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you can call me (idol)

Chapter Text

He was running for his life.

Don’t give him that look. It wasn’t weird— this was an average Tuesday night.

“Can’t catch me,” he sang, ducking through the doorway with the file tucked underneath his arm and the USB clenched in his fist. He already knew he was gonna make it out of here. There was a window only a few meters away.

A bullet whizzed by his head. The man sidestepped neatly, took a running start, leapt over the neat oaken desk—

—and crashed through the window.

Shards of glass glittered around him as he flew, through the air, over the gap, tucking and rolling onto the next building’s rooftop.

He vanished without a trace.

The file and the USB made their way to the desk of a detective. Shaking his head, he swept them into his desk drawer. It would end badly if people knew where his department’s information came from.

...that didn’t mean the files wouldn’t be put to use, though.

The next day, the newspaper headlines declared that the CEO of Takeda Inc. had been arrested for funding a villain organization. The picture most prominently splashed across the front covers was one of the disgraced man being dragged out of the building with spittle flying from his mouth.

How unflattering.

Meanwhile, the instigator danced in his apartment, singing a pop song and brushing glass out of his hair.

He approached a mirror and pressed his fingers to his cheek. There was a shallow cut— to be expected when you launched yourself out of a window— but, well.

It was nothing makeup couldn’t fix.

 


 

Todoroki Shouto can count on one hand the amount of times he’s been rendered speechless.

The first was when his mother had dumped boiling water on his face and he’d been too shocked to do much but scream. The second was when his father died and he’d been asked to comment at the wake. The third time was when his old classmate, Kirishima, had called him up out of the blue and said, “Hey, I’m marrying Katsuki— oh, you know, Ground Zero— do you wanna come to the wedding?”

(He’d gone, of course, though he hadn’t known what to do with himself.)

The fourth time is… right about now, with his PR manager looking at him expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” he manages to work out, “but you want me to what?

“I’ve been contacted by Kemuri Record Label because they want a hero to be Dekiru’s bodyguard,” she explains with a staggering amount of patience. “You do know who Dekiru is, right? One of the most famous idols in Japan?”

“Of course I know who he is, I can’t go a day without seeing a billboard or an advertisement or something with his face all over it,” Shouto says, raking a hand through his hair. He knows an instant after he’s done it that he’s irreversibly ruined the careful division of red and white, but he’s still too stunned to care.

The manager taps her pen on her clipboard. “What’s the problem? Do you want me to tell them no?”

“I just… I don’t understand why an idol needs a pro hero to protect them. Aren’t there actual bodyguard agencies for this? I have other responsibilities…”

Well, not that many responsibilities. Crime hasn’t been too crazy lately, not with Lemillion at the wheel. Plus, most of his old class— 1A— is in the top 20 for hero rankings. They can certainly take care of business if Shouto takes a random hiatus to… keep Dekiru from being mobbed by fans or tie his shoes or do whatever bodyguards do.

“Look at the news, Todoroki-kun,” the manager says, handing him her phone. He dutifully scrolls through the Google results for “dekiru idol” and blanches when they actually register in his brain.

In the past two months, there have been no less than fifteen attempts on Dekiru’s life. Some of them were perpetuated by known villains— he spots a photo of Calamity in there, and another of Toga Himiko. The most recent attack occurred last week.

Shouto gives the phone back. “Alright, I see why a pro might be necessary. What on earth did he do to warrant this type of attention?”

As far as Shouto had known, the idol was just that: a born singer with a pretty face and copious amounts of charm. Why was he being hunted like a hero?

“No one’s sure. You have a meeting with him in a few days, if you’re willing. Should I inform Kemuri HQ that you’ll be there?”

What the hell. Shouto needs a change of pace, and if there’s one thing that will make his shitty old man turn in his grave, it’ll be leaving standard hero duties behind to baby an entertainer.

“Let them know.”

 

-

 

On Friday, Shouto finds himself being ushered into the posh building belonging to Kemuri Records. Everything there is in shades of matte black and chrome silver, and the tiles are so polished that Shouto can see his harried reflection staring back at him. He almost feels bad for needing to walk on them, but he can’t float like Uravity.

A man dressed in an impeccably tailored suit meets him at the elevator. His blue eyes are more frigid than Shouto’s mother’s.

“This way, Freezerburn,” he says stiffly.

They ride up in dead silence. Shouto feels so uncomfortable that he fidgets with his sleeves, watching the red numbers tick by. When the door opens, he nearly collapses in relief.

A shorter man with bright orange hair greets them as they step out.

“Oh, boo, you went and got him without me? How could you do this?!” he exclaims, bounding down the hallway.

“Nobody has to cater to you,” the man retorts, stalking after him.

I did not sign up for this, Shouto thinks as he follows. Regret crawls up his spine.

“Sure they do!” The redhead says over his shoulder. “I’m literally named after the sun— the world revolves around me!”

Shouto abruptly realizes who the orange haired man is. He’s Sunspot, one of the richest men in Japan. Although no one knows what his job actually is, Sunspot’s sunny (heh) disposition and quick ability to make friends, coupled with his bright Quirk, have made him nearly unbeatable in sales and business deals— Shouto really shouldn’t be surprised to find out that he’s got his hands in the music industry too.

The pair leads Shouto to a room, bickering the whole way. They even scuffle about who gets to open the door (a fight which the blue eyed man wins solely by being taller) and he is escorted in.

“Good luck,” Sunspot chirps, his brown eyes glittering gold for a brief second. He shuts the door in Shouto’s face and audibly takes off down the hall, the stoic man in tow.

Shouto walks further into the room, which is empty. There are two black couches with a glass table set between them. He awkwardly takes a seat on one of the couches and waits.

A few minutes later, after Shouto has unraveled some stitching in his boredom and self-reproach, a man walks in. He’s so absorbed in his phone call that he doesn’t even notice the hero in waiting.

“—I’m telling you, you have to push back the announcement! I can’t write five new songs to my standards in that little time, especially when I’m constantly on the verge of dying— no, no, listen to me, Masuda, you have to postpone it! I already released one full album this year! Why do I even need a mini-album?! Wait!”

He hangs up and looks down at the phone like he’s contemplating throwing it through a window. Shouto knows the feeling. Instead of snickering like he wants to, he clears his throat.

The other man, world famous idol and media darling Dekiru, jumps three feet in the air.

“Hi,” Shouto says amusedly. “I was under the impression that we were supposed to have a meeting today?”

Dekiru doesn’t react at the little jab like Shouto expects. Instead, he nearly vaults over the other couch to grab hold of Shouto’s hands.

“Oh my god, you’re Freezerburn! The hero with the two-toned hair and two-sided Quirk! Oh, that’s so exciting— hey, are you really immune to extreme temperatures? The hero forums have been debating for years, but I’ve never really bought it— crap, sorry, I’m rambling. Hi, I’m Midoriya Izuku, and yes, we were supposed to meet, but I forgot it was Friday! Sorry!”

Shouto needs about 45 seconds to process all of that. He slowly untangles their clasped hands, saying,

“I’m gonna try to respond to everything— Yes, I’m Freezerburn, no, I’m not exactly immune to extreme temperatures, but I can influence my own homeostasis more effectively than others, it’s okay, and you can call me Todoroki, I suppose,” he finally manages to answer.

The idol bounces in place, looking much like a bunny. “It’s nice to meet you! I wish it were under better circumstances, though.”

That sombers the mood. Shouto straightens, and Midoriya takes a seat opposite him.

“I heard you’ve been in trouble pretty frequently following your concert in Yokohama,” Shouto begins. “In the past two months, you’ve faced fifteen assassination attempts.”

Midoriya looks down at his hands. His eyes are as green as they are in the billboards, Shouto notices. They might as well be emeralds.

“Yeah. I’ve gotten threats before, but nothing like this. It’s… awful.”

“I can’t imagine,” Shouto mutters, because he’s worn the promise of danger on his skin since his Quirk manifested. Midoriya blinks in shock and Shouto nearly bangs his head against the table. He’s all over the place today, and the lack of professionalism is not a good look.

After a beat, he asks, “Can you think of any reason why this might be happening?”

Midoriya starts counting on his fingers. “I’ve always been a vocal supporter of heroes— I don’t know if you’ve heard any of my songs, but it’s a big theme— I donate frequently to hero agencies and charities, and I work in close contact with Present Mic and Earphone Jack, since they’re also singers. Take your pick.”

Shouto furrows his brow in thought. Something about that justification seems a little weak. Plenty of idols sing about heroism— literally every other song on the radio is about saving the day— so why single out Dekiru?

But then again, villains don’t need stellar reasons to love wreaking havoc.

“I’ll see into an investigation. Anyway, this was just a trial run, wasn’t it? To see if we can be in close contact without an actual homicide being committed? Our managers still have to draw up a contract,” Shouto says.

“Yup. I don’t know how you feel about me, Todoroki. But I, um… I already liked you before you walked in here. So I look forward to being in your care, and uh, witnessing a distinct lack of homicides.”

Blinking, Shouto wonders about the raw honesty in that statement. It seems somewhat personal— but how can it be, when their worlds are so far apart?

He wants to ask, but it wouldn’t be a good idea. He should just return the kindness before his thoughtless words get him in trouble again.

“I’d like to get to know you too, Midoriya,” Shouto says.

As they awkwardly smile at each other, Shouto notices a cut high up on Midoriya’s cheek, carefully hidden under makeup.

Damn it. Was Midoriya danger prone even when he wasn’t being chased down by villains?

This bodyguard gig was going to be a chore and a half.

Chapter Text

Walking on the edge of a building feels like walking on a tightrope.

At least that’s what Izuku imagines, anyway. He’s never actually walked on a high wire. But he shares the thrill of being one second away from falling into the abyss with circus performers everywhere.

He catapults himself off the roof and lands on the next building. This is probably going to be his last nightly run for a while: he wants to make it a good one.

Under the mask, Izuku’s mouth twists in displeasure. It’s just his luck that his overprotective manager saddled him with a bodyguard, and a pro hero one at that. It’s even worse that they’d found a competent hero.

Pretty, powerful Todoroki Shouto, otherwise known as Freezerburn. The youngest child of former hero Endeavor, and the only one that had gone into their father’s industry. Izuku has kept up with the entirety of Class 1A since their graduation, but out of all of them, Todoroki stands out the most. He’s smart, has an incredible Quirk, and never sacrifices civilians for the villains.

And as per their contract, he’s going to be living with Izuku, starting tomorrow.

Izuku sighs. Now he’s going to have to manage his life (scratch that, lives) and a helicopter hero at the same time.

He only has his own genetics to blame. If he’d just been born with a different Quirk…

But Izuku’s fate had been decided years ago.

—doesn’t have a toe joint, so it’s very likely he has a Quirk—

—he’d opened his mouth to sing at the teacher’s request, and his voice had become a spell—

—he traced back his family tree, one, two, three, four generations—

—seems you’ve inherited the Quirk of your great-great-grandmother!—

—...can I still be a hero?—

—no.—

So he’d chosen something else.

Izuku puts his voice to good use, producing album after album. He wears the fame like a crown and signs everything his fans pass his way. He makes advertising deals and goes on V-Live and pretends he’s happy…

But Izuku isn’t happy unless he’s chasing down villains.

He hadn’t intended to become a vigilante. Not at first, anyway. He’d simply been out for a late night coffee run, wearing a hoodie, sunglasses, and a face mask to shield his identity, when he’d stumbled across an attempted murder.

Izuku did what he’d been doing since childhood. He put himself in the middle of the situation and gave the victim time to get away.

Then he’d frozen the killer over with his voice and clocked her hard enough to break her nose.

(Now she’s after him, since the little stalker had figured out who he was, but that’s a different story.)

The rush of saving a life was addictive. So Izuku made himself a costume and kept doing it. Almost every night he could spare, he beat up villains and walked kids home safely and broke into CEO’s offices to find incriminating evidence. Soon enough, someone called him “Checkmate,” and he bore the name more proudly than he’d ever borne “Dekiru.”

Vigilantism is more fun than it should be.

It’s also super illegal.

Izuku is balanced on a knife’s edge. If he tips too far into the world of idols, if he tips too far into the world of vigilantism, he’ll get cut.

 


 

Todoroki is annoyingly early.

He shows up at Izuku’s door at 8:00 on the dot, waking him from a measly three hours of sleep. Izuku doesn’t have the luxury of lashing out at this, because idols are always supposed to be nice and welcoming, so he slaps on some makeup and opens the door.

“Hey, Todoroki,” he says brightly. “It’s a little early, isn’t it?”

Ha. A pointed jab, like the one Todoroki had shot at him during their initial meeting. Izuku will take his pettiness where he can get it.

The hero seems unruffled. “I wake up at 5:00 every day. It’s no trouble for me.”

Izuku lowkey wants to punch this guy and disappear into the ether. Can he do that? Is it considered a contract breach to smack the shit out of your bodyguard?

But then Todoroki continues, “That’s a bit much for most people, though. I’ll be more considerate of your schedule in the future.”

The idol deflates, letting the other man into the apartment. Curse Todoroki for being thoughtless one second and gentle the next. It doesn’t help that Izuku is a huge hero fanboy and Todoroki knows it, after the way he’d gushed all over him on Friday.

Everything about this situation sucks.

“The guest room is that way,” Izuku explains, waving his arms about like a tour guide. “Sometimes a friend of mine stays there, so don’t mind the little knickknacks— I’ll get him to clear it out when he comes over again. And hey, are those two duffel bags all you have?”

Shrugging, Todoroki says, “One’s for my hero gear, the other’s for civilian clothes. I don’t really need much else.”

“Okay, if you say so. I’m, uh, gonna make food. And watch the news. Are you interested?”

“Sure.”

Izuku makes rice and miso soup for two while Todoroki awkwardly perches on his couch. He brings the food over and nudges the hero, saying,

“You’re going to be living here too, you know. Loosen up.”

“I’m not really the best at relaxing,” Todoroki replies wryly. “Thank you for the food.”

Izuku waves it off, turning on the news as he does. On screen, the anchor says,

“...for those of you just tuning in, the assassin Two-Faced has finally been caught. An underground hero managed to trap him in an abandoned parking garage, leaving him with nowhere to go and no one to impersonate…”

The program shows the footage from the dramatic arrest. A scowling blond man— presumably Two-Faced’s baseline form— is being dragged from a crumbling building by a redheaded police officer and a small hero with pale blue eyes.

“Ooh, Wallflower!” The singer coos excitedly. “I wonder if he’ll actually get credited with this collar, seeing as his Quirk seems to make him forgettable, even where his colleagues are concerned.”

Todoroki lowers his bowl. “So it would be cold of me to say I have no clue who that man is?”

Laughing, the green eyed man says, “Only a little. Wallflower’s Quirk, Fade In, gives him virtually no presence. He’s as unnoticeable as Invisible Girl if you’re not attuned to him. But he’s really sweet! I saw him petting a dog on the street once and he signed my notebook!”

Izuku realizes a second after the words leave his mouth that he sounds like a massive nerd. Oops.

“It’s nice to know that there are heroes who do good work without ulterior motives. My old man could’ve learned a thing or two from people like Wallflower,” Todoroki mutters.

That sounded a little bitter. Izuku wants to ask, but they’re not at the tragic backstory level of friendship yet.

As soon as the thought of friendship enters his mind, the door nearly flies right off its hinges.

Todoroki scrambles to defend him, ice already glittering at his fingertips. Izuku leaps off the couch too, not sure if he should run like the damsel he’s supposed to be or fight like the vigilante he is.

He doesn’t need to choose.

The person who storms in isn’t a villain. It’s just Katsuki.

“Kacchan, what the fuck,” Izuku says in exasperation. “You almost gave me a goddamn heart attack!”

I gave you a heart attack?! Bitch! I’m the one who found out from the news that people have been trying to kill you!” The blond shouts. “You couldn’t fucking call me?”

“You were busy trying to control that situation in Tokyo! Sorry for trying to be considerate!”

Todoroki pinches the bridge of his nose, letting his ice melt away. “Ground Zero, could you lower your voice? What are you doing here?”

Katsuki squints like he just noticed the other hero. “Icy Hot? Why the hell are you hanging out with Izuku at 9:00 in the morning? Is this a post-hookup breakfast? Where did you even meet this loser?”

“Who are you directing that last question at?” Izuku snaps, throwing a pillow at his old friend. “And if you’d paid a little more attention to the news, you’d have seen that he’s my bodyguard now!”

“Well, fuck, Izuku, there’s only so much of you I can handle at once! The radio stations were all playing your songs this morning. I almost threw my damn hearing aids out the window. Now you expect me to read multiple articles about you?”

“Are you worried or not?! Pick a side!”

Todoroki inches out of the apartment as their bickering escalates. “I’m going to... call my sister. Or my manager. Someone. I’ll be in the hall.”

He vanishes, leaving Izuku and Katsuki in the living room.

“Seriously, how’d you end up with him?” the blond asks, dropping the argumentative tone. He collapses on the sofa and Izuku curls into his side, sighing.

“My manager thinks I’m fragile and needed a pro hero’s help to deal with the current situation. I don’t, but I can’t tell anyone that.”

“Backup’s always good. I’ve learned that in the past couple of years,” Katsuki points out.

Grinning, Izuku teases, “How mature of you. You used to think relying on others was pathetic.”

“Guess what? Seasons change and so do people.”

“That was awful. You’re awful,” the idol complains. “Go meme at your husband, not me.”

“Eijirou is still in Korea. You’re stuck with my fucking memes, bitch.”

They glare at each other for only a moment before bursting into laughter.

Bakugou Katsuki is his best and only friend, but due to the way their lives diverged, it’s rare that they’re ever in the same city— the guest rooms they keep for each other are always blanketed in dust. It’s nice to see him. Izuku can almost pretend they’re kids again, and they’re only playing at being heroes.

He doesn’t want to ruin the easy-going atmosphere, but he has something important to ask.

The idol glances at the door and then leans closer to the Explosion Hero, his expression hardening. “You know Todoroki, don’t you? How high is the probability of him finding out I’m Checkmate?”

“I hate to say it, but pretty damn high. That candy cane headass was always top 5 in the class. You need to lay low if you wanna keep your second career under wraps. But he’s not your biggest problem,” Katsuki says.

Izuku groans. “What now?

“Do you know who Static Thought is?”

“The guy from General Studies who moved into your hero class? Shin… Shin something. Doesn’t he have a mind control Quirk?” asks Izuku.

“Shinsou Hitoshi,” Katsuki says grimly. “He’s Eraserhead’s little protege, and he’s after your ass. If he talks to you, don’t respond, no matter what he says. That’s your quickest ticket to jail.”

“I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks.”

Katsuki hops off the couch, cracking his knuckles. “I’ll go distract Peppermint Patty over there. You need to clean up your fucking room— I can see your costume peeking out from under your mattress.”

“Fuck me,” Izuku swears. “You’re a lifesaver, Kacchan. Meet me over the weekend for drinks?”

“If you’re fucking paying. Hurry up! I can’t stall the way Kaminari’s stupid ass can.”

Izuku darts into his room. He might be flying high, but at least someone’s there to break his inevitable fall.

Chapter Text

Shouto creeps back into Midoriya’s apartment, still reeling from seeing Bakugou. The last time he’d been this close to the other hero was, well, during his wedding. Even then, Shouto had mostly stuck to the champagne table, awkwardly nursing a glass, until Yaoyorozu came to put him out of his misery.

Izuku sweeps back into the living room, looking somewhat harried. Shouto supposed that was the Bakugou Effect: he came in, exploded, and left you to clean up the mess.

“Hey, Todoroki,” the idol says, flinging himself onto the couch. “Sorry about all of that. Kacchan is kinda unpredictable. I had no idea he’d come over today, honest.”

Kacchan. Shouto can’t picture Bakugou allowing anyone to call him that and live, except maybe Kirishima. And hell, even the friendly Red Riot calls him Katsuki.

“How do you two know each other?” Shouto asks carefully, settling on one of the couch’s armrests.

With a self-conscious laugh, he replies, “It’s kind of a funny story. See, we’re childhood friends.”

“You’re friends with him? ” Shouto says before he can stop himself.

Midoriya doesn’t look offended. Snickering, he explains, “I know, I know, he can be hard to get along with. Under all that anger, though, he’s a good person. No matter how caustic he gets, his heart’s in the right place.”

“So… you met in elementary school? Middle school?” Shouto asks. He’s aware he’s prying, but he’s just so confused at seeing Ground Fucking Zero barge into someone’s apartment to inquire about their health.

“No, no, our moms are friends!” Midoriya says cheerily. “They went to high school together. So when we were born, they held playdates for us all the time. We grew on each other. Like fungus.”

Shouto can’t help but snort at that, though he quickly stifles the sound.

“Actually, he’s… he’s the person that stays in the guest room sometimes. He stormed out before I could get him to pick up his shit, but we’re over at each other’s so rarely that there really isn’t much to clean anyway. Except dust.”

Huh. Shouto doesn’t keep a guest room at his place. There’s no one who’d want to stay with him.

“It sounds like you’ve got a good thing going,” he says hesitantly.

The idol shrugs, giving him a half-smile. “For a long time, we were the only people who understood each other. But when Kacchan went to UA, he found lots of friends. I…”

I didn’t goes unsaid.

Shouto doesn’t know how to comfort Midoriya. Luckily for him, the idol doesn’t seem like he wants to wallow in misery. He rolls off the couch and stands, saying,

“Well, I'm feeling like coffee. So I guess you’re going to work. Give me a second to get ready!”

Midoriya skips back into his room, shutting the door behind him. Shouto blinks at the space he’d previously occupied.

After a moment, he stands and clears the table.

 


 

Twenty minutes later, they’re stepping out into the morning. Shouto’s distinctive hair is swept up into a beanie, and he’s wearing oversized shades. They’re actually a sophisticated piece of technology that feeds him data about his surroundings— an interface before his eyes tells him everything from the current air temperature to how many people are around him (and which ones are most likely to attack).

Midoriya, on the other hand, has somehow darkened his green hair to black and tied it in a messy bun. He’s accessorized with brown contacts and a face mask; the latter of which hides not only his mouth but a good portion of his freckles. His oversized sweater does wonders for concealing his shape too.

Overall, as long as they don’t start a riot or something equally attention grabbing, they’ll get through their coffee run without incident.

“Where are we going?” Shouto asks Midoriya quietly. So far, they’ve simply been weaving through the crowds. He can’t see their end goal.

“There’s a cafe I like only a few blocks away,” Midoriya replies. “The staff there know who I am and they’re all really nice about it. I’ve seen the owner kick out nosy reporters plenty of times.”

Shouto nods slowly. “It’s not a good idea to keep a routine when you’re being hunted, you know.”

“Eh? It’s not a routine. I change up which shops I go to and take different routes each time. Why do you think I’m leading us through all these back alleys? There’s plenty of easier ways to get there,” Midoriya replies.

As he says it, Shouto realizes they are going pretty far out of the way. Damn. He really shouldn’t underestimate the idol.

His shock must show on his face, because Midoriya scoffs, “Don’t worry your pretty head about it. After all, I look so stupid.”

Flinging open a door set into the alley wall, the idol marches inside a building. Shouto is too caught up in the dual panic of “Did he just call me pretty?” and “He thinks I think he’s stupid?” to notice that they’d slipped into the cafe via a back entrance (at least until his nose picks up on the scent of coffee).

“Hi, Kanako-chan!” Midoriya greets. A young woman, who’d been dozing against the counter, perks up and bounds over to them.

“Izuku! It’s nice to see you again. You haven’t been in so long!”

They embrace, leaving Shouto feeling a little lost. He needs to run a background check on this lady. Where the hell is his phone?

“Who’s this?” Kanako asks curiously, interrupting his Phone Search Macarena™ . She blinks at Shouto and he notes that her eyes are distinctly serpentine. A forked tongue peeks out from between her lips.

“This is my new bodyguard. Call him Shoucchan,” the idol says.

The hero almost protests, but decides to accept his fate. He’s got a cutesy nickname now. No big deal. Totally doesn’t ruin his image.

Kanako seats them at a table that offers a perfect view of the entrances, exits, employees, and everyone else in the cafe. Shouto couldn’t have picked a better spot himself. The barista busies himself getting their orders at a signal from the snake girl— although Midoriya likely has a regular order, Shouto has no clue what’s coming his way, and finds himself failing to protest that as well.

Seeming comfortable with the arrangement, Midoriya starts playing Toy Blast on his phone. Shouto is loath to interrupt him, but he has to assuage his guilt.

“Midoriya, I want… I want to apologize.”

Midoriya glances up, still tapping away. “For what?”

“Earlier. I didn’t intend to insinuate that you were dumb. I was only trying to be cautious,” the hero says, fiddling with his sleeves. “I’ve been told that I don’t have tact, or that I’m too blunt… I know it’s true. But I didn’t mean to insult you.”

The singer puts down his phone. “I accept your apology. I probably shouldn’t have snapped. It’s just— no one seems to realize that I’m capable of doing things. Like, one time a stylist tried to explain basic algebra to me, as if I didn’t even finish elementary school. It gets on my nerves.”

“It would get on mine too,” Shouto admits. “From now on, I won’t make any more assumptions. You seem to know what you’re doing.”

Midoriya beams. It’s so drastically different from the smile he gives in interviews or on stage that Shouto’s brain nearly crashes. After seeing it, there’s no way he could mistake those other expressions for anything but plastic.

“Thanks, Todoroki.”

Trying to recover his dignity and also calm his heart, the hero says, “I do have one question, though.”

“What?”

“How did you get your hair to turn black? There’s no way you permanently dyed it…”

Midoriya shoots him a wink. “Trade secret. If you want the specifics, you’ll have to go to Hatsume, Inc. The CEO developed this formula.”

Shouto doesn’t know Hatsume Mei as well as Iida, but he’s certainly heard wild tales about her. Making special dyes on the side sounds like it’s right up her alley— she is a mad genius, after all.

Kanako delivers their food and drinks. “Enjoy, you two! Tell me if anyone bothers you; I’ll bite ‘em.”

“Unlicensed Quirk use is illegal,” Shouto deadpans, but the woman is already walking away.

“Legality is usually the last thing on her mind. She was in a girl gang in high school, you know,” Midoriya laughs. “I think they thoroughly terrorized Tokyo.”

Shouto wonders, not for the first time, what he’s gotten himself into.

 


 

They leave the coffee shop after two hours. Shouto is pleasantly surprised that 1) his mystery order had been enjoyable and 2) Midoriya was good company.

He’d originally assumed that the idol would be a vapid, selfish brat— he had no frame of reference suggesting the contrary. But Midoriya is kind, funny, and really, really smart, as evidenced by the divergence in their conversation that led them to the reasons for hero popularity, and the idol’s subsequent deluge of statistics that left Shouto reeling.

(Now he feels stupid for ever assuming Midoriya was incompetent.)

They walk back to the apartment, taking a winding path that lets Shouto learn more of the neighborhood. He scopes out the alleys Midoriya is so fond of, the placement of cameras, the types of shops, and the passerby.

Something does end up catching his eye.

It’s a snowflake shaped pendant, equal parts beautiful and elegant. It’s displayed in a jewelry store’s window, looped around the delicate neck of a mannequin, and Shouto can easily picture it on Fuyumi. He hesitates in front of the glass, debating whether or not he should buy the necklace for her birthday.

Midoriya stops with him. He peers up at the mannequin, and teasingly asks Shouto, “Are you getting a gift for your girlfriend?”

“No! It’s for my sister,” Shouto splutters. “Why would you even think I have a girlfriend?”

Shrugging, Midoriya says, “You work with Creatie all the time. People wonder about you two. Can I assume the good Anne-Marie was right and you’re just friends?”

“Um, yes! Yaoyorozu has a type, and it’s not boys.”

“Oh, thank god; Earphone Jack would love to hear that. She’s been pining for years,” Midoriya says. “Present Mic and I tease her about it, since he’s happily married and I secretly love drama.”

Once again, the idol has given him whiplash. Jirou likes Yaoyorozu? Since when? And…

“Present Mic is married? To who?”

Midoriya blinks. “Um. Eraserhead? Your old teacher?”

“No way, Aizawa never showed any interest— I thought he only loved cats!”

“They’ve been together since they went to UA,” Midoriya denies. “Sometimes Eraserhead stops by the studio or radio station when we’re working solely to harass Present Mic. Apparently, everyone’s favorite Voice Hero never does the dishes.”

“I’ve been enlightened,’ Shouto mumbles. Damn, he knows he’s dense when it comes to the dating scene, but this is something else.

A man bumps into Midoriya, knocking them both out of their reverie.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! Are you alright?” He says frantically.

“It’s fine,” Midoriya says, straightening. As he does, the man gets a good look at his face.

“Wait, aren’t you that idol? Hey, everyone, Dekiru is here!”

The street erupts in pandemonium. Emitting a startled squeak, Midoriya grabs Shouto by the wrist. The hero stomps his foot, causing a wave of ice to rise in front of them. The frigid barricade prevents most of the suddenly rabid fans from getting close, but some of them aren’t easily deterred. A girl melts through the ice with her Quirk— laser eyes— and effectively pops the duo’s personal bubbles.

She and the instigator present Midoriya with notepads. Although the idol has donned a placid smile underneath his mask, Shouto can tell that he’s wound tight with panic. He wonders if he should spirit his charge away, but these are just harmless fans, aren’t they?

With eerily similar grins, the pair choruses, “Would you give us an autograph?”

“Sure...” Midoriya says, seemingly resigned to his fate. He slips a pen out of his pocket and reaches for a piece of paper.

The display in Shouto’s glasses lights up red.

Immediately, the hero grabs Midoriya by the back of his sweater and yanks. His quick thinking saves the idol from being incinerated by lasers. The fans scream and promptly scatter at the sudden onslaught of violence.

“Look at that. The bitch has a guard dog,” the man sneers. He tosses away the notepad and spikes rise from his scaly skin. He’s got a transformation Quirk, like Froppy, but he’s more reptile than amphibian.

This is not good. Gritting his teeth, Shouto demands, “Midoriya, get behind me, now!”

The idol obeys. Shouto hastily creates a dome of ice around him and rounds on the villains.

They attack in tandem. The girl glares at him and nearly blows a hole through his midsection, while the lizard man leaps at him with unsheathed claws.

Shouto kicks him away and dances out of the way of another laser. He raises his arm, causing a glacier to erupt from the ground. The ice embraces the girl, trapping her in such a position that she can’t easily free herself with her own Quirk.

That leaves the lizard man. He drops to all fours, frills of scaly skin rising around his neck, and scurries toward Shouto. He quickly dodges, but his beanie flies off as he does, exposing his dual-colored hair to the wind. So much for keeping a low profile.

He’s fast! What can I do?

The man swipes at him and shreds his sleeve to ribbons.

Wait… didn’t I read some article about frillneck lizards when I was drunk? Didn’t… didn’t a bunch of them die in a fire?

Just as he thinks it, Midoriya calls, “Freezerburn, use your left side!”

Oh, he hates doing that. But he heeds Midoriya’s wish and sets his fire free. The sheer heat of the flames pushes the lizard away, and he collapses, his scales drying out and flaking off.

He snarls weakly. Enraged, the girl fires a laser into the sky and vaporizes a bird.

“You might've won today, hero, but you can’t protect that duplicitous bastard for long! He’ll get what’s coming to him,” she screams.

“And you’ll get what’s coming to you in jail,” Shouto huffs, freezing her mouth shut for extra emphasis. He pats out the cinders on his arm and melts the barricade around Midoriya. The idol tumbles out, somewhat chilly but thankfully unharmed.

“We need to get out of here. The reporters will be on their way,” he says through chattering teeth.

Shouto nods and the two flee the scene. When the hero eventually glances over his shoulder, he sees the police have arrived. The redheaded officer from the news is handcuffing the lizard man.

Crisis averted. This time.

They take an hour to get back to the apartment, just to be safe.

Chapter Text

Izuku’s fingers shake as he unlocks the latch of his bedroom window. If Todoroki were watching, he’d likely mistake it for fear (and that the idol was trying to lock the window, but that’s besides the point). However, it’s anger driving him wild, making him irrational enough to go back out as Checkmate even though he’d sworn not to and Todoroki is right there.

He perches on the windowsill and surveys his room. His door is shut, his blankets and pillows are piled in such a manner that they resemble his sleeping form, and the house is completely silent. Izuku’s breakout is a go.

He drops, landing on the fire escape a few floors beneath him with a muted thud. Once, it had extended to his floor, but an overzealous fan had tried breaking into his apartment via the metal staircase, and Sunspot had come and destroyed several flights to prevent it from happening again. The idol has no idea what he's supposed to do if there’s ever a real fire, but he thinks he has more pressing issues.

In other words, Izuku needs to know where he can find Toga fucking Himiko, because the serial killer had painted a neon target on his back— she’d apparently told everyone in the goddamn underworld that he was Checkmate. No wonder there'd been an uptick in the attempts on his life.

The vigilante would never admit it to Todoroki (how could he?), but he’d recognized the people that attacked him earlier today.

Izuku crouched in a shadowy corner of the warehouse, trying and failing to suppress his panic. He’d only come to torch a drug shipment, but he’d accidentally walked into a meeting between two rival organizations. If either party noticed him, he’d be dead. So dead.

“So,” a woman was saying. Her arms were folded across her chest in a textbook display of barely restrained fury. “You believe that this merger suits both our interests.”

“Combining our strengths is necessary, Titania,” the man replied, spreading his palms. “Otherwise, the heroes are going to destroy us all. That’s why I invited you here, specifically. You can have a cut of all the profits these narcotics and Quirk enhancers will bring us, as a show of our good will.”

“Boss, how can you stand this?” A girl with glowing eyes retorted. “He’s obviously just— just trying to trick us somehow!”

“Quiet, Yehana!” Titania snapped, her hair momentarily flashing into a wreath of flames.

Chuckling, the man said, “You have such loyal followers. Mine are much the same way.”

He indicated the man next to him, an anthropomorphic lizard who looked like he wanted to tear the girl apart. The two snarled, but quieted the longer their leaders stared each other down.

“I’ll take 30%,” the woman finally conceded. “In return, you can have access to our resources. But don’t think this means we’re getting along, Yama. If I give an inch, you will not get a mile.”

“Pleasure doing business with you,” Yama said, face split in a shark-like grin.

Well, clearly, the man had gotten his mile, since the two thugs had been working together.

Izuku bounds from rooftop to rooftop, his mind spinning. He’s torn between going for the gang leaders and hunting down Toga. But the more steps he takes, the more obvious it becomes that the first option is better. The vigilante doesn’t know where Toga is— she’s well-versed in evasion and disguise, after all.

However, he knows damn well where Yama spends his time.

Close to the center of the city is a tiny, dingy Thai restaurant. Izuku had once stumbled into it while running from paparazzi, and he'd quickly figured out that it was a front for the Neo Yakuza. Gang members frequently dine there (and sometimes, they throw in black market deals and shootouts!). If he were younger and more naive, he’d question why the place was even allowed to operate. But the truth is simple: pro heroes are too busy with bigger fish to come there, and the police, who are spread thin, can’t step in either.

It’s up to people like him to fix the messes legal heroes won’t touch.

A couple of buildings later, Izuku lands on the roof of the restaurant. It creaks under his weight and he winces, praying that he won’t fall through the ceiling. (He’s done it before and it’s not a fun ride.)

Upon stabilizing himself, the vigilante notices there’s some commotion coming from the path behind the Thai place. He tiptoes to the edge to check it out.

At first, he doesn’t quite understand what he’s seeing. There’s a circle of people, some gang members and some street kids, crowding around two figures. One is a skinny boy with a mass of fluffy hair. The other is the gang leader he’s been searching for. They’re fighting with… automatons?

Oh. It’s a back-alley bot fight.

Yama has his face set in a scowl. Izuku doesn’t know much about this type of competition, other than it exists and is kind of illegal, but even he can tell the man is losing. The kid’s bot comes back together every time it’s broken, and Yama’s doesn’t.

Eventually, the kid grows bored with playing. With a screech of metal, his bot beheads the Yakuza bot.

A round of cheers rises from the onlookers. Beaming, the kid promptly demands the pot of money sitting against the back wall.

Yama does not like that. Instead of accepting defeat, he pulls a gun on the boy.

Oh, hell no.

Izuku vaults off the ledge and lands on the large man, audibly breaking bones. He goes down with a sickening crunch, and the idol daintily steps off his body.

“Now, now,” he says mockingly. “Trying to shoot your competitor after they beat you fair and square is very unsportsmanlike, don't you think?”

There's no answer, only a weak gurgle.

“Don't you think?” he repeats, kicking Yama for emphasis.

Most of the looky-loos then decide it’s time to get out of Dodge.

The subordinate gang members finally gather their four brain cells together and start firing at him. Izuku grins and leaps backward, causing two of them to shoot each other instead. Idiots.

“Run!” he yells at the wide-eyed brat, who’d frozen up in terror. Izuku’s call startles him into gathering up his little bot and booking it.

The other members charge at him. Izuku ducks under a wild swing and electrocutes the first girl (thanks, custom-made taser gloves!). She goes down like a sack of very pink potatoes. Her partner, the boy, is a little wiser: he uses his Quirk instead.

Vines explode from the ground and twine around the idol's legs. Izuku whips out his knife and slashes through them, immediately rolling to avoid the next hail of bullets. He ends up right next to the downed girl's gun, and he snatches it up.

The boy notices and panics. He tries in vain to fire again, but his weapon is out of ammunition.

Izuku isn't about to shoot a misguided teenager. Instead of returning fire, he throws the girl's gun at him. It hits the boy in the temple and sends him to the ground in a crumpled heap.

“Cool, cool,” Izuku mutters, panting. Time to shake down their leader.

He drags Yama up and slaps him, jolting him to consciousness.

“Hi,” he says sweetly as the thug's eyes flutter open. “I have a few questions.”

“Go fuck yourself,” he slurs in reply.

“Wrong answer,” Izuku says, prodding Yama with his electrified gloves. He waits for the man to stop whining in pain and then asks, “Was it you or Titania that ordered the attack on Dekiru?”

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” he denies. “Why would we need anything from some dumbass idol?!”

“The fact that two of your members are in lockup says otherwise. Unless... you haven't spoken to Toga?”

“Of course not! That crazy bitch is impossible to do business with! But Titania likes her! Maybe they met,” Yama babbles, inching away from Izuku's glove.

“Great, thanks,” Izuku chirps. “You've been super helpful.”

To show his appreciation, he throws the gang leader into the wall and knocks him right back out.

Dusting off his outfit, Izuku pulls his burner phone out of his pocket and places a call to Dynamite, Inc.— Katsuki's hero agency.

“You've reached Dynamite Incorporated! This is Red Riot! How can I help you?”

Izuku raises an eyebrow, impressed. He didn't think a sidekick would pick up the phone, let alone Kirishima, who must've just gotten back from Korea. But whatever, power to him.

“Hi, I'd like to report an, uhhh, smackdown. Yama's group again. It's by Bangkok Lantern. Send a clean-up crew, pretty please?”

He hangs up before Riot can respond. He has a fairy queen to find.

 


 

Several hours later, just shy of his 5:00 curfew, Izuku crawls back through his apartment window. He’d spent the rest of his night single-handedly shipping most of the city’s gang members to jail. While the vigilante has been meaning to do it for ages, it doesn’t feel as good as it should. Worry still festers underneath his skin, and his thoughts swirl around Toga.

Where is she? What’s she playing at?

And most importantly, just who else has she told?

Chapter Text

Trying to do your morning routine in an unfamiliar apartment is not fun.

Shouto nearly trips and dies three separate times on his way to the bathroom, clocks himself with the cupboard while trying to get a glass, and gives up on making breakfast because the stove is too different from his own. He ends up settling on the couch with an apple in his hand and turns on the TV. That, at least, he knows how to do.

The morning news is barely getting started, seeing as it’s 5:15. Right now, the anchor is droning on about the weather; she apparently possesses a meteorology-related Quirk and revises her original statement every 30 seconds.

Shouto lets the sound fade into background noise as he crunches his way through the apple. When he gets up to throw away the core, he hears a series of strange sounds from Midoriya’s room. The hero stiffens and forms a sharp blade of ice in his hand. No one would be bold enough to break into the man’s bedroom, right?

Thankfully, the racket is being caused by none other than the idol himself. He tumbles out from behind his door, looking… awful. Shadows ring his eyes, either the remnants of mascara or a really, really bad night of sleep, and he looks pensive.

“Are you okay?” Shouto asks. Midoriya jumps and throws the nearest thing he can find at Shouto, which happens to be a decorative vase. The hero ducks, causing the poor vase to explode against the wall.

“You scared the shit out of me,” Midoriya huffs, lowering his arm. “Fuck.”

“Sorry,” Shouto says warily. He isn’t sure if Midoriya is going to throw something else and doesn’t particularly want to find out, so he melts his makeshift weapon and goes to clean up the shattered porcelain.

With a soft sigh, Midoriya joins him.

“I’m the one who should be apologizing. You startled me, and I overreacted. Guess I’m not used to having people other than Kacchan around,” he says, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. He kneels down to help Shouto pick up the remains of the vase.

“It’s alright,” Shouto replies. “The only casualty was this… gorgeous antique.”

(The thing actually looks like it was made on an acid trip, but the hero isn’t sure if he’s allowed to say that.)

“Don’t lie. It was ugly as hell,” Midoriya says as they dump the shards into the trash. “Goodbye, horrible vase. You are by far one of the worst things Kemuri-san has ever given to me.”

Shouto muffles a snicker and goes back to the couch. After a few minutes of rummaging in the fridge, Midoriya joins him. He has a tiny cup of yogurt in his hand.

Hesitantly, Shouto asks, “Nightmares?”

“Hmf?” Midoriya replies around a spoonful of Activia.

“Nightmares,” Shouto repeats. “Is that what’s bothering you? You said that you don’t usually wake up this early, so…”

“Yeah. People trying to kill you leaves an impression on the psyche,” Midoriya says airily. He’s trying to sound tough, but there’s a strange tremor in his voice.

“I get it,” Shouto tells him. His nightmares usually featured his father, not villains, but the principle was still the same.

They lapse into silence. Eventually, Midoriya gets up and traipses back into his room. He returns with his phone, a glittery green Stark Tech model that costs more than Shouto’s last three phones combined, and settles on the couch again.

Shouto tunes back into the TV. The anchor has ceased discussing the weather and is now rehashing this week’s hero vs villain fights.

“...and the underground hero Static Thought is being credited with the capture of Edoya, a villain who escaped police custody three nights ago. Unfortunately, we have no pictures of the dramatic arrest, but we’re sure it was a good one!”

Midoriya mumbles something that sounds vaguely disdainful at this, but Shouto isn’t quite sure what he says.

Unbothered, the newscaster continues, “Moving on to more recent developments! This morning, the vigilante Checkmate disbanded two gangs that had been collaborating to move drugs through the region. According to Red Riot, he then called Dynamite, Inc. to take the gang members into custody.”

Shouto sits up straighter and focuses.

Checkmate was widely regarded as a poser, someone who stole glory from the real heroes. And at first, Shouto hadn’t liked him either. He’d been bitter that someone who had never gone through what he had was prancing around like people who’d actually devoted their all to their craft.

But then he’d actually met the vigilante, and his angry thoughts evaporated like water in the desert.

Shouto hadn’t fucked up this badly since he was a rookie.

He was pinned on the top floor of a building, his Quirk had been disabled by one of his opponents’, and half his equipment was smashed to pieces during an earlier scuffle. His teammates— Creatie and Sharkbait— were still fighting on the street below. And Shouto knew that Sharkbait had history with one of the villains, so basically, backup wasn’t coming anytime soon, and he had really, really fucked up.

One of the villains— likely the leader— advanced, a sick grin on his face. “Not so tough without your Quirk, huh, pretty boy?”

Shouto snarled at him. “Come closer and I’ll show you how tough I can be.”

This prompted a round of raucous laughter from the villains. The only woman nearly fell over, her snake-like hair writhing in amusement. Shouto glared and leapt forward. He took out one of the thugs with a well-placed roundhouse kick, but the others immediately surged forward to take his place.

At least they weren’t laughing anymore.

Despite his bold words, Shouto was horrifically outclassed without his Quirk. Soon, he was down on his knees with his hands bound behind his back, surrounded by the villains. Three of his ribs had been cracked, filling his chest with molten lava, and blood welled up in his mouth.

A hand fisted in his hair and dragged his head backwards, forcing Shouto to meet the eyes of the head villain. They were sharp like flint.

“Like I said,” he whispered to the hero, starting a charade of intimacy. “You aren’t anything without your flashy Quirk. But you needn’t worry. I’m sure I can find another use for you, little Freezerburn.”

Shouto panicked and tried jerking away, but the fingers in his hair prevented him from going anywhere. His wrists strained frantically against the bonds.

They didn’t budge.

Oh, god.

Before the bastard could go any further, a voice piped up from behind him.

“You know, I could find a better job for you. How about you swap ‘villain’ for ‘bloody heap of bones?’”

The villain released Shouto and whirled around. Under his outstretched arm, the hero saw the newcomer.

It was Checkmate.

Under his hood and mask, the vigilante undoubtedly wore an insolent grin. Without further ado, he attacked.

Checkmate fought like a dancer, his kicks high and graceful. He twisted out of the path of a hail of toxic spikes and electrocuted the woman with a pair of charged gloves. Two other men leapt at him in tandem when she went down; Checkmate simply ducked, letting them crash into each other. While they were still reeling, the vigilante punched one and rammed his elbow into the other. After that, they were too busy with concussions to stop him from taking on the leader.

The two men traded blows, almost too quickly for the eyes to follow.

The villain caught Checkmate’s fist before he could break his nose, saying triumphantly, “My Quirk has taken effect on you. You’re as useless as little Freezerburn now.”

“Cool,” Checkmate chirped. “Except I wasn’t using my Quirk, you stupid fuck.”

He kneed the man in the solar plexus and then kicked him halfway across the room while he was doubled over.

It was bloody. It was beautiful. And it was over in three minutes.

Shouto blinked at the massacre in shock. Checkmate had done what he couldn’t do, all without a single sign of a Quirk, and he’d done it so fucking well. Silence descended on the building, dampening the background noise until all Shouto could hear was his own shaky breathing and the shift of his bones under his skin.

“Which hand was it?” Checkmate said suddenly, startling Shouto out of his thoughts.

“What?”

“Which hand did he touch you with?” The other man clarified.

Shouto had to think for a moment. “The… the left one? Why?”

He got his answer when Checkmate stormed over to the leader and slammed his boot down on the man’s fingers. He shrieked in pain, and Checkmate shook his head in disgust.

“If you didn’t want to get the shit beaten out of you, you shouldn’t have tried to assault someone, you asshole,” he snapped. A quick jolt of electricity rendered the man unconscious, and then Checkmate was stepping over to untie Shouto and help him to his feet.

“Thank you,” Shouto said fervently. “I didn’t think that— you know what, I didn’t really think at all.”

“We all have our moments, Freezerburn,” the vigilante replied. “Now go help Creatie and Sharkbait before he starts making out with that villain, pretty please.”

Shouto flexed his fingers, feeling the flashes of hot and cold that meant his Quirk was coming back.

“I will,” he said softly.

Checkmate’s green eyes curved into crescents, as if he were smiling. “Try not to die, by the way. I like you.”

And then he slipped out of a window and into the wind.

Shouto remembered going down to the street and finding Creatie standing atop a pile of bodies while Sharkbait and a boy with scale-patterned skin embraced in a sinkhole. He remembered tipping his head up to the sky to look for Checkmate, in case he had lingered on the rooftops. But of course, he’d found no sign of the vigilante.

The hero still thinks about that day.

Especially when people say stupid shit about Checkmate, like the newscaster is currently doing.

“...I can only hope that this dangerous vigilante is remanded to a high-security institution.”

“Bullshit,” Shouto swears, switching the channel. “As if he doesn’t work harder than some of the heroes in the current circuit.”

Midoriya lowers his phone. “You like Checkmate?”

“He saved my ass once,” Shouto answers. “Quite literally. I don’t exactly support his lack of certification and all that, but he’s not a bad person.”

The idol stares off into the distance, shock writ across his face. For a moment, it’s almost like he’s replaying a memory.

“I’d forgotten. How could I have?”

“What did you forget?”

Midoriya glances back down at the phone, his eyes wide. “Um, I have a photoshoot today. With a bunch of models. I think it’s for Vogue Japan. And I need— I need to get ready like, right now.”

He flees the room.

Well. That was an abrupt transition. Regardless, Shouto decides he’d better get dressed too.

 


 

A half hour later, they’re running to catch the 6:30 AM train. Their disguises are sloppier, this time, but luckily, there’s no one awake enough to blow their cover.

The pair makes it into the train mere seconds before it takes off. Midoriya collapses against the wall, a slightly hysterical laugh escaping his mouth.

“Quick question,” Shouto pants, “but how the hell do you forget a Vogue photoshoot?”

“I honestly thought it was tomorrow,” the idol laments. “I have so much going on; I don’t remember what is when, sometimes.”

“Fair,” Shouto allows. His work was on a case-by-case basis, so he shouldn’t be judging someone who’d probably had every day of their life overbooked since they were fourteen. Midoriya has a lot more on his plate than Shouto ever had.

Midoriya sighs. “You think it’s okay to look like a total mess if I’m just gonna change into other clothes? I never do makeup on these days because then Momoi yells at me, but this outfit was horribly planned.”

“You look fine to me,” Shouto says. Seriously, the idol is wearing a white sweater and black jeans, not a trash bag. The red shoes are a bit jarring, but it works.

“Do I?”

“You’re fine,” he repeats, looking the idol up and down once more.

“If you say so,” Midoriya relents, sinking into a seat. Shouto sits down next to him and takes a moment to breathe. He finds himself wondering what his life would have been like, if he’d become an idol. Would he be running from photoshoot to MV filming to variety show like Midoriya did? Or would he be in one of those groups that washed out after one mediocre single?

(It would likely be the latter, seeing as he couldn’t dance for shit.)

The train reaches the end of the line in due time. Midoriya gets up, brushing nonexistent dust off himself, and offers Shouto a hand. The hero takes it, letting the idol pull him up with surprising strength.

“If anyone tries to stop us, knock them out,” he orders as they leave the platform. “We’re already late and I really don’t want Bakugou-san to give me his disappointed face.”

Shouto hopes he’s misheard that sentence. “I’m sorry, why is Ground Zero going to be there?”

“No, no, not Kacchan! Oh, he wouldn’t be caught dead at one of these places. I mean his father, Bakugou Masaru! He’s high up in the fashion industry.”

“The more you know,” the hero mutters, following Midoriya into a building just as posh as Kemuri Record Label’s.

The other man laughs, his nose scrunching up in a way that is far too adorable. “I’m not surprised Kacchan didn’t tell you. He tries not to let people know anything about his family, but in the interest of spilling his secrets, I’m gonna tell you his dad taught us both how to do perfect winged eyeliner when we were eight.”

They ride the elevator up to the 23rd floor. When the doors open, they’re greeted with a veritable madhouse, all centered around a Quirk created set. It’s an enchanted flower garden of sorts, and it’s quite strange to see it sprouting out of the immaculate tile.

“Izuku!” A man exclaims. He walks over to them, scribbling on a clipboard all the while. “You made it! I was beginning to worry.”

“I wouldn’t miss it, Bakugou-san,” the idol replies. He pulls the older man into a hug, saying, “Where’s wardrobe? I really need to change.”

“Back corner. Good call on the bare face, by the way; Momoi about ate Riku alive for wearing his typical makeup.”

“I’m not surprised. I love Riku, but he doesn’t know how to blend in his highlighter,” Midoriya laughs. “See ya!”

“If you see Katsuki, tell him to visit his poor parents once in a while!” Bakugou calls as Midoriya walks off. The idol gives him a thumbs up without turning around.

Shouto is left alone, blinking up at the fashion executive in confusion. Luckily, the man isn’t as awkward as he is. He smiles, saying,

“It’s nice to meet you, Freezerburn. You can sit over there and watch everything; the photographers might attack if you get too close.”

“Okay. You can call me Todoroki, by the way,” Shouto says, following Bakugou to the place he indicated earlier.

Snorting, the brunet says, “Anything is better than how my son refers to you. All throughout high school, it was ‘Half-and-Half Bastard’ this and ‘Discount Thermostat’ that. Recently, he’s upgraded you to ‘Peppermint Patty.’”

“That… doesn’t surprise me.”

Bakugou chuckles. His face is open and kind, only like his son’s in passing. Shouto wonders how they could be related.

(But people say the same thing about his family.)

Shouto takes a seat and watches the madness continue. Midoriya pops into the set and wraps his arms around one of the other models— the track star he’d subtly insulted earlier, Riku— and they settle in the flower field. A photographer sneakily takes a few candid shots of them laughing.

More models take their places. There’s a woman with deep blue eyes and a classically beautiful face, who perches on the wooden chair hidden among the illusory flowers. A tall man in a teal sweater, silver stars dangling from his ears, leans against her and smirks at the camera. Another girl with titian hair cartwheels on set and immediately gets yelled at by a woman waving a makeup brush, most likely the aforementioned Momoi.

This is apparently everyone. The photographers start directing them around, telling Midoriya to smile more, the blue eyed woman to look off to the side, and Riku to sit up straighter.

They must take hundreds of pictures. Eventually, though, one of the photographers calls for a break, and the person with the illusion Quirk starts creating a new scenario.

Midoriya makes his way to Shouto, snagging a bottle of water from an intern in his path. “Hey, Todoroki. Are you bored out of your mind yet?”

“No,” Shouto says, shaking his head. “I’m interested. I didn’t realize there was so much work involved in a photoshoot.”

Midoriya tilts his head, seeming surprised. At this angle, Shouto can see that he’s wearing gold eyeshadow. “You’ve never done one for sponsorship?”

“I’ve never had to. My father notoriously never gave support to any company, and I followed in his footsteps. Besides, have you seen the hideous scar covering half my face? Brand endorsement is better left to pretty people like Yaoyorozu and Uravity.”

Midoriya gapes at him. Then he turns around, cups his hands around his mouth, and yells at the other models, “Sound off if you think Todoroki’s hot!”

“Cheers, I’ll drink to that!” The titian haired girl calls. She then takes a shot from her water bottle.

The man in the teal sweater lowers his phone, which he’d previously been whining into, and says, “If he’s ugly, then what the fuck am I? Oh my god!”

“Your face is aesthetically pleasing,” deadpans the blue eyed woman.

Riku nods frantically. “Yeah, my cousin has the biggest crush on you! She thinks you’re— and I’m quoting— ‘the most gorgeous boy in the whole world.’”

Shouto feels his face redden, and tiny flames start streaming from his skin. Midoriya mouths “Thanks!” at his fellow models and beams at Shouto.

“You’re not ugly at all! Whoever told you that needs an eye appointment.”

Quickly smothering the fire, the hero mumbles, “Thank you. Um, I think your break is over, by the way.”

The idol leaves to go get his makeup redone, and Shouto sits down hard, reevaluating his whole life.

 

-

 

The shoot takes four hours in total. The photographers are all immensely pleased with the results, and chatter about it as they leave the floor. Interns and other staff members scurry around, cleaning the room, and the person who’d been making the sets collapses in the corner for a nap. Midoriya returns to Shouto’s side, yawning wide enough to make his jaw crack.

“See you, Usagi-chan,” one of the models chirps at the idol as he leaves. He is now clad in an entirely different (but no less expensive) blue-green sweater. “Try not to go out between the hours of 12:00 AM and 2:00 AM, because that’s when you’re statistically likely to get killed!”

“That was dark,” Shouto mutters.

“That’s nothing,” Midoriya says. “The first time I met him, we were at a photoshoot in Germany. I was standing at the window during a break, and I saw this plane in the sky, right? And it’s a plane, it’s minding its own business, whatever. But then he came up to me, took one look at it, and said, ‘If that jet continues on its current vector, it will collide with that building.’ Not even two minutes later, it smashed right into the side of a skyscraper.”

“Seriously?”

“Oh, yeah. He wasn’t even concerned. He just glanced at me and told me, ‘I’m never wrong.’ before walking away.”

“What the hell,” Shouto says in disbelief. “Is he just… like that? Is that his default state?”

“I don’t... know? He bounces between being super childish and downright terrifying. I think part of it’s ‘cause of his analysis Quirk? He could have been a hero if he wanted to, but he decided to go into fashion,” Midoriya shrugs and waves goodbye to Bakugou, leading them to the elevator. “I tend not to question him.”

“I can see why.”

Their ride home is spent in silence. Shouto is worn out despite not doing jack shit today, so he can only imagine how Midoriya feels, especially since he hadn’t slept well. The idol is dazedly scrolling through his Instagram feed, not paying an ounce of attention to what he’s liking.

Being Dekiru is more exhausting than I thought, he muses, watching Midoriya’s eyes flutter closed. I guess that means I have to take extra care of him.

He ends up having to carry the idol home. Midoriya is so out of it that he simply accepts the manhandling, not stirring even when Shouto rummages around looking for his keys. He curls into a sleepy ball the instant that Shouto places him on his bed.

On his way out of Midoriya’s bedroom, Shouto spots a black phone on the floor, half hidden under a pile of dark fabric. He’s about to accept it and move on when he realizes that Midoriya’s phone— the sparkly, overly expensive monstrosity— is jammed in the idol’s back pocket.

Whose phone is that? Bakugou’s, maybe? Though I don’t know why it would be there…

Shaking his head, the hero leaves the room. He’ll have to find a way to tell Kirishima that his husband left his phone in Midoriya’s apartment.

Chapter Text

Izuku startles awake and nearly falls off the bed.

For a moment, he doesn’t know where he is. The last thing he remembers is Oikawa being terrifyingly cryptic and then falling asleep on the train. But now he’s in his room.

Oh. Todoroki must have taken me home…

If he thinks about it, the idol can almost remember being cradled in the hero’s arms. It was actually pretty nice—

Nope, nope, nope. We’re not having soft and fluffy feelings for a pro hero, and we’re definitely not veering into raunchier territory, either!

Izuku takes out his phone, desperate for a distraction, and balks at the time. He’d slept through the rest of the day and into the next afternoon. He’d basically been in a coma!

“Oh, that’s just fucking fantastic,” Izuku mutters. He stumbles into the bathroom to go clean up. Glittery makeup swirls down the drain as he scrubs his face, and the idol meets his eyes in the mirror. He looks half-dead without concealer, as Momoi had kindly pointed out yesterday. Fun.

Izuku showers and then tiptoes back into his room to change into something comfy— his oversized All Might hoodie and sweatpants. On his way, he trips over his vigilante costume.

“Damn,” he swears, gathering up the pile of fabric and cramming it into a dresser drawer. Hopefully when Todoroki had come into his room last night he hadn’t noticed all that. The heap hadn’t looked like a costume at first glance, though… maybe he’d be safe?

Izuku snatches up his phone— his real phone, not the one for less-than-legal times, which had also been tossed into a drawer— so he can post an intensely bitchy cover of Dreamcatcher’s “Chase Me.” It’s petty (and totally incomprehensible without context) but it’s his only available response to that news anchor’s whining. The idol would have done it yesterday, too, if he hadn’t passed the fuck out.

Oof. That reminds him— he needs to thank Todoroki.

Izuku exits his room and bounds into the living room. The hero is sitting on the couch, watching a rerun of Pokemon with a completely blank expression. Without turning around, he says,

“Sleep well, Midoriya?”

“Oh, sure, mock me for my comatose ways,” Izuku returns. He flings himself on the couch with enough might to dislodge his poor bodyguard. It’s only sheer force of will that keeps Todoroki from flying.

The hero gives him an exasperated smile. “I wasn’t mocking.”

“Not even a little?”

“No. I think you needed the rest.”

“Probably,” Izuku allows. “Thanks for dragging my sorry ass home. I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you.”

“Well, if I left you passed out on the train, you’d probably have died, and that means it’s under my job description,” Todoroki points out wryly. He runs a hand through his hair, tangling the red and white strands.

(Izuku wishes he didn’t get caught up in watching the movement.)

“Fair enough,” he says quietly, a heartbeat too late.

They both turn back to the TV and watch Jessie and James blast off again. After a few minutes of Ash’s pointless dithering, during which Izuku reaffirms that the manga is superior, Todoroki says, “By the way... do you want me to call Kirishima and tell him that Bakugou left his phone here? I just remembered that I saw it on your bedroom floor.”

Oh, fuck. The hero had picked up on something weird. Thinking fast, Izuku says, “No, you’ve already done so much. I’ll call.”

He hits speed dial 1 and scurries to the kitchen. The other person picks up, and Izuku says with exaggerated volume, “Hi, Kirishima! Welcome back to Japan! I wanted to let you know that Kacchan left his phone here the other day. If you’re not busy, do you wanna come get it?”

“Izuku, what in the goddamn hell are you talking about?” answers Katsuki, sounding rightfully confused.

“Oh, cool, that’d be great!” He sings. When he’s reasonably certain that Todoroki isn’t paying attention anymore, he drops his voice and hisses, “I left my burner phone out in the open. Our resident candy cane saw it and assumed it was yours. Come over here and take it off my hands, will you?”

“Sometimes, you’re so fucking stupid, Canary, you know that? Fine. I’ll be there in four hours; I have a thing to do first.”

“Thanks, Kacchan, I love you! Oh, also, your dad says to go visit him more often. Bye!” He hangs up before Katsuki can say anything else.

“What’d he say?” Todoroki asks when he returns.

“Katsuki will come pick it up after, and I quote, ‘a thing.’”

They fall back into silence. Izuku tips his head toward the ceiling. He can almost make out the Italy shaped stain above the two of them, a remnant of a wild party he’d had with some other rich kids. God, he is not getting his security deposit back.

The idol’s eyes blur the more he tries to focus. He’s still so goddamn exhausted.

Instead of having a breakdown or falling back asleep, Izuku throws his phone at Todoroki— who scrambles to catch it, bless him— and demands, “Scroll through my Twitter feed for me.”

“What, you’re too tired to look at a screen?” The hero asks, voice wavering between disbelief and amusement.

“Yup!”

He’s honestly surprised when Todoroki starts dutifully scanning through the social media app. The hero hums every so often, waffling over what to tell Izuku, when he pauses.

“Um… the photos from your shoot yesterday weren’t supposed to come out until later, right?”

Izuku sits up straighter, frowning. “Yeah. They have to go through a bunch of editing and then they’ll be released in an upcoming issue. Why?”

Todoroki tilts the screen toward him. “Someone leaked them. They’re all over Twitter.”

“Oh, shit, legal’s gonna kill that poor bastard,” the idol cackles, flopping back down. “Do I at least look good?”

“You do,” Todoroki says softly. “I like the ones where you and Yagami-san are alone. You look pretty ethereal.”

There’s no hint of teasing in Todoroki’s voice. No simpering, either. That’s what makes the compliment hit so hard. Izuku feels himself turn red, and jams his face into a pillow so the hero won’t see.

“Cool,” he says, voice muffled by the fabric. “Um, anything important related to that?”

“There’s a bunch of fans commenting on the pictures. One of them has the verified mark.”

“Who?”

Todoroki squints at the tweet. “Their name is Toe Beans™ and under that is @petit_minou. They said, ‘You all look amazing! Almost makes me wish I hadn’t left the industry!’ Then there’s three crying cat emojis.”

“Oh, that’s that former French model! Crap, I don’t remember his name… he’s the one who left fashion after his dad got outed as a supervillain. But he’s really nice! Depressed, but nice!” Izuku chirps, snapping his fingers. “Tell him ‘thank you, three hearts, and we miss you!’”

“Done,” Todoroki says after a minute. He continues scrolling, looking mildly curious. It’s probably because he doesn’t have any social media, Izuku reasons. Even the official account run by someone in his agency never posts anything.

“Uh, here’s a news article, though I don’t know why it would be relevant to you… ‘Russia’s Plisetsky Withdraws From Grand Prix Series After Collision at Qualifying Competition.’”

“Kacchan is gonna lose his shit,” Izuku mutters, wincing.

Todoroki raises an eyebrow. “He already has. He replied to the article with several creative swears. I didn’t know he was an ice skating fan.”

“It’s not that he’s a fan. Kacchan couldn’t tell you the difference between a Salchow and a toe loop— er, not that I could, either. He’s friends with Plisetsky.”

“Really? What do they have in common?”

“They’re both blond and full of unchecked rage,” Izuku says, eliciting a laugh from Todoroki. “In all seriousness, I have no idea why they're friends, only that they are. Life’s mysterious that way.”

“I guess so. Hey, under that, a bunch of people are asking for a V-Live. They’re saying you promised one a while back?”

“You know, I probably did. Gimme my phone,” Izuku says. He makes grabby hands until the hero returns the device.

He accesses the streaming app, deciding to forego makeup and better fashion in favor of getting his broadcast over with. Izuku likes his fans well enough (when they’re not rioting or slandering other idols over social media for dumbass reasons) but he’s getting increasingly irritated with being… with being Dekiru.

He wonders if he can fake his death and live the rest of his life as Checkmate.

The idol starts streaming and watches as people flood the chat logs before he even says a goddamn word.

MidnightMoonstars: HELL YEAH IT’S A NEW V LIVE

Ashes_To_Ashes: ❤❤❤❤❤

ArumaK: I’m hype ajbfadlsjklgjkd

MidnightKid_11: he looks so cute in his all might hoodie aww *giggles*

“Hey!” Izuku sings. “People on Twitter said I haven’t done a stream in a while, and I felt bad for neglecting you. Have you all been eating well?”

There’s a wave of affirmative comments at that. Izuku smiles prettily and then calls to Todoroki, “Icy Hot, you say hi, too!”

He turns the phone to his bodyguard, who looks like a deer in the headlights. However, he finds it in him to awkwardly wave.

Axles: oh my god he lives with freezerburn!!

thunder-song: ya b where u been

animika123: todo’s hair is all messed up omg it looks better that way :DDDD

“We didn’t have anything to do today, so we were watching Pokemon,” Izuku tells the crowd. “I was thinking that the manga is better. Do you think so too?”

white-waves: Totally! I love Red with all my heart <3

thunder-song: oh yeah, the anime is repetitive as hell in comparison

very_very_very: whoa there’s a manga?? Details stat!

“Well, my dear IOI fan— are you as bitter about them disbanding as I am, by the way?— the manga follows a different cast of characters and is way darker than the anime.  The boy white-waves mentioned, Red, he got stuck in an ice statue for months on end? And it left him with nerve damage? Oh, and then we’ve got the masked maniac who went about kidnapping children for a while; that was great. It’s a good read!”

very_very_very: cool i’ll check it out and yes i am bitter!!!1 why did wanna one get a tour and they didn’t!

Izuku laughs. There’s one fun part of V-Live: he can talk about things he normally can’t. All his nerdy interests come out full force during his streams, and since no one from management has come to scold him, he’s gonna keep doing it.

Min: oh btw i saw your vogue pics! you looked great!

MATTIE: yes!! you and kiyoko-san had the cutest outfits

Thyme: I dunno, I thought Riku looked good?

I-Am-NOT-A-Shallot: Oikawa was obviously the best though

Thyme: Shut it, shallot head. Just because you have a crush...

“No fighting,” Izuku admonishes. “We all looked gorgeous! Please thank Momoi-san and all the staff who put so much work into it!”

The fans all agree meekly and scramble to find a new topic.

dynamo: can we talk to freezerburn too?

Axles: FUCK YES HE’S MY FAVE HERO

“Let’s see if he’s okay with it. Todoroki, they wanna talk to you,” Izuku says. He shifts until he’s pressed up against Todoroki’s frigid right side. The hero allows the contact, giving the camera a hesitant smile.

“I don’t know what you want me to say; I’m not that interesting. But, um, hello again.”

snow-in-summer: his smile is PRECIOUS protect him!

Creative_Username_Who?: You can talk about anything you want, Todoroki-san!

“Uh, yesterday Midoriya and I smashed a vase.”

Izuku laughs. “Please, I’m the one who broke it!”

“Well, I ducked,” Todoroki sniffs. “So I’m partly to blame for it shattering, right?”

“It was a natural response! I mean, I’d duck if you threw a vase at me,” the idol replies.

Axles: oh lord they’re so cute when they banter

snow-in-summer: look at how happy freezerburn is! I've never seen him so relaxed

Willows: freezerburn? I think you mean FREEZER BABE

Min: the real question is why were you throwing pottery dekiru??

“I was half asleep and he scared me,” he defends.

snow-in-summer: what a reaction lol that should probably be a flaw but I think it makes him more perfect

“No one’s perfect,” Izuku replies, his voice barely above a whisper. As good as his phone’s microphone is, it doesn’t pick up his words. Only Todoroki hears, and thankfully, he says nothing.

Thyme: Hey, Todoroki-san, I’ve gotta ask! Are you a fan of Dekiru?

Melancholy forgotten, Izuku shoots the hero a sly grin. “Are you my fan? I don’t know if it ever came up.”

“Your songs are catchy. I don’t listen to music a lot, but I appreciate them,” Todoroki says. “Does that make me a fan?”

“Actually, I just updated the criteria. You’re not a fan until you buy at least three albums and ask me to sign your forehead in the middle of the street,” Izuku denies. The joke earns him a slew of hearts and an almost fond eye-roll from Todoroki.

MidnightMoonstars: speaking of songs i know it came out two months ago but i cannot stop playing top/stars

MATTIE: it was literally a spiritual experience hell yeah

Izuku hides a flinch. Top/Stars was a song he and three other artists were commissioned to make for the Coalition of Champions game. It had been widely popular. He should be proud of it. But several things had gone wrong in succession during their live stage, and overall, Izuku’s happy to leave that one in the past.

Axles: ?? is something wrong, dekiru-kun? you look kinda sad

“Ah, during the opening performance of Top/Stars, Evan sounded different, right? He had a horrible sore throat. Two weeks later, he had to get a tonsillectomy, because it was worse than we all thought. Also, when Alkaline was trading places with me during my part, she tripped. She took her boot off afterwards and found out she’d messed up her ankle,” Izuku admits, throwing caution to the wind. He’s not supposed to show weakness, he needs to sell the dream, but he’s got to be honest, just this once.

Because Izuku can feel Todoroki’s eyes on him. It makes him want to shut off the limelight, which feels emptier by the minute.

Sighing softly, the idol says, “That song was unlucky. But don’t worry! New content is coming out soon!”

This sends everyone into a tizzy. Deciding he’s said his piece today, Izuku waves goodbye and vaguely promises to host another broadcast sometime next week.

V-Live says his final totals are three million views and one and a half million hearts. Wonderful. Hatred wells up in Izuku, hot and cloying.

(He's not sure who it's aimed at.)

He shuts off his phone, tossing it on the table. Todoroki jumps at the sound it makes and unsticks himself from Izuku’s side. The abrupt loss of his touch leaves the idol warm.

“That’s that. I should probably work on the songs I just promised them, since I’m a fool,” Izuku sighs. He stumbles off the couch, fighting a wave of vertigo and disgust.

Having recovered from his little scare, the hero asks, “Songs for your mini-album? The one you were fighting about when we first met?”

That wasn’t even when we first met, Izuku thinks. But back then, you didn’t know it was me, and I forgot it even happened because I hadn’t slept in a solid week.

Out loud, he says, “Yup. I’ll work on that until Kacchan and Kirishima come over.”

As he digs through his closet in search of his guitar, Izuku wonders if he can con everyone into clubbing with him. Tonight, he wants to forego sleeping and get drunk as fuck.

He pauses with his hand wrapped around the instrument's headstock. A bitter smile spreads over his face.

Guess my demons came crawling back.

Chapter Text

Shouto isn’t quite sure what he should do after Midoriya locks himself in his room. There’s only so much TV he can watch before he gets bored, he won’t go out and leave the idol defenseless, and he can’t invite Yaoyorozu over because this isn’t even his place.

He pads to the kitchen and fixes himself a snack. He wants tea with it— but that impulse lasts for just a moment before his eye twinges with phantom pain.

The hero exhales, and his breath emerges as a cloud of white.

He returns to the sofa and starts digging through his inbox. A variety show plays in the background, and over its gentle din, he can hear Midoriya playing his guitar. All the chords sounds disjointed and haphazard. More often than not, the idol ends up swearing or throwing things.

Shouto gets that.

He sinks into monotony, listening to the sounds of unfinished symphonies.

 


 

Several hours later, the door swings open by itself, dragging Shouto out of his daze. He’s been responding to work related emails for what feels like forever, and his eyes are starting to play tricks on him. For a moment, he almost thinks he’s hallucinated the door moving, but then Bakugou and Kirishima waltz into the apartment like they pay the rent.

“Oh, Todoroki! What’s up, bro?” Kirishima greets, grinning at him. One of his sharp teeth is chipped. That’s new.

Shouto clambers to his feet— and wow, he hadn’t even noticed he’d slipped off the couch until now— and shakes the redhead’s hand. “Not much. How was Korea? You only just came back, didn’t you?”

“It was hella awesome,” Kirishima crows. “I was working with Seung-gil, you know, the Stoic Hero? He’s so strong!”

“He’s fucking creepy. His face never moves! How does that peppy boyfriend of his deal with it?” Bakugou retorts. He looks like he’s about to argue further when Midoriya bursts into the living room.

“Kacchan! I need you!” The idol says in a rush.

Bakugou rolls his eyes. “Calm down, Canary, I’m literally right here.”

Midoriya ignores the assurance (and the strange nickname), taking the blond by the wrist and dragging him back to his bedroom. Shouto quirks an eyebrow. The singer sure is excited about returning the hero’s phone.

They reappear a second later, fingers moving furiously. Shouto’s confused about what they’re doing until he realizes they’re signing, movements quick and silent. Bakugou is nodding along to whatever Midoriya is saying, expression exasperated, until he finally stops responding. With a dismissive flick of his hands, he returns to Kirishima’s side.

“You’re such an ass, Kacchan,” Midoriya sighs. “Here I am, trying not to die, and you’re acting like this—”

Bakugou glares and makes a gesture that couldn’t be mistaken for anything kind. The idol sticks out his tongue childishly in response.

“You guys sign so fast,” Kirishima observes. He sounds a little sad. “I can’t get my fingers to keep up with my thoughts.”

With a sympathetic smile, Midoriya says, “Kiri, we've been friends since we were little. We learned how to sign together, so it’s natural that we’re good at it.”

“Don’t worry about it, Ei. You actually took the time to learn, which is more than pretty much anyone else can say,” Bakugou adds.

Shouto bites his lip. It’s true— not many of their old classmates tried to communicate properly with the explosive boy. The only one who had was Kouda, who was mute and therefore already knew JSL.

Well, if he’s going to be Midoriya’s bodyguard, he’ll be around Bakugou more… 

I’ll teach myself the language sometime.

Midoriya abruptly changes the topic. “Hey, you guys aren’t busy, are you? Tonight, I wanna party at The Bronze!”

“Are you sure going clubbing is the best idea?” Kirishima asks. “Not that I don’t want to, but dude, people are trying to kill you.”

“I know, but The Bronze is a hero bar— for the most part! And I’ll have all of you with me! Please?” The idol wheedles.

“Ask your guard dog,” Bakugou sniffs.

Midoriya immediately bounds up to Shouto, eyes wide and pleading. “Todoroki, please say we can go out! This is the last free night I’m going to have in a while. You know I have to work on that mini-album, and my manager just told me they’ve scheduled a busking event in Kamino!”

All of the heroes in the room recoil. Kamino Ward has nothing but bad memories for them, and for a moment, the bodyguard sees fire behind his eyelids and hears Kirishima screaming for Bakugou to grab my hand, I’ll never let you fall!

But judging by his complete lack of reaction, Midoriya doesn’t know any of that. And Shouto’s very weak for such earnest faces, so he relents, giving the entertainer the answer he wants.

“Fine. But you have to promise to be careful. Keep one of us with you at all times, okay?”

“Hell yeah! Call everyone you know— we’re gonna lose it!” The idol cries. He spins on his heel and darts back into his room, no doubt to get ready.

Shouto narrows his eyes. For an instant, something manic had crept into Midoriya’s voice. Before he can ponder it, though, Kirishima is rounding on his husband.

“Does he not know about Kamino?!”

“He’s a huge fucking All Might fan, okay? He picked up the bloody gist of it; I didn’t wanna spell out the goddamn specifics,” Bakugou hisses. “He was going through his own shit, and I couldn’t… I couldn’t dump my problems on him.”

“You didn’t tell your best friend that you got kidnapped by villains?” Shouto says incredulously.

“That seems like the kind of thing you should discuss with him, babe. You still have nightmares about that night,” the redhead continues.

“We all have fucking nightmares!” the blond snaps. “We all went through hell, and I’m not gonna pretend I’m the only one. Like I’m so fucking special.”

“It’s not about being special—”

“Shut the fuck up!” Bakugou cries. An explosion pops in his palm, no doubt the result of nervous sweat.

Kirishima backs down, knowing that if Bakugou gets any louder, Midoriya will hear. In a gentle tone, he whispers, “Okay, okay. I’m sorry we pushed you.”

“I’m not,” Shouto denies mutinously. “Hiding shit from the people you love never works out.”

“You know what, Half-and-Half?” Bakugou growls.

He signs, a string of sharp, vicious movements. Shouto doesn’t understand the insult (of course not), but the motions make Kirishima blanch. Whatever he said must have been degrading. Too bad it didn’t matter; Shouto had been right.

“Cursing at me won’t change anything,” the Temperate Hero says.

Bakugou shakes his head, beyond done with the conversation. “Fuck you. I’m going back to our apartment.”

“Will you still come to The Bronze?” Kirishima asks.

“Yeah. Someone has to make sure that dumbass doesn’t get himself murdered tonight,” the blond mutters. He gives Shouto one last glare, red eyes piercing, before storming out of the apartment.

In the hallway, he places a call on his newly acquired phone.

“Юрий? Мне нужна твоя помощь…”

Kirishima lets out a shaky breath as his husband’s footsteps fade. “Great. Great, he’s speaking Russian. We all know who he’s fucking calling.”

“The ice skater?” Shouto asks, remembering the article from Midoriya’s Twitter feed.

“Yes,” the redhead huffs. “And it’s stupid… I shouldn’t be jealous, but you should see them together. It makes me wonder if—”

“Bakugou has his issues, but Riot, there’s no way he’d cheat on you.”

Kirishima collapses on the couch and scrolls through Instagram, a tired, unhappy look in his eyes. “I know, and I want to believe that. But then they do shit like this!”

He shows Shouto his screen. Displayed is a picture of Bakugou and a man that is unmistakably Plisetsky. He’s a marble statue come to life, with long hair bound in a French braid and chips of jade for eyes. The reason Kirishima’s freaking out is obvious.

The two blonds have a championship medal clamped between their teeth. Their faces are mere centimeters apart.

The caption reads gold only, babes.

Shouto winces. “Okay, that looks bad, but Kirishima, you two have been together for way too long for him to jeopardize your relationship. Bakugou wouldn’t—”

“Kacchan wouldn’t what?” Midoriya says from behind them.

The bodyguard turns around, forgets all about reassuring the other hero, and nearly sets himself on fire while he’s at it.

Midoriya has gone all out tonight. He’s in a black crop top with silver lettering over the front, something in French that Shouto has no hope of reading, and the shirt is paired with the world’s tightest pair of black jeans. It’s topped off with a battered leather jacket and high heeled ankle boots.

Those are from Best Jeanist’s brand, Shouto thinks dazedly. Oh, fuck.

He’d known Midoriya was attractive— it was literally a prerequisite of being an idol— but this is something else. It’s revealing and hot as hell and damn it, his face is not the only part of him covered in freckles.

Shouto calmly flash-freezes himself so he doesn’t do something stupid, saying, “Kirishima is worrying about something silly. I told him it wasn’t possible. Maybe you should too.”

Midoriya stares at him. “I will, but Todoroki, you’re… you’re stuck to the floor.”

“I guess I am,” the hero replies. “Oops.”

He melts down the ice and escapes into his room, feeling like the world’s biggest idiot.

 

-

 

Thankfully, Shouto manages to compose himself and changes into something suitable for a club. He’s never really been one for partying, but once Yaoyorozu had harassed him into buying a pair of leather pants, and Fuyumi had subsequently gifted him with a shirt so tight it seemed painted on. He’s wearing that now, awkwardly twisting and turning in the mirror to check if he looks okay.

The hero has yet to understand fashion, so he steps out without a lick of confidence. Midoriya and Kirishima have retreated to the idol’s bedroom. Shouto knocks on the door, entering when he hears Midoriya call, “Come in!”

The room is much cleaner than it had been yesterday, when Shouto had to carry him home. Now the only trash on the floor is a few dozen wads of lyric spattered paper, overflowing from the garbage bin.

Midoriya and Kirishima are perched on the edge of the bed. The idol is casually spreading primer over Kirishima’s face, all while the shark-toothed man finishes up a minor meltdown.

“...that’s that! I can never ask him about it, so you can't talk to him, either!”

Midoriya pulls out a bottle of foundation and starts applying that. “First off, Todoroki, you look nice and you should go sit on my beanbag. Next, Kirishima, you know that Plisetsky and I are acquaintances, right? Those two have known each other almost as long as I’ve been friends with Kacchan.”

“So you’d tell me if there was something going on...?”

“Yes, and in the interest of full disclosure, they fake dated for a grand total of seven months so Plisetsky could pick up some massive sponsorship deal. He got what he wanted, they faked a break-up, and now they’re back to being just friends. That’s all— I swear.”

“Oh. That’s… that’s good,” Kirishima stammers. “Now I feel horrible for doubting him.”

“I think it’s normal to question your partner’s loyalty, especially if they get up to wild shit like Kacchan does with his Russian double. Uh, as long as you don’t start stalking him or installing spy apps on his phone. That’d be too far,” Midoriya says, whipping out an eyeshadow palette. “These reds never work with me, by the way, so you can have them.”

“Oh, thanks— wait, did you say stalking?! I wouldn’t do that!” Kirishima says, rightfully horrified.

“Then you’re fine,” Shouto digs himself out of the beanbag to say. “Apologize to him for the other thing and you guys should live to fight another day.”

“What other thing?” asks the idol.

“Some stuff from our UA days. It’s no big deal,” Shouto deflects. That’s Bakugou’s secret to spill, as loath as he is to say it.

Kirishima gets up, his eyes surrounded in a sparkly ruby haze. “Alright. I’ll go back to the apartment, talk things out with my man, and we’ll meet you at the club.”

“Sounds good to me!” Midoriya replies. He dumps most of the makeup back into a bag (save for the palette, which he sneaks into Kirishima’s back pocket) and stands. Shouto follows, and they walk the redhead to the door. He hesitates before turning the knob, saying,

“Midoriya… thanks. You didn’t have to do all that.”

“What, makeup?” the singer quips. “I do that all the time!”

Kirishima laughs. “You know what I meant. I heard you promised Katsuki drinks earlier, but your bottle service is on me, okay?”

“Ooh, yay! I mean, not that I was looking for a reward or anything…”

“See ya, Midoriya. You too, Todoroki,” the hero says, waving goodbye. He leaves them standing in a house that is suddenly too quiet.

“Well,” Midoriya says cheerily. “You want me to give you a makeover, too?”

 

-

 

Shouto does not get a makeover, because if Midoriya came that close to his face, he would probably end up spontaneously combusting. Instead, the hero watches his charge quickly do his own makeup. He lines his eyes in black kohl and silver glitter, obscures his freckles with matte foundation (something that should not distress Shouto as much as it does), and dusts his cheekbones with highlight.

Now that the others are gone and he can focus, Shouto is seeing hints of that jittery, wild energy again. It’s in the way the idol’s hand shakes when he moves his brushes, in the way he tosses aside a tube of lip gloss.

He opens his mouth to ask what’s wrong.

“Let’s go get trashed,” Midoriya cheers, cutting off Shouto’s barely formed question. “I hope Sunspot can keep my newest bullshit out of the tabloids tomorrow.”

“You’re already assuming you’ll do something outrageous?” Shouto asks, tearing his thoughts away from Midoriya’s odd behavior and leading the idol outside.

“I get up to strange shit when I’m drunk. Like, last month I went out with Riku, and we woke up in the park. He was in the fountain, missing half his clothes, and I was using the bottom of the slide as a pillow.”

“Now I feel like I should be worried.”

Midoriya giggles and twirls in place, positively glowing under the light of the streetlamps. “It worked out fine, in the end! Some brothers with matching psychokinesis lifted him out of the water— I think they wanted to play with it— and we both made it back home!”

“That’s not the highest bar you could set,” Shouto points out, appalled by the lack of care the idol has for his own well-being. Something is definitely wrong— I can tell. I better keep a close eye on him tonight…

But once again, Midoriya shatters his worrying thoughts. With a wink, he replies, “This isn’t even as low as I can go, Todoroki.”

Shouto starts to fear for the health of his heart.

 


 

The club is already roaring by the time they get there. A line stretches out from the lobby, looping around the street, but Midoriya breezes past them by flashing a grin at the bouncer. The people waiting curse. Shouto shoots them a sharp look, quelling their anger.

“What’s up, everybody?!” The idol yells as he walks in. There’s an answering round of cheers from the crowd.

“Hey, Dekiru!” A girl with brown hair and a glittery gold headband shouts. Twirling a pair of drumsticks in her fingers, she takes a swig from a beer bottle.

“Dekiru? Where?” Her friend yelps, nearly toppling off her bar stool. She’s got a curious tattoo under one of her eyes.

“Hey, guys! Where’s the rest of your band?” Midoriya asks. He sits on their table and snags a glass of curiously pink liquid, downing it in one gulp.

The girl with the tattoo laughs nervously. “Our guitarists checked out because they saw a pet store on the way here— I don’t know where they went. As for our pianist…”

“She’s passed out in the bathroom,” the drummer sings. “Or, well, she was. Mr. Manager came and got her, eventually.”

“Girls after my own heart,” Midoriya says, wiping away a fake tear. “Aren’t you going on tour next week?”

“We sure are!”

“Have fun, then,” the idol says. “I’ll hype you all up on Twitter!”

“No need, pretty boy. Tickets are sold out,” the brunette says, winking.

Midoriya grins and waves, hopping off the table. Shouto follows him to the bar, where a navy-haired bartender is mixing a drink with far too much intensity in his eyes.

“Beautiful!” he announces, sliding the shot to Midoriya. “A Cosmic for you, Dekiru. And Red Riot is covering your tab.”

“Bless him,” Midoriya says. He goes to take the shot and then seems to think better of it.

He presses it into Shouto’s hand instead, saying, “Try that!”

Shouto isn’t sure if the drink is radioactive or not, but he tosses it back anyway. It leaves a curious burn in his throat and spreads warmth to the tips of his frigid fingers.

That had a lot of alcohol in it, didn’t it? Damn it… I need to stay clear-headed.

The bartender gives Midoriya something else, and the idol promptly takes off. The hero trails after him, watching as he greets literally everyone in the club by name or alias.

“Hi, Cherry Bomb! How’s your shoulder?”

“Nice to see you again, Raiju! Your husband is terrifying, by the way! He told me I’d die if I came out at certain hours of the night, but I never listen, so here I am!”

“What’s up, Glimmer? Did you get with your man? Ooh, good for you!”

It’s a bit dizzying. Shouto has never talked to this many people before, has never had any reason to. But Midoriya seems to know of those he isn’t close to, and is familiar with their gossip if nothing else.

Having caught his toe on a loose floorboard, the idol nearly trips into a table. Shouto darts forward and steadies him, looking up to apologize to whoever’s sitting there.

The table's occupant is someone he does know: Loki, the Trick Hero. He smiles cattily at Shouto and takes a sip of a mojito.

“Heard you were playing bodyguard, Freezerburn. I didn’t believe it at first, but here you are with this beauty.”

“Well, Kuro,” a voice says from beside him, “you’re doing the same thing, aren’t you?”

Loki’s shadow shifts, revealing a short, slender boy who is tapping away on a laptop. His black and gold hair hides his eyes, but not the amused twist of his mouth.

“Your head looks like pudding,” Midoriya informs the boy. “You are now Pudding-chan!”

“If you say so,” he replies carelessly. To Loki, he says, “I’m almost done. Let’s get out of here soon.”

“Anything for you, kitten,” Loki chirps, downing the mojito. “Freezerburn, your pals are back there. Have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

“Your Quirk is literally called Prankster. There are a lot of things you’d do,” Shouto deadpans.

Laughing, the dark haired hero admits, “Maybe so!”

Shouto rolls his eyes at Loki’s antics and before he can stop to think about it, he tangles his fingers with Midoriya’s. He gently tugs the idol over to the previously indicated table, where Bakugou, Kirishima, and some of their old classmates are waiting.

“Hi,” Midoriya calls. He sits in Bakugou’s lap without waiting for a response and pokes at the corner of his eye. “Ooh, gold eyeliner! That’s a look.”

“Yuri makes a lot of bad decisions, but this eyeliner was not one of them,” the blond replies. He seems significantly calmer than he was earlier (and for that matter, so does Kirishima, who doesn’t froth at the mouth at the mention of the Russian skater).

“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” says Ashido. She looks really excited— she must be a fan of the idol.

“Sure. This is Canary. He’s a dumbass and that’s all you need to know,” Bakugou replies.

“Am not, Kacchan, I always outscored you in class!”

Bakugou gives him a look. “Academically, you’re fine. But you are a goddamn idiot. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here when people tried to kill you, what, three days ago?”

“Was it three days?” Midoriya mutters. He decides he doesn’t care, drinking the rest of a bottle of soju that had been sitting in the center of the table.

“Alright, then,” Uraraka nods. “Hello, Todoroki. I haven’t seen you in a while!”

Shouto takes a seat next to her, smiling uncertainly. “I’ve been busy. So have you.”

“Very true, ribbit,” says Tsuyu, craning her neck to look around her girlfriend. “How’s your new job going?”

“Pretty well, actually—” the hero starts to say. Then he takes one look at Midoriya, who is poking at Sero’s tape dispenser with a fascinated face, and his words dry up in his throat.

(Tsuyu makes a valiant attempt at not laughing, she really does, but she loses the fight.)

“Someone put on some bangers,” Kaminari suddenly whines, drowning out the rescue hero’s outburst of giggles. “I fucking hate Drake and that’s all this DJ has been playing.”

“I can fix that,” Midoriya chirps. He hops off Bakugou’s lap and makes his way to the DJ’s table. Shouto watches him, wondering if he’s going to bribe the girl. Instead of passing over money, however, the idol says one sentence.

The music changes from “whining sad boy” to a fast paced J-pop song. Another round of cheers rises from the assembled people, and Midoriya returns with an extra bounce in his step.

“See, when you’re an idol, people take your music taste seriously,” he explains with self-satisfaction.

“You’re my new favorite,” Kaminari replies, beaming at the singer. Midoriya returns the look, snagging another purple shot from a passing waitress as he does.

After that, things go downhill pretty quickly.

The song cycles into something Korean, and Midoriya takes that as his cue to climb on a table and dance. Shouto gasps in horror.

He’s going to fall and crack his skull open, the hero thinks. Nope!

Bakugou stops him before he can drag the idol off the table and all the way back home. “Listen, you candy cane headass, Izuku’s fine. I mean, he’s a bit tipsy, yeah, but he can move like that. He’s gone out on stage completely wasted and never missed a step.”

Shouto glances back at Midoriya. Ignoring the implications of Bakugou’s words, it’s true— the singer’s balancing very well, even in heeled boots. And he’s a good dancer, all his movements graceful and perfectly timed to the beat.

If that pretty picture wasn’t enough, Midoriya suddenly joins in with the girl who’s singing. His irises start to glow softly, and it’s as if the club is placed under a spell.

He’s never seen anything like it.

“That’s Izuku’s Quirk,” Bakugou says, correctly interpreting Shouto’s look of wonder. “Sparkling Aria. What, you’ve never heard him sing before?”

“I’ve heard his songs… but he’s never sung like that. Not around me.”

“Weird. He usually never stops,” the blond muses. “Now you know, though.”

Yup. I now have knowledge I’ll never be able to get rid of. The sight of Midoriya dancing is going to be pasted across the back of his eyelids for months.

Someone hands Midoriya a bottle of sake. He drinks from it periodically through the next song, and Shouto’s resolve cracks a little. Without a word, he steals two of Sero’s Starburst Shots and swallows them down.

How can he do that? Dance, act carefree, seduce everyone in the room like it’s nothing? He’s got confidence like I’ve never seen before!

It’s all too much. Shouto escapes to the bathroom. It’s blissfully empty— no drunken band members are sprawled over this floor. He rests his hands on the counter and meets his eyes in the mirror.

His face is flushed, his eyes are wide, and his skin is honest-to-god steaming.

Calm down, Shouto pleads with himself. Why are you acting like this? He’s just—

He’s just Midoriya, with a beautiful smile, and textbook knowledge of heroes, and a voice like chocolate, sweet and bitter. A foreign feeling wells up in Shouto’s chest, and he realizes with a detached sort of terror that it’s the start of a crush.

He can never know. It would ruin things. I have to stay objective.

I have to keep him safe from everything, even me.

The hero steels himself and exits the bathroom. He fights his way through the crowd, which seems to have dispersed through the club. Apparently, Midoriya has returned to earth.

However, he’s not with their friends.

“Where’d Midoriya go?” Shouto asks, trying not to sound too frantic.

Ashido waves a dismissive hand and drains her martini. “He and Kaminari went back to the bar. I think they said something about getting rum and coke?”

“Cool, thanks,” he responds. He returns to the bar, where the bartender is setting a row of drinks on fire. Midoriya and Kaminari aren’t with him, but out of the corner of his eye, he spots a flash of yellow.

The electrokinetic is pressing Midoriya against the wall. They’re making out. Furiously.

Shouto grabs one of the flaming drinks and takes the shot. This is the worst possible time for him to witness something like that. He doesn’t have the right to be angry with Kaminari— or Midoriya, for that matter, since he seems to be enjoying himself— but he’ll be damned if he isn’t jealous.

“Would you like another?” The bartender offers, picking up on Shouto’s sad, sad beginnings of a love life.

“I shouldn’t,” Shouto says. “Doesn’t mean I won’t.”

He makes his way back to the table with a platter of chicken wings, sneakily stolen from a table of soccer players too drunk to notice it. It’s unethical, but hey, they weren’t eating them, and maybe if Shouto sets his mouth on fire with chilies, he won’t think about what Midoriya sounds like when he’s being kissed!

The blond and the idol come back when half the platter of meat is gone. Midoriya has another bottle of sake in his hand, and his smile is bright like a thousand stars.

He also has no less than three hickies in plain sight.

“Hit it, Denki!” Sero crows. At the same time, Bakugou holds up his hand for a high five.

“Now I feel fucking lonely,” Ashido wails.

“Don’t be lonely! Go dance! They’re playing Reol!” Midoriya urges. He grabs Ashido’s hands and twirls her around. The pink haired girl disappears into a cloud of people, and Sero follows, more than a tad lovestruck.

“Good luck with that!” calls Kirishima.

Midoriya spins in place as the beat drops and ends up tumbling into his bodyguard, cackling. He looks up at Shouto, saying, “I haven’t done this in years! Oh, alcohol’s always been my worst— hic!— best coping mechanism!”

“Coping mechanism?” Shouto says blankly. “Midoriya…”

The idol’s next words hit him like a ton of bricks.

“Well, Todo-doro— your name’s too hard, Shoucchan! Anyway, I used to do things like this when I thought about ending it all.”

Several puzzle pieces slot into place at once. Midoriya was unhappy, had been unhappy for a long time. And he’d been hiding it, too, until something had triggered it earlier today, resulting in a torrent of crazed energy and a plethora of bad decisions.

“Okay, that’s enough,” the hero says quietly. He plucks the sake from Midoriya’s hand and tosses it to Tsuyu, who catches it with her tongue before it gets anywhere near the floor.

“What? Shoucchan, noooo!” The idol cries, reaching after the bottle.

Shouto takes the other man’s hand once more, feeling out of his depth. He’s a bodyguard, not a therapist, but he feels the aching need to help Midoriya. The idol is brilliant and talented and beautiful and Shouto refuses to let him spiral further into the pits of self-hatred that he himself had once been in.

“No more,” he whispers.

Midoriya pouts. “I’ll have you know I’m barely tipsy, I swear! And I can handle—”

His words are interrupted by the sound of a bullet smashing several bottles.

Every hero in the room jolts to their feet, Quirks activated. Uraraka and Tsuyu flip themselves onto the ceiling instinctively, the bottle tumbling out of the frog girl’s mouth as she goes from ground to sky in an instant.

The Bronze’s front wall caves in, brought down by the force of a horde of villains. At the forefront is a boy with crosshairs glowing over his irises.

“That was a warning shot,” he says coldly. “Where is that bastard?!”

Loki, who apparently hadn't made good on his promise to 'leave soon,' lets out a nervous chuckle. “Absolutely nowhere! Time to go, kitten!”

He grabs the boy with the pudding hair and books it, but not before he reaches out with his powers. Four of the villains go down as if they’re dominoes; their own shadows betray them, wrapping around their throats like friendly pythons.

Unfortunately, the leader isn’t hit by Loki’s prank. He shrieks in rage and fires again, painting the club with lead.

Midoriya reacts fast. He drags the hero backwards, so the bullets punch through Shouto’s hair, narrowly missing taking off his head. If the bodyguard had been paying more attention, he would have noticed that Midoriya’s abrupt switch from drunk off his ass to sober wasn’t normal. As it is, though, Shouto is a bit preoccupied trying not to get shot, so he thinks nothing of the idol yanking him out of the path of another villain’s attack.

Getting his wits about him, Shouto sweeps out his arm. A crystalline barrier springs up, skewering the closest enemy. More swarm in to take his place, and Shouto flings himself into the fight.

Bakugou falls in next to him, his palms blazing. They play off each other’s destructive, fiery Quirks, leaving ash in their wake.

Above them, Uraraka is tangled in an intricate dance to the death with one of the flying villains. Tsuyu is bounding from wall to wall, preventing any other villains from reaching the sky. Three meters away, Ashido and Sero are in the middle of a judo match, and all the way behind the bar, Kaminari is whacking someone with a wine bottle, his skin sparking with electricity.

The heterochromatic man gets tossed backwards by a shockwave in a moment of distraction. He crashes into and through a table, which makes his spine screech with pain. Kirishima backhands his opponent and rushes forward to help Shouto up.

“You good, bro?”

“Oh, I’m peachy,” he retorts, brushing splinters off himself. “Duck!”

The redhead drops, letting Shouto fire a wave of icicles. He adds insult to injury by whipping around and roundhouse kicking the hypothermic villain.

“Thanks, Freezerburn! And hey, where’s Midoriya?”

Shouto blanches. Oh, god, he’d lost track of the idol in the chaos!

“Find him! Go!” Kirishima shouts. “We can take care of everything in here!”

Shouto whirls around and runs. He doesn’t see Midoriya among the people cowering under tables, which means the idol could have been dragged through the back exit, the same one that Loki and his technology obsessed friend had escaped through.

He bursts out into the night air. The alley behind The Bronze is the backdrop to another budding fight— Midoriya is surrounded by five, no, six villains.

Panicked, Shouto raises his hand.

Before his ice surges forward, Midoriya slams his boot into the nearest thug’s face. A sharp snap echoes in the passage as his nose breaks.

“You know,” Midoriya says dangerously. “I was having a fun night. And then Todoroki took away my sake, and you had to show up.”

His next words slip through gritted teeth.

“Someone’s going to pay for that.”

The villains charge. And Midoriya rises to meet them. With far too much coordination for someone who had been close to blackout drunk fifteen minutes ago, he twirls on one foot and avoids a woman’s strike, driving his heel into her ribs right after. Flipping out of the way of a pressurized burst of air, the idol then breaks the next villain’s jaw and rams him into the brick wall.

Punches, kicks, and a creative use of a broken pipe down the rest of the enemies. Midoriya stares at the carnage for a minute of pure, unbroken silence before he tosses the pipe aside.

And then he snarls, “Checkmate.”

“Oh my god,” Shouto says before he can stop himself. Midoriya whips around, his eyes blazing. They're a violent shade of neon green, a far cry from the subtle shine from earlier.

“Ah, there’s my bodyguard! Surprise! I never needed you to protect me,” the idol says. Shouto distantly observes that there’s blood on his knuckles.

He backs away, unnaturally intimidated by Midoriya, who is stalking forward with a dancer’s grace. His shoulder collides with a dumpster, sending another wave of pain washing over him.

“You won’t remember this in the morning, though,” the idol whispers. “This is still my secret.”

He opens his mouth and starts to sing. The notes creep up over Shouto, muddying his thoughts, ringing in his ears.

The last thing he sees is Midoriya tilting up his chin so they can lock eyes, radioactive emerald on blue-grey.

“I love ya,” he murmurs teasingly.

 


 

Shouto comes to for a precious few minutes. He’s on the filthy floor of an alley. How did he get here? A fight? Or an out of hand drinking contest?

Midoriya steps into view. With more strength than his willowy frame suggests, he hauls Shouto up and helps him walk back into the street.

“You did a number on yourself, Shoucchan! Well, part of it was the villains, of course, but the Starburst Shots really didn’t help…”

The chatter weaves in and out of his mind, incomprehensible. Shouto gives Midoriya a sluggish blink, frowning. Some thought is floating just out of his reach. What is it?

“Did… did I forget something?”

Izuku gives him a pretty smile. If Shouto were more coherent, he would have recognized it as the “idol smile,” the plastic expression that didn’t indicate an ounce of joy.

“Nothing at all, Shoucchan,” he says, voice sugar sweet.

Chapter Text

Izuku wakes up.

The paint on his ceiling is still cracked. Sunlight is still streaming through his window.  The world is still turning.

But last night, everything had gone wrong.

The idol rolls out of bed, groaning. His head spins from the sudden change in position and the remnants of way too much alcohol. He’s sure he has some wounds from the villains, too— and yup, his knuckles are scabbed over. Great.

Izuku stumbles to the bathroom and tries to piece a sequence of events together. Katsuki and Kirishima had come over. He’d given Katsuki the phone, told him to destroy it, and then conned everyone into going clubbing. While he was changing, the heroes got into a little fight that resulted in Katsuki leaving and Kirishima having a little breakdown over Yuri Plisetsky. Then they’d gone to the club. He’d run into two members of After School Tea Time, greeted a bunch of heroes, met up with some former 1A kids…

And then he drank a metric fuckton of shots, made out with Kaminari Denki, and participated in a battle to top it all off.

Izuku squeezes his eyes shut. He’d just wanted one night of fun. Why was that too much to ask? At least the villains weren’t after me this time, he thinks morosely, stepping into the shower. They were looking for that boy Loki was with.

He washes sake and glitter off himself in record time. Changing into an Eraserhead tracksuit, Izuku goes to check on Todoroki.

The hero is facedown on his bed, unmoving. With a wince, Izuku rolls him over to check if he’s still breathing. He is, although his peaceful face pinches in pain when he lands on his back.

“Sorry, Shoucchan,” Izuku mumbles, watching the hero shift onto his side. He is sorry, so sorry, because after he’d fought the group of thugs in the alley, he’d used the part of his Quirk he hates the most.

The part that makes people forget.

The idol has always been horrified by what his Quirk can do if he puts his mind to it. He knows he can hypnotize people into betraying themselves— what’s stopping him from coercing someone to walking to their own death? But memory alteration and erasure... that hurts him for reasons he can’t even explain.

He has one solace, though: it isn't permanent. Eventually, Todoroki will remember what Izuku did. It's simply a question of when… and if the hero will ever forgive him.

Izuku swallows hard and returns to his room. He places a call to Katsuki, falling back into his beanbag as the line rings.

“Fuck you want,” the blond slurs upon picking up.

“Hi, Kacchan. How are you?”

There’s a rustling from the other end, as if Katsuki is getting out of bed. He’s probably going to put in his hearing aids. “Fine. I ain’t hungover, and nobody got a hit in. What about you?”

“Physically? I’m okay. Emotionally, though? Not at all,” Izuku says weakly.

“Making out with Denki got you that fucked up?” Katsuki snorts.

“No, no, it’s not like that was about feelings,” denies the idol, though he knows his throat is peppered with love bites. “Do you know what happened after the fight?”

“What, you want a play-by-play? Tough shit— all I saw was you and Half-Assed Christmas stumbling out of the club before the news vans rolled up. How drunk was he?”

“He wasn’t. I did that to him.”

Katsuki falls silent, understanding the implication of Izuku’s words. After all, he’s the only person that knows exactly what the idol’s capable of.

“Why? What did he do?”

Izuku sighs. “He saw me take out a bunch of villains all by myself. And I might have had enough of my shit together to fight, but I didn’t stop to think before I went all Men in Black on him.”

“Izuku… that is so fucked up. What the hell are you going to do when he remembers?”

“Flee the country? I don’t know… Kacchan, please tell me that no one else saw anything.”

“Nope. Everyone was too wasted or too injured for critical thinking. Plus, Raiju’s Lightning Lance fried the bar's security system. Your secret identity is safe, or whatever.”

“That’s one good thing, at least,” Izuku laughs. It comes out more like a sob.

Katsuki is not good with feelings. He's never been able to handle Izuku when he bursts into tears, so he murmurs,

“Take care, Canary.”

And the line goes dead.

 

-

 

As if that wasn't enough, Izuku doesn't get a chance to wallow in his misery. The door slams open and someone storms into his apartment. Izuku hauls himself off the beanbag to go see who it is, but he doesn't make it even a meter forward before Sunspot is marching into his room.

“What is this?” the businessman says irritably, tossing a stack of photos onto the bed. They fan out into a collage of Izuku’s mistakes from last night. He experiences a moment of pure panic— Katsuki had told him there was no evidence!— but he breathes easier when he realizes they're just paparazzi shots of him drunkenly dancing.

“That’s— I don’t know, I stopped thinking after the soju,” Izuku says. It’s only a white lie; the idol wasn’t coherent, wasn’t sober … at least until the fighting started and reality spilled over him like ice.

Sunspot glares at him. Izuku starts praying, even though he stopped believing in any god years ago.

Hinata Shouyou doesn’t seem that intimidating at first glance. After all, he’s 5’4” on a good day and tends to act like an overexcited child, always bouncing around, sporting a head of flyaway hair that can’t be tamed, singing little ditties whenever they come to mind.

He shouldn’t be scary in the slightest.

But Izuku knows better, has known better since he’d first been attacked by a manic fan and Hinata had leapt over his fucking head to stand between them.

“You can’t keep doing this. I won’t stand by and let you ruin yourself like you were doing three years ago!” Hinata snaps.

Izuku jerks backwards. A torrent of bad memories washes over him. Three years ago, his depression had been at his peak, and there had been a long string of nights where he’d gone out and gotten wasted and almost died

He’d joked about it to Todoroki, but Hinata had expended a huge amount of money and effort to keep Izuku’s episodes out of the magazines. He’d paid for rehab and therapy and Quirk counseling without a second thought, but at the very end of the ordeal, he’d told Izuku that if he ever did something like that again, he’d walk away.

Izuku had thrown himself into being Checkmate so he wouldn’t fall into that trap.

“Sunspot... Hinata, Hinata, it’s not like that,” he stutters, taking the businessman by the hand.

Hinata’s eyes glitter. “Tell me it isn’t.”

“It isn’t! I— okay, I’ve been upset, but I wasn’t thinking of offing myself! I swear!”

The businessman exhales roughly. “Good. I’m going to have to tell Freezerburn about your history, though.”

“No, you don’t. I think I told him yesterday,” Izuku says, eyes widening. He has a vague recollection of dancing to Reol, tripping over thin air, and landing in the hero’s arms. Then he’d said something… something about using alcohol to cope? Oh, hell. Thankfully, Todoroki isn’t likely to remember, not after Izuku’s impromptu Quirk abuse, so he should be fine. As long as Hinata doesn’t press the issue...

“Nice try. I’ll be official about it,” the businessman drawls, shooting down that hope. “Look, Dekiru, you know I care about you, right?”

“I do…”

“Then please go see your therapist. If you’ve been upset, you need to talk to someone about it. Getting you to spill your secrets to us is like pulling teeth, or trying to get through Dateko’s wall,” Hinata continues. “It’s extra important because your unhappiness is showing.”

“Did you see the end of my V-Live?” Izuku gasps. “Shit, I knew I fucked that one up.”

“It’s less about your words and more about your face. The fans are starting to pick up on your less-than-pleased expressions. Why do you think Yacchan pitched the idea for a mini-album? She’s trying to distract the public with new content.”

“She’s the one who asked for that? Oh, fantastic. I wanted to be mad, but now I can't,” the idol mutters.

(Yachi Hitoka is Hinata’s business partner, though hardly anyone knows she exists. She’s the one who crunches numbers, analyzes trends, and designs pretty advertisements, all while Hinata sweet-talks people into sales.

She’s also so kind and anxious that trying to be angry with her is completely futile.)

“That’s Yacchan for you,” Hinata says. “I have to go— I have a meeting with Sports Illustrated— but remember what I said, okay?”

“I will,” Izuku mumbles.

The businessman starts to leave, but pauses in the doorway. As a gesture of goodwill, he holds out his hands and concentrates. Photons coalesce into a miniature sun, spinning lazily above his palms. It’s the Hinata family’s Quirk, High Brilliance: they can gather light energy and expend it in bursts of power like solar flares, or keep it bound in tight shapes.

“Take this,” he chirps, tossing Izuku the ball of light. The idol catches the Quirk-created token, feeling its warmth seep into his skin.

“Thank you, Hinata,” Izuku mumbles. The token warbles in agreement.

“Thank me by not dying. Now, I’m gonna go fight with Ushijima for a solid three hours. Bye!”

The redhead floats out of the apartment in a ripple of light waves. Izuku stares at the door and drops his eyes to the token.

“Let’s… go to work,” he says, voice wavering.

If he sheds a few more tears, the token doesn’t tell.

 


 

Izuku channels all his sad feelings into a new song. He’s pretty proud of the result; it actually has some hopeful lines mixed with his bullshit. Go him.

He starts playing his guitar, trying to find a suitable melody. It ends up being a great deal more jaunty than the words suggest. The idol dances in the center of the room and starts to sing along with the sound of strings.

 

Just like always, I'm alone. I'm already tired of such days.

I can't go anywhere anymore, yet I dream— good night!

We're bored of stupid nights like this,

Let’s meet tomorrow, where we’ll start dancing again— goodbye!

I reached here after wandering around, but is it really a paradise? Now, I don't know.

The superstar, who became so after 4-and-a-half centuries, is waiting hungrily with a blue face—

 

He and his token are bopping along when he glimpses a flash of red and white. Startled, Izuku’s fingers slip on the strings, the discordant noise reverberating long after his voice fades.

Todoroki is waiting in the doorway, a soft smile on his face. Izuku uneasily waits for him to speak. Will he remember, mere moments after hearing Izuku sing again?

“Sorry for disturbing you,” the hero says at last, his grin fading. “I’m… glad your song writing is going well. Better than it was yesterday, I mean.”

Izuku manages to sound less disastrous than he feels, saying, “You didn’t disturb me. You surprised me. There’s a difference.”

“Oh? And what’s that?” Todoroki replies, quirking an eyebrow.

If he’s willing to banter like this, he doesn’t recall a damn thing. How convenient.

“Uh, I woke you up, so I ‘disturbed’ you. You gave me a scare,” Izuku replies. He sets the guitar on the bed, on top of the scattered music sheets. The token hops onto his shoulder, and curiously watches Todoroki as they walk to the kitchen.

“Fair enough. And, uh, what’s that on your shoulder?”

Izuku pets the little ball of light. “This is a token. Isn’t she cute?”

“Is it… a person?”

“No, no, I’m gendering it for no reason,” the idol laughs. “It’s a product of Sunspot’s Quirk. He came by while you were still sleeping to lecture me about making bad decisions. Still, he wasn’t mad enough to leave me without a parting gift.”

“That’s nice,” Todoroki comments. “I think Google taught me how to use your stove, so I’m going to make miso soup. Do you want anything else?”

“Tea, maybe? My vocal cords need all the help they can get.”

Todoroki flinches, so quickly that Izuku almost thinks he hallucinated it. “Okay. Do you have a teapot?”

“If… if you don’t like tea, or something, you don’t have to,” the idol says gently.

Todoroki sighs. “It’s not that. Um, do you know how I got this scar?” He motions to the burn surrounding his left eye.

Izuku shakes his head. The reason for the marred skin is hotly debated among hero otaku. A good majority of people assumed it was a birthmark, since the Temperate Hero had never been seen without it, but no one had ever found a definitive answer.

“Long story short, my parents did not marry for love. They married because my father wanted to create a hero capable of becoming number one. My mother snapped under the pressure, and she ended up… dumping a kettle’s worth of boiling water on my face.”

“Oh my god,” Izuku breathes.

Todoroki shrugs, somewhat bitterly. “She hated my left side, since it reminded her so much of the old bastard. He’s dead and gone, now, but I still can’t— there’s some things I can’t do, without remembering.”

Puzzle pieces start to fall into place for Izuku. Like why Todoroki had said his father could learn something from Wallflower, and why he didn’t use his fire in battle unless he was backed into a corner. The other man was suffering the aftereffects of a life of trauma.

The idol feels a impressive surge of hatred. Endeavor is lucky he’s dead— otherwise, Checkmate would’ve kicked his ass.

“I’m sorry, Todoroki. I’ll make the tea. And, uh, I know it’s kinda presumptuous, because I don’t understand your circumstances, but… you shouldn’t let him hold you back. You can learn to love your left side, and use it as brilliantly as your right. After all, fire can help just as well as it can hurt.”

Todoroki blinks at him. From the look of blank shock on his face, it seems that no one has ever told him this before. Izuku finds himself wishing that they’d met earlier. Maybe then they could have helped each other. Maybe then there would be no need for his web of lies.

Slowly, the bodyguard smiles. “Thank you, Midoriya. I’ll try.”

 

-

 

They eat in the living room, Sailor Moon playing on the TV in the background. Izuku marvels at how familiar of a sight Todoroki on his couch has become. It feels like forever ago that he threw a vase at him. Their current situation almost resembles a friendship.

“Does it? I wouldn’t know,” the hero says. Izuku realizes he’d said the last sentence aloud and almost slaps himself. Sheepishly, he admits,

“Me either. Kacchan isn’t the best frame of reference.”

“Would you like to be friends?” Todoroki asks.

(He’s so awkward. Izuku almost hugs him for it.)

“You know, since we’ve shared our traumas, why not?” he says, toying with Hinata’s gift. The token sticks itself to his hand in a parody of comfort.

“Shared our traumas? When did you tell me? What did you tell me?” Todoroki says, rifling through his fractured memories.

“Last night, I’m 90% sure I told you that I get drunk to cope with my issues. I don’t do it as frequently as I used to, but sometime I relapse when my life is falling apart.. Sunspot probably sent you an email about it— he said he was going to. I also have to make an appointment with a therapist… ew, I’ll put that off for as long as I can.”

“Oh,” Todoroki stutters. “Er, thanks for telling me again. Sorry I forgot.”

That was my fault, but he’s the one apologizing. He’s too sweet… nothing like me.

“It’s okay. These things happen,” Izuku replies, setting aside his bowl. “I have to write… four more songs, I think? Ooh, or I could cover Saisaki, like I’ve been meaning to. That’s less work for me—”

He dissolves into muttering. Todoroki watches him with an amused expression.

“Whatever you do, I’m sure it’ll be great,” he tells the idol, voice brimming with sincerity.

Izuku aggressively squashes the warmth in his chest.

 


 

A week passes.

The token (regrettably) dissolves. Izuku and Todoroki do normal friend things, like going out for coffee and running away from the paparazzi. At night, he refrains from masquerading as Checkmate, instead focusing on writing songs and creating melodies. Eventually, he completes three songs and finalizes Loser, the song he’d been writing the morning after clubbing. The idol sends off the music and about collapses from relief when his submission is marked as ‘received.’

“Why are you on the floor?” Todoroki questions innocently. Ah. Izuku had collapsed.

“The album from hell is done,” he says, waving at the pile of crumpled papers and sadness that’s been chilling in the living room for five days. “I’ve drafted all the songs and submitted them to the agency. Now I have to wait for Kemuri-san and Yachi-chan to review them.”

“What happens if they tell you they don’t like a song?”

Izuku pouts. “I cry about it.”

“That’s understandable,” says the hero, picking him up off the floor.

The idol flops onto the couch and gives Todoroki the serious answer. “If I get a rejection, I can either rewrite the parts they don’t like or make a new song. Honestly, though, I tend to go for the latter. If I write a song one way, I like it like that. So I’d rather make something suited for them than change what suits me.”

“Does that mean you have songs no one has ever heard before?”

“I’ve got a bunch,” Izuku confirms. “Actually, there’s one I made with Earphone Jack. But it wasn’t rejected. We were literally filming the music video for it when Kemuri-san decided to sell it to some other idol group. And they totally changed it.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I wish I was. We were super pissed. I had to stop her from leaking our original version, in case the group’s company sued her. Do you want to listen to it?”

“Sure,” Todoroki says. Izuku hauls himself off the couch and goes to his room. He has to dig through a bunch of junk, but he eventually finds the CD he’s looking for.

He comes back out and pops it into his player. The track starts with English words, before it melts into the heroine’s usual vocals. It’s a love song… on the surface. After all, there’s nothing good that can come out of a love labeled “[A]ddiction.”

Izuku hums along until the chorus starts. That’s his part. He loves it, even though he’d initially been unsure of his pronunciation of  “predilection.” The song cuts off after his section ends, and he goes to retrieve the CD.

“How come it’s so short?” Todoroki asks. “It was catchy.”

“Ugh, my file got corrupted. This is the only bit I was able to save. Earphone Jack has the full track, but if you ask her about it, she’ll probably lose her mind,” Izuku complains. “I wish things hadn’t turned out this way, but that’s business, I guess.”

“All’s fair in love and the music industry?” the hero says wryly.

“Yup. Hey, I’m going to shower. Maybe we can go out later?”

“Let’s go to a restaurant. I’ve been craving soba,” Todoroki suggests. “I kind of want to shower too, so I’ll wait for you.”

The idol nods and disappears into the bathroom. He finishes his self-care routine in under twenty minutes, and trades places with Todoroki. Swaddling himself in a gigantic sweatshirt dress, he gets ready to decompose in bed, but that proves to be a mistake. His phone is showing a notification from the record label.

To: dekiru-official@kemuri.org

From: yachi.hitoka@sunflower.com

Subject: Mini-album!

Hi, Dekiru-kun! Your tracklist has already been approved! Can you come in and record the demos? I know it’s short notice, but I’m sure you can do it. I appreciate your effort!

PS: Shouyou wants to know if you scheduled “the appointment.” He said you’d know what he meant. Go talk to him after you finish, okay?

I hope to see you soon!

— Flora

Izuku stares dispassionately at the email. Fantastic. He’d rather not be doing this, but he guesses he has no choice.

“Todoroki,” he calls. “We have work to do!”

The hero emerges from the bathroom, toweling his hair dry. “Work? What is it?”

Izuku resolutely does not stare at his bare chest. “They’re rushing this album… my lyrics were already approved, and they want me to record the demos. So we have to go to the studio.”

“Okay. Give me a second to get ready.”

He walks off, and Izuku can’t help but think, Take all the time you want.

Then he immediately considers death. Izuku is nothing but terrible for Todoroki. He knows that, so why is he indulging these thoughts? The hero deserves someone better, someone like his hero buddy, Inasa.

Back in the shame box, stupid attraction. Back in the shame box.

The idol returns to his room and changes into a white knit sweater, layering a fluffy jacket over it. It’s slowly getting colder, so his outfit is (for once) both stylish and practical. Stepping outside and taking Todoroki with him, Izuku makes his way to the parking garage across the street. He thinks it’s about damn time to drive his Maserati.

He requests his key ring from the valet. There’s twenty different keys on it, for a wide variety of cars. As Todoroki watches, Izuku shuffles through them. He finds the one he wants in short order and presses the unlock button. The Maserati chirps, prompting Izuku to let out a loving coo.

“Hello, darling! I haven’t used you in forever! Let’s go!”

Todoroki shakes his head as he slides into the passenger seat. “And you’re talking to your car. To your very, very pricey car. Sometimes I forget how rich you are.”

Izuku doesn’t answer. He tears out of the lot, laughing.

 

-

 

They make it to the Kemuri building in five minutes flat. Todoroki stumbles out as soon as the idol pulls into a parking space, literal tears in his eyes.

“You drive like a maniac,” he wheezes.

I am a maniac. “Well, what’s the point of having a car like this if you don’t break the speed limit?”

Todoroki gives up on trying to talk sense into him and holds the door open. Izuku skips inside, calling out a greeting to the receptionist and the stoic bodyguard that usually hovers around Hinata. The receptionist answers; the black haired man looks confused, as if he can’t understand why someone would want to say hi to him.

They ride the elevators to the floor filled with recording studios. S4, Izuku’s studio, is unoccupied. Good. Once, he’d caught some other idol in there and about lost his shit, and he kinda doesn’t want Todoroki to see that.

He’s seen enough.

Izuku waves a hand at the dark paneling and the microphones. “This is where the magic happens. Have you ever been in a recording studio before, Todoroki?”

“No, I haven’t,” the hero replies. “It’s nice. Quiet.”

“That’ll be the soundproofing. It was pricey to do the whole floor, but Kemuri-san has a lot of money to spare. Anyway, take a seat in the spare chair. I’ll start.”

Izuku flips switches, sets up the equipment, and puts on headphones. Normally, demos aren’t made in studios. But Kemuri-san requires him to record in here, because Izuku’s Quirk makes it so a demo can be of the same caliber as a finished track. Sometimes, it’s better.

So he works his magic, chord by chord.

The idol runs through the first three tracks without pause. When he gets to Loser, the only one with a name, he puts in a bit more effort. His Quirk activates, casting his face in a green glow.

 

 

I'm a loser if nothing else, howling into the night is alright...

Let's go one more time, one more time, with our voices.

I'm a loser; I've been hearing it, since long ago.

The voice I hid in my pocket, someday...

Let's try dancing a dance, now.

Let's keep rolling until the night is over.

If you can hear me, speak out loud!

 

From the chair, Todoroki watches, transfixed.

Chapter Text

The days fly by.

The production of Midoriya’s album moves along at the speed of light. Meanwhile, Shouto finds himself nursing migraine after migraine. He’s starting to wonder if he should go to Recovery Girl when Midoriya gets called in to go over cover art sketches with one of the SunFlower partners.

Shouto follows the idol into a studio in the Kemuri building, rubbing his temples. A blonde woman holding a portfolio is there to greet the pair.

“Oh, hello, Dekiru— ah, Freezerburn!” she squeaks when she spots him. “I’m Yachi Hitoka! Um, I work with Sunspot! Most people know me as Flora— er, if they know me at all, that is…”

“Breathe, Flora,” Midoriya says in amusement. “He’s not going to eat you. Show me the sketches, pleaseeee?”

“Of course! Here you go!”

Suddenly all business, she opens the portfolio and spreads four drawings out on the desk. They’re all vastly different designs. One is primarily blue and shows a silhouette of a boy dancing underwater; the next is mostly red and shows a tree with fiery white leaves stretching to the sky; another is black and grey, looking like a galaxy; the last is purple and depicts a broken sword lying in a bed of black roses.

Midoriya taps his chin. “They’re all gorgeous, but I think it’s a toss up between the blue and the purple. What do you think, Todoroki?”

Shouto shrugs. He had no idea he was supposed to offer input. But if he thinks about it…

Letting his hand fall from his forehead, he says, “I like the blue one.”

“Agreed!”

“Excellent! Are you naming the album after the title track?” Yachi asks, collecting the papers.

“I’m not creative enough to think of anything else,” laughs Midoriya. He sounds a tad annoyed. “When is final recording?”

Yachi winces. “Probably within the week. I know I’m supposed to have this cover finished by tomorrow."

“What the hell is going on? It feels like seconds ago that I was begging Masuda for a postponement! This has never happened before!” Midoriya complains.

“I know, Dekiru-kun. I probably shouldn’t mention it, but uh… I think your orders are directly from Kemuri. I certainly didn’t expect this when I pitched my idea,” the blonde woman whispers.

“Duly noted,” grumbles the idol. “Thank you for everything, Flora. You and Sunspot are godsends.”

“Ah, speaking of Hinata, did you talk to him yet?”

“Nope, we just keep missing each other,” lies Midoriya. Shouto nods along, as if he hadn’t once witnessed Midoriya cram himself into a particularly large potted plant in an effort to avoid the redhead.

“Well, you’re both extremely busy! Good luck at the busking event,” Yachi chirps.

Midoriya waves and leaves before the executive can ask any more questions. Shouto awkwardly smiles at her, trailing Midoriya to the car. When they get there, the idol falls into the driver’s seat and rests his forehead against the steering wheel.

“I hate my life,” he groans. “I’d almost forgotten about the busking thing. I don't wanna go to Kamino.”

Shouto bites the inside of his cheek, remembering fire, ash, and fear. “It is your job,” he offers tentatively.

Midoriya turns to pout at him. His hair falls in his eyes when he huffs, “I know, but it freaking sucks.”

He then sits up and turns the key in the ignition, tearing out of the lot as if he’s trying to outrun his problems. The radio flickers on, and the idol’s own voice flows from the speakers. While that’s not uncommon, the voice that joins in after the end of the chorus certainly is.

“Is that Bakugou?” Shouto says in disbelief. “Bakugou can rap?”

Midoriya cackles. “Fuck, this is a throwback! We recorded it before he ever went to UA!”

“How did you get him to do this?” Shouto asks, trying his best not to laugh. Bakugou sounds like an angry chipmunk— this is prime blackmail material. He searches frantically for his phone.

“Oh, he lost a bet! I don’t recall what it was anymore, but the point is, I won. And now I can lord this song over him forever.”

Shouto, who is now casually recording this and sending it to Class 1A’s group chat, replies, “I’m with you.”

that’s_rough_buddy sent an audio file @ 19 Dumbasses & 1 Voice of Reason

froppy: oh my god

heart-beat-beat-beat: BAKUGOU HOLY SHIT

blasty-mcsplode: hey turn on your location i’m on my way to kill you

 


 

Kamino has been repaired, Shouto notes as they leave their newly booked hotel and go to the venue.

It’s only logical. They couldn't leave piles of rubble there forever. But he hasn’t been here since that day, so it’s strange, seeing his twisted memories layered over a perfectly normal streetfront.

He pops two Tylenol as the staff from the record label section off part of the street and start setting up equipment. Shouto is helping a few of them move around speakers and caution signs when Midoriya calls him over. He’s holding what looks like a can of spray paint.

Without preamble, the idol presses it into Shouto’s hand, explaining, “This is the temporary dye I used to turn my hair black. You know, when we went to the cafe? I know I said it was a 'trade secret,' but put it on!”

“Why?” Shouto asks, though he’s already taking off his beanie and uncapping the can.

“Just so you blend in with the crowd. The dye washes out really, really easy; I promise! You take one shower and it’s gone,” Midoriya rambles. “I need to go change, and do makeup, and oh, for fuck’s sake, WHO HAS THE SET LIST?! NO ONE TELLS ME ANYTHING!”

A girl rushes over with a clipboard in hand, and Midoriya melts into the throng of people.

Shouto snags a compact from a makeup artist and sprays the dye in. In only a few seconds, he’s unrecognizable— save, of course, for the scar. Even that is due to be hidden; the artist takes one look at Shouto and whips out a tube of concealer and a brush.

“Congrats,” he tells the Temperate Hero when he finishes applying it. “You now look like every person they draw into the background of an anime.”

“Thanks?” Shouto mutters in confusion. He’s certainly never heard that before.

In no time at all, the event begins. Midoriya appears from absolutely nowhere and stands in the center of the roped-off area. He waves at the people that have gathered, calling, “Hello, everyone!”

The answering cheer is so loud that Shouto winces. He shuffles around until he’s between some of the less zealous fans and the edge of the “stage.” This way, he can see Midoriya and the entirety of the crowd.

Midoriya bounces around, signing a few autographs and answering a couple of questions.

“Yes, this makeup is from Glossier! The jacket looks like Gucci, I know, but it’s a knockoff— wait, don’t tell anyone I said that! And yeah, I may have a new album in the works! Keep an eye out!”

Music starts to play, and Midoriya throws himself into dancing. Shouto can’t help but watch his carefully crafted expression, searching for the flashes of irritation that the idol is prone to. Surprisingly (or perhaps not, since acting is half the job of any singer), no displeasure shows through the mask. Midoriya looks happy— at least for now.

They get through about twelve songs in total. Shouto doesn’t recognize a third of them, if he’s being honest, but he picks up on the last chords of the final song being from “Loser,” instead of its usual ending. It must be a hint of sorts. How sneaky.

(From the muttering of the people next to him, though, Midoriya’s already been caught.)

The hero shrugs and returns to casing the mob. Everyone looks excited, which is to be expected. But some of the people are leaving, apparently only there for the performance and not the idol’s closing speech. As a trio of boys leave, Shouto spots someone he hasn’t seen in a few years.

Her hair is down, and the ends have been dip-dyed red, but her manic expression hasn’t changed. It’s Toga Himiko, the vampiric serial killer.

Shouto can pinpoint the exact second Midoriya sees her. His voice falters in the middle of his sentence, and he cuts himself off with a swift, “Oops, I have to go! Bye!”

Toga turns, vanishing into the horde. Midoriya beams at his fans one last time to… dash after her?!

Nope! Shouto vaults over the rope and sprints after his charge. It’s harder than he expected to keep up with the idol, who is running like a goddamn Iida, sans the engines.

He tracks Midoriya to an alcove. As he nears, he hears the green haired man talking.

“…what the fuck are you playing at?”

Toga— and it really is her; there’s no one else whose laugh is so psychotic— replies, “It’s a game, you see! Now everyone you’ve ever pissed off is after you, and I get to see you all bloody! Hey, do you think I’ll win? Will you be my prize?”

Midoriya lets out what can only be described as a shriek of rage. There’s a violent crash, and Shouto swears, rounding the corner to see…

Toga and Midoriya are fighting. And the idol looks like he’s winning. He’s ducking and weaving under every swipe of Toga’s knives, and the one time she draws blood, he kicks the weapon out of her hand.

“I knew you wouldn’t make it easy,” the killer whispers. Her grin is stretched too wide to be happy.

Midoriya’s eyes are glowing. They’re so bright, so acidic—

The sharpest pain yet lances through his skull. Shouto muffles his cry of agony, unable to shake off the lessons his father had beaten into him, and clutches his head. Memories return in flash, filling a gaping hole that Shouto hadn’t been aware of until just then.

“Checkmate,” he hears Midoriya snarl in his mind.

Slowly, Shouto looks up. Toga has thrown a knife and pinned Midoriya’s shirt to the wall. He rips free, avoiding her punch. She yowls when her fist crashes into brick and spins around to kick Midoriya, who catches her ankle and unbalances her.

Shouto lifts his hand and freezes the girl in place.

“What? Oh, it’s Freezerburn,” complains Toga, squirming in the ice. “Can’t you go somewhere else? Maybe to daddy’s grave?”

Midoriya wordlessly backhands her for that, his eyes fixed on Shouto. “Shit. Um, Todoroki…”

Shouto ignores him and calmly calls the first hero he sees in his contact list.

“Aizawa-sensei? Do you remember Toga Himiko? Yes, from the League of Villains. I’ve trapped her in ice at—” here he has to check for the street name. “Can you do something about that? Oh, of course. Goodbye.”

Then he turns around and walks away, assuming that Checkmate is bound to catch up.

 

-

 

(Miles away, a man squints at the screen before him. The blurry footage he’s watching shows Dekiru, a boy who is supposed to be a helpless little doll, fighting off a known serial killer all by himself. His bodyguard stands behind him, frozen in shock.

The man clenches his teeth so hard his jaw pops. This will not do.)

 

-

 

Shouto doesn’t say a word about what he witnessed until they’re back at the hotel. But the second the old door closes behind him, he whirls on Midoriya, asking,

“What the fuck was that?”

Midoriya, who had started taking off his makeup, pauses. “What was what?”

“Do not play dumb. I just saw you kick a knife out of a serial killer’s hand! And I know— now I know that you did something to me, that night we were at The Bronze—”

Midoriya lowers the cotton round from his face. Then, inexplicably, he starts to laugh. He turns to Shouto, his eyes slits of green. One of them is covered in a bruise-like smudge, the result of him abruptly ceasing the removal of his dark eyeshadow.

“Oh, god. I should have known— I did consider, before, how badly this would all go!” The idol snickers, sounding borderline hysterical.

Shouto backs away. “What are you? Who are you, really?”

“My name is Midoriya Izuku. My Quirk lets me sing like an angel. These are facts, but they’re not the whole truth, Shoucchan. I learned that my power was more than it seemed, and I became a vigilante. Checkmate! But this doesn’t feel like a victory,” Midoriya says. The words come out in a rush, like they’re tripping to escape his mouth. He collapses on the bed, his eyes fixed on an indistinct point in the distance.

All of a sudden, everything clicks into place. The reason why Midoriya was being stalked by villains, the reason he’d been able to pull Shouto out of the way of bullets, the reason why sometimes, his smiles didn’t quite reach his eyes: it's the same one.

Midoriya was falling apart under the strain of three separate identities.

Citizen. Idol. Vigilante.

“Who are you?” the hero repeats. He feels… he’s betrayed, he’s worried, he’s hurt, he’s confused—

“I don’t know,” Midoriya says blankly. “Todoroki, I don’t know.”

Shouto spins on his heel and goes to the door. He needs space. He needs answers. He needs to come to terms with the fact that Midoriya had erased his fucking memories and lied like a goddamn villain.

He needs to talk to Bakugou.

The hero leaves without a word, trusting his “helpless” charge to take care of himself.

(Had Shouto stayed, he would have seen a good portion of the green haired man’s makeup being washed away by tears.)

 


 

It takes Shouto no time at all to find Bakugou’s apartment complex, even though he’s only been there once before. He storms past the receptionist and up thirteen flights of stairs, propelled by mad desire to know, once and for all, what the fuck is up with Midoriya “Dekiru” Izuku.

Bakugou opens the door at the first wild knock. “Eh? Half-Baked Shortcake? What are you doing here?”

Shouto shoves past him and stalks into the house. Kirishima isn’t here— he’s been called away for a job with Kaminari. Good. Shouto wants to yell in peace.

“The fuck is up with you?! You don’t live here!” Bakugou is shouting. He’s shut the door and he’s coming for Shouto, understandably annoyed.

The Temperate Hero is far past annoyed. Quick as a flash, he whips around and slams Bakugou into the wall. He raises his voice just above a whisper to say, “Did. You. Know.”

“Know what, you bitch? Get off me; your hand is freezing,” the blond snaps. He regards Shouto with irritated red eyes, his palms starting to hiss smoke.

“Did you know that Midoriya was Checkmate?”

Bakugou blinks. In an instant, he reverses their positions, pinning Shouto to the wall instead.

“So you remembered,” he says, an explosion popping in his raised hand. “That didn’t take as long as I thought it would.”

“Oh my god,” Shouto snarls, tearing away from him. Steam streams from his skin. “You know everything! Even what he did to me!”

“Well, hell, I don’t know why you’re yelling at me. I’m the one who told him that was a fucked up choice,” says Bakugou. He lets his explosions die down so he can cross his arms.

“Bakugou, I’m going to ask once. Who is he?”

Bakugou sighs. He walks off, deeper into the apartment. Shouto ends up sitting with his old classmate at the dining table, wondering what’s coming next.

“Once upon a time, there were two boys,” begins the blond.

“Their mothers were friends, so naturally, they were friends too. They did everything together. One day, when they were four years old and playing a stupid game, they vowed that they would be a hero duo in the future. But one of those kids got a fucking awesome Quirk…”

“And the other one didn’t,” Shouto finishes.

“You have to understand, Todoroki,” Bakugou says, and the use of his name is enough to startle Shouto into sitting up straighter, “that Izuku took a chance that was offered to him, without a fucking clue of what he was getting himself into.”

“Meaning?”

“When we were in elementary school, some rich piece of shit found a depressed boy singing on a street corner and saw an opportunity. He invited Izuku to join his company, promising him acceptance and fame. My best friend became an idol thinking that was all he could do. By the time more aspects of his Quirk surfaced, it was too late to turn around. He had no plan B…”

“So he became a fucking vigilante?!” Shouto cries. “What part of that makes sense?”

Bakugou glares. “The part where it stopped him from killing himself!”

Freezing in place, Shouto remembers the email he’d gotten from Sunspot, and Midoriya’s own vague explanation of his past. “He stopped liking the idol life. He sunk into depression.”

“He hid it from a lot of people, and that businessman made it really easy for him to do that, but I know Izuku,” the blond mutters. “I could tell when he started performing drunk to cope… then he saved somebody from that bloodsucking bitch and it all snowballed from there. Suddenly, I saw Izuku cutting back on the drinks and starting to do something with his life. He likes being Checkmate more than anything, Todoroki. He hurt you, I get that. But don’t take Checkmate away from him.”

“I need… I need time to think,” the Temperate Hero stammers. “To process all of this.”

Bakugou grunts. “Sure. Whatever. You can have our couch— yeah, you heard me. The couch. You ain't getting in that guest room. I’m sure Canary wants to get himself together, anyway.”

Shouto spends the night staring at the ceiling with his thoughts rebounding in his head. He doesn’t move, even when the upstairs neighbors start shouting and slamming doors.

Even when Kirishima stumbles in at 3 AM, blood dripping from his costume.

Even when Bakugou has a violent nightmare that results in a series of echoing booms.

 


 

Shouto returns to the idol’s apartment late the next night. He’d mistakenly let Kirishima talk him into staying for lunch, dinner, and a shower, and isn’t really sure whether or not to be grateful for it. When he enters the home, Midoriya is on the couch, listlessly staring at the TV. A half-empty bowl of oatmeal sits in his hands.

“Ah. Todoroki. You came back,” he says without looking at the hero. “Where did you go?”

“I was with Bakugou. He didn’t tell you?” Shouto asks, frowning.

Midoriya’s shoulders twitch, like he'd wanted to chuckle but didn’t quite make it. “That’s Kacchan for you. He’s a fixer at heart… and no, he didn’t.”

Shouto perches on the armrest, worrying his lip between his teeth. “Midoriya, will you look at me?”

The idol complies with his request. His eyes are rimmed with red, indicating that he’d been crying, and there are still remnants of mascara smudged on his face. He clearly hadn’t had a great night either. Shouto’s heart twists, and he opens his mouth to apologize, because damn it all, he still likes Midoriya…

“Todoroki, I’m so sorry,” the green haired man whispers, cutting Shouto off. “I know what I did was wrong. My Quirk… it’s fucked up, okay? You asked who I was and the answer is just that I’m a monster.”

“No, you aren’t,” the hero denies. “Listen, Bakugou told me about your past. I don’t… I don’t agree with your choices, but I’ve come to terms with them. I’m mad that you wiped my memory. I’m mad that you didn’t give me a chance to understand. But I’m not mad that you wanted to, well, protect yourself.”

“Really?”

“Really, really. So, um, because I left like a child yesterday, let’s talk right now.”

Midoriya sets aside the bowl. “About what? Me?”

“Yeah,” Shouto says, “tell me about Checkmate. Like I said, everybody’s favorite explosive hedgehog had some shit to say, but I wanna hear it from you.”

The idol giggles weakly at the slight to Bakugou. “Um, I dunno. My Quirk manifested in music class. I found out it was my great-great-grandmother’s Quirk— somehow it skipped a bunch of generations— and all the records indicated that it was really straightforward. It lets me sing. Lets me dance. Lets me pick up new instruments at a rate no normal person can.”

“The hypnosis and memory warping came later?” Shouto says.

“Yup. Way too late. By the time I started experimenting with my power, I’d missed all the entrance examinations for hero schools. I was totally fucked. So I drank a lot of vodka, and even more coffee, and one day I ran into Toga— I’m sure you get the rest.”

Midoriya pauses, collecting his thoughts. “Being Checkmate is a dangerous game. I know that. I’m always worried I’ll be arrested and everything I’ve worked so hard for will just… poof! Disappear.”

“It’s more than legality at stake here— your life is at risk,” Shouto points out. “What will you do if something goes wrong? After all, you could easily end up dead in a drain pipe...”

“Don’t threaten me with a good time,” the idol replies immediately.

“What?” Shouto yelps.

“I’m sorry, that… that was reflex. I promise that despite being a few measures short of a symphony, I can take care of myself. I practiced with my Quirk, scored some custom gear from Hatsume, Inc. and Stark Industries, and picked up martial arts.”

Shouto sighs. He’s seen Midoriya fight, but worry simmers in him regardless. The idol seems to know this, because he hops off the couch and claps.

“I have an idea. Why don’t we go out together?”

“Go out?” the hero repeats blankly. “Like on patrol!”

Midoriya beams, his melancholy replaced with excitement. “Exactly! Then we can, I dunno, learn how each of us ticks.”

This is a terrible idea. This is a very terrible idea that will probably result in Shouto getting his ass thrown in jail, slapped with the damning charge of “aiding and abetting a vigilante.” He should say no and place a direct call to Mirio right now.

“Okay,” says Shouto, like a dumbass.

 

-

 

Shouto changes into his hero costume, cursing himself the entire time. He throws a sweatshirt on over the distinctive blue jumpsuit and tries to hide his hair with the hood.

“You ready?” Midoriya asks from the doorway.

Shouto turns and nearly stumbles over thin air. Of course, he hadn’t forgotten that Midoriya was Checkmate (not this time), but it’s another thing entirely to see the peppy idol in his vigilante outfit. It’s primarily black, with several diamond-shaped patches of deep blue— meant to break up his profile— scattered throughout. The mask that covers his mouth does nothing to hide his brilliant gaze, and the hero is abruptly reminded of the time he’d been saved.

Checkmate’s green eyes curved into crescents, as if he were smiling. “Try not to die, by the way. I like you.”

“I am stupid,” Shouto announces, and walks to the window in the idol’s room with no further explanation.

Midoriya follows him, saying, “Okay, mood. Are you going to tell me what prompted that?”

“Nope,” answers the hero. He pries open the window and peers down at the fire escape. The landing is farther away than it should be. “Quick question, but why are these stairs… broken?”

“Well, back when I first moved into this apartment, a fan who'd been stalking me tried to break in via this exit. Sunspot caught them and destroyed the stairs as a precaution— I guess he was paranoid. The girl ended up in jail, so it should be fine, right?” 

Raising his eyebrow, Shouto tries to judge if he can make the jump without shattering his ankles. He eventually deems it safe and drops. Landing on the metal walkway, he turns his face to the window. Midoriya hops out of his bedroom, completely at ease with the risky move.

How many times has he done this?

“My turn to lead,” Midoriya says. “Let’s go.”

Shouto follows the green haired man from rooftop to rooftop. The run is strangely invigorating; Shouto hasn’t been on a late night patrol in his recent memory. Cold air whips around them as they leap over each gap.

After they’ve made their way a good distance from the apartment, Midoriya starts chatting.

“I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly I do, huh?”

“Well, I’ve seen you in action. You take out villains pretty frequently, right?” Shouto asks.

“Yeah, but that’s not all. See, I fix the problems that your kind wouldn’t dare touch,” says the idol. “Regular heroes let gangs run wild because it isn’t flashy to fight them. They worry about their ratings, so they won’t help the little guy. That’s where I come in.”

Shouto almost wants to protest in defense of his colleagues, but he knows Midoriya is right. A lot of heroes are like his father. They care about the money and the fame, not about protecting civilians. Of course they’d pass up a color gang’s skirmish in favor of a villain fight that would end up in the papers.

“My involvement isn’t mentioned in huge portion of the things I’ve done,” Midoriya continues. “Like, I keep finding corruption in the upper echelon of society, but when the police arrest them, they never say where their information came from. And that’s okay.”

“That’s admirable,” Shouto says. “It’s really kind, Checkmate.”

Midoriya laughs. “It’s what I thought All Might would do— well, if All Might had become a vigilante. He was undeniably huge in the media, but he never forgot where he came from, or that the original purpose of heroes was to help those who couldn’t help themselves.”

“He’s a good man,” Shouto agrees. He’s about to elaborate further when they land on a rooftop and two kids burst out onto the balcony opposite them.

“Ha!” One of them shrieks, dropping a tablet to point at them. “I told you it was Checkmate!”

The taller one, quite obviously the speaker’s older brother, sighs. “That does NOT give you license to hack the city’s security cameras, Hiro!”

“You did what now,” Shouto says flatly.

Midoriya says nothing, instead choosing to stare at the pair. All of a sudden, he snaps his fingers and gestures toward the tiny hacker. “You’re the boy who was bot-fighting! With Yama!”

The gang leader who just got arrested? What the actual hell?

“Haha, yeah,” drawls Hiro. “Not my finest moment. Please don’t lecture me; Tadashi already screamed my ears off.”

“If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?” Tadashi says, throwing up his hands. “You give me stress ulcers. You’re killing me, Hiro. You’re killing your brother.”

“Yeah, Hiro,” Midoriya teases. Apparently deciding to be a good role model, he sternly adds, “But seriously, don’t pick fights with gangs. If you need money, I will personally pay you, just so you’ll quit doing that.”

“It wasn’t about the money; I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie. I’m gonna stop, though.” Hiro mutters, chastised. “I didn’t get to say it before, but thank you, Checkmate. You, uh, saved my life.”

“Side effect of kicking Yama’s ass, so no problem, kid. Eat your vegetables and stop hacking into CCTV feeds! You might find something you’re not supposed to see!”

“Like what, a sex tape?”

“I meant murder!” screeches Midoriya.

Tadashi turns around to start banging his head against the wall. Shouto wordlessly fishes two acetaminophen pills out of a pouch and tosses them to the suffering boy. Meanwhile, Midoriya stops shouting at Hiro and starts displaying his taser gloves (and damn if those things aren’t cool) for the hacker’s amusement.

As he watches Midoriya grin under the mask, Shouto thinks, Am I going to help this man hide from the cops because I think he’s neat?

Shit. I’m gonna help him hide from the fucking cops because I think he’s neat.

Chapter Text

Izuku wakes up face down on the floor. Groaning into the carpet, he picks himself up. He wishes he’d stop doing this. Granted, Izuku hadn’t been drunk this time (kudos to him— he usually was when he ended up napping on the nearest horizontal surface) but seriously, his floor was not the best to sleep on.

Sprawled out on the beanbag, only a few feet away from the idol, is Todoroki. The hero had evidently had much better luck in picking a place to collapse last night. Good for him.

Izuku chews his lower lip, shimmying out of the Checkmate costume and into a tracksuit with Present Mic’s face plastered across it. The Voice Hero had given it to him as a gag gift, but joke’s on him: Izuku fucking loves hero merch. That’s why he owns twelve separate Ground Zero shirts, even though he knows Katsuki personally.

(He spares Todoroki a quick glance and tells himself to get his hands on some Freezerburn themed outfits, too.)

The green haired man makes his way to the kitchen and starts frying fish. He’s hungry, more so than usual. It’s likely because he and Todoroki had taken an abnormal patrol route last night, and their only reprieve was when they’d stopped to speak to those two boys.

Izuku smiles, thinking of Hiro and Tadashi. They were a cute pair. Talking to them had left the idol feeling oddly parental, no doubt because they reminded him of himself. He makes a mental note to keep a close eye on the brothers. They were destined for greatness, and Checkmate sure as hell wasn’t going to let a villain take everything away from them.

As he cooks, he hums to himself, eventually transitioning into outright singing. He shuffles through a few of his own songs before getting frustrated— most of his music is fucking annoying. Who let him write this shit? Sighing in irritation, Izuku settles on a song from another idol.

I told you not to be deceived.

The moment you take this hand, it’ll get dangerous.

Now, you’re bleeding, but are you still attracted?

You clearly know, so why are you staring at me?

Just let go!

Don’t even hesitate a little.

Just let go!

You know that I’ll hurt you!

The beautiful me of your fantasies doesn’t exist...

(Can’t you see that, boy?)

 

Get away out of my face,

Don’t come any closer, boy.

(Even if I’m sad, I won’t cry.)

Get away out of my face,

Don’t look at me anymore, boy.

(Even if I’m sad, I won’t cry.)

Izuku winces when the verse ends. He just had to pick a song that hit close to home… and as his shitty luck would have it, Todoroki is now standing behind him. He’s still in his hero costume, eyes laden with exhaustion. As the idol watches, Todoroki’s lips purse into a tiny pout.

“I always startle you into silence… is this a curse?”

Izuku genuinely does not know if Todoroki is joking, but he giggles anyway. “Sometimes your timing is inconvenient. Don’t mind it. Are you okay?”

(He’s actually asking, “Are we okay?”

Thankfully, Todoroki isn’t sleepy enough to miss that.)

“Yes,” he replies, voice sure. Unwilling to linger on the topic, he continues, “You know, Bakugou told me that you sing to yourself quite often, but I haven’t heard you do that until now. Did you stop on my account?”

Feeling his face heat, Izuku explains, “When I was younger, way before I was an idol, people used to snap at me for singing all the time. I learned to ignore it, but every so often, I get self-conscious… besides, I’ve never had a new roommate before. I didn’t want to piss you off.”

“I’m fine with it. Feel free to sing when you want to. By the way, your fish is burning."

Izuku curses and yanks the pan away from the stove. Sure enough, the crispy skin is welded to the iron.

“Let’s just go to a cafe,” he groans, dumping the whole thing into the trash.

 

-

 

A quick change of clothes and copious amounts of Hatsume Dye™ later, the pair head out. But before they even leave his floor, Izuku finds himself tripping over a box that had been left in the middle of the hallway.

“What the fuck?” he says, picking up the box.

Todoroki snatches it out of his hands. “Hey! There could be something dangerous in there!”

Izuku, having spotted a childish doodle of dynamite on the cardboard, has no such qualms. “No, give it back. It’s from Kacchan.”

They open the package. Inside is a new burner phone and a handwritten note. Izuku withdraws the paper, reading aloud:

Saw this on sale and thought of you, Canary. Aren’t I kind. Anyway, I hope you two idiots have gotten your shit together. Otherwise, Icy Hot, you’re dead.

—Ground Zero

Tucking the phone into his pocket, Izuku smiles. What an idiot. I love him.

Meanwhile, Todoroki sets the note and the box on fire, face entirely impassive.

Izuku laughs, watching the ash trail from his fingers. “Did you kill it?”

“The evil has been defeated,” the hero says solemnly. “Come on, let’s go.”

They step into the morning. Izuku yawns and stretches multiple times as they walk to the station, feeling twinges of pain in his back muscles. He needs to book an appointment with a massage therapist. Alternatively, he needs to soak in a hot spring for twelve straight hours. Too bad he doesn’t have the time to do those things.

“Where do you want to go?” Todoroki asks, pulling Izuku from fantasies of taking a spa day.

“There’s this cafe called The Cream Puff— three guesses what their specialty is— that I haven’t been to for a while. They have a lot of Western breakfast food. Wanna try it?”

“Sure. Lead the way.”

Izuku takes Todoroki’s hand without thinking about it, pulling him on the train. The move immediately embarrasses him, but he can’t back out now. So he stands next to a salaryman, ignoring the frost creeping up his arm. He lets go when they reach their station and tries not to mourn the return of feeling to his fingertips.

Stupid attraction. Go! Back! In! The! Shame! Box!

The subsequent walk to the cafe isn’t long at all. The owner of the establishment, a man with violently pink hair, greets them as they enter. “Welcome to The Cream Puff! What can I get you?”

“Hi! Can I get an omelette with cheese, spinach, and onions?”

“Sure,” the other man chirps, motioning for the sole waiter to scrawl the order down. To Todoroki, he says, “What would you like?”

Todoroki blinks sleepily at the menu above the counter. “Um… can I get matcha bubble tea and the cream puffs?”

“HE WANTS THE CREAM PUFFS!” the pink haired man yells. In the kitchen, a cook with the fluffiest eyebrows Izuku has ever seen shouts, “THE CREAM PUFFS!” and runs deeper into the cafe.

“Should I be concerned?” Todoroki whispers.

“No,” Izuku replies. “That’s just how they are.”

He pays for both of them, casually ignoring Todoroki’s protests as he does, and finds them a table. They sit down (with much relief on Izuku’s part). The idol traces the pattern of pastel colors on the table’s surface, feeling the dips and divots from years of use. Meanwhile, Todoroki fixes his gaze on a painting stuck to the ceiling.

“Is that the model who says very ominous things?” he asks. Izuku tips his head up— and yup, that’s a portrait of Oikawa, though he’s quite sure he’s never seen the brunet wearing the outfit of an European king. Had a stylist ever told Oikawa to dress like that, he would have been insufferable about it.

“Yeah... Why is that there?”

The waiter, a boy with pale brown eyes that looks like he’s considering death, says, “Stuck up as he is, he’s friends with the owner, so they periodically put giant paintings of him up. I think they thought it would embarrass him, but he’s full of himself, so… he’s into it. Matsukawa, where the fuck are the cream puffs?”

“Here!” Eyebrow Man says grandly, placing a small pyramid of cream puffs on the counter. The waiter brings it over and then ducks into the kitchen, likely to inquire the whereabouts of Izuku’s omelette.

Todoroki promptly shoves three cream puffs into his mouth. God. He’s so valid. Izuku is debating stealing one of the little desserts when his phone pings.

To: dekiru-official@kemuri.org

From: hinata.shouyou@sunflower.com

Subject: death is imminent!! imminent!

Dekiru, I hate to tell you this, but you have a photoshoot with Men’s Joker, like, right now.

No one was informed about the shoot… I’m kind of mad… anyway, go and do your best!

PS: Avoiding me doesn’t help matters! I’ll find you and spike you into therapy if I have to!

—Sunspot

Izuku scowls and barely refrains from throwing his Stark Phone across the room. His omelette has fallen into the void, and he has to go model clothes for wannabe fashion gods. Great.

Todoroki pauses in stuffing his face to make an inquiring noise.

“We have to go to another photoshoot. I didn’t forget about this one— nobody fucking told me it was happening. Why is my life in shambles?” Izuku whines.

The hero frowns in sympathy. “Can you get out of it?”

“If I try, Sunspot might stab me— Wait,” Izuku says, a sudden realization dawning on him. “Momoi refuses to associate with Men’s Joker. Something about a fight that ended in two broken cameras and 12000 yen worth of makeup being thrown into a dumpster.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“She’s not going to be there, which means they might let me look however I want, but I’m a whole mess right now!”

“I see,” Todoroki says, blinking at him over the rim of his cup.

“You don’t understand,” Izuku hisses. His eyes flick back and forth like he’s divulging state secrets in the middle of a government base. “My face. Is. Bare!”

“That doesn’t mean you’re a mess!”

Taking the hero by the sleeve, Izuku whispers, “The corporations will say so. THINK OF THE CORPORATIONS.”

Todoroki eats the rest of his cream puffs, eyebrow raised like he’s evaluating Izuku’s sanity. Regardless, they leave the cafe (goodbye, sweet eggs), swing by a Sephora, and blow 10,000 yen in one go.

Izuku is filmed doing his makeup on a moving train and gains two hundred new followers on Instagram. Todoroki, who ended up in frame, looks like he’s caught between sleep and overwhelming fondness for his charge.

 


 

The shoot takes years off Izuku’s life.

Now, photoshoots have never been the most fun place to be, but this one is extra annoying. For one, he’s alone, which means there’s no Mikoshiba or Shimizu to chat to, and no one who understands just how much freezing yourself in a pose for twenty minutes sucks.

Plus, some of these clothes are awful. The idol shudders to think of people seeing him wearing them. He’s almost tempted to tweet, “do not use me as an excuse to waste money on this shit,” but refrains. He does not want to be sued today.

Todoroki tries to help alleviate the idol's boredom. Having picked up on the aura of irritation saturating the room, he starts making little ice and fire sculptures that Izuku can just spot out of the corner of his eye. They’re gorgeous. The hero definitely has a backup career in art, if he’s so inclined.

The idol tears his attention away from the dancing ice and fixes the camera with his least threatening glare. Two more hours to go.

The time trickles by, but barring Quirk usage, there’s nothing that would fully stop it. As soon as he’s able, Izuku leaves the building. He’s ready to go home, eat everything in his fridge, and dissolve. Unfortunately, Kemuri has other plans.

He has another email. This one is asking for final recordings of the mini-album.

“Is murder or suicide a better option?” Izuku growls, staring at his screen.

“You are allowed to do neither,” Todoroki says. He takes the idol by the shoulders and steers him away from the street.

Izuku closes his eyes, feeling hunger roil in his stomach. “I haven’t eaten jack shit. If I collapse during recording, I hope it’s right in front of an executive’s face, and that it hits the news, and there are mass protests. Viva la revolution."

“I’m not going to let you starve. Here, let’s get some McDonald’s before we go.”

Izuku almost lectures him about how unhealthy fast food is. Then he realizes he’s too hungry to care, and inhales two cheeseburgers without complaint. They end up having to rush to the studio, and the cold air burns Izuku’s lungs from the inside out. It turns out okay— Todoroki warms him with a touch, and the idol tries not to think about how much he likes it.

(The recording takes an additional twenty months off Izuku’s life. Thankfully, this is what he was born for, so it ends in less than an hour. He’s rather pleased with himself.)

-

 

They make it home in one piece. Izuku shuts off his glittery phone and throws it into the depths of his closet for good measure. Anyone who wants to harass him now has to tell him to his face why he’s being treated like shit! Sucks for them.

He then makes good on his earlier promise to eat his fridge. As insubstantial as they are, yogurt and fruit have never tasted so delicious. Todoroki watches with an amused smile as Izuku curls up on the couch.

“Do you feel better now?”

“Yeah. Hey, can I borrow your phone? I need to place an order on Prime Pantry— I really did eat myself out of house and home.”

Todoroki dutifully passes his phone over. As Izuku scrolls through Amazon, he groans, “Today was hell. I don’t know who I have to throw through a twelfth-story window this time, but if I find out, I’ll do it.”

“You’ve thrown someone through a window before?” the hero asks.

“Yeah, of course—  hey, don’t give me that look. She was trying to shoot me! Besides, she could fly, so it’s not like I would’ve killed her!”

Todoroki lets that one sink in for a minute. Then he nods in acquiescence. Satisfied with his understanding, Izuku says, “Speaking of my less-than-legal exploits, I kind of want to go out tonight.”

“Seriously? Aren’t you exhausted?”

Izuku sighs and tosses the hero's phone back to him. “I am, but I want to spend, like, an hour doing something I actually care about. Just one hour.”

“I can’t stop you, but again, I’m hoping very hard that you don’t end up in a drain pipe.”

“Once more, don’t threaten me with a good time,” laughs the vigilante. He ducks into his room and suits up, making sure that Katsuki's gift is tucked into a pocket as he does.

The hero smiles in exasperation when he ushers Izuku out the window. Izuku waggles his fingers in a goodbye and disappears over the next rooftop.

(Had he lingered a little longer, he would have seen Todoroki draw his hood over his head and leap out after him.)

 


 

Running into a smokestack was a great wake-up call. Izuku has honestly never felt so refreshed. Stumbling away from the metal, he makes his next jump, sticking the landing on this one.

Straightening, the idol pouts and rubs his hip. That would probably bruise, but at least he’d injured his side, not his face. He’d be fucked if he ruined the one thing that made him money. Izuku shakes it off and bounds to the next roof, cursing when he realizes that he’s run into a metaphorical corner— the building he’d jumped on to was much shorter than the ones on either side of it.

Son of a bitch. Maybe Todoroki was right; I should have stayed in. Luckily, there’s a mess of exposed pipes on the side of the building. Izuku uses them to clamber down into the back alley.

Walking on the streets in full Checkmate get-up is always weird. He has to stick to the shadows and avoid people twice as much as usual, but thankfully, there aren’t many folks out at one in the morning. The only ones who have reason to be up at this time are drunks and villains.

Oh, and the heroes that have to deal with them, of course.

Izuku takes his time patrolling, despite the lack of visible activity. He keeps his ears out for any signs of a scuffle, peers into alleys, and one confusing time, down into an uncovered manhole. There’s really not much. Eventually, he finds a fire escape and returns to the rooftops.

It’s quite cold. He pulls down his mask and exhales heavily, watching his breath form clouds. It’d been a childhood game of his and Katsuki’s, seeing how much “smoke” they could produce. Izuku wonders when they stopped looking through steam and started running through falling ash.

So caught up is Izuku in his reminiscing that he almost misses the shriek echoing up from the street. Swearing, the idol rushes to the edge of his current perch and peers down.

A creature made of viscous green sludge is surging toward a young boy, one who can’t be older than thirteen. Izuku is about to launch himself right off the roof— long drop be damned— but the boy suddenly claps his hands and smacks the ground. There’s a flash of blue light and the street splits open. Half the villain’s mass slips right into the abyss. The remainder is abruptly cut off from it as the asphalt seals back up.

The boy tumbles backward, pressing his hand to his face. In the dim streetlight, Izuku sees blood leaking from between his fingers. Is it some kind of Quirk backlash?

Fuck. Izuku clambers down the brick facade as quickly as he can and rushes over, pulling down his mask as he goes.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

The boy glares up at him, looking like a flame of molten gold. Izuku notices with a detached sort of horror that one of his eyes is missing. What the hell?

“I’ll live,” the kid grinds out. “Just… just fucking put that thing in a box or something. It might reform.”

“Yeah, I will,” Izuku promises. “But right now, I’m trying to focus on you. Can I take you to a hospital?”

“Fuck, why bother? This shit happens every time I use my Quirk. I’ve given up.”

“You get hurt this badly all the time—”

The boy sighs and yanks off the glove covering his right hand. It’s metal. Completely metal. Izuku figures it’s some sort of prosthetic, but it’s still jarring to see, especially when it’s right beside his blood-soaked left hand.

“It’s the price. If I want to use it, I have to give something up. Makes it fair,” he says bitterly.

Izuku has seen some horrible things in his time as a hero-otaku-turned-vigilante. As a dog of the entertainment industry, he’s also learned when to pursue a topic and when to drop it.

That experience serves him well. He rallies, pulls out a roll of bandages, and says, “Okay. At least let me stop the bleeding.”

The child stays still as the vigilante wraps his head in white. The villain— or what remains of it, anyway— tries to slink off while he’s distracted. Undeterred, Izuku starts singing. The sludge freezes in place and stays that way.

“Wait here,” the vigilante whispers when the wound is finally bandaged. He hurries to a nearby dumpster and starts hunting for something to pour the villain into. As luck would have it, Izuku finds an empty two-liter bottle. He returns to the site of the battle, where he wordlessly gathers up the goop.

Twisting the cap of the impromptu prison shut, Izuku turns to say something, anything, to that poor boy.

But he’s gone, leaving behind nothing but a cracked road and a few drops of blood.

Izuku straightens and tries to think. As concerned as he is, there’s likely no point in trying to follow the injured child, so Izuku should focus on getting the villain someplace it will be taken care of. If he recalls correctly, Eraserhead and Present Mic’s apartment is nearby, as is Dead Apple’s agency.

Well, those two are actually retired, so they probably don’t want to be bothered. Dead Apple it is, Izuku decides, hefting the bottle up. He’s about to set off when he hears footsteps behind him. Whirling around with an electrified glove raised, Izuku prepares for a fight.

And a fight it will be. To his utter dismay, the person casually stalking towards him is a slender man with wild lilac hair and a mouth guard that does nothing to hide his amused eyes. It’s Shinsou Hitoshi, otherwise known as Static Thought.

Oh, god. Oh, fuck, Izuku thinks. And dammit, his mind really is filling with static. The underground hero hasn’t even said anything, but Izuku is well on his way to a meltdown. He does not need this right now.

“Well, hello,” sings Shinsou. “You’re Checkmate, aren’t you? It’s lovely to meet you. So far, I’ve only heard things about you. Some good things, but mostly bad, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

Izuku gently sets the bottle aside, weighing his options. He really doesn’t want that villain to escape— if it had been willing to hurt a kid, there’s no telling what else it would do. And he doesn’t trust Shinsou to take care of it if he runs, so… he’s got to fight the hero, win, and then get the sludge to Dead Apple.

Mind made up, the hero charges his other glove and settles into a fighting stance. With Katsuki’s warning in mind, he doesn’t say anything— he merely waits for the other man to make a move.

Unfortunately, Shinsou doesn’t seem to want to move. Instead, he starts circling around Izuku, lazily tapping his chin with a finger. He seems to notice the signs of a fight while he moves around, and drawls, “Huh. So you were busy! Who did you hurt, now? And did you stop to pick up some Coke before or after the fact?”

Izuku’s world stills. Shinsou can’t know what precisely had happened before he’d showed up, not unless he’d been following Izuku far longer than he’d realized. But Izuku knows, and the assumption that he could possibly be capable of stabbing out a child’s eye fills him with fury.

“I would never—” he starts to snarl, and the fight ends before it begins.

Shinsou’s gaze becomes distinctly triumphant, and Izuku hates himself for giving in. A white haze creeps over his mind, covering his immediate panic with a blanket of euphoria. Shit. Is this what the idol’s opponents feel like when his hypnosis kicks in? He’s never going to do that again, now that he knows what it’s like.

“Walk toward me,” Shinsou orders. “Don’t— ugh!”

The fog lifts. Izuku blinks, wondering what had happened, when he sees someone standing over a now unconscious Shinsou. There’s a pipe in their hand.

Ah, hell, am I going to have to fight again?

The person says, “Mi— sorry, Checkmate, are you okay?”

Izuku perks up. It’s Todoroki! He’d followed the vigilante out on patrol, which shouldn’t be so endearing, but hey, it had been for the best! Oh, bless his bodyguard; he’s going to have to give him a raise and a gift basket for this.

“I’m fine, thanks to you!” he chirps, tackling the Temperate Hero into a hug. He lets go before Todoroki fully processes the gesture and grabs the bottle. Thankfully, the villain is still securely inside.

“Um, no problem…” Todoroki says, collecting himself. “What is that?”

Izuku spares Shinsou a glance. “Well, sir, that’s your old classmate. You’d think you’d remember him a little better, considering all the things you went through together.”

“Don’t sass me! I mean what’s in the bottle? I saw it in the light, and I don’t think any soda is that shade of green.”

“Oh, why didn’t you say so?” Izuku teases. Sobering up, he starts walking in the direction of the agency, explaining, “This is a villain with a mutation Quirk. I need to get it to Dead Apple’s office— actually, we need to get Shinsou there, too. As annoying as he is, I won’t abandon him in the street.”

Todoroki processes the absurd situation quite quickly. He lifts Shinsou up and lets Izuku lead him to the older heroine’s office. The lights are on, so someone (likely Timebreaker; whenever she was in town, she spent all hours in Dead Apple’s office, trying to fix her friend’s disastrous organization… or so Izuku had heard when he’d met the quiet woman) is there to help them.

Setting the bottle down in front of the door, Izuku motions for Todoroki to do the same with his cargo. He then pulls out a piece of paper and scribbles a note, in purposely illegible handwriting so it couldn’t be traced to him.

The note reads,

Hi, Apple! Sorry about showing up in the dead of night and giving you a terrible gift, but the thing in the bottle is a villain, and the other thing is a  baby hero that stuck his nose where he shouldn’t have! Please return him to his parents!

PS: Tell your wife I said hi, and that I hope she gets better soon!

—Checkmate

He sets it down and rings the doorbell. Something crashes inside, so there’s sure to be a heroine on her way. They’d better get out of here fast.

Turning back to Todoroki, Izuku says, “Wanna race back home?”

“You’re on,” Todoroki agrees, promptly skating away. Izuku shrieks about cheating and tears after him.

(As they round the corner, a red haired woman opens the door and nearly trips over the unconscious hero. Chewing the last of her Pocky, she mutters, “That’s inconvenient. Hey, Akemi! Call Aizawa, would you?”

“Why?”

“He needs to know we found his son!”

Hidden in an alleyway, a young boy glances at the hero agency and then in the direction the vigilante(s) had gone. He tells himself to get Checkmate a gift.

After all, he lives by the principle of equivalent exchange.)

Chapter Text

There was a sharp crack from above his head, and Shouto threw himself into a forward somersault that carried him away from the wall. It wasn’t a moment too soon; the facade cracked and the structure collapsed, burying the place where he’d just been in stone.

Shouto didn’t stop to thank the heavens. He threw out his hand, encasing the villain who’d fired at him in a tomb of ice. Shaking from a combination of terror and hypothermia, he turned and ran.

The entirety of downtown Tokyo was in ruins. The fighting had spilled over from Musutafu hours ago, and it had only become more destructive as the time trickled by. Shouto passed several bodies as he tried to make his way toward the heart of the fighting. His heart ached, but there was nothing he could do for those people.

There was no salvation for the dead.

The sound of echoing explosions served as a beacon for Shouto. The young hero altered his course and raced toward the noise, feeling a slight twinge of relief. If there was one good thing he had to say about Bakugou Katsuki, it was that he was loud, and that made it very easy for his allies to find him… especially when said allies had lost their communicators to villains with extendable claws, and were currently unreachable.

He was torn out of his thoughts when he tripped over a crumpled body. With a horrified gasp, Shouto dropped to his knees next to the poor person. Oh, fuck, if they were dying, he could’ve made their situation worse. And if they were already dead, that was a horrible show of disrespect.

The hero gingerly turned the small form over. He nearly choked as he did. It was Tokoyami, and for a terrible moment, Shouto couldn’t tell whether or not he was alive. Dark Shadow peeked out from the other boy’s shoulder, small and desperate. Like the sentient Quirk was pleading for help, it screeched at Shouto.

Shouto scooped his classmate up. The raven felt light as a feather, and his dark uniform was slick with blood. From the sound of his wheezing breath, he didn’t have much time left. Squeezing his eyes shut and asking someone, anyone, for strength, he started running again.

Luckily, a healer had been deployed. When he neared the epicenter of the battle, Shouto instantly spotted the white of his costume, stark against the grey of smoke and black of asphalt. It was Glimmer, a Ketsubutsu graduate nicknamed ‘Mr. Refreshing.’ His hands were hovering over someone— Shouto realized after a beat that it was Uraraka— and after only a minute of bathing in a soft glow, she hauled herself up and returned to the fight.

Shouto came closer, intending to immediately demand help for Tokoyami, but he was cut off by another hero yelling at Glimmer.

“Koushi, you have to stop! You’re dying!”

Glimmer wheezed. It took him a few tries to form words, but when he did, he growled, “I have to do this, Tetsurou; I’m the only one who can save them!”

“Who is going to save you?” shouted ‘Tetsurou.’ Shouto suddenly recognized him as being the Trick Hero, Loki. He was marching toward his friend, sounding borderline hysterical.

Whatever Glimmer tried to say next was cut off by a fountain of blood spilling from his lips. It stained the pristine surface of his uniform, ruby on a field of snow, and Shouto understood that he was faced with a choice: let Tokoyami die or watch Glimmer kill himself in an attempt to fix him.

The decision was shortly taken out of his hands. Loki caught sight of him, and his sudden silence dragged the healer back into awareness. Glimmer glanced up, his hazel eyes cloudy with pain. Upon seeing Shouto and his prone classmate, he didn’t hesitate to say, “Give him to me. I can help.”

Not a minute after he healed Tokoyami, Glimmer collapsed. Loki panicked. From somewhere beyond them, Bakugou brought a building down, and the ensuing clouds of dust blocked out the sun.

Shouto stood in the midst of chaos, feeling like the world had fallen down around him.

(He would not know the extent of that statement until the death counts were released. The heroes had suffered countless injuries, but no casualties. However, the newly reformed League of Villains had lost several of their members, most notably their leader, Dabi.

Shouto threw up and tried very hard not to acknowledge that his brother was dead.)

He awakens with tears on his face, his breathing a harsh sound in the otherwise silent apartment. Blinking the moisture out of his eyes, Shouto turns to squint at the clock. It’s 4:12. The hero had barely slept at all, and there’s no way he can return to slumbering after his impromptu flashback.

He gets ready for the day, taking extra care not to wake up Midoriya. After his face is washed and his clothes are changed, Shouto is proud to report that he looks much less like a man who had been abruptly reminded of his trauma. That all goes to hell when he catches a glimpse of his hair in the mirror and recalls red blood on a white uniform, and a hero who dutifully hid the repercussions of his Quirk so he could continue helping.

You don’t have anything to worry about, Shouto tells himself desperately. Tokoyami lived. Glimmer is fine. You saw him at the bar the other day. Midoriya said he has a boyfriend now.

The only person that wasn’t okay was T—

He cuts off the thoughts before they turn even darker and goes to make coffee. It’s the horrible, instant kind, its garbage factor compounded because Shouto refuses to use the kettle and thus had to stick a cup of powder, milk, and water into the microwave. He jabs the stop button before it can beep, promptly downing the mug when it’s safely in his hands.

Caffeine acquired and wayward heart slightly tamed, the bodyguard goes to get the mail. There are no suspicious packages from a sassy Bakugou, nor are there bills, but Midoriya’s Prime Pantry delivery has safely arrived. Shouto happily busies himself by putting away the food and drinks; there’s eggs, and bread, and a worrying amount of hard cider. There’s also a frying pan (the idol had evidently realized that it wasn’t the wisest decision to throw out an entire cooking implement and had scrambled to correct his mistake).

While it serves as a decent enough distraction, Shouto can’t organize groceries forever. Instead, he turns to stress-cleaning. His whole room is straightened and thoroughly dusted— Midoriya apparently didn’t bother coming in there that often— and then Shouto just panics and fixes up the rest of the house.

An hour and a half later, Midoriya finds him in the bathroom, compulsively ordering and reordering the contents of the cabinet above the sink.

“Um. Todoroki, what are you doing?”

Shouto startles and nearly flash-freezes a can of dry shampoo. He turns to the exhausted idol, who is blinking at him in concern. Words fail him for a minute, and he wonders, rather pointlessly, how Midoriya would have handled that battle. Could he have talked Dabi down? Could he have safely hypnotized him into custody, so Inasa wouldn’t have had to kill him?

Having noticed something is very wrong, Midoriya gently takes the can from Shouto’s hand. He places it back into the cabinet and leads Shouto to the couch. Shouto thinks, with no small measure of amusement, that all their important conversations have occurred on a single piece of furniture. How strange.

“Todoroki. Todo— Shouto. Do you know where you are?”

Shouto is a bit worried that the answer takes him a minute to find. “In Musutafu. In your apartment.”

“That’s right,” says Midoriya. “Do you know what’s happening?”

“I was cleaning. Because… because I had a nightmare. A memory.”

“Whatever happened then isn’t happening now. You made it back home. You’re safe.”

“He wasn’t,” Shouto says, but the idol’s soft words are enough to fully ground him. The muted, blurred edges of his vision finally come into focus. He can see Midoriya, whose emerald eyes are wide with sympathy. He can see the light of the day seeping into their home.

“Oh, fuck,” he mutters, realizing what had happened. “Shit, Midoriya, I’m sorry—”

Midoriya shakes his head, insisting, “You don’t have to apologize for feeling. For being human.”

Shouto draws up his knees and wraps his arms around them, curling into as small a ball as he can. It’s a childhood habit (born from hiding from his father) that he has yet to break. But it comforts him now, letting him gather his thoughts enough to ask, “How did you know what to do?”

“I’m Ground Zero’s best friend, Todoroki. He’s tried to keep things from me, and has succeeded several times, but every so often, he can’t hide his pain. I needed to know how to help him when he looked at me and saw nothing but a body.”

That reminds Shouto of the argument he, Bakugou, and Kirishima had had, oh so long ago. “Did he finally tell you about…”

“How the League fucking kidnapped him?” Midoriya asks. “Yeah. It was the night we fought, actually. He called me— thank god I was already awake— and spilled everything. I wasn’t in the best place to help him, but I made a damn good attempt. I think the phone was his way of saying thank you.”

Shouto recalls how he’d stared at the ceiling for hours at the time, unmoving, even as explosions came from Bakugou’s room. Whatever he’d dreamed of that night must have been the final straw. The blond had swallowed his pride and talked to his childhood friend at last.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Midoriya says hesitantly, drawing Shouto’s attention, “did you remember the same thing he did?”

Shouto shakes his head. “No. Um, this was—”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to! I don’t want to pressure you!” Midoriya hastens to assure him, waving his hands. “Seriously, I don’t need to…”

“It’s fine. Maybe I should tell someone…  Uh, shortly after my class graduated from UA and started making a mark on the hero business, there was a massive fight between the heroes and the remnants of the League of Villains. They’d rebuilt their ranks, and they made it known by attacking several hero agencies at once.

“The fighting swallowed up a whole section of the city. It ended up extending into Tokyo. I was in the middle of it; we all were… It was a vicious battle, and not everyone made it.”

“There weren’t any hero deaths, though,” Midoriya says. “I vaguely remember this— I was in Brazil for a concert at the time, but I would have heard if anything…”

“No, none of the heroes died,” Shouto says heavily. “Tokoyami and Yaoyorozu came close, as did Glimmer; the first two were taken out by the enemy, and Glimmer’s Quirk caused so much internal damage that it was a wonder he made it out of there. But… one of the strongest villains was killed. Dabi.”

Midoriya narrows his eyes, obviously trying to match a face to the name. After a moment of deliberation, he snaps, exclaiming, “The one with blue flames! He and Toga were a package deal, right?”

“Yeah. God, um, no one knows this, but he was my older brother. Todoroki Touya.”

“Oh, no,” Midoriya whispers, and Shouto chokes down a hysterical laugh. If only he knew…

Shouto noticed that he was being led into a trap only after he was miles away from everyone else. Biting back a curse, he squinted into the darkness, looking for Dabi. The walking crematorium had taunted him away for a reason. Now where was he?

Torches along the walls sparked with blue fire, answering that question in short order. Dabi stood at the very back of the warehouse, awaiting Shouto with an air of boredom that made the boy bristle.

“There you are,” the villain drawled. “I’d ask why you took so long, but I can tell your ribs are cracked, so… no point, really.”

Shouto blanched, his hand flying to his right side. How the hell had Dabi known? He’d kept the injury from everyone— from his nosy classmates, his all-too-suspicious homeroom teacher, and Recovery Girl herself.

“Oh, don’t looked so shocked,” Dabi laughed. He walked toward Shouto, tossing a ball of bluebell flames from hand to hand. “You just came back from break, which you had to spend with dear old Endeavor, and I know that’s a favorite place of his to hit.”

“How?” Shouto said suspiciously. He took a few steps back as Dabi continued to advance, bemoaning his stupidity. The villain could torch him with a snap of his fingers, and no one would be the wiser. He wondered if his classmates would find a body. Maybe there would only be ashes.

Dabi shrugged, pulling Shouto out of his morbid speculation. “Easy,” he says, “he used to beat me the same way. Gosh, you should see my X-rays they tell quite the story.”

“He did what?”

“Ah, I forgot. You probably wouldn’t remember… the bastard did keep you apart from us. Well, I’m one of those failed projects of his, right next to Natsuo and Fuyumi. Does that ring a bell?”

Shouto thought back to his childhood. It was true, his memories of his siblings were very fragmented. He had a vague recollection of three older children, two boys and one girl. But one of those boys had vanished, leaving Shouto uncertain of his existence. And his hair had been…

Red. Red like Endeavor’s hair, like the streaks in Fuyumi’s, like half of Shouto’s own hair—

Red like the roots peeking out from the crown of Dabi’s head.

“Oh, fuck,” Shouto whispered.

Dabi stuck out his fiery hand, like he was asking for a handshake. “Nice to meet you, baby brother. I’m Todoroki Touya.”

“No, no, no,” Shouto chanted, backing away from the other boy. “How could you— why did you join—”

“Come on, like you haven’t thought of stabbing that sorry excuse for a hero! That’s what I wanted to tell you, by the way. I’m going to kill him. Soon, if I get the chance,” the villain said flippantly, waving his hand. His spiel completed, he sauntered toward the building’s exit.

But before he left, he paused to say,

“Hey, I didn’t kill you this time. Think of it as a favor, brother to brother. Next time, though… you better be ready for a fight.”

With that, Dabi disappeared, and the torches flickered out, leaving Shouto in darkness.

“I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone, even though I should have,” Shouto murmurs. “And then he died. There really wasn’t a point after that.”

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya tells him after a minute of silence.

Shouto shoots him an incredulous look. “Why? He was a villain. Most people would say he deserved to die.”

“He may have been a villain, but he was still your brother. It’s alright to wish things had ended differently.”

The hero blinks. Midoriya’s gaze doesn’t waver; he clearly believes his words. Haltingly, Shouto nods. He had the right to mourn his sibling, to mourn the things they could have had if it weren’t for fuckng Endeavor—

Midoriya holds out his arms, wordlessly offering a hug. Shouto sinks into the embrace, much less awkwardly than he had the night before, and wonders when the last time someone held him was. Despite the abundance of memories that he’s cycled through today, he can’t recall.

The hero closes his eyes, the warmth emanating from his left side lulling him (and Midoriya, if the deepening breathing was any indication) back to sleep. As he drifts into much kinder dreams, he thinks of the way his first name sounded in Midoriya’s voice.

It was nice.

 

-

 

The duo is abruptly awoken when someone knocks at the door.

Shouto tries jumping up and tips right out of Midoriya’s arms. Either his movement drags the idol down with him or successfully alarms him into falling too, because the green haired man lands on top of the hero a second later.

“Motherfucker,” groans Midoriya, his hand flying to the hip he’d injured last night. “Shit, Todoroki, are you okay?”

“Peachy,” Shouto mouths, because all the wind had been knocked out of him.

Midoriya glances down, seems to realize that they’re only centimeters apart, and hurriedly bolts for the door. His face is scarlet when he opens it.

Shouto sits up, trying to see who had rudely woken them up. A flash of blonde hair and a soft voice clue him in: it’s Yachi, the woman that had designed the album cover.

“…we have to film today, Dekiru,” she’s saying apologetically. “And I’ve been hearing rumors… oh, I won’t bother you with them now. They can’t be true.”

This startles the bodyguard into getting up and making his way toward the others. “You want Midoriya to do what? Can’t you see he’s exhausted? You can’t keep springing things on him like you did yesterday.”

“I know it’s not ideal,” Yachi replies, hunching her shoulders. She looks incredibly strung out, Shouto notes. There are dark shadows under her eyes, and her hair is flattened on one side, like she’d fallen asleep over her desk.

Midoriya places a calming hand on Shouto’s shoulder, saying, “It’s not your fault, Yachi-san. I know this is all Kemuri-san’s doing. I’ll go, just give me a minute. Or twenty.”

“Okay,” the businesswoman agrees. “Do you mind if I borrow your sofa? I think I may collapse if I stand any longer.”

“Of course,” the idol says, stepping aside to let Yachi in. She makes a beeline toward the couch, which is probably still saturated with the heat of Shouto’s Quirk, and promptly falls asleep.

Midoriya shoots her a worried glance as he shuts the door. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Yachi this stressed, which is saying something, because her default state is anxious. I wonder what happened…”

“Maybe she’s not the only one being worked to the bone by her boss,” Shouto says, only a tad bitter.

“Quite unfortunately, I did sign up for this, and my contract doesn’t end until December next year,” Midoriya sighs. “Alright, uh, let’s get this bread.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Shouto mumbles, but he goes to change anyway, letting the fragments of his former thoughts slip through the cracks in his mind.

 


 

Half an hour later, they stride into the Kemuri building, a sleepy Yachi in tow. She looks somehow more exhausted than she’d been prior to her nap, and Shouto wonders if he should have offered her some of that awful instant coffee.

The guard that usually stands before the elevators gives her a strange look as they pile into the elevator. Yachi is dazed enough to ignore him entirely, and jabs the button for one of the studio floors. After a jaw-cracking yawn, she says,

“They’ve already set up the area. But I think we’re doing most of the filming outside, so you have to come back at night.”

“Why at night?” Midoriya complains. “It’s cold!”

Shouto muffles a snicker. As if that had stopped Midoriya the dozens of times he’d gone out on patrol. He’s sure the idol is just protesting to be contrary, and is proven right when he calmly digs an elbow into Shouto’s ribs.

The doors open, and they’re greeted with the sight of chaos. People are running back and forth, their arms full of equipment, while a man with a bullhorn directs them. Someone— Shouto recognizes them as the person who’d been making the sets during the Vogue shoot— is flipping through a stack of Yachi’s album covers, a thoughtful frown on their face.

“Oh, goody,” Midoriya mutters. “Where’s wardrobe and makeup?”

A boy with long white hair points him toward the back corner. Shouto and Yachi follow him, weaving through the various employees. Momoi is there when they arrive, engaged in discussion with a teal-haired woman who is very… sparkly.

“There you are, Dekiru! Quickly, get changed!” Momoi yells. There’s a manic look in her eyes and a bottle of perfume in her hand.

“Lord, have mercy,” Midoriya says, but he lets the stylist goes to town.

It only takes the two women twenty minutes to turn Midoriya into a veritable god. He normally looks amazing, of course, but the carefully painted silver eyeliner and the pearl glow of highlighter on his cheeks utterly transforms him. Shouto turns to Yachi in a last-ditch effort to not do something dumb as hell, and finds her frowning at her phone.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, hoping it isn’t news of his and Midoriya’s late night exploits. Is Aizawa raising hell in the civilian media on Shinsou’s behalf?

“The deal with Sports Illustrated fell through,” Yachi says under her breath, and Shouto’s worries evaporate. “Hinata is very, very mad. Oh, dear.”

“Can you fix it?”

The blonde shakes her head. “Not likely. Hinata and our contact at SI, Ushijima, are old rivals. From high school volleyball, of all things. It looks like Ushijima said something thoughtless and Hinata stormed out. I suppose I’ll just give him time to cool off and see what happens tomorrow.” 

“That might be for the best,” Shouto agrees.

Meanwhile, Momoi finishes emptying an entire can of hairspray into Midoriya’s hair and chirps, “And we’re done! Go on— the director’s getting annoyed.”

“The director should remember who brings him attention and money,” Midoriya huffs. “Okay, well, I’m off. Todoroki, I’m sorry if you get bored to death.”

“You can call me Shouto if you want,” Shouto replies, and what the fuck, brain, that was not what he meant to say.

“Sure, if you call me Izuku,” the idol says, vanishing in a burst of glitter.

(Behind Shouto’s back, Momoi and the stylist exchange a glance, then promptly place a bet. Without looking away from her phone, Yachi fishes 2000 yen from her pocket and goes all in too.)

 

-

 

The filming drags. Shouto falls asleep twice, intermittently catching glimpses of Midoriya dancing and a glowing blue hologram. He wakes up several hours later, roused by the insistent protests of his stomach.

Oh. The only thing I’ve had today is coffee… and Izuku is no better, Shouto thinks. The use of the idol’s first name makes him blush, even though it’s only in his head. At least these thoughts are far more pleasant than ones of death and destruction.

Fearing an oncoming disaster, he turns on his phone and texts Yaoyorozu.

that’s_rough_buddy: I’m having a crisis.

local-content-creator: Why?

that’s_rough_buddy: I have a crush on Midoriya and it’s ruining my life.

froppy: hey pal not to distract from your gay panic but you should probably check which chats you’re sending things to

Shouto feels the blood drain from his face and quickly looks at the chat name. Oh, fuck, he’d accidentally clicked on 19 Dumbasses & One Voice of Reason instead of elegantly rich gays.

electro-ball: lmao for what it’s worth he’s very hot and a very good kisser

acid_trip: fuhakusakari I FORGOT YOU ACTUALLY MADE OUT WITH A WHOLE ASS IDOL WHAT A LEGEND

screw-gravity: @blasty-mcsplode aren’t you friends? what are your thoughts on this tasty new development

blasty-mcsplode: all of you fuck off and die i’m playing online chess with yuri

Completely at odds with his previous statement, Bakugou texts Shouto privately.

blasty-mcsplode: listen i’m not going to threaten you because we both know damn well that izuku can kill you himself if he wants to.

blasty-mcsplode: but if you’re not serious about this, then shut the fuck up. he’s been through enough without someone playing with his feelings.

that’s_rough_buddy: Bakugou, I swear I wouldn’t do that. I barely know how to interact with people. How could I fake a crush? And why would I lie about it to everyone’s faces?

blasty-mcsplode: okay 1) you stupid bitch i wasn’t questioning the validity of your feelings i was questioning the DEPTH of them so learn to read and 2) alright, that’s fair.

blasty-mcsplode: for what it’s worth you ARE the only other person who’s gotten this close to him. i don’t think many people have seen past the whole idol mask. idk yura is kicking my ass right now so i kinda have to go but. be fucking careful. relationships aren’t as perfect and easy as they are in shoujo manga.

Well. Shouto is going to take that as tacit approval.

that’s_rough_buddy: Thank you, Bakugou.

blasty-mcsplode: oh shut the hell up you walking stop sign

With a fond eye-roll, Shouto mutes his phone (his class is unfortunately still hounding him) and tucks it into his pocket. He raises his head and instantly catches Izuku’s eye. Ah. The idol had been patiently waiting for him, apparently having finished this section of filming.

“There you are, Shouto,” the idol says with amusement. His voice literally makes Shouto’s given name sounds like the fucking gospel. The hero is done for.

“I sure am,” Shouto answers, like an idiot.

Izuku laughs, saying, “Hey, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. And this stupid video has taken forever. Let’s go get dinner before we have to film again.”

He holds out his hand, an expectant smile on his face. It’s the real smile, this time, not the plastic one given to the cameras or the silently threatening one he’d been aiming at the director. Shouto treasures every one of those smiles.

Ugh. What has happened to him? Has he been covertly replaced with a romance novel protagonist? It’s official, now: Shouto’s become a mass of sugar and sweetness that’s going to give everyone cavities. The dentists should eliminate him on sight, therefore sparing everyone the trouble of dealing with this sap.

Ceasing the acknowledgment of his internal meltdown, Shouto takes Izuku’s outstretched hand.

 


 

They go to a tiny restaurant, one that’s little more than a hole in the wall. But the staff there are friendly and discreet, and they happily flip the sign to closed when Izuku asks them to.

“What are you going to get?” Izuku asks, turning the pages of his menu.

“Cold soba,” replies Shouto. He never deviates from that order, so he hadn’t bothered touching his own booklet, instead choosing to pick at the fancy gold lettering.

“A classic,” Izuku agrees. “I think I want a yakitori platter.”

“That reminds me— aren’t idols supposed to be on diets? You seem to eat whatever you want…”

Izuku hands the menus to the waiter and receives two glasses of water in return. “Well, yeah, I have a plan from a nutritionist, but she doesn’t know about my side gig, which burns a lot more calories than she assumes I do. So I eat whatever, within reason, and I exercise enough for it to never be an issue.”

“That’s fair,” Shouto says. Internally, he mourns his recent lack of exercise. He’s going to suffer if he returns to active duty. 

If? Wait, why would I say…

The thought slips away when the waiter brings their food, and the two men fall upon it like starving wolves. Shouto doesn’t even realize how fast he’s eating until his chopsticks hit the bottom of the bowl.

Izuku is in the same boat. When Shouto tears his eyes from his bowl, he sees there are only two of the chicken skewers left, and the idol is gazing at them mournfully. Mischievously, Shouto swipes one of the skewers, positively cackling when Izuku lets out an undignified screech.

“Give it back!” he wails, making grabby hands. Shouto bats his fingers away and devours the yakitori. In retaliation, Izuku steals the bowl of soba, scowling upon seeing the lack of consumable contents.

“I know, I’m terrible,” Shouto drawls. Izuku throws a balled-up napkin at his head, swearing,

“I’ll get you back for this!”

“Will you, though,” the hero asks, sneakily reaching for the final skewer. Izuku snatches it away and eats it with a mutinous pout.

(The waiters start placing their own bets.)

 

-

 

Much to their irritation, they can’t stay in the little restaurant forever. Eventually, they have to return to the Kemuri building so the idol can finish his job. Izuku stays perfectly still as his make-up is retouched. He seems to know that Shouto’s watching him, and cracks his eyes open.

Shouto mimes stealing his food. Izuku flips him off, pointedly turning back to Momoi.

The last bit of filming is shot on the rooftop. Izuku dances his way across the concrete, his figure wrapped in clouds and silhouetted in moonlight. Privately, Shouto thinks that he cuts a much better figure when he’s jumping from building to building, on the hunt for villains. However, Izuku’s dancing is still ethereal. It’s a fact of life, like saying “Plants have chlorophyll,” and “The overwhelming majority of people have Quirks.”

Luckily for Shouto’s heart, the process isn’t quite as long as it was last time. Perhaps because he doesn’t want to remain on a frigid rooftop any longer, the director tells the camera crew to pack up. Yachi discusses editing with the entourage as they leave.

Shouto walks to Izuku, who is humming softly. He twirls once more— for himself, this time— and gives Shouto a faint grin.

“Ready to get back home?”

“Yes,” Shouto replies, and is startled to conclude that he does, in fact, consider the idol’s apartment his home. It isn’t even the first time he’s thought that today. Huh. Maybe those who said a house wasn’t always a home were right.

(After all, Shouto’s practically forgotten the layout of his own apartment, and he and his living siblings had auctioned off the Todoroki estate immediately after the funeral.)

They take the long route back to the apartment, relying on Shouto’s left side to keep them warm. Both of them are stumbling as they walk, nearly drunk with exhaustion, and Izuku lets out a tiny giggle each time it happens. It’s adorable.

Shouto wants to hear that laugh all the time.

But because neither of them can have nice things, everything goes to hell. Only ten minutes away from their home, Izuku stops in the middle of the street and cocks his head. Shouto stills, wondering what’s tripped the vigilante’s instincts. He searches for the sounds of a fight, but all he hears is someone whistling.

“What’s wrong?” he asks in a whisper.

“I— something in that whistling just… sounds off. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s wrong, like a pop song played in minor key. I should…” Izuku murmurs, walking toward the mouth of an alley.

Shouto follows, letting ice flow down his arm. Together, they peer into the alleyway.

At first, the body is indistinguishable from the piles of trash surrounding the dumpster. But then the details— like the blonde hair, the knives, and the distinctive cream sweater— make themselves known.

“Oh my god,” Izuku says. “I think that’s Toga.”

For once, the killer is not the one spilling blood. The pool she’s laying in belongs to her and her alone. It’s such a strange sight that Shouto almost expects the villain to get up and lunge at them, laughing about the joke she’d played. But she doesn’t move.

Neither do the two men.

As they stand there, horrorstruck, a wisp of smoke drifts away in the wind.

Chapter Text

Previously on You Call Me (Idol)...

“Oh my god,” Izuku says. “I think that’s Toga.”

For once, the killer is not the one spilling blood. The pool she’s laying in belongs to her and her alone. It’s such a strange sight that Shouto almost expects the villain to get up and lunge at them, laughing about the joke she’d played. But she doesn’t move.

Neither do the two men.

As they stand there, horrorstruck, a wisp of smoke drifts away in the wind.

 


 

Shouto is the first to move. He takes out his phone, presumably to call his agency. That prompts Izuku to grab his arm.

“Don’t,” he says, eyes still fixed on the villain’s body. “If you call anyone you know, then we’re going to have to get involved. There will be… official reports and red tape and all that bullshit.”

“Then what do you propose we do? We can’t leave her here,” Shouto asks, warily putting the phone away.

Izuku digs through the small bag he’d brought with him until he finds the new burner cell. Under Shouto’s watchful eye, he contacts Hallowed Inc., the agency founded by Tsukuyomi and Tentacole. He anxiously taps his foot until the call connects.

“This is Hallowed Incorporated. Nova speaking,” a very tired voice says. “How may I help you?”

Ah. It’s a sidekick. Izuku frantically tries to remember if he’s ever spoken to this one before. He comes up empty. When he calls this agency, he usually speaks to Lynx (a frequent partner of Loki’s), so he has no frame of reference here. Deciding it doesn’t matter, he pitches his voice and says, “Hello. This is Checkmate. You may or may not have heard of me.”

“Unfortunately, I have,” Nova replies, with the air of someone who would love to be anywhere else right now. “Now, who would you like to be arrested by?”

“Listen, I’d love to stay and banter, but there is a situation in the alley between Spirits & Such and the Black Sea Law Firm, so I kind of can’t,” Izuku snaps.

Nova falls silent. After a beat, he says, “What kind of situation?”

“You remember Toga Himiko? Everyone’s favorite psychotic serial killer? Yeah, she’s dead. And before you even ask, no, it wasn’t my fault.”

“If this is a prank, and I lose my job over this, I will make it my life’s mission to throw you in jail,” the sidekick finally sighs.

The line goes dead.

“Okay,” Izuku huffs, voice returning to its normal cadence, “we have to get the hell out of here before the heroes show up. And I have to get rid of this thing.”

“Isn’t being untraceable the whole point of burner phones?” Shouto asks, sparing Toga one last glance as they hurry away.

“I’m not completely sure, but I think that Hallowed, Inc. recently added someone with a technology based Quirk to their ranks,” the idol says bitterly. “Too bad my last brain cell couldn’t remember that before I called them.”

Shouto tugs Izuku into another alley, saying, “Give me the phone.”

Izuku complies and watches in fascination as Shouto torches the device. In mere seconds, it’s an unrecognizable lump of plastic and glass. Sadness flickers briefly in his stomach— Katsuki had just given him that— but he pushes it aside.

Shouto clambers onto a dumpster and drops the charred mess in, using a spike of ice to bury it in the trash. “No one’s going look there. It’s not in the immediate vicinity of the crime, and trust me when I say heroes are too lazy to widen their search grids.”

“Have I ever told you you’re a godsend and you deserve a gift basket?” asks Izuku. “Because it’s true.”

“Thank me when we don’t get caught,” replies the bodyguard, leading the way back home.

 

-

 

After they’ve both showered and made more coffee, Izuku drags his old corkboard out of his closet.

“What are you going to do with that?” Shouto asks.

“Conspiracy theory board,” says the idol through a mouthful of red string. “Need to investigate this ourselves.”

The hero sets aside his mug and helps the idol attach the board to the living room wall. Together, they arrange the piles of Toga-related evidence Izuku has been hoarding since he first met the villain.

“You’ve been keeping tabs on her for some time,” Shouto observes. “And you have stuff dating from her days with the original League.”

“I’m nothing if not a dedicated researcher,” Izuku says modestly, neglecting to mention that he’d gathered most of this information on a singular caffeine high last year.

“Still, this is well done,” Shouto murmurs. He taps a sketch that Izuku had drawn, one that shows the girl mid-jump. “She’s really hard to keep track of.”

“Oh, don’t remind me. There are periods of time where I couldn’t tell you what freaking country she was in, let alone what she was doing. It’s been super  annoying… especially since a couple months ago, when she started her stupid game.”

Shouto narrows his eyes. “The game she mentioned when she showed up at your busking event, right?”

“Yeah,” Izuku says. “So, uh, I don’t know if you managed to piece it together— her rambling is hard for anyone with more than half the normal amount of gray matter to follow— but she discovered my civilian identity and told literally everyone in the underworld who I was. That’s why there were so many attempts on my life.”

“She did what? How the hell did that information not get into the heroes’ hands?”

Izuku laughs a bit maniacally. “Sheer dumb luck? I don’t know. I guess that villains have their own codes in regards to vigilantes. Like, I don’t think Stain’s identity was leaked until after his incarceration, but pretty much everyone on our side of the knife’s edge knew his name.”

“‘Our’ side? You’re not a villain,” Shouto says, folding his arms.

“What I do is illegal, and I doubt you’ve been able to forget that since the minute you found out who I was. In the eyes of many heroes, I’m basically a villain with a cracked moral compass.”

The Temperate Hero shakes his head in disapproval. “They should stop watching that propaganda anchors call ‘news’ and look at the facts. Hell, they should talk to the people. Then they’d know the truth: you’re just as much of a hero as those of us with licenses.”

Izuku feels heat rise to the surface of his skin, and turns back to the board to prevent Shouto from seeing his reddened cheeks. There the hero went again, with his stupidly kind words and absolute lack of a filter. Not to mention the way he’d smiled at him over the table, earlier tonight…

Ugh. No. You don’t have time for your feelings. You do, however, have a dead body.

Izuku takes a deep breath and compartmentalizes. I’ve got to focus.

“Thanks, Shouto,” he says brightly. “Now, let me go find some paper. I have some wild theories to create.”

 


 

Hours pass in a blur.

Izuku’s touch with reality grows tenuous as he scribbles out his theories. He’s written out many possible versions of the events leading up to the murder, each with different kinds of killers. One theory— really, the most obvious theory— is that Toga was taken out by a rival villain. His conversation with Yama had proven something he’d suspected for a while: Toga wasn’t well-liked in the underworld. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that someone had finally snapped and killed her.

Another theory is that a rookie hero had gotten a bit overzealous upon engaging the villain and accidentally went too far. There were plenty of heroes who didn’t know the meaning of self-restraint, or who could be persuaded into forgetting it by the heat of battle. Perhaps after seeing what they’d done, the person had simply fled in panic, rather than file reports and go for counseling and all that fun jazz.

The final theory is that Toga had attacked the wrong civilian. Scores of people in Musutafu had dangerous Quirks, and a great deal of them had no formal training. If she’d hunted someone who was more predator than prey… she could have easily underestimated them and perished.

Izuku pins all the theories to the board, wishing he had evidence for any of them. He highly doubted there would be footage or witnesses— he was never that lucky. He turns to Shouto to ask for his opinion and finds that the hero has fallen asleep on the floor.

The idol feels his gaze soften. Shouto deserves a good rest, especially after what had happened yesterday. Izuku won’t wake him. As he turns back to the mad tangle of red thread, Izuku remembers the empty look in Shouto’s mismatched eyes before he’d emerged from the flashback. It looks like he isn’t the only one in their house who needs therapy.

Izuku reviews the board’s contents once more before he quickly cleans up the papers strewn across the ground. He’s going to take a little break and make more coffee before he dives back in. Stumbling into the kitchen, he brews a cup of the strongest black gold he can, listening to the quiet gurgle of the hot water. The sound is gentle enough to lull him to sleep, but Izuku pinches his bruised hip, startling himself into wakefulness. He’s pulling an all-nighter whether it’s advisable or not.

Having acquired caffeine, the idol returns to the living room. He almost sits on the sofa before realizing that he can’t just leave Shouto on the carpet like that— the hero will wake up in agony if he stays in that cramped position. Izuku sets the mug down and goes to Shouto, carefully lifting him up. Shouto doesn’t stir. Instead, he mutters something indistinct and presses his face into Izuku’s chest.

“Why are you so cute,” he grumbles, gently setting the hero on the couch. “It’s not fair.”

Of course, Shouto doesn’t answer. Izuku lets out a quiet sigh, watching the steady rise and fall of the other man’s chest. Now that his bodyguard is asleep and he’s made some progress in the investigation, the idol’s thoughts plunge into introspective territory.

Why and how is Izuku crushing on someone? He doesn’t normally form attachments, least of all romantic ones. He’s the type who never takes off the mask, who makes out with people in bars solely because it’s fun, and the haze that wraps around him when he drinks makes it even better.

Shouto is the only person who’s gotten under his facade. Katsuki was already there, had dwelled there for years, and assorted people had seen bits and pieces of his true self. People like Kirishima, who were too friendly and curious to push away; people like Hinata, who got invested in those around them because they were team players at their core.

But none of them are like Shouto, who’s alarmingly talented at rolling with the punches and filled to the brim with dry wit and warm sincerity. None of them have calmly pushed him to take care of himself or helped him defeat a pro hero. None of them have lived with him for weeks at a time, weathering his ridiculous quirks (heh) and learning what makes him tick.

(None of them are so chaotically beautiful. Shouto is one of the most attractive people he’s ever seen in his life. Seriously, Izuku hangs out with models and idols all the time, and a scant three of them hold a candle to the bodyguard.)

And the worst part— the best part?— is that Shouto doesn’t even ask for anything in return. He certainly doesn’t expect Izuku to put out— he seems confused by affection and words of reassurance.  He’s just compassionate, in spite of an upbringing meant to harden him into a weapon. He just cares, in a way that few people have ever cared about Izuku before.

The idol stops himself from reaching out, tearing his eyes away from the slumbering Temperate Hero and focusing on his distant cup of coffee instead. Izuku can’t do this— he can’t handle emotional depth. What is he supposed to do with the warmth vibrating under his sternum? He’s not allowed to cling to Shouto. It’d end badly if he tried, right?

Izuku returns to the spot before the board and drains half the coffee in one sip. The bitterness doesn’t really temper his sweet feelings. Regardless, he starts paging through everything again. Has he missed something? Anything? What can he look for? Now he wishes that he and Shouto hadn’t been so hasty, that they’d paid more attention to the crime scene. Maybe then they’d have more to go on.

Ugh. He can’t do anything about it now.

 

-

 

Two more hours pass before Izuku surfaces from his researching haze. The awareness of a disgusting taste in the back of his throat pushes him into Actually Being A Functional Human Person (meaning he goes to the bathroom, cleans up, and brushes his goddamn teeth). When he returns to the living room, something in the air has changed.

He frowns, wondering what’s caught his attention, when he hears a soft cry of pain. Quickly, he runs to Shouto. The hero is in the midst of another nightmare.

Izuku’s hands flutter above Shouto’s trembling shoulder. He doesn’t want to wake him— Shouto’s likely to panic and throw a punch. Worse, he might activate his Quirk and torch the apartment. No, Izuku has to…

Sing. He has to sing, weaving calm and peace into the words. The idol quickly scrolls through his internal bank of songs and manages to find one that is suitably slow-paced.

Someday, I'll break the chain of gravity and take you to the satellite…

Looking for you in the town,

I wandered through the streets at night.

Your voice on the phone made me nervous for some reason…

When I found you, your eyes were red.

Don't pretend nothing has happened!

I just can't leave you sinking in a dark swamp…!

Someday, I'll release the chain of gravity, and the satellite will fly around space.

Your weight will be 1/6 there.

If I could lighten your sorrow,

I wouldn’t need anything else.

Someday, I'll take you there, out of the gravity.

Izuku falters when he realizes Shouto is awake and blinking sleepily at him. Suddenly struck with anxiety, he stammers, “Did I wake you up? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“It’s okay,” Shouto replies, sitting up. “It’s not like I was having pleasant dreams. And you’re a great singer… obviously…”

The hero’s words trail off into a yawn. Izuku ducks his head, both to hide his blush and to keep himself from staring at the adorable display. Shame box, he reminds himself, shame box. Not out in the open.

Because he’s a fucking idiot, the idol proceeds to blurt, “So it’s about 6:00 in the morning, and I didn’t sleep at all, which is why I noticed your phone kept chiming.”

Shouto retrieves his cell from the table and taps the power button. His eyes widen as he looks at the notifications.

“What is it?” Izuku says, correctly interpreting the hero’s expression as bad.

Shouto lowers the device, saying, “Toga’s murder has hit the news. Turn on the TV, will you?”

Izuku scrambles for the remote and settles on the couch next to Shouto. The Musutafu Morning Update is on, and the man behind the desk is frowning.

“…repeat, for those of you just tuning in, Toga Himiko, a serial killer that has been terrorizing Japan for years, was found dead last night. The vigilante Checkmate apparently discovered the body, and proceeded to contact Hallowed, Inc. He is unavailable for comment, but the sidekick Nova had a few words regarding the situation.”

The footage cuts to an interview with Nova, an elfin boy with messy hair and gunmetal blue eyes. He’s shaking his head and saying, “When I got the call, I genuinely thought Checkmate was joking. I didn’t think someone like her could be dead, not after everything she’s done. I guess it’s a good thing I took him seriously.”

Izuku throws up his hands. “Why in the fuck would I lie about something like that?!”

“Some people are fools,” Shouto mumbles, eyes fixed on his class chat log.

“What are they saying?”

Shouto passes the phone to the idol, who tunes out the TV and starts reading.

froppy: guys have you seen the morning news

diamonds_got_nothing_on_me: no, why??

diamonds_got_nothing_on_me: oh SHIT

blasty-mcsplode: what the fuck? what the literal fuck, who got the drop on HER?!

froppy: this is surreal, i never expected her to die

froppy: not that i’m sad about it. she really hurt ochako-chan

screw-gravity: who hurt me?? who’s dead??

local-content-creator: Uraraka-san, Checkmate found Toga’s body last night.

screw-gravity: !!!!!

blasty-mcsplode: brb i have to go yell at someone but honestly, good riddance bitch

Glasses_President: Bakugou-san, it is inappropriate for a hero to say such callous things!

blasty-mcsplode: she literally stabbed round face thirteen times but go the fuck off, emergency exit

“Wait, she stabbed someone you know thirteen times?” Izuku asks, wide-eyed. “Who’s Round Face?”

“He and Froppy are talking about the same person— Uravity,” Shouto explains. “Toga was somewhat obsessed with her, at least for a period of time. She attacked Uraraka on her way to the mall when we were… sixteen, I think?”

“Christ.”

“Yeah, our years at UA were… not fun. Anyway, was Bakugou supposed to be yelling at you?”

“Probably, but I bet he texted the burner, which you destroyed. I won’t be surprised if he barges in soon,” Izuku says.

Just as he finishes his sentence, they hear the sound of a key turning in the lock. Izuku turns to the door with narrowed eyes, expecting to be screamed at, when he realizes that Katsuki usually kicks down the door rather than using his key. So who the hell is coming here this early in the morning?

The answer to that is, surprisingly, Sunspot.

He looks like shit, to be quite frank. His hair is even messier than usual, and his normally vibrant eyes are sporting deep bags. It's not trendy.

“Hinata? What happened?” Izuku asks tentatively. He stands and shepherds the businessman into his room before he can ask about the corkboard. As the door drifts shut behind them, Shouto hurriedly shoves their conspiracy display into the pantry.

Hinata’s expression is caught between fury and pity. Minutes pass before he says anything, and in that time, the hero manages to hide all the remnants of their investigation. He slips into Izuku’s bedroom and waits for Hinata to speak.

Apparently having gathered his thoughts, the photokinetic says, “So to everyone's shock and general panic, the rumors were right.”

Izuku exchanges a glance with Shouto and asks, “What rumors?” He remembers Yachi mentioning something to that effect, but she'd never specified what she was talking about.

“Wow, of course no one told you. Uh, you're going on a world tour in a week.”

If the idol had been drinking coffee at that moment, he would have spit it out. As it is, he ends up choking on his own saliva and has to be repeatedly smacked between the shoulder blades by Shouto.

“You've got to be joking,” he wheezes after he finally catches his breath.

Hinata gives him the most profoundly unimpressed glare he's ever received in his life. “Dekiru, I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. The executives caught wind of this a few days ago. We all thought it was crazy, so we ignored it. Serves us right.”

“What kind of company is this?” Shouto asks sharply. “You don't seem to tell your idols anything!”

“Kemuri has gone mad,” mutters the businessman. “That's really the only explanation. This never would have happened a few years ago— though I suppose things have changed. Especially on that front… anyway, there honestly isn't anything I can do. He's too angry to listen to me or Yacchan.”

“Why?” Izuku asks. He'd chalked Hinata’s exhaustion up to the Sports Illustrated deal his partner had mentioned in passing, but that didn't account for how stressed Yachi had been yesterday. What had happened behind the scenes? What had he missed when he'd been focused on his side job and his hopeless crush?

“There's— ugh, I can't really say anything. It'd probably be a contract breach. It's nothing to do with you… at least not directly.”

Shouto folds his arms, acidly saying, “Is there any information you'd like to give us?”

“Listen, Candyland, you can yell at me all you want,” Hinata says, “but I'm only the messenger.”

Izuku feels as if the world has dropped out from underneath him, and he's floating aimlessly in space. Ha. Maybe he'll fly to the moon, freed from the grasp of gravity. He manages to weakly ask, “When is the M/V being released?”

“The Loser video and the album ‘Adrift'— Akashiya-san named it for you, please thank her— come out in three days. It looks like you and the Shibutani twins are winging the choreography for the new songs on stage.”

“Oh, wonderful,” Izuku says hysterically. He hates coming up with choreography on the fly. It doesn't matter that he's good at it. “Like I needed more stress.”

Shouto wordlessly takes his hand, looking like he wants to freeze Hinata to the floor and leap out the window with Izuku in tow. Izuku squeezes the hero's frigid fingers, grateful for the reassurance. It gives him the strength to stutter, “Okay. I'm going to go talk to Kemuri-san. Just wait in the living room so Shoucchan and I can get ready.”

“I'll do that. I'm probably also going to eat all of your ice cream,” Hinata replies. “I miss being fifteen and not worrying about my future. Or bills. I used to be stupid enough to not calculate taxes, but here I am, trying to run a company. I kinda wish Asahi-senpai would send a spike into my face, killing me instantly.”

Izuku dispels enough of his panic to say, “Dude, are you okay?”

“I haven't slept in 38 hours, but thanks for asking,” he mumbles. “Bye, now.”

Hinata leaves the room, and the two men hear a soft whump as he faceplants onto the couch. Deciding that he's far enough out of hearing (and caring) range, Izuku hisses, “Shouto, what the hell am I going to do?! This has never, ever happened before— the other stuff I can excuse, but I was always told about touring! Especially international tours!”

“Try to convince the CEO to postpone it. It's not like the tour has already been announced; you still have time to change his mind,” the hero offers.

“I don't know if I can,” Izuku frets, disentangling their hands to pace back and forth.

“Then you call Bakugou and tell him to destroy the whole building,” Shouto suggests blandly. “That'll give him something else to worry about.”

Izuku giggles in spite of himself. “Don't give him ideas. Kacchan hates my boss. Once we ran into him while we were out getting ramen, and he took out his hearing aids when Kemuri-san tried to talk to him.”

“I can picture it so clearly,” Shouto murmurs. “Alright. Let's get ready to fight.”

“I can't wear my costume to work,” complains Izuku, but he can't help shakily smiling as Shouto leaves the room.

 


 

He puts on a layer of makeup like it’s battle armor, lining his eyes with forest-green pencil and concealing the shadows underneath them. Then he assembles the most competent looking outfit he’s worn in weeks. When Izuku stares at the echo in the mirror, he barely recognizes himself. This is what happens when he finally stops trying to be what other people expect: he forgets how to act.

Closing his eyes, the idol takes a minute to calm himself, and proceeds to reenter the living room. Hinata is perched on the kitchen counter, demolishing a tub of chocolate ice cream. Shouto is watching him with the subtlest air of judgement Izuku’s ever witnessed. What a man.

(Well. He's a man with a smudge of toothpaste at the corner of his mouth. He’ll have to tell Shouto to fix that.)

“Okay,” he says, catching their attention. “Let’s go. Hinata-san, are we taking your car?”

“Sure,” Hinata says. He sets the tub aside with a mournful look. Shouto shakes his head and goes to open the door, apparently having decided to not dignify the businessman with his presence any longer. Izuku snorts quietly, following his bodyguard all the way to the parking garage. Up until the end, Hinata trails them like a sunny shadow.

He finally speaks up when they stop by a modest Honda. “This is mine.”

“I kinda expected you to have a fancy car,” Izuku says as he and Shouto hop into the backseat. “Not that this one isn’t nice, but…”

“I had a Rolls Royce. It got wrecked in LA,” Hinata chirps.

Shouto seems to be seriously considering wrenching the steering wheel out of the other man’s hands, so Izuku quickly says, “Uh, was it your fault?”

“No, it’s just that no one in America knows how to use their turn signals!”

After that reassuring statement, they settle into a poignant silence, in which Izuku tries to figure out how to structure an argument. He’s prone to rambling when he’s nervous, but he knows, he just knows that Kemuri will take that as a sign of weakness. He has to channel Present Mic’s charisma and Eraserhead’s tendency to never give a fuck. He has to debate like a rational person.

Oh, he’s screwed. He might as well turn around and pack his bags now. He’s touring— that’s it, that’s the end of that, do not pass go—

Shouto has to coax him out of the car when they arrive at the building. Izuku chews the inside of his cheek as they walk inside, trying his damnedest not to look like a cornered animal or a prisoner walking to the gallows. He doesn’t think he’s succeeding.

“Are you okay?” Shouto asks in a hushed voice. Izuku realizes then that the hero has probably never seen him in this much of a panic. Sure, he’s seen Izuku coming off the battle high and freaking out over his bare face, but he’s never actually met Kemuri, so he doesn’t know…

He doesn’t know what that’s like.

“I’m alive? Kind of? And by the way, you have some toothpaste on your face,” he offers after some time trickles by without a response. Shouto wipes the white blob away, face pinched in worry, but whatever words of reassurance he’s about to offer are drowned out by the receptionist calling for him.

“Dekiru-kun! Hi! I have something for you!”

Izuku pastes on a smile and approaches her desk. “Hey, Hani-chan. What is it?”

She holds up her hand in a one-moment-please gesture and ducks under the desk. A beat later, she reappears with a massive bouquet of flowers. Izuku takes them, quickly peeking at the card stuffed between two gigantic pink carnations.

It says, in incredibly messy handwriting, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

That’s a vague message. If Izuku was in one of his paranoid moods, he’d probably interpret it as a threat. As it is, this is an unexpected surprise, and one that is doing wonders for his anxiety.

“Someone dropped that off for you in the middle of the night,” explains Hani. “I had to use Revitalize on them once or twice, but they stayed fresh! Do you like them?”

“Yeah,” Izuku murmurs, eyes scanning over the colorful petals. There are crocuses, gladioli, wallflowers, and more. Who had done this? A dedicated fan? Izuku wishes he knew, if only to thank them.

“Thanks, Hani,” he finally manages, returning to Shouto and Hinata. He happens to reach them at the same moment as a black haired agent (the one who drifts around the building with the world’s most absent minded glare).

“Hey, dumbass,” the office bodyguard says to Hinata. “Wow, you look like a mess.”

He ruffles the businessman’s unruly hair to punctuate this. Hinata shrieks at a pitch previously unknown to man and says, “Quit that! And I'm not a dumbass! At least not more so than usual!”

“Tiny dumbass,” the man reaffirms, his cobalt eyes smug.

“Tiny?! I'll jump over your head, I'll show you—” Hinata screeches, and then they're tearing out of the lobby.

“Well,” Izuku says, “that was weird, but at least he cheered Sunspot up. Things are always out of whack when he's upset.”

“I think their relationship is founded on annoying each other. They were bickering when I first came here, you know,” Shouto answers. “Anyway, good luck. Call me if you need me.”

“Thanks,” Izuku whispers, burying his face into his newly acquired gift. The idol takes one last, deep breath, committing the scent of the flowers to memory. Then he hands the bouquet to Shouto and walks to the elevators without another word.

If he'd stayed any longer, he probably would've lost his nerve.

 

-

 

The elevator ride simultaneously takes too much time and not enough. Izuku thinks through his case again and again, thinks of Shouto’s ice and fire in his hands, thinks of the investigation he has to see through, thinks, thinks, thinks—

The door opens and Izuku steps into Kemuri’s office, which takes up the entirety of the building’s top floor. Directly across from him stands the CEO, although his back is turned to the idol.

“Hi, Kemuri-san,” he says, desperately thankful that his Quirk allows for voice control. If it weren’t for that, there would have been a mortifying crack in the middle of the greeting.

Kemuri turns around, and Izuku tries not to balk at the sight of his obsidian eyes. They’ve always looked through Izuku instead of at him, like they’re searching for what he could be rather than what he is.

“Hello, Dekiru-kun,” Kemuri says silkily. His hair shines strangely in the light. Like an oil spill, like a flash of rainbow swirling on pitch black. It’s a suitable comparison; this man is nothing if not slick.

“I’ve just heard something rather concerning from Sunspot,” Izuku starts. “I’m sure you know what I’m talking about—”

“Yes, yes,” Kemuri responds, waving off Izuku’s words as if they’re nothing but a particularly annoying swarm of flies. “Before we get into all of that, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“I’ve been… well?”

Why did it come out like a question? Oh, god, that’s a sign of uncertainty; I’m going to be ripped to shreds—

“That’s good. You’re staying out of trouble?”

There’s something quite pointed about that question. With a surprising amount of firmness, Izuku answers, “As well as I can when there are villains after me.”

“Hm. There is that. It seems that bodyguard of yours has been keeping you safe,” the CEO says. “To be expected from the son of Endeavor.”

Izuku nearly bites through his tongue to keep himself from screeching, “Shouto is his own fucking person! Fuck Endeavor! He’s dead anyway!” Instead, he unsticks his jaw and says,

“Of course. Now, Kemuri-san, what’s this about a world tour? It’s so unexpected.”

Kemuri smiles at him with a few too many teeth. “Have you ever heard the saying ‘Variety is the spice of life?’ Or perhaps the adage of that famous skater— he always said that he had to surprise his audience. I happen to agree with those statements.”

“I see, but sir, there’s a difference between surprising the fans and surprising the idol himself.”

“Is there? I’m sorry you see it that way,” Kemuri sighs, shaking his head. He walks toward Izuku and places a hand on his shoulder. It’s intended as a fatherly gesture and nothing more, but something in the touch makes ants crawl under Izuku’s skin. A Kill Bill siren starts to wail in the back of his head.

“Listen, Dekiru-kun,” murmurs Kemuri. “I hate to burden you with this, but there’s something you need to know. The company is struggling a bit. If you go on the tour, you can help us. Be our hero.”

The idol’s breath catches in his throat. Undeterred, his boss continues, “You’re a good person, aren’t you, Dekiru-kun? You want the best for others?”

Izuku nods before he can stop himself.

“That means you know what you have to do.”

“Sir—!”

The grip on his shoulder tightens an infinitesimal amount. “I’ve done so much for you, Midoriya Izuku. Won’t you give me this?”

He’s lost. Izuku’s never known with so much certainty that he’s lost a fight.

“Okay, Kemuri-san,” he says, voice one octave above silent.

“Excellent,” Kemuri purrs. “Your first concert will be at Tokyo Dome. Make me proud.”

He releases Izuku, gives him a final smile, and strides into the elevator.

The idol is left staring at the skyline, his heart and mind racing.

Chapter Text

Shouto had been hoping that the talk would go well. But he rarely gets what he wants.

So it’s disappointing— but not at all surprising— when Izuku walks out of the elevator sporting no expression at all. The hero gets to his feet and hurries to him, the flowers swinging from his fingers.

(He finds himself worrying that the heat from his left side has damaged them, but that’s the least of his problems.)

For half a minute, they stand across from each other. Then Izuku’s lower lip wobbles, and he sways alarmingly. Shouto drops the bouquet not a moment too soon.

Izuku nearly collapses into his arms, saying, “He didn’t— didn’t even give me a chance— it’s like I’m a child around him—!”

Shouto grips the idol’s shoulders to steady him, his mind echoing with the memory of similar breakdowns, once, twice, countless times in the past. His heart aches upon seeing Izuku in the same pain.

“Let’s get out of here,” he whispers fervently. “Let’s go home.”

Izuku, his eyes shining with unshed tears, nods.

(As they exit the building, Hani quickly leaves her place at the welcome desk. She scoops up the bouquet, and with a flash of light, the scattered petals and wilted stems return to their former glory.)

 

-

 

Shouto calls a cab to take them back to the apartment and pays the driver triple to ensure he’ll keep his mouth shut. The whole time, Izuku keeps trying not to break down, but sobs intermittently escape him. He’s shaking like a leaf. Homicidal rage wells up in Shouto. He’s never wanted to kill a civilian before, but Kemuri has successfully pushed him to his breaking point. Thank hell Iida can’t hear Shouto's thoughts right now— he would certainly scold him.

But the hero doesn’t give a shit. A single thought cycles through his mind: “Someone hurt him. How dare they hurt him?”

Upon their arrival (which had taken half the amount of time it should have, thanks to the cabbie’s sort-of-reckless driving), he bundles the idol into their home and shepherds him onto the couch. Izuku covers his face, whispering, “Sorry, I’m sorry. I’m being a baby, and I know I look awful.”

“Aren’t you the person who told me not to be ashamed of what I feel?” Shouto asks, taking a seat next to him. “And I don’t care about how you look. Crying in real life is always messy. Anyone who says otherwise is a goddamn liar.”

Izuku lets out a choked laugh and nestles into Shouto’s left side. “You’re so blunt.”

“I try.”

The idol falls silent, picking at the threads on the cuff of his sleeve. He pulls too hard on one, and the edge unravels. Dropping his wrist with a quiet curse, he says, “That’s how that conversation went. I opened my mouth and the whole thing spiraled out of my control.”

“What did he say to you? What did he do?” Shouto asks, trying valiantly to keep the anger out of his voice. He doesn’t think he succeeds. Shit, he realizes while Izuku sniffles again, am I agreeing with Bakugou? Without the threat of a battle hanging over my head?

“He said… he said if I was a good person, if I cared about the company, I’d go on tour. I just— I shut down. How can you argue against that? ‘No, I’m a shitty person? No, fuck this company?’”

Shouto seethes. “He had no right. That’s manipulation at its finest…”

It was a tactic Endeavor had tried a few times. If Shouto had had any love left for that man, it might have worked. As it was, the young hero could never bring himself to care… unlike Izuku, who clearly possessed some good will toward his terrible boss.

“I know. God, I know,” Izuku whispers, scrubbing at his cheek. “It took me so long to notice… he used to mean everything to me, you know? He gave me so much; he made me feel so loved…  But for about a year now, he’s been scaring me. I started picking up on all these little things, things I never saw as a kid. None of them were good.”

Bakugou’s words replay in his mind. Some rich piece of shit found a depressed boy singing on a street corner and saw an opportunity. Damn him. Izuku was a person, not a means to an end. And together, they’d find a way to prove it.

Shouto exhales heavily. “Alright. Izuku, you might have to do this tour, but… you won’t be alone. I’ll be with you as long as you need me.”

“You’ll follow me to the ends of the earth?” Izuku asks with a shaky smile.

“If you want me to.”

(The admission shouldn’t have come out so sincerely, but it was too late now.)

Closing his eyes, the idol leans further into Shouto. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Shouto wraps an arm around him and thinks, You never have to thank me for caring.

“Don’t mention it.”

 

-

 

Izuku falls asleep with tears and ruined makeup staining his face. At first, Shouto doesn’t dare twitch, fearing that he’ll wake him. The idol needed his rest, especially after their late-night escapades and the morning’s emotional roller coaster.

But he gathers the courage to shimmy out from under Izuku, because he needs to do something. He needs to feel useful. If that means stress-cleaning the apartment again, Shouto will bloody well do it. So clean he does. The hero organizes papers, sweeps and dusts, and most importantly, gets the corkboard out of the pantry and into his room. He leans it against his dresser and checks to make sure nothing was damaged when he’d hastily stowed it away. Thankfully, all the posts and strings are in place.

When Shouto is in the midst of straightening his bedclothes, he hears the door fly open. The hero drops the edge of the blanket and rushes to the living room. He tackles Bakugou— because of course it’s Bakugou— into the hallway, preventing him from shrieking at the top of his lungs.

“Shut-up-he’s-sleeping!” Shouto hisses in one breath. Bakugou blinks at him and slowly closes his mouth.

Upon securing the blond’s cooperation, Shouto backs away. He notes that Bakugou smells like smoke and nitroglycerin— he must’ve been in a fight before he’d stormed over here. Huh. He doesn’t look injured, but Shouto knows damn well that not all wounds are visible.

So he softly queries, “Are you okay?”

“Eh? I’m fine. Those third-rate shits I just took out had fourth-rate Quirks. It’s Izuku I really want to throw down with. Why the hell didn’t he say anything about Toga?”

“Look, we had to ditch the burner, since Hallowed, Inc. has apparently recruited a person with a technology based Quirk. I’m sure you can add two plus two. Then we spent the night investigating, and in the morning, that bastard Kemuri told Izuku he’s going on a world tour.”

Bakugou’s palms crackle and explode. “What?! With no warning?!”

“Keep your goddamn voice down!” Shouto snaps. “God… yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever been so pissed. He cried himself to sleep.”

“I’m going to kill that man. I swear to god I’ll smash his head like a fucking pumpkin—”

“That’s too obvious. You have to make it look like an accident,” corrects the Temperate Hero, his tone far from mild. “Cut his fucking brakes and send him careening over the edge of an overpass.”

For a minute, Bakugou looks surprised, but he recovers and bares his teeth in a grin. “Shit, Todoroki, I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Trust me, I’ve envisioned plenty of fiery death scenarios over the years. I don’t…”

The sound of the door opening makes them both jump. Shouto glances over his shoulder and sees that one of them had woken Izuku after all. He seems miserable, and the dark smudges of green eyeliner no longer enhance his striking eyes. Instead, they make his features look hollow.

Without a word, the idol walks over to Bakugou and rests his head on his shoulder. The blond wraps his arms around Izuku in an uncharacteristically gentle gesture. After a moment of pure silence, Izuku whispers,

“Kacchan, I’m tired.”

Bakugou tightens his hold, meeting Shouto’s gaze over a nest of fluffy hair. The protective fury writ across his face sends chills down the hero’s spine.

 


 

Murder plans and breakdowns aside, the world kicks into warp drive the next day. Izuku and Shouto spend their time reviewing everything they have to do before the first concert and their impending departure from the country.

“I might have to convince Kacchan to go out as Checkmate,” Izuku mutters as he throws out a stack of junk mail. “I doubt anyone will make the connection, but my paranoia has served me well.”

“Well, it’s best to tie up all your loose ends,” Shouto mutters, a horrible realization creeping up on him. Long ago, back when he’d first met Izuku, he’d ordered an investigation into the attacks. And he hadn’t returned to his agency to review it since that day. Sure, he’s kept in touch with his sidekicks and other staff through email, but he genuinely has no clue if they’ve found anything.

“Wow, that sounded ominous. What’s your ‘loose end?’” Izuku asks, setting down another stack of papers.

“I just remembered that I need to confer with my agency about an investigation pertaining to you. I can probably blame everything on Toga and call the whole thing off, so you’ll be free to operate. Is that okay?”

Nodding, Izuku says, “Good plan. And everything really was Toga’s fault, so it’s not like you’re lying. Take care.”

“You too,” Shouto says, catching the idol’s hand. Izuku squeezes his fingers in response and breaks away, saying,

“I’ll be just fine.”

 

-

 

Walking into Phoenix Agency makes Shouto’s metaphorical hackles raise, because even after all this time, his father’s shadow still lurks in every corner. It doesn’t matter that he’d fired most of the old bastard’s staff and everyone who works here now loves him. This place is infuriating.

Maybe he needs to renovate it. Maybe he just needs to leave.

Shouto’s PR manager meets him on his way up to the sidekicks’ floor. She has a rice ball in one hand and is tapping away on a tablet with the other.

“Hey, Todoroki-kun,” she says through a mouthful of food. “It’s good to see you back.”

“Same to you, Shiro—”

“None of that. Call me Yukie,” the brown haired woman interrupts. She finishes her snack and continues, “Anyway, your sidekicks will be happy to see you, but I think you should have brought them a gift or something. You’ve been neglectful.”

Shouto sighs. He sure has, but that’s the problem with Izuku. He’s magnetic, a planet with powerful gravity, and he pulled and pulled Shouto in until he’d actually forgotten he was a hero with responsibilities outside of “catch bad guys.” Damn.

Yukie stows her tablet into a purse and opens the door to the sidekicks’ office space. All five of them pause upon seeing Shouto. Then Gingersnap drawls, “Oh, General Freezerburn’s back. Everyone, salute!”

Hawk’s Eye hits him on the back of the head with a stack of reports, saying, “Never mind him, sir. It’s nice to see you again.”

“Nice to see you too,” Shouto replies, walking toward them. The three other sidekicks line up, and he gives them a small smile.

“Did he just smile at us?” White Lion whispers with the subtlety of a jet engine.

“I think he did,” Syracuse says, their skin composition changing with surprise.

Mako hisses at them to shut up, relying on Hawk’s Eye to back her up with a glare. The older sidekick does not disappoint— she levels Lion and Syracuse with such a vicious look that Shouto winces. Deciding he better intervene before the five of them get into a fight, the hero says,

“I know I dropped the ball in regards to all of you, for which I apologize. I was very preoccupied with—” shit, I can’t call him by his first name in front of them; they’ll be insufferable about it— “Midoriya.”

“We understand!” Syracuse says. “Did you get us any autographs?”

Fuck, Yukie was right about the apology gifts. Shouto searches for something to pacify them and comes up with, “No, but I happen to know there’s a new album coming out. The official announcement hasn’t been posted yet, so you’re ahead of the curve.”

“Yes!! I’ve got to get it for Alisa!” Lion says, bouncing in excitement. The sight is downright comical, considering the young man is close to 200 centimeters tall.

“Midoriya worked hard on those songs, so do enjoy them. Anyway, speaking of him, I’d like you to close the Dekiru Investigation.”

“Eh?” says Gingersnap, suddenly straightening. “Why?”

“Shocking as it may seem, I was doing an investigation of my own. I discovered that Toga Himiko was the one who instigated the string of murder attempts. She apparently intended to play some sort of game with Midoriya. But as we’ve heard, she’s no longer a problem. In addition, Midoriya is leaving the country soon, and domestic affairs should take priority.”

Gingersnap’s dark eyes harden. “That doesn’t mean that everything is fine and dandy, Freezerburn.”

For such flippant phrasing, the sidekick’s words have a sharp edge of protectiveness. Shouto briefly entertains the thought of Gingersnap leading this agency— he’s certainly got the Quirk and the calculating mind to pull it off. And he’s an ambitious bastard to boot. Dismissing the idea, the hero replies,

“Perhaps not. But there hasn’t been an attack for a considerable length of time, and with one of their most famed figures gone, the majority of villains will try staying under the radar. Please focus on your other projects— isn’t Mogami operating in this area now?”

“He is,” Mako confirms. “And we think he’s stalking a boy with a Quirk similar to his.”

“Damn,” Shouto swears. Mogami is a piece of work, and the thought of him near a child is maddening. “Let’s take him out. Put a discreet protective detail on the kid— Hawk’s Eye, you can gather a team for that— and Mako, see if your brother’s agency is willing to help us.”

“Got it,” the redhead says. She places a call and hurries out of the room. As she steps into the hallway, Shouto hears her chirp, “Rin-nii, Phoenix needs…”

“Excellent. Continue your work; you’re all very capable individuals, and lord knows heroes like you make the world a better place. I’ll see you when I return with Midoriya,” Shouto says, giving the assembled sidekicks a sharp nod. He strides out (staunchly ignoring Gingersnap’s searching gaze) and notes that Yukie and Mako have both left the area. Wonderful. He’ll see himself out.

Before Shouto makes it to the elevator, White Lion runs up to him, clutching a slim folder. He pushes the file into Shouto’s hands, saying, “Wait! Before you go, I need to talk to you about something!”

“Are you giving me a resignation letter?” Shouto jokes dryly. He cracks the folder open, and a mere glimpse of the contents sends a spike of panic through him.

There are photos. Photos of Checkmate and Dekiru side-by-side, which can only mean—

“Midoriya-san is a vigilante, right?” Lion says earnestly.

Shouto moves before he can think. He grabs the other man by the shirt and drags him into an unoccupied conference room. Shutting the door behind him and ordering Lion to sit, the Temperate Hero demands, “Just how did you come up with this theory?”

“Oh, it was pretty easy! All I had to do was look through a lot of reports and interviews, and analyze a bunch of footage, and the picture came together!” Lion says.

Shouto pinches the bridge of his nose, trying hard not to scream. He had forgotten that though Lion acted childish, he wasn’t stupid. What the hell is he going to do about this? Throw Lion in jail? Ship him back to Russia? Yeah, that’d go over so well.

“Who else knows?” Shouto finally says.

Lion blinks in confusion. “No one! I wanted to tell you first, in person, but you never came. So I’ve kind of just been waiting around with all this stuff.”

Shouto gives the folder a considering look, gives Lion another considering look, and then sets the whole dossier on fire. Ashes flutter to the floor, and Shouto says in his most pleasantly acidic voice, “Listen to me, White Lion. You will not tell anyone about this. You will destroy any copies of that file, and you will pretend that you know nothing. Is that clear?”

“Why?” Lion asks, frowning. “I mean, isn’t it important—”

“Do you want your favorite idol in jail? Because that is what will happen if you open your damn mouth. Despite everything, Izuku is not a licensed hero, and that means all his good deeds will go up in smoke if this information is released. It could also put him in more danger than he’s already in.”

“‘Izuku,’” Lion repeats. Shouto bites his tongue and thinks of a violent curse that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ground Zero interview. He hadn’t meant to say…

With a clap, the sidekick chirps, “Okay, I’ll forget about it. I think Checkmate is a super good person! So I won’t do anything, and I’ll distract Gingersnap-san if he tries to keep digging!”

Shouto, who had not expected such an easy acquiescence, stares blankly at Lion. The sidekick himself seems unperturbed, continuing, “Besides, since you really like him, I can’t damage your relationship!”

The Temperate Hero’s entire left side goes up in flames. They flicker for a good twenty seconds before Shouto reigns himself in, channels Aizawa, and orders, “Oh, clean up this mess and go do something productive, you brat!”

Lion’s bright laughter rings in his ears the whole way home.

 


 

Izuku opens the door before Shouto so much as touches the knob. “Get in here,” he says maniacally, “I just got the list of cities we’re going to, and I have to Scream™.”

“Wait, before you say anything, I have to tell you something,” Shouto says, half-dragging the idol to the couch. “It seems my team has been a little too busy in my absence.”

“Huh? What happened?”

“Um, in the simplest terms possible, one of my sidekicks figured out you were Checkmate.”

“What?!” Izuku cries. “How—”

“I don’t know any specifics; I burned the file and started threatening him before I thought of rifling through it. But he said something about looking at interviews and footage and it being ‘easy?’”

Izuku presses his face into his hands with a panicked whine. “Is he going to tell anyone?”

“No, he said he wouldn’t. And he is the world’s worst liar, so he had to have been telling the truth. He offered to run interference from here on out,” Shouto assures. “I’m sorry I never checked on my agents before. I never thought…”

Okay, he can’t say “I never thought they’d actually find anything,” because insinuating his sidekicks are incompetent is a) rude, and b) categorically untrue. There’s no real excuse for how foolish he’s been.

“It’s fine,” Izuku mutters. “This is my fault. I’m the one who’s been slipping up, saying dumb shit on V-Live and ignoring cameras. I can’t believe this stupidity didn’t occur to me when that kid said he’d found me by hacking CCTV feeds…”

“To be fair, Hiro is a genius,” offers Shouto.

“Still… okay, I’ll tell Katsuki to start pulling things down and planting evidence to mislead anyone else who looks too close.”

“Good plan. It’ll work out, I promise,” Shouto says. He hopes it’s not a blatant lie.

“Alright,” Izuku says, exhaling sharply, “now that I’m no longer in danger of cardiac arrest, here’s the tour list.” He tosses his Stark Phone at Shouto, who snatches it out of the air and looks at the open email.

To: dekiru-official@kemuri.org

From: yachi.hitoka@sunflower.com

Subject: World Tour

Hi, Dekiru-kun… we’ve received more details.

Your first tour is in Tokyo. Following that, you’ll go to Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, and Vancouver. You’re supposed to get to each city two days early (one day is set aside for rest, and the second for sightseeing, I suppose).

This schedule is grueling. Hinata tried to argue with Kemuri, but… that didn't go well. I wish you luck, Dekiru-kun. Please take care of yourself.

Attachment: world_tour.docx (45.6 KB)

—Flora

Shouto takes one look at the attachment and has to set the phone aside. “Is he insane? It might be only five concerts, but with that little space between them, you’ll be worked to death.”

“Such is the life of an idol,” Izuku laughs bitterly. “Like I said before, at least if I collapse, it’ll be a hell of a statement. I’m gonna call Katsuki. You finish packing.”

Shooting the idol a worried glance, Shouto returns to his room. He methodically fits his life into a duffel bag, trying valiantly not to picture stuffing Kemuri’s body into it. As the hero tries to find a pocket for Hatsume's hair dye, his fingers brush against a small, slim object. Frowning, he withdraws the item, gasping when he realizes what it is.

It’s a jump drive, loaded with a virus that’s capable of thoroughly wiping a hero agency’s servers. Natsuo had coded it ages ago in case they’d ever needed to fuck with their father. Shouto suddenly remembers tossing it into the bag during one of his forced internships at Phoenix. He hadn’t been angry enough to use it then, but…

He can use it now.

Shouto sits back on his heels, his fingers curling around the drive. He trusts Lion, he honestly does, but he won’t be surprised if the sidekick misses something in his deleting spree. He also doesn’t put it past Gingersnap to go too far in a hunt for information and stumble upon his coworker’s discovery. If Shouto crashes Phoenix’s servers, then he can ensure Izuku’s safety.

It isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. After all, the virus would cause a massive setback in all ongoing investigations, and it’d also result in the loss of valuable data— personnel files, tax records, villain profiles, and more.

Shouto closes his eyes, feeling certainty settle over him. He’s weighed one against all, and… well, it looks like the virus is going to serve a nobler purpose than it was originally meant to.

That night, Shouto breaks into his own agency and infects the mainframe with Natsuo’s bug. Every file ever created in headquarters, along with their backups, is wiped away. He allows himself a grim smile.

Everyone in this place shares a hatred of paperwork. Now, the only thing that can be held against Izuku is Lion’s word, should the man have a change of heart… and the word of a 19-year-old sidekick is next to worthless.

Years of effort have slipped down the drain, and Shouto knows he might’ve ruined the agency’s standing in the hero world. But as he’d realized when he’d clocked Shinsou with a pipe, he’s willing to go to alarming lengths for Izuku.

Perhaps it’s because he’s never wanted to hold on to someone this much.

 


 

THE MUSUTAFU HERALD

Freezerburn’s Agency Struck by Hacker

Thousands of Files Destroyed, Investigations Impeded

By Kuroi Hitomi

Last night, at approximately 02:25, the Phoenix Agency was infiltrated by an unknown assailant, who used a virus to wipe the building’s server. The mainframe reportedly suffered so much damage that techs will be working on it for the foreseeable future, and a massive amount of data has been lost. The security system was also affected, leaving the agency vulnerable to other forms of attack.

“This is a difficult situation,” said Gingersnap, one of Freezerburn’s sidekicks. “All our nonessential investigations will have to be suspended, and we may have to continue our pressing work at another agency while our systems are being repaired.”

When asked if this will affect the general public, he said, “Regardless of our current struggle, we will continue to protect the city. Please trust in us.”

Heroes and police are already suspecting the hacker Cheshire, who has been suspiciously quiet as of late. However, they are investigating any and all leads. If you have any information about this attack, please contact MPD at this number or this email address.

NOTE: It is worth mentioning that Freezerburn himself was unavailable for comment.

 

-

 

Missed Calls — Natsuo (5)

best-big-bro: Todoroki Shouto, you call me right fucking now.

best-big-bro: What the hell did you do that for?!

 

-

 

(In a faraway penthouse suite, a shadow shifts to reveal a boy frowning at his phone. He chews on a dye-stained thumbnail, quietly muttering, “These people blame me for everything. I didn’t do that.”

The hero beside him positively cackles.

Meanwhile, Izuku stares at the article and feels a surge of helpless affection. Shit. He really needs to get his bodyguard a gift basket.)

 

-

 

YOU CAN DO IT!

The Official Blog for All Things Dekiru!

Mod_Ren: AN ALBUM AND A MUSIC VIDEO JUST DROPPED! ( LINK ) MAKE SURE TO STREAM AND BUY THE MUSIC LEGALLY!

Genesis: i’m buying twelve copies fuck dude just take my money!!!

yeet-or-be-yeeted: THE MUSIC VIDEO IS GORGEOUS WOOOOOOOW

Extemporaneous: I KNOW LIKE THE ROOFTOP SHOTS?? ETHEREAL, SHOWSTOPPING, TALENTED

um_jin_please_stop: i can’t believe our prayers for new content were answered,,, legendary

exes&nos: hey uhh did anyone else notice that these songs are kinda sad? especially one of the b tracks…

Genesis: oh my god do you mean Home? that one made me cry!

Mod_Alita: Don’t cry! Look at this! ( LINK ) There are rumors that Dekiru is going on tour soon!

SHOW 3564 MORE COMMENTS?

23 seconds ago…

Under_Sky: RUMORS CONFIRMED AAAA BUY YOUR TICKETS FOR THE TOKYO DOME CONCERT N O W!!!

 


 

The day of the concert, the sunset is spectacular. Shouto and Izuku watch the light flicker through the windows of the private car that’s been hired to take them to Tokyo.

“It’s pretty,” Izuku comments, clearly struggling to muster some enthusiasm.

“It is,” Shouto agrees softly. He gives Izuku a once-over. As usual, the idol looks wonderful, though any photographer is likely to question why he’s paired a Ground Zero bomber jacket with a Coccinelle sweater and Best Jeanist pants. He hopes no one is stupid enough to actually ask; the idol is wound up to the point where he might snap and break a paparazzi’s camera.

With a sigh, Shouto puts on his InfoGlasses™ and checks the reports. No threats, atmospheric pressure normal, et cetera, et cetera… nothing relevant. He keeps the technology at hand (at face?) anyway; he doesn’t know what’s in store for them at the venue.

He guesses he’s about to find out.

The chauffeur drops them off at Tokyo Dome and takes their luggage to their hotel. As they’re escorted inside, Shouto gazes at the stadium’s roof, thinking that it really does look like an egg. It’s a chaotic egg, too— the Dome’s staff are scrambling around, Yachi is screeching into a megaphone with surprising volume, and… two people are barreling toward them at the approximate speed of a freight train.

Shouto braces himself for a fight, but Izuku waves him off, holding out his arms. The people take this as permission to tackle him to the ground.

The idol giggles from underneath the duo, his spirits clearly uplifted by their presence. “Touma-kun, Sora-chan!” he cheers. “I missed you guys!”

“We missed you too! Where the hell have you been?” One of the people asks. They clamber off Izuku, and Shouto sees that it’s a pretty girl with a sparkling grin. The other person does the same— oh, jeez, their faces are like mirror images. He’s met few people so obviously related.

Izuku hauls himself up, telling Shouto, “These are the Shibutani twins, Touma and Sora! They’ll be flailing onstage with me.”

“Flailing? Bitch, we’re gonna be graceful,” Touma says, tossing his hair dramatically.

“Fine, I’ll be flailing as I try to improvise choreography, and you two will be amazingly coordinated.”

Sora laughs. “That’s right!”

They walk Shouto and Izuku to their places backstage, chatting with the idol as they go. After a few minutes, in which Shouto works up his curiosity and his courage, the hero asks, “Hey, um, this might be a dumb question, but how are you going to follow unplanned choreography?”

“Oh, that’s because of our Quirk! It’s called Mimic! We can perfectly mirror any movement someone makes,” explains Sora.

“When Dekiru-chan dances, we copy him, and an illusionist like Arataka-san can create extra backup dancers if we need them. That way, much less training is required!” Touma adds.

“Surprisingly, they’ve neglected to mention that they’re super talented,” Izuku says. “You should see their covers— they can pull off choreography I can only dream of doing.”

“Flatterer,” the twins chorus in unison.

Curiosity now piqued, Shouto nods and gets settled. Meanwhile, the techies set up the stage, and Hinata appears from thin air to create strings of colored lights. The miniature suns twirl through the air, casting the stage in a rainbow glow.

The hero cases the area, and upon determining that it’s safe, he pulls out a manual on sign language. He has a little time to kill before the concert starts— why shouldn’t he spend it doing what he’s being telling himself to do for weeks now?

The people ebb and flow around him, and Shouto (who is busy trying to get his perpetually frozen fingers to form shapes) resurfaces from his book whenever a major shitshow happens. The first time, it’s because the band a gets into a fight with some manager three minutes after they arrive. The second time, it’s because the fans start lining up outside, and their excited screaming pierces through the stadium’s walls.

The third time, Shouto fucks up. He accidently locks eyes with Izuku while the idol is demonstrating a move for the twins, and the brilliant glow strikes a strange chord in his chest.

So he catches fire. Again.

“Fuck,” Shouto hisses, flinging the book aside so it doesn’t burn to a crisp. He beats his flames into submission and retrieves the journal, his face now hot for an entirely different reason.

“Are you okay?” Izuku asks anxiously.

“Just fine. Carry on.”

“I would, but actually, it’s almost showtime,” the idol answers. “The twins and I are about to be attacked by stylists, makeup artists, and stagehands. You should wait outside— there’s a front row seat that’s been reserved for you.”

Shouto blinks in surprise. He hadn’t expected to be sitting with the crowd (what he assumed he’d be doing, he doesn’t even recall anymore). But the last time he’d gotten a chance to attend a Dekiru concert, his father had happily crushed his dreams, so he’s damn well going to watch now.

“Hey,” one of the Shibutanis says as a staff member leads Shouto out, “someone get that man a lightstick!”

 

-

 

Shouto receives a lightstick. Shouto, being a 24 year old man who’s never once gone to a concert, doesn't know what the hell he’s supposed to be doing with it. He Googles it as surreptitiously as he can and finds videos of fans creating various effects with their lightsticks. One band had been gifted an ocean of purple lights, which rippled and waved along during an emotional song. Shouto doesn’t really understand the significance, but the band had seemed incredibly grateful…

...which means this thing is more important than it looks. Shouto’s sure that Izuku’s fanbase has decided to do something for this concert, so he finds the biggest Dekiru fanblog and looks for instructions.

YOU CAN DO IT!

The Official Blog for All Things Dekiru!

Mod_Ren: Alright, everyone! If you’re going to the Tokyo Dome concert (and kudos to you if you are; tickets sold out in six minutes!) we’ve planned another Gradient Ocean! Here’s the seating plan for the stadium. Find your section and see what color you should be!

Shouto taps the link. Okay, according to his position, he’s supposed to be emerald. Now how does he get the lightstick to turn that color… oh, lucky him. It seems to be the default. He returns to the blog, twirling the lightstick in his hand as he does.

Mod_Alita: We’re going to activate the ocean when Loser starts, okay? I know this has all been short notice— to be fair, the concert was ALSO short notice— but I believe we can do it! Let’s go, Hopefuls!

Mod_Ren: (Also, if you’re going, we hope to see you there!)

Shouto puts his phone away and watches as the stadium fills with fans. Now that they’re all inside, they’re a good deal quieter. Regardless, their excitement saturates the air.

A countdown starts, and everyone proceeds to lose their shit. This lasts for about half a minute; then, the intro starts playing, and all of Hinata’s tiny suns brighten at once. A hush falls over the fans as several backup dancers (or perhaps the illusion of backup dancers?) appear. They dance in eerie synchronization, their movements matched to every beat.

The intro ends in short order. Freezing in place, the dancers fade out of sight and a string of smaller lights combines into a spotlight. Izuku winks into existence with a flourish, causing a massive cheer to rise from the crowd. Izuku waves at everyone as he settles into his opening pose.

An upbeat song starts to play, serving as a happy prelude to the wave of sadness that will inevitably be produced by “Adrift.”

These days I’m frustrated— problems are piling up.

It’s so tiring!

It’s definitely impossible, I’m barely getting through,

Things are always like this.

(Give me) Someone, not enough, I want a sweet one!

(Give me) Your heart, I want it now!

Ta-ta-ta-ta-take it,

As you wish, anything you want, ooh~

Ty-ty-ty-ty-type it,

The door, search for it, a dream-like trip…

#Cookie Jar

Put your hand in the cookie jar,

I can go anywhere!

My heart is beating faster!

#Cookie Jar

Put your hand in the cookie jar,

A chocolate bar, about to melt!

It feels like I can fly into a shining world~

#Cookie Jar

Shouto beams and settles in for the rest of the concert. At the end, he joins the Gradient Ocean.

(And perhaps it’s a trick of the many lightsticks, but he thinks he sees tears in Izuku’s eyes.)

 


 

He meets Izuku backstage after the concert ends. The idol’s eyes are shimmering and he’s clearly exhausted, but there’s a tiny grin on his face. His joy is mirrored in the Shibutanis, who are practically plastered to his side.

“Shoucchan!” Izuku calls upon seeing him. He detaches himself from his friends and runs to the idol. “Did you see what everyone did— well, of course you couldn’t, you were in the crowd… but it was amazing! Sometimes my fans make all this shit worth it!”

Shouto smiles and raises his lightstick. “According to your biggest fanclub, it was very hastily planned. But I’m glad we pulled it off.”

Izuku crushes him into a hug. Unlike before, Shouto doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around the idol. He notes that the other man is burning up, and lets a wave of frigid air loose from his right side.

“Shit, that’s nice,” Izuku mumbles. “You’re like, a personal central heating/cooling system. Let me keep you forever.”

Disregarding the last half of that statement— Izuku has to be high off endorphins right now; there’s no other reason for him to be saying that— the hero cheerily replies, “Never tell Bakugou that. He’ll start calling me Discount Thermostat again.”

Izuku releases Shouto so he can double over with laughter.

After that, time passes in a blur. The stage is torn down, Hinata banishes all his lights, and the band packs up. Izuku and Shouto slip out in the commotion and head for the parking lot. Their chauffeur has been waiting patiently all this time, hidden among a crowd of normal cars.

But before they reach their destination, someone approaches them. Shouto and Izuku stiffen, both immediately on guard. The person raises their hands in a show of probity.

“I don’t mean any harm. I just want to give you this, Dekiru,” they say, lifting their head. Shouto glimpses black hair and cat-like eyes underneath their red hood. Those features seem vaguely familiar, but Shouto can’t identify them.

“Give me what?” Izuku asks warily.

The person tosses him something. Izuku snatches it out of the air and looks down at his palm. He’s been given a jump drive.

“I found something— well, many things— out,” says the person. “I thought you should know…”

“What kind of things?” Shouto demands, but the person is already turning around and walking away. A shadow swallows them up in the space between streetlamps.

Izuku frowns. “That was weird. What the fuck’s on this drive?”

“We can find out when we get to the hotel,” Shouto says, leading the idol to the car. Once they’re safely inside, he places a rush order on a laptop, using his hero status to ensure a faster delivery. Natsuo’s computer work (and his own illicit activity) had proved to Shouto that a lot of power could be hidden in a jump drive; he’s not about to crash one of their computers.

Shouto receives his order from one desk clerk while Izuku checks in with the other. They retreat to their room, huddling around the laptop. Shouto speeds through setting it up, and then he cautiously plugs the drive in.

The laptop successfully installs the device driver. Exchanging a nervous glance with Izuku, the hero accesses the drive’s contents.

There… there are a lot of encrypted files. Only one of them isn’t written in code or locked. However, the text in it doesn’t make an ounce of sense to Shouto. It reads,

The true color of those who were made by God,

Is a lightless storm drawing near.

Black clouds, bloody rain, and screams in the air… will these be glossed over as well?

He turns to ask Izuku what that could possibly mean, only to see that the blood has drained from the idol’s face. He stares at the screen with wide eyes.

“Shouto? Give me the drive,” he asks, voice wavering. Shouto scrambles to comply, watching in shock as Izuku takes the item and digs through the desk drawer for a piece of paper. He folds it into an envelope and drops the drive inside, saying,

“I need to mail this. Don’t wait up.”

He flees the room, barely pausing to grab his key card on his way out.

Looking from the innocent laptop to the door, Shouto wonders what the hell had just happened.

Chapter Text

Airports are a special type of hell. A bonus level, if you will. The tenth fucking circle— ahem.

Izuku pastes a smile on his face and waves at the crowd of fans. He’s exhausted, and he just wants to go to his hotel, where he intends to sleep for eighty years. But with the way people are surrounding him, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. How unfortunate.

He poses for photos and signs some autographs, inching forward at the approximate pace of a snail. Jet lag weighs heavily on him, and his feet twinge with pain. Izuku needs a bed. Fuck, at this point, he's willing to take a bunch of blankets and make himself a nest— anything to ensure he can rest.

The rest of his entourage isn’t faring much better. Yachi is dragging a barely conscious Hinata behind her, assisted by Touma. Sora is stumbling along beside them, yawning every thirty seconds. Momoi has used an entire bottle of concealer to hide her dark circles, and the teal-haired stylist has buried half her face in a giant scarf, which she may or may not be drooling into.

Fortunately for the lot of them, Shouto and the dark haired guard manage to clear a path, repelling the fans with twin glares. As he follows them to the baggage claim, through customs, and out the door, Izuku finds himself glad that he’s not on the receiving end of those vicious looks. Shouto is apparently grumpy when he’s tired, and although Izuku is foolish enough to find it adorable (upon a second glance, anyway), the poor Parisians are giving their party a wide berth.

They’re escorted to a hotel (un)creatively named Le Grand Paris. The instant they walk through the door, Izuku is accosted by the mayor, Andre Bourgeois.

“Dekiru-san, we are so glad to have you,” he says, his French disgustingly saccharine. “We've prepared the finest suites for you and your colleagues.”

“Thank you. Please lead the way,” Izuku says, cutting the elder man off before he can blather on any longer. He tries to keep his irritation hidden; for all his idiocy and bluster, Mayor Bourgeois is an important man. It wouldn't do to offend him… at least not too much.

Bourgeois hastily commands his staff, and they gather all the luggage, hustling it into an elevator. Izuku and Shouto enter the next car, the rest of their entourage trailing in step. The idol lets his eyes drift shut as the elevator crawls upward.

“Don’t fall asleep on me,” Shouto murmurs. Izuku startles and realizes he’s swayed into the hero’s warm side. Oh, wonderful. He’s acting like a cat.

“Keep me awake, then.”

“Hm. Well, I guess I have to share my surprise.”

“Surprise?” Izuku asks. “What’s surprising? The fact that the mayor is full of hot air? The fact that someone tried taking a picture of us in the lobby and Momoi crushed their phone under her Louboutin? Or the fact that Sora can sleep with her eyes open?”

(Seriously, though, the last one is creepy. Touma shakes his sister in an attempt to wake her, but she persists, staring vacantly at the floor and snoring.)

Shouto snickers, but quickly schools his features into something professional as the doors open. They walk to their room, the hero proceeding to elaborate, “I didn’t know you spoke French.”

“Oh, did I never mention that? I picked it up because a model once bet me I couldn’t,” Izuku laughs. “Needless to say, I won, and I have a huge French fanbase now.”

“Spite is a wonderful motivator, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” chirps Izuku, taking his room key from a nervous bellhop. “Are we sharing? Ooh, yeah, someone booked a double. Nice.”

Wait. Not nice. In their apartment, they don’t share a room, so Izuku doesn’t get to see Shouto first thing in the morning, all ruffled with sleep, eyes half-lidded…

…very nice?

Before he can have a meltdown, Izuku bounces in and makes to fling himself onto the bed. Shouto shuts the door behind them, saying, “Wouldn’t you like to shower first?”

Izuku freezes a hair’s breadth from the bedspread. Sheepishly, he says, “Yes?”

As the word leaves his mouth, the idol realizes that Shouto has a goddamn point. His stint on the plane has left him disgusting— his hair is greasy, and his face is caked in day-old makeup. It probably isn’t the best idea to faceplant in that beautiful duvet.

“I hate that you make sense,” he complains, and shuffles into the bathroom with a childish pout. Damn it, why is it so difficult to pass out?

Shouto is still laughing when Izuku turns on the shower.

 

-

 

A good twelve hours later (after they've both showered and gone to decompose on those plush beds), Izuku awakens, drawn out of sleep by the feel of sunbeams on his face. He sits up, squinting at the window. From the looks of the sky, it’s late in the morning.

The idol turns his gaze to Shouto’s bed. The other man is ensconced in his sheets, still fast asleep. Izuku can’t help but smile— Shouto is far more adorable than he has a right to be.

Tearing his eyes away from the Temperate Hero, Izuku lets his thoughts turn dark.

That jump drive. That fucking jump drive, with a cryptic message that had meant nothing to Shouto, but everything to him. It was a line from a decades-old song. By all rights, Izuku shouldn’t have known it. He thinks the hacker— Cheshire, he’d realized a few hours into the flight, that was Cheshire — must have taken a leap of faith when he’d chosen the lyrics.

That song was a warning.

Izuku didn’t bother decoding the contents of the drive. His computer skills were far too limited for that, and besides, he didn’t really need to. Whatever was on there was bad, full stop. So he’d taken it from Shouto’s slack fingers, crammed it into an envelope, and run to the nearest post office. He’d asked them to mail it to Tsukauchi Naomasa. The man was the most noble detective he’d ever met, and Izuku knew that he could trust him with something like this.

He took the pen from the bored clerk and scribbled, Decrypt this and release the info if anything happens to Dekiru, on the outside of the envelope. Paying the clerk 100000 yen to ensure her silence, Izuku fled from the post office, his mind sinking into the first waves of panic.

“What are you thinking so hard about?” someone asks.

Izuku startles, whipping his head around so fast that his cervical vertebrae emit a sharp crack. A scream catches in his throat as he reminds himself that it’s just Shouto. Shouto, who is here to protect him.

The hero sits up cautiously, having noticed that Izuku’s breathing is too shaky to be normal. “Are you alright?”

I can’t say a word. If I tell him the truth, if I tell him what that meant…  he will absolutely lose his shit.

“I was thinking about France’s hero industry. Did you know that French law states you don’t have to reveal your identity to the government in order to get a hero license? Three out of the four members of Miraculous, the top hero team in Paris, have never once been seen without masks.”

It’s bullshit. It’s so far from what he was actually thinking about that it’s laughable. But Shouto doesn’t call him out on it, instead saying, “That’s very strange. Doesn’t anonymity make it difficult to hold these heroes accountable for damages?”

“I suppose it does,” Izuku mutters, crumpling the blankets in his hand. “Do you want the bathroom first?”

“I don’t really want to leave this bed,” replies the hero.

Letting his eyes fall shut again, Izuku says, “Me either.”

“If I recall correctly, we don’t have anywhere to be today. We can go back to sleep.”

“An excellent idea,” Izuku responds, his voice skirting the edge of hysteria. “Good morning and good night.”

He buries himself back under the covers, trying to think happier thoughts.

 


 

The duo doesn’t wake up until the next day, when Hinata’s shrieking serves as their alarm clock.

“…see, this is why no one understands you! Is it like ‘pah’ or like ‘gwah?!’ They’re not the same thing! Pick one!”

“What the fuck?” Shouto says blearily. “Who is he talking to?”

Izuku sits up with a groan, pressing a hand to his forehead. “I think he’s yelling at that guard, the one he’s always arguing with. Fuck. Can’t they just shut up and make out already?”

“Listen, I don’t know anything about romance, but I promise those two won’t get their shit together unless the sun dies.”

Izuku snorts. “Wow, okay, that’s a phrase for the history books. Come on, let’s be actual human beings.”

“Disgusting,” Shouto deadpans, but he peels himself off the bed.

They trade turns in the bathroom, change into semi-coordinated outfits, and exit their room for the first time since their arrival. On their way to the dining hall, they run into the mayor’s daughter, Chloe, and Izuku endures a montage of selfies with her. He can only pray she didn’t notice how plastic his smile was.

“That woman somewhat reminds me of a leech,” murmurs Shouto, picking a table and collapsing into a plush chair. Fuck. He’s just a bundle of comedic one-liners today, isn’t he? Izuku should count himself lucky that he wasn’t drinking anything when the hero had said that— he would have spit it halfway across the room.

“According to literally everyone with social media, she was worse when she was younger,” the idol says, gathering his wits and sitting down across from the hero. He takes a second to wave at the nearby Shibutanis before continuing, “But since she became a hero, she’s been trying to be more respectful. Rena Rouge described it as ‘a constant battle with the wasp inside her.’”

“The wasp? What?”

“Sorry, that’s way funnier with context… her hero name is Queen Bee.”

“Oh my god,” Shouto says. “Please tell me she can talk to bees.”

Izuku is seconds away from launching into a description of Chloe Bourgeois’ Quirk when a waiter approaches them. The vigilante hurriedly scans the menu and orders what’s least likely to give them food poisoning. When he returns his attention to Shouto, he finds the hero watching him with a hint of awe.

“Is there toothpaste on my face? Because if there is, you really should have told me that fifteen minutes ago.”

“No, um… your French is really pretty. I don’t understand a word, but I like how it sounds.”

In an effort to temper his fluffy feelings, Izuku sings,

Je ne parle pas français,

Aber bitte red weiter.

Alles, was du so erzählst

Hört sich irgendwie nice an,

Und die Zeit bleibt einfach stehen.

Ich wünscht', ich könnte dich verstehen!

Je ne parle pas français,

Aber bitte red weiter.

Shouto inhales sharply and whispers, “Is it too late to go back to bed?”

 


 

The sleepy Temperate Hero does not, in fact, get to go to bed. Tired of lazing around and hovering on the brink of panic attacks, Izuku decides it’s high time to drag Shouto around the city.

“Where are you taking me?” Shouto asks, his freshly dyed hair dancing in the breeze.

“Around! We have to hit all the major tourist attractions, like the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe, and—”

“The Eiffel Tower?”

“Yup!” Izuku says brightly. “But everyone and their mom knows that it’s better at night, so we’ll save it for last.”

Shouto gives him a soft smile. “Okay. Lead the way.”

Izuku beams and does just that.

Over the course of the morning, his Stark Phone’s camera roll slowly fills with hundreds of photos. Some of them are typical tourist pictures, like one of Izuku standing on the love locked bridge. But others, many others, are candid shots of Shouto being himself. For once, the cold hero looks at peace. Izuku doesn’t doubt that he’s one of few people to see him this way, and treasures every photo he manages to capture.

Damn it. He’s so far gone. It doesn’t help that they're currently in the so-called ‘City of Love.’

After a two-hour stint at the Louvre (in which Izuku cried over hero exhibits), they decide to go wherever their feet take them. The pointless wandering is enjoyable— almost date-like, his traitorous mind whispers— but it’s also kind of exhausting. So when he spies an ice cream stand, he hauls Shouto toward it.

“Hi! Can I have—”

The vendor shakes his head, saying, “No, no, there is no ordering here! I'll give you and your beloved the perfect flavors!”

He ducks behind his counter, completely missing the flush that overtakes Izuku’s face. My what?

“What did he say?” a clueless Shouto asks.

“He’s a psychic,” Izuku lies through his teeth. “He said he can tell what kind of ice cream we want, so we don’t have to order.”

The vendor reappears with two perfect cones. “For the one with two halves, strawberry shortcake! For the one with starry eyes, my never-before-seen flavor! I would wish you luck, but my power tells me you will build a wonderful future together! So I shall simply ask you to give me six Euros.”

Izuku pays and waves goodbye, hoping that his tactical retreat doesn’t look too much like an escape. Shouto tastes his ice cream and hums in approval. Trying to hide his still burning face, the idol does the same.

“I can't believe I can actually say I got dessert from a psychic,” Shouto muses as they continue walking. “I mean, that wasn’t on the list of things I expected when I took this job.”

Izuku demolishes half his cone in one bite and laughs awkwardly, glad that Shouto hadn't realized what the vendor's Quirk really was.

“What can I say?” he drawls. “We live in a strange world.”

 

-

 

Day melts into night, and Izuku cheerily takes his bodyguard to the Eiffel Tower. Luckily for the both of them, the sole person there is a young guard.

“Hi! We’d like to go to the top of the tower!”

The guard sputters, saying, “But sir, the sun has gone down! It will be cold up there! Also, we’re not really allowing that these days!”

How cute— those are non-issues as far as they’re concerned. Shouto’s power is climate control, and Izuku can buy this man’s life ten times over.

“Well,” the idol says slyly, lowering his hood, “I think you could make an exception. Unless I have to ask the mayor…?”

The guard whimpers. “Okay, okay, please don’t call him. His daughter has already threatened to get me fired twice!”

“Such is the way of powerful people,” Izuku singsongs as the guard lets them into the elevator. “Thank you!”

“Do I want to know what that was about?” Shouto asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Ehehe, I may have used my influence to bend the rules a bit.”

“Really, now.”

“Hey, it's not like I do it all the time,” Izuku protests. “Besides, you crashed your agency’s servers on my behalf! Which one of those is more problematic?”

“Oh? Whoever said I did that?” Shouto replies, blinking innocently. “I certainly don’t recall admitting to such a heinous crime.”

Izuku snorts and pushes the hero out onto the observation deck, saying, “Yeah, yeah, you’re a paragon of righteousness. Go out and enjoy the view.”

This is all I can offer. Gifts and memories. How else am I to repay you?

Shouto drifts to the edge of the deck and looks down. Beyond them is the rest of the city, lit up by thousands of twinkling lights.

Before he joins his friend, Izuku lingers, worrying his lip between his teeth. He lifts his phone and takes one more picture. Just one.

(Just another memory.)

 


 

The day of the concert, Izuku wakes up early. He stumbles out of half-remembered dreams and to the bathroom, where he splashes his face with cold water. He looks… hm. He looks alright. Better than he expected, after the emotional roller coaster this week has been.

Finishing the rest of his business, the idol returns to his bed, where he spends some time scrolling through his private Twitter feed. This account mainly follows hero news, so it’s not a surprise when he sees an article detailing Phoenix’s current state.

22m ago — @constant-hero-updates — Phoenix Agency Struggling to Recover from Cyber Attack

There’s a picture of an absolutely exhausted Gingersnap under the headline. The poor man looks like he wants nothing more than to disappear into the folds of his blue and gold uniform. Izuku winces in sympathy. He and Shouto had spent the past few days joking about this, but the hero had made an extremely rash decision. Izuku appreciated it, of course, but he couldn't help but worry about the Temperate Hero's overworked team.

He accesses his bank account and anonymously wires half a million yen to Phoenix. And, hell, he’s already online, so why not order the gift basket he’s spent ages promising Shouto? Maybe that can help make up for… all of it.

When Shouto awakens, he finds himself buried in a mountain of flowers, Belgian chocolate, and decorative soaps. He blinks like he thinks he’s still dreaming.

“I have never been more confused in my life,” the hero quietly admits.

Grinning, Izuku takes a picture for Instagram and captions it, local man finally gets what he deserves.

It quickly becomes one of his most liked posts.

(That night, when he goes out to perform, Izuku’s heart is light as a feather.

“Hello, Paris! How are you doing?!” He calls. A roar answers him, steadily rising 'til it hits fever pitch.

The cheers from the crowd eventually fade into music, and the idol takes a deep breath.

Wake up! You can't be nervous, even if everyone else is sleeping.

From here, from here, try to take it slowly— hold on.

Innocence, innocence… is not always what it seems.

No way, oh, no way! I will not hesitate!

I will not make bad plans anymore…

Bad plans aside, he and Shouto can make it through this. They have to.)

Chapter Text

Shouto practically sleepwalks into the hotel, rubbing his dry eyes with his free hand. Jet lag is draped over him like a lead blanket— his body hadn’t had any time to adjust to Central European Standard Time before being thrust into Brasilia Standard Time. The other employees are much the same. Sora is carrying her brother piggyback style; Yachi is gazing longingly at the bottle of melatonin in her hand; Hinata is waving a solar flare in front of the guard’s face to keep him from nodding off; Momoi has a red patch on her arm from pinching herself, and the stylist seems to be using her oversized sunglasses to hide her half-lidded eyes.

Izuku is the only one who doesn’t look dead on his feet, and that’s because he’d ordered three espressos and taken them like shots about forty-five minutes before they’d landed. He approaches the counter with easy grace and waves to the clerk.

“Are you going to tell me you speak Portuguese?” Shouto asks. There’s a note of teasing in his voice, but he hopes the answer is no. His stomach already performs backflips when Izuku speaks French— he does not need to add another language to that acidic mix.

Izuku giggles. “No, I was just saying hi. Momoi-san, take the wheel!”

The pink haired woman reapplies her lip gloss and then strides to the desk. She speaks with startling efficiency, prompting the clerk and several other employees to spring into action. As Shouto watches, though, her professional expression melts into a frown.

“…OK. Obrigado,” Momoi finally says. She turns to them and switches back to Japanese, saying, “Dekiru, Todoroki-san, there’s been some kind of a mix-up. You were supposed to get one room with two beds, but, er… it seems the Sofitel Rio de Janeiro Ipanema has seen fit to give you a honeymoon suite.”

If the hero were more awake, that sentence would’ve sent him into a controlled meltdown. As it is, he’s too fucking exhausted to do anything but mumble, “An upgrade. Great. Let’s go.”

Shouto and Izuku find themselves being whisked to a massive room that overlooks the beach. As they set their things down, Izuku frets, “I’m so sorry about this, Shouto. Um, maybe I could take the couch?”

“What? Listen, that couch might be bigger than the one in our apartment, but you can’t sleep on it. You have to perform in two days. You take the bed, and I’ll take the couch.”

“If it’s too uncomfortable for me, then it’s too uncomfortable for you!”

They stare at each other for a minute before turning their gazes to the bed.

“It’s a big bed,” Izuku says hesitantly. “Maybe we could just share.”

Oh, wonderful. Now some panic is breaking through the exhaustion, but Shouto and the hotel staff have dug this hole, and there’s no way either of them can crawl out.

“Let’s do it. Go shower,” Shouto sighs, rubbing at his temples. Izuku hurries away, and the hero turns his gaze to the window. Under the veil of evening light, the ocean looks like a mass of roiling shadows. Apt, considering how he feels.

Shouto flirts with sleep as he stares at the darkening beach. He only snaps out of his daze when Izuku emerges from the adjoining bath.

“Um, the shower’s free,” the idol whispers. The soft sound of his voice is akin to a gunshot in this atmosphere. Torn from his lethargy, Shouto ambles to the washroom. The second the door drifts shut, he mechanically sheds all his clothes and hops into the steam-filled shower.

He breathes in the damp air. It drips with the scent of coconut.

In less than 10 minutes, Shouto also smells like the world’s strangest fruit (nut? seed?), and he steps onto the tile. It’s slick with condensation, so he flash-dries it, scrubbing himself with a towel in the same breath. Then he wraps himself in a bathrobe, one so soft it feels like a down comforter. Evidently, the thousands of dollars Kemuri had shelled out for this place had been put to good use.

Evaporating any lingering water droplets with his left side, Shouto exits the bathroom and pads over to the main room. Izuku is curled up in the center of the massive bed. He’s listlessly staring at the wall, having come down from his caffeine high, and as Shouto silently approaches, he catches the tail end of the vigilante’s mumbling.

“…definitely a problem, but I can’t do anything. Damn it.”

“Can’t do anything about what?” 

Izuku yelps in surprise. “Shouto! When did you get here?”

“Only a minute ago,” the hero says warily, wondering if Izuku is going to answer his question. He’s been cagey since the hacker had given them the jump drive, so Shouto doesn’t expect much.

To his surprise, the idol sighs and shuffles to the far side of the bed, giving Shouto space to sit down. He takes the wordless invitation. Moments after he settles on the mattress, Izuku says,

“I’m worried, Shouto. About a lot of things. It just seems like… like everything is falling apart around me.”

Shouto bites the inside of his cheek, taking in the worry on Izuku’s face. He understands the stress the singer is facing— going from assassination attempts to hero fights to identity reveals to a spur-of-the-moment world tour cannot be good for the psyche. He wishes he was less tired, and that he was better with words. Maybe then he’d be able to comfort Izuku properly.

As it is, all Shouto can do is coax Izuku into his arms and whisper, “It will work out. I swear, Izuku, it will.”

In lieu of responding, the idol closes his eyes and leans into Shouto.

They fall asleep like that. In the morning, they don’t talk about it.

 


 

After breakfast, Izuku turns to Shouto with a blinding grin. He’s clearly rebuilt his walls, letting none of the vulnerability from the previous night shine through.

“I know today is supposed to be a rest day— and we definitely need rest— but I wanna go to the Jardim Botânico!”

“What’s that?” Shouto asks, following him out of the hotel.

“It’s this massive botanical garden! I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw Teravolt’s Snapchat story.”

Shouto does not know who Teravolt is, nor has he ever been to a botanical garden, but he dutifully pulls up a map and plots a path. “Huh,” he says in surprise, “it’s only nine minutes away.”

Izuku lets out a delighted gasp. “If there’s a God, they just smiled down on us. Let’s go!!”

True to Google Maps’ estimate, it takes them less than fifteen minutes to reach the gardens. Izuku shells out 445 Reais to buy them a private photography tour, and a beaming guide takes them on a four-hour trek through the park.

It’s gorgeous. Shouto tilts his head up, observing the towering palm trees. The sunlight peeks through the leaves, painting him gold, and birds chirp in time. While Shouto commits the sky to memory, Izuku takes a solid fifty pictures of pools filled with massive lily pads.

Struck by a moment of playfulness, the Temperate Hero asks him to send him one, and upon receiving the message, he forwards it to Tsuyu.

that’s_rough_buddy: I found your new house.

froppy: you joke but i would 100% love to be there, instead of here, where i am doing paperwork

that’s_rough_buddy: Read my username.

froppy: when you return to japan i will drown you, ribbit.

Shouto snickers and lowers his phone. He’s about to put it away when he spots Izuku further down the path. He’s in front of a fountain, listening intently to the guide’s explanation. Backlit by sunbeams and surrounded by the mist the structure generates, he looks like some sort of water nymph.

Shouto snaps his first picture of the day.

 

-

 

They decide to return to the hotel after a photo-op with the Christ the Redeemer statue and lunch at an adorable restaurant called Gula Gula Ipanema. This time, though, Izuku opts to walk instead of catching a cab.

It starts off as an excellent decision. After all, Shouto gets to see the ins and outs of life in Rio, and he’s doing it with Izuku, who he’s long since fallen for. But as they’re wandering through the Praça Nossa Senhora de Paz, the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Something’s wrong.

Shouto says nothing, half-convinced he’s hallucinated the chill running down his spine, but the ominous feeling sticks with him as they continue down the path. Is someone… following them?

Beside him, Izuku suddenly stiffens, his voice dying in his throat. Shit. Shouto could dismiss his reaction as paranoia, but if the vigilante feels that too, they’re in trouble.

“Keep talking,” Shouto hisses. Izuku nods and starts rambling about a monkey he’d seen in the gardens. As discreetly as he can, Shouto searches the area. He doesn’t see anything amiss— there’s a family with two kids, a group of teens messing with their Quirks, a massive cloud of cigarette smoke curling through the air… but no one is paying them undue attention.

Regardless, Shouto can’t stand for this. Up ahead, he spots an easy escape route: a glaringly obvious tour group is meandering through the park. Twining his fingers with Izuku’s, Shouto barges through the crowd. It’s easy to get lost in the midst of the tourists; there are at least twenty-five of them, and they seem to have some aversion to being seen together.

When they emerge onto the street, the hero notes that the feeling has vanished. Still, the pair speedwalks to the hotel, unwilling to rest until they’re back in their room.

“What the hell was that?” Izuku gasps, locking the door and leaning against it.

Shouto paces back and forth, replying, “I don’t know…”

Goddammit, why didn’t he know? Had he become too complacent during his time in Izuku? He hadn’t vetted any of these hotels, he hadn’t cased their surroundings at all in Paris, he hadn’t done anything to ensure the idol’s safety like he should’ve. That person could’ve been following them for a long time, and Shouto had only noticed them now because they’d slipped up.

Fuck. He’s a terrible hero.

Izuku is muttering again, and his words are clearly in the same vein as those from last night. “…in more trouble than I thought. Could it be…”

Shouto strides over to him and clasps Izuku's hands in his own, parodying the way the vigilante had grabbed him on the day they'd met. “Izuku,” he says fiercely, “no matter what, I'll protect you. I know you can defend yourself, but I won't leave you to the wolves.”

Izuku stares at him through his lashes, whispering, “I know.”

They're close enough to kiss. The thought is secondary to Shouto’s need to make Izuku feel his conviction, but he can’t help the thought. His everything goes haywire around the idol. His Quirk, his emotions, his decisions— they fizz and burst into static because of this brilliant, broken man.

(Shouto had called him a planet before. There is no better comparison.)

Izuku shifts, and for a single instant, Shouto deludes himself into believing their lips will meet.

And then his fucking phone vibrates with a notification, shattering the suspended silence like spun glass. The moment slips through their fingers, and they break apart.

Izuku flings the door open, stammering, “Um, I’m just going to… find Momoi. I need, uh, brush shampoo.”

He flees the room, leaving Shouto on the verge of catching fire.

 

-

 

Izuku doesn't return for a good, long while. Day turns into night without Shouto catching another glimpse of him, though the idol periodically texts him updates. Shouto is now the proud owner of pictures featuring Izuku 1) holding brush shampoo, 2) shoving Shibutani Sora into the pool, 3) playing Monopoly with Hinata (correction: losing Monopoly to Sunspot), and many more. The message is clear: I'm safe, but I'm staying away from you.

Damn. Maybe Shouto had been too forward. And he hadn't even been trying to seduce the man.

Shouto takes a shower, straightens the room (like there's anything to straighten), updates his barren Twitter account, and when he's finally run out of things to do, he opens the notification that had scared Izuku away. He'd ignored it out of spite for the past several hours, but hey, what the hell. He might as well check it out now.

It turns out to be important fucking information.

6h ago — Musutafu Herald — Computer Programmer Arrested for Vigilantism, Phoenix Attack

What the everloving fuck. Shouto slams his thumb on the link and frantically scans the article.

…24-year-old Akatani Mikumo was arrested today for a variety of crimes, among which are reckless endangerment in the form of vigilantism, unlicensed Quirk use, and cyber terrorism, including the attack on Temperate Hero Freezerburn's agency.

Shouto lets his phone fall from his hand, his mind racing. How could this Akatani person be blamed for something he did with his brother's code?

Wait, don't programmers have certain quirks in their languages? Something about spacing with brackets or backslashes… maybe this guy's work looks like Natsuo's?

He snatches up his phone and scrolls through the article again. Bingo: Akatani had worked at the same company as Shouto's brother. It would be all too easy for someone to confuse their code. And judging by the way he's already being vilified by the public and media, he's set to take the fall for Shouto’s mistake.

The hero flops onto the bed and sighs in relief. At least he has something going for him.

 

-

 

About twenty minutes after Shouto's discovery (in which he works up a decent amount of worry regarding a lack of texts from Izuku), his charge stumbles into the room. Shouto bolts up, blurting,

“Izuku, where were you… what the hell is all that.”

The idol is literally wobbling under the weight of ten giant bags. Clothes and accessories peek out from gaps in the plastic.

“Well, I went shopping. And I may have spent 46000 Reais,” Izuku says nervously.

“Forty-six thousand— Izuku, why?”

“Listen, I was due for a bad decision! And, uh, I’m as bad with emotions as Katsuki, but you didn’t hear that from me.”

The last part is such a garbled mess that Shouto doesn’t understand it at all. Instead, he sighs and takes half of the bags, helping Izuku move them into the room.

“How are you going to transport all this? Your suitcase is only so big,” the hero laments. It’s a valid concern, seeing as Shouto has two duffel bags and isn’t able to help in the luggage department.

Shrugging, Izuku says, “Guess I’ll have to buy another suitcase.”

“Have you always been this carefree with money?” Shouto asks wearily. He’s pretty sure the answer is “no,” since he’s never seen Izuku act quite like this before. Then again, he hasn’t known him that long— wait.

He does know that Izuku makes impulsive decisions when he’s upset. Granted, they’re usually of an alcoholic nature, but perhaps after Hinata had yelled at him, Izuku had decided to switch things up.

“Is something wrong?”

“Eh, I’m just on edge because of the whole ‘someone’s following us’ thing, and my own inability to articulate my feelings,” Izuku replies, running a hand through his messy curls.

Shouto leaves the bags alone and gives the idol a quick hug. “Breathe. You’ve got Kemuri’s staff with you, and like I said, I’m here too. If someone really is stalking us, we'll definitely take care of it. And, uh, I don’t know what to do about the feelings thing, but I am here if you want to talk.”

Izuku looks down, hiding the glow of his irises from the hero. After a moment, he whispers, “Thanks, Shoucchan. I appreciate everything you've done for me— and everything you'll do— more than you know.”

They spend the rest of the night in relative silence. Izuku scribbles things in a notebook, his expression frustrated, and Shouto checks and double checks all his security measures. Eventually, he decides to turn in.

Izuku doesn’t complain when Shouto shuts off the light— he simply lowers the volume of his frenetic writing and occasional mumbling, not even pausing to blink. Shouto lets out a fondly exasperated sigh, as he’s prone to doing when he thinks of Izuku. He’s picked such a wonderfully frustrating person to like, hasn’t he?

As he drifts off, he hears Izuku singing under his breath.

Blown back and forth, my deep doubts, and pain, and sorrow… are precious.

 


 

Shouto has to untangle himself from a clingy Izuku in the morning. The idol pouts and smashes his face in the pillow at the loss of Shouto’s warmth, and the man’s heart starts tap-dancing in his chest.

Ugh. No. Stop that, Shouto tells himself, hurrying into the bathroom to do his business and change. When he reappears, he finds that Izuku has woken up.

“Sharing a bed with you is great,” the idol informs him, scrubbing drool off his cheek with his sleeve. “You’re the perfect climate control.”

“Thanks. I was born that way,” Shouto deadpans. He really has no idea how else he’s supposed to respond to that, so while Izuku is brushing his teeth, he texts the group chat.

that’s_rough_buddy @ 19 Dumbasses & 1 Voice of Reason

that’s_rough_buddy: What do you do when the boy you like tells you you’re the perfect climate control?

electro-ball: propose to him, obviously. what kind of gay are you

that’s_rough_buddy: Small. Helpless. Stressed.

screw-gravity: omg todoroki-kun are you okay

that’s_rough_buddy: Absolutely not.

blasty-mcsplode: i’m sure he likes you too you dumb shit just fucking. idk compliment him back

froppy: “fucking idk compliment him” why did kirishima marry you

blasty-mcsplode: i actually ask myself that every day but there's no point in wondering, he’s stuck with me!!

Shouto sighs. His old classmates are useless.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), Izuku is there to distract him. He tugs Shouto off the bed, saying, “Let’s go sightseeing in obscure places. We’ll be harder to keep track of if we’re not at typical tourist attractions, and we’ll experience the authentic Rio!”

“Breakfast first,” Shouto manages, and while they’re drinking fresh coconut water, he thinks about ways of protecting his treasure.

 

-

 

To his surprise, Shouto doesn’t feel any baleful glares aimed at him while they’re out and about. He and Izuku freely wander down a shop-filled street, unbothered by any stalkers. Today, their only concern seems to be Izuku’s ill-advised spending.

“Don’t go overboard again,” Shouto gently chides the idol, steering him away from a Louis Vuitton store. Izuku huffs in response.

“I won’t! In fact, I’m going to go haggle with that vendor, like my mom taught me!”

He flounces off, and Shouto leans against a wall, making sure the vigilante stays in his line of sight. Izuku is so animated, he muses, observing the idol’s blinding grin and the way he waves his hands. It’s much more graceful than when Iida does it.

“Freezerburn?” Someone suddenly asks. Shouto’s head snaps up, and he catches sight of…

“Oh, Iwaizumi-san. What are you doing in Brazil?”

Iwaizumi Hajime, better known as the hero Raiju, gives him a small smile. “I’m vacationing with my husband. What about you? Are you here on assignment?”

“No,” Shouto says, “or… kind of? It’s not hero work. I’m on bodyguard duty.”

He tilts his head to indicate Izuku, who has finished fighting with the vendor and is bounding over to them.

“Guess who got his discount?” He sing-songs. “And, ah, Raiju-san! I didn’t know you and Oikawa were going to be here!”

What the— Raiju is married to that strange model? Did Izuku ever tell me that, or was I just supposed to find out myself?

Oblivious to Shouto’s surprise, Iwaizumi laughs. “We figured we might as well use our accumulated PTO. The fact that you were on tour was a bonus.”

“Oh? Are you a fan?”

With a sheepish shrug, Iwaizumi admits, “Not really; I'm more of a rock person. But Tooru is good friends with one of your staff…”

As if he’s been summoned, the model stumbles out of an alley, practically dragging the dark haired guard behind him. Hinata and Yachi follow, the former looking unreasonably amused and the latter concerned beyond measure.

“…Quirk tells me you’ve lost three kilograms since the last time I saw you! Why can’t you take better care of yourself?”

“Get off, dumbass!” retorts the guard. “You nag more than a mother!”

Oikawa digs his knuckles into the younger man’s head, saying with a terrifying smile, “I’m so sorry that my desire for your well-being troubles you, Tobio-chan! Next time, I’ll make sure to ignore you—”

“Tooru, will you stop getting into petty fights?” Iwaizumi sighs. “And let go of Kageyama. You’re choking him.”

Oikawa pouts, but complies with his husband’s request. The guard— Kageyama, apparently— hisses in anger as he’s released.

(Hinata cackles at his displeasure.)

“I had no idea you knew people at Kemuri other than me, Oikawa-san,” Izuku says, blinking up at the model. “When did this happen?”

“Oh, ages ago! I had to take Tobio-chan in, you see—”

A shriek cuts off the rest of his explanation. Heroes and vigilantes alike whip around, searching for the cause of the disturbance. It turns out to be Yachi, who in the process of looking at a shop had somehow overturned a cart full of fruit. She’s frantically apologizing to the seller, who is berating her in Portuguese.

Their party spends the next ten minutes picking up mangoes and trying to placate the angry vendor. In the chaos, Shouto and Izuku forget about Oikawa’s strange connection to Kageyama.

 

-

 

The rest of the day is uneventful. Izuku quietly complains about not being able to visit the Sugarloaf (a place Shouto had assumed was a bakery until he’d thought to Google it) and then withdraws into his notebook. At this point, Shouto’s sure he’s trying to write a new song, but he can’t think what would have inspired it.

Oh, well. He’ll worry about it tomorrow— sleep is luring him away.

 


 

They travel to Maracanã Stadium at eight in the morning. The arena, which had fallen into disrepair a few decades ago, had been renovated specially for Izuku’s concert. The idol doesn’t have the time to express his gratitude, though— he’s talking with the Shibutanis in hushed whispers.

“I don’t think I'm ready. I’ll do it in New York!”

“Whatever you want, Izu-kun. We’ll be there with you,” Touma promises.

Shouto considers asking what they’re talking about, but judging by Izuku’s pinched expression, he’s not likely to get an answer. Instead, he takes a lap around the stadium’s massive perimeter, thoroughly searching the entire venue. It’s time-consuming, not to mention exhausting, but he knows he has to do it. If not for his charge, then for the fans (and his pride).

He’s grateful for it when he spots someone skulking in the stands. Shouto barely has to think before he’s stomping his foot and trapping the poor fool in ice. He storms up the steps, pausing in front of the person to demand, “Who are you? What do you want?”

He gets a stream of terrified Portuguese in response. With an irritated click of his tongue, Shouto calls for Momoi. The make-up artist hurries over and listens to the captive interloper.

“…well, then. He says that he’s a fan and he just wanted to see Dekiru before the concert. Also, his Quirk doesn’t react well to cold, so could you please release him?”

Shouto sighs and melts down his ice, shouting “Security!” in the same breath.

After the fan has been carted away, Izuku approaches Shouto, his kohl-rimmed eyes wide. “Was that the person who was stalking us?”

“Maybe,” Shouto says, but as the word passes his lips, he knows it isn’t true. That boy was too unsophisticated to have been following them without a trace.

Izuku bites his lip. Instead of pressing the issue, he disappears into the throng of staff members, who are all eager to finish preparing for the event. Shouto heads to the stands and takes a seat, hoping nothing else will go awry.

 

-

 

Just before the concert starts, Shouto’s phone lights up with a message. Frowning, he looks down at the screen, hoping he hasn’t been sent a tirade from Gingersnap that ends with, “You thought you could get away with it? I’m arresting you as soon as you re-enter the country, and then I’m leaving this hellhole of an agency.”

It’s not his suffering sidekick. It’s Bakugou.

blasty-mcsplode: hey faulty fireplace, i texted izuku this, but idk when he’ll get it so i’ll tell you too

blasty-mcsplode: the USB has been decrypted. that shitty detective wouldn’t tell me what was on there, but everything’s ready to go

that’s_rough_buddy: Thank you for telling me, but how did you know about that?

blasty-mcsplode: dude, use your fucking brain cells. izuku and i are ride or die. in this case, i’m trying to make sure he doesn’t die.

Shouto swallows hard and pockets his phone, feeling unusually anxious.

If it had the power to put Izuku’s life in danger, what the hell was on that drive?

He remains a spot of silence in the stadium, even as cheers rise and cameras flash around him.

Chapter Text

Because Izuku and his friends just can’t have nice things, their flight to JFK gets delayed, leaving them stranded at Miami International. What should have been a two-hour layover becomes a seven-hour stint in the United States’ shittiest airport. To add insult to injury (or injury to injury?), Yachi’s luggage somehow vanishes into the wind, leaving her on the verge of a(nother) mental breakdown.

Currently, she and Hinata are arguing with some representative. Kageyama is hovering behind them, ever the protective shadow, and ten feet away, Momoi is filing her nails with an expression that suggests she’ll stab the man if Yachi starts crying. The stylist— whose name, Izuku has finally learned, is Aoyama Aoi— is playing Pokemon Crystal on her GameBoy, and Shouto is hunched over in the seat next to Izuku, quietly hissing into his phone.

“…innocent of that, yes, but he was brought up on other charges. Let it go, Natsuo, please… Damn it, Hawk’s Eye is calling. I’ll get back to you when we’re in New York, goodbye— hello, yes, Hawkeye-san? I did see the news. Tell Yukie to put an official statement out on my corporate account— she already has? Do you need anything else from me? A press conference? That can be arranged. Thank you.”

Shouto taps the end call button and tips his head toward the ceiling, groaning. “Shambles,” he tells Izuku. “Everything is in shambles.”

“I feel that. At least you’re out of the line of fire,” Izuku says, surreptitiously hiding his notebook.

“That’s true. Oh, and speaking of execution, if your shitty boss tries to speak to us in NYC, he will get burned.”

Izuku scowls. Kemuri had approached them before they’d left Rio.

Unsurprisingly, it hadn’t gone well.

Izuku dragged his luggage to the counter, regretting every single one of his impulse buys.

“I played myself,” he muttered despairingly.

“That you did,” Shouto replied without an ounce of sympathy. Izuku pouted while his hero turned in their room keys, but his attention wandered before he could sulk for too long. He was about to comment on the odd fashion sense of another guest— seriously, the person was wearing a crop top, a tennis skirt, and what looked more like socks than shoes. On top of that, their hair was strangely reminiscent of palm leaves.— when something dark loomed behind them.

Izuku turned around and laid eyes on the last person he wanted to see.

“Hello, everyone,” Kemuri said cordially, his eyes sweeping over his employees. Some of the others responded in turn, but Izuku felt his voice stick in his throat. Perhaps having sensed this, Shouto growled under his breath and pointedly refused to acknowledge the greeting.

“Kemuri-san!” Momoi exclaimed. “I thought you said you wouldn’t be able to come!”

Kemuri brushed nonexistent lint off his suit, saying, “Yes, well, circumstances changed. It’s lovely to see you all.”

Is it, though? Izuku thought bitterly. However, he didn’t want to cause a scene, so he forced himself to smile.

“I’ll be accompanying you from here on out,” Kemuri continued. “Dekiru-kun, may I have a word with you?”

It was phrased as a question. It sounded more like a demand.

“Of course, sir,” Izuku chirped. Shouto shot him a worried look, but the idol ignored it and followed the businessman to a balcony overlooking the beach.

“How have your concerts been?” Kemuri asked, leaning against the railing. He sounded genuinely interested, and for a moment, Izuku deluded himself into believing the man actually cared. But that couldn’t be the case— Kemuri had to be fishing for something else.

“They’re going well. Tickets have sold out each time,” Izuku replied cautiously.

“Excellent. I take it there haven’t been any… distractions?”

Distractions?! What the fuck does that mean?! Is he— no, he can’t be talking about Shouto, can he? How the hell am I supposed to get out of this...!

“Distractions? Of course not!” the idol laughed. “You know I’m focused on my work. We attracted a shadow while sightseeing, and a fan tried to sneak in before the concert started, but those were the only snags on this trip.”

“I see,” Kemuri hummed, his tone unreadable. “I'm sorry to hear about those fans. I'll increase security to ensure your safety. Regardless, I wish you luck with your next concert. I'll meet you in New York.”

On that note, the CEO left. Izuku took a minute to calm his racing heart. As he prepared to return to his friends, the idol realized that he'd never specified that their first stalker was a fan.

Kemuri had jumped to conclusions all by himself.

Izuku shakes himself out of the memory. “The tour is almost over. We don't have to endure him for long.”

“You've spent years with him,” Shouto points out. “It's already been too long.”

Izuku doesn't have an answer to that, so he tunes in to Yachi's ongoing struggle. According to the Floridian, her things are gone for good. Hinata leads her to a seat and passes her a handkerchief, saying,

“We can totally sue, right?”

“No, we don't have grounds,” Yachi sniffs pitifully. “The airport isn't responsible for lost luggage.”

“Then we'll sue the airline! You deserve compensation!”

The blonde shakes her head. “It's okay. I have all my important things: my phone and tablet, my designs, my checkbook. I can make it through.”

Feeling terrible on Yachi's behalf, Izuku eyes the clock and makes a snap decision. “Yacchan,” he says, “We're not going anywhere soon, so let's get you a new suitcase. When we’re in New York, you can get everything else you need! I’ll pay!”

“You don't need to do that!”

“But I want to! Come on, I saw a store selling bags over there!”

Yachi beams. “Thank you!”

Izuku feels enthusiasm replace his simmering panic. Good. He was getting tired of the constant roil of doom.

 

-

 

After dragging themselves through La Guardia, the group storms the hotel like a DnD party raiding a castle. The desk clerk lets out a terrified eep! upon seeing the horde of exhausted travelers overtaking his lobby.

“Check us in. Please,” Izuku says. “We're desperate.”

“Of course, sir. Your name?”

“Midoriya. I should be with a Todoroki, and everyone else should have rooms under Kemuri.”

Keys are passed out, luggage is whisked away, and Izuku trudges into the elevator like a sentient pile of sludge.

“I feel awful,” he announces as the car ascends. “How about you guys?”

“Amen,” mutters Sora. “I'm probably going to dance like trash at the concert. Sorry, Izuku.”

“You can't dance like trash!” Touma hisses, elbowing his twin. “Izuku's gonna do The Thing™, remember?”

The idol gasps. He'd forgotten about The Thing™!

“I finished it in Miami,” Izuku says hurriedly. “Rooftop choreography tomorrow, alright?”

“Yeah! If we fall off and die, we fall off and die!”

Shouto shoots him a concerned look when they enter their room. “Do I wanna know what that was about?”

A love song for you. “It's a secret!”

“Alright, then. Keep your secrets. I'm gonna shower,” Shouto replies. He disappears into the bathroom. Izuku plops onto the desk and scrolls through his news feed, ignoring his phone’s dwindling battery.

Alkaline is involved in another dating scandal. Viktor Nikiforov got into a Twitter fight with JJ Leroy about whose wedding was better. Ooh, Hawks saved 52 hostages from a trio of villains! Good for him. Madison Square Garden was destroyed during a battle. Someone called Bradley is advocating for autocracy in…

Wait a minute. Isn't that where I’m supposed to perform?!

Shouto emerges from the bathroom to find Izuku staring vacantly at a blank screen.

“If your phone is dead, I heard plugging it in works wonders. It's definitely better than staring at it.”

“Shoucchan, I know how phones work!” Izuku says. “I'm just freaking out because the venue I'm supposed to be singing at got trashed during a fight! What the hell am I supposed to do now?!”

Shouto grins wickedly. “You're going to shower and then sleep for a long, long time. After all, if there's no stadium, you don't have anywhere to be, do you?”

Nowhere… to be?

The implications hit him like a ton of bricks, and Izuku squeals.

“I'm gonna sleep like I'm fucking dead! Fuck yeah!”

 


 

In the morning, Izuku wakes up feeling refreshed— an utter rarity for him. He slips out of bed and goes to the bathroom. After finishing his business and changing, he picks up his phone (now fully charged). He’s got an email from Kemuri.

To: dekiru-official@kemuri.org, yachi.hitoka@sunflower.com, hinata.shouyou@sunflower.com, shibutanisora@heromail.com, shibutanitouma@heromail.com, aoyama.aoi@fantasiafashions.org, momoi-satsuki@teikou.org, and 13 others

From: kemuri@lunainternational.org

Subject: Change of Plans

Hello, everyone. I’m sure you’ve heard the news, but in case you haven’t checked your feeds, the Runaways destroyed Madison Square Garden while trying to capture a villain. While the area is being rebuilt, you all have five days of free time in New York. Consider it a vacation— you’ve all worked hard, after all.

Be safe and make sound choices. I will do the same. After all, we’re representing an esteemed company.

—Kemuri

How pretentious. Izuku has no idea how he ever found this man endearing. As it is, he has travel plans to make, a song to finalize, and choreography to create. He scribbles a note for the still slumbering Shouto and hurries out the door, texting the Shibutanis on the way.

caffeine_machine @ dance dance we’re falling apart

caffeine_machine: are you two awake? if you are, we have things to do!!!

mountain-man: Yeah! We’ll meet you in the cafeteria; breakfast is important!

Sunshine-Sky: touma you’re such a fucking square, you know that, right?

mountain-man: So I’m health conscious! Leave me alone! And why did you text that if you’re right next to me?

Sunshine-Sky: izuku also needs to know that you’re a SQUARE

Izuku laughs and pockets his phone. The Shibutanis are ridiculous.

He loves them.

He meets up with the twins in the hotel’s posh dining room, and after a large breakfast, they head up to the roof. Izuku’s sure it’s against the rules (and also the safety regulations) but it's the only place they can practice in relative peace.

“Okay!” Sora cheers. “Before we do anything, sing the song for us, Izuku! We wanna hear it!”

Izuku nods and activates his Quirk. Power surges through him, and he lets the song spill forth. He pours as much feeling into it as he possibly can. Each memory he has, each recollection of wild heartbeats and hidden blushes, sinks into the words. When he finishes, the twins are looking at him with teary eyes.

“He’s going to love it,” Touma declares.

Izuku lets his Quirk dissipate, saying, “I hope so. Now, do either of you have ideas for this dance?”

“Sure! How about we…”

 

-

 

After a few hours of practice (in which Izuku determines that he a) is hopeless and b) needs to steal a guitar), Izuku returns to his room. When he enters, a newly awakened Shouto looks up. There’s a book in his hand.

“Hey, Shoucchan! What are you reading?” Izuku asks.

“Someone left this in the nightstand… it’s a copy of All Might’s biography,” the hero replies. “There are annotations in the margins.”

“Eh? Really?” Izuku says, climbing on the bed and taking the book. It’s true— there are notes and corrections scrawled over the pages. Izuku is delighted to see that all the information is correct.

“Wow, this is really cool! We should give it to the front desk, though. Someone’s probably missing it.”

Shouto yawns. “Sure. Let’s go. Well… after I get ready.”

The hero is quick to change and meet Izuku in the hallway. As they make their way to the lobby, Izuku tells him about the postponement and their mini-vacation.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Shouto says, smiling. “You deserve a break.”

“I’m happy to take it. Hey, after we drop this off, let’s go get some New York style pizza! It’s famous!”

They turn in the book. In exchange, the desk clerk directs them to her favorite pizzeria. It’s only a short walk away, so it doesn’t take them long to reach it.

“I have a confession to make,” Shouto says when they take their seats. “I’ve only ever had pizza twice, and I didn’t like it either time.”

“Huh?! How can you only have had pizza twice before?” Izuku gasps. He practically lived off pizza and other takeout when he was a trainee. Granted, he ate all of it behind the company’s back, but still! It was his lifeblood.

“Our family always ate Japanese food. We're extremely traditional, you see. I tried many dishes for the first time at UA, mostly because of Satou and Lunch Rush. But it was Kirishima who bought me pizza… and it was honestly terrible.”

“I see… well, try it one more time! If you hate it, we’ll go get something else!” Izuku says.

“Sure. Pick whatever you think is best.”

Izuku does just that.

To his relief, Shouto seems to like this pizza, and eats enough to fall into a food coma. He rests his head on the table, saying, “I have to revise my opinion. This is incomparable to that garbage from my teenage years.”

“I’m glad! I liked it too,” Izuku laughs. Shouto peeks through his dual-colored fringe and smiles at him, looking nigh angelic. The idol can’t help but snap a photo and upload it to Instagram. He captions it, someone should offer shoucchan a modeling contract! vogue japan, where are you?

Shouto’s fans scramble to comment, the overwhelming majority of them agreeing wholeheartedly with Izuku’s statement. Smiling triumphantly, he closes the app, only to get a Snapchat notification from… Yuri Plisetsky?

When did I give Yuri my private Snapchat? Izuku thinks. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Katsuki had given it to the skater, but Izuku has no memory of that, either. With a dismissive shrug, he opens the Snap.

It reads, dude, you’re not being subtle about your crush AT ALL. you know that right?

Izuku snorts. Yuri hasn’t seen anything yet. Hoping his grin conveys his sass, the idol replies, if you think THIS isn’t subtle, just wait til the concert!

The Russian boy sends back three question marks. Izuku leaves him on read— Yuri will understand soon enough.

 


 

The next few days pass by without fanfare. The day before the repairs are projected to end, though… that’s a different beast.

In the morning, Izuku takes Yachi shopping, as he’d promised in Miami. She picks out a litany of cute sweaters and skirts, and about halfway through one of her impromptu fashion shows, Izuku realizes she’s trying to emulate someone he knows.

“Eh, Yachi-san… are you trying to dress like Shimizu Kiyoko?”

Yachi yelps and drops the socks she’s holding. “Huh?! Who? Why would you say that?!”

Izuku muffles a laugh behind his hand. “I’ve done a bunch of shoots with her. She really likes the color blue, and she has an elegant style. A lot of the stuff you tried on fits those parameters. Are you a fan?”

“Yeah…” admits the businesswoman. “I don’t know why I’m bothering, though. I’m not pretty like her.”

“Well, you don’t have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you! Shimizu-san wouldn’t want you to change yourself for her sake, anyway. She’s too kind for that.”

“I know! I keep running into her at the store, or at business events… she’s always so sweet to me! And I don’t know why!” Yachi whines.

“Do you need a reason to be nice?”

“No,” Yachi sighs, returning the socks to their shelf. “I guess not. Sorry, Dekiru-kun. I’m just being weird.”

Izuku shakes his head as he walks her out of the department store. “No, it’s normal to want to look cute, especially if you’re trying to impress a model.”

“Huh? When did I say that?! I’m not— we’re not—!”

“Sure, you’re not together, but you want to be, don’t you? That’s why you’re trying to wear things she likes.”

Yachi looks like she wants to melt into the floor. Izuku cheerily continues,

“You’re totally fine! I’ve seen plenty of people crush on Shimizu-san. The difference is that you’ve actually met her, and you have some sense of her personality.”

“I have her number too,” Yachi adds. “Though I’m not sure why she gave me it.”

“Because she wants to talk to you, duh! Message her sometime! Then you can become friends. Maybe even girlfriends!”

“That’s impossible for someone like me!”

“Listen, Yachi-san,” Izuku says, “if I can make a harebrained plan to confess to the prettiest hero in the world via song, you can send the woman you like a goddamn text.”

“I mean, I suppose so— wait, you’re going to what?”

Izuku spies the hotel in the distance. He drops Yachi’s bags into her hands, chirps “It’s a secret! Don’t tell!,” and runs away.

After his impromptu escape, he seeks out Shouto, who is mindlessly swimming laps. With his coloration, he looks like a distracted koi fish. Izuku approves.

“Shoucchan!” he calls, leaning over the rippling water. “Do you wanna do something together?”

Shouto pops up, asking, “What do you have in mind?”

“Well, I remembered that book we found and got to thinking. There’s a hero museum nearby— it has all this stuff from pre-Quirk days. I think we should check it out!”

“Sounds fun. Meet me in the lobby in thirty minutes,” the hero says, hauling himself out of the pool. Izuku fixes his eyes on the ceiling and tries not to stare.

“Gotcha.”

 

-

 

They have to take the train to get to the museum. Izuku laments the state of public transport in America the whole way there. These trains aren’t anywhere near as speedy or sanitary as the ones in Japan. And in the time they spend on the hellish ride, he has to break no less than three people’s hands for trying to cop a feel.

In short, by the time they get to their station, Izuku is extremely annoyed and somewhat homesick. He keeps his woes to himself, though, instead choosing to dart into a store (where he can purchase his sadness away!).

“Don’t tell me you’re going to spend thousands of dollars again,” Shouto says sternly, shattering that hope.

Izuku sheepishly puts down a snow globe and plucks a disposable camera off the shelf.

“My phone’s memory is getting full,” he explains. “This was all I needed, I swear!”

“Sure,” Shouto drawls. Izuku rolls his eyes and heads for the museum.

“You have no faith in me!”

“I have faith in you, but not in your purchases,” Shouto sniffs. “Here, I’ll pay for the tickets to the museum. It’s only fair that I treat you after all you’ve done.”

Izuku refrains from reflexively protesting and lets Shouto spoil him. For once. His apprehension over being taken care of evaporates instantly when he spots an old Avengers display.

“Holy fucking shit! They have Iron Man’s Mark II suit!”

Shouto geeks out just as much as he does. After two hours, they leave the museum, their joined hands swinging between them. The sweetness of it all makes even the shitty train ride worth it.

 

-

 

On their way back to the hotel, they find themselves sidetracked by something distinctly unpleasant. The earth rumbles and heaves, and Izuku shrieks when a chasm opens up before them. Shouto grabs his arm and hauls him backwards, shouting, “Villain attack! Everyone, run!”

New Yorkers seem to have more sense than Musutafu’s citizens, because they actually listen to the Temperate Hero. While the civilians escape, Izuku searches frantically for the villains. He spots two people emerging from the wreckage of a building. They’re both cackling maniacally.

“Shoucchan! Let’s go!” He hisses, indicating the duo.

Shouto bridges the gap in the street with ice, warning, “Izuku, my hero license isn’t valid in America, and you’re an unknown vigilante. We’re going to get in major trouble for this.”

“Does that matter? People are in danger— we have to help them!” Izuku replies.

They hide behind an upturned car while the villains amuse themselves with destruction. In the tiny window of time they have, Izuku cobbles together a plan.

“I think I know how to take them out without screwing ourselves over,” he whispers. “If you draw their attention, I can sneak up behind them and sing them to sleep. I don’t see anyone else in the area, so… we should be able to get away with it.”

“Okay. Take care,” Shouto says. Then he inches out from their cover and proceeds to trip, playing the part of a fleeing victim.

“Huh? Someone stuck around…” One of the villains drawls. “Your hair kind of looks like a traffic light.”

“A traffic light?” Shouto says, clearly affronted. “It’s red and white, not red, yellow, and green!”

“My bad. I meant stop sign!”

“Terra, are you fucking serious? Are you actually gonna—” The second villain complains.

Cricling around the trio, Izuku tries to stay as silent as possible. Shouto is now arguing with “Terra” about inaccurate similes. Her partner is clearly torn between beating the shit out of the Temperate Hero and seeing their absurd conversation through to the end. Excellent— his friend has all eyes on him. These idiots have no idea what’s in store for them.

Izuku starts to sing.

Having spotted the vigilante’s attack out of the corner of his eye, Shouto claps his hands over his ears. The villains whip around, but by that point, Izuku’s Quirk has already overtaken them. They collapse, completely unconscious.

Izuku blows his bangs out of his eyes. “Well, I’ve still got it! Come on, we gotta get out of here!”

Shouto gets to his feet and they book it to the hotel. While they run, Izuku can’t help but wish they’d gotten to fight a little longer. That was kinda boring.

(Back at the scene of the crime, a woman ceases filming. She sends the video off to her employer. After a minute of waffling, she asks a pressing question: Do I get paid extra for this?)

 


 

Elsewhere, the video’s recipient throws his phone across the room. It shatters against the wall. The sound of cracking glass should be calming— to him it often is— but his action isn’t cathartic in any way.

I thought he had stopped. I thought he’d seen sense! The man seethes. That settles it. I have no choice but to turn to the professionals.

He pulls out another phone and places an international call.

“This is the Dollhouse,” a melodic voice says. “How may we help you?”

“I’m requesting a reprogramming for one Midoriya Izuku…”

 


 

Today, the headlines gleefully announce that Madison Square Garden (and everything around it) has been repaired. Upon receiving the good news, Izuku’s crew heads to the venue. Controlled chaos overtakes the area only a few minutes after their arrival.

“Hey, Izuku,” Shouto drawls as Momoi cakes the idol’s face in foundation. “Did you know yesterday ‘a villain attack that wasn’t’ occurred?”

“Really? How weird,” Izuku says. Momoi smacks him for talking, so he suppresses his laughter until she’s done.

Shouto smiles at him, murmuring, “Yes, it was very mysterious.”

Then he is called away by Hinata, who shoves a new lightstick into his hand and practically boots him off the stage. The Shibutanis materialize after the hero has vanished into the crowd.

“Hey,” drawls Sora, “that was kinda suspicious. What were you two giggling about?”

“Nothing at all~”

“That sounds like a lie,” Touma says. “Was it an inside joke? Couples have lots of those, don’t they?”

“We’re not even a couple!” Izuku protests.

“Yet!” hisses Momoi. “But you better hold out, because we all have shit riding on this!”

Izuku blinks at her. He opens his mouth to ask what she means, but then he figures he has better things to do with his time, such as freaking out and having a breakdown.

He can’t believe he just realized this, but… he only has a few hours before he has to lay his heart on the line.

 

-

 

The concert is surprisingly routine, but Izuku’s anxiety grows with every song he sings. Each step he takes is part of a death march. What if Shouto hates him after this? Izuku decided to publicly confess without ever consulting him. He doubted other people would know who the song was for— this isn’t his home country, where the lyrics would be readily understood. But still…

It’s too much. Izuku really wants to wimp out, but he’s prideful. He’s also in too deep.

The last notes of “Crown” fade away. Izuku steels himself. It’s time.

He bounds over to the guitarist, whispering, “Can I borrow that?”

The girl obligingly hands over the instrument, and Izuku whirls to face the crowd. “So,” he calls. “I know that Crown was supposed to be my last song, but… you wouldn’t mind if I played another one, right?”

The answering shriek sounds like the work of twenty Present Mics. Izuku laughs nervously.

“Right! So, um, this song is called Shunrai, and it’s for someone really, really important to me. I hope you like it.”

He resolutely does not look at Shouto as he starts playing the guitar. Behind him, the Shibutani twins skid into place, and Izuku begins to sing.

It appeared in the middle of spring, shining indescribably.

It seemed that no words, no gestures, would do it justice.

Since that day, a storm has made its home in my heart, and I’ve been unable to part from it.

It was a thunderbolt with blue eyes, borrowing a human voice.

The red of your hair, dancing as you swayed, was more graceful than any other.

So well-suited to the white of your skin; so fair it could just disappear.

I wanted so badly to know how you see the colors of the world,

That just now, I reached toward your cheek, scared you might break.

Everything’s going as you please! My sad, scattered feelings are a present from you.

Blown back and forth, my deep doubts, pain, and sorrow… are precious.

Putting it into words, or giving it a shape… either way, it’s a bit shaky.

Because when I gazed into your eyes, you laughed, suddenly and gently.

My ragged voice, my loudly kept secret— before I knew it, they’d gone to pieces!

In an instant, a love like pain ran through my body.

The deep doubts, pain, and sorrow repeat, and all of a sudden it’s spring.

A sweet scent clouds and lingers, burning with love… I was led deeply, deeply astray.

The petals fall, and it’s farewell to you—So I ask, shall we dance?

The whirling flowers above came and went, the same way you did.

Then, in the middle of the next spring that rolled around, there was a rich sunpatch.

I wonder where the storm has gone, the one that captured me so...

My heart can’t go home just yet!

Please, just deceive me with your thin voice, until I’m withered and dry.

Shaken side to side, a sweet scent clouds and lingers… it was all an illusion.

Things I want to ask, feelings I want to voice— I have so many of them.

And yet, when I’m in front of you, nothing comes out.

Pain burning deep; numbness piercing my body— I realized this was a silent love.

I knew this rain and lightning were essential to building a bridge to your heart.

Please, deceive me! Laugh, and say it’s love.

Until we fade away, stay just like that…

Putting it into words, or giving it a shape… either way, it’s a bit shaky.

Because when I gazed into your eyes, you laughed, suddenly and gently.

My ragged voice, my loudly kept secret— before I knew it, they’d gone to pieces.

In an instant, a love like pain ran through my body.

The sound of the guitar fades into one, perfect moment of silence.

Then the stadium explodes.

Izuku opens his eyes and offers the crowd a shy smile. “Thank you for coming! Good night, New York City!”

He hurries off the stage, trying not to burst into tears.

 


 

YOU CAN DO IT!

The Official Blog for All Things Dekiru!

the_game: HOLY SHIT Y'ALL I'M AT DEKIRU'S CONCERT IN NYC RN DID YOU HEAR THAT SONG

albino-forest: YES i was there too and it was soft as fuck

Jeju Dreams: i’m actively begging for a translation someone please!!!

Mod_Alita: I'm speechless right now, but, um… I believe that that was a love song.

Mod_Ren: I think the English title would be “Spring Lightning?” When Alita and I are more coherent, we will post the lyrics.

SHOW 768 MORE COMMENTS?

43 seconds ago…

Mod_Ren: Going off lyrics we collected from 13 Snapchat stories, this ( LINK ) is an approximate translation of Shunrai.

Mod_Alita: It was definitely a love song. And based on some of the lines, well… I suppose we know who it was directed toward.

animika123: you can say freezerburn it’s okay dhsfladgh;aadkgh

 


 

The star-crossed pair doesn’t get a chance to speak until they’re back at the hotel.

When everyone has left them alone, when Izuku’s ears have stopped ringing from headset feedback and the screams of the crowd, Shouto turns to him.

“About that song… is that what you’ve been working on all this time? The secret you didn’t want to tell me?”

Izuku waves his hands frantically, feeling his face burn. “Um, yeah, it was! It— I know it was sudden, but uh, I just. I thought you should know. Not that it has to mean anything! We can forget about it if you want to!”

Great. He sounds completely insane. Why did Izuku think confessing with a song was a good idea?

To his shock, Shouto giggles. The sound, gentle as it is, is entirely uncharacteristic for the hero.

“Izuku, I’ve liked you for a while,” Shouto chortles. “If you hadn’t said something, I would’ve. Eventually, anyway.”

“Really? You like me? Even though I’m difficult to deal with and I always hide things and I ramble like a broken record?” Izuku says incredulously.

Shouto nods.

“Even though I’m a hero fanboy and I totally broke so many laws and I might die within the week and my mental state is like a house of cards weathering a windstorm?”

Shouto huffs and clasps Izuku’s hand with his frigid fingertips. Izuku (pardon the pun) freezes, his eyes going wide. Once he sees that he’s gotten the idol’s attention, Shouto says his piece.

“Izuku, I like you,” the hero states simply. “I know we haven’t known each other that long, and I know that there’s still an ocean of things between us, but I’d like to think we fit together.”

“I think so too,” Izuku whispers. “I really wanna get to know you. All of you.”

“It can be arranged. I’ll pencil you in at three, after Hawkeye and before Mustang— provided that I survive the first meeting, of course.”

The dry sarcasm is so unexpected that all of Izuku’s anxiety disappears. He dissolves into laughter, Shouto following a heartbeat later. They lean against each other for support, and when the fit ends, Izuku glances up. Shouto’s face is mere centimeters from his own.

“Can I—”

“Would you mind if I—”

Izuku grins and closes the gap.

Huh, he thinks idly, winding his arms around the hero’s neck. He tastes like peppermint.

There’s probably a joke I could make about that, but… later.

Chapter Text

The strains of a song filter into Shouto's consciousness, pulling him away from an amusing alternate universe in which he was an idol and Izuku was his anxious bodyguard. He gropes for the vigilante's phone and shuts off the alarm, an annoyed groan escaping him before he can help it. He doesn't want to be awake. Can't he rest longer?

It's futile. Shouto has been dragged out of sweet oblivion, kicking and screaming all the while, and now, he’s left staring at the gray ceiling of their newest hotel room. For a heart-stopping moment, he doesn’t remember where they are. Then he catches sight of a (frankly hideous) portrait of a moose on the wall and thinks, Ah, it’s Vancouver. Only Canada would pay homage to those hell-beasts.

Something warm shifts against Shouto’s right side, eliciting a smile from the typically stoic hero. Izuku had ended up crawling into his bed after last night’s concert. The idol had been exhausted— to be expected after an uncharacteristically energetic performance— so the hero couldn’t begrudge him this kindness.

(Not that it was all selfless. Shouto likes sleeping with Izuku, maybe a little more than he should.)

Sighing, Shouto turns to look at the clock. It’s 5:47. They have to get ready soon— their flight is at 9:00. But he doesn’t want to get up, nor does he want to return to Japan. This tour has been a dreamlike whirlwind, and Shouto is unwilling to re-enter reality.

What will happen back in Japan? Will he be expected to return to his hero agency? If he does, will he be able to look any of his staff in the eye? Worse yet, once they're back in their apartment, will Izuku tell him that his confession was made in a fit of temporary insanity, and no, I’d like someone with less baggage, please?

Maybe he’ll go for that Riku guy. Or fucking Kaminari, who’s too dense to notice that Shinsou has developed a thing for him and thus flirts with just about anyone.

Dispelling his woeful thoughts, Shouto shimmies out of Izuku’s arms and goes to the bathroom. He does his business, takes a freezing shower, brushes his teeth, fixes his hair, and sternly tells his reflection to stop being a fucking idiot. After that’s done, he packs up his meager possessions and settles on the empty bed with his phone.

He has a couple emails from Phoenix’s staff (including a smug congratulatory message from White Lion, who is clearly gunning for a ‘first to get fired’ award), but otherwise, there's nothing of note.

Izuku's alarm chimes again.

I will remember you;

I will meet you again!

I will draw you in my dreams every day!

You and I, under the blue night sky…

I promise, love:

At any time, I'll give you the moonlight from the night sky.

I want to illuminate the whole world!

Full moon...

The singer sits up with bitter vengeance on his face, and without even looking at Shouto, he slams his hand on the screen. The song is abruptly cut off. Satisfied with the silence, Izuku starts burrowing back under the covers.

“You have to wake up sometime, you know,” Shouto reminds the idol. A small smile curves his lips as he watches Izuku whine and pout.

“I don’t have to like it,” Izuku finally mutters. “Can you pack for me?”

Shouto, surprised at the show of trust, nods wordlessly. Does Izuku know what he’s doing, letting a hero so close to all his belongings?

Apparently he does, because the idol stumbles to the bathroom without a fuss. Shouto hops off the bed and goes to the desk, which has a notebook, some pens, and an old-fashioned recorder on it. He scoops them up and cracks open one of the suitcases, intending to place them inside.

To his surprise, he finds a note… lying atop clothes that have already been folded. Shouto squints at it in confusion. Is he supposed to read that in lieu of packing? He assumes so and sets the things he’s gathered a side to examine the message.

Shoucchan,

I keep a lot of secrets, and I hate saying them out loud. But I can give you one in writing.

The jump drive that we got after the first concert contained an obscure warning about someone I’m close to. I think Cheshire was trying to imply that they might hurt me. Nothing’s happened yet, though, so PLEASE don’t freak out on me.

—Your boyfriend (hopefully? We never specified, you know.),

Izuku

PS: You can put the things I left out in the side pocket. That’s where they’re supposed to go.

With a single, slow blink, Shouto sets the note on fire and tucks away the items he was meant to pack. Then he zips up the suitcase and returns to his place on the unused bed.

When Izuku emerges from the bathroom, Shouto carefully says, “I would like to be boyfriends.”

Izuku, who is quick on the uptake and speechless with happiness, throws his hands in the air with a cheer.

The time in the hotel room is the only piece of peace they have for a good, long while. The duo— and their entourage— eats a quick breakfast before they have to rush to the airport. Traffic is terrible. Kageyama gets yanked aside when they’re going through security, which sets Hinata and Yachi off about “Quirk prejudice!” (though they refuse to say why). Momoi loses her favorite compact and is inconsolable for hours. Aoyama curses someone out in French, prompting Izuku to snicker all the way to the Quinjet they’re taking.

As the plane rises into the air, Shouto sucks in a calming breath. The worst seems to be over. Izuku certainly thinks so— he’s scrolling through the selection of TV shows. Shouto shuts his eyes, content to let him play, but he startles when the idol squeals.

“Shoucchan, look! They have W! I’ve been meaning to watch this one forever!”

“What’s that?” The hero queries, peering at the screen and pretending that he hadn’t been frightened within an inch of his life.

“It’s a Korean drama about a woman whose father is a manga artist. She doesn’t pay much attention to his work until she accidentally falls into the world of the manga! It’s just as real as her world, you see…”

Love, Shouto supposes, is when you don’t understand a goddamn word someone is saying, but you listen because you can’t bear to ignore their voice.

 


 

After an exhausting flight, they touch down at Musutafu Global. Enthralled to be back home, Kemuri’s employees (minus the CEO himself, as his demeanor is inexplicably grim) chatter and laugh as they disembark from the plane.

Shouto and Izuku aren’t quite as pleased.

The airport, much like every airport they’ve been in since the beginning of the tour, is full of ecstatic fans. Shouto has to not-so-subtly yank Izuku out of the path of a few disrespectful girls, and hurries toward the baggage claim with irritation skittering down his spine.

“There will be more people at the exit,” Izuku says tiredly. His earlier euphoria seems to have evaporated. “That’s how it always is.”

“Let’s see if we can sneak out of here…” Shouto mutters. He quickly retrieves his phone, intending to call Yaoyorozu and see if she can spirit them away, when a text from Bakugou comes in.

blasty-mcsplode added you to “on wednesdays we punch villains” (with diamonds_got_nothing_on_me and caffeine_machine)

blasty-mcsplode: yo canary, cherry vanilla. eijirou and i are here with remote control. we’re gonna get you outta here without any of those harpies finding you

Izuku types, i love and appreciate you both but who the hell is remote control?

diamonds_got_nothing_on_me: shinsou!

Shouto winces. He hasn’t seen the other hero since he clocked him with a pipe, and he’s not looking forward to it. He’s never had to endure a conversation with someone he’d knocked unconscious, after all— when he attacks someone, they typically wind up in jail.

that’s_rough_buddy: Alright, we’re on our way to the main exit.

blasty-mcsplode: cool. hurry up, though— mister puppeteer’s quirk just went into effect and he can’t control all these people for too long

diamonds_got_nothing_on_me: now that i think about it… this is super illegal, huh

caffeine_machine: shoucchan and i won’t tell if you don’t! (^▽^)

blasty-mcsplode: why are you using kaomojis like we’re twelve

caffeine_machine: if i remember right i didn’t start using them until i was 15 so check yourself, kacchan

Shouto fondly rolls his eyes at the bickering and heads toward the exit. Izuku follows, humming to himself. As they near, they catch sight of Shinsou's distraction. The hypnotist has told everyone to look at a cat sunning itself on the floor, rendering them unaware of any people. Kemuri’s company has already taken advantage of the hero’s interference and vanished into the wind.

So without a backwards glance, the new couple leaves the airport.

A beaming Kirishima is there to direct them to the parking garage. On their way to the building, they pass a well-hidden Static Thought, who offers the trio nothing more than a quick nod. Shouto sighs in relief. No awkward discussions today, nope!

Bakugou scoffs at them as they pile into his sleek Camry, saying, “Why the fuck do you have so much shit, Izuku?”

“Impulse buying is one of my biggest weaknesses,” the idol answers, unrepentant. “You know what another one is? Food.”

“Oh, do you want to get lunch?” Kirishima says brightly.

“Are you serious, Ei?!” Bakugou groans. “That was such an obvious trap!”

“It was a trap?” Shouto whispers to his boyfriend.

“Yup! I’ve always managed to con Kacchan and his family into getting stuff for me by covertly dropping it into conversation. He only figured it out a few years ago.”

The Temperate Hero snorts. “How sneaky.”

“Hey, it's worth it! Knowing them, they’ll take us to an all-you-can-eat buffet!”

True to Izuku’s words, the other couple takes them to a well-established Chinese buffet. Bakugou orders drinks and a platter of rolls while Shouto curiously pokes at the chipped countertop, thinking, This place is a strange combination of shabby and high class. I like it.

“Aren’t you supposed to order off the menu or choose the buffet?” Izuku asks. “How did you do both?”

“I’m a fucking awesome hero, that’s how,” sniffs Bakugou.

“If Iida were here, he would lecture you about a little something called ‘abuse of power,’ Bakugou. Have you heard of it?” Shouto drawls, his voice dry as the desert.

“Heard it and ignored it, thank you very fucking much!”

“Don’t bicker, you two,” Kirishima chides. “I don’t wanna get kicked out of here— I love this place. Let’s talk about something else… like your relationship, Todoroki-kun!”

“Oh, we’re together now!” Izuku chirps. Kirishima lets out a delighted gasp, and Bakugou’s mouth curves into a rare smile.

“Huh. I thought you were, after the thing in New York, but I wasn’t sure. Good for you, Canary.”

Kirishima bounces up and grabs Izuku by the wrist. As he drags him to the buffet table, he chirps, “You have to tell me ALL about it!”

Once they’re out of earshot, Bakugou’s smile fades, and he stares into Shouto’s eyes. The bodyguard wills his expression into an impassive mask, unwilling to yield in the face of the blond hero’s fiery gaze.

After a minute passes, Shouto bites the bullet and asks, “Are you about to give me the shovel talk?”

“Why do you ask? Do I need to remind you not to hurt him? Do I need to tell you about the 26 carefully crafted homicide plans I have?”

“…unless my father’s genes come back to bite me, no.” Shouto decrees.

Bakugou viciously bites into an egg roll, retorting, “Just because your old man was an abusive little asshole doesn’t mean you’re gonna become one. And don’t use your history as a fucking cop-out, you hear me?”

“Yeah, I do. In fact, I’m sure half the restaurant does, too,” Shouto hisses. He mournfully chews his own spring roll, barely finishing before he continues, “In all honesty, I’d rather die than raise a hand to him.”

“Good. That’s what I fucking thought. Anyway, now that we understand each other, you need to record a video with me. Yuri has been harassing me about some cryptic message Izuku sent him a while back. He wants some answers.”

“About what—” Shouto starts, but Bakugou has already turned his phone toward him.

“Freezerburn, are you and Izuku dating?”

“Yes…?”

“Was that lightning song about you?”

“Probably? There is a line in there about red hair.”

Bakugou sends the Snap off with a mildly affronted look. “Why did you have to sound so confused? God, it’s like you can’t tell a confession from a declaration of war.”

“I was a sheltered child,” Shouto deadpans, stone-faced.

Bakugou gives him up as a lost cause and starts chugging his iced tea. Shouto turns his attention to the buffet table, where Kirishima is lecturing Izuku about something or another. Before he can moon for too long, his phone pings with a message.

local-content-creator @ 19 Dumbasses & 1 Voice of Reason

local-content-creator: Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and realize how horribly fragile you are? Sometimes, I think I should be dead.

Glasses_President: I occasionally find myself feeling the same way. I believe it is a common problem for heroes. However, if you are in emotional distress, consider speaking to a counselor or therapist.

electro-ball: absolutely yaomomo by the way do you think pigeons have feelings

Shouto’s jaw drops in surprise. Across the table, Bakugou chokes on his drink and hurriedly types,

blasty-mcsplode: hey denki what the fuck is wrong with you

electro-ball: it’s a valid question

heart-beat-beat-beat: no it really isn’t? and why did you ask while Momo was having a crisis?

static_THOT: he fried himself catching a villain, it’s fine though, I’m with him

heart-beat-beat-beat: take away his phone, for fuck’s sake

screw-gravity: seconded

froppy: thirded

A Tape Boi: is thirded a word??

static_THOT: it doesn’t matter, I have his phone now. except asfhskldjghjsdkg

that’s_rough_buddy: Are you having a stroke?

electro-ball: HI THIS IS SHINSOU DENKI IS TRYING TO EAT MY PHONE’S BATTERY? WHAT THE HELL?

A Tape Boi: he does that sometimes, it’s totally normal. knock him out

electro-ball: [message deleted]

electro-ball: will do

“Denki is such a fucking disaster,” mutters Bakugou. “You’d think he’d have figured out his wattage problem after so many years as a pro hero…”

“Quirks can be tricky,” Shouto defends. He himself would have been severely punished for such a lack of control, but Kaminari is not him, so allowances must be made.

Trying not to sink into thoughts about his bleak childhood, he changes the topic. “Shinsou has bad luck, doesn’t he? Getting caught in a villain attack right after we parted ways…”

“Luck has nothing to do with it. I bet you anything that he heard that Crappy Circuit Board was involved and rushed over to protect his dumbass in distress,” the blond replies.

“I heard someone mocking Denki!” Kirishima announces, striding over and setting down a plate piled with food. “What’s he done now?”

“Check the group chat,” Shouto says. He lets Izuku sit down and then motions for Bakugou to walk to the buffet with him.

“Hey,” the blond says casually. “You think anyone will care if I eat all the pepper chicken?”

“Go for it.”

With that said, they return to their partners. Shouto feels as if they’ve reached some measure of understanding, though he’s not sure why.

They just talked about chicken, for God’s sake.

 


 

A week passes.

Shouto and Izuku don’t even think about leaving the apartment. The hero languishes on the couch as if he’s a dramatic 19th-century noblewoman. The idol shuffles from room to room with his comforter wrapped around his shoulders, looking for all the world like a miniature Aizawa.

On the eighth day, Izuku abruptly throws the comforter into his closet and says, “Let’s go do something.”

“Do what,” wheezes Shouto, (who has been hovering on the verge of a cold for the past sennight and is toeing the line of ‘too tired to move’).

Izuku offers him a sheepish smile. “I know you haven’t been feeling too well, but I was thinking we could go out on a date? Maybe the fresh air will help.”

Shouto pries himself off the soft cushions. “Sure. I’ll have to take some Emergen-C and some Tylenol, but then we can do anything you’d like.”

“We’ll come right back if it’s too much for you,” Izuku promises as they get ready. “I’m just going a little stir-crazy, you know?”

“I get it. Pick a destination while I go get a face mask.”

When Shouto returns from the bathroom, Izuku informs him that he wants to go to an amusement park. Shouto, who has never been to such a place, readily agrees.

A twenty minute train ride takes them to 12 Flags, a place that he's heard Uraraka call “super overpriced.” Izuku, being obscenely rich, doesn't bat an eye at the ticket prices (or the food prices, or the merchandise prices, or the…)

“What do you want to do first, Shouto?” Izuku chirps. His hair has been dyed brown for the occasion, and Shouto deliriously compares the shade to that of chocolate.

“What about… that shooting game?” The hero asks, pointing towards several booths in the distance. He has a vague recollection of someone telling him their boyfriend won them a prize at a festival, and he's reasonably sure that he can shoot well (he did take a weapons course from Snipe in his third year, after all.)

“I heard those things are rigged, but I'm willing to try!” Izuku replies, skipping toward the stall Shouto has indicated.

Shouto adjusts his hat, gets red dye over his fingers, and laments the state of his life before he finds it in him to follow. Izuku tries his hand at the game and promptly fails, to the amusement of the arrogant teller.

“Let me try,” Shouto says. The girl manning the booth waves him toward the assembled guns. He picks one up, and after assuring himself that he knows how to work this particular toy weapon, starts firing.

They leave the booth with an All Might omanjuu in hand. The pissed off teller can't stop herself from swearing at their backs.

The day only gets better from there. Shouto forgets his worries as they ride roller coasters, take photos with some of the more eagle-eyed fans (who are more discreet than Shouto had expected them to be), and purchase unholy quantities of food. Izuku crams a mountain of pink cotton candy into his mouth, offering Shouto some after he’s demolished half the bag.

“It’s too sweet for me,” the hero declines. “You can have the rest.”

(You’re too sweet is what he doesn’t say.)

The earth turns, slowly plunging the world into darkness. Izuku’s energy hasn’t waned the whole day, and he dances under the constellations, pulling Shouto to and fro like the planet he’s always been compared to. Even as he coughs and sniffles, he smiles for his boyfriend.

“Are you okay?” Izuku asks, watching Shouto inconspicuously hack up a lung.

“I’m fine, I promise. I do think we should leave soon, though.”

“Of course, of course. But before we go, can we ride the Ferris wheel?” Izuku asks shyly.

Shouto thinks there’s a romantic comedy that involves that specific ride, so he instantly acquiesces. He follows Izuku to the towering wheel and steps into one of the carriages, offering the idol his hand.

“How gallant,” the attendant coos. Izuku beams at them, and Shouto can’t stop himself from smiling in return.

As they ascend, Izuku turns to Shouto. His eyes are glowing faintly, even though Shouto hadn’t seen him activate his Quirk. Maybe it’s a passive effect…?

“Shoucchan… did you ever think we’d end up here? I remember being so annoyed when my manager said I’d be getting a bodyguard. I never expected to fall for you.”

Shouto glances down at the ground. From here, the other fair-goers look like ants. “No,” he says softly. “I actually thought you’d be vapid and shallow. You proved me wrong pretty quickly, though.”

“I love destroying people’s assumptions of me,” Izuku laughs. “It’s one of my favorite pastimes.”

The wheel comes to a halt with their carriage at the apex. At the edge of the fairgrounds, someone gives an order, and fireworks streak into the sky. They bloom into sparkling flowers, red, gold, and green against the navy of the heavens.

“Beautiful,” Shouto whispers. He looks right at Izuku so the double meaning is clear.

“Says you,” Izuku retorts. “You're only the prettiest hero in the current circuit.”

“We'll agree to disagree,” Shouto sniffs.

Izuku gives him a wicked grin. “I know something else we can do. I think you'll like it better than disagreeing.”

“And what would that be?”

The idol hooks one finger in Shouto's mask and pulls it down. Despite raising a skeptical eyebrow, the hero leans down and kisses him.

“My cold has gotten worse. You're going to get sick,” he warns. Izuku smiles against his mouth.

“Didn't you know we were invincible? We'll be just fine. Also… I don't really mind being laid up with you.”

Shouto concedes the point and keeps kissing his wild, gorgeous boyfriend. They don't part until they're back to earth.

(Contrary to Izuku's bold words, they both fall victim to the illness and are stuck in bed for five days. When they tire of lazing in their lonely rooms, they curl up together in a miserable pile and watch New Moomin. Sleep comes for them approximately halfway through the series.

As Shouto drifts into dreams, he hears Izuku murmur,

“You really are the perfect temperature, aren’t you? I love dating a walking thermostat.”

Shouto smiles in return and pulls Izuku closer to his right side.

He’s still a little feverish, after all.)