Hitoshi moved into the 2A dormitory at the beginning of his second year.
The night before, his ex-classmates had thrown a farewell party where they all managed to get high only on soft drinks and snacks, and the day after he was stumbling into his new room with boxes and a sore throat from laughing too much, and maybe also from crying a little. The exhaustion kept both the excitement and panic at bay (an unfortunate product born of the realisation that he was here, he was finally in the heroics course, could things really be that good?) and allowed him to robotically shove his things into his room.
He was moving the last of his boxes when his neighbour, Todoroki, poked his head out of his room to say “good morning” the way people say “my condolences”.
Hitoshi winced. He wasn’t one to play nice (and he was pretty sure he had destroyed any chances at a good impression, what with his declaration of war during the 1A-1B joint exercise) but he recognised the look of somebody in dire need of sleep. He saw it everyday in the mirror.
“Sorry,” he said, as sincerely as he could while balancing the box between his hip and the door frame. Todoroki blinked at him, sleep-fuzzy and uncomprehending. “Uh...did I wake you?”
“No,” Todoroki stated simply. He looked between Hitoshi and the box. His brows furrowed then relaxed. “Oh. You’re our new neighbour.”
What had that expression even meant? Hitoshi could feel himself bristling on instinct, and it was an effort to remember he might not be here to make friends, but he could certainly try not to make any enemies. He cleared his throat. “Yeah. Ah...name’s Shinsou Hitoshi.”
“I know. Hold on.”
Todoroki ducked back into his room then, door shutting with a soft click. Hitoshi wavered—should he go into his room now? Should he wait with the box threatening to dislocate his hip bone? Had he actually re-introduced himself to Todoroki under the (apparently mistaken) assumption that Todoroki hadn’t bothered to remember his name? Not for the first time, he lamented the awkwardness of social interaction. He did not get to stew for long before Todoroki made his reappearance, bedhead and all, now with a phone in his hand. He stopped in front of Hitoshi and held it out expectantly.
“...um?” Hitoshi said.
“So I can add you to the fifth floor boys group,” Todoroki explained, which did not explain anything. With his free hand he expertly righted Hitoshi’s box, which had come dangerously close to tipping over. “I don’t have your number,” he continued in the same self-explanatory tone.
“...no offense, but do I have to?”
“Satou makes cakes, and we gather in Sero’s room,” Todoroki said, blinking at Hitoshi like the concept of him not joining was unfathomable and, at its most basic level, an incomprehensible thing. “I bring tea. You can bring something too if you like, but you don’t have to.”
Hitoshi could feel a headache building from more than the lack of sleep. Todoroki nudged his phone, where a new contact page was already open, into Hitoshi’s hand. Feeling the futility of resistance (and reasoning that if Todoroki forgot to contact him then that wasn't within his control), Hitoshi carefully typed in his number and left his name blank for Todoroki to fill in. Todoroki took it back with a nod of thanks.
“Need any help unpacking?” he asked. He promptly yawned in a rather kitten-like manner. Hitoshi felt a tiny niggling of guilt—but he had already apologised for disturbing Todoroki’s sleep, and it’d probably be awkward to do so again.
“Nah, I’ll just—” he waved in a vague manner—“handle it myself. Uh...thanks for the offer, though?”
Todoroki nodded. In the same flat tone he had greeted Hitoshi with he said, “Welcome to 2A. I’ll add you to the class chat when you’re ready.” With as little explanation for that declaration as he had given for the fifth floor boys chat, Todoroki shuffled back to his door, missed the door handle on the first try, and stumbled back in for, most likely, an extended morning nap.
It was a minute before Hitoshi realised he was still standing in his doorway, gaping at Todoroki’s closed door, box decidedly at a forward tilt and threatening to crash onto his toes anytime.
The Art of Welcoming
[Unknown Number] added you to Fifth Floor Friendos
[Unknown Number]: Welcome, Shinsou!
[Unknown Number]: hell yeah, earlyroki v.2!
[Unknown Number]: Hey
Hitoshi: uh, thanks. sorry but who’s who?
[Unknown Number]: No worries man! This is Satou
[Unknown Number]: ya boi sero at your service ;)
Hitoshi: cool. so the last number must be todoroki
Satou : Yup he doesn’t reply all the time but just @ him if you need something
Btw you have any cake prefs??
Hitoshi: cake prefs?
Sero: any flavours you like, satou rotates among our favs for our weekly boy talks
Hitoshi: is that a nice name for gossip nights
Sero: nah depends on the week, last month its mostly tryna convince roki tt he doesnt have to play the same chara on smash bros everytime out of some weird loyalty
Satou: He likes Yoshi, I think he reminds him of Midoriya
Sero: yah yoshis cool but he can like play other charas too
Todoroki: But you always play pikachu as well
Hitoshi: why. why would yoshi remind you of midoriya
Todoroki: He’s green and wears big shoes
Sero : imma screenshot this and send it to mido this is hilarios
Satou: Shinsou! Cake prefs???
Hitoshi: uhh i guess anything not too sweet? i guess cakes like...lemon cheesecake?
Satou: Cool cool, I’ll make that today. Tonight 8pm in Sero’s room good for you?
Hitoshi: you...you dont have to make it /today/
Satou: No sweat, it’s to welcome you!
Todoroki: Wait didn’t midoriya say something about a welcome party? Isn’t that today?
Satou: Oh shit I forgot
Sero : SATOU KJDHFKSJADFHSALKDJGFEWIUO
NOT YOU TOO
Satou: Oh shit
Sero : forget you saw any of that bye for now shinsou
welcome to 2A!!!
Midoriya was entirely unsurprised when Hitoshi admitted that Todoroki had let spill about the surprise party. “He nearly did that for Iida-kun’s birthday last year,” he lamented, and after making sure Hitoshi had a plate of food he turned to soundly scold Todoroki. Todoroki, to his credit, looked sheepish, as much as his limited emoting ability allowed him to.
“No soba for you,” Midoriya said.
Todoroki visibly drooped. His saviour came in the unlikely form of Bakugou, snarling from the furthest end of the room, his choice of seat indicating he had wanted to put as much distance between himself and Midoriya as possible. “Like hell you’re gonna let the food go to fucking waste, damn nerd!”
It is a fair point, Hitoshi thought. Cold soba is not unpleasant, but he couldn’t imagine it being a favourite dish at a teenagers’ party where there were other more attractive and unhealthy options, like pizza. The corner filled with soba was only for Todoroki’s benefit.
“W-well, that’s true, um—” Midoriya visibly wracked his brain for another suitable punishment for Todoroki.
“I’m sorry,” Todoroki said solemnly, leaning around Midoriya to look at Hitoshi. “I ruined the surprise. Sero told me off too.” He was still radiating a kicked puppy look, probably more to do with his dejection at not eating his favourite food than actually from feeling bone-deep guilt.
“Uh. That’s...okay. Really. I’m not exactly...good with surprises?”
There was a flicker of understanding in Todoroki’s eyes. Before Hitoshi could read into it Midoriya was waving his hands around frantically and saying, “Wait, really?! I’m sorry, is this too much? You can tell us if it’s too much!”
“It’s fine,” Hitoshi reassured. He smiled a little. At least, he hoped it came off as a smile and not a grimace. “I mean, I sort of got forewarning, so it’s fine. I expected this.”
Todoroki nodded, satisfied. “So no harm done, right, Midoriya?”
Midoriya groaned and scrubbed a hand down his face. “I guess—but don’t do that again for future surprises! Okay, Todoroki-kun?”
Todoroki made an agreeable sound and filled his plate with soba, balancing a dish of dipping sauce along with it. They ended up squished on a couch next to Iida, who warmly welcomed Hitoshi for the fifth time that night and in the same breath reminded him to get enough sleep. If he weren’t so tired from unpacking, Hitoshi would have more openly admired Iida’s determination to instill good habits in nineteen other teenagers.
“Todoroki-kun! Do make sure to eat something other than soba too!”
Todoroki acknowledged the reminder and continued slurping up soba. Evidently used to this, Midoriya tipped his plate so that a tiny mountain of fried chicken and stir-fried vegetables landed in Todoroki’s plate; not once did he pause in his chatter to Hitoshi about the adjustments he could make to his hero costume to aid him in stealth. Hitoshi tried to follow it, the key word being “tried”; it would have honestly been fascinating on any other day.
In the middle of his slice of pizza, Hitoshi said, “Midoriya, I appreciate this, I truly do. But I’m running on two hours of sleep at the moment.”
Midoriya gaped at him. Iida let out an aghast sound.
“Mood,” Todoroki said, in the tone of somebody who had recently learnt teenage slang and was looking for every opportunity to use it.
“I don’t think you can say that when you slept in until ten,” Hitoshi said, amused despite himself.
“Well, Todoroki-kun does nap everywhere,” Midoriya added.
“Shinsou-kun, Todoroki-kun! I must insist on following good lifestyle habits, especially for young heroes in training such as ourselves!” Iida karate-chopped one hand through the air, a move Todoroki expertly ducked away from. “Though you might not feel the effects now, sleep deprivation will negatively affect your health in devastating ways!”
“I mean, my ideal lifestyle consists of sleeping in until eleven everyday, so it’s not exactly a voluntary choice to not sleep,” Hitoshi offered in placation.
Todoroki made a strange noise at that. It took Hitoshi a moment to realise it had been bitten back laughter; it paired weirdly with that flicker of understanding that made its way into his eyes again. Todoroki said, once more, “Mood.” He ducked another of Iida’s karate-chops and continued serenely slurping up soba.
A couple of hours later, while he was feeling sick from the combination of little sleep and a stomach full of greasy food, there was a knock on the door. Already in pajamas, Hitoshi stumbled to his door and opened it blearily. Todoroki pressed a thermos flask into his hand before he could ask why he was there.
Hitoshi squinted at the flask. It was heavier than it looked.
“Yaoyorozu recommended this blend of tea when I asked her. It aids sleep,” Todoroki added when Hitoshi continued giving him a confused look.
Too tired to question what was happening—the entire day had been surreal from start to end anyway—Hitoshi popped open the cap. The fragrant scent of herbal tea wafted gently out of the flask.
“Let me know if you need more. I bought a whole canister,” Todoroki said. With as little preamble as he had started with, he turned to head back to his room.
In that split second, Hitoshi’s mouth moved before his brain could. “Wait, Todoroki.”
Todoroki looked over his shoulder, eyebrow arched in question. A year ago, when Hitoshi had been vengeful at the world and needed 1A as a target to vent his frustration, he would have thought that look a condescending one. It would have tied in neatly with everything he had known of Todoroki Shouto: son of a famous Pro Hero, ice prince of UA, quirk so powerful and unfair there wasn’t even the space for jealousy in mortal beings, just heavy resignation. In the span of a day he found himself beginning to rewrite his assumptions: Todoroki simply does not understand emoting, the concept of explaining his actions, or simple social cues. But he observes and sees more than Hitoshi had once thought.
“Um...thanks. For the tea and...stuff.”
“Oh.” Todoroki shrugged like him making an extra helping of tea for a classmate he had known less than a day is nothing. “Sure, no problem. Goodnight, Shinsou.”
Back in the silence and solitude of his room, leaning against his pillows with his favourite cat plushie in his lap, Hitoshi finished the tea in small sips, letting the scent diffuse into his room.
Hitoshi: remember last week when you said you’d add me to the class group chat when i’m ready?
Hitoshi: why do i need to be ready for it
Todoroki : Asui said the combined force of kaminari, sero, and ashido in the same chat will kill you
I don’t really understand but midoriya wouldn’t want you to die
Neither would i
Hitoshi : thanks i guess?
i’m sure asui doesn’t mean it litrally though
Todoroki: Oh. That’s what midoriya said when i asked him if my smile would kill people
Hitoshi: i’m sorry but what
Todoroki : Long story
Do you want me to add you to the class chat?
Hitoshi : i mean
i guess at some point i should join?
Todoroki : Okay
Promise me you won’t die
Hitoshi : we both know insomnia will kill me before whatever kaminari and co do can
but yes i promise
Todoroki : You still have enough of that blend?
I’m buying more this weekend
Hitoshi: yeah, thanks, i’m good
Todoroki: Okay i’m adding you now
Todoroki added you to 2A Class Chat
[Unknown Number] : which is why im saying coke is obvs the superior drink
wait wait wait hold on
is that whomst i thinketh it is???
E V E R Y O N E
ITS OUR NEW CRYPTID
[Unknown Number]: OH HO, ADDED BY OUR LOCAL CRYPTID
Sero: CRYPTIDS UNITE WHOOP WHOOOOOP
Hitoshi: is it too late for regrets
Todoroki had put his name down for the golden week holiday. Hitoshi eyed the paper pinned up on the dormitory’s notice board and contemplated. His mother tried, he knew she did, but being a single mother meant she would likely work through the week of Japan’s best business. She had sounded immensely relieved when she learnt that Hitoshi didn’t have to be home alone for the break if he chose to stay at the dormitory.
Hitoshi picked up the pen resting on the board and wrote his name under Todoroki’s neat script.
Midoriya nearly bowled over them in concern during dinner. He babbled a mile a minute about having the space in his home if they wanted to stay over.
“Or you guys could just visit and we can hang out!” Midoriya said after swallowing his bite of rice. “We can watch past Sports Festivals and plan for the next one!”
“Yeah, we can watch me being soundly beaten by you,” Hitoshi said.
“Or me burning my shirt off,” Todoroki added.
Midoriya spluttered that isn’t what I mean, don’t tease!, and Todoroki shared a wry grin with Hitoshi.
They had fallen into a sort of ease over the month, bonding over inconsistent sleep schedules and herbal tea and the weekly fifth floor boys gathering (Hitoshi had been half right: part of it consisted of gossip sessions on who the buffest student is and who they’d kiss, marry, or kill, a game which had caused Todoroki much confusion). It was a little difficult to stay distant when Hitoshi had seen Todoroki nearly snort chiffon cake out of his nose over Sero’s declaration that he’d kiss and kill Bakugou.
“If we ask Aizawa-sensei for permission he’d let us visit, I think,” Todoroki said, taking pity on Midoriya.
Midoriya’s fluster turned into a large, sunny beam. It was so hopeful Hitoshi didn’t have the heart to question Todoroki on why he had been automatically included in the “we”.
Later, as Hitoshi sipped tea in Todoroki’s room—he still wasn’t over the fact that Todoroki had remodelled it to have tatami mats—he asked, “You sure about having me along?”
Todoroki’s brows furrowed. Through gossip nights he had learnt that was Todoroki’s expression of confusion.
“I mean, well—Midoriya’s your best friend, right? Wouldn’t me being there kind of, you know—” he waved his hand in a vague manner—“it’d be awkward, I guess?”
“Why would it?” Todoroki absently gave his cup a swirl. Judging by the steam coming off the surface, he had used his left hand to reheat it. “You’re our friend too. Oh...unless you’re serious about not being here to make friends?”
Hitoshi fought down a blush at that. It had felt good at the time to make that declaration with all the bitterness in him, and now it just felt awkward when he knew none of them saw him as negatively as he had thought (barring Bakugou, who saw everyone except Kirishima as an enemy).
“I said something like that too, you know.”
Hitoshi, in fact, hadn’t known that. “Really?”
“Mm. Told Midoriya to his face, during last year’s Sports Festival, that I wasn’t there to make friends and that I’m objectively better than him.”
Hitoshi nearly choked on tea. That did exude assholery ten times that of Hitoshi’s statement. “What possessed you to say that?”
“Blindness. Spite. Endeavour.” Todoroki shrugged. “A whole host of things. Then we literally blew the stadium up and then I guess we were friends.”
There was a lot that’s very concerning about what Todoroki had just said, but Hitoshi suspected he was still at friendship level five, at most, and this sounded like a level fifty sort of thing to ask. “Okay. Cool.”
“Point is: we consider you a friend,” Todoroki said. He studied Hitoshi with calm eyes. The past him would have squirmed and snarled under the scrutiny, wondering if the other had something to say about him and his quirk; the current him knew that was simply Todoroki’s borderline feline habit, showing a sort of serene curiosity and trust. “Midoriya’s mum is nice too. She’ll feed us until we burst.”
Hitoshi chuckled. “Guess that’s worth experiencing once.”
“I’ll check with Midoriya when’s good, then,” Todoroki said.
Strange, how Hitoshi didn’t feel the need to move, to retreat back into his own space as Todoroki started tapping on his phone. He felt lazy and boneless and contented, another week of training under his belt, a Sunday ahead for him to sleep in if he wanted to, the fifth floor boys session waiting with the promise of Satou’s devil’s food cake. The scent of tea had soaked into his skin, into his bones. He dropped his head into the crook of his elbow, watching Todoroki tap, tap, tap.
At least one of them (i.e. Hitoshi) had thought to check the weather forecast. He wasn’t in the mood for running through the rain after the veritable feast Midoriya’s mother had stuffed them with, and he had already guessed that Todoroki didn’t understand the concept of checking the weather forecast since he’s a walking thermostat. That didn’t mean Hitoshi was going to let him stand in the rain throughout the walk from the station to campus.
Todoroki considerately shifted to take up less space under the umbrella, half his body sticking out in the rain. “It’s my left side, I can just heat it up later and dry my clothes,” he offered in explanation.
Hitoshi looked at him dubiously. “If you say so. Aizawa will have our heads if we fall sick.”
“He won’t actually kill us. I think.”
“You, maybe. I still have training with him.”
The streets looked almost unfamiliar in the spring rain, a dark, washed out blur they steadily plodded their way through. There was still an hour until curfew, so by mutual, silent agreement they took it slow. Todoroki seemed contented to stay silent and stare at the way the streetlamps turned Musutafu into an impressionistic painting.
Silences, Hitoshi had learnt, were the default with Todoroki. It was a soothing thing Hitoshi had come to appreciate in the class of loud personalities that was 2A.
A couple of minutes away from UA, they stopped at the intersection of two quiet streets. The cardboard box at Todoroki’s feet was a sad, soaked thing, the kitten inside it even sadder and drenched. She looked up at them. They stared down at her.
As one, they crouched over the box. The kitten meowed plaintively and eyed the jacket Todoroki was removing. Water evaporated off it when Todoroki passed his left hand over the material.
“Okay, Aizawa’s definitely gonna kill us,” Hitoshi said.
“He won’t. There’s cat fur on his jumpsuit all the time.”
“Not sure if that means he’ll bend the dormitory rules,” Hitoshi pointed out. “Here, you’ll need to—no, not like that—” Todoroki had clearly never held an animal before, Hitoshi realised with a wince. The kitten let out a very disgruntled sound. “Okay, help me hold the umbrella for a bit.”
Todoroki took over holding the umbrella and watched Hitoshi wrap the kitten in his jacket much more securely than Todoroki’s attempt had been. The cloth was toasty warm, a fact the kitten clearly appreciated, going by her little purrs.
“Who’d leave you out here, hmm?” Hitoshi whispered. The kitten meowed in response, like she didn’t understand either.
“Even if there weren’t villains, there’re terrible people in this world,” Todoroki said simply.
They walked back a little faster to the dormitory, Todoroki giving up any pretence of taking space under the umbrella and opting to hold it over Hitoshi and the precious cargo the entire way.
Aizawa found out within a day. It was quite likely due to the dish Todoroki had washed and left to dry in the shared kitchen after the kitten had been fed off it. Hitoshi was forced to reflect that it wasn’t any good hiding the litter and cat food in their wardrobes if Todoroki was going to make a fundamental mistake like that.
Aizawa stood in his door frame and raised an eyebrow. “Well? Where is the cat?”
Hitoshi gave his most disarming smile. “What cat?”
Todoroki chose that moment to exit his room, eyes on his phone, other hand holding a cat toy. He bumped into Aizawa and looked up slowly, like in a horror movie.
“...oh,” Todoroki said. Aizawa raised the other eyebrow. Hitoshi rubbed a hand down his face.
They found the kitten wrestling with Hitoshi’s shirt in his wardrobe. Though barely discernable, Aizawa’s expression went soft right in the edges of his eyes. Todoroki, without hesitation, walked forward with the feathery wand. The kitten paused her one-sided battle and eyed the feathers.
Aizawa sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You can’t keep her here.”
Todoroki twitched the wand to the side and the kitten pounced after the feathers. “Kouda has a rabbit,” he said. He sounded as plaintive as Hitoshi had ever heard him be.
Apparently Aizawa hasn’t seen that part of Todoroki before as well, since he paused for a while. Then he said, not unkindly, “For Kouda it’s part of his quirk training.”
“Oh,” Todoroki said. He tugged the feathers out of the kitten’s paws and moved the wand to the side again, his actions a little less spirited.
Hitoshi sighed. “I’d keep her at home but mum’s away at work a lot.”
“Fuyumi’s allergic,” Todoroki said quietly. “And I won’t subject any living thing to Endeavour’s company.”
Aizawa looked between them, something contemplative in his gaze. After a few seconds, he dropped a hand on Hitoshi’s head, ruffling his hair, then he did the same to Todoroki. Todoroki looked up in pure surprise. In his stunned pause the kitten managed to capture the feathers in her vicious teeth and tiny claws.
“We’ll bring her to a vet today. If the vet gives her a clean bill of health you get to keep her until break’s over,” Aizawa said. “After that...she should be able to get along with the other cats. Guess I can give you both visitation rights.”
Though Todoroki still looked surprised, his eyes brightened, just the slightest.
The ideal solution would have been them getting to keep the cat in the dormitory, but Hitoshi supposed this wasn’t too bad a deal either. He ducked his head, hiding a smile, then he crouched beside Todoroki to show him how to more effectively make the kitten jump after the feathers.
What’s In a Name
At sixteen, Hitoshi got into his first proper fight with a friend. It wasn’t one of those ordeals in elementary and middle school where kids would simply shun him, not so much fights as ostracisation. This time, though...this time it was a true, all-out brawl with an equal.
“We are not naming her Soba,” Hitoshi said sternly.
Within the past day, Todoroki had proven himself astonishingly fast in the learning of cat ways, and now he held the kitten up in Hitoshi's face without her protest. Hitoshi was pleased to see Todoroki handling her with confidence now, but he couldn't allow himself to be distracted by pride. It could mean his defeat.
“Look at her,” Todoroki said, equally insistent. “Doesn't she look like soba to you?”
“Todoroki, she looks the last thing from noodles.”
Todoroki came as close to pouting as possible with his emoting range. Hitoshi wouldn’t allow it to work on him the way it would have on Midoriya, the other boy always folding like wet tissue at the first sight of Todoroki’s sadness. Todoroki rested the kitten back in his lap, upon which she migrated to the crook of his left knee, purring up a storm. Hitoshi might be just a tiny bit jealous that he's not a natural heater, so he thought at least he should win this fight.
After the careful wash at the vet, with the kitten having been surprisingly docile, her fur had been revealed to be a grey so dark it's nearly black. Hitoshi folded his arms, considered her smooth fur, and said, “Sootball?”
Todoroki poked her little pink nose. “She's too cute to be called Soot,” he protested.
“Fair,” Hitoshi conceded.
“I still think Soba is fitting,” Todoroki said mildly. He seemed less insistent now that he was distracted by the kitten gnawing on his finger. Hitoshi took a picture to send to Midoriya and the fifth floor boys group. He would have sent it to the class chat, but he was quite sure the chat would then be filled with screaming and/or squealing, then five minutes of Iida reminding them of dormitory rules.
Hitoshi leaned back against the wall, idly tapping the feathery wand against his knee. Something that suited her but wasn't too cliched…a dark grey close to black...
He snapped his fingers. “Ella, like Cinderella.”
Todoroki looked at him thoughtfully. “That's a pretty name,” he said after a while. It was as good as an admission of defeat for him.
“Right? Ella it is,” Hitoshi said, pleased at his win.
Todoroki lifted the kitten up to stare into her eyes and repeated the name. She meowed, clearly waiting to snuggle back into his left side. He said, “You know, Shinsou?”
“I’ve heard about it, but I've never actually watched Cinderella before.”
Hitoshi dropped the wand and stared at Todoroki. Only after it had been silent for a minute did he reflect that he might have been staring too long; Todoroki appeared visibly nervous, even for somebody so normally unflappable. Ella meowed and wriggled out of his hands, back to her prime spot in his lap.
“You, sir—” Hitoshi jabbed the wand in Todoroki's nose—“are going to get An Education.”
Considering their already screwed up sleep schedule, Todoroki due to reasons he had never divulged, Hitoshi due to long-standing issues with his quirk (it might fuck with other people's brains, but the effect was it fucked with him too), the movie marathon actually ended up bumping their body rhythm back into something that resembled normality. By nine at night Hitoshi was curled on the nest of blankets and pillows he had brought over to Todoroki's room, and Todoroki looked too tired to bother properly laying out his futon. He stole one of Hitoshi's blankets. Ella nestled in Hitoshi's hair, close to Todoroki's shoulder. Nights were still chilly this early in May, so Ella had the right idea: Todoroki's left side radiated a soothing warmth.
“I still can't believe—” Hitoshi had to break off for a gigantic yawn—“that for all the movie marathons 1A did, you guys never watched the classic disney age.”
Todoroki hummed in agreement. “I didn't even know there's a classic age.”
“Now you do. It's superior to the 3D and then the live action age, yeah? The storyboarding and the detailed art...nothing can beat it.”
“You've convinced me,” Todoroki said dryly. Hitoshi knew there was a smile in that voice.
They fell into a comfortable silence, tired but not quite fully asleep yet. Todoroki's breaths were steadying out. Hitoshi stayed quiet, unwilling to interrupt if it meant Todoroki might actually get a full night's sleep this time around.
He had never told Todoroki that some nights he jerked awake from the yells coming from Todoroki's room, born of night terrors Hitoshi could only imagine were derived from the unspeakability of Todoroki's many, many issues.
“Thank you,” Todoroki mumbled drowsily.
Todoroki curled further into the blanket. “It was fun,” he said, sleep-slurring the final few syllables.
Hitoshi smiled into his pillow. “Don't mention it,” he said. He fell asleep to Todoroki's even breaths and the steady rumble of Ella's tiny body, warmer than he thought possible.
That Big T Word
They surrendered Ella to Aizawa’s care on the final day of golden week. Afterwards, they sat on the couch, decidedly Not Moping. It had felt a little bit like giving up their child, so Hitoshi thought they deserved to look every bit the brooding cryptids the class claimed they were.
“She’ll be fine,” Hitoshi said, and he fully believed it. Aizawa was the cat-rearing adult they both aspired to be; there’s no finer place for a kitten to grow than in his care.
“I know,” Todoroki said. He tilted his head to aim his mopey look in Hitoshi’s direction. “Still sucks that we can’t keep her with us.”
Hitoshi nudged Todoroki’s shoulder with his. “Visitation rights, remember? We’ll convince him to send photos too. Maybe convince him to leave the TV on during the Sports Festival so Ella can watch us.”
That earned him a breath of laughter and Todoroki’s eyes crinkling at the edges. He looked a lot more like a teenager, less like the ice prince reputation he had (unknowingly) built. In that relaxed state, Todoroki murmured, “Sports Festival soon...”
The end of the holiday meant their classmates returning that evening and another day closer to UA’s biggest event of the year. Hitoshi felt better about it this time around; his battle with Midoriya during the joint exercise had taken unexpected turns, but he was confident he had learnt a little more about his skills and limits. He was sure he had. He hoped he had.
“Guess you don’t have anything to worry about, huh?” Hitoshi said.
Then he immediately regretted it.
Purposefully taunting his enemies on the field to be able to use his quirk was one thing; unconsciously lashing out at a friend due to a stupid insecurity was another, especially when he had watched with the rest of the school as Todoroki struggled in his match against Midoriya, fighting some inner demon and finally winning, finally releasing his flames...only to kill it in his fight with Bakugou.
Maybe, Hitoshi mused, their demons aren’t the same, but they might differ only in form.
His eyes darted over to Todoroki to see him still relaxed, head leant against the couch back. Todoroki opened one eye to look at Hitoshi, his gaze curious.
“Why do you think that?”
Hitoshi cringed. “Sorry, that was...my bad.”
“Hmm?” Todoroki’s brows furrowed. “Why’re you apologising?”
“Just, y’know...I shouldn’t have—” he sighed—“I shouldn’t have assumed that. I guess I’m jealous. Ah...maybe it’s more accurate to say I was jealous. Your quirk is perfect for heroics—”
“Yours too,” Todoroki pointed out.
Hitoshi smiled. “You don’t have to be polite.”
Todoroki gave him a deadpan look. “Shinsou. Iida has told me off, more than once, for being mouthy. We all know I suck at being polite.”
“Okay, that’s true,” Hitoshi said with a tiny huff of laughter.
“So I’m not saying it just because. Midoriya probably already analysed your quirk with you and how useful it’d be on the field.” Midoriya had indeed done so, alongside showing Hitoshi five pages of excited scribblings. Todoroki shrugged and said, like it was a matter of course, “It’s a blessing to have you on this side.”
Hitoshi rubbed a hand over his face and groaned into his palm. “Now I feel even worse for being stupid and petty.”
“...sorry?” Todoroki tried, apparently still confused.
“Nah, it’s my terrible self-esteem issues, don’t mind.” Hitoshi let out another sigh. “It doesn’t help that you seem to have impeccable control over your quirk and I’m just fumbling about.”
“Not really, not with my left side. Though…” Todoroki trailed off with a thoughtful look. Something in his eyes sparked of realisation. “Like any quirk, it’s all to do with practice. It’s simply easier to train mine than yours—I just need a space in which I won’t destroy anything. Yours needs someone else to train with.”
“Yeah, I do that with Aizawa, when he’s not busy watching me trip myself in the capture weapon.”
“Sure, that’s good too, but if you want you can train with me.”
Hitoshi thought this was what it means when people say their thoughts screech to a halt, a thought previously unthinkable for him when he had enough anxieties to fill the Pacific Ocean. Todoroki continued looking thoughtful and calm, like he was simply contemplating what to have for dinner. Even after a moment, Hitoshi’s brain did not reboot. Before the silence could go on too long, he said, “What.”
Todoroki nodded to himself. “It makes sense. You can train your voice by yourself but you can’t exactly use it freely outside of combat lessons. So if you want more control—”
“Todoroki.” Hitoshi couldn’t help interrupting. “You’re basically saying...I can brainwash you. For training. You’re saying you’ll let me brainwash you.”
Todoroki thought about the crude summary and nodded. “Yeah, if you’re okay with that.”
“If I’m okay—” Hitoshi plunked his head against the back of the couch and stared at the ceiling like it might help him handle the conversation and the significance of what Todoroki was offering, even if he seemed completely unaware of it. “Todoroki, that’s—are you sure? Do you even know what you’re saying?”
“Yes?” Todoroki, hesitantly, patted Hitoshi’s shoulder. “It’s okay if you don’t want to?”
“It’s not about me wanting or not, it’s…” Hitoshi took a slow breath in, let a slower breath out, let his tongue spill his worries not entirely with his permission. “Do you know what it’s like to not be able to control your own actions or words or thoughts? To only be able to act as I will it? To surrender control? That’s what it’s gonna be like, and you—” he swallowed roughly—“you’re trusting me to train my quirk on you?”
“How else are you gonna get better?” Todoroki studied him with a little frown, still looking annoyingly unflappable even after he had implied that he trusted Hitoshi to use his quirk on him. If Hitoshi were standing he’d be reeling back in shock by now. Todoroki continued, “And villains aren’t gonna want to surrender control, right?”
“I—what?” Hitoshi blinked, flabbergasted for the second time that day. “Villains?”
“You’re gonna be using your quirk to stop villains,” Todoroki said, matter-of-fact. “And they’re not gonna like that. That’s what you’ll be facing when you’re a pro. So who says I’m surrendering complete control to you? You don’t think I’m gonna fight back every step of the way? I’m just saying that you can try to use it on me during training, and I’m not going to be upset or whatever.”
Hitoshi swallowed the instinctive panic—the fear carried from childhood, of a father who left, of abandonment and loneliness, of imagining Todoroki, Midoriya, every single friend he had made, turning away from him after they fully realised what Hitoshi’s quirk can do—and he thought, he really thought about it, tamped down emotions and forced himself to be rational the way Aizawa always advised them to be when under duress. He took a deep breath.
Todoroki was...right, loathe as he was to admit it. His targets were not going to be sitting ducks; Aizawa certainly never went easy on him every time they trained. There was no better way to refine his control than to use it on somebody who knew he was going to do so, and who was still going to fight back every step of the way.
He clasped his hands together, keeping them still. He cleared his throat, wondering when it had closed up on him. “We’re...going to have to establish boundaries.”
Todoroki raised an eyebrow. “Uh...of course? I’m not gonna let myself fry you to a crisp or anything like that.”
Hitoshi snorted. “I’d hope so, but also...Todoroki, I mean it.” He met Todoroki’s eyes and spoke slowly, deliberately. “I don’t want to...I don’t ever want to go too far, even if by accident. I’ll need to—we’ll need to think about how to do this.”
“Okay, we can discuss this further,” Todoroki agreed, like it was the easiest thing in the world, like he hadn’t sent Hitoshi’s world careening just five minutes ago. He even grinned. “I bet Midoriya will burst his way in if he finds out about this training.”
“...and take notes,” Hitoshi said with resignation.
Todoroki nodded. “Pages and pages of them.”
There wasn’t much to say after that. Hitoshi felt physically incapable of speaking past the lump in his throat, a sensation that he could now recognise as built of disbelieving gratitude. He pinched himself just to be sure he hadn’t imagined the entire conversation.
Todoroki looked alarmed. “Why’re you doing that?”
Hitoshi shook his head. “Just to be sure,” he said, and he hoped the grin he shot Todoroki’s way was sufficient, for now, until he could properly put everything he was feeling into words and repay the enormity of Todoroki’s trust.
The Circle Expands
Predictably, Midoriya found out about the training session when in the common room Todoroki informed Hitoshi, “I’ve asked Aizawa-sensei and booked the training room for Tuesday afternoon. He grumbled about some homeroom teacher meeting he cannot get out of, so Present Mic will be supervising.”
Hitoshi groaned internally when more than one set of eyes looked curiously in their direction. One of these days he really needed to alert Todoroki to the idea of subtlety.
If Midoriya were wearing his hero costume, his bunny ear flaps would have perked up in interest. “You’re training together?”
Due to Todoroki’s utter inability to hide anything from Midoriya, he gave him the rundown of their agreement while Hitoshi tried to inch away. It did not save him from Midoriya practically pouncing on him and demanding to be let in on the training session too. Uraraka, Iida, Asui, and Aoyama were looking at him in interest as well. He rued the day he became part of what Sero dubs the “dekusquad”.
“No, absolutely not,” Hitoshi said, shoving Midoriya’s face further away.
“Please!” Midoriya clasped his hands in front of him. “It’s such a rare opportunity, and I’d really like to learn how to snap out of it—”
“Ideally without breaking fingers,” Todoroki helpfully reminded. Midoriya squawked in indignation.
“I, too, would be most honoured if you’d allow me to participate,” Iida said, hands chopping through the air. “Combat lessons are valuable but they are indeed limited in time and the opportunity to practise with all my classmates.”
“It’d be fun!” Uraraka said, eyes round and glimmering.
“Oui, I can add some much-needed glamour to the training,” Aoyama said with a wink.
Asui added, kindly, “Only if you’re comfortable with it, Shinsou-chan.”
“I—” Hitoshi succeeded in pushing Midoriya back into his seat and looked around at them all. He had only just finished discussing the boundaries and rules with Todoroki this morning, Hitoshi was physically incapable of handling this onslaught of well-meaning enthusiasm. “Look, it’s...um. I just—not all of you right now, okay? I need to...ease into the idea.”
Whether it was from the weekly gathering or the amount of time they had spent just lazing around with Ella during the golden week holiday, Hitoshi wasn’t sure. But for all his cluelessness about social rules, Todoroki seemed to have an instinct for noticing his pleas for help. In any case, Hitoshi decided that Todoroki had a duty to save him, considering he was the one who had brought this on with his unsubtle approach. “I told Aizawa-sensei it’s just us two and he’d be pissed if there’s more that he didn’t know about, so maybe next time,” Todoroki said.
Midoriya pouted. He eventually accepted his defeat, but not without extracting a promise that they’d tell him all about it later for his Hero Analysis for the Future, Volume Twenty One, and that a video recording would be very much appreciated.
Questions and Answers
The training session had gone much better than Hitoshi had expected. He had been able to test how long he could keep Todoroki brainwashed, how complex the orders could go before they became a strain on him and Todoroki broke out of the state naturally, and whether he had improved in his use of the capture weapon (answer: only a little bit, which was disappointing). He now had a copy of the video recording for his own reference and had made arrangements with Todoroki for the next training session, with the possibility of the rest of the dekusquad joining in. Overall, Hitoshi was pleased.
Todoroki clearly did not share the same sentiment, and he decided to pour out his grievances to a captive audience: Ella.
“Then do you know what he did, Ella?” Todoroki asked.
Ella meowed intelligently and pressed a paw to his cheek. Hitoshi poked his straw around to catch the last bit of juice, a difficult task when a large, blue-eyed cat was demanding his full attention.
“Your other father—” Todoroki pointed accusingly at Hitoshi using Ella’s paw—“then made me sing the national anthem. The national anthem. In front of Present Mic. In a training room that echoed. In the words of Kaminari, Ella, I was being Oppressed.”
“I don’t think you’re using that word correctly,” Hitoshi said absently.
“I’m sure Ella got the point.”
Aizawa had retreated to the tiny kitchen of the teachers’ quarters, leaving them to play with Ella, All Nyaight, and Spots, but Hitoshi suspected he had used the excuse of getting them more juice to laugh at the video recording of their training session.
“To be fair, Ella, Todoroki froze me up to the waist before that, so I think it’s justified revenge,” Hitoshi said, making his own appeal to Ella. All Nyaight turned a very unimpressed look on him and butted his head under Hitoshi’s hand to demand more petting.
“You only had to suffer ice. I had to suffer singing the anthem.” Todoroki made a pained face. “And now you know how horrible I am at singing.”
“It’s not that bad,” Hitoshi attempted. He heard the faint strains of the video from the kitchen, now playing Todoroki’s very off-key singing. His lips twitched. “Okay, maybe it was a little bad.”
“See?” Todoroki pointed using Ella’s other paw. She meowed, which could either be agreement or a demand for more food. “And I couldn’t break out of it on my own.” He now had a considering look. “Maybe Midoriya was onto something, breaking his fingers and all.”
“If you become problem child number three I won’t let you use the training room anymore,” Aizawa announced, thankfully heading off Todoroki’s dangerous line of thought before it could develop any further. He returned Hitoshi’s phone to him and plopped two juice boxes on the table. “Todoroki, you need more practice with your left but you’ve gotten more precise at using your ice. Shinsou, more accurate aim with the capture weapon needed, but you’ve gotten better at giving complex orders.”
Todoroki nodded seriously, his appeal to Ella seemingly done. On his part, Hitoshi felt his cheeks pinking from the compliment. Aizawa wasn’t exactly stingy with his compliments when students deserved it, but it was still something nice to hear.
Their teacher dropped into a lazy tailor’s seat on one side of the table and went back to nursing his coffee. He looked as scruffy and tired as ever, but there was a relaxed side to him they hardly saw in school. Spots took the opportunity to climb into the only unoccupied lap and made himself comfortable.
“I’m surprised Midoriya wasn’t there,” he remarked.
“He did ask to join, actually. Iida and Uraraka and Asui and Aoyama too,” Hitoshi said. He chewed on his lip and, after a moment, said, “I...wasn’t ready to train with so many people, then. But we agreed to see if they’ll come for the next one.”
Aizawa made a non-committal sound. “It’ll be beneficial to train with more people, but don’t worry about rushing to do so. Did you get a headache after the session?”
Hitoshi grimaced, which was an answer in itself. With both Aizawa and Todoroki looking at him, he admitted, “For about fifteen minutes, I think?”
“It hit at night,” Todoroki said. He frowned at Hitoshi’s glare. “You should let sensei know exactly when it happened. It...” Todoroki looked down at Ella, rubbing under her chin. “It seemed bad.”
Hitoshi felt his glare softening. The headaches always came after he used his quirk for prolonged periods, but that one had hit at a particularly inconvenient time when they had been discussing the math homework in Todoroki’s room. Todoroki had even used his cold hand to try and ease the pain and then hovered in his own Todoroki way, pouring so much tea for Hitoshi he could have swum in it.
“...Todoroki’s right, I’d like to know the details so I can help. But it’s still Shinsou’s decision what to share, not for someone else to make,” Aizawa said after a while, voice mild but gaze pointed at them both.
Todoroki murmured an apology, still frowning. It’s the first they had spoken about the aftermath since it happened, and Hitoshi found himself surprised by the strength of Todoroki’s reaction. Apparently he had been worrying all this time, and Hitoshi hadn’t noticed.
“I’ve been...researching. Seeing if there’s a way to ease them,” Hitoshi said as his form of apology and reassurance. Todoroki looked up, curious at that. “It’s like any other quirk though, just that the effects of overuse show themselves as these headaches. I think meditation might help. I’m not sure. I wanted to ask you about it, sensei.”
“Endeavour made me do that,” Todoroki said with a distant look. Oddly, compared to all the other times he had spoken of Endeavour, he didn’t sound as bitter this time, like this wasn’t as painful a memory as the others. “It helped a little, I think,” he continued, though Hitoshi was rather sure the things Todoroki needed help in were different from his own.
Aizawa studied Todoroki for a moment, then he said, “Meditation is a good direction to take. If nothing else, it is an art in focusing and grounding yourself, and that can only be helpful for hero work. We’ll try it together the next training session, Shinsou, and after a week I’d like you to let me know if the headaches improve or stay the same.”
“Okay, yeah, I can do that,” Hitoshi said. He hefted All Nyaight further up his lap, taking the weight off his shins and letting the blood flow back into them. He really was an extraordinarily large cat, as was common for Maine Coons. He was also extraordinarily cuddly, and was likely the cause of all the long strands of cat fur that stuck to Aizawa’s jumpsuit. “By the way, sensei, there’s something else important I wanted to ask.”
“I have long given up on deterring the curiosity of teenagers,” Aizawa said dryly. “Go ahead.”
“Did you name this cat?”
“That’s an unproductive question to spend your time wondering about.”
“Is that a yes?”
“...Midnight named him,” Aizawa grumbled. “And then he refused to respond to anything else.”
“Has All Might-sensei met him?” Todoroki asked with great interest.
Aizawa looked horrified at the very thought. “I am not going to deal with the man crying over his namesake.” It was a fair point: the entire world knew of the infamous video where All Might played with puppies and burst into tears when the shelter’s volunteer pointed out a puppy named after him.
Hitoshi hummed and felt All Nyaight purr against him in response. “Can I take a picture and show Midoriya then?”
Todoroki nodded and said, as though Aizawa wasn’t already aware, “Midoriya’s a big fan of All Might.”
“‘Hero worship’ might be the more accurate term for it, Todoroki,” Aizawa said with a sigh. He looked at Hitoshi consideringly. “I suppose it’s fine, as long as you don’t tell him he’s my cat. I’m not interested in Midoriya bursting my door down.”
Hitoshi snapped a picture of the cat curled up in his lap, startlingly blue eyes staring at the camera in curiosity. ‘All Nyaight’, he captioned in his message. Less than ten seconds later, he received responses composed of exclamation marks and 'where did you find him?!’ and ‘is this a cat cafe?!’ and ‘he’s so cute I want to adopt him!!!’.
“Midoriya has his eye on your cat, sensei,” Hitoshi said.
“Not a chance in hell,” Aizawa said. “Now drink your juice before it gets warm, I didn’t bring them out for nothing.”
The Crackle of a Frozen Pond
Two nights before the Sports Festival, Hitoshi woke up to one entire wall of his room iced over.
Shivering, he wrapped himself in his blanket, pulled two more out of his closet, and brought four cat plushies along for good measure. It meant he looked like a waddling penguin in the hallway, but he reasoned it was only for the span of five seconds anyway.
The hallway was very quiet and empty, only the imperceptible hum of the lights filling the space. He knocked on Todoroki’s door while somehow not dropping anything. After waiting a polite minute or so, he knocked again, a little more insistently, and murmured just loud enough to be heard through the door, “Todoroki, it’s me. Shinsou.”
It was utter silence for another minute, long enough that Hitoshi was surprised when the lock clicked open. He nudged it further open to see Todoroki, shoulders slumped and his head bowed in an uncharacteristic way. The door clicked shut, cutting off the hallway light and leaving them in darkness.
Now that he was here, Hitoshi didn’t really know what to say. Todoroki fumbled for the lamp on his table, and the glow only highlighted the sheet of ice covering his own wall, the side that separated his and Hitoshi’s rooms. His futon and blanket were damp from what must have been his recent unfreezing of the ice.
“Sorry,” Todoroki muttered. His voice was horribly hoarse. “I, uh...I iced your wall?”
“Mm,” Hitoshi said in easy agreement. “It’s not as cold as being stuck waist-deep in ice, don’t worry.” When Todoroki didn’t lift his head or make any response, Hitoshi winced. “Okay, sorry, bad joke.”
He shuffled onto a dry patch of the tatami mats and dropped his load of blankets and plushies onto the ground. Waving Todoroki over, he quietly requested his help in spreading the thickest blanket on the floor. Todoroki acquiesced, if somewhat robotically. That done, Hitoshi wriggled onto the makeshift mattress and threw the second blanket over Todoroki, watching it land half on his head. Todoroki stiffly looked between Hitoshi and the blanket.
“Todoroki, an important question—” Hitoshi held out three plushies—“I’m afraid Mr. Whiskers is mine, but I’ll let you choose two from Sir Nyangoro, Lil’ Ms. Boop, and Her Royal Highness. I know it’s tough, but you’ve got to make a choice.”
He finally got a reaction other than dazed terror and shame. Todoroki’s lips twitched, not quite into a smile, but into something a little more relaxed. He pulled the blanket off his head and considered the three very squishy plushies.
“I don’t know if I’m worthy of Her Royal Highness yet...so Sir Nyangoro and Lil’ Ms. Boop?”
“Fine choices,” Hitoshi said. He placed them gently in Todoroki’s lap and waited until he curled one hand into Sir Nyangoro’s head. Consciously or otherwise, Todoroki began petting the soft material of the plushie. Hitoshi curled into his own blanket and lied down, cuddling Mr. Whiskers and Her Royal Highness to himself, watching the lamp cast dark shadows into the corners of the room. The wall glimmered like a frozen pond in winter. He closed his eyes and counted his breaths.
It took a tiny eternity until Todoroki lied down on his side of the blanket-mattress. Hitoshi opened his eyes to see Todoroki burrowing his nose into Lil' Ms. Boop’s forehead. His eyes were half-lidded, tired and hazy, staring back at Hitoshi.
“...d’you want to try and get some sleep?” Hitoshi asked.
Todoroki closed his eyes. Hitoshi watched, but Todoroki’s breath was not steadying into that of sleep. After only a minute had passed, he opened his eyes again. He whispered, “I dreamt of the last Sports Festival. Only this time, I burnt Midoriya alive.”
Hitoshi knew, instinctively, that reminding Todoroki that he hadn’t in fact done so would be a pointless venture. He knew very well it wasn’t about what did or did not happen. It was about the fact that Todoroki was here, a year after, still haunted by his own amazing, fearsome quirk. He nodded slowly into Mr. Whiskers’ head, not breaking eye contact with Todoroki.
“In my dreams, I become like him. Endeavour.” Todoroki’s arms tightened around the plushies. “Razing everything to the ground in pursuit of his own ambition.” Then, though Hitoshi didn’t ask, didn’t even know the full details of something he could only suspect, Todoroki explained in a half dream-like state, “He’s trying to be better, you know. Midoriya said maybe I’m getting myself ready to forgive him. He even said it’s because I’m an innately kind person. But then I wake up from these dreams, hating him again, and I don’t know what to think anymore.” Todoroki’s fingers found purchase in the fine, soft fur of Sir Nyangoro. “I don’t hate my fire side anymore, I think. And I know, I know I’m my own person, not the creature Frankenstein had dreamt of creating. But sometimes...sometimes I’m still so fucking scared I’ll turn into my father.”
If Hitoshi were a more considerate person, he’d pretend not to have heard the sob Todoroki stifled into the plushie. But he had never been so virtuous. He rested one hand on Todoroki’s arm, feeling the gentle heat radiating off it. Todoroki let out another strangled, pained sound, muffled into soft fur. The blanket could not conceal the entire line of his back shuddering with the force of his sobs.
Hitoshi’s weapon had always been words, words meant to cut and hurt, words that had the potential to help and heal, and in that moment he found himself helpless, phrases like I’m sorry and you’ll never be like him and you are indeed unbearably kind, kinder than what people think when they see you flitting through his brain and, for all the honesty behind each thought, discarded as useless platitudes in the face of Todoroki’s deepest fear and self-hatred. In the absence of words, he shifted closer and rubbed his hand along the line of Todoroki’s trembling back, watching the drip drip dripping of melting ice for the eternity it took until Todoroki calmed.
“’m sorry,” Todoroki mumbled. He let out a breath in a sigh that cracked halfway through. “I shouldn’t be subjecting you to this.”
Hitoshi continued rubbing his hand along Todoroki’s back. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. I chose to come over here.”
Todoroki acknowledged that with a tired hum. He did not protest Hitoshi’s hand on his back, so Hitoshi left it there, absently feeling the different temperatures that split along the middle. It was extraordinary, his quirk. It was even more extraordinary, the quiet strength of the muscles that relaxed under his hand. Thoughtfully, quietly, like the ice on the wall had cast them into a world whose hush was too sacred to disturb, he said, “Shouto. That’s your hero name too, isn’t it?”
Todoroki nodded. If he was surprised by both his first name and hero name slipping out of Hitoshi’s lips, he didn’t show it.
“It’s a good name,” Hitoshi said. “You chose that for a reason, didn’t you?”
Todoroki lifted his eyes from where he had been hiding them in the plushies. Even red-rimmed, they were startlingly clear in the dim light. Todoroki stared back and, with a very small smile, he whispered, “I did.”
“I thought so,” Hitoshi said, returning the smile. “And I think, no matter how long it takes—you’ll win this. And then I’ll be able to say I told you so.”
Todoroki huffed out a little breath of laughter. “Do I get any say in this?” His voice was still hoarse and cracked, but it sounded lighter now, no longer with that dark, terrible fear in it.
“Nope, I refuse to let any gloating rights be taken away from me. Deal with it,” Hitoshi said softly.
“Ah. I see I’m being Oppressed again,” Todoroki said, equally softly and like he didn’t mind at all.
He waited until Todoroki closed his eyes before looking out the window, where the sky had begun to lighten just the slightest. Under his hand, he felt Todoroki’s breath steadying into a calm rhythm, like it had the night of their movie marathon. When he had slipped into sleep—hopefully a much more restful one than the last—Hitoshi let his eyes drift close too, contented to let the early dawn hours pass to the tune of melting ice.
A Vicious Bet
Despite the number of times they had trained together, Hitoshi did not end up fighting against Todoroki in the Sports Festival, which was a point of personal regret. He had done much better this year, winning his first round against Kaminari and his second against Komori (though the fungi had been hell to deal with, holy shit). But in the end he couldn’t win against the vicious and powerful fighter that Bakugou was and lost to Asui in the battle for third place. Still, fourth was a much better result than he had expected (and he had been cheered on by both 2A and 2C, which had given him a feeling he couldn’t possibly express in words).
With the rest of 2A, he waited for the Todoroki versus Bakugou battle (reprise) with anticipation. Midoriya, freshly bandaged from his own set of battles, shook Hitoshi’s arm excitedly and feverishly took notes with the other hand.
On the field, Bakugou grinned like a feral thing let loose, obviously hoping for a better battle this year than the last. Todoroki was calm and unflappable as always, and he had used both his left and right sides this year, not even seeming to feel the effects of quirk overuse after the gruelling rounds and battles. The excitement in the stands was palpable. Todoroki’s not inconsiderable number of fans were waving banners with his name on it.
“I wonder if Kacchan will get more offers than Todoroki-kun this year?” Midoriya pondered.
“If you weren’t lying about the numbers, Todoroki apparently got all those offers last year from mostly using one side,” Hitoshi reminded him.
Midoriya laughed. The pride in his eyes was evident.
Midnight looked both excited and apprehensive. The moment she declared the beginning of the fight, before the cheers of the crowd could even rise to a crescendo Bakugou burst after Todoroki in an explosion-induced speed—of course he’d go on the offence right off the bat—and Todoroki countered with an ice shield. The ice structures, like Aizawa had praised, were indeed more refined and difficult to dodge than what he had made in his first year. Bakugou yelled, which was par for the course, and Todoroki sent a pointed stream of fire towards his back that would have been painful if Bakugou hadn’t fended it off with his own explosion.
This all happened within the first ten seconds and the noise was already overwhelming. Present Mic was yelling his head off. There were squeals of admiration all around the stands. Midoriya was shaking Hitoshi’s arm so hard Hitoshi began to genuinely fear dislocation.
In less than a minute, their battle evolved into a brutal dance of sparks dancing off glimmering ice and fiery spirals, a fight much less predictable than when Todoroki had only been using his ice in the first year. Bakugou came too close to Todoroki at one point—causing the entire row of the dekusquad to lean forward in concern—but failed to grab his collar when Todoroki brought up an ice trap to catch his arm, obviously hoping to encase him from that point of contact. Bakugou dodged, yelled something in fury which was, once again, par for the course, and jumped back to re-center and re-strategise.
“Kacchan’s getting better at assessing the situation instead of only rushing forward, and he can control his explosive outputs almost perfectly now. Plus he’s probably just a little stronger than Todoroki-kun in terms of stamina and endurance, which might count for something in the last minute or two. But Todoroki-kun packs more power into the use of his quirk and has always been a good long-distance fighter and he’s becoming more and more of a monster at close-range combat now too, not to mention having finer control over directing his fire and ice. The fire will only feed Kacchan’s explosions, which he’s aware of, so it makes sense that he’s directing it in a way that Kacchan can’t productively use to produce nitroglycerin, but Kacchan is equally wary of his ice and has been quick to avoid it or break out of it the second it touches his skin—”
If there was anything Hitoshi was impressed by, it was the fact that Midoriya’s scribbling was almost as fast as his mumbling. He wasn’t even looking at his notebook as he wrote.
On the field, Bakugou successfully dodged a row of ice spikes and came close again, snarling as he reached for Todoroki’s throat with a crackling hand, but this time Todoroki went on the offence and threw him over his shoulder quickly, in a perfectly executed judo move. It wasn’t without its sacrifice—Todoroki’s grimace from the brush with explosions was visible. The move would have sent Bakugou out of bounds if he hadn’t used an explosion to project himself back into the ring, snarling harder than ever. Present Mic yelled in ever-heightened excitement over the system and tried to get Aizawa to comment something beyond “this will probably come down to a battle of endurance”.
Aizawa wasn’t wrong though, Hitoshi mused. As time wore on, their battle was still as brutal as ever, but it was evident that both parties were tiring. Todoroki was holding his ground and using distance and the fearsome combination of fire and ice to his advantage, but with every successful attempt Bakugou made he was forced to switch to a close combat style that Bakugou had the advantage in. He even had to use the ice walls he had used in the previous year against Midoriya to prevent himself flying out of the ring. Bakugou had even stopped yelling in favour of trying to force Todoroki out of the ring or to the point of exhaustion, which, as Sero behind him pointed out, was indicative of an imminent apocalypse.
“It’s not too late to change sides, Shinsou!” Sero shouted in his ear. Being a proclaimed bakusquad member, he had placed his bets on Bakugou winning the match. The fifth floor boys group had seen it as the highest form of betrayal.
Hitoshi scoffed and said, “We’ll see who’s laughing at the end.” They had Satou cake rights riding on this, he could not afford to lose.
Todoroki’s ice was speeding towards Bakugou, crowding him in from the ground and the air—the crowd was screaming—Midoriya was scribbling faster than ever—then Bakugou’s eyes narrowed in a dangerous manner. In a split second he had propelled himself into mid-air, escaping the ice that would have caged him in, and twisting as he did so. Even from this distance, they could see the concentration of power in his palms.
Midoriya gasped. “That’s—that’s definitely Kacchan preparing for Howitzer Impact!”
“Todoroki-kun’s ice walls couldn’t withstand the damage last year!” Iida added, hands flying through the air in aggravated concern. “If he’s not quick enough this will end with his defeat once more!”
“Todoroki-chan won’t repeat the mistake though. And he has more weapons in his arsenal now,” Asui said.
Todoroki swept his right arm in a large, controlled arc, and in that split second the entire floor of the ring was covered in glittering ice. Hitoshi could feel the chill even from here; it was strangely reminiscent of the night the wall between their rooms was covered in a thick sheet of ice, except that this time the ice was intentional, and all the more dangerously sturdy and beautiful for the intent behind it. Flames on Todoroki’s left arm began to dance to life.
Midoriya squeaked. “That’s what he used last year in our fight!”
Bakugou clearly recognised it too. With a vicious grin, he yelled, audible to their side of the stands, “We’ll see if that works against me, Half and Half bastard!”
And he propelled himself forward just as Todoroki sent forth a controlled yet powerful burst of fire—
The resulting explosions rocked the stands. Iida grabbed Midoriya and Uraraka’s arms—it was only by virtue of Midoriya’s tight grip on his arm that Hitoshi wasn’t sent careening back into Sero, who had the sense to use his tape to anchor his entire row to the seats. Kaminari let out a loud, shrill cheer, clearly living on the thrill of his life being in constant danger.
“Way to go, Bakubro!” Kirishima yelled. Due to the sheer amount of smoke, Hitoshi could only conclude that Kirishima was guessing Bakugou’s win based on sheer faith.
“Todoroki-kun’s gonna win this yet!” Uraraka yelled back, competitive spirit clearly ferocious when it came to her friends.
“Is there any event in 2A that doesn’t involve explosions, smoke, and danger to body and mind?” Hitoshi asked.
Iida made a constipated sound, which answered Hitoshi’s question.
The entire ring was filled with smoke, a thing that would have threatened to suffocate if it wasn't steadily dissipating into the open skies. Amid the ongoing murmur (and occasional screams) of the crowd, Present Mic summed up their questions. “Aaaaand it seems we have a repeat from their first year! What’s it like on the ground, Midnight?!”
“Nothing visible yet!” Midnight reported back, voice distorted through her microphone. “The smoke is clearing so we should soon know—” she gasped—“out of bounds! Both Todoroki-kun and Bakugou-kun are out of bounds!”
They scrambled forward for a better look, Midoriya dangerously close to toppling over the barrier. Hitoshi squinted; it took a long while before he saw, just faintly, two figures crumpled on the ground outside the ring on opposite sides.
“What does this mean?!” Present Mic yelled, clearly more excited than distraught. “Are we gonna have ties for first place this year?”
“In this case it makes sense that if one of them comes to first, that’s the winner,” Aizawa droned. “As it should be in actual battle: the surviving one wins.”
“Harsh! And dark! Lighten up, Eraser, this is a jolly Sports Festival!”
“I don’t think we get to claim student fun and enjoyment when we send them into gladiator rings.”
There was a titter of shocked laughter throughout the stands, then a hushed tension as everyone watched. Hitoshi clenched his hands against his knees, watching the fallen figure of Todoroki. He was keenly aware of a flaming figure in the opposite side of the stands doing the same. If Midoriya’s tightening grip on his arm was anything to go by, the other boy knew it too.
Then, with obvious struggle, and several deep gasps for breath, Todoroki struggled onto his knees, then onto shaky feet, heaving deep breaths all the while. Hitoshi whipped his gaze over onto the other side—and he saw Bakugou still on the ground, his chest moving in the rhythm of one who was unconscious.
Midnight raised her hand amidst the rising screams and cheers, a beam on her face. Loudly enough to be heard over the crowd, she announced, “And we have our winner for the second years’ Sports Festival: please give a very warm round of applause for Todoroki Shouto!”
“Damnit!” Sero yelled, even while he laughed and cheered Todoroki’s name. Hitoshi let out a whoosh of air, then he laughed too and clapped as hard as he ever had, cheering with the class when Todoroki, deliberately breaking eye contact with his father, turned to nod in their direction.
An Everyday Boys Talk
The day after the Sports Festival, the fifth floor boys gathered in Sero’s room and devoured the honey-lemon cake Satou had brought over, as per Hitoshi’s request from winning the bet. Within ten minutes, Todoroki became basically dead weight and contributed to the conversation in the form of sleepy grunts.
“Championroki, you okay?” Sero teased, prodding his arm. Todoroki’s answering grunt was a little more pained this time.
Satou laughed. “Leave him alone, Sero; he’s feeling the full effects of quirk exhaustion.”
Todoroki lifted his head from where he had rested it on the table and said, in his first full sentence of the night, “It feels like after summer camp training.”
Sero and Satou shuddered. Hitoshi hummed. “I heard from Midoriya about the nightmare that was. Before the other nightmare that went down.”
Sero sighed. “Yeah, I thought my elbows would never be the same afterwards. I didn’t even know it was physically possible to produce that much tape.”
“I didn’t know it was physically possible to consume that much sugar. I couldn’t touch a single cake for a week after that,” Satou said in commiseration. He grinned at Hitoshi. “You’ll be joining us for this particular brand of hell this year, Shinsou.”
“Joy,” Hitoshi drawled, though he couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit of excitement over the fact that he could actually participate in camp this year, hopefully with a hundred percent less kidnapping and destruction of a city.
“But before that, who do you guys wanna intern with this year?” Sero asked. “I know we only get the offers on Wednesday but like, ideally?”
“I dunno man, I mean...I’d like to train my endurance and how to balance the sugar-induced power and brainpower, you know?” Satou scratched his cheek in thought. “Kirishima had good things to say about Fat Gum, so maybe with him.”
“Yeah, I think he’ll be able to help, he seems like a sweet guy too!” Sero said with kind earnestness. “For me...it’s kinda silly when we see him everyday, but if I could I’d totally intern with Aizawa-sensei. Like, the way he uses his capture weapon? That’s awesome, I wanna know how to do that with my tape.”
“It isn’t silly,” Hitoshi said. He absently pulverised the crumbs on his plate with his fork. “I mean, I was thinking Present Mic, if he offers, and we see him everyday in school too.”
“You wanna train your voice with him?” Satou asked. Hitoshi nodded. “Man, that’d be way cool, imagine all the stuff you’ll learn from him. Maybe Jirou will intern with him too and you guys will be like, the sound pros in 2A.”
Hitoshi chuckled. “I dunno if she’d wanna partner with me, but I guess it’ll be interesting.”
They waited until Todoroki, even in his sleepiness, realised they were all looking at him. He lifted his head from the table with effort. “Mm?”
“Ideal internship, Roki,” Sero reminded him. “I know you’re gonna get like five thousand offers but where do you wanna go?”
“Oh.” Todoroki leaned his cheek against an arm and murmured, “Not Endeavour. I think I’ve had enough of that last year.” Before Sero and Satou could do more than fidget uncomfortably in the prolonged pause, Todoroki mused, “I’ve actually...been thinking about focusing more on rescue efforts. Diversifying what my quirk can do.”
“Hey, that’s cool,” Satou said encouragingly. “That’s a little like what Uraraka wants to do, right? Maybe with Thirteen? Or the Wild Wild Pussycats?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Todoroki said with a little nod. He tilted his gaze over to them and said, quietly, “I can think of what my ice can do for rescue efforts, but…”
Hitoshi scoffed. “Todoroki, that’s stupid.” He ignored the face Todoroki made and continued, “Do you really think the pros won’t snatch you up for when Hokkaido is besieged by fucking snowstorms in winter?”
“Yeah man, I bet you’ll be stuck up north for the entire winter when you go pro,” Satou chimed in. “Better make sure you know how to ski.”
Todoroki’s shoulders relaxed and he smiled, a little thing that was half hidden by his sleeve. “I don’t actually know how to ski, come to think of it.”
“Wait, what? You slide around on your ice without skates but you don’t know how to ski? Roki!” Sero shook his head in faux disappointment. He sounded more gleeful than anything about this new tidbit he had learnt. “Big bro Sero will teach you, never fear. Remind me to kidnap you for winter break.”
“Teach him snowboarding too,” Hitoshi said.
“Alas, that I can’t d—wait, Shinsou, you know how to snowboard?” Sero sounded excited. “I thought you’d nap the winter away or something!”
“First of all, rude, I’ll only nap away half the winter. Second of all, yeah, snowboarding’s cool, except the first time you’ll feel like you’re gonna dislocate your knees at any given moment. Guess that can’t be helped when you fall with both feet strapped to one block.”
“Damn, that sounds less and less enticing.” Satou shook his head. “I thought of trying it but skiing was already enough of a challenge. The first time I tried I nearly crashed into a tree.”
“Yeah, my nose has never been the same since I was six,” Sero agreed, nodding sagely.
With great effort, Todoroki lifted himself up to stare in Sero’s direction. Then he said, “Your nose looks fine, Sero. Very—” Todoroki’s expression took on the distant cast that meant he was recalling something he had read on the internet or, worse, learnt from Kaminari—“ah, right. It’s very ‘boopable’.”
In the surprised silence, Sero snorted tea out his nose and proceeded to laugh so loudly Iida ran up to check on them, then reprimanded them for overconsumption of sugar.
Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down
They came back from their internships with a surprising counter of zero accidents. Even Aizawa seemed surprised when he saw them for the first homeroom remarkably free of injury. Granted, Hitoshi was still nursing cough drops to soothe his throat, an unfortunate result of Present Mic’s overexcitement and encouraging but unrelenting training, but at least another Hosu hadn’t occurred this time around.
“Welcome back. Midterms are in a week,” Aizawa said in the same monotone. Kaminari let out a sob.
Study sessions with the dekusquad became a common occurrence, though with the exception of Uraraka and Aoyama, the rest did not seem too stressed. Hitoshi had never had a problem with academics except for Physics, which was a veritable horror. Iida tutored him with infinite patience. Todoroki gamely guided Uraraka through English and reminded her to keep her tenses consistent. Aoyama stared bleakly down at the Math questions, twinkle barely restoring even when Midoriya helped him.
Despite movie nights being replaced by study nights and Kaminari crashing every study group to soak in the knowledge, the class got through midterms smoothly enough, the couple of days spent in a classroom bent over exam papers going by in a blur. Then it was the most dreaded time of the year for Hitoshi: the monsoon.
Ten days into the month of near constant rain and gloomy weather, of soaked shoes and laundry that never quite dried, Hitoshi found it easier to count the nights he did not have a headache than the ones he did. It had been bad when he was in 1C, but then he hadn’t needed to worry about anything more than the standard classes. Now, in 2A, heroics classes caused the dull ache in the back of his head to double until he was wobbly on his feet by late afternoon. He trained with the capture weapon, picked up skills for working individually as well as in teams, sat in Aizawa’s lectures about ethics and laws and debated controversial issues with his classmates, and stumbled to the bathroom to puke maybe only once a day if he was lucky. In this way classes blurred together in a perpetually exhausted haze to the backdrop of the awful rain.
Quirk-induced headaches were annoying, but the annoyance was increased ten times when combined with weather changes brought about by the monsoon and an already fucked up sleep schedule. The price to pay for following his heart is steep, Hitoshi thought. Then he reminded himself of how hard he had fought to get in, how hard he had to continue fighting to prove he could belong there, and he forced the ache away until he could deal with it.
By the time he was done with dinner this day, it was all Hitoshi could do to pretend he was okay and wave goodnight to those in the common room. Fortunately or otherwise, it was also by this point that Todoroki knew to let him nap an hour or two before he woke up from the pain, then to just slip into his room whenever Hitoshi answered the knocking with nothing more than a muffled sound.
Head pressed into his pillow, not feeling much better from his nap, Hitoshi winced at the small amount of light that flooded into his room. Todoroki was quick to close the door and pad over in socked feet. Without preamble, he sat next to him and pressed a cold hand to Hitoshi’s forehead. Hitoshi tried to focus on anything but the throb in his head: the evening rain continuing in a gentle, unceasing sheet outside his window, the herbal scent that he had come to associate with relaxation and sleep, the cold that numbed the throb for a blissful moment. Hitoshi timed his breaths to match Todoroki’s.
After what might have been twenty or thirty minutes, a time shorter than it usually took for the wave of pain to pass, Hitoshi uncurled from around Mr. Whiskers and blinked tiredly up at Todoroki. “Thanks. ’m okay now,” he muttered.
Todoroki hummed. In his usual blunt way, he said, “I don’t think you are.”
This time, he used his left palm to rub firmly between Hitoshi’s shoulder blades, where his muscles had tensed and knotted. Hitoshi let out a little sound of relief and uncurled further. When he felt he could speak again without making pained sounds, he said, “No, really. It’s better than when I was a kid and had less control over my quirk.”
Todoroki made a doubtful sound but did not take his hand off Hitoshi’s shoulders. It remained there, a warm comfort, as Hitoshi focused on allowing the herbal scent to calm his nausea. It smelt weirdly of home too, of the oils that he and his mother would use when they both suffered the headaches.
Hitoshi mumbled, “I wonder how mum’s doing.”
Todoroki picked up Her Royal Highness and nudged her closer to Hitoshi so he could press his nose into her fur. “She gets migraines too?”
“Mm. She thinks I inherited them from her. I think it’s mostly my quirk though. And this stupid rainy season.”
Todoroki made a small, sympathetic sound. “Have you slept at all this week?”
“Yeah. I guess?” Today being Wednesday meant he had gotten a total of twelve, possibly thirteen hours over three days. That didn’t sound too bad.
“Lies,” Todoroki said without any real heat in his voice. “I’ll tell Aizawa-sensei you should stay in tomorrow. I bet Recovery Girl will say the same, even if you’re right that she can’t do anything for your headaches.”
Hitoshi made a faint protest. “I’ll brainwash you into singing in front of Aizawa if you do.”
From what he could hear, Todoroki was smiling when he said, “I think that’s more a punishment for Aizawa-sensei than for me.”
Mr. Whiskers' soft, squishy head was an infinite comfort to burrow into. Closing his eyes to focus better on the steady heat between his shoulder blades, Hitoshi said, half-defeated, “I don’t wanna miss school.”
Todoroki paused for a few seconds, then he resumed rubbing in firm circles. “You’re too hardworking, you know that? I don’t think you have to plus ultra in this sense, when you’re feeling ill.”
“I have to. Don’t wanna...don’t wanna fall behind even further.” The heat on his shoulder blades increased gently, making him unwind further, causing the words to slip out ever more easily from his lips. “I’ve gotta keep up with you guys. Do more. Be better.”
“...why’re you in such a rush? You’ll go for the provisional license exam after the summer, that’s soon enough. And you’re sure to pass.”
Hitoshi sighed. “You don’t understand. I dunno if any of you do,” he murmured. Maybe he was taking advantage of Todoroki’s propensity to take little offence when Hitoshi’s bitterness took over; maybe he was taking advantage of the fact that Todoroki knew that about him, and still he didn’t leave.
“Try me,” Todoroki said. As expected, there was only curiosity in his voice.
Relaxing as much as he could into the plushies and pillow even while he had a dull headache, Hitoshi said, “Had to fight to even get in, y’know? To even get a chance. To make ’em see this isn’t a villain’s quirk. And even then I’m not deaf, I hear what people say, people who don’t even know me...so if at any point I don’t prove I’ve got what it takes...that’s it, I’ll be dropped outta the game.” Hitoshi took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I just don’t want Aizawa to think I’m a fluke when he was the one who gave me this chance.”
Todoroki didn’t say anything even after Hitoshi had fallen silent. That was okay though. Hitoshi hadn’t expected him to. Todoroki’s silences were just as comforting, a proof that he had listened and wasn’t rushing to think up an answer or offer a polite platitude. He never took his hand off Hitoshi’s shoulders either.
After a few minutes of them both listening to the rain, Todoroki asked, “Have you told Aizawa-sensei that?”
Hitoshi let out a little huff of laughter. “Is it the sort of thing to talk to him about?”
“Sure it is,” Todoroki said easily. “He can’t read minds. He won’t know you’re worrying about this.” Pushing his fingers into a knot at the base of Hitoshi’s neck, Todoroki continued, “Aizawa-sensei will probably say it’s stupid worrying about this, because it is, but I think you’ll feel better after you speak with him than hearing just me saying it. For the record...I think you’ve more than proven yourself. You’re as hardworking as Midoriya, and he’s an absolute menace. Do you know he does push-ups while studying?”
Hitoshi was suitably distracted. “He what?”
“Push-ups while studying,” Todoroki said solemnly. “Like how you practice voice modulation while singing. You guys are the same.”
“Huh...wait.” Hitoshi squinted up at Todoroki. Todoroki poked his brows to get him to stop squinting and worsening his headache. “You can hear that?”
“The walls aren’t that thick,” Todoroki supplied. “No wonder you said my singing is awful; yours is pretty good.”
“Todoroki, you don’t have to sing well to recognise when somebody’s singing is shit.”
Hitoshi supposed he deserved that gentle thwack to his shoulder before Todoroki resumed the one-handed massage. Pushing his face further against the pillow, Hitoshi blinked tiredly. He contemplated the idea of being honest with his mentor about his worries; to his surprise, the thought didn’t bring him the anxiety it once did.
“Talk to him,” Todoroki said quietly. “But before that, take a day off. Aizawa-sensei will kill you anyway if you show up to lessons like this.”
“...dare I ask what I look like?” Hitoshi asked, though he already knew. Zombie-like might be the best way to describe his pallor when he felt this icky. His eyes were perhaps composed more of eyebags than anything else at this point.
“You look miserable,” Todoroki said, which Hitoshi should have expected. Todoroki might have said exactly what Hitoshi needed to hear, but he couldn’t be counted on for descriptive language when he was still working on emoting.
“Thanks, I guess.” Hitoshi let out a long breath, still a bit mopey at the thought of missing school the next day, but more at peace with the idea than he had been before. “I...might need you to help me tell Aizawa that I’m staying in.”
Todoroki’s answer was immediate. “Will do.”
“And...thanks, too, for—” Hitoshi weakly waved one hand in a small circle—“for all that.” He hoped Todoroki knew what he meant, that it was more than the tea that Todoroki had brewed but that he couldn’t pull himself up to drink, more than the cold hand for his headache and the warm one for loosening tensed muscles.
Maybe Todoroki got it, maybe he didn’t. His response came in the form of him murmuring, “You need sleep. Not gonna leave until you sleep.”
It must be nearly midnight by now, far past a healthy bedtime if Hitoshi’s sleep schedule hadn’t already been destroyed. He said, “You should go to bed first. I dunno how long I’ll take to fall asleep.”
Todoroki hummed and made his left palm a few degrees warmer as he massaged. Hitoshi melted into his bed and, before he knew it, he was out for the count.
Paths Within the Fog
When the humidity levels began to rise alongside the number of sunny days, Aizawa announced they would have career discussions after the summer. The entirety of 2A was so blindsided they forgot to yell about this being an unexpectedly normal high school thing to do.
Hitoshi supposed that in that sense UA was like any other high school, just that with the assumption they’d all become Pro Heroes, 2A had forgotten that they needed to concretely consider their post graduation paths. Aizawa distributed the forms in the beginning of July, giving them ample time to consider what they wanted to fill in. He assured them it wasn’t final, but—in his droll, vaguely threatening way—implied that they should take it seriously anyway.
They had so much to consider: which agency they were considering working with, or if they wanted to build their own agency from scratch, or if they wanted to go independent, or if they wanted to work with the heroics bureau, or even if they wanted to go to university. That meant the main topic of conversation in the following week was the career forms.
Hitoshi had always thought he’d go independent as an underground pro, in the footsteps of the mentor he so admired. But then during the fifth floor boys gathering Satou admitted that he was considering culinary school, and Todoroki, very quietly, admitted that he had been looking at universities. Sero was as surprised as Hitoshi, though quick to bounce back and offer them sincere encouragement.
“How about you, Shinsou?” Sero asked.
Hitoshi paused in drinking his tea and mulled over it. But he didn’t have a significantly different answer than before the forms had been distributed. “I think I’ll go independent as an underground pro.”
“Like Aizawa, then?”
“Yeah,” Hitoshi said, seeing no point in hiding it; they all knew how much his fighting style was inspired by Aizawa anyway.
“That’s cool,” Sero said with a small grin. “I only started to think this week about how it’d be mad cool to start an agency with the bros. But I’ve gotta talk to them about it first.”
“Villains will quake in their underpants when the bakusquad is unleashed upon the world,” Satou said with a laugh. Then they switched topics to debating if Bakugou would win the “most villain-like hero” poll in the first year of his debut, and Hitoshi put the matter aside for the moment to enjoy the cake and company.
That second July weekend, after Todoroki came back from visiting his mother, they dropped by the teachers’ quarters with biscuits and Aizawa’s favoured jelly drinks. They arrived to find Ella, larger and with ever sleeker fur now, taking an unholy interest in the cries of the cicadas. Sitting on the windowsill, staring out, she pawed hopefully at the glass. Hitoshi watched her while sipping the barley tea Todoroki had cooled with his right hand. Aizawa, being the adult who had his life put together, had forgotten to prepare ice before they came over to exercise their visitation rights.
Though the weather was now on the uncomfortable side of warm, Hitoshi felt remarkably cheerful. It might have to do with being surrounded by cats, but also probably had to do with his head not being split open every two days.
“Can cats eat cicadas?” Todoroki questioned from where he was lying belly-down on the floor, playing with All Nyaight’s paws.
“I suppose they can,” Aizawa said without looking up from the papers in his lap. Judging by how liberally he was writing comments, it was likely Ashido’s essay. “The other day I woke up to find a half-eaten cockroach beside my head and Spots curled up near it.”
Todoroki wrinkled his nose. Hitoshi shuddered and asked, “Does Ella do that too?”
“I don’t think she has quite mastered the art of hunting yet.”
Hitoshi reached out and saved Todoroki’s glass from being knocked off the table by Spots and was rewarded by said cat giving him an unamused look. In the meantime Todoroki rolled over, allowing All Nyaight to walk over his stomach. It all happened in less than ten seconds to the background of Ella’s hopeful meowing. Hitoshi found himself, once again, incredibly envious of the life Aizawa was leading.
“Just give Spots a treat, he’ll stop messing around for about an hour after that,” Aizawa said.
The treats diversion was a success. Deciding that the cicadas on the other side of the glass were less important than easily accessible treats, Ella jumped down and trotted over to curl up in Hitoshi’s lap as well. The only exception to the treats diversion was All Nyaight: he seemed too comfortable to move from his position on Todoroki’s stomach. Hitoshi curled further into the reclined chair, soothed by the gentle cool breeze from the air-conditioner, the rumbles of the cats, the steady scribbling from Aizawa’s pen.
Aizawa looked at them briefly; there was dry amusement in his voice when he asked, “I hope you two haven’t visited just to make me jealous by napping.”
“No,” Todoroki said. It wasn’t very convincing when his eyes were half-lidded and he had melted into the carpet, both hands buried in All Nyaight’s fur. “We take our visitation rights very seriously.”
“Clearly,” Aizawa said. “I have half a mind to put you on litter duty as repayment for napping space.”
“Okay,” Todoroki said agreeably.
Aizawa snorted. The quiet after that was broken only by the rustling of paper when Aizawa finished marking an essay and moved on to the next. Minutes passed in this way, until Todoroki sat up carefully so as not to dislodge All Nyaight.
“Sensei,” Todoroki said. He sounded hesitant. From the way Aizawa looked up from the papers to give him his full attention, Hitoshi knew he could feel the weight of what Todoroki wanted to ask. It made Hitoshi sit up straighter too and blink his eyes open.
“Yeah? Spit it out, kid,” Aizawa said.
Petting All Nyaight absently, Todoroki asked, “Did you always want to be a hero?”
Aizawa studied him, looking...not exactly surprised, but contemplative. “Do you mean to ask: why did I make the choice to become a pro?”
“I guess...yes.” Todoroki nodded once, then he nodded again, more decisively. “Only if it’s okay to ask.”
Aizawa leaned back with one hand on the floor, staring up at the ceiling in thought. “I think sometimes I underestimate how much students need to know about the heroes’ origins too, when you’re considering your future paths.” That word, “origins”, was a familiar one to Hitoshi, something Aizawa always reminded them to think of whenever they doubted themselves in training or were more tired than hopeful. “Truth be told, when I applied to UA, I wasn’t thinking more than of proving myself. Growing up, even my parents felt that my quirk was as useless as quirks could be.”
This was new to Hitoshi; he leaned forward in interest. His mother was the only happy story in the discovery of his quirk, when she proved that her love for her son surpassed any possible apprehension over his quirk, but in all other aspects the story Aizawa was telling was uncomfortably familiar. He wondered where it differed, if Aizawa too had a father who walked out or a childhood where he too often had solitude forced upon him.
“It was spite at first,” Aizawa mused. He shot them both amused looks. “Not something either of you are unfamiliar with, I’d wager. But you can only run so long on spite, and my teachers recognised that. They knew I didn’t have any direction and that it’d kill me eventually.”
All Nyaight was clearly unamused with how Todoroki, absorbed in the story, had stopped petting him. He nudged his head back into Todoroki’s warm palm. “What changed? I mean, how did you find a reason other than spite?” he asked.
“...friends,” Aizawa said. There was a shadow in his eyes that spoke of omission, though Hitoshi knew it hadn’t exactly been a lie either. “Present Mic is one of them, Midnight the other—though I forbid either of you to tell them I’m telling you this. I met...good people. People who believed in my potential more than I believed in it myself. For all its shortcomings, UA attracts people you’d want to be around, people who push you forward.”
Todoroki nodded. There was a fond little tilt in his lips. “Yes. It does.”
“Did you consider something other than being an underground pro?” Hitoshi asked.
“Sure I did. I once—” Aizawa considered his words. “A couple of us in class thought of setting up an agency together. But my quirk has always been more suited to underground work. It worked for me: I didn’t like the idea of being flashy and out in the public eye anyway.”
Somehow Hitoshi got the feeling Aizawa had been lying. It was in the nonchalant, breezy way he said it. Todoroki didn’t seem to have noticed; he only nodded thoughtfully as he looked down at All Nyaight. He asked, with a weight that suggested this had been on his mind for the longest time, “Is it really okay to change our minds at some point?”
“Yes,” Aizawa said. There wasn’t any hesitation in his words. “I’d rather my students think about their future carefully than to stick to something they think they have to do.” Then Aizawa looked at Hitoshi, and Hitoshi realised, with a jolt, that the gaze silently meant ‘that goes for you too’ . “Quirks lending themselves to certain types of jobs is one thing; what the wielders of the quirks want to do might be another thing entirely. I don’t...I don’t have regrets, exactly. But sometimes I think I need not have locked myself into thinking it was better if I worked alone.”
Aizawa did not say anything after that, leaving them to their own silent thoughts. Hitoshi thought about his quirk and underground work and teams, and he left feeling a little unsettled by the weight of options and the promising, uncertain fog of the future.
Though they were by now aware that everyone, including those who failed, would have to go for summer camp, 2A still descended into even more of a feverish panic while preparing for end of term exams. Yaoyorozu held daily study sessions in the common room, and Bakugou was heard yelling at Kirishima, Sero, Ashido, and Kaminari more than once. For their own revision sessions, the dekusquad gathered in Todoroki’s room to take advantage of the relative space afforded by the tatami mats, repeating the rhythm they had fallen into when preparing for the midterm exams.
The final written exams went by smoothly, though Hitoshi couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out the last question for Physics. It wasn’t enough to give him a bad grade, but he’d be very glad when he never has to touch the subject again.
The practical exams were much more interesting and unpredictable. According to Midoriya, the year before they had fought as pairs against their teachers. Todoroki nonchalantly mentioned that he and Yaoyorozu had fought Aizawa, and Hitoshi, with first-hand experience of Aizawa’s training sessions, looked at them both in solidarity.
“This year, the focus is on cooperation as well, but this time in hero teams of four,” Aizawa intoned. He gestured towards a dummy propped against a lamppost. “There’ll be twenty dummies scattered through the city that the team has to save and put in the demarcated evacuation zone within ten minutes. At the same time, four teachers, playing as villains, will be targeting you guys and the civilians. You will know where the civilians are—the teachers won’t. But you won’t know which teachers you’re facing either. To pass, at least one hero has to make it out of the city and all civilians have to be evacuated.”
“All?” Kaminari asked with a gulp.
Aizawa’s gaze sharpened. “In the real world, even one loss is exactly that: a loss.”
Nobody protested the rule after that.
Midoriya looked relieved to not be grouped with Bakugou and very pleased to be grouped with Hitoshi. “It’s gotten better between us, but we’d both rather not work in close quarters,” he explained. He continued looking pleased when they found out that Todoroki and Tokoyami were in the same group.
Todoroki looked around consideringly. “Why do you think sensei grouped us together?”
“True, there’s usually some rationale behind his groupings, rather than All Might’s luck of the draw style. Not that that’s bad!” Midoriya hurried to defend like any of them had said anything bad about him. “In our group...Todoroki-kun’s a long distance fighter, Tokoyami-kun is long to mid-range, I’m close range, and Shinsou-kun is perfect for reconnaissance and diverting the villains.” Midoriya thought over it, looked at the other groups, and nodded. “That must be it. Because this year the theme is clearly about cooperation and the task is already difficult, he wants us to utilise each other’s strengths. But he’s not making it completely easy for us—Todoroki-kun’s fire will weaken Tokoyami-kun’s Dark Shadow, for now Shinsou-kun can control up to three people at each time before his control weakens, and my quirk doesn’t lend itself to fighting multiple opponents. We’ll need to strategise very carefully—”
“Midoriya,” Todoroki interrupted. “The priority is saving the civilians, right?”
“And we won’t know who the teachers are, so we can’t strategise around that,” Todoroki said calmly. “So we strategise around how we can get the civilians to the evacuation zone quickly and avoid conflict if possible.”
“Indeed. The darkness of the villains will only make itself clear in the arena,” Tokoyami said solemnly.
“There’s also the time limit to take into account,” Hitoshi mused. “And if we move in a group we risk the villains getting to some of the civilians first.” He traced a finger around the map they have been given to study before their turn, making a note of where the civilians and evacuation area were.
“Yet one is never weaker than when alone,” Tokoyami offered.
The answer came to them immediately. “Pair work,” Midoriya said. He passed the earpieces Aizawa had given them to his group mates. “Speed is of the essence. Tokoyami-kun and I will go ahead to evacuate the civilians furthest from the evacuation zone; we can move swiftly, and this way Todoroki-kun can use his fire without worrying about obstructing Dark Shadow. Todoroki-kun, Shinsou-kun, take these areas—” Midoriya pointed to areas closest to their entrance—“and help us hold off the villains if you spot them. We communicate the moment any villain is spotted. When all civilians are evacuated, we head for the exit if possible, no need to engage villains further than necessary.”
“A wise plan,” Tokoyami said in approval.
“Simple and effective,” Hitoshi said. He chewed on his lip. “We can only hope the villains’ quirks aren’t a bad match for ours.”
“As long as it isn’t Aizawa-sensei, you’re our trump card, Shinsou.”
Hitoshi jerked his head up in surprise. “What?”
Todoroki shrugged. “No matter their quirks, if you can successfully control them, we can pass this. The only exception is Aizawa-sensei...though I guess even with him there are ways around his erasure.”
Hitoshi frowned. Though they had tested it out the last time they had group training, with Iida, Midoriya, and Asui falling under his control successfully, Hitoshi wasn’t confident that the brainwashing would work against highly trained Pros.
“Todoroki-kun is right,” Midoriya said brightly. “The simplest way is often the most effective: if you can head them off or subdue with your quirk, Shinsou-kun, then our chances of passing goes up.”
Hitoshi clenched the capture weapon around his neck tightly. After consulting Yaoyorozu about the material, he had upgraded it to better suit his style, but he couldn’t claim to be anywhere near proficient with it yet. His hand-to-hand combat had improved thanks to the group training sessions, but it was true: his biggest contribution would lie in his ability to subdue the villains with his voice and the many hours of training he had put into it.
“Fret not. Even if darkness befalls us, the camp awaiting us will only serve to bring us to the light.”
Midoriya huffed out a breath of laughter. “To be honest, I feel like they are setting us up to fail this year. The conditions for passing are way harsher. But yeah—I think we can do this.”
With such hopeful eyes on him, Tokoyami’s respectful nod, and Todoroki’s steady, not-quite-there smile, there was nothing Hitoshi could do but agree and put his game face on.
A deep breath in, a slow breath out.
He nodded and said, “Let’s do this.”
When it was their turn to enter the arena, Hitoshi brought the mask up to cover his mouth. The arena, as they had expected, was designed after a typical city. Midoriya nodded at them and leaped off towards the furthest reach of the city in a crackle of green lightning, Tokoyami following closely behind with Dark Shadow wrapped around him. Todoroki quietly gestured towards the right, where a couple of civilians in a park, highly visible to their team and the villains too, were waiting to be evacuated. They ran as quickly and silently as they could, not willing to risk discovery by the villains.
“Shinsou-kun, Todoroki-kun. Status?”
Todoroki murmured back, “No sign of villains. Three civilians found.” He grabbed two dummies while Hitoshi took charge of the last one. “Bringing them to evac point.”
“Two civilians retrieved from the darkness.”
“So far so good. Stay alert, everyone.”
Things proceeded smoothly for the first three minutes, with a total of eight civilians evacuated within that time. It was as Hitoshi suspected that things were going too smoothly that Todoroki stiffened and looked to the right. Within a split second, he had pressed a hand against his nose and was pulling Hitoshi back with him. It was only in the right angle of sunlight, when Hitoshi saw the faintest glimmer of what looked like dust motes dancing in the air, that Hitoshi realised whom they were up against.
“Engaging with Midnight,” he said grimly into the earpiece.
At the very same time, there was a rumble in the far north of the city. “Cementoss,” Midoriya reported with an equally grim note. The rumble was followed by a few gun shots. “And Snipe.” Hitoshi didn’t have time to worry about that combination and could only trust they would take care of things.
“Oh ho ho, do I spy a couple of young heroes here?” Midnight said overdramatically from her position upwind. Todoroki tugged Hitoshi further back. “But I’m afraid you’re in our way of, um...world domination!”
Todoroki pressed his right foot down firmly, which was when they realised whom the other villain lying in wait was. Todoroki hissed into his earpiece, “Eraserhead is here too.”
“Fuck,” Midoriya said. It was an accurate summary.
Without preamble, the nightmare known as Aizawa descended upon them; it was only Todoroki’s quick reflexes that allowed them to escape his capture weapon and somehow not land within the range of Midnight’s mist. The pincer formation their teachers had taken meant it was difficult for them to make it out without engaging the villains. Todoroki hissed, “Shinsou. If I try to distract them, do you think you can use your quirk on Midnight or Aizawa?”
It was do or die, no time for hesitation or self-doubt. They were both barely evading capture by both teachers, as it were. “Give me a minute,” he whispered back.
“Go,” Todoroki muttered. The very second Aizawa blinked, Todoroki sent off two waves of ice towards Midnight and Aizawa, obscuring their view of Hitoshi and allowing him to vanish into the shadows. Using the cover the buildings provided and following the sounds of battle, breathing as quietly as he could while his heart hammered, Hitoshi ran to where he estimated Aizawa’s position was. He peered around the corner.
Midnight was clearly delighting in her role as villain, her whip forcing Todoroki to roll out of the way while keeping an eye on Aizawa’s capture weapon. “You can’t hold your breath forever, hero! And then we’ll capture your ally too and kill all the civilians! Or something, I think that’s the script.”
The instant Aizawa blinked, Todoroki managed to send another burst of ice to obscure Midnight’s vision. Hitoshi seized the chance and yelled, “Midnight, don’t be careless! Behind you!”
Aizawa’s eyes widened and he cursed. If he couldn’t see Hitoshi, the team had reasoned, he wouldn’t be able to erase Hitoshi’s quirk. Midnight had checked behind her out of wariness, but Todoroki's ice was doing its job of confusing their vision. “No, Midnight, don’t respond!”
Hitoshi smiled grimly. “Don’t listen to him, Midnight! I’m the real thing.” He had tested this over and over again with the dekusquad; psychological manipulation went hand in hand with confusion, and Midnight had a tendency to delight in talking when her sadistic streak came out.
She destroyed some of the ice with the frighteningly sharp edge of her whip. Hitoshi had a shortening time frame within which to work before she could use her sight to check if Aizawa was indeed the one speaking.
“Midnight,” Aizawa warned.
She frowned. “Well, which is i—”
Bingo. Before Aizawa could reach her or otherwise snap her out of the brainwashing, Hitoshi commanded, “Stop fighting and run towards the exit now.”
Todoroki bodily blocked Aizawa from reaching Midnight and they listened to the clack of high heels fade away. There was a tiny, tiny smile in Aizawa’s voice when he said, “Impressive. So it’s two against one now?”
“No,” Hitoshi said. He stepped out of the shadows and brought Aizawa’s gaze onto him. It didn’t matter now if his quirk was erased. “We’ve bigger plans than that.”
He met Todoroki's eyes and marvelled at the speed in which Todoroki surrounded Aizawa in an icy cylinder. They had no confidence that they'd be able to trap him for long, but they only needed enough time to slip away to continue their rescue mission. Hitoshi ran as fast as he could, heading for the same cluster of civilians they had agreed to rescue next. When they met eyes in the alleyway, it was all Hitoshi could do to not laugh.
“We can’t celebrate until it’s over,” Todoroki reminded him, the smile in his eyes betraying him.
“I know,” Hitoshi said. He still raised his hand and exchanged a high-five with Todoroki.
Hitoshi knew Todoroki didn’t need air-conditioning even during the summer, what with his ability to regulate his own temperature. So it was quite touching that he never failed to switch it on when Hitoshi popped by to hang out. It allowed Hitoshi to lie on the tatami mats without feeling like he was going to melt out of his skin, and he could even cuddle Mr. Whiskers comfortably. Todoroki had kidnapped Lil' Ms. Boop and was holding her while he stared into his wardrobe.
“It’s okay to wear a shirt with a hole for summer camp, right?” he asked.
Hitoshi opened his eyes lazily to see Todoroki holding a shirt with a hole in the shoulder. “Todoroki, you’re going to dash the dreams of all the single hopefuls. Fix that hole or get a new shirt.”
Todoroki’s brows furrowed. He stared at the shirt for a long moment before carefully putting it aside. Hitoshi hoped that meant he’s going to fix it, and not that he’s going to pack it for camp. He pulled out another shirt in a light blue tone and contemplatively held it against his torso. It looked like it’d be just a tad too short if he put it on.
“Oh my god, don’t tell me you’ve gotten taller,” Hitoshi said. Then he recalled Todoroki tugging at the hem of his gym shirt during class and frowning with the same air of contemplation. “You have, haven’t you?”
Todoroki looked at him. “Shinsou, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re taller than me.”
“Well, yeah, god has to be fair and give me at least one thing to lord over you, you know.”
Todoroki thought about this, then he sat down with the shirt crumpled in his lap, covering Lil' Ms. Boop. “Shinsou...we talked about this.”
Hitoshi sat up and laughed. “I’m kidding, kidding. Remember crippling self-esteem issues? I do promise I’m not secretly bitter at you or something.”
“I would hope not,” Todoroki said so solemnly and sincerely Hitoshi would have felt bad if he had been sarcastic. “Anyway, it was your quirk that allowed us to pass the exam, so screw anyone who thinks otherwise.”
“Stop. You’re going to make me blush, and then I’ll actually die in this heat.”
“Should I make it cooler?”
Hitoshi looked at Todoroki and the placid expression that was somehow shit-eating at the same time. Distantly, he was impressed that Todoroki’s emoting range had widened. “Now I really don’t know if you’re being earnest or sarcastic,” he admitted.
Todoroki covered Hitoshi’s shin in a thin sheet of ice he could easily chip off; Hitoshi made an embarrassingly high-pitched squeal at the shock of cold. He reached for Todoroki’s sides with wiggling, vengeful fingers.
After the impromptu fight, Todoroki gone back to sorting through his clothes for the camp and making a note of what he would need to buy when they go out tomorrow, Hitoshi drifting off in the gentle cool and the comforting give of the tatami mats, the buzzing of Todoroki’s phone broke the comfortable quiet. Squinting at his socks and the dubious state of their elastics, Todoroki said, “That might be Satou, I was asking if we’re doing a gathering tomorrow evening so we know when to get back from the mall.”
Hitoshi vaguely recalled seeing that message earlier that day. That must have been in his room, before he popped by Todoroki’s room. He remembered sending a sticker of a cat with a question mark too.
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Hitoshi said with a yawn. “I’ll see what he says.”
Patting his pockets did not yield his phone. Frowning, Hitoshi sat up and looked around the table, then the tatami mats, wondering if it might have flown somewhere during the tickle war. He thought back to when he last saw it.
Hitoshi sighed. “I think I left my phone in my room.”
“Just check it on mine,” Todoroki said. He tossed a pair of socks with elastic so loose they were unsalvageable to the side.
“I dunno your password though,” Hitoshi said as he swiped the screen. Then he stared when the phone was unlocked, revealing a dekusquad group wefie on Todoroki’s phone background. “Todoroki Shouto. Are you telling me you do not have a password on your phone?”
Todoroki looked up and blinked. “Yeah?” he said with genuine puzzlement.
“...someone needs to give you a lesson on technology and safety,” Hitoshi muttered in disbelief. He tapped the chat icon and opened the fifth floor boys’ chat to Satou’s cheerful message that he’s planning on going to the mall too, so they could meet up at the mall and go back together. He relayed as such to Todoroki. Then he casually glimpsed the sticker he had sent earlier, and then he stopped thinking altogether.
Remember to breathe and assess the situation when you are unsure, reminded the Aizawa voice in his head. After a very long pause, Hitoshi asked, “Why do you have my number saved as ‘Aizawa’s Lovechild’?”
Todoroki’s face took on a serious cast, adding to the Twilight Zone surrealism. He looked very earnest. “I understand if it’s a secret you don’t want anyone else to know. I promise I haven’t told anybody, though I can’t promise they haven’t figured it out.”
“...Todoroki,” Hitoshi said. He thought, distantly, that he sounded like a strangled cat at that point. But it was far from his priorities at the moment. “Why in the world do you think I’m Aizawa’s lovechild?”
Todoroki said quietly, like he was worried someone was standing outside his door listening in, “It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Maybe it’s obvious only to Todoroki Shouto, but certainly not to Hitoshi. Matter-of-fact, Todoroki listed, “He looks out for you, you’re using the same capture technique he does, you both like sleeping a lot...and you both like cats.” Todoroki nodded. “But of course both of you can’t tell anyone, because then Aizawa-sensei will be accused of favouritism and lack of professionalism—”
“Todoroki!” Hitoshi wasn’t sure if he had breathed at all in the past minute. His mouth opened and closed like a suffocating fish. His brain had short-circuited so much since he laid eyes on Todoroki's saved name for him that he couldn't think up any defence other than “I am definitely not Aizawa’s lovechild!”
“Maybe he didn’t tell you,” Todoroki said soothingly.
“I have a birth certificate that says otherwise!”
Todoroki paused, like for all his intelligence and number five ranking in class he hadn’t considered that basic fact. Doggedly, he asked, “Are you sure? Midoriya denied being All Might’s secret lovechild but I think he just doesn’t know, and certificates can be faked—”
“How many people have you accused of being somebody’s lovechild?”
“It’s not an accusation if it’s true,” Todoroki pointed out. “And so far: two. You and Midoriya.”
Hitoshi was unable to help it anymore. He pressed his face into Mr. Whiskers’ dependable, plushie self and let out loud, hacking laughter that was maybe half a sob. “Todoroki Shouto,” he managed in the middle of the laughter, “oh my god, I can’t believe I would ever say this in my life: I swear upon Ella that I am not Aizawa’s lovechild, holy shit.”
“Oh.” He couldn’t believe, out of everything, that it was swearing upon Ella’s name that would convince Todoroki. And then, considering it again, he was forced to admit he too would have taken anything sworn in Ella’s name seriously. Todoroki now looked genuinely disappointed. “Does that mean I have to change your contact name?”
“Todoroki. Has that been my name since we met in April? Since we started hanging out and training and oh, I don’t know, been through a semester together?”
Todoroki tilted his head to the side. “Yeah?”
Hitoshi covered his eyes and continued cackling so hard his ribs hurt. Temporarily, he forgot about the camp ahead, and the provisional license exam, and the career counselling, and the choices he’d have to make, and the uncertain future, and laughed and laughed over the sheer, wonderful stupidity of a friend.