When Shouto was put into remedial courses, he had about a month of blissful, quiet weekends where he got to hang out with his classmates until the early hours of the morning, and watch weird movies with them in the common room, and get up to go running with them on Saturday mornings. He remembers that routine making him happy, until he got too comfortable with it and let himself be upset when it was taken away from him again.
Shouto’s been going home on the weekends for a while now. He wasn’t able to do this extra training while doing his remedial courses, and the time off has only made Endeavor more frustrated with Shouto’s slowed progress.
Now, instead of curling up in the common room with his homework and some friends, Shouto pushes through the dorm entrance at eleven on Sunday evenings, feeling detached and bereft and generally injured.
This week is somehow even worse, because his teacher has decided to install himself in the common room to keep an eye out for stragglers.
Without a buffer of two to three friends, Shouto has no defense when Aizawa’s gaze falls on him and the many scrapes and bruises on his visible skin. Shouto can only stand there, backpack hanging on one shoulder, and wait for Aizawa to complete the walk over to him.
“Who did you fight?” is the first question Aizawa asks.
Shouto, in his infinite wisdom, has forgotten to choose somebody to get in trouble with him. His mind, careening through possibilities and ruling people out of the speed of sound, cycles fast enough that when he opens his mouth to answer, a measured “Yoarashi” falls out without him sounding like a liar.
This is perfect. Aizawa barely even knows Yoarashi, and Yoarashi has hands bigger than Shouto’s own--not that Shouto spends an inordinate amount of time staring at Yoarashi’s hands and wondering how big they are, but Shouto knows what size the bruises on his arms are, and he can make a rough comparison.
“Yoarashi Inasa,” Aizawa states, unimpressed, “the Shiketsu student?”
“Yes,” Shouto says.
“You’re saying his wind quirk left handprints on you?”
Shouto finally feels panic catch up to him. He looks up at Aizawa, who’s staring him down with frighteningly observant intensity. Then, perhaps a moment too late, Shouto breathes and rises above it and says, calmly, “It’s called quirkless sparring.”
“ Don’t take that tone with me,” Aizawa says. “No sparring should be that forceful.”
“Sorry,” Shouto says. And because he’s a brilliant, problem-solving mastermind, he tilts his head a fraction of a degree lower, changes his tone somewhat, and concedes, “You’re right that not all of it was from...quirkless sparring, though.”
“Oh,” Aizawa says. And then, a second later, in a more horrified tone, Aizawa says, “ Oh. ”
Shouto looks up, waiting out the tense quiet. It’s always better to gauge what the other person has decided to infer before jumping in with too much protesting.
Aizawa has averted his gaze. “I see. I shouldn’t have...that’s. This is frankly none of my business.”
Shouto waits a few more beats, watching Aizawa’s face flush in...what, embarrassment?
“I will not counsel you or your classmates in any relationships,” Aizawa finally manages to get out, still resolutely avoiding Shouto’s eye, “but if you need help getting out of...an abusive situation, then…”
“It’s not abusive,” Shouto says, as a reflex, without even understanding the full scope of this conversation.
Aizawa finally brings himself to look Shouto in the eye again, concerned. “Are you sure?”
From Aizawa’s point of view, the situation is this: Shouto and Yoarashi sparred together. When Shouto said they didn’t just spar, Aizawa seems to have taken that to mean that Shouto and Yoarashi are something more than friends. Aizawa is giving Shouto a beautiful escape route from this situation, with no blame whatsoever landing on Endeavor.
There’s only one possible choice here: Shouto needs to play into this perception as much as he can. But Shouto cannot bring himself to look at his homeroom teacher and say, this was consensual. Not only is it false, it’s horrifying to even think about, plus it’s probably inappropriate for teachers and students to talk about that sort of thing anyway.
Instead, Shouto’s brain shorts out. He blurts, “We’re in love.”
Aizawa holds up both hands, a tacit surrender.
Shouto nods, refusing to be embarrassed about his completely invented romance, and steps around Aizawa to complete his walk to his room. This has been a perfect conversation, and Shouto will not regret anything that he said.
His room, as always, sits lifeless and impersonal when he returns to it. Shouto’s in a bit of an ornery mood, so it bothers him more than usual. He scowls his way through his bedtime routine, not stopping until he’s curled up under the covers of his bed.
Here, in the dark, there is nobody but him. This is a good thing, because nobody else is going to ask him about his various injuries, but it is also a bad thing, because nobody is around to distract him from getting deeper and deeper into his own head. He isn’t sure how his classmates fill the oppressive silence of their own rooms in the moments before they fall asleep, but Shouto just stares at his closet and sinks into his mattress like a heavy moss-covered stone until a single terrifying thought pops into his brain.
Aizawa is friends with Yoarashi’s homeroom teacher, and if he gets concerned, he’s going to call and ask her if she knows about Shouto and Yoarashi’s relationship.
Shouto sits upright and reaches blindly for his phone. Before his fast-acting repression instinct can calm him back down, he’s already found the group chat he shares with Midoriya, Iida, Uraraka, and Tsuyu, and he’s sent an SOS .
He stares at the sent message, feeling betrayed by his own panic response. Quickly, he sends a follow-up “it’s not an emergency actually,” but his friends are already convinced that he downplays everything for no reason, and Uraraka and Iida both react to his message with a dislike.
Five minutes later, Shouto is startled out of a semi-doze by sharp knocking on his door. Sighing, he rolls out of bed, grimacing, and staggers towards the sound, glaring at nothing when the knocking repeats itself, louder this time.
In the hallway stand Midoriya, Uraraka, and Iida, all out of breath from running. Shouto squints at them, battling the harsh hallway light. Briefly, he wonders how all three of them got here so fast. He finds himself hoping that Asui is on her way--she’s the best at fending off aggressive worry, better than Shouto. But she’s probably asleep. She goes into hibernation every night at ten-thirty like clockwork.
After too much consideration, Shouto has the realization that Iida, Midoriya, and Uraraka must have been hanging out together, having a great time studying while Shouto stared at the floor of the train by himself. It’s just another reminder that Shouto doesn’t belong, and that he barely has anything in common with them. No wonder they don’t understand him.
None of this will ever be voiced. Shouto doesn’t care enough to make his fleeting thoughts heard.
“What’s wrong?” Midoriya asks, altogether too urgent.
“I said it wasn’t an emergency,” Shouto mumbles. He rubs at his face with the back of his wrist, cranky.
“Well,” Iida says, uncomfortably clasping his hands together, “we know you were home this weekend, and we were worried.” Midoriya nods, and Uraraka furrows her eyebrows in suspicion but doesn’t say anything yet.
“‘M sorry for making you all run here.” Shouto tries to ward them off. Now that they’re here, watching him in intense concern, he feels like maybe he should just shut the door and worry about them when he’s had time to cover up all his wounds. “I’m fine. Goodnight.”
“Nuh-uh,” Uraraka says, and sticks her foot in the way of the door. “What happened to your face?”
“My mom poured boiling water on it,” Shouto says without hesitation.
Midoriya chokes on his inhale, and Iida says, voice cracking up an octave, “Todoroki!”
Uraraka, staring at him in abject horror, faintly amends, “I meant the bruise on your jaw. Do you need something? Like, maybe therapy?”
“No. Is that it?”
“Could we come in?” Iida interrupts.
Defeat. Shouto sighs, and turns around, leaving the door open behind him as he goes back to his bed and falls onto it face-first. He hears his friends enter behind him, and one of them slides the door shut, and then all three of them pile onto his bed, Midoriya plopping down by Shouto’s shoulder, Uraraka sprawling across half the bed with her head on Midoriya’s lap, and Iida perching respectfully at the end of the bed by Shouto’s feet.
“Did something happen?” Midoriya asks.
“Or did you just want company?” Uraraka asks, piggybacking on Midoriya’s question.
Shouto turns over partway, half of his vision still obscured by his pillow, and the other half blurred and warped by the scar tissue over his pupil. All three of his friends still watch him intently, all worried about him. He doesn’t think they’ll let him off if he just tells them he’s lonely, and anyway, as long as they’re here, he should ask them for advice so he’s not wasting their time.
“I did something stupid,” Shouto admits, blinking slowly.
Iida hums, concerned, and sets a light hand on the back of Shouto’s calf. Sometimes, Shouto can pretend to himself that he doesn’t like to be touched, but every cell in Shouto’s body basically begs to draw itself closer to Iida’s hand like a magnet. Maybe Shouto’s a little more rattled than he thought.
Uraraka asks, voice perfectly curious and not annoyed with Shouto’s reticence, “Would you like to tell us about it?”
Shouto huffs, and turns his face back into the pillow before he can do something like cry about this. Midoriya’s worried gaze is already too much on a good day, and his other friends all seem to have a knack for caring about him in just the right way to make Shouto feel like a pile of broken glass. Slowly, he gathers himself, and then turns his head back to look up at Midoriya and states, “Aizawa asked where I got hurt.”
Midoriya frowns, eyebrows furrowing. He knows what happened. Iida knows too. Only Uraraka doesn’t know, because Shouto hasn’t had the guts to tell her anything about his family, but given all these context clues, she’s bound to find out soon.
Shouto takes a deep breath, and declares on the exhale, “I told him that it was Yoarashi.”
“Yoarashi Inasa ?” Iida asks.
“Yes,” Shouto says evenly. He turns over further, moving fully onto his side, where he can lay an arm over his ribs. He presses fingers against a bruised rib, investigating how much it will hurt to do so. Result: it only hurts a little bit, but may not continue to hurt. Further testing needed. “I said we were sparring, but that not all the bruises were from sparring.”
He waits out the period of silence during which his friends piece together what he’s implying.
“Todoroki,” Uraraka says, slowly, “did you tell Aizawa that you fucked Yoarashi?”
“Was fucked by ,” Shouto corrects.
Uraraka emits a scream of disgust, and smacks him in the head with a pillow. It hits hard on his eardrum, and Shouto retaliates with a vague kick in her direction, but she doesn’t stop hitting him until Midoriya wrestles the pillow away from her.
“You’re so--!” Uraraka shrieks, either delighted or horrified. When Shouto doesn’t respond to her, she lessens her violent response, and the room descends into uneasy silence.
Midoriya finally asks, “Did you think...that that was going to help?”
“I don’t know, maybe!” Shouto snaps, overwhelmed by all the attention on him. “What was I supposed to say? Actually that was my dad, the Number One Hero, and he does this all the time? ”
“ Yes!” Midoriya screeches.
“Not in so many words,” Iida says, sulky, at the same time as Midoriya.
“Your dad does what ?” Uraraka asks, horrified.
“This is old news,” Shouto dismisses, and ignores Uraraka’s dawning horror. He shoots a glare at Iida. “I’m not telling Aizawa about...all that.”
“But you’ll tell him about your fabricated sex life? ” Iida asks, voice rising into a near shriek.
“Todoroki,” Uraraka says again, sounding like she’s legitimately upset, “is it your dad that beats you up?”
“I just train with him.” Shouto doesn’t want to get into that part of his life right now. Rehashing the story of his upbringing was hard enough to do once, with Midoriya, and it was even worse when he finally got up the courage to tell Iida and had to deal with Iida taking it all seriously and crying about it. Uraraka probably won’t get as upset as Iida, but she will get righteously indignant and Shouto doesn’t need that right now. What he needs is a way to pull off a fake relationship without ever letting Inasa know that it’s happening.
It should be fine, right? This will only spiral out of control if he lets it. His mother was married for a long time without anyone ever making a big deal about the way she sometimes walked around with black eyes, broken fingers, a split lip.
Shouto looks to Midoriya, who is usually the bright shining beacon of smart plans (at least, when it comes to other people). Midoriya will know what to do.
“Todoroki,” Midoriya says, steepling his hands in front of his face, “this is the worst thing you’ve ever done.”
There’s no hope. Shouto sighs, and puts his face back into the pillow.
Uraraka hisses, “Way to inspire confidence!” and there’s a sound of a brief scuffle between her and Midoriya--probably her grabbing him to muss his hair with a clenched fist, if previous altercations are anything to go off of.
“Stop fighting,” Iida says, voice raising, but he’s ignored. “You two! Stop!”
Midoriya yelps, and his responding attack rocks the mattress around until one of them wins. Shouto doesn’t care to check, because he’s sure it’s Uraraka.
“So,” Midoriya finally tries, after he’s caught his breath, “do you want us to...tell people that you two are dating?”
“How would that help?” Iida asks.
“That’s just going to increase the risk that Yoarashi hears about this,” Uraraka points out.
“What do you think, ‘Roki?” Uraraka prods. She pokes Shouto’s side, light enough that she doesn’t aggravate his bruises but enough to get his attention.
With another defeated grunt, Shouto comes up for air, because it’s hard to breathe into a pillow. “I don’t know. Could you guys just keep it a secret for now?”
“You can’t just tell Aizawa the truth?” Iida asks.
“No,” Shouto says vehemently, and is surprised when Midoriya says the same word at the same time as him, with just as much conviction. Maybe Midoriya understands more than Iida and Uraraka do. He looks up at Midoriya, and Midoriya is already looking back at him, worrying his lip with his teeth and visibly churning through thoughts like a hydroelectric dam.
Uraraka and Iida watch the two of them, neither of them particularly pleased.
Finally, Uraraka offers, tentative, “Thank you for telling us.”
Her genuine expression comforts Shouto, a little bit. Less comforting is the smile she gives him, forced through a cloud of doubt.
“Who else would I tell?” Shouto asks.
The question is a bleak one. Iida, Uraraka, and Midoriya watch him with similar uncomfortable stares, and Shouto wonders why none of them find his statement particularly funny.
The next time Shouto comes back to campus after a few nights at home, his journey back up to his room is uninterrupted, and he crawls into bed like a pathetic little child at eleven-thirty, eyes stinging with tears unshed because he feels lonely, and thus feels stupid for being lonely.
But when he gets up to go to class the next morning, barely able to move against the feeling of sore muscles, Iida catches him in the hallway of the dorm and practically drags Shouto to Recovery Girl, one hand supporting Shouto’s elbow when Shouto has a hard time on the stairs.
He and Iida don’t talk. Iida walks, lips pursed, and Shouto just focuses on his steps and the sensation of his overused muscles shaking under his weight, and then the soft, grounding sensation of Iida’s hand on his arm.
Recovery Girl is not pleased to see Shouto, to say the least. “This weekend was strictly for rest,” she tells him, with steel-cold eyes.
Shouto, over the hum of pain in his ears, wonders what his face must look like right now. It’s not every day that he gets caught with extraneous injuries, and it’s even rarer that somebody else provides him with their own explanation of what happened. Famously, he has resting “if I cared even a little bit I would wish you dead” face, and that rarely changes.
But Iida had known to look out for Shouto this morning, and hadn’t forced him to talk, and had kept Shouto calm with a hand on his arm. So Shouto, off-balance, has to mindfully smooth his expression out and bring it back down to placid disinterest.
“What?” Shouto finally responds, like he doesn’t know exactly how this next day will go. Recovery Girl will scold him for overworking himself, Shouto will take the punishment without apologizing for his alleged actions, Aizawa will make a phone call to Shouto’s father, Endeavor will leave a threatening voicemail and take it out on Shouto next weekend, Aizawa will forget about this incident, Shouto will soldier on because if he stops moving forward he’ll crash.
“You heard me,” Recovery Girl states, arms folded. “I told you specifically not to spar with your classmates outside of school until your strain injury heals fully.”
“I forgot,” Shouto says.
She sighs, and taps the side of his head. Her swat is light and doesn’t hurt at all, but it’s only out of years of practice that he manages to clamp down on his reflex to throw ice at anything that approaches his blind spot.
“Your class is so reckless,” she sighs. She steps away to type something into her computer, jabbing at the keys with one hand, likely documenting Shouto’s visit. “I’ll get you all ankle monitors if it kills me.” She finishes her lecture with, “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Shouto narrows his eyes, as if in thought. He knows exactly what big bruises are splattered across his ribs, and he’s aware of the long, not-as-bad-as-it-looks scrape across his back from the sharp edge of the rowing machine in his father’s training room. Neither of those are incriminating on their own, he thinks. Whenever he moves too gingerly around his classmates, someone (usually Bakugou, actually) shouts at him to stop being lazy and get a move on. Jirou has poked fun at him for moving like an old man. It would be nice to avoid getting shouted at more than he has to, even if it is funny to make people (usually Bakugou, again) mad at him.
Halfway to opening his mouth, he remembers his upper right arm and the deep bruises impressed into his bicep, one of them a deep crescent like the heel of an enormous palm pressing into it, smaller dots representing fingertips digging into the soft skin of Shouto’s inner arm. This is carefully covered by the sleeves of his uniform right now, but it’ll be revealed if he takes his shirt off to show her the extent of his other injuries.
He shakes his head. “Just the one lucky hit.”
Recovery Girl clicks her tongue, but she believes him.
After she tries to heal him, though, all that trust evaporates immediately. Recovery Girl frowns and steps back, fixing Shouto with a stern glare.
She says, slowly and terrifyingly, “That took much more energy from you than it should have.”
Shouto blinks. He feels like he should be afraid of what’s going to happen next, but it’s hard to express that fear over the yawn that seizes him.
“When I asked you if you were hurt elsewhere, did you lie to me?”
The question is loaded. Recovery Girl has always trusted Shouto more than some of his other classmates, for better or for worse.
( For better , says Shouto’s sister’s voice in his head. He’s trying to be better. Nobody else can fill All Might’s spot .)
( For worse, says Shouto’s best friend’s voice in his head. You shouldn’t have to live like this. )
“I didn’t lie,” Shouto lies.
“Hmm,” Recovery Girl hums. “So we’ll do this the hard way.”
Before he can ask her what this means, or even backpedal a little bit on his words, she orders, “Take off your jacket, please.”
Spine straightening, Shouto squashes the reflex to let his face betray worry. Across the room, he sees Iida in one of the plastic chairs by the door, waiting for him, observing with a watchful eye. Upon meeting Shouto’s gaze, Iida waves sheepishly, and averts his eyes again.
Maybe the handprint has faded, with the first round of healing that Recovery Girl did. Maybe it won’t be recognizable anymore.
“Now, please,” Recovery Girl orders.
Shouto, fingers fumbling, pulls his arms out of the sleeves of his jacket and then folds the garment over one arm, now shivering a little in the short-sleeved dress shirt he’s wearing underneath. He stares straight ahead, letting Recovery Girl push the left sleeve of his shirt up, and remains perfectly still when she takes hold of his arm and turns it, just slightly, to reveal what must be the now even-smaller bruises, dots that echo the pressure of harsh fingers.
Recovery Girl, somber, looks back up at Shouto’s face, but he ignores her, staring at the wall behind her head. This’ll be over soon. Maybe she’ll try to get him to admit that someone hurt him, and he’ll just say it’s Yoarashi again. There’s no way Recovery Girl knows any of the Shiketsu students by name, anyway.
“Todoroki,” she says, gently, “is someone hurting you?”
The worst part is that it sounds like she cares. This isn’t Fuyumi, blaming herself for not intervening or for not being strong enough to protect Shouto. This isn’t Midoriya or Iida, brewing in quiet, desperate, righteous fury. This is just some random adult, who sees hundreds of kids every day with varying injuries, and she’s looking at Shouto like he’s something important.
The feeling of weakness that stabs into his chest is unfamiliar. Shouto has never wanted to crack like this. He’s never felt like he could pitch forward and bury his face in an adult’s shoulder and ask them to fix everything for him. Or, at least, he hasn’t since…
“Excuse me,” Iida says, clearing his throat and saving both Shouto’s composure and possibly Endeavor’s entire career, and by extension the fate of the entire country, “Todoroki and I have class very soon. Would it be possible for him to come back later if there’s still more to be done? He’s not hurt very badly, is he?”
Recovery Girl checks her wristwatch, and sighs, and the moment breaks. Shouto shakes his head when she’s looking at him again, and she accepts this noncommittal response to a very serious question. “Come back if you need to rest during the day,” she says, and steps away from the cot.
Shouto nods, and pulls his jacket on, and all but flees for the door, drawing Iida after him.
Breaking into the hallway takes immense pressure off of Shouto’s shoulders, and he lets out a long-stale breath as Recovery Girl’s office fades into the distance. When he can find his words again, he mutters, “Thanks,” to Iida.
Iida, hands gripping the straps of his backpack, not exhibiting his normal exuberant gestures, just says, “Of course,” and that’s the extent of the words that he and Shouto trade.
Weakness, now embedded in Shouto’s ribs, makes him wish that Iida would reach out and hold onto his arm again. But this time, Iida keeps his hands to himself.
Of course, as is Shouto’s luck, getting away from Recovery Girl’s clutches turns out to be more complicated than that. Shouto sits through homeroom feeling like a bug pinned under Aizawa’s occasional pointed stares, and isn’t surprised when Aizawa asks him to stay behind when the bell rings.
As his classmates file out of the room, a couple of them shoot Shouto curious or nervous glances. Kaminari grimaces at him, commiserating with him because he’s been held back more than a few times to be lectured. Harder to ignore is when Midoriya blinks big, apprehensive eyes at Shouto as he drifts out of the classroom arm-in-arm with Uraraka.
Shouto remembers Midoriya’s emphatic “no” when Iida suggested telling Aizawa the truth. This memory doesn’t bring Shouto any peace of mind at all.
When there’s no one around to overhear, Aizawa folds his hands together and says, “Recovery Girl let me know about what she saw this morning.”
Shouto keeps his expression distant, uninvested in the conversational topic. He signals neither recognition nor disagreement.
“Was this you...sparring with Yoarashi again?” Aizawa asks him, in a weird, gentle, please-don’t-run-from-the-room-crying sort of tone that he uses with people who are two hundred times more emotionally volatile than Shouto, like Aizawa’s daughter, or maybe Aoyama.
Shouto bristles at the implication that he is in any way emotionally similar to Eri. He can’t make himself answer Aizawa directly, though, because any answer he gives is just going to dig himself deeper into the lie that has become his life.
He crosses his arms over his chest.
Aizawa sighs, and rubs his eyes. “Todoroki. I’m not asking because you’ll get in trouble. I want you to be safe.”
“It’s just training,” Shouto says, staring Aizawa down. “Villains aren’t going to take it easy on me in real life.”
Those are partially words that Aizawa has said to his class, but they’re also words that have been shouted at Shouto over roaring flames and boiling heat for more than a decade now. Shouto knows that he’s right like he knows the sun comes up in the morning.
“There’s a difference between training that’s going to help you, and training that’s only an excuse for someone to hurt you.” Aizawa holds up his own arm and gestures to it vaguely, which is probably a reference to the fingerprints that are set into Todoroki’s arm. “You don’t deserve this. It makes it worse that this is coming from someone who is supposed to care about your well-being.”
Shouto shouldn’t have said Yoarashi was his boyfriend. He’s beginning to suspect that Aizawa, as a wild outlier, thinks that violence from one boyfriend to another is just as bad as violence from father to son.
“Okay,” Shouto says, even though he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Aizawa at all, and he’s sure Aizawa can tell. “Am I dismissed?”
Aizawa sighs, and gestures vaguely at the door, and Shouto leaves with calm, measured steps on the tile. The conversation isn’t brought up again that week, and slowly, Shouto becomes able to ignore the occasional concerned glances that Aizawa bestows on him.
Sunday mornings at home are a slow, soft calm before the storm. This morning, the house, as always, is silent save for Fuyumi’s footsteps padding down the hall occasionally, because his father has late patrols on Saturday nights and sleeps in until the early afternoon. Shouto has taken to tucking himself into the most hidden corner of his room, the one that’s mostly obscured by the wardrobe, and working as efficiently as possible through his homework.
Sometimes he puts on a soft playlist, perhaps the gentle one that Asui had made for him to try and bring him down from his shakiest days. Today, he sits in silence, listening to the rustle of trees outside and the occasional car whooshing past on the street. His phone lies forgotten on his bed. He isn’t much in the mood to talk to anyone right now.
Someone, though, seems intent to talk to him. Shouto blinks out of a haze of history homework and hears his phone vibrating softly across the room, over and over and over and over. Frowning, he drags himself up to his feet, retrieving the phone and then settling back into his safe corner with his prize.
Every notification on his screen comes from Yoarashi.
Shouto’s chest, always hollow with grim acceptance, experiences a brief flare of fear rushing through it.
From: Maybe: Yoarashi Inasa
WHY is ms joke asking me about you
12:50--Missed call from Maybe: Yoarashi Inasa
12:51--Missed call from Maybe: Yoarashi Inasa
12:52--Missed call from Maybe: Yoarashi Inasa
PICK UP YOUR PHONE. ARE WE DATING??
Shouto squints at his screen, unsure how or why he should respond. He doesn’t think he’s answered texts from Yoarashi more than once, but leaving his messages read and not responded to might do more harm than good in this situation.
To: Maybe: Yoarashi Inasa
No, I don’t think so.
Do you want to be?
That should be fine. Shouto’s focus turns back to his homework.
Almost immediately after putting his phone back down on the floor, it begins buzzing again, incessant. With an annoyed motion, he silences the device and then returns to his essay. It needs to be done within the next hour, because he’ll be too sore to do it tomorrow, and Endeavor will be waking up soon.
He returns to the dorms late that night, every darkening bruise on his body making him feel like a dumb, open wound. A couple of his classmates have taken over the kitchen; Kaminari and Sero sitting on the counter, Kirishima slowly chopping vegetables, Bakugou and Ashido two seconds from a physical altercation. Other than them, their cheer grating on Shouto’s tired ears, the common room sits empty. That means, at least, that there’s nobody present who knows Shouto well enough to tell something is wrong.
Some un-hero-like part of him aches for being able to spend his weekends in comfortable, friendly company, making soup with his friends. But that’s not his life, regardless of how much he wants it to be.
Shouto’s initial entrance goes unnoticed, but his luck doesn’t hold. When he tries to untie his shoes, his two sprained fingers make him jerk just a little with a surprise flash of pain, and his backpack slips off his shoulder and hits the ground with a loud thud, which alerts the group in the kitchen to his presence.
“Me too,” Kaminari laughs, which Shouto realizes too-late is directed his way. When Shouto looks over, most of the kitchen group is watching him amusedly, alerted by Kaminari’s endearing laugh.
“Oh, there you are,” Bakugou says, in a way that is definitely not friendly, and slams the fridge shut.
Shouto, whose entire being has been scraped down like sandpaper this weekend, freezes stock-still at the loud noise, just for a moment. He has to jolt himself back into motion to scoop up his backpack and throw it back over his shoulder, which had been dislocated earlier but popped back into place by his father’s practiced hands.
“You missed me?” he asks, with an amount of nonchalance that he hopes is believable.
Bakugou glares. “Tell Baldy to stop blowing up my phone.”
“Baldy?” Shouto asks, still lost.
“Your fucking boyfriend ,” Bakugou snaps. “From remedial.”
Shouto blinks, once, then twice. He remembers how he turned off his phone hours ago, and remembers that he didn’t explain a single thing to Yoarashi.
This is bad.
“Yoarashi and I are just friends,” Shouto says quietly. He avoids the confused, delighted, curious looks from the rest of Bakugou’s friends, and continues, just as calmly, “If you wanted to know if I was single you could’ve just asked.”
Ashido muffles a scream of laughter into Kirishima’s back, and Kaminari similarly uses Sero as a shield for his own outburst.
“I’m going to gut you like a fish,” Bakugou says, but he doesn’t have anything else to slam or punch or break without crossing the room, so his threat remains unpunctuated.
Shouto rolls his eyes, just enough to make Bakugou mad. As Bakugou’s hands pop with tiny explosions, Shouto sets his shoes inside an empty cubby and breathes carefully around the bruised ribs that protest when he bends at the waist.
“Todoroki, are you guys talking?” Ashido asks, emerging from her spot behind Kirishima. “You and Yoarashi?”
Still hovering awkwardly in the entryway, Shouto shakes his head and says honestly, “We haven’t really talked since we got our provisional licenses.”
“He seems nice,” Kirishima says.
“Absolute unit!” Kaminari adds.
“You two would be cute together!” Ashido encourages.
A deer in headlights, Shouto just shrugs noncommittally. None of his classmates seem particularly surprised by this false development, and Shouto’s not sure how to feel about that. Do they think he’s like them? Do they think he’s someone who could ever have a normal relationship like that? Do they think that anyone would ever look at Shouto and see him as something more than just a convenient tool to--?
This is a bad train of thought, and it doesn’t align with Shouto’s placid demeanor, so he squashes it down.
When Shouto doesn’t offer much more of a response, Sero, without consulting with the others, asks, “Do you wanna join us?”
Shouto wants to. He wants to, he wants to.
He’s surprised by how strong the urge is to accept. Aside from Bakugou, he doesn’t know them very well. And it wouldn’t be smart, anyway--the bruises haven’t developed all the way, so he doesn’t know how bad they’ll be, and his classmates aren’t stupid enough to miss something like the burn that’s singed across one of his forearms.
“Oh, dude, yeah, you should!” Kirishima gushes. “You can help sautee these veggies, Bakugou’s quirk is no good at that--”
“Eh?” Bakugou snaps, rounding on Kirishima.
Rolling his eyes, Kaminari scoots over on the counter and pats a spot, indicating it for Shouto to come join them.
Shouto, like a moth to a porch light, walks over to them, welcoming the warmth on his face from the force of his classmates’ welcoming grins. If they notice something wrong with his fingers, or his shoulder, they won’t say anything. And the feeling of laughter on his ears will be worth it, either way.
When Shouto turns his phone back on, he finds five missed calls, all predictably from Yoarashi. There are several texts, too, but Shouto’s exhausted eyes glaze over when he thinks about reading all of them. Yoarashi’s general tone seems to be what the fuck kind of question is that , and Shouto realizes with a sinking feeling that his texts earlier hadn’t helped his situation in the slightest.
To: Maybe: Yoarashi Inasa
Sorry, I meant that as a joke. My phone died.
I didn’t mean to ignore you.
Immediately, his phone screen darkens with an incoming call from Yoarashi. Shouto pauses just a moment to raise his eyes to the ceiling, seeking strength and courage from some higher power, and then he lets out a deep exhale and answers the phone with an unaffected, “Hey.”
“Hello, Todoroki,” says Yoarashi, sounding just shy of furious.
“Hey,” Shouto says again. He sits down on the edge of his bed and then flops all the way onto his back. He should have thought of a strategy before jumping feet-first into this conversation, but now he’s here and he can’t hang up.
“Today, Ms. Joke asked me how long you and I have been seeing each other,” Yoarashi says slowly, uncharacteristically subdued, “which confused me, because we haven’t spoken to each other in about a month.”
“That’s strange,” Shouto says.
“And it seems like--” Yoarashi stumbles over the rest of whatever he was saying, and then cuts himself off to ask, incredulous, “Did you not know anything about this either?”
Shouto ignores this question and poses one of his own. “How would we be in a relationship without you knowing about it?”
“See, that’s what I said!” Yoarashi exclaims, relieved. “But Camie offered the possibility that perhaps we have been in one but I have just been neglecting you because you’re...reserved. And she said you have, quote, 'less emotional intelligence than the average eight-year-old,’ so it was entirely possible that you just didn’t communicate your intentions clearly--”
“That’s not very nice.” Shouto furrows his brow in displeasure. This conversation has already gone on for far too long. Shouto wonders why he attracts the attention of people who are preternaturally disposed to using far too many words when only a few would suffice.
“--And in that case--oh! I apologize on her behalf!”
“It’s fine,” Shouto says. He wishes he hadn’t chosen someone so nice to gaslight. “Listen, it’s late, and we have class in the morning.”
“Right! I must be keeping you up, how inconsiderate of me.” Carrying himself on pure bravado like always, Yoarashi doesn’t even hesitate before stating, “I liked getting to know you during our remedial courses, and it was good to hear from you again, even under such confusing circumstances. Will you respond to our group chat more often?”
Good to hear from him again? Shouto’s the most boring creature on the planet. He’s exhausted, and a little bemused by this, but he still says, “Uh, sure.”
“Alright. Excellent! Well…” Yoarashi, awkward for only a moment, recovers and says, “Goodnight, Todoroki!”
“Goodnight,” Shouto says. The end of the call leaves a strange, hopeful note singing behind his ribs. He’s unsure how he’d managed that confrontation without Yoarashi ending up screaming at him in anger, but it feels nice. Unfamiliar, in a way that leaves strange flutterings of anticipation in his stomach.
That’s a problem for another day. Shouto squashes his feelings and turns over, intent to fall asleep without even changing his clothes.
Shouto was foolish to think that Aizawa wouldn’t ask further questions about this entire situation. Even if neither of them want to have any sort of discussion about Shouto’s supposed romantic relationship, Shouto has no hope of flying under the radar when his hero costume rips during practical training and reveals the mottled bruising on his ribcage. Shouto knows exactly what it looks like, because this morning, sitting on his bed for far too long in thought, he’d stared at the bruises in the mirror, wondering why he isn’t getting any better at close-quarters combat.
The bruises are impossible to miss. And sure enough, when Shouto leaves the locker room to try and make a break for the dorm, Aizawa stands in his way, blocking the path to freedom. The look on his face--of abject disappointment--is instantly recognizable.
Midoriya, at Shouto’s side, immediately switches his hero mode on, without sparing Shouto a glance. It’s second nature to Midoriya to bodily jump to people’s defense, but Shouto hasn’t ever been on this end of things--he’s never been the one that Midoriya steps in front of.
Now, he sees Midoriya’s shoulders pin back, his posture straighten with defiance, and understands why Midoriya makes people feel safe.
“Midoriya,” Aizawa says, his voice burdened with fatigue, “I need to speak with Todoroki.”
Midoriya’s stance doesn’t shift. He doesn’t submit to the full force of Aizawa’s glare, though Shouto’s sure he wants to.
“Is he in trouble?” Midoriya demands. His tone is--something feels wrong . Though Shouto was already apprehensive of whatever Aizawa would have to say to him, Midoriya’s fear only makes Shouto feel more anxious. It means Shouto’s right to be distrustful. It means he’s not crazy.
Aizawa’s sigh is familiar and grating at the same time, laden with all the words he doesn’t have the energy to say. “Why would he be? I just need to have a conversation with him.”
Against all odds, Midoriya’s hackles find a way to raise even higher. “It’s not his fault! We were sparring this weekend, and--”
“No, we weren’t,” Shouto hears himself say, without even thinking about it. Midoriya’s first instinct has always been to throw himself down on the railroad tracks for anyone in his vicinity, but Shouto’s not going to let his friend do it for him.
At Shouto’s interruption, Aizawa’s severe gaze turns onto him instead of Midoriya. After a quiet moment of thought, Aizawa nods and looks back to Midoriya, unmoved. “That’s correct. Todoroki wasn’t on campus this weekend. Do you have any more falsehoods to offer?”
Seeming to feel his options run out, Midoriya has clenched his hands into shaking fists at his sides. “I-- please, Sensei, I shouldn’t have lied, but it’s not his fault. He shouldn’t be in trouble.”
“Midoriya,” Shouto says, under his breath, “it’s okay.”
“I already said he’s not in trouble, problem child.” Aizawa points over his shoulder, indicating to Shouto that enough stalling has occurred. “I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”
Shouto breathes over the creaky feeling of his cracked ribs, and follows Aizawa to the UA administration building. Midoriya doesn’t move, and when Shouto turns his head to look back, his friend is still in the same spot, staring after him.
Weird, tense conversations with Aizawa have almost become a routine for Shouto lately. This time, though, something feels different. The confrontation doesn’t have the awkward air of Aizawa being afraid to learn anything about Shouto’s romantic exploits. It feels more serious, and by extension, more dangerous.
For one, Present Mic is already in the conference room when Aizawa pushes the door open, inviting Shouto to walk in first.
When Shouto sees him, he balks, hesitating at the threshold. Present Mic, a forced, hero-like smile on his face, greets, “Hey, Todoroki. How’s it going?”
Shouto swallows hard, and then commits himself to his fate and walks forward again. “Fine.”
Aizawa closes the door behind him.
With increasing anxiety, Shouto sits at an empty seat. Three of them have been pulled out into a kind of triangle, likely in anticipation for their chat. He sits at the one that faces the door, and then regrets not choosing the one that would give him the easiest route of exit if he needs it.
Aizawa sits between him and the door. Shouto tries not to let it feel like he’s being sealed into a crypt.
Present Mic, diplomatic as always, says, “Alright. I’m sure you know why you’re here.” He clears his throat, and spares a glance to Aizawa before continuing, “At UA, we want to make sure that our students are safe. From all kinds of threats.”
“Okay…?” Shouto says. He refuses to make this any easier for either of his teachers.
Taking a deep breath, Present Mic continues on. “Aizawa and Recovery Girl have noticed a bit of a pattern. And a couple of your classmates have mentioned some things to us, too.”
Shouto bites down on the reflexive, “ Who?” Iida and Uraraka are likely responsible. If not them, then one of Bakugou’s friends, who might’ve seen one of Shouo’s injuries last weekend. Shouto, in his shameful need to be near other people, has gotten too lazy about keeping his weakness hidden from others.
Instead of asking a question that he could figure out the answer to on his own, Shouto says, “This isn’t the big deal you think it is.”
“Actually, it is,” Present Mic contradicts. “And the disregard for your own health means that we’ve let this go on for too long.”
That stops Shouto for a second. First, his brain hits him with a familiar panic of being wrong in front of teachers, but then it reassures him that he’s in the right here. It’s good for a hero to value their health below that of others. That’s Aizawa’s whole fucking identity.
Having stabilized himself again, Shouto just stares at Present Mic, trying to communicate his disbelief through his gaze.
Eyes heavy with a new exhaustion, Present Mic sighs and continues, tone softening, “Kiddo, please trust me on this one. What’s happening to you isn’t acceptable. I know that you think it’s just training, but letting your partner hurt you like that isn’t okay. Yoarashi hasn’t shown any similar injuries, and that tells us that whatever kind of sparring you’re doing, it isn’t equal at all.”
Aizawa picks up the conversation, just as smoothly as if Present Mic was physically handing him the baton. “I’m going to tell Ms. Joke right now what’s going on,” Aizawa says. “She’ll know how to investigate without him retaliating against you. You can stay on campus once she tells him, so you’ll be safe.”
Shouto, overcome with terror, sits up straight and begs, “No.”
“You’re seriously injured, and you have been several times,” Aizawa says.
“It would be an issue if he hurt you once , Todoroki.” Present Mic speaks like Shouto is something easily spooked, something who might blow up if he’s not handled gently. “We should have intervened the first time this happened.”
“He’s,” Shouto stammers, unsure where to even start defending Yoarashi from this. He ends up saying lamely, “It’s not what you think.”
His mind conjures the possibility of Endeavor getting the phone call that Shouto has to stay on campus because his alleged boyfriend has been kicking the shit out of him. No possible iteration of that conversation ends with Shouto being allowed to leave the house ever again.
His mind also conjures the image of Yoarashi being sat down by Shiketsu’s administration because he’s allegedly been beating up a random hero student who Yoarashi has only had a single conversation with since their remedial course ended. That’s not ideal either.
Aizawa presses a button on his phone. Shouto can see from here that he’s starting a call, almost definitely to Ms. Joke.
No, Shouto’s mind screams. Over the top of his logical reasoning ( don’t let Yoarashi’s reputation be destroyed because you can’t admit you lied) is sheer fear and emotion ( don’t let Ms. Joke know you lied about having a boyfriend ), but both of them propel him to the same action.
He reaches out and grabs Aizawa’s wrist and says, “It wasn’t him.”
Aizawa stops lifting the phone to his ear. He clicks the ‘end call’ button and then turns his head, slowly and agonizingly, towards Shouto.
“What?” Aizawa asks, dangerously quiet.
Shouto instinctively lets go of Aizawa but otherwise holds his ground, forming his spine into cold steel and expending all his energy on not curling away from Aizawa’s furious gaze.
“It wasn’t Yoarashi,” he makes himself say, and he hears Present Mic make a weird half-noise, an aborted attempt to say something.
If anything, Aizawa’s tone gets even frostier. “What?”
With this kind of tone, Shouto’s brain has already started trying to make him decide how he’s going to attack. It spins itself into action faster than he can keep up with it. By the time he recognizes that his hands are unsteady and color has risen in his face like steam in a kettle, Present Mic has already leaned closer to him, trying to reach out with some kind of gentleness to counteract Aizawa’s...non-gentleness.
Shouto cringes out of the way, avoiding the hand that was set to land on his shoulder. It’s too late to bring himself down from seeing the small conference room as a trap, and Present Mic has been identified as a threat along with Aizawa, who is still glaring.
There are no windows. Aizawa’s chair is situated so that he could probably catch Shouto before Shouto could make it out the door.
Aizawa’s gaze is intense, heavy, unforgiving as he asks, “Who did that to you?”
“Sh--Eraserhead, let’s go a little easy on him, yeah?”
“I don’t like being lied to,” Aizawa says, not looking away from Shouto. “What on earth would possess you to frame your own boyfriend for something like this?”
“He isn’t,” Shouto manages to say, over the suffocating blanket of fear that’s pinning him to his chair, even though it makes Aizawa look even angrier. “He isn’t my.”
Both of his teachers stare at him, dumbfounded.
“You’re kidding me,” Aizawa finally says.
“Hey,” Present Mic interjects, his tone deceptively light, “maybe we should have this conversation when you’re a little less…”
Aizawa shakes his head, barely listening. “We’re having this conversation now.”
“You’re coming on a little strong, is all.”
“My apologies,” Aizawa says, in an uncharacteristically biting tone, “for thinking that Todoroki was different from the rest of his irresponsible classmates.”
“I am,” Shouto interjects. (You live in a different world from them.) “I am different from them.”
His voice doesn’t sound like his own. Maybe he’s just as curt as he is usually, but he’s out of breath. With effort, he draws in a near-normal inhale, grounding himself in it.
“You’re right,” Aizawa says.
Aizawa continues, staring at him dead-on, “I’ve never had anyone else in your class tell me such an insane lie.” Aizawa holds up his phone again, like he’s going to press the button to call Ms. Joke, and says, “Tell us what’s going on, and what possessed you to accuse a friend of habitually injuring you.”
Again, the threat looms of Yoarashi finding out about any more of this. Shouto says, a little too desperate to be comfortable, “I can’t tell you.”
“You could be facing many, many detentions for unauthorized training outside of UA,” is the next tactic that Present Mic tries, “as you only appear injured after leaving UA grounds for a couple of days.”
Present Mic adds, “You might be benched from practical training.”
Shouto shrugs. He’ll still be able to train on his own, and train at home.
With a calculating gaze, Present Mic finishes the threat with, “If we decide this is serious enough, you could even be looking at suspension.”
That hits its mark. Shouto’s shoulders stiffen, betraying his nerves before he can try to act otherwise. Suspension means missed classes, marks on his record, and it might mean getting sent home while in serious trouble.
He isn’t worried about his record. Several of his classmates have been suspended for various stupid reasons. No, Shouto’s worried about someone who can see his record. He’s worried about losing a competitive edge in the hero world without extra training. He’s worried about hero society collapsing because Shouto is too selfish to let the Number One Hero keep doing his job.
Shouto is backed into a corner, with nobody to blame but himself.
“Todoroki,” Aizawa says, “I am going to ask you two questions that you need to answer. Please trust me to handle your responses with respect.”
Shouto, uncomfortable with the serious tone of his teacher’s voice, just nods and stares vacantly past the side of Aizawa’s head.
“Did you lie to protect the person who did this to you?”
Shouto nods again.
“Okay. I figured. Is that person your father?”
Shouto stops breathing.
He should take the suspension and deal with the consequences. At the very least, he should lie and say an emphatic no, and he should get angry at Aizawa for even suspecting such a thing. Ten years of learning the hard way how to be the correct kind of son, and none of that knowledge pays off in this exact moment when Shouto needs to use it. He needs to act. He needs to lie. He needs to--
Shouto’s stomach hurts, from all of the things that he’s holding in, from all of the things he’s trying to juggle. He knows that most of his classmates don’t go through life constantly strategizing, hiding, sneaking around the edges of normal interaction. If they do, they do it much better than Shouto does, because they still manage to make friends correctly, and to keep their bruises hidden, and to prevent ending up in terrifying confrontations with teachers.
(They live in a different world than you.)
Present Mic says softly, almost soothing enough to pull Shouto off of the ledge he’s on, “Kid, we can’t help you unless you answer us.”
Shouto presses his teeth together, clenching them tight against everything he wants to say. His lungs fill with smoke, burning acrid all the way up into his sinuses.
Aizawa and Present Mic wait him out, intently watching as Shouto stomps out the fire in his gut. After a horrible, silent minute or so, Shouto unclenches his jaw and says, his voice hardly audible, “Why does it matter to you?” His fingers curl into the sides of his chair, against unforgiving plastic. “I thought if--if I said it was Yoarashi you wouldn’t care so much, but--”
“Why wouldn’t we care?” Present Mic asks. He’s clearly the more empathetic one of the two, judging by how he keeps wanting to reach out to Shouto, keeps trying to talk him down, and has softened his voice to something gentle and kind. It makes him dangerous. At least Shouto can tell that Aizawa’s transparently furious with him.
Everything tastes like smoke and ash. It tastes like a hot hand crushing his wrist in a bruising grip. It tastes like hot water to the face.
They’re waiting for a response. Shouto straightens his spine against the back of the chair while keeping his chin tucked low, wishing he could think of a way to fight his way out of this corner without hurting either of his teachers, but he can’t. He can only break under pressure and tell the truth.
“It’s normal,” he mutters. “For people like that to hurt each other.”
Aizawa takes a sharp breath in, prepared to refute that.
Shouto shakes his head roughly, and doesn’t let Aizawa talk down to him like Shouto doesn’t understand. “It’s not--It’s not good. But it’s normal . Nobody asks questions about it if you’re in love with the person who did it.”
“Todoroki,” Aizawa says, his strong tone cutting off whatever platitude Present Mic is about to offer, “is your mother safe?”
Automatically, Shouto reaches up halfway to his face, but he clenches his hand into a tight fist before he can give anything away for certain. His fingernails are ragged, and bite at the soft skin of the center of his palm.
He wonders what would happen if he told them everything. Would they think he was lying again, if he told them he remembers his big brother burning alive, screaming for relief from the quirk Endeavor cursed him with, because Endeavor only cares about his legacy and nothing else?
“She’s in a hospital,” he mumbles. “She’s been there for a long time. So she can get better.”
“What the hell,” he thinks he hears Present Mic whisper in English, as if Shouto won’t recognize the common curse. Switching smoothly back to Japanese, Present Mic pushes his chair back and stands, saying, “I’m going to talk to Nedzu about allowing you to stay on campus full-time until we can figure something else out. Alright?”
Endeavor would never allow that. Worse, if it proceeded without his permission, Endeavor’s only target now is Fuyumi, who told Shouto not to spread this kind of family business around.
Shouto’s throat closes around the next words he chooses, but he forces them out anyway. “Don’t--! You don’t have to do that, he’ll only get angry. It’s not worth it.”
When he finally finds it in himself to focus his eyes on Present Mic’s face, he finds that Present Mic’s face has gone solemn, firm, and horribly sad. For the first time, he looks like a normal person, instead of a plastic product with a moral code.
“We’ll keep you safe, Todoroki,” Present Mic promises, and then pushes out of the conference room without hesitating again.
Shouto launches out of his chair, hoping to catch Aizawa off-guard and hoping to snatch the back of Present Mic’s jacket to yank him backwards. It’s a naive hope, though, because Aizawa’s never been caught off-guard by anything in the time that Shouto’s known him, and Aizawa intercepts him with a steel arm around the front of his ribs and throws him bodily back towards his chair, preventing his tackle.
“He can’t--” Shouto tries to say, even though the wind has been knocked out of him twice in the span of two seconds. His voice is a wheeze that sounds, even to his ears, embarrassingly needy. “It’s not safe for Japan. He’s the Number One, you can’t just--”
“You’re overthinking this,” Aizawa tells him. His calm, icy, bored logic is normally so comforting to Shouto; a soothing constant on the rare occasion that Shouto’s brain spins itself into catastrophe. Today, Aizawa’s tone rubs Shouto the wrong way--it’s so condescending . For a fleeting moment, Shouto understands why Aizawa’s lectures make Bakugou curl his shoulders like he’s hearing nails on a chalkboard. “Don’t you think the Number One should be focused on hero work, instead of wasting his time terrorizing a hero student who would succeed without any extra ‘training’?”
“He’s better than he was.” Shouto is well aware that he’s parroting his sister’s words.
Aizawa regards him calmly. “I don’t care.”
“You--!” Shouto exclaims, fury rising up his chest and into his cheeks, where it burns hot and cold. He’s already lost the upper hand, because he’s shown that this is affecting him, but Aizawa’s hard to pretend in front of.
Aizawa’s eyes narrow in the same sort of anger. “You lied about what was going on because you knew you would face this kind of consequence. I understand that that’s scary to you. But nothing, nothing is more important to me than making sure that my students are safe. If your father wants to be a hero, he’ll have to do it without exercising tyranny over his own family from now on.”
There are a thousand details to ask about, and all of them scuttle into Shouto’s brain at once, a plague of locusts. Fuyumi needs a new place to stay. His mother could be a target as well, if Endeavor finds out about all this. Shouto’s internship is at his father’s agency, and Shouto’s documents and passport are all in the house. It’s too much--all of the thoughts, frightening in their own special ways, build up into an immovable wall and shove Shouto’s brain off-kilter until he realizes he’s only staring blankly ahead at Aizawa, not a single one of his thoughts able to make their way out of his mouth.
Trying to scrape his composure back together, Shouto crosses his arms over his chest. “It sounds like I don’t have a choice either way.”
“This is an emergency measure that’ll be in effect until we can make sure you’re safe, so not really,” Aizawa agrees, not budging on the issue despite Shouto’s dark glare. “You can choose whether or not to trust me, though. The more communication we have, the easier this will be.”
Aizawa will proceed with or without Shouto’s trust, but Aizawa does make a point that Shouto hasn’t directly considered. Shouto knows that Aizawa and Present Mic and Nedzu are trained heroes, but heroes have never known how to handle this sort of situation properly, have they? If they knew anything, Shouto would hear more stories about them saving children from houses that are built to kill them from the inside out. Really, the only story Shouto knows is of Eri, which only happened recently--it only happened because of Midoriya. Shouto’s heard his father speak in passing of Hawks being plucked out of a troubled home, but if that were really true, then the Commission would be crowing about their good deeds for children across the country.
No, Shouto only trusts Midoriya out of all those people. Maybe he trusts Eri, too, but she’s still learning how to tell time on an analog clock and she certainly doesn’t need Shouto asking her intense questions about whether or not Aizawa has proven himself worthy.
He weighs the pros and cons of telling Aizawa that he trusts a first-grader more than him. Eventually, the cons win out, and Shouto just shrugs at Aizawa’s words and cuts his gaze away, feigning disinterest.
“Fine,” Aizawa says, still spectacularly unmoved by Shouto’s obstinance.
Shouto resists the childlike urge to make a mocking face at Aizawa, or maybe parrot his word back at him. There’s nothing else for him to do; he has no power in the situation whatsoever. So he just pushes his chair back, and stands, and walks to the door, not bothering to push his chair back in.
Aizawa doesn’t stop him. It’s only an illusion of control that he’s letting Shouto have.
“I’ll see you in class tomorrow,” Aizawa says.
The constrictions of rules bear down on Shouto like hot irons. He just keeps moving, sliding open the door and then shutting it with a bang behind him, escaping into the hallway without any idea whatsoever of where he’s going.
“-- Hey, I’m talking to you.”
Shouto feels something smack the side of his head, surprisingly gentle. He blinks slowly, feeling his senses gradually kick back into gear, and drags his eyes up to find Bakugou standing in front of him, looking down at him with a confused, annoyed, complicated expression on his face.
Shouto’s sitting on some steps leading down to the ground floor of the main building of the school. The sun has begun to set, judging by the slant of the light coming in through the large windows by the stairs, and he doesn’t remember why he’s here.
When he sees that Shouto’s focusing more, Bakugou crosses his arms, preventing them from reaching out to Shouto again. “What the hell are you doing? Is this where you like to hang out?”
Shouto doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know what to do; with his hands, with his facial expression, with himself.
“Don’t ignore me,” Bakugou snaps.
Staring at Bakugou like he can’t hear him has never been the road to good conversation. With effort, Shouto averts his gaze again and clears his throat, trying to find words for the immense, roiling void that’s consuming his chest. He can sense that something’s wrong, and that something happened earlier today, but his brain won’t let him access whatever’s going on with it. Maybe it’s better that he leaves it alone and remembers when he’s ready to deal with it.
Bakugou says, “Are you gonna come, or are you gonna sleep here?”
He extends a hand. Shouto, confused, grasps it and finds himself yanked to his feet without fanfare. His calves, ankles, and feet are leaden, and too-heavy, and he stumbles over them, barely steadied by Bakugou’s hand.
“Are you…” Bakugou’s scowl deepens, and he gives up on whatever he was about to say; seeming preoccupied with something else. Shouto looks down at their joined hands and sees that Bakugou’s hesitance must have been prompted by the shiny, raw burns trailing up Shouto’s exposed wrist, disappearing under the cuff of his jacket. Most of the class had had the opportunity to see the cute mosaic of bruising on Shouto’s torso, after his hero costume had been practically torn to shreds during training, but the burns seem to give Bakugou more pause.
Shouto just watches Bakugou’s face, wondering what dots he’s connecting.
“What was the deal with you and Baldy, anyway?” is the question Bakugou asks, instead of whatever horrible conclusion has clouded his face with an expression that almost looks upset. He begins to walk, dropping Shouto’s hand and making for the exit of the building, expecting Shouto to trail after him.
After too much hesitation, Shouto does. He forces his feet into motion, drifting after his classmate and feeling rather like a ghost as he does so.
“It wasn’t anything,” Shouto eventually answers. His response comes far too slow, long after the two of them have reached the doors and exited into the soft early evening. It takes him a while, to figure out how to answer that, and then to figure out how to make his lungs, jaw, vocal cords work, too. “Just a misunderstanding.”
“How’re you having a misunderstanding with someone you don’t even talk to?”
Too abruptly, Shouto remembers Aizawa--questions--being cornered in a conference room like Shouto’s presenting a problem, like Shouto is a problem, like it’s any of UA’s business what happens behind closed doors at the Todoroki estate. Shouto’s lip curls in disgust, before he can even try to stop it.
He says, voice heavy with frost, “It’s none of your concern.”
“Fuck you,” Bakugou shoots back immediately.
Shouto gives him an unimpressed look, and feels his mind start to slide away again, recoiling from the reminder of what had happened earlier. He’s powerless to stop it, just like he’s powerless to change anything that happens in his life, and Shouto doesn’t even know how to warn Bakugou that he’s about to go away again for a while.
He resurfaces when he feels Bakugou touch him again, this time with an insistent hand clamped around Shouto’s shoulder, shaking him with a weird amount of restraint--it’s a reminder and not a punishment.
Slowly, Shouto looks from the hand on his shoulder up to Bakugou’s face, which is pinched in real concern this time, not even covered by a mask of annoyance.
“Do you--what do you do to fix...” Bakugou starts to ask, a weird tone in his voice like he actually gives a shit, like he wants to make Shouto function like normal. Shouto’s sure Bakugou’s just making fun of him. “Oh. There you are. Are you listening to me?”
Bakugou snaps, “I’ll kill you.” He lets go of Shouto, and it feels, disturbingly, like a loss. “Are you sick or something?”
What surprises Shouto most is that he doesn’t feel the urge to lie and say yes, and I’m contagious. He hears something uncomfortably authentic in Bakugou’s voice that tells him that if Shouto pushes away now, or cuts too deep with his response, Bakugou won’t be quiet and understanding like this with him again. And Shouto would do anything, anything to keep Bakugou from shouting at him right now.
The churning feelings in his head have kept Shouto completely silent for the better part of a minute, now, and Bakugou gets tired of waiting on him. Finally, Bakugou just turns on his heel and begins to walk away.
Shouto stares after him. Bakugou, after taking only a few steps, looks back and, upon finding Shouto immobile, huffs and loops back towards him. The second time he departs, he grabs onto Shouto’s unburned wrist and tugs him forward, jolting Shouto’s feet back into motion.
Unable to think of a way to stop, Shouto stumbles after him, guided by the touch at his wrist like a sad little marionette.
In the midst of Shouto’s haze, the two of them have gotten most of the way to the dorm already. Without any more words traded, Bakugou swipes them into the building and drags Shouto all the way to the far corner of the common room, where Kirishima, Kaminari, and Sero are gathered around a pile of unfinished homework.
The trio look up and greet them, offering pleasantries and some jokes that Shouto doesn’t really pick up on. In fact, Shouto doesn’t really tune back in until Kaminari addresses him directly, sitting up, propped on one elbow on the couch to call him out.
“Yo, Todoroki,” Kaminari asks, in the strange blend of nosiness and concern that only he can pull off, “were you talking to Aizawa that whole time? What did you do?”
Shouto shrugs. He’s never been very good at faking laughs, or making light of experiences that he has yet to process. But, it’s not like he’s ready to talk about his experiences with the gravity they deserve, either.
Instead, he lies. “We talked about the essay I turned in. It was bad.”
Bakugou, on Shouto’s left, shifts suddenly, uncomfortable, recognizing the lie immediately but not saying a word. Luckily, nobody notices, because Kirishima is even more outspoken than him.
“It could’nt’ve been worse than mine ,” Kirishima says, with mounting horror. “Dude, how bad was it? Are we all gonna have to meet with him?”
Huh. Yeah, Shouto is always in the top fifth of the class, and his words may not be welcome to those who don’t perform as well as him.
“I was sick this weekend,” he lies again. Lying is now something he does quite easily, as it turns out, but he’s not sure if this is going to be one that spirals out of control--and it might, because Bakugou again shifts his weight, as if trying to find words to tell Shouto to stop being full of shit. Yet uninterrupted, Shouto calmly continues, “What I turned in wasn’t coherent. So. I rewrote it.”
“Aw,” Kaminari says, pouting. “You didn’t tell us that you were sick! We wouldn’t have bothered you so much.”
Sero bumps Shouto’s shoulder with his own. “Good thing you were home, at least. I get so homesick when I’m not feeling well.”
“Yeah,” Shouto says. He looks down, almost bowing with the intense surge of emotion that rises up in him at this. What surprises him most is the urge to crack, to spill, to admit everything that he didn’t want to tell to Aizawa. Biting his lip, forcibly keeping words in, he allows himself the slightest of winces at the lull in conversation he brings on, hidden behind his bangs. Thinking that he’s suppressed the most ruinous of his outbursts, he opens his mouth again, and--
“I would’ve preferred to be here.”
--ruins everything for himself.
His words bring a new kind of silence, a horrible beat that makes Shouto cringe. He glances sideways, seeking out the exit, sizing up how weird it would be to dash from the room, but then Kirishima speaks up, oddly touched.
“That’s really sweet, bro.”
Shouto looks up at him, hoping that Kirishima’s being genuine. Kirishima meets his gaze with a smile, and continues, “I mean it. We like having you around here, too.”
“Yeah, you’re never here on the weekends for us to get to know you better.” Kaminari frowns, an exaggerated but not mocking expression. “Maybe next weekend you could stay here with us! We always do movie night with Ashido and Shinsou.”
Uninvited, visions pop into his head of a soft, calm night with friends who aren’t worried about him. Of time spent with people who don’t think he’s a depressing product of a traumatizing past, who treat him with too-gentle hands because they know he’ll startle at a loud noise, or dissolve into panic at the whistle of a tea kettle.
And then, just as quickly, the visions are destroyed. Because Midoriya’s voice sounds from the opposite end of the common room, from the middle of the stairs, “Todoroki! Are you okay?”
Shouto ducks his head again, taking the exclamation like a smack upside the head. Around him, he feels Bakugou’s friends stiffen in surprise.
“Sorry,” Midoriya says to temper his shout, a little embarrassed to bring so much attention to himself. “I just--uh, Aizawa said you weren’t in trouble, but you were gone for a really long time, so I got kind of...worried.”
“He said it was just about the essay!” Kirishima pipes up.
Midoriya’s face freezes, a parody of his reassuring smile. “Oh! Uh, yeah.”
Bakugou, meanwhile, has found his opportunity. He likely knows that Midoriya will take his side in whatever dispute’s about to happen, and so he asks, scarily calm, “Why would Deku be so worried if the meeting was only about an essay?”
Shouto, still staring Midoriya down, says, “Midoriya is scared of Aizawa.”
“Todoroki--” Midoriya pleads, apologetic, at the same time Sero and Kaminari make nervous attempts at similar sentences.
“That’s not it,” Bakugou says, cutting everyone off. “Are you gonna tell the truth?”
Grinding his teeth, Shouto refuses to answer, and turns his eyes down to the hardwood floor.
“Dude, did you lie to us?” Kaminari asks, confused and hurt.
When this doesn’t yield a response either, Bakugou jostles Shouto’s arm. “ Hey, the dunceface asked you a question.” Unsatisfied with Shouto’s continued unresponsiveness, Bakugou shakes him again, a smoking hand striking Shouto’s forearm.
This last touch turns out to be a step too far. Shouto, aggravated by all the betrayal heaped on him from all the people around the room, snaps, “Stop!” and throws a sharp elbow into Bakugou’s ribs, feeling grim satisfaction at the wheeze he elicits from the other boy.
Bakugou snarls at him and lunges, both hands crackling with the beginnings of explosions, aimed for Shouto’s throat. Shouto easily avoids him, shoving spikes of ice at Bakugou as he scoots himself off the couch, avoiding Sero’s legs nimbly and beginning to make a break for the stairs.
“Hey, calm down--”
“You think I’m dumb enough to be lied to? ” Bakugou roars, drowning out his friends, vaulting over the back of the couch to chase after Shouto. “Fucking admit it! What’s going on with you!”
“It doesn’t concern you,” Shouto spits, and activates both sides of his quirk at once, sending out twin bursts to catch Bakugou, no matter what direction he dodges. Bakugou, releasing loud, bright explosions that sound like the slams of a fist on drywall, catapults himself up, soaring down at Shouto from above and screaming something at him as he approaches. Shouto raises his hands, aiming to get Bakugou from his new angle.
“Kacchan,” Midoriya says, “ don’t, you shouldn’t--”
“What is going on here?” thunders Aizawa from the front entrance of the dorm, and both Bakugou and Shouto stop in their tracks, yanked out of their fight by force. Bakugou hits the ground, stumbling on suddenly clumsy, quirkless feet, and Shouto’s arms lower, filled with suffusive dread.
A long row of sharp stalagmites of ice coat the ground in front of Shouto, and one of the couches is vaguely smoking. Kaminari, Kirishima, and Sero are staring at him with identical expressions, and they’re looking at him like he’s something to be scared of.
As Shouto slowly turns his gaze over to Aizawa, he finds the worst sight of all--Eri, hidden behind Aizawa’s legs, peeking out at him with unmasked fear on her face, her hair half pulled into long pigtails, her clothes still too big on her.
This time, Midoriya doesn’t jump to Shouto’s defense. Nobody does, and nobody should . Shouto can’t find the words, either--he just stares at Eri, whose tight grip on one of Aizawa’s hands makes Shouto sick to his stomach.
“Kirishima,” Aizawa says, “what happened?”
“It’s not--” Kirishima stops and swallows hard, getting his composure back. “It wasn’t a real...Bakugou just got upset, and it startled Todoroki, I think.”
“Is that true?” Aizawa asks. He looks at Shouto, and Shouto can’t stand it anymore. He can’t stand the frightened, tense atmosphere of the room that’s his fault. He can’t stand Eri’s gaze on him, eyes too-wide, her hand so small in Aizawa’s.
Is that true? Aizawa asked Shouto, even though he knows Shouto’s a liar, and everyone else in the room knows it too. Shouto wants to scream, and the urge that comes to set the entire room on fire feels horrifyingly, disgustingly familiar.
He pivots on his heel and bolts for the stairs, taking advantage of Midoriya’s surprise to slip around him and continue upwards. Someone calls out after him, but Shouto’s heartbeat in his ears drowns them out, and he just pounds his way up flights of stairs until he finds his own door and shoves his way in, locking it behind him and collapsing onto the floor in a heap.
Pressing his back against his door, Shouto can’t even breathe. He doubles over until his forehead rests on his knees and he shoves the back of his hand against his mouth to bite down so that when he screams in frustration, nobody will hear it. He’s ruined everything. His family, his future, and what could’ve been some new friendships. Soon, Midoriya’s retelling of the story will turn Iida and Uraraka on him too, and Shouto wouldn’t be surprised if Eri never comes within ten feet of him again.
Telling the truth would’ve made all this happen anyway, though, right? Maybe Shouto’s just getting what was always coming to him.
That thought doesn’t make Shouto feel any better. His hands find their way into his hair and he yanks, still trying to catch his breath from his sprint up the stairs. This is all his fault, and if Shouto had found out that his friend had been lying to him, he wouldn’t forgive them right away, so he’s pretty sure everyone hates him now.
And, that’s fine. Or, at least, it should be. This way, Shouto won’t have to tell anybody what’s really going on, and they’ll all leave him alone, and the collateral damage will be limited as much as it can be. Shouto shouldn’t have let himself become so attached to anybody, because he knew from the start that that’s not what he’s cut out for.
Shouto, at the end of everything, will always end up alone.
It’s unclear how long he’s been sitting there, breathing heavily, losing his mind when his phone buzzes in his pocket. The sensation is insistent, suggesting that someone’s calling him, and Shouto slowly uncurls from his hunched position, straightening his legs so he can pull his phone out of his front pocket and ignore the call.
Instead, he pauses when he sees the screen. Yoarashi is calling him.
And Shouto, who has made at least fifteen bad decisions today and is willing to ruin the last friendship he has in his life, presses the button to answer him.
“Todoroki!” Yoarashi greets.
“Hi, Yoarashi,” Shouto responds, unable to even pretend to be enthused.
“I called to ask about last semester’s coursework, but, uh--are you okay? Is this a bad time?”
“It’s not a bad time for me,” Shouto says, and doesn’t say, it may be a bad time for you. “What did you need help with?”
It’s a weak attempt at misdirection, and Shouto isn’t surprised when it fails. Yoarashi pauses, thinking about his response, then hesitantly says, “It’s not very important. You didn’t answer how you’re doing.”
“Um,” Shouto says, and his voice wobbles like he’s Midoriya . “Not good.”
“Oh.” Now spectacularly out of his depth, Shouto hears Yoarashi take a steadying breath and then offer, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Shouto pulls his knees back up to his chest, rests his free arm on them, and hides his eyes in the crook of his elbow as he responds, “Kind of. I need to tell you about something.”
Yoarashi makes a noise of confirmation, but then asks, “Are things okay? You sound so serious.”
“Not really.” Shouto bites down on the inside of his cheek, hard enough to taste blood, and then soldiers on, keeping his impending tears locked down in the bottom of his throat. “UA is taking custody of me, to keep me out of my house.”
“Woah,” Yoarashi says, but he already seems to know where this is going, because he says, quiet, knowing, seething, “because of your old man?”
“Is it that obvious?” Shouto asks, and hears his voice crack. He can’t keep it steady anymore--Yoarashi’s statement has only intensified his helplessness. If people already know, then what was the point of Shouto lying for so long? Why didn’t Shouto just come clean right away?
Because you thought you deserved friends, he reminds himself, and pushes his upper face further into the soft, dark crook of his elbow.
But then Yoarashi says, “No! No, not really. Uh, actually, it was Bakugou who implied some things, and then when you said...custody, I’ve only really heard you talk about your dad, so I didn’t think your mom was the problem. I’m sorry if I overstepped! I just--”
“No, it’s fine.” Finding out about how Bakugou knew anything will be a problem for another day. “That’s not what I needed to tell you about, though. Aizawa saw some stuff, a couple weeks ago. Injuries. From... him. So I thought that, um, it would be less of a problem if I said it was from a sparring partner, but I lied too much and turned it into a romantic partner.”
Now, Yoarashi is silent. Shouto can only guess what that means.
“Um, because I thought it was normal for people who...are dating to hurt each other like that, and I need to. I need to tell you, I said you were my sparring partner because Aizawa doesn’t know you.”
“You…” Yoarashi, for once, is lost for words.
“That’s why Ms. Joke asked you if we were together. I lied to you too. I apologize for my actions. Aizawa found out the truth today, and he won’t let any rumors spread, but that’s what happened.”
When Yoarashi still doesn’t say anything, Shouto falls silent, too, unsure what else to say. Telling the truth like this hurts just as much as lying, but in a more direct, sharp, jagged way. Lying is a subcutaneous ache, while this is sharp ice tearing at the surface of Shouto’s skin as he waits for Yoarashi to explode in anger.
Instead, the other end of the call fills with a gradually increasing laugh.
Shouto sits up, tearing his face out of its comfortable hiding spot against his arm, hardly believing his ears.
Yoarashi cackles, beside himself by this point. “ Todoroki,” he wheezes when he can catch air, “I thought you were smart, but this is crazy.”
Shouto’s eyebrows furrow as he tries to keep up. “Are you...not angry?”
Catching his breath, Yoarashi giggles out, “I’m a little...I don’t know, I was a little angry that Joke and Eraserhead believed I was capable of something like that, but they both know the truth now, right? I’m not the one in trouble for it, so!”
Shouto snaps frostily, “It’s not funny.”
“Uh--” Yoarashi sobers up, just a little bit, to say, “--no, it’s not all funny. But I can’t believe you! If you wanted to date me, you should’ve said something, and I could’ve made it more convincing for your teachers.”
“Yoarashi--” Shouto says, alarmed.
“Please, call me Inasa,” Yoarashi says, lapsing back into another laugh. He’s positive enough to wash away just a little of Shouto’s sharp-edged fear, providing Shouto with reassurance that makes him stop biting the same spot on the inside of his cheek. “How long have we been together, two months now?”
Managing to draw some composure together, Shouto states, “We’re not together.”
“What! Shouto… ” Yoarashi-- Inasa whines, without even asking for permission to call Shouto that. Though, really, Shouto’s not in a position of moral authority here. “In your hour of need, you’re going to push me away?”
“I’m not in an hour of need.”
“Are you sure?” Inasa asks, all of a sudden back to being earnest and solemn. “It got bad enough for UA to intervene in your life. Is there anything else for me, as your lover, to be worried about?”
Shouto doesn’t respond, because his face is burning with a new, non-quirk-related heat.
“Okay, sorry, I’ll stop.” With one last little chuckle, Inasa drops that joke and asks more directly, “Did something else happen?”
Grimacing, Shouto leans back, dropping his head against the door and staring up at the ceiling, searching for the strength he needs before admitting, “Yeah. I got in a fight with Bakugou in front of everyone. I think I scared Eraserhead’s kid.”
“Who’s his kid. Shinsou?”
“Her name’s Eri. She’s six.” Though Shouto is definitely bringing Inasa’s point up to Shinsou, if the latter ever speaks to Shouto again. “She’s...from a house like mine.”
“Oh.” After a long moment of thought, Inasa says, “Yeah. I could see that happening.”
“And I think the rest of them are all going to hate me for lying to them,” Shouto says.
Inasa hums, and then says, “Nah.”
“Nah. They won’t hate you. They might be a little upset, but I can talk to Bakugou about it, if you want.” Inasa talks about this calmly, like Shouto hadn’t been convinced five minutes ago that his life was going to end. “Is that okay with you? It’s not a problem at all. Knowing Bakugou, he just didn’t understand your boundaries, and as your beloved, I would love to stand up to him for you.”
Shouto declares, “I’m never speaking to you again.”
“Shouto,” Inasa pleads, joking, thinking himself hilarious, but then drags himself back to seriousness one more time. “Give Eraserhead’s kid some time. The rest of your friends will understand why you acted like you did if you just explain to them.”
“I’m not sure they’re my friends.”
Inasa snorts, “Really? Who wouldn’t want to be friends with you?” Which is incredibly rich, coming from someone who, a year ago, had sworn lifelong vengeance against Shouto and his entire bloodline. Still, the easy tone that Inasa states this in hits Shouto unexpectedly hard, taking his breath for a moment.
He’s sure now, more than ever, that he has a friend in Inasa, even though he fucked up. Even if everyone else at UA hates him tomorrow, at least he has a friend who just laughed when Shouto confessed what he’d done.
“Are you still there?” Inasa asks.
“Yeah,” Shouto says. He sniffs, suddenly recognizing that there’s moisture on his cheeks. “You’re a good friend.”
“Thank you,” Inasa says. “Call me before you frame me for any other crimes, though.”
“Will do,” Shouto says, his tone damp, and as he hears Inasa begin to ask, “Wait, are you crying--?” Shouto hangs up, saying a loud, “ goodbye” as he does so.
The silence and darkness of his room, previously a tool against his mental health, now feels like a comfort. It’s the only witness to the bewildering conversation he’s just had, and that makes it a confidante, someone who couldn’t spill his secret even if it wanted to.
“It’s going to be okay,” Shouto tells the room, trying out the words on his tongue.
The silence, soft on his ears, doesn’t contradict him.