It's far too late in the evening already when Shouto turns up at a rundown apartment near the campus of the medical school nearby. The hood of his sweatshirt is pulled down enough to obscure his face, on the off chance somebody bumps into him, even at this late hour. If anybody were to see his face and recognize him, that would be… unfortunate, for everyone involved.
He stops outside the door. He's been here many times before, but it's been weeks since the last time he was able to come—and he's missed it so much he can hardly believe he's back. He glances around quickly, before raising his hand to press his palm against the doorknob. Ice twists from his hand, taking shape, forming inside the lock of the door and—he hears a click, turns the knob, and lets himself in.
He doesn't have a key. He hadn't wanted to let Izuku make a copy, on the grounds that it's too risky. Someone could steal it, someone could pawn off replicas or be coerced into giving them away—someone who might find out about Izuku, about what Izuku means to Shouto, and Izuku… he would be helpless, if they came for him. The people Shouto has made enemies of, that is; and he has many enemies.
Izuku says he's being ridiculous, slightly paranoid—but Izuku doesn't know how crushing the weight inside Shouto's chest feels, how painfully overwhelming the thought that anything could ever happen to him because of who—and what—Shouto is. Shouto can't risk it.
So Shouto memorized the shape of the key, practiced getting it right, until he could see it in his head and form it from his thoughts alone—his ice fitting inside and opening the lock as though his quirk was always meant to do that. It's a small thing, but it makes him feel better, at least.
A pair of red sneakers lies haphazardly near the door, and Shouto realizes he probably should have thought to text before coming. Often, Izuku finishes up at school even later than Shouto wraps up whatever work he's been given. Izuku is a third year university student, only three years out of high school—one of the rare few to make the jump to a medical college immediately. So far he's not in danger of having to redo a year either, and Shouto suspects it will stay that way. Izuku is a genius, and he wants to start helping people, soon. Anything he sets his mind to, he'll achieve.
It's Izuku's way of chasing the dream that he never could otherwise. He can still be a hero this way, even without a quirk. He can save the ones who come to him in need of salvation.
It's how they met. Izuku is the reason Shouto is still there, still breathing, still standing in this tiny apartment instead of lying beneath the earth or drifting, scattered ashes. Izuku was only in his second year at that point, and should not have been trying to perform any procedures on anyone without a license.
Izuku had grasped Shouto's bloody hand and looked into his eyes and said to hell with all that, and then he'd operated on Shouto, anyway. For all Shouto's strength and power, his life had hung by a fragile thread, placed squarely in Izuku's steady hands. He may as well have taken Shouto's heart along with it, for safekeeping—it belongs to Izuku, now.
Shouto moves quietly through the hallway, past the kitchen, noticing the half eaten dinner on the table. He shakes his head. More likely than not, Izuku got distracted halfway through dinner and wandered off to make notes on something, forgetting to come back entirely. He does that… it's infuriating, because he's already small, and doesn't need to be getting smaller. Shouto thinks he might be able to stay until the morning. If he can, he'll make sure Izuku eats breakfast properly.
His suspicions are proved correct when he reaches Izuku's bedroom and pokes his head inside, to see Izuku passed out on his futon bed, fast asleep and surrounded by a veritable library of textbooks, journals, and notepads. Shouto's mouth hooks up at the corners—he can't fight back a smile, not at this.
It's only as he gets closer that he's able to make out Izuku's form more distinctly in the darkness, aided by a combination of streetlight and moonbeam shining through the window. Izuku's thin legs are bare, curled up close to his body in his sleep. If there was more light in the room, Shouto knows he'd be able to see freckles, the ones scattered all across Izuku's entire body. It had been like unlocking secrets at first, each new one he discovered, until he found them all, laid Izuku bare and open for him. Shouto knows each mark, knows Izuku so well from all the time he's spent tracing his fingers and lips over them, memorizing them.
Izuku wears a shirt, but it's not a proper sleep shirt—it's black, collared and buttoned up, silky and expensive looking. It's big on Izuku, enough to only just drape down to his thighs, and Shouto realizes.
That's his shirt, that Izuku is wearing.
Shouto shifts some of the books so he can sit on the bed, and reaches out with his right hand. Slowly, barely touching at first, he traces a cool finger over Izuku's bare skin—over his knee, up his thigh. Izuku shivers, stirs in his sleep. The shirt rides up higher. Shouto wants to see his face, his eyes. He runs his hand up to Izuku's hip, fingers cold now, squeezing into pliant flesh. Slowly, Izuku wakes. Shouto stares down at him, fixated, a feeling like hunger churning in his stomach as he waits for Izuku to see him, and register…
Izuku blinks big, soft eyes sleepily open before catching sight of Shouto. For a brief moment, he startles, going still and frozen as he realizes he's not alone.
"I'm back," Shouto murmurs. That's all it takes.
"Shouto," Izuku gasps, and then he's sitting up to throw himself forward, arms wrapping around Shouto's neck. His weight is negligible to Shouto, and he pulls Izuku closer to embrace him tightly. Izuku's hair is longer than it had been last time Shouto saw him, but his curls are soft and smell the same as Shouto remembers, a memory he keeps in the back of his mind for when he needs to remember something… something good.
"How—how long?" Izuku asks, first. His fingers cling to Shouto's shoulders a little tighter. "How long can you stay?"
Shouto shakes his head. "I don't know."
Those fingers shake, a little bit. Shouto wants to pretend he doesn't notice. But before he can say anything, Izuku looks up at him, smiling fierce and brilliant.
"That's okay!" he says. "I don't care, as long as you're here now."
He raises his hands to Shouto's face, palms caressing his cheeks carefully. His thumb brushes the scar tissue on the left side, and Shouto doesn't shy away from him. He doesn't feel like he has to, with Izuku. The scar is a reminder to both of them, of why Shouto is gone so often, why this is the life he chose to lead.
"You haven't been eating properly," Shouto says.
Izuku laughs. It captivates Shouto, even though Izuku is not beautiful; not really, and thank god for that. It's probably one of the things that keeps him safe, that steady plainness—round baby face, eyes too big with the dark circles underneath, hair too messy, small nose and big mouth for all the talking, smiling, crying. He cries too easily, and his heart is too big.
No one in their right mind would suspect him of associating with Shouto, and that's exactly how Shouto likes it. That all of Izuku's plainness, all the things that make people overlook him are also exactly what Shouto likes about him, is a bonus. Shouto would have loved him, no matter what he looked like.
"I've been studying pretty hard," Izuku admits. "It helps, when I'm…" He looks away, then, avoiding Shouto's eyes. "I need something to think about, sometimes. I just—I saw, on the news—"
"I know," Shouto says. He knows what Izuku will have seen. A huge attack, a messy outcome for both sides. Many of the villains injured, but escaped, unaccounted for—missing. "I don't… particularly want to talk about it right now."
"I don't think either of us do," Izuku says, venturing a glance at him again. A tiny smile returns. "So what do you want, then, now that you're here?"
Shouto doesn't answer right away. What he wants never changes, and Izuku knows that. He doesn't need Shouto to tell him. So instead, Shouto stays quiet, lets his hands fall to the hem of the black shirt where it lays against Izuku's legs, moves his fingers over bare skin as Izuku's eyelashes flutter low, and he bites his lip. It's been—it's been so long since Shouto felt this warmth under his hands. It's been so long since he felt Izuku whisper his name in his ear. What he wants never changes, but how much he needs it, sometimes, that's more than he can bear.
"There's no way you could have known I was coming," Shouto says. He moves his fingers up to Izuku's waist, tracing the hem of the briefs Izuku wears. He picks the kind that are small little things in pastel colors. Cute. "So why…"
"I like to wear them. The things you leave behind," Izuku says, his voice hitching as Shouto trails his fingers just above the line of his underwear, over the soft, soft skin of Izuku's stomach. "It makes me feel like you're still close by."
There's this guilt, that Izuku is capable of making Shouto feel, like nothing else ever can. And for a moment, Shouto could do it. He could walk away from everything else; he could be happy to stay here safe with Izuku, instead. If only so it meant Izuku didn't have to worry anymore. Shouto isn't sure whether or not Izuku does this intentionally. After all, Izuku knows what it's like to have that feeling of purpose, to need to follow it through. In that way, they're the same, even if the two of them may have chosen to follow different paths.
"Shouto," Izuku says, perhaps sensing him slipping deeper into his thoughts, "what do you want?"
Shouto lifts a hand, puts his palm flat against Izuku's throat, fingers curling around his neck lightly. The color floods to Izuku's cheeks at that single gesture, a barely there display of dominance—unnecessary, because it's never been a question, that Izuku belongs to him. But from the way Izuku leans into his touch, from the soft moan Shouto can feel vibrating against his palm, neither does Izuku mind it being reinforced. Shouto takes his hand away, uses it to cup Izuku's face in one palm instead.
"You," Shouto says.
Izuku sighs, like he's been waiting—been hoping to hear those words. He tilts his chin up, a silent offering, and Shouto knows he doesn't deserve this. He can't possibly deserve something this good.
But by the same token, it's only noble men who resist all temptation, isn't it? Shouto isn't noble; he gives in.
Kissing Izuku is like using the power of his left side unchecked—it's like scorching everything in his path, it's like giving up control, it's like starting a wildfire just to watch it rage.
It's soft. And that's what makes him burn.
Izuku's lips are a little bit chapped, because he bites them when he's lost in thought; they're sensitive, and when Shouto brushes his tongue against them, they part, and Izuku trembles in his arms. Shouto explores his mouth slowly, without rushing, no matter how eager Izuku is. Izuku lets him, clings to him, as Shouto savors him, his taste, his warmth—his voice comes in hushed, breathless gasps when Shouto pulls him close and presses deep into him, a promise of what's to come.
He can feel Izuku's hands roaming more boldly, the more worked up he gets. Still shaking a little, but drifting lower, finding the edges of Shouto's shirt until he can slip slender fingers under it, to skim over Shouto's stomach. Izuku sighs again, and his fingers splay. It makes the heat there, in Shouto's gut, coil even tighter; like it's responding to Izuku's own show of possessiveness as he spreads his hands across Shouto's skin.
Shouto pulls away, and Izuku allows it, watching with dark, liquid jade eyes as Shouto strips his shirt off, pulling it over his head to toss away. Izuku's eyes roam over his torso, bare chest and shoulders, and Shouto lets him look, feeling oddly calm. He doesn't like it when other people look, because the scars are rough and numerous, at this point. But it's alright, when Izuku does.
Just as Shouto knows his freckles, Izuku is familiar with all his scars. Only, Shouto's change from time to time. He acquires new ones. Izuku doesn't so much like that—he checks, every time they are together. He takes inventory of how much Shouto has gone through while they were apart. And no matter what has changed, what new marks Shouto bears, Izuku still looks at him like he's beautiful.
Shouto doesn't understand it, not really. He guesses Izuku would say the same thing about the way Shouto sees him. But where Shouto can look at the patterns of dots on Izuku's pale, unblemished arms and thighs and see galaxies, all that's left behind on Shouto are painful memories, haphazard, no rhyme or reason to any of the battle scars. He doesn't know what Izuku is seeing, when he touches them, traces them with the tips of his fingers. He's never asked. Izuku likes touching them, and that's all Shouto needs to know.
"Don't," Shouto tells him, and Izuku's hands hesitate at the buttons of the black shirt, where he's started to undo them, exposing his collar, his chest. The dark fabric is stark against his skin. "Leave it on."
"Want you to… touch me, though," Izuku says, a messy mumble, too distracted to really shape the words properly as Shouto leans forward, to mouth over the bared jut of his collarbone. Izuku really is too thin.
Shouto shifts forward, holding Izuku so he can lower Izuku gently to the bed. A thin whine ekes from Izuku's throat as Shouto draws his hands down his front, over the shirt, skimming his chest and stomach.
"You know that's not enough," Izuku says. "I haven't seen you in so long, Shouto, so—please, be good to me."
The words, the pleading, send a spike of sharpened longing right through Shouto. He does want to be good, it used to be all he ever wanted—now he just wants to show Izuku he still can be, for him.
He slides down the bed, until he's low enough to put his mouth on Izuku's thighs, the flushed hot skin, kissing up them. His teeth nip at the most sensitive parts high on the inside, and Izuku jolts; he's getting hard in his underwear, the pale green cloth doing little to hide his arousal. Shouto moves onto those next—strokes a finger over Izuku's cock through his briefs before putting his mouth to the warm fabric to mouth against him. Izuku lets out a low moan, so thick and sweet that Shouto feels like he could drink it down.
Izuku sounds like honey and addiction when Shouto sucks his cock. He cries out, his voice cracking apart, as Shouto keeps his hips pinned to the bed and swallows him all the way to the base, until his nose is pressed into dark curls and Izuku's scent fills his senses. Izuku writhes helplessly, back arching, toes curling, one hand in Shouto's hair and the other reaching back into the pillows behind him, like he's holding on for dear life. Shouto takes it slow, breaks him gently, high off the way Izuku's desperate sobs could be pleasure or pain, that's how overwhelmed he is.
"I'm—gonna c-come—" Izuku gasps, "aah—c-can I? Shouto—"
For a moment, Shouto thinks he might let Izuku finish. Then he pulls back, sliding his lips up the length of Izuku's cock—saliva connecting his lips to the tip before he wipes his mouth with his hand and shakes his head.
Izuku goes limp beneath him, staring up at him with pleading, shiny eyes. Shouto bends forward to kiss him and lets Izuku lick into his mouth, tasting himself on Shouto's tongue, like he needs reassurance as to how much Shouto wants him.
"Not until I'm inside you," Shouto says, and Izuku whimpers but nods, trustingly. Shouto will definitely make it up to him. "Soon."
He kisses Izuku again before rolling him over onto his stomach. Shouto runs a hand up the back of his thigh, pulling himself over Izuku's small frame to cage Izuku in between his arms. Izuku turns, twisting back, already looking for Shouto to kiss him again, so Shouto gives him what he wants. The front of his pants pushes against Izuku's ass, and Izuku moans into his mouth, as he feels Shouto's erection pressing into him, even through their layers of clothing.
"N-need… you," Izuku shudders out, "need—"
Shouto rolls off him, fumbling to get his pants all the way off as he crosses the room to Izuku's desk, rooting around in the drawers before he finds the bottle of lube he knows is there. When he turns back to the bed, he sees Izuku has raised himself up the tiniest bit, knees underneath him with his ass in the air. His cock leaks into the sheets below him, but he doesn't touch himself. He just waits for Shouto. He's trembling in anticipation by the time Shouto sits back down on the bed; Shouto can feel it as he runs a soothing hand down Izuku's spine.
Mindful not to turn the heat up too high, Shouto uses his left hand to finger Izuku, just enough that it relaxes Izuku's muscles as Shouto circles his entrance before pushing carefully inside him. Izuku is so ready for him, anyway, that it almost doesn't matter. He pushes his hips back into Shouto's hand, sniffling into the sheets, breaths panting unevenly as Shouto opens him up.
"A-ah—more, more, that feels perfect—"
"More perfect than having all of me?" Shouto asks, and maybe it's a bit cruel to tease Izuku at that moment, but he can't help it. Izuku turns his head so fast, Shouto can see tears fly from his eyes.
"No!" he gasps.
"Sorry," Shouto says, pushing a second finger slowly inside him in apology. Izuku squeezes his eyes shut, mouth falling open in bliss. "I know what you meant."
"Just… having you h-here… is p-perf—" Izuku manages to say, and then Shouto strokes his fingers deep inside him and he's past speaking, past making any noise, clenched tight around Shouto's fingers as his eyes roll back in his head and he struggles to keep breathing through waves of pleasure.
Shouto can't take anymore than that. His cock is aching, just from watching Izuku, from hearing the way he chokes on desire, for Shouto. He doesn't know that he'll ever believe in his own head that Izuku wants him like this, not until Shouto is here, in the moment, drowning in it.
Izuku shifts below him when Shouto pulls his fingers out, whimpering in protest, quieting when Shouto shushes him. He picks Izuku up in his arms again, turns him around, and Izuku is pliant as he wraps his arms around Shouto's neck, head falling back as Shouto helps him line up and sink down, around Shouto's cock.
Shouto takes him like that—holding Izuku in his lap, face to face, foreheads resting together so he can kiss Izuku every time he rocks in, out, in. Hard, but not punishing; enough that it makes Izuku cry out every time Shouto pushes deep inside him, but not to the point that Shouto can't make out the sounds of his name when they fall from Izuku's lips. Izuku is tight and hot around Shouto, hotter than any fire he's ever felt.
"Sh-Shouto—!" Izuku moans, so high and ruined that it punches straight through to Shouto's heart. "Th-there—there—"
Shouto doesn't want it to be over, not this soon—but he wants Izuku to be satisfied. Izuku waited, for him, and Shouto doesn't have the right to make him wait any longer.
"You can come," he whispers, his own voice ragged, more hoarse than he'd expected, "Izuku, come—for me—"
Izuku's eyes flutter open, so full of gratitude that Shouto barely feels worthy of looking at him. Then Izuku is holding him, one arm clinging around his shoulders, his other hand with the fingers curled tight in Shouto's hair, holding Shouto so he can't look away as Izuku moans,
"I lo-love—I love—"
Shouto kisses him so he can't finish saying it.
Izuku goes near silent when he comes, save for the soft whimpers that escape him as he shudders over and over, through the aftershocks of his release. The feeling around Shouto's cock is good enough that it tips him over the edge and he lowers Izuku down again to lay on the bed so Shouto can finish inside him, with Izuku's legs wrapped around his waist, one hand stroking through Shouto's hair.
He's going to be full of Shouto—he never wants Shouto to wear protection, especially not after long absences. Shouto always tells Izuku that he's going to be a doctor, and he should know better; Izuku always laughs and says Shouto is the last person allowed to criticize him for living recklessly. They both know it's safe, in the end, and Izuku trusts him.
Somehow, even after Shouto keeps leaving again, and again, for all the wrong reasons, Izuku trusts him.
"Shouto," Izuku murmurs, some time later, after they've cleaned up and fallen into a bed with new sheets now cleared of papers and notebooks and reference charts. Shouto doesn't feel very sleepy yet, but Izuku's voice is heavy with it.
"You'll be careful, right? When you're…"
Shouto brushes his fingers through Izuku's hair. "Sleep, Izuku." What a shitty answer.
"You'll—" Izuku closes his eyes and ducks his head to rest it against Shouto's chest, so Shouto can't see his face. "You'll be careful with anyone… who doesn't need to get hurt?"
"Yeah," Shouto says.
He's speaking for himself. It's all he can do. The others in the League don't try as hard as he does, to avoid collateral. He tries to make them understand but nobody sees eye to eye on protecting civilians—they're only united on their main goal.
"Thank you," Izuku whispers. "And you don't know when the Hero Ki—when he'll need you to come back?"
"No," Shouto says. "I'm sorry."
When they'd first started to get involved with each other, Izuku had tried to pull him away. He'd tried to tell Shouto that following his own path was better—that Shouto could still be a hero after everything.
But it wasn't true. Not everyone could be a hero. Izuku learned that painful lesson firsthand.
And sometimes, it was the heroes that people need saving from the most.
Izuku curls closer to him. "It's okay. You're here now."
The words "I am here" leave a bitter taste in Shouto's mouth now, because he knows he'll never be worthy of them.
"I'll stay for as long as I can," he says, instead.
Izuku slips his hand into Shouto's, and Shouto holds him tight to his chest. Heroes fight for the world. Shouto fights for just two people: himself, and now, for Izuku. That's why, he supposes, he'll never be a hero.
But he doesn't much care to be anymore.