Midoriya takes his coffee out to the patio, the cleaned-out flower boxes giving it a little more breathing room than he remembers. He normally doesn’t wake up this early, but he’d wanted to see the sunrise on his first day back in Japan. He leans out a little too far over the railing and breathes deeply.
Even at this time of day, his city is alive - the station is open, there are cars idling in the intersections, and there’s a dull murmur of people on the sidewalks as they commute to work and back home from graveyard shifts. He’d gotten back just in time for cherry blossom season, too, and he watches with delight as the tree across the alley shivers and exhales a handful of petals.
Nothing’s changed, I guess.
The front door to his apartment building slams a few floors down, and he glances over just as his neighbor, Akari, steps out to go unlock the cafe a block over. She catches his eye and waves, shouting up “Welcome back, Izuku!” as loudly as she can without waking the entire building. He beams and waves back.
His phone vibrates while he’s considering whether or not to make the three-block walk to the bakery to get breakfast, realizing he’s not even sure if it’s still open, and he thumbs it open with a smile already forming.
me - 11:04 pm
so, has kacchan started getting comfortable as number one hero while i’ve been gone??
tdrk - 5:32 am
Yes. He took to it a little too quickly - we might need to stage a coup to get your spot back.
Midoriya bites down on his lip around a laugh.
Nope, nothing’s changed.
Midoriya braces himself just in time. Uraraka bowls into him at mach twelve, and it’s only because his full cowling descends so quickly that he isn’t knocked flat on his ass.
“Hi!” He manages through a gasp. He’s sure the rest of Uraraka’s agency is equal parts delighted and horrified to see the number one hero get the wind crushed out of him, but they’re both laughing as Midoriya spins her in a circle, arms wrapped tight.
“Don’t break him, ‘Chako,” Tsu says when he sets her back down, and Midoriya blinks over Uraraka’s shoulder. Her hair is much shorter than he remembers, sleek and sharp against the line of her jaw, and the goggles of her hero costume have been streamlined down into something closer to a visor, but her eyes are still wide and soft.
“Tsu! I didn’t know you were in town.”
Uraraka takes his hand in hers and chucks a thumb over her shoulder at her girlfriend.
“She had some stuff to go over with Hadou, she’s only here for today.”
“I also wanted to tell you welcome back,” Tsu adds with a soft smile, “and that if you leave for that long again, Ochako’s going to be very upset - ribbit - and I’ll have to drag you back home myself.”
Home, Midoriya thinks with a flicker of warmth, and scratches at the back of his neck sheepishly.
“I’ll keep it in mind. Would you tell Hadou that I’m borrowing Uraraka for a while?”
Tsu nods and dismisses the amused sidekicks who had assembled to watch them with a gesture as she heads toward the elevators at the back. They scatter in the wake of the number twelve hero, and Uraraka turns to wrap him in another hug.
“What happened to four months, dummy!” She demands when she pulls back, punching him in the shoulder. He winces but offers her an apologetic look.
“Sorry, I know! I just got held up in Korea, and then I had to push everything back for India -”
Uraraka waves her hand in front of his face to break him out of the oncoming tangent.
“We get it, you’re so world-wise now! Did you get me any cool souvenirs?”
Midoriya laughs and tugs her by the hand through the front doors of the agency.
“Tons,” he promises, “now tell me everything I missed.”
“Iida became a warlord and took over most of Kyushu,” Uraraka begins, and flicks up a finger for each point, “and Bakugou declared his own sovereign nation so now they’re at war with each other. Kaminari decided being a villain meant he’d get a cooler costume, so now everyone’s afraid to charge their phones because he’s on the loose. Mister Aizawa expelled all of the UA students and replaced them with cats.”
“Okay,” Midoriya says slowly, “that last one could actually be true.”
Uraraka laughs and gives his hand a squeeze. They take a detour downtown, ignoring the way people pause and stare at their costumes with practiced ease. Uravity and Deku are staples to the Tokyo scene, just as commuters and kids on their way to school are. They always go to the same cafe in the center of the city when they’re off-duty, and by now they can both navigate the route through muscle memory. It helps that he can smell the matcha powder and the fruit syrups they use in the italian sodas from a mile away.
“To be honest, not much besides the usual!” She says, “the HN stats still say organized crime is declining, and the rankings haven’t changed all that much. Most of our calls are for natural disasters and infrastructure collapse, that kind of thing. Oh! Shouji and Tokoyami are finally together, though, so that’s something!”
“I was wondering when that’d happen! I’m sure Hawks is being the worst about it, too.”
Uraraka gives their hands a swing, and holds the door open for him - the cafe is a small hole-in-the-wall type place, but the staff are used to seeing pros come in, so there’s no resounding gasp as they enter, which Midoriya is thankful for. There’s something about being an instantly-recognizable celebrity that he’s not sure how All Might ever got used to.
“Oh, he’s definitely making Tokoyami’s life hell. He’s still mad about being bumped down to the sixth spot, after all.”
Midoriya lets her go long enough for him to step up to the counter while she tracks down a table near the windows. He’d forgotten just how soothing this place is, warm and welcoming and instantly familiar. Like almost everything in Tokyo, it feels like home.
“Hero Deku,” greets the person behind the register, and they smile wryly at him, “welcome back.”
“Thanks! It’s good to be back.”
He orders for them both and sets a cup full of sparkling pink soda topped with whipped cream in front of Uraraka. She’s checking the HN feeds, making sure Hadou hasn’t called her back to the agency, and absently Midoriya flips through his own phone to do the same. He has a few text notifications, and seeing them makes his chest feel tight with warmth.
mirio! - 10:13 am
heard you’re back in town, problem child! :D
eri’s excited to see you, you should come over and let her talk about ua for six hours straight sometime!
iida\\\ - 10:40 am
Welcome back! All of us at the agency are very glad you’re home safe! Remember that you’re not back on official hero duty until tomorrow, Midoriya - I won’t hesitate to institute house arrest if you go out patrolling!
eraser - 8:54 am
Try not to knock too many buildings down now that you’re back, makes my patrol route difficult.
shinsou (eraser jr) - 6:41 am
aw, back already? damn, and I was just about to make my big villain debut too
(kaminari says hi and that he’ll zap your ass if you didn’t get him anything from america)
kouta (mini me) - 9:01 am
kayano’s gonna kick your ass if you don’t come by the office today
welcome back, by the way, uncle deku
dad!! - 9:03 am
Japan’s missed you, my boy! :D
Midoriya feels himself bite down a little too hard on the inside of his cheek at the last one, but he tucks his phone away into his belt before Uraraka can notice his expression and takes a long sip of his too-hot matcha instead.
tdrk - 10:01 am
When can I see you?
Jetlag always makes him feel like death warmed over. Not for the first time, Midoriya wonders if Hatsume would be able to make him some kind of invention that keeps travelling across time zones from laying him out flat. She’d probably make him do something ridiculous to get the rest of her gear some publicity, though, knowing her. He could always ask Melissa, but she’d probably laugh at him and say suck it up, Hero Deku, and deal with it like the rest of us civilians with a knowing fondness.
Midoriya resigns himself to his fate as being Japan’s number one hero with a splitting headache in the morning as he flops back onto his futon. He’s not that old yet - he’s barely twenty six - but he can feel how each individual muscle group screams at him for walking around all day after getting in from the airport late last night.
His doorbell rings.
Midoriya’s first reaction is to tip his head back and groan, even as his body reflexively takes on the alert posture of being on-duty. It’s not common knowledge where his apartment is, and he chose it for being out of the way without being conspicuously so, but there’s a set of instincts that come with being a hero that he knows he’ll never be able to shake. Being frightened of his own doorbell is one of them.
He rolls off his futon and into a pile on the floor, the cold hardwood a godsend for just a second before he shoves himself up and standing. With his luck, it’s either going to be an officer from the station with a summons from Tsukauchi or it’s going to be All Might himself.
The doorbell rings again. He flings the door open with narrowed eyes prepared.
“Yep, I’m back, and no, I don’t have a moment because I’m super focused on my current project of dying on my living room floor , so - “
Midoriya abruptly cuts himself off and blinks.
Todoroki waves his phone at him, screen-first, and tilts his head. It’s too dark to really see him, but his eyes are glinting in the residual light from Midoriya’s apartment and his free hand is slotted into the pocket of the nicest pair of jeans he’s ever seen, barring Best Jeanist himself.
“I thought we’d been over giving appropriate details with your messages,” he says, and his voice is exactly the same, the same cold current that’s pinned Midoriya in place for a decade, “but ‘literally whenever’ isn’t really what I had in mind when I asked when I could see you.”
Midoriya feels a spark at the base of his skull that shifts slowly until he’s grinning so hard it hurts, his chest vibrating with a barely-contained energy that makes One for All feel like a gentle breeze.
“Hey,” he says.
Todoroki’s expression breaks just enough that he smiles, the slightest tug of the corners of his mouth.
“Hi - oof.”
Midoriya knows from experience that Todoroki won’t stumble, so he throws his entire weight behind him as he buries his face in his shoulder and wraps his arms around his neck. Todoroki places a hand at the base of his spine to steady him.
“Missed you,” Midoriya mumbles.
“You too,” Todoroki says, “what was that about dying on your living room floor?”
Midoriya releases him with a sigh, standing aside so Todoroki can enter and closing the door behind them. He still feels exhausted, but that’s an after-thought compared to the new glow in his chest.
In the light, nothing much has changed about him - his hair is a little longer pulled back into a loose spiral of a bun, maybe, and there’s a layer of medical tape wrapped around his left wrist, but he’s still the same tall, imposing figure as in Midoriya’s memories. The civilian clothes are a little different in their cut, but the blues he’s always favored are still there - dark jeans, light button-up, middle tone undershirt.
“Jetlag,” Midoriya replies, and Todoroki looks at him with the barest impression of sympathy. Nothing’s changed there, either, then; Midoriya can still read his almost-expressions like a book, albeit a book written in a different language and sealed with a padlock.
“I can come by tomorrow,” Todoroki offers, “you do look like you’re about to die.”
“Thanks,” Midoriya shoots back, but there’s no bite behind his tone, and it pulls the smallest of smiles out of Todoroki. He rubs his eyes and folds back up onto the futon. He glares, mutinous, from between his fingers.
“I appreciate the gesture, but seriously, you’re going to have to fight me to get out of this apartment now.”
Todoroki eyes him, eyebrows slightly raised, and decides, “I think I could take you.”
Midoriya laughs. Out of all of his friends, Todoroki’s presence is the easiest. It doesn’t take any effort to be around him, and he doesn’t expect anything from him, either. Uraraka’s energy is constant and infectious, but Todoroki doesn’t press when he isn’t at his best, and seems to understand in some fundamental way that Midoriya can’t be Hero Deku inside his own head all the time.
Todoroki sits next to him, and Midoriya immediately flips so he can rest his head in his lap and stretch his legs out over the lip of the futon. It’s been years since Todoroki stopped being uncomfortable with his need for physical closeness, and five months hasn’t seemed to change that. He places one hand in Midoriya’s mess of curls, and a little of the tension goes out of him.
“You worked today?” Midoriya hazards.
“Standard patrol and client calls, although there was a bank robbery in the white-collar district.”
Midoriya smiles, all eyeteeth.
“So how many new tenants does the police station have?”
Todoroki looks down at him and huffs, but his eyes are amused.
“Several,” he says dryly.
Midoriya shifts and holds one hand up, fingers splayed, and counts them off with his other hand as he speaks.
“America is terrifying, and I had to text Mic every ten minutes for translation help. Germany is pretty but there’s way too many statues and museums for villains to knock down. Korea is a lot of fun if you’re not doing hero work. China is China, no surprises there. India is hot but the food is amazing and the people are nice.”
“Good to know,” Todoroki replies, and his hand shifts in his hair enough to make Midoriya’s eyes close, pleased.
“Everyone seemed on board with an international hero program, though,” he sighs after a minute, “so that’s something.”
“Only you wouldn’t be satisfied with being the number one hero in Japan,” Todoroki teases, “even Bakugou knows that one country is enough.”
Midoriya groans and pushes the heels of his palms into his eyes hard enough to see fireworks.
“I swear to god if you ever compare me to Kacchan again our friendship is over,” he says, but he can tell Todoroki is smiling at him anyway.
After a moment he lowers his hands, knotting them in the hem of his shirt, and looks over at the windows above the kitchen sink. He realizes he has no idea what time it is.
“Would you mind staying over?” He asks quietly, “I’ve been having trouble sleeping again.”
Todoroki’s fingers twitch in his hair, and Midoriya’s eyes flick over to meet his. They’re soft, always soft when they’re looking at him, but there’s worry there, too. He wonders absently how many of his friends are going to have ulcers before they’re thirty because of him. The answer is a non-zero number, probably.
“Sure,” Todoroki says, equally quiet. He hesitates, but his voice keeps steady as he continues, “I could call Shinsou.”
Midoriya shakes his head.
“It’s not that bad yet,” he insists, and Todoroki drops it.
It had been, once, and Midoriya knows that’s what Todoroki’s thinking of; back in their third year of UA, Midoriya hadn’t been able to sleep for more than an hour or two for a week and finally collapsed during a rescue simulation. Shinsou had taken up hypnotizing him into going to sleep pretty soon after, whenever he went too long without a full night’s sleep.
Midoriya shifts until his cheek presses against his leg, eyes closed and breathing deeply. He measures the silence, wondering, but after a minute he bites his lip.
“Okay, so now tell me what you aren’t telling me.”
To Todoroki’s credit, he doesn’t startle, but all at once that tension is back and it freezes the hand in his hair. Midoriya knows him too well, after a solid decade. He’d figured out Bakugou in the same timeframe, after all, and they both know he’s not as complex as the fear-and-fury twisting inside the hero currently holding the number two spot.
He hears Todoroki sigh, but the tension doesn’t budge.
“Endeav - my father’s in the hospital,” he finally says. The words sound too flat, too calm to be anything other than a careful mask, but Midoriya doesn’t press it. Todoroki’s best defense has always been his ability to slip into neutrality.
“Is it serious?” He asks, after biting back the salvo of questions that rise into the back of his throat. He’ll ask them later, when he knows that Todoroki isn’t about to set himself on fire from the stormfront in his mind.
“That’s what I was told.”
“I’m sorry,” Midoriya says.
“I’m not,” Todoroki replies instantly. Midoriya tilts his head back enough to look at him. There’s anger in the tense line of his jaw, the way his eyes are completely shut off. It makes him hurt in a way he can’t describe, but he knows Todoroki isn’t trying to be cruel. He’s locking himself in, not locking Midoriya out.
“I’m not sorry for him,” he clarifies, “I’m sorry that you have to go through this.”
Todoroki blinks at him.
Midoriya doesn’t try to take his hand in his own, knows somehow that it would overstep a very careful boundary between them, but it’s a close thing.
“He’s put you through a lot,” Midoriya continues, and there’s a hard edge to it that he can’t manage to swallow down, “it’s the least he could do, to not involve you in this.”
In dying, he doesn’t say, but he knows Todoroki understands by the way his eyes soften again.
“Go to sleep,” he says after a moment, his voice quieting back down. Midoriya’s heard him use that voice to three people as long as he’d known him: Fuyumi, Yaoyorozu, and him.
Midoriya huffs but sits up obediently. He gestures toward his bedroom in wordless invitation, but Todoroki shakes his head. He bites back the words I could always just stay here and fall asleep with you, like he always does, and closes the bedroom door behind him with a click.
Things haven’t changed that much, he tells himself.
By the time he wakes up Todoroki’s gone, but there’s a lukewarm mug of coffee sitting on his kitchen countertop that he smiles at gratefully.
He drinks it outside while he checks the news feeds, and then grabs his costume before heading over to the agency.
Kirishima and Bakugou’s place isn’t too far from the office building that’s become his second home, and it’s always been kind of nice to look out over the skyscrapers and be able to pinpoint where Kacchan is by the massive red zero hanging fixed over the penthouse, maybe even figure out what he’s doing if the building doesn’t rumble with an explosion every few minutes.
“Hi, Deku!” Sings his coordinator, Kayano, from her desk at the front in the bullpen, and he beams at her and waves. She hops up from her chair and perches on the lip of her desk, pulling over a sheet of printer paper and clearing her throat. Midoriya braces himself for the five months of damage reports.
“I’ve handled all your incomings from the past few months, so don’t worry about those yet - there’s a debrief on your desk, sorted by urgency. You got a call from Red Riot this morning, he asked that I tell you welcome back, and then Ground Zero interrupted to say that ‘if you’re going to be gone from hero work for this long you might as well retire’,” her eyes flick up to his with a deathly dry humor, “and I’m choosing to leave out a lot of expletives there.”
Midoriya laughs. He hands her the extra black tea he’d picked up on his way over, and she accepts it gratefully before continuing.
“Hatsume Mei called last week and requested access to your costume details from Melissa, she said something about enhancing your boots. Melissa also left a message, and I can set up a video call for you upstairs to talk to her. In other news, Lemillion and Suneater are patrolling the blue-collar district today, Ground Zero and Red Riot have the financial district, and Nejire-chan has the coast. Siren will be on patrol in the residentials tonight, and Uravity and Chargebolt will be on standby. Now.”
Kayano closes her eyes and holds out a hand, palm flat, expectant. Midoriya laughs and digs into one of his pockets, shuffling his costume case around as he does.
She’d given him one request before he left, and of course when he landed in Kanpur it had been the first thing he’d bought. Kayano’s a gift, both to Midoriya and the greater hero network in Tokyo. He’d been searching for the right way to properly thank her for her work for weeks beforehand, anyway, and then she’d told him point-blank what it was she wanted most.
He unfolds the sari, still in its plastic sleeve, and drapes it across her hand. Traditional sunset colors, red and deep orange and stitched with pearlescent gold. Her eyes immediately water when she opens them.
“Oh, it’s beautiful!” She says softly, “I haven’t been able to find a new one…”
Midoriya shrugs, but he can’t suppress the pleased smile that creeps onto his face. He laughs when she hugs him with preternatural strength.
“It’s the least I could do for the best hero coordinator in Japan,” he says, and she sniffles a little against his shoulder.
“It’s still wonderful. Thank you.”
Kayano takes a deep breath and steps back, gesturing him forward toward the elevator. She places the sari lovingly on the opposite side of her desk. Midoriya tips her a two-fingered salute and takes the elevator up to his office on the top floor. There’s not many people besides him and Kayano here, seeing as he doesn’t have sidekicks or other heroes on the ledger, but he still waves and says hello to each intern as they pass by him, running errands for the coordinator. He knows all of their names. Kouta must be in class by now, Midoriya thinks as he checks the office for him, which explains why Kayano didn’t make him slog through every excruciating detail of what happened while he was gone face-to-face. The kid is a menace.
The debriefing on his desk is massive, at least a dozen papers thick, and he sighs when he sees it before setting down his case and changing into his costume behind the screen in the corner. He leaves his cowl off.
He decides to call Melissa before taking off for patrol, just in case it’s urgent, and the holographic screen pops up from its console on his desk.
“Hey, you! So you made it back, huh?”
Midoriya smiles as he flicks through the debrief.
“Mostly intact, yeah! Kayano said you called earlier, miss me already?”
Melissa laughs at him, but it’s fond. Her glasses are pushed back into her hair and she’s apparently in her lab, based on the ambient light and noise.
“I do, but that’s not why I called. Mei said she had some upgrade ideas for your boots, but I’m already beta testing some new synthetic fibers to increase the shock absorption. Do you want me to give her the specs anyway?”
Midoriya hums, and places a finger down on the line item he leaves off at. She’s tinkering with a circuit board when he looks over at her, and although he has no idea what she’s doing, she seems perfectly in her element grafting new lines into the metal.
“That’s fine with me! I can give you Chargebolt’s support info, maybe they can help. A lot of their insulation is made in-lab.”
Melissa smiles at him.
“What, you’re already doubting my work? Jeez, Deku.”
Midoriya sputters but catches himself quickly, sticking his tongue out at her and feeling a pleased tug at his ribs when she returns it.
“How are you doing, by the way?” Melissa asks, “Being back in town going okay?”
“It’s great!” Midoriya replies instantly, “I missed being home. The offer’s still up for you to move out here, though. You’d like Tokyo.”
Melissa hums to herself and sets the circuit board down. Her eyes are analytical, pale blue like her father’s.
“You’re lonely,” she says, curious, and Midoriya feels himself freeze, “but you’re back home. What’s going on, Deku?”
Midoriya flips through the rest of the debriefing to give his hands something to do, his eyes somewhere to look besides at her. Mirio and Todoroki are still jockeying for the third spot, apparently, but it’s looking more and more every day like Todoroki’s going to climb the ranks again. One day he might pass Bakugou, and the thought makes him smile, just a little.
“It’s nothing,” he says after a pause, “I promise it’s nothing. I’m happy to be home, really. It’s just. I’ve missed so much, and I feel like I should’ve been here anyway. Nothing big happened, not this time, but if I leave again something might, and that scares me.”
Melissa presses a hand forward, palm flat, as though she could reach through the call and place it on his shoulder. The gesture is soothing. Midoriya lets the tension go out from his shoulders.
“And some things did change while I was away,” he mutters, “but not the things I wanted to.”
Midoriya glances at her.
“You mean Todoroki,” she says, with a devastating sureness, and Midoriya feels heat rise up over his neck and toward his ears.
“What? I don’t - what do you mean?” He squeaks.
She stifles a laugh with her hand.
“Well, I didn’t know you were trying to keep it a secret!” She manages, and Midoriya waits for her to take a deep breath before continuing, “Sorry, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that… Deku, you realize how you sound when you talk about him, right?”
Midoriya looks away, that heat still climbing over his face.
He knows; he’d spent a few weeks with her in America, meeting with the billboard heroes there, and she’d asked for every detail of his life back home. He’d talked animatedly, for hours, about Uraraka signing on to Hadou’s agency, Iida balancing being the assistant chief of police with hero work, visiting All Might on the weekends to walk through the old park near his home, his mother meticulously buying every piece of his hero merch, agreeing to let Kayano coordinate his agency after he’d jumped to the number two spot, bringing Kouta on as an intern, Mirio and Amajiki taking in Eri while Aizawa tried to wrangle his new position as principal, Todoroki -
He’d talked about Todoroki for a while, he realizes belatedly, and his heart sinks.
“Dekiru,” she coaxes, gentle, the nickname she uses when he’s getting too lost in his own head, the two of them so similar in so many ways, “I didn’t know it bothered you this much.”
Midoriya places his face back into his hands, mortified. He’d tried so hard, for years, to push it aside and deal with it later and not have to think about the fact that he’s -
“Of course it bothers me!” He finally says, muffled by his hands, “I’m in love with my best friend, Melissa, of course that bothers me.”
It’s the one-on-one matches at the sports festival their first year, maybe. Or maybe it’s during the fight with the Hero Killer in that awful alley in Hosu. It’s the way he’d looked so hurt during the provisional license exams, or just after when the ever-present sadness eased from his eyes a bit. It’s the way Midoriya had come back from that day at his internship with his arms still shaking and the phantom-memory of Eri’s own trembling body, and he’d called him Izuku for the first time to get his attention. Maybe it’s their second year, the sports festival again, the way his expression had cleared for the first time in months when he activated both halves of his quirk at once, the way he’d looked nothing like his father during that accident in Musutafu when his flames glowed blue-white and crystalline as he melted through steel i-beams to clear a path for the first responders and raised glaciers to keep the crumbling buildings upright. Third year, sitting on Midoriya’s bed in the dorms and silently doing their homework, smiling a little at a stupid pun Kaminari made over lunch, the way his eyes had gone big and fascinated when Aizawa’s cat got out of the teacher’s dorms. Maybe it’s a lot more recent, like when Midoriya had finally cut his hair and he’d merely tilted his head and said it looks good, it suits you better, when they’d both skyrocketed through the pro ranks and made it into the top ten within six months, how they’d celebrated that night and he’d come this close to kissing him. Maybe it’s the way his eyes had softened as Mirio and Yoarashi separately told him to watch himself, because the number three spot was theirs.
It’s his hair, or his eyes, or the fine bones in his knuckles when his skin ignites into flame and ice, or the way that even as he stands taller than Midoriya he never seems to be looking down at him. It’s the terrifying power, well-controlled, inside him. It’s all the ways he’s changed, and hasn’t changed at all. Maybe it’s all of it, stacked messily on top of each other, each individual point in a snowflake Midoriya can’t begin to untangle.
It doesn’t matter much to Midoriya, when or how or why he fell in love with him, only that it presses down on his ribs every day, the hurt an ache he can feel as clearly as he used to feel One for All’s kinetic power snapping through his bones.