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a song about somebody else

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It’s no surprise that in a group as tightly knit (read: all up in each other’s business) as Class 1-A, everyone knows about each other’s Marks. They range from open secrets to outright spectacles, but, without fail, everyone in class has been subject to the same obsessive scrutiny.

When it’s finally his turn, Todoroki Shouto proves to be an enigma.

This, too, surprises no one.

It doesn’t take much to notice that Todoroki, who otherwise pays no mind to modesty, always keeps his back to the wall when changing. How he’s somehow—to the dismay of girls and boys alike—never been caught without at least a tank top on outside the locker room. It’s not unheard of to keep Marks private, but it is old-fashioned; his secrecy gives the teenage rumor mill a field day.

“—Is he embarrassed by it—Nah, he’s probably just too focused on training—But what if he knows who his Mark matches and just doesn’t want them—”

It’s likely the only reason Todoroki is spared the full inquisition is that, as the semester ends, a new rumor begins to spread.

“Did you hear? Bakugou and Kirishima share a Mark !”

Just like that, Class 1-A has more pressing things to gossip about than Todoroki Shouto’s secrets.

 

 

The night air is stifling—a lingering heat that refuses to depart with the sun, that turns the midsummer humidity near-suffocating. It’s 02:00, U.A.’s first year hero course is set to depart for Training Camp in the morning, and despite his Quirk Todoroki cannot sleep. 

He's thinking about Marks, which should have been the first indication that nothing good would come of it.

Bakugou and Kirishima share a Mark.

The news blew up their group chat. After getting past Midoriya’s shock, Uraraka’s excitement, and Iida’s lecture on respecting privacy, Todoroki had learned that Bakugou and Kirishima were spending their summer break together—hiking, they said. And while neither had “officially” confirmed anything, the fact they hadn’t outright denied it spoke volumes.

Unlike previous gossip that had spread through 1-A (things that, while amusing at times, Todoroki couldn’t usually bring himself to be bothered with) there’s something about this rumor that lingers.

Todoroki—both as a general rule, and as an effective middle finger to his father—tends to think about Soul Marks as little as possible. He’d stopped letting himself fixate on his own Mark around age ten, and since then chose to intentionally disregard anyone else’s as equally. Being surrounded by a Mark-obsessed class had complicated this resolution a bit, but overall Todoroki thinks he’s done well to keep Marks from clouding his focus.

Until now apparently.

He’d started staring, is the thing. Between impromptu training sessions and the occasional class meet up, in the short glimpses they’d all seen of each other during summer break—Todoroki had begun watching the pair without really knowing what he was looking for.

Sometimes he'd find himself studying the edges of Bakugou’s Mark where it peeked out from his low-cut tank tops—a curl of color, a bold stroke of line across his chest. Or he’d contemplate the spot where he imagined Kirishima’s matching Mark would be, safely tucked under the hem of his shirt. In these observations he’d noticed the way Kirishima became freer with his touch, and how Bakugou’s rebukes became less annoyed and more… fond.

Todoroki had caught himself staring, and trained himself look away. He never allowed too long or too clear a glimpse—the mere impulse to look in the first place had frustrated him. Nothing good comes from being distracted by Soul Marks; he’s known that from the moment his own appeared.

But what he can’t deny in the safety of his own bed is the whisper of intuition: a dangerous hope ghosting at the edge of his sleep-addled mind, born of childish dreams and misplaced longing. There’s a what-if he won’t acknowledge, not even on the edge of exhaustion.

A bead of sweat, cooled from his right side, drips into the space between his shoulder blades.

Todoroki shivers, rolls over, and wills himself to sleep.

 

 

Overhead, the trees are burning. Todoroki’s skin is burning where frost still bites his cheek, his chest is burning where he refuses to breathe, and Bakugou is—

Bakugou is gone.

Todoroki had been with him, at his side the entire night, and in the moment when it counted most…

How sad, Todoroki Shouto.

He hears his classmates approaching through the woods, but all Todoroki can do is stare, horrified and hollowed, at the place where the portal had been—where Bakugou stood just moments before, a villain’s burnt, scarred hand wrapped around his neck.

There had been a moment where everything hung suspended—Todoroki hurtling forward, outstretched to grasp the small glowing orb, Bakugou—when suddenly saving the other boy wasn’t just necessary, it was vital. And Todoroki wasn’t just angry—

He was terrified.

He hadn’t thought it in words, then, hadn't succumb to foolish conclusions, but now his steadfast guard falters. He shudders a breath, eyes wide, panic rising, thinks what if, what if—

Nearby, Midoriya screams.

The acrid bite of smoke chokes Todoroki’s throat, and the moment passes. It doesn’t matter, because Bakugou is gone.

Todoroki hadn’t reached him.

The reminder is less like ice in his veins, and more like boiling water.

 

 

Those who can walk are escorted to the clearing by medics and police. Without conscious thought or intention, Todoroki’s eyes scan the faces of his class, shaken and frightened, until they catch on red eyes. 

Kirishima is already looking at him.

Something like guilt claws up Todoroki’s throat, digs into him like nettles, thorns, drawing blood. He can't breathe.

Bakugou and Kirishima share a Mark.

There’s a hand at his back then, a police officer guiding him farther from the burning tree-line. Todoroki blames the stress of the evening for the way he flinches away from the touch.

He can’t look at Kirishima for the rest of the night, but he feels the weight of eyes on him all the same.

 

 

Todoroki isn't surprised to see Kirishima at the hospital.

It makes sense, he thinks, that they'd both end up there, exhausted and restless but unable to sit still at home, waiting for something to be done.

He is surprised, however, at how quickly a plan falls into their laps.

They stand shoulder to shoulder in front of the hospital, hope balanced on a knife’s edge. Todoroki doesn't like that this plan hinges on other people, likes even less the helplessness that causes. He’s never been good at relying on others.

He tries not to imagine how Kirishima must be feeling.

There are bags under Kirishima’s eyes that match his own, and a nervous energy thrumming through his limbs that keeps his nail bitten fingers tapping, clenching and unclenching the fabric at his hip.

Over his Mark.

Todoroki knows he’s staring this time, but can’t stop himself even when Kirishima notices.

“Yeah,” Kirishima swallows, gnawing at his lip and nodding at the unasked question. He tugs the hem of his shirt up, far enough to bare the waistband of his shorts, and his eyes keep steady on the hospital doors. “It’s true. Bakugou and I are—”

He can’t bring himself to say the word, but Todoroki barely notices the preoccupation. He’s fixated on pale skin, the tips of a dark swirl.

Familiar blooms of color.

The doors to the hospital push open with a squeak, announcing Yaoyorozu and Midoriya’s arrival. 

Kirishima lets his shirt fall.

 

 

Their plan goes off, not without a hitch, but with so many hitches it actually works. The tracker, the disguises, the rescue. Todoroki’s ice makes them fly and—

It has to be you, Kirishima.

—they reach him.

Kamino is not without casualties, but Bakugou is safe.

Todoroki and Yaoyorozu reunite with their group just briefly before they escort Bakugou to the police, and Todoroki forgives himself for watching as Kirishima and Bakugou say their goodbyes, if only because the other three are watching too. 

Kirishima, who hadn’t let go of Bakugou’s hand since the rescue, hesitates only a moment before using his grip to reel Bakugou into a desperate sort of hug. It looks uncomfortable, Kirishima with one arm wedged between their chests—but then Todoroki realizes he’s done it to lay his palm flat against Bakugou, over his Mark. Bakugou, who hasn’t said a word since the two groups merged, lets himself be held. If Todoroki hadn’t been looking closely—hadn’t been practiced at looking at them, by now—he would never have seen the way Bakugou brushes his fingers over Kirishima’s Mark, just once, through the fabric of his shirt.

Todoroki looks away and thinks maybe now, finally, he’ll be able to sleep.

 

 

He’s right, but it doesn’t come easy. Because in the dark of his room, his father’s disbelieving, broken anger still echoing down the halls, Todoroki’s resolve crumbles. For the first time in years, he lets himself think of his Mark. To the quiet of his own mind, this at least he can admit:

He’d expected it to hurt, seeing them together.

Hurt Todoroki is used to. He braces for it like a reflex. The most surprising, unbalancing part of all of this is—it doesn’t hurt.

He understands, with the kind of insight that can only be found on the edge of sleep, that it’s not seeing them together he should have braced for. It’s the walking away from them after.

They play across his mind in vivid flashes. Bakugou’s eyes as the portal closed around him. Kirishima’s voice, shaking as he’d shown Todoroki his Mark. Bakugou, rocketing up to take Kirishima’s hand. Kirishima not letting go of Bakugou until he absolutely had to—and then holding one moment more.

In the face of that bond, Todoroki’s doubt riots with a ferocity that twists his stomach.

What’s my excuse for doing this, then?

He doesn’t have history like Midoriya, or a sense of responsibility like Iida or Yaoyorozu. He thinks he could play it off as guilt, but that rings false to his own ears.

Todoroki squeezes his eyes shut and holds his breath. Thinks, It was for him. For them.

Then selfishly, almost defiantly—

For me, too.

He breathes.

 

 

Between the rise of the League of Villains, All Might’s end, and Endeavor’s abrupt rise to Number One, a return to normalcy seems almost impossible—but as far as Soul Marks are concerned, Todoroki thinks that should have been the end of it.

He relentlessly keeps himself in check. No more slips, no more what-ifs. For weeks and then months, he keeps his back concealed when changing; wears short sleeves, not just tank tops; submits the proper forms requesting a fireproof gym uniform.

Bakugou and Kirishima confirm publicly (to the class at least) that they share a Mark.

Todoroki gets good at keeping his eyes to himself.

Yet somehow, despite failing the licensing exam, internships, supplementary classes, and his own resolve to ignore them—Todoroki is drawn into their gravity.

He can’t help being exposed to Bakugou, given their extra course. But then Bakugou starts inviting him (provoking him) into weekly sparring sessions, and instigates their routine of getting food afterwards (“I’m not gonna listen to you bitch about being hungry when you should be doing homework, half n’ half, this is purely for my own sake, will you stop goddamn smirking—“). Todoroki had been too surprised to turn him down the first times he’d offered, and now he finds himself enjoying it enough to not want to stop.

He’s more surprised with Kirishima, who he expected to retreat from his life as easily as he’d entered it now that their unifying cause was safe and sound. Instead, Todoroki gets text messages. Routine things, at first. Homework questions, training strategies. But then comes pictures of cats Kirishima sees on the weekends he visits home, and invites to come watch movies with a group in the common area.

It’s… nice. Nice enough to make him forget the reason he was avoiding them in the first place.

 

 

“Alright, enough of this. Show me.”

It's a provocation, like most things with Bakugou are. It’s just the two of them in the locker room after supplementary courses, afternoon light spilling through the windows. Todoroki has no reason to think Bakugou could be asking about that, but his spine goes rigid anyway.

“Show you what?” he replies, relieved at how bored his voice sounds. He keeps his eyes low, focuses on packing his things into his bag to keep his hands from tugging obviously at his shirt.

“Your Mark, asshole.” Bakugou stalks forward until he’s barely an arms length away. “What's so special that you've gotta keep it covered, huh?”

Todoroki shakes head with a dismissive eye roll, turning to face him head on.

“Nothing’s special,” he insists with grit of teeth, voice level. There’s a pressure building in his temples. 

“Give up the cryptic bullshit—”

“I don't have one.”

The declaration falls into the empty air between them. Todoroki’s heart jackrabbits in his chest, but the silence remains unbroken until Bakugou breaks it.

“Fuck you. Everyone has one.”

“I don’t.” Todoroki clenches his fist in the hem of his shirt, breathing evenly through his nose. He can’t bring himself to meet Bakugou’s glare. “Satisfied?”

“Far from it.” Bakugou closes the gap between them as he jabs Todoroki in the chest. “I think you’re a liar, Todoroki. And you’re an idiot if you think I haven't noticed the way you look at our Marks.” He glares up at him, breath hot against Todoroki’s jaw.

“You look at us,” Bakugou accuses, voice low, “both of us, and expect us not to watch you back?”

Todoroki shakes his head but can’t summon words, and Bakugou voices the fears that have been plaguing Todoroki all summer.

“No one looks like that unless they have a match.”

“I don’t—" he finally manages, desperately, but it’s too late.

Prove it.

The challenge rings in the empty locker room, and Todoroki is suddenly, blindingly angry. That’s the only explanation for what he does.

Without a word he turns his back on Bakugou, who lets out an indignant “Hey!” before he realizes what’s happening. Todoroki reaches back and yanks up the hem of his shirt, exposing the entirety of his back.

 

 

(Todoroki Shouto is five years old when his Soul Mark first appears. It's been two months since his mother was taken away, and just weeks since the bandages over his eye were removed.

He's training, as he does every day his father is home from his agency. But on this day he’s distracted. He keeps shifting. There's a curious warmth high on his back, a pressure that blooms outward from his spine. He twists his head trying to peer over his shoulder, his form growing sloppy—

That's when his father notices.

Todoroki can't remember much of the next few hours, but in the years since his mind has filled in the gaps.

His father must have seen something—a bloom of color, a tendril spilling across his skin from beneath the collar of his shirt.

He remembers being spun, and a grip on his arm that left fingerprint bruises. Remembers his shirt hanging from one elbow, and his father muttering—not to Shouto, of course not, but to himself, low and quick and angry, the way he'd started talking more often since mother was taken—about his plans, about Shouto’s potential, about how a Mark could ruin all of his work.

He remembers a flame so hot he didn't feel the pain at first—just the heat that radiated against his neck and arms and ribs.

And the screaming. He doesn't know if the screaming came before the pain, or after.)

 

 

Todoroki expects some kind of relief after the confession, some vindication It’s the first time he’s told anyone about what happened, after all.

Instead, he just feels tired.

“So you see… I’m nobody’s match,” Todoroki says, bitterness he wasn’t aware he could feel anymore rising up and bleeding into the words. “And if I had one, I don’t anymore. I’ll never know.”

He lets his shirt drop and turns to face Bakugou, who’s gone deathly silent and still. 

“Is that proof enough?”

Todoroki doesn’t wait for Bakugou’s reply, doesn’t wait for his stunned expression to turn to horror, or anger—or pity.

He’s survived this much, but he doesn’t think he could survive that.

 

 

Todoroki worries at first how he’ll avoid Bakugou now that the other knows the truth, but he needn’t have bothered: Bakugou makes no move to approach him at all the rest of the week.

A part of Todoroki is relieved by this. He has no idea what he’d say beyond “I apologize that I’ve made you uncomfortable—there is no excuse, and I promise it will never happen again.”

(He wonders if he could truly keep that promise.)

Kirishima returns from a mission with his internship the Sunday morning following his and Bakugou’s confrontation, four days into the silence. They spend the day holed up in Bakugou’s room, according to gossip in the group chat.

Todoroki’s friends are kind enough not to mention that he’s doing the same thing.

It’s only when he starts to dwell—wondering if Bakugou had told Kirishima what had happened yet, or if he even would—that Todoroki decides he needs to get out of his room, if not his own head. Dinner downstairs proves a surprisingly welcome distraction, as it devolves into an arm wrestling competition with Ashido as the reigning champion. Neither Bakugou nor Kirishima make an appearance, and Todoroki can’t tell if he’s disappointed by this or not.

After dinner he takes the stairs on autopilot. It doesn’t even occur to him that this could be a bad idea until he rounds the landing on the fourth floor and hears a voice call from down the hall.

“Hey—Todoroki?”

He freezes. Instinct tells him to bolt, but he can’t. Partly because this week’s silence gave him plenty of time to realize there was no running from this problem. And partly… well, because of who’s asking.

Todoroki turns and sees Kirishima stood a few steps outside Bakugou’s open door. There’s a small smile on his face despite his tentative tone.

“Can we… can we talk? All of us?”

Todoroki has been bracing for this moment, since before the confrontation with Bakugou even, but his stomach still gives a lurch, heartbeat pounding in his ears. He does the only thing he can and nods; the slow steps it takes to reach the open door feeling like the walk before the gallows.

Bakugou is leaned against the edge of his desk by the window, arms crossed and scowl in place. The familiar expression should probably be comforting, but Todoroki averts his gaze as he enters the room, perching on the edge of the bed for lack of a better place.

Kirishima closes the door and leans back again, fidgeting in a way that reminds Todoroki of that night outside the hospital.

“Soo…” Kirishima draws out. Todoroki can feel them both looking at him, but he keeps his eyes firmly on the carpet.

“I told him,” Bakugou interjects, and Todoroki doesn’t flinch—but it’s a close thing. “And he agrees with me.”

“…Agrees with you?” Todoroki repeats, confusion finally making him look up. This is not part of the script he’d been running in his mind.

Bakugou pins him with an unflinching stare.

“You’re our match. Mark or no Mark.”

Todoroki can’t help it—he nearly chokes.

What?

“We’ve talked about it,” Kirishima jumps in, voice earnest as he approaches. “We’ve been talking about it, for a while, actually.” He smiles again then, and there’s something almost shy about it this time. “We’ve had a feeling about you…”

Todoroki feels like he’s fallen into a daydream, the kind that he’s always resolutely refused to let himself have.

“I—no,” he manages, heartbeat going haywire. It sounds like he’s being offered something he’s always wanted, and it’s the one thing he knows he can never have.

“No?” Kirishima parrots, surprised.

Todoroki shakes his head, attempting to organize his tangled thoughts, but Bakugou jumps in before he can.

“No, y’see—this bastard thinks he’s doing us a favor by pulling away. By not giving us a choice.” He’s directing the words at Kirishima, but they’re pointedly intended for Todoroki. Bakugou has the look in his eye he gets when facing a particularly challenging opponent: a dogged stubbornness that means he’ll fight tooth and nail, will go for blood if it means he gets what he wants. 

The thought that what he wants is Todoroki makes the boy himself feel lightheaded.

“He thinks we’re better off without him,” Bakugou scoffs. “Fuck that. We’re not going anywhere.”

“Unless…” Kirishima continues, voice quiet, “that’s what you really want? We’re not—you know we’re not gonna force you into anything you don’t want, Todoroki.”

Bakugou growls in irritation but then sighs, slumping back against the desk.

“Of course we won’t,” he admits quietly, but straightens and scowls at Todoroki again the next moment. “But if you’re doing this out of some sort of… twisted martyr bullshit, cut it out right now. Answer us honestly.”

Todoroki's blood is roaring in his ears, and he knows he’s blinking at them stupidly, but he can’t… he can’t

“I don’t think you understand,” Todoroki tries again, and he can hear the touch of hysteria in his voice. “I can’t have a match. I don’t have a Mark anymore—"

“Why does it matter if you have one or not?” Bakugou bursts out, pushing off of the desk and stalking toward him. “We chose you, that’s as good as any fucking Mark!”

Todoroki stands to meet him automatically, frustration bursting. “If you wanted me, why have you been avoiding me since you—” his voice falters. “… Since you found out.”

Bakugou sighs. “Sit down, icyhot,” he instructs, sounding pressed, and pushes Todoroki until his knees hit the mattress, dropping down beside him once he does. 

“I wasn’t going to have this conversation without him,” Bakugou explains, glancing at Kirishima who reaches out to entwine their fingers. “It was better to stay away from you all together. Besides—it’s not like you weren’t doing the same thing.”

“I just… don’t understand why you’re doing this,” Todoroki mutters, and senses more than sees Kirishima move to stand close on his other side.

“Is it really so hard to believe…?” Kirishima asks, and Todoroki looks at him. “How we feel about you?”

Next to him, Bakugou shifts, and then he’s gripping Todoroki by the wrist—the most gentle touch he thinks Bakugou’s ever given him—and lifting his hand to lay flat against his chest. Over his heart. Over his Mark.

“If this matters to you so much… it's yours.”

Todoroki’s breath hitches, and he looks helplessly to Kirishima, who’s smiling at them both. Kirishima glances down at his own hip then back at Todoroki, raising an arm behind his head a bit bashfully so the colors on his hip are exposed. He nods encouragingly, and Todoroki doesn’t hesitate this time. He reaches out to graze his fingertips over the colors and swirls of his Mark.

“It doesn’t fucking matter if you have one that we can see or not…” Bakugou says to him, voice low.

He hasn’t released his grip, and for that Todoroki can feel the words rumble in his chest as he speaks, can almost imagine he feels a pulsing warmth: a Soul Mark flaring to life under his touch.   

“We’re choosing you… so choose us back.”