i. you taught me loads about this heart
July 6, 2024
Here’s how it happens: Izuku’s turning the street corner when an unfortunate collision with an unapologetic skater (inline, not ice) leaves his unprotected blades damaged beyond repair.
Even at seven PM, the sun still casts its golden-yellow rays over the rugged city skyline, leaving behind a sweltering July heatwave; Izuku has to turn his phone’s brightness to max to squint at the directions provided by Google Maps. He sighs and dusts the dirt off his clothes with cement scraped hands—the nearest figure skate shop open after regular working hours is four hundred kilometres south of Musutafu, over an hour’s train ride away.
It’s how Izuku finds himself in a small rink nestled away in the outskirts of a lower class neighbourhood—the nearest with an open public skate time. The receptionist looks up from her computer when Izuku approaches the front counter. He’s not sure what kind of expression he has on his face, but Izuku has enough self-awareness to know he wears his heart on his sleeve and thus isn’t surprised when her face softens with sympathy. “Long day?”
World-class athlete status notwithstanding, Izuku’s a broke college student who’s just had to spend over an entire month’s rent to replace blades that had been perfectly functional up until two hours ago. His hands are raw and embedded with stubborn bits of fine gravel. His patience has been worn thin by the biased Western sports articles spawning on his Twitter feed. His muscles are beyond sore from today’s exhausting yet painfully unproductive training; he’d been looking forward to crashing in his shoebox apartment, but his brand new blades need to tested out before his stupidly early training session tomorrow.
Izuku takes the admission wristband from the receptionist's hand and sighs. “You could say that.”
The cool air in the rink is a welcome relief from the summer heat. Small mercies, Izuku thinks absently as he removes the blade guards off his skates with practiced ease and steps onto the ice.
A quarter of the rink has been sectioned off for what seems to be a beginners’ lesson—a small group of all ages is shakily weaving around traffic cones on slight outside edges. The instructor has his back facing the rest of the rink as he works one on one with an especially frustrated student, a college-aged girl in hockey skates. He appears to be younger than her, but age isn’t an indicator of skill; from across the ice, Izuku’s eye catches the metallic gleam of distinctive black Pattern 99 Revolution blades—high caliber models nearly impossible to use without the necessary prowess to back them up.
Izuku lazily circles the rink twice, then a third time backwards, adjusting to the quirks of his new blades. He approaches the sectioned off area with a series of turns, rounds the corner just as the instructor turns around. Izuku is mid-crossover when their eyes meet—
—and widen simultaneously.
Izuku’s breath catches, his thoughts smothering out like a candle flame. He crashes into the rink boards, but he hardly feels the pain because—
His red and white hair is hidden by a ratty hockey helmet, heterochromatic eyes behind thick-framed glasses reflecting Izuku’s surprise, shock, wonder. Izuku doesn’t even think he’s breathing at this point, swears he must be hallucinating as he stares open-mouthed at a face he’s only seen in old media footage and fever dreams for the past two years. A moment passes in stunned silence. It feels like an eternity.
Neither of them move. The distance between them is more than a few metres and a row of bright orange cones.
Two years and the endless expanse of the Pacific, a yawning chasm haunted by the echoes of breathless laughter and words left hanging in the frigid stadium air, unvoiced, unspoken, unfulfilled—
There are a million things Izuku wants to say; the words have boiled beneath his skin since Beijing. He’s spent countless hours between waking moments imagining an improbable reunion, planning his words carefully, but between his strangled thoughts and closed throat and deafening heartbeat, nothing comes out, nothing except—
In the hubbub of the rink, his reply should be barely audible, but it’s the only thing Izuku hears in the moment, the only thing that matters in the moment. “Hey.”
(The distance closes.)
ii. like why our ribs they look a lot like prison bars
“This is so sad.”
Izuku rolls his eyes. There’s an amused smile pulling at his lips despite himself. “Shouto, give it back; it’s not that bad.”
“It’s plexiglass,” Shouto retorts. He’s sprawled out on his back on the couch, his legs draped over Izuku’s lap. He holds a clear yellow hexagon with the approximate diameter of his head that, Izuku will admit, bears little resemblance to a medal, or even a plaque for that matter; Internationaux de France Individual Men’s First Place, the yellow plastic reads anyway. The plexiglass produces a dull thunk when Shouto flicks it. “Your first Grand Prix win and you don’t even get a proper medal because the French fed is shit at budgeting. Like, is this supposed to be gold? It looks like piss.”
“Yes, thank you for that wonderful observation.”
“You could probably use it as a plate,” Shouto continues, not at all helpful. “Embrace the whole broke college student thing.”
Instead of dignifying that with a verbal reply, Izuku grabs Shouto’s plush vulpix—the same plushie he’d tossed onto the ice for Shouto years ago at the 2019 Grand Prix Final—and throws it at him. Shouto bats the plush away with the IDF medal, and the Kantonian vulpix bounces onto the bed beside him. Multi-functional, Izuku thinks wryly.
“Hey, do you ever miss it?” Izuku asks after he steals his IDF medal back; the plexiglass colours his hand golden yellow in the room’s fluorescent lighting. “Competing, I mean.”
Shouto makes a soft humming sound as he mulls the question over. “Not really,” he replies, and doesn’t elaborate.
It’s been almost five months since that fateful July day. They’ve since slotted together like lost pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, like no time has passed at all, and it’s easy. Maybe too easy. Something’s been bugging Izuku for a while.
“What about skating? Do you miss skating?”
Izuku feels Shouto stiffen. He sits up and swings his legs down, his feet brushing the twill carpet. “What do you mean?” he asks, voice low.
“I mean, you’re not skating anymore,” Izuku says slowly, craning his head to look Shouto in the eye.
Shouto raises an eyebrow. “I work at an ice rink.” There’s an oddly defensive tone underlying his voice; Izuku knows Shouto understands what he means.
Shouto’s skating is a wonder, unbelievably fast and powerful and seamless, blades flying across the ice with edges so deep and control so precise, it’s otherworldly. It’s gorgeous triple axels with so much height and distance, he could easily jump over two people Izuku’s height lying down head to toe. It’s spins so fast Izuku swears the whole thing has been fast-forwarded manually. It’s step sequences so electrifying, it leaves audiences at a loss as to how someone who lives and breathes ice could have so much fire—a stunning juxtaposition that never ceases to leave Izuku breathless.
His job at the ice rink is a mere shadow of what he used to do. It’s like he’s trying to cling onto it, afraid it’ll burn him if he holds it any closer, but—
—but I’ve never seen anyone who was as meant to be on the ice as you.
Izuku doesn’t realize he’s spoken the last part aloud until Shouto’s eyes widen. “I know,” he says, voice barely above a whisper. His expression is carefully neutral but his eyes brim with fathomless, indescribable sorrow, and Izuku feels his heart go heavy and his mouth go desert-dry, feels small in the face of everything he can never hope to understand.
[gif: The rink boards are emblazoned with the Beijing 2022 symbol. As Shouto passes by, he shrugs off his white Team Japan jacket and throws it at his coach behind the boards; the jacket lands sloppily draped over Enji’s head. Shouto rolls his eyes in response to Enji’s glare. He never looks back again.]
Enji really is Shouto’s bitch huh
posted Feb 27, 2022 via/source
#lmaooo #god i miss him already #retiring at the ripe age of 18 #let's face it he was done with the isu’s and the jsf’s and his coach’s bullshit a long time ago #and the stress fractures?? the ligament tears?? the hip injury?? like pls he’s been through enough #i cried like a bitch when he won #im sorry i just have a lot of feelings about my son okay #figure skating #beijing2022 #shouto todoroki
“You’re really good with kids.”
Shouto turns around, not surprised in the slightest to see Izuku at the community rink. He shoots Izuku an incredulous look. “I’m really not,” he says, like a liar.
A girl no more than eight years old had been wailing, inconsolable after a hard fall on the ice. The outline of Shouto’s back was impossibly gentle as he crouched down, and his words were too quiet to carry to the other side of the rink, but Izuku watched from behind the boards as he helped her up a few minutes later and saw how, to the relief of the distressed mother, her face had brightened and her tears had dried.
“Anyways, why are you here?” Shouto asks now as Izuku inserts himself easily beside him, circling the ice languidly. “Don’t you have training today?”
“Nope,” Izuku replies, popping the word. “Aizawa-sensei wants me to get some rest before I leave for the Final.”
“And because you’ve never even heard of the concept of rest, you came here?”
“Have some sympathy man, this is the first senior Grand Prix Final I’ve ever qualified for; too much anxiety to relax. Besides.” Izuku stares at the ice as he cuts through it with edge pulls, relishing the flow of his edges as his right blade rocks back and forth. “I feel the most centered on the ice, y’know?”
Shouto, absently tugging at his jacket sleeve, doesn’t reply. Izuku doesn’t know if he’ll ever get used to it, the red parka emblazoned with the prefecture’s parks and recreation logo instead of the snow white Team Japan jacket.
Then, out of the blue: “This is your song.”
Izuku turns his head toward the loudspeaker in the corner. Sure enough, the final lyrics of Blackbird have given way to an arpeggio Izuku knows by heart and Elvis Presley’s dulcet voice, echoing throughout the rink: Wise men say only fools rush in —
Izuku darts ahead of Shouto with a few quick strokes, turns around and angles his right blade so he comes to a full stop in front of him; Shouto, in perfect sync, slowly comes to a standstill with a front T-stop, his black Pattern 99 Revolution blades halting mere inches away from Izuku’s MK Phantoms. They’re standing toe-to-toe, face-to-face, nothing but their heartbeats thrumming in the liminal space between them. “Skate with me then,” Izuku says, head tipped and teeth flashed in a stupidly wide grin that always seems to come so naturally around Shouto. The moment stretches dream-slow. This close, Izuku can see the minute flecks of colour in his unfairly gorgeous eyes, ash grey and sea-glass turquoise hypnotizing.
The corner of Shouto’s mouth curls up for a split second. “Sorry,” he drawls, with the falsetto of someone who isn’t sorry in the slightest. “I’m retired, remember? I’m an old man now.” Nevermind that Shouto is a month away from twenty-one and wouldn’t even be able to drink legally in America.
Izuku snorts. “That’s an outright lie and you know it. You were always an old man; you even have the bad hip to prove it.”
Shouto makes something akin to a choking noise. For a split second Izuku panics, afraid he went too far with that quip, but then Shouto lifts his hand to cover his mouth and it does absolutely nothing to staunch the vibrant laughter pouring out of him, punctured in intervals by snorting.
Oh my god, Izuku thinks, breathless. During the snippets of time they stole for themselves at competitions throughout the years, Izuku had challenged himself to see how hard he could make Shouto laugh; this is giving the 2022 Four Continents banquet a run for its money, when Izuku accidentally spat out a handful of half-chewed M&Ms at Iida’s face and instead of helping clean off Iida’s glasses, Shouto laughed until he wheezed .
His laughter is infectious. They’re in a crowded public ice rink and they’re supposed to be mature adults—Shouto works here goddamn it—but soon Izuku’s shaking as laughter bubbles out of him too. People are staring in his peripheral vision, their expressions ranging anywhere between confused to annoyed, but Shouto’s laughter is easily one of the most beautiful sounds Izuku’s ever heard, and in this snippet of time, he doesn’t really care for anything else at all.
But I can’t help—
He wins the Grand Prix Final—but only because Bakugou—six-time National Champion, three-time World Champion, and the most dominant skater in the field after Shouto quit—caught pneumonia and was forced to withdraw.
“A win is a win,” Shouto refutes around a mouthful of soba when Izuku tells him this. “You’re thinking too much, as usual. Just let yourself be happy.”
Izuku takes a bite of his celebratory katsudon as he mulls this over, and while Izuku’s distracted by his own thoughts, Shouto leaves to foot the bill. Izuku scrambles out of his seat, diving to insert his own credit card into the machine before Shouto can. He knocks over an umbrella stand in the process, and it’s only mildly embarrassing because he wins, ha, but also because the cashier looks like he couldn’t care less. Shouto rolls his eyes and makes a vaguely disgusted noise because he’s dramatic like that. Izuku smirks.
Fast forward three weeks, and Izuku’s Elvis Presley medley short program takes him to a record second place before the free skate at US Nationals.
In many ways, this season has been nothing short of a breakthrough.
His pattern up until this season has been to dig himself into a hole in the short program and come roaring back in the free skate. Like a hero finding his second wind, his mother had once said, even though Izuku would barely miss the podium more often than not which, needless to say, didn’t feel very heroic at all.
(No, it felt more like fourth place at 2022 US Nationals and not making the Olympic team, like the untold regret in the mere fraction of a point between bronze and pewter. Like heaving sobs that stole all the breath from his lungs and a splitting pain behind his ribs that threatened to tear him apart from the inside.)
He’s at the 2025 US Nationals, the first up in the last group for the free skate; he’s only a little over a year away from the Italy 2026 Winter Olympics.
“Trust your training,” his coach says, voice impossibly sure, and means: This is the culmination of everything you’ve worked for, the long-awaited realization that you’ve sacrificed nothing in vain—go out there and take it.
(There’s a TV commercial that airs every Olympics: A journey captured in brief snapshots of black and white as Divenire played in the background, like an anthem. The string instruments rose to a crescendo and the screen finally bled colour when the athlete—no longer a child—stood on their own two feet under the Olympic rings. They wove as their score flashed on the screen—mere decimals away from the world record—and the music lulled as the camera panned out to show their mother, watching from a ratty television screen.)
Izuku tightens his grip on the rink boards; his hands are white-knuckled and slick with sweat. He looks up at the audience in the stands, looks around at the multitude surrounding him on all sides and—
It’s like he’s seeing them for the first time. The epiphany strikes him: Sometime this season, anxious anticipation had given way to restless eagerness to make his mark, to let the world know that he was here.
He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, lets his thundering heart drown out the din. It had taken over a decade, but he has the rest mapped by heart now. In the next thirty seconds, the announcers will pronounce his name wrong in tinny, skeptical voices. He’ll push himself away from the rink boards with a strength he didn’t realize he possessed. The crowd will erupt into a roar, then as he circles the rink, they’ll enshroud themselves in pin-drop silence and hold their collective breath for him.
(“To become,” he mutters, assuming his place in the centre of the ice, in the centre of the world. As the first sonorous notes of Divenire begin, he thinks of the plaques lined on the east wall of Yuuei, and the heft of the words no longer feel strange on his tongue.)
His deafening heartbeat will keep time with the music, and then muscle memory will take over from there, swallowing up his senses until he’s the only person left on the planet. The ice beneath him will be the same as it always is day after day, and by the time he reaches his first jumping pass, it will feel like he’s flying.
(Izuku becomes national champion like this:
He’s flushed and breathless, the final triumphant crescendo of Divenire echoing in the boundless stadium air and in the chambers of his heart. Every last spectator in the stands has risen in a standing ovation, and he’s drinking in the sight, his mouth parted in wonder.
He’s on the green room couch, suffocating a gift owl plush in a tight hug, watching in disbelief as none of his competitors match his new personal best score.
He’s trying not to get his hopes up as Bakugou—the last to skate—steps onto the ice among thundering cheers thrice as loud as the welcome Izuku received, as he nails quad after formerly-impossible quad, as the dead silence before Katsuki’s score flashes on the screen stretches out agonizingly long.
The victory ceremony is like a dream.
His eyes are still red-rimmed and puffy from crying in the green room. When the announcers call him to step onto the podium, cheering reverberates all around him. The sound billows, takes Izuku up with it. He’s weightless, and he doesn’t look down to see how far he could fall. His music plays over the sound system; the triumphant refrain of Divenire and the interviewer’s words in the Kiss and Cry ring in his ear:
I know you were disappointed when you didn’t make the Olympic team in 2022, but I believe I speak for everyone here when I say we’ll be rooting for you next year at Italy.
He leaps onto the podium with springs in his legs and helium in his lungs. He can’t help the grin splitting across his face; he’s smiling so much it’s beginning to hurt. Above, lights are stretched across the high ceiling like artificial constellations, a thousand miniature suns that suddenly don’t seem so blinding or far away anymore. He reaches up, and it's almost like he can capture one in his fist.
Izuku spends the next week with his mom back in California before he has to return to Japan for last-minute training for Four Continents a mere two weeks away.
“—and I put another water bottle in your bag so you won’t get thirsty on the plane, but make sure you remember to fill it up this time. Are you sure you have everything?”
“ Mom. I’ll be okay. I’m sure.” He raises his voice to be heard over the din of the airport, then adjusts his grip on the handle of his carry-on. “I really have to go now or I’m gonna miss my flight.”
“I’m sorry,” she says sheepishly. “I know you’re not a little kid anymore, but I always worry about you.” She draws him into a tight embrace. “I’m so proud of you, you know?”
Tears prickle at the corners of his eyes. Izuku pulls his Nationals gold medal out of his pocket, doesn’t think twice about it before he places it gingerly around her neck. She smiles, crooked and watery, and when he steps through the security checkpoint, their goodbye is as premature as always.
(They’ve lost years together because of this sport, the larger part of Izuku’s adolescence spent on the other side of the world. Every year he returns home to visit, and he doesn’t miss the longing in her eyes when she sees he’s grown into more. Grown more muscular and tall, more mature and more confident, more kind and resilient—everything a 360-pixel resolution computer monitor can’t show her—all without her. Biweekly video calls were never a good substitute for physical proximity.
He knows she couldn’t have anticipated having an empty nest so soon when he first began competing, ten and baby-faced with dreams too big for his body, then suddenly one day he was fourteen and his voice was beginning to crack and he was asking to move abroad to train at Yuuei.
“God, when did you grow up so fast,” she said, voice trembling. She heard his bated breath, saw his hands shaking, and realized that if she didn’t want to break his heart, she had to let hers be broken.
“I won’t let you down,” he promised, with all the conviction he could muster.
She cried, and then, because she loved him more than he could ever fathom, she let him go.)
After a brutal, sleepless twelve hour flight, the plane finally lands in Japan in the dead of the night. Izuku steps through the arrival gate jetlagged and exhausted, with the strap of his backpack digging into his shoulder uncomfortably and the incessant rattle of his carry-on behind him. The airport is dotted with people asleep on vaguely horizontal surfaces and the various storefronts are shuttered by metal grilles, eerily devoid of light and life. The janitor passing by returns Izuku’s courtesy smile with a withering glare; Izuku averts his gaze to the linoleum floor as he walks.
When he looks up, he sees someone with red and white hair at the end of the terminal.
“Shouto?” He calls out as soon as he’s within hearing distance. Shouto looks up from where he’s probably playing Neko Atsume on his phone. “What are you doing here?”
“Take a wild guess,” he replies, pocketing his phone. Izuku catches a glimpse of the screen— yup, definitely Neko Atsume —and feels his lips curl up into an easy smile. He lets his carry-on clatter onto the floor as he closes the rest of the distance between them, throws his arms around Shouto and squeezes tight just because he can.
Shouto, in turn, loops his arms around the small of Izuku’s back. “Congratulations.” His voice impossibly soft in Izuku’s ear. Izuku closes his eyes; they crinkle as his smile grows.
“Oh hey, I got you something.” Izuku pulls back to take out a gift from his bag. The moment he saw an Alolan vulpix plush sitting in a shitty strip mall claw machine, he knew he couldn’t leave without it, arcade scam or not.
Sixty dollars is a small price to pay for the look on Shouto’s face when Izuku presses the plush into his palms anyway.
“Oh,” Shouto breathes, his fingers lingering over Izuku’s. “ Oh. ”
Izuku didn’t think it was possible for his grin to stretch any wider.
They fall into easy chatter as Shouto tucks the plushie under his arm and picks up Izuku’s luggage from the floor, a set of car keys jangling in his other hand. It’s even easier to fall into step beside him as they exit the dreary airport into a city blanketed by snow. The sky is dark and clouded over, but street lights and neon street signs illuminate the sidewalk. In the light, snowflakes turn into motes of gold, dancing in the winter breeze.
When they return to Izuku’s apartment, he insists it’s too late for Shouto to go back home. Shouto makes a beeline for the couch, but Izuku redirects him to his bedroom and doesn’t think much about it because it’s four in the morning and falling asleep to the thrum of Shouto’s heartbeat feels like the easiest thing in the world.
He drifts off and he does not dream.
Sixteen hours later, Izuku wakes up at seven in the evening to find the sheets long gone cold beside him, the vulpix plush situated where Shouto used to be. There’s a note left on the coffee table in familiar neat handwriting informing him of food in the fridge.
It’s winter and the heater in his shitty apartment barely passes as functional and he’s fairly certain the walls are insulated with cardboard, but somehow Izuku feels warm.
The next day, during a video call with his mom, he leaves the room for a moment to make tea and comes back to find her asleep on the other side of the computer monitor. There are bags under her eyes. She snores quietly. Izuku feels his face soften.
“I’m okay,” he tells her, voice whisper-soft. “I’m being taken care of here, and I’m so close, I’m finally so close. Just wait a little longer, okay?”
He disconnects the call; the end tone echoes in his empty apartment.
Because no one knows how to party like world-class athletes with the souls of repressed college students, his training mates at Yuuei jump on the opportunity to get drunk under the guise of celebrating Izuku’s win at Nationals—an extremely thin veil, given that Izuku somehow got stuck as one of the designated drivers.
Honestly, he thinks.
After Kaminari secretly swaps Iida’s drinks with their non-virgin equivalent (for shits and giggles, of course), Izuku is forced to ask Shouto to come serve as an emergency designated driver number two.
Shouto sighs over the static. “I’ll be there in thirty.” There’s shuffling on the other line as Izuku watches a surprisingly lightweight Iida relate a semi-coherent story about traffic safety by the bar, his arms gesticulating in wild arcs; Izuku hopes he doesn’t knock out an unfortunate passerby out in that time. “Oh, and keep Jirou the fuck away from the strong stuff,” Shouto adds before he hangs up, though a quick side-long glance shows that warning came entirely too late.
Thirty minutes later finds Shouto turning heads when he walks in, even in hastily thrown on clothes and his hair tucked into a beanie. Izuku’s eight training mates, ranging from moderately buzzed to flat-out drunk, gape at Shouto like he’s a cryptid—which, given that he practically disappeared off the face of the earth after retiring, isn’t really that far off.
“Holy shit, it’s Todoroki.”
“Hey Kirishima,” Shouto replies, a hint of amusement in his baritone voice.
In lieu of a reply, Kirishima deadass bursts into tears. “Oh my god, I missed you so much man.” He envelops Shouto in a bear hug that takes his feet off the ground.
Shouto blinks, hands hovering awkwardly behind Kirishima’s back. “You did?”
“Of course! I got to see you at every competition and then you quit and then I didn’t anymore and I was big sad.”
“That’s a mood,” Izuku chimes in before he can stop himself, half-distracted trying to take Uraraka’s drink away from her. He flushes and avoids Shouto’s gaze.
Shouto opens his mouth, but before he can say anything, Kaminari jumps in, lunging over the table and knocking over a half-empty glass in the process. “Hey, hey, hey, Todoroki, you wanna hear a joke?” Behind him, a tomato-red-faced Jirou shakes her head vehemently, her hand slicing through the air in front of her neck.
Mercifully, training doesn’t start until late the next day.
On the ice nearby, Uraraka is practicing her triple loop from a traveling three-turn entry, her movements surprisingly lithe giving the hangover she’d been nursing that morning. Izuku is polishing his short program choreography, Can’t Help Falling in Love plays over the sound system while Yagi-sensei watches from the sidelines with the occasional encouragement or comment. He exits his combination spin with a flourish and moves into a spread eagle entry for his triple axel.
The moment he takes off, the jump’s axis is wildly off-centered, and he realizes he’s in for a rough landing. He barely manages three rotations before his right foot catches the ice, and when he tries to regain balance, he hears a pop.
The sound reverberates through him, like a finality. His right knee bursts into pain and gives out completely from under him, and he’s plummeting to the ground, the ice meeting him hard.
[gif 1: During a victory ceremony, a fan behind the rink boards places a crown of sunflowers on a thrilled Izuku’s head. The Grand Prix Final medal around his neck swings as he thanks them profusely.]
[gif 2: “I cry on a pretty regular basis, albeit it’s usually not all that serious,” Izuku says wryly, his eyes trained somewhere above the camera lens.]
[gif 3: Under the spotlight at an exhibition gala, Izuku performs a backflip on the ice; he’s flushed with exhilaration, a broad grin splitting across his freckled face.]
[gif 4: Izuku is behind the boards, the wire of his Sony earbuds hidden behind his Team USA jacket. He’s hyper-focused, passionately lip-syncing and headbanging with his eyebrows scrunched up. Behind him, Katsuki‘s expression has slowly morphed from resting-bitch-face to murderous; he presses his palms against his ears in an unnecessarily dramatic fashion.]
| get well soon Izuku!
posted Jan 9, 2025 via/source
#may i offer a gifset in these trying times #my first reaction was ‘gdi izu stop injuring urself’ but i hear it might be really serious this time ;~; #fsedit #izuku midoriya
It’s an ACL tear, the doctor tells him when the MRI comes back, voice clinical and detached. Muted too, like Izuku’s been submerged underwater. Like he’s drowning.
How long will it take to recover? he hears someone ask. They place their hand on his shoulder, squeeze in a way that’s supposed to be reassuring. Remember to breathe, he hears Yagi’s voice, but there’s a lead weight in his chest, pressing against his brittle ribs and crushing the air out of his lungs. He can’t breathe.
A couple months, at best. Years, at worst. With surgery and physical therapy, he’ll be able to regain his motor abilities. But —
The doctor slaps his clipboard onto the table with a jarring thwack. You’re aiming for the Olympics right? He looks Izuku right in his eyes, doesn’t wait for him to respond. Izuku doesn’t think he’d be able to anyway; there’s cotton in his head and shattered glass in his throat. I’m not going to sugarcoat this; even with the surgery, your knee is never going to be the same again. Competing at that level simply won’t be possible anymore. You should give it up.
The doctor’s mouth moves, but Izuku ceases hearing any sound. His insides are nothing but white noise and turbulence, the blood in his veins long gone cold.
This is what dying must feel like. Like all his senses failing, the world collapsing around him, watching everything he’s worked for swirling down the drain in slow-motion horror.
He doesn’t cry. For once in his goddamned life, he doesn’t cry. Funny, now that his life feels like it’s ending, how there are no tears to shed.
(Crying means it’s real. He doesn’t cry.)
The next few days pass in a haze.
The swelling starts to die down; if he squints and steadfastly ignores the dull throbbing, he can pretend his knee is fine. Mind over matter, he thinks, and staunchly dismisses the little rational voice in the back of his mind that tells him that’s not how it fucking works. The doctor told him to stay off his feet, stay off the ice, but what the doctor doesn’t understand is that Izuku needs the ice in the same way people need air.
A rainy Tuesday night finds Izuku at the community ice rink, his crutches left at home. “Oh, you’re Todoroki’s friend,” the maintenance lady says with a toothy smile, not noticing the way he leans heavily against the doorframe. After a brief conversation— Todoroki’s looked so happy these past few months; you’re part of the reason right? You’re welcome here anytime—she lets him use the rink for a bit before she refreshes the ice and locks up.
The ice enshrouded in a layer of powdered snow; shallow troughs are dug into every square inch, the scratched surface rough beneath Izuku’s skates.
His leg trembles under his weight as he glides. Crossovers are suddenly the hardest thing ever, the slightest movements sending shooting pain up Izuku’s leg. Turns are excruciating; he barely manages a bracket and a rocker without his knee giving out, and even then the ice mark is crooked beyond recognition.
He grinds his teeth together and lets out a guttural sound. He strokes the ice vehemently with his left blade, building momentum, and before he can think better of it, he attempts a single axel, swinging his injured leg up along with his arms and rotating counter-clockwise.
For a split second, he’s airborne.
On landing, his knee explodes into pain and buckles. He pitches onto the ice, the hard surface bruising.
He digs his elbows into the ground and picks the tail of his blade into the ice under him, dragging himself up, but his right leg refuses to support his weight any longer and his hands won’t stop shaking. He doesn’t even manage to sit up before he collapses back down.
He curses, his chest heaving. He’s struggling to get up; his movements are jerky. His breath is coming in too shallow and too fast. He’s losing all his skating, he’s going to be stuck crumbled on the ground forever, he’s—
His heart stops. He doesn’t turn around.
“What are you doing here? Everyone’s worried about you.” Shouto’s voice carries from somewhere behind the boards.
I never asked them to be. The words form on his tongue, and they’re all wrong but he’s too hollowed out to care anymore. He can’t handle it, the pity, the platitudes, the false fucking hope. He wants to scream.
“Izuku, you shouldn’t be on the ice.” His voice gets louder as Shouto walks closer.
Stay away, Izuku thinks vehemently. He’s a kerosene-soaked terry cloth, set to combust spontaneously at any second and burn everything in its vicinity down.
“Yeah, because I can’t skate anymore anyway right?” He lets his slack hands fall down onto the ice; the biting cold burns his skin.
“What- of course you can’t skate right now you idiot, you need to let your knee heal. Like this, you’re just aggravating the injury and it’ll be even longer before you can step on the ice again.”
Izuku laughs bitterly. Idiot was right; he was an absolute idiot. An idiot for believing things could actually go smoothly for someone like him. An idiot for making such a stupid fucking mistake, falling on a jump he’d already mastered.
An idiot for pouring his entire goddamn life into this sport, for chasing distant dreams so desperately. Over a decade’s worth of blood and sweat and tears, all for a handful of dust. All for this ruin.
Who did he think he was, really? Just some nameless boy from California who flew too close to the sun.
“Shouto, I’m done,” he rasps. “I’m done. I was so close, y’know? I was so close I could taste it. I kept imagining what it’d be like to finally make it, but—” He cuts himself off with a sharp, humourless laugh. He doesn’t recognize his own voice. It doesn’t seem real. Nothing really seems real anymore, nothing except his injured knee throbbing in time with his heartbeat. “But it’s over now. I’m never going to make it.”
“Izuku, you don’t know that yet. Just let the injury heal, and then you can come roaring back the way you always do.”
“ Stop. Shouto, just stop.” Stop giving me hope. “I know Yagi-sensei told you what the doctor said.”
“So what, this is it then? After all these years, all your other injuries, and this was seriously all it was going to take to make you give up? A doctor’s note? ”
A blinding pain in the center of his chest, like a knife twisting. He’s splitting open; all the frustration and resentment and anger bottled up in his bleeding heart are spilling out in a noxious flood.
“And what was your excuse Shouto?”
The vitriol drips from his mouth onto the ice; Izuku doesn’t have to look down to know that a zamboni won’t be able to fix the damage.
He hears Shouto inhale sharply; his breath rattles on its way out. Clarity finally cuts through his mind’s foggy mire, but Izuku whips his head around only to find the world burned down around him, everything he used to know in ashes.
Shouto is already out the door.
He collapses in the doorway the moment he returns home, his body trembling and his knee on fire. He hurls his skates at his living room wall with a choked scream, doesn’t bother to flinch at the deafening thud.
He doesn’t sleep that night, or the next. He barely sleeps at all despite all the time he spends in bed, too haunted by everything he should’ve done differently.
He doesn’t bother to read text messages anymore. Missed calls pile up by the dozens; Izuku watches the phone ring. (He tries not to dwell on the fact that none of them are from Shouto anymore.) It’s selfish, he knows, but he can’t bring himself to answer. Everything feels too much to face now; too much of himself died when his dreams did.
On a sunny day, he feels guilty for being so lethargic. He devours all the articles he can find online about ACL injuries until he can no longer stomach the torment—from sketchy medical websites on the sixth page of google search results to stories from other athletes, it’s all either false hope or further confirmation what the doctor said. His eyes are burning as he scrolls through the ACL injury wikipedia page.
The screen blacks out. A call pops up from Mom. He jolts, and accidentally presses the accept button.
No, he’s not ready for this, he’s not ready for—
He swallows. “Hi mom,” he whispers hoarsely.
“Oh Izuku, I’ve been so worried.” Her voice is strained over the static. She sounds like she’s been crying; a pang of guilt strikes him.
“I-I’m okay Mom,” he says automatically, like a reflex. “Sorry I’ve been avoiding your calls, I...” he trails off. The silence stretches.
“Yagi-san told me that you need surgery,” his mom says slowly. “Is that true?”
“And that you won’t be able to compete anymore.”
His grip on his phone tightens. His vision blurs. “Yeah,” he breathes.
“Izuku…” Her voice cracks. “I don’t think you’re okay.” His lips quiver. He feels the tears fall in a salt-water trail down to his chin.
“Please, you don’t have to pretend. It’s fine if you’re not okay. I won’t ever think less of you when you’re not.”
“I- I don’t- I don’t know what I’m supposed to do though. Everything was okay and now it’s all falling apart Mom and I—” he sobs. His voice is high-pitched and unsteady. “I just don’t know what to do.”
“Izuku-” she starts, but the dam’s cracking and he’s brimming over with the thoughts and emotions he can’t hold any longer. He’s always worn his heart on his sleeve.
“I-I just—“ and he’s gasping, hiccuping, choking on everything he can’t properly express. “I feel so stupid Mom. You spent so much money so I could compete and it’s all going to waste because I messed up and I- I can’t skate anymore and—” There’s not enough oxygen in his lungs. “Oh my god, Mom, I can’t - I- I hate this so much, I feel so stupid —” He cuts himself off with a sob.
“Izuku, do you remember when Uraraka broke her leg and had to miss an entire season? Did you think she was stupid?” she asks, unaccusatory and gentle.
“N- no, no of course not. Injuries happen.”
“Injuries happen . And it’s awful that this injury happened to you, and that this one is so serious, but it’s awful enough without you beating yourself up over it.”
His breath trembles. His voice is small even to his own ears. “I’m sorry I let you down.”
“Izuku, listen to me. I’m so proud of you, I can’t even begin to describe it.” Her voice is waterlogged with tears. “I know it hurts, I know it must hurt so much that even though you’ve come so far, you won’t get to achieve your dream, but absolutely nothing has gone to waste. You don’t need the Olympics to validate what you’ve already accomplished. You beat the world champion on his—and your—home turf. And if Bakugou saw it coming, then no wonder he picked on you so much when you were younger. So, even if this is the end of the road for you, then what a way to go. What a way to go.”
He sniffs. He lets out a weak laugh between shuddering exhales.
“Izuku, there’s nothing you could do to let me down. I’m so incredibly proud of you, and nothing’s going to change that. Ever.”
The dam breaks. He weeps, wracking sobs stealing all breath from his lungs. He’s pitching forward as he wails, dampening his cotton pillow with salt-water as he keens; his mother’s voice is quieting and familiar in his ear as the shattered glass fragments of his heart fall off of him, the stabbing pain in his chest ebbing bit by bit, and he’s not okay, but he’s going to get there. He’s going to get there.
iii. but i’ve been thinking (i think it’s time to live for once)
Izuku spends weeks scraping together his courage. Once, he dials the number from memory, his finger hovering over the green call button as he screams at himself to do it, do it, Izuku why can’t you do it —
His finger shifts; he presses cancel.
Maybe he’s always been a coward when it comes to Shouto. A coward and a fool.
He’s deep cleaning his apartment one late night, too anxious to sleep, when he sweeps under his bed and finds crumpled-up tissues, his Sony earbuds that went missing months ago, and an Alolan vulpix plush, covered in dust bunnies.
Shouto never got to take it back home with him, and then they’d forgotten all about it after—
He cradles the plush in his hands, runs his right thumb over the velvet-soft fabric under its embroidered cornflower-blue eye. His thumb comes away dirty. “Hey there,” he says, in the same baby voice he uses to talk to animals like the grown adult he is. “You’re all dusty. But don’t you worry, I’ll get you all cleaned up and—”
His heart twinges. He hugs the plushie, presses it against his aching chest and rests his chin on its head.
“And get you back to Shouto,” he whispers.
It’s 2 am. Moonlight sheets through his windows and hardwood flooring digs into his ankles as memories flood over him, stirring up all the things he thought he’d lost in the fire.
He remembers: Junior Grand Prix Final 2019, meeting up at the east bleachers like clockwork, rambling for hours about absolutely nothing during the long intermissions with overpriced arena food their strict diets technically forbade. How, after all these years, Shouto still had the Kantonian vulpix plush Izuku had thrown onto the ice for him, kept it even after he’d left all his medals and accolades behind in his old family home. Cup of China 2020, sneaking away to a night market in the outskirts of the city after discovering they were staying at the same hotel, weaving through foreign crowds and motorcycle traffic hand-in-hand with impulse-buy knick-knacks and cheap jasmine lingering on their tongues, the sticky humidity clinging to their skin. Skate America 2021, their ill-advised attempt to copy Ojiro and Hagakure’s stunning rotational dance lift at the exhibition gala practice; he had held Shouto in what was basically a bridal carry on steroids for all of half a metre before they stumbled onto the ice in a heap of tangled limbs and breathless laughter. Four Continents 2022, when Izuku had spat out a handful of M&Ms after an ill-timed and horrendously awful joke from Kaminari, and Shouto—with dark circles under his eyes, his countenance marred by exhaustion and Olympic season stress—had laughed and laughed and laughed, and it was like the sun was peeking out of the clouds.
He wipes away the tears prickling his eyes. He can’t fix the torn ligaments in his knee, but—
But maybe he can fix this.
Maybe. It’s not a lot to stake a life on, but it’s enough. It’ll have to be.
(Izuku isn’t sure what he’ll do if it isn’t.)
During rush hour, it takes a little under an hour to reach Shouto’s apartment by train. He hobbles around the bustling platform on crutches, feels his courage slipping away with every station the train passes. The padded handles of his crutches are slick with sweat by the time he reaches Shouto’s door.
He clenches his hand into a fist to keep his fingers from trembling, and knocks. He waits with his heart in his throat, his clammy hands wringing the cotton edges of his hoodie.
Ten heart-pounding minutes pass before Izuku realizes there’s no one home.
Oh thank god, Izuku thinks immediately, and hates himself for it.
He tries again the next day, but the blinds are still drawn and no lights are turned on. “Oh c’mon man,” he groans after the third attempt—still not home, and unless Shouto’s impression of empty space has improved remarkably in the past 2 years, he isn’t hiding from Izuku. He slumps against the door defeated, lets his head fall back against the wood grain will a dull thunk . “I know your schedule; I swear you don’t have work or school right now.”
But where else would he be—
The thought strikes him.
It’s stupid. It’s impossible. There’s no way, but the idea takes root and becomes impossible to dismiss, and Izuku needs to find out for certain.
He arrives at the community ice rink a short twenty minutes later. He wraps his clammy hands around the cold metal handle and tests the backdoor to find it unlocked.
His heart rate spikes. He takes a deep shuddering breath, and swings the door open.
Cold air wafts over him, sweeping against his skin with the sound of a singular set of blades on ice, aching in its familiarity. In the center of the rink: Shouto, wearing neither red nor white but black—from his black crew-neck and sweats to his black gloves and Risport Royals; his black carbon steel blades flash metallically as they cut through the ice, smoother than a hot knife through butter. He takes off into a single axel, utterly seamless from his counter entry to his running exit edge.
The breath rushes out of Izuku’s lungs.
He watches, spellbound, as Shouto flies across the ice, a loop into a rocker into a choctaw— god, he’d forgotten how flawless Shouto’s choctaws were—and then he’s exiting a stunning twizzle, whirling as he drops to the ground in a gorgeous sweeping lunge.
Izuku immediately recognizes the choreography as his step sequence from his Loser short program, the one that broke the world record and captivated the entire goddamn planet all those years ago in Beijing. It’s not the same; his movements are wilder, clumsy from years of disuse. It’s not the same, but it’s raw and powerful and it’s Shouto in full.
And it’s like Izuku’s eighteen and watching the Olympics on his TV screen all over again, his heart beating out of his goddamn chest as the bassline thrums and Kenshi Yonezu’s vocals reach a fever pitch, and Shouto’s a blur of black across the ice as he dives into a traveling camel spin, one leg swinging up the instant the other swings down in a relentless, all-consuming rhythm—
His blade slips out from under him. Shouto collapses onto the ice, the leftover momentum heavily bruising.
Shouto curses vehemently between heaving breaths. He grimaces, his eyes screwing shut like he’s in deep pain. He’s trembling so violently, for a moment Izuku’s afraid he’ll tear himself apart.
Izuku, still apparently unseen, hobbles closer to the rink boards, barely resisting the urge to reveal himself.
He’s acutely aware that he shouldn’t be here. He’s seeing a part of Shouto’s soul that he hasn’t chosen to bare to Izuku, that Izuku doesn’t deserve to see, but in this sliver of space, detached from the rest of the world and stripped of all colour and lustre, time has come to a standstill, and Izuku can’t bring himself to look away.
A few minutes pass swathed in silence, punctured by Shouto’s heavy breathing as it gradually evens out. He stops shaking, and when he finally picks himself up off the ice, he’s every inch the Olympic champion he used to be.
Izuku absently adjusts the right crutch in his hand, but the padded handle is slick with sweat and it slips out of his grip.
Shit shit shit shit—
He fumbles for it desperately, to no avail. The damned thing clatters onto the floor; the noise echoes deafeningly throughout the rink.
Shouto turns around. His eyes widen.
“Hi,” Izuku says weakly.
A thousand emotions flash across Shouto’s face, each one as indiscernible as the last, and then the shutters are slamming down. His expression is neutral and his voice is unreadable when he replies.