his arm again, grip oddly comforting. “Is she sick?”

“She's doing better now,” he thinks of her absent gaze the last time he went to visit, the way she gave him a polite smile as if he was another nurse. “But she's in there because of something she did a long time ago.” His hand absently comes up to cover his scar and he finds he can't say anymore, the words turning to ash in his mouth and clogging his throat. He thought that he'd be able to tell the story again, but it appears that he can't, the air in his lungs growing thick and the memories rolling unpleasantly in his mind.

(Shouto barely shuts his eyes in time as the freshly boiled water starts to pour towards his face. The first splash steams and burns, the feeling of burning so different to the fire he's used to on his left side, and everything after growing worse, so much worse-)

He looks up, hoping to distract himself, to see Jirou looking at him with a- well, he isn't sure what word to use to describe her expression as. Her lips are pressed tightly together, downturned and thin, which would suggest sadness, but her eyebrows are furrowed, and her eyes remind him of Midoriya’s whenever he tries to save Bakugou. She looks what Shouto hesitantly places as protective, as concerned, and when he glances around the table he sees the other two with similar looks on their faces.

They don't press him to explain, seemingly being able to put the dots together without much more from him. Yaoyorozu eyes are shining slightly with tears and Shouto feels bad for making her upset.

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause you any distress.” he tells her, letting his eyes fall back onto his plate.

“Hey, no. I'm not upset with you, Todoroki-kun.” he glances up in confusion at that. “I'm upset for you.”

It's a sentiment Todoroki is unfamiliar with, but it makes something warm swell up inside him, a fluttery feeling blooming in his stomach as an embarrassed blush spreads across his cheeks.

The fog has faded from his mind and he knows that it’s most likely from the food he's just eaten, but that small part of him reignites with new hope, hope that the conversation and the people surrounding him are what have grounded him.

 


 

 

His shaking dies down after lunch, headache turning into something more manageable, and Yaoyorozu deems him well enough to attend the afternoon class. When Kirishima walks in and sees him sitting at his desk he comes over to poke at his cheeks, teeth flashing in a happy smile. “Nice to see you've got some colour back in your face, Icy-hot.”

Shouto stays very still, fingers twitching at the feeling of having his face prodded and pinched. He doesn't think he's ever been touched this much in the same day for years.

His mind stays steady for the rest of the week, thankfully, and it allows Shouto to keep to his usual routine of attending his classes, training, and going to bed after attending Midoriya's mandatory one hour of social time. Well, he tries to keep to it as best he can, but his class have taken to trying to get him involved to a whole new level.

“Hello Todoroki-kun.” Iida and Uraraka are standing in the common room when Todoroki comes back from training at the gym, scarves wrapped around their necks and coats on. “We're gonna go grab some ice cream if you fancy coming with.”

“Um.” Shouto’s glances between where Uraraka is looking at him with her big eyes, wide and earnest, and towards where Iida is giving him a small genuine smile. “No thank you.” he says, confused about their offer. Maybe they were heading out and had only offered to invite Shouto out of politeness.

“Okay then.” Iida says easily. “Enjoy your evening Todoroki-kun.”

“And you, Iida-san.” Shouto nods politely before continuing towards the lift at a slower pace, mind trying to find a reason as to why they'd invite him out.

“You'll have to come with us next time.” Uraraka calls to his back which makes him pause mid step. He twists around, curious to see if she's joking with him, but the door to the dorms has already swung shut behind them.

He shrugs off the weird interaction, unsure on how to take it, and continues up to his room.

That's the first instance of something happening.

“Hey Shouto-kun!” Midoriya’s voice calls as Shouto steps outside. “Wait up!”

It's not uncommon for Midoriya to try and walk him to class but it is weird that he called him-

“Shouto-kun?” he repeats, raising a confused eyebrow.

Midoriya flushes, cheeks and ears growing red as he offers a nervous laugh. “W-well, yeah. We're friends, right?”

Friends. Todoroki Shouto isn't used to the term, doesn't really understand what the emotions behind the word mean, let alone if he could apply it to the relationship he has with Midoriya.

Friendship. A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Does he feel affection for Midoriya? Is that what the warm soft feeling that blooms inside of him every time he sees the smaller boy is? If so, does that mean that Shouto has somehow befriended his other classmates without him even realising?

“S-sorry I just thought t-that-” Midoriya’s face is red and he’s fiddling with the strap on his backpack nervously. He's nervous because Shouto hasn't responded to his question, nervous because he thinks he's overstepped a line, nervous because he thinks Shouto isn't his friend.

It makes the warm feeling in him grow like a flower in the sun, like sugared candy on melting on his tongue, and he could label the feeling as affectionate. A mutual affection.

“We can be friends.” Shouto decides, interrupting Midoriya's nervous rambling, feeling his heart soften at the thought. He, Todoroki Shouto, has a friend within Midoriya. 

“Can be?” Midoriya splutters. “I thought we already were but, u-uh, thanks?”

“You’re welcome.” Shouto feels a grin tug at the corners of his mouth, small and private, and Midoriya must see it because he gives him a bright smile in return, something so warm and blinding that it rivals the sun on a summer’s day.

And then, later that week.

“Are you going to fucking watch this fucking movie with us or what?” Bakugou snarls as he slams Shouto’s dorm room open.

“Bakugou!” Kirishima’s voice rings out from behind him. “I told you to knock!”

“I’m not knocking on this bastard’s door. He’s making us all wait for him and I’m fed up from it. He’s lucky I’m not dragging him down the fucking stairs right now.”

Shouto twists his head to see the two boys standing in his doorway, Kirishima looking apologetic whilst Bakugou glares at him.

“Um.” Shouto says blankly, head feeling a bit fuzzy. He’d shut himself in his room when he felt the clouds start to roll in, choosing to skip his workout to lay on his floor instead and watch as the walls melted around him. “What?”

“Are you fucking serious?” Bakugou demands, hands curling into fists.

“It’s movie night.” Kirishima explains when Todoroki continues to stare at them blankly. “We all said to meet downstairs at eight, remember?”

No.

“Right, yeah.” Shouto chews on his bottom lip, unable to remember the conversation he'd apparently had to agree to this.

He doesn’t like being reminded of conversations he’s had with people whilst he’s gone. It makes him uncomfortable and, if he's honest, a little bit scared. He pushes himself into a sitting position but doesn't move any further, feeling winded and dizzy from the simple motion.

“You coming then?” Kirishima asks from behind him after a short silence. “It’s like, almost half past now.”

“Right.” Shouto presses his palms into his eyes, trying to force himself to focus. “The movie.”

“Yes, the fucking movie. Did you hit your fucking head, you idiot?” Bakugou sounds even more annoyed now but Kirishima whispers something to him - something that blurs in Shouto’s mind - and when he opens his eyes it's to the door slamming and Kirishima crouching down in front of him.

“Sorry, he’s got no tact.” Kirishima reaches out slowly, the action oddly reminiscent of Yaoyorozu’s a few weeks ago, and gently closes a hand around Shouto’s forearm. He wonders if Yaoyorozu had warned him that Shouto reacts better to slower, gentler actions. “Alright?” He asks quietly, eyes tracing Shouto’s face. “You didn’t actually hit your head, did you?”

“No.” Shouto says, blinking slowly through heavy eyelids. “I’m fine.”

Kirishima frowns at him. “Did you get another headache? When was the last time you ate something?”

Yaoyorozu did speak to him, then.

“I was at dinner.” He feels stupid and embarrassed of the thought of his classmates discussing his health behind his back. A small part of him might feel touched by the action but Shouto ignores it, unsure what to do with the emotion.

“You've got another headache then?” Kirishima presses. “Because you should visit Recovery Girl if so.”

He wonders how Kirishima would react if Todoroki was to tell him that he finds himself fading from this world into one devoid of anything on a weekly basis. What would the other boy do if he knew that Shouto sometimes wakes up to find that he’s in the courtyard or sitting in the training hall with no memory of how he got there. It all sounds crazy, even in his own mind, so he chooses to give a half-truth that won't end with him being sent away. “I’m just tired.”

Shouto is always so tired.

“You don’t have to watch the movie if you’d rather rest. I can just tell the others you were busy.” Kirishima squeezes him arm. “But if you’re gonna rest then I’d rather you do it in a bed, y’know?”

“Okay.” Shouto agrees quietly. He doesn’t know if he’s grateful or upset that the red headed boy is letting him off this easily. 

Kirishima helps pull Shouto up from the floor and waits until he's sitting on his bed before he takes his leave, shutting the door behind him with a “Feel better man!”

 


 

 

When he floats, he feels nothing.

He wonders if the reason he disconnects from himself so often is because of the easy escape it offers him, the easy peace away from the mess of emotions he has to face in the real world.

Sometimes something will trigger his floating but often it’ll just happen without his say so.

The only warnings he'll get is when words start to mash together, writing becoming unreadable and voices becoming distorted, but by then it's too late to fight against it. The colours around him will bleed into each other and create an ugly stain of darkness that he knows will consume him. He never used to leave for long, mind blocking things out instead of forcing Shouto to go, but ever since he started Yuuei things have gotten worse.

(Ever since Midoriya reminded him of what he had, what he still has now. Ever since Shouto was reminded how it felt to burn.)

After a lot of thought and consideration he's worked out that speaking to someone about it will result in one of three possible outcomes:

  1. They’ll think he’s crazy and take him off the hero course
  2. They’ll think the stress of school is too much and send him home to his father
  3. They’ll think he’s stressed and crazy, just like his mother, and he’ll end up in a hospital similar to hers

None of the outcomes sound appealing and it makes Shouto even more hesitant to broach the subject with anyone.

(“Your mother isn’t here anymore.” His father tells all of them, arms crossed, and frown etched onto his face. “I don’t want any more questions about it. Shouto, come.”

“Where is she?” Shouto can’t help but press, tears welling in his eyes. “I want to see her.”

His father, as predicted, ignores him as they make their way to the training room. Shouto can't help but keep asking though, voice growing hoarse and desperate as time passes on.

"She's coming home, right?" He pants. He's been putting more effort into his training in the hopes his father will reward him with an answer. "When she's done wherever she is, she'll come home to me, right?"

He sees his father snap at his words, patience seemingly coming to its end as flames burst over his face with a quiet whump. Shouto recognises what's about to happen before it actually does, but that doesn't mean that his father’s slap doesn't hurt. Tears spill out of his good eye, his left one still wrapped tightly in a bandage. The doctor told him that he may never be able to see out of it again, that the nerve damage may be too much for his body to mend.

“She’s gone, you stupid childShe's gone and she's never coming back." His father says in a deep voice. Hot fingers grab Shouto's face and yank it up so that he's staring at his father’s dark eyes. "You don’t need her, Shouto." the fingers trace the bandage, making him shudder and cry harder. "You were created to defeat All Might. You need to stop focusing on other people and focus on yourself. Now come, enough of this nonsense.")

(She’s gone. She’s gone. Shesgone.)

Shouto trails his fingertips lightly over his scar, feeling his brain grow fuzzy at the action.

Maybe his mother left the way he leaves, escaping from this reality to somewhere that isn’t particularly nicer but is definitely somewhere better.

Maybe she also escapes to a familiar darkness where nothing matters.

“Did you hear we’re allowed to go home this weekend?” Sato says from beside him, Midoriya and Uraraka sitting cross legged on the floor opposite them on training mats. Shouto wonders when he ended up in the training hall with everyone else but doesn't focus on that for too long, instead tuning into the more pressing matter of the conversation happening around him.

“Are we?” Midoriya lights up. “How’d you know that?”

“I overheard Aizawa-sensei talking to All Might.”

“Oh wow.” Uraraka squeals. “I haven’t spent a night at home in forever!”

“Same here.” Sero pumps a fist in the air. “I’m so excited.”

“Me too.” Uraraka shakes Midoriya's arm, swaying them both back and forth in her excitement. “I’ve missed my mom's cooking so much.”

"God, yeah." Midoriya agrees. "My mum sends me those care packages, but it'll be so nice to have a meal that's not reheated."

Shouto feels his ice creeping over his hand, mind reeling at the news as he try's his best to keep outwardly calm. His breathing has turned heavy, the air around him suddenly seeming too thick, and he wonders why they're being sent home, wonders whether there's any way out of it.

Home is where his father is.

Home is a life of vigorous training exercises, physical blows as a repercussion, and his father's hell fire.

Home is the place where he was forced to grow up too young. It's empty rooms that are haunted by his mother’s voice, gentle as it whispers that she loves him and cracking as she calls him a monster.

When he tunes back into the class it’s too see them all whispering excitedly to each other as Aizawa stands at the front of the room with his arms crossed. “I put a lot of effort into getting this accepted.” He’s saying in a monotone voice. “So, I expect you to honour my efforts by keeping out of trouble.” He throws a hard look in Midoriya’s and Bakugou’s direction as he says it.

Home. Shouto isn’t sure his family house will ever be his home, isn't sure if it had ever been anyone's home besides his fathers.

“Are you excited to go home, Todoroki-kun?” Uraraka asks him, face bright and happy. She looks the polar opposite to how he feels, he notes with disdain, and he isn’t sure how to respond to her in a voice that isn't bitter and biting, so he chooses to say nothing instead, pushing himself up off the floor and heading over to where Aizawa is waiting for them to line up.

“Not wanting to fawn over your weekend away?” Aizawa raises an eyebrow at him.

“I’d rather just get on with the lesson, Aizawa-sensei.” Shouto says politely, averting his eyes to his shoes.

Aizawa hums and gives Shouto an unreadable glance before shouting for the rest of the class to line up.

They're doing strength training today in partners, two teams being put up against each other in practise.

The thought of being able to train is something of a relief. He's paired up with Kaminari to fight against Asui and Jirou and at first, it's distracting enough for him to almost forget about having to go home in a few days. Almost.

The movements of fighting are soothing and for a while they help to numb his mind, to soothe his worries, but the niggling thought of going home to his father plays on his mind. Moving into the dorms was a blessing and being sent home, in Shouto's eyes, is a punishment of sorts. It has to be a punishment because any way Shouto looks at it he can't see it as anything but a retribution for something he's done wrong, something the class has failed at. His whole life has been built up on discipline and punishments and being sent home falls into a twisted version of this, the only rules he's known structuring his life into right and wrong.

The training lesson quickly becomes a way for Shouto to let his frustrations out, for him to prove that he's the best in the class, because if he's good enough then maybe he can stay. If he's good enough then maybe, he won't have to be punished.

Shouto pushes himself and his Quirk past what is probably deemed acceptable for a friendly class competition, large walls of ice standing tall and proud all over the arena as smoke billows around them.

He sees Midoriya and Uraraka giving him worried looks as his team is called out of the arena by a frustrated sounding Aizawa. Shouto considers heading over towards them but his hands are shaking at his sides and he feels hot, burning and seething at the idea of having to interact with anyone. He notices Aizawa whispering something to All Might which pisses him off even more for some reason, irrational frustration bubbling across his skin and making him want to bare his teeth. He doesn't bother to mask his expression as he makes his way towards the back of the class, hoping his glare and display in the arena is enough to warn his classmates to stay away from him.

Shouto had thought that after the training exercise he’d feel calmer, more relaxed, and ready to accept his fate of having to spend his weekend away from the dorms but, as it is, his hands are vibrating with pent up energy and he can’t shake the frost from his face.  

Home is the place where he's faced years of abuse. Home is the place where his father lives, his father the number one hero, who has no idea what to do with Shouto now he's broken goods.

(“You were created to beat All Might.”)

With All Might beaten, who is Shouto now besides Endeavor’s son?

(“If you stay down like this then your opponent won't hesitate to kill you.”

Shouto presses his cheek to the floor, chest heaving and muscles spasming, and thinks, would it be such a bad thing to be killed?)

He’s been left drifting, left floating in his own thoughts, his own past, for so long that Shouto wonders whether or not he drowned in them long ago, that the person left standing here now is nothing but a shadow of someone he could've been.

(would it be such a bad thing to be killed?)

(“Your left side is unsightly. Ugly.”)

(His mother's eyes stare at Shouto likes he’s a stranger. A monster.)

“Todoroki.” All Might’s voice jars him from where he’s leaning against the wall. “Quite an impressive display out there.”

“Thank you.” He murmurs politely, bowing his head in respect and curling his palms into fists to hide how they're trembling.

If he were to label his display, Shouto would choose the word erratic over impressive. If the look Kaminari keeps throwing him is anything to go by then it would seem that the other boy agrees with him. All Might doesn't seem to share any of the same sentiment though, throwing Shouto what seems to be a genuine smile.

“Your father's Endeavor.” His teacher states unprompted, tone light. “That must be pretty cool, huh? Having the number one hero as your dad.”

“I think I preferred it when you were number one.” Shouto mutters, nails biting into his palm.

“No need to flatter me.” All Might waves a hand in the air, eyes trailing over to where Midoriya is now training alongside Iida against Yaoyorozu and Hagakure. “If I had a kid, I would have wanted them to proud of me.”

Do people think I’m proud of my father? Shouto frowns, ice and searing heat now digging into his hands, making them ache. How could I ever be proud of the man who destroyed my life?

It’s not like anybody knows the monster Shouto sees when he looks at his father. Nobody could know about the upbringing he was forced to endure but it still hurts to hear that All Might, the worlds hero, somebody Shouto used to look up to, expects him to be proud of his father. He expects Shouto to have had a good life, an easy life, and it makes his ribs feel too tight around his lungs.

(His brothers are no longer allowed to speak or see him, his father warning Shouto not to get distracted by people like them. He still catches glimpses of them sometimes, playing happily in their side of the house or coming home from the public school they're allowed to attend.

Shouto has been confined to the other half of the house, the half with the training facilities and the room for his home schooling. His father tells him not to get distracted, to stay focused on getting better, on becoming the best.

Fuyumi is the only one of his siblings that is willing to interact with him, the only one willing to stand up to their father, but, after a while, Shouto finds himself too tired after training to do anything other than eat and sleep.

Their father doesn’t have the time to spare for his other siblings, telling Shouto that he’s the only thing that he’s willing to invest his time in, that Shouto is his only perfect creation.

Shouto hates his father for everything he's done, feels an unbearable anger at his old man for it all. He hates himself too, though, for a part of him can't help but blame his mother for breaking on him, for leaving him, for making him take on all his father's attention alone.)

Frost is creeping up the wall behind them and Shouto can see All Might frowning at him, lips moving in the shapes of words that he can't hear through the ringing in his ears.

How could people think that he’s proud of Endeavor?

(There isn't a moment in his life where Shouto doesn’t know what the sound of his father’s fist on his mother's skin sounded like. The sound of her crying is more familiar to him than her laughter and the smell of disinfectant on a cut is the first thing Shouto registers with his mother’s smell.

He imagines that she would’ve smelt like winter flowers once, pretty and delicate yet still so strong, but he’s only ever known the wilted version of her, the version of her that his father had destroyed.)

“I’m not proud.” He snarls, memories taunting him. He steps away from All Might, away from the image of his mother’s curled up form, frost forming into ice on the floor below him. “I’m not proud of him.”

(He sees his mother's eyes, big and frightened, as his father looms over her. Endeavor has one hand wrapped too tightly around Shouto’s arm, the grip crushing and bruising, as the other is raised in warning towards his mother. She still begs, regardless of the bruises forming on her body, pleading with his father to let Shouto rest.)

“I’m not proud to be his son.” he feels flames licking at his face, at his scar, and he shudders, eyes shutting tightly.

“Okay,” All Might is saying. “Hey, Todoroki, it’s okay.”

(“What have you done to him?” His father snarls at his mother, yanking her off of Todoroki by her hair.

Todoroki can’t stop shaking, limbs twitching as he presses a hand to his eye, palm pressing into where it burns, where it sears, where his nerve endings are on fire. He’s never known anything like this pain, never imagined that he could ever hurt this much. His lips are open in a silent keen, tears cutting through his skin like lava.

He sees his father slam his mother’s face into the wall, hears the crunch of her nose breaking, feels the way his stomach churns from the pain of it all.

Fuyumi has one hand on his arm, trying to tug it away from where it’s covering his face, gentle voice pleading with him, “Please Shouto, let me see. I need to see how bad it is.”)

He can feel his Quirk unravelling before him as All Might’s thin frame turns into something bigger, something hulking and familiar. Flames burst across the face that haunts his dreams, that haunts his days. Endeavor stands across from him with a smug look on his face, unhinged laughter pouring from his mouth as he wipes his mother’s blood off his face. When his father jerks his hand towards Shouto, the shape of his fist all too familiar, Shouto acts on instinct, ice forming from his hand and shooting towards his father. He makes sure that the spikes are large and sharp because his father can easily burn them away and-

His Quirk jolts to a stop and Shouto takes a heaving breath, panic clawing at his throat, because he needs to stop his father, needs to protect his mom, his sister, but then he blinks and his father melts into All Might. All Might who is defenceless without his powers, who has wide eyes and a hand raised to protect himself because there's spikes of ice inches away from his bare face.

He registers the feeling of his Quirk not working as Aizawa's eraser one in action.

Shouto’s hand is shaking where he’s holding it out in front of him, ears ringing as blood rushes to his head. He could’ve killed All Might. He could’ve killed him, would've maybe, had it not been for Aizawa. He was made to beat All Might, was created for this, but All Might had already been beaten, hadn't he? 

Shouto wasn't a weapon, not anymore, hadn't Midoriya taught him this? Hadn't Shouto been shown that he could be more than what his father wanted him to be?

Aizawa’s face appears behind All Might’s, hair floating around his head as he stares Shouto down.

“Drop your hand, Todoroki.” He’s saying. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

Shouto wants to drop his hand but his heart is racing, and he can't stop the panic racing around him, can't stop the feeling that something is wrong, that something is really really wrong. His head is thick with a smoke, thick and blinding -

(“Stop protecting him, he was created to beat All Might. Your coddling of the boy will only ruin him.”

“He’s a person, Enji! He’s your son, not some sort of weapon for you to train.”

“He’s what I’ll make him and-” The sound of a palm striking skin. “You’ll do your best to remember that.”)

A hand touches his outstretched arm and Todoroki jerks around to see Midoriya, stupid, kind Midoriya, looking at Shouto gently, lips moving slowly as if he knows Shouto can’t hear what he's saying properly.

It’s okay, his lips say. You’re okay.

Shouto glances up to see his class staring at him in horror, eyes wide and stances ready to fight.

(Because it must be horror, surely. It couldn’t be anything like concern because concern does nothing but damage him. Shouto wasn’t made for kindness. He was made to be the best, to be trained, to bleed, to learn.)

“Stand down, Shouto-kun.” Midoriya says firmly, voice free of stutter because he’s doing what he was made to do, be a hero.

He’s a better hero than Shouto will ever be, always standing up for what’s right and protecting people even if it means hurting himself. Shouto is the monster in this scenario. He’s the villain that people need protecting from. He almost just killed All Might and over what? A comment about his father?

Shouto lets his arm go lax, lets Midoriya guide it down and away, leaving him shaking and sweating and so so confused.

“Class over.” Aizawa says loudly. Nobody moves though, all left staring at the mess he’s made. “Todoroki.” Aizawa directs his attention to where Shouto’s standing behind shards of ice, gaze hard and making him shudder slightly. “Come with me.”

Aizawa starts walking towards the exit, obviously expecting Shouto to follow him. Shouto can't though, feels like he's frozen in place, eyes stuck on the ice in front of him, flicking from the distorted reflection of himself towards where All Might is giving him a long look (a considering look, a sad look, something kinder than Todoroki has ever been deserving of) before he turns to help round up the rest of the students. 

“Todoroki-kun,” Midoriya says gently, squeezing his arm in what Shouto presumes is meant to be a reassuring gesture. “It’s going to be okay.”

He doesn’t think Midoriya is in any place to tell him what okay is considering Shouto's just tried to attack a teacher, just tried to attack Midoriya's idol, the ex-number one hero of their time, for no reason at all.

With a sudden clarity Shouto knows that he’s going to get kicked off of the course for this. He’s going to get kicked off the course and he’s going to have to go back to living at home with his father permanently whilst the media drag his name through the mud.

Endeavor’s son tries to kill All Might!

His father is going to have to live with him whilst the media drags both of their names through the mud because of this.

“Todoroki.” Aizawa is holding the door open, looking at him expectantly. “Don’t make me ask again.”  

“I’ll see you back at the dorms, okay?” Midoriya squeezes his arm before nudging him carefully around the ice and pushing him towards the door.

Shouto highly doubts he’ll ever be allowed to step foot in the 1-A dorms again, but he keeps that to himself, walking stiffly towards where Aizawa is waiting for him, head bowed and the feeling of his classmates’ eyes heavy on his back.

 


 

 

He doesn’t see Midoriya at the dorms that night, as expected.

What’s unexpected is the kindness Aizawa had shown him, a kindness Shouto struggled to understand.

His sensei had sent him home four days early with the promise of a mental health check with Recovery Girl when he returns with the rest of his class on Monday.

Because Shouto is going to be returning to Yuuei, regardless of his actions.

“I don’t know what I saw out there Todoroki, but I know it wasn’t the same student I’ve been teaching for the past year.” Aizawa levels him with a long look, eyes softer than Shouto thinks is deserved. “I’m not sure what’s going on with you, but I want to help if I can.

“Help?” Shouto asks quietly, stumped. “Aren’t I getting expelled?”

“It would be unwise to expel you for something I don’t believe you were in control of. Unless you’re telling me that you, in your right mind, would attack an unsuspecting teacher?  A defenceless one at that.”

“No,” he rushes to say. “I wouldn’t ever- I don’t." He takes a breath, trying to calm himself down. "That’s not me.”

“Exactly.” Aizawa says, putting emphasis on his words. “That wasn’t you, Todoroki. I want to help.”

“Help how?” Shouto feels like the conversation has gotten away from him and it’s barely even started. He was fully prepared for a punishment, for the removal of his license before he even got it, and to be kicked from the hero course.

“Recovery Girl can perform a mental health check on you to start with so that we can see what's going on up there. Being a hero isn't easy, Todoroki, and your class has experienced more than most your age.”

“Mental health.” Shouto repeats, words feeling thick and wrong on his tongue. He pictures his mother sitting in her hospital room, pictures his childhood without her, all because of her mental health.

“It’s not as scary as it sounds.” Aizawa folds his hands on his desk. “And it’ll help us help you.”

Because apparently Shouto is someone who needs help, is someone who his teacher wants to help. He knows that the kindness he's being shown is undeserved, but he doesn’t dare question it, not wanting Aizawa to change his mind on the matter. Shouto needs things clarified though because surely it can't just be this simple. What he did was illegal, was dangerous. “Won’t somebody report what I’ve done? Won’t the school have to have a formal hearing?”

“The only people who know about this is your class, All Might, and me. I know All Might won’t press anything and, if I know your class correctly, they’ll keep quiet if it means helping you.”

Because they all want to help him.

He's not sure what to do with this piece of information. A part of him wants to argue, wants to point out to Aizawa that he'd be breaking the law and it could end in both Shouto's expulsion and him losing his job. He wants to ask Aizawa to report it for both their sake, but Shouto is tired.

He's so,

so,

tired.

All he's done for years now is keep quiet and pretend; he's so fed up of not being able to put the broken shards of himself back together that he doesn't dare fight the kindness being shown to him, doesn't have it in him to voice any his arguments. 

He takes another deep breath when he realises that he's stopped, shutting his eyes and drowning in the feeling of being overwhelmed.

“I...” Shouto breathes in again, holds for three, then breathes out. “Thank you, Aizawa-sensei.”

“Prove that this is the right choice, okay?” Aizawa taps his fingers on the table, making Shouto meet his eyes again. He waits until Shouto nods before continuing. “What I think is best for you at the moment is for you to go home and rest for the remainder of the week. I’ll sort things out on my end and you can return on Monday.”

“Home?” Shouto lets out a shuddering laugh that leaves an ashy taste on his tongue. It was almost too good to be true, almost the ideal outcome, but the universe has had it out for Todoroki the second he was born. There's hell fire running through his veins and it's always condemned him to a harsher fate. “Will you tell my father what happened?”

“No,” Aizawa pauses, giving Shouto a careful look. “Not if you don’t want me to do so.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.” His voice comes out strained and he sees Aizawa eyes narrow at him in thought.

Shouto averts his eyes when the gaze gets too intense. Aizawa is looking at him with something dangerous, something almost like understanding, and it makes him feel vulnerable. The last thing Shouto wants is for anyone to think that they have him figured out. His insides are a mess of ice and fire, beaten and battered by the harsh storm that's been raging between the two sides since he was a child. There is barely anything left of him that's whole and to think that somebody could begin to understand terrifies him in a way he's never felt before. 

He's always been happy being the quiet kid, the reserved one, because it meant that nobody knew, that there was no potential of anyone knowing. If anyone were to really know him they'd realise that he was a lie. They'd stop seeing him as reserved the second they realise that his personality is built up on a friendless childhood, lonely and empty, and his father’s training, punishing and cruel. If anyone were to take a look at his bruised heart and the poison that it pumps through him then they'd realise that he's nothing but a broken monster that's been chained and muzzled by his father’s upbringing.

“I’ll say there was an incident with your dorm room, if you would prefer?" Aizawa says, voice more knowing then Shouto wants it to be. "One that’ll take us a week to mend and one that means you'll need to reside at home, resting from the incident that occurred.”

“Please.” Shouto is not below begging when it comes to his father, even if it inadvertently confirms Aizawa's thoughts. “If you wouldn’t mind, then please.”

So here Shouto is, standing outside his family home with his most important belongings thrown into his backpack and a note to give to his father, the story on it matching the one Aizawa had told his father over the phone.

Regardless of the story given, Shouto knows that his father won’t be happy with him returning home. He knows that sending him here to rest, to collect his thoughts and stabilise himself, was meant to be an act of kindness on his Aizawa’s part, but Shouto wasn’t made to be coddled.

(“Your coddling of the boy will only ruin him.”)

He can see his father walking down the path, flames flickering brightly in the dying light of the day. Being sent home in itself could be seen as a worse punishment than expelling him, depending on his father's mood. From the height of his flames Shouto guesses that it’ll be a hard week for him, the opposite of what Aizawa wanted.

You deserve this, his mind whispers. You deserve to get put in your place. The voice sounds disturbingly like his fathers and it makes Shouto shudder. He knows that the words are true though, knows that he needs to be punished for his reckless actions, accidental or not. A twisted part of him craves the punishment, finding a familiarity in his father correcting his mistakes.

“Shouto.” His father pulls the gate open with a wicked grin on his face. “Don’t just stand there. This is your home, remember?” Shouto drops his head and loosens his shoulders automatically, body melding itself into a submissive picture as he steps onto the property, gates shutting closed behind him with a deafening click. “Your sister’s on holiday so we have the house to ourselves for the week. Perfect for some father son bonding time, hm?”

You deserve this, he repeats to himself as he follows his father up the path and towards their house. You deserve this, you deserve this, youdeservethis-

It’s easy, Shouto finds, to fall back into the familiar routine of his childhood.

Their training starts that evening and his father picks back up as if they'd never stopped, beating Shouto in fights over and over until he's shaking, and dots are dancing in front of his eyes. He calls out the flaws he sees in Shouto, voice biting and disappointed, as if Shouto isn't trying his hardest on purpose. His father knocks him back harder than usual if Shouto does something he deems especially stupid, and by the time he calls it to a stop Shouto feels numb and is covered in a light scattering of burns.

His dad tells him to eat dinner and shower before going to bed as he walks out of the room, leaving Shouto wincing on a training mat on the floor. “Training starts at eight tomorrow, don’t forget." His father says before he leaves. "You may have let your training regime slip whilst attending that school, but I'll try my best to catch you up to speed."

 


 

 

Back when Shouto was still young enough to believe that love existed, he used to think that the relationship between him and his father was just a twisted form of it. He used to think that his father trained him hard because he cared, because he wanted Shouto to succeed, and that his heart was always in the right place even if his actions weren't. He used to convince himself that this must be love, for a parent should always love their child, and that any mistakes his father made were because things got twisted up along the way.

Now that Shouto’s older he understands that his father never held any feelings of love towards him, understands that the man has probably never known how to love anything his entire life. He knows now that the only thing his father will ever feel towards him is possession and greed. He sees Shouto as something to mould and shape, something there for him to control, and there's nothing he can do about it. 

His mother, Shouto used to think, loved him unconditionally. There was no one else in the world that looked after him like she did. There has never been anybody else willing to throw themselves in front of his father’s blows for him, nobody willing to argue for his health when Shouto was worn down to the bone. She offered him a kindness that he took for granted at the time. Her soft touches and small smiles were saved for Shouto and Shouto alone and he'd accepted them easily, accepted them without question, when he should've been treasuring them. He knows that his mother loved him once, long ago, but Shouto also learnt that love is never unconditional.

Everybody has their limits, has their breaking points, and his unsightly left side was the thing that broke his mother’s love for him.

(He overhears Ashido call him the hottest boy in their class and he can’t get her words out of his head.

He spends that night staring at his reflection in the mirror, eyes glued to the ugly seared skin on his forehead and around his eye, tracing the way his red bangs fall and cover the worst of the scar. His mother called it unsightly, had done the unthinkable to him because of how ugly the left side of him was.

He traces his fingers over the thin skin and shudders, mind growing clouded, and wonders how anybody could look at him and think of anything other than monster.)

Shouto was not made to be loved.

“Get up.” his father snarls. Shouto can’t get up, is too busy clutching his stomach and trying not to let his tired head lull into the pile of sick next to him. “Do you always have to be so pathetic? You can’t just give up all the time, Shouto.” His father kicks lightly at his twitching legs, making him curl up tighter. “What’s the point in sending you to that school if they can’t even teach you how to fight properly?”

That has Shouto forcing his eyes open, glaring weakly up at his father.

“I could probably train you better myself.” His dad muses, a nasty curl to his lips. “It might be better to pull you out of school if you aren't learning anything of value there.”

“No.” Shouto breathes, forcing himself up on shaking legs. He feels like he could collapse at any moment, but he refuses to stay down, refuses to let his father take him away from Yuuei and his classmates. His friends. The only freedom he's ever known. “No.” he repeats, spitting blood onto the floor and wheezing as his lungs burn. “I can keep going.”

“Good.” His father claps his hands, shifting into a more aggressive stance. “You need to learn stamina, boy. If you fall down like that during a real battle, then villains won’t hesitate to kill you.”

(Shouto presses his cheek to the floor, chest heaving and muscles spasming, and thinks, would it be such a bad thing to be killed?)

For the first time ever, he’s grateful when the world grows blurred around him, walls oozing into the rippling floor as everything becomes distorted. He sinks into the nothingness his mind provides him and lets his body cope with the rest, the act more familiar than Shouto ever wanted it to be.

 


  

He comes back to himself in flashes over the remainder of the week.

Blink once and he’s gasping as his father's hell fire scrapes his neck, the flames dancing and leaving charred flesh by his Adams' apple.

Twice and he’s shovelling pork and rice into his mouth robotically as his father sits opposite him holding a one-sided conversation, the words sounding foreign to his ears.

The third blink finds him sitting under a tree in the garden, the nights stars shining brightly above him. His mind is half there for that one and, if he ignores the painful throbbing of his body, he could almost consider it peaceful. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves around him is a welcome sound, the way it laps at his burning skin soothing.

The dark blue of the sky stretches out above him, stars twinkling softly, and if Shouto lets his eyes flutter shut he can almost feel the presence of a body lying in the grass next to him, the sound of Midoriya's voice echoing around his head like they're both underwater. The older boy had tried to teach Shouto about the constellations late one night, both of them too unsettled to sleep. He'd seemed offended that Shouto hadn't already learnt them off by heart and Shouto had spent the next few hours listening to Midoriya rambling on about everything he knew about the stars and the stories behind them. It's one of Shouto's more treasured memories, one of his most private ones, and he happily lets himself get lost in it.

And then he blinks and finds himself sprawled on the floor, his father glaring down at him. “I just want to make you better, Shouto.” he snarls, flaming face just like the one from Shouto’s nightmares. “You understand that, right? I just want to make you better.”

It’s disorientating to live in such small increments of time. He finds scrapes and bruises on his body that he can’t remember getting, finds himself waking up with his stomach rumbling because he hasn't eaten. He loses track of the days but when his father reminds him that he's going back to school tomorrow he suddenly finds himself standing before a mirror, staring at his own face and thinking to himself how the fuck am I meant to hide this.

He thought that he’d be excited to be going back to Yuuei dorms but, staring at the cut on his right cheek and the graze on his chin, he feels nothing but dread.

Aizawa sent him home to rest and Shouto knows that he looks like hell. He feels like hell too, body sore and aching and mind scattered. There are dark bags under his eyes and his hair is lank, face sticky from being unwashed. He can do something about that at least, Shouto thinks as he grabs his towel from his door and heads towards the bathroom. The rest will just have to be covered by a good enough a lie, a good enough story that explains the state he's in well enough, leaving no room for questions.

Well that was the plan anyway but before he knows it Sunday evening has bled into Monday morning and he’s being dropped off at the Yuuei gates, scanning himself onto the campus. 

He keeps his head ducked as he slowly makes his way over towards the 1-A dorms, feeling nervous about his meeting with Aizawa later that morning, the words mental health check causing his stomach to roll unpleasantly. The thought of having to see his classmates on top of that makes frost curl on his fingertips, anxiety biting at him from all sides.

He isn’t sure what Aizawa told the rest of the class about his absence, but he knows that there will never be an explanation good enough to paint them both in a positive light. The truth of the matter is simple: one of the top students from their class disappeared for a week after he attacked a teacher.

The whole class saw him lose control and Aizawa can't stop them from remembering that, as much as Shouto wishes that something could be done. There's nothing anybody could ever say that would excuse what happened. 

Hopefully he’s early enough that he's beaten everyone in returning to the dorms.

Hopefully he's early enough that people will still be collecting their belongings at their parents and saying their goodbyes, giving him more than enough time to sneak back up to his room and shut himself in there.

Hopefully Shouto can avoid having to face anyone until after his 09:00am meeting with Aizawa and Recovery Girl.

It's clinging onto those thoughts that gives Shouto the courage to scan into the 1-A dorm and take a step inside. It’s quiet, he notes with relief, quickly making his way towards the elevator, eyes trained to the floor. He doesn't realise before it's too late that he's mistaken quietness for a shocked silence.

“Todoroki-kun!” Shouto freezes at that, eyes growing wide at the sound of Iida’s voice, of the other voices that slowly pick up talking again. He keeps his eyes low the ground as he slowly turns and looks over to where a familiar pair of shoes are.

Where many familiar pairs of shoes are and - fucking christ, he must be the last one back.

He feels the panic well up in his stomach, fingers tingling at his sides, unsure on what to do next. He could look up but that would mean facing his class, the class that saw him lose control and the class that Shouto is more rude than nice towards. It also means showing his bruised face, showing the tiredness that's painted across every inch of him.

He thought that he’d be able to skip all of this, that Recovery Girl would fix the bruises and scrapes without anybody else seeing them and that he and Aizawa could come up with a story together. He ducks his head lower, bangs falling into his eyes. That can still be the plan, if he plays his cards right.

“I’m so pleased to see you’re back.” Iida continues, oblivious to the fact that Shouto feels like he’s going to throw up. “And in time for breakfast, too.”

“Yeah.” Uraraka’s cheerful voice chimes in. “We were hoping you’d arrive last night with the rest of us but Aizawa mentioned you might not of received the message about us returning early.”

“Fucking typical that they’d let you off.” Bakugou’s voice scoffs. “You should’ve been suspended for more than a week.”

“Bakugou!” Karishma chides. “It’s got nothing to do with us. Sorry Todoroki - you know what this hot head is like.”

“Hey!” Bakugou shouts. “Do you want to die, punk?”

“I hope your week at home was nice.” Asui offers over the sounds of the other two arguing. “Are you- uh, just going to stand there?”

He probably looks stupid, frozen in place with his backpack in a white knuckled grip and eyes trained on the floor by his feet. He tries to think of something to say- of something to do - but he’s not sure if he knows how to string together a coherent enough sentence to appease his class.

“I need to unpack.” Todoroki winces when his voice comes out dry and scratchy from disuse, words thick on his tongue.

“Of course you do.” Yaoyorozu agrees instantly, picking up on how uncomfortable he is. “You shouldn’t let us stop you, Todoroki-kun. We can all catch up later.” She puts emphasis on the last few words and he hears voices murmur in agreement, making his right eye twitch.

“Right.” Shouto mutters, turning away from them all and continuing towards where the elevator is, feet moving on auto-pilot. He thought that his class would be angry at him (and maybe a part of him wanted them to be angry at him) but they’re being nothing but nice, nothing but kind, and he doesn't understand why.

He goes to press the button for the elevator, needing to escape from it all, but the doors ding open before he can.

“Shouto-kun!” Midoriya’s voice rings out from in front of him and then Shouto suddenly finds himself being lifted from the floor, Midoriya's arms curled tightly around his waist in a hug. 

There was once a time where Shouto craved this sort of affection, where he would dream of his mother's gentle embrace, where he would imagine what it would feel like for Midoriya to spin him around like he does Uraraka and Asui, but now when Midoriya clutches him tightly, arms warm around his waist, it does nothing but hurt.

It’s not the worst pain he’s felt, far from it, but his injuries are still new, and they ache and throb when squeezed and Shouto can’t help the gasp of pain that leaves his lips. Midoriya puts him down quickly, arms dropping to his own sides as Shouto presses a palm to his bruised ribs.

“Shouto-kun?” He says worriedly. “Are you okay?”

“Fine.” Shouto breathes, eyes fluttering shut as the throbbing of his ribs die down into a dull ache. “I’m fine. Hi Midoriya.”

“Hi.” Midoriya sounds hesitant and then, before he can stop it, gentle fingers are tilting Shouto's face up to meet big, concerned eyes. “Oh,” Midoriya gasps, fingers dropping again as if he’s afraid he’ll hurt Shouto even more. “Your face, Todoroki. What happened?”

He can hear the noise behind him die down at the shock in Midoriya’s voice, the upset behind it. “Leave it.” Shouto mutters tiredly, something close to panic gnawing at his ribs. Midoriya looks like he’s wants to argue more but, after he glances to Shouto’s neck, his mouth clicks shut, eyes starting to glisten with tears. Shouto knows what the older boy has seen. Small and discreet, nestled near his adams apple, is a black burn left by hell fire.

“Shouto.” Midoriya can’t help but say, reaching out to hold Shouto’s arm. He tenses before the other boy touches though (he doesn’t flinch) and Midoriya stills again, looking hurt.

“Please.” Shouto whispers. “Let it go.” He knows Midoriya won’t let it go but he uses the others hesitation as an excuse to jump into the elevator and spam the close door button.

“Shouto-” Midoriya calls, voice thick with concern, but the doors shut in the older boy’s face and cut off the rest of his sentence. He doesn’t want to hear the rest of the sentence, anyway. He just wants to get his meeting with Aizawa over with and then -

Well. Who knows what will happen then.

 


 

 

“You need to tell me who did this to you if you want my help, kid.” Aizawa sounds tired, more tired than Shouto's ever heard him, and frustrated.

“Sorry.” Shouto murmurs, not wanting to make his teacher angry but not willing to say any more on the subject either.

“Don’t apologise.” Aizawa sighs. “Please don’t apologise to me.”

Sorry, Shouto thinks.

They were meant to be meeting with Recovery Girl at 09:15 after a short catch up but, after confirming that Shouto wasn’t about to drop dead from internal bleeding, Aizawa had let her know that they’d arrive in their own time. Aizawa had decided that getting to the bottom of why Shouto looks like a warmed-up piece of shit was more pressing in the long run.

“You live with your father, correct?” Aizawa has a strange look on his face. Protective his mind supplies. Shouto shoves that thought away harshly.

“Yes.”

“Your father, Endeavor. The number one hero.”

“Yes.”

“And your mother isn't in the picture any longer, right?"

“Not anymore, no.” Shouto chews on his bottom lip, trying his best to appear unaffected by Aizawa's new route of questioning. He's tired of being so confused though, fed up of having to overthink and second guess everything that happens. “Why are we talking about my parents, Aizawa-sensei?”

“I think you know why.” Aizawa says in a softer tone. It’s still gruff, similar to the voice he uses in class, but there’s an underlying sense of softness to it now. “Shouto," his name sounds gentle on his teachers lips and it makes their conversation more personal, makes it more real. "You realise I can’t help you if you don’t say anything?”

“I know.” he replies honestly, watching as Aizawa runs a frustrated hand through his hair.

“But you still won’t say anything?”

Shouto shakes his head, eyes diverting back down to the desk.

“I could open up a child abuse case regardless.” Aizawa says after a moments silence, making him tense up. “People will recognise the burns on you as ones left by hell fire. We could take photos as proof. You wouldn’t have to go home again if you didn’t want to.”

His shoulders hunch more at his teachers’ words. He feels sick just thinking about admitting to everything his father's done. Shouto's not been the only one affected by his father’s hatred and to admit what's happened to him is to admit what's happened to them as well. To his mother. To his siblings. To their family. He isn't sure if he can do it, isn't sure if he wants to do it, but a small part of him lights up at his teachers’ words. The small flame of hope that catches whenever he thinks that his classmates care, that wants Shouto to ask for help, that burns bright in hope that Midoriya doesn’t regret his offer of friendship, swells at the thought of never having to go back to his family house. At never having to go back to his father.

It's such a surreal offer that it leaves him dazed, leaves him feeling like he's watching the conversation from above. Shouto is so tired of pretending, so tired of lying and being afraid, that he finds himself saying, “He’d be angry.” before he can quite register it. And then, when Aizawa gives him a look that hints that he understands, that he thinks Shouto is doing the right thing, the words are spilling before he can stop it. “He doesn't mean to do it, not really. He’s helping me.”

“No.” Aizawa stops him. “This, the hurting you - that isn’t help, Shouto. That’s abuse.”

Abuse.

“It’s not that bad.” Shouto denies. “I can handle it.”

“You shouldn't have to handle it,” Aizawa presses. “That’s what I’m trying to offer you. I want to help, Shouto.” He pauses and taps the desk until Todoroki meets his eyes again, holding his gaze like he needs Shouto to look at him for this, needs to see for himself that Shouto is registering the words. “You’re a good kid, do you hear me? You’re a really good kid, Shouto. I don’t like seeing you like this. I don’t like seeing you how you were on Monday which -” he pauses then, eyes widening as he puts the pieces together, letting out a sigh. “Which only occurred because I said you were all heading home, right?

Shouto presses his lips together and shrugs his shoulders.

“I want to help you, Shouto.” The sentiment is unfamiliar, the phrasing sounding odd and surreal to his ears because Shouto has never considered himself in need of saving. No, he corrects himself. Shouto has never thought of himself as someone worthy of being saved, not from his father.

(“It’s unsightly. I can’t look at him.”)

Shouto wasn’t meant to be saved. He was born a monster, is the spawn of one, and he was created to be the best and to be nothing else-

(“You’ll ruin him, you stupid woman. He needs to learn how to use his Quirk and this is the only way to teach him.”)

-regardless of what Midoriya tells him, regardless of what Aizawa is trying to tell him. He’s his father's son and their blood runs bad, -

(“Mom?” The kitchen wall presses into his back and he feels cornered, feels scared, as his mom lifts the kettle from the top of the stove.)

-runs thick and heavy like poison through his veins. His life-

(“That’s not your life anymore Shouto. Remember that. You were created to become the number one hero, do you understand?”)

-was forfeited the second his Quirk appeared, was forfeited when his father grew a sickly interest in him. To think that he, Todoroki Shouto, could be saved, could be worthy of being saved, after everything is -

(Shouto presses his cheek to the floor, chest heaving and muscles spasming, and thinks, would it be such a bad thing to be killed?)

-something like a dream. It’s laughable and it makes him feel so sick and yet so -

Relieved, maybe.

“I can’t help you if you don’t want it, though. I’ll need you to be honest with me, Todoroki.”

Honest about his life, honest about the secret he drowned in a long, long time ago.

Shouto is so, so tired. 

“Sometimes,” he breathes, lungs pressing into his brittle ribs. “I float.”

 


 

 

Dissociative disorder. A state of mind where you disconnect from the world around you. There are many types, the pamphlet tells him. Recovery Girl says that it he experiences two types of dissociative states commonly: depersonalisation and dissociative amnesia.

He’s not broken, she tells him, and he definitely isn’t crazy.

The disorder can be caused by a traumatic event or a series of them. Shouto thinks that his childhood could be described as traumatic, but he doesn’t want to admit to it, which, as it turns out, is understandable, is fine even, because he’ll supposedly end up telling the therapist he now has to see twice a week.

After evidence of his injuries was taken and Recovery Girl had healed him, leaving him to rest in the bed for a while, Aizawa asked again if this is what Shouto wanted. After he'd gained Shouto's approval there was a brief discussion between Aizawa, Recovery Girl, and president Nezu over how they should proceed with both Shouto’s mental state and home life.

Shouto finds himself tuning in and out of the conversation, shaky fingers clutching the pamphlets he was given to his chest, but gathers enough to know that, if Aizawa is willing to take temporary guardianship and responsibility of him, Shouto will be allowed to stay at Yuuei to train. The relief is overwhelming but is quickly drowned out by more nerves, more questions piling on his tongue that he bites back.

“I’m happy to do it.” Aizawa pauses then, voice growing firmer. “But only if that’s what Shouto wants.”

Because Shouto’s opinion on the situation did matter, it would seem. He’s asked more questions then, ones he tries his best to answer honestly, no matter how difficult he finds them. There’s a break for lunch and then the child welfare officers are there to speak to him.

It's all happening too quickly but he’s reassured that it's only because they don’t want to worsen his mental state by delaying this meeting for another day.

(They don't want to give him the time to change his mind on the matter.)

By the end of the day Shouto is physically and mentally exhausted.

He feels - not better, no, but more settled then he has in a long time.

Aizawa walks him back to the dorms, voice still oddly soft as he chats idly about what’s going to happen next. Shouto didn't take Aizawa as one to ramble but he finds the act soothing. “There will be more meetings of course, but I can be there if needed. I’d also rather you didn’t partake in the bigger practical lessons for now, but I’m happy to arrange private lessons so that you don’t fall behind in class.”

“My father?” Shouto asks quietly, breath fogging in the cold night air. “What will happen to him?”

“The child welfare officers will need to write up their reports before speaking to the police. That'll take a few days, I imagine. Your father won’t know anything until there’s enough evidence to convict him, okay?”

“Okay.” Shouto repeats. He can’t quite believe what's happened today and he's tempted to write the whole thing off as a dream, a different life that isn’t his own, but he lets the sound of Aizawa’s voice ground him and fights against the temptation.

They both pause when they reach the dorms and Aizawa shifts so that his left arm is pressed up against Shouto’s briefly. It’s not a hug, not even close, but he finds the motion comforting, finds it nice. “Thank you, Aizawa-sensei.” Shouto bows, wanting to show the other man's kindness as much respect as he can, knowing he'll never find the words to do so.

“It’s okay, Shouto.” Aizawa says. “You have my number, yeah?” He waits for Shouto to nod before he continues. “Good. Call me if you need anything, okay? And I really do mean anything. I’m here to help.” Aizawa nudges their arms together again before he makes a move to leave. “Get out of the cold, kid. Don’t forget that you’ve done the right thing - You’re a good boy, Shouto.”

A good boy isn’t something Shouto’s ever been called but it makes him feel soft and warm and safe.

He scans his ID badge before walking into the dorms, surprised to see people are still milling about downstairs. When he takes note of who it is though his surprise melts into that same soft feeling he felt outside and his cheeks flush slightly.

Iida, Kirishima, Jirou and Uraraka are sitting around a table playing a board game, faces animated and voices loud and happy, whilst Midoriya and Kaminari cheer them on. Ashido is sitting with Yaoyorozu and Hagakure in the living area, seemingly having a more private conversation, voices hushed as they lean in towards each other. The dorm smells of cake, no doubt Sato’s doing, and Aoyama’s fruit scented candles - familiar, warm, and homely. He feels like he hasn't appreciated the rooms here enough, feels like he's been taking his life here for granted. The comforting layout gives his tired mind some peace and, as he takes in the chatter and motions around him, he sees the dorms in a new light.

He’s never known what family is, not really. The relationship Shouto has with Fuyumi is the closest thing he’s ever known but even that’s built on blood-soaked sands with boiling seas. He never thought that he could find a semblance of family within Yuuei, never thought that he’d be able to make friends after being alone so many years but looking around the dorm he feels - warm. Calm.

His brain doesn’t feel like it’s in as many pieces at the moment, thoughts clear and his surroundings seeming solid, and he stands in the doorway just taking it all in.

Midoriya spots him not even a minute later, unsurprisingly.

He’s letting out an excited whoop at something Uraraka's done when he catches Shouto’s eyes, freezing mid fist pump to stare at him.

He's handsome, Shouto thinks absently, staring at his green messy hair and increasingly muscled body. Midoriya's jaw has grown stronger over the past year and most of the puppy fat has fallen away from his face, leaving it more chiselled. His nose is upturned, and his lips are a pretty pink, complementary to the freckles on his cheeks, and he's everything Shouto never imagined he'd have in his life. 

His green eyes are anxious as they rove over his body and Shouto remembers their earlier interaction, Midoriya being the only one to physically see the damage done by his father up close. It feels like it was weeks ago and Shouto thinks that today may just be the longest day in his life after the day his mother was taken to the hospital.

Any thought about his mother would usually make some kind of cloud gather in the back of his mind but nothing happens, brain fuzzy from nothing but his tiredness. He’s probably too exhausted for him to float he knows, especially after such a draining day, but he allows himself to hope that taking a step forward to right his past - to right his future - has helped, too.

He offers Midoriya a tired smile, eyelids drooping slightly, and can’t help but drop his gaze when Midoriya gives him a blinding grin in return. Shouto isn’t sure what he’s done to earn such affection, such kindness, but he doesn't push Midoriya off when he makes his way over to pull Shouto into a hug, this one more gentle then the one he received earlier but no less warm. Shouto’s usual reaction to being hugged is tensing up, standing stiffly, and not knowing what to do in return whilst his brain short circuits. This time though he lets himself sag into Midoriya, knowing that the smaller boy is more than strong enough to take on some of his weight, and he presses his face into his warm neck. Shouto sniffs slightly, tired and drained and yet still so emotional over everything, and Midoriya tightens his hold, helping ground Shouto even more.

“Alright?” Midoriya asks quietly, pulling back to take in Shouto’s face again. He, much like Aizawa, waits for Shouto to nod before he continues. “You were gone all day. We were all pretty worried, especially after my, uh, not so subtle reaction this morning.”

“I had to sort some stuff out.” He lets Midoriya take his hand and lead him over towards the kitchen.

“Not like, killing anyone, right?” Midoriya pulls a few bowls out of the fridge and places them in the microwave. “Because after seeing you this morning I wouldn’t blame you, but I’d like to think you’d invite me along to kill whoever did that to you. I would’ve come too, you realise? I can’t believe someone would do that to you Shouto, especially after everything you’ve been through. You deserve better than-”

“Izuku.” The name feels nice on his lips in the way his fathers never had. “I didn’t kill-” he hesitates, but then shakes it off, knowing Midoriya knows half of the truth anyway. “-my father.” his voice comes out shakier then he intends but Midoriya doesn’t seem to think any less of him for it. He comes over to place a gentle hand on his shoulder instead, squeezing it in comfort.

“I guessed it was your dad.” He says quietly, hand reaching up to fiddle with Shouto’s hair. It’s a weird feeling and such an easy affection but it makes Shouto feel like he might cry. Nobody before Yuuei has ever treated him this gently - this kindly. Not since his mother. “But I didn’t want to presume, you know? Did you tell Aizawa-sensei?”

“Yes.” Shouto admits, letting his eyes fall shut to the hide the tears welling in them. “I did.”

“Good.” Midoriya tugs lightly on a strand of hair. “I’m glad, Shouto-kun.”

Shouto thinks that he may be glad too.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

One month later

 


 

 

To say that Shouto was better would be a lie.

To say that things were better would be a half truth.

To say that everything would be okay is the only thing he can be certain about. It’s one of the only things he’s ever been certain about.

Okay – a distant dream, something so unbelievable and otherworldly that Shouto knows he’ll never find it in this lifetime. It’s a phrase that’s so commonly used by everyone around him, a passing word, a passing emotion, but it’s one Shouto will never be able to understand.

Things have never been okay, even before his Quirk. Things will never be okay, even after this.

 


 

 

“I’m sorry, Todoroki.” The woman - someone different to the lady who he was meeting with yesterday - says from his left. Across the table from them sit his father's lawyers, more lavish and expensive than the ones that had been assigned to his case. “But they’ve got us in a corner here.”

“In a corner?” Aizawa spits. He sits on Todoroki’s other side and seems to be one of the only people fighting for him completely. It makes him feel - soft, maybe. Warm. Or it had, until today.

Now all Shouto feels is stupid. Stupid, angry, disappointed, and yet a part of him isn’t even surprised. A part of him knew that this could be the outcome – that this was always going to be the outcome.

“We can’t press charges, not against Endeavor. It’s not feasible and, without proof, we can’t take him to court for how he chooses to deal with private family affairs.”

“We have proof.” Aizawa snaps. “We have evidence of Shouto with hell fire burns. What’s not convicting about that?”

“Aizawa.” One of his father's lawyers says in a polite tone. “Please understand that what happened between our client and his son was a terrible accident, one he’s already apologised for.”

“You don’t burn your child on accident.” Aizawa’s words make Todoroki flinch for more reason then one.

(“You need to let me see,” Fuyumi begs, hands tugging more insistently on his arm.

Shouto shakes his head, panting and wheezing and curling up even tighter because he can’t. He can’t take his hand away, doesn’t want to take it away. He doesn’t want to know what lies underneath his palm.

He presses his hand against his face even harder in the hopes that the pressure will stop the pain, the burning agony of his skin disappearing, but he’s not strong enough to stop his sister as she pulls harder, as she pulls his hand upwards instead of down.)

(Shouto’s only ever seen his sister cry once in his life and it blurs into his worst memory, a mare contributing factor to the horror he had felt. His sister had cried, hand cold on his left arm, hitching breaths echoing and blurring into the sound of his father shouting, his mother screaming, his brothers frantic voice on the phone. It was in the mess of that moment that Shouto had stopped his own pained keens, had stopped trying to let out any noise, and had instead retreated into the darkness his mind offered him.)

“It was an incident between Enji and Shouto alone, I’d like to remind you. Until you can get evidence of this... Abuse,” the woman's voice grows amused at that word, as if the thought of Endeavor abusing anyone was a joke, “then I’m afraid that this case is closed.”

Aizawa opens his mouth to argue, to snap something else, but deep down has Shouto always known that it’d end this way. “Thank you for your time.” he says politely, pushing his chair back and standing up numbly. “Tell my father that he doesn't need to bother with sending you here anymore. I'll drop my claims.”

Shouto walks out the room then, ignoring Aizawa’s voice as it calls his name and the sound of President Nezu speaking in a calmer tone. He lets his feet carry him away from the classroom and away from the mess he’s left inside, lets himself shake as he heads through empty corridors towards the exit.

Outside the air is cold and bitter, winter still upon them, and Shouto practises the breathing techniques his therapist had taught him as he makes his way behind the Yuuei building.

When he’s in an area he knows nobody ever comes to, somewhere quiet and empty, he lets his knees give out.

Slumping down against the wall hurts, his fall too rough and the brick scraping his skin, but once he’s sitting he can’t bring himself to care about anything, can barely force himself to keep his breathing nice and even, in for three and out for three.

The sun is setting, and the air is cold, and Shouto presses his face into his knees as his body shakes.

His father had denied Shouto’s claims. The police couldn’t build up enough evidence from just the burns and Shouto’s story alone and when they’d brought in his bastard of a father for questioning he’d denied it all.

He had denied everything.

Shouto’s story was: years of abuse, of hurting and training, of loneliness and isolation. A family ruined by a man who was always too caught up in himself to see that he was killing them all piece by piece, shattering and burning them all into nothing.

His father’s story was: Shouto, a rebellious teenager still haunted by his mother's betrayal. Shouto, young and angry, who got into a fight with his father, Endeavor, the number one hero, one that ended on bad terms. One that Endeavor was sorry about, one that Endeavor just wants them to forget about and move on from.

Shouto’s word versus the word of a hero.

(“Don’t you want to be a hero anymore, Shouto?” his mother’s voice is disappointed but kind, almost understanding, and Shouto sniffs wetly into her shoulder.

The sight of his father, one of the biggest hero’s out there, smacking his mother so hard she fell to the floor comes to mind. She’d cracked her head on the tiles and had to go to hospital. Shouto had been locked in his part of the house, shut away in his room, crying and begging to know if his mother was okay, if she was coming back, if anyone was there.

Shouto had never been more afraid of the word hero then in that moment, has never been able to look at other heroes without thinking do you hurt the people you love too?)

He can’t even let himself cry.

He’s been close many time, eyes watering and breath stuttering, but to let it out, to actually cry and grieve for everything (for everyone) was something he was trained out of by age seven. Crying is a weakness, is a flaw, and even though people are telling him otherwise, he can’t help but believe what he was taught. He can’t help but stick to what he’s always known.

Shouto knows that crying ends in punishments. None of his other sibling’s cry, not that he knows of, and it’s messed up, supposedly, but it’s also the life that he knows.

“Todoroki?” All Might’s voice startles him, makes him tense up even more, forehead pressing more firmly into his bony knees.

He refuses to look up. He can’t see All Might right now, doesn’t want All Might to see him right now, not after everything. There hasn’t been an opportunity for him to say sorry yet and the thought of what he did, of what he could’ve done, makes him feel sick.

If anything, All Might finding him may be the worst possible outcome to his day.

He knew his father would worm his way out of it, knew what to expect, but this?

All Might is someone he’s heard of all his life, someone who his father told him to defeat and someone who his mother encouraged him to look up to. For All Might, for the one man Shouto holds such tormented and twisted feelings towards, to find him like this, shaking and alone, is pathetic.

He must look so, so pathetic.

There’s the sound of someone sitting next to him, fabric shifting and gravel crunching, and when he peeks to the side he sees All Might, skinny and hollow in comparison to who he once was, mirroring Shouto’s position against the wall a few feet away.

The ex-hero looks tired and run down, a bit like how Shouto feels, and oddly vulnerable with his knees pulled to his chest and head resting on his crossed arms. He isn’t looking at Shouto, eyes staring ahead listlessly, which is for the best. Shouto doesn’t know how he’d cope if All Might looked at him, if they were both to stare at each other and see too much.

“When I was younger,” All Might says, breath fogging out in front of him. “I was born Quirkless.”

Todoroki tenses at this admission, unsure what to do with the information.

“I still wanted to be a hero, regardless of my lack of Quirk,” All Might continues. “and I had to fight for what I wanted. I won’t tell you how I got my Quirk, young Todoroki, but I will tell you this much: To go from being a nobody to being the number one hero was humbling. It was a dream come true and I’ve always tried my best to be loyal to what I believe in, to stay true to who I am. All I've ever wanted to do is help people, to save them, and to become a symbol of hope was so honouring.”

Shouto watches as All Might shudders slightly, arms tightening around his legs. “To know,” he pauses, eyes clouded as they stare out to the sparse scattering of trees in front of them. “That somebody could hold so much resentment towards me. So much hatred.”

Shouto blinks, lips pressing together. Despite everything, Shouto can understand where All Might is coming from, can relate to what the older man must be feeling on a all too familiar level. To know his father could break their family and then deny it when Shouto finally had a chance to be free, when he finally dared breathe word of the horror he’d lived through, is a level of hatred he never thought his father would sink to.

To sit in that room with the expensive lawyers looking at him like he’s nothing but an attention seeking brat, nothing but an annoyance, and to hear them deny everything, hurt him. It’s only the start, he knows. His father won’t let this slide, can’t let the truth stay out there, and the world blurs slightly when Shouto thinks of the future.

“If I had known, my boy.” All Might lets out a humourless laugh. “If I had only known then I would’ve-”

“Don’t.” Shouto breathes, letting his eyes flutter shut and turning his face back into his knees. “Don’t talk about it. Just.” In for three, out for three. “It’s not your fault.”

“Maybe it’s not.” All Might agrees after a moments silence. “But it’s not your fault either, you realise?”

Shouto bites back a snort. It may not be entirely his fault, he knows, but Shouto’s birth was still the catalyst of his family falling apart. Maybe people from the outside think they can see otherwise, but Shouto knows that somebody has to be blamed. That they are all to be blamed, maybe.

“Todoroki,” All Might says when the silence stretches out between them. He sounds like he wants to press the matter more, sounds like he wants to jump onto the you're a good person Shouto band wagon, but what comes out of his mouth instead is, “people are looking for you.”

To go from a life of isolation to a life where Shouto can’t even take an hour to himself without people needing to know his whereabouts is exhausting. He knows he shouldn’t have walked out, that he should’ve just told somebody where he was going, but he just needed the space. He considers trying to tell All Might that, lets the sentences string together in his mouth, but changes his mind just before they bloom into existence.

“I don’t want people to call me Todoroki.” It comes out smaller then he wanted, less demanding and more desperate. “That’s his name.”

“I see.” All Might hums, gravel scraping as he shifts next to him. “I'm sorry about the outcome from the meeting you were in- Aizawa told me what happened.” and then, the words jarring and still unfamiliar. “He's worried about you.”

The outcome of the meeting: Todoroki Shouto, problem child of Todoroki Enji, troubled and rebellious and a liar. A Todoroki, true and through. The biggest project his father has ever committed himself to, the project that’s run his mouth to his teachers and has left Endeavor with no other option but to lie himself.

“He says I’m lying.” Shouto slumps further against the wall, lifting his head and letting it thunk back against the brick. Night is fast approaching them, the last beams of the day shining weakly through the trees. “They say he said sorry.”

“Shouto,” His name coming from All Might’s mouth would have been enough to make him glance over in itself, but the tone he says it in as well, something gentle and commanding, makes his head twist and his fingers twitch. All Might is staring back at him with hollowed cheeks and pale skin and Shouto still hasn’t said sorry to him. “I believe you.”

There’s a space in chest, a gap where his heart feels both gorged out and too big for his rib cage, and he finds himself struggling to breathe.

All Might’s words offer no room for argument, leave no hint of doubt, and to stare into the face of the man whose presence both terrifies him and fills him with hope makes him feel –

(“Don’t let your emotions control you.” His father lectures. “You can’t help your emotions, Shouto, but you can learn to control them and not the other way around, okay? If you feel like you’re going to cry, then you stop yourself. Don’t ever appear weak, especially not in front of your enemies.”

Shouto frowns down at the notebook he’s writing in, trying his best to keep up with what he’s being told.

Things to do:

  • be a good hero
  • be the best
  • be proactive
  • listen more

Things not to do:

  • argue
  • let my poor stamina get the best of me
  • give up
  • get distracted by Touya, Fuyumi, and Nastu
  • cry
  • be emotional
  • let my emotions control me

“Your mother has always been too soft on you,” his father continues. “But with her gone I think we can finally start to make some solid progress.”

He blinks back the burning feeling at the reminder of his mother, eyes trained on Things not to do: cry.

He misses her.)

“You with me?” All Might’s words sound distant but Shouto nods, not wanting the other man to worry.

There is hand on his shoulder, All Might’s hand, and he doesn’t know what to do.

“I’m sorry.” He breathes, forcing the burning feeling in his eyes away. “For what I did during class. I shouldn’t have lost control.”

“It’s okay, my boy.” The hand squeezes, kind and gentle, and yet something in Shouto still feels like he should flinch away. “Don’t get stuck on what happened then. I’ve long forgiven you – I never even blamed you, Shouto.”

“You could’ve died if Aizawa-sensei hadn’t stepped in.” Shouto points out.

“He did step in, though.” All might squeezes his shoulder. “There was no damage done to me. If anything, I should apologise for not seeing Endeavor for what he was sooner.”

“Don’t.” Shouto repeats, bitter and empty. “Not today.”

“No,” All Might agrees, stretching his legs. “We don’t need to say it today. We probably do have to go in, though, Shouto. People are worried.”

“They don’t need to worry.” Shouto sighs, letting his head thud against the wall again and staring up at where the sky is a gradient of red and dark blue. His shaking has died down, mind calmed slightly by All Might’s presence and his clarity. His honesty.

Shouto is just tired now.

“But worry they will.” All Might pushes himself to his feet and, when Shouto makes no move to stand, offers a hand to help pull him up.

Shouto stares at the offered appendage, at the skinny fingers and clean cut nails, at the hand of the hero he’s always looked up to. He takes it in his right one, All Might’s skin feeling oddly hot against his cold side, and terrifyingly normal. Although they’re all hero’s, Shouto sometimes forgets that underneath it all they're just human, that under the hulking presence of All Might has always just been a man.

All Might smiles, small and genuine, and Shouto’s lips want to twitch in return. “Thank you All Might.” he murmurs, looking down to the floor.

“Call me Toshinori,” All Might returns. “All Might isn’t who I am anymore. Let me, Toshinori Yagi, help you as I am, Shouto.”

There’s probably more to this than meets the eye, underlying tales and buried sentiments hidden in the offering, but Shouto doesn’t want to look into them. Instead he takes a breath and steels himself before murmuring, “thank you, Toshinori-sensei.”

 


 

They must have been outside for longer than Shouto expected because when he enters the dorms, All Might by his side, Midoriya looks near tears and Aizawa’s hair is messier than usual, as if he’s been running his hands through it. Most of the class are still up, piled onto the common area couches, and the air seems to be buzzing slightly.

Silence falls upon everyone when the door clicks shut behind them and it makes him feel anxious, makes his mind feel jittery, and if he were to let it, Shouto imagines he could take a step back into the looming fog and leave his body to cope with the aftermath of his disappearance.

It’s tempting, especially when Aizawa starts to walk over with purpose, but he’s been trying so hard to break out of it. His therapist has taught him techniques, has taught him about grounding and not running away from his problems, and he wants to try to be better. He wants to be better.

“Shouto,” Aizawa’s face is neutral but Shouto’s spent enough time around his teacher recently to see the telltale signs of stress and worry. Aizawa’s eyes are slightly more bloodshot then usual and his lips are pinched, eyebrows more furrowed. “Alright?” he asks, both of them very aware of the rest of the class listening in.

“Yes.” Shouto says quietly, bowing his head in silent apology. “I just needed to – you know.”

“I can imagine.” Aizawa says and Shouto knows that Aizawa can imagine. He knows that Aizawa understands him on a different level, on a similar level, and it’s for this reason only that Shouto’s been able to trust his teacher so much. Even with what his father is saying, Aizawa is on his side without question, without doubt.

“We can speak more about everything tomorrow, can we not?” All Might - call me Toshinori - pipes up, hovering a hand over Shouto’s back. He doesn’t touch which Shouto is grateful for, and the heat radiating from it is - nice, maybe. Reassuring.

“Of course.” Aizawa agrees, eyes flicking between them both. “Tomorrow morning, before class. That okay with you, kid?”

“Yes sensei.” Shouto agrees, relieved to have the rest of the evening to himself. Or as to himself as he can get with everyone else waiting to talk to him.

Only a few people from his class know what’s going on, what’s really going on, but everybody knows on some level that Shouto is having... Issues.

“Enjoy the rest of your day, Shouto.” Toshinori says. Shouto takes this as his queue to walk further into the dorms and Midoriya takes it as his queue to come padding over to Shouto, eyes big and worried as they scan him as if Shouto’s been held hostage for the past few hours instead of in a meeting about his father.

He pretends not to hear Aizawa hiss to Toshinori “you could have let any of us know that you found him. I’ve got at least half the staff out there looking for him and you’ve just waltzed in-”

“Shouto-kun.” Midoriya greets with a small smile, eyes swimming with unasked questions.

“Midoriya-San.” Shouto returns, eyelids feeling heavy and body weighted. Midoriya looks like he wants to say more, looks like he wants to pry Shouto apart with his kindness and worry, to ask what happened, what is happening, but he doesn't. He looks Shouto over, head tilted, before he tuts and steers him towards the kitchen instead. “You’ve got to stop missing dinner, you know?”

“I do it on purpose.” Shouto mutters sarcastically. He feels tired - upset. Disappointed. You’re allowed to be upset, he reminds himself. You’re allowed to be sad about the outcome of the meeting. Midoriya is offering him an out though, is offering him normality in the face of everything else he feels. “I love having the entire kitchen to myself, you see.”

“You never have it just to yourself.” Bakugou scoffs when they walk in. “Deku is like your second fucking shadow.”

“Also, the kitchen is the place to be.” Kirishima pipes up from where he’s sitting at the table watching Bakugou cook. “There’s always so much free food. Who ever knew that Bakugou-san was such a chef!”

“Call me a fucking chef one more time, Shitty Hair, and I’ll fucking blast this rice so far up your-”

“No!” Iida gasps as he walks in behind Shouto and Midoriya. “Keep your kinks out of the kitchen. This is where we eat, you animals.”

Uraraka, also trailing in alongside them, takes a seat next to Shouto with a snort as Bakugou splutters and Kirishima howls at your face, man, oh my god.

“Are you making enough to share, Bakugou?” Midoriya interrupts Bakugou’s cursing.

“I’m not fucking sharing with any of you.” Bakugou snaps, slamming a wooden spoon down on the kitchen counter. “You can all fucking cook for yourselves.”

“Well, that’s fine.” Uraraka says, voice bubbly and sweet. “You and Deku can share both kitchen space and ingredients then, right?”

“Oh!” Kirishima says delightedly. “You can have a cook off!”

“I’m not having a cook off,” Bakugou snarls. “Deku can’t cook for fucking shit anyway, and there’s no fucking way he’s touching my ingredients.”

“Well thank god they’re the dorm ingredients then, right?” Iida says, picking up a bag of beef from the counter and twisting it from side to side.

“Put that down.” Bakugou snaps, eyes wide as Midoriya makes his way over to inspect the beef alongside Iida. “Stay the fuck out of my kitchen.”

“How would you suggest this be cooked, Midoriya-san?” Iida continues over the top of Bakugou.

“Hmm,” Midoriya frowns thoughtfully, tapping his chin in an over exaggerated manner of thinking. Shouto watches the way a vein pops in Bakugou’s forehead with amusement. “I’d say about fifteen minutes in the oven.”

“No,” Bakugou snaps, seemingly at his breaking point. He walks over to snatch the beef out of Iida’s hands and cradles it to his chest. “This beef needs to be seasoned and fried, you fucking idiots.”

“The oven sounds fine to me.” Shouto says, unable to help himself when it comes to pressing Bakugou’s buttons.

“Me too.” Uraraka agrees. “Although I’d put it in for thirty minutes just to be safe that it's cooked all the way through.”

“I wonder whose beef will taste the best.” Kirishima ponders aloud. “I’ll have to taste both, of course-”

“Fine!” Bakugou snarls, empty hand releasing a small controlled bang. “Fucking fine, you fucking parasites, I get it. I’ll fucking make enough so that Icy Hot can have a meal.”

“Just Shouto-kun?” Kirishima seems unable to help himself.

Another frustrated explosion comes from Bakugou’s hand as he closes his eyes and breathes deeply, the action oddly reminiscent of the breathing techniques Shouto’s therapist has been teaching him. “I’ll fucking plate up for me and the Half and Half bastard-”

“And me, right?” Kirishima pouts.

“And,” Bakugou continues through gritted teeth. “For fucking Hair for Brains. Whatever is left over can be shared amongst the rest of you idiots.”

“So kind, Bakugou-san!” Uraraka gushes.

“So noble.” Iida says in a serious tone, taking a seat opposite Shouto at the table, lips twitching when they share a glance. “Truly, your kindness knows no bounds.”

“I fucking hate all of you.” Bakugou snarls, twisting back around to continue cooking.

Shouto lets the chatter around the table wash over him, lets himself get distracted by the conversations, by the words. It’s nice to be around people, he finds. Sometimes it can be too much, but often it's nice to just surround himself with bigger, brighter presences. He forces himself to focus on their individual voices, on their separate ways of interacting, and tries to observe how they act around each other. It’s nice to sit back and watch, knowing that if he wants to join in he can, but also knowing that if he doesn’t say a word, that’ll be okay too.

(Shouto can hear his siblings, sometimes.

He doesn’t see them, hasn’t seen them for so very long, but their voices echo through the walls of the house like they’re haunting it.

“Shouto.” His father snaps, grabbing his arm and yanking him away from the wall he was sitting against. On the other side is Fuyumi, her soft voice cutting off abruptly at their father’s arrival. She had been talking about her day, her week, but now it’s like she was never there, his father's grip crushing her ghostly presence as well as Shouto’s arm.

Shouto is locked in a different part of the house to her but they’ve learnt that the upstairs hallway on his side interconnects with a closet on Fuyumi’s side and so they meet here, quiet and private, and Shouto listens to his sister talk and she pretends she doesn’t hear him cry.

It’s worth it in the long run, the sneaking around. They only resort to this when Shouto is desperate and lonely and Fuyumi is willing to chance getting in trouble, but the snatches of time they have is everything to him.)

He blinks when a plate is placed in front of him, jostled away from the grainy memories by the smell of beef and garlic rice. Looking up it’s to see Bakugou frowning at him, lips moving but words seeming far away. He blinks again and Bakugou is gone, Midoriya now sitting next to him, eyes big and kind as they stare at him.

Eat up his mouth says. Before Bakugou changes his mind and takes the food back.

Shouto does as told, eats the meal in front of him on autopilot and keeps his eyes trained on his plate. Things seem blurry around him as if he’s suddenly watching his life through a film instead of being there. It’s disorientating, and he tries to remember what he was told to do when he started to float but his mind comes up blank.

He remembers meeting with his therapist, remembers the room and the colour of the walls, but the things they spoke about are non-existent.

Non-existent.

Not existing.

Nothing being real and -

(would it be such a bad thing--)

There’s a foot touching his under the table. It presses down firmly, a heavy weight that could almost hurt, and Shouto takes the breath he’d forgotten about.

In for three, out for three. Repeat.

With air in his lungs he allows one hand to curl, allows his nails to bite into his palm as the voices around him start to drain back in.

Midoriya isn’t looking at him when Shouto glances over. The other boy is instead joining in with everyone else, laughing at something Uraraka has said. His foot though is warm and heavy atop of Shouto’s own and it makes the winds inside of his head die down, makes sitting here with everyone easier.

“How was your meeting, Shouto-kun?” Kirishima asks when there’s a lull in the conversation, Midoriya’s foot still grounding him to the room.

He’s not surprised that the subject has been brought up. Everybody must be curious about the meeting, about why he disappeared for an hour after it.

If anything, Shouto's more surprised over how long it took for the topic to come up in their conversation.

(“I’m sorry, Todoroki, but they’ve got us in a corner here.”)

(“Until you can get evidence of this abuse, then I’m afraid that this case is closed.”)

Midoriya is the only one Shouto has admitted anything to, the only one who’s ever seen the unfiltered aftermath of his father, but Shouto knows that Bakugou overheard their conversation all those months ago at the sports festival. He knows that Kirishima has been keeping a close eye on him, especially after he came back from his family home a few weeks ago, and he often catches the red haired boy watching him when he thinks Shouto isn’t looking. Then there's Iida and Uraraka. Midoriya would never break his trust, would never give away any fine details, but he must have confided his concerns about Shouto to them both, concerns which they already had, it would seem.

The whole of 1-A knows about the meetings, knows that something bigger is going on. It’s not easy to hide Aizawa and Shouto disappearing for hours to meet with strangers that have been granted access into Yuuei grounds. It’s not easy to pretend that something didn’t make Shouto snap in class and attack a teacher.

Shouto had thought that his silences and distant gazes went unnoticed, but it’s slowly becoming clear to him that he was the only ignorant one.

Everybody treats him - not differently. Differently isn't the word he wants to use because 1-A treat him normally, treat him as if he’s not balancing on the edge of crazy, but they’re more observant to him now, maybe. They’re almost protective- if you can be protective over somebody who isn’t really in any danger.

(“Do you feel safe here?” His therapist asks.

“Yes.” Shouto replies honestly, thinking it over. He’s always felt safe here at Yuuei, at the dorms. “It’s nice here.”

His therapist hums, tucking a strand of long hair behind her ear. “Did you feel safe here after one of your peers was kidnapped?” She tilts her head curiously, eyes observant as they watch him.

He blinks, confused. “Kidnapped?” he asks hesitantly.

His therapist pauses, pen hovering above her notebook, before she continues like normal, placing her pen down and staring at him with kind eyes. “Yes. Bakugou, during your summer camp. Do you not remember this?”

He frowns, trying his best not to panic as he thinks of the event in question.

“It’s okay if you don’t remember, Shouto.” His therapist reminds him gently. “Repressed memories can be a side effect of dissociation. We're here to work through them, alright?” She gives him an encouraging smile, sweet perfume hanging in the air as she shifts slightly. “I imagine the memory was a very traumatic. You were Bakugou’s partner during the time where he was taken.”

He was? He tries to recall it, tries to think through summer camp, summer training -

The memory is there in the back of his head, blurred and distant, as if it were drawn on sand and the tide had started to wash it away. He remembers Bakugou being taken, remembers Kirishima and him planning to get him back, remembers this being the reason for the dorms to be constructed. There are bits inbetween that are fuzzy, the sea covering patches of sand where something is being explained, but he remembers-

“I felt safe.” Even when in danger, even when there was so much uncertainty and wariness, he never once felt unsafe.

Trust is not something Shouto gives easily, but the fine lines of it have been built between him and his classmates. He knew they'd protect each other. “Anywhere is safer than being at home.”)

“You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to.” Iida says when Shouto is quiet for what must be too long.

“Yeah, sorry man. Don’t feel like you have to tell, I was just curious-”

“It’s fine,” he interrupts, not wanting to hear Kirishima’s hurried apology. Shouto isn’t fine china, isn’t a bow that's been pulled too tight. He’s just – him. “It went okay.”

“Did it?” Midoriya frowns at him.

(“Aizawa.” One of his father's lawyers says in a polite tone. “Please understand that what happened between our client and his son was a terrible accident.”)

“Well,” he pushes the food around his plate, appetite gone and mood spiralling into something dark. “Maybe not.”

They don’t push him past that, Uraraka smoothly jumping subjects to what he missed out on during his meeting, something about Tokoyami and Jirou arguing. He's grateful for her intervening, the thought of his meeting making him feel sick, making his mind feel hazy-

Midoriya's foot presses down on his and Shouto reminds himself that he's not alone anymore.

 


 

The next morning before class finds Shouto sitting in front of Aizawa’s desk.

“I won’t give up.” Aizawa is saying. “I can’t promise you the outcome, Shouto, but I can promise you I’m not going to stop fighting this.”

It’s nice to hear but – “There’s no point.” Shouto knows his father. The man is a liar and a monster, but he’s also dreadfully predictable. Shouto knows what’s coming next, can picture the way his father will go about this, and now the only thing they can do is play a waiting game with the man. “You heard what the lady on our case said – what everybody who's been assigned to our case has said. It’ll be better for us all if you just let it go.”

“Kid, anybody willing to bend over backwards just because the name Endeavor is involved isn’t worth our time.” Aizawa’s voice is flat and annoyed but Shouto knows it’s not aimed at him. “There's going to be someone out there who's willing to fight this case for us, someone who can’t be brought or intimidated by that man.”

“There’s no point.” Shouto repeats. There have been three separate lawyers assigned to his case already and all of them have said the same thing: There’s not enough evidence to press charges against Todoroki Enji for years’ worth of child abuse - it’s your word against his and, no offence boy, but. Well, he’s Endeavor.

His father has always been well known and people don’t want to hear slander against their new symbol of hope, against the man they all believe in now All Might is gone. People aren’t going to believe them and Shouto isn’t surprised, not anymore. He was stupid for getting his hopes up in the first place.

“There’s every point.” Aizawa taps on the desk twice, wanting Shouto to look at him. It’s hard to look at any adult though, let alone one Shouto’s dragging down alongside him. He knows Aizawa won't continue speaking until Shouto meets his eyes though, so he looks up with a sigh, guilt gnawing at him when he sees how tired his teacher looks. “There’s more we can do. If worst comes to worst and nobody wants to take our case, then I still won’t let him take you. I'll find a way for you to stay here.”

Shouto doesn’t think Aizawa will have much choice in the matter when it comes down to it. They both know that Endeavor’s next step will more than likely be to pull Shouto from the hero course, from Yuuei. They’re all stuck in one big waiting game and Shouto isn’t too sure what his old man is waiting for.

“I’m not giving up on this.” Aizawa stresses as if he can see the doubt in Shouto's mind. “I’m not giving up on you.”

He can feel something clog up inside him at those words, something deep and painful. He isn’t sure if it’s a good feeling or not, isn’t sure if the words he’s being told are good or not.

“Thank you.” Shouto absently wonders what Aizawa’s breaking point will be with him.

(He knows that his mother loved him once, long ago, but Shouto also learnt that love is never unconditional.)

“Don’t thank me,” Aizawa tsks. “Not yet.”

Shouto doesn’t know what to say to that so he chooses to keep quiet.

Over the past month Aizawa has become someone who Shouto finds himself oddly drawn to, oddly calm around. The other man has a soothing atmosphere about him which at first seemed weird, but now seems more like a blessing then anything else. Shouto isn’t sure how the other man did it, but he’s somehow taught Shouto to put his trust in him, to depend on him, and it’s nice to have somebody in his corner for once.

It’s nice to know that Aizawa looked at him and saw him for what he was, saw Shouto as the failed product he is, and still decided to choose him regardless.

“Stop putting yourself down.” Aizawa tuts. He's looking at Shouto knowingly, reading his closed off expression and being able to tell what's lying underneath. “I know it’s tough, but I promise you things will get better.”

That’s another thing Aizawa keeps doing. The promises

Shouto doesn’t like putting that much faith and confidence in someone and yet something about Aizawa allows him to bridge the gaps in his distrust, in his doubt. Aizawa is committed to his job, to his students, and maybe that’s why Shouto finds himself believing the other man more often than not. He’s seen Aizawa try so hard with other people in his class, with Yaoyorozu and her confidence, Midoriya and his untrained Quirk, Bakugou and his anger, Ashido and her studies –

Aizawa tries so hard for all of them. He trusts all of them and has gained their trust in return.

It’s a mutual respect that Shouto has come to accept, come to use.

“Okay.” Shouto won’t stop putting himself down, isn’t sure if he knows how to stop, but he will try. For Aizawa, in a show of his thanks, he will try.

“Good boy.” It makes Shouto feel warm knowing he’s pleased the other man he’s come to admire.

For the limited time he had it, Aizawa had taken full advantage of his role as Shouto's temporary guardian and had used it to help Shouto as much as he could. For example, his father is no longer his emergency contact and he’s been granted special permission to stay at the 1-A dorms over all holidays. And then, when their case fell through on the police end, he’d still chosen to keep Shouto under his wing, even when his guardian title had been stripped.

“Thank you.” Shouto says again, mind feeling fuzzy. He isn't too sure what exactly he's thanking Aizawa for, but he wants the elder to know that he's grateful, that he appreciates everything even if he can't put it into words.

“Don't thank me yet.” Aizawa repeats, soft and firm. “You don’t ever need to thank me for doing you right, kid.”

 


 

 “Come on Halfie,” Bakugou groans. “Some of us want to go home already.”

Bakugou and Shouto have started their remedial courses to get their provisional hero licences and the training is both gruelling and harsh. It leaves them both tired, drained, and irritable.

It's a familiar feeling, one that makes Shouto tremble.

“Fuck face,” Bakugou kicks a stone at his shoe. “Let's fucking get going.”

The feeling of bruises forming on his body and aching muscles makes his mind falter and slip, makes everything around him blur into somewhere else, and he has to forcibly remind himself that Bakugou and Present Mic are waiting for him. He has to force himself to remember that he's not in his house with Endeavor watching him from the shadows. .

“Todoroki,” Present Mic says, voice different to how it usually sounds, soft and lacking its usual brashness. There's a hand hovering above his shoulder and it guides him towards the car, his feet tripping over themselves on the way. “Come on.”

Shouto still isn’t allowed to attend practical lessons after what happened but the school and his therapist have agreed that he could attend the remedial courses on the condition that one of his teachers is present at all times.

He'd scoffed internally at the time, feeling stupid and hurt that he couldn't be trusted by himself, but standing here now he sees why Aizawa pressed for him to have somebody who was aware of his situation present.

His head is floaty and blurred and it makes him feel sick, makes his stomach roll and his fingers twitch. He figures he probably pushed himself too hard today.

“It's fucking creepy when you do that.” Bakugou’s voice jars him out of his head and he blinks to see that they're in Present Mic’s car, scenery flashing by the window.

“Do what?” Shouto blinks again, twisting his head sluggishly to stare at the other boy.

Bakugou glares at him, a mottled bruise forming high on his cheekbone, but there's something disturbingly thoughtful in the anger his eyes hold. “The whole sleeping with your eyes open thing.”

“I don't sleep with my eyes open.” Shouto says before he can think better about it, regretting the words as soon as they leave his mouth. Having Bakugou think he’s weird is much better than the truth.

“What the fuck do you do then?” Bakugou scrunches up his face in disbelief. “Have you just been mentally checking out on me for the past fucking ten minutes?”

Yes, Shouto is tempted to say. “No.”

“You're a fucking weirdo.” Bakugou points out. There's no real heat behind his words though, both of them tired and aching and stuck in the same boat when it comes to the courses they’re taking. They both have to work on teamwork during their lessons and it's forced Shouto to try and understand Bakugou more, to observe him more closely and learn how to work with the other boys Quirk. It's also forced Bakugou to watch Shouto in turn, which is odd. Uncomfortable.

(His siblings are gone. His mother is gone.

There is nobody left in life but his father, but Endeavor.

He hasn't seen anyone outside of his old man for so long that Shouto wonders whether or not there could ever be a life for him bar this, bar Endeavor and being his son.

Even Fuyumi’s limited access has been revoked, Shouto's latest act of rebellion having harsh consequences.

He won't give in, though. He won't use his fire.

In the silence of his room Shouto let's frost creep across the floor, covering the wood in icy tendrils, and wonders if anybody else in the world has noticed his disappearance.

He wonders what it would be like to disappear completely, indefinitely.)

Shouto has spent so long not being seen that having all this attention suddenly thrown onto him feels oppressive. It’s daunting and terrifying because Shouto isn't sure what they'll see in the end if they keep looking. He isn't sure if the monster lurking underneath his skin is the same colour as his father's, red and black and angry, or whether his ice has turned it into something even more unimaginable.

A knee presses against his cautiously, curiously, and it makes him blink, fog receding because of the pressure. He looks down to see Bakugou’s knee pressed up against his own and when he turns to face Bakugou the older boy is watching him with a frown, eyes observing Shouto with interest.

What are you doing Shouto thinks. Why are you doing that.

Bakugou looks like he's figured something out, looks like he's confirmed his own theory, and Shouto can't follow the other boys line of thought. He doesn’t know if he wants to understand it.

Bakugou’s knee is warm and firm against his own and it’s oddly grounding, oddly –

“If you're gonna sleep at least close your fucking eyes, Half and Half.” Bakugou turns to stare out the window, dismissing Shouto as quickly as he took interest in him.

He doesn't move his leg though, and Shouto doesn't either. He takes the other boys advice and leans his head against the window, letting his eyes flutter shut.

 


 

There is an expanse of space in his mind.

The space isn’t real, his therapist reminds him. The brain can’t be divided into here and there, can’t be split into again and before, because it’s all the same.

He knows that the space isn’t real but--

But.

There is an expanse of space in his mind that stretches and tugs, that pushes and pulls. It’s a tide of absence, always lurching and drawing him in when it’s high tide and leaving him more settled and aware when it’s not broaching his consciousness.

There is a space where clouds roll and waves crash and Shouto gets lost in it. The space reacts to him sometimes, fuelled and powered by his emotions, but every so often he can’t help what lurks there. Sometimes the waves crash against his mind and the clouds break through, entrancing and demanding in all they offer. Sometimes Shouto will seek them out, will let himself get lost in them on purpose.

(“My baby,” his mother's voice is thin and watery and there are bruises on her arms, bruises that were meant for him. “My beautiful boy.”

She brushes a hand over the right side of his face, cold fingers on his cold cheek, on his temple, in his hair. She doesn’t touch the left side of him anymore and he doesn’t think much of it.

She doesn’t like him using his fire anymore and he doesn’t think much of it.

She looks at him like he’s somebody else, doing double-takes when Endeavor puts him through physical training, and he doesn’t think much of it.

“You’re so brave.” She tells him, wiping the tears off of his right cheek. “You’re so good, my Shouto.”

Sometimes Shouto doesn’t feel like he’s good.

He feels weak and useless when standing in the shadow of his father. He feels alone and worthless, feels like his Quirk was a curse instead of a gift.

Sometimes his mother makes him feel like it’s okay, like he’s loved and like things will be okay, but when he opens his eyes to see purple blooming on her pale, pale skin he feels an overwhelming doubt.

Yesterday his father pushed him too hard, pushed him too far, and the thing is that Shouto’s Quirk is still so new, still so untrained in comparison to Endeavor’s. It’s uncontrollable and it hurts and yesterday his training had done more damage than good.

Today Shouto was tired and hesitant and he knows he was to blame, knows that it was his fault, but his mother had stepped up in his place, defiant and proud.

“I-I can handle it.” He wants to handle it, wants to stop his mother from hurting. “You don’t need to protect me.”

“My Shouto.” His mother sighs. “I can handle it too. This,” she trails her fingers down to where a fingerprint shaped bruises sit on his arm. “Is not your legacy. You can be so much more.”)

It’s all the same. His therapist tells him. It’s all you, Shouto.

There is a space in his mind, void and alive, and it calls to him.

 


 

Shouto doesn't hear from his father like he expects.

It's odd and the longer things continue as usual the more anxious he becomes.

His therapist notes it in their next session, records his twitching fingers and longer pauses, and it makes him feel out of control. He used to be better at pretending, at hiding himself behind a blank face and the clouds, but something in him has been torn open.

The flame of hope that wanted the help, that wanted him to be better, has ignited and it’s burning away at him, flames thick and angry. He'd wanted this, had thought he'd wanted this, but the air around him feels heavy and Shouto can't handle it. All the worry, the concern, it's too much.

It's too much.

(Fuyumi wraps his bloody hands with a tight expression as Touya lets out a string of curses from the bathroom doorway.

“How long are we fucking going to let this happen for?” his brother demands. Shouto feels like he's watching the conversation from above his body, feels like it hurts less this way. “How long are we going to play pretend?”

“There's nothing we can do.” Fuyumi says flatly.

“The police. Child services.” Touya lists them off on his fingers. “Running away-”

“You know we can't do any of that.” Fuyumi sighs, fingers tying the end of the bandage together.

“Like fuck we can't-”

“For Shouto,” His sister holds his eyes, her own grey and light just like their mom's, like one of Shouto’s own, and gently let's go of his hands. “We have to stay.”)

There is a fine line between fraying and unravelling. Shouto likes to think he can walk the balance, can keep himself from falling apart at the seams whilst letting some of his edges lose.

He thinks of the darkness his mind can offer him, more real and understanding than anything around him, and thinks that maybe this time he can control it better.

In the darkness of his room Shouto squeezes his hands into fists, lets heat and frost bite at his palms, and thinks about control, about how much it hurts.

 


 

“How do you feel about watching a man cut off his own foot?” Kirishima asks him when he steps into the common area.

“A man,” Shouto says blankly, noting that nobody else seems alarmed by this question. “Cutting off his own foot.”

“Yes.” Kaminari nods enthusiastically which is - disturbing. “With a saw.”

Shouto blinks once, twice, but nothing changes, everything solid and stable around them.

“It's either a man cutting off his own foot or a bunch of boys swimming.” Kaminari and Kirishima crowd in close, both of the boys staring at Shouto as if he's the answer to all their problems. “I need your vote on the man and the saw, Todoroki.”

“Um.” Shouto feels like he's missing something. Either that or he needs to find Aizawa and inform the man that the entire class have lost their minds.

“Choose the swimming boys.” Kirishima begs. “I'll be sick if I watch a man saw his own foot off.”

“Stop wording it so weirdly.” Tokoyami snaps. “You're purposely trying to make him pick the swimming option.”

“I think both options are rubbish.” Sero points out from where he's sprawled over a sofa. “Why can't we just watch-”

“Don't.” Jirou warns. “It took us long enough to narrow it down to just these two. We don't need more suggestions thrown about.”   

“So, what is it, Todoroki?” Kirishima presses. “The man chopping off his own foot or a bunch of boys hanging out in a pool?”

Shouto blinks uncertainty but settles on “the swimming option.” when it becomes apparent that everybody expects an answer from him. His choice elects a cheer from most of the girls in the room and a groan from Kaminari who clutches at his heart with a pained expression.

“This is a fixed vote.” the other boy complains, throwing himself down across Sero’s legs dramatically. “Our government is corrupted.”

“Ignore him.” Kirishima throws an arm around Shouto's shoulders and tugs him towards where Ashido is sitting. “You made the right choice, bro.”

“Yeah you did.” Ashido pulls him down next to her, Kirishima settling in closely on his other side. “I knew you wouldn't let us down.”

“Our hero.” Asui agrees.

“I'm not too sure what's happening.” Shouto admits aloud. He catches Midoriya’s eyes, the smaller boy sitting on the floor with Uraraka, and throws him a desperate look.

“Movie night.” The green eyed boy explains with a grin. “It was between a horror movie - Saw, I think? - and an anime called Free!

“Saw was the better option.” Kaminari scoffs. “Now I'm gonna be stuck staring at anime abs all night.”

“You're just jealous.” Yaoyorozu teases.

“I still think we should be watching something more educational.” Iida points out, causing a series of groans from the people around them.

“Don't start this again.” Hagakure huffs. “Let's just watch what we've agreed to watch.”

So this is how Shouto finds himself spending his evening: watching an anime squished between what seems to be the two biggest Free! fans in the room.

It's part of the continued series of events that leave him confused and oddly pleased, oddly warm.

His classmates - his friends - keep him close, keep him distracted, and it's nice, it’s soothing, and it makes something in him soften. It makes his mind quieten and the internal struggle of not knowing what to do, of not knowing who to be, slow down to a halt.

(“To become the number one hero requires you to actually pay attention to me.” His father's face is close to Shouto's, eyes narrowed dangerously and flames casting his face in threatening shadows. “If you don't pay attention, boy, you're only going to embarrass us both.”

Good Shouto thinks. The skin around his left eye itches and throbs and Shouto thinks let us be embarrassed. Let the world know what you've done. 

If he were braver he'd say it. If he were stronger he'd do something about it, but Shouto isn't sure he'll ever get there.

He doesn't want to be a hero, doesn't want to turn into his father, and if keeping quiet is the only way he can prove that, then it's what Shouto will do.

“Stop being so weak.” His father's eyes are blue and Shouto hates them. He hates all of him. He hates himself. “Stop letting your emotions control you. We've spoken about this.”

Shouto shuts his eyes, knowing what's coming next. “Your stupid mother,” He pictures his mother hugging him, proud and apologetic, brave and yet so lost, and her gentle way of convincing him that the word hero wasn't synonymous with Endeavor. “She's coddled you too much. Look at yourself, Shouto. Look at how pathetic you're being. She might have ruined your face but don't let her ruin who you are as well.”)

When the people from his class keep trying with him it reminds Shouto that maybe it's okay to be himself, that maybe it's okay to be confused and awkward, to not know what he's doing, because they don't care. Because they like him regardless of his flaws.

“Do you know any card games?” Iida asks him the following Thursday. “Any other game besides Snap?”

“Snap is a good game.” Midoriya pouts, fingers fiddling with the edge of a card. “Snap is the best game.”

“It was fine for the first few rounds.” Iida sounds pained. “But we’ve played almost ten games now and I’m finding it hard to believe that nobody else in this room knows any other game besides Snap.”

“Cards are old fashioned.” Kaminari points out. “Why would you use them?”

“Old fashioned?” Yaoyorozu sounds bewildered. “How are they old fashioned?”

“They just are.” Kaminari picks up a bunch of cards and flaps them around as if they’re not all talking about the same thing. “Look at them – old and useless.”

“You’ll break them.” Uraraka snaps, snatching the cards from his hand. “They’re delicate, you idiot.”

“Exactly!” Kaminari nods. “They’re old, useless, and breakable.”

“I’m going to bed.” Shouto decides at this point, not wanting to deal with games and loudness and unnecessary stress. “Good night.”

“Bed?” Kirishima whispers behind his back. Shouto ignores him, keeping his feet steady as he heads towards the lifts, temples pulsing from the headache that’s been building all afternoon. “It’s like, not even six.”

He can feel them watching him as he presses the button, gazes heavy on his back, and he wishes not for the first time that he could go unnoticed. He wishes that he could hide behind aloofness, behind a cold exterior, and go back to the start where people were only mildly curious about him and not so overwhelmingly invested.

Midoriya slips into the lift before the doors can close behind him. Shouto raises an eyebrow at the smaller boy and Midoriya smiles innocently in return, cheeks slightly flushed, and posture determined.

“Not playing snap?” He asks when it’s clear Midoriya’s not going to offer an explanation without Shouto starting the conversation first.

“Snap got boring.” Midoriya shrugs.

“I thought it was the best?”

“This is better.”

“What?” Shouto tilts his head. “Standing in the elevator with me?”

The tips of Midoriya’s ears turn red but the older boy doesn’t back down, giving a quick stubborn nod of his head. “You’re good company.” and then, before Shouto can scoff, “I'd rather spend time with you over them anyway.”

The doors ding open but Shouto’s too busy staring blankly at Midoriya to realise. The other boy is so open with his affection, with his honesty, that Shouto is never quite sure what to do with it. He’s not quite sure what he’s done to deserve it.

“I don’t think that’s true.” Shouto mutters belatedly but Midoriya isn’t next to him anymore, is now standing outside the lift and holding the door open for Shouto.

“Aren’t you coming?” Midoriya asks, looking warm and soft in the light of the hallway.

“Am I coming to my own room?” Shouto questions blankly. The doors of the lift bump into Midoriya’s hand before opening back up.

“Yes.” Midoriya says patiently. “Are you coming to your room?”

“I’m not not going to go to my room.” Shouto takes a step out of the lift and frowns down at the older boy. “Are you going to my room?”

“Well I’m not not not going to go to your room.”

“Why are you not not -”

“Shouto-kun.” Midoriya interrupts, eyes soft and kind and amused, all of the things Shouto doesn’t deserve directed at him, all the kindness that will only ruin them both in the end. “I want to spend time with you.”

It’s a weird thought, someone wanting to spend time with him. Even though it’s becoming a more common occurrence it’s still so perplexing, so odd, especially when it comes from people like Midoriya.

“Okay.” Shouto says, not really understanding at all but not wanting to send Midoriya away. A part of him wants to be alone, wants to be left by himself so he can get lost in his own head, but a bigger part of him wants Midoriya there.

He wants to be distracted, wants to let Midoriya make him feel like he’s more than withered petals left to dissolve on the cold floor. He wants to let himself have this because he doesn’t have anything else.

His family is nothing but planets out of trajectory, nothing but floating moons and burnt out stars.

Shouto, as he is now, is nothing but a husk of a person with rotting insides.

“If that’s okay with you of course.” Midoriya smiles like Shouto’s worthy of it, pink lips curling and freckles scrunching by his eyes. He waits for Shouto to nod before heading towards his room, letting Shouto trail behind him as he starts to talk about what Shouto missed during their sparring lesson that afternoon.

He doesn’t mind that Shouto stays quiet, happy to let him listen, no words needing to be passed between them to explain that this is what he needs. They sit in his room, shoulder to shoulder, the decor replicating his house at home, and Midoriya speaks for the both of them. He fills the oppressive white noise that rings in Shouto’s ears with his own gentle voice.

The moon shines through a gap in Shouto’s curtains and makes Midoriya’s dark hair glow, skin painted pale and ethereal. The buzzing under Shouto’s skin dilutes and settles, his muscles growing lax and his heart beat softening, breaths falling into the same rhythm as Midoriya’s.

It’s in moments like this, quiet and alone with the older boy all to himself, that Shouto likes to compare Midoriya to something akin to fresh fruit: ripe and sweet, bright and flourishing, and undeniably good for him.

 


  

“Your sister still lives at home, doesn’t she?” Aizawa asks him, voice tenser than usual.

“Yes.” Shouto feels his fingers twitch at the reminder. “She does.”

Aizawa curses under his breath, hands curling where they lay on the desk. “I didn’t realise.” He looks pained, looks guilty. “Is she safe?”

(“You’ll get in trouble.” Shouto whispers. His sister rolls her eyes, face narrower than Shouto remembers it being, hair shorter.

“What’s he going to do to me?” Fuyumi scoffs. “He acts like I don’t exist, Shouto. It’s you that’ll get in trouble if we’re caught - but we won’t be. He’s out, we have time.”

“You could still get in trouble.” Shouto presses, eyes darting about nervously. Their father is miles away on a business trip and Fuyumi has snuck in to see him, to keep him company, but Shouto wouldn’t be surprised if Endeavor could step from the shadows, a monster lurking in the darkness, always ready to consume them. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Ah,” his sisters eyes become softer, grow sad and pained, and for a second, he can almost convince himself that he’s looking at his mother. “Shouto,” she says, his name delicate and gentle, “he won’t hurt me. He...” she hesitates and the distance between them grows, an ocean of differences separating their similarities, depths of water washing and distorting what’s the same. To be so alike and yet so so different. To live in fear of the same man with such different things scaring them is hard.

“I’m different.” Fuyumi settles on. You’re different, she doesn’t say.

He wishes there was a wall between them so that he didn’t have to see her face, to see her strength, to see how weak they both are when it comes to their hero of a father.)

His teacher is asking does he treat her like he treats you.

In the sense Aizawa asking, Fuyumi is safe. He’s not asking does he hurt her differently, so Shouto says, “she’s safe.” and Aizawa sags slightly.

“It’s just you that he...” Aizawa pauses.

“It’s just me.” Shouto confirms. He is the only one Endeavor is focused on, the only one out of his siblings that holds his attention. “She’s always been able to look after herself.”

“I think you’ve looked after yourself pretty well.” Aizawa does this thing, he’s noticed, where he will always try and paint Shouto in a positive light. “All things considered, Shouto, you’ve done really well for yourself.”

He thinks of his mother, of his scarred face, of his ignored siblings and thinks is this well?

There is poison in his veins, thick and ugly, and he often wonders how far his mother would’ve had to burn him to unveil the monster that lurks underneath his skin. He thinks this and feels clouds build, feels his skin crawl, and wants to ask is this doing well?

 


 

Fuyumi turns up at the school, all pale hair and sharp edges, eyes familiar and guarded and her lips pressed into a thin smile. She looks calm and collected from the outside, but for her to be here – for her to be here after Shouto had told on his father – must means there’s more to it.

She’s walking with Aizawa, the both of them heading towards the dorms, when their eyes meet across the courtyard.

Kirishima and Midoryia’s voices are starting to ring in his ears, Bakugou’s shout sounding strangely muffled, and Shouto has the sudden urge to turn around and run the other way. He doesn't want to deal with this, whatever this is. He just wants to escape to his dorm room, to the back of his mind maybe, and stay there, but the thing is –

Fuyumi is familiar and she’s safe. She’s his family. She’s the oldest out of them all and is the only constant he’s ever known. A part of him is so desperately relieved to see her here, to see her after everything he’s been struggling to deal with (attacking All Might, Aizawa offering to help, the word dissociation), that he finds himself rooted to the spot, tendrils digging into the ground and securing him in place, both physically and mentally.

By the time he shakes off his dizziness, his sister is already making her way over to him and he notices that there’s something more desperate about her too, something understanding and raw hanging over her.

“Shouto.” she breathes as she reaches him, eyes raking over him for any signs of injury. The routine of her patching him up in the aftermath of their father is automatic, is ingrained into them both like a twisted routine, and he finds the action oddly comforting.

Her hands hover over him like she wants to hug, like she wants to pull him in, but she knows that Shouto has always been funny about touch and affection.

Shouto isn’t who he was back then though, isn’t as colourless and blank as before. He’s adapted to people now, to noise and living somewhere that doesn’t consist of ghosts haunting every corner. It’s not until he sees Fuyumi hesitate to touch him that he understands what Aizawa meant when he said that Shouto had grown.

There was once a time where he would’ve flinched away from any touch, where he would have avoided even the gentle ones because, coming from his siblings especially, he could only picture the betrayal of his mother.

(His mother’s eyes had been big and terrified, and she’d stared at Shouto as if he were monstrous. She started at him as if he was more than just skinny arms and sunken eyes, as if there wasn’t still puppy fat clinging to his cheeks and as if he didn’t have a lisp from one of his teeth falling out.

Whatever she saw when she looked his way couldn’t have been him. He refuses to believe that she would do that to him, refuses to belief that Shouto alone was enough to make her –

He often wonders what she saw that day.

Her hands had clutched the kettle, steam whistling from the top, and he so desperately wants to know what she saw when she looked his way. He wants to know what made her take a step closer, what made her lift it up and-)

His hands squeeze hers, unnaturally cold on his left side but familiarly chilled on his right, and she looks so pleased that he wishes he could’ve broken himself out of the bonds his father forced him into years ago.

“Fuyumi.” He says in return, feeling oddly shy. There are things floating between them, secrets lurking in their shadows and simmering where they’re bathed in the afternoon light, but the thing with Fuyumi, the thing with all his siblings, is the accepted understanding when it comes to who they are.

She pulls him in for a quick hug, arms squeezing tight around his shoulders, before she pulls back and holds him at arm's length, eyes still absently scanning him as if Shouto’s eight years old and pretending that there isn’t charred skin under his sleeves.

“Why are you here?” He asks her and then, belatedly remembering the manners Midoriya has been trying to teach him, “how are you?”

“I’m fine.” Fuyumi smooths the wrinkles out of his shirt sleeves absently, wind tugging at the strands of her hair. “Do I need a reason to see you now?”

“Yes.” Shouto frowns. “There’s always a reason.”

“I wanted to see you.” Fuyumi says firmly, but Shouto sees her barely their hesitation.

“You needed to see me.” He guesses. Fuyumi’s right eye twitches as she smiles which means yes. Which means please don’t make me say it. He needed you to see me.” Shouto realises, feeling something unpleasant curl in his stomach when his sister grimaces.

“Who’s this?” Uraraka’s voice bursts them both out of the bubble they’d put themselves in, her airy voice curious and her brown eyes wide intrigued as they flick between him and Fuyumi.

Shouto remembers abruptly that they’re at Yuuei, that his friends are off to one side and Aizawa is now on the other, and that their family home is miles away.

“She’s my sister.” Shouto watches the way Kirishima’s eyes widen and Bakugou’s eyebrows raise as they both stare at Fuyumi with new interest.

“Your what?” Kirishima cries. “Dude, you never said you had a sister.”

“You never asked if I had a sister.” Shouto points out.

“You mean to say you don’t talk about me constantly?” Fuyumi teases, effortlessly falling into the social familiarities Shouto has never understood. “You’re a terrible little brother, Shouto.”

“What would I say about you?” Shouto frowns.

“You could start with saying she existed.” Kirishima points out, bowing belatedly at Fuyumi. “It’s nice to meet you, Todoroki-san.”

“And you, uh.” Fuyumi glances at Shouto for help and he’s tempted to let her suffer, to let her deal with this on her own, but he’d never hear the end of it if he did.

“Kirishima.” Shouto clarifies, and then, glancing at the rest, “Bakugou, Uraraka, and Midoriya.”

“Ah, of course. Hello.” She nods politely, turning to look back at Shouto. “I'm not interrupting anything, right Shouto?”

He needed you to see me.

(“You are my son, Shouto.” His father tuts, looming over where Shouto’s sprawled on the floor. “But you’re acting like a Quirkless bastard and I’m sick and tired of- “)

Shouto’s tempted to say yes, he is busy, actually, but-

“He’s free.” Midoriya chirps, eyes bright and hair messy. “We just finished at the gym.”

“Great.” Aizawa steps closer, tilting his head towards where the main campus building is. “You can use my classroom to talk, if you need.”

“See you later, Shouto-kun.” Midoriya waves, tugging on Uraraka’s sleeve to get the rest of them to follow him. “It was nice meeting you, Todoroki-san.”

And then they’re gone, leaving Shouto standing next to his sister as Aizawa watches him expectantly, something thick and significant hanging over them all like smoke.

“I’ll show you to my class, then.” Aizawa says when it becomes apparent Shouto isn’t going to lead the way. His teacher twists on his heal and starts to head towards the building, Fuyumi raising her eyebrows at him when he hesitates to follow.

He’s scared, is the stupid thing. He’s been playing the waiting game with his father for so long, long days and longer nights leaving him twitching with nerves, that Shouto almost forgot that his father could use his siblings as other players.

He needed you to see me means that this, whatever this is, is what they’ve been waiting for. His sister turning up at Yuuei is the move they’ve been waiting on, is his father making the next step by- Well. Who knows what he’s doing or why he’s using Fuyumi to do it.

Who even wants to know, really, because it can’t be anything good. Whatever was to come next could never be anything good.

The walk to Aizawa’s classroom seems both too long and too short and by the time it’s just Fuyumi and him sitting in his empty home room he feels more than sick.

“What is it then?” He asks when the door clicks shut behind Aizawa’s retreating form, eyes watching his sister closely for any signs that she’s lying. “What does he want?”

“Shouto.” His sister hesitates again, fingers twisting a lock of pale hair around her fingers. “How are you?”

“I’m fine.” He dismisses, nerves coiling in his stomach, anxiety gnawing at his ribs, clouds circling in his mind.

“You seem fine.” She agrees which Shouto thinks is a lie. How Shouto could be fine after his father? How any of them could be fine is ridiculous. “Better than the last time I saw you.” His sister continues.

“Better.” He agrees. He debates for a moment before deciding to confess to her, “I see a therapist now.”

“You do?” Fuyumi seems surprised at first and then pleased, just like when Shouto reached out for her back outside. “That’s good, Shou. That’s really good.”

(“I got in.” Shouto tells his sister. “To Yuuei.”

“Oh Shouto,” Fuyumi breathes, eyes wide and happy. “That’s such good news.”

“I’m on the hero course.” Shouto says flatly, his insides a fighting mix of relieved and terrified.

“That’s really good.” Fuyumi repeats firmly. “You can be anything you want to be, Shouto.”

They don’t mention their father, don’t mention that this is what he wants for Shouto. The silence stretches and Shouto feels his eyes burn, feels his fingers twitch, and suddenly admits in a shaky voice, “I want mom.”

He wants to know if she would be proud of him, wants to know if she’d forgive him. He wants to know if she would look at him and see Endeavor, if she would see fire and scars and think, is this what you’ve chosen to become?

He hasn’t used his fire for years, doesn’t dare, doesn’t even dream of it anymore, but sometimes when he looks in the mirror he sees a stifled monster trying it’s best to escape.

“I’m proud of you,” Fuyumi offers. “I know it’s not much, Shou, but know that I’m proud of you. I’ll always be proud, whatever you choose to do.”)

“Do you know what I did?” He asks her tiredly.

“Do I know that you told someone?” His sister phrases it as a question but they both know it’s not. He shifts and she sighs, face pale in the light of the classroom. “Yeah.” She says quietly. “I know.”

“Why are you here?” He asks again, waves rolling in and surroundings starting to crack as things turn hazy.

Fuyumi crosses her legs neatly, face conflicted before it softens, a small choked noise escaping from her mouth. “I’m proud of you, Shouto.”

Her words are unexpected and he isn’t sure what to do with them. They are familiar in a way, reminiscent of what she’s said to him before, and yet so different because this time Shouto believes her. This time he feels like he’s done something worthy of her pride.

“What has he been like?” He doesn’t want to know, not really, but Fuyumi is still stuck there and he’s been worried about her.

(His mother's face when she walks into the room to see the ice is one of delight and joy, lips stretched into a proud grin, but the second she registers the smoke hanging in the air it slowly fades.

Fuyumi and Natsu are still next to him, still protecting him as his father strides over and his mother grows tense in the doorway.)

(His mother, bruised and tired, says, “it’s okay.” as the front door opens. Shouto moves further behind her legs, wishing she could hide him, wishing he could hide them both.)

“He was angry at first.” Fuyumi taps her fingers on her leg, eyes lost in thought. “He was so angry, was going to take you out of school and- well, who knows what he would’ve done. Kept you at home, maybe. Moved you away. But then he must have realised that taking you away from Yuuei when there are rumours circling about his parenting? When people are watching him as the new number one? It would be bad for his reputation. It could ruin it.” She laughs then, flat and humourless, blue painted nails drumming agitatedly on her leg.

“It’s always been about him.” Shouto confirms, lips twitching and his own fingers curling inwards.

“Yeah.” Fuyumi agrees after a beat. “It’s always been about what he wants and what he thinks and what he does –” she pauses, takes a breath. “It’s never been about you, Shouto. Even when it was, it wasn’t, not really.”

(“You were created to defeat All Might. You need to stop focusing on other people and start focusing on yourself.” Endeavor says it simply, states it as a fact.

His mother is gone and she’s not coming back to him. Nobody is coming to save him from his father.)

“He was angry, especially when you got a new lawyer, but then he realised that it’d get him nowhere if he fought fire with fire. He realised that it’d prove nothing but the truth, so he just stopped. It’s easier for all of us if you’re called a liar in the long run, isn’t it?”

“I’m not a liar.” He snaps, hurt and relieved and so, so disbelieving. “I’m not lying about him-”

“I know.” His sister says patiently, softly. “Shouto I know better than anyone that you’re not lying. I wanted people to know too, once. I’ve wanted people to see him for who he was but,” she hesitates. “He’s our father, Shouto.”

“No.” Shouto feels something in him shrivel up, feels something claw at his lungs. “He’s not. That’s not what a dad does, Fuyumi.”

“Mom’s gone.” She says simply. Her voice blurs when she says her next words, the deeper baritone of Endeavor creeping in. “She’s gone, Shouto, and I don’t think we’re ever really going to get her back.”

“What are you saying?” Shouto whispers. This isn’t about their mother, isn’t about Fuyumi or him, not really, because it’s always been about-

“Endeavor,” Fuyumi sounds like she’s trying to convince herself as much as him. “Is not who he was. He said he wants to try and be better, Shouto. He said that he wants us to be proud of him and I— We. All I’ve ever wanted is for us to be a family.”

“I’m family.” Shouto argues. “Is that not enough?”

“If I were to give up on him I’d be no better than him, would I?”

“So you’re taking his side?

“There’s not sides.” His sisters voice cracks and she takes breath, fingers pushing her glasses up. “There should have never of been sides.” She says in a calmer tone. “We’re all Todoroki’s, Shouto. I’ll always stick by you and Natsu. I stuck by mom even though she,” snapped, cracked, “did what she did. If he’s willing to try and he’s serious about it then I don’t see why we shouldn’t give him a chance.”

He blinks at her, the nauseous feeling in his stomach growing more intense, but the torn pieces of this picture are slowly being put together. Tape and glue mesh the different parts together and he can see it for what it is, can see the strokes and the deliberate decisions of the brush and-

Shouto is scared of his father’s violence, of his obsession, of becoming the same man his mother saw when she looked at them both, but Fuyumi-

Fuyumi fears being alone.

She was barely acknowledged by their old man and only ever saw the aftermath of what he was, of what he could do. She never saw Endeavor’s skin split to reveal the flaming beast that haunts Shouto’s dreams.

Fuyumi’s always been kinder than him, always more understanding. She had chosen to be a teacher because she wants to teach, wants to spread knowledge, wants to influence people to be better.

She is a better person then Shouto will ever be because there is an ocean between them, deep and dangerous, murky and cold. Fuyumi had been purified by the waves, had been blessed with an understanding he’ll never have, whereas Shouto got lost within the riptide and was washed up along bloodied shores. He’s stuck on his own island, alone and lost with the tide still nipping at his heels, whilst Fuyumi tries to build bridges that will never reach him.

They are so alike and yet so different and it’s so, so hard.

He is so tired and-

His father's next move is redemption. There isn't going to be any punishment, isn't going to end in bloodied faces and shaking muscles, because his father has won.

Shouto is broken and worthless, is discarded as the future number one because Endeavor has that title now, is working on earning that title.

He had pictured being taken from Yuuei. He had dreamt of court cases. The reality is somehow even worse.

Fuyumi wouldn’t lie about his father, wouldn’t make up that he’s trying to change.

Shouto has been ripped apart until he’s nothing and now, when he’s finally seeking justice, when he’s finally found someone to listen to him, when he finally has a chance to piece himself back together, his father wants to burn what’s left of his ashes and extinguish him completely.

His father wants to start sticking the shattered pieces of their family back together and in the process, he has taken the only thing Shouto had left.

“Shouto?” Fuyumi’s voice is muffled, is distant and scratchy. “Come on - hey.” Her hand touches his arm and he rips it away, rips himself away, feels his back hit the wall as he heaves.

“Don’t.” He snarls, ice licking at his arm. His father’s next move after all this time is changing? After Shouto, after Touya, after his mother - he’s going to change now? When it’s already too late?

“Don’t – Just.” He curls his hands in his hair, tugs on it, and tries to remember how to breathe.

“He’s trying.” His sister says, trying to calm him down but only making it worse. “I promise, Shouto. He wants to see you, he wants to start over-”

When Shouto blinks his sister is in front of him, arm outstretched but not touching, eyes familiar and face a mix of her own and his mothers. He blinks again, and she is two steps away, five steps, eight.

“Breathe.” Aizawa’s voice tells him. “Shouto, you need to listen to me.”

(“Listen to what I’m saying, Shouto.” His father tells him. “I’m trying to help you, boy. You think you’d be more grateful.”

“Enji,” his mother breathes from the doorway. “Leave him be.”

“Stay out of this.” Endeavor snarls. “He needs to stop being so weak, so pathetic-”)

There is a space in the back of his mind and Shouto thought that he could control it, maybe. He thought that he could build and reconstruct it at his own will, but it’s demanding and vicious and so alive when the rest of him isn’t. When it claws its way to the front Shouto can’t stop it, can’t fight it, even if he wanted to, even if a part of him is saying in for three, out for three.

 


 

When Shouto comes back to himself he’s sitting on the dorm sofas and All Might – Toshinori, his brain reminds him – is next to him.

“So, then I thought, why not just smash him into the ground? I was in Detroit at the time, so I shouted Detroit-

“Stop it.” Aizawa has his head in his hands, black hair messy and stands standing on end. “Please. I don’t have time to listen to you name every state.”

“You’d be lucky to hear me name every state.” Toshinori scoffs. “There’s an entire documentary series on this information and here I am, offering you quality content for free-”

“Shut up.” Aizawa groans. “I told you to go home.”

“You’re my colleague not my sensei, you can’t actually tell me what to do.”

“Fine.” Aizawa slumps down on the sofa, eyes tired and skin pale. “Stay! Talk about your stupid moves.”

“They’re not stupid.” Toshinori tuts. “They inspire hope.”

“I’ll inspire hope in a minute.” Aizawa mutters.

“If you threaten me I’ll-”

“Sensei.” Shouto interrupts, mind feeling thick and tongue loose. Aizawa sits up straighter, suddenly alert and eyes observing Shouto – worriedly?

“Shouto,” Aizawa greets quietly. “Alright?”

“Yeah.” Shouto says, embarrassed and confused. “Sorry.” he whispers, nervous to how long he’s been floating.

“What for?” Aizawa asks at the same time Toshinori says, “There’s nothing to apologise for.”

Shouto looks between them, head spinning. “Sorry.” He repeats, trying to find the words to explain. “For getting you into this mess.”

“There isn’t any mess.” Aizawa dismisses.

“I’m a mess.” Shouto points out.

“No you’re not.” Toshinori looks like he wants to put a hand on Shouto’s shoulder, but he doesn’t. “You’re a very talented kid, Shouto.”

“I’m-”

“No.” Aizawa insists. “What have I told you?”

Shouto stares at his feet and presses his lips together.

“Shouto.” Aizawa repeats, voice underlying with that strange softness he always has when dealing with Shouto’s emotions. “What have we talked about?”

“I’m ill.” Shouto mutters. “I can get better.”

“Exactly.” Aizawa confirms. “You will get better, Shouto. It won’t be an instant thing, there will be relapses and fall-backs, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not making progress.”

Shouto doesn’t know what to do with all the chances Aizawa keeps giving him, all the chances everybody keeps giving him, regardless to who he is. Regardless of what he does. It leaves his head jumbled and makes his feet bounce on the floor.

“Where’s Fuyumi?” He asks quietly, trying to distract himself from his own mess of emotions.

“She left, remember?” Shouto doesn’t remember. He is hollow spaces and echoing rooms, is a mess of here and not here at all.

“It’s fine if you don’t.” Toshinori says when Shouto doesn't answer.

“It's not.” Shouto snaps frustrated, suddenly feeling overwhelmingly irritated. He's sick of this, sick of people telling him it's fine – that it's okay – as if Shouto is stupid enough to believe them. As if he's ignorant enough to not realise he's spiralling into crazy, may have already broached the line. “It's not okay.” his nails bite into his palms and his lungs ache, heart beating too fast in his chest. “Nothing is ever going to be okay.”

“That's not true.” Aizawa tells him but it's too late because his mind his already started to blur, the room around him starting to spin, starting to ripple. “You're going to be okay, Shouto.”

Toshinori says something then, voice gentle and muffled, but by the time he finishes his sentence Shouto has floated away, has gone.

 


 

It takes a week for him to get himself back under control.

His therapist helps him learn new grounding techniques, makes him talk through what his sister said, teaches him ways to stay focused on the here and the now.

She tells him it's okay to have episodes, that it's okay to react to bad news like that, that Shouto still isn't crazy.

Midoriya helps him by hovering quietly, concerned and soft and always filling the silence with inane theories. It reminds him of what Bakugou said a few weeks back about Midoriya being his shadow and the thought makes him feel warm, makes the haze fade, because it’s such a nice idea, such a nice thought. He’s always been scared of the shadows, scared of his father lurking behind corners just waiting to catch him out, but Midoriya is a ball of light, the human embodiment of a hero, and to know Shouto has him in his corner is - is something. It’s some feeling he isn’t sure what to do with, some emotion he doesn’t know.

Midoriya stays close and isn't afraid of Shouto's hazy eyes or his lack of conversations. It's not like Shouto talks much anyway, not like he jumps at the chance to start conversing with others, but they must see that he's off, must note that he's struggling, because they all give him and space and help him at the same time.

Yaoyorozu makes sure he attends meals, makes sure to bring Shouto food if he doesn't show up. She walks him to classes and takes double the notes. She watches him, makes sure he's okay, and is good at distracting him when his thoughts get too much.

Kirishima watches him too, eyes concerned, and between him and Bakugou people get the idea to give him space - to give him room to breathe and collect his thoughts.

Shouto finds himself surrounded by kindness even now, even when he feels like he’s less him than he’s ever been, even after he attacked a teacher and got pulled out of practical lessons. People still treat him like he deserves better, like he’s always deserved this, and it makes his stomach twist unpleasantly because he doesn’t know what do with what they’re offering. He doesn’t understand why they’re offering it.

Shouto isn’t made for this, isn’t made for smiles that go further than the surface and gentle touches that don’t make him want to flinch away.

It’s not until he’s lying in his room, ice glittering on every surface from a nightmare, that a voice in his head whispers is this real?

The cold seeps in, makes him shudder -

(“You can’t ignore your fire forever Shouto.” His father still sounds so angry, so frustrated, even after years of Shouto’s adamant refusal to even light a wisp of a flame. “This rebellion will stop at some point and you’ll realise how stupid you’ve been - how stupid you are. It’s a part of you as much as your ice is.”

Shouto doesn’t want it. He wishes his mother had burned it out of him when she’d had the chance.)

Is any of this actually reality?

 


 

Sato knocks on his door the next morning.

“Aizawa-sensei sent me to get you.” The older boy explains after Shouto’s opened it, eyes curious and concerned as they stare at Shouto.

“Why?” Shouto frowns, mind feeling sluggish. He doesn’t recall having a meeting with Aizawa today - or anyone else for that matter. He had been planning to try and catch up on sleep.

“Well you didn’t turn up for homeroom or literature and I guess he wants to know why.”

“It’s Sunday.” Shouto points out. “We don’t have classes on Sunday.”

“Uh.” Sato blinks, head tilting and eyebrows furrowing in concern. “It’s Monday, Todoroki.”

That would explain the quietness of the dorm, then. It would also explain the consistent knocking from a few hours ago.

“Why didn’t anyone get me up?” Shouto asks in confusion.

“Well I think Iida did try and get you up, but Midoriya and Uraraka convinced him to leave you be.” Sato shrugs at him, face amused as he recalls the story. “And then the both of them and Kirishima somehow managed to convince Aizawa-sensei you were just running late to homeroom. They tried it again with Cementoss, but he wasn’t willing to buy it. So, he spoke to Aizawa, Aizawa glared at us all, and when nobody said anything, he sent me to find you.”

He isn’t sure which bit of the story to pick apart first, mind reeling slightly. There's something building in him, something pleased and soft, but he ignores it and settles on asking “why would they lie about what I was doing?”

“Because they care.” Sato says simply. His face holds no signs of doubt, no signs of hesitation, as if it’s obvious that Shouto is someone worthy of caring about, someone worthy of all their protection.

It’s confusing but Shouto is too tired to argue it, too tired to demand what they’re trying to do, to beg Sato to tell him what it all means.

Instead he takes a breath, shuts everything that’s starting to overflow back into himself, and says, “Give me a moment, then.”

By the time he’s sitting in Aizawa’s office he feels more distant then not, but he’ll take it over the barrage of questions, of doubt, of confusion. He’d rather sit here and feel nothing then be back in his room, ice steaming away as he doubts his existence.

Aizawa looks unimpressed, eyes regarding Shouto’s appearance flatly, lips pinched.

Shouto refuses to accept that Aizawa looks concerned because it’ll only ruin him. Concern gets people hurt, caring leads to nowhere, and he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t need it.

(“Sweet thing,” His mother tuts. “It’s okay.”

Shouto shakes his head, fat tears rolling down his cheeks, and slumps further into his mother’s embrace. “M-make him stop. Please.”

“I...” his mother’s voice falters, falls silent. Then she tightens her hold and drops a kiss to his head. “I’ll help as much as I can.”

Later that evening Shouto finds his mother cooking dinner with shaky hands and a drawn face. There are hand shaped bruises on her arms, ones that, when Shouto looks down, match his own.)

“What can I do to help?” Aizawa asks him, fingers tapping against his desk to draw in Shouto’s attention.

“I don’t need any help.” Shouto says, making sure to keep his tone polite and guard high. He doesn’t want Aizawa’s concern, is tired of having everyone shift around him as if he matters. He liked being quiet, liked being alone, liked not having to second guess everything.

(He pretends not to notice how forced the words are, how untrue.)

“Shouto.” Aizawa presses. “You know I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing’s going on.”

“Then what’s the issue?”

That is the issue, Shouto wants to explain. Nothing’s going on and things are normal. His father wants to change.

If anything, things should be better. He’s seeing a therapist and has friends and his father wants to apologise, wants to make amends. It’s what he used to dream of once, what he used to picture getting better as, but now he’s here and it just feels like things are getting worse.

He thought he was hollow inside, thought he was nothing but an empty shell, but something in him is rotting, is consuming him. It’s seeping through all of him like oil and his fire catches on it, desperate and fuelled by it all, whilst his ice repels it, trying to force it away as it coats his insides.

All he wanted, really, was the truth.

He wanted people to believe him and - well, people do believe him, are willing to support him, but.

But.

When the words fall out of the circle of people around him they’re scoffed at, laughed at, dismissed as crazed ramblings and-

His mother is stuck in a hospital and the thought of his father still terrifies her. Nobody bar the doctors and his family know why she’s in there, know what she did to him, what their father must have done to her.

One of his brothers is long gone and Shouto barely see’s the other, barely knows him now, and Fuyumi -

Fuyumi is still trying to keep them all together out of the desperate emotion that stems from the idea that under it all, under everything they've done to each other, there must still be love there.

Shouto learnt better when it came to love, got taught better, but they all are so different. There are so many spaces between their similarities that it’s exhausting.

He wants people to stop seeing Endeavor as a hero, regardless to what his father thinks he can do to make amends for it.

He wants people to stop looking at his old man and feeling awe, feeling excitement, feeling hope.

Shouto spent years living with the man, living with the number two hero, scared to become a hero himself. He’s spent nights surrounded by the darkness of his room, the silence deafening and his muscles aching, waiting for anyone to come and save him.

He doesn’t know how to piece his thoughts together enough, how to pull everything he feels in and flatten it out. He doesn’t know how to find the words he needs to explain everything.

It’s easier to say, “things are fine.”

It’s easier to school his face into a neutral expression and keep it there, to blink innocently and furrow his eyebrows in apparent confusion. “I’m just tired, sensei. I slept in and then must’ve fallen back asleep after telling Midoriya I’d be a bit late.”

Aizawa stares at him for a moment, eyes taking in what he looks like and Shouto knows what he sees. Shouto is tired, has dark bags under his eyes from sleepless nights and his skin is paler than normal from all the time he’s recently spent shut up in his dorm room.

“You know where I am.” Aizawa says, tension draining slightly from his shoulders as he believes the lie, and it makes Shouto feel terrible. It makes him feel sick.

“Of course. Sorry for making you worry.”

“Go to class.” Aizawa tuts. “Don’t be late again.”

 


 

The longer he pretends things are okay, the louder the voice inside his head gets.

Is this real? Would any of this really happen to you?

He lets himself join in with the class after their lessons are over and they seem delighted, seem happy and chatty and tell him jokes that he doesn’t understand. He listens as best he can, tries to focus and understand, but then thinks,

Do you really need to understand it if it’s not real?

He goes to the remedial courses to get his provisional licence and works with Bakugou, a teacher always watching from the stands, and he starts to let his fire roam free. He doesn’t let himself hold back, doesn’t let himself get distracted by thoughts of his father because,

Why wouldn’t you use your fire? It’s not like it can really hurt anyone here.

His grades deteriorate slightly but he can’t bring himself to care, can’t bring himself to pay attention in class when he feels so far away from it all.

He sits in the library one day, trying to force himself to snap out of it, books piled up in front of him, but the words shift and wobble on the page and it does nothing but give him a headache. At this point he starts to think maybe I should get help.

But then, when his therapist says “How are you doing Shouto? How are things?” he finds it easier to lie, finds it easier to force himself to believe the words he says over admitting to the truth.

What’s the truth anyway? He thinks to himself. Endeavor said you’re a liar and here you are, lying to everyone who cares about you on a daily basis.

You are nothing but the monster he’s taught you to be and you will never be anything but that.

He sits with Midoriya during movie nights, allows himself to slump against the older boy when he feels too dizzy. “Alright?” Midoriya whispers, shifting to accommodate where Shouto is now pressed against him.

He considers saying no for a brief moment, considers letting the stagnant water inside him overflow and drown them both, but he already choked and drowned in it long ago. He is nothing but a floating mind trapped inside a body that isn’t his and it’s so much simpler to say “tired,” then to begin to explain how Shouto is nothing but an animated corpse.

“You can sleep if you want.” Midoriya offers, warm and smelling of apples, fresh and sweet and pure. Shouto hums in reply, not too sure if he’s even able to sleep at this point.

Yaoyorozu pulls him aside with Iida the next day.

“Are you alright?” She asks quietly, sharing a long look with Iida when Shouto nods at her.

“Do you need help studying?” Iida frowns at him. “I can help tutor you if needed, Shouto-kun.”

He thinks of his failing grades, of the way his father won’t care, of the way the words don’t seem to be words anymore and says “please. If you don’t mind - that’d be helpful.”

“First Midoriya,” Iida tuts. “Now you. When will you two start learning to come to us?”

“You should’ve asked.” Yaoyorozu sighs when Shouto blinks at them both blankly. She reaches out slowly and grips his bicep, frowning when she does it, squeezing at where Shouto knows hardwired muscle used to be. He meets her eyes, challenging her to do something (and maybe, somewhere, Shouto wants her to do something. Wants her to force his hand.), but she just squeezes once more before letting go. “If you need help then you need to speak up.”

He thinks about saying help me, then but Iida starts talking about study schedules and helpless friends, so he lets the words fall away into nothingness.

 


 

Somewhere between Shouto attending his first remedial course and now, Midoriya has somehow been sucked into a different world of internships and patrolling.

Shouto watches him leave, Kirishima walking next to him, the both of them engaged in an animated conversation. Kaminari stands next to Shouto, waving and shouting goodbyes whilst Hagakure’s gloved hand blows kisses towards Uraraka and Asui.

“I’m so jealous.” Ashido complains. “They’re getting to do so much cool stuff.”

Shouto thinks of the stories Midoriya has told him, of the small girl and the villains he’s met, and isn’t sure if cool is the word he would use.

“I think they’re brave.” Jirou says. “You heard what Uraraka was saying the other night. I can’t imagine being caught up in all of that already.”

“I want to be out there.” Orijo sighs. “But I can’t find anyone willing to take on an intern.”

“You’ll find something.” Yaoyorozu comes to stand next to Shouto by the window. “I’m sure we all will.”

“Yeah right.” Kaminari scoffs. “They’ve got the best ones available.”

“Hey Todoroki.” Sero calls, forcing Shouto to look away from Midoriya’s slowing retreating form.

“What?” Shouto notes that Ashido is throwing Sero a panicked look and frowns in confusion.

“Why don’t you get Endeavor to take on interns?” Shouto blinks at his words, skin suddenly feeling too tight around him, the air too thick. “Does his office not have any spare time for us?”

Shouto had blocked his father’s number after Fuyumi’s visit, after the missed call count had started to grow, and was currently in the midst of practising that Endeavor didn't exist.

“No.” Shouto answers flatly, fingers twitching at his side. “He doesn’t.”

“Have you tried asking?” Sero asks, voice growing excited as if his idea is something amazing. “Because I’m sure if you did then-”

“No.” Shouto interrupts. Everything around him feels too close, bodies too near and ceiling too low, and he heads towards the front door, needing air, needing space.

“Dude-” Sero calls to his back but Shouto ignores him, hand pulling the door open and cold air hitting his face.

“Shut up you idiot.” He hears Ashido hiss. “Learn to take a hint you -”

The door shuts behind him with a thud and the noise from inside cuts off, leaving his ears filled with static.

 


 

Something happens during the internships that leave Kirishima, Uraraka, Asui, and Midoriya notably different.

Shouto observes them, not knowing how to offer comfort, and chooses to hang back when the class swarms in.

He watches their new found hesitance, watches the guilty hunch to their shoulders, and is reminded of his mother.

(Shouto listens as Touya argues with their mother, voice angry and thin. His mother never raises her voice in return and Shouto wishes she would. He wishes that she’d shout back, that she’d fight, that she’d do more.

It’s not her fault. It’s not Touya’s fault.

His father opens the door and Shouto tenses, meets his father's steeled gaze, and they both glance to where Touya’s voice rings out.

“You could leave.” His brother shouts. “You could take us and go. You could take Shouto and let him live a normal life before it’s too late. Our father is disgusting and you’re just letting him do this to us all!”

His father stares back at him and raises an eyebrow as if to say can you believe what he’s saying. He looks at Shouto as if Shouto is on his side, as if Shouto can understand the reasoning behind anything he does, and he's never felt more different than his father.

“This, boy.” Endeavor’s voice is amused, is almost gentle, and it makes the hair on his arms stand on end. “Is why you’re my favourite. You’d never insult the Todoroki name like the rest of them do.”)

He wishes he could do more for them but Shouto has never been one to look after people. If it were bandaging a burn he could manage, maybe, but Shouto’s never had to deal with others emotions in such a close range until now.

He’s used to Midoriya filling in all the blanks for him, on telling him what people mean and why they’re behaving that way, but the other boy is quiet, is tired, and it makes concern well up inside him.

“Good luck today.” Midoriya says quietly as Shouto grabs his bag. “Don’t get too hurt out there.”

“I won’t.” Shouto reassures and then, belatedly, “thank you.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it Shouto-kun.” Midoriya’s smile is smaller than Shouto’s used to but still just as genuine, just as sweet.

“Feel better.” Shouto offers, uncertain of if it’s the right thing to say.

Midoriya’s eyes, big and green and soft, shimmer slightly in the morning light. “And you.” The older boy returns, as if he can see through the act Shouto’s trying to pull. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

 


 

Things feel different - feel spacey and distant - as if gravity is losing its hold on them all.

Time blurs into a mix of too long and not long enough and he can’t be sure when he’s asleep or when he’s awake.

“I’m going on holiday for a week.” His therapists apologises. “But I’ll be back soon enough - please don’t hesitate to seek help if you need it, Shouto.”

People keep telling him to ask for help, to speak up, and he wishes someone would notice that he’s choking on all that he can’t say. He can’t do it by himself, is broken and helpless and unused to speaking up.

(“Are you even trying?” His father snarls, spit flying from his mouth and sizzling in the crackling fire.

“Of course I’m trying.” Shouto wheezes back, arms clenched around his stomach and blood on his lips. “You’re just-”

“Shut up.” His father sends a hot gust of flames his way and Shouto flinches backwards, the heat searing even though it doesn’t touch his skin. “Be quiet and focus, boy.”)

Nobody asks and maybe it’s for the best. Maybe this was how it way always going to be, how it was going to end.

Maybe he won’t ever get past that moment where the skin around his eye itched and burned as he was left shaking on the floor, muscles twitching and chest heaving, his father looming over him as he thought would it be such a bad thing to be killed?

He’s been untethered from the ground, hollowed out and emptied, and he’s floating away.

 


 

Shouto comes back to himself to find he’s sitting on the dorm roof, knees digging into the asphalt below him and bits of gravel embedded in his hands.

In front of him is the edge of the building and he blinks once, twice, but can’t recall how he got up here.

Above him the night stars are covered by thick, dark clouds. A cold wind bites at his skin and Shouto notes that he’s shivering and that his hot side won’t respond to him, that his cold side won’t respond to him, and-

Smoke is rising from under one hand and snow encompasses the other.

He looks towards the edge of the building again and thinks it’s now or never.

 


 

Finding the nerve to seek out help instead of waiting for it to come to him makes him feel oddly sick. Aizawa has been busy recently, All Might taking over their home room for the past few days, and Shouto doesn’t want to bother him but he doesn’t feel comfortable enough to go to anybody else.

The first time Shouto see’s Eri it’s just a glimpse - grey hair, skinny arms, and a young, young face. He’s heard a lot about her from Midoriya, the older boy seemingly growing animated at the thought of her being at Yuuei, but to see just how young she is, just how blank faced she is, rattles him.

“Shouto,” Aizawa shuts the door of the staff room, concealing the girl from sight. “Sorry I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you yet.” Aizawa looks exhausted, hair lank and dark bags under his eyes. “How have things been?”

Not good, Shouto wants to say. Not good. Really weird - bad, maybe. I don’t know what’s real and-

Aizawa looks like his exhaustion runs bone deep. He must be stressed, must be busy, spread thin between the aftermath of what happened and trying to act like everything's normal. He wants to honest with Aizawa, wants to trust him and beg for help, but Aizawa reminds Shouto of wilting flowers, their colours faded and petals falling.

(“Fuyumi?” Shouto whispers in a thick voice.

“It's okay.” She tells him, running a hand through his hair and trailing her fingers along the bandage that covers his eye. “Everything's going to be okay now, Shou.”

“I-I want mom.” He presses his face further into her shoulder. “I want her.”

Shouto had come back from hospital yesterday evening with a thick white pad over his left eye and a bandage securing it to his face. The doctors said words like nerve damage and scarring but Shouto hadn't known what they meant, hadn't been able to focus on anything besides the lack of his parents with him, the lack of his mother.

Fuyumi, as the eldest, had been left in charge of looking after Shouto. She seemed to understand more about what was happening then he ever could.

“It'll be okay.” Fuyumi repeats in a thin voice. Shouto isn't sure which one of them she's trying to convince more.)

He backs out on telling Aizawa at the last second, his mother’s eyes, tired and sad, flashing in his mind.

“Things have been okay.” He can’t quite meet Aizawa’s eyes as he says it, the lie bubbling like acid and dripping onto their relationship, onto the faith Aizawa has in him. He can feel it start to dissolve in front of him and sees the walls start to shift around him, the air turning into static.

“Good.” Aizawa sounds relieved, sounds genuinely pleased, and Shouto takes a mental step back in the face of it.

“Are you okay?” he feels himself ask.

(“Don't you want to be a hero anymore, Shouto?” his mother's voice is disappointed-)

“Things are...” Aizawa pauses and something desperate wells up in Shouto. Lie to me he begs internally. Tell me you're fine. “They've been better.” Aizawa tells him quietly. “I've been better. But things are going to be okay.”

If Shouto had felt bad for lying before he's not quite sure what to label the guilt welling up within him as. He can feel something inside him turn thick, as if everything good Aizawa had placed within him is has suddenly turned into something disgusting, something ugly.

“I'm glad you're okay.” his voice says, distant and thin. “I heard what happened from Midoriya.”

“Yeah I imagined you would. Tell him and Kirishima to stop running their mouths. I'll be down to talk to you all soon.” The walls drip down onto the floor around them and in their place is a grainy film. “I'll speak to you later as well, okay? We'll have a proper chat.”

Shouto blinks, eyelids heavy and skin feeling too thin. He tries breathing in for three, out for three, but counting becomes difficult. Listening becomes difficult.

Aizawa looks to be saying something but the buzzing that has been slowly rising surrounds him and when he blinks once, twice, it's to find himself outside the Yuuei building, the bitter wind biting at his skin just as it did the other night.

“Shouto-kun? Ashido’s voice is dim. Her face, now in front of him, is mostly confused but also concerned. “Alright?”

“Yeah.” he replies automatically. He notes that Kirishima is also here, as well as Sero, and Bakugou, and -

“Did you speak to Aizawa-sensei?” Kirishima asks.

“How did you know I was going to speak to him?” Shouto asks, mind feeling unfocused. There’s a gap between him and the others and, although none of them are moving, Shouto can slowly see it start to grow. The floor is shifting underneath him and the distance stretches, swells and morphs, and Shouto has no idea why nobody else is more concerned.

“You told me you were going there this morning.” Kirishima answers slowly which - which is difficult, because Shouto can’t make out if he’s doing it to be kind to him or whether the reality he’s in is stretching out the words to torment him. What Kirishima said also doesn’t make any sense because Shouto hadn’t seen anyone this morning. He had got up and made his way over to Aizawa without a word to a soul.

Kirishima wouldn’t lie though, would he? The red haired boy has no reason to make the story up, which means that Shouto’s lost time and hasn’t even realised or -

(“Shouto?” Fuyumi’s voice calls through the wall. “Are you there?”

Shouto doesn't reply.

He sits cross-legged facing the wall he normally leans against with a blurry mind, the bruises on his arms throbbing, and wonders why his sister doesn't hate him for driving their mom crazy, for stealing all of their father's attention.

“I'm worried about you, Shou. Please answer me.”

Shouto watches the wall and he doesn't reply.)

“You're shaking, Todoroki.” Sero points out and Shouto watches as Ashido and Kirishma share a concerned look. It gives him an odd sense of déjà vu.

“Do you need me to take you to the nurse?” Ashido says quietly. He hears her voice echo in his head and then, when he blinks, they're sitting in classroom with Kirishima and Ashido frowning at him and Yaoyorozu by his side, quiet and firm in her observations.

A hand touches his arm and he jolts (he doesn't flinch, never flinches, because flinching is a weakness. Feeling stuff is a weakness. Fighting to stay here in a world that doesn't even feel real, a world that shifts and morphs and throws Shouto at where it feels fit, is weakness.)

(he presses his cheek to the floor and thinks-)

“Come on fuck face.” Bakugou’s grip is firm, hand curled around one of his arms as he half drags Shouto away. “Can't have you fainting all over the fucking place.”

Shouto isn't going to faint. He isn't going to faint because he's going to float, is going to fade into the static that lurks behind every sentence, and all that'll be left is a body with a scar that holds the story to where his life started to unravel. He's going to float into nothing and his body will be left to age and decay before its given back to the earth, festering and empty just like he's always been.

“Should we get Aizawa-sensei?” Kirishima is still here, trailing after them like Shouto's latest freak out is worthy of attention. He wishes they'd stop, wishes that his therapist hadn't taught him about grounding. he wishes that the small desperate part of him didn't latch onto Bakugou’s grip as an excuse to stay here. He wants to go, wants to be let go, wants to lay in the grass and let the earth turn him into the winter flowers, small and delicate and alive in the bitter cold.

“I don't know.” Bakugou sounds angry, always sounds angry, but lately there's been another level to his voice. He sounds concerned, angry and frustrated both at Shouto for being like this and at himself for caring. “I don't fucking know - he's busy, right? He's got that kid and-”

“Shouto is his kid too.” Kirishima answers. “He's been helping him.”

“Fucking - let's just get him sat down.” Bakugou snaps, panic displaying itself as anger, and yet the squeeze he gives to Shouto's arm is nothing but reassuring.

He wishes that Bakugou was still as angry and volatile as he used to be, wishes that the other boy would grip hard enough to bruise, hard enough to stain him, a reminder that Shouto is real, that he's a canvas to be used and painted into whatever is wanted by the person holding the brush.

(“You can be better than him, Shouto.” His father says in a proud voice. “With both mine and your mother's Quirks you can surpass him- you can become the best. We'll show that bastard that the Todoroki’s are the most powerful, the most important part of the hero society.”

Shouto imagines that his words are meant to be inspiring, that they're meant to invoke something in him that will snap him out of his melancholy, but it just makes Shouto feel sick.

On screen is the video of All Might, the same one he used to watch with his mother when she was still-

I don't want to be a hero, Shouto thinks as his father points out weaknesses in All Might’s form. Please, I just want to be normal. Let me be normal, please.

“All Might may have power, Shouto, but his Quirk can tire him out easily. Your fire with your ice? You could be unstoppable one day, if you just applied yourself.”

I don't want to be a hero, Shouto thinks. His ears ring with the thought and static crawls across his skin. I don't want to be like you.)

Midoriya’s face is soft, cheeks flushed and big eyes watery, worried. It's okay his lips say. As always, without Shouto ever having to say it, Midoriya knows what's going on. Count to three. Breathe in and count to three.

Inhale and hold for one-

(“I want to be someone you're proud of.” he tells his mom. She doesn’t respond, eyes distant and grip on his hand lax.)

Two-

(“Todoroki,” Yaoyorozu presses. “Are you even paying attention to what I’m saying?”)

Three -

(“Mum wanted me to be a hero.” He says quietly to Fuyumi. There's a wall separating them both but if Shouto closes his eyes he can let his head grow fuzzy, let it paint the picture of his sister sitting in the hallway opposite him.

“She did.” Fuyumi agrees. “She was always so proud of you Shouto. I know it's not okay, that nothing about it is okay, but I know that she was always proud of who you were.”

And who am I? Shouto wants to ask. Who am I but my father's son, my father's project.

“He wants me to be a hero.” Shouto says, words feeling thick in his mouth.

“I'm sorry.” Fuyumi offers after a beat. In his mind she reaches out to touch his hand, not holding but just simply pressing their fingertips together, her fingers gentle and cold to his left side.

“I want mom.” his memories of her have started to blur, colours washed out and paint strokes dripping into each other. He thinks that the distorted version of her is still the best thing he's ever known.

“Me too, Shouto.”)

“Knowing you.” Shouto breathes out, eyes glued to Midoriya's face. There are freckles on his nose and different shades of green in his eyes, petty and pure. “Is the happiest I've ever felt.”

Midoriya smiles and looks at Shouto as if the world he's created around them isn't fraying apart. “I wish you could always be happy.” Midoriya tells him, voice gentle and soft, and then, “do you know where you are?”

Shouto doesn't know is the thing.

He had stopped knowing a while ago, maybe.

“It’s okay if you don’t.” Midoriya reassures. “Do you know who I am?”

“Midoriya.” There is no doubt in Shouto’s mind. “Izuku.”

“Yeah.” Midoriya agrees, smile soft and eyes sad. “That’s right, Shouto.”

Around them the world is faint, full of shifting colours and muffled sounds, but Midoriya has always seemed to terribly real to him, so sharp and clear.

He couldn’t tell Aizawa earlier, couldn’t breathe a word of it to anyone else, but Midoriya is different. Midoriya is gentle and kind, is Shouto’s first ever friend, and his hands are warm where they hold his own. It’s easy here, in the hazy bubble, to whisper, “I need help.” and not be afraid of the ripple affect his words will have.

“Yeah,” Midoriya agrees, thumb rubbing over the back of Shouto’s hand. “I know, Shouto. We’ll get you help, okay?” and then, after a beat. “I have to go now.”

“Go where?” Shouto tightens his grip on Midoriya, eyes stinging. Around them is nothing but static and he fears that if Midoriya goes he won’t come back, that if he lets go of Shouto’s hands then Shouto will lose himself to the nothingness.

“Not far.” Midoriya soothes. “Aizawa is going to help, okay?”

“He’s busy.” Shouto disagrees.

“Never too busy for you,” Aizawa is there then, shooting Midoriya a look before turning his gaze back to Shouto. “I told you that, didn’t I?”

Midoriya let's go then, and just as Shouto thought, he fizzles from existence.

 


 

“I don’t think he’s schizophrenic.” a voice says. “I just think he needs help - professional help, and maybe it’s best if we pull him-”

“Do you really think taking him away from Yuuei will do him any good?”

“Well keeping him here surely hasn’t made things better, has it?”

“You don’t understand.” A different voice inputs. “I don’t think we’re in any state to decide what and where is best for Shouto. He needs to make that decision himself.”

“No offence, Yagi, but the boy is clearly unfit to make any decisions. He was barely lucid from what I heard.”

“That.” a familiar voice cuts in, tired and flat. “Is because he was exhausted. He hadn’t slept for days, hadn't slept properly for weeks, and I am willing to take full responsibility for not watching him closer-”

“Shouta,” a voice tuts. “You’re not to blame. You were away on a job and it’s not your responsibility to monitor every student constantly.”

“He is my responsibility.” the voice rebukes. “He’s- I told him he could come to me and I wasn’t there.”

“Now isn’t the time for this conversation, I think. Taking Shouto away from Yuuei and his friends may cause more damage in the long run.”

“He should go home to his family.” the first voice explains. “I’m not too sure why you keep refusing to accept this as the best option but I’m-”

“Because it’s not the best option. His father is a fucking-”

“Toshinori,” someone warns. “Not here.”

“His father is the number one hero and, like I’ve mentioned countless of times, the boy’s father. My patient needs to be looked after and surrounded by people who care for him.”

“That’s why staying at Yuuei may be the best option for him.” a patient voice explains. “I don’t mean to offend your medical opinion, but as the headmaster of this school I am aware of the child's home life, and currently Shouto and his father don’t exactly see eye to eye.”

“This is ridiculous. Can’t you people see that sending him home is for the-”

“He stays here.” someone interrupts, this voice new, softly spoken and comforting. “If Yuuei are offering it to him, then Shouto stays.”

“I’m sorry,” the first voice says haughtily. “But just who are you?”

“I’m his sister,” the voice returns smoothly. “His emergency contact,” something cold touches his hand and it makes Shouto sag further into the sheets. “And, as my father is currently outside the country on official business, his legal guardian.”

The voices drone on but Shouto loses focus on what they’re saying, the fingers curled around his allowing him to drift off to sleep.

 


 

Shouto feels different when he wakes up, limbs heavy from tiredness and medication, and when he blinks his eyes open it’s to see Aizawa asleep in a chair next to his, yellow sleeping bag covering him like a blanket.

“Shouto,” a voice breathes, familiar and soft. “Hi.”

Fuyumi sits on his other side, face tired and hair falling out of her bun.

“Hello.” Shouto’s voice is raspy and weak but his sister relaxes at the sound of it.

“How do you feel?”

“Fine.” he murmurs softly, head lulling into the soft pillow under his head.

“Don’t lie to me.” His sister tuts, fingers squeezing his.

“I thought me lying was for the best?” Shouto says before he can quite register it. Fuyumi tenses next to him but Shouto refuses to take the words back.

His mind feels clearer then it has in weeks, body solid and real, and the smell of the medical wing familiar to him.

“I suppose I did say that, didn’t I.” his sister sighs, regret flashing over her face. “I’m sorry.” she meets his eyes, holds his gaze, and Shouto remembers when they could only speak with a wall between them. “I’m so sorry, Shouto.”

She hesitates but then there’s a hand in his hair, skinny fingers tugging lightly on the strands. “I didn’t mean it like that.” Fuyumi sounds frustrated with herself. “He just. I guess I just didn’t want people to know about how broken our family is - not when he was willing to change it.”

“I want people to know.” Shouto feels his eyes burn so he lets them flutter shut. “I never want to see him again.”

“I know.” his sister makes a shushing noise, familiar to the one his mother used to make. “I’m so sorry. I was selfish and desperate for things to be normal that I said things I shouldn’t have. I listened to him because he never speaks to me, never acknowledges me, and when he said sorry I thought - well, I don’t know what I thought.” she tugs lightly on a knot, fingers unravelling it. “I didn’t think, and I didn’t stop to consider how it would’ve come across to you. I didn’t realise things were this bad for you.”

She presses down on his head and he realises what she means, realises that he never told her about his dissociation or how he sometimes feels like he’s not here at all.

“It’s okay.” He tells her honestly. He knows Fuyumi has only wanted the best for them all, has only ever wanted to understand and to help, and Shouto had given her nothing and expected her to know. He is in the wrong, is the one who doesn’t know how to breathe without having to remind himself to count to three.

“No.” his sister argues. “It’s not, and I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you, then.” Shouto returns just as quickly. “I never blamed you.”

For me, for mom, for what our dad did. He doesn't say. You were never to blame, not really.

He understands that now.

He doesn’t think he’ll ever really understand why she wants them all to try so much, why she wants to believe in all of them together as a family, but he understands that it was never her fault.

He thinks that, maybe, he can start to understand how it was never his fault, either.

“I love you.” She says, words fast and coming out wrong, neither of them used to the statement. It makes him tense up, makes something in him grow soft, makes him want to try harder to be better. “I should have always told you that, huh? I do Shouto - You and Natsu are all I have, really. I love you both.”

“You too.” Shouto mutters cheeks feeling warm, eyes dropping shyly.

He feels more aware now then he has in- well, since his sister visited last. He wonders where he went wrong previously, wonders why he let himself get sucked under the tides of his mind.

“How are you feeling?” Fuyumi asks again.

He considers her question more carefully this time, takes in his heavy arms and weighted legs, the fog in his mind that's only caused by medication, the steady thud thud thud of his heart. He's tired, is always so tired, but, “better.” he chews on his next sentence, blinking his eyes open to meet his sisters searching gaze. “I'm tired and - and me, I guess. But I feel better than before.”

“I'm not surprised.” She let's go of his hair with a small smile. “You hadn't slept for over thirty-six hours, apparently.”

“Probably not.” he mutters, trying to remember the past few weeks. They all blur and mesh into one long stretch of time, days and hours feeling like seconds and minutes, feeling like weeks and months. “I have issues with sleeping.” he admits, and then decides to say, “I've always had issues with sleeping. After mom.

Fuyumi blinks, surprised and regretful. “I never knew that.”

“Why would you know?” He asks. “It’s not like,” you saw me, it’s not like you knew me that well, it’s not like our rooms were close to each other, “I was willing to tell people.”

“Maybe.” His sister agrees quietly. “But I wish I had known, Shouto. I had no idea how bad things were for you, even after you moved out. I had no idea until I got a call the other day.”

“I let things get out of control.” It’s easy to admit it to Fuyumi when they’re both sitting in the quietness of this room, the morning sun shining through the blinds and the white of the walls making everything feel more serine. “I didn’t think I could get better and then I thought, if I couldn’t get better anyway, I could at least control how bad it got.”

There’s a silence then, Shouto looking at the white sheets below him and his sisters gaze heavy and considering on the side of his face.

“I remember feeling like that once.” Fuyumi tells him. He looks up at her words, blinking uncertainly “I remember feeling like that a lot, actually. Especially when you were younger.”

“Really?” Shouto asks, heart beat thudding in his fingertips and something warm and sad growing in him.

He forgets that sometimes, underneath all of their differences. is the same foundation their father laid within them, the structures their mother helped build. They are so different and yet so similar, orbiting around the same worries, the same actions.

It’s easy to seclude himself, to picture himself alone and lost, abandoned on his own island of isolation. It’s easy to feel alone, to let the loneliness fester and devour him, but maybe he needs to stop letting the rolling seas inside of him chase him away from everyone else. There are so many bridges trying to reach out to him, so many people trying to help him, that Shouto sometimes forgets that it takes equal effort from both parts. He considers how it would feel to reach out himself, considers how, if he built himself up and reached over the rolling waves, pushed through the clouds, then maybe, he could meet Fuyumi half way.

“Really.” She confirms. “I know we don’t have much, Shouto. But we have each other.” and then, "you have me."

The broken pieces of his family, charred and splintered, and yet still there. He isn’t as gone as he thought, isn’t as before as he is after now, and, staring into Fuyumi’s grey, familiar eyes, he stops trying to picture the image of his mother. He looks at the red tips of her hair, her rounded cheekbones, cheekbones that match Endeavor's. They all have the same naturally furrowed eyebrows, the same anger inside them.

Shouto takes a breath and looks at her glasses, at the freckles she has, at the earrings dangling from her ears. He looks at her and sees her for who she is, sees all of the parts that make Fuyumi entirely and completely her own person.

(“It’s yours! Your Quirk- not his!”)

She smiles, brighter than his mother ever could and kinder than his father ever has. Inside, somewhere, somehow, is somebody who is just him. Shouto may be a mesh of fire and ice, may be hollowed and broken and angry and selfish, but they are traits for him to build on, things for him to grow into. He can take what they are and make them into what he wants, because he is the one holding the brush, the one who could tether himself to the earth, if only he tried.

 (“When are you going to stop running from this?” Endeavor asks him, forehead creased, and eyes confused, posture angry. “When are you going to stop pretending that your fire isn’t a part of you?”)

His sister makes a sad sound, something panicked, and she reaches out to brush his cheeks. “Don’t cry.” She says, alarmed. “Shouto, it’s okay.”

It’s not though, is the thing. It has never been okay, and he isn’t okay but-

The beginnings of spring are starting to appear in the city, the sun starting to warm and the blossoms on the trees starting to bud, starting to bloom. He has his sister sitting next to him, Aizawa behind him, and a class of people who want to like him for who he is, who he could be.

He has a future, somewhere, and maybe that could be okay. Maybe moving on from his father, from his past, is okay because there’s more waiting for him then the training room back at his family home. There is more waiting for him outside of the legacy his father forced upon him.

He presses his face into the pillow below him and holds back a sob. He doesn’t know how to cry properly anymore, tears and comfort long being burnt out of him, but that could be okay, too, if he let it. Shouto doesn’t need to know how to cry as long as he does it, let’s everything that’s been building out, lets himself overflow without freezing the leaking water to the sides of him.

Absently he’s aware of Aizawa’s voice, of Fuyumi’s, and they’re distant in a different way, distant because of Shouto’s hitching breaths instead of the ringing of his mind.

Arms tug at him gently and Shouto lets himself be pulled up, lets his head drop onto a shoulder, familiar black hair falling into his vision. Aizawa’s voice is gentle in a way he hasn’t let himself accept before, hands warm and firm as they rub his back.

"It's okay," Aizawa tells him. "You're okay."

He is nothing but who he was, who he always has been, and for the first time he considers that maybe, just maybe, that could be okay, too.

 

 


 

 

 

 

Epilogue:

 

“Fucking come on,” Bakugou breathes. “They best not fucking draw this out. I just want to fucking know.” He’s clutching at Shouto’s arm – not that Shouto thinks the other boy realises – grip slightly too tight but not hard enough to hurt him. Shouto lets him hold on, focusing on where the tired looking spokesman is reading through a list of pleasantries, voice slow and drawling.

“And so, the remedial courses are over,” the man says, eyes rolling. “And yet here I still am – having to go through all of this again just so that the few who didn't pass,”

“I’m going to fucking blast him.” Bakugou snarls. “Fucking rude piece of shit.”

“Don’t blast him.” Shouto murmurs quietly, meeting Bakugou’s eyes without hesitation when the other boy turns his glare onto him. “Blast the results out of his hand instead.”

Bakugou snorts, hand squeezing Shouto’s arm absently. He nods towards where Shiketsu High School are standing and says, “Why don’t you get your good friend over there to make them blow our way?”

They both turn to look at Inasa who spots them staring instantly, offering an enthusiastic wave, a smile lighting up his face. He looks like he’s going to shout hello to them in the middle of the speech which would be – funny, maybe, but also counterproductive. The spokesman doesn’t need any more excuses to keep dragging this on. Luckily Camie nods her head at them politely as she stamps on Inasa’s foot, forcing him to focus and turn towards the front of the room.

“I think,” Shouto mutters after a moments consideration. “It’d be funnier if you blew them out of his hands.”

“I’m more likely blow his hands off.” Bakugou scoffs. “He’s fucking pissing me off.”

“That’d be funny, too.”

“How about you ice them out of his hands?”

“My ice would freeze the results to his hands-“

“How about,” Aizawa’s voice rings from behind them, hushed and flat. “You two pay attention instead of talking amongst yourselves.”

Bakugou mutters something under his breath, rude and grumbled, but Shouto and – luckily enough – Aizawa pretend not to notice.

“Sorry, Aizawa-sensei.” Shouto twists his head to give Aizawa a small smile, part of him relieved to see that Aizawa isn’t actually angry. Not that he thought Aizawa would be mad, but it always makes something in him warm when Aizawa can scold him without letting any rage cloud his actions.

“Pay attention.” Aizawa reminds him. His lips twitch though, face ducking below the scarf he’s wearing, and Shouto feels pleased. He turns back around at the same time Bakugou’s grip grows tighter, the blonde boy growing tense at his side.

“-months of observing and watching, I have the pleasure of announcing-” Shouto feels himself tense up as well, remembering all those months ago where his name didn’t flash on the screen. He remembers feeling out of place then, two steps behind the rest of his class in yet another thing, alone and separated.

Bakugou also failed though and, surprisingly enough, Shouto would consider the other boy to be his friend now, the both of them bonding over the gruelling classes the course put them through.

“-That the students who took the extra training courses,” the man continues, eyes glued to the script in front of him. “due to failing the main exam because of-“

“Fucking hell.” Bakugou snarls, free hand crackling. “Why doesn’t he just fucking tell us whether we fucking passed or not.” Shouto’s glad the older boy is gripping his right side, not keen on the idea of flammable and explosive sweat being near his fire half.

“-Have, finally, thankfully, passed the course and will receive their provisional licences.”

“Thank fucking christ.” Bakugou shouts, their names appearing on the screen behind the man. People turn to look their way, but Shouto can’t see their expressions because Bakugou is suddenly pulling him into a tight hug. "We fucking did it."

He only has a few seconds to think what before Bakugou is shoving him back with a glare. “That was for passing,” Bakugou warns, eyes narrowed. “Don’t get it in your head that you can latch onto me whenever you feel like it. Also, if Kirishima asks, you grabbed me.”

Shouto feels his lips twitching, relief and something like pride welling up inside him. He did it.

He finally has his provisional licence, has finally caught up to his peers, and can now move onto his future as his own hero. Shouto smiles at Bakugou, unable to help himself, and Bakugou twitches, rolling his eyes at Shouto.

“Yeah, yeah.” The older boy says, unable to help a smile himself. “We did it, Halfie.”

Shouto twists towards the front of the small room they’re in, spotting his name on a screen again and feeling his grin widen. It’s unfamiliar, this feeling inside him, warm and happy and everything he thought he’d never feel. It’s becoming something he’s more familiar with though, something he’s learning how to cope with.

He can hear the rest of his class cheering from where they’re sitting in the small audience – Kaminari shouting and Ashido whistling, Midoriya’s loud whooping making Eri and Togata laugh – and Shouto twists to stare at Aizawa, seeking – something.

Aizawa looks proud. His eyes are shining and there’s a soft, barely there smile on his face. He meets Shouto’s eyes and gives him a nod of approval, of acceptance, and Shouto thinks that even if he had failed again, Aizawa still would have supported him. He knows Aizawa would of, actually, no traces of doubt in his mind about his teacher and the effort he puts in for all of them.

“Well done boys.” Toshinori says from besides Aizawa, swinging an arm around the dark haired mans shoulder as he rests a hand over his heart, eyes sparkling like a proud parent. “I knew you could do it – I always knew, of course. I never had a single doubt when it came to either of you.”

Aizawa rolls his eyes at Shouto, lips twitching again, and he looks over his teachers shoulder to see Midoriya making his way over, eyes bright and pleased, voice ringing loud as he says, “I knew you could both do it!”

“Midoriya, my boy,” All Might nods his head in agreement. “I was just saying the same thing!”

“Oh wow, really? I suppose great minds think alike.”

All Might places a hand on Midoriya's shoulder, the two of them falling into the same stance as they turn their smiles back to Bakugou and him.

“All Might’s secret love child.” Bakugou whispers in his ear and, before Shouto quite knows it, laughter is falling from his mouth.

Bakugou looks proud of himself, sly smile on his face as he looks at Midoriya, and Midoriya looks –

His dark hair is curly, some parts covered in pink glitter and matching the glitter Eri and Togata have in theirs, and his face is more freckled due to the sun. His eyes are different shades of green, shining and beautiful, and they’re looking at Shouto in awe, in surprise, soft and warm. His lips are upturned up in what Shouto has dubbed as Midoriya’s sunshine smile, and it makes him feel he’s done something right, like all the things inside of him could grow into something amazing.

Shouto is overflowing with something bright, something that coats him with warmth, and although he’s not perfect, although he’s still cracked and splintered, he feels better than okay. He feels happy and pleased and –

Shouto feels alive.

 

 

 

fin