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The Thing That's Never Frozen

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A new flower shop opened up along the route Todoroki took to the hospital on Saturdays. He regards the building with its 'Now Open!' banner strung across the window and potted plants gently swaying by the door, waving customers in, and the first thing Todoroki thinks is how convenient it is that he doesn't have to walk an extra block to go to his usual florist anymore.

He pushes the door open and a small bell jingles above him. The musky scent of wood and soil surrounds him like a burst of hot air, reminding him of early summer days. Sunlight streams in through the windows and Todoroki could see the specks of dust floating in the air.

He's the only one in the shop, not unusual considering how early it is. In the back are the glass-paned refrigerators with long stemmed roses, while the the smaller, potted flowers and vases sit closer to the door. Todoroki knows exactly what he's looking for; he buys the same bouquet every week without fail, and he worries for a moment that this new shop doesn't carry the ones he needs. He swiftly leafs through the ribbon wrapped bouquets leaning precisely in glass vases, glazing over anything that doesn't resemble what he's searching for.

His eyes stop at a small bunch of flowers hidden far in the back. The pot is unassuming, a regular clay pot, but the flowers are striking and their colors vibrant. About four or five flowers are in full bloom, the inside of the petals a deep red, the tips dissolving into a soft white. He knows he shouldn't, but Todoroki leans over and reaches out touch them.

“They're really beautiful, right?” a voice pipes behind him.

Todoroki jolts upright, like he was caught doing something bad. He turns to the owner of the voice, and the first thing he notices are the freckles, then the thick mop of dark hair, then the unbelievably bright smile. He doesn't know what to say so he just nods.

“Gloxinia,” he beams. “They're really popular now. Want to take that one home?”

Todoroki feels like he should say yes. The clerk has a smile that made it hard for people to say no, he thinks. His immediate reaction is to nod, but he shakes his head.

“Would it be possible to have a bouquet made?” he asks instead. “A hyacinth bouquet.”

The clerk nods eagerly. “We have a supply in the back. Let me bring them out so you can choose the colors.”

He rushes towards the back and returns with a stem of each color. Todoroki chooses flippantly, knowing the arrangement always turned out more or less the same. Sometimes there was a little more purple, sometimes a little less white.

The clerk asks if he wants to add any other flowers to the bouquet. Todoroki shakes his head; he's aware that a bouquet of hyacinths is unusual, but that's the arrangement he's always ordered. No point in changing it now.

As the clerk wraps his flowers with a ribbon and rings up his order, Todoroki lets his eyes wander to the pot of gloxinias in the back and something thrums in his chest, like a kind of desire that only recklessness can appease.

He points to the pot. “I'll take those flowers as well,” he says flatly.

“I knew you wouldn't be able to resist,” the clerk laughs, and Todoroki wonders if there's something in the walls that echoes noise, because no laugh should sound that clear.

As the clerk walks past him to grab the flowers, Todoroki catches a glimpse of his name tag. Midoriya Izuku.

 

%

 

He doesn't know why, but when he visits his mother, Todoroki leaves the pot of gloxinia flowers on the floor outside her room. He just knows he doesn't want his mother to see them.

Inside the room, he places the glass vase of hyacinths on the table, and she merely glances at it as if he'd just dropped a pile of junk mail.

Todoroki exchanges pleasantries with her, but afterwards they sit in silence. During the week, Todoroki imagines the things he would say to her. Maybe something that happened in school, or a funny story he heard, but he always draws a blank and pushes the thought away, thinking he'll be able to come up with something while he's with her. He never prepares, doesn't know to prepare, so every week echoes the same silence from the week before.

He's not sure if his mother is as uncomfortable as he is, but he does know his own restlessness slices open a new guilty wound open week, and he must sit with her until it heals or until he bleeds dry. The room is quiet, and the flowers remain untouched.

He attempts to say something, but the air around them is like glass that will shatter to pieces at a single word, so Todoroki closes his mouth and doesn't move.

When the time comes for him to leave, his mother glances up at him and nods, and he tries not to rush towards the door.

He notices there's a little bit less purple in the hyacinth bouquet this time. A frozen cloud begins to form in his mind, a sign of oncoming storms, and decides to let it be. It's a natural response after every visit, something routine and repetitive, something he is tired of dissecting.

He shuts the door behind him, and he almost forgets about the gloxinias at his feet had the plastic covering not crinkled as he walked by. Grabbing the pot by its base, Todoroki makes his way home.

 

%

 

Todoroki realizes he doesn't know the first thing about raising plants. The bouquets he leaves with his mother disappear the next time he visits, so he doesn't worry about them wilting. But when he wakes up the next day and notices the gloxinias, its pot still wrapped in plastic, swaying softly by the open window, he wonders how much water they needed, how much sunlight is too much, and how warm he should keep the temperature in his room.

It's Sunday morning, and he has nothing planned, save for studying, so after he trudges out of bed and brushes his teeth, he considers going back to the flower shop to ask for flower care tips.

He steps into the kitchen, knowing he'll find it empty because his roommate never wakes up before noon on the weekends, and grabs a pan, heating it up while he looks for eggs.

As the yolks sizzle on the stove top, the thought of looking for flower care tips online occurs to Todoroki, and for a moment he wants to smack himself for not thinking of that earlier. But he wants to go to the flower shop. He doesn't really know why, but he figures it's better to receive advice from a professional than from the Internet.

He eats breakfast alone in the silence of his dorm room, going through the motions of chewing, swallowing, but not really tasting anything.

 

Gloxinia – Love at First Sight

 

As he walks into the shop, Todoroki is hit by the scent of soil and wood, and he realizes he doesn't mind it at all. Stepping into the shop was like walking into a different world: here he didn't have to think about school, his mother, his career—he only needed to think about what kind of flowers to buy and how to take care of them.

He was so set on seeing the same florist, the one with the thick green hair, that when Todoroki sees a guy with spiky blonde hair and an exaggerated scowl resting on his palm, he's at a loss of what to say.

“What do you want?” the clerk huffs, clearly flippant about providing good service. He appraises Todoroki with sharp eyes, but Todoroki's unfazed.

He doesn't know why he doesn't just ask this clerk about the gloxinias. He's probably just as knowledgeable, after all, but Todoroki blurts, “I have some questions about the flowers I purchased from someone here yesterday. Midoriya Izuku was his name I believe.”

The clerk slides his palm down his face and groans. “Hey! Deku!” he barks. “There's a customer here with a complaint!”

Todoroki knits his eyebrows together. “I didn't say anything about a complaint--” he begins, but stops as soon as he sees Midoriya rush out from the back. His eyes are wide with worry and confusion as they dart from Todoroki to the blonde clerk then back to Todoroki again. Suddenly, the anxiety melts from his face, replaced with a beaming smile. He makes a noise of recognition.

“It's you! What can I help you with today?” Midoriya asks pleasantly.

“Didn't you hear me?” the blonde clerk hounds. “He wants to complain about something you sold him.”

Todoroki rushes to correct him. “I'm not here to complain. I just have some questions about the flowers I bought yesterday. I don't know how to take care of them.” His voice trails at the end, because he doesn't want to look like an idiot.

Midoriya's face brightens even more. “Right,” he exclaims. “I should've given you some tips yesterday.”

Midoriya leads him over to the front of the store, where pots of gloxinia flowers sway by the window. Carefully lifting one by it's base, one with the same red and white flowers as the one Todoroki had purchased, Midoriya begins explaining how much water the plant needs, how often, and how much sunlight to provide. His words are animated yet insightful, full of energy yet calming. From the way he gives attention to each and every detail, Todoroki can tell that Midoriya not only knows a lot about plants, but also harbors a deep love for them.

At a certain point, after nodding at all the important parts in Midoriya's instructions, Todoroki finds himself staring at Midoriya, at his soothing smile, at his freckles, and at his eyes that are filled with wonder.

“Here, feel the leaf,” Midoriya suggests, snapping Todoroki out of his reverie. “This is how it's supposed to feel when the plant is healthy.”

Todoroki reaches out to touch with his left hand and for a moment, brushes fingers with Midoriya. His heart thrums slightly, the same way it did yesterday, and his left side heats up embarrassingly fast. Todoroki barely absorbs anything Midoriya says about leaf texture and density.

As Midoriya places the pot back on its shelf, Todoroki thanks him for his advice. Midoriya looks back and flashes a grin at Todoroki, which causes his heart to stop, then beat faster. This is the smile of someone who always wants to help others, Todoroki thinks.

The store is empty, save for the two of them and the angry blonde clerk at the counter. As Midoriya fixes the flowers, pots clanging as he repositions them, Todoroki notices the musky, earthy scent in the air again. The sunlight streaming through the windows hits the glass vase displays just right, and they glisten.

“Did they like the flowers?” Midoriya asks.

The flowers? Todoroki has no idea what he's talking about, before he remembers the bouquet he'd bought for his mother. He nods, but a sinking feeling suddenly rips his heart as realizes he doesn't even need to open his mouth to lie. Midoriya looks pleased, though, and he continues, “I'm glad to hear it.”

For a moment, he looks troubled, torn between letting the conversation end or pressing it, but he goes on. “I think it's nice of you to send flowers to that person.”

Todoroki stops. It's just a casual comment. No need for him to respond with any more than a nod or an affirmation. But something pushes him, urges him to divulge his thoughts. Is it the sudden pain in his chest? The comfortable, earthy feel of the air? Or Midoriya's strangely calming aura? It doesn't matter, because Todoroki speaks anyway.

“Do you think it is enough to do something while having no feeling behind it?” he blurts. They both freeze, staring at each other as Todoroki's mind races through everything he should and shouldn't say. His mouth moves before he can consider the meaning behind his words, maybe because he desperately desires an answer. “Do you think that makes someone a bad person?”

Midoriya stares at him for a moment, not uncomfortable, just trying to think of an honest answer. Todoroki can tell. But no matter how much Todoroki wants to hear his thoughts, he immediately waves him off.

“It was a hypothetical question,” Todoroki assures. He thanks Midoriya again for the advice on the flowers, then turns towards the door and tries not to look like he's running away.

 

%

 

The best isn't a career goal, Todoroki.” Aizawa rests his chin on his palm and stares at him sternly from across the desk.

During his freshman year, when Aizawa had asked him what he wanted to do after graduation, “being the number one hero” had sufficed. Aizawa had rolled his eyes, tired of hearing the same thing from every incoming student, and told Todoroki he would find something more specific as he progressed through university. But when he asked him again a year later, and a year after that, his answer remained unchanged: I want to be the top hero.

Now that Todoroki is graduating soon, time is running out before he needs to decide. He still holds those words dear to him; he does want to become a top hero, but somewhere along the way, the meaning in those words sipped away, leaving behind empty impressions of letters and sounds.

Perhaps, Todoroki thinks, those words never meant much in the first place. His father had planted that goal in his heart, forged his future from before he was even born, and frozen his conviction for Todoroki to claim his rightful place, stopping at nothing, not even the insidious crumbling of their family.

Todoroki clenches his left fist. He doesn't know how to respond to Aizawa beyond his usual answer, the one he keeps close to his heart, though now at arm's distance, but close nonetheless. Despite his rebellion against his father, despite the spiraling, cold pit in his stomach, despite his inaction and indecision, Todoroki says the same thing again and watches Aizawa close his eyes and sigh.

Todoroki isn't sure if there was passion in his words when he was younger, but if there was, he's definitely extinguished it by now. His voice holds no fire.

 

Hyacinth (Purple) – I am Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Sorrow

 

Next Saturday, Todoroki stops by the flower shop again before visiting his mother. He'd considered not going, embarrassed about his outburst last week, but when he sees Midoriya's beaming smile behind the counter, his anxieties wilt, replaced by a different feeling blooming in his chest.

As he watches Midoriya put together the hyacinth bouquet, Todoroki wonders if Midoriya's quirk has something to do with manipulating other people's quirks—if Todoroki looks at him for too long, his left side starts to heat up, the flames prickling just beneath his skin.

 

The feeling is unusual, especially when he thinks it over in the hospital room with his mother. The air still imprisons whatever Todoroki wants to say. It's thick with silence; not the drowsy, comfortable kind, but the kind that feels like icicles carving into his throat, guiltily jabbing his vocal chords before he can speak. It is a self-fulfilling silence.

Between him and his mother, the hyacinths sit on the table, pristine and static.

The crushing feeling opens in his chest, the same feeling he gets after every visit—whether it's caused by restlessness or desperation. Isn't it a sign that he's doing something wrong? These visits are so devoid of feeling, yet the lethargy afterwards weighs so heavily on him. Why is he doing this again? He turns to his mother, his mother who hasn't said anything substantial to Todoroki since her outlash years ago, the one that resulted in the angry scar on his face. It's his father's fault she's like this. That's what he says to justify himself, but if he really examines himself, he knows it's his fault. It's because of his hideous left side. It's his father's side, but it's still his own fault nonetheless. His mother is expressionless.

Is he doing this out of love, or out of guilt? he wonders.

He's been here long enough. He bids his mother goodbye, and he leaves without a response. The flowers sit untouched, unmoving.

It's not a new question, but this time, he faintly wonders how Midoriya would respond.

 

%

 

“So,” Midoriya asks, “What's your quirk by the way?”

Todoroki notices Midoriya's fingers threading through the flowers, slowly and deliberately assembling his bouquet. He's faster at this, usually, but Todoroki doesn't mind this pace. The sun shines through the windows and casts a warm glow within the shop, and a breeze ruffles through the flowers.

Todoroki has plopped into the stool across from Midoriya, and he rests his cheek on his palm and watches Midoriya work.

“It's...” Todoroki pauses. “It's ice. I can create ice,” he says dumbly.

He lifts his right palm and creates a tiny rose sculpture made of ice and hands it to Midoriya. Midoriya slams his hands on the counter and drops his jaw.

“That's amazing, Todoroki!”

“Is it really?” Todoroki mumbles. “It's just a simple elemental quirk.”

Midoriya shakes his head, “It's really cool. Elemental quirks aren't really that common anymore, especially since most elemental quirks turn out to be something different, like manipulating ice instead of creating it,” he trails, his words coming out faster and faster. “A genuine elemental quirk is actually really rare to come by these days!” His smile stretches across his face, and his cheeks are flushed.

Todoroki scratches the back of his head and feels his left side heat up. He prays that his body doesn't start smoking, but in that same train of thought, he wonders what Midoriya would think about him having a second elemental quirk.

“What about you, Midoriya?” Todoroki grasps, looking for anything to get the attention off of him and his left side cooled down.

“It's a, ah, strength augmentation quirk,” Midoriya replies. “Nothing special.” He laughs, but it sounds strained. “Do you go to an academy? You look like you go to a university.”

“I go to Yuuei,” Todoroki says “I'm a third year there.”

Midoriya slams his hands on the counter again. “Me too! I can't believe I've never seen you at school.”

They must have been in different classes, Todoroki guesses, and it's not like he does anything outside of school anyways. He barely leaves his dorm outside of going to class and to the library and, of course, to visit his mother. He hasn't made a lot of friends at school, so it's not a shock to him that he's gone to Yuuei for three years and has never seen Midoriya there. He barely even knows his own roommate.

Midoriya asks him about his classes, what department he's in (they're both in heroics, incidentally), and inevitably, what he plans on doing after graduation.

“Go into heroing, I suppose,” Todoroki responds. He has a vague idea of what he's supposed to do: look for an agency, maybe work under an established hero for a year or two before rising in the ranks, then debut as a hero.

“There's just so much to choose from,” Midoriya says, his hands resting on the edge of the counter, bouquet long forgotten. “The professors make it seem like we can do anything, but there's too much. Most people don't actually know what they want to do.”

“Do you know what you want to do?” Todoroki asks.

Midoriya's eyes flash for a brief moment. “I want to work with All Might after I graduate.” His voice is thick with conviction, all the usual airiness in his voice gone.

All Might... Todoroki remembers when he was younger, when his family still hung on to stability by a hair, when he would watch All Might on the news with his mother. The selflessness, the desire to extend a hand to anyone in need, those feelings translated well through the screen. Maybe if his father hadn't pushed him into heroics, Todoroki would have gone into it himself anyway. Or maybe it would have simply been a fleeting thought.

It doesn't seem like a passing passion to Midoriya, however. He's serious; Todoroki can tell by the way the eyebrows knit together and the way his eyes squint just a little bit and the way his voice suddenly becomes serious. Todoroki realizes what it is. It's passion. It's fire. And for a moment, Todoroki is overcome by his brightness.

“Oh!” Midoriya suddenly pipes. “Would you like to add anything else to the bouquet?” His fingers are nervously winding through the flowers, trying to make up for wasted time.

Todoroki shakes his head, saying there's no need, since this is what it's always been, and there's no use changing it now.

The air around them lightens, but Todoroki is still stuck in his thoughts and doesn't notice the flowers that Midoriya sneaks into his bouquet.

 

%

 

Midoriya's words are still spinning in his mind when he visits his mother later. The actions of checking in, walking down the corridor, knocking and twisting the door handle are so automatic to Todoroki that his mind can wander as far as it wishes. The motions are mechanical, frigid, devoid of emotion.

He embraces anything that distracts his mind. Not only is Midoriya bright in his personality, but he's also passionate in what he does and what he wants to do. He possesses a quiet kind of strength that, no matter how Todoroki looks at it, he himself lacks. Having a purpose transforms meaningless actions into progress, transforms individual fibers into rope. Passivity into fulfillment.

“My, these are beautiful,” his mother says.

She reaches into the bouquet and caresses a flower. A white tulip. Two more peak out from the thicket of hyacinths. His mother smiles.

Something lifts from Todoroki's heart. He's not sure what, and he's not sure if the feeling is a good one or not; it feels like yanking out a splinter lodged within the flesh—piercing, bloody, unavoidable.

 

%

 

The summer slowly comes to an end. Todoroki never notices the temperature change, but the leaves had begun to change color, and the flower displays outside of the flower shop have been moved inside. The school year is drawing to a close.

Todoroki still visits Midoriya every week, but he no longer puts in an order. Midoriya just grins and fetches the flowers he needs. Neither of them mention the white tulips, but his mother does every week, so Todoroki refuses to say anything, lest Midoriya stops arranging them with the hyacinths.

Sometimes he comes earlier, right when the store opens, and chats idly while Midoriya sets up shop. Sometimes he stays later, the bouquet already wrapped and resting on his knee, giving the impression that he could leave anytime, unless Midoriya finds something else to talk about. And sometimes he loses track of time and barely makes it to the hospital before it closes.

Todoroki gets to know the other florist pretty well too, though he's not as pleasant to talk with as Midoriya is. His name is Bakugou Katsuki, and he learns that his perpetual scowl truly is unbreakable, not to him, not to Midoriya, not even to customers.

“Let me get your number,” Midoriya asks one day, his face suspiciously red. “You know, in case anything ever comes up.”

“Like what?” Todoroki asks dumbly.

“Like, uh, in case I need to contact you. Like to see if we're both on campus so we can go grab lunch or something...” His voice trails.

Todoroki face flares, and it has nothing to do with his quirk. His whole face suddenly feels sweaty, and he's thankful Midoriya hands him his phone instead of asking for his number. There was no way he could talk like this.

He taps his number into Midoriya's phone and hands it back to him. It was just lunch...hypothetical lunch. There is no reason to feel giddy over something this small.

 

The flower shop stood as a shelter. Even if his life outside of the shop stormed around him relentlessly, Todoroki could forget everything for two or three hours a week. But unlike him, Midoriya isn't someone who's complacent with passivity and inaction. No matter how small the disaster, he must extend his hand, even when it's unwelcome.

“I wanted to ask,” Midoriya began one day. “Is there any reason you choose these flowers specifically?” He looks down at the bouquet, keeps his hands busy.

Todoroki shrugs, says they look nice, but Midoriya continues on. “Not many people order just hyacinth bouquets. It's not really the first flower they think of, that's why I thought it was strange when you kept ordering it.”

Todoroki remains silent, but something pricks the back of his mind.

Midoriya continues, stutters a bit, his voice quickening “Did you know that every flower has its own meaning? The one for these hyacinths,” he twirls one in his finger, “is usually, 'Please forgive me.'”

Todoroki is sitting across the counter, his left knee drawn against his chest. He rests his palm against his cheek, the one carved by his scar, and looks away. He doesn't know what to say.

“I thought maybe,” Midoriya hums. “Maybe it was a cry for help?” At Todoroki's silence, Midoriya stumbles, trying to find the right words, trying to arrange them like flowers for a coherent bouquet. He goes on. “If there's anything you feel like you have to apologize for, I'm sure you're forgiven by now. You should let go of anything you're feeling guilty about.”

At that, Todoroki whips his head towards him. A bubble of anger bursts in his stomach, but when he sees the gentle, worrying look in Midoriya's eyes, all he can manage is a weak, “Why?” It comes out less bitter than he intended, but maybe he's just curious.

Midoriya sighs, rubs his neck, knits his eyebrows together. “Well, holding onto guilt forces you to carry unnecessary weight. You end up losing so much energy because of it,” he says. “You become too tired to feel anything. You start to live life only going through the motions of life, but not really feeling anything behind what you do.”

A deep, reverberating thump sounds through Todoroki's mind. Midoriya's words echo the question he'd asked weeks ago, bridging the exchange right through time. Todoroki wonders if Midoriya remembered his question and tailored his response over the last few weeks. Knowing Midoriya, he probably did.

Do you think it is enough to do something while having no feeling behind it?

Midoriya gave him his answer.

Suddenly, Midoriya drops the bouquet onto the counter and holds his palms out. “Sorry!” he blurts. “I'm being too forward!”

Todoroki is speechless, but he shakes his head, and it's enough for Midoriya to understand that he hasn't pushed too far. Or maybe he has, but if Todoroki isn't able to do it himself, then somebody has to push until the ice sees its first crack.

Chapter Text

The gloxinias sway as Todoroki walks past them to get to the fridge. It's a Sunday night, and he finds himself strangely impatient. He grabs a bottle of water from the top shelf and plops down on the couch next to his roommate, whom he almost always never sees, whether it's because Todoroki spends most of his time in his room, or because Kirishima is always out. A combination, maybe.

Kirishima greets him with a clap on the shoulder. “Long time no see, man!” he jokes.

Some sports game is playing on the TV, but it seems like Kirishima wasn't really paying attention, because before Todoroki leans back, he begins chatting about about the party he went to last night. Apparently, he'd met some guy who refused to give him his number, but was “totally interested, trust me.”

“He looked like he was having a bad time, so I went up to him, offered him a drink. Thought he was a quiet guy, turns out he's got some serious anger issues!” he says. “Still seems pretty cool. Wished I could have gotten his number.” Kirishima sighs.

“Maybe he wasn't interested,” Todoroki offers.

“No,” Kirishima draws out the word. “You'd know if you were there. He was totally flirting. I think he might be one of those hot and cold types who like to play hard to get. You know?”

Todoroki lets out an involuntary snicker, which takes Kirishima off guard, but Kirishima ends up laughing along too.

“You seem pretty happy, dude. Did something good happen?”

Does he really seem happy? It's not like Kirishima has anything to compare it to, since Todoroki's always in his room.

Before he gets a chance to respond, Kirishima says, “We're having another get together this weekend. Wanna come?”

“Sure,” Todoroki agrees. The offer lightens his heart; Kirishima used to invite him out every weekend, but after receiving rejection after rejection, he eventually stopped. The reason for his refusals eludes Todoroki now, but he's glad Kirishima isn't the type to hold anything to anyone. A full grin breaks across Kirishima's face, and he claps Todoroki on the shoulder again.

It's small, but it's something.

 

%

 

“That's him!” Kirishima points eagerly while blocking his face with his drink.

Todoroki and Kirishima's friends turn towards where Kirishima is pointing. Unzipping his jacket and loosening his scarf by the doorway, Bakugou Katsuki scans the room before heading towards the kitchen and grabbing a drink.

The apartment belonged to Sero and Kaminari, friends of Kirishima from class, and they were lounging with Todoroki and Kirishima in the living room. Kirishima eyes Bakugou with a goofy grin before he loses him in the crowd standing in the kitchen, then turns his attention back. “That's the guy I was talking about!” he exclaims.

“Dude, how did you not know who that is?” Kaminari asks, waving his drink towards Kirishima. “That guy's crazy, everyone knows him.”

Sero nods in agreement. “Don't you remember him from the entrance exams? The guy's got a couple of screws loose, that's for sure,” he adds, knitting his eyebrows together. “And some anger issues too.”

Kirishima taps his jaw for a moment. “Entrance exams...” he mumbles. Then, his eyes shoot open. “Damn, he was the guy with the cool quirk! Blasty McSplode!” he exclaims, snapping his fingers.

Bakugou emerges from the kitchen with a drink in hand and looks around the room again. Kirishima catches his eye and waves him over excitedly. Bakugou frowns but walks towards them anyway.

“Hey, man!” Kirishima calls. “How's it going?”

Bakugou squints at him. “Do I know you?” he spits.

Kirishima continues without skipping a beat. “We met a few days ago, remember? I bought you a drink.”

Bakugou scowls and ignores him. He plops down into an empty seat next to Kirishima, shifting as far as he could away from him, and turns to Todoroki instead.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

Todoroki shrugs and motions towards Kirishima. “He's my roommate. Thought I'd stop by and say hi,” he replies.

Kaminari looks to Todoroki, then to Bakugou, then back to Todoroki. “You guys know each other?”

Bakugou clicks his tongue. “This bastard comes in all the time and flirts with the idiot I work with,” he grumbles, jabbing a finger towards Todoroki. “Fucking annoying, 'cause I gotta do all the work when's he's there.”

Kirishima has a huge grin plastered across his face, and Todoroki swears he sees a twinkle in his eye. “Where's work?” he asks.

“Why the fuck should I tell you?” Bakugou snaps, but Kirishima continues to smile.

“It's that new flower shop that opened a few weeks ago,” Todoroki says, describing the neighborhood around it.

“The one near the hospital downtown, right?” Sero confirms.

Todoroki nods.

Kirishima gives Bakugou a playful punch on the shoulder. “Maybe I'll visit you sometime! Teach me about all the cool stuff you know about flowers.”

“You making fun of me?” Bakugou growls, shying away from Kirishima's touch.

“Nope!”

They laugh, except for Bakugou, and Todoroki feels a warm flush from the alcohol. They joke around for a while, Bakugou visibly relaxing the more they talk and the more they drink, and after a while, Todoroki shakes his can and finds it empty. Sero offers to grab him another drink, but he declines, saying he needs some fresh air anyway.

After grabbing another can from the kitchen, Todoroki meanders through the crowd towards the ladder leading to the rooftop. Biting down on the ring around the top of the unopened can, he climbs up the ladder and unhinges the latch. Cool autumn air rushes into his flushed face, sobering him up a little bit. It's not too cold, but he still shivers.

There's a few people up here, mostly just small groups of friends or couples. Outside is refreshing after sitting in the stuffy living room downstairs, and Todoroki breathes in the sweet air. The music blasting from downstairs sounds muffled and watered down in the open night, like noise from behind a glass wall.

He makes his way towards the railing, leans against it and closes his eyes. He can't tell if it's because of the alcohol or of something else entirely, but he finds himself oddly content, satisfied. He knows there's a word for it, but he can't think of it right now. It's the feeling of enjoying an entire moment, of feeling like everything fell into the right place for once. The breeze blows soothingly against his neck.

A figure slinks towards him, but he can't make out who it is in the dark until it approaches a few feet in front of him.

“I thought it was you!”

Thick green hair pops into his vision as his eyes readjust to the lack of light. Midoriya flashes a bright smile.

“It's good to see you,” he chirps, his voice full of cheer.

“Midoriya,” he utters, completely caught off guard. “Hello.”

Midoriya's wearing loose black pants and a T-shirt under an open white button down, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He's holding a drink in one hand and scratching the back of his head with the other. Todoroki realizes this is the first time he's seen him in something other than his uniform and apron. He looks nice.

Midoriya slides next to him and mirrors him by leaning against the railing.

“How's your night going?” he asks.

“Pretty good,” Todoroki replies. “Bakugou's here, you know? My roommate's been trying to hit on him all night.”

Midoriya snickers, but his voice sounds strained. “Kacchan getting hit on? How's that going?”

Todoroki shrugs. “My roommate's persistent. Still hasn't given up yet, I bet. You know,” his voice lowers. “He told me about this guy a few days ago but I had no idea it was Bakugou. This is actually the second time they've met.”

Midoriya whistles. “And Kacchan hasn't stormed off yet?”

“Not even a sign of it.”

“Tell your roommate I said good luck,” Midoriya says, breaking into a laugh. He moves just a little bit closer to Todoroki.

“How about you?” Todoroki asks. He snaps open his drink and takes a sip.

“Not bad!” Midoriya replies. “Though I can't stay for too long, because I need to get up for work tomorrow, which you already know about, you know, at the shop and everything,” he trails awkwardly.

“Right,” Todoroki says. Suddenly the memory of what Midoriya said at the shop last week hits him, disorients him.

Midoriya's words spun through his head the entire week after, but Todoroki refused to process them. They floated through the surface of his mind, like oil floating on top of water. He doesn't let them sink in, because he knows accepting Midoriya's words will launch him into something new, something foreign and irreversible. Once he takes that first step, no way can he ever backtrack and retreat into his comfort zone. Instead, he thinks idly. He thinks of Midoriya's words as sounds and noises, not as containers for any meaning.

A breeze blows over, and for a moment, silence settles over them, the only noise between them the muffled music and honking from distant car horns.

“You know,” Midoriya stutters, “About what I said last week, you know, about the flowers. I went way too far and I'm really sorry, so just forget about it.” He laughs uncomfortably. “I was just assuming, and now you probably think I'm a total weirdo.”

Todoroki's instinct urges him to stay quiet, to stay passive and see where Midoriya goes with his words, so he can mindlessly follow, but when Midoriya attempts to change the subject, Todoroki cuts in.

“Don't apologize,” he says. He pauses, trying to grasp for the right words in his mind, but ends up following his gut feeling instead and blurts out what he really thinks, something he's done a lot of lately, he realizes. “I think I needed to hear it,” he says slowly. “I'm glad I did.”

Midoriya has moved close enough that their arms brushed against each other. Todoroki can feel the slight tense in his body.

“So I wasn't just imagining it?” he asks sheepishly.

Of course Midoriya knew nothing about his situation. Nobody really did, because he never divulged anything about his life to anyone. But despite knowing so little about Todoroki, Midoriya plunged towards the root of his sadness, following only one clue, the obscure meaning of a single flower. He gripped on to a guess, one guess within a hazy cloud of speculations, and yanked it out with no trepidation, no hesitation.

And it was right.

Suddenly, Todoroki's heart swells. The tenacity of a single person who wanted to help, despite not knowing anything, struck something buried deep within him. No caution, no stopping, not even to fully understand a situation, and diving in to help someone, even if no one asks. Even if that help is unwelcome. That attitude dignified a true hero.

Todoroki shakes his head. He remains silent, no longer because he can't find the words, but because no more needs to be said. He opts for a simple, “Thank you.”

He figures he loses his words in the wind, but Midoriya freezes, then shakes nervously. He rubs the back of his head and forces a laugh. “No, no, you don't have to thank me. It's nothing, really...”

Hesitation dawns on his face, like he wants to apologize, but he lets the conversation end there.

The same feeling of complacency washes over Todoroki again. All is right, and all is as it should be, even if he possessed no physical evidence to prove it. He swishes his drink as another breeze passes. Both lost in their own thoughts, they listen to the music silently, enjoying the comfortable feeling settling between them.

Suddenly, Midoriya shivers, goosebumps rising on his bare arms. As an instinct, Todoroki's left side kicks in whenever the temperature dips, so he never notices how the weather affects him. To him, a cold autumn night was no different from a hot summer day. He looks down at Midoriya, and feels a flush rise to his cheeks. He blames it on the alcohol, though if you pressed him, he'd admit he wasn't drunk, or tipsy even.

“Here,” he offers, shaking off his jacket. “You look cold.”

Midoriya shoots up his hands. “It's okay,” he assures. “It's not that cold.”

But Todoroki already reaches behind him and drapes his jacket around Midoriya's shoulders. His fingers brush his back, and his heart thrums slightly. Midoriya's shorter than Todoroki, so the jacket hangs loosely off his frame.

“Really! It's fine,” Midoriya argues. Todoroki notices a faint blush on his cheeks and the way he looks away. “Aren't you cold now?”

“I'll be fine,” he replies.

“I got to get going soon anyway,” Midoriya says, checking his phone. “It's late, and I still have to go to work, so...”

He starts to remove the jacket, but Todoroki stops him.

“It's going to be cold when you head home too,” he says. “You can give it back tomorrow.”

Midoriya knits his eyebrows, the same time adamant and worried, but after another shiver, he clasps the jacket closer to him.

“Are you sure?” he asks one last time. Todoroki nods.

“Alright then,” Midoriya shrugs, defeated. He checks his phone again. “I really do have to get going, so see you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow,” Todoroki confirms.

Midoriya faces him, wants to say something, but not knowing how to say it. Todoroki feels the same way. Looking at Midoriya directly caused his heart to beat faster and his throat freeze.

“Goodnight,” they both blurt at the same time.

Midoriya flashes him a beaming smile, which he returns with a softer one, and makes his way towards the ladder that leads back into the apartment.

Todoroki's heart overflows with excitement. He ignores it, and instead takes another sip from his drink.

 

Chapter Text

When Todoroki descends down the ladder back into the apartment, he spies Kirishima and the others in the same place by the couches. Kirishima chats animatedly with his arm hooked around the couch behind Bakugou, deliberately casual and carefully not touching him. Bakugou's still scowling, but it's a little softer now, like he's forcing himself to frown.

When Kirishima catches his eye, he winks and shifts closer to Bakugou to make room for Todoroki. Bakugou straightens, glares, but makes no effort to move.

The rest of the night passes peacefully as people slowly trail out. Their conversation eventually splits into two: Kirishima and Bakugou talking quietly between themselves, and Sero, Kaminari, and Todoroki discussing what combination of their classmates' quirks would be the coolest (Kaminari thinks combining his and Iida's engine quirk would be like “lightning, man.” Sero argues that his and Shouji's would not only look “hella sweet” but would also be infinitely more practical for him if he could duplicate more arms. For Todoroki, they decide that Bakugou's quirk would compliment his well (“It'd be like hot and cold, you know?”). Todoroki grimaces.).

By the time the apartment is almost empty, Todoroki bids good night to the group. He glances at Kirishima, wondering if he wants to leave together. Kirishima had successfully draped his arm around Bakugou, and he shoots Todoroki an apologetic look.

“I'll be out in a sec, if you don't mind waiting?” he says. Kaminari sticks out his tongue, points into his mouth, and makes gagging sounds.

“Yeah, we'll walk you out man. I think they want to be alone,” Sero jeers, wagging his eyebrows at Kirishima. The last thing Todoroki hears before making his way out of the apartment is an explosive crackling and Kaminari wailing, “Hey! Do you know much that couch cost, Bakugou?!”

It's well past midnight now, and the cool evening breeze ruffles through Todoroki's hair. He loiters around the entrance to the apartment with Kaminari and Sero until Kirishima comes bounding down with a huge grin on his face.

The walk to their dorm is quick. When Kirishima looks like he's about to explode with giddiness, the slightest glance from Todoroki sets him off.

“Isn't Bakugou just,” he pauses, sighs, “just the coolest?”

Todoroki feels his face curdle like spoil milk on instinct.

“I guess,” he musters.

Kirishima fills each of his steps with cheer, and next to Todoroki, he's practically springing. The leaves beneath his feet crinkle.

“He's so flashy and amazing,” he gushes. “And manly and, and...”

“Rude? Nasty?” Todoroki offers. He huffs. “He's kind of an asshole.”

For a moment, Kirishima says nothing, and Todoroki wants to slap himself for blurting out the first thing that crossed his mind. But Kirishima bursts into a unrestrained laugh.

“You know, he totally is. But that's what makes him him.”

Todoroki furrows his brows, trying his best to dissect their dynamic, but to with no success.

“How are you looking past that?” he asks. Todoroki didn't have to know Bakugou very long for him to know that he'd rather give up both his quirks than sit in a room with him alone for ten minutes. The idea of looking past his attitude towards something more doesn't occur to him at all.

Kirishima folds his arms, laces his fingers behind his head, and whistles. “It's less about looking past it, I guess,” he eventually says. “You go into everything with an opinion you already have, you know?”

Todoroki nods with hesitation. In the corner of his eye, he sees the full moon hanging low in the sky.

At his silence, Kirishima continues. “If I don't like someone, I'll notice things about them that'll make me like them less. But if I like 'em, I'll be on the look out for things I like about them. Evidence to back up opinions and all that, you know?” He breaks into a huge grin. “It just so happens I really like this guy.”

They keep walking in the dark, cool air of the evening. Neither of their steps had missed a beat, but Todoroki feels a weight dwindling from his shoulders, as if his arms were made of sand, the grains slowly trickling out through his fingers. His body moves with less sluggishness and more precision.

Still with a smile on his face, Kirishima starts humming.

“That's what I think, at least. You will always find what you're looking for.”

Todoroki breathes in a breath of cool air, and for once, feels a chill in his body.

“Well, did you find it, whatever it was you were looking for?”

Kirishima snickers, glee evident on his entire face. “Dude, I got his number! That's good enough for me.”

 

%

 

The next morning, about 4 hours later, only the thought of seeing Midoriya later drags Todoroki out of his bed.

When he walks into the shop, Midoriya greets him with a grin and a way too loud, “Good morning, Todoroki!” Bakugou sits at the counter nursing a lazy scowl on his face.

As Midoriya reaches for a fresh sheet of paper for Todoroki's bouquet, he asks, “Did you have a good time last night? A-after I left I mean! Because I was there for some of it, and I saw you there, but you know that, and yeah...”

Todoroki shrugs. “I did,” he responds, and before he could stop himself, he blurts, “I had a better time when you were there though.”

“Ah?” Midoriya freezes, drops the flowers in his hands, and for good measure, knocks over a flower pot on the shelf behind behind him. “Oh! Uh-thank you! I mean! I'm happy that you feel that way, not that you feel a certain way about me or anything, but I'm happy that you're happy. Oh, but you didn't say anything about being happy I guess.” He lets out a shrill laugh, and his whole face goes red.

Todoroki feels like his heart is about to dip into his stomach or burst from his throat, and internally, he's no less flustered than how Midoriya looks. “No, I was happy.” His words catch in lungs before he can even form the sounds with his lips and they come out strained, cold, and unbelievably awkward. He wants to lay in a hole, and judging from the pained, flushed smile on Midoriya's face, he wouldn't mind doing the same.

Midoriya crouches to pick up the broken pieces of the flower pot he knocked over, carefully dropping the shards into his palm. After sweeping the floor for any leftover debris, he straightens.

“Oh! I almost forgot,” he exclaims, reaching under the counter and pulling out Todoroki's jacket, neatly zipped up and folded. “I put it in the wash last night. I hope that's okay...” he trails.

Maybe he imagines it, but after he leaves the shop and slips on the jacket, Todoroki thinks it smells better than any clean laundry he's ever done himself.

 

%

 

His mother smiles at the glass vased hyacinths and tulips, her eyes twinkling and jolting into the faintest glimmer of life. As they weeks went by, Midoriya had sneaked more and more tulips into the bouquet until less than half of it was hyacinths, and as the tulips sprung from the thicket of stems, Todoroki's voice leaped from his throat more frequently, more loosely, and more vibrantly. His words flowed not quite like a stream yet, but there were holes in the dam, and the water was finally moving.

The first time his mother laughs is when he recounts a funny story he'd heard from Kirishima. It isn't anything particularly substantial, just something that crossed his mind, but his mother lets out a tinkling laugh.

She shifts her glance towards him. “You seem really happy lately,” she says.

Todoroki looks away, but he can't force away the smile that finds its home on his face.

 

%

 

October inches ever closer. The leaves had all turned orange or yellow or red, and no longer did the sun shine late into the evenings.

Graduation is on the horizon, but Todoroki still hasn't figured out what he plans to do afterwards. He brushes the thought away with much less guilt weighing on him now; instead of running away, he feels like he's simply putting it aside to a safe place, a place to where he can return when he possesses more strength to face his troubles. The shift in perspective shoots a thrill through his body, and his mood rides this high without a care.

Waking up proves to be less of a hassle now—he no longer thinks of going to class as something to suffer through in order to get to the next burst of relief. Rather, everything takes on a brighter form, radiates a lighter air.

He no longer regards Saturday mornings as an oasis. Reprieves do not exist when you're no longer suffering.

As the weeks pass, with each shy glance from Midoriya, with each seconds-too-long gazes and fingers brushing and words way too kind to be considered friendly, Todoroki's perception of Midoriya starts to bloom into something less tangible, less corporeal, less easier to describe, but at the same time warmer, more comfortable, and more homey. The new pounding in his chest isn't welcome; in fact, it makes him feel nauseous at first, but Todoroki realizes it only causes him discomfort when he's not with Midoriya.

As he watches Midoriya's fingers weave through the flowers, Todoroki notices the vitality embossed in each of his movements. His whole body radiates life—warm, purposeful, and confident. Todoroki wonders if just being in Midoriya's presence made him catch some of his vigor.

Yet, as easily as he fell into a habit of inaction and passivity, Todoroki lets himself drown in the emotions he feels out of habit. Guilt comes quicker to him than anything else and requires no action, so despite his mother's newly found twinkle of life and his own emerging voice, a wave of dread still washes over him every Saturday afternoon. However, he now possesses the ability to compartmentalize his emotions, stuff them neatly into the four blinding white walls of his mother's hospital room and forget about them until next week.

In the back of his mind, Todoroki knows he still possesses no feelings behind his bringing flowers every week. Just as guilt forced him into habit, the emptiness in his habit generates guilt like a self-fueling machine.

On Saturday afternoon, in the stuffy hospital room, Todoroki catches himself thinking about Midoriya, about asking to see him outside of work again, and his heart thrums. The feeling quickly disappears, as the thing he'd known in the back of his head all along surfaced to the forefront of his consciousness: his happiness had nothing to with his mother's recovery and everything to do with his own personal enjoyment.

“What's wrong?” his mother asks, noticing his sudden blank face, as dread always finds a way to manifest physically.

Todoroki shakes his head. He feels the the bones in his neck clog up with sand, making his movements grainy and mechanical. The feeling weighs on his shoulders, and barely perceptively, his back slouches millimeter by millimeter with no intended movement from him. His mother's smile drops from her face at the same rate.

After leaving the hospital, Todoroki heads straight home, closes his room door, and sits on the edge of his bed. His movements stutter, as if he's afraid he'll break something if he moves without caution.

He examines his left hand, opened palm up on his knee. He clenches and unclenches his fist, willing something to emerge, anything but a flame. But no matter how hard he squeezes his fist, squeezes the dread out of his chest, nothing comes out.

Somewhere in his mind, he must know that the only thing stopping him is himself—the lack of flames erupting from his fist is blocked by his own stubbornness, his own refusal to accept this ugly part of him. And the lack of feeling in his chest finds its source in the dam surrounding his heart, one with holes poked through but still as impenetrable as ever. To pretend it's not there is no better than acknowledging it's existence, yet doing nothing to change it.

He glances over to the gloxinias sitting on his dresser. They're still in full bloom, the tips flaring into a bright red from soft white petals.

He feels his whole body freeze, and he shivers.

 

%

 

No one enjoys being unhappy, but Todoroki can't help but feel relief at the familiarity. Dread no longer feels like something foreign or unnatural, but a welcoming cove in which he can bury himself. He feels like he deserves the feeling, so he might as well bear it silently, carrying the burden he was born to carry.

Saturday rolls around eventually, and Todoroki refuses to buy flowers. His route from his dorm loops around the flower shop entirely and ends up trailing longer than he intended. He arrives at the hospital extra early, but he doesn't stay any longer than he usually does. Although mother's eyes light up when she sees him step into the room, as soon as she sees that he arrives empty-handed, her face dims.

The conversation cuts short from both ends. Something stagnant rots between them, swallowing any words that dare travel through the viscous air. Todoroki finds his mind empty of any thoughts.

 

%

 

Hard as he tried, he couldn't stop thinking about Midoriya, and as he unlocks the door to his dorm, it turns out Midoriya couldn't make it through the day without thinking of him either.

Todoroki's phone buzzes twice, and he checks his screen to find two messages from Midoriya, the first asking him if he was alright, the second apologizing if he was being too nosy.

A smile crosses Todoroki's features. It's a delicate smile, one that turns his eyes soft, but he wills it away. He doesn't deserve to feel something like this. Instead, he throws his phone on to his bed, ignores the messages, and goes to make dinner.

 

%

 

Another week passes. Aizawa pulls Todoroki into his office and asks about his plans after graduation again. This time, Todoroki's had some time to consider, and in that brief moment of clarity that seemed so long away now, he had come to terms with his answer. It wasn't his ideal choice, but it was something. Now, he no longer possesses the same confidence. He stutters, falters, but despite that, Aizawa hums appreciatively. After years of nothing, anything would've elicited that response, Todoroki figures.

Midoriya texts him throughout the week, unfazed by Todoroki's lack of response. On Monday, he asks if Todoroki wants to grab lunch. On Tuesday, he asks him how his classes are. Wednesday morning, he recounts how Bakugou got scolded by their manager because he told a complaining customer to “shove it.”

Still, Todoroki ignores them; it's much easier to stuff those feelings away than face whatever guilty thoughts emerge from the warmth in his chest whenever his phone buzzes.

Next Saturday, he still avoids the flower shop, opting instead to take the longer route to the hospital, show up giftless, and watch his mother become less and less animated.

 

That night, he walks into his dorm living room to find Kirishima and Bakugou on the couch watching a movie. Kirishima has his arm draped around Bakugou's shoulders, and Todoroki swears he sees the faintest outline of a smile on Bakugou's mug.

Kirishima greets him with a huge grin. “Hey, man. Take a seat,” he offers.

Todoroki grabs a chair from the kitchen and pulls it near them. They're watching some action movie with lots of explosions and car chases, but Todoroki has a feeling neither of them were watching.

Bakugou grunts out a response. “Haven't seen you in a while.”

Todoroki shrugs. “I've been busy,” he says, which isn't technically a lie.

“Y'know, I usually wouldn't give two shits," Bakugou spits. "But you should really pull your head out of your ass. Deku won't stop worrying about you, and it gets real fucking annoying real fast when you work with that all the fucking time.”

Todoroki recoils. “That's has nothing to do with me,” he says with much less gusto than intended. It sounds inauthentic even to his own ears.

Bakugou glares, then turns back to the TV. “Whatever. It's not my problem.”

“I don't really know what's going on,” Kirishima offers, furrowing his brows. “But I think Bakugou has a point, man. Is something going on? You don't look too good lately.”

“No I'm fine,” Todoroki assures. “It's just—I've been really busy with school, that's all.”

Kirishima considers for a moment, then shrugs. “That's true. We're all graduating soon after all.”

Bakugou shifts (a little closer to Kirishima, Todoroki notices), and grunts. “You two better sort out whatever it is you're doing, or at least leave me out of it.”

“Yeah, man,” Kirishima pipes. “You can change it only if you want to change.”

Todoroki spends the rest of the night watching the lame action flick with Kirishima and Bakugou, and despite the unnecessary thoughts spinning in his mind, it's actually pretty relaxing.

 

%

 

You can change only if you want to change. Todoroki ruminates on those words. He doesn't know if he really wants to—without any reason to improve, without that initial push, Todoroki's not sure if he could ever leave his self-imposed limbo.

He stands outside the hospital room, hands empty for the third week in a row. The waxed floor glistens beneath his feet, and for a brief second, in the perfect angle, he swears he could see a reflection of his face. In the faint image, his scar strikes as a dark blot, threatening to devour the rest of his face. He touches it, rubs the skin sagging under his eyes, and grounds himself. He opens the door.

His mother glances at his face, then at his hands, then back towards the window. Nothing shows up on her face as she sits as still as a stone statue.

“No flowers today?” she comments.

Todoroki shakes his head. His mouth clamps shut, and his lower lip retreats inbetween his teeth.

You can change only if you want to change.

Silence drapes over them like thick, viscous sludge slowly falling from the ceiling. Todoroki touches his scar again and breathes in before the silence suffocates him.

His mother catches the movement—something sprouts in her eyes, but as quickly as it appeared, it vanishes. She holds her gaze, however, watching wordlessly as Todoroki looks away, snapping his hands away from his face as if he was burned.

Her mother's hands flutter up to her face, smoothing over the skin beneath her left eye. Concentration flits over her features, and she fixes a stare at Todoroki. Maybe it isn't concentration, but rather regret, or remorse, or maybe even guilt. Todoroki can't quite pinpoint it.

Her voice comes out barely above a whisper. “You know,” she begins. She looks out the window, perhaps attempting to find the words there. Like mother like son.

She sighs, fingers still touching her cheek, and turns back to Todoroki. “You're allowed to be happy. That's all I want.”

Something ignites within Todoroki's chest. Is it anger? Indignation? The dam surrounding his heart breaks, shatters, and from the inside gushes boiling water. Words come to him effortlessly, words he want wants to scream and throw and twist and smash against the white hospital walls until they release him from the confines of this room, but he says nothing.

Outside, shoes squeak on the waxed linoleum floors. The bustle of the hospital staff warps into a barely distinguishable buzz. A cart rolls by their room, stops, then continues along on its path, rustling and skipping.

Eventually, Todoroki finds the words that express what he thinks, how he really feels behind the anger and guilt and self-sabotage. “I know you won't say it.” His voice is shaky. He touches his scar. “But I no longer need to hear it. I don't want to blame myself anymore.” A surge of energy runs through him. “I don't want to blame myself anymore,” he repeats. “And I don't want to blame you either.”

His mother stares but remains silent.

He feels tears threatening behind his eyes, but he grinds his teeth together. He wants to apologize, to take everything back, to accept all the blame for himself, to carry the guilt again, but his mother places her hand on top of his own trembling one, his father's—no. His own left hand.

He sighs. “That's what I wanted to say.”

His mother squeezes his hand, smiles, and says nothing. A breeze blows in from the window, and for the first time in years, Todoroki feels no remnant of stale, stagnant and suffocating air.

 

%

 

“Midoriya,” Todoroki calls. His voice sounds clearer, brighter, even to his own ears. The bell above the flower shop door rings with urgency.

Midoriya looks up from the counter, hands frozen in the middle of assembling a bouquet. The shine in the eye isn't enough to stop Todoroki's bounding steps, though it certainly is enough to halt his heartbeat for a moment.

He skids to a stop at the counter, and hits his palms against the counters, startling both Midoriya and Bakugou, who's sitting on the other end. Breathless, red, confident, yet suddenly self-conscious, Todoroki blurts, “I'm sorry, Midoriya. I'm sorry for ignoring your messages and for not coming for the past few weeks and and...I have a lot of things to say but I guess the first thing—well second now—is thank you. I want to thank you for being there for me even when I wasn't there for myself.” He's babbling at this point, but he's still breathless, and nothing could possibly stop his vigor. “For being a good friend, even though I have more than just friendly feelings towards you.”

He pauses suddenly, face going redder than he thought possible. He feels no regret; it's what he feels and what he wants to say—even if Midoriya doesn't feel the same way, at least he finally had the capacity to express himself.

As Todoroki runs through the thought in his head, Midoriya's face flares. “Uh—I'm, well...” he stammers. “Where do I begin? I guess, I guess it's okay? For not replying to me, and uh, you're welcome? I'm not really sure what to say, Todoroki...” he trails, voice becoming unintelligible.

Todoroki's face falls. It's okay, he tells himself. He kept his expectations low anyway, and before he could say he understood, Midoriya's voice rises to a startling volume.

“I feel the same about you! I like spending time with you, I think, I mean, as long as you still do...” Midoriya looks anywhere but at Todoroki, but immediately his eyes shoot up. “Woah! Are you okay, Todoroki?!”

That shakes Todoroki from his reverie, and he notices the distinct smell of something burning. His arm flares, the flames licking at his jacket sleeve, and hee wants to lay in hole out of embarrassment.

He calms the fire erupting from his left side. “I'm fine,” he says. “I actually have two quirks.” He ignores the way Midoriya's eyes light up. “But that's not important right now. Would you,” he breathes in. “Would you want to go on a date, or something?”

The lingering adrenaline from Midoriya's confession puts him at a high from which he feels he could never come down. They're both still completely red, but at least they're looking at each other now.

“Y-yeah! I'd really like that,” Midoriya stammers, his voice cracking.

Todoroki smiles, really smiles—a full face grin that shows his teeth and reaches his eyes and scrunches his scar. Midoriya smiles back, and the air between them turns sweet, refreshing, and light.

A noise from the end of the counter snaps them out of their contentment. Bakugou makes a gagging sound and spits, “Fucking disgusting.”

 

%

 

Graduation no longer loomed over Todoroki as something to dread. In fact, it passes quickly and quietly. The end of his university career marked the beginning of his heroing career, as death always makes room for new life.

He'd decided to take apprenticeship under his father, no matter how little he wanted to spend time with that man. But it is something, a step forward, and now Todoroki realizes nothing is forever. Even better, he knows he no longer embodies the evil within his father, and he never will, no matter how closely he stands with him, no matter how deeply his scar runs under his skin. You will find what you're looking for, and he is no longer looking for his father within himself.

The Friday night after graduation, Todoroki stands in his dorm kitchen cooking dinner, curry with white rice. It's been weeks since he asked out Midoriya, and as he stirs the curry in the saucepan, he realizes that, with no trace of his dispassion just a few months ago, he's happy.

Maybe there's no monumental event that changes your entire life. Maybe one day you'll wake up and realize that the things that made you suffer suddenly don't hurt as much, and maybe some day, you won't hurt at all. For Todoroki, the process was a revolution so quiet that he never noticed it happening.

You can change only if you want to change.

He scoops leftover cold rice on to two plates, then sparked a flame in his palm and held it under each plate to warm them up. He spoons a serving of curry on to the rice and brings it out into the living room. Midoriya continues staring at the TV screen, trying to pick a movie for them. Todoroki doesn't really care; as long as he's with Midoriya, he has a feeling he won't be paying much attention anyway.

Todoroki settles next to him on the couch, hands still holding the plates, and plants a kiss on his forehead. Even though they've been dating for weeks, Midoriya's face still heats up, and the sight still sends Todoroki's heart fluttering.

He hands Midoriya his plate, and as Midoriya puts on a cheesy hero movie and leans into Todoroki's side, Todoroki smiles even though no one is watching.

 

%

 

The next day, Todoroki enters his mother's hospital room with a genuine look of eagerness on his face, which his mother returns with one of her own. None of their words hang in the air or struggle to escape their lips—the conversation moves as if neither of them wants to end. For a moment, his mother pauses mid-sentence, then reaches out, caresses one of the flowers in the white tulip bouquet he had brought.

“My, these are beautiful,” she sighs.

Todoroki agrees.

 

 

Tulip (White) – Forgiveness