Kirishima throws an arm around Shouto’s waist which, in itself, is startling enough. The fact that Shouto now finds himself being dragged towards the sofas by said arm whilst Kaminari clings to his back is a whole new level of disconcerting.
He had just been about to head to the library, had kept his head down to avoid getting caught up in a conversation, but here he is: Kaminari’s chin digging into his shoulder and Kirishima’s side pressed firmly against his as they herd him away from the door.
Shouto isn't quite sure what to do in this situation besides tense up and try to not outwardly panic as he tries figures out just why his classmates are - he isn't sure if hugging him is the right way of phrasing it. Kaminari and Kirishima seem to be clinging too tightly for such a word, their grip almost frantic, and he notes that their faces seem panicked.
He should probably be more concerned about what’s scared his classmates enough to physically grab him, should be asking them what’s wrong, but all he can bring himself to do is absently scan the room for any kind of threat, mind running a mile a minute as it struggles to process the fact that he’s being... held. Kaminari’s arm is wrapped around his neck and not only is his chest glued to Shouto's back, but it’s also trapping Kirishima's arm between them both. It’s distracting and off putting, and he’s not used to this, to the easy affection his classmates show one another.
“Todoroki,” Kirishima's voice jolts him out of his half-daze, forcing his mind to focus on something other than the way they’d grabbed him so easily. “What do you think of Yaoyorozu’s hair?” His voice sounds forcibly cheerful to Shouto’s ears. “It's nice, right?”
When he looks it’s to see Yaoyorozu sitting on the sofa, her dark eyes big and watery and hands folded neatly in her lap. Her hair, usually long and sleek, now only falls to her shoulders, framing her face in wispy strands. She's surrounded by the rest of the 1-A girls who pause in their conversation to turn around and stare at him.
Shouto blinks, unsure what he’s been dragged into, and stares back with what he hopes is a neutral expression.
“It's shorter.” He offers awkwardly when the silence drags on, knowing that his sister always got annoyed at him when he didn’t notice the subtle changes in her appearance.
(“Subtle?” Fuyumi demanded. “Shouto, I've had at least three inches cut off.”)
He hopes that'll be the end to it, that his comment will suffice as a compliment, and that he'll be able to head towards the library like he'd originally planned. Unfortunately, Yaoyorozu starts to cry at his words, tears welling over onto her cheeks and breath hitching as she chokes back a sob.
Shouto’s mind blurs a bit as it tries to cope with the fact that not only are two people squeezing closer to him in panic, but he's inadvertently made Yaoyorozu cry. Again.
He tries to keep his expression blank to hide just how overwhelmed he feels, heart beating faster and words feeling like ash on his tongue. He must succeed in appearing unpanicked, maybe slightly too well, because Jirou throws him a look that promises a long death.
“But it looks nice short! Very nice,” Kaminari’s grip on him has turned into something more like a choke hold, voice desperate as he says, “right, Todoroki?
“Yes.” He feels confused over this whole scenario, something uneasy growing in his stomach.
It's a common fact that Shouto isn't good with socialising. His classmates know this, Shouto knows they know this, because he isn't stupid enough to pretend that he understands half the things they go on about. He doesn't try and force himself to fit in, doesn't try to decipher the conversations he overhears, and instead chooses to keep quiet and observe. And yet, here they are, still trying and get him involved.
No matter how confused Shouto gets, no matter how stupid he must keep making himself look, his peers never stop trying to help him. They go out of their way to get him involved with things like trip to the mall! or movie night, Todoroki-kun, we've been through this. They keep trying to teach him new phrases and he's always being sent links to internet trends he doesn’t understand. It's utterly exhausting to keep up with.
He doesn’t understand this situation right now, probably wouldn’t understand it even if it was explained to him. Years of isolation and only having his father as his main source of social interaction has left him... Different.
As to why Kirishima and Kaminari have roped him into helping soothe somebody is anyone's guess. “Short hair is nice.” Shouto continues when Hagakure makes a waving motion behind Yaoyorozu’s back, the gesture frantic. “It's different, but it's nice.”
“See! Even Todoroki thinks it looks nice.” Ashido exclaims, rubbing Yaoyorozu’s arm as she sniffs daintily, long fingers coming up to swipe the tears off her cheeks. “And we all know Todoroki can’t lie to save his life.”
Shouto frowns at her words, the phrase backhanded compliment coming to mind, but he’s not sure whether it applies to this situation or not.
Yaoyorozu lets out a watery smile though, glancing up at him shyly. “You’re just saying that.” She mutters, cheeks growing red.
“Well yes.” Todoroki says honestly, eyes widening when Yaoyorozu’s bottom lip starts to wobble again. Kirishima groans in his ear, yanking him away from the sofa with a muttered curse.
“You’re terrible at this.” He scolds, fingers tugging Shouto’s earlobe in punishment. “We’re trying to make her feel better.”
“I don’t even understand why she’s upset.” Shouto whispers back, eyes narrowing at the other boy. “She got a haircut and what - it made her cry?”
“Todoroki,” Kaminari whispers, voice long suffering and - fond? Midoriya had tried to teach him about fondness and friendship but it’s still something he struggles with. “Her hair got messed up by one of Hatsume’s experiments. She didn't want a haircut, especially not one that looks like that.”
All three of them twist to see the haircut in question, Tsuyu giving them a are you kidding me look in the process.
Now it's been pointed out, Shouto supposes that Yaoyorozu’s haircut may be a bit erratic, especially for someone who values their appearance as much as she does. Black strands of hair fall down in jagged patches, all of them unequal in size, and the left side of her head looks particularly singed. If she hadn’t asked for such a style, then it would explain why she's so upset.
He feels frustrated suddenly, both at himself for not realising and, maybe a bit unfairly, at everyone else for forcing him to get involved in this situation. Shouto isn't one to comfort or be comforted. He's not used to all of this, not used to the social interactions expected of him or the way people think they can force the right thing out of him by putting him uncomfortable situations. His childhood of isolation and training has left him reclusive as best and he hates the fact that even now, living away from his father and finding the closest thing he's known to a home at the dorms, the ripples of Endeavours upbringing continue to affect him.
Jirou is still glaring, Shouto notes, as if he has upset Yaoyorozu on purpose, and even Uraraka is looking at him in disbelief. Ashido and Hagakure seem more focused on trying to soothe their friend, voices gentle as they tell her that her hair doesn’t look so bad, that it’s easily fixable, that everything’s going to be okay. They’re lying to her for some reason, they must be, because Yaoyorozu’s hair does look bad. It’s uneven and messy and he doesn’t understand what telling her otherwise will prove.
Lying has never gotten Shouto anywhere but punished.
Whether her hair is fixable or not is another matter.
There’s a memory in the back of his mind, one of the many that Shouto has shut away and left to be ignored, to be forgotten, and suddenly Fuyumi’s watery voice is echoing around his head as she speaks to their mother. “I didn’t think.” Her voice sniffs. “It was my f-fault, really.”
Their father had caught her sneaking in to see Shouto and had lost it, had scolded her for distracting him mid-project, for ruining Shouto’s development, and had then scolded Shouto for letting himself be drawn away from his training. They’d both received a slap in punishment, hard and jarring, and the flames from his father’s costume had brushed both of their hair, the fire angry and almost blue in his rage. It had left them both with singed patches, their hair brittle and burnt where the flames had touched it.
Fuyumi had tried to soothe Shouto’s restrained tears, but she’d been upset herself, hands shaking and eyes wet as she tried to brush down the worst of the burnt bits. Their mother had later found them in the bathroom with Fuyumi trying her best to cut the singed white patches out of Shouto’s hair. She’d paused, eyes sad and then steeled, before she’d taken them to a hairdresser in the town. It’s one of the only times Shouto remembers their mom taking them both out at the same time, his father not a fan of them all being together, let alone out in public.
The hairdresser had cut his hair short, an easy fix, but Fuyumi’s hair had been burnt worse. They’d spoken for a long time, long enough for Shouto to have fallen asleep on his mother’s shoulder, but when he’d woken up it had been to Fuyumi’s bright eyes and happy smile, her white hair back to being perfect if not a bit longer than it had been before.
“I think it’s best you go now, Todoroki.” Jirou snaps, jolting him out of where he’d been staring at Yaoyorozu.
Kaminari loosens his hold and Karishma tugs on his ear one more time, more gently then before, and Shouto takes his chance to escape to the library.
He can’t focus on the research he was meant to be doing, mind filled with his sister’s wobbly voice and Yaoyorozu’s ruined hair.
He remembers his sister smiling bright and happily, eyes relieved as she ran her hands through her new hair.
(“How did they do that?” Shouto asks with wide eyes, hand hesitantly reaching out to brush against the silky looking strands. “Is it a Quirk?”
“No,” his mother’s voice said, quiet and amused. “They’re extensions, Shouto.”
“They’re beautiful.” The hairdresser proclaims. “You look absolutely lovely.”)
Before Shouto quite knows what he’s doing, his phone is in his hand, book discarded on the table, and his sisters contact information is blinking up at him.
“Where are we going Todoroki-kun?” Yaoyorozu sighs for the third time, pulling the hat further down on her head. It’s a silly looking thing, Shouto thinks to himself, a pale purple woollen hat with pompoms dangling down past the ear flaps. “You said you wanted to go for a walk, not take the train into town just before curfew.”
“We’re almost there.” Shouto frowns down at the directions on his screen. “It’s just a few streets over.”
“What’s a few streets over?” Yaoyorozu demands, tone exasperated. Todoroki keeps quiet, eyes glued on the screen and strides long. “Fine,” she huffs. “Don’t tell me your big secret. If I get in trouble for being out past curfew then I’m putting all the blame on you.”
“That’s fine.” Shouto says absently, turning them abruptly down a corner. He flicks his eyes around the street, trying to spot the name of the hair salon his sister had found for him. He sees it a few seconds later and crosses over, Yaoyorozu sucking in a breath when she takes note of the direction they’re heading in.
She throws him an unreadable look when they pause outside the salon, mouth twisted and eyes hard, but she walks in when Todoroki gestures for her to do so.
“Ah, hello there,” a voice calls to them. Shouto follows it to see a man with bright blue hair and even bluer eyes smiling widely. “Is this my Todoroki appointment?”
“Yes.” Shouto nods politely, ignoring Yaoyorozu’s hissed Did you bring me here to watch you get a haircut?
“I’m Haru.” he tells them as he walks over, pausing in front of Yaoyorozu who stares at him in alarm. “Let’s see what we have here then.” He quickly pulls the hat from her head, ignoring the noise of protest she makes. Yaoyorozu’s hair falls in uneven waves around her face, messy and so very different to what Shouto’s used to seeing. “Oh my,” Haru breathes, fingers reaching out to feel the worst of the singed parts. “What a mess.”
“Excuse me.” Yaoyorozu says in a strained voice. “But just what is going on here?”
“We’re here to buy groceries.” Shouto says in a deadpan voice, Haru snorting as he fluffs up the hair in his hands.
“Todoroki,” she huffs. “You’re not funny.”
“Surprising the young lady, are we Todoroki-kun?” Haru throws him a bright grin, seeming delighted by this thought. “What a lovely gesture.”
Yaoyorozu isn’t stupid, Shouto knows. She knows what they’re here to do or must at least be able to guess. The look she throws him as Haru guides her towards a seat is one Todoroki doesn’t understand. It’s flat yet soft, eyes warm and lips pressed together in a mix of confusion but twitching in - happiness? He isn’t sure, is never too sure, but then he remembers his sisters smiling face all those years ago and decides that he doesn’t need to understand.
He sits down in the empty chair beside Yaoyorozu as Haru throws a cape around her neck and fluffs up her hair once more. “Now let’s see what we can do about this, hm? What are we thinking, dear lady?”
Shouto pulls out his phone as Haru and Yaoyorozu start to talk, the sound of their voices and the snip of the scissors drowning over him.
When he was younger he had never been bothered by his hair. He was always too focused on trying to please his father, forcing himself to practise as hard as he could for both his and his mother’s sake. Something like hair had seemed so insubstantial to him in the long run. When his father had burnt his hair, he’d been more upset that he’d gotten his sister hurt and that she’d been driven close to tears because of him. It still upsets him now, heart beating faster in his chest at the memory. Fuyumi had prioritised Shouto’s own tears over her own regardless, putting him first when she was the one who was more upset by the outcome.
His sister lived a different life to him. She knew the bigger world outside of their house and, although secluded, she still had a life away from their home. Fuyumi had places to visit and people to see, had a separated existence to the one Shouto knew. For her, the burnt and tattered state of her hair had been deeply upsetting. She liked looking after herself, held her own image with pride, and to see her almost crying was something that never left his mind. Fuyumi wasn’t one to cry. None of them were, not really.
The salon they visited all those years ago had been able to fix her brittle and burnt hair and to see both his mother and sister smiling in the same room as each other was a memory he treasured.
To see Yaoyorozu crying over her hair, to see singed ends and watery eyes - well, it seemed like such a simple solution to get it fixed for her.
It’s not until they’re outside the salon, the sky dark above them and the street lights illuminating the roads below, that Shouto worries that he may have made a mistake.
Yaoyorozu’s hair is similar to how it was before, falling down to mid-back in a shimmering sheet, her natural hair being cut and blended in with the extensions. The hairdresser - Haru - had done her justice, just like the woman had with his sister all those years ago.
Yaoyorozu didn’t seem to know how to deal with Shouto after he refused to let her pay. She’d been quiet and gentle and, after they’d started to walk back to the train station, her eyes had started to water.
“Did I do something wrong?” He asks unsurely. He thought that Yaoyorozu had been upset about her shorter hair- had even been told as much- but now doubt starts to gnaw at him. Shouto isn’t good with emotions, isn’t good with other people, and he wouldn’t be surprised to find that he’s misread the entire situation and made things worse.
“What?” Yaoyorozu sniffs. She swipes at her eyes, a smile crossing her face. “Of course you haven’t done anything wrong, Todoroki-kun.”
“You’re crying.” He points out hesitantly. He hasn’t seen anybody bar Midoriya cry and smile at the same time and he isn’t sure what it means.
“I’m happy.” She says, dimples appearing in her cheeks. “These are happy tears.”
“Happy tears.” Shouto repeats with a frown.
“Yeah, Todoroki-kun.” She nudges their shoulders together as they walk. “You’ve made me happy.”
“Oh,” Thank god. “That’s okay then.”
She snorts at that, fingers coming up to wipe at her cheeks again. “You don’t even realise what you’ve done, do you?”
“I got your hair fixed for you.” Shouto states, tensing when Yaoyorozu grabs his elbow and pulls him to a gentle stop.
“Not just that.” She looks happy, soft and kind, and yet a bit sad at the same time. “What you did just now was really nice. Unbelievably so.”
“Good?” He’d meant for it to come out as a statement but it ends up sounding more like a question. He’s confused as to what Yaoyorozu is trying to get at. It had been such an easy problem for him to fix, a problem that resonated in his own heart, and to just ignore the issue when he knew the solution seemed stupid.
“You didn’t have to do it, you realise? You especially didn’t have to pay.”
“Is that what you’re upset about?” He blinks, feeling uncertain. “Because if you want to pay then you can, but it was technically my old man's money and he’s- he can afford it.”
His mother had paid for their haircuts, all those years ago, out of the meagre stash of yen she had saved up. His father had found out about it soon after, having caught sight Fuyumi’s long shiny hair, and the outcome had been-
(horrible yet normal - his father's flaming hand slamming the door in Shouto’s face, something finite and deafening from the bang as his mother’s cries were abruptly cut off.)
-yet another dent in his wilting heart.
“Ah, no.” She stares into his eyes and her smile grows into something more understanding, more gentle. “I’m touched that you’ve done this. I’m really grateful.”
Touched. He’d have to ask Midoriya to remind him about the word when they were back at the dorms.
“It’s fine, it-”
(reminded me of time my dad hit my sister for sneaking in to see me. Her hair had gotten caught in his flames and had burnt, had become brittle and broken and-
It reminded me of the time she almost cried. My mother got in trouble for making her happy again and-)
“-really isn’t that big of a deal.”
She frowns at him as Shouto once again seems to miss the point she’s trying to make. The silence stretches for a beat too long and Shouto’s just about ready to start walking again, ready to leave the confusion and the conversation behind him, but before he can he suddenly finds himself with a face full of hair.
He blinks once, twice, but the long dark strands don’t stop tickling the side of his face. Gentle arms are wrapped around his shoulders and his chin is resting on Yaoyorozu’s shoulder, body being tugged down by her surprisingly strong arms.
“Thank you, Todoroki-kun.” She says quietly. Shouto blinks again, body tense and arms hanging uselessly by his sides, as his brain turns into a confused static.
After all this time he's still not used to the touching, to the gentleness everybody shows him, and it leaves him - not uncomfortable, but lost. It leaves him aching and yearning, desperate for more and yet so overwhelmed by such simple actions.
Yaoyorozu pulls back, not seeming to mind how edgy he is. She doesn’t seem to care about the blatant issue he has when it comes to touching, when it comes to his issue of not knowing how to hug, and offers him a kind smile when he blinks at her.
“You really are sweet, you know?” She brushes her hand through her extensions, face warm and - touched, whatever that means. She watches Shouto like the static running through his head isn't abnormal, like the way he is isn't a cause for concern. “If you ever need to talk, we can.”
What is happening he wants to ask as Yaoyorozu starts walking again. What do you mean by that?
He can’t get his mouth to work though, words and thoughts blossoming within him but clogging his insides instead of sprouting free.
He'd only fixed her problem because it was such an easy thing for him to do. Yaoyorozu shouldn't have to be upset over her hair, not when Shouto knew a way to fix it, not when it was ruined in such an unfair manner. He doesn't want her thanks, isn't sure what to do with it, and it hangs over him, taunting and terrifying.
He doesn't understand. He doesn't think he will ever understand.
They get in long past curfew.
Shouto expects the common area to be empty but there’s a surprising amount of people hanging about, seemingly waiting for Yaoyorozu to come back if the way they perk up at her entrance is anything to go by.
“Momo where have you- oh.” Jirou’s voice cuts off abruptly as Ashido and Uraraka let out squeals of joy. “Oh wow.”
Shouto keeps his gaze fixed to the floor as he makes his way towards the elevator, not wanting to get involved in any other conversations. His daily emotion-related-confusion has exceeded its limit for at least the remainder of the week and all he wants to do is go to bed and sleep.
His classmates, regrettably, seem to have other plans and Shouto tries his best not to flinch when his arm is grabbed unexpectedly.
“Sorry.” Jirou’s voice says. When he looks up it’s to see her holding her hands up in a placating gesture, as if Shouto’s some sort of startled rabbit, which, he supposes, isn’t entirely untrue.
“Did you want something?” Shouto asks, hoping whatever this is will be short.
“I just wanted to say thank you.” Jirou fiddles with her ear, offering him a kind, genuine smile. “For what you’ve done.”
“I didn’t do anything.” He returns tiredly, shoulders slumping.
“You didn’t?” Jirou looks like she wants to reach out again but thankfully she doesn’t, choosing to cross her arms and raise an eyebrow at him instead. “So, it wasn’t you who not only cheered Momo up, but also fixed what was upsetting her in the first place?”
“I was just-”
“Did you not," She continues over the top of him. "Just break curfew to make her happier?”
“Are you trying to be humble?” Jirou tuts. “Or are you just really that stupid.”
“I’m not stupid.” Shouto mutters. He does feel stupid, though, always a few steps behind when it comes to other people. He doesn’t want their thanks in the same way he never wanted his sister to get hurt because of him.
(“You’re my brother. I know we haven’t had the best relationship but I wanna try - I don’t know. I just want to try being a family, I guess.”
“Family.” Shouto repeats thickly.
“Yeah. I want to help you, Sho. Me, you and Natsu - I want us to get out of here for good.”)
Fuyumi will never stop protecting him. Shouto doesn’t understand why and can’t bring himself to ask her to explain it to him - but he knows that she’ll never stop.
In the same sense he imagines that’s why his classmates always keep trying with him, their patience and kindness seeming limitless. Shouto is different but they all seem to be okay with the fact - seem to like him regardless - and maybe that’s just another thing he’s going to have to accept.
“Thank you.” Jirou repeats firmly. “For making her happy.”
Shouto presses his lips together but doesn’t shrug off her thanks this time, eyes trailing over to where Yaoyorozu is being fawned over by the rest of the 1-A girls plus Midoriya, Kaminari, and Iida. They all look happy - Yaoyorozu especially - and it makes something in him feel soft. It makes him feel warm and happy and tired.
An arm’s thrown around his shoulders, making him stiffen again, but Shouto let’s himself be tugged sideways as Kirishima grins at him. “Clever boy,” the older boy praises, fingers finding Shouto’s ear and tugging it gently. “Never thought you had it in you, Icy-hot.”
“Had what in me?” Jirou snorts at his question, growing more comfortable with Kirishima’s added presence.
“A heart.” Kirishima teases. “Mr-I’m-not-pretending-to-be-anyone’s-friend.”
“Don’t call me that.” Shouto mutters, the reminder of his statement before the sports festival making him blush. He looks at where Midoriya is combing his fingers through Yaoyorozu’s hair with big eyes, Uraraka and Ashido standing behind him with wide smiles, and lets himself relax slightly. He thinks of his sister - of all his siblings, of his mother - stepping in to protect him and wishing he could protect them in return. He thinks of what he’d do if their positions were reversed, if it was Fuyumi with the hybrid powers instead of him. “I didn’t do it for her.”
“Don’t be dramatic.” Kirishima tuts. “You’re allowed to show that you care sometimes, Todoroki-kun”
Midoriya catches his eye across the room and gives him a smile, something so warm and bright that the frozen parts inside of him melt even further. He looks proud, Shouto thinks, as if Shouto’s done something that Midoriya is particularly happy about. He adds it to the growing list of things that have had confused him today.
“Can I go to bed now?” He asks, feeling more tired than he had earlier.
Jirou and Kirishima share a look and he can see her shrug, can feel the way Kirishima’s arm tightens around him in response before he lets go.
“Sure.” Jirou says. She does reach out this time, hand barely touching his shoulder before she pulls it away. “Thanks again, Todoroki.”
One day, Shouto thinks when he’s lying in bed, he’ll learn to accept the way people treat him here.
He’ll learn to accept the touches for what they are, will accept the fact that people can be kind and gentle without expecting things in return.