One day, in the last long summer before Shoto Todoroki entered middle school, he lay panting in the grass of his family’s backyard. Instinct spurred him to stand as quickly as he could, even though he knew consciously that his father had gone. Off to eat the lunch that their live-in maid prepared for the family, before he was due to leave for patrol. He’d be back to give his youngest a grueling list of tasks to complete before he left, but it was always easier than the supervised training. Shoto had already survived the worst.
Something dropped to the ground from the other side of the fence and he was in a crouch in an instant, fingers curled and prepared to unleash an icy hell on whoever it was. Touya put up both hands, giving a nervous but not urgent chuckle.
“You wouldn’t attack your own brother, would you? Aha ha—”
Shoto let his hand relax and abandoned the small ring of ice crystals around his foot to melt in the sun, stepping back a pace or two. “Sometimes dad will prepare ambushes for me.
All good humor was gone from Touya’s expression in a second. “He really shouldn’t,” he said, dragging his hand through his messy red hair. He looked at his little brother with a pity that Shoto thought he understood; when Shoto had tried to let his own hair grow wild, their father had put his foot down. He never made the others train the way Shoto did. For a long time he’d even kept them apart, and Shoto hadn’t fully understood it….probably still didn’t, if he was honest with himself. But he knew that they might as well have had different families in many respects.
As if to punctuate this, Shoto noticed something that had changed about his brother since breakfast. “Your ear,” he said, gesturing to it.
Touya reached up and tweaked the silver band that had flashed in the sunlight, with a self-conscious smile. “Yeah...got this done today! It’s my first one. Hurts, actually…” He kept glancing around to make sure they were alone as he spoke. That just went to show that Touya might have a different life than Shoto, but even he wasn't immune to their father's wrath.
Shoto didn’t care if his brother had had his ear pierced—but he did care: “Why did you do it?”
Touya didn’t seem too interested in answering that, though. After compulsively scanning the yard and the second story overlooking it, he glanced down at Shoto. “—I have a boyfriend, too. That’s him.” He hoisted Shoto up under the armpits so that he could step onto the crossbar of their garden fence. Shoto peered out into the street and saw a young man of about fifteen—Touya’s age—walking away from their house with his shoulders hunched. Something must have alerted him that he was being watched, because he turned back around and looked at them. Touya waved. The guy smirked, then waved back. He gripped the collar of his leather jacket and flipped it up theatrically before turning away.
Once he was out of sight, Shoto looked back and found Touya staring at him intently—nervously? His hands did a little spasm-dance at his sides, but Shoto leaped back to the ground without help, brushing down his grass-stained jacket with both hands. He wasn’t a little kid anymore, even if he hadn’t yet had the growth spurt that he anticipated would bring him eye level with his siblings.
Maybe Touya could see that. He looked sad again, and shoved his hands into his pockets. “You’re growing up so freaking fa—”
“You like boys?” Shoto interrupted him. It wasn’t a judgement, really. Nor was it a question. Touya had just told him as much. It was just the idea of liking another boy that seemed utterly alien. Sure, you could respect them...desperately wish to surpass them...want to be like them, in abilities and skill and looks…
“I like blondes. Him being a guy is incidental,” Touya said, perking right up. His thin eyes always made him look somewhat amused, but when he grinned it was downright sunny. Shoto wondered if Touya really was just more cheerful than he was, or if it was just his face. (Even with the scars at his throat and chin…) Lately he’d seemed to go back and forth between insanely cheerful and silent, broody. And the earring…well, that wasn’t the first impulsive thing he’d done lately.
“...just don’t tell dad about Himitsu, okay? He, uh, doesn’t...handle things like that well.”
“He shouldn’t care. You’re not his ‘project’,” Shoto said bluntly. Now Touya looked like he really wanted to say something, but Shoto didn’t let him speak. “—I won’t tell him. Have all the boyfriends you want.”
“Oh, thank God. I need at least six more so I’ve got one for every day of the week.” There was a pause as they walked side by side towards the house. “For every day of the week—it’s a joke, Sho’.”
“I know,” Shoto said, and repeated his question from earlier. “Why did you get your ear pierced?”
Since a serious question deserved a serious answer, Touya tapped his chin before he spoke. “I heard that there’s a man with a healing Quirk working in the city in a piercing shop...who specializes in people with difficult Quirks. I was thinking that maybe, if I got some around my burns, I could stop them from getting worse—plus I just like the way it looks.”
“Oh,” Shoto said, hesitating in the doorway. He inhaled. “Have you been burning something?”
“Wha—? No! You know I can’t use my Quirk.”
What Shoto knew was that he’d been told not to use his Quirk. It was basically the same thing.
“—besides,” Touya laughed. “Don’t you think I’ve already gotten into enough trouble for today?” He flicked the silver ring in his ear as he wandered into the house, ruffling Shoto’s hair as he passed. The smell of smoke grew stronger with that contact, and disappeared with him.
It was the last time the two brothers saw each other for a long time.
“—that ridiculous thing you have in your ear, smoking —” Endeavor paused in his ranting, towering over Touya, the flames that licked across his face leaping and dancing angrily.
Touya hated them—but never more than moments like now. He bit his lip, balled his hands into fists, and shouted: “SHUT UP!” It felt awful—it felt good. To yell back. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time he’d been yelled at so long and loudly and he’d still dared to talk back. His hand flew to his ear. “It’s my body! Mine! We—” His heart was racing. His skin itched and burned. “WE’RE YOUR CHILDREN, NOT YOUR PROPERTY!”
“Why, you ungrateful —!”
He knew the slap was coming before it landed, but he was too slow to react: he wasn’t Shoto, with his years and years of training that drove him to the point of vomiting and collapsing. But he’d had his own battles to fight. With that thought in mind, his hand shot out as he staggered backwards and bright blue flames licked down his arm.
Endeavor batted them aside with his own orange flames, but not without surprise. It was enough to make Touya grin, even as he probed his stinging forearm with his fingertips.
The skin there didn’t look
bad. Nor did the skin on his face, though every time he’d used his Quirk the unbearable heat cracked and seared his skin. He’d eventually be able to control it, the doctor had said. It was just a regrettable side effect of his mother’s and father’s Quirks interacting. With the proper training—
But he hadn’t had proper training. He’d just been accepted as the latest and greatest failure in Endeavor’s family as their father moved on to another child. Leaving Touya in a horrible kind of limbo. He’d—
He’d just attacked his own father.
Realization set in like a cold sweat, and Touya realized that he had to be anywhere. Anywhere but here. So he bolted through a door to his left and didn’t look back. It might have been over if Endeavor had come after him, but since he left in the direction of his room, his father never gave it another thought. But when he raced upstairs and slammed the door, he dragged an old backpack out from under his bed and began to fill it.
By evening, he was gone; a boy of barely high school age sitting on a bus with his bandaged hands crossed and a single earring glistening in one ear.