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“This one too,” Todoroki-kun said and stroked more than pointed to the face in the magazine. Keigo rolled onto his side, angling his foot and stretching a restless leg against the wooden floor.

“Todoroki-kun, your face would be full of metal.”

“You don’t think it’d look good?”

Keigo shrugged. The model looked very different from Todoroki-kun. Bad different, Keigo had thought, but Todoroki-kun didn’t seem to think so, so he didn’t say that.

“I don’t know,” Keigo said instead. “I think your face is okay.”

For the first time that day, he stopped gawking at that dumb foreign magazine and looked at Keigo. “What?”

“You have a good face, so it doesn’t matter,” Keigo tried to explain, “It would be okay.”

Todoroki-kun had rolled his eyes, and went back to drooling over the page. “I’m not asking about my face, I’m asking about the piercings.” Keigo pouted, felt the hefty weight on his back shift and flare with a breath in his chest.

“Todoroki-kun, I don’t get this,” Keigo whined and swept the stupid magazine closed with a swing of his arm. He wanted to be a good friend for Touya—his first real one—but this felt like he was failing a test he didn’t know he was supposed to study for. “This aesthetic thing just sounds stupid and gay.”

“You’re stupid and gay,” Todoroki-kun shot back. He reached for the rich people mirror he brought earlier and held it up to Keigo’s face. “Look,” Todoroki-kun instructed. “If you and everyone you loved were going to die, and the only way to save everyone was to get a piercing with me, where would you get it?”

Keigo stared back at his reflection. His face had less dirt and more cheek since he met Todoroki-kun, and it still took some getting used to. He didn’t think he wanted the weird bits of metal Todoroki-kun liked, but found his hands reaching for his earlobes. He dropped them before they make contact though, and his head swiveled to see Todoroki-kun’s reaction. He wasn’t sure why, but he had felt as if he had done something wrong.

Todoroki-kun’s mouth was a straight line, but Keigo thought his eyes may have been smiling. He reached to trace the movement, his cold fingers gliding over the pad of Keigo’s lobe.

“Earrings would look good on you,” he said, and Keigo could tell he meant it.

“We should do them together,” Keigo said quickly, hoping to get Todoroki-kun to stop touching him. His hands were always too kind—kinder than his mother’s—and Keigo hated thinking about that.

Todoroki-kun’s hand pulled back, and Keigo felt himself breathe. “I can’t get piercings.”

“Why not?”

“My parents would kill me.”

“Why?”

Todoroki-kun was giving him one of those Are you dumb? looks again, and Keigo rolled his eyes, dropped his chin to the ground. “Is this another rich people thing?”

Todoroki-kun snorted, his mouth breaking in a smile that made Keigo’s feathers flutter. Then Todoroki-kun brushes one of Keigo’s stray bangs back, petting at his hair. Keigo’s wings dip and roll with each stroke.

“Yeah,” Todoroki-kun says, “It is.” His eyes find Keigo’s again. “Do you want to do yours?”

 

Todoroki-kun had come over, bringing the supplies himself, telling Keigo, Whatever tools your parents have, they are not going anywhere near you.

Keigo had thought it wasteful. He knew there were needles in the other room, but Todoroki-kun had a habit of being a snob sometimes. He was being one right now—pouring clear solution over the needle for a billion hours and hurting himself by burning it over a red flame a billion more.

“What are you doing?” Keigo asked finally, less of a question and more of a demand to hurry up.

“Cleaning,” Todoroki-kun responded absently, like he couldn’t tell, all attention fixed on his work.

“Stop using your quirk and just put it in,” Keigo huffed. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Yes, it is. Don’t be stupid,” Todoroki-kun said. Then he finally started looking at Keigo again—his ears, to be exact. He reached to cradle his face, eyes staring into him—pretty and blue and too intense. Keigo suddenly wished he was still cleaning the needle.

Todoroki-kun kept checking and rechecking, marking his lobes, moving further, then coming back. Keigo knew if it was someone else he would have felt more impatient. But it was Todoroki-kun, and he felt something else instead.

 

When the piercings were in, Todoroki-kun had smiled at his handiwork, and held up his fancy mirror so Keigo could see. In the reflection, he saw the bright glint of two black squares in his lobes.

The mirror fell into shards on the ground, and Todoroki-kun toppled with the motion of Keigo’s glide into his chest. Keigo’s excited trill was so loud his mother had come out of her room to scold them.


Touya never told his family that he visited the quiet, winged boy he met with his dad after he watched him arrest that Big Deal thief that summer.

It’s not that Touya was ashamed. He didn’t think he was ashamed anyway. But some things were just better kept a secret.

He knew his dad wouldn’t be happy about it. And Takami-kun was always doing bizarre things. If he really thought about it, Touya doesn’t even think his mother would be happy about them hanging out. She could smile through most things—like Natsu’s or otousan’s tantrums—but something told Touya she wouldn’t smile through this.

Takami-kun always seemed to be encouraging Touya’s bad habits. He liked to use his quirk without supervision, and insisted it didn’t matter if no one was watching. He had the worst sweet tooth Touya had seen, leading to Touya eating desserts before main meals. Takami-kun weirdly loved drawing dicks too—on paper, on the walls, in Touya’s magazines. Touya told him it’s because he was one.

Takami-kun’s house was a long trek for a cramped space with little furniture, but Touya still loved visiting him. He knew it wasn’t a good thing that Takami-kun’s mom was always in her room, even though Takami-kun seemed to think so since he didn’t like her. There was an unspoken weirdness about the whole thing that Touya didn’t think Takami-kun understood himself—but Touya didn’t really care. He loved not having someone breathing down his neck, and he really liked being with Takami-kun too. 

He could tell Takami-kun liked him too. Sometimes he wondered if it was just because Touya had always packed extra food or warmed buckets for bathwater when he came, but that was probably just him being stupid. He knew he made Takami-kun happy. And even if he hadn’t, the boy’s wings gave him away.

And Takami-kun wasn’t a bad kid, Touya knew. But he knew bad things—things he didn’t really see as bad either. Touya would never admit it, but every now and then it made him wonder if they really were bad things, or if maybe his own parents were the ones that had it wrong all along.

“Wanna learn how to pick a lock?” Takami-kun asked one day. They were standing outside his house, and Takami-kun had forgotten the key again. Both boys had known his mother was inside. They also knew she wouldn’t open the door if they knocked.

“What? No,” Touya had answered in a way that was too quick, leaning against the chipped wood, “You shouldn’t even know that,” he said, then an afterthought, “How do you?”

Takami-kun just shrugged, like it wasn’t a big deal, and maybe it wasn’t. Then he fished out two hairpins from his backpack and proceeded to explain lockpicking in detail, as if knowing that Touya would pay attention despite his answer.

 

Takami-kun knew a lot of those sorts of things, and he always told Touya he ought to learn them too.

“You rich people are stupid about everything,” he had said.

Touya didn’t think that was fair. It wasn’t everything, but Takami-kun had shown him up in strange enough ways before, and Touya had figured it better to hear him out by now.

But a lot of Takami-kun’s skills and techniques came with his quirk, something he had once reluctantly admitted came from his criminal father. And Touya knew Takami-kun wasn’t always doing great things with those wings, but Touya loved them anyway.

When otousan lectured him during training, telling him quirks are just extensions of the person using them, Touya hadn’t really understood it. He didn’t feel his fire was a part of him—just a painfully hot light he didn’t know what to do with. But then he met Takami-kun and it clicked.

He saw it in the way the boy’s wings shook when he was excited, when that reckless flight speed shot him through a scene before the police even saw him—even the division of his feathers seemed like a reflection of Takami-kun’s scattered thoughts—they were hard to keep track of, but if you managed to, their paths made sense.

Takami-kun said his skills didn’t all come from his quirk though.

“You could do it too, Todoroki-kun,” he said confidently.

He had listed off tips on sneaking in and out houses and buildings without leaving a trace—reducing the friction between the push and pull of windows and doors. He told Touya where stores hide their cameras and how to lift chips off the shelf without being caught by them. He even explained how to swindle people with a smile. It went unspoken that he had picked that up from his dad too.

They were just bad habits, Touya had thought. Ones he knew he’d never need or use. But Touya still always found himself paying close attention to Takami-kun when he spoke.

Just in case, he had told himself.


“Otousan, can I get an Endeavor doll?”

His father had looked up from his paperwork, pulling a face. The sleepless lines around his eyes twisted unpleasantly, scrutinizing him, as if to see the burns mother had just bandaged had somehow gotten to Touya’s head. Or maybe he was just trying to cover up the growing flush on his cheeks with a frown. Touya knew better than to point it out.

His father shifted in his seat. “Why?”

“To play with,” Touya said. It was a lie.

He had been waiting—his dad wasn’t in the best of moods today, but he hadn’t been in a better one any of the weeks prior either. Takami-kun’s birthday was coming up though, so Touya couldn’t put off asking him any longer. At worst, he’d need to go through extra training and just ask mom for money instead. The thought of doing more training than usual was nauseating, but Touya thought Takami-kun was worth the risk of asking.

“You’re too old to play with toys,” Enji had answered, then looked back down at the paperwork he brought home again.

Touya didn’t know what to do with that answer. He awkwardly shifted on his foot, leaning on the leg with less gauze around it.

A moment later, his father looked up at him again. He didn’t glare like Touya expected, but he looked as if he was wondering why he was still there. “You have school in the morning. Go to bed.”

 

Days later, his father was pushing him through a training drill that somehow felt worse than all the ones before it. It was a thought Touya had every time he trained his quirk, but he had meant it with every fiber of his burning being that time.

He was trying to get his gasps to feel like inhales, get his eyes to finally focus on anything because it seemed like the room just kept spinning and slanting without him asking it to. Despite the pain, Touya was still standing, if only because he knew how much otousan hated it when he fell.

Touya couldn’t see his own face for comparison, but when his eyes honed in on his father’s, he was sure he was the more exhausted one between the two of them. The heave of his broad shoulders carried an eternity of disappointment—one Touya didn’t know how he could have incited all on his own.

His father turned his head, looked at him with a gaze that was somehow tired, somehow still burning. Touya had felt as if otousan was looking through him.

“You were almost perfect, Touya,” his father had said.

He turned away, told Touya he did a good job today, to clean up with mother and head straight to bed. As he walked away, he added, “That doll you wanted should be in your room.”

 

Touya had been happy about it. It took his mind off the way his father looked at him, and the strange words he had said. Most of all, he knew Takami-kun was going to lose his mind when he saw it. He always liked when Touya got him presents, since no one else seemed to. And maybe Touya liked his dad less and less these days, but he still loved the fact that Takami-kun admired his father.

Yeah, otousan was stupid and traditional and angry all the time, but he was also a great hero—one that was good enough to save Takami-kun from whatever hell his dad had been putting him and his mother through. Touya wanted to be a great hero too. He wanted to make Takami-kun proud—make everyone proud. Otousan always said he was meant to and Touya didn’t want to think about what he’d do if he couldn’t.

And when Takami-kun carefully unwrapped the present, as if treasuring the wrapping paper as much as the gift—when Takami-kun smiled, Touya thought he would have given him the sky and stars had Takami-kun wanted them. 

It was one of those rare, graceless smiles. Touya could always tell them apart, even before Takami-kun taught him that swindling shit. And Touya loved when Takami-kun’s mouth curved like that. Touya’s quirk was even greater than his father’s Hellflame, all unrelenting heat and intensity—but it had nothing on the bright warmth of Takami-kun's crooked teeth, his small, fluttering wings, his pretty, wet eyes.

Nothing compared to the way Takami-kun cried Touya! and squeezed him even before the doll itself.


Touya would describe his casual excitement for Keigo as second-hand and habitual at this point. He couldn’t help it. Keigo was so full of blinding energy when he got hyped up on something that Touya would have to be as dense as his father to resist it rubbing off on him too. 

He told himself it was just because he was a good friend, and not because of most of the time that Keigo was excited it had something to do with him. But one afternoon, he reconsidered that train of thought.

“I’m gonna be a hero, Tou-chan!” Keigo’s eyes were bright, his cheeks flushed, and his mouth hanging wide open like it was him who needed to swallow this news and not Touya. “The hero safety people! They came! Touya-chan, they said I was perfect for it!”

For a long, still moment, Touya could not see Keigo—couldn’t see anything but his father’s disappointment.

You were almost perfect.

Then Touya ignored the pull of gauze on his cheek and gave Keigo the very same smile he had once taught him how to make. He held Keigo, whooped and shouted—spun him in the air, and tried to focus on Keigo’s laugh. “Show off those pretty, show-stealing wings, Kei-chan!” He said.

He treated Keigo to sweets after and even bought him his favorite flavor—that over-sugared blue raspberry shit that always stained his teeth and tongue. Keigo was grinning and drooling smug like he took pride in it.

“Is it blue yet?” Keigo had asked.

“No,” Touya said, just to fuck with him. It had long since been stained with the flavor and he was pretty sure Keigo knew it too.

“Weird,” Keigo said innocuously, “Guess you’re gonna have to buy me another.”

“Why do you want it to stain so bad anyway?” Touya asked, idly picking at his own share of sweets—vanilla mochi—which didn’t make him a basic bitch like Keigo always felt the compulsive need to whisper to Touya every damn time he ordered it.

“Because I’m gonna be a hero!” Keigo said, “We gotta match.”

“Uh, Kei, I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet,” Touya began, “but my mouth isn’t fucking blue.”

“Yeah, but your eyes are.”

“What?” Touya asked, flustered.

Keigo’s eyes smiled coy, the brush of his blue tongue against the equally blue tip of his ice cream was purposefully sluggish. It looked incredibly stupid but somehow still made Touya feel like he was the idiot here.

“And Endeavor-san’s eyes are too,” Keigo added, staring down at his dessert, somehow saving them both with that addition, yet still looking predatory.

“Uh huh…” Touya trailed.

“And All Might-san’s are too.”

“Why do you know that?”

“But mine aren’t,” Keigo finished, and looked up at Touya again. He was right—those bright, gold slitted eyes were nothing like his. Touya ignored the unease in his stomach.

He quirked a silver brow up. “So?”

Keigo shrugs, “Gotta match.”

“Why am I on that list? I’m not a hero.”

Keigo paused and gave him that look then—the same one Touya always willfully neglected to interpret and yet knew the meaning behind anyway.

The quiet dragged on too long and Keigo turned away again. Touya wished he didn’t notice the way his wings curled in anxiously. “Well, y’know, we’re gonna be the top 4 together,” Keigo reasoned, and Touya felt his stomach fall further. “It’s for future you.”

“Future me,” Touya echoed, and stared forward at the bandaged hands beside his mochi.

When he looked over at Keigo, he saw the blonde dart his eyes away, pretending as if he wasn’t staring at the very same thing.

He knew his sour mood had rubbed off on Keigo when his bird had left the dessert shop stiff and quiet. Touya needed to remedy it—he had to show Keigo he was excited for him. Because he was, it was just a bad time is all.

When he went home that night and asked his mom for money, he bought small raptor-related trinkets and gifts he knew Keigo would like. He was desperately trying to fix the problem he couldn’t name—fill the gap the same way okaasan did when she knew it wasn’t enough too.

Touya had understood how big of a deal this was. He did: Keigo was going to get a new home—a real one. He was going to get a proper education. He was going to learn to be more in tune with his body, more in tune with his perfect quirk.

He was going to be a hero, and Touya knew he was going to be a great one. He wanted to do everything to show Keigo how proud—how happy—he was for him.

Except for some reason, he just wasn't.


Things changed after the commission took Keigo in. It was ironic how when he suddenly lived two stops away instead of nine, it was impossible for Touya to get a hold of him. He had hated it, and it made him incessantly agitated.

It’s not new that Touya had a habit of getting into shitty moods, but since Keigo started his own brutal and intensive quirk training, his bird just didn’t have the same natural levity to abate Touya’s sulking like he used to. He tried, but the smiles and jokes became more disingenuous every time.

Touya didn’t blame him—he knew Keigo’s handlers expected so much of him, especially after he failed to get into UA. Keigo had told him the commission expected even more. Touya didn’t like how Keigo said they can only support the kids with promise, so he would need to shape up or else he’d be right back where he started. Maybe for most people that wouldn’t be so bad, but for Keigo it was. So even if Touya was upset with Keigo’s exhaustion, he had no right to complain.

But Keigo still seemed to—on more than one occasion he had mouthed off, saying it pissed him off how they have so little time together and yet Touya wasted it by showing up in one of his “dumb-shit moods.” He’d said he was exhausted too, but he still tried. Touya didn’t bother to tell him he could tell his “trying” was just a badly tacked on smile—cheap and worthless compared to his real ones.

But worst of all, it’s not like Touya didn’t understand what Keigo meant, cause he did. He was exhausted—sick in a way that was beyond the body. It kind of pissed Touya off too, only he didn’t really know how to fix it.

There was a lot he hated about it all, but maybe the worst of it was how they stopped reaching for one another—holding each other lazily like they always used to with whatever excuse they could find. At first it was because of Touya’s burns—skin always aching and bubbling just beneath the thick bandages. Then it was because of something else.

Their arguments were frequent—stupid shit they both regretted and tried to shrug off. But shrugging it off felt like it just kept getting harder and harder to do.

Touya didn’t know what made either of them snap that time. If you asked him it was probably Something something my quirk training is harder than yours something something. All he knew was he was being a huge dick, and Keigo was being one right back.

And then Keigo was wearing that ugly sneer on his face—smiling like he had ever even known how to without him. Touya had wanted to eviscerate his stupid, smug face.

“Yeah, whatever Touya,” Keigo had said, “It’s fine if you’re jealous, but it’s not my fault your shitty quirk hurts you better than it saves people.”

Touya’s reaction was instantaneous, and suddenly he was reaching for Keigo in a way he had never done before, and yet the motion still came like a hereditary instinct.

And Touya’s hands were hot. His hands were burning.

Keigo had always been faster than Touya, but that time, he didn't move—just stared—wide-eyed and terrified, teeth grit in pain. Touya could see his own distorted expression in Keigo's eyes, and it was an expression he knew well, but never on himself. A nauseating smell reached his nose and belatedly, Touya realized it was him—them.

Touya's hands left as quick as they drew in, and he left without a word.

 

Keigo reached out the next day, blowing up his phone with calls Touya didn’t know how to answer. He didn’t pick up until the sixth one.

He didn’t know what he expected Keigo to say, but he thought it was odd how Keigo didn’t mention how Touya had been physical—that he had been sickeningly violent, or that he used his quirk on him.

Instead Keigo said, “You never looked at me that way before,” and his voice had shaken.

Touya had felt sick in a way only a quirk as revolting as his father’s could make him, except it wasn’t quite his quirk this time. Keigo was more right than he knew.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Kei,” Touya had said, because he didn’t. “It won’t happen again.”

 

Touya had stuck to his word. Even as the arguments came, Touya never laid his hands on him again. Not for anything.

Still, Keigo could tell something inside him had shifted.

“You’re not the same,” Keigo had told him, looked at him in a way that made Touya feel too weak in too many ways.

Outwardly, Touya didn’t react. He just changed the topic.


Their meetings became fewer and far between. Keigo still always carried as much enthusiasm as he could muster when he saw Touya, but he had the passing thought that Touya felt like a stranger—quieter every time he saw him. He felt more brusque, Like his father, Keigo had thought, and found he didn’t like it on him. But Touya tended to avoid Keigo whenever he would ask what was wrong. So Keigo stopped asking.

They had settled into an uncomfortable, tenuous routine where they saw each other through bi-monthly meet ups and Keigo’s persistence. Keigo had hated it, but it’s not like his schedule was free for more anyway. He took what he could get.

At some point during the precipice of winter, Keigo managed to get Touya out the house again. It was at an obscene hour, the moon high overhead. They stood on the boardwalk beside the water—a place that Touya had once shown him when they were kids. It would be the last time Keigo saw him.

“We made out,” Touya had told him, talking about a girl Keigo didn’t know well but suddenly hated. He said it like an irrelevant detail—just a footnote he happened to come across. Keigo thought he may have hated that even more.

Touya leaned against the railing, fishing for something in his pocket. He looked beautiful—the wind gliding through his messy, pale hair, grunge jacket framing his shoulders with an appeal that Keigo never understood until he saw it on him.

Touya was smiling at him like he meant to. It was only then that Keigo realized that he could no longer tell if he did.

“You did?” Keigo asked and he was surprised by the smoothness of his own voice. He always thought himself a good liar, but he thinks working under the commission made him an even better one.

“Yeah. Was nice,” Touya said, pulled out a carton of cigarettes. Keigo didn’t know he smoked. He wondered when he had picked it up. “She was pretty.”

“Was it your first kiss?”

Touya paused and looked at him, the cigarette looked oddly appealing between his chapped lips. Keigo’s stomach kept churning, heart hammering hard in his chest. He wasn’t sure why he asked that, nor whether or not the answer even mattered.

“Yeah,” Touya finally said, and Keigo decided it did.

“Good for you, dude,” he said, and lightly punched his shoulder, because that’s what boys do. Touya had flinched and Keigo smiled like the reaction didn’t hurt. He leaned heavily on the railing, gazing up at him with coy eyes. “Think you could show me?”

Touya whipped his head towards him, his eyes gone wide as he took the unlit cigarette out his mouth. Somehow, that reaction had grounded Keigo better than anything.

He wasn’t flushed like Keigo was able to get him so easily when they were were young, but anything was better than the droning, quiet apathy, the cool wind on their faces, the sound of waves below—all serenity and picturesque like Keigo wasn’t standing there freaking the hell out.

“What?” Touya asked, “Now?” He added, incredulous—as if the timing was the strangest part of Keigo’s proposal. Later, Keigo would agree it was.

“Yeah,” Keigo said. “I want to make girls swoon too. Teach me, lover boy.” Keigo gave Touya his swindler smile. “I mean, it’s not like we’ll actually be kissing—we’re friends.” Guys, went unsaid.

All at once, Touya had looked sad, except not in a way Keigo thought was for himself. Keigo had to try very hard to keep his expression steady, his palms sticky and uncomfortable. The silence had dragged on and on until Keigo was sure Touya was seeing through him. He felt his smile waver.

But then Touya shifted, pocketed the cigarette and reached for him. Keigo felt a bandaged palm take hold of his hip, and cool fingers gently cup his chin. Touya looked at Keigo, and his eyes were still blue, still burning. His voice was a smooth lull when he murmured, “Okay.”

And Touya kissed him.

It was clumsy, a hesitant brush of lips at first, but where Keigo faltered, Touya pursued. He reached around and held Keigo so warm and firm—just like he used to. Their mouths met again and again and Keigo felt Touya’s fingers brushing through his hair, scraping gently at his scalp, the arm around his back pulling him closer.

It was nice, just like Touya had said. It was nice and Touya tasted fucking perfect. It was everything Keigo had wanted. They kissed and kissed and Keigo was so, so happy.

And then he wasn't.

He heard himself sob, gripping Touya like a lifeline with fingers so shaky he never would have thought they were his. All at once, the realization that he was losing him flooded through, leaked out his eyelids. Keigo didn’t know what to do.

He was wrecked, painfully aware of his own hideous need, knowing this could never be enough and yet that it had to. Touya made a sound against him—as sweet and soothing as it was sad. He held Keigo tighter against him, brushed a cool thumb over his warm, wet cheek. He kissed him again.

 

Weeks later, Keigo had found that he had been right. Touya was gone.