“You need to work harder! Take control!”
Shouto heard the words, but ignored them as he stood hunched over, panting heavily. He was trying, damn it. The right side of his body was numb, frost building up on his icy skin. It was a feeling he became accustomed to and dreaded. He time was nearly up, but he was the only one in the room to acknowledge that.
“Do it again!”
Shouto looked up at his father on the opposite side of the dojo. His flames were strong, melting his ice quickly. Chest heaving with exhaustion, Shouto glared at his father, refusing to cave into his desires. They had been training for hours, relentlessly sending ice spike after ice spike towards his father in an attempt to gain control.
Shivering, he tried to focus his slipping concentration on his father and send another spike his way. The ice froze the floor of the dojo on its path, stopping halfway to the man across from him. Shouto felt himself drifting, knowing what was to come next.
He was on his knees, eyes blurrily focused on the cabinet in the corner of the dojo. He counted the drawers slowly, barely aware of his ice melting quickly as his father approached. He could feel the heat getting stronger, the ice on the floor around him melting, the frost on his skin burning.
Shouto’s focus on the cabinet remained as his father stood over him, his flames burning dangerously close. He could hear the tone in his voice, disappointment lacing his venomous words. He’d heard these words time and time again, each sinking deeper than the last, nearly breaking his daze.
He’d become accustomed to being pushed beyond his limits, using his quirk for so long that the frost that built up on his skin had permeated the deeper layers, doing permanent damage. His father’s flaming hands on him afterwards only made it much worse.
Shouto looked up suddenly, his neck cracking from the sudden movement. Midoriya was in front of him, a worried look on his freckled face. Behind him stood Iida and Uraraka, both with frowns on their faces. He briefly wondered what was so concerning.
As if to answer his question, Midoriya supplied, “The bell rang already… aren’t you coming to lunch?”
Eye’s shifting to the clock on the wall, Shouto took note of the time. It was indeed lunch, but how come he hadn’t heard the bell? Brows knitting together in confusion, Shouto came to the only conclusion available. He was exhausted. The extra training sessions as of late were draining him of his energy and time.
“Todoroki?” Midoriya’s voice was uncertain.
“I must’ve dozed off,” Shouto supplied with a shrug of his shoulders. He stood up, shaking the feeling of uncertainty.
“Well let’s not waste time!” Iida called from the door. “The lines will be long by now!”
Shouto followed the three out of the classroom, barely listening to Midoriya and Uraraka’s chatter on the lesson they’d just finished. He took note that he felt especially distant, as if he wasn’t truly walking to lunch down the halls of U.A. with his friends. Frowning, he blinked hard, hoping that would snap him out of it.
At lunch, Sero kept elbowing his right arm, seeming to catch his wounds every time. Shouto tried to keep his grimace under wraps, but after a particularly hard jab into his upper arm, he couldn’t hid the sharp intake of breath. He instinctively grabbed the spot and rubbed it slowly.
“Sorry man!” Sero apologized, noticing his reaction. “My elbows are sore from our training yesterday, hard to control, yaknow?”
Shouto nodded. Yesterday’s training at U.A. had been intense, but not as much as the private lessons he was receiving. Nor the aftermath of such.
Wincing as he rubbed his arm slowly, he realized it was tenderer than usual. Pressing the pads of his fingers against his blazer, he could feel a heat radiating from underneath the clothing. Standing up suddenly, Shouto excused himself quickly.
He took to the bathroom just outside of the cafeteria. Once inside, he shed his jacket off. His heart dropped as he saw the stain on his white uniform, blooming darker with each moment. Quickly unbuttoning his shirt, Shouto cursed under his breath. He shed the shirt, revealing in the bathroom mirror stained bandages wrapped around his right arm, from shoulder to just above his wrist.
“What the fuck?”
Shouto spun around, heart in his throat at the sudden outburst. Exiting a stall behind him was Katsuki. Fuck. Shouto had no excuse. His shirt was half off, exposing his right side with blood-stained bandages.
Katsuki approached him slowly, his red eyes boring into his own. He was looking for an answer, an explanation of why he was bandaged like he was. His hands were in his pockets, but the rest of his demeanor was serious. Bakugou reached out, watching as Shouto flinched away from him.
Shouto pulled his shirt back on, only buttoning a few buttons to become decent before grabbing his blazer and quickly exiting the bathroom. Katsuki stared after him, confused and unsure of what to think.
Recovery Girl frowned at the state of Shouto’s arm. His head turned away in embarrassment as she examined his injuries. He knew she could tell they were recent, but not recent enough to have been caused by a student. He heard her sigh in acknowledgement before he felt her lips on him and the sudden draining feeling as she used her quirk.
Within moments, his skin wounds were healed and all he felt was a slight twinge, as if he had a sunburn.
“Todoroki,” Recovery Girl began, starting to apply a salve and some bandages. “What happened?”
Shouto looked at the Pro Hero, studying her as she wrapped him up. No, he decided, he couldn’t tell her. He looked away, focusing on the wall in front of him and found himself coming to the same feeling. He felt as if he body was on a boat, being rocked by waves although he was completely still. His brain became fuzzier and more distant, his eyes unfocused.
Katsuki was the first to notice it. Long before they had moved into their dorms, long before that moment in the bathroom during lunch. The first sign was that Shouto seemed unaffected by his outbursts. While the rest of Class 1-A reacted whenever he shouted or got riled up, Shouto on the other hand seemed to be passive. At first, Bakugou chalked it up to his cold demeanor, like the rest of the class had.
But then, one afternoon after a particularly difficult training session, as the boys cleaned up in the locker room, Katsuki had shouted at Deku, angry that the nerd had the gall to hold back. He told him as much, towering over the green-haired idiot, small explosions popping from his palm. Kirishima was telling him to chill, but his words fell on deaf ears.
“I’m sorry, Kachaan.” Deku mumbled, backing up against the lockers.
“Shut the fuck up!” Katsuki spat, raising his hand, ready to strike. Anger was coursing through his veins. Deku had thrown their sparing match on purpose, letting Katsuki win. It wasn’t a fair fight or victory if his opponent didn’t give it their all like he did.
Midoriya flinched, ready for the impact of Katsuki’s quirk, hearing the loud pops so close to his head. Instead, the angry teen backed off, huffing and turning to the showers.
“Next time, don’t fuckin’ hold back.”
That’s when he saw Shouto, standing in the doorway to the showers, a towel around his waist and that blank stare. Katsuki stopped short. Kirishima and Midoriya were preoccupied with commenting on his outburst of anger to notice.
Continuing forward, he grabbed the spaced out teen by the upper arm and lead him back into the showers, hoping the others didn’t notice. Unsurprisingly, Shouto followed Katsuki’s lead without a fight.
After they passed a few shower stalls, Katsuki pushed him into an empty one and closed the curtain. Each stall had a bench against the wall, but they definitely weren’t meant for sharing. Huffing slightly, Katsuki pushed Shouto onto the bench, taking note of how easily he was moved.
Katsuki didn’t fully understand why Shouto’s eyes were distant and unseeing, but he had enough sense to know it wasn’t right. He stood before him, feeling slightly weird being fully clothed in the shower shall, even more so by being in a stall with another person, but put that out of his head for a moment as he took in Shouto’s lack of awareness.
For someone wanting to be a Pro Hero, spacing out to this degree didn’t seem very advantageous.
“Yo, Ice-for-brains.” Katsuki grunted, hoping to snap him out of whatever trance he was in.
When that didn’t work he snapped his fingers in front of his face, frowning at the lack of reaction. Fuck. Should he get a teacher? Was there something legitimately wrong with his classmate? Before he could move to leave the shower stall, Shouto suddenly shook his head violently. Katsuki observed as he closed his eyes tightly before opening them and looking up at him.
It seemed to take a moment for Shouto to process that Katsuki was standing, fully clothed, in a shower stall while he sat in just a towel. Confusion crossed his face for a moment.
“What-“ Katsuki began, only to be cut off by his classmate.
“What?” Katsuki repeated, more confused. What the hell did he mean by that?
Shouto felt the heat crawl up his neck. He couldn’t believe he had gotten caught like that. This had never happened without his awareness of what triggered it. He couldn’t recall when he had slipped or how he’d gotten here. Everything from the moment he left the showers to somehow finding himself in a shower stall with his classmate was a blur.
Katsuki had a million questions swimming in his head. He could tell that this was a normal thing, but not something he’d been caught with before.
“You better keep an eye on yourself,” Katsuki said, his voice low and softer than he intended. “If a villain were to have been here…”
Shouto knew exactly what he was implying.
Ever since that moment, Katsuki noticed more and more about their classmate. The way he walked, for instance, was light and with very little sound. His whole body was tensed up, as if he was avoiding making noise. Or the way he ate, quickly but still very trained and proper. Katsuki secretly timed him once, his curiosity getting the better of him. A whole bowl of Miso soup was devoured in merely a minute and a half. The rest of the class had barely taken a bite.
Or how he sat, at all times, back straight, shoulders back and facing forward. He never slouched or showed any signs of fatigue, even after a hard day of training. Or how he used his quirk during training, the way he would dance around the field, avoiding his opponent with a seemingly practiced ease, as if he had years under his belt already.
The one thing he couldn’t get his mind off of was that interaction in the shower. Seeing Shouto completely lost scared him more than he wanted to admit. He’d tried to google the word he’d used, but came up short. There wasn’t a chance in hell he was talking about a car going around a corner in a particular way. So what they hell did he mean when he said “drifted”?
The thought plagued Katsuki for months. He kept an eye on Shouto, watching him closely for another sign. But one never came. He did notice more often or not that he seemed to be bandaged up in some way. Whenever they changed in the locker rooms between training sessions, Katsuki couldn’t help but notice the scars that littered his back. Was his quirk, at some point, as hard to control as Deku’s?
Shouto noticed Katsuki’s attention suddenly shift from Midoriya to himself. Well, it wasn’t that he stopped paying attention to the green-haired classmate, it was just less intense. Katsuki would let more and more things that he would normally be irritated by slip past him. Shouto cursed to himself for letting his guard down so much in front of his classmate. His face grew hot thinking about the close calls he’d had. He’d been lucky the angry teen hadn’t done anything.
If anyone were to find out what was happening… He shuddered at the thought. His father would be livid. He would have to be more careful, more prepared.
It was the next day that he bought undershirts and started wearing them. He was uncomfortable at first, not used to the many layers, but quickly got accustomed to it. Katsuki, he knew, noticed immediately. That day in the locker rooms, he could feel his eyes on him when he changed. He looked over at his classmate to see his eye brows knitted together.
It was getting harder and harder to hide, to escape when something triggering happened. It wasn’t his classmates fault. They didn’t know any better, and frankly neither did he. This was new territory for him. He didn’t know how to live under a different roof than his fathers. The rules were different, everyone was loud and rowdy, pent up energy that wasn’t expelled during training overflowing into the common room.
He’d learned to steal away to him room when the common room would become too rambunctious. All the sounds became disorientating, blurring together and confusing him. There was no way he would get any work done, anyway, in a setting like that, he would say.
He’d learned that being touched when he wasn’t expecting it sent him into a frenzy. Mina was the first to teach him that when she snuck up on him one morning and scared him. He did his best to suppress the panic that rose and tried to keep focus to stop himself from drifting.
He learned quickly that years of trying to go unnoticed to avoid punishment in his own home came in handy to escape. He could quickly slip in or out of a room without anyone noticing.
Katsuki, Kirishima, Midoriya, and Iida were all studding at a table in the common room. Shouto joined them, opening his Chemistry book and setting to work on his homework.
“Oi, IcyHot,” Katsuki called from the other end of the table. “Chemistry too?”
“Yeah,” Shouto responded, looking down the table at him.
Before he could say anything else, Katsuki slammed his book shut and moved to sit beside him.
“Help me with problem five.” he demanded.
Shouto nodded, turning his attention to that problem and reading it over. He didn’t understand it at first, but after talking it over, they solved the problem together. Shouto felt weird about the sudden friendliness between him and Katsuki. There were never on bad terms, but given the scrutiny he knew he was under…. He was sure his classmate knew more than he let on.
Standing up, Katsuki ruffled Shouto’s hair. He felt a heat rise up his neck before he realized the subconscious move; his parents did that all the time with him, it felt natural to emulate it. Suddenly, Shouto went stiff underneath his fingers.
“You’re distracted, Shouto,” his father grumbled from across the dojo. “Stop suppressing yourself! You’ve got to learn to control your quirk if you want to become the number one hero and beat All Might!”
Shouto felt tears fall from his eyes. He didn’t want to use his quirk. Not after how his mother had reacted to his fire. Not after the days he spent in the hospital. He rose a shaking hand to his scar, touching the still tender flesh.
“You’re weak! Stop crying and show me your power!” He spat.
Shouto looked up at the flames that emitted from his father, fear passing through him. Before he could react, his father was on him, lifting him up with one hand in his hair, gripping tightly. Shouto cried out, hands tugging at his father’s to let him go.
“Todoroki!!” a loud voice boomed from across the room.
Shouto looked up suddenly. His chest was tight and his breath caught in his throat. He stared wide-eyed around the room. Frowning, his heart pounding, he tried to make sense of the situation. He was in the dorm’s common room. He was sitting at the table, his homework in front of him. He was not a young boy in his dojo with his father’s hand in his hair. As if to confirm reality, he reached up slowly and ran a hand through his two toned locks.
Shouto turned to his left and saw Katsuki in the doorway, looking at him inquisitively. He knew his classmate knew. He saw the recognition in his eyes before he turned and beckoned him to follow. Shouto did.
Katsuki lead him down the hall and out into the garden. They had a small courtyard between the two sides of the buildings. Katsuki steered him away from the garden and into the forest behind the dorms. They walked in silence, the ill-tempered teen leading the way, hands stuffed into his pockets.
A few minutes passed before the entered a clearing, the forest opening up to allow some sunlight hit the leaf-strewn floor. Shouto stopped next to his classmate, looking around the clearing.
“I come here when I’m pissed,” Katsuki supplied, taking a step into the clearing.
Shouto took a look around at the trees opposite them; they were scarred with marks he recognized. Looking back at Katsuki, Shouto opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off.
“I don’t know what demons you’re trying to hide,” Katsuki started, turning to face him, studying him with a calculating stare. “But come here instead of spacing out when things get rowdy in the dorm.”
Shouto knew his surprise was clearly written on his face. How did Katsuki know? Was he that obvious when he slipped away to his room when he felt himself drifting?
“Tch,” Katsuki scoffed. “I’m not stupid, IcyHot. You just had a fucking panic attack when I ruffled your hair.”
Shouto looked at the ground, a hand coming up to rub his neck.
“Anyway,” Katsuki paused, thinking of how to word what he wanted to ask. Biting his lip, he kept his gaze on his classmate, mumbling an apology.
“Thanks, Katsuki.” Shouto mumbled, looking up at him.
Trying to hide the surprise of someone using his first name so freely, Katsuki brushed past him and left the forest.
Shouto went to the forest often. He never saw Katsuki there, but could see the recent damage done to the foliage. He screamed and cried and let out all the pent up emotions, letting his quirk run freely. He wanted to thank Katsuki for showing him his spot, something that obviously had helped him. He found he wasn’t panicking as much in the common room as of late.
Katsuki watched from his balcony every night as Shouto slipped into the forest. He leaned against the doorway, watching the tree line, waiting. Every night he could catch a glimpse of fire licking the trees near the clearing. Every night he would hear a scream that chilled him to the bone drift on the wind. He needed to figure out what the hell that boy had going on.
“Did you hear that last night?” Mina asked Tsuyu, looking at the other girls with wide eyes.
“Hear what?” Kaminari questioned, leaning over his breakfast to ask.
“The screams from the forest.”
Katsuki overheard the conversation from the kitchen, where he was leaned against the bar. Eyebrow quirked, he listened to his classmates gossip and theorize about what, who, where the sounds in the night were coming from.
“Tch,” Katsuki pushed himself off the counter, moving away from the dining area. “Don’t you extra’s know the tale?”
He didn’t need to look back at them to gauge their reaction. He knew they would be hanging onto every word, excited for a piece of information. Clucking his tongue at how easy this would be, he divulged, “The forest his haunted. You know of the Suicide Forest in the south right? Well U.A. happens to have something similar, a sister forest, they say. It’s where the spirits of fallen Hero’s roam, reliving their demise over and over.”
“Kachaan is right!” Deku interjected.
Good, Katsuki thought. Exactly what I’d hoped for. Smirking as Midoriya started to ramble, gaining the attention of the class as he told them, in more detail, about the legend. As Katsuki left the common room, heading to the bathrooms to get washed up for the day, he knew he had done his job.
Shouto almost broke curfew. He slipped inside the building just before the doors were armed. Heaving a sigh, he leaned against the wall, looking at the bottom of the back stairs. His face was still hot with emotion, the recent tears staining his cheeks.
Shouto looked up at the sound. All too familiar, Katsuki stood at the top of the stairs, slouching against the wall, his hands in his pockets. Shouto’s shoulders dropped in defeat, looking away from the red gaze fixed on him.
“Fuck, Icy.” Katsuki breathed, taking in his classmate’s appearance. He clothes were ripped, one side bared, the edges of his shirt burnt away. The remainder of his shirt was wet, clinging to his frame. Dirt covered what was left of his pants and his hair was tousled, the two colors usually parted perfectly were mixed.
Katsuki descended the stairs, coming just a few steps from Shouto. He knew whatever Shouto was going through wasn’t easy. He watched from his balcony night after night, heard his pain shouted in the night. The rest of class 1-A seemed to shrug off the sounds carried across the trees, Katsuki’s plan of bringing up the legend seemed to satiate everyone.
Shouto pushed himself from the wall, brushing past his classmate on his way up the emergency stairs, muttering a small thanks. Katsuki nodded, following Shouto back to the main hallway.
The next couple of weeks found Katsuki tied up with more homework than he’d had in his life. Midterms were approaching and every class seemed to have more and more content needing to be learned before then. Tensions here high in the dorms as everyone tried to complete their work before the evening training.
Finally it all came to a head. After getting endlessly frustrated with Chemistry, he stormed out of the dorms and into the forest. He needed some cool air and something to beat up. Stomping angrily, he let his quirk pop in his palms, feeling the rush of adrenaline begin.
He entered the clearing with a bang, his hands raised and aimed at his favorite tree, one that didn’t seem to take any damage no matter what he threw at it. He didn’t relent, releasing all of his frustrations out. The more he did, the more explosive his quirk became.
Shouto slid down the tree, freezing in the spot at the orange flashing before him. He instantly felt himself drift, leaving and feeling hollow. His breath caught in his throat, unsure of how he’d gotten here and frozen in place as the explosions continued beside him.
Katsuki didn’t notice his classmate in the clearing until he paused, catching his breath and feeling the tension leaving his shoulders. He saw the distant look in his eyes and his slumped body against the tree next to the one he’d been pointing his attacks.
Katsuki felt fear run through him, white hot and numbing. Had he hit his classmate with anything? He took a quick glance at him and noticed he wasn’t singed and determined that no, he was unharmed.
But that look, or lack of one, reminded him of that day in the shower. He crouched beside Shouto, noticing his breathing ragged, his slumped body, the way his head was cocked to the side. If he wasn’t mistaken, he would have thought he was drugged, tripping hard.
But Katsuki had finally found his answer, after months of research, it was staring him in his face. Carefully, he place a hand on Shouto’s shoulder, trying to sooth him. He’d read online that anyone in this state wouldn’t be responsive and should be approached with care. Startling them wouldn’t be useful and would only trigger them more.
Shouto felt the weight on his shoulder and tried to place it. He was far off, swaying with the waves, hoping it would be over soon. They sat there for what felt like hours. Finally, after gently rubbing circles into his shoulder, feeling awkward sitting cross-legged next to the unresponsive boy, he could feel Shouto stiffen, his muscles twitch.
Keeping his hand, he hoped comfortingly, on his shoulder, he said, “Shouto?” His voice cracked.
Shouto turned his head towards Katsuki, unsure of what he was seeing. Katsuki nodded, letting his hand drop to his lap. He twisted his fingers together.
“What happened?” Shouto straightened up against the tree, his back aching from the position he’d been in. “How long…” he trailed off.
“A couple minutes, I think,” Katsuki grunted. “I dunno, I came here to blow off steam and didn’t realize you were here. And then you…”
Katsuki took a deep breath.
“I drifted?” Shouto asked, still a bit dazed.
Katsuki furrowed his brow at his question. Did he not know what it was? Was he… No, he couldn’t be undiagnosed….
“You were disassociating.”
By the look on Shouto’s face, Katsuki’s question was answered. The idiot was undiagnosed. How, he had no fucking idea. His anger bubbled to the surface. What had he been through to experience this? When he finally googled the symptoms he stumbled upon the answer he’d been looking for, found out what Shouto was experiencing when he got spacey. And he had felt as if he was doused with ice water when he found out what could cause it.
“Fuck, Icy,” Katsuki reached up and scratched his head. “How do you not know? You panic anytime someone touches you, you leave yourself don’t you? Feel like you aren’t you whenever something that reminds you of it? Certain sounds or things. Like…”
It suddenly dawned on him, his eyes going wide.
Shouto flinched, pulling himself away from Katsuki, feeling the sudden weight his gaze held. He felt barred to the angry teen, hot heat rising to color his face. He felt his eyes water unwillingly, emotion clogging his throat and weighing on his chest like a ton of bricks.
Katsuki reached out and touched Shouto, trying to pull him forwards. He didn’t say anything else, his brain connecting the dots. The scars on his back, the random injuries that suddenly stopped when they were moved into the dorms, the way he walked as if on edge, hyper aware of his surroundings, that look in his eyes when things became too much. How he reacted when Katsuki had ruffled his hair or lashed out.
Katsuki felt a lump forming is his throat, guilt eating at him as realization fully dawned on him. He couldn’t believe his own classmate….. They were in the damn Hero Course, for fuck’s sake… How could….
“Don’t,” Shouto finally said, his voice weak and full of emotion.
“You need to see someone. This is not something you should work through on your own.”
The statement hit Shouto hard. This wasn’t Midoriya inspiring him during the Sports Festival, pushing him to realize his own potential. This was Bakugou, strong, angry, unsympathetic Bakugou, telling him to find a shrink. The one classmate he never expected to have figure him out. Out of everyone in class 1-A, Katsuki Bakugou was the last person Shouto could have imagined would be giving him mental health advice.
“Shut it, Icy,” Katsuki spat, reading his mind. “I looked it up. Disassociation Disorder is serious and is a big box of shit. You show all the signs associated with,” he paused, turning his head away from him.
He whispered, “With abuse.”
Shouto flinched and stood up suddenly, glaring down at Katsuki. He was losing control, he could feel the heat rising on his left, becoming unbearable. He tried to suppress it. He would never use that power, never.
Katsuki was babbling on, listing all the things he’s observed since they started at U.A. He sounded a lot like Midoriya in that moment. Shouto felt anger rising, feeling it bursting out of his left side as he let out a scream, tears running down his cheeks. Katsuki backed away, trying to calm Shouto before he burned the whole forest down.
Doing the only thing he could think of, he threw himself at the boy on fire, tackling him to the ground. He struggled as Shouto thrashed under him, his flames burning his clothes. A hand grabbed at his bicep, ice cold and freezing him instantly.
Katsuki shouted, backing off him. Before he could formulate another plan, Shouto’s quirk dissipated, leaving him on the ground, shaking with emotion. Katsuki patted out the flames on his leg, frowning at what was left of his sweats.