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Forever Shouto

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Ani stretched her neck side-to-side and twisted her back, giving it a crack. Her eyes scanned the ER. All was quiet this early morning and she was completely fine with it. The sun would rise in an hour and her shift would finish in two. Tomorrow was her day off—the first in a week. With constant ER patients and surgeons needing her help everyday there wasn’t time for a day off any sooner. She barely made it home two nights this week between shifts. Every other night she chose to sleep in the staff room. Her quirk required massive amounts of sleep so when the hospital was this busy it was best for her to sleep whenever—and wherever—she could. She looked down at her hand. The finger that had been ripped off was fully regrown but the skin was still flushed, leaving it a little more pink than the others.

Regeneration.

What a curse and a blessing. It allowed her to help with patients who would otherwise be untouchable but it meant she was the only one who could help at those times. It put a huge amount of pressure on her and not to mention: pain. Her body could completely heal from any injury but she endured the full pain of every injury, every time.

Sunlight began streaking across the Dagoben skyline as she finished her rounds. She sat down to finish her nightly reports to hand patients off to the day shift when the alarm started.

Her eyes flashed to the monitor and speaker announcing the incoming ambulance. The report was limited and unhelpful. It’s jarry phrasing told Ani the patient was in bad condition. Fire and Ice Damage. Quirk Unstable. Containment Required. Ani’s eyes flew to the containment rooms. Thankfully they were still empty and she had already restocked them earlier.

She heard the ambulance sirens rapidly approaching and two nurses materialized at her side to help receive the patient. Glace and Doto looked at each other with worry as they saw the ambulance tear down the street...with flames pouring out the back.

Ani swallowed thickly, steeling herself for the incoming inferno. She already knew Glace and Doto’s quirks couldn’t help. The ambulance flew around the parking lot, jerked into reverse, and almost hit the ER doors just before slamming on the breaks.

Two paramedics, from somewhere in the blaze, were shouting.

“Get him inside!”

“Into containment before it sets off the sprinklers!”

More instructions spewed out as they quickly pulled the stretcher out, dodging and ducking around the swirling, angry flames. Glace and Doto ran off to bring the tools the EMTs shouted for to containment.

Ani met them at the door.

Before she could even grab the bar of the stretcher her arms were washed in a surge of searing heat. She felt the hair on her arms instantly catch as she maneuvered the stretcher onto the ER bed.

She ran, pulling the bed and it’s flaming occupant to the nearest containment room followed by the only other fire-resistant EMT. Her hands and his began flying over the patient’s body, peeling the melting uniform from his torso.

“We haven’t been able to get a pulse!” The EMT shouted.

Ani reached for the right-half of his body, somehow unburning under the torrent of flames.

“As soon as we do that, he—”

Ani stifled a scream as ice froze in thick spikes, coating his whole right arm, and caught her fingers in it. Somehow her fingers still had feeling and she counted out his pulse from where she touched his vein. She called out the numbers to the EMT.

“What happened to him?!” Ani called out over the flames that began igniting again. Sprinklers turned on, spraying a stinging fountain of water over everything in the room. As it momentarily doused the flames she saw a mess of lacerations across his chest.

“He was fighting someone who was holding a train station full of people hostage-” the EMT was prepping a dry tray of surgical tools. “He and his team of heroes got everyone out just before the villian detonated a bomb. This guy shielded the bystanders from shrapnel with a wall of ice but it left himself exposed. He was hit as a result.”

“Someone has to remove the shrapnel,” Ani said to herself, thinking out loud. She could see metal bits sticking out of the lacerations. The EMT nodded.

“His body is—”

“Out of control because of the pain.” Ani knew extreme pain like that well enough. Again the EMT nodded.

“We need to get it out before he pushes his body to it’s limit any further.”

Ani’s mind flashed through the current status and locations of all the surgeons who could withstand the continuous onslaught of flames and frostbite. The patient’s ride side, despite the flames melting the exterior ice, was showing signs of frostbite. The tips of his fingers were turning black.

“I think his body is trying to force the shrapnel out while he’s unconscious,” the EMT said.

Ani grimaced, already sensing what needed to be done.

Suddenly, there was a pounding on the containment door. Ani and the EMT looked to the glass and saw the only surgeon on duty, the ER doctor, and the supervising nurse at the doors. She saw it in their faces, too.

None of them could get close enough and the only surgeons who could wouldn’t make it on time.

“We don’t have time,” the supervising nurse said. “Go ahead.”

“You can do this,” the surgeon—who just happened to be her brother—said.

“Ani,” the EMT called her attention as he wheeled the tray of surgical tools to her side. “It has to be you.”

She looked at him, knowing he could endure the flames since he was a fire-quirk himself but the ice would destroy him. Her eyes swept over the wounds and she turned to the sink without a moment of hesitation. As she washed her hands the EMT fitted a silicone cap over her hair.

She turned back to the tools and began.

Chapter Text

Every laceration was a battle in the war against the patient’s defensive quirk. Flames tried to keep her back, sending burns of searing flesh up her arms. The lower-half of her sleeves had burned away long ago. Her eyelashes and eyebrows were singed each time she didn’t dodge quickly enough. Her lungs screamed at the super-dried air from his flames and then her airways nearly clogged with the deluge of water streaming from the sprinklers.

His right side was no easier. Constant fractals of ice hardened his skin to keep the shrapnel from moving any deeper but it meant she had to chisel through to each wound. Spikes of ice would thrust up and out at random, catching her fingers and arms. When his flames would flare and sprinklers would douse her with water, she was at risk to have her skin ripped off if she made any contact with his icy skin. She only had to learn that lesson once. His skin was so cold she didn’t know how his blood was still pumping.

By the final laceration her hands were shaking. She was emaciated from the accelerated regeneration in response to the onslaught. She forced her eyes to focus into the last wound and steadied her hands as she slowly pulled out the last twisted metal as cautiously as she could without causing anymore trauma. The moment the metal was clear from his skin the flames disappeared. The ice slowly receded though some crystals remained in small patches.

The glass door opened as she dropped the last piece of shrapnel on the pile. The by-standing doctors and nurses that had gathered, including the original ER doctor, the surgeon, and her supervising nurse rushed in and Ani stepped aside so they could tend to the patient’s remaining injuries. The EMT caught her as she collapsed and her supervising nurse helped ferry her out of the room.

Severe burns coated her arms, face, and neck. Her fingers and arms had lacerations of their own from the dagger-like spike of ice. They set her down in the closest chair and immediately administered an IV of a thick replenishing solution. Her eyelids felt so heavy.

“I’m...I’m just going to sit here for a moment,” she said softly.

“Come on,” her supervisor said. “Let’s get you to a bed.”

“No!” She protested, her eyes popping open for a moment. She could hear how busy the ER was. “I'm fine here."

She looked around and saw the chair was tucked away in a corner of the ER, out of the main bays.

“Really. Go help everyone else. And save the beds for the patients,” she insisted. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. “I want to stay here.”

The EMT and nurse looked at each other as Ani fell into a deep sleep.

 

A gentle tap on her elbow stirred Ani from sleep. Her brother was checking her IV and connecting another solution. He tsk’ed her.

“You’re so stubborn, not letting them give you a bed.”

She smiled weakly, shifting under her crisp, ashy scrubs.

“I’m fine,” she assured him. She glanced at the containment door. “How’s he doing?”

“Remarkably well...thanks to you. We’ve been able to clean and stitch up his wounds. He’s resting upstairs now.”

She smiled with relief and closed her eyes again. “Thanks Aino.”

He tucked a blanket around her and she began drifting off to sleep. He chuckled quietly to himself as he walked away.

“Only you could save a top hero’s life and not even notice.”

Ani was already deep asleep when he reached the corner of the hall.

 

Ani awoke from the sounds of a conversation nearby.

“You’re all set Mr. Ground Zero,” a familiar voice said. “Have a good rest of your evening.”

Someone grunted and Ani’s eyes cracked open. She saw the day-time supervising nurse walking out of the room across the hall, leaving a patient by himself. He put his coat on, lifting his hood over spikey, ashen hair. As he grabbed his paperwork he looked up and his eyes met Ani’s.

“Tch,” he scorned. “Lazy leech...sleeping on the job.”

Ani was instantly dredged out of her sleepiness, insulted and stirred by his ignorance. She stared back at his bright ruby eyes and stood up. Someone had removed the IV while she was sleeping but the blanket, still on her lap, slipped off to reveal her charred scrubs.

She caught the blanket before it hit the ground and bundled it up. She strode away without looking at his reaction. Glancing at the clock behind the closest nurse’s station she could see half of her day-off was already gone—she was getting up just as the sun was setting.

With a heavy sigh she folded the blanket up and put it in the laundry.

“Ani, you’re up. Are you feeling okay?” The current supervising nurse asked her.

Ani nodded and grabbed a bottle of water as the ashen-haired hero who called her lazy stalked past and down the hall. She ignored him, avoiding his glower.

“I’m fine. A little disappointed I slept so late.”

“Well, given what you went through, it’s not surprising.”

“It’s all worth it when they survive,” she said with a relaxed smile. She looked at the tender patches of new, papery skin on her arms. She didn’t want to know how pink her face looked. She caught how the supervising nurse looked away.

“He...survived...didn’t he?” Ani asked with growing concern. “Aino told me he was recovering upstairs.”

The nurse grimaced. “Aino probably wanted you to stay calm so you could sleep and finish regenerating.”

“So...so he...” Ani trailed off as her stomach flipped.

“He’s still alive but...he’s in the ICU. Hey, Ani!”

Ani was already striding down the hall to the elevator.

“Ani. Ani! It’s your day off,” the nurse protested as Ani stepped through the doors. “Go home!”

She wasn’t quick enough to get there before the doors closed.

“You’re so stubborn!” She heard the nurse shout as ambulance sirens filled the ER.

The elevator rose quickly, pulling Ani away from the noise and open a few moments later to the quiet floor that held the ICU. Ani stepped off and wove through the waiting room, down the corridor to the ICU nurse’s station.

“Can I help you?” asked the only nurse there at the moment.

Ani showed her ID. “A patient came into the ER this morning and I was told he’s recovering up here.”

“And? Who are you?”

“I’m the nurse who removed the shrapnel,” she took a nervous breath.

The nurse eyed her closely. “And? You wanted to check on him?”

Ani nodded, taking a nervous breath. “If I’m allowed.”

“And your brother’s Dr. Shida, right? The surgeron on staff last night, right?” She aked. Ani nodded as the nurse stood up. “He mentioned you would probably stop by.”

“I...I was hoping to see if he was okay,” Ani said, fidgeting with what was left of her sleeves.

The nurse nodded and gave her a clipboard to sign-in. Ani listed herself and followed the nurse’s directions, around the corner and down the hall to the last room where the patient was. Ani slipped quietly through the calm and dim halls. Monitors of all kind beeped out readings and there were only two other nurses tending to comatose patients in various rooms.

Ani approached the final door and gulped, scared for the patient on the other side. She took a slow, calming breath, and let herself in.

Every surface of the room was covered in flowers and balloons, posters, cards, and stuffed animals. All notes from people wishing the patient best health and a quick recovery. Ani gripped the door handle and shut the door as quietly as she could. That’s when she finally saw his face. And froze.

Shouto.

The half-fire, half-ice, pro hero. Top TWO hero to be exact. Outdone only by Deku. Todoroki Shouto. Sweat coated Ani’s back as she realized who this person was and how important they were. His face was covered with an oxygen mask and monitors of every kind were connected to him in every way. IVs dripped medicines into both arms.

Ani fumbled for the door handle and dashed out. She closed the door and latched it before quickly leaving the hallway. She came out of the CIU and caught the eye of the nurse.

“Are you alright, dear? You’re pale as a ghost.”

Ani forced herself to swallow and find the words. “That’s....that’s...” she weakly pointed down the hall.

“Shouto,” the nurse confirmed. “You didn’t know?”

Ani shook her head.

“I guess you were a little preoccupied with his condition.” The nurse looked up and down her uniform again.

Ani’s thoughts were swirling with self-criticism, self-doubt, and fear that she was the reason he was there. She went down to her locker in a daze. She changed, was at the train station, then standing on her doormat looking at her door as if Shouto, TODOROKI SOUTO, would be on the other side.

She let herself in feeling like she was about to collapse from so many recent physical and emotional strains. She chugged a protein drink and showered, feeling the draw of her bed like a magnet and succumbed to its pull. She fell asleep riddled with feelings she couldn’t understand.

~

Ani awoke, finally feeling her regeneration complete. Ugh, she had slept well into the day and in several hours she would be due back at work. She stretched and got up, ignoring the complicated emotions she still couldn’t identify. Her apartment needed a serious cleaning.

Done.

Lunch for work?

Done.

Before she knew it she had to get dressed for work to go back to the hospital. It was why she had no pets and limited entertainment in her apartment: she was rarely here to do more than sleep.

It wasn’t until she was on the train that she realized she was an hour early for work. Her mind found its way to Shouto—no—Todoroki’s face in the ICU. It wouldn’t hurt to see him, check on his condition before she started her shift.

Once changed into her scrubs she went up to find the same nurse from the previous day, finishing up today’s shift. Luckily, she recognized Ani.

“How’s he doing?” Ani asked timidly, not knowing if the nurse would reveal anything. Her face gave it away. “Did...did he...” Ani choked on the words.

“No but his condition is severely deteriorating,” her eyes were glistening with sadness. “His vitals are all low and his wounds won’t stop bleeding.”

Ani’s heart sank. “Can I see him?”

The nurse nodded somberly. Ani signed in again and wove down the quiet hall to his room. If possible, there were more “get well” messages and decorations. She snuck through the room, not wanting to rouse the sleeping hero.

Flipping through his chart confirmed what the nurse said. He was in bad shape. Ani peaked under his gown at the gauze-covered wounds. All the gauze was soaked with rich, red blood. Ani sucked in a tight breath and knew she only had a few moments before a nurse would be in to change the bandages.

Chapter Text

Todoroki yawned deeply, feeling like he had been asleep for a month. When he opened his eyes he saw a room full of overwhelming well-wishes. Clearly many people knew he was here and what happened to him. He sat up, or tried to sit up, but bandages and tape pulled at his skin, protesting the movement. A monitor loudly announced his conscious state and a nurse rushed in.

“Mr. Todoroki, you’re awake!” She rushed over and began fiddling with machines and IVs. She paged the on-call doctor and asked “how are you feeling?”

“Fine, thank you.” His voice was dry.

“Just relax.” She smiled too warmly, gently pressing her hands to his shoulders with unnecessary contact. “Please rest, the doctor will be here soon.”

It seemed like she was trying to find a reason to stay in the room as long as possible. He cleared his throat and she looked up from his chart.

“Can I have some water, please?” He asked.

“Of course!” She grinned and batted her overly-made-up eyes at him. She bolted from his room with a quick flick of her hips. He closed his eyes in relief. He hoped the doctor would come soon. He really felt fine, better than he had in a long time. He wanted to get out of the hospital before worse behavior began. It wouldn’t be long before the nurses began groping and sexually harassing him. It was a curse of being a pro hero.

The nurse returned with wet scrubs that clung to her curves suggestively. She gave him the water.

“Someone tripped and spilled their water all over me.” She laughed, trying to be playful.

“Unbelievable,” he muttered. She was waiting, watching him with an unblinking smile, for him to take a drink.

“Mmmm, thank you,” he said taking a dramatic slurp.

“Oh, it’s no problem at all.” She shrugged and patted his arm. He stifled a grimace, putting on his practiced polite expression.

“Well, I guess I better go get changed,” she said. She peeled the scrubs away from her chest, flapping them as if he was going to invite her to change there. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”

She said with lingering touch on his hand. She bit her lip and walked away. Todoroki held in his sigh until she was gone.

A moment later a doctor and a surgeon burst in, out of breath.

“Mr. Todoroki! I’m Dr. Takiyata,” the doctor introduced himself. “And this is Dr. Shida, the surgeon who supervised your admittance and treatment in the ER. How are you feeling?”

Heavy concern was written on their faces and he could tell they were anxious to check his bandages.

“Nice to meet both you. I’m feeling much better. Thank you both, you’ve done amazing work.”

The two doctors exchanged a confused and suspicious glance.

“May I check your wounds?” Dr. Takiyata asked, gesturing to Todoroki’s chest.

“Of course,” he said, folding down the blanket.

Dr. Takiyata, more gently than was necessary, pulled the gown off of his shoulders and exposed a massive web of bandages—all white and clean.

“That’s a good sign,” Dr. Takiyata said with obviousness to a shocked Dr. Shida. The doctor gingerly peeled a small bandage up and smiled widely. He lifted it off revealing completely healed skin.

“This is great,” he grinned at Dr. Shida then at Todoroki. “Let’s check the others!”

Dr. Shida’s brow was furrowed pensively as he helped Dr. Takiyata remove all the bandages.

They went from the smallest to the largest, only the last revealing a thing, fading pink remainder of a wound.

“Incredible work, Dr. Shida!” the doctor exclaimed. “You’ve left our prized Mr. Todoroki unscathed!”

“Huh?” Dr. Shida shook himself from a daze. “Oh, uh, yes. Thank you. I’m glad to see you’re doing well Mr. Todoroki.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Todoroki said to the distracted surgeon.

“Yes, yes...” he said not really paying attention. “I should, um...I should check on other patients now.” He left before either man could say another word.

“Sorry about him,” Dr. Takiyata said to Todoroki. “His bedside manner is best when the patient is unconscious.”

Todoroki gave a timid, polite smile for the doctor’s attempt to lighten the mood, but the surgeon’s expression stayed with him.

 

Discharge was expedited for the number two hero, naturally. So it was only a half-hour later when Todoroki was dressed in the elite, not-so-standard hospital sweats and walking to the elevator, paperwork in hand. He paused at the nurse’s station, relieved when wet-scrubs wasn’t there.

“Excuse me,” he asked the nurse, ignoring her flushed gaze. “Where is Dr. Shida’s office?”

She licked her lips involuntarily before directing him. He took the elevator down and followed a maze of halls to the general surgery office. More nurses. More subconscious flirting from them and he was finally being escorted to Dr. Shida’s office.

Dr. Shida met him at the door and shooed the unnecessary escort away.

“Mr. Todoroki,” he closed the door, “have a seat, please.”

He gestured to the two chairs in front of his desk as he sat in the one behind it.

“What can I do for you?” Dr. Shida asked with a forced smile.

“I wanted to thank you again in person for everything you’ve done for me.”

“Well, you’re most welcome.” The surgeon’s smile tightened.

Todoroki measured his expression. “Dr. Shida...have I done something to offend you?”

“Of course not!” The surgeon was overcompensating with reassurance.

Todoroki waited in silence for the truth.

“I assure you...you haven’t,” Dr. Shida said after a minute.

“Something isn’t right here.” Todoroki didn’t like to waste time. “What aren’t you saying?”

Slowly the doctor’s smile faded, replaced by a tired expression. He sighed and rubbed his forehead.

“The truth his...you should be thanking my sister.”

“Your sister?”

Dr. Shida nodded. “She’s the ER nurse who removed the shrapnel while your...quirks...prevented the rest of us from touching you.”

Todoroki’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“Of course the doctor didn’t tell you. Dare a nurse ever out-perform us,” he mumbled then cleared his throat. “My sister is a nurse in the ER. When you came into the ER three days ago you were alternatively freezing and covered in an inferno. Your body was in a high-alert, defensive mode while you were unconscious from the trauma. My sister was the only one able to get close enough through both of those conditions and remove all the shrapnel. Once it was gone, your body—and quirk—finally relaxed.”

“How?” Todoroki demanded.

Again, the surgeon became guarded. “Why do you want to know?”

“For my own edification.” Todoroki sensed the familial bond and protection. “I assure you this will stay between you and I.”

Dr. Shida considered this and measured Todoroki before taking a deep breath. “Regeneration.”

“Regeneration?” Todoroki asked.

“Yes, that’s her quirk. She can regenerate from any injury so she’s the only one who could help you and walk away alive.” Dr. Shida glanced at his chest.

“So...she removed the shrapnel...and I plan to thank her for that. But I still owe you my thanks for the wound treatment and care. After three days I have nothing, not even scars. That’s a remarkable recovery.”

Dr. Shida leaned back and started at the ceiling for a long time before looking back at Todoroki.

“Mr. Todoroki, I will be completely honest but only with the utmost discretion. Can you keep a secret? Probably forever?”

Todoroki’s thoughts went to a dark night in an alleyway...the night he and his friends faced a villan...the villan Stain...“Absolutely.”

Dr Shida sighed and rested his arms on his desk, folding his hands in front of him. “Good, because this could cost myself and my sister our jobs...not to mention my sister’s safety and whole life if it ever gets out.”

Todoroki waited in patient silence.

“My sister...without anyone’s knowledge or permission...went into your room last night and gave you her blood.” He took a steadying breath. “She admitted to me it’s something she’s done on rare occasions for patients who seem hopeless. The regenerative quirk she has in her blood boosts the body’s ability to heal and bounce back from severe injury. Apparently, the regenerative abilities are temporary, her blood filtered out by the recipient’s liver in 24 hours.” Dr. Shida exhaled heavily as if he was held down by a weight.

And Todoroki understood.

This nurse would be a captive to her quirk and chased by the rich, villainous, and desperate alike if anyone found out what she could do. He felt his heart steeling this secret away with respect for this nurse to whom he owed his life.

One word locked it away forever: hopeless. Dr. Shida said he had been hopeless before and after surgery. Without this nurse’s help he would be dead. He owed his life to her and because of it he would keep this secret forever.

“Dr. Shida, I need to thank your sister properly, in person. Can you please direct me to the ER?” Todoroki stood up.

“I can but she’s not here right now. She works the night shift and isn’t here right now. I’ll warn you...she doesn’t like to be fawned over for what she considers to be her duty to others.”

Todoroki smiled. “She and I have that in common.” He thought for a moment. “I can’t let what she’s done for me go unappreciated. Would...would it be inappropriate of me to thank her in person at her home? If you were to accompany me?”

Dr. Shida looked as if he was having an internal debate. “I was going to stop by on my way home and check on her...I guess you could come with me.”

“Thank you,” Todoroki said with a grateful bow of his head.

“Don’t thank be just yet...I’m not sure what state we’ll find her in.”

Chapter Text

“How did you know she helped me the second time?” Todoroki asked as they stepped onto the train.

“It was your last wound. It looked the same as her wounds do.”

“During the regeneration?”

Dr. Shida nodded. “Since her quirk is to regenerate, she still endures all the pain and damage of every injury and then heals rapidly from it, a lot of times healing from things others could not. But...it takes a lot out of her. She has to eat and sleep constantly if it was a serious injury.”

Todoroki considered this as the train sped off. His stomach twisted with the realization. “So...when she was removing the shrapnel from my chest...” He could tell the surgeon didn’t want to talk about this.

“Yes. She was in rough shape afterwards but she’s totally fine now!” He quickly reassured the pro hero. “You don’t have to worry about her.”

Todoroki considered the weight of the surgeon’s words. He was a hero and volunteered himself in the path of danger every day to protect strangers and there was always the threat of injury and pain. But it wasn’t like this, stepping into the certainty of pain as a sacrifice for another. He could think of only one other person who ever demonstrated such an extreme personal philosophy.

“Are you worrying?” the surgeon quietly asked.

“I was thinking of an old friend,” Todoroki answered as quietly as he thought of the jade-haired hero. They rode the rest of the way with limited small talk. People at every stop recognized the famous Shouto and asked to take pictures with him. Dutifully he gave his polite smile, the corners of his mouth tipped up in the smallest fraction, apologizing to the remaining fans when Dr. Shida motioned it was their stop.

Dr. Shida huffed in exhaustion. “Is it like that everywhere you go?” He asked in exasperation.

“Yes.”

Dr. Shida nodded, accepting the tired answer. He led them to his sister’s apartment building as the sun was setting. He already spoke with the ER, confirming she had the night off, but he hadn’t called her. He knew should would have left to avoid the attention and Todoroki deserved the opportunity to thank her. They climbed the steps and made their way to her bamboo doormat. Dr. Shida knocked.
There was no answer.
He rang her doorbell and waited a long moment before ringing it two more times.

“Maybe she isn’t—” Todoroki started to say when a light turned on inside, illuminating her peephole. Dr. Shida leaned in, filling the peephole image with his face and knocked loudly.

“Come on, little sister. I know you’re there.”

There was a fumbling to undo the locks on the door and then it was ripped wide open. A messy, blonde haired, blue-eyed girl with huge bags under her eyes appeared, ready to deliver a tired expletive. She caught the words as soon as she saw Todoroki.

“What—” she started to say but she sagged against the door frame, overcome with fatigue.

“Geeze, Ani!” Dr. Shida nearly shouted. He was staring at the puncture wounds dotting her hands and arms, almost healed. She started to slip and he lunged the same time as Todoroki. They each caught her and wrapped an arm of hers around their shoulders, lifting her back inside.

“Came without calling...” the young woman mumbled to herself. “Top hero...in my ratty pajamas.”

Dr. Shida was focusing on closing the door and didn’t hear her. Todoroki only caught those few words and glanced involuntarily at her large t-shirt and shorts. He stifled a smirk at the cheerful, smiling sushi decorating her short shorts and quickly looked away. He let the surgeon lead the three of them through the minimalist apartment to the girl’s bedroom. She was asleep before they were at her bed.

They laid her limp form down and slid her legs under the covers. Todoroki’s hands glided over the smooth skin of her legs and he swallowed guiltily. Feeling awkward, he stepped back and let Dr. Shida cover her with the blankets. The surgeon stepped back, too, hands on his hips as the young woman’s sleeping form rumbled out a snore.

“Sorry about this,” Dr. Shida said as he rubbed his neck. “The ER nurses didn’t tell me she was home tonight to recover.”

“That’s alright,” Todoroki assured him. He looked at her arms where they peeked out from under the covers. It looked like the scabs were nearly ready to fall off.

“That’s what it looks like?” Todoroki asked with quiet guilt.

Dr. Shida nodded, examining his sister’s injuries. “Yeah, probably someone with a spike quirk this time.”

Todoroki was overcome with feelings of gratitude and the urgent need to give back to this girl. “We should go and let her sleep,” he said.

Dr. Shida tucked her arm back in bed and followed Todoroki out of the room. He stopped in the small kitchen and looked in her fridge. He tsk’ed out loud.

“What?” Todoroki asked before he could stop himself.

“She has nothing in here except spoiled milk and convenience store sandwiches.” The doctor sighed. “She thinks she can survive on protein shakes and calorie bars alone.”

He closed the door and an idea came to Todoroki. “Can we get some fresh food for her? Restock her fridge?”

Dr. Shida looked at him in surprise. “Restock her fridge?”

Todoroki nodded slowly. “To thank her...It’s the least I can do.”

“Hmm.” Dr. Shida tapped his chin. “That would be a nice surprise for her. Sure. Let’s do it.”

Todoroki’s heart blossomed unexpectedly. He had found a small way to repay her. Dr. Shida wrote a note and grabbed his sister’s keys.

“Come on, there’s a market not too far from here.”

 

They returned less than an hour later, arms laden with bags full of food, vitamins, and other supplies. Todoroki relied on Dr. Shida’s knowledge or best guess on where to put things. The fridge was full, freezer stuffed, and kitchen replenished but Dr. Shida pensively looked around.

“What’s wrong, Dr. Shida?” Todoroki asked.

“I told you, call me Aino,” he said with a tired smile. “And I was just thinking...We have all this great food for her but...my sister is a terrible cook.”

Todoroki let himself smile. “I can help with that.”

~

Something smelled good. No, not good. Downright delicious. Damn...her neighbors must be cooking out on their balcony again.
Ani sat up and stretched. She could hear their quiet conversation, too.
She noticed a light shining under her bedroom door and realized the voices—and smells—were coming from her apartment. Cautiously, she climbed out of bed and went to investigate. She opened the door to find her brother and—
Fuck.
Todoroki Shouto.
In her apartment. They were standing in her kitchen cooking. She was frozen, eyes flitting back and forth between them.

“Hey sis—” Aino raised his hand to wave and she slammed her door closed. Her heart, which a moment ago had stopped, was now beating erratically and out of control. She heard someone approach and knock. “Sis, are you—”

Ani cracked the door enough to yank him inside. “Why the HELL is Todoroki Shouto in my apartment?!” She demanded.

“He wanted to thank you in person for everything you did and I know how you hate public displays of appreciation at work so I brought him with me when I came to check on you so he could say thank you to you for saving his life,” Aino quickly explained.

“Buy why is he cooking?!” Ani’s voice squeaked up an octave.

“We saw you had no food and he wanted to do this for you.”

She groaned and rubbed her eyes as she sank to the ground.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, confused.

Her mind bounced from all her uncleaned clothes to her embarrassingly sparse apartment. She felt bare. Exposed. But here they were and she needed to face him. “Nothing. I’ll be out in a minute.” She made the plan in her mind to accept his generosity and thanks and send them both on their way but her body betrayed her.
Her stomach growled. Loudly.
Aino grinned and escaped before she could stop him.

“She’ll be right out,” he loudly announced. “And she’s ready to eat!”

She covered her face and chided her brother in her mind. One very quick shower, hair bun, and teeth brushing later she was ready. Timidly she emerged wearing a worn pair of jeans and hoodie; the only clean clothes left she felt comfortable in.

“There she is,” Aino announced obnoxiously, drawing the pro-hero's attention to her. He was plating a filet of fish when he saw her but it was Aino who did the introductions.

“Todoroki--I mean Shouto, this is my sister and your nurse: Ani.” He gestured between them. “Ani, this is Shouto.”

She wanted to squirm or dash back to her room but instead, lifted her eyes to meet the heterochromatic hero’s. He set down what he was holding and came around the counter. She gasped audibly as he bowed.

“Thank you for saving my life...twice.” His voice was fervent with gratitude.

“Oh...it...it was nothing.”

“Ani,” her brother protested. She quickly glowered at him before responding again.

“Okay, fine. You’re, you’re welcome.” She urged him up. When he stood up his eyes sparkled at her. She looked away before she could blush, surely this was his practiced pro-hero charm.

“What are we eating?” she asked them.

“We?” Todoroki and Aino asked at the same time.

She looked between them. “You don’t want to stay?”

“Well...it’s just...we cooked this all for you,” Aino explained.

She surveyed the amount of food they cooked. “There’s more than enough. Plus, you both put all the effort in. You deserve to enjoy it, too.”

Todoroki threw a quick glance to Aino who shrugged in approval.

“I guess...if you don’t mind,” Aino began to say when his phone went off. “Oh shoot...I’ll have to take a raincheck. They need me at the hospital.”

He dashed to his coat and put a hand up to Todoroki. “You stay,” he insisted. “Make sure she shares.” And he was gone before either could respond.

Ani was wondering what the hell happened. Todoroki looked around awkwardly. “I...I should go,” he said quietly. He looked around, patting his pockets to make sure he had everything. Ani looked guiltily at the decadent food. He stepped toward the door.

“Stay,” she said before she thought. Todoroki looked over his shoulder.

“Please,” she added. “A meal like this needs to be shared.”

Todoroki weighed her comment. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile to try and lighten the mood. “You made this food to say ‘thank you’...right? You can’t leave if you don’t if it’s good or not. Otherwise you would owe me another dinner.”

Todoroki’s features relaxed. “You’re right.”

Ani stepped around him and began gathering utensils and cups to set the kotatsu.

“Sorry I don’t have—” she stopped short at the sight of a full fridge. “Any idea what I have...”

Last time she looked in the fridge she thought there was only water to drink. Now, there were shelves full of food and beverages including fresh milk, orange juice, cranberry juice, and a bottle of wine in the very back. She was suddenly embarrassed, knowing he saw how poorly stocked she kept it.

Todoroki was already walking the food to the kotatsu so she grabbed a picture of something she guessed was iced tea and joined him in the small pool of warm light from the lamp in her living room. The food looked as good as it smelled. She slid her legs under the table and Todoroki sat down next to her. He mumbled an apology when his leg brushed hers. He scooted away and blushed but Ani’s attention was on the delicate homemade food plated neatly in front of her.

“Please.” He gestured for her to start.

She lifted a piece with her chopsticks and her mouth watered in anticipation.
It was amazing.
The fish melted like butter in her mouth, cooked to perfection. The sauce was a balance of sweet and savory, topped with toasted sesame seeds for a textural crunch.

“Oh my god,” she practically moaned. Without any embarrassment or hesitation, she dug in. Todoroki’s chest burst with a sparkling emotion as she ate without restraint.

“This is so good,” she said with her eyes closed, savoring her last bite of fish. He was nearly done with his own and he admitted to himself it had come out exceptionally well. It gave him great satisfaction to be able to provide a delicious meal for her. She moved onto the sides and gave them equal praise. Aside from the sounds of their eating and enjoyment there was only a comfortable silence.

Todoroki sighed contentedly. “It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a meal like this,” he admitted. Ani raised her eyebrows at him.

“What?” He asked.

She shrugged. “I just assumed you and a girlfriend would do this all the time, especially since you cook so well.” She chewed a huge bite of perfectly steamed rice.

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” he volunteered. “And I won’t cook like this for myself.”

Ani was thankful her mouth was full of food because if it was empty, her jaw would have dropped. She tried to keep the incredulity out of her response. “Really?” He nodded. She couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed.

“Wow,” she said to her rice bowl. “That’s surprising...sorry for assuming.” She had made the atmosphere so awkward now.

“That’s okay...everyone assumes it.” He cleared his throat, trying to ease the tension. “What about you?”

“What about me?” Her heart began to thump in her chest.

“Do you...do you share meals like this often?”

She laughed. “You saw my fridge before...I definitely don’t cook.” She was dodging like he was.

“Does your...boyfriend...cook for you?” He finally asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“I find that hard to believe,” he said. He folding his hands in his lap, feeling full of food, and Ani could feel him watching her closely.

“It’s hard to find time with working so many hours.” She chewed another bite. “I have so little free time left after regenerating that anyone I spend time with has to be worth it.”

He nodded. “I understand that completely.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you don’t get a lot either.”

“What do you do for fun, then, when you do have time?”

She considered this. “Not a lot. I mostly read. Or, at least I try to. It’s challenging to make it to book stores or the library when they’re open. And I tried ordering books but had enough packages stolen that I don’t bother anymore.” She folded her hands back, tucking them under the kotatsu now that she was full, too.

“Have you tried an e-reader?”

“I borrowed my brother’s for a while but it’s not the same. I like having the book in my hands y’know?”

He nodded.

“So...” she tried to shift the attention off of herself. “What do you do for fun as a pro hero?”

“I read a lot, too, actually. I’m in the spotlight so much for pro-hero work that when I go home like to...be home. Be out of the public eye. Reading is a nice escape from that.”

“What do you like to read?” She asked.

“Everything. Anything, really.”

“Last book you read?”

He told her the little but she hadn’t read it. He gave her a small summary of it.

“What do you like to read?” He asked.

“Fiction, mostly. Fantasy, romance, Sci-fi, drama, only the occasional suspense if it’s not too spooky.”

A thought struck Todoroki. “Have you ever been to the midnight street fair?”

She shook her head. “No...what is it?”

“It happens once a month, downtown. Vendors and a whole bunch of artists set up a market and sell a lot of off-the-beaten-path stuff there. Lesser known painters and authors who are self-published. Food vendors come, too, with their carts or food trucks.”

“Sounds really cool,” Ani said. “Have you been?”

Todoroki nodded. “I have. I was on night patrols the first time I found them and have gone back several times since. I think the next one is coming up in a few nights. Would you like to come with me?”

It sounded so natural. Effortless, for him to ask her but she caught how his eyes widened fractionally and he looked away, as if he surprised himself.

“I would like that,” she admitted.

“Really?” He asked.

She smiled warmly. “Of course...I mean...Only if you really want to. You don’t have to be nice to me because I was your nurse in the ER.”

“No!” He insisted. “I want to. I’ve really enjoyed your company tonight and would like to see you again...you know, not on fire and all.”

She smiled. “Me too...for all of that.”

Todoroki smiled.

It took Ani’s breath away.
There had been rumors, near legends, of Todoroki’s true smile because of how infrequently it happened and how perfect it was. And it was perfect, indeed. His soft, pink lips pulled back and parted over rows of pearly white teeth. His heterochromatic eyes each lifted at the corner, the scar over his left eye crinkling. It was so handsome it hurt. Ani suddenly felt vastly inadequate. How could she be seen out in public next to him? Her thoughts started spiraling as he pulled out his phone.

“Let’s see...the next one is...Friday night?” He looked up at her.

Her face fell and heart sank with a mixture of relief and disappointment. “I work that night,” she said.

His expression saddened. “Oh.”

“I’m sorry,” she said suddenly filled only with disappointment. “It would have been nice to go with you.”

Todoroki grew quiet and thoughtful. After a long moment he asked “when is your next night off?”

Ani thought warily. “It’s supposed to be Saturday night but if things get out of control in the ER they’ll call me in.”

“Or if there’s something only you can handle,” he added with a glance at her hands.

She flexed and folded them sheepishly. They each looked away awkwardly and Todoroki’s eyes roamed her living room. There was an invitingly comfortable black couch, an end table with a small lamp and framed picture. On the other side of the kotatsu was a stand crammed with books and a small tv on top. Behind the tv, hanging on the wall, was a magnificent painting Todoroki hadn’t noticed before in the dim light. The more he looked, the more he saw. There were swirls and explosions in a night sky over a field dancing with light. The color...was overwhelmingly familiar.

“That picture...” he said “It’s...inspired from Midoryia, isn’t it?”

She nodded. “It is. A friend painted it for me.”

“Oh,” he said with a hint of something she couldn’t understand. “I’m not surprised you have a painting of him...you remind me of him.”

“I do?” She asked. She smiled softly and leaned back against the couch as he nodded. “I’ve looked up to Deku for a long time. Everything about him, his attitude, his energy, his outlook...He’s a beacon of light equal to if not brighter than All Might. He inspired me to become a nurse.

“Watching what he went through, what all of you went through, at UA made me ask more of myself. I knew I wasn’t hero material but I realized that I could do this,” she looked at her hands “for the people no one else could help.”

She was quiet, embarrassed by her monologue and worried she hurt the pro-hero's feelings expressing such admiration for his peer.

“You are a hero,” Todoroki said quietly. She looked up at him in surprise from the compliment. “Every time you rush in to help someone who is in pain or suffering, especially when you know it will come at the cost of your own: you are a hero.”

She drew her knees up to her chest, not knowing how to accept the praise as Todoroki looked up to the painting and continued. “I’ve admired Midoriya for a long time. For all the same reasons you have, too. He is the heart of what it means to be a hero and a beacon for our society, indeed. He is the true symbol of peace. Saving anyone, anywhere, from harm. He reminds me a hero can come from anywhere because it’s their actions and words that make them so. Not status...or a name or costume. To be a hero...is to be selfless.” His eyes slowly shifted back to her. “Thank you for being selfless...for saving my life.”

“It was my honor,” she said with a warm smile. ”I’m glad you’re alive.”

“Me too,” he said with another painfully handsome smile. They both sensed the evening was coming to a natural close and began clearing the kotatsu. They cleaned the kitchen in a comfortable silence and the dishwasher was soon full and running. Ani dried her hands and hung the towel back on its hook.

Todoroki walked toward the door and slipped his shoes back on. Ani’s heart began to sink realizing she would probably never see the pro hero again; there had been no more planning after they spoke of Midoriya. She gravitated towards him to say goodbye and lock up. He stood up and paused. He took a nervous breath.

“Can...Can I give you my number?” He asked then quickly added. “So you can tell me if you have Saturday night off? I’d love to take you out to dinner if you’re free.”

“Absolutely,” she said with a blush and pulled out her phone. She unlocked it and handed it to him.

“Here.” He gave it back with himself added as a new contact.

“Thanks,” she said smiling. She cradled the phone to her chest as he opened the door and stepped out.

In an uncharacteristically self-doubting way for a pro-hero, he turned back and quickly said “there’s no pressure to spend your day off with me. Really. You don’t have to be nice to me because I’m a pro hero or was your patient in the ER, Ms. Shida.” His overly courteous nature took over. “You don’t even have to send me a message if you don’t want me to have your number. Thank you for the lovely evening.” He gave a quick nod and strode off before she could respond.

The door swung shut and she was already typing. He received a text message before he reached the stairs.

 

I want you to have my number whether I have Saturday off or not

 

He smiled and before he could respond another came in.

 

I hope we can hang out together again soon. And please...call me Ani

 

Todoroki’s heart thumped in his chest and his eyes widened. He quickly sent a reply.

 

Only if you call me Shouto.

 

He bounded down the stairs and headed to the nearest train station with an extra bounce in his step.

Chapter Text

Ani stared at her phone and leaned against the door in utter disbelief of what just happened. She was texting TODOROKI SHOUTO. And he just told her to call him by his first name!!! Her heart was still sparkling when she sat down to reread one of her favorite books under a thick blanket on her couch with a cup of tea. Before the sun began to rise she pulled her curtains closed, encasing her tiny apartment in darkness. She wasn’t sure if she’d be able to sleep but she had to try. She had work the next few nights and no matter how distracted her mind was she had to keep her normal schedule.

 

Her alarm sounded and the beginning of her day was on auto-pilot until the previous night hit her:Todoroki Shouto had been in her apartment.
He had cooked for her.
Gave her his number.
Her knees weakened at the memory of exchanging texts with him.
Shouto.
Sure, she looked up to Midoriya and most of the top heroes in every way but she never fantasized about being with any of them. They were always part of a different world, a separate world. But now...oh her mind began to fantasize. The strong jaw of Shouto’s face. His eyes shimmering deeply in two different colors and the scar that only highlighted the handsome features of his face. And that smile. She could dream about that smile for days.

She blinked, snapping herself back to reality and got ready for work with a lingering warmth from the night before. She went to the fridge to see what Aino and Shouto left for her where she found a pre-made bento box and smiled. The train ride was busy as usual with people heading into downtown Tokyo for the night. When she got to the hospital the ER was bustling but there were no major crisis and her shift settled into a smooth flow. It went so quickly she was surprised at the time: lunch.

She remembered her bento box and went to get it from the staff fridge. Her mind was bouncing around. She imagined taking her break in the staff room or cafeteria and having to explain where a sudden homemade lunch came from. After all, everyone knew she was a terrible cook. She decided on the board of trustees conference room. She made friends with the janitorial staff a while ago and they would let her into the fancy board room on the nights when she had a chance to step away from the ER.

They met her on the ninth floor, the top-most floor, and unlocked the door for her. It was a secret she never shared, knowing they let her in with the risk of punishment. They were willing to take the risk because she always cleaned up after herself.

“Thanks Loni,” she said to the old man. “I’ll lock up when I leave.”

He gave her a crinkly smile. “Enjoy the view. It’s gorgeous tonight.”

She slipped into the dark room and used her phone’s flashlight to weave around the massive table. A wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling window looked out over the Tokyo skyline as it twinkled against the dark night. She chose a spot on the floor right next to the window and kept her phone light on to open the bento box. Her jaw dropped. It was two layers of food cooked to the same perfection as the night before and her mouth instantly watered. She took a picture of it with the flash on and sent it to Shouto.

 

Thank you for the great meal! I can’t wait to dig in

 

She set her phone down and turned off the flashlight. Before her eyes could adjust to the dark her phone beeped. Her heart skipped a beat realizing she may have woken up the sleeping pro hero. She opened his response.

 

You’re welcome. It’s the least I could do

A moment later another text came in.

Why are you eating in the dark?

 

She smiled and typed out: so I can enjoy this... She attached a picture of the view for him. She was able to take a bite of the melt-in-her-mouth food before his response came.

 

Stunning view. Where is it?

 

Top of the hospital—secret lunch spot!

 

He didn’t respond for a few minutes. She thought he probably went to sleep until her phone beeped.

 

I’d love to see it sometime.

 

She grinned. Only if you can keep my secret!

 

I will keep all of your secrets, always

 

She gasped quietly. He was as intense through text messages as he was in person. Am I keeping you up? She asked him.

 

No, I was awake

 

Everything okay?

 

Yes. I couldn’t sleep but now I know why

 

Why is that?

 

I wanted to hear from you

 

Her heart was bursting.Well...you did 🙂 You can go to sleep now. Get your rest Mr. Pro Hero so you can do your best tomorrow!

 

Thank you. May you have an injury-free shift.

 

Thank you!

 

He didn’t respond after that and she imagined he finally fell asleep. She saw what time it was and cursed out-loud. She scarfed down the rest of the bento box with the time shad left, savoring every bite as much as she could. She cleaned up all the crumbs and rushed out with a confirmation the door was locked behind her. There was only a minute to spare when she rushed back into the ER, back to the rest of her night.

She wasn’t completely unscathed from the rest of her shift. A feverish infant whose cries made her ear drums bleed and a drunken teen whose stomach contents splashed her arms with a poison-ivy like rash. By the end of her shift, when she was changing out of her scrubs she was already healed. She checked her phone, hoping for messages and felt her heart deflate when there weren’t any. She cautioned herself about becoming too attached. He was a pro hero after all and probably had—bleep. Her phone announced the text.

 

Good morning. Did your shift end well?

 

She grinned. Yes, thank you. I’m heading home without any injuries.

 

She was leaving the hospital when his reply came in.

 

That makes me happy to hear. My day will be better because of it

 

He was so caring, so thoughtful. She chewed her lip as she waited for the train, trying to think of a reply. She went with: DId you sleep well?

 

Very well, thank you.

 

Have a good day at work, do your best!

 

She smiled and tucked the phone away in her bag as the train arrived. She was home before she knew it, having daydreams the whole way, and tucked herself into bed. She didn’t have any injuries to regenerate from and was grateful for it. Sleep quickly washed over her as her thoughts drifted around Todoroki.

~

BEEP

 

BEEP

 

BEEP

BEEP

BEEP
BEEP
Ani groaned and rolled over in bed.
BEEP
BEEP
The ringing of her phone roused her from sleep and her eyes flew open. She fumbled in the bright daylight to answer the persistent caller.

“Hello?” She mumbled groggily.

“Ani?” It was the ER daytime supervisor. Her heart skipped a beat. “Can you come in right now? There’s been an accident.”

She was already throwing the covers off of herself and was already moving as she answered. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“There was a fire at a school a few blocks away. We’re calling in anyone available right now to help.”

“I’m on my way,” she said as she grabbed her keys and purse, threw on her shoes. Door locked. She hung up the phone and ran down the stairs, hair flying wildly around her head. She could see the train pulling into the station and she sprinted, drenched in sweat, and slipped in between the closing doors.

At the bottom of her purse she found a hairband and ran her fingers through her hair, quickly braiding it. Worry turned her stomach as she thought about the injured children. She was right at the door, purse slung over her shoulder, and sprinted off the train before the doors fully opened. From the station she could see the commotion surrounding the hospital.

Throngs of concerned people pressed against lines of police and heroes trying to keep the commotion at bay. News vans and crews were crowding into the area, too, trying to capture the story as it progressed. Ani elbowed her way through, shouting she was a nurse, and saw Glace fighting her way through, too. They joined forces, continuing to shout they were nurses and people cleared a path for them. They flashed their IDs to the line of pro heroes who let them through. Ani’s eyes scanned the line of pros but she didn’t see the head of red and white hair.

Inside, the ER was chaos.

Children of all ages were filling in every room and hall, the nurses having loosely organized them by the severity of injuries. Ani threw her purse in her locker and changed into scrubs as quickly as she could and went with Glace to find the ER supervisor. From what Ani could gather, as she treated wounds and provided comfort, a young child was helping cook lunch and suddenly started a fire with their recently discovered quirk. They panicked, as did other children, and before a teacher could put it out, the fire spread across the kitchen and out into the school. The child, whose quirk caused the fire was upstairs in the PICU for monitoring though their condition was stable. Ani felt a light tap on her shoulder and turned to find one of her brother’s surgical assistant nurses at her side as she was about to move onto a new patient.

“Ani,” she leaned in to whisper. “Can you come with me?”

The somber tone of her voice made Ani’s stomach sink. She nodded and slipped away with her. The nurse took Ani up into a stairwell, avoiding the busy elevators and main thoroughfares of the hospital. Ani wanted to ask what was going on but already had a terrible feeling. She had been looking for Shouto while she was in the ER and felt a mixture of relief he wasn’t there and worry that he was severely injured again. They climbed to the operating room floor and Ani followed the nurse down to a scrub-in room.

“Your brother’s waiting for you inside,” the nurse said quietly and left Ani alone to go in by herself.

Ani dressed in surgical scrubs and cleaned up, tied her hair back, and covered her face with a mask. She entered the OR, not really knowing what to expect. Her heart beat loudly, fearfully, that she would find him, find Shouto, on the operating table. It felt like her chest was in a vice. She found Dr. Shida and two nurses operating on a burn victim, too large to be a child. Ani was once again filled with a mixture of relief and fear. For her brother to call her specifically she knew the patient was in a bad condition. She was relieved it wasn’t a child...but...she was filled with fear, not wanting it to be Shouto.

She waited patiently by the doors, unable to see the patient’s face. She listened quietly and could hear they were in the middle of performing a skin graft—or trying to. Her brother glanced at her and motioned for her to join them at the table. She stepped across the room and recognized not the number two, but the number three hero: Ground Zero.

Guilt prickled at the edge of relief flooding through her: it wasn’t Shouto. She focused on the patient lying in front of her, worry tucked away, and helped Aino’s nurse. The wounds were massive; they covered large portions of his torso and legs. His arms were almost entirely charred. Aino finished the edge of a skin graft and dismissed one of the nurses, leaving only Ani and one surgical assistant.

Dr. Shida paused the operation once it was only the three of them. Ani’s heart began to pound. “Ani,” he asked nervously. “Are you regenerating from anything right now?”

She shook her head and steeled herself for the question. He addressed his surgical assistant, giving him instructions to keep the patient stable as Dr. Shida talked to Ani in private. He pulled Ani back into the prep-room and pulled the mask down from his mouth. Ani did the same.

“Ani...” He took a deep breath. “The patient is running out of undamaged skin for me to graft. Are you willing to...Can we try grafting skin from you?”

A sheen of icy sweat coated her back as she thought of his burns, how many still needed treatment. “Aino...that is a lot of skin...”

“I know.” He grimaced and looked back into the OR. “If it was possible to keep his condition stable long enough without it I wouldn’t ask...but the trauma has pushed his body to the edge already. He’s on the verge of entering a coma...”

Ani rubbed her forehead as it creased. “Aino...”

“There is another option.” He glanced at her.

She eyed him closely. “You want to perform a blood transfusion.”

“Yes,” he answered simply. “Todoroki’s recovery was...beyond words. Can you do it again?”

She cursed herself internally, looking at the surgical assistant. She knew with this treatment there would be no way to conceal it. Attention was inevitable and an investigation was sure to happen. She looked at the patient. “Is it really that bad?” She asked.

“You already know the answer to that. I know what I’m really asking of you and what you risk by doing this. I’m not asking because I’m feeling lazy or experiencing self-doubt. I’m asking because we’re out of options.”

“Okay,” Ani agreed uncertain how much blood this would take.

Dr. Shida called to an upper floor and reported the incoming patient and necessary transfusion. He and Ani went back into the OR. “Prepare the patient for a transfer,” he instructed his assistant.

“Transfer?!” The nurse looked up in surprise. “To where? For what?!”

“He’s going upstairs for a transfusion.” Dr. Shida began taking down the surgical set-up and helped the nurse cover Bakugo and his wounds. They set up an IV and wheeled the bed out of the OR with no time to lose.

Ani mentally prepared herself as she helped push the bed to the elevator. She had ever tried anything so drastic before. Direct injections of her blood, administered at the wound site were always sufficient for previous patients. Shouto’s wounds required the largest amounts yet but it was still manageable through injections. This was a larger scale she wouldn’t be able to sneak around. She was going to be tethered to the patient for an indeterminate amount of time. There were going to be questions this time and a lot of them. She tried to focus on the need of the patient, leaving the rest for later.

Dr. Shida led them off the elevator and down a hall to a large, private suite. A nurse from the floor was already waiting to perform the transfusion but Dr. Shida dismissed her. Against protest from her and the surgical assistant, he insisted they both leave. He closed the door behind them and drew the curtain.

When he turned back, Ani had uncovered Bakugo and her sleeve was rolled up and she was preparing to insert an IV. “We don’t have much time before the floor supervisor comes in,” she assured him.

“Here, let me help you,” Aino said. He came around to her side and took the needle. “You’ve done this enough on your own.”

“Thanks,” she said quietly and sat down in the chair next to Bakugo’s bed.

“What made you think to try this the first time?” He asked as he began filling a bag with her blood.

“I...I remember feeling a lot like you did. Out of options and out of time. It was a child, injured in the crossfire of a hero-villain battle. I was so angry that this innocent child had to suffer...had to die as a casualty of some trite conflict. I sat there wishing they could regenerate like I could and have their future back...and it...it made me wonder...”

Aino closed her IV and connected her bag of fresh blood to Bakugo’s IV. They both watched her thick, viscous and dark blood drip slowly down into the tube.

“My blood has always looked different...I wondered if it carried something that could help that child.” She looked back to her brother and shrugged. “It was a risk...but I didn’t want to fail them. There was an option in front of me, something I could at least try and I wanted to help them.”

“Do you remember their name?” Aino asked quietly.

“I remember all their names.” Ani folded her hands in her lap and sank back into the chair. “I always will.”

“How many have there been?”

She looked at him warily. “Eleven, including Shouto.”

Aino watched Bakugo’s vitals closely as the blood entered his system. There were no signs of a reaction. “How did you decide...who to help?”

“I don’t know...a gut feeling, I guess. I never went searching around the hospital for anyone and everyone. It was the people who came right in front of me. Those whose paths happened to cross mine and were beyond help.”

“That’s why you never accepted any transfers out of the ER,” Aino murmured and Ani nodded.

They both fell quiet, watching over Bakugo’s still form, as voices approached from the hall. Ani pulled the IV out of her arm a moment before the door opened and the floor nurse returned. She had her supervisor with her; Aino’s surgical assistant had returned to their office. The supervisor questioned Dr. Shida, asking him about the operation, Bakugo’s condition, and the transfusion. He answered everything as honestly as he could while concealing his sister’s secret. The supervisor was convinced there was no need to call in an additional doctor, Aino would remain to monitor Bakugo’s condition directly. He was, after all, the number three hero and deserved this level of attention.

Though the supervisor scrutinized Ani’s presence, he accepted her role in assisting Aino. They both knew more questions would be coming after this was all over. When they were alone again, Aino drew the privacy curtain. They watched Bakugo closely. His body seemed to drink Ani’s blood and it emptied within twenty minutes. Aino drew another bag and it was absorbed as quickly.

At the edges of the burns Bakugo’s skin was beginning to flush pink. His breathing and heart rate evened out. Aino looked between his sister and his patient.

“How much blood did you give Todoroki?” he asked Ani.

She rubbed her forehead. “500ml in direct injections near his larger wounds and only a couple smaller doses near the minor ones.”

Aino and Ani looked over his wounds, marking notes and information in his chart. His healing had slowed after the last transfusion of blood, though his vitals were still stable. His arms were still burned beyond use.

Worry creased Aino’s brow. “Why is his healing slowing down so much?”

“Because he’s not getting enough blood,” Ani guessed.

“I can’t take any more from you.” Aino shook his head. “I’ve already taken too much.”

“Then we need to do a continuous transfusion.”

Aino’s eyes snapped up to his sister. “You can’t be serious.”

“Yes, I am.” She gripped the side of Bakugo’s bed and stared over the patient at her brother. “I figured out I could help people by taking risks. Following my gut when it was telling me what I could do...and that’s how we got here.”

Aino tried to dissuade her. “Ani, this is a serious test you’re going to put your body through. Not to mention the impact it could have on Bakugo.”

“We already know his body won’t react to my blood. And if you’re here to watch over me then there’s no reason for me to be afraid. I’ve taken risks without anyone watching my back before...I’m not worried.” She stared her brother down. “He’s the number three hero, right?”

“Ani, Don’t—”

She reached across and gently put her hand on her brother’s. “This is what heroes do. Right?”

Aino’s eyes closed tightly, hearing their parents last words again. Take care of each other.
“You’re going to do this with or without me, aren’t you?” He asked quietly and opened his eyes to see her answer.

The sheepish smirk and shrug were her only response.

“Don’t do anything until I get back,” he instructed her.

She sat down in the chair next to Bakugo. "Deal."

Aino rushed around the privacy curtain and out of the room; Ani heard the door click shut. She sank into the chair with a heavy sigh as nervousness fluttered in her stomach. She knew what Aino said was true: this was going to be a big risk. She was willingly going to filter Bakugo’s blood through her own body and hers through his. She wasn’t sure if her body would accept his blood or how it would affect her ability to regenerate after this.

Her eyes passed over Bakugo’s injuries again and she felt a pang of responsibility in her heart. This was a person in need right in front of her and she would help them. She had this quirk and she would do what she could with it. Her mind wandered to Deku...of all the things he’d been quoted while saving others.

If my actions can save any of them...then I have to do something
Ani inhaled deeply and let Deku’s words infuse her body and mind with strength. She would do this to save the person in front of her. She could do this.

She could do this.

Chapter Text

No larger than a tissue box, the small dialysis machine was set up between Bakugo and Ani. Aino connected both of them to it. It was ready to go. He took one last look at his sister and searched her face for any hint of hesitation or doubt.

“Do it.”

At her words he started the machine. Ani’s dark red, nearly black blood flowed out of her arm into the IV then the machine. It appeared through the other side and down the tube into the IV in Bakugo’s leg. Ani took a shaky breath and Aino glanced at her in concern.

“Keep going,” she urged him. He began the second stage and Bakugo’s red blood was pulled out of the IV in his arm into the machine where it flowed down and out into Ani’s leg. She shuddered at the feeling of his blood entering her veins.

“Are you okay?” Aino asked, instantly catching her body’s response.

She nodded. “Yeah...his blood’s just...really warm.” She leaned back in the chair and rested her head. Aino’s eyes were flying back and forth watching each of them or any sign of complication and scanning the various monitors for any signs of trouble. After the first few minutes passed, painstakingly slowly, Aino felt himself begin to incrementally relax. Any severe reactions would have occurred within the very beginning, though there was always the possibility of trouble.

Ani shivered. “Can you get me a blanket, please?”

Aino quickly pulled a blanket out of the closet and dragged another chair over to her. She propped her feet up and sighed in gratitude under the warmth of the blanket. Bakugo’s blood was warm. It made her muscles and flesh feel cold as it flowed through her but she could feel her regeneration endure undisturbed. Her eyes fluttered shut.

“Sleep, if you’re tired.” Aino promised her “I’ll be here the whole time.”

"Thanks," she whispered and slipped into a deep sleep.

~

Bright sunlight sliced through her closed eyes. Ani winced and, though she woke from sleep, pressed her eyes tightly shut. As they adjusted to the bright light she yawned and stretched.

“Tch.”

She paused at the voice she didn’t recognize. She slowly opened her eyes and saw Bakugo sitting up in his bed, arms crossed. She blinked in shock. Arms crossed. Arms with soft, unburned skin. Vascular arms pumping blood.

The dialysis machine was no longer between them and no IVs connected the two people. When he spoke she finally registered his disapproving scowl.

“About time you woke up,” he said with another scoff. “You’ve been sleeping in my room all night.”

She stood up from her chair, feeling a slight drowsiness dampen her reaction. “You’re awake! Are you okay? How are you feeling?!”

He nearly growled to himself. “Some nurse you are...supposed to be taking care of me and here you are sleeping on the job..again...don’t even know how I’m doing...”

The enthusiasm of his recovery drained out of her at his hostility.
Did...did he know who she was?

“Don’t you know who I am?” He demanded. He thrust a thumb at his own chest. “I’m the number one hero: Ground Zero! You’re supposed to be monitoring my condition, not sleeping on the job!”

Ani’s brow furrowed. In the haze of still waking up from sleep she answered without thinking. “Deku’s number one, Shouto’s two.” She yawned. “You’re number three.”

The air in the room prickled with venomous fury as Bakugo drew in a deep breath. “WHAT DID YOU SAY BRAT?!” His voice erupted violently and echoed out into the hall. The floor’s supervising nurse rushed in.

“Mr. Bakugo, is everything alright?!” She asked urgently and noticed Ani was standing and awake. Ani wanted to know everything, what time it was, how long she had been asleep, when Bakugo had healed, and—most importantly—who knew what but she wasn’t sure what to ask whom.

Bakugo sneered and looked away from Ani. “When am I going to be released?”

“We’re waiting for a few tests to return,” the charge nurse said then turned to Ani. “You can head back to the ER now.”

Ani nodded feeling somehow admonished by the dismissal. Bakugo muttered something too quietly for Ani to hear and she tried to brush his attitude off. She wasn’t sure what Aino had explained to him or anyone and she didn’t want to give away any secrets still unknown. She let herself out of the room and headed toward the elevators until she heard her name called softly from the nurse’s station. She glanced and was waved over to the counter.

“Yes?” She asked, matching the nurse’s hushed tone.

“Dr. Shida wants to see you in his office before you leave.”

Ani nodded. “Thanks.”

She returned to the elevator and, instead of going down to the ER, she went to Aino’s floor. She could feel stress and worry clogging each breath she took and slowing each step. She was worried for herself and her brother. They both had drastically bent many hospital protocols if not broken them completely. Termination was a real possibility for both of them.

Her brother’s secretaries knew her already and they gestured for her to go in right away. She was in front of his door before she realized and took a moment, trying to calm her nerves before she stepped inside. She didn’t want Aino to worry about her.

“Come in,” Aino instructed when she knocked lightly.

She cracked the door and looked in. “Hey,” she said.

Relief washed over his features and he stood up abruptly, rushing around the side of his desk. His white coat flapped around his legs. “Ani!” He cried as he pulled her through the door into a hug. She tightly hugged him back. “You’re okay.”

“Of course I am,” she responded, trying to keep her voice light. “Why didn’t you think I would be?”

Aino leaned back. “Do you know what time it is? You’ve been asleep for eighteen hours.”

Ani’s eyes widened as Bakugo’s words rushed back to her. You’ve been asleep in my room all night! Her face flushed deep red. “I...I spent the night in Bakugo’s room?!” She nearly shoved her brother as she stepped back. Aino reached behind her and closed the door. She sank to the floor and buried her face in her hands.

“I’m so embarrassed,” she mumbled and moaned.

Aino sat on the couch next to her. “It’s not like anything happened. After the transfusion was over and I left, the nurses kept a vigilant eye on you...Well, more like an obsessive eye on Bakugo and a resentful eye on you.”

Aino’s words only made Ani groan. “They all must hate me.”

“They...don’t know what to think of you,” Aino explained. Ani peeked out from between her fingers.

“What?”

Aino leaned back in the couch. “I haven’t explained anything to them yet...They’re waiting for my report on Bakugo’s injuries and treatment. I was hoping the dust would settle and they would let it go, accept that it was a simple transfusion but they won’t. Because it’s a top hero they won’t let it go and are demanding details, especially since you ended up there, too.”

“You haven’t told anyone?” Ani asked in astonishment.

“No,” Aino said as he rubbed his face. “The supervising doctor for the burn department has already filed a petition for a judiciary hearing.”

Ani’s face blanched and her stomach flipped. “A judiciary hearing?!”

Aino nodded slowly. “Just me, though.”

“Aino, that’s not fair. I was the one who forced it on Bakugo. You have to defend yourself!”

“And tell them what?” He demanded, heavy lines creasing his forehead. “You have the ability to heal other people? Seemingly from the brink of death? That you’re a pool of infinite healing who can be hooked up to anyone anytime anywhere?!”

Ani’s shoulders slumped. “We knew—I knew—these were risks when we did this. Let me take the fall! Send me instead!”

“No,” Aino insisted. “We don’t even know what the judiciary hearing is going to be about, if it happens at all. We need to figure out how we’re going to explain Bakugo’s recovery.”

Ani folded her legs up against her chest and rested her chin on her knees. “I don’t know if we can,” she whispered.

Aino looked down at his younger sister and saw the fatigue and fear and vulnerability written plainly on her face. “Go home,” he said quietly.

“Why?” She looked up with concern.

“Get some rest. We can figure this out tomorrow.” He patted the top of her head again and helped her stand up. She sighed.

“As long as you go home, too.” She smirked. “You look like you slept in the office.”

He gestured to the large, leather couch from which he stood. “Why do you think I have this here?” He grinned and walked around his desk. “I’ll go home later tonight. I have a surgery this afternoon and other patients to visit before I leave.”

“Okay,” she accepted. She reached for the door as his phone chimed and she heard the voice of her brother’s secretary.

“Dr. Shida?”

“Yes?” He responded.

“Mr. Todoroki is on the line for you again.” The phone clicked off and a light flashed on Aino’s phone showing the call waiting for him.

Ani’s heart skipped a beat and she gave a curious expression to her brother who explained “he heard about the accident and found out all the wounded were being treated here.”

“But why is he calling you?”

“When you didn’t answer his texts he got worried.” Aino stifled a smile. “He wanted to know if you were okay.”

“Oh no...” Ani groaned. “Did you tell him I was—”

“I told him you were asleep and he guessed it was from regenerating. I told him you were fine but he’s still been worried and called a few times since last night.” Without waiting for her to leave Aino answered the call. “Shouto?”

Ani gasped quietly. She was surprised to hear her brother use the pro hero’s first name and made a note to question Aino about their friendship later.

“Yeah,” Aino said with a grin at Ani. “She’s right here.”

He extended the phone out to her. “He wants to talk to you.”

Ani’s heart thumped with a surge of excitement, all worries about losing her job or the world finding out her abilities long gone as she crossed the room and accepted the phone. “H-hello?” she asked breathlessly.

“Ani,” Shouto practically sighed. “You’re awake.”

“I am and I’m fine!” She assured him. “I’m sorry if I worried you!”

She chastised herself at the assumptive comment. Like Todoroki really would have been— “I was very worried. Your brother told me he would inform me when you awoke.”

“I only just woke up a little while ago and came right here. I was about to leave when you called and I’m sure Aino would have called you after I left.” Aino nodded, unabashedly eavesdropping on her half of the conversation.

“I believe that as well,” Todoroki said with a soft laugh. “He’s been very patient with my persistent calls throughout the night.”

Ani’s body responded with a wave of tingling from head to toe at the sound of his laugh. “I’m sorry I kept you distracted.”

“Please, I’m happy you’re alright.”

“Thanks.” She smiled and suddenly felt hot under Aino’s speculative stare. “Well, um. I don’t want to keep you from your patrols or pro-hero work today.”

“Actually,” Shouto cleared his throat. “Today is my day off.”

“Oh,” Ani’s cheeks blushed and she tried not to get her hopes up.

“Did you say you were about to leave?” He asked her with a hint of hesitation.

“I did.” She smiled again and Aino rolled his eyes, sitting back down in his chair and pulling out a file. “I need to check-in with the ER.”

“I see.” His voice fell and Ani’s heart leaped at the sound of his voice.

“Shouto...would you...”

“Yes?” He prompted her when she hesitated.

“Would you like to spend the day with me if I don’t have to work?”

There was a moment of silence that felt like it would swallow her up before he answered. “I would like that very much.”

The soft happiness in his voice made Ani’s expression shine. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll let you know as soon as I do.”

“I’ll be waiting,” he answered. His words tugged at a deeper, more primal part of Ani’s and she lost any words she had to respond. She set the phone down gently and hung up the call with an excited squeal.

“Good conversation?” Aino asked, making her jump. She’d forgotten he was there and she laughed at herself.

“Yes, thank you,” she said and bowed her head. “Thank you for letting me borrow the phone.”

He waved her off. “Yeah, yeah. Go find out if you can have a date or not.”

Ani’s face burned crimson red and she returned quickly to the door. She was out of his office and rushed down to the ER, battling the swells of emotions within herself. When she found the current supervising nurse they were relieved to see her.

“No one has seen or heard from you since yesterday,” they said. “We received notice you were helping with a patient in surgery and a transfusion but we’ve been worried about you.”

Ani’s heart panged with guilt. “I’m sorry for making you worry.” She bowed. “I was looking after the patient during the transfusion after surgery all night.”

“It’s alright,” the nurse said accepting the simple explanation. Her eyes roamed the schedule. “You’re off-duty tonight.”

“Really?” Ani asked in surprise.

The charge nurse nodded. “You were only supposed to be on-call anyway but after working last night you can go home.”

“Thank you,” Ani breathed with a sigh of relief. She left before the charge nurse could rescind the offer or ask any more questions. She forced herself to walk to the locker room despite every muscle in her body wanting to sprint. She couldn’t believe she was going to spend the day with Todoroki Shouto of all people.

As calmly as she could, she pulled open her locker and found her phone with only minutes of battery left. “Oh no!” She cried to herself and willed the phone to stay alive long enough to send Shouto a message.

 

I have the day off! My phone’s about to die, leaving the hospital soon. Meet at my house?

 

She included her address and sent the text. Her phone beeped, confirming the message sent and the screen promptly turned black.

“Ugh,” she groaned. “I hope he got it...”

Trying not to feel dejected, she changed and tossed her scrubs into the hospital laundry and left the hospital with her purse hanging across her body.

Chapter Text

The train took an agonizingly long time to arrive at the station and Ani’s foot was actually tapping when it arrived. She was sure it wasn’t moving at it’s normal speed but a part of her knew it was only the anxious urge to get home. To get to her charger. Finally the train stopped at her station and she hopped off nearly colliding with a mother and her two children in tow. “Sorry!” She exclaimed as the doors shut.
Her excitement was still bubbling warmly inside her chest and it drove her out of the station. She was climbing the stairs to her apartment and was so happy and nervous and jittery she almost bumped into the person near her doorstep.

“Oh, sorry!” She found herself saying again but this time she looked up into the heterochromatic eyes that made her heart leap.

“Shouto,” she said with a happy, surprised smile. “You got my text.”

He nodded. “Indeed, I did.”

She gazed up into his eyes for a few long moments before blinking heavily. Worry furrowed her brow. “I’m so sorry, have you been waiting long?!” She asked in concern. She rummaged through her purse, cursing herself for not having her keys out already. She hadn’t expected him to be here before her! “I feel so bad. I didn’t mean to make you wait out here.”

“It’s fine,” he calmly assured her. When she checked his expression, she saw only patience and understanding. The look of him leaning against her door frame was enough to take her breath away. He wore a blue button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbow, unbuttoned over a white t-shirt. Dark gray slacks hugged his waist. Her fingertips, absent-mindedly searching as she oogled the pro hero, brushed her keys and she hastily pulled them out and unlocked the door. She stepped through first and moved aside to welcome him.

He stepped inside, leaving his shoes properly arranged in the genkan and entered her home. She caught herself staring at the back of him. His shirt, despite being unbuttoned in the front, fit his muscled shoulders and upper back enough to faintly reveal the bands of thick muscle. And his gray pants...she realized her mouth had fallen agape and snapped it shut, shaking her head to clear her cloudy thoughts.

She shut the door, suddenly unsure of what to do now that the attractive pro hero was in her house. He turned as she stepped up from the genkan, hands in his pockets. “I’m sorry if I caught you off-guard,” he said reservedly. “I didn’t give you a chance to catch your breath after returning home from work.”

God he was so thoughtful. It only made him more attractive.

“It’s fine!” She assured him with a smile. “I didn’t know how long it would take for you to get here and I don’t mind at all. I just...” She bit her lip and wrapped an arm around herself as if it would contain her disheveled state.

“What?” he asked with worry.

“I was hoping I would have time to shower before you got here...” Pink tinted her cheeks. Her eyes were on the ground otherwise she would have caught Shouto’s roaming gaze as it passed up and down her body.

Todoroki gulped and tried to steady his voice as he responded. “Of course! Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable. I don’t mind waiting.”

“Really?” She looked up at him appreciatively and all he could do was nod in response.

“Okay. Thank you!” She smiled and strode to her room. Before she closed the door she leaned out and motioned to the couch and her kitchen. “Make yourself comfortable. And help yourself to anything if you get hungry or thirsty while you wait!”

And with that, she closed the door. She rested against it, her heart beating wildly in her chest. She was about to remove her clothes. And shower. With Todoroki Shouto in her apartment. She tried reminding herself she’d already done it before when he was here unexpectedly. But her brother had been here, too. Now it was just the two of them...it felt different. She pushed away from the door trying to clear her thoughts as each piece of clothing dropped to the floor on her way to the bathroom. She turned the water on, unsure if a freezing cold or searing hot shower would dispel the lewd thoughts clouding her mind.

 

Shouto would have been lying to himself if he said the thought of the beautiful young woman in the other room, naked and showering, wasn’t arousing. He was trying his best not to let his mind wander into the vague memory of her room. Of her soft form hanging onto him that first night. Of her smooth legs. He felt his pants tighten and he gritted his teeth. He looked around the room for something, anything to distract him as the sound of the shower started in the next room. His eyes passed over a book on the small end table and he picked it up, careful not to disturb the bookmark.

He began reading to pass the time and was only two-pages in when he realized he hadn’t retained a single word. The sound of the shower had distracted him, his thoughts turning in curiosity to what kind of temperature she preferred. A dark voice in the back of his mind suggested he could offer either.

He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to dispel the physical response of his body to the shower turning off. It was nearly impossible not to fantasize about the water glistening on her soft, warm skin.

 

~

 

Toga swung her legs happily from the stool she sat on at the bar. She giggled in delight at the satisfied expression on her boss’s face. Shigaraki stared at twelve vials of blood. He picked up the one that was nearly full and rolled it between his fingers.

“So this is...”

“Bakugo’s blood,” Toga squealed.

A sound of chagrin came from the booth behind them.

“Something you want to say, Dabi?” Shigaraky quietly asked, turning slightly to see the man sitting in shadow.

His turquoise eyes glowed back at them. “Don’t know how much use that’s going to be anymore.” He crossed his arms. “I doubt there was anything left of the hero.”

Toga giggled. “He did burn him to a crisp. The pro hero didn’t want to set off explosions in the school.” She cupped her own cheeks as they blushed. “He jumped in front of a child to save them, too. So heroic!”

“So stupid,” Dabi smirked.

Shigaraki’s gaze returned to the vial of blood. “What do you think?” He asked the warp-gate villain standing behind the bar. Kurogiri stopped wiping the glass he was cleaning and added it to a row of other clean glasses.

“Any hero’s blood can be useful. Especially the number three’s.”

Shigaraki nodded, a sinister smile slowly twisting his features. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

The door of the bar flew open and Twice burst through. “He’s still alive!”

Everyone turned at once.

“Who?” Toga asked excitedly.

“Ground Zero! He was just released from the hospital!”

Shigaraki’s posture stiffened. Dabi nearly leapt out of his seat. “There wasn’t anything left to save.” His eyes narrowed at the villain.

“Turn on the news, every station is broadcasting it! See for yourself!” Twice rushed to the bar by Shigaraki’s side as Kurogiri turned their television to a news channel. Sure enough, there stood Ground Zero, in civilian clothes, taking questions from the press in front of a hospital.

“It can’t be...” Dabi murmured. He cracked his knuckles, remembering the satisfaction of his blue flames pouring over the pro hero’s skin igniting the nitroglycerin sweat and setting the school on fire. The pro hero’s skin had been charred black. He collapsed to a heap on top of the child as Dabi and Toga rushed out before other pro heroes could arrive. Yet here the pro stood only a day later with skin as unburned as ever. Not a single scratch or abrasion or wound remained and his crimson eyes were sharper than ever.

“Still think there’s nothing left of the hero?” Twice asked with a sprinkle of ridicule. He immediately countered. “You couldn’t have known though...It wasn’t your fault.”

Dabi sank back into the booth, eyes narrowing and focused on the pro hero’s interview.

“Turn it up," Shigaraki instructed. The pro hero’s voice filled the silence that had fallen over the bar.

“I owe my recovery to the staff here at Dagoben General Hospital. Without them I would not be here,” he grumbled begrudgingly.

“Mr. Ground Zero!” A reporter shouted. “Who saved your life? Have you thanked them yet?!”

The villains took enjoyment out of the throbbing temple in the pro hero’s forehead. He clearly did not enjoy this kind of attention. He grabbed a microphone from someone and barked “I just did! You extras want me to do more than that?!”

A grumbling wave rolled over the crowd of news people and Bakugo calmed his rage to a simmer. “The whole staff did a great job,” he amended.

Dabi’s eyes scrutinized what he saw. “There’s no way that a normal hospital staff could have healed him that well.”

“What are you saying?” Shigaraki asked, looking over his shoulder at the scarred man.

“Someone there can do more than put some bandages and ointment on...they have someone with a healing quirk.” He slowly rose from the booth. “An extremely powerful healing quirk.”

Toga squeaked and blushed. “I feel a field trip coming on!”

Shigaraki nodded slowly. “Yes...We need to know how he healed so well...and more importantly...”

“How to keep the pros from it,” Dabi finished. He and Shigaraki looked at each other in agreement.

Chapter Text

Ani wasn’t sure what to do with the pro hero standing before her. She thought a quick shower would keep her mind from teasing her body with daydreams of the cool hero before her. Oh...how wrong she was....Instead, the frustrations simply accumulated rather than being released. Ani felt like she couldn’t keep him here in her apartment...she didn’t want to make the pro hero feel awkward or pressured.

“What do you want to do today?” He asked.

She blushed. She didn’t have any ideas. Especially when she asked him to spend the day with her; there was nothing specific she had in mind, she just wanted to be with him. “Um...” she looked up at him innocently. “I don’t know.” When confusion touched his expression, she admitted “I didn’t have a specific plan when I asked...I just...I just wanted to hang out with you.” Her face flushed a deeper pink and she looked away.

He was relieved because his face flushed red at the same moment. His pulse quickened and he worked to steady his voice.
“That’s okay,” he said. To her, he sounded entirely relaxed but inside he was struggling against his body’s reaction to her. “Are you hungry?”

She nodded and thought of all the delicious food still waiting in her fridge. “Would you like to have a picnic?” She offered with a sparkle in her eye. It had been so long since she last had free time during the day and the idea of a picnic in the sun made her heart shine. It would also get them out of her apartment and force her to keep her hands off of him.

The pro hero blushed at her happiness and rubbed the back of his neck. She sensed his hesitation. “We don’t have to if you don’t want to!” She waved her hands.

“No, it’s not that,” he quickly explained. “I enjoy picnics very much...it’s...it’s only that I have a hard time going out in public.”

Understanding dawned on Ani. “I get it,” she said. Ani glanced outside. It was such a nice day, she wanted to relish the sunshine and then an idea struck her. “What about a picnic on the roof?”

“The roof? Here?” He asked curiously. He looked at the girl before him, staring longingly outside and suddenly felt like he was depriving her of happiness. She couldn’t be happy from a simple roof picnic on her day off but she was already moving to the kitchen.

“Yes! It’s the perfect spot,” she said. He smiled at her enthusiasm as she planned out loud to herself. “We can bring blankets and some pillows...maybe a radio? No, we can play music from our phones if we want. My wifi might even reach up there...eh, probably not but that’s fine. Good reception.”

He joined her in the kitchen catching on to the excitement. “What can I do to help?” He asked.

She paused and looked up sheepishly at him with rosy cheeks. “Would you please put together the food? Your cooking was really good.”

His heart swelled with pride. “Of course,” he said, happily taking over arranging the food.

Ani bounced away to gather everything else. Shouto already knew what he was going to make for them—he'd picked out most of the supplies she had. So by the time Ani came back with everything they needed Shouto was finishing the last bento box. He wondered if he overdid it.

“Ready?” She asked with a big smile. He nodded, warmed by her joy.

Shouto took everything he could from her hands leaving only pillows for her to carry and their hands touched. He saw the blush it put on her face and he wanted to see more, wanted to keep touching her and make her blush deeper. She led him to the staircase and he had to stifle a growl. He was nearly eye-level with her ass. Though her shorts were longer than the popular style they still stopped above her mid-thigh and hugged the shape of her butt. The staircase took them up past the third floor of apartments where a foreboding metal door awaited at the top. Todoroki suddenly worried they were about to trespass. His concern didn’t last long when Ani pulled out her own set of keys.

The roof was more than bare concrete and heating vents as Shouto imagined. Lush green rolled across the space lining pockets of fenced sitting areas between large patches of flourishing gardens. “This way,” Ani said with a nod. He followed after her, not caring that his mouth was parted in awe.

“This is amazing,” he whispered.

Ani smiled over her shoulder at him. “I know. A few years ago we petitioned our landlord to let us use the roof, promising we would take good care of it.”

“All this happened in a few years?”

Ani chuckled in appreciation of his astonishment. His genuine emotions were so cute. “We have a few retired residents who really took to the project. Those of us who don’t have time to help with the work pay for all the supplies as thanks for their hard work.”

Shouto’s eyes continued to roam taking in all the colorful patches of blooms, various shrubs of all sizes. There were bird feeders hanging throughout the foliage, too. Ani let them into a small fenced area with bamboo floor and a small table surrounded by three chairs. Shouto quickly set his supplies down to help Ani move the table and chairs to the side so they had more room for a traditional picnic arrangement. Ani tucked a placard with the number two into the fence.

“What’s that for?” Shouto asked.

“Privacy,” Ani answered with a glance at him as she unfolded a blanket. “If anyone else comes up here they won’t see this number by the door and they’ll know someone’s using this space so they won’t bother us.”

Shouto helped her lay the blanket out and he began to unpack the food. Ani kneeled down next to him to help and Shouto’s throat closed. The fabric of her shorts pulled up toward her hips, exposing soft pale skin to the sun. As she leaned over the basket the hem of her shirt fell forward and revealed the skin of her chest, smooth and supple where it met an undershirt. He could see the outline of her bra cupping two small but plump breasts. A gentle breeze tossed her hair and filled his nose with a floral, almond scent. He stifled a groan.

“This looks amazing!” Ani beamed up at him as she surveyed their spread. Another, stronger breeze slid across her skin and she shivered, regretting the top she chose. It was cute, coral covered in navy and white flowers, but it was thin. Before she could rub her arms or consider going to get a sweater Shouto was sliding his shirt off. Ani gasped as the soft weight of his shirt fell around her. She looked up in surprise and found herself staring at his chest as he reached over her.

Her heart beat loudly in her ears and, for a moment, she forgot how to breathe.

Heat radiated from him—well, half of him—and his deep musky, smell that reminded her of leather surrounded her and filled her lungs as she forced herself to breathe. She could see the shadow of muscles underneath his shirt and it made her mouth water. As he sat back, and the breeze reached her again, she pulled the shirt closed around herself. Warmth pooled deep in her stomach followed by an ache from her time in the shower she was failing to ignore.

“You looked cold,” he said with quiet kindness. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all!” Ani’s face was burning. “But what about you? Won’t you be cold?”

She glanced at his now exposed and very muscular arms. The definition of the vascular sculpting made her short of breath.

He smirked. “Temperatures don’t really bother me.”

“Oh, right,” she said smiling at herself. She slid her arms through his sleeves and tried to be subtle when she took another smell of his shirt. Shouto noticed but forced himself not to react; he didn’t want to make Ani feel self-conscious. In truth, he wanted her to keep wearing his shirt and found he liked seeing her in it, much more than he expected. A primal urge to mask her smell from everyone else, covering it with his own so only he could smell it, struck him and he welcomed the possessive feeling.

Trying to bring himself out of it he offered her food and she gladly accepted. She started eating and her appetite appeared in earnest. She heartily ate and Shouto kept offering her more food. “Aren’t you going to eat?” asked Ani.

Shouto smiled softly. “Your body’s been through a lot the past twenty-four hours, I’m sure. I want you to eat as much as you need.”

Ani’s heart fluttered at his consideration and that smile. Oh that smile...she wanted to keep him smiling, always, and would do anything to see it again. “Thanks,” she said with a rich blush to her cheeks.

He was happy to sit with her as she enjoyed the picnic, snacking on things here and there. She asked him questions about his hero agency and learned he had taken over his father’s agency but refused to be a legacy of him. He changed the hero training and how he treated the heroes who worked for him. He expanded the facility to offer more to his heroes including a fitness center. She could tell he cared for the people who worked for him as if they were his family.

Her hunger slowly abated and Shouto accepted the remaining food. Ani cleared away the dirty dishes after he finished and Shouto worried she was ready to leave, but she fluffed the pile of pillows and laid down in the sun.

“It’s so nice out,” she happily noted and turned her face toward the sun. The pile of pillows shifted under Shouto’s weight as he laid down next to her. Their elbows brushed and the small contact was enough to send electricity fizzling through Ani. She wanted to stay connected like that so she held it, waiting for him to pull away. He closed his eyes and rested his head back instead. Ani smiled and did the same.

She tried to remind herself he was a handsome pro hero who could have any woman he wanted and for this moment, if it only lasted this long, she was happy to be with him. Next to his warmth, surrounded by his intoxicating scent, arms touching, she began to drift toward sleep.

Shouto listened to her breathing as each breath grew softer and longer. He chanced a peek. Sure enough, she had fallen asleep next to him with their arms resting against each other. He was worried how she was going to respond to him laying down next her and felt relieved when she hadn’t pulled away. He didn’t mean to lay down so close but once it happened, and their arms were touching, he didn’t want it to stop.

He watched his own shirt rise and fall with each sleeping breath and feelings toward another person stirred within him he never experienced before. Curious. Protective. Possessive. These feelings, mixed with the attraction he felt for her, made him want to spend more time with her. He wondered if she felt the same.

As he watched over her sleeping form the wind gently tossed a wavy strand of hair across her face. Her nose twitched and he reached over, tucking it back behind her ear, and lightly traced the line of her jaw. She sighed.

Shouto froze and quickly pulled his fingers back but a smile touched her lips and, still deep asleep, she whispered a single word that made his heart leap.

“Shouto...”

She shifted slightly, unconsciously bringing herself closer to him until her head was resting on his shoulder. Shouto carefully laid back down, not wanting her to move away.

Chapter Text

Ani’s phone vibrated in her back pocket and she groaned, shifting in her sleep to get comfortable. It was probably the hospital, or Aino, and she didn’t want either possibility to end the wonderful dream she was having. She sighed when it stopped and tucked herself back in against...

Her eyes popped open.

She wasn't sure how she got there but she was resting on Todoroki’s chest, each rise and fall of his chest lifting her head. In her sleep she had also wrapped an arm across his chest and began to panic about how she must have made him feel. Her phone vibrated again and something tightened across her own back. Ani felt Shouto’s strong, warm arm wrapped around her back, his hand resting on her side. He had fallen asleep, too, and was starting to stir. Ani closed her eyes tightly, not wanting the moment to end. He was so comfortable and warm and...

“Ani,” he whispered reluctantly. She made a soft sound in response without looking at him. “I think your phone is ringing.”

She groaned. “I know.”

Shouto smiled at her lack of interest in moving. He felt the same way. They were both awake now but they stayed in each other’s arms. Ani’s phone stopped ringing and beeped; whoever called left a voicemail. Without moving from the pro hero’s chest she reached around and pulled out her phone. She used one hand, the other still resting on Shouto, to open the message.

She immediately put the phone back in her pocket.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

She rested her arm on him again and tentatively spread her fingers to feel the strong planes of his chest. “It was Aino, calling to tell me the hospital is going to investigate Bakugo’s treatment and they’ll be calling me in, too.”

Bakugo’s treatment?” He asked. There was a hint of something in his voice she didn’t understand.

Ani nodded reluctantly, not wanting to put him out once he found out. “Yes...he’s the patient I helped Aino save yesterday.”

“What happened?” He asked. Without moving off of him she rolled onto her stomach and folded her hands under her chin to look at him.

“I’m still not exactly sure how he was injured but he was burned, badly. Aino was trying to perform a skin graft to save him but the wounds were too large and he didn’t have enough skin.” Ani looked embarrassed for a moment. “Aino asked if I would volunteer as a donor for the skin graft...but I said no.”

Todoroki ran his knuckles across her cheek, brushing some of her hair back behind her ear. “There’s no reason to feel badly about saying no. Especially since it seems you found another way to save him.”

“We did,” she said and rested her head against his chest again. “We tried a transfusion first and when Aino refused to draw any more blood we did a direct dialysis transfusion.”

“What does that mean?” He reached his other hand up, propping his head up to see her more clearly without shifting her away. She looked up at him from his chest and he felt his pulse quicken.

“When I helped you I drew my own blood and gave it to you which was essentially a transfusion. We tried that for Bakugo but the healing wasn’t able to overcome his injuries and the trauma from his burns was shutting his body down. So we set up a dialysis machine...usually it’s used to filter out and clean someone’s blood but we rerouted the channels...Basically...we cycled Bakugo’s blood through me while my blood went through him. He finally started to heal and it accelerated quickly so I made Aino keep it going to heal him completely.”

Ani took a shaky breath and Shouto wanted to wrap her in his arms, to dispel whatever worry was eating at her and protect her from whatever was coming next. He fought the urge and continued to listen. “Fatigue started to hit me, like it normally does, and I could feel my body overworking itself so Aino left briefly to get an IV solution that helps me regenerate. When he was gone...one of the floor nurses came in to investigate...I was too tired to explain or shoo her away...she was still standing there when Aino came back but I slipped away into sleep before I could hear what they said to each other.” Ani closed her eyes and Shouto’s heart went out to her.

“So now the hospital knows...” he said.

She nodded with a small sniffle. “I can’t hide from this one.” A tiny tear dripped and Shouto felt every fiber of himself react. He was sitting up holding her tightly against his chest before she could react. Her hands floated for a moment, unsure of what had happened and how to respond.

“Everything will be okay,” he whispered. His words filled her with hope and she buried her head into him as she tentatively hugged him back. His arms felt like the safest place in the world. Tight enough so she was pressed entirely against him but soft and gentle enough to express the tender feelings with which he was overcome.

He rested his cheek on the top of her head and felt her squeeze him in approval. The smell of almond and lilac filled his senses and he wanted to smell it forever. It was intoxicating and nearly distracted him from the sudden figure standing at the gate.

A child, no longer young but not yet a teen, stood with their mouth hanging open at the scene before them. The child’s arm was outstretched, holding a phone as if they had taken a picture, and they stared at Shouto. Shouto stiffened and kept Ani held against him to hide her face. She felt the change in him and froze, unsure of what was happening.

“Hejire! Hejire!” A voice called out. The child’s head whipped around to the approaching footsteps. “I told you to wait for me!”

Ani’s blood ran cold as she realized what was happening.

“You never listen!” The voice was close now. An old woman shuffled into view giving the child a harmless swat but they still flinched. “You’re so rude!”

She turned with an apology ready. “I’m so sorry about my—” Her eyes grew wide as she took in the intimate moment involving the number two hero before her.

“T-t-todoroki Shouto!” she said with a waver of awe in her voice. “I am so sorry about my foolish grandson. I have failed teaching my daughter manners who has clearly failed in teaching her son. He will be punished accordingly.” The old woman, who was already bowing, grabbed her grandson’s arm and forced him to bow next to her.

“Apologize to the pro hero,” she ordered.

“I-I’m sorry Todoroki. I’m...I’m a huge fan and was so excited to see you that I forgot my manners.”

Ani’s eyes widened. She could tell Shouto was trying to hide her face from them and her thoughts began to spiral wildly out of control. He didn’t want to go in public because of something like this. She was the one who forced them to come up here and now this happened and he would never want to hang out with her again and he didn’t want them to see her face so he must have been embarrassed of being seen with her especially in this compromising position. She felt like she was going to suffocate and it wasn’t from Shouto’s arms still wrapped tightly around her.

“It’s quite alright.” His calm and deep hero-voice reverberated in his chest against Ani. She would have enjoyed it if she wasn’t freaking out.

“Thank you for your understanding,” the old woman said and began dragging away the young boy, muttering more to the boy in a chastising tone.

Shouto waited until they were gone and he listened for the door to close before releasing Ani. He wasn’t sure how to explain his reaction. He couldn’t find the words quickly enough before she started gathering the pillows up.

“Ani, I’m sorry about that,” he started to say but she wouldn’t meet his eye.

“It’s fine!! I’m so sorry that happened! Come on, we should leave the roof in case anyone else finds out and comes up to see.” Her voice was shaking slightly and it showed in her hands.

“Ani, what’s wrong?” He gently pulled her arms away from the pillows and took her hands in his. Her eyes were glistening as if she was trying not to cry.

She bit her lip, not wanting to put him in any worse of a position. “I’m...I’m so sorry! I know you didn’t want to be seen today and so I thought we would have privacy up here but someone still saw us together.” She blinked trying to keep the tears away and her voice became quiet. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to come here anymore...”

Shouto suddenly realized what was wrong. He lifted her chin so he could see her face. “Ani...are you...do you think I didn’t want to be seen with you?” He asked incredulously.

She looked anywhere but at him when she nodded. He cupped her cheeks and her eyes finally returned to his. “I didn’t want to been seen in public to protect you. Being associated with a pro hero in anyway marks you for attention of all the wrong kind. My fans can be overwhelming in many ways not to mention being in the spotlight for villains. I’ve watched Midoriya and Ochaco be targeted by villains to get at each other for years. I...I would never want to put you in that kind of position.”

Ani stared into his heterochromatic eyes fervently listening though it was hard to believe. His thumbs brushed her blushing cheeks. “I’m used to being in the spotlight. But since you saved my life and I've understood who you are, the way you've lived...I didn’t want to take that away from you. I didn’t want to force you into any spotlight you didn’t want.” He traced her lips.

“Shouto...” she whispered. Her heart was aching, overcome.

He began to say “I’ll understand if you don’t want me to come here anymore. I won’t compromise your privacy and won’t come back if you don’t want—”

She silenced him by pressing her lips to his.

His blinked in disbelief only once before his eyelids fluttered closed. Her lips were soft, silky. Warm. He kissed her back, shaping his mouth to press all of his lips against her and one of his hands went in to her hair, holding her in place. His other hand slid down her back, pressing her body against him.

The kiss deepened as Ani wrapped her arms around his neck and clutched him back. They parted only for a moment to shift and their lips were back together again. Ani’s heart began to race and her body flushed with heat. She pulled, wanting to say something, but he chased her lips, not wanting it to end. She smiled and held it for another moment. She pulled away again, giving him a small peck on his lips, and rested her forehead against his.

“I want you to come back as often as you want,” she whispered, eyes closed. “I really like you Sho...”

He kissed her forehead before pulling her into his arms again. He loved the way his name sounded on her lips.

“I really like you, too,” he said in a hoarse voice. He was hoping she wouldn’t feel the evidence of his attraction in his pants. “I want to come back as often as I can. As often as you want me here.”

She murmured into his chest “I will always want you around.”

His pants only tightened with her words. This was moving faster than he was prepared for and he realized he was going to have to tell her the truth sometime soon.

For now, he held her in his arms and she held him back.

Chapter Text

Ani’s interview with the hospital director was scheduled for Monday morning, of course not at the end of her Sunday night shift. No, instead it was at 11:00am and they didn’t plan on giving her the night off on Monday night. She didn’t have a choice; she would have to sleep at the hospital but after the weekend she had, she didn’t care. She spent Saturday afternoon with Shouto. They had a picnic. They kissed.

Every time she thought of his lips on hers she couldn’t focus. Her body would react to the memory as if it was happening all over again. She got barely any sleep since it had happened and her attempt to find release on her own, after he left, was unsatisfying. No matter how many times she tried.

For Todoroki the rest of the weekend was as equally unsatisfying. He had to work on Sunday during the day and couldn’t see her again. Every detail of her clouded his mind and left him restless, unproductive, and his mind seemed hellbent on recalling everything at every spare moment. Not knowing when he would see her next made him frustrated and impatient but when she told him of her meeting with the hospital director he didn’t press for another date. He wanted to support her any way he could so he would wait as long as it took until she was able to see him again. He didn’t want to cause any distraction or added stress.

Ani’s shift began calmly. The regular unpredictable nature of the ER kept her busy and when she wasn’t treating patients she was doing paperwork, trying not to obsess over the impending interview. Glace and Doto were working with her tonight and happily chatted around her.

When Ani allowed herself to glance at the clock she saw it was only 11o’clock. Her shift wasn’t halfway over but she saw it was only twelve more hours until the meeting. There was a lull in the action so Ani took the opportunity to restock supplies and Doto helped. The first room was a large, single-bed room with a TV.

Doto glanced up and down the hall before turning the TV on low. Ani gave her a curious look.

“What are you doing?” She asked.

Doto shrugged coyly. “It’s quiet, don’t you think? I’m putting on a little background noise to be more productive.”

“Sure it will,” Ani said with a smile and rolled her eyes. “I know what time it is. You’re not going to get any work done with that show on right now.”

“Psh, of course I will.” Doto shushed her as she found the right channel.

A woman whose quirk covered her in beautiful iridescent feathers stood in the middle of a bright floor with a large screen behind her.

“Last week a devastating fire at a school in the Dagoben District caused severe injuries to one of our favorite pro-heroes to follow...”

Ani flinched and looked over her shoulder. Doto was entranced.

“Bakugo, a-k-a Ground Zero jumped in front of one of the school children. As we now know, it was to protect them from villains who were attacking the school, although it’s not yet known what the villains were after...

“Bakugo was rushed to Dagoben General Hospital...” They showed a picture of Bakugo’s body being wheeled up into an ambulance. Though most of his body was covered by a sheet or blocked by paramedics, his face revealed enough burns to make anyone’s stomach curdle.

Doto gasped and brought her hand to her mouth. “Oh my gosh...”

“Where he was treated for severe burns.” They cut to a shot of Bakugo outside the hospital being interviewed by the press. "He appeared in front of the public a day later looking as good as new. But what else do you expect from the number-three pro hero?”

Ani grumbled to herself but was relieved there was no mention of the staff or surgeon or nurse or anything that could be traced back to her. At least on this gossip news show. She went back to replenishing the drawers until she heard Doto take a heaving breath and the host’s voice became alluring.

“In more salacious news, a picture has surfaced this weekend of our beloved number-two pro hero: Todoroki Shouto, sharing a very intimate moment with a woman..."

The color drained from Ani’s face and she turned around, needing to see what picture she was talking about. Doto’s mouth dropped open and she screeched.

“Glace! Get in here!”

Glace rushed in a moment later and caught sight of the picture. She gasped and covered her mouth, too.

“Could this mean Shouto has a girl-friend? Who is this mystery woman and what exactly is happening here in this photo?!”

It was Ani.

Ani and Shouto tightly hugging in their picnic spot. The young boy must have taken the picture and it explained the severity of Shouto’s reaction now, why he made such a point to hide Ani’s face. The picture was captured right before Shouto noticed the boy because his face was relaxed, peaceful. Nearly a smile as he cradled Ani close to him and rested his head on hers.

Damn. If it wasn’t an invasion of privacy it would have been an alluring photo.

“As you can see, the young woman is wearing the button-down Shouto was seen wearing earlier that day. Our anonymous viewer who shared the photograph with us didn’t know where it was taken but they did reveal it was within a roof-top garden.”

Ani flinched. She wracked her brain trying to remember if she had ever mentioned having a rooftop garden. She usually wore her hair up at work and rarely went out with anyone after work so she was hoping neither nurse would recognize her hair under Shouto’s arms.

“Well fuck,” Glace swore under her breath. “I’m not surprised he’s got a girl-friend though. Look at those arms...”

All three of them stared at the picture behind the host. Shouto’s muscles weren’t flexed yet they were clearly defined.

“What I wouldn’t give to be in his freaking arms...” Doto muttered. “Oh God, I wonder what he smells like.”

Ani closed her eyes and remembered the invigorating smell like spiced leather. She turned and got back to work still listening to the host’s speculation on every possibility for the young woman’s identity.

For the rest of the night it was all Doto and Glace could talk about. They went back and forth, questioning Ani only a few times before losing interest in her lackluster answers. She gladly shouldered most of the menial tasks for the night because it kept her out of their gossip. She didn't want to accidentally give any kind of hint that it was her. In part because of what Shouto said about those around pro heroes being targeted. It was mostly because she didn’t know if Shouto wanted other people to know. They liked each other, that much was clear after Saturday, but she didn’t know what that meant. What it meant to him. Whatever it was, it was still in an early stage and she didn’t want to do anything to mess it up.

The sun finally rose.

Ani went back to her locker at the end of her shift and changed into pajamas. She had a clean, professional outfit for her meeting with the hospital director but she didn’t want to wrinkle it during sleep. She pulled her phone from the pocket of her scrubs and saw she had a new text message.

It was from Shouto.

 

Good Morning Ani. I’m thinking of you today as you have your meeting. Everything is going to be fine.

 

His words were like a wave crashing over her, washing away her stress and worry.

 

Thank you 🙂 I am happy to hear this from you.

 

She chewed her lip, unsure how to tell him. She sent another message. Did you stay up late?

 

No he answered. Though I was woken up early by most of my old classmates from U-A

 

Oh no, why is that? Is everything okay?! She worried for him and the other heroes, many of whom were in the top 100 pros.

 

Yes...everything is fine. Can I call you quickly?

 

Of course Her heart leapt into her throat as he called only a moment after her message.

 

“Hey,” she said nervously. “What’s up?”

“I...I’m not sure how to say this.” He cleared his throat. “I think...that boy from the rooftop on Saturday took a picture of us together and it’s gotten around.”

Ani sighed. “I saw. It was on the Hero-Watch show last night. Wait...is that why your classmates called you?”

He hesitated. “...Yes. They were unabashedly curious about the picture and asked me a lot of questions I didn’t want to answer.”

“Oh.”

“Ani...I have an interview this morning on a national morning news show.”

She gulped and hoped he couldn’t hear it. “About what?”

“It’s about this. As soon as I caught wind of the public’s reaction, I had the PR agent for my firm arrange it. Ani, as far as you know has anyone figured out it’s you?”

“No, not that I know of. The nurses last night had no idea and they’re the ones I’ve worked with the most.”

“Okay,” he exhaled. She waited patiently. “Ani...I intend to kull any speculation on this.”

Ani’s face flushed red. “Wh-what do you mean?”

“I won’t share your name or where you work but...I intend to make it clear to the public that you’re someone very important to me.”

Ani’s heart pounded. That wasn’t very clear to her. She doubted the public or news anchors would accept it so quietly. “When is your interview?” She asked. “I want to see you...”

“Ani, are you sure? I wasn’t going to tell you because I didn’t want to add any stress to your day.”

“I’m glad you told me,” she protested. “I want to watch.”

He gave her the time: 9:00 am. “Really, I wasn’t trying to pressure you to watch, I only wanted to be the person to tell you so you wouldn’t be blindsided.”

“Thank you, Sho. I appreciate it.” She smiled and he could hear it in her voice. “I want to support you, too. I get the feeling you don’t like doing interviews.”

He chuckled. "I don’t...but this felt like an important thing to address before it spiraled out of control.”

Her heart nearly melted. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“Ani, I would do whatever it takes to protect you.” His voice was gruff and she heard other voices in the background. "I have to go now. Are you working later?”

“Yes,” she answered defeatedly. “My shift starts at 7 again. I’m not going to have time to make it home after this meeting so I’ll be sleeping here today.”

“I see.” He sounded defeated, too. “Good luck this morning. Will you let me know how the meeting goes?”

“Of course. Good luck in your interview.” She wished she could be there with him and immediately chided herself for being so presumptuous.

“Thank you,” he said.

The call ended. Ani slid the phone into her locker. She checked the time and saw there was more than an hour until Shouto’s meeting. Plenty of time for a nap but she didn’t want to risk missing it. Instead of trying to sleep she took a long, steaming hot shower and got a strong coffee from the cafeteria. She felt jittery, not knowing what to expect from Shouto’s interview. She was nervous and curious what he was going to say. She meandered through the hospital and ended up back in the staff breakroom closest to the ER. She was the only one there right now which meant she didn’t have to answer any questions when she turned the TV to the morning news. Time inched closer and closer toward Shouto’s interview time and she braided and unbraided her hair several times to keep her hands busy. Finally the announcer segued into Shouto’s introduction after a commercial break.

He appeared out of a gap in the set wall without any fanfare. He gave a modest bow of his head to the audience and each of the news hosts. Ani smiled as she watched him, already picking up on the minute details of his expression. He crossed his leg, trying to appear calm, and he gave a tight smile when they thanked him for being there. It was a shadow of his real smile and Ani smirked, smugly appreciating he had smiled when they were together.

“So, Mr. Shouto! What a pleasure to have you here today!” One of the hosts with too-white teeth beamed at him. She sat the closest and playfully swung at the air next to him. “It’s not often you’ll do an interview and we feel so lucky to have you here with us, don’t we everyone?!”

She motioned to the crowd and they cut to the rows of cheering fans packed into the show’s seating area. Many people had signs with obnoxious sayings and some people even wore red and white wigs.

“Thank you for having me,” he said in his usual stoic nature. “I don’t do this very often so I appreciate you talking with me today.”

“Oh, it’s our pleasure!” The female host purred. It looked like she was restraining herself from launching herself at him.

“Especially after the exciting event we all caught a glimpse of this weekend,” a male host said with a cheeky grin at Shouto. “Most pros would try to distance themselves from the public eye after something this but here you are! Taking us all by storm! Any chance you’ll share some details with us?”

The corner of Shouto’s mouth twitched. “Well, that photo is why I’m here today.”

“Oooo,” the female host said prompting the crowd to echo her. “Tell us, Shouto. Who is the woman in that picture with you?”

His heterochromatic eyes went out of focus for only a moment as if he was somewhere else.

“She’s someone I’ve recently become very close with and care for very deeply.”

The female host gasped dramatically and placed a hand over her heart. “Care for very deeply how?”

Shouto smiled softly, a faint resemblance to the real thing. “Romantically.”

The male host began to clap and the audience quickly followed suit with a round of applause and raucous cheers.

“This is very exciting for you!” He said. “We’re all very happy for you—”

“If not a little heartbroken,” the female host added with a fake frown. “Shouto our viewers have got to be dying to know...is the woman in this picture your girlfriend?”

Shouto folded his hands in his lap and took a deep breath. “Not yet.”

“But would you like her to be?” The male host prodded. “Do you plan on asking her?”

“Yes,” Shouto said with a quick glance to the camera.

The male host slapped his knee. “Good for you! Come on, everyone! Let’s give our favorite hero some encouragement and good luck!” Both hosts clapped and stood up as the crowd went wild with enthusiastic shouts and calls, cheers and whistles. Shouto stood up as well the three of them exchanged a small bow as the crowd continued shouting.

“SHOU-TO! SHOU-TO! SHOU-TO! SHOU-TO!”

The female host turned back to the TV with another playfully sad sentiment and transitioned to the next commercial break.

Ani slowly exhaled and leaned back against the couch, absorbing everything she heard.

Someone made the sound of a friendly dismissal and Ani jumped.

“Not you, too,” the man said as he went to the coffee pot. Ani relaxed; it was one of the male ER nurses, Toshiro, from the day shifts. “Everyone was watching that out there and now they’re going to be obsessing about it for the rest of the day like they did all morning leading up to it.”

“O-obsessing about it?” Ani asked nervously. Toshiro leaned against the counter and lazily stirred his coffee.

“They’re all freaking out Todoroki has a girlfriend now.”

“He said he she wasn’t his girlfriend yet,” she muttered.

He licked the coffee stirrer clean and tossed it in the trash, while keeping a steady gaze on Ani. “Jealous?” He asked. Her face flushed but for reasons he didn’t understand. “You are!” He laughed lightly. “Geez, you girls and your crushes are so cute. I’m sorry he’s off the market now. The pining is endearing.”

A dozen retorts found their way to the tip of Ani’s tongue but she took a deep breath rather than release them. She wanted to stay calm and keep a clear mind for the meeting.

“Seriously though.” Toshiro’s eyebrows furrowed. “Wouldn’t it be better to fall in love with someone around you?”

Ani’s eyes unfocused replaying Todoroki’s interview over and over in her mind. She didn’t want to forget his words. She was so engrossed in her memory she didn’t hear Toshiro mutter as he left the room “I don’t want to see you get hurt...”

Ani pulled out her phone and wondered if it was too soon to text him. Before she could decide a call came to her phone. She quickly answered, not recognizing the number from somewhere in the hospital. “Hello?”

“Ani? This is Hina, Director Chialin’s secretary. I’m calling because the director wants to move your appointment time up. Are you available to come in at 9:30?”

Ani looked down at her fleece pajama pants and quickly calculated how fast she could get ready. “I think so, yes.”

“Great, we’ll see you then." She hung up. Ani rushed out of the staff room back to the locker room. She was hoping this wouldn’t take a long time. Then she could actually go home and get some rest. She always slept better if she could make it there.

By 9:29 Ani had found the director’s office and smoothed out the black pencil skirt with a deep breath in front of their door. She stepped inside and was directed to sit by the secretary. Ani tried not to fidget but she was nervous. She worried about her job. She worried about Aino.

“Ani?” Hina asked. “Director Chialin will see you now.”

“Thank you,” Ani said quietly with a small bow as she stood. Hina directed her to the thick oak door at the corner of the room.

Sunlight filled the director’s office from the glass wall behind his desk and he motioned for Ani to sit in one of the two chairs in front. Despite being filled with the bright light of the morning, Ani felt a darkness creep over the room. He cleared his throat, opening a file before him. “Shida Ani.” He licked a finger and flipped through the pages. There weren’t many. “Relatively unknown nurse throughout the hierarchy of the hospital. You’ve been with us in the ER for six years.”

“Seven, sir,” she amended quietly. He looked at her with dark, cold eyes.

“Seven,” he corrected himself. His eyes moved back to the paper. “No disciplinary notes or bad performance reviews. And yet here you sit before me.”

He dropped the folder open onto his desk revealing a picture of Bakugo’s injuries before and after the transfusions. Ani tried to stay calm as he continued.

“We received a report from the doctor on the floor and immediately followed up with the nurse who reported the incident to him who confirmed that you—and Dr. Shida—gave Ground Zero a dialysis-direct transfusion. After researching your file I can understand it was because of your regeneration quirk. The problem is how you went abou tit. Neither of you sought a second opinion nor consulted with hematologist before putting Ground Zero at risk. You didn’t receive hospital approval for such a drastic, unapproved procedure!”

Ani’s stomach dropped as his voice rose and her throat was too tight to speak. Dr. Chialin rubbed his forehead and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Ms. Shida why did you become a nurse?”

“To help people, whoever I could. To save lives,” Ani answered quietly.

Dr. Chialin tapped the picture in front of him. “And you did that, without a doubt. However...you were arrogant in your choices. You believed you could save him better than our pre-existing methods and have stepped into the spotlight, overshadowing the name and ability of our hospital!”

“I didn’t mean to—”

“What’s worse,” he steamrolled over her, not interested in what she had to offer. “Is that now we’re going to be asked to heal such drastic cases over and over again making us entirely reliant on you! And beyond that you have failed to consider what should happen if the patient is someone other than a hero! What would you have done if it was a known villain who came into the ER with injuries of this magnitude? Would you have gone to the same extreme measures? If not than you break your oath.” He paused for a moment to collect himself. “You are suspended—with pay—for the rest of this week until you’ve met with a judiciary committee for the hospital.”

“Suspended?” Ani’s mouth parted in disbelief; she wasn’t sure if she was disappointed or relieved.

“Yes.” He folded his hands in his lap. “Be glad this was only your first offense. On the surface, it would be foolish of us, as a medical provider, to fire you when you clearly have so much to offer to us and potential patients. But we do need to review this situation and be sure keeping you on staff here is the best choice.”

Ani’s mouthed popped closed at his words and she nodded solemnly. Dr. Chialin closed her file and set it aside.

“Please see yourself out. Hina will call you with the information once the hearing has been set.” He gestured to the door.

“Thank you,” Ani said with a bow of her head and quickly slipped out of his office. She didn’t look at Hina as she left, making a quiet exit as her heart was pounding.

They didn’t know.

They didn’t know Bakugo wasn’t the first. She was so relieved and also terrified of how that would change the situation.

She returned to the locker room in a haze and grabbed her belongings from her locker, avoiding everyone she could as she escaped into the bright daylight. Once she was at the train station she took a deep breath. She sank onto a bench and processed everything that happened. She still had a job. That was good. But there was something else the hospital director had said that made Ani wary: you clearly have so much to offer to us and potential patients.

Something about the comment felt like a chain was forming around her throat.

Ani took a steadying breath and relaxed, knowing she didn’t have to go back to the hospital tonight, and pulled out her phone. She missed a call from Todoroki. Without hesitating she called him back. She was worried he would think she was unhappy with what she heard this morning during his interview.

His interview!

Ani had nearly forgotten that happened this morning. Heat bubbled in her chest and tinted her cheeks as the phone rang. His words surfaced in her mind and she wanted to talk to him so badly. It went to voicemail. Ani’s heart sank. She tried not to panic as the train pulled into the station.

She was trying to type out a message as she went to her seat and ended up bumping into someone. “Sorry,” she mumbled a quick apology and bow, not noticing their scarred face impassively watching her. She quickly sat down to finish what she started.

 

Hi Shouto, my interview was moved up to 9:30 am and I just got out. I’m sorry I missed your call! If you want to talk I’ll be home all day and I don’t have work tonight either

 

She sent it then spent the rest of the train ride overanalyzing everything she said, worrying she sounded too desperate. Maybe she hadn’t said enough. She didn’t him to think she didn’t like the interview.

Ani got out of her seat as the train pulled into her station. The train brakes slipped for a moment, jostling the passengers, and Ani stumbled. A pair of arms appeared and caught her before she hit the ground.

“Thank you,” she breathed, startled. She braced herself, standing back up, and felt deep scars wrapping around the person’s wrists like a burned sleeve. Her finger tips lingers for a moment before she pulled them away, embarrassed at touching another person so presumptively.

She apologized, looking up to their eyes, and stifled a gasp as she saw similar scars masking his eyes and chin. Another scar started at the bottom of his neck and continued down his chest under the collar of his shirt. She realized she was staring and apologized again. A bell chimed on the train signaling the doors were closing.

Ani whipped around in panic she would miss her stop but the scarred man had flung his hand out, holding the doors open. “Is this your stop?” He asked in a deep voice as his bright blue eyes stared down at her.

She nodded and stepped out of the train quickly thanking him. The bell chimed again and she paused, looking back over her shoulder at the man. Hair stood up on the back of her neck as she caught him staring at her out the side of his eye. The train began to move and Ani turned away, missing how the corner of the man’s mouth turned up in a smirk as he watched her walk away.

Chapter Text

Ani softly closed the door to her apartment and set the lock. She was so tired she couldn’t even make it to her bed. She flumped down on the couch and fell asleep in her pencil skirt with her phone in her hand.

She didn’t know how long she had been asleep when her phone began ringing. The vibrations stirred her and sunlight streaming in her window woke her up. She looked at the screen and nearly dropped the phone when she saw who it was.

“Hi Shouto,” she said quickly, hoping she didn’t miss the call.

“Ani? Did I wake you?”

“I was only napping.” She yawned.

He was quiet. She sat up on the couch, gathering her courage. “I’m sorry I missed your call this morning. The hospital director moved my meeting up without notice so when I finished watching your interview I had to rush to get ready.” She laughed. “I nearly sprinted through the hospital to make it on time.”

“I see,” he answered softly. “How did your meeting go?”

“Well...I’m suspended until I have a judiciary hearing.”

“A judiciary hearing? Why?”

“They’re questioning my judgment and ability to follow hospital protocol. They didn’t fire me completely because they think I could be really beneficial to them and their patients.”

Shouto fell silent.

“You’re quiet today...is everything alright?” Ani asked hesitantly.

“Yes, I’ve been...I’m at the office now. I only moments ago got out of an intense meeting.”

“Is everything okay?”

“It will be,” he assured her. “Ani...you...you said you watched the interview?”

Her heart fluttered. “Yes. You were amazing and...And I feel the same way about you.” She smiled. “Shouto I want to be—”

“No! Ani, wait.” He cut her off and cleared his throat. “Ani, I-I would like to take you out to dinner tonight and ask you properly.”

Ani gasped, speechless and euphoric.

“Will you go to dinner with me tonight, 8:00pm at La Mer?”

“Yes, of course,” she answered with a breathless smile.

“Great,” he said; she could hear him smiling, too. “I’ll pick you up at 7:30?”

“Sounds perfect.” Ani let out a small excited laugh. “I can’t wait to see you.”

“I can’t wait to see you either,” he said. The deep timber to his voice tingled through Ani. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“See you tonight.” She hung up the phone and clutched it to her chest. Squealing in delight she collapsed back into the couch, muffling a louder cry into the couch. She checked the time and set an alarm to wake up with plenty of time to get ready. Before she fell asleep she checked the restaurant’s website. She was glad she did. They had an actual dress code listed on their website and she mentally scanned through the dresses she had, giving herself two options to decide between. Sleep easily washed back over her.

~

Ani dreamed of muscular arms. Of a sculpted chest. A head of red and white hair looming over her while two different colored eyes scoured her exposed skin.

She woke up panting and covered in a sheen of sweat with a pillow between her legs. Biting her lip she closed her eyes and rubbed her legs together. Glorious friction tugged at the lowest spot in her abdomen and soon had her gasping for air. She covered her mouth with one hand and moved the other down to angle the pillow until she felt the familiar jolt. She moaned.

Continuing to chase the current of release she thought of Shouto and moaned his name. She recalled the feeling of his lips on hers, being crushed against his firm body, and soon tipped herself over the edge with a cry of his name. Her arms fell slack against the couch and she looked down at herself. Her skirt had bunched up to her hips revealing the low-cut black underwear she wore. Knowing her body would be ready to go again any moment she stood up, bringing the pillow to her small washing machine. She started a load of laundry and went to shower.

She chose ice-cold water this time hoping to dispel any remaining lewd thoughts but instead the cold made her think of Shouto. Her nipples, hardening in the cold, ached for his attention. She changed the water drastically to scour her frustration away.

Ani stood in front of the mirror staring at her dress. She chose a modest dress, hanging from her shoulders up against her neck and covering her whole chest down to her knees. The pale-gray fabric was swishy and loose except for the cinched band of fabric at her ribs. Only her upper back was revealed and she planned on wearing her hair down to make that less revealing. Pale pink, blue, and crème flowers bloomed across the dress.

There was something about the dress that seemed so familiar and then it finally hit her. She never realized how...Todoroki...the color scheme was. She didn’t pick it out, let alone buy it, for that reason but she wondered if it was going to be too much. Would she be making a statement of some sort with it?

A hundred worries flew through her mind as she smoothed the fabric again and again and again. The only other dress she had that was fancy enough was a fitted, lacy black dress. She didn’t have many fancy clothes—there hadn’t been a need for them. She finally decided it could be a quick change if the black dress would look better with whatever Shouto was wearing.

Her hair was done, the top strands twisted back leaving the bulk of her wavy, blonde locks to fall down her back.
She wasn’t a makeup person so there was no need to fuss with that.
Her legs were shaved, armpits, too.
She was ready.

Promptly at 7:30pm there was a knock at the door. She flew to it and opened without bothering to check the peephole and the vision took her breath away. Shouto stood before her wearing khakis, a pale pink dress shirt, and a navy-blue sports jacket. Their colors matched perfectly. His whole outfit was fitted in all the right ways to suggest his muscular sculpting without putting them openly on display.

But that’s not what took Ani’s breath away.

It was the depth, the gravity of Shouto’s gaze as he looked at her. As if this is where her path in life had been leading her all along without her ever knowing. The corner of his mouth turned up, happy to see her and pleased at the expression on her face.

He offered her a flower and she smiled at the Todorose. She accepted the two-toned rose with half blue, half red petals and took a sample of it’s floral scent as she welcomed him inside. He entered only far enough to close the door and didn’t make any motion to remove his shoes.

He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Everything from her soft blonde hair to the glow in her flush cheeks, the blue sparkle in her eyes, made him feel warm inside. Since he saw her in this doorway on the very first night he came here he hadn’t been able to stop thinking of her.

He couldn’t wait a moment longer.

“Ani,” he quietly said taking her free hand “I’ve come to care for you deeply and I can’t stop thinking of you. Any time we spend together leaves me wanting more and I want to get to know you...better than anyone else...I want us to be together. Exclusively.

Ani’s heart felt like it was going to burst out of her chest as she took in his next words: a question that felt like a dream.

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

“Yes,” Ani nodded without hesitation. “Yes!” She threw her arms over his shoulders and he scooped her up eagerly pressing all of himself against all of her. They buried their faces in each other’s necks, absorbing the moment. Ani inhaled his rich smell and couldn’t help it. She kissed his neck. Light, fluttery kisses that traced the base of his neck and drew a lustful groan from him.

In response he took her face in his hand and found her lips as he pressed her up against the wall. One hand stayed cupping her cheek while the other roamed down the shape of her side. She lifted her legs, wanting to wrap them around his waist and he lifted her effortlessly. Ani pulled at him as if there was any room left between them. There wasn’t but he still pushed against her harder. Her chest pressed up against his, squishing her breasts with a delicious pressure, and she began to feel feverishly hot.

Her dress had slipped up to her waist leaving nothing but a few layers of clothing between their aching, throbbing parts. She ground against him, feeling the ever-hardening evidence of his arousal and she was worried she went to far when he growled and pulled away lightly panting.

“Ani,” he encouraged her to look at him despite the embarrassment coloring her cheeks.

“I-I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I got carried away.”

“I very much enjoyed your getting carried away and I am very close to abandoning my plans for this evening,” he said with a lustful timber in his voice. “But I want to take you on an official date first.”

He smirked with heavy, lascivious eyes. “We’re together now. We can get back to this another time.”

She bit her lip to hide her playful half-pout, half-smile. “Okay.”

She stepped away only to put the Todorose in a vase and was back at his side. He held his elbow for her once they were out of the apartment.

Dinner with Shouto was like nothing she had experienced before. It took them ten minutes to cross the restaurant because people kept stopping the pro hero to take a picture or meet Ani. Aside from all the attention, he brought Ani to the nicest restaurant she’d ever been to and she guessed it could’ve been the nicest restaurant in the whole city.

On top of that, they had a private table...on the blacony...overlooking the harbor.

Ani took a shaky breath as they finally sat down, feeling woefully out of place. The waiter gave them menues: a single page listing the day’s fresh catch options. It didn’t take Ani long to order. The waiter poured them wine and they were alone. Ani’s whole body tingled as all of Shouto’s attention focused on her. His two-toned eyes were churning intensely and she felt color rise to her cheeks.

“I understand why you were reluctant to go out for a picnic,” she said with a light smile.

Shouto smirked. “Yes, and this restaurant even does its best to cater to the respect and consideration of pro heros and their company."

“Wow,” Ani said as her brow lifted. She couldn’t imagine what a regular day out in the public was like if this was a low-key environment. She laughed lightly. “How do you get anything done?”

He huffed a playful breath. “It’s a challenge. But it’s part of the deal. By choosing this role I accepted all the responsibility with it. Being there for people. Being visible, respectful, patient, and polite are all a part of that.”

A soft smile spread on Ani’s face.

“What?” He asked with a light blush touching his own cheeks.

“You’re...you’re amazing. You’re strong and thoughtful and do so much to take care of everyone. And you’re humble about your philosophy and approach to being a hero.”

He shrugged. “I’m not in it to be put on a pedestal.” He grew thoughtful. “In the beginning I was out to overshadow my father. To surpass him so spectacularly that there was no place for him in my shadow. But...my time at UA changed my perspective. Other people in my life appeared and helped me change for the better. It’s the opinions of those people that really matter to me and as long as I have their respect...not much else matters.”

“Sounds like a good way to stay centered and not get lost in all the noise of the media and gossip and social media.”

He nodded in agreement. “It is. The media can be very helpful, though, if used strategically.” He watched her expression closely. “Like this morning.”

“I understand,” Ani said.

“I want you to know...I won’t share anything about our private life. Your secrets are and will always be safe with me and anything else we share. I don’t do that often. I don’t really like interviews at all but this time...it felt necessary.” He smirked and looked away. “I’m not one to kiss and tell.”

Ani felt her face flush with so much heat she had to look away for a moment to catch her breath. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and struggled against the grin that fought to spread from ear to ear.

“Me either.” She crossed her legs, trying to ignore the sudden pulsing that started at the idea of kissing him.

Todoroki smiled. “I had the feeling you weren't like that...I think you’re amazing Ani. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here with you tonight.” He reached across the table and took her hand.

“Me too. I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. A hint in her voice referred to the way they met and how close he had been to being lost.

“Me too.” He smiled.

Electricity fizzled in the air around them, thickening their private space with a libidinous tension. Ani wanted to knock the table out of the way and climb into his lap. He looked like he would enthusiastically accept her but their waiter appeared and quietly served their food. He slipped away without a word, not wanting to disturb the atmosphere.

Ani’s stomach growled as she looked at the succulent meal. She ate as slowly as she could, savoring every bite rich and tender paired perfectly with the wine. Shouto was hungry, too, and for once they both finished eating at the same time. Ani sat back in her chair, full of the delicious food, and let her gaze drift over the dazzling harbor. The skyscrapers twinkled with the lights of people still toiling away at work. Their reflections shimmered in the dark water. A stray boat here and there crossed the harbor sending ripples across the water to dance with the city’s reflection. Ani closed her eyes and smiled as a warm breeze brushed across her skin.

Shout’s heart began to race as he watched his new girlfriend enjoy the moment. He wanted to make more of these moments for her. He would move mountains to see that peaceful smile again. “You’re so beautiful,” he murmured.

Ani’s eyes flashed open and her lips pulled back in an awed smile. “Thank you,” she said. She couldn’t believe she was here with Todoroki Shouto: her boyfriend.

Their waiter appeared again and cleared their table, replacing the empty plates with dessert menues. Ani’s face lit up. “I love dessert!” She quietly but happily squealed.

Shouto’s laugh burst from his chest.
It was a carefree, light-hearted sound that touched Ani’s soul.
A sound she could listen to forever.

With a quick glance at the menu he said “we’ll take one of each.”

The waiter, who had frozen at the jovial sound from the well-known stoic pro hero, took the menues back and disappeared. Ani laughed heartily at the waiter’s reaction and in excitement of the order. Shouto joined her and his eyes sparkled. “I’ve never felt like this with anyone before,” Ani said. Her cheeks were smiling so hard they started to hurt and she cupped her own face.

“I haven’t either,” Shouto said. He reached out for her hands and they laced their fingers together. She could feel a heartbeat pulsing through each hand one cooler, one warmer, and felt the smooth skin of his hands. She flexed her fingertips and felt the strong muscles defined in each hand.

“Your quirk is so amazing,” Ani said.

He sighed. “It is...though I didn’t always see it that way.”

Ani stayed quiet, continuing to hold his hand while she gave him space to continue. “It was Midoryia...and my mother who finally helped me accept it as my own. I have the powers I have only because of my father’s hostile ambitions but they taught me that it was how I used them that truly defined me.”

“They sound like wonderful people,” she noted.

“They are...” Shouto smiled, eyes unfocused with a quiet, reverent expression. “Truly wonderful.”

They each leaned away, letting go of their hands, as two waiters came in wheeling a large cart covered with desserts. Ani’s eye burned with fiery excitement and Shouto laughed again. The waiters exchanged a glance before leaving.

Together Ani and Shouto tasted slices of different cakes, homemade ice-creams, and flavors of mousse. They divided up what remained and indulged. Shouto relished Ani’s unabashed appetite and interest in food.

“This was so delicious,” Ani said, settling into her chair.

“Would you like anything else?” Shouto asked.

“No,” she shook her head. Disappointment touched her features. “Everything was great.”

Shouto measured her expression. “What’s wrong?”

She looked up at him with a quick, embarrassed glance before shyly answering. “I don’t want the night to be over already.”

Shouto grinned his blinding smile. “It doesn’t have to be over if you don’t want it to be.”

Ani’s heart nearly stopped and warmth flooded her body from between her legs. Shouto’s eyes widened slightly and his groin tightened as he realized what he said. He nearly spluttered trying to rephrase it to make sure Ani didn’t feel pressured.

“What do you have in mind?” She asked him.

“I don’t care,” he answered inwardly relieved at the easy answer. “I only want to be with you...so whatever you have in mind.”

Ani tapped her chin, looking Shouto up and down. It made his whole body burn yearning to be close to her, touched by her.

“Want to come over and watch a movie?” She asked.

His pants tightened again. “Yes.” He had his credit card out and gave it without delay when the waiter came with the check. She wanted to be alone with him.

And there was no where else he’d rather be.

Only moments later the bill was signed and he took her hand, standing up to lead her away from the table. His enthusiasm was apparent to Ani and it made her insides steam. There was a quiet, heated tension pulsing between them as they re-entered the main restaurant. Shouto’s attention was not diverted from her this time as they crossed the large room.

The eyes of a new crowd in the restaurant fell on Todoroki, and then Ani as the answer to the mystery from the morning’s interview, but Ani didn’t notice. All she could see was Shouto’s proud smirk as he led them through the tables. Shouto’s vision tunneled to the doors, feeling only the warmth of Ani’s hand in his.

They had no words to exchange as they waited for the valet. Their eyes met and they blushed, looking away, but Ani took a step closer until her shoulder brushed his. He wrapped an arm around her waist to pull her up against his whole side. A light breeze blew in from the harbor and made Ani shiver. Warmth surrounded her as Shouto conveniently warmed the arm around her. She sighed in deliht and rested her head on his shoulder. He squeezed her hip protectively against any threat of the night—including the weather. He couldn’t stop himself from kissing the top of her head and catching a hint of her smell.

The valet pulled up and Shouto escorted Ani to the door, keeping his skin warm around her until she was inside. He slid into his own seat as quickly as he could manage and pulled out of the lot leaving the valet at the curb holding a hefty tip.

Chapter Text

“So,” Shouto said, trying to distract himself from the thought of being alone with Ani in her apartment. “What movie do you want to watch?”

“Um...” She bit her lip guiltily.

“What?” He glanced quizzically at her—suddenly worried she was reconsidering.

“I only have...four...movies...” she averted her gaze with a gentle laugh. “I didn’t think about it when I said it so I hope there’s something we’ll both like.”

“Try me. What do you have?”

“Spirited away. Nausicaa, Your Name...” she blushed deeply.

He sensed she was holding back. “And?”

“Beacons of Hope.”

Todoroki’s face turned bright red.

Beacons of hope was the documentary about he and his class at UA. It told the story of their struggles against the League of Villains before they went back into hiding and the major players that emerged from their class. Most notably was Midoriya Izuku, Bakugo Katsuki, and...Todoroki Shouto, all given highlights of the work in their post-graduate years.

Todoroki only watched his interview once, never wanting to see his still too-stiff demeanor again. It was an interview only featured in the bonus material, not the main documentary, and the question burned in his mind.

He cleared his throat. “Which version do you have?”

“Extended,” she said nonchalantly.

Shouto cringed but she didn’t see it.

“Why?” she asked curiously.

He rubbed his forehead, unable to look at her. “I’m...have you watched any of the bonus features?”

“You mean your interview?” She asked. A comforting smile caressed her lips. “I have. You were stiff...it’s clear you’ve never liked interviews.”

He didn’t know what to say. She shrugged and watched him as he watched the road.

“We all have strengths and weaknesses Shouto,” she said gently. “So you aren’t a smooth talker during interview...doesn’t make you any less of an amazing person or hero.”

His heart became buoyant. He took a hand off the wheel to hold hers.

“Thank you,” he said with a fleeting glance at her.

She lifted their entwined fingers and kissed the back of his hand. With the soft silk of her lips on his skin, his foot pressed down on the accelerator.

They sat the rest of the ride in their warm silence, hands held together.

When they approached Ani’s apartment, she directed him to a parking lot in the back. “A spot comes with my apartment but I don’t own a car, so when you come to visit, if you drive, you can park here.” She pointed him toward the spot with a matching number for her apartment. “Aino’s the only other person who parks here so it will pretty much always be free.”

“Your parents don’t drive?” He asked as he pulled in.

Ani shook her head. “My parents died a long time ago.”

“I’m sorry,” Todoroki said quietly. He was unsure of what else to say. Unsure of the topic’s sensitivity.

“Thanks,” she said with a heavy smile that didn’t touch her eyes. “They died when my brother and I were in high school. We were lucky...they already owned our house so we only had to work to pay bills, no rent or a mortgage. We took turns working and supporting each other through college after high school since we don’t have any aunts or uncles and our grandparents all died when we were little.

“For a long time Aino and I have been the main support system for each other. Especially when a lot of our friends drifted apart with their own lives. That’s why I worked so hard to get into the same hospital as Aino.”

“To stay close to each other.”

Ani nodded. “We’ve only had people passing through our lives besides each other.”

Until now Shouto thought to himself. He wanted to say it. To tell her he would never leave and wanted to be more than someone just passing through but he kept the words inside. He had a feeling she would have already heard many versions of that.

Showing her over time would matter more.

“But,” she said with a shrug. “Like I said. We’re lucky. We had—and still have—each other.”

Shouto was quiet for a moment before saying “I’m glad the two of you have taken such good care of each other.”

“Me too.” She looked in his eyes and saw it. A fleeting flicker of longing that told her of a lifetime without that kind of support. Little did she know it but her desire to reassure him that he wasn’t alone anymore was exactly what he’d felt moments ago.

For now they would leave this conversation to continue some other time. Each suddenly overcome with the urge to wrap the other up and give the security and love for which they’d been searching unaware. “Would you still like to come upstairs?” Ani asked, worried he would no longer want to.

“Very much,” he said with deep feelings pooling in his voice. She smiled and stepped out of the car. They went to the stairs together and he followed her up, basking in the glory of her ass as it now moved at his eye level.

He was feeling so many things at once. A deep emotional spring for this woman had opened up inside of him. And his body...there was no doubt how his body felt about her. It would take an extreme exertion of self-control not to rip her dress off the moment they were alone and fuck her. Hard. With every step they took his mind flashed with all the different ways and surfaces he could put her on to thrust into her. His pulse throbbed as he fought to bury the primal desire to make her scream his name. To claim her forever and have everyone hear it.

He took a few deep breaths as they approached her door, trying to divert the blood away from his groin.

This was bad.

He wasn’t going to be able to sit next to her, in the dark, for a whole movie in his current state. He knew his hands would be all over her. He started counting back from 100, by threes, anything to dispel his lewd thoughts. He nearly blew his load right then and there when she bent down in front of him to take off her shoes. The fabric around her ass tightened to contour her curves and reveal the lace underwear she was wearing. And the long, blonde locks had swept off her shoulder exposing a large patch of smooth, creamy skin. He bit his tongue to trap the groan from coming out.

He was going to have to go to the bathroom and make it quick. “Where’s your bathroom?” He asked with barely a tremor in his voice.

She pointed through her bedroom and hoped it wasn’t messy.

He crossed through the dark room keeping his eyes on the bathroom door. His mind didn’t need any more material. Once he was in the bathroom he locked the door and shakily exhaled. Was he really going to do this? Rub one out in his girlfriend’s bathroom while she was in the next room?

Any doubts flew out of his mind when he saw a matching set of bra and underwear on the top of her dirty laundry basket in the corner. He cursed under his breath. He unbuckled his pants and slid them down only enough to let his rock-hard erection spring free. He prepared a wad of toilet paper to collect the end result and began stroking himself. He set an aggressive pace as he imagined the strong but tender set of Ani’s fingers around himself instead of his own.

His eyes couldn’t look away from her undergarments. The red lace was vibrant and enticing. It only took a briefly imagined image of her standing in front of him wearing the skimpy things for him—for only him—and he was finishing. A soft moan escaped his lips and he quickly covered his moth hoping she hadn’t heard.

Thick ropes of cum squirted into the toilet paper, threatening to rip through it with the force of his ejaculation. His head swam and he braced himself through the dizzying wave of pleasure and relief.

Feeling disappointed with the dark and lustful side of himself, he cleaned himself off and quickly washed his hands, making sure to send all evidence of the act down the toilet. He was so disgruntled with himself as he left the bathroom that he almost missed it: the collar of a familiar shirt was barely visible under a pillow on Ani’s bed. Shouto smirked with satisfaction. He forgot all about his embarrassing deed, overshadowed with the elation that she was sleeping with his shirt.

 

Ani watched Todoroki stride into her room, his firm ass making her thirsty. The door to her bathroom closed and she began running her fingers through her hair. It had been such a long dry spell before being with him that the mere act of being around him was starting to get to her.

She panted, knowing she was going to need to release and wasn’t going to be able to find it fast enough before they started the movie. She groaned. He was going to think so low of her that she couldn’t control herself. She braced her hands on the counter and started thinking of horror movies. Thrilling, scary stories. The terrible state of the global economy. Yes, there. Economics was boring enough that she started calming down. Her pulse slowed and she breathed through the frustration.

She pulled out a pot and started making popcorn, needing something to keep her hands busy during the movie so they didn’t end up on Shouto.

She wondered what his—no! Nope. Nuh-uh. Back to thinking about trade or tariffs or whatever else she could distract herself with. It took a bottle of ice-cold whatever placed on her neck to finally bring the color out of her cheeks. The popcorn began popping and she heard the door open from the bathroom. Their eyes met as he came out of her room and color rose to her cheeks again. She forgot where she left his shirt last and worried what he was going to think of her if it was somewhere embarrassing.

“Do you like popcorn?” She asked, hoping to break a sudden tension.

He nodded and came to join her in the small kitchen.

“Good,” she smiled. “It’s one of the few things I can make.”

“Did you decide what movie you want to watch?” he asked, leaning against the counter. He crossed his arms and it made the muscles in his arms naturally flex.

Ani had to look away before she started panting. “Let’s watch Spirited...no Nausicaa.”

“Sounds good to me,” he said watching her with a relaxed gaze. He was glad he wasn’t so pent up.

The black couch was as comfortable as it looked the first night he was here. Ani plopped down next to him and put the big bowl of popcorn on her lap as Shouto wrapped an arm around her shoulder. She shimmied into his side. He was so comfortable. She felt so safe.

It wasn’t long into the movie before she began to drift into a happy sleep. Somewhere in the back of her mind she thought this was bad for her regular schedule, that she should be doing everything to stay away but she didn’t care. Shouto, sensing her fatigue, quietly put the bowl on her kotatsu and wrapped both arms around her, welcoming her to his chest. She sighed deeply and he felt her weight as she slipped into her dreams.

The movie was long forgotten to both of them as he shifted, making himself more comfortable while he supported her weight, and he admired her sleeping features. He was very glad indeed he was no longer pent up. She wrapped her arms around him and he sank back on the couch until he was lying down with Ani on top of him. Her hair splayed out across his chest as he ran his fingers through it. She hummed happily in her sleep.

Contentment enveloped the pair and gently sent Shouto drifting off to sleep, too.

Chapter Text

Bright sunlight filled Ani’s living room. Shouto was the first to wake up from the alarm on his phone in his pocket. He grumbled and silenced it as quickly as he could before it could wake up the ethereal woman against his chest. He smiled at how she snuggled ever so slightly to his left to stay warm without a blanket. Ani shifted, stretching as she began to awake, and yawned. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked up into Shouto’s eyes.

“Good morning beautiful,” he whispered.

Scarlett flushed her face as she realized what happened. “G-good morning. I didn’t mean to fall asleep last night.”

Shouto closed his eyes and nuzzled her hair. “I’m not complaining. Even if you did, I wouldn’t complain.”

She buried her face in his chest and smiled so big he could feel it. His alarm started going off again. “No,” Ani groaned.

He smirked and sat up with her still in his arms. “I have to go to work...”

“Nooo,” she protested playfully again and looked up at him from under her eyelashes. “When will I see you again?”

He gave her a crooked smile because he was happy to know this was the reason for her objection. “Well,” he considered. “Do you have work today?”

She shook her head. “Not today or tonight.”

“Come to my office for lunch,” he said.

“Your office?” She asked. She sat up feeling self-conscious.

“Mhmm,” he nodded. “It’s not a secret that I was going to ask someone to be my girlfriend and after last night I’m sure most of the city will already know I was out on a date. I want you to meet the people in my agency. Well...it’s more that I want them to meet you.”

She blushed and watched him closely. “You’re sure.”

“Without a doubt.” He smirked, melting her heart. “Besides...I don’t think I can wait until tonight to see you again.”

She bit her lip knowing the feeling. “Does that mean I’ll still see you tonight?”

“If you want,” he murmured leaning forward to brush her lips with his. She kept her lips tight together but pressed into him.

“I do,” she assured him when she pulled back to look at his eyes.

“Then I’ll see you tonight.” He kissed her forehead. “I need to leave for now so I can get ready for work.”

“Okay,” she dismissed him begrudgingly. “Let me know when to meet you. And what you want for lunch—my treat this time.”

He smiled warmly as he stood up. She walked him to her door where they exchanged a sweet kiss and she hugged him tightly. She took a deep inhale of his manliness before saying goodbye. She watched through the peephole as he walked away, hoping no one would bother him on his way to the car. Only a minute later she saw his vehicle pulling out onto the street and she breathed a sigh of relief he made it out so quickly.

Now that she was alone...

She stripped her clothes off on the way to the shower and took her time with herself. When she was done, she dried off and slid naked into bed where his shirt was waiting. His smell still clung to the clothes and it made her mind hazy.

She didn’t need to look as she fumbled to her night stand and felt the familiar, smooth object that could help her find release. Again, taking her time with herself she teased her own entrance before turning the vibrations on and slowly, agonizingly pushed deep into herself with Shouto’s smell enveloping her. Despite trying to draw the experience out she was too frustrated from the previous night and within minutes she was muffling her cries with a pillow.

Her chest heaved, panting to catch her breath and she flung the sheets away so the air could kiss her skin. Deciding it was better to get out of the house and try to do something other than continuously pleasure herself until lunch—which she had no doubt her body could do—she dragged herself out of bed.

~

Bakugo stared at the surgeon sitting across the desk from him. “What did you say?” Bakugo demanded, nearly snarling. “You’re not the one who saved my life?”

Dr. Shida shook his head. “I supervised but it wasn’t my direct services that healed your burns.”

The pro hero scoffed and crossed his arms. “Yea...I’ve seen pictures from the press. I don’t think my injuries were as bad as you’re making it sound.” His pride wouldn’t let him accept that a lowly hospital doctor could have saved his life. The head surgeon, who sat before him, would have been fair. But a regular doctor? No. He was too important and powerful to have been saved by someone like that.

“See for yourself,” Dr. Shida replied laying a folder open on the desk between them.

Bakugo’s fingers began to spread the pile and felt a cold prickle across his skin. The surgeon was right: it was bad. He cursed the lame villain who took a cheap shot at the lousy kid. Bakugo had made an embarrassing mistake in letting his guard down and the villain seized the chance. He didn’t have a choice; he couldn’t let a kid die under his protection.

His eyes scoured the massive burns and seemingly irreversible damage he’d taken protecting the child. It would make him a laughing stock to reveal how seriously he’d been hurt and might even drop him out of the top five heroes. Maybe the top ten. He angrily flipped the folder closed, hiding the images as if it would erase what had happened to him.

“So? What’s your point?” He growled. “Why am I here?”

Dr. Shida sat back in his chair and rubbed his forehead. “Because I have a favor to ask you.”

“Tch. Of course you do. Have some big gala you need me to attend, do you? Or some celebrity hero auction to host?”

“Mr. Ground Zero, that's enough!” The surgeon glowered at the pro hero. He never thought a pro could be so infuriating. “I’m here to ask you to help the person who saved you.”

“How?” Bakugo’s eyes narrowed.

“The nurse who used her quirk to save your life did so without hospital approval and she’s facing—”

“Wait, did you say nurse?!” Bakugo’s crimson eyes flamed with anger. It was worse that he could have imagined. “A NURSE saved MY life?!”

Dr. Shida’s mouth closed slowly and his eyes narrowed at the pro hero. He fell quiet as he watched Bakugo’s anger boil. “Well?!” The pro demanded. “Answer me! Was it a nurse or not?!”

“Mr. Bakugo...you are only alive today because that nurse” he defensively spit the word “put her own freedom and life on the line. To save you. And you don’t seem the least bit grateful!”

“How can I be grateful! You’re going to showcase this nurse and hold her above my head to make your hospital famous and get rich and—”

“MR. BAKUGO!” Dr. Shida slammed his hands down on the desk. He didn’t even remember standing but suddenly he was and he glared down at the pro hero. “The nurse who saved you is at risk of losing her job! For what she did! She doesn’t care about becoming famous. In fact it’s quite the opposite! She DOESN’T want anyone to know! And the hospital is having a judiciary hearing to decide her fate! So no one is making any motions to promote your healing as a victory for the hospital!”

Dr. Shida slumped back into his chair and covered his mouth. The office fell silent as, for once, the pro hero was at a loss for words. Dr. Shida waited until the anger had seeped out of his body before looking back to Bakugo. “This nurse...only wanted to save your life...She fears people finding out about her ability to heal injuries as extensive as this and...and is the farthest thing from an attention-seeking, money-chasing person you imagine her to be. I’m relieved at your insecurity from being saved by a nurse only because I now know you won’t want anyone to find out about this any more than she does. I wanted you here today so I could ask you a favor but it’s clear that my efforts are fruitless. Thank you for coming in today, Mr. Bakugo.”

Dr. Shida motioned to the door behind the pro as a gesture for him to leave.
Bakugo didn’t move.
“Why is it so important to you to look out for this girl?” Bakugo’s eyes narrowed. “Trying to help her since she did your work for you?”

Dr. Shida dismissed the comment and rested his head in a hand, arm propped on an arm of his chair as he watched and waited for the pro hero to leave.

“Oh,” he snickered. “You must have feelings for the girl. That’s why you’re looking out for her, right?”

“Mr. Bakugo, I don’t know why it’s so important to you but I care for her indeed though not in the way you’re suggesting. I’m looking out for her because she is my sister. Now, if you’ll please excuse yourself, I need to prepare for surgery.” Dr. Shida stood up this time, gesturing again to the door.

Bakugo waited a long moment before he pushed up from the chair and stormed to the door. He paused. “What...what was the favor you were going to ask of me?” The pro hero grumbled so low the surgeon could barely hear.

“I was going to ask you to attend the judiciary hearing,” Dr. Shida answered with a tired voice. “To attest to the results of her efforts and defend her position here at the hospital.”

Bakugo hesitated with his hand on the door handle. “When is the hearing?”

“We don’t know yet.”

Bakugo huffed. “Well...let me know when you do...I’ll...I’ll see if I can make it.” After his gruff reply he quickly left, slamming the door behind himself.

Dr. Shida sank back down to his chair wondering if Bakugo’s presence was really going to be a favor to Ani after all.

~

It had been a long time since Ani had a day to herself. A day without rushing to finish an errand or get home to sleep. A day without having to hibernate while undergoing a serious regeneration. Gray skies threatened rain as she left her apartment but she didn’t care. Nothing would dampen her day.

She headed to the train station with the book store in mind. It was a great chance to peruse the aisles both killing time and giving her a chance to stock fresh material at home. She happily hummed to herself as the train pulled into the station and she chose a seat near the door, not noticing much around herself.

“Having a good day?” someone behind her asked. She glanced around, unsure if the question was directed at her. Two seats back sat the scarred man who caught her as she tripped on the train the previous day.

He was leaning back in his seat, fluorescent blue eyes focused unblinkingly on her so intently that a natural color rose to her cheeks. She nodded to be polite and turned back around. She heard him shift and make a comment.

“Must be nice to be so happy...” His languid voice rolled over the seat and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She adjusted herself taking a steadying breath and saw, from the corner of her eye, how his arms hung over the empty seat between them.

The train was empty; it was mid-day after all and schools weren’t out yet let alone the common work day.

Ani didn’t mean to sit so close to him, the only other passenger. She had been in such a good mood she was oblivious to him until he spoke. Now her good mood had taken a back seat to the vulnerability she felt under this man’s gaze. The sinister scars cupping his eyes and chin were held together my medical staples and she wondered if he was still healing from his burns or if he kept them in by choice. She took slow and steady breaths, forcing away the feeling of being watched like prey.

Not soon enough the train was pulling into the next stop. She waited until the doors opened to stand and leave, unsure if the man would try to follow her. She was relieved when she saw him through the window, sitting back in his seat. He continued watching her as the train left and her stomach flipped making her feel jittery.

Two days in a row she had seen him. It was a coincidence, she reminded herself, she normally wasn’t around this time of the day so maybe she was the one intruding on his regular ride. A voice in the back of her mind remarked that there was clearly more to it but Ani wanted to enjoy her day. She left the creepy vibes in the station as she went out into the shopping district.

Chapter Text

Shouto made it to his agency and Neto was there at the front desk standing guard and greeting as usual. “Good morning, Neto,” he said to the jacked woman behind the desk. She nodded her head calmly as he swiped through the gate.

She nodded. “Good morning, Mr. Todoroki.”

One of the reasons he liked having her at this station was because she was no-nonsense. No frivolous conversation to delay him from getting to his office. She gave an air of seriousness to the entry way that often kept overzealous fans and members of the press far away, ensuring those in the hall and the building were there for a reason. He was all for interacting positively with members of the public but the office was a place for himself and his staff to stay focused.

He waited in the elevator lobby after the security, eyes roaming over the Human Resource’s current informational displays about maintaining both physical and mental health.

Moments later he was stepping out of the elevator onto the top floor. Up here there were two executive offices; only his own was in use. The other had been his father’s for the short time their work overlapped. There was an executive bathroom and a large boardroom. Aside from the simple waiting lounge and his assistant’s desk right outside his office there wasn’t anything else on the floor.

He liked it this way. Calm. Quiet.

Neto must have notified Dojire of Todoroki’s arrival because he was waiting for his boss by the elevator.

“Good morning sir,” Dojire said with a small bow, falling into stride as they crossed the floor.

“Good morning Dojire. What do you have for me?” He accepted the folders his assistant offered and followed along through them as the assistant rattled off the normal day-to-day business needs but there was a hesitation as they approached Todoroki’s office door.

“What is it?” He asked flatly.

Dojire grimaced under his boss’s questioning stare. He cleared his throat. “Yaoyorozu is here to see you.”

Todoroki didn’t need to glance around in wonder of where she might be. He exhaled deeply, not wanting to be bothered with this anymore.

“I’m sorry sir,” Dojire said with a deep bow. “I tried to stop her but she didn’t listen and challenged me to force her out which she knew I wouldn’t do.”

“At this point I’m going to have to tell security not to let her in anymore,” he grumbled under his breath and braced himself as he opened the heavy wooden door to his office. He dared not enter and, instead, stood in the doorway.

“What are you doing here Yaoyorozu.”

Slowly his large, leather chair turned back around from the window and the scantily clad pro hero faced him innocently. “I’m only here to check-in on you, Shouto, since you never come to dinner with our families.”

Todoroki forced himself to stay level-headed. “We both know that’s not why you’re here.”

“Then why did you ask?” She questioned as she put her red-leather boots up on his desk and crossed her legs.

He looked away, knowing she was trying to force him to catch a glimpse of what her hero outfit failed to cover. “I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt,” he answered sternly.

“Such a gentleman,” she purred.

He didn’t move from the doorway, relying on Dojire’s attention to keep the harlot’s behavior in check. She made no move to get up from his chair. “I have a lot of work to do. If you’re all done, please leave.”

She took her feet down off the desk and pouted, putting her chin in her hands which made her breasts squish together between her elbows. It was an act that played well with the public but painted her pathetically to those who knew her personally. “You’re not being very welcoming this morning, Mr. Number Two.” She batted her eyes at him. “I thought you would be happy to see me...but...I guess you’re not interested...now that you have...a girlfriend.” Her voice curled venomously around the word.

“We’ve been over this enough Yaoyorozu.” He was getting irritated. Since their time at UA he had always been clear: he wasn’t interested in her. He respected her as a hero, sure. He admitted she had an impressive quirk. But there wasn’t anything else there. She was a classmate, a peer. Nothing more but it never stopped her trying.

Finally, she stood up. She adjusted her hero uniform as if it would make her any more decent and sauntered across the floor of his spacious office. She stopped next to him in the doorway, not caring about Dojire’s presence. She fluttered her eyelashes nauseatingly and placed a hand on her chest, motioning to put her other hand on his chest but before she could touch him she was wrapped in ice.

“Ooo, Shouto, it’s so cold,” she moaned. “You’re so rough with me.”

Dojire rolled his eyes and Todoroki appreciated the comradery as he sighed. “Yaoyorozu, this is disappointing. You know I don’t attend dinners between our families because I’m not interested. No matter how or how often I tell you, I’m not interested.” He used ice to push the cocooned pro-hero back to the elevator. “You’re just embarrassing yourself.”

The woman shattered the icy cage apart with metal spikes that appeared suddenly from all angles of her exposed skin. They detached and fell to the floor with the shards of ice. “Well, if you ever change your mind,” she winked without shame. “You know where to find me.”

She stepped into the elevator, taking the awkwardness with her.

“I’m sorry you had to deal with that today, sir.” Dojire sighed then cautiously looked to Todoroki who was surprisingly serene. “She...she mentioned a girl-friend...does that mean your date went well last night?”

A corner of Todoroki’s mouth lifted in a crooked smile and it surprised the assistant again. “Yes, it went very well indeed,” he answered happily. “You’ll have a chance to meet her when she comes here for lunch today.”

“That’s wonderful news, sir. I look forward to meeting her very much,” Dojire said as he pieced together Todoroki’s schedule, already knowing what his boss would need. “You only have meetings until 12:30 today. Your day after that is unscheduled as of right now.”

“Good,” Todoroki said with a nod. “Block off until 2:30 at least.”

“Will do,” Dojire said making a note. They both glanced at the now-melting mess in front of the elevator. “And I’ll get someone up here to clean that up right away.”

“Thank you,” Todoroki said with a sigh and turned into his office.

~

Ani was back home stacking her new books on the shelves when Shouto texted her. She smiled to herself as she took note of the time. It took some prodding but she finally convinced him to let her get him lunch and he told her what he liked. When it was time to go she checked herself in the mirror, a simple outfit of jeans and a cute navy shirt, long hair pulled back into a pony-tail, and bounded out of the apartment. She wasn’t sure the fastest train route to get to him and she didn’t want to be late so this time she called a cab. It was already waiting at the curb.

They looked over their shoulder with surprise when she gave the address and kept glancing in the mirror as they drove. Ani wondered if they were trying to figure out who she was. She tried not to squirm impatiently as they arrived and she spotted the place Shouto mentioned for lunch. She handed the driver the fare and left, slipping into the light rain that had begun.

She quickly opened her umbrella and dashed into the restaurant to pick up their food. She recognized a few familiar faces in the crowd of people some lower-level but still pro heroes were enjoying lunch among members of the general public. Ani was glad no one recognized her. She was able to slip out unnoticed and crossed the street to Shouto’s agency.

The looming edifice displayed ‘Todoroki Hero Agency’ simply at the top. It was a crisp, clean front to the building...it fit Shouto well. She shook her umbrella off as she pushed her way into the welcoming area set in front of the main desk.

“Welcome to the Todoroki Hero Agency. Can I help you?” A sturdy looking woman at the front desk greeted her.

“Y-yes...” Ani said nervously. “I-I’m here to see Todoroki Shouto. F-for lunch.”

The woman’s muscular stature reminded her of a rhinoceros and Ani had no doubt she could tear a person apart just like one. Her dark eyes scrutinized Ani as if she’d heard this before.

“Name.”

“Shida Ani,” she answered with a shaky breath.

“ID.”

She pulled her small wallet from her purse and presented the documentation. The woman grunted and made a phone call. “I have a Shida...Ani here. Says she’s here to see Mr. Todoroki. Uh-huh. Yeah. Okay.”

Ani waited patiently as the guard hung up and prepared a visitor’s badge for Ani. “Top floor,” were the only curt instructions the guard gave her.

“Thank you,” Ani said with a bow of her head as she affixed the badge to her shirt. The guard let her through the gate and she waited by herself at the elevators, stomach grumbling with the smell of the food. There were multiple elevators which meant she didn’t have to ride with anyone or have to face any curious looks or suspicious questions.

Her heart began to pound as the elevator flew up and opened to the spacious executive lounge. The large, leather furniture of the waiting room was intimidating, unsoftened by the lack of decorations in an unwelcoming way. She stepped out and before she could feel unsure of herself a man greeted her with a smile that felt warm against the stoic office backdrop.

“Hello, Ms. Shida Ani?” He asked and she nodded. “My name is Dojire Hakotsu, I’m Mr. Todoroki’s assistant. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He bowed his head.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, too. Do-Dojire?” She asked, checking his name.

He stood and smiled. “Yes.”

She gave a slight bow of her head and started to feel unsure of what to do next.

“Mr. Todoroki is finishing a phone call at the moment,” Dojire said with a motion to the sitting area. “Please, make yourself comfortable. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Thank you,” she said quietly and took a seat on the couch. “A tea, please.”

“Of course,” he said with a nod and smile.

There wasn’t much to look at as she waited and she resisted the urge to fidget as the assistant came back from a hidden kitchenette. “Here, for you,” he said gently as he placed the cup of tea on the table in front of her.

“Thank you,” she said. He surprised her by sitting down across from her in one of the large chairs.

“May I join you?”

“Of course,” she answered with a smile.

“What do you do, Ms. Ani?” He asked as she sipped her tea.

“I’m an emergency room nurse at Dagoben general.”

“Wow,” Dojire said with a raised brow. “That has to be a demanding job.”

“It has those moments, though most jobs do.” She smiled. “I imagine working for a professional hero is quite demanding as well.”

Dojire smiled back. “It can be. It’s an honor to work for Mr. Todoroki, though.”

“Have you worked here for long?” She asked.

He nodded. “Mr. Todoroki hired me as his personal assistant when his father still worked here, over ten years ago. When Endeavor left the agency and Shouto took over he asked me to remain and work as his head of planning.” He smiled wryly. “It mainly means secretary despite the official title.”

“Doesn’t matter the job,” Ani noted. “What matters is how you do it.”

Dojire grew quiet. “A valid observation.”

A phone rang, cutting loudly through the pensive atmosphere and Dojire returned to his desk to answer it. “Todoroki agency,” he greeted. Ani tuned out, not wanting to intrude, as the man held his quiet conversation with the caller and took notes. “Of course, I’ll make sure he gets it.” Dojire set the receiver down as the door to Shouto’s office opened.

Ani nearly spilled tea all over herself and the couch as she stood up in excitement to see him. His eyes fell on her instantaneously and she couldn’t surpress the heat rising to her cheeks.

“You made it,” he said with the hint of a smile at the corner of his lips.

“Yes, and with your lunch, as promised Mr. Todoroki,” she said with a smile and lifted the bag.

“Come on in. We’ll eat and then I’ll give you a tour.” He motioned into his office. “Dojire, please enjoy your lunch break now.”

“Of course, Mr. Todoroki.” Dojire offered the message he’d taken moments ago. “This came in while you were on the phone.”

Todoroki skimmed the note and nodded. “Okay, thank you.” He took the slip from his assistant and welcomed Ani into his office. Electricity fizzled in her chest as he guided her in with a hand on her lower back. He shut the door as Ani took in the clean, crisp design of the office from the large desk and chair, to the modern sofas around a coffee table, and bookshelves that lined two of the walls. A third wall held a massive painting of UA and a barely-visible door. The fourth wall was made of windows.

He led Ani to the couches and sat down facing the windows. “It’s not like the skyline you showed me, but it’s still nice,” he commented as he watched her scan the view from his window.

“Very nice,” she agreed and sat down next to him on the couch. Her stomach garbled as they opened the bag of still-warm food.

They chatted happily together as they ate, Ani telling him about treating patients in the ER, how crazy it was treating all the different quirks, and Shouto told her more about the heroes who worked in his agency. His phone would ring occasionally but it never pulled his attention away from their time.

She stretched and leaned back against the firm couch watching the clouds as Shouto finished his food. A weighty silence fell between them and Ani’s eyes moved back to Shouto who was deep in thought. Ani’s eyes shifted to him as he shifted in his seat.

“Ani...there’s something I have to make you aware of...” Well...one thing, right now at least.

“Okay,” she said keeping her emotions level. She would try her best not to jump to any emotional conclusions despite his tone. She folded her hands in her lap and waited supportively while he searched for the words.

“A long time ago...my parents told the Yaoyorozu family that I would marry their daughter which I do not want to do. The problem is they’re all still pushing the engagement, including Yaoyorozu herself. She is unpleasantly aggressive despite having made my feelings clear and has ruined a previous relationship of mine. She was here this morning, having sweet-talked her way into the building, and waiting unwelcome in my office. All because my relationship with you has been public for one night.

“I have no interest in her and have never reciprocated any romantic feelings. She mistook my friendship while we were classmates and sees it as something more. Your paths will inevitably cross though I wish they wouldn’t but please...don’t believe what she says. I do not have feelings for her and I refuse to marry her.”

Shouto’s heterochromatic eyes met Ani’s from under his brow deeply creased with worry.

“Yaoyorozu...?” Ani clarified. “As in...Creati?”

Shouto nodded grimly. He heard something in Ani’s voice and feared it was insecurity that would drive her away from him. He hated how much Yaoyorozu’s name alone could drive women away with jealousy. He felt his heart harden, bracing for the inescapable to—

“Okay. I believe you,” Ani said calmly.

Shouto’s eyes flashed to her. “You do?”

She nodded, taking a shaky breath. “I’ll admit...it’s really intimidating. But if you say you don’t have feelings for her and you don’t agree to the arranged marriage...I believe you.”

Shouto took a moment to absorb his girlfriend’s soft expression. “Thank you,” he said, the corner of his mouth lifted in the shadow of a smile.

“Of course...” she said and her eyes fell to her hands. “I have something I need to make you aware of, too.”

“Okay.” He resisted the urge to make a joke about her brother forcing her into an engagement; the worry on her face made it clear this wasn’t the time.

“I can’t have children,” she said simply and looked back at him to watch his face.

A brief flicker of surprise lifted his brow before he responded “I don’t want children.”

“Really?” She asked, shocked.

He nodded. “After what I went through, I never had any interest in raising a child myself. So, it doesn’t bother me that you can’t have them.”

A smile slowly stretched her lips and the worry eased away out of her chest. It was something she had always worried about and had driven previous romantic interests away. She was speechless that this man with such a powerful quirk would not want to pass it on but his lack of interest was a huge relief for her.

He leaned toward her and she met him halfway for a kiss. They pressed their mouths together, soft skin molding to the shape of the other. His lips parted and his tongue traced the contours of her own, asking permission. Without reservation she welcomed him with her own and the kiss heated as he cupped her cheek and pulled her closer. She responded eagerly. She used the kiss to push him back against the couch and straddled his lap. The hand that wasn’t on her face flew to her lower back and he pressed her against him which earned him a satisfied hum from Ani.

She began to get lightheaded and slipped her fingers into his hair to stay grounded. Okay, maybe she also wanted to feel the bi-colored hair again and have a way to pull at him. She was getting excited and didn’t realize that each pulse of the kiss moved like a wave down her body and ground herself into his lap.

The phone rang again and Shouto didn’t break his focus for a moment, refusing to let anything take his attention from the steamy kiss. He felt like he could devour Ani. Throw her down on the couch and take her right here in his office.

He wanted her to scream his name so loudly it would echo through the building. Through the city. And leave no doubt about who she belonged to.

She pulled back to catch her breath and felt like prey under his heavy, hooded stare. He couldn’t stand for his lips not to be on her and the moment is seemed like her breath was back his mouth was on hers.

His scalp tingled as she stroked her fingers through his hair and he wanted to give her the same feeling so he buried his strong hand in her thick hair. When she started grinding into his lap again he matched her rhythm and hummed as his body appreciated the pressure. His fingers slipped under the hem of her shirt and his fingertips ghosted over the skin of her back. She shuddered and broke the kiss but he didn’t let her pull away.

She gulped for air, trying to find the words to ask how far this was going to go, but the train of thought was thrown off the rails when his kisses trailed her chin. He gently tugged her hair, tipping her chin up, and exposed her neck to him so his lips could explore the new skin.

She shivered when his lips passed over a particularly sensitive spot. He paused. She felt him smile against her skin as he went back and kissed it again. She gasped and he continued kissing and sucking at the skin until a small moan escaped her lips.

“Sh-shouto,” she panted. He let her go to give her a smirk. She narrowed her eyes at his mixture of playfulness and regret. “Did you leave a mark?”

“No,” he sighed. “I really wanted to though.”

She bit her lip. “Maybe on a day when you’re not going to give me a tour of your agency and I won’t be meeting all of the people who work for you.”

He pressed his hardness up against her and growled “promise?”

“Absolutely,” she said smiling and gave him a small peck. He pecked her lips and tried to capture her completely again but someone knocked. Loudly. And enthusiastically.

They both froze and Ani grumbled. Shouto smiled at her playful disappointment as she climbed off of him. The knocking continued, if only growing more intense, as he stood and crossed the room. He tried to adjust his pants to hide his erection. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” He called out.

Ani laughed lightly and sat back down on the couch, leaning over the back to see who it was. “Is your girlfriend here?!” A chipper female voice asked the moment Shouto opened the door.

As if he put a stoic mask on, seriousness fell over his features. Shouto calmly responded “she is. Why do you ask Gita?”

The voice squealed. “The rumor was going around that she’s real and she’s here and she’s here today and I was trying to wait and be patient because Dojire said you mentioned you were giving her a tour but you hadn’t started yet and no one but the old frump at security has seen her yet and I just couldn’t wait anymore! GAH! CAN I MEET HER?!”

Shouto glanced at Ani who was blushing but laughing quietly at the enthusiasm. She nodded and stood up from the couch to join him at the door. “Gita, this is my girlfriend, Shida Ani,” Shouto said.

The short woman with the pixie-cut hair, shimmering green and blue hero uniform, gazed at Ani with large, purple eyes.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” she squealed loudly and her hands shook with excitement. She threw her arms around Ani before Shouto could say anything else. Ani froze for a moment before gently patting the girl’s back without fully hugging her back.

“Ani, this is one of my side-kick heroes, Aves,” Shouto said.

“Eeee! That’s my hero name. My full name is Gita—Gita Hana, but you can call me Hana, after all you’re Shouto’s girl-friend so that makes you a part of the agency and everyone hates it but I think of it as a family—a hero family—and you’re a part of it!” The girl’s words tumbled out as she squeezed her arms around Ani’s neck and Ani felt the girl’s racing pulse.

“Hana? Are you okay?” Ani asked in concern. She’d never felt a pulse like that before. She could barely count the beats it was so fast. “Your heart is racing.”

Hana instantly let go of Ani and stepped back to take her own pulse. “Hmm, I’m feeling fine and my pulse is totally normal,” Hana said with a furrowed brow. She snapped her fingers. “Right! You probably don’t know what my quirk is yet—there are so many heroes it’s impossible to keep all of our quirks straight plus all the sidekick quirks! My quirk basically makes me a human hummingbird even though I don’t have wings which totally sucks and I wish I did because being able to fly would be epic and so useful but I can talk to birds though so that’s really helpful!”

The girl grinned at Ani. Ani felt out of breath on behalf of the girl. “I understand,” Ani said. Her curiosity flared. “Can I...feel your pulse again?”

“Of course!” The girl’s wrist flashed out.

Ani held the girl’s wrist and felt the powerful surging heartbeat. “Wow...that’s incredible. I’ve never felt a pulse like that before.”

“And I’ve never met anyone whose been so fascinated by my pulse before when usually everyone just wants me to demonstrate how I can talk to birds,” she chirped. “What do you do, Shida?”

“I’m a nurse in the emergency room at Dagoben General Hospital.”

Hana gasped an impossibly deep breath. “That’s where Shouto was recovering after saving all those people at the bank!”

Ani and Shouto exchanged a quick glance and a light blush dusted Ani’s cheek. She wasn’t sure what Shouto was comfortable with sharing. “Ani was the nurse who treated me when I came into the ER,” Shouto said. He glanced at Ani again hoping she understood he wasn’t embarrassed about needing treatment. He simply didn’t want to reveal too much of her own quirk without her consent.

“REALLY?!” Hana squealed, not needing anything else. Ani was relieved the girl wasn’t a detail-oriented gossip factory. “That’s so ROMANTIC!”

“I guess so...” Ani answered though it sounded more like a question. Hana was clapping and twirling in a circle with romantic visions in her brain. Ani slowly smiled, appreciating the girl’s enthusiasm.

“SO, are you going to go on a tour soon?!” Hana asked, eyes shining at Ani when she finally stopped spinning. Ani looked to Shouto.

“We’re just finishing lunch now,” he explained. “We’ll be coming around soon.”

“Okay!” Hana said happily. She held her hands behind her back and skipped away to the stairs, saying over her shoulder “I can’t wait to see you again Shida! It was nice meeting you and I can’t wait for you to get to my floor because I want to show you my desk so make sure you stop by again okay!”

The door swung shut but Ani imagined a stream of babbling would still be going. Shouto exhaled a heavy puff. “She’s a bundle of energy.”

“Yeah,” Ani said with a fond smile toward the stairs. "I like her, though.”

“She’s a solid hero. Hard working, inventive in how she uses her quirks. Completely pure of heart, too. No way she can’t be, her dialogue would give her away in a heartbeat.”

“A hummingbird heartbeat,” Ani said with a light laugh and Shouto smirked.

“Exactly.” His eyes fell on her and she felt like prey for a moment again until he reigned it in. “So, a tour?”

Ani glanced longingly at the couch.

“We can continue this tonight,” Shouto quietly suggested, unable to meet her eyes as he crossed his arms. Heat warmed between her legs and her heart bloomed with anticipation.

“I would like that very much,” she responded and looked at him from under her eyelashes. He cleared his throat and had to walk away or he would pin her against the door and not leave for the rest of the day. Ani followed him back to the coffee table and helped clean up.

Chapter Text

Todoroki showed Ani through the whole building. They met the other few heroes on duty and made sure to stop by Aves’s desk. Ani met the business staff, the people who managed the accounting, human resources, and coordinated orders for gear and hero uniforms. He took her through the extensive gym facilities—complete with an on-staff personal trainer—open 24/7. Ani whistled at the indoor swimming pool and her mouth dropped when she caught sight of the sauna.

“This is amazing,” she said. “You take really good care of your heroes.”

“Thank you,” Shouto said as he folded his hands behind his back. “They put their lives on the line...the least I can do is take care of them before and after that moment comes.”

Ani fell quiet, lost in thought.

Shouto scanned her features in concern. “What is it?”

Ani tapped her lips, trying to find the words. “I was thinking...about that after-care. Have you considered creating an in-house clinic?”

“Like a doctor’s office?”

“Something like that.” Ani nodded. “A place for treating minor injuries with medicine and supplies that are targeted for their quirks. There have been so many times in the ER when we were limited in how we could treat a patient because of their quirk. But if you have someone in the building who understands the intricacies of their quirks...they could receive the most effective treatment for healing.”

Shouto brought a hand to his chin while he considered what she was suggesting. “How much does a doctor earn salary wise?” He asked. “I’m worried how the expense of a salary alone would drain resources from other services.”

Ani liked that he was taking her suggestion seriously. “It depends on the doctor’s degree. They do make six figures on average, but you wouldn’t have to hire a full doctor.”

“I wouldn’t?”

Ani shook her head. “You could hire a nurse practitioner. They’re able to write prescriptions, or der and interpret lab results, make diagnosis. They would be a great option because they’re very common in family primary care, a traditional doctor’s office. They can handle most minor injuries and know when a more intense level of treatment is required and the patient needs to go to a hospital. But since they’re not a full M-D they aren’t paid nearly the same amount.”

Shouto listened as she presented all the information with an air of enthusiasm. “You sound like you really root for the nurse practitioners...”

Ani blushed guiltily with a light laugh. “Yeah, sorry...I get a little defensive about it because I’m a licensed nurse practitioner and I want to make sure people know the difference.”

“You’re a nurse practitioner?” He asked, brow raised in surprise. “But you’re in the ER, not a doctor’s office.”

“Well, we don’t have to be in a doctor’s office. We have the option. I chose to be in the ER because I get to directly help some of the most critically injured patients. I feel like I can be the most useful in that position even if I’m not performing tasks up to my highest licensed abilities.”

“Wow,” he said. His eyes were gentle as they held hers.

“What?” She asked, unable to prevent the rush of heat to her face.

“Your personal philosophy...You could be taking a higher profile, more celebrated job but instead you choose to be where you can help people the most. You’re very humble about it...”

Ani smiled. “Thanks.” She stood up on her toes to kiss him and he met her lips. It was soft, tender and full of reverence for the other. Shouto caressed her face and she pressed her cheek into his hand, breaking the kiss to look into his eyes.

“Thank you for showing me around your agency,” she said. “It’s more amazing than you described.”

“It was my pleasure.” He lightly stroked her cheek. “You’re welcome back anytime.”

“Do you need to get back to work?” She asked and he nodded.

“It would be good. I don’t want to be here late...”

Ani cocked an eyebrow at him. “Yeah? Somewhere else you’d rather be?”

His hand slid around to the back of her head and he played with the base of her hairline making her shiver. He gave her a dark, crooked smile. “I can think of a few places.” He drew her in with a hand on the small of her back and kissed her, deepening it when he slipped his tongue between her lips. She whimpered and he held her tighter.

“Shouto,” she whined, pulling away slightly. “Get back to work...we can continue this later. My place?”

He pursed his lips for a moment; he let her into this part of his world...it felt like the right time to let her into the rest of it. “How about mine this time?”

Ani’s eyes widened. “Really? I-I won’t be intruding?"

“Not at all,” he said. “That is...if you want to come over.”

“Of course!” Ani answered quickly. Her enthusiasm made him smile.

“Great.” He gave her a quick peck. “I’ll pick you up on my way home from work.”

“That sounds perfect,” she said looking up with bright eyes.

“Come on,” he said taking her hand. “I need to finish working. And you’re too distracting to keep here.”

Ani’s heart bubbled—she took that as a compliment. “Okay.”

He walked her to the door and though he was tempted to kiss her good-bye again he was worried he would pull her in and get too wrapped up again. He didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Besides, he would have her alone again tonight. His pants tightened as she turned her backside to him, walking out the door to leave. A breeze caught her as she stepped outside and pulled her clothes tight against her for a moment, revealing her figure.

He was glad he had a private bathroom.

~

Bakugo sat with his feet on his desk. A scowly pout plastered on his face due to the fact that he promised that surgeon he would go to this judiciary hearing or whatever. Well, he said he’d try. Pff. As if he would...As if he would what? Not help someone who saved his life?

He still didn’t believe it. That the twerp who was passed out in his room all night healed him. She snored. Loudly. And talked in her sleep. He thought of how she snuggled the blanket up to her chin. The way she slept through every nurse and doctor coming in. He was glad they all seemed annoyed at her presence. She was annoying to him. Mumbling about heroes...probably dreaming...about some extra when she should have been taking care of him. He remembered how the sunlight bloomed in her soft, blonde hair making it almost glow. How her soft lips parted with deep breaths...

Without realizing, he was angrily rocking himself back and forth in his chair. Shitty extra. Blegh. Who was she to get in his head like that?!
And her comment about his ranking!
Bah! Fuck her. Fuck that hospital. Fuck that...that life saving treatment.

He stormed out of his chair, slammed his hands in his pockets, and stomped out of the office to clear his mind.

~

Ani paced her bedroom as her mind raced with anticipation for that night. She was already dressed: her skinny but comfortable jeans, and a cute, flowy top. Most importantly she was wearing her favorite black lace bra and matching lace underwear. Not that she expected Shouto to see them. No, it was because they made her feel comfortable in her own skin and sexy if only she knew she had them on. Okay...maybe she was hoping Shouto would end up seeing them.

She flopped down on her bed and huffed. Her eyes fluttered closed as she remembered their kiss on the couch. A phone call shattered the silence and she grumbled at being interrupted. She dragged herself out of bed and grabbed the phone on it’s last ring.

“Hello?” She asked, gut sinking when she noticed it was a call from within the hospital.

Ms. Shida?” It was Hina, the director’s secretary.

“Y-yes. Hello Ms. Hina. How are you today?”

I’m fine, thank you. I’m calling to inform you that your judiciary hearing will be this Thursday at 11:00am.

“Okay, this Thursday, 11:00am,” Ani said as she wrote the information down. “Where do I need to go?”

The hearing will be held in the executive boardroom on the 9th floor.

“Thank you,” Ani said quietly. She didn’t know how to feel about it happening in one of her favorite places.

Please be on time,” Hina added in a cutting tone and hung up before Ani could retort. She gripped her phone and gritted her teeth before sending a text to Shouto:

 

Just found out—my judiciary hearing is on Thursday, 11am.

 

His response came a moment later. I’m here for you, for whatever you need

 

Ani smiled, appreciating his unsmothering support. Thanks <3

 

She sighed and flumped down onto her couch with the relieving knowledge that she would get to see him again soon. Her phone beeped again and she opened the text, expecting Shouto, but instead it was from Glace. Ani smiled as her friend and coworker asked if it was true—was she dating Todoroki?! She barely sent out her response before Doto’s text came in rapid fire.

Ani had to laugh out loud at how clearly their differences showed over texts. The two women asked about Ani’s absence, too, and expressed their disappointment she wouldn’t be in for a while. They started asking questions about what was going on and she didn’t know what to say. She set the phone face down, unable to answer.

~

Dabi tossed the scarred man into the pale pool of moonlight. He moaned on the ground, limbs bound, as dust motes swirled in the air. “Took you a long time to get out of there,” Dabi drawled lazily. “I hope that means you were able to find the answers we’re looking for.”

“I-I don’t know what you expected to happen,” the man blubbered. “They’re not going to waste an OP healer on a nobody like me.”

Dabi kicked his side and the man coughed violently. Twice clicked his tongue. “We didn’t think they would have used it on a quirkless fool like you,” he said as he squatted down closer to the man’s face. “Though...that doesn’t mean that your life is worthless.”

Dabi rolled his eyes, hands starting to glow with impatient flames. “A name. We expected you to get us a name,” Dabi noted and kicked him again.

Twice grabbed the man’s hair when he groaned and roughly yanked his face up. “Fuck you,” the man sobbed.

“Why protect them when they didn’t heal the injuries you had?” Twice punched his gut. “No one will ever love this ugly mug now. Your pretty face had been the only thing to offer someone and now you don’t even have that. They denied you your future.”

Tears formed in the man’s eyes at the villain’s words. “I-I don’t know. They kept saying there wasn’t anyone there with a healing quirk!” He thrashed against his bonds. “They said no one there could do that!”

Twice stood up with a sigh of disappointment. “I’m sorry you failed to do what we asked...all we wanted was a name. That wasn’t so hard to get.” He looked around the abandoned warehouse. “What do you think Dabi, should we just leave him here to die?”

“Nah,” Dabi said with a gleam in his eye and flame in his open hand. “I feel like setting something on fire.”

Only a few moments later there was nothing left but a pile of smoldering ashes at their feet. The man didn’t even have time to scream. “Eeeiiihhh,” Twice moaned. “That guy was such a fucking let down. Second time, too. What do we do now?!” He cracked his neck and answered his own question. “Time to find someone else.”

Toga skipped in from the shadows outside. “I volunteer as tribute!” She shouted with a major giggle. “I just got some new blood I want to try out.”

“You’re supposed to be keeping watch!” Dabi snarled.

Toga stuck her tongue out at him. “There’s no proof we’re doing anything wrong anymore,” she said with a glance at the pile of ashes blowing away like dust.

“Fine,” Dabi relented with a wave. “But be discrete. It’s not a fuckin’ sorority social.”

Toga jumped and clapped. “Finally! Two failed losers and you finally see! Third time will be the charm like they say! Oh I’m so excited and I can’t wait to find this girl—or guy—they’re probably so cute!!”

Twice rubbed his forehead. “Please just get out of here already. Your incessant babbling is driving me nuts—and that’s really saying something.”

Chapter Text

Ani sat on her balcony reading and enjoying the cool evening breeze. The texts from Doto and Glace had finally ceased after their shift started. The sound of a motorcycle zooming down the street made her look up from her book but she paid the driver no attention, instead turning her face to the light wind and closed her eyes.

There were still a few minutes left until Shouto would arrive and pick her up but she was ready to go. She was keeping an eye out for him on the road and planned on grabbing her purse on the way out to meet him in the parking lot. She didn’t want him to have to risk facing any attention he didn’t want. Before she could open her book again someone knocked.

Her head popped up in surprise and she quickly went inside, closing the sliding glass door behind her. “Coming!” She shouted. Her feet padded across the floor and she opened the door expecting a neighbor. “Shouto!” She said with happy surprise. “I didn’t see you pull in!” That’s when she noticed the motorcycle helmets in his hands.

He saw what drew her attention. “The weather is so nice tonight I thought we might enjoy a ride on my bike to my apartment.”

A smile slowly spread across Ani’s features with the realization of how close she would get to sit to him. “That sounds amazing,” she said with a gleam in her eye.

He grinned in relief and excitement and she stepped aside to let him in. Once inside he put one of the helmets on her, testing the fit. “It smells like a new car in here,” Ani noted.

“That’s good,” Shouto said as he checked a few things. “I just bought it for you.”

Ani looked up at his face. “F-for me? Why?”

“I’ve never wanted someone to ride with me before so I didn’t have an extra helmet. I got this tonight thinking of you.”

Ani blushed and smiled. She thought the helmet hid most of her giddy expression but the smile was so big it crinkled her eyes and gave her away.

“How does it feel?” He asked trying not to smile.

“Good,” she said with a knock on the side of it. “Perfect fit.”

“Good,” he said. He took a step back for a moment and his eyes roamed up and down her figure.

“What?” she asked, feeling self-conscious.

One of his eyebrows cocked. “That helmet looks really good on you.

Ani’s eyes widened and her cheeks burned again. “Thanks,” she said. After a moment she reached up to kiss his cheek jokingly pressing the helmet into the side of his face.

He smirked and lifted the helmet off of her head. His eyes began to churn hungrily for her as he ran his fingers through her hair and slid them down to her waist. He pulled her in and their lips snapped together in a kiss like magnets. Ani’s body melted under his touch and ached with anticipation for the bike ride. He struggled to contain his own anticipation.

“Ready to head out?” He asked. His thumb slipped under the hem of her shirt as he rubbed the skin of her waist. She smiled and nodded her head shyly, wondering what his hands would feel like on the rest of her skin. She grabbed her purse and locked her apartment with a coil of excitement tightening in her abdomen. He offered her his hand and they walked down to the parking lot fingers entwined. Ani’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of the bike. It was sleek. Sexy. She heard bikes like this called crotch rockets and the motorcycle looked powerful enough to be a rocket. Shouto climbed onto the bike and put his helmet on.

Ani paused to take in the moment.

Her kind, strong, thoughtful, lust-inducing boyfriend in jeans, a leather sports jacket, and helmet mounted on a ferocious looking bike. She pulled her helmet on, eager to join him. To press herself against him. He motioned her closer and made sure the helmet was secure before telling her where and how to safely sit.

Her body shivered as she slid behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He relished the new feeling. The pressure of her body up against his was warm and he knew without a doubt the bike was a good choice.

The bike purred to life beneath them and Ani jumped in surprise, squeezing him in the process. He glanced over his shoulder. Seeing his eyes, a wave of security washed over her and she nodded, telling him she was okay. She held onto him tightly, adrenaline surging over the hormones for the moment as he flipped the kickstand up and pulled out. She gradually relaxed as they began driving through the city. Her arms stayed wrapped around him and he felt the shift in her grip from worry to enjoyment. He could hear her squeal in delight when he would accelerate.

Her presence added weight and changed how he had to drive but it was a welcome change. He found himself smiling as he chose a circuitous path and more adventurous routes to his home on the opposite side of city just to feel her reaction.

Shouto pulled the bike into an underground parking garage and showed his ID to security. Ani had to present hers, too, before they went in and parked. He balanced the bike to let her get off first and she pulled her helmet off, hastily fixing her hair, as he got off, too.

“How was it?” he asked, offering her his hand. She took it and he began to lead her to the elevators.

“It was amazing!” She said with a huge smile. She didn’t want to admit that a big part of it was getting to hold him like that.

The corner of his mouth tipped up, pleased. “I’m glad.”

They quietly rode the elevators up to an open, inviting lobby, where another security gate was stationed. The guard nodded to Shouto, not needing to see ID, and let them through. Shouto took her up into another elevator and she felt her stomach flutter with nerves. The pristine, crisp décor and condition of the building was intimidating. He led her off the elevator to one of the two doors in the short hall; the other was marked stairs. Oh...so his apartment was the whole floor. Ani tried to stay cool.

“This is it,” he murmured and opened the door, welcoming her inside.

Ani’s mouth dropped open as she stepped into the open, nearly cavernous apartment. Sleek stainless-steel appliances and dark wood cabinets lined the kitchen under white granite countertops. A large television hung over an instant-lite gas fireplace in front of a sitting area that felt like the one in his office.

“Wow,” Ani breathed as she caught the view of the sparkling skyline. Her eyes roamed the clean and minimalist furnishings. “You have a beautiful home.”

“Thank you,” he said. Her apartment had always felt comfortable, like home, right from the start and he was worried his would feel too stark. Too unwelcoming. “I want you to feel comfortable here...can I show you around?”

Ani nodded, curious how much there was to show. Luckily, there wasn’t anything too extravagant and it made sense. Shouto wasn’t a flashy person and his two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment reflected him. Both rooms had a balance of traditional and modern furnishings but one of them, and it’s en suite bathroom, was much larger.

“Is this your room?” She asked as she followed him in. Her eyes scanned the immaculately clean room and it almost looked like no one lived there.

“It is,” he smirked guiltily. “I may have gone overboard in straightening up before you came over.”

She harrumphed with a sigh. “That’s not fair.”

“Why not?” He laughed lightly.

“My house was a disaster the first time you came over compared to this,” she grumbled playfully narrowing her eyes at him. “I wanted to see the way you really are, too.”

“I didn’t think your place was that messy...” a light blush tinted his cheeks. “Though I didn’t really notice anything else that night...”

“Anything else beside what?” She asked, quirking an eyebrow at him.

“You,” he coughed quietly into his hand.

Color rose to her cheeks and heat began to coil between her legs again. She became painfully aware of his bed only a few feet away from them.

“So,” he cleared his throat as if he were thinking the same thing. “I was planning on a simple baked chicken and vegetable dish for dinner tonight. Does that sound good?”

She followed him out to the kitchen. “Yes.”

 

Ani wanted to help him cook but she knew it was better to let him handle it. And she had no problem leaning against the counter watching him work as they listened to soft music. She oogled every muscle of his body as he flew around the kitchen. God she was getting so horny. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbow revealing every vascular movement and his hands—hands that were so strong and deadly—were a sight to watch. She wanted him. Wanted those hands on her.

Bad.

She turned away before he could see the flush of heat creeping up her neck. “There,” he said as he slid the tray of chicken and vegetables into the oven. “We’ve got a bit of time until dinner is ready. Would you like some tea?

She nodded, unable to meet his eye, with the need to keep her hands busy and followed him to the couches where he set a kettle and cups. She sat unsure of what to do with her hands until the tea was ready and he sat down next to her. She looked anywhere but at him. “Ani, is everything alright?” He asked with a hundred worries flying through his own mind.

She bit her lip, not wanting to make him uncomfortable.

“You can tell me,” he said quietly. “Whatever it is, I’ll listen without judgement.” He raised a hand to her cheek and she thought she was going to hyperventilate.

“I...I want you,” she murmured too quiet for him to hear.

“What?” He asked, encouraging her to look at him. Her cheeks blazed and her mind clouded with a ferocious lust as her eyes met his.

She leaned toward him, unable to resist anymore, and kissed him tentatively. Understanding hit him and he immediately responded by pulling her into his lap. It was like their kiss from his office but deeper, unrestrained, because there would be no interruptions now. She wasted no time in slipping her tongue in his mouth and her fingers in his hair. He put a hand on her lower back to hold her in place and ground up into her clothed, aching body. She tilted her head back and moaned—loudly—before catching herself with a hand over her mouth. He reached for her hand.

“I’ve been thinking about you all day,” he growled and buried his head against her neck. His hot breath ghosted over her skin sending a shiver down her spine. “Let me hear you.”

He attached to her neck with a sucking kiss and she moaned again. He went right to the spot he discovered in his office. He was relentless, too, and Ani could feel him making a mark but she felt incapable of stopping him. Her back began to arch and she felt a thin line of moisture trail down her neck from his work. She knew he was marking her—like they both said they wanted—but she was surprised at his eagerness.

Shouto gave himself over to the possessiveness that had been flaring since he met her. She was squirming in his arms, being swept away from a hickey, and couldn’t help the heavy breaths that turned into moans. His erection was rock hard underneath her now and she was rubbing against him, chasing an intoxicating friction.

“Touch me,” she murmured.

Shouto paused, pulling away from her neck to look at her but she covered her face again. She tried to keep her face covered but he was too strong and pulled her wrists apart with a pressure that only made her wetter. “I-I’m sorry.” She began talking quickly as a light brush dusted her face. “I don’t want to pressure you or make you feel uncomfortable or think that I’m rushing you or anything. You’re so attractive and kind and sexy and thoughtful and I can’t stop—” oh God why was she word vomiting now “—thinking about you and—”

“Ani,” he said gently pulling her back to reality. “I’ll never do anything I don’t want to do.”

He held her gaze as he released her wrists to trace her sides.

“I want to know what you want,” he said with a lustful timber in his voice.

He unbuttoned her pants.

“I want you to ask for what you want and need,” he slid her zipper down. “So I can take care of you.”

He held her with one hand while his other sank into her pants.

“I want to be the only one who can do this to you,” he murmured. His cock throbbed as he felt her wetness through her underwear and he stifled a groan to keep the focus on her. He was enjoying watching her melt in his hands from each word and touch. He slipped his fingers past her underwear and teased the wet, silky folds without entering. She gasped for breath with each stroke of his touch and moaned deeply as he slipped a finger inside of her.

“I want to be the only one who can make you feel this good.”

He shifted the palm of his hand to press her clitoris as he curled his finger and she cried out as the orgasm crashed over her in waves of shock. He was pumping his finger now, rolling into each wave of pleasure she felt as she drenched his hand. Her chest was heaving, a glisten of sweat at her hairline. Cheeks flushed to their rosy fullest. Her fingers pulled at his shoulders to keep grounded.

The moaning, writhing mess in his lap was a vision to him and he was overcome with a powerful greed. Before she could come down from the high, he pushed another finger into her with vigorous thrusts and she was soon clenching down around his digits a second time. Tears formed at the corner of her eyes with the force of the second climax and he forced his greed back, not wanting to overdo it the first time he touched her. He left his fingers inside of her unmoving, keeping his own urges at bay, until he felt her body still.

She slowly brought her eyes back to his and her hooded, relaxed gaze filled him with pride. “Thank you,” she said quietly and gave him a light kiss. “I think I should use the bathroom.”

He slid his hand out of her pants and said “me, too.”

She climbed off his lap and, before she could feel any embarrassment, he was standing next to her with an arm wrapped around her waist. “Use my bathroom,” he said kissing her hair.

“But the—”

“I want you to. And I’ll use the guest bathroom,” he said, gently urging her toward his bedroom. He wanted her to get so used to using it she would forget there was another option.

She timidly went in and closed the door behind herself. Her body was electrified and she took a few moments to bask in the afterglow. And then she realized. He didn’t get to finish! She began cleaning herself up as quickly as she could so she could get back to him.

 

Once Shouto heard the bathroom door click shut he went to the spare bathroom and knew he was going to have to rub one out—and quickly. He pulled his cock out and glanced at his wet hand in curiosity. He took an experimental whiff and his erection throbbed. Before he could think about what he was doing his finger was in his mouth, coating his tongue with her taste as he slid his finger out.

He came instantly.

Somehow, he grabbed the hand-towel just in time and caught the hot, full load with a groan as he leaned against the bathroom counter. His chest heaved with the release and he felt a dark craving from deep in himself.

He wanted more.

He cleaned himself up as much as possible, trying to regain his composure, and was washing his hands as the oven timer went off.

 

As Ani was washing her hands, she heard the oven timer ring and she chided herself. The moment to take care of Shouto was gone. How could she have been so selfish?! He was taking the food out of the oven when she came back in and he smiled warmly at her. She didn’t see any indication of irritation or annoyance or resentment. She tried to relax. It wasn’t hard to do with the smell of his delicious cooking wafting around her.

“What can I do to help?” She asked. Under his direction of where things were, she set the table and they soon sat together eating happily. Shouto shared the positive, kind things the people in his office said after she left. She expressed how much fun she had and how much she enjoyed the visit.

When they finished, Ani insisted she clean up since he cooked and he helped, unable to sit idly by. She was desperately searching for words to offer a chance for him to finish without making it awkward but she was panicking with worry that the night was ending.

As Shouto started the diswasher he brushed off his hands and asked Ani “was there a particular time you wanted to get home?”

She shook her head and her eyes fell. He came around the corner of the counter, unable to stand idly by while something dimmed her expression. He tilted her chin up and she knew what he wanted...she mustered up the courage. “What if...” she steadied her voice. “What if I didn’t want to go home tonight?”

Shouto’s eyes widened fractionally. A light blush dusted his cheeks. He didn’t want to make assumptions about what was happening or what she was asking but goddamn if his pants didn’t get tight. Her eyelashes fluttered as she realized how it sounded. “I-I just meant that I wanted to sleep over not sleep over,” she cringed. “I-I mean n-not that I don’t want to sleep with you. I just don’t want you to think that I—That I'm trying to—” her face was flushing deeper and deeper as she babbled on and he was enjoying the flustered sight. “Omigosh, I mean I totally would but—agh!--I’m not the type to—”

He mercifully silenced her with a kiss.

He wrapped his arms around her and she relaxed in his embrace. He loved the effect he had on her. He broke the kiss to whisper “I would love to have you stay over.”

Before she could respond he was kissing her again. She pressed her lips back to his and felt his flex. She parted her lips in response to his and his tongue hungrily dove into her warm, moist mouth. She threw her shoulders over his arms and he lifted her onto the counter. Their open-mouthed, tongue-wrestling kiss intensified as she spread her legs and he wedged himself between them. He was already fully aroused and the feeling of his erection against her bundle of nerves made her pull out of their kiss to gasp for air. He used the freedom to attack her jaw and tease her ear.

He was grinding into her greedily now, chasing the mewls rolling out of her. Her hands slid down his solid chest, over his abs, and palmed him over his pants. His hips bucked involuntarily against the sudden pressure and he pulled back to see her expression. He cocked an eyebrow quizzically.

“I want to touch you,” she said. There was a faint echo of a beg in her voice.

“You don’t have to do anything...” he watched her expression carefully for any sign of feeling pressured.

She smirked at him. “I’ll never do anything I don’t want to do.”

The corner of his mouth lifted coyly at his own words given back to him. “Are you doing this just to reciprocate?”

“Well, I do feel a little guilty...” She palmed him again. “But I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to touch you.” Any remainder of concern or indecision dissolved from Shouto’s mind and pulled back only far enough to unzip his pants and let his erection spring free. He watched her eye his manhood. He never cared enough to find out how his size and girth compared to others so he wasn’t sure why she looked so hypnotized just by the sight of his dick.

Unaware, she bit her lips. He took her mouth with his in a feverish kiss. She wrapped her hand around him, the sudden warm grip made him groan into her mouth. She wanted to sense his reaction to everything she did, to know his body better than anyone else and be the only one to make him feel so good. So she went slowly at first.

She began to move her hand up and down his shaft, feeling every vein and muscle. His meaty flesh twitched and she brushed the soft pad of her thumb over the tip of his penis. Drops of precum slid around over the sensitive head and felt like silk to her touch. He moaned.

She started to pump him feeling his body react to a firmer grip. She pumped him faster with the firmer grip as she elicited more and more lustful sounds from him that made wetness pool between her legs. She was squeezing him now, making each movement of her hand faster and harder until he had to brace himself on the counter caging her in. His breathing became ragged and she knew he was close as his hips thrusted into her hand.

“I-I’m-” he grunted and she brushed her thumb over the tip again. A deep groan reverberated from the depth of his body as his cock spasmed. Thick ropes of cum shot out at a powerful speed, coating Ani's shirt. She didn’t flinch and kept pumping, gently milking him through his orgasm. She watched with her mouth parted in awe at the volume of his sticky cum. “Wow,” she whispered, unable to restrain her surprise. Shouto was surprised, too. He didn’t expect such a large load after finishing not so long ago. He grimaced in embarrassment at what he’d done to her shirt.

A dark part of his mind wanted to see it on her skin instead. He shuddered. “I’m sorry about your shirt. Let’s get that in the wash so it won‘t get ruined.”

She bit her lip. “Can I borrow a shirt?” She looked up at him from under her lashes. “I only brought a toothbrush for tonight.”

Chapter Text

Shouto took off his helmet to give Ani a light kiss goodbye. She waved as he pulled out of her parking lot and she turned on her heel once he was out of sight. She spent the night with the pro hero and though they didn’t do anything other than kiss after their moment on the counter it was incredible. She slept in his arms most of the night, fitting like a puzzle against him, in the sea of his large mattress. It was considerably more comfortable than sleeping squished together on her small couch. As she let herself into her apartment she remembered that the next day would be her judiciary hearing.

She sighed and resolved herself to go to the library. She wanted to review anything related to medical laws that might influence the committee’s opinion. She wanted to prep her own defense, too. It wasn’t long until she was settled into a corner of the library and got down to work. She didn’t stop reading and taking notes until the early afternoon. Her phone dinged with a text message. It was Shouto; he was on the other side of the city for meetings the whole day and needed to fit in physical training so she already knew she wouldn’t get to see him that night.

Hi beautiful...how’s your day going?

She leaned back with a smile and sent her response. It’s fine thanks...I decided to do some research to prepare for my hearing tomorrow.

 

Research?

 

Just reviewing some medical law, quirk treatment regulations and stuff. Starting to feel nervous and wanted to do something to prepare

 

She stretched as her eyes scanned the piles of documents she had on the table and she weighed the options of what to read next. Until her stomach grumbled.

Reluctantly, she began returning materials to their places after she wrote down the names of articles and books to come back and read after lunch. Bright sunshine greeted her and a light breeze tossed her hair as she stepped out onto the sidewalk.

There were a few people here and there as she walked along and she heard the giggling of young girls behind her. There were three of them huddled together all dressed in high school uniforms, wrapped up in their conversation as they began to catch up to Ani. Something about their whisperings made Ani uneasy. She picked up her own pace. She rounded the corner and the girls were only steps away about to invade Ani’s personal space when she saw the door of a café.

Ani dashed inside and watched in relief as the three girls kept walking, undisturbed in their afternoon. Ani chided herself. She didn’t know where she was got that paranoid feeling. Smells of warm coffee and baked goods wafted around her and reminded her how hungry she was.

She sat in the quiet café appreciating the chance discovery; their coffee was full-flavored and fresh buns weren’t too sweet. Without realizing, she was watching people on the street.

Ani began to think it was time to head back to the library. She was feeling more and more anxious as time passed. More people passed along the streets now making it seem later in the day. The moment she stepped out of the café someone shouted “Miss! Miss!”

Her head spun, looking for who was shouting at whom and her stomach flipped as a man ran up to her with a microphone. A camera-person wasn’t far behind. She glanced around once more but everyone else was only staring at her. “Miss! Is it true?! Are you Todoroki Shoto’s girlfriend?!”

Whispers traveled through the crowd.

“Y-yes,” she answered quietly, dreading their reactions. Whispers bloomed to murmurs as the cameraman stepped to the side so they had a clear shot of Ani’s face.

“There you have it folks! We’ve found Shoto’s girlfriend coming out of a café in the Fog district of Dagoben City! What are you doing here Miss? What’s your name?”

The crowd seemed to lean in, fully entranced waiting for her answers as their days halted in place. Ani’s face blushed and she tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear. “That’s private,” she said, stepping away from the reporter. She moved quickly through the crowd that parted for her as the man continued chasing her with questions.

“Miss! Do you come here often? Do you live around here? What’s your favorite thing to order here? How did you and Todoroki meet??”

She was walking brusquely now, eyes down on the ground, and rushed back into the library with a heaving sigh when the man didn’t follow her inside.

Still keeping her eyes on the ground she slipped through the massive shelves, unaware of everyone else. Sweat shined on her forehead once she finally sat down. She could still feel the prickle of dried sweat on her skin when she finished working.
6:38pm
What happened to her day?! She hadn’t meant to work this long but it wasn’t so bad. She had several pages of notes to help her through tomorrow. Librarians were beginning to clean and close wings of the library. “I’ll take those for you dear,” an older woman offered, taking the stack of materials from Ani. “I was just coming to tell you the library closes at seven p.m. Did you find everything you need?”

Ani nodded. “Yes, Thank you.”

The old woman smiled. “Of course, have a good night and be safe getting home.”

Ani gave her another quiet thanks and slipped away. She shivered in the low evening light as she stepped out into a cold, breezy night. Her phone dinged. She smiled, opening the message from Shoto as she started walking.

S: How’s the research going?

A: Just finished for tonight. Are you finally done with meetings?

S: Yes, I just finished—heading to the gym now. When and where is your hearing tomorrow?

Ani scrunched her nose. Why do you ask?

S: I want to come. I want to be there for you

A: Sho, you don’t have to do that

S: I want to.

 

Knowing he could, and would, text Aino and get the information if she insisted it wasn’t necessary, she sent it to him.

 

S: Thank you. Are you home now?

A: Not yet. Someone distracted me 😉

S: Well, let me know when you get home

A: Okay. Do your best at the gym!

She dimmed her phone and looked up for the first time in a few blocks. Shit. She had walked in the opposite direction from the train station. Fuck. The train was going to be there any minute, too! She made a snap decision to cut through the park to shave off enough time to hopefully catch the train before it left. The park lamps were beginning to turn on in the quickly darkening evening.
Ani shivered.
Not many people were in the park and she stuck to the larger, more central path. There was a vulnerability to the air she couldn't place. She kept her eyesight sharp, trying not to look uncomfortable as a few girls walked by in a rush. Their quiet conversation faded quickly and Ani was alone again.

She was halfway through the park now. She couldn’t see the station yet but she heard a few people talking; it must have been close. Two more girls came down around the path. They were walking slowly, deep in conversation. Ani tried to walk around them but they side-stepped, trying to avoid her, and bumped into Ani. She smiled at them with a lighthearted reaction to the mistake.

Their dark eyes widened at her. “Oh my gooooshhhhh,” one of them drawled dramatically to the other. “It’s Shoto’s ggiirrllffrriieenndd.” They exchanged a dark glance.

“Oh wow,” the second said. “I can’t believe it. What an honor simply to be in her presence.”

Ani stepped around them, trying to keep her feelings in check. She didn’t want to cause any public image scandals for Shoto.

“What’s wrong?" The second one called after her. “We’re noot good enough for you to acknowledge us?”

“Of course we’re not,” a new female voice called. “We’re not worthy enough even to get to know her name.”

Ani’s neck bristled as two, three more girls appeared down the path: the three girls she saw before the café.

“No one’s good enough to know that apparently,” she said. “Are we sure she’s Shoto’s girlfriend?”

“Hmm,” one of the other said. “I don’t know. She’s not nearly pretty enough to be his girlfriend.”

They all started closing in around her from all sides. They blocked her as she tried stepping away and continued jeering at her, making various kinds of comments about her appearance, intelligence, loyalty, morality.

Ani didn’t consider herself a confrontational person.
It’s why she chose to get into nursing instead of hero-work. She had more than one teacher try to convince her to purse the side-kick path. She was well equipped with her regeneration and was morally predisposed. It came down to fighting. She didn't like it. Didn't want to do it.

It made moments like this one particularly difficult to navigate. “Ladies,” Ani said without a warble in her voice. “There are better places for you to be right now.”

“Tch,” one of them sneered. “We’ll show you where your place should be right now.”

A hand yanked Ani’s hair back and another slapped her across the face. She cussed at the searing pain in her scalp, at the whole situation. “Such a foul mouth! Hope you don’t plan on kissing our hero with that mouth,” the very first girl who bumped into her said, as she grabbed Ani’s arm. Spines, like electrified needles embedded themselves in the flesh of Ani’s forearm and she clenched her jaw, refusing to scream as fiery lightning electrified her nerves.

They all let go of her and stepped back as a pair of heavy steps quickly approached. Ani sank to her knee, woozy. “OI!” A loud male voice thundered. “THE HELL YOU BRATS THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”

“Run!” one of the girls screamed. They split off, quickly dispersing into the dark night but not without kicking Ani in the back, slamming her to the ground. Her nose hit the cement with a sickening crack.

“YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT TWERPS. YOU BETTER RUN!” The steps came right next to Ani and a pair of hands like spades gently rolled her over. Ani’s eyes were rolling, unable to focus on the familiar yet disembodied voice. “Oh, shit,” the voice said as his surprisingly tender touch cleared the hair from her bloody face. She could feel her thick, dark blood oozing how and imagined how horrifying the sight must be.

“Oh, shit,” the voice said again.

“Hey,” he said with a gentle shake on her shoulder. “Hey nurse!”

How did he know she was a nurse? She tried to answer but her tongue was like melted wax in her mouth. A tear slipped out as the electricity continued to fry her nerves. She whimpered As she reached clumsily toward the arm with spikes but the lightning soon reached that arm, too, and it fell limp across her body. The rescuer saw what she was reaching for and pinched a spike to extract it but recoiled, strung. He sucked the tips of his fingers. “Fuck that hurts,” he growled.

The fire was starting to worm into a deeper layer of her muscle tissue, causing her body to being spasming.
The voice cursed again.
“This is Bakugo—Ground Zero—I need an ambulance to Ringmar park in the Fog district of Dagoben!”

Ani’s mind registered his words: Ground Zero. Here. His words began to garble in and out. Her attention, the ability to focus on what he was saying was diminishing as her body diverted all of it’s resources and functioning to prevent the electricity-like fire from reaching her vital organs.

 

Bakugo’s eyes widened in fear as the young woman’s eyelids fluttered closed. He cursed again for the umpteenth time.His hands fidgeted in concern, wanting to move her closer to the road for the ambulance but not wanting to cause her anymore pain. “Nurse! NURSE!” Damnit, why couldn’t he remember her name! Then it struck him. The doctor hand’t told him her name, and he hadn’t asked but he remembered they were siblings!

“Shida! Stay with me Shida!” At the mention of her name she cracked her eyes. They were still rolling, each pupil a different size, but he saw a flicker of confusion in them.
Good.
She was still in there, even a little bit.

The ambulance’s sirens echoed through the city announcing the incoming speeding vehicle and Bakugo saw the flashing lights through the trees. “I’ll be right back,” he said urgently. He turned, intending to find the paramedics and bring them to her but her hand suddenly clenched his wrist. The strength in her convulsing hand surprised him and he saw her pleading silently through unfocused eyes.

He nearly snarled but knew they weren’t too far from the street. “WE’RE OVER HERE!!!” He screamed, channeling a vein of uncontrolled energy he hadn’t let loose since UA. “GET OVER HERE! NOW! SHE’S DYING!"

A pair of paramedics came sprinting into view pushing a stretcher. They were shouting commands at each other working in sync to get Ani onto the bed. “Damn it, Shida!” One of them snarled in worry. “What the hell did you get yourself into?!”

“Come on, let’s get back to the ambulance!” The other said as they finished strapping in her seizing body and prepared to go. She still had a grip on Bakugo. Her fingertips were white she clutched him so hard. “Looks like you’re coming with us!” They shouted and urged him into a run.

“Wait, what?!” Bakugo protested. The part of him he was desperately trying to ignore, the part that was writhing in fear because she was hurt. Because this person was hurt. This person who he had been unwillingly thinking about and wondering about was in extreme agony and holding onto him. That part of him moved his feet and drove him into a run, overpowering every other part of him.

Before Bakugo could ask himself what the fuck was happening he was running up to the ambulance. They nearly threw nearly threw them in next to her, ignoring his typical loud-mouth objections. One paramedic hopped in on the other side and the other slammed the doors shut, appearing in the front seat in the same breath. “Careful!” Bakugo shouted as they peeled out. The paramedic in the back was furiously working over Ani, already removing the spines from Ani’s arm with tweezers. “Those things hurt like a bitch,” Bakugo noted.

Without breaking his work the paramedic said “yeah. As soon as we heard the call we knew it was from these things. That damn tyrant’s been causing problems all over for us.” His skilled hands made a tireless effort to pull out every spine dropping it into a small box. “We were freaking out, fearing we’d come only to find another dead body,” the paramedic glacned at Ani’s crushed nose. “It’s a blessing and a curse to find her here.”

“Why is that?” Bakugo asked gruffly.

The paramedic glanced at Bakugo quickly with cocked eyebrows as he dropped the last spine in the box. “You do know who this is, don’t you?” He asked and Bakugo’s eyes fell to the hand still grasping his arm. “Word around the hospital is that Ani’s the one who saved your life. Turned you from a chunk of charcoal to your normal self.”

Bakugo pursed his lips, unwilling to corroborate.

“Shit,” the paramedic said leaning over Ani’s face. He started cleaning the blood.

“Is it broken?” Bakugo asked quietly. He watched the paramedic’s fingers gingerly wiping her face, caring for her in a way he couldn’t, and felt an odd sense of...no. No, Ground Zero did not experience jealously.

“Yeah. I’m guessing her body was too preoccupied fighting off the neurotoxin.”

“From the spines?”

The paramedic nodded. “Shida’s regeneration is the reason she’s alive right now where others were fried by the time help could arrive.”

Slowly Ani’s convulsing subsided to a gentle trembling and, keeping her hold on Bakugo, her body relaxed as a euphoric smile spread across her face. She giggled in the after effects of the toxin and her pulse was spiking erratically. The hospital pulled into sight. Ani’s giggle grew into a full body-laugh that would have put the two men at ease if it wasn’t for the tears streaming down her grimacing face.

“We’re almost there, hang on Shida!” The paramedic commanded, prepping her for transfer. She pulled on Bakugo’s arm one last time, drawing him in as the ambulance screeched to a halt. Her eyes focused on him for only a moment, the azure blue calm and magnetizing, and whispered only loud enough for him:

“You're like a fire breathing kitten.”

She let go of his arm as the paramedics smoothly pulled her away. The tips of her fingers grazed his arm leaving tingling streaks along his skin. He hopped out after them, holding her bag, watching her bed disappear into the ER with his emotions churning around an unsettled heart.

Chapter Text

Ani slowly floated back to consciousness under a pounding headache.
Flashes of the night began to come back to her. Flashes of pain. Of a blushing pro hero. Of sounds and voices.
Bakugo’s voice.
Paramedics. Nurses and doctors who were her coworkers. Aino, too.
And Shouto. Shouto concerned. Shouto relieved then defensive. Hostile. Angry even. It was especially easy to follow Shouto’s voice.
Shouto wasn’t alone.
Other persistent voices remained by her side throughout the hours she lay resting in bed. It wasn’t until the early morning sunlight that she had the energy to open her eyes.

Shouto.

He was asleep sitting in a chair, slumped forward onto her bed. She ran his fingers through his hair, comforted by the soft locks. Having him here, knowing he’d been there throughout the night had been soothing. She smiled, at ease from his presence, and the expression was enough to make her broken nose flare with pain. She couldn’t help the sharp breath that sucked in loudly through her clenched teeth.

Shouto’s eyes popped open and he immediately noticed Ani was awake. “Ani,” he breathed in relief.

At the sound of his voice something stirred in the corner of the room. Bakugo’s head appeared out from under the coat covering him and he sat up. A moment of relief flashed through his expression before the usual scowl set in place. “Finally...you’re awake,” he grumbled, annoyed.

Shouto threw an irritated glance toward over his shoulder. “There was no reason for you to stay.”

“Tch.” Bakugo flexed his obscenely muscular arms and it was clear they’d been arguing the whole night. “I was the one who found her. As a pro, I needed to make sure she survived.”

Shouto’s eyes pressed closed as he took a deep breath. When he returned his eyes to Ani, they were soft. “How are you feeling?” He asked, resting a hand on her leg. Bakugo tried his best to hide his bristling reaction.

“Better.” Ani leaned her head back only for a moment until Aino flew into the room.

“Ani!” He exclaimed eyes bright with relief. “You’re awake.” His eyes skimmed the two men but paid them no mind. Crossing to the clear side of Ani’s bed he asked “how are you feeling?”

“Better,” she said with a small smile and winced again. All three men flinched. “What happened to me?”

“Bakugo found you being harassed in the park,” Aino answered first. “One of them has a needle-pin quirk that’s been wreaking havoc across the area recently. She has detaching, barbed spines that shock the nervous system until the body shuts down. Victims here and in other hospitals have died this week before they could be saved.”

Ani’s heart sank. “But my regeneration...”

“Saved your life,” Aino confirmed. “It kept the toxin back enough until the paramedics could remove the spines. Then your body was able to clean it all out once there was no more coming into your system.”

Ani sank into the bed. There were too many thoughts whirling around her mind but she knew where to start. She looked to the angry, hot red eyes. “Thank you, Bakugo...you saved my life.”

Todoroki and Aino’s eyes shifted to the ashy blonde’s face. Any surprise or happiness or understanding that may have shown in a normal person’s face was absent from Bakugo’s. “Whatever. I save people every day.” His lips puckered in an unreadable pout. “Besides, we’re even now.” He lifted Ani’s bag from the floor.

“My stuff!” Her eyes popped open with surprise as he tossed it to her bed. Todoroki caught it and set it down gently. She quickly glanced inside.

“Oi! Don’t you dare think I stole something!” Bakguo scowled. “I made sure it was safe all night.”

Ani pulled out the sheets of paper with a sigh of relief. “It’s still here!” She gave Bakugo a relaxed, grateful smile. “Thanks Bakugo...I don’t know what I would’ve done without this!”

Bakugo’s heart began to pound at the shine of her smile and sparkle in her eye. A faint blush dusted his pale cheeks betraying his grumpy pout. “Yeah...well...those dumbasses would’ve stolen it after we left if I didn’t take it.” Todoroki felt a dark jealousy at the way Bakugo said ‘we’ but he kept it from muddying his expression.

“Usually someone just says you’re welcome,” Ani said as she reviewed her notes. Shouto did a poor job of stifling a laugh, relieved at her attitude toward the other pro hero. Aino awkwardly glanced at a now-fuming Bakugo.

“What?!” He erupted and Ani glanced at him. She set her papers down.

“When someone gives another person thanks...it’s kind to accept it instead of trying to brush it off. It makes me feel bad.”

Bakugo pouted, still blushing and mumbled “...’re....’elcom....”

Ani’s eyes returned to the papers and Shouto leaned in, roaming over the notes, too. “These are for your hearing today, right?” He asked.

Ani nodded. “Yes. I suppose I will—”

“Wait! You’re still going to that?!" Bakugo cut in.

“Bakugo, stop yelling,” Todoroki sternly said. “We’re in a hospital.”

“OI YOU HALF-AND-HALF BA—”

“Ani,” Aino cut through them. “You don’t have to do this today. They would have no ground to force it if you want to reschedule.”

“No, I can do this. I’m still going.”

Bakugo began to seethe but Aino responded “I thought you would say that so I swung by your apartment.” He dropped a bag onto her bed. Fresh clothes.

“Thanks Aino!”

“Ani, I’m going to go to shower and change but I’ll be back here before the hearing starts,” Todoroki said taking her hand in his.

“You’re both okay with this?!” Bakugo nearly roared. “She almost DIED last night!”

“And she says she can do this,” Todoroki said with a warning in his voice.

“You didn’t see her,” Bakugo snarled. “She shouldn’t do this. She needs rest!”

“I’m an adult Bakugo.” Ani looked at him squarely.

“I trust her judgment,” Todoroki said, eyeing Bakugo who looked to Aino for any support.

Aino shrugged. “I would tell her not to if I thought it was a risk.”

Bakugo angrily grabbed his sweatshirt. “Fuck this...so ridiculous. You’re on your own.” He slammed the door closed.

Ani looked between her boyfriend and brother who exchanged a glance. “We’re been trying to help you for the hearing,” Aino said. “I asked Bakugo to show up and testify to the success of your treatment.”

“And I asked my attorney to attend. He was able to clear his schedule and attend the meeting on your behalf.”

Ani’s eyes widened and flickered between them. “I don’t know what to say...thank you both, so much.”

Shouto squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Everything is going to work out.”

“Thank you...” she said quietly and gave each of them a smile. Someone knocked on the door and a nurse stuck her head in.

“Excuse me, Ani? There’s a detective here who wants to talk to you now that you’re awake.”

Ani nodded. “Okay. They can come in whenever.”

After the nurse ducked out, Aino asked “do you want me to stay?”

Ani shook her head. “No, thank you. If you have other patients to see, please do.” He have her hand a squeeze and Todoroki a nod before leaving. “You, too,” Ani said to her boyfriend. “There’s no pressure to stay if you have other things to do.”

“I will leave if you ask me to...otherwise you are my priority today.”

Ani blushed, holding his gaze. “I don’t want you to leave.” Shouto’s heart bloomed. He stayed with Ani through the detective’s inquiry but it was hard not to react. His fans.

His fans did this to her.

He held all of his emotions in until he was home. An explosion of anger cracked the stone tiles in his kitchen counter, blasting the bar stools to splinters. His shirt hung in tatters and ice coated the entire living room an guest room. He sighed, ignoring the damage to go shower.

Chapter Text

Ani was getting dressed, braiding her hair, when someone pounded on the door. Glace burst in. “ANI!” She was red-faced and out of breath. “Loni and another janitor came to the ER! The hearing started already!!”

Ani’s stomach dropped into her shoes and the color drained from her face. She was calm for only a moment. Then panic set in. Her hands flew, throwing everything into her bags in a rush and stuffing papers without caring if they crumpled. As she tore out of the room, up the hall, Glace shouted after her “Good luck!!”

Fearing traffic at the elevators she cut down a hall into a stairwell mainly used by staff. She thundered up the stairs two at a time, heart throbbing against her lungs. Glace’s warning rang true: the hearing was already underway and no one told her. Miss Hina was posted at the door and her eyes popped guiltily as Ani strode up.

“A-ah, Miss Shida, there you are!” She spluttered. Ani merely glared and let herself into the boardroom. Every head turned toward her.
“Ahh, Miss Shida. Thank you for being here today,” the old man from the end of the table said.
Ani felt a deep rage simmer as she drew in a breath.

 

Shoto’s phone dinged, a text from Aino. Ani’s hearing had already begun. He arrived at the hospital with his attorney and rushed inside. They followed the directions as they came out on the top floor he heard a raging voice. “HOW COULD YOU HAVE STARTED ALREADY?!”

Todoroki rounded the corner. “Bakugo,” he said. “I thought you weren’t going to help Ani.”

The fiery red eyes flashed in annoyed surprise. “Yeah, well. Changed my mind.”

Todoroki approached the door and the shrunken woman next to Bakugo nervously glanced around, fearing she would be yelled at again. Todoroki simply strode past and let himself into the meeting. Ani sat by herself at the end of a massive table facing a dozen suited men whose interest ranged from rapt attention to extreme indifference. When the doors opened one of them rose, ready to admonish the intruder. Instead, only a whisper of the pro heroes names fell from his mouth.

“Todoroki Shouto. Bakugo Katsuki. To what do we owe the pleasure of your appearance today?” The man at the other end of the table asked.

Bakugo crossed his arms and snarled “making sure you don’t fire the person who saved my life.”

“On the contrary,” the man said only acknowledging the pro heroes. “We plan on firing the surgeon who approved the secret procedure and kept Nurse Shida’s extraordinary abilities from us.”

“What?” Ani asked incredulously. “You’re going to fire Aino?!”

“Of course,” the chairman said disdainfully. “We could’ve been using your extraordinary talent on a much larger scale.”

“What do you mean a larger scale?” Todoroki demanded.

The committee began talking over her with Todoroki and Bakugo as if she wasn’t even there.
As if she was an object.
A medicine to be passed around.
To be traded and used.
How the hospital saw fit.

The deep simmering rage of unappreciation, of disrespect, and objectification began to break it’s way to the surface. Ani rose slowly from her chair, determination set upon her face. “No,” she said. The word cut through the chatter like a hatchet: strong and absolute.

“No?” The chairman gave her a quizzical look. “To what?”

“To all of it,” Ani stated. “You will not fire Aino because he didn’t know my quirk could do this.”

The chairman huffed. “Well, then, he-he approved an untested procedure.”

“I lied to him.” Ani squared her shoulders. “I told him, leveraged his faith in me as his sister to assure him without a doubt that I had done it before and it would work. Aino made the best decision in the situation based on the false information that I gave him.”

Murmurs sprinkled the room. The chairman stroked his chin. “Well...Ani...this is a very serious transgression. Of course, your position here with us is secure we will just need some time to consider how you can compensate the hospital community.”

“There’s no need,” Ani said as she gathered her things and gave the chairman a passing glance. “I resign.”

She turned, ignoring the growing cries rising around the room. Some pleaded for her not to depart, addressing how much she could do for the hospital and its patients. Others condemned her future. None of them made a dent in her resolution. As they left, Miss Hina scurried past them into the boardroom erupting with noise.

“Ani, is this what you really want?” Todoroki asked.

She nodded. “Yes...” she looked back at the boardroom doors. "That's what I've always feared."

Todoroki understood. He saw her trying to keep her tears from falling and wrapped her in a tight hug. She clung to his shirt. “It’s okay...everything is going to be okay,” he said quietly.

“Mr. Todoroki,” the attorney said, deftly reading the situation. “I’m going to file an injunction to prevent any public spread of knowledge about Miss Shida’s quirk but I won’t be able to restrict any negative recommendations they give to any future, potential employers since, Miss Shida, you confessed to lying to your superior.”

Todoroki glanced down at Ani, unsure if she would fully explain the situation to the attorney but she stayed quiet, only nodding in response. “Thank you, Kichi.” Shoto shook his hand. Ani wiped her face and bowed her head at the man with a sniffle.

“Yes, thank you. And thank you for making time to be here today,” she added.

“My honor.” He bowed his head. “I will always assist Mr. Todoroki in any way that I can.” With another bow of his head he left them.

Ani rested her head on Shoto’s chest and someone made a sound of disgust. Ani jumped.
She forgot Bakugo was still there.
She turned in Shoto’s arms to see the other pro hero scowling at them. Something deep churned in his eyes. His fists clenched and unclenched. “Bakugo, thank you for being here, too,” she said quietly. Shoto kept his arms wrapped around her, watching the other pro hero carefully.

“Waste of my damn time,” he fumed. Without waiting for a response, he stormed past them to the stairs. Ani looked to Shoto whose face was calm.

“Don’t worry about him,” he assured her. They went to the elevator where he continued to hold her.

“What are you going to do now?” He asked.

“Head home,” Ani said. She gingerly touched her nose. “I need more rest. I can feel my regeneration trying to kick back in.”

“Can I come with you?” He asked tentatively.

She nodded. “I would like that though I won’t be much in the way of company today.”

“Being by your side is all I want,” he said tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

They descended through the building and though Ani’s mind was reeling, replaying every detail of the meeting and everything that happened and how her life changed so dramatically, her heart was light. She felt buoyant and knew she made the right decision.
Shoto accompanied her home on the train. He politely tended to the attention of his fans and Ani used the time to text Doto, Glace, and Aino what transpired. Her friends were worried but her brother...was furious. She wasn’t ready to hear it in his voice so she ignored his calls. All three. He left only one voicemail after the last call and reprimanded her for blacklisting herself like that. He would’ve had a better chance of being rehired somewhere. She smiled, at least his rage was only in protection and out of fear for her.

Neither Ani nor Todoroki saw the pair of lapis lazuli irises following their every move, including how they held hands getting off at Ani’s stop.

 

Shoto held her for the entire afternoon as she fell into a deep sleep. The tv was on but he was more interested in the woman in his arms. He could practically see her nose resetting itself and rebuilding cartilage. If that wasn’t enrapturing enough, he savored being able to hold her so close. To feel her heart beat and the warmth of her skin. He cherished his time with her. Every moment, driving deeper the connection and feelings he felt toward her.

Chapter Text

Ani woke up happy and warm in a pair of arms. She smiled before she opened her eyes. “You’re still here,” she whispered.

He looked away from the window, where he’d been staring lost in thought, at the sound of her voice. “Mmm.”

She cracked an eyelid sensing something wasn’t right and saw the pensive unfocus of his eyes. “What’s wrong?” She asked opening both eyes and sitting up. He traced the edge of his lips as he put the right words in place then met her gaze.

“Come work for me.”

Ani’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Come work for me. Run a clinic in my agency and help me care for my staff.” He thought it over all afternoon. Over the past two weeks he had been more distracted than he had ever been before. He had never felt so strongly about anyone else. He was distracted at work and restless, feeling unable to be there without her more and more. He wouldn’t lie to himself. Part of this was coming from the League of Villains. He hadn’t told her but he usually wasn’t tied up in so many meetings. He had so many recently because the LoV was stirring in the shadows. No one knew what they were doing yet and it made him wary. Ani was attacked by people who claimed to be his fans in a chance meeting in the park at night. She would be too easily accessible as a nurse in the ER.
He wanted her close. He wanted her safe.

The moment she resigned his mind flashed to their conversation earlier that week. She would be the perfect person for running a clinic in his agency. The clinic would be the perfect place for her. The concept of being able to see her everyday was alluring and knowing where she was would give him peace of mind. He wanted it, wanted her so badly. But he wouldn’t force it.

Ani’s eyes moved around as she thought. “I never considered working in a clinic before.”

“Are you worried you won’t like it?”

“No...” She looked at him thoughtfully. “I don’t think I would mind the job itself. I would actually quite like regular hours and building relationships with patients. But...”

“But?” He gently prompted, resisting the urge to touch her.

Her eyes moved to the Midoriya painting. “I feel guilty about it.”

He followed her line of sight and understood. “You’re worried about not giving life everything you can.”

She nodded and pulled her knees up to her chest. Her mind was racing through all the variables. “Besides...What...what if you don’t like having me around?” She asked, unable to meet his eye for a moment. “What are people going to say when you hire your girlfriend?”

She raised her gaze to meet his breathtakingly intense heterochromatic one. “I don’t care what other people say. Or think,” he said as his eyes glowed. “And I will always want you around.”

He could sense her insecurity, her self-doubt and had the urge to rip the clothes from her body and show her how much he wanted her. “You don't have to answer now,” he assured her. “I want you to be happy, wherever that leads you.”

Ani smiled at him. “I’m happiest with you.”
His pants tightened.
She added “I want some time to think about it, okay?”

“Of course,” he accepted. It wasn’t a yes but it wasn’t a no, either. He leaned in and took her lips with his as her hands came to his cheeks.

Holding her body in one hand and holding his own weight on the other, he dipped her down to the couch. She parted her lips with a heady need for some part of him to be inside of her. He dominated her mouth with his tongue, flexing and swirling around her own. Her fingers moved to the buttons of his shirt swiftly undoing the trail of them until his undershirt was exposed. She ran her hands over the clothed muscles of his chest, unable to deny herself any longer. She pushed the unbuttoned shirt over his shoulders and moved to pull his undershirt up over his head. He leaned back only long enough to pull both of them off and drop them to the floor.

She was short of breath at the sight of him.

He was muscular, toned like the statue of a god with smooth skin. She could see the outline of abs as he was flexing to hold himself above her. God, he was so attractive. She wanted to ride him and watch him come undone underneath her. She wanted him to pound her into the couch. She bit her lip as she tried to keep the raging hormones at bay burning desperately to overpower her morals.

He was filled with a mix of emotions as she stared up at him, oogling him with an open mouth. When she bit her lip he couldn’t hold back anymore. He crashed onto her mouth with a hot kiss and pulled her up onto his lap. She squealed and giggled happily as he repositioned her with ease until she was straddling his lap again. She cupped his face and kissed him back, already beginning to grind into his erection but he had other plans in mind.

He slid his fingers under the hem of her shirt and tentatively lifted, a request. She leaned back and stared deep into his gray-blue eyes as she took the hem out of his hands and lifted the shirt over her head. It fell to the floor on top of his.

Now it was his turn to stare.

Better than he could have imagined. His eyes had followed the path of skin as it was exposed. Her skin was soft, cream colored and dotted with a few moles. The curve of her waist drew his eye to the simple, gray bra cupping her perky breasts at an angle that kept her nipple teasingly hidden from him. She was starting to feel self-conscious when his gaze became hooded, heavy with lust. He felt precum beginning to drip into his underwear at the thought of dominating her and completely making her belong to him. He began planting feather-light kisses along her jaw.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered in her ear. She shivered.
He wanted to absolutely wreck her.

She tilted her head back, exposing her neck for him and moaned. One look over her flushed features and he saw how she wanted it almost as much as he did. Almost. He traced the curve of her waist with the tips of his fingers, one side hot and the other icy, and brought his hands up to cup her breasts. She whimpered his name as he gently squeezed. His fingertips traced the edge of her bra, teasing the skin hidden just underneath with two different temperatures, and her nipples ached to be touched. Wetness soaked her panties as she let him do what he wanted to her.

His fingertips continued up the line of her bra to her shoulder where he slipped the straps down. She gasped when she felt the thin strings hang limp. Ani began to squirm in his lap and he pressed his concrete-hard cock up against her clothed sex. She mewled with each thrust of his hips against her bundle of nerves while his lips made a trail down the fleshy mounds of her chest.

She felt his hot breath pant against her skin in excitement as his fingertips ghosted over her bare shoulders down to unclasp her strap. She was watching him with lustful eyes as he savored the feeling of her skin and how it reacted to the different temperatures of his touch.

He pulled the fabric away putting her small, plump boobs and the pink, pointed nipples aching for attention. He brushed over her nipples making her whine in need as he palmed each breast whole with opposite temperatures. “Oh god, Shouto,” she moaned making his erection throb painfully. She was trying to hold back making more noise.

“Fuck,” he whispered. He massaged the fleshy mounds and relished how her body followed each of his movements. “Your sounds are amazing. I want to hear you.”

He strummed his fingertips over her nipples and she cried out, head thrown back and ground against his erection roughly. He did it again. And again. Each pass over her taught buds driving her deeper into his lap until she was moaning and gasping as a fizzling tension coiled between her legs. “I-I’m--I’m cumming!” He dipped his head down and flicked his tongue over a nipple. “Sh-Shoutoo!” She cried and wrapped her hands around his head and neck, clutching him as he continued to flick her sensitive nubs with his tongue through her orgasm. At the sound of his name he came, painting his bare chest in a coat of thick semen.

Ani’s breathing slowed as she came down from the high. Shotuo held her carefully not wanting to get the sticky mess on her. “You are absolutely amazing,” she said breathlessly.

He grinned his breathtaking smile, scar crinkling. “As are you.” He glanced down at his chest and her face burned crimson. “I think I need a shower.”

She looked up at him under her lashes and timidly asked “c-can I shower with you?”

His pupils darkened illuminating the two colors of his eyes. He wanted to. He wanted to so badly but he needed a minute to clear his mind otherwise he would impale her over and over again until she couldn’t walk. He was barely able to contain himself here on the couch. He cleared his throat. “Maybe next time...I want you to be able to walk when I take you out to dinner tonight.” He lightly kissed her lips. “And tomorrow when you come to my office to help you decide if you want to work with me.”

“Okay,” she said lightly. “I appreciate that.”

Chapter Text

Bakugo slammed his fists over and over into the punching bag until finally it ripped apart showering the heavy filling across the floor. Kirishima watched his best friend move onto the next piece of equipment, wondering if there would be anything left of the gym. Bakugo had already snapped a rowing machine, launched a medicine ball into the wall, and now stalked over to a leg press.

Bakugo roared as he flexed his legs to lift up twice his body weight.

“Dude, you have to take a break,” Kirishima demanded. Bakugo looked like he was about to pop a blood vessel. “What the hell is going on with you?!”

Bakugo ignored the droning of his irritating yet loyal and irreplaceable best friend. He knew what the spiky-haired ass was trying to do. He was trying to make Bakugo explode hoping the reason for his rage would come out with it. But Bakugo didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to call the strange feelings that jolted through him when he found that...that nurse on the ground...bleeding. The way her body spasmed and her eyes rolled gave him chills when he still thought about it. He remembered the strength of her grip and the odd feelings it sent to have her hold onto him. And how could he forget what she called him.

Every time he thought of her breath breezing over his ear with words only for him and the obnoxious, insulting, god-damnit-fucking-cute-and-way-too-perceptive-though-he-would-never-admit-it nickname she called him. FUCK. He had been so tender with her and didn’t realize it. He wondered if she was conscious of his presence the whole time or if it was just the after effects of the neurotoxin talking. He wanted to find out. He planned on it, hanging around to make sure she was okay and talk to her.

And then icy-hot, the goddamned bastard burst in with her brother. Bakugo was filled with a strange fire when Todoroki acted so protectively over Ani and stood toe-to-toe with Bakugo, the pro hero who actually rescued her. It gave him a dark satisfaction to rub that in the red-and-white icicle’s face the whole night especially after he found out they were dating. Something anchored Bakugo near the nurse. He wanted to go, tried several times, and kept finding himself back in her room. He tried to tell himself it was just for the enjoyment of getting under Todoroki’s skin.

And then when she woke up...and looked at him...She’d only looked at him with disdain before and for good reason, he admitted to himself. He’d been an asshole to her the two times he’d spoken to her before and never brought himself to apologize. He wished he had done it sooner because the way she looked at him in appreciation made him feel alive.

When he stormed out of the hospital, he cursed himself. He wanted to see that look on her face again. It was a look that made him feel like...well...like a hero. Those parts of him he couldn’t ignore were starting to take over again, forcing him to pace through the city as he unwillingly obsessed over every detail of his encounter with her. Of her. He resolved to return to the hospital after a quick trip home. In the shower, wanting to be presentable for her, he took care of his massive erection and he couldn’t help where his thoughts inevitably led. He had to brace himself against the shower wall and hissed with the almost painful force of his finish.

What the hell was going on with him?!

That’s what he asked himself when he showed up to the fucking meeting or hearing or whatever and the half-and-half bastard showed up, too. He wasn’t going to be upstaged. He went in and was at least acknowledged by the committee. He waited for Ani to look at him again with such appreciation that he’d shown up. But she didn’t. And, afterwards, it seemed like she forgot he was there. White-hot rage burned out his vision when Todoroki wrapped his arms around her and a fire like Bakugo had never felt before seared through his veins.

He forgot what he said when he left but he knew by the look on her face it wasn’t good.

He was so stupid. So fucking dumb for thinking she was worthy of his time. Worthy of his thoughts. Worthy of him. She wanted to spend her time with some freakishly hot-cold man who couldn’t compare to him?! FINE. Fuck the whole thing. Fuck off all of them. Fuck HER.

Fuck...her.

The weights on the leg press slammed down, jarring him back to reality. He heard the incessant red-head pestering him again. “We don’t have to talk about it,” he finally relented. “Want to at least go get a drink? Blow off some steam?”

“Yeah,” Bakugo panted.

 

 

 

Spikey-hair chose some dark, shitty bar with too loud music, too sweet drinks, and too obnoxious patrons. All fucking extras. Kaminari showed up. Mina, too. And the three of them enthusiastically danced in the mass of lesser-known pro-heroes.

Bakugo sulked in the shadows, downing his fifth frilly drink and cringing from all the sugar. His eyes roamed the crowd looking for someone suitable to fuck. One girl caught his eye as she danced in the dim light. She spun around and he froze, realizing why she caught his attention: her blonde hair. He nearly cracked the glass in frustration with himself. He hastily looked away from her, searching for someone else. Blue eyes. Soft, pale skin. Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck. He pushed up angrily from his seat with the sudden need to be out of here. To be alone. As he headed for the door Kirishima pulled his arm.

“Where are you going?” He asked, brow creased with worry.

“To get some air.” Bakugo shoved his hands in his pockets and rushed out. He stalked along the shadowy edge of the street, hood-pulled up not caring that he looked like a hooligan. Music and voices spilled out of the club behind him. He walked faster in fear the three of his friends came out to follow him. Sure, enough they called his name. He turned at the first corner and froze.

His heart pounded against his chest at the breathtaking sight of her smiling face. The person he’d been trying to forget about was now strolling down the street, laughing at something the red-white haired punk next to her said as he took her hand. Bakugo could feel the heat beginning to build in his fists threatening to ignite his pockets.

“Dude! I told you to wait for us!!” Kirishima said as he came around the corner nearly slamming into Bakugo. Before Bakugo could back up and disappear Mina and Kaminari rounded the corner and blocked his path.

Ani’s light laughter floated down the street again and caught Kaminari’s attention. “Wait...is that...is that Todoroki?” He asked the group.

Bakugo cussed under his breath as the rest of his friends looked and called out to their old classmate. Todoroki’s attention was drawn up the sidewalk and the easy smile faded from his face, replaced with his more well-known stoic expression. Ani saw the change and looked ahead too, scanning the group.

“Bakugo?” She asked as the explosive pro hero tried to hide his face. The ash-blonde felt suddenly weak with the sound of his name of her lips. He made a move to shove his friends aside but in their enthusiasm they inadvertently kept his path blocked.

“Whoa!” Kaminari shouted, eyes blazing as he saw Todoroki holding the young woman’s hand. “Todoroki is this your girlfriend?!”

“EEHHH???!!!!” Mina squealed, noticing it now, too. “TODOROKI!!!”

As the pair approached the group Bakugo looked anywhere but at them. Todoroki politely introduced Ani as Kaminari and Mina fawned over her.

“She’s so cute!!” Mina cried and clapped. “I can’t wait to tell all of our old classmates!”

Kaminari snapped. “We should have a party!”

“Oooo, yes!!” Mina jumped, throwing a fist in the air. “That would be so much fun for you to meet everyone!!”

Kirishima threw an arm around Bakugo’s shoulders. “Yeah, it’s no fair you already know Bakugo!” He felt his friend stiffen.

“Now that you mention it,” Kaminari tapped his chin. “How is it that you two know each other already?”

Todoroki glanced at Ani from the corner of his eye unsure of how she would want to answer that question.

She stuttered “I-I was—”

“Who cares,” Bakugo cut over her. “She was just some extra at the hospital after I saved that kid.”

Todoroki’s grip flexed defensively around Ani’s hand but she let it go. “Yepp. Just surprised to see him out on the street already is all.”

“Eh?” Kirishima said with a playful squeeze around Bakugo’s shoulders. “As if some injury is going to keep this guy down. Don’t you know this guy’s going to be number one someday?!”

“I don’t know about that,” Ani said with a smile up at Todoroki. It was filled with affection for Shouto and not meant as a jab to Bakugo but it landed that way all the same. Small explosions popped in Bakugo’s pockets burning out two holes. He threw Kirishima’s arm off his shoulders and stalked off. Kaminari dashed after him and Mina quickly followed saying over her shoulder “we’re going to call you, Todoroki, about that party!!”

Kirishima paused in place for a moment watching his best friend as a vague understanding began to come to him. He looked back to Ani. “Sorry about him...he gets a little testy when his position is challenged.”

Ani huffed lightly. “Oh, I know.”

The vague idea in Kirishima’s mind became clearer as he looked back and forth between her and Bakugo. He tried to laugh, to stay at ease in the moment. “Yeah...well. It was nice meeting you!” He dashed off in pursuit of his friends and quickly disappeared down the street.

Ani looked up at Shouto with a light-hearted confusion on her face. “Who were those people?”

Shouto glanced at her cute, confused expression and realized none of them introduced themselves. He chuckled, glad she wasn’t obsessed with heroes enough to know all of them and their names and quirks already. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her deeply making her cheeks flame at the unusually intense public display of affection. “Come on,” he said, finally relaxed now that it was just the two of them again. “I’ll tell you about them over dinner.”

Chapter Text

Ani and Shouto sat next to each other on a couch in Shouto’s office looking at the documents Dojire spread out in front of them.

“We’ll have to find space in the building—you want it completely in-house?” Dojire asked.

“Yes,” Shouto confirmed.

“Okay, HR is working on that to make sure we won’t compromise anyone else’s working space. The business department is researching various kinds of equipment and furniture as well as supplies to make a projection of costs, both initial and renewing.”

Shouto nodded. “Okay, good.” He looked to Ani. “Are there any questions you have?”

“No, I don’t think so.” She tapped her chin scanning the papers. “I can review everyone’s quirks with publicly available information...I won’t ask for anything too personal until I’m hired—if I’m hired.” She smiled, giving away a hint of how she was leaning.

“We probably already have a list of that available,” Shouto said with a glance at his assistant.

“Yes...” Dojire said as he flipped through a short pile. “Yes, here it is. HR did include that this morning.”

“Thank you,” Ani accepted it, impressed for another time that morning with how efficiently Todoroki’s agency ran. She was nervous, concerned she wouldn’t be able to keep up to their standards.

Dojire reviewed his notes. “Okay, Human Resources already scheduled their interview with you?” He threw a quick glance at his boss.

Ani smiled. “Yes. For them to learn about me as much as it is the other way around. I don’t want my presence to be forced on anyone. I would want to take care of everyone here and can’t do that if they only think I was hired because I’m Shouto’s girlfriend.”

A soft smile pulled at Shouto’s lips. She was already concerned about his team and caring for them. It’s exactly what he wanted.

“I think that’s it, for now, then.” Dojire reassembled the stack of papers into a file and handed it to Shouto.

“Thank you for your quick work, as always,” Shouto said.

“Yes, thank you!” Ani added with a bow.

“My pleasure,” Dojire said. He glanced between the two of them, seeing how Ani’s presence relaxed and illuminated his boss, and gave a small bow of his head before leaving the office, closing the door behind himself.

“Well, what do you think?” Shouto asked, turning to Ani.

“It’s really exciting!!” Ani said hugging the list to her chest. “I hope the interview goes well!”

Shouto smiled. “I hope they impress you. I already know they’re going to love you.”

“I hope so.” She squinted at him. “And don’t go forcing them to hire me. If they don’t like me and don’t think I’m a good fit I don’t want to force it!”

“I will...” he had to bite his tongue. “Do my best.”

“Thank you,” she said holding his arm and planting a kiss on his cheek. He turned, quickly catching her lips with his for a brief but deep kiss. He would quite like having her around every day and hoped she would feel the same way by the end of the day.

She sat back down on the couch to work as he returned to his desk and pulled out his phone. Ani noticed the hint of annoyance in his face. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

He looked up and couldn’t help smiling at how aware she was. “Old classmates from UA is all...”

“Bugging you for a party?” Ani deftly guessed. When Shouto nodded she asked “do you want to get together with them?”

He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I admit it would be nice to see everyone again and introduce you but...”

“...but?”

“I’m concerned they’re going to drive you away.”

Ani smiled, appreciating his concern. She stood up and crossed the room to join him at his desk where she leaned and crossed her arms. “Try me,” she offered. “What are you worried about?”

Shout’s eyes cautiously drifted to her. “You remember that I told you how Yaoyorozu ruined a previous relationship of mine?” When Ani nodded, he continued “though that relationship was more casual than ours...my old classmates kind of freaked out. Some of the girls are really good friends with Yaoyorozu and were pretty unwelcoming. Those who didn’t care about that were dramatic about the fact that I was in a relationship at all.”

“So...” Ani clicked her tongue. “You’re worried they’re either going to be cold, mean girls or make me think you’re not fit for a relationship?”

“Pretty much,” he said with a heavy sigh.

“Well...” Ani glanced at the door to his office to make sure it was closed. She slid into his lap and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “Let’s see how it goes, okay? We don’t know what’s going to happen...and it won’t help our moods at the party if we worry about it until then.” She ran her fingers through the base of his hair line at the back of his neck and she began to notice a difference in texture between the colors. He closed his eyes and pulled her closely while she played with his hair.

“I have half-a-mind to hire you and make you work right here,” he said into her hair while grasping her hips tightly. The pressure of his hands on her body made her pulse speed up and a familiar warmth started between her legs. He smugly caught how the movement of her fingers fumbled.

“And I have half-a-mind to accept.” She cleared her throat. They were both blushing and came to a silent agreement they needed to put it on hold. She climbed out of his lap giving him another small kiss on his cheek. “If your old classmates want to have a party, let’s go. I’m not going to back down from a test of us.”

Shouto watched her walk across the room feeling stronger and stronger about his commitment to her. “I feel the same way.”

 

Ani was down in Human Resources having her interview and Shouto was waiting in his office, admittedly anxious. He was hoping this interview would drive Ani to accept a position here but he knew she was serious about being offered the job properly. If they didn’t think she was a good fit, she wouldn’t allow Shouto to force approval of her position here.

His cell phone rang and he snatched it off the table in reflex. So few people actually called him unless it was an emergency and he was ready to jump into action until he saw the caller ID.

Endeavor.

He silenced his cell phone and then his office phone rang. Caller ID: the head of HR.

 

“I hope you don’t mind hanging out here tonight,” Ani said guiltily knowing his apartment was much nicer.

“Not at all,” he said with a smile as they started eating at the kotatsu. This time, as they sat with their legs folded under, their knees overlapped and Shouto relished the contact.

Since his very first night here, he had felt comfortable. It was an inviting place that emanated the same warmth he felt from Ani and made him feel more at home here than in his own apartment. “I like being here,” he shyly admitted. “Being with you.”

“I’m glad,” she said trying to suppress a massive smile. “I feel the same.”

“It’s nice to have a quiet night before tomorrow night, too,” he said.

Ani took his hand. “It’s going to be great. Just a few of your old friends from class and a quiet night, right?”

Shouto swallowed thickly. “As far as they told me.” His old class had been known to downplay the plan in situations when they wanted him to be there but knew he wouldn’t necessarily take part. He didn’t want to tell this to Ani, though, because they were usually upfront about the plans. Usually.

Their conversation drifted away from the party and they chatted happily about Ani’s interview. She had been officially offered the job and was asked to give her answer by Monday. He could tell she was still undecided, driven back to the idea of an ER position by guilt but he was hoping she would choose to work for him.

After dinner they sat on the couch together, reading, and Shouto laid down with his head in Ani’s lap. She absentmindedly ran her fingers through his hair as she read and at some point his eyes had closed. The book laid open and face down on his chest and moved up and down with each slow, deep breath he took. She glanced down at him.

“Are you still awake?” Ani whispered.

“Mmm,” he hummed.

Ani smiled. “Do you want to go to bed?”

“Not yet,” he said looking up at her. She lost her breath at the sight; the two colors of his eyes were deep and relaxed. “I’m enjoying this.”

She blushed. “I’m glad.” The more she played with his hair the more she could feel the subtle difference. “Have you ever noticed the difference in your hair?”

“You mean that it’s two different colors?” He asked with a smirk.

She laughed. “No...that it feels different.”

The smirk slowly faded from his face. “Really?”

She nodded. “Close your eyes.” She took one of his hands and ran it slowly back and forth through each side. “Your red hair is thinner but rough. The white is thicker but soft.”

He slowly opened his eyes in a soft astonishment. “I never noticed before.”

“It’s a really subtle difference...and I doubt you’ve ever paid attention to your hair as much as I have before,” she said with a guilty smile.

He sat up, sad to end her actions but needing to kiss her and that’s what he did. It was a slow kiss intimate with appreciation mixed with his feeling of being seen and being valued. For the details of who he really was. At least...the details she knew.

“Stay with me,” she asked him quietly when their kiss ended.

“Absolutely.” He brushed her cheek with his knuckles. “Forever,” he whispered too quietly for her to hear.

 

 

Shouto watched the sunlight dawn into Ani’s room and brushed a few hairs from her sleeping face. He smiled and wrapped his arms around her, knowing what he needed to do today.

 

Ani gave Shouto a long kiss goodbye before he left, standing on the floor while he stood in the genkan to tip his head up to her. She held his face, keeping him there as long as she could. He held her waist and rubbed the skin of her hips with his thumbs, each a different temperature.

Summoning all of his self-control Shouto gently pulled back and she released him.

“I’ll see you later, okay?” he said.

She nodded with a smile. “6:45?”

“And not a minute later,” he assured her with a quick kiss and stepped out. “Have a good day, today.”

“Thank you. You, too.” She closed the door behind him, resting against it with a happy glow in her heart. Her phone rang from her bedroom and she ran to see who it was: Aino. She groaned but answered.

“Hello?” She answered as if she didn’t know who it was.

“Yeah, nice try.” He called her out. “Don’t act like you don’t know it’s me.”

She sighed. “Hey Aino. What’s up?”

“What’s up? What’s up?! You quit your job two days ago and have been ignoring my calls ever since!! When did you become impossible to reach?!” He demanded.

Ani flinched. “I’m sorry Aino. You’re right...it was wrong to ignore all of your calls.”

“And my texts.”

“Yes, and your texts.” She plopped down on her bed. “I have some free time today. Want to get lunch? Catch up?” She could hear him grumbling and played the ultimate temptation. “We can get dorayaki....?”

He sucked in an audible breath. “You really suck sometimes.”

She grinned in victory. “YES! Where are you right now?”

“I’m at home. I just woke up a little while ago...things have been crazy at the hospital.”

A pang of guilt struck Ani’s chest. “I’m sorry Aino. Lunch is my treat, okay? I’ll grab it on my way.”

“No, I’ll treat. I’ll call in the order and you just grab it on your way, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks Aino,” Ani said with a smile.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll see you soon.”

“See you soon.”

 

Ani let herself into her brother’s condo and locked the door behind her, setting her shoes properly in his genkan before shouting out to him. “BIG BROOTHERRR! YOUR FOOD’S HERE!!” She crossed the contemporary first floor and set the food down on his black, granite countertop to pull out plates as he came down the stairs.

“Hey sis,” he said giving her a hug.

“Hey bro,” she said squeezing him back. “I’m sorry I disappeared.”

“I forgive you.” He patted her head and helped her finish arranging the two place settings at the counter. They sat together and she recounted the judiciary hearing in detail for him. He was pleased both Todoroki and Bakugo had showed up to help her.

“I still think you should have let them fire me. It would’ve been easier for me to be rehired somewhere,” Aino insisted. He sat back already finished with lunch. “Have you thought about what you’re going to do?”

“Well...” Ani pushed the last of her food around. “I kind of...Okay, not kind of...I already have another job offer.”

“Really?” He asked in surprise. “Where?”

“The Todoroki Agency.” She watched his reaction. “Shouto’s firm offered me a job.”

“Wow...doing what?”

“Running a specialized clinic for his staff and their quirks.”

Aino nodded slowly. He kept his face impassive and watched her expression. “I see...how are you feeling about it?”

Ani exhaled heavily. “To be direct...I want it.”

“But...”

“I don’t know if it’s really the best use of my quirk.” Ani crossed her arms and rested her head down upon them on the counter.

Aino knew her well enough to understand why she felt that way. “Do you remember when Dad took us out early one morning...to get flowers for mom’s birthday?” Ani shifted her eyes to him and nodded, head still resting on her arms. “And the bus driver that morning, he was being harassed, degraded by a drunk?” He paused, replaying the memory in his mind. Their father, strong and invincible in his son’s eyes stood up and intervened.

Ani saw the same memory in her own mind and remembered the feeling of her father as his presence filled the bus. She heard his words, powerful and moving, as he defended the bus driver. It was Aino who repeated those words out loud.

“Any job done well...is a job to be proud of.” He looked at his younger sister. “If you want this job...you’ll find a way to give it your all.”

“You wouldn’t judge me if I took it?”

“Judge you?” Aino’s brow furrowed. “Why do you think I would do that?”

“Because...I’m taking a cushy job out of the line of fire.” Her eyes fell in embarrassment.

Aino laughed. “Todoroki is a lot of things...but something tells me your job there won’t be some cushy vacation. His whole agency is probably run like a machine with standards that are going to keep you on your toes.”

“Yeah,” Ani said with a growing smile. “I saw that first-hand yesterday.”

Aino smiled warmly at her. “Besides that, I won’t judge you for what you want. I support you, Ani. If you want to work for Shouto, I support you.”

“Thanks,” she said finally sitting up.

“Of course.” He patted her shoulder. “You’re an amazing nurse and they would be lucky to have you.”

“Thanks,” Ani said again with a grin.

“Now.” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Where’s my dorayaki?”

 

~

 

Shouto steadied himself as he parked his car. It had been a while since he last visited his mother and he felt guilty for not visiting sooner since his accident. He knew she followed his career and watched for information about him from the news and online. He wasn’t purposefully ignoring her it simply...happened. He had been swept away by someone. But that's why he was here now. To visit with his mother and assure her he was fine and to apologize for not visiting sooner. To tell her about Ani.

Rei smiled when she saw who opened the door to her room. “Shouto-san,” she said softly.

“Mother.” He greeted her with a gentle hug. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.” She glanced over him for any signs of injury. “And you?”

“I’m fine as well...” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry for not visiting you sooner.”

Rei saw the things only a mother sees, even a distant mother like herself. “It’s alright...” She watched him searching for words. “This is no ordinary visit...is it, my son?”

He swallowed thickly and shook his head, unable to figure out how to start.

“Well...very few things have ever made you this flustered.” Rei smiled warmly. “What’s her name?”

Chapter Text

Ani was just getting out of the shower when Shouto called. “Hey,” she said wrapping the towel around herself. “How did training go?”

“It went well,” he said. “Nothing exciting enough to mention.”

Ani disagreed. She found the idea of him working out, muscles flexing, body sweating, and quirk flashing flames and ice across a gym, very exciting.

“What are you doing right now?" He asked.

She blushed though he wasn’t there. “Just getting out of the shower.”

“Oh,” he paused a moment, clearing his mind and his throat. “Well, I was...I was going to ask to come hang out before we go to the party.”

“That’s fine! I would like that,” Ani said as her unclothed parts began to warm up. “When do you think you’ll be here?”

“Um...well...I just parked...in your apartment’s lot.”

Ani gasped. He was here. And she was naked. Her chest began to heave with heavy need. When she didn’t respond he said “but I can come back! If you need time, since...you know...I can come back—”

“No!” She urged. “It’s fine! I’ll be ready by the time you get up here."

“Okay...Thanks Ani,” he said.

“O-Of course...” Something in his tone caught her attention and she hesitated, looking at her phone for a moment after he hung up, before flying back to her room and dressing quickly. She pulled on the first things she saw ending up in gray-white striped shorts and a navy, sleeveless shirt that fell in place as he knocked. She walked quickly across the floor, gently tossing her wet hair and opened the door with an easy smile.

“Hi,” she said as she stepped back for him.

He closed the door behind himself. “Hi,” he said and gave her a light kiss. “Are you sure I’m not intruding?”

She shook her head and he followed her to the middle of the apartment. “Not at all...I didn’t have any plans before the party. It’s a nice surprise to see you.” He gave her a smile that didn’t touch his eyes and she began to worry. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“No, thank you,” he said and took her hand. She let him lead her to the couch and could feel something was on his mind. The air was thick with it. She wanted to wait, didn’t want to pressure him into talking about whatever it was that was bothering him but she started to get anxious when he stayed so quiet.

“Sho...” she said softly, brushing a few hairs from his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

He rubbed his face, fingers passing over his scar. “I need to tell you something.”

“Okay.” She took a steadying breath, waiting patiently.

“I’ve...I’ve worked hard to keep the cause of my scar a secret. And I think it’s been successful...very few people know about it.” He glanced at her and she nodded, confirming she didn’t know. “My father, as I’m sure you do know, is not a compassionate person...He forced his marriage to my mother to use her for her quirk, only.
“He had no interest in anything about her other than that and wanted a child born with both his quirk and hers. My mother...I get my ice-abilities from her. My older siblings weren’t born with the two quirks as I was and thus...were of no interest to my father but as soon as I was born and my quirks showed up...
“I became an obsessive object of my father’s attention. As I grew older, I bared witness to his cruelty and abuse...began to see how he treated my mother...and then suffered my own fate at his hand. I think most people assume this scar...had something to do with that training...but it didn’t.” Shouto forced himself to take a breath, wringing his hands in worry as to how this would change Ani’s view of him. Of his family. She once said his mother sounded like a wonderful person and he didn’t want to change that opinion but knew he had to tell her the truth.
“In reality...it was my mother,” he said softly and though Ani stifled her gasp she couldn’t hide how her eyes widened. She stayed silent, frozen as he continued. “The older I became...the more I trained...the more my mother saw my father in me...and after all the years of her marriage to him...she finally broke. She...threw boiling water on me when I surprised her walking into a room.” His eyes were unfocused, reliving the painful memory. “My father was furious. Not because she harmed one of his children but because she damaged his most prized possession. That’s all we are to him. All we’ve ever been. So, he sent her away to get help...And she hasn’t been home since.”

Shouto sighed. “I visited her today...before training I went to see her at the hospital...to tell her about you.” His eyes finally shifted back to her and his heart fell at her fearful expression, losing all words in a feeling of hopelessness.

“Shouto...” Ani whispered, worried. “Is...is she okay?”

His brow furrowed. “What?”

“Your mom...you said you saw her at the hospital...is she okay?” Ani asked lightly placing a hand on his arm.

“She...she’s a hospital for mental health...” Shouto’s chest went cold having to explain it, knowing it would drive Ani away.

“Yes, I gathered that much,” Ani said unfazed. “If she’s been there since you’ve been a child, that means she never recovered and she’s not well. I’m heartbroken and scared for her.”

Understanding slowly bloomed in Shouto’s mind. “You’re...you’re scared for her?” For her. Not of her.

“Yes...” Ani looked puzzled at Shouto’s confused expression. “Shouto...what’s wrong?”

“I...I just told you. My mother’s been in a hospital for mental health since I was a child.” He stared at Ani. “For throwing boiling water on me.”

“Yes...and that’s awful. I’m horrified for what you went through as a child...but you’ve also told me your mother has helped you accept both of your powers as your own. So, I thought—I assumed—Oh, Sho, I’m so sorry. I assumed that you and your mother had restored your relationship!” Ani brought a hand to her mouth.

Shouto was so confused. “Wait. Hold on...” His eyes were boring into her. “Can--can we start over...why did you ask if she was okay?”

“Well, I assumed the two of you had repaired your relationship—which again, I’m so sorry I assumed that—and so I thought you went to the hospital to see her because something with her health was wrong again—”

Shouto grasped her face in his hands and brought their lips together like magnets. He could feel the confusion in the hesitation of her response and he pulled back to see her.

“Ani...you didn’t assume incorrectly. You’re right. When I was in high school, I finally went to see her and we talked about everything...we did repair our relationship. I was just so worried about you being freaked out about what she did and being put into a hospital afterwards that I assumed you would’ve forgotten what I said about her and maybe decide that it was too weird and wouldn’t have wanted to be with me anymore.”

Ani let out a heaving exhale. “You were worried I was...was going to reject you because of her? Because of what she did while living with your abusive father?” Shouto nodded. “Sho...My heart hurts for your younger self and what you went through but...if your mother helped you that much since then...and you’ve forgiven her...I have no reason to fear her. Or be upset with her.” It was like Ani could see the weight floating away from Shouto’s shoulders.

She saw how long he had carried this secret in fearful shame for being judged. For his mother being judged. A chain around his heart broke as he felt accepted by this person. Light poured from his eyes and Ani saw it again: the lifetime he’d lived without a constant source of loving support. Her heart nearly broke for him but she urged herself to look to the future. She couldn’t make-up for the times he’d been alone but she could make sure he wasn’t alone again.

Ani took his hand and pulled him up from the couch. Shouto, in a daze, followed her as the edges of his vision blurred and he saw her, only her. He barely registered where she was leading him until she gently guided him down to the bed. His eyes softened with years of emotional pain, suffering, and neglect as she lay down next to him and did something he couldn’t remember anyone doing before.

She held him.

She wrapped her arms around him and pulled against herself feeling the selfish need to hold him as if she could submerge him in her love. He buried his head in her chest and set his sexual urges to the side for the moment as he relaxed into her and realized it was in her arms that he felt at home.

Shouto’s weight sank against Ani and she tightened her hold on him wrapping as much of her lean body around his muscular one as she could. An internal battle raged within her as she tried to ignore the glorious sculpting of his body and the strength stored in his muscles. She kept telling herself over and over ‘it’s not the time it’s not the time for that’ and chided her body’s overly-enthusiastic response to the pressure of his head on her breasts.

She held him like that, as calmly as she could, for several long moments until she felt his whole body become rigid. She feared he could sense what was happening within her and was going to be put off. What she couldn’t see was how red Shouto’s face had become when he finally noticed where and how he was laying: on her chest.

He was so embarrassed...he must have made her feel so uncomfortable! She was offering him affection and here he was, taking advantage of her. He steadied himself and gently lifted himself off her chest to find her, sure enough, chewing on her lips and blushing deeply with her eyes pressed together. Guilt began to wiggle in his chest and he tried to pull back from her embrace.

Before he was able to get out of her arms she flung him down. Shouto inhaled sharply as he was pushed down into the bed and only a second later his girlfriend’s weight was on top of him and her mouth crushed into his. He was stunned for a moment as she held her weight with a hand next to his head and ran her other hand over his cheek, bringing his face to hers as her soft, warm lips pushed and pulled at his own. His brain was short-circuiting.

Ani froze eyes popping open and she pulled away, sitting back on his body and covered her mouth as her eyes widened in shock. “Shouto, I’m sorry! I’m so so sorry!” She down at him, horrified at forcing herself on him and was about to climb off of him when he grabbed her waist, brain finally shifting into action.

“Don’t stop,” he quietly, pleadingly demanded.

Her eyes deepened, darkened with lust as she let go of her restraint.

She fell to his lips again and this time his own soft mouth responded moving to match her motions and enthusiasm. His hands rubbed up and down her legs and around to the back of her hips to palm her ass. Her hips circled in reaction, grinding against him as her hands followed every curve and shape of his face and ran through his hair.

She could feel the familiar coil begin to form deep inside herself but decided to put her own satisfaction on hold. When he sat up, trying to give the space between her legs purchase for friction she pushed him back down.

She kissed along his jaw, sucking and kissing along the tendons in his neck, satisfied with his sharp breaths as she teased the corner of his neck and shoulder. Tentatively, she unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. When he didn’t protest she continued down the line. He sat up when she made it to the bottom so she could push the shirt down over his shoulders, kissing his neck again. Once his undershirt was off, too, he laid back down.

Ani took a moment to savor the handsome and magnificent man underneath her. She ran her fingers along his muscles, appreciating the years of hard work and training that shaped him, and felt a few small scars. She made a note in her mind to ask him about them later. For now, she had one goal in mind.

Shouto expected her to return to their kiss and was disappointed when she leaned down to kiss the center of his chest. His disappointment soon faded as her lips pressed light kisses into a line down to his stomach. Through the thin line of red and white hair that trailed over his belly button. With every tender kiss he grew harder and harder with the idea of what she was doing.

When she ran out of bare skin to kiss she unbuckled his belt. Undid the button and pulled the zipper down. Her mouth kissed the rock-hard erection through his boxer-briefs as she shimmied his pants down his hips and off altogether.

Her fingertips slipped under the top of his underwear, teasing the bare skin underneath as she continued massaging his dick through his underwear with her mouth. He moaned softly keeping his hips from grinding up into her face.

Slowly she pulled his underwear down, letting the cool air breeze over him, and slipped it off his legs. Shouto looked down his own naked body as Ani sat between his legs and bent down to his dick resting on half-white, half-red pubic hair.

He stared, mesmerized, as she dragged her warm, wet tongue along his length from base to tip. She licked his tip once, twice, relishing the way his breath became ragged and he moaned deeply when she brought her mouth down around his cock enveloping him in such warmth, such wetness that he couldn’t help the thrust of his hips, lightly jabbing her in the back of the throat.

“Sorry,” he breathed, barely able to get the word out. She glanced up, hoping to assure him everything was okay but his eyes were pressed shut tightly in pleasure. Feeling encouraged she hollowed out her cheeks and began sucking on him in earnest. She worked her tongue along each side as she bobbed her head up and down, tracing veins that bulged.

He moaned again between deep, ragged breaths. She tightened her lips, increasing the pressure of each pass in and out of her mouth as her spit coated his dick.

“Oh...Oh, Ani...” Each breath became a moan. She made sure to flick her tongue over the tip every few bobs and could feel his release beginning to build, precum hinting a taste of what was to cum. He kept his hips from thrusting up into her moist mouth but couldn’t help the more subtle movements in response to her motions.

“I—I-I'm going to—I'm going to—” he fought for breath as she cupped his balls and added her hand to the base of his shaft, pumping what she couldn’t fit in her mouth and felt his cock throb. Hot, salty sperm shot out, filling her mouth with each throb of his cock and she swallowed as much as she could. What little dribbled out she licked off her lips and sucked his cock, licking any semen left behind.

Shouto was panting, out of breath and ran his hands through his own hair, eyes closed in euphoria. Ani was happily gazing down at him when he parted his eyes.

“Thank you,” he said breathlessly and sat up. He kissed her taking her lips by surprise, unfazed by the slight taste of himself on her. “That was amazing.”

She grinned, blushing uncontrollably. “I’m glad,” she replied softly.

Shouto was gazing at her so intensely basking in the warmth of her affection, both physical and emotional and wondered how he got so lucky.

“What are you thinking about?” Ani asked.

“You,” he said. The depth of his voice made her shiver and added wetness to the already damp pool in her panties. His eyes roamed her body. He had the sudden urge to find out how she tasted. And she squirmed under his ravenous expression. He wrapped his arms around her snaking his hands up her back and kissing her neck in a plan to devour her. She became weak, melting under his strength and firm grasp but she protested.

“Shouto...” she moaned. He wanted to hear more of it but she gently pulled his face back.

His eyes churned back at her. He could hear something in her tone telling him there wouldn’t be a chance for it.

“We have to get ready for the party now,” she said in defeat.

“We can be late,” Shouto said and went right back to her neck. She let him leave a mark and another before sighing.

“I don’t want to make a bad impression on all your friends.”

Shouto grumbled against her skin, hoping the marks would stay there long enough for other people to see. He could always take her to a corner and mark her again if he wanted. Knowing that he sighed and released her.

Chapter Text

Ani could see the apprehension clearly across Shouto’s face as they parked. She slid her hand into his when they were out of the car and kissed the back of his cool hand. The corners of his mouth tipped up in a small smile, features softening at the reminder of her presence.

Mina offered to host the party and was the one who excitedly pulled the apartment door open with a huge smile.

“Todoroki! Shida!!” She exclaimed and stepped aside to welcome them into her colorful, eclectic home. Ani clutched Shouto’s hand as all the faces turned to them.

They moved slowly through the room and Ani met everyone there one-by-one. At least half of their class had been able to make it to the last-minute party. She met Sato, who included his pro hero name: Sugarman, and Froppy who insisted Ani call her Tsu. Tsu’s boyfriend was there with her and greeted Ani with a wave of his webbed-fingered-hand. A pair of jeans and a hoodie came over, the hollow sleeve waving as a voice introduced herself as Hagakure the stealth hero: invisible girl.

Ani happily greeted Kaminari and Kirishima who left Bakugo to sulk in a corner while they properly introduced themselves to her. They also introduced Sero and his fiancé, a preschool teacher who conveniently had eyes in the back of her head.

Kaminari brought a reluctant Ani to meet Creati and Jiro who were as cold as Ani imagined—Creati more so than Jiro who was preoccupied deflecting Kaminari’s flirtatious comments. Jiro’s boyfriend had been unable to make it to the party; he had to work late in his recording studio.

Lastly, Ani met Iida who was their old class rep and his wife, a tired-looking but kind stay-at-home-mom. Once the introductions were over Mina clapped and threw her hands in the air.

“Time to draw straws!!”

“Draw straws?” Ani asked Shouto with a worried look.

He nodded but Iida answered first. “As alumni of the respected UA and top, professional heroes we must conduct ourselves in behavior fitting for that of our roles and organizations. Even when we’re relaxing and engaging in social activities we still must uphold our reputations—”

“Simply put,” Shouto cut him off and Mina finished explaining.

“We draw straws to see who drinks and who stays sober!” She cheered. She appeared in front of Ani holding a fistful of straws. “If you draw a straw with a black stripe, you drink!”

“Do...Do I have to?” Ani glanced around worried about offending them.

“Of course not,” Shouto answered before anyone could pressure her, jokingly or not. Mina offered them both her fistful and Shouto shook his head politely.

“Tch, yeah,” Bakugo grumbled from the corner. Everyone turned to him to hear the first thing he’d said since Ani and Shouto had arrived. He pushed up out of his chair and trudged over as he added “the half-and-half bastard never drinks.”

Bakugo reached in front of Ani and chose a straw from where Mina still offered it to Ani. The straw had a black stripe. “Looks like it’s my lucky night,” he said and pushed his way through the small group to get to Mina’s kitchen. He began lining bottles and mixers out on the counter as Ani politely declined to draw a straw.

Kaminari and Sero, Mina and Tsu’s boyfriend also drew black-stripes. So did Momo, much to Ani’s concern. Iida drew a straw and prepared to properly participate as the social situation dictated. He informed Ani they had this system so half of the party would stay sober and be able to respond to any emergencies should something occur, before going to the kitchen.

Last to draw was Kirishima. He was watching his best friend finish chugging his first drink and starting to pour his second when Mina appeared in front of him. He drew a black straw but after another glance at Bakugo he offered it to Sato.

Ani smiled, happily chatting with Tsu and Iida’s wife. Shouto and Kirishima were recruited to set up the beer pong table even though they weren’t drinking and Ani noticed them exchanging quiet, hushed words.

Eventually the party drifted into natural groups and Ani was doing her best to socialize with everyone. She tried talking to Yaoyorozu, too, but was given the shoulder, literally. The doorbell rang with an announcement from the front desk for their food delivery and Shouto and Kirishima went off to get it. They were met with cheers when they returned with pizza, salad, and wings—a surprisingly American meal that filled the apartment with mouth-watering smells. Everyone dug in.

Ani and Shouto ate with Sero and his fiance, and Sato as everyone else clustered off into their own groups. After they were finished Sato laid out a buffet of sweets. Ani’s mouth dropped.

“You made all this?!” She asked, eyes bulging in excitement.

He grinned and explained his quirk; Ani understood after that. Shouto stood at her side feeling the happiness glow out of her as she asked Sato about each one and began tasting, having small samples of each one, to Sato’s delight, with a positive reaction to each.

The doorbell rang again. Ani wondered how much more food she could eat as Mina skipped to the door and looked through the peephole. With a happy half-shout she flung the door open and wrapped a brown-haired girl in a big hug. They floated for a moment, laughing excitedly, until Uraraka set them down again. The crowd started to move to the door welcoming the addition and Ani noticed a small smile spread on Shouto’s face. She glanced back at the door and did a double-take.

A jovial, freckled, jade-haired hero stepped inside.

Ani’s heart throbbed heavily with every beat as she watched her personal hero and idol step into the apartment to join the party.

She blinked in disbelief as he smiled at his old classmates surrounding them and she couldn’t make her feet move. In the back of her mind she had known meeting Deku was a possibility after becoming Shouto’s girlfriend. She just never expected it so soon. Her arms went limp and the plate she was holding slipped from her hand. Shouto’s hands flew out and caught the plate before it crashed to the ground and made a mess. Midoriya was still greeting his old friends as Ani watched in awkward awe.

Shouto leaned down to her, thinking her awestruck face was cute. “Are you okay?”

“I-I,” Ani quietly stuttered looking into the deep two-toned eyes of her boyfriend. “I didn’t think he would be here tonight.”

“Well,” Shouto smirked. “He is an old classmate and friend.”

Ani’s eyes narrowed playfully at him. “Did you know he was going to be here?”

“I knew there was a chance,” he said with a grin.

“And you didn’t tell me?!” Ani’s voice nearly disappeared as it went up an octave.

He shrugged. “I didn’t know if he would be here or not for sure and didn’t want to get your hopes up. If he didn’t come, I didn’t want you to spend the whole party being let down and unable to have fun.”

Someone scoffed from behind them. Ani and Shouto turned at the same time to see Bakugo not far away, arms crossed and scowling. He sneered “as if Deku not showing up would be a bad thing.”

“Hi Todoroki, Hi Kachaan,” someone from behind them said. Ani’s face immediately flushed and Shouto savored her reaction as she slowly turned around to see her idol standing in front of her.

“Hello,” he said with a friendly smile. “I’m Midoriya Izuku. It’s nice to meet you.”

Ani’s face only reddened as she tried to make her mouth respond and everyone watched her shocked expression.

“Midoryia, this is my girlfriend, Shida Ani,” Shouto mercifully introduced her.

Ani bowed her head and forced out a dry “hello.”

“Deku! Ochaco!” Mina called out from the kitchen, immune to the awkwardness. “We already drew straws but we have an even group. Does one of you want to drink?”

Midoriya glanced at the brown-haired girl who came to his side. “Would you like to drink?” He asked her. “I don’t want to.”

“Sure,” she said with a happy smile and turned to Ani. “Nice to meet you. I’m Uraraka Ochaco, ‘Zuku’s girlfriend.”

“I’m Shida Ani. Nice to meet you,” Ani said in barely more than a whisper before Uraraka went off to meet Momo and Jiro in the Kitchen.

Bakugo stormed past to get another drink from the kitchen and Midoryia’s attention returned to Shouto, sensing Ani needed a minute. He wanted to know how things had been for Shouto. As the party resumed and general chatter filled the air again, Ani began to relax. But, before Ani found the courage to actually talk to Midoriya his girlfriend called him away to be on her team for beer pong.

Shouto turned to Ani, taken aback when he saw disappointment on her face. “Ani, what’s wrong?”

“He probably thinks I’m some insane weirdo fan-girl who can’t function normally!” She quietly fretted. “I’m so sorry Shouto! I’m such an embarrassment!” She tried to cover her face but Shouto’s soft hands made it there first. He kept her face turned toward him and smiled.

“Midoriya has looked at so many heroes just like that. Random people sometimes, too. More than anyone can count. So I don’t think he’s the least bit fazed by your reaction.” His thumbs gently stroked her pink cheeks. “And you are not an embarrassment to me.” Momentarily forgetting everyone else in the room he lightly pressed his lips to hers.

“OW, OW!” Kaminari tastelessly shouted, drawing everyone’s attention to the kiss. “Yeah, you two love birds!!”

Ani’s cheeks flamed when Shouto pulled back as a mixed reaction swept across the room, crescendo-ing intensely at Yaoyorozu. Seething rage and jealousy burned on her face before she stormed off down a hall and Jiro chased after her with Uraraka in tow.

With Midoriya suddenly teammate-less, Ani and Shouto were called to play pong. Under the condition they didn’t need to drink they agreed and played against Sero and Sato.

Ani and Shouto won. They grinned and gave each other double-high-fives resisting the urge to kiss again. Tsu and her boyfriend went next and Ani and Shouto claimed another victory. Laughing and having an amazing time, Ani didn’t see Bakugo step up to the other side of the table with a devilish grin.

“Alright goldilocks,” he said with an eerie calm. “Let’s do this.” He stared only at Ani as he issued the challenge.

Kirishima appeared at his side, throwing an arm around his best friend in an attempt to lighten the mood. “Whaddya say we make it interesting?” The red-head said with a gentle smile. “Losers buy the winners breakfast.”

Ani glanced between them and spoke without thinking. “That’s so sweet. I didn’t know you guys were a couple!”

Bakugo screamed “WHAT?!” in the same moment Shouto burst into laughter.

Their friends were so taken aback by Ani’s comment, Shouto’s reaction, and Bakugo’s explosions rocking the table that none of them knew what to do until Kirishima’s laugh joined Shouto’s. Laughter slowly bubbled around the room and Ani looked around warily until Shouto finally caught his breath.

“They’re not dating, just best friends,” he said kissing the top of her head. “But Kirishima—we're not staying over so that won’t work.”

Some strange reaction passed over Bakugo’s face but before he could react Kirishima said “eehh, that’s too bad.” He tapped his chin. “How about...we just get to ask a question for every shot we make? Get to know you better?” He glanced at his friend, then Ani.

Ani shrugged. “Sure, that’s fine with me,” Ani said as she looked to Shouto’s unreadable expression. He was scrutinizing Bakugo who stared right back at him as Kirishima started setting up. Ani tentatively started setting up their side and Shouto’s attention widened, helping her.

“The air in here just go so weird, didn’t it?” Kaminari whispered not-so-quietly to Sero who nodded. The crowd shifted closer to the game after what happened and watched with rapt attention as Kirishima sunk the first shot.

“Nice!” He cheered for himself. He smiled and directed his question at Ani. “Where are you from?”

“I grew up outside of Dagoben and moved into the city after high school.”

“Oh cool. What district of Dagoben do you live in?” Kirishima asked.

“Fog district,” she answered.

“Our agency is in fog district!” Kirishima said with a grin. He elbowed Bakugo who rolled his eyes and shot his ball into a cup.

“That was a lame first question,” Bakugo said to his teammate. He turned his sharp gaze to Ani. “Who was your first kiss?”

Ani laughed once, hoping Shouto wouldn’t be upset by the question. “It was my lab partner in middle school.” She tossed her shot, hoping to move on quickly.

“Okay...Kirishima! Where are you from?”

“Born in the Chiba prefecture. Moved to Musutafu for UA,” he said with a grin.

Shouto took his shot. “You can ask my questions. I want you to get to know everyone,” he kindly offered to Ani.

“Thanks,” she said with a grateful smile. “Okay, Bakugo. Same question!”

Bakugo rolled his eyes. “I went to UA for highschool. Nothing else matters.”

“He went to the same middle school as Midoriya!” Tsu offered from the audience.

“Really?!” Ani’s eyes lit up and flicked once to Deku who was watching with slightly pinked cheeks before returning to Bakugo. “You went to middle school with Midoriya?”

“Tch,” Bakugo said with a scoff. “He went to middle school with me.”

“Same thing,” Ani said, eyes still shining. “That’s really cool."

Bakugo’s lip twitched angrily and he took his shot before Kirishima could get a ball. Angered by Ani’s happy expression at the mention of Deku he took a cheap shot with his question.

“Are you a virgin?”

The happy look on Ani’s face disappeared in the same instant Shouto stiffened. Someone said Bakugo’s name disapprovingly and Iida stood up saying “Bakugo! That is a highly personal question, not to mention invasive and inappropriate!”

“It’s alright,” Ani gently said to Iida. “We’re all adults here..." turning back to her opponents she answered "and no, I’m not.”

Bakugo’s grin spread in a menacingly content way and Kirishima took his shot, hoping to dispel the tension.

“Okay Ani, what’s your birthday?”

Her expression relaxed a little. “June 30th.”

“Cool!” Kaminari called out. “Mine’s June 29th!”

“Neat!” Ani said giving him a smile. She took her shot but missed. “Damn,” she said with a light-hearted smile as Shouto made his.

“What do you want to know?” He asked her.

“Hm...” She tapped her chin. “Kirishima, what’s your birthday?”

Kirishima grinned despite his teammate’s scowl. “October 16th." He went to take his shot but Bakugo launched his shot across the table first. “Who took your virginity?" He asked Ani with villainous glee as he saw Shouto’s brow dip in irritation.

From the corner of her eye Ani saw Shouto’s jaw clench and she said the first that came to her mind. “Your mom.”

A tense laugh burst from someone in the group watching and Ani’s heart relaxed a little as Shouto did. Kirishima took his shot and missed, badly. Ani reached to grab it before it bounced away but missed and it rolled away across the floor. Ani went after it. Kirishima used the moment of her distraction to growl in his teammate’s ear.

“Dude what the hell are you doing?!”

Bakugo just rolled his eyes and crossed his arms as Ani returned to the table. “Fine. What’s your blood type.”

Ani smiled in relief. “O negative.”

Ani made her shot. “Kirishima...how did you become friends with Bakugo?”

He seemed genuinely surprised by the question. “It was during our first year at U.A. Did you know we were all attacked once by the League of Villains in our first year?”

Somber quiet fell over the room and Ani nodded. “At USJ.”

Kirishima nodded in agreement. “Bakugo and I ended up fighting together when a warp villain separated our class. Once we took down every villain around us Bakugo wanted to go find our teacher and the brazen leaders threatening to kill All Might. He didn’t have any concern about our classmates fighting whatever villains they faced, confident they would be victorious...That faith in others, in our classmates, was really cool and showed me the kind of manly hero he was. Made me want to be friends with him even if he is a total time-bomb.”

“The hell?!” Bakugo turned to admonish the insult but stopped when Ani’s voice fell upon his ears.

“Wow, that’s...that’s actually pretty cool of you Bakugo,” Ani looked at him. Her expression was mostly unreadable but there was a faint echo of respect. Of how she looked at him in the hospital. It made Bakugo’s sour comment sink back, replaced by an unintelligible grumble.

Shouto watched Bakugo’s reaction and his suspicion was confirmed. He knew. He knew Bakugo was in love with Ani. There was no way a simple comment like that from a random person could stop Bakugo in his tracks like that. He felt a spark ignite in his chest, jealously roused from someone else having feelings for his girlfriend. He tentatively glanced at Ani, fearing she would still be looking admiringly at Bakugo but she was looking at him instead. Her smile was warm and inviting as she offered him a ping-pong ball.

“Your turn,” she said having already moved on from Kirishima’s story. When Shouto didn’t take the ball right away, worry tipped her brow. “Are you okay?”

Relief eased into his chest and he smiled. “Yes, sorry.” He took the ball and made his shot. “Your question.”

“Hmm...” Ani scrunched her lips for a moment before asking “Kirishima, books or movies?”

“Movies!”

“Hell yeah,” Bakugo echoed giving his friend an elbow jab and missing the cute glance Ani gave Shouto.

Kirishima took his shot first this time. “Okay, okay...I’ll give you an easy one. Who’s your favorite hero?”

The room took a collective breath in and held it as Ani’s cheeks tinted pink. She was more sensitive to this question than she realized. “Well...for a long time...it was Deku.” Ani’s eyes focused down on the table in a mix of emotions. She felt vulnerable admitting that in front of everyone, especially Midoriya. “But...now...” her eyes slowly rose to Shouto. “It’s you...after meeting you and learning about you and getting to know you and all the things that make you who you are...it’s you.”

Shouto blushed under her admiring, loving gaze and felt the rush of being seen and appreciated for who he was all over again. He wanted to wrap her in his arms but held back because of the audience.

For Bakugo those were the two worst answers she could have given. He saved her life! And ugh, the way she looked at Shouto with such love, such admiration, made a tide of white-hot rage surge in his chest. A small ‘ploop’ broke the atmosphere and before Ani could look away from Shouto a venomous voice asked “have you two fucked?”

Color rose to Ani’s cheeks but it was not from embarrassment. It was lust. It was something she thought about a lot since she first met Shouto and she had wanted it. Bad. But she never wanted to rush him or make him feel uncomfortable. Shouto’s eyes darkened in his own desire, illuminating his blue eye and sent shivers down her spine.

“What is happening?” Kaminari asked in the building tension.

Bakugo meant to embarrass them. He’d been trying to find a fault, a place to drive a wedge and create an opportunity for himself but instead it seemed like they were just...getting closer. He muffled the snarl that rolled in his chest. “Not surprised this loser hasn’t made a move yet,” Bakugo sneered.

Ani’s face hardened as she turned to him, starting to get frustrated. “What is your problem?!” She demanded.

He scowled at her. “I don’t have a problem.”

“Yes, you do.” Ani stood her ground. “You’ve been mean to me from the very beginning and I don’t know what I ever did to make you hate me!”

Bakugo’s arms fell uncrossed and his expression shifted without relaxing. “I don’t hate you…I wouldn’t bother wasting energy on random extras.”

Ani’s fists clenched and she forced herself to take a deep breath. “Excuse me,” she said and walked away from the table. Shouto went with her and led her to the balcony sensing she didn’t know where to go for privacy and he closed the door behind them.

“Are you alright?” He asked as he took her hand and they sat next to each other at the small table. He could feel her hand trembling as her other wiped away a tear.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, again worried she embarrassed him. “That was uncalled for on my part. I’m sorry I lost my temper in front of everyone like that. I just don’t have the same patience and understanding of him like the rest of you.”

“I don’t think any of us really understand him," Shouto said squeezing her hand. “I never have.”

Her eyes roamed the view from Mina’s apartment and soft sounds of the city drifted up on the night breeze. Ani began to relax. Shouto’s mind was still clinging to what she said. “What did you mean when you said he was mean to you from the very beginning?”

“Well,” Ani sighed. “He didn’t know anything about me or my quirk or what I did around the hospital so...when he saw me sleeping he didn’t know it was because I was regenerating…He thought I was being lazy. I know it couldn’t have really looked like anything else and a nurse shouldn’t be sleeping on the job but it always rubbed me the wrong way that he made comments without taking the time to fully understand.”

“Was this the morning after you saved him?”

“Yes, and the morning after you were in the ER.” Ani explained further when she saw his brow dip. “I refused to let Aino put me in a bed to regenerate and lose a spot for patients so I slept outside the room where you had been, in a chair, and when I woke up the next day Bakugo was in the ER. He called me a lazy leech.”

Shouto’s unoccupied hand clenched and unclenched making flames flicker in the dark light. “He’s always been an insensitive, unempathetic—”

“Ass,” Ani finished for him. She gave him a smile and his flames extinguished. He relaxed and rubbed his cold thumb on the back of her hand as she leaned on him. He smiled and kissed the top of her head.

The sliding glass door opened and a puff of jade hair leaned out. “Mind if I join you?” Midoriya asked. Ani stiffened for a moment and sat up but Shouto kept his grip on her hand, gently rubbing it to keep her calm.

“Not at all,” he answered and gestured to the empty seats.

Midoriya sat across from Ani, next to Shouto. “I’m sorry about Kachaan. He’s always been a bit...intense.”

“It’s not your fault,” Ani said quietly and relieved she finally could talk to him. “I’m sorry if I ruined the mood of the party.”

“No, not at all!” He waved his hands in front of himself. “No one was put out. We’ve all experienced Bakugo enough that we understand.”

Ani smiled meekly. “How did you ever make it through middle school with him?”

Midoriya chuckled awkwardly. “I was actually friends with him long before that. Even before he got his quirk.”

Ani’s eyes widened. “That long?” When Midoriya nodded she asked “was he always like this?”

Midoriya sighed. “Yes and no…but please be forgiving and patient with our friend. He can be a really great person.”

“When he wants to be,” Shouto quietly added. Midoriya nodded and Ani remembered how gentle he had been when he found her in the park.

“You’re right,” Ani relented. “But that doesn’t make it okay for him to be a jerk the rest of the time.”

“That’s true,” Midoriya said. “I did tell him to come apologize but you can imagine how well that went.”

“I have no expectations for that,” Ani said with a hint of something more in her voice.

Years of attentive watching and listening caught that hint in Midoriya’s ears. “What do you mean?” He asked.

“Ani saved Bakugo’s life,” Shouto answered when he felt Ani’s humble nature take over. “And I don’t think he ever actually said thank you. Did he?”

Ani shook her head. Her eyes fell for a moment before noticing Midoriya’s wide, awed gaze. “You saved Kachaan’s life?!”

Ani nodded. Midoriya’s eyes widened. “How? Will you tell me? What’s your quirk?” The questions spilled out and his eyes lit up like they used to when he spent years watching others with quirks.

Ani blushed, too flattered to be embarrassed. “I-I can regenerate from any injury...and a while ago I discovered my blood can help others heal, too. So when Bakugo was hurt in the hospital I gave him blood and it saved him.” She grimaced. “The hospital where I work found out though and wanted to tell me when and how to use my quirk and blood for themselves.”

“Like their own personal fountain of youth,” Shouto said disdainfully.

Ani’s expression fell. “Exactly…So I quit.” The air became heavy.

“And I’m trying to get her to come work for me,” Shouto said, trying to keep her spirits up. “To run a health clinic for the heroes in my agency.”

“That sounds amazing!” Midoriya crooned supportively.

“You think so?” Ani asked, a spark of hope igniting in her chest.

“Of course!” Midoriya said with a huge grin. “I don’t know who or what or where I’d be if it wasn’t for the amazing clinic at U.A.! Recovery girl is the reason I’m still around.”

Shouto held his tongue, clinging to the hope beginning to shine in his own chest that this could convince Ani to work with him.

Ani blinked. “So...you don’t think I would be failing others if I didn’t go back to an ER?”

“Failing others?” Midoriya asked in confusion.

“I’m worried if I’m not in the ER, I won’t be using my quirk to its full potential,” she said looking down at her hands.

Midoriya watched her looking at her own hands like he used to. “I think you’ll find a way to use it to the best of its limits, no matter where you are, as long as you’re looking to help others.

Ani looked up at Midoriya with shining eyes, mouth opening and closing as she tried to find words. He smiled reassuringly. “Do you want to work with Todoroki?” He asked and Ani nodded. “Then you’ll find a way to go beyond.”

Ani’s smile slowly grew and stretched from ear-to-ear as her eyes pooled with overwhelming feelings. “Thank you,” she said with reverence and Midoriya saw an echo of himself after All Might told him he could be a hero.

“I look forward to seeing what you two accomplish together,” Midoriya said smiling at them both. They turned to smile at each other and Shouto’s hopes were burning in his chest. He knew she could see it in his eyes but he stayed quiet.

The sliding glass door opened again and Uraraka came out. “Hey ‘Zuku,” she gave her boyfriend a warm smile and a polite nod to the other two. “I’m going to take Momo home."

“Oh, okay,” He said and stood up. “I’ll come with you and help.” He turned to the pair still sitting and bowed his head. “Todoroki it was great seeing you again and Shida, it was an honor to meet you.”

Ani shot up from her seat, yanking on Shouto’s arm in enthusiasm making him smile. “The honor was all mine!”

“Good to see you, too,” Shouto said standing up and gave him a bow, too. They watched Midoriya and Uraraka leave before he pulled her to him and took a deep breath of her smell. He brought his lips to her ear and said “let me know when you want to go, too.”

The smoldering timber in his voice lit a lustful flame between Ani’s legs. She looked up into his eyes and felt her lips burn with a craving to be on him. “I think I’d like to leave now,” she said in a libidinous whisper. “Will you spend the night with me?”

He wove his fingers into her hair and brought her lips close to his own. So close she could feel the air moving around them but not close enough to give her the contact she craved. “Yes, but my house is closer. Will you stay with me?”

Ani nodded, cheeks warm with a hunger for him and he felt his cock begin to swell. He pulled away from her mouth, unsure if he could stop himself if they started. Midoriya and Uraraka, Yaoyorozu, and Jiro had already left and the party was still going strong for everyone inside. Everyone except Bakugo who was nowhere in sight. They gave brief goodbyes to everyone still around and were soon in Shouto’s car on the way to his house.

Chapter Text

On the way back to Shouto’s they stopped to get Ani a toothbrush and toiletries to keep at his house. Shouto didn’t offer to stop anywhere for clothing, in part because he was impatient to get home and also in part because he wanted her in his clothes...or naked.

He kept thinking about the party. About her. The way her face shined with excitement over desserts and how she offered politeness to Yaoyorozu despite being treated poorly. Her indifference to Bakugo, well...most of him, and the admiration she had for Midoriya. Oh god and that admission...about how he had become her favorite hero. Remembering the way she looked at him was enough to warm his blood and bring color to his face. And all the other little moments they shared that made him feel no matter who she was talking to, no matter what she was doing she never forgot about him. He was always there, right there with her in her mind. Holding hands. Glances and smiles.

He gripped the steering wheel and thought about Bakugo’s irritating attempts at...whatever he was trying to do during beer pong. Admittedly, Shouto had been curious to know if Ani was a virgin. He’d been trying not to make any assumptions either way but having that knowledge made his mind run wild and infuse him with a hunger to have her for himself.

She held his hand for the trip home, parting only when they were in the store and to get out of the car. He waited until the elevator doors closed to grab her hips and bring her close. He kissed her temples, inhaling her dizzying smell as she pressed her kisses into the crook of his neck and sent blood rushing to his member.

He lifted her and spun them around to press her against the wall. She wrapped her legs around his waist as he took her mouth in an open-mouth kiss, spreading her lips and let his strong, wet tongue invade her. The elevator stopped and the doors parted but Shouto didn’t let her go. He held her thighs in his firm grasp as she squeezed her legs around him and held onto his shoulders so he could carry her into their apartment without breaking their kiss.

She could feel the power in his body as his muscles flexed and breezed through his doorway, locking the door behind them and passed through his apartment. She let him ferry her, not caring where he was going until he gently set her down. He pulled back to stare at her as she lay beneath him. In her peripheral vision she saw she was in his room, on his bed.

Shouto felt his erection stiffening feeling her under his body like this and he was about to rip her clothes off when she placed a hand on his face. She was breathing heavily, as drawn into the sexual tension as he was, but something about the gesture made him pause.

“What is it?” He asked, worried he went too far.

Her eyes roamed his body with wanton need. “I...really want you, all of you, but I’m not going to let our first time together be in response to someone’s harassment.”

Shouto was too relieved not to hear anyone else’s name from her mouth, while she was in his bed, to care that she was saying she wanted to wait. A smile slowly parted his lips as a salacious idea came to him. “That’s fine...” his eyes drifted down her body and he knew what he wanted. “I’m happy to save it since I have something else in mind.”

Her chest rose and fell with heaving breaths and her nipples hardened under his stare. “What is it?” She asked.

His eyes returned to hers with a teasing burn. “You’ll have to wait and find out.”

She smiled and bit her lip. "I will try."

He clenched the sheets where he held himself above her and restrained his urges, insistent he take his time to get what he really wanted: his name.

He placed a light kiss on her lips before reaching down and lifting her shirt up. She helped get it over her head and she laid beneath him, breasts hid from him by blue lace; her body was tingling from the way he looked down at her bare skin. His first kiss was at the corner of her jaw, pressing his lips into the soft skin and placing one after another in a line down her neck, across her collar bone, and tantalizingly down the middle of her chest. He paused to latch onto the exposed skin and leave a mark on each breast, deep marks that would take longer to fade than the ones long-gone from her neck. She moaned softly at his ministrations, the possessive tug of his teeth against her skin.

He moved on before he got too distracted by her perky mounds and enjoyed Ani’s soft gasp as he continued his trail of kisses down the middle of her body mimicking how she treated him before the party. His hands traced her sides with opposite temperatures and she shuddered with pleasure that turned into panting breaths as he traced the top of her shorts and opened the zipper. He watched the color of her cheeks ripen as he pulled the fabric from her hips and slid it down, off her legs. The image was one worth burning into his mind. Her hair splayed out, one hand lost in the long blonde locks while the other laid restlessly to the side, and there was nothing on her bare skin except blue lace. Her breasts pushed against their prison, threatening to spill out with each breath and she brought her thighs together. She began rubbing them in heady need for some kind of friction as she opened her eyes and squirmed under his lustful gaze.

“W-what are you going to do to me?” She asked in an eager whisper.

Devour you. He thought but instead of answering out loud he slid his hands underneath her and up her back releasing her boobs. She gasped and closed her eyes as his mouth licked both nipples, tongue replaced by hot and cold fingers. She mewled as he tweaked and pinched her little nubs and left more marks along her upper chest and neck, pushing her sounds further and further until she sounded desperate and was trying to grind her hips up against him.

He slid a hand between her legs, under the lace, and traced her opening with a warm hand. It earned him another moan. Fueled by the sound, his fingers and mouth disappeared from her chest and she felt the lace panties disappearing from her body and her knees gently pushed apart. She was dripping. He wanted to savor this moment, too, and burn the image of her naked body fully exposed and aroused for him, only him, into his mind but he couldn’t. He was too impatient to make her scream.

He dove between her legs without warning. She cried out in delicious pleasure as he dragged his tongue up her, lapping at her folds. She felt his tongue, warm and wet, tracing every sensitive part of her and it made her hips move on their own but they didn’t get to do much. His hands were suddenly there, holding her lower body down at his mercy to taste and attack her as he pleased.

She was a panting, glistening mess as his tongue parted her and slipped inside. He stretched a hand and rubbed her clit with his thumb. “Ungh!” She cried out at the stimulation. The pressure on her clitoris increased and his touch heated with his quirk. She looked down her nude body and watched his white-and-red hair bobbing and dipping with each stroke of his tongue and she was dying to have more of him inside of her.

He looked up in that moment and saw her blue eyes unraveling with want and need. He switched the efforts of his tongue to her clit and teased the bundle of her nerves with flicks and licks as he plunged two fingers into her sopping wet cunt.

“UUHHH!” She closed her eyes and her back arched at the intoxicating stretch as he flexed and curled his fingers, leaving her gasping for breath, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted—needed more of him.

“More,” she hoarsely begged.

Feeling his own cock twitch at her request he groaned against her clit and obliged, adding another finger into her making sloppy sounds as her tight pussy began to clench around him. She was a moaning mess beginning to writhe and whine under his work on her body. He stretched his right arm, adding a frosty hand to her breast and played with the now-hard bud.

“Ahhh! Oh! OH!! OHHH!” Her voice became louder and louder with each passing moment and he kept the ferocious pace of his attack on her nerves and sensitive parts, sucking, squeezing, licking, flicking, scissoring, curling, stretching her in every possible way until she finally snapped. The orgasm rocked through her body and she finally cried out

“OH SH-SHOUTOOO!” and her body spasmed drenching his hand as her walls clenched around his hot digits. He squeezed her breast as he came, too, unable to hold back with the sound of his name on her lips and her taste on his tongue.

His name became a groan, deflated and weak from the crashing high still coursing across her nerves and she said it again as a breathless whisper “oh Shouto.” She opened her eyes to see him sitting above her, wiping his chin with a victorious grin on his face. She laughed and let her eyes flutter closed again.

“Thank you...” she sighed. “That...was amazing.”

He dipped down and licked a long, slow pass over her swollen, used parts and drew out another moan of his name from her.

“I could listen to my name on your lips like that all night,” he said.

She smiled, keeping her eyes closed. “I would be happy to say your name like that forever.”

“That works, too.” He sucked as much of her fluid off his fingers as possible while he got a warm, wet towel and wiped her, enjoying the small twitches of her body from the massaging of her aching cunt and clit. She smiled up at him, sweetly and appreciatively, and sat up to kneel on the bed when he finished. She pulled him close and kissed him, taking in her own taste without caring as she parted his lips.

“Thank you,” she said again, staring intently in his eyes when she pulled back. “Really.”

“You’re welcome.” He brushed hair back from her face with his clean hand and traced her cheek. “I love you, Ani.”

Ani's eyes widened. She felt as if a lock unclicked and her heart fully opened accepting all of him and all of his love into her own. She smiled and kissed him again. “I love you, Shouto,” she said as she cupped and nuzzled his face.

He grinned. “Now, that is how I could listen to you say my name...forever.”

“That works, too,” she said with a light laugh and he laughed with her. Not caring about the state of his hands, or the wet spot of his own end, she urged his arms around her and he held her, wrapping her close and tight against him.

“I love you,” he said again into her hair, eyes closed in a blissful state of peace.

“I love you, too,” she whispered happily back. She rested her head on his chest and basked in the glory and warmth and brightness of their love for each other.

 

After a long moment, holding her precious form against him, Shouto admitted “I need to change.”

He glanced down at the sticky spot between them and she smiled, offering him the wet cloth. He smiled and took it from her, giving her a quick kiss before going into the bathroom. He leaned out from behind the door to tell her “I want you to borrow any of my clothes. Please, make yourself comfortable.”

“Thanks,” she said and bounded out of bed as he closed the door. She chose a pair of his boxers and an old Todoroki Agency t-shirt to that hung from her form in a comfortable baggy way. She snuggled into the fabric and went out into the kitchen for something to drink. Shouto emerged from his room, pulling a shirt down over his toned chest, as she was taking two glasses down from a cabinet.

Seeing her moving around his apartment, in his clothes, felt right and the smile she gave him was worth everything. “Want some water?”

He nodded. “Yes, please.”

“Did you do some remodeling?” She asked, gesturing to the new countertop and stools.

Shouto rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah...I was...a little upset after I found out what my fans did to you.” He sighed.

Ani smiled softly. “Try to take it out in the gym next time, okay? I don't want you to get hurt."

Relief and comfort warmed Shouto’s chest. “I can do that.”

They made a small plate of snacks to share and settled into the couch together to talk and eat. Inspired by the question game from the party they shared memories and talked about their lives late into the night.

Chapter Text

Ani and Shouto lay awake together the next morning in his bed, quietly sharing more stories about their past. They talked about what kind of dates they’d enjoyed in the past and things they wanted to do in the future. When Shouto got a phone call he reluctantly gave his phone a cursory glance and saw it was Midoriya. He answered on Ani’s urging and his old friend invited him out to breakfast.

“Go with him,” Ani encouraged him. “It would be good for you to catch up with your old friend and I’ll see you again later.”

“Promise?” He said leaning over her with a smile to give her a kiss. She smiled as they pressed their lips together and he rolled on top of her.

“I pr-m-se,” she said through smooshed lips under his and he pulled back to look over her beautiful, happy face.

“Okay.” He climbed off her with the promise and sent Midoriya his answer.

Ani gestured to his big, comfy shirt she was still wearing and asked “do you want me to put this in the wash?”

He shook his head with a smirk. “Save it for the next time you sleep over.”

She smiled. “Okay.” As they both readied themselves for the day Ani insisted she could take the train and buses home. She didn’t want to make him late for meeting Midoriya and felt a pit form in his stomach when the elevator doors closed, taking her away from him. She had been right, he admitted to himself, there wouldn’t be time to get her all the way home across the city and then all the way back to meet Midoriya. But there was still a small amount of time left before they planned to meet. It was just enough time for him to stop at the office and get some work done so he could see Ani sooner rather than later.

The agency was quiet. A few heroes were around, he was told by security, only those who were on duty for the day. On the way up to his office he received a call from the head of HR: Ani accepted the position. She had just called to give them her answer. Shouto felt like he was walking on a cloud when he got into his office and texted Ani.

Hey beautiful, got any plans tonight?

 

Not yet, hopefully seeing someone cute ;D You?

 

Oh...just taking my newest employee out for a celebratory dinner

 

What a nice boss you are ^-^

 

He grinned, bouncing his chair back. When can I pick you up?

 

Well...would it be too early to pick me up whenever you’re done with what you have to do today?

 

Not early enough. But it sounds great. I’ll see you as soon as I can

 

I look forward to it. I love you

 

His heart leaped as he read the words they said to each other the night before. No one in his family had ever been overly-affectionate so he was effected by simply seeing the words in a text. With swelling joy in his heart he responded: I love you too

 

Shouto sat back in his chair and cast his gaze over the view of the city, savoring the bright morning sunlight and the rich blue color of the sky. A few mountainous clouds rolled lazily in the distance. He was finally getting work done when the security guard called up to tell him his father was here.

His stomach hardened and he somberly rose from his chair when the elevator doors dinged. His father entered slowly as if there was an audience there who cared about his majestic entrance. He was still a hulk of a man but no longer kept flames dancing around his now-wrinkled face.

“Shouto,” he said stiffly.

“Father,” Shouto answered equally stiff. “What are you doing here?”

“You haven’t answered or returned my calls all weekend.” He faced Shouto from the other side of the desk. “Is it true?”

“Is what true?” Shouto had no patience for his games today.

Endeavor glowered. “That you’re dating someone? Someone who is not Yaoyorozu despite your future engagement to her?”

Shouto stared back. “Yes, it’s true I’m dating someone new but I never have nor ever will be engaged to Yaoyorozu,” he stated. “Whether you accept it or not.”

Endeavor’s eyes narrowed. “Is it also true that this girl swindled her way into working here? Are you so blind and irresponsible as to let yourself be taken advantage of by someone who wants to ride our coattails?!”

Shouto cursed the head of HR. They were great to work with but they had been with the Todoroki agency since it had once been the Endeavor agency...which meant they were very close to Shouto’s father. They must have been giving Endeavor information throughout this process.

Ani didn’t deserve this. She didn’t deserve this treatment that was so presumptive, just like Bakugo’s comments. Shouto felt the years of hate toward his father spill over. “Unlike you, I am not blinded by greed and unaware of the people around me. I’m able to make decisions in the best interest of others, like a real hero, instead of with the goal to further my own personal interests!” Shouto’s eyes blazed furiously at his father whose expression remained flat.

“Then bring her to our house for dinner tonight.” He turned away to leave. “We’ll see how fit this person really is, how much better they are than Yaoyorozu.”

If looks could kill, Endeavor would have dropped dead from the toxic glare his son gave him. “It is not your privilege to meet her,” Shouto asserted. “Not yet have you proved yourself fit to meet her.”

Endeavor turned at the door, his haughty deadpan finally beginning to crack. “Don’t come crying to me for help when she shows up on your doorstep pregnant and threatening to clean you out for all you’re worth.” He slammed the door after himself.

Shouto slouched forward, resting his fists on his desk as he was lost in a tsunami of anger and hatred. Before he could put his thoughts and feelings in order his cellphone rang sending a chill down his spine: it was the Dagoben Superintendent, Jozu. He was calling in any and all top 20 heroes available in for an immediate meeting. As soon as he hung up, Midoriya had already texted about the call and they would have to reschedule breakfast. Shouto agreed, sending his response to his old friend as he hastily left the office.

 

The superintendents and chief inspectors from Dagoben and the two major, neighboring cities were all in attendance.

“Last night,” Superintendent Jozu called everyone's attention, beginning the briefing. “Dagoben general hospital was attacked.” Shouto’s heart clenched. Ani only stopped working there a few days ago. She could have so easily been involved...he was glad she was going to be with him at his agency soon. “We have known the League of Villains has been searching for something...gearing up for a major attack and a source has now informed us they’ve been searching for someone with a healing quirk. Someone who can help them keep from getting injured or help them after they've been injured...a so-called fountain of youth.”

Shouto’s face slowly drained of color with each word as the superintendent continued.

“We believe they were targeting an employee at Dagoben General. No one was critically injured last night or kidnapped in the attack but it suggests they were testing to see what or who has helped one of our top heroes recover recently from a drastic injury.”

Several people glanced to Bakugo whose expression soured, angry to be called out like he was some kind of weakling. The superintendent kept going, not caring enough to name Bakugo.

“We’ve been told by the hospital they don’t have anyone like that there anymore. Apparently, a nurse used to work there—” Shouto’s heart froze “—but no longer does. We need all of you to help us interview the area hospitals or doctor’s facilities and find this so-called fountain-of-youth. Before the Leauge of Villains does.”

Bakugo and Midoriya were already staring at Shouto as he rose from his chair like a phantom and offered the chilling answer. “That won’t be necessary,...They’re looking for my girlfriend.”

 

 

The heroes and police administrators disbanded with pictures of Ani and instruction not to draw attention to her or her location in public or online. A plan was in place to offer her protection around-the-clock which would be significantly easier now that she would be working at the Todoroki agency. Everyone left, leaving for their separate agencies or homes and Shouto had the task of breaking this news to Ani. He watched Bakugo launch himself into the air, using his propelling explosions to aerially skip over the city, without saying anything to anyone.

Before Shouto left, Midoriya pulled him aside. “How are you feeling about this?” He asked, sensing the stress in his normally subdued fellow hero. “I mean...aside from the obvious.”

“I...I’m afraid for the first time in a very long time. I’m afraid for Ani. For our relationship.” Shouto’s eyes bored away, off into the city horizon. “She never wanted anyone to know what her quirk could do in fear of this exact reason...Since she saved my life everything she ever tried to avoid has been forced on her.”

“Saved...you?” Midoriya asked.

Shouto nodded, still staring off into the distance. “Yes. She saved me the same way she saved Bakugo, only a few days earlier...and it’s brought this to her doorstep.”

“Ani seems strong. And understanding. Talk to her and you’ll find a way through this together.” Midoriya pumped a fist at his old friend. “I believe in you. In both of you.”

Shouto nodded gratefully but unconvinced as they said goodbye. He activated the transparent display within the visor of his motorcycle helmet and called Ani once he was on the way to her house. He would wait to tell her everything, in detail, in person but he needed to hear her voice, to make sure she was safe until then.

“Hello, Shouto?” She asked, happy to hear from him.

Guilt struck his gut as he wove through traffic. “Hey Ani, What are you up to right now?”

“I’m at my house—” he felt a moment of relief at her words “—I was going to go to the library but my landlord called a little while ago and said I have to wait here to let a pest-control guy in to spray my balcony.”

“A pest control guy? I didn’t know you were having a problem with pests.”

She laughed lightly and the sound made the hair on the back of Shouto’s neck stand up. “I’m not. But I guess other people in the building are so they’re going to spray all the apartments proactively. What are you up to? Are you already done having breakfast with Midoriya?”

He ignored her questions as his heart began to race and he surged his bike’s motor. “Ani, listen to me, do no—”

He heard a doorbell in the background and she interjected. “Hold on one second Sho, I think that’s them.” She must have held the phone away from her face because her voice became distant. “Hi, yeah, that’s fine. Come on in.”

“Ani! ANI!” He was shouting as loud as he could but the helmet muffled his cries. He was driving erratically now, taking risks and cutting through streams of traffic. “ANI DO NOT LET ANYONE INTO YOUR APARTMENT!”

She heard his voice but didn’t catch what he said. “Sho, I’ll call you right back. Okay? The pest person is here.” She hung up too quickly for him to respond. He immediately called her back but it went to voicemail. He called again and she silenced the call on the second ring. Panic set into Shouto’s whole being and he called an unlikely ally.

“Oi what do you want you annoying—”

“Bakugo! I think Ani’s in trouble and I need your help!”

“Oh yeah? Why do I care about your little girlfr—”

“You know the L-o-V is trying to get her—”

“Pfft, so what you’re not strong enough to protect her?!”

Shouto roared a feral sound and Bakugo fell silent, for once. “BAKUGO I KNOW YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ANI AND YOU’RE THE CLOSEST HERO TO HER HOUSE RIGHT NOW AND SHE’S NOT ANSWERING HER PHONE AFTER SHE JUST LET A STRANGER CLAIMING TO BE A PEST CONTROL PERSON INTO HER HOME!”

Bakugo on the other end of the call was frozen, haunted by everything he just heard. “What’s her address?”

 

Ani chuckled as the pest control guy made a joke about having to work weekends and was about to commiserate with him from her time in the ER when her doorbell rang. Then someone knocked. Obnoxiously.

“’cuse me,” Ani said leaving the worker on her patio. “Coming!” She shouted. When she made it to the door they were still knocking feverishly and she looked through the peephole surprised to see Bakugo.

“Bakugo?” She asked incredulously as she opened the door. He pushed past her, taking an aggressive path into her apartment. “What are you doing here? And how do you know where I live?"

He grunted in response as he scrutinized the person on her deck. “Todoroki called me and said you were in danger.

“T-todoroki said that?” Ani asked. The words she had missed, Shouto’s faint tone, how he called back right away suddenly registered in her mind.

“Yeh,” Bakugo crossed his arms. “Said I had to make sure you were okay.”

Todoroki said that?” Ani repeated and something in her tone made Bakugo slowly turn.

 

Shouto was weaving through traffic like a mad man, almost to her apartment, not caring about getting a ticket. He was calling Ani and Bakugo back and forth, neither of them answering. His father called and he ignored it, not wanting to talk to him or miss a call from someone else. Endeavor became persistent, calling again. And again. Each time Shouto ignored him.

Bakugo called and Shouto immediately answered, praying for good news. That he had been overreacting and Ani was safe. “Bakugo, what’s going on?”

“She’s not here,” Bakugo said and Shouto’s heart began to crumble as the ashy blonde added “some serious shit just went down here.”

“I’m almost there,” Shouto said, speeding even faster. “Did you call the police?”

“Of course I did you shit-for-brains!” Bakugo shouted.

Endeavor called AGAIN. He was seriously starting to piss Shouto off. “I’ll be there soon,” he assured an indifferent Bakugo before switching to answer his father’s call with a growling “What do you w—”

“SHOUTO!”

 

 

“Yeh,” Bakugo crossed his arms. “Said I had to make sure you were okay.”

Todoroki said that?” Ani repeated and something in her tone made Bakugo slowly turn.

“Yes. He did.” Bakugo scrutinized Ani’s expression. “Ani...is something wrong?”

Ani’s mind was racing, goosebumps spreading across her body. “Um...” she swallowed thickly. In any emergency she could think fast and respond without a second guess. Blood? No problem. Guts? Severed limbs? No question. Heart failure, seizure, or anything else that could have possibly come through the ER? No trip-ups there. But this...this situation put her instincts on high alert. And without any tactical training she was freezing up, knowing something was wrong but she didn’t know the best course of action. She had no muscle memory for this.

The pest-control person set down his work-pack covered in vials and tubes and leaned in through the wide doorway of her balcony. “Everything okay?” He asked, glancing between Ani and Bakugo.

Before either of them could respond someone knocked once. Bakugo turned, only a hint of annoyance on his face, and Ani grabbed his forearm. “What is it?” He asked.

“C-can you make an explosion?” She asked, fear taking root in her heart.

Bakugo’s brow furrowed. “Of course I can.”

“Show me,” she asked. “Please, make an explosion.”

“Ani, you’re being paranoid,” Bakugo said and patted her hand.

Ani let go as a cold fear crystallized in her chest.

That wasn’t Bakugo.

She knew with absolute certainty as the door opened and a tall, scarred man let himself into her apartment.

“Nehhh,” the man Ani had seen on the train said giving the other two a lazy look as he closed the door behind himself. “What are you doing up here?”

“Ehhh, you were supposed to wait downstairs!” The Bakugo-fake said and his flesh began to slough off like dough.

“You’re taking too long,” the scarred man grumbled and set his predatory gaze on Ani.

Adrenaline surged through Ani and she whipped away from the melting Bakugo frantically trying to remember where she left her phone. She was cursing herself; why did she ignore all of Shouto’s calls?! Why did she silence her fucking phone?!

“Oh no, you don’t!” The scarred man shouted and leapt. Ani dodged his jump and he landed on her kotatsu, crushing the cherished square. Someone else rushed her and slammed her body into the couch. A petite blonde with a feral gleam in her eye sliced Ani’s hands as she covered her face and Ani could hear the sharp knife catching her couch, too.

“I can smell it in your blood, how much you love him!” The crazy girl on top of her shouted.

At the mention of him, a shock jolted Ani’s heart. Shouto. They’re trying to get to Shouto. Ani may not have had combat experience but she at least knew the human body. And she would use all of her knowledge to keep them from him.

She jabbed the heel of her hand into the blonde’s solar-plexus, a spot beneath her sternum between her diaphragm, that knocked the wind out of the girl. Momentarily stunned, Ani bucked her off onto the scarred man, sending them both to the ground for a moment long enough that Ani could get off the couch.

In the back of her mind she heard things breaking, shattering, as the three strangers scrambled after her through the apartment. Heat flared behind her, singeing the air of her bedroom as she threw herself inside, still desperately searching for her phone. She needed to warn Shouto. Criminals were coming for him. They must have seen him visiting her here. She was so foolish! She put Shouto at such risk insisting they be here so often! She needed to warn him. She needed to find her phone.

And it wasn’t anywhere in here.

The three assailants piled into the room after her as she cornered herself by the only other escape route she had: her bedroom window. It was a two-story drop to the ground and Ani knew she could regenerate from it but wouldn’t have time before the three people descended on her.

They were already upon her. She held up her arm as the two men came for her and the girl barreled through them, still screaming about the intensity of Ani’s love, and slashing at her with a glinting knife. The blade caught the edge of Ani’s forearm and sliced down through her tricep, slashing through her brachial artery. She screamed and felt her pulse shoot hot, thick blood out through the opened vessel. Fatigue slammed into her like a freight-train as her quirk immediately regenerated enough of the laceration to prevent her from bleeding to death. The two men used Ani’s weakened, fainting state to grab her arms and legs. They began hauling her across her bedroom floor.

Survival took over again and the regeneration subsided. She was still bleeding, she could feel it dripping down her arm, but she fought against the captors as much as she could. They gripped her arms and legs hard enough she knew there would be bruises and the petite psycho was siphoning a large vial of blood from Ani’s other arm.

“Save it for later, damn it!” The scarred man shouted down, yanking Ani’s legs. She felt heat fry her ankles in tune with his angry outburst. Ani dredged whatever energy her body would spare from regenerating to thrash and fight against her kidnappers. She couldn’t give up. She couldn’t give them a chance to get to Shouto.

“Let me go!” She screamed. “HELP! HEELLPP!” The man holding her arms dropped a wrist to slap her so hard she gasped and choked on her own spit.

“Shut up!” He snarled down at her. She kept struggling, swatting his hand away as he tried to regain his grip on her wrist. To his comrades he shouted “I told you we should have brought Compress!”

“We don’t need him!” The other man growled, wrenching Ani’s ankles so tight he drew a cry from Ani. “You could just make a fucking clone or two to help us!”

“I’m too goddamned wound up right now! They would be unstable!”

She grabbed anything she could find with her free hand to anchor herself in her apartment or throw at her assailants. A leg of the kotatsu punched into the scarred man’s shoulder and he howled in frustration. A fury of blue flames erupted from his back, tearing open his shirt and expanding the air with such force the sliding glass door and window exploded.

“ENOUGH WITH THE FUCKING BLOOD!” He roared at the crazy blonde who kicked Ani in the ribs and grabbed her free-flailing wrist.

“Fine!” The girl giggled as if this was a party. “Let’s go!”

They ferried Ani as she struggled futilely, the regeneration in her body draining more and more energy with every injury. They brought her to the balcony now.

No, no no no. Were they going to throw her over?! Ani was going to be seriously injured and wouldn’t be able to remain conscious if she sustained any more injuries. The girl took both of Ani’s hands as the man lithely leapt over the balcony wall. Ani fought for her life as the scarred man and the crazy girl lifted her up with surprising ease.

“See you at the bottom, beautiful,” the scarred man said with a menacing wink and Ani’s eyes widened, heart pulsing with fear and useless adrenaline, as the tossed her over the edge.

Someone screamed and Ani felt weightless for a moment before gravity came crashing down and knocked the breath from Ani’s chest.

 

She slammed, hard, into the ground. No. Not the ground.

She was sore but not hurt like she would have been if it was the ground. She cracked her eyes open barely enough energy left, from what the regeneration was sapping away, to croak “Mr. To..doroki?”

 

 

“SHOUTO!”

He nearly swiped a car and slammed on his brakes at the sound of his girlfriend’s voice. Relief and confusion swallowed him whole. “Ani! Where are you?! How—what are you doing with my father?”

“Shouto listen to me! I’m fine. I’m fine now but I was attacked. That pest control person he-he tried to kidnap me and then Bakugo showed up but it wasn’t Bakugo, not really, and then your dad was there and stopped them and he’s bringing me to your family’s house and I'm fine now but Sho—” his mind was swimming as he followed everything she was saying and his heart turned over with the knowledge she was safe. “Sho, there was this girl who who had some weird needles and kept talking about how cute I was how she could smell my love for someone and Sho—Sho she took my blood!”

Toga. And with that realization a chilling concern came to his mind. “Ani, how do you know you’re with my father?”

“When that-that girl came in she looked just like Bakugo but she couldn’t make explosions. She couldn’t do his quirk but but your dad could and he didn’t know if there was anyone else coming to help the people attacking us so he’s bringing us to your home to be safe. Shouto I’m so so sorry.”

He gripped his handlebars and sped off toward her apartment. “There is nothing you could possibly be sorry for.”

“I’m sorry Shouto,” she was crying now. “I didn’t listen to you and I ignored your calls and I let them in and I was so naïve and I’m this huge vulnerable liability for you.” Her cries built into sobs and he wanted nothing more than to hold her. But not until he knew the attack was really over.

“Ani, none of that is true. Please...you will be safe at my family’s home, okay? So stay there, don’t go anywhere. I’m going to your apartment now and I’ll file the police report and then come get you. Okay?”

She sniffled. “Okay, thank you, Sho.”

“Ani,” he reverently said. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”

 

As Shouto drove down the last few streets he made one more phone call. “Fuyumi?”

His older sister laughed, not having the chance to answer her own call. “Hey little bro, what’s up?”

“Fuyumi, I need your help and I don’t have a lot of time. Where are you right now?”

“I’m at home. The boys are out camping for the week so I’m getting stuff done around the house. What’s wrong, Shouto, what’s going on?”

“I need you to go to our family’s home and hangout until I get there. Just act like it was a spontaneous visit to see our father, not from me.”

“O-okay, anything else you can tell me?”

“No,” he said as he rounded the corner and saw crowds, police, and pro-heroes. “Let me know when you get there and that everything is okay. This will make sense once you’re there.”

“Okay,” she said, always ready to help her youngest brother. “Shouto, whatever’s going on, good luck.”

“Thank you,” he said and cut off the call. He pulled off his helmet and the crowd parted, making room for the pro hero, and the other pro heroes let him through, too. Black lines of scorched pavement darkened the street and sidewalk and an ashy dust swirled in the wake of his bike. No one seemed hurt but there was a lot of fire damage. A rock formed in his gut. He parked in Ani's spot and rushed up the stairs where more police and pro heroes were talking with witnesses and guarding Ani’s apartment.

Shouto approached her door and they stopped him, hesitating to let in the number two hero. He explained this was his girlfriend’s apartment and they glanced at each other in surprise, stepping apart so he could pass.

He didn’t bother taking his shoes off this time. The debris of a fight, of Ani’s once comfortable and welcoming apartment where Shouto had found home, was littered everywhere. The sliding glass door and accompanying window were blown to bits, broken glass laying like a glittering carpet across her balcony. Wind blew in, gently tossing her curtains and casting a mournful shadow across the apartment.

His feet were frozen in place as his eyes roamed the savage destruction. More burns streaked across the walls like a haunting story of what happened. The couch was sliced. Kotatsu crushed. Bookshelf demolished.

Shouto moved like a ghost to Ani’s bedroom when he heard his name called and a nauseating horror twisted his gut as he walked in to see a dark splatter painting Ani’s once white walls, connected by long drips to a sickeningly large pool of blood on the floor. It was like no blood stain Shouto had ever seen before and he knew...it was Ani’s blood.

An ashy dust settled over everything.

Bakugo was standing near the stain, staring lost in thought. Shouto could see the subtle flexing of his muscles as he scowled down. A detective approached Todoroki and asked questions to which Shouto answered with all the information he had and they gave Todoroki everything they knew from witnesses:

Neighbors began to hear smashing, violent sounds soon followed by shouts and growing noise that escalated when something exploded through Ani’s sliding glass doors. At that point the police had been called but before they could arrive witnesses saw someone jump to the street from Ani’s second-story balcony and two more people appeared, holding a struggling woman, and dropped her to the person below. A fearsome streak of blistering flame intercepted the fall and Endeavor appeared down the street, holding the young woman.

The two people on the balcony, a petite blond covered in tubes and vials and a tall, scarred man, jumped down to the street, too. The tall, scarred man approached the pro hero, igniting blue flames in his hand and was immediately met with an overwhelming attack from Endeavor who was able to disperse the three near-kidnappers before promptly departing with the woman. Moments later Ground Zero appeared and rushed up to the second floor, followed by police only minutes later.

Shouto thanked the police for all of their hard work and waited until they finished collecting evidence they needed. Shouto called Aino, assuring the surgeon his sister was safe and offered Endeavor’s phone number so he could contact her. Once the police had everything, they needed they left leaving clear signage that Ani’s apartment was a crime scene and not to be disturbed.

As if it would stop villains from returning.

Shouto locked the door, somehow one of the few things that wasn't damaged, and returned to Ani’s bedroom where Bakugo lingered. “Thank you for coming,” Shouto offered.

“Tch.” Bakugo said. “Didn’t do it for you.”

“I know...but since she’s not here to thank you in person, like I know she would...thank you.”

Bakugo turned, anger burning in his red eyes. He was overwhelmed with all the things he couldn’t—wouldn’t—say right now. How he felt real fear for someone else after Shouto called and the helpless despair he experienced when he arrived here too late. What it was like to be the first one to find the carnage and see violent evidence of her pain and suffering. He hadn’t been able to help at all. He was too slow, too uninformed to help this...person...woman...he had unwillingly come to care about. The first time he got to visit her home was like this. He was furious. There were so many things he wanted, to be able to do, to be able to say, to have had experienced differently. What made his blood boil the most was feeling like he failed. Failed Ani. Failed at being a hero, in front of everyone, outdone by a Todoroki none-the-less. His fists clenched and unclenched, sparkling little explosions. “Why did you even bother to call me?”

“What?” Shouto asked, confused.

“Why did you even bother to call me?” Bakugo demanded between gritted teeth. “If you were just going to have your stupid fucking old-man swoop in and rescue her first?! Are you TRYING to make me look like a damn fool?! HUH?! Set me up in front of the public?! Embarrass me IN FRONT OF ANI?!” Bakugo roared, teeth gnashing as every muscle in his body clenched.

Shouto’s body tensed in natural defense at Bakugo’s rage but he understood it. “No, Bakugo. I don’t know why my father was here or how he even knew where Ani lived! Just this morning I told him he wasn’t allowed to meet...her...” An angry betrayal surged through Shouto’s veins. “He must have weaseled the information out of my staff and come here against my wishes.”

The gratitude he had felt toward his father was so very short lived. For maybe having some sort of positive effect in Shouto’s life for the first time. No. Shouto knew now that Endeavor’s presence here was no accident.

“My father came here for his own reasons,” Shouto growled, speaking more out-loud to himself than to Bakugo. Bakugo’s chest was still heaving with fueled anger but Shouto’s demeanor calmed into the well-known feeling of hatred for his father. “I’m sorry for any complications to your reputation this event may have caused.”

“I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY DAMN REPUTATION!” Bakugo roared. He looked like a rabid animal.

“You wanted to save Ani,” Shouto said.

“OF COURSE I DID YOU HALF-AND-HALF BASTARD!” At the admission, Bakugo’s eyes narrowed and he whipped around, hiding his face from Shouto. He stared out the unbroken bedroom window accepting the real reason he was upset. He wanted to rescue her. To be her hero again. To have her look at him that way again...to become her answer to the question who is your favorite hero? And after he heard the witness accounts...to have been able to hold her.

“Thank you, Bakugo,” Shouto said again but the explosive blonde didn’t turn around. He threw Ani’s window open and launched himself out, adding scorched marks to the outside of the building. Shouto watched him disappear and then looked around at Ani’s wrecked home. She couldn’t stay here. Not right now, not like this. He found an old backpack of hers in the closet and packed as many clothes, as many different kinds as he could. He found her cellphone on the kitchen counter, her charger, and keys, adding them to the backpack, before leaving and locking the door behind himself.

Chapter Text

“Ani, none of that is true. Please...you will be safe at my family’s home, okay? So stay there. Don’t go anywhere. I’m going to your apartment now and I’ll file the police report and then come get you. Okay?”

She sniffled. “Okay, thank you, Sho.”

“Ani,” he reverently said. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”

She hung up the call, wishing she could be with him already. With trembling hands she passed Endeavor his phone and he slid it into his pocket without taking his eyes off the road.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. She knew it would be proper to say more. To thank him for saving her life, for taking her to safety, for everything. But something was nagging at the back of her mind. She didn’t figure it out until they drove into the Todoroki property, separated from the neighboring homes by a massive wall, and passed through the looming gate.

Ani was so tired. She could feel all the wounds throbbing for regeneration and fatigue was weighing on her as her body tried to respond. But she had to endure...just a little bit more. She climbed out of the car, shaking slightly in the tug-of-war against fatigue, and slowly followed after Endeavor who went up into the main entryway without saying anything to her.

He looked down at the meek, wounded woman and felt a sneer begin to twist his features. How could this weak, disappointing woman possibly compare to anyone? He buried his feelings and kept his face as neutral as possible. This conversation wouldn’t go his way if he alienated her. “Follow me,” he instructed her once her shoes were off.

She warily trailed after him, looking around at Shouto’s childhood home as much as she could manage while keeping up with Endeavor. It was a stark, bleak structure that could only be built from wealth. No love filled out this place. He led Ani to a large room overlooking the back garden as lush and maintained as any affluent home could have and gestured to a spot by the table on the floor.

Endeavor sat down, legs crossed, across from her, arranging a pot of hot tea and cups between them. He poured himself a cup and gave Ani a flat look. “So. You’re Shouto’s girlfriend.”

“Yes,” Ani said, barely able to sit up straight. “And you’re his father.”

Endeavor’s lip twitched in irritation. “What do you want with my son?”

“What do I want with him?” Holy halibut she was exhausted. She really didn’t want to deal with this right now but it was clear she had no choice. “I want a future with him.”

“And what else?” He crossed his massive arms and cocked an old, sour eyebrow at her.

Nausea rolled up Ani’s throat and she couldn’t form any words. In answer to his question she simply pressed her lips together and shrugged.

“You expect me to believe that?” He looked down at her disdainfully. “What are you in it for? Hmm? Money? Fame? To smear the Todoroki name?”

Ani pushed the nausea down and shook her head. “No, just the relationship.” She could smell his tea from across the table and her body yearned for something, anything, that could replenish her depleting supply of energy but she couldn’t find the strength to pour herself a cup.

“And how could my son possibly benefit from a relationship with you?” Endeavor demanded. “What could you possibly offer my son?”

Ani said the first thing that came to her mind. “Love.” It was the truth, too.

“Anyone could love him,” Endeavor noted. “That doesn't make you special."

Ani shrugged again, swaying slightly with the motion. “Maybe, but he chose me.”

“As if that makes you so special.” Endeavor’s eyes burned with hatred.

“It kind of does...” She clenched her jaw, holding back a yawn. She needed to hold on a little longer.

“What do you want?” Endeavor planted his fists on his knees and glared at Ani. “What can I offer to convince you to leave my son alone?”

Ani’s eyes met his with a deadpan expression, though she didn’t know if it was absolute lack of energy or absolute lack of patience with the senior across from her. “What can I say to convince you to give me a chance?”

“Nothing,” Endeavor answered without thinking.

“There’s your answer.” Ani sighed, still holding his gaze. Endeavor’s mouth pressed into a thin, angry line. Ani’s vision blurred a little bit and everything hurt. “Mr. Todoroki I know you weren’t near my apartment today upon pure chance. I can only assume it was to have this conversation. Is that correct?”

“You’re lucky that I was,” Endeavor haughtily noted.

“You’re right.” Ani nodded with a casual expression of agreement. “I really was. Can we...can we agree to a truce?”

Endeavor’s eyes narrowed. “A truce is what a losing party offers to gain ground.”

Ani stared at him, deadpan and dumbfounded. "Alright...cool. I was going to offer not to waste my time trying to impress you when I know you’ll never change your mind about me if you agreed not to waste your own time trying to buy me out of my relationship with Shouto.”

“What an uninventive truce,” Endeavor took a long drink of his tea.

Ani sighed and turned her gaze out to the garden certain their conversation was over. She was so tired. She wanted to sleep. She wanted Shouto to get there. Wanted to hear his voice and feel the safety of his embrace instead of the frigid indifference from his father. She was so tired. She didn’t notice Endeavor set down his cup and eye her speculatively.

“HELLLOOOOO FATTTHERRRR!”

Ani jumped, a weak surge of adrenaline shocking her attention as someone threw open the door. Endeavor turned, unsurprised by the woman bursting into his home.

Several years older than Ani, a woman with white hair, flecked with red, let herself in and froze at the sight of Ani. Her steel-blue-gray eyes flicked back and forth between Endeavor and the mystery blonde sitting across from him.

“Sorry for the interruption, father! I didn’t know you had company!”

“Because you didn’t call,” he grumbled and lifted the cup to his lips. He added in an angry growl “you never do.”

“Because you never have guests!” The white-haired woman said as she approached her father’s guest. Her calm happiness was immune to her father’s angry nature. “Hello. I’m Todoroki Enji’s daughter, please call me Fuyumi.”

“Nice to meet you Fuyumi,” Ani said in a hoarse whisper. Her injuries quickly caught Fuyumi’s attention and she gasped before Ani could introduce herself.

“Oh my gosh! You poor thing, what happened to you?!” Fuyumi was kneeling next to Ani now, trying to inspect her injuries with the hawk-eyes of an experienced mother.

“Fuyumi,” Endeavor said with angry irritation. “This is Shouto’s girlfriend, Shida Ani. She was attacked today and I happened to be near-by enough to save her.”

“Attacked?!” Shock shined in Fuyumi’s eyes. “Does Shouto know?”

Ani nodded but Endeavor spoke over her. “Yes. He’s taking care of the police report and will be coming here afterwards.”

“Well come on,” Fuyumi said taking Ani’s hands with surprising strength. “We need to clean your injuries!”

Ani found herself being towed up from the floor and dragged, stumbling to the door. “Wait,” she said and turned back to face Endeavor. “Thank you, Mr. Todoroki, for saving my life and keeping me safe today.” She bowed, bending her torso in a sign of respect.

Endeavor simply drank his tea, ignoring her gesture of respect. Ani held the pose for a moment and then followed Fuyumi out of the room.

Chapter Text

Fuyumi brought Ani to a different wing of the house, into a bedroom with attached bathroom. Her mind was reeling assembling all the pieces to the puzzle of why her brother asked her to come here like this. She understood now and had grown unusually quiet in the process. Not that Ani noticed. She was so tired that if she did know Fuyumi’s normal out-going nature she wouldn’t have picked up on the pensive quiet.

She set down a first-aid kit near the quiet girl and sat down on the floor with her. She gently lifted the girl’s arms without protest and silently gasped at the gouge down the underside of her arm.

“My gosh,” she said. “I don’t know if we have any bandages big enough for this.” She tsked. “My father should have brought you to the hospital.”

“It’s alright,” Ani said quietly, mind dizzy with fatigue. "There were things that needed to be said. Things that needed to be heard.”

Fuyumi surveyed Ani’s placid expression. “Are you alright, Miss Shida?”

Ani nodded drowsily.

“Would you like to lie down?” Fuyumi asked. “I can arrange a futon for you.”

Ani shook her head. “I’m waiting for Shouto.”

Fuyumi stifled a smile as she set to work tending the lacerations on Ani’s arm and hands. “Okay, let’s see what we can do to patch you up in the meantime.” Fuyumi’s nimble hands dressed Ani’s wounds in a way that demonstrated how accustomed she was to doing this.

“Are you nurse?” Ani asked.

“Me?” Fuyumi laughed once. “No...just a mother to three boys. Four if you count my husband who’s like a big kid...I’ve treated a number of injuries at home.”

“Oh,” Ani said.

Fuyumi snuck a look at the pretty young woman’s face. “What about you, what do you do Miss Shida?”

“I’m a nurse. Well...I was a nurse in an ER.” She smiled. “As of tomorrow I’ll be a nurse at the Todoroki Agency.”

“You’ll be working with Shouto?”

Ani nodded. “Yes.

Fuyumi smiled, wiping dried blood from Ani's arm. "Wow. You must be a very good nurse.”

“I’m alright,” Ani said with one small laugh.

Fuyumi smiled to herself again and cleaned the deepest part of the slash and Ani winced, sucking in a tight breath through clenched teeth. Ani’s eyes pressed shut from the pain and battle with fatigue and Fuyumi unabashedly gaped at Ani’s wound. She expected to face more fresh blood, maybe even have to give a few stitches under Ani’s direction but what she didn’t expect to find was tender, pink skin already fused back together. Fuyumi traced the wound in awe and Ani flinched, pulling away.

"I'm sorry!" Fuyumi said. "Are you okay?"

“Yes,” Ani weakly answered. “It’s only sealed...the wound is still healing internally."

“How is that possible?” Fuyumi asked in quiet awe.

“I regenerate...It’s my quirk. My body just did a quick healing in the moment to keep me from bleeding out.”

Fuyumi’s eyebrows lifted. “Ahh, that’s why my father didn’t take you to the hospital.”

“Maybe,” Ani sighed heavily with exhaustion. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he already looked through my whole file at the agency.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Your father knew where I lived. He knew who I was without asking and brought me here without hesitation. He didn’t ask anything about myself when we sat down to talk...either he hates me in general for simply existing or he’s already looked into me and decided he doesn’t like me for who I am.” Her chest sagged from the monologue.

Fuyumi finished dressing the still-open areas of the laceration and moved onto the burns around her ankles. “I don’t think he doesn’t like you,” she softly said.

Ani’s brow furrowed. “Why?”

Fuyumi hid her smile. “Oh...just a feeling.”

“I don’t know,” Ani yawned. “As long as he doesn’t bother Shouto, I don’t care.”

Fuyumi had hundreds of questions burning in her mind but she saw how exhaustion pulled at the girl. “Miss Shida, please won’t you rest until Shouto gets here?”

“No,” Ani shook her head fervently. “I don’t want to risk sleeping too deeply to wake up when he gets here. I want to see him.”

“Is there anything I can get you in the meantime?” Fuyumi asked as she finished applying ointment to the burns.

Ani nodded. “Something, anything, to eat and drink.”

“Of course.” Fuyumi smiled. “I’ll be right back.”

 

Ani drifted in and out of consciousness as she waited, clinging to the knowledge that Shouto would soon be there.
Fuyumi returned with a tray over-loaded with food and laid it all out for Ani. “Please help yourself,” Fuyumi offered and took a seat across the folding tray arranged like a small table.

“Thank you,” Ani quietly said and dug in. It was delicious, nearly as good as Shouto’s cooking. “Oh wow,” Ani said between mouthfuls. “This is amazing!”

“Thank you!" Fuyumi said with a huge smile. “I’ve really come to enjoy cooking for my kids and my husband and my mother.”

“Your mother?” Ani glanced up. “Is she allowed to leave the hospital to visit you?”

Fuyumi paused, momentarily taken aback.

“I’m so sorry!” Ani quickly apologized. “That was so presumptive of me to ask—!”

“It’s fine! It’s fine!” Fuyumi insisted, relaxing. “I’m only surprised that Shouto told you. I don’t think he’s ever told more than one...maybe two people.”

Ani blushed under Fuyumi’s curious gaze and she looked back down to her food.

“And to answer your question,” Fuyumi said still watching Ani. “My mother cannot leave the hospital. Shouto and I, occasionally my other sibling, will bring her food when we visit. It’s a way to cheer her up, lift her spirits...it helps her to feel how much we care.”

“That’s very thoughtful.” Ani smiled, the food keeping her fatigue at bay for the moment. “Shouto’s cooking is absolutely amazing so it probably does wonders to lift your mom’s spirits!”

“Hey!” Fuyumi playfully planted her hands on her hips. “I’m the one who taught him how to cook, just for that reason!”

Ani glanced up, worried she offended the girl, but instead found the playful glare of an older sibling. “Yours is incredible, too! I’m glad he had such an amazing teacher.”

“Nehh, the best.” Fuyumi smirked. She watched Ani eat, studying the girl with rapt curiosity. She rifled through the questions in her mind. “So...Miss Shida...”

“Please, call me Ani,” she offered with a kind smile.

“Ani,” Fuyumi returned the smile. “How did you and my brother meet?”

“I was the nurse who saw him when he came into the E.R. a while ago.”

Fuyumi’s brow raised. “What happened to him?”

“A lot...” Ani said, not wanting to offer any more. “But he made it through...he’s very strong.”

“He is definitely strong,” Fuyumi agreed, remembering everything he’d been through. “Do you love him?”

“Yes,” Ani blushed. “I do.”

Fuyumi was curious if the question would catch the girl off-guard but there was no uncertainty in her answer. “And you’re prepared to accept everything that comes with that?” She gestured around them, suggestive of her father.

“I am.” Ani sat up with as much energy as she could find. “I can’t offer Shouto much but I can offer him myself.”

“Even after what happened today?” Fuyumi eyed her injuries.

Ani took a moment to arrange her thoughts. “I’m not strong...I can’t fight...and I don’t know how to defend myself...” she looked down at her hands, flexing them before looking back to Fuyumi. “But I can endure. I can regenerate and make it through whatever we face. I can survive. If only that...I can survive. And stay by his side.”

“I think you’re underestimating the significance of that,” Fuyumi said. She could see Ani’s reluctance to believe that. She also noticed Ani was still in her dirty, blood-soaked clothes. “Ani, would you like to shower? And I’ll find you some clean clothes?”

“Yes, please,” Ani said gratefully.

Chapter Text

Shouto raced through the streets of Musutafu. He was so much later than he wanted to be but he was glad the police were thorough. The walls of his childhood home came into view and his heart nearly flew from his chest. She was there, waiting somewhere inside. He blasted through the barely-open gate and hardly got his kickstand down before he was off, striding to the massive house with his helmet in hand. He took his shoes off without breaking stride.

“Ani? Ani??!” He Shouted. There were only a few places his father would be willing to take a guest. He found his feet moving faster and faster; they weren’t in the training room, or the kitchen. He was rushing into the deeper wing of the house where the more personal rooms were and he blasted past his father's tea room, not noticing the door was open until he was past it. He halted. When he went back and checked inside he was shocked to see his father sitting on the outside edge of the floor.

He had changed clothes since the Todoroki Agency and now lounged in his yukata, looking out over the garden with his back to the open door. Everything about the scene seemed strange to Shouto.

“Endeavor,” he quietly called inside.

The senior sat up at the sound of his son but didn’t turn around.

“Where is Ani?” Shouto asked.

“This is the first thing you say to me, my son?” Endeavor’s voice rumbled out over their calm yard. “Not a sentiment of appreciation that I saved her life?”

Shouto stared flatly at the back of his father’s head. “Why were you there today? What were you trying to do?”

“Ahh, my son. Such a pessimistic view of your devoted father.” Endeavor turned his palms up and opened his arms. “I was merely protecting your future.”

Shouto clenched his jaw and flared his nostrils. “How dare you try to interfere in my personal life. What would you know about protecting my future?!”

“More than you would think,” Endeavor said with a glance over his shoulder. “Because that’s exactly what I did today.”

Fear rang through Shouto like a gong and his eyes blazed. He didn’t bother to ask what his father meant; he didn’t care. He was already running deeper into the house. Panic flushed through his veins with fear of what his father could have done, could have said to Ani.

“Ani?” He started throwing open the doors to his siblings childhood rooms. “ANI!”

He flung open a door and found Fuyumi sitting across from a small tray of tea from Ani. They both looked up, startled, and a storm of emotion passed through Ani’s eyes as she gazed up at Shouto for only a moment before leaping up from the floor. Shouto’s waiting arms caught her mid-air and clutched her tight against him. He held her tucked against his neck and wrapped her in the safety she had craved all day.

Ani trembled slightly and pushed back only far enough to see his face. She lifted his right hand, deliberately placing his thumb on her cheek.

“You have to know it’s me,” Ani urged him.

“What?” Shouto asked, disturbed by what she was asking.

“Just enough so I know it’s you...and you know it's me.” Her eyes pleaded.

He formed the smallest icicle and made the shallowest scrape on her skin. It was enough to draw a single drop of blood, skin healing behind it almost instantly.

Ani sagged with relief back into his arms and he hugged her tightly, inhaling her comforting scent. Fuyumi stood, carrying the tea tray out, quietly saying “I’ll give you two some privacy.”

“Fuyumi,” Ani said from Shouto’s arms. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Anytime,” she said with an approving smile for both of them.

And then they were alone.

Shouto brushed the hair from Ani’s face cupping her cheeks as tears formed at the edge of her eyes.

“I...I don’t know what to say.” Shouto’s heart felt like it was in a vice. He saw the bags under her eyes. “Ani...you need to sleep, don’t you?”

Ani nodded. “I do but I wasn’t going to risk falling asleep and not being able to wake up when you got here.” A tear slipped down. “Are-are you okay?”

“Yes...Only Bakugo and the police were there when I arrived.”

“Bakugo?” Ani asked, brow furrowed. "Why was he there? Oh right, he probably got called in because he’s so close.”

“In a way...” Shouto hesitated. “I called him.”

Ani’s eyes widened. “Wow..." She realized how serious the attack had been for Shouto to willingly call Bakugo for help. “Thank you,” she said quietly.

“For what?” He asked.

She gazed up into his eyes. “I can’t imagine what it took to call him."

He hid how scared he had really been. “I would ask whoever for whatever it took to keep you safe.” He softly kissed her lips.

She gave him a tired smile and warily asked “how’s my apartment?”

Shouto’s expression fell a fraction. “It’s...going to need some fixing up. I don’t think you should stay there for a while, at least.”

“It’s that bad?” Ani asked.

Shouto looked deeply into her eyes and knew he needed to tell her. It was the last thing he wanted to do...add to the stress she’d already been through but he had no choice. She needed to know everything. To know what was looking for her and why. He would understand if she wanted to distance herself from him and rely on protection from police or other pro-heroes.

“Ani...the damage is...substantial,” he said as he brought them down to the floor to sit together. “But those people who attacked you today...they’re part of an organization called the League of Villains. They...they’re the same people who attacked us all those years ago at USJ. The same ones who attacked Bakugo that day you saved him. They found out about his recovery...” his expression became more and more stoic with every word as Ani’s eyes widened. “They found out...about you.”

Ani’s hands rose slowly to her face, covering her horrified features. They hadn’t been coming for Shouto after all. They had been there for her.

“There’s one more thing...” Shouto’s heart stilled, terrified this was the breaking point. “...the scarred man who was there today...is my estranged brother.”

Ani froze remembering her interactions with the man on the train. How predatory his looks came to be and his invasive staring. She shivered feeling more grateful Endeavor saved her life and groaned.

Shouto’s throat closed and he steeled himself for the worst.

“I can’t believe I owe my life to your father,” Ani said with another groan.

Shouto wanted to smile at her sentiment but couldn’t. “Ani...I’m sorry. This is because of me. You saved my life and I’ve cost you everything. I’ve ruined your life...” His eyes fell to the ground, unable to say more.

“None of that is true.” Ani’s voice was like steel, absolute and unwavering as it held Shouto’s heart in-tact. She gently lifted his chin, bringing their eyes to meet as she softly said “ruined my life? Today was nothing compared to what you’ve added to my life.

“I have felt more alive in these few short weeks knowing you than I have in my whole life...You’re the future I’ve been waiting for without realizing it...like my whole life brought me to you.” Her eyes shined at him. “And I accept whatever comes with that future.”

A pit hardened him Shouto’s stomach; he hoped she would never face anything worse. Her words made his heart swell and his spirit began to feel buoyant again. “I feel the same way. I want a future with you...and everything that comes with it.”

He pulled her to him, pressing his lips to hers and she kissed him back deeply, lovingly. When their lips parted Ani rested her head on Shouto’s chest and leaned into him. He wrapped his arms around her, finally feeling the darkness in his chest unwind.

After only a few minutes he felt the gradual release of Ani’s weight into his form. He held her as she fell deep asleep and was in no rush to let her go.

 

~

 

Dabi smashed another pallet in the dim warehouse. “That fucking rat bastard! We were SO close!”

Shigaraki watched in agitated amusement at the normally cocky criminal. “Couldn’t even get a...what did you call her? Frail little flower?” He scoffed. “Pathetic.”

Dabi ignored the pointed comment, still seething in the memory of that...that man...showing up at random. If he recognized Dabi, he didn’t show it. Of course. OF COURSE old pro hero Endeavor would be there. She was the girlfriend of his precious little chosen-son and would naturally be safe-guarded. Their source had been wrong. Alone and vulnerable? Please. Alone and vulnerable Dabi’s ass. They barely got out before Ground Zero arrived.

And OF COURSE that beautiful woman he had been eying for himself was with his brother. It was infuriating the day he saw them on the train together but it gave him a nasty idea. She would be a valuable hostage to use against the number two hero...and fun to play with in the meantime. Valuable to use to destroy his brother’s happiness, break him and chip away at the pedestal of pro-heroes.

Toga poked her head in through a glass-less window. “Is he done setting things on fire yet?”

“Yeah,” Twice said from the corner. “Just smashing things, now.”

Toga skipped into the grimy space, kicking leaves and dirt. “Oh ‘Raki!”

“I told you not to call me that,” Shigaraki said flatly.

“I bet Dabi-san didn’t even notice the most exciting, delicious thing yet about Ani-san!”

“Ani?” Dabi slowly turned to her. “How did you figure out her name?"

“It was on the mailboxes, duhhh.” Toga playfully stuck her tongue out at him. “And the exciting thing isn’t her name!” She squealed. “You know the healer? The fountain-of-youth we’ve been looking for?? I think it’s her!!”

Shigaraki slid down from his seat atop a massive wooden crate. “What?”

“Yeah,” Toga said with an unrestrained giggle. “I saw one of my first cuts on her—it healed like, almost instantly.” She clapped and twirled in a circle. “And the taste of her blood is SO good. SO unique! It’s like...nothing I’ve ever tasted and after I sampled it—” she held her arms out, sleeves rolled up “—all my scrapes healed. Like, so quickly I could WATCH!”

Shigaraki began scratching his throat. “She...was the...healer? How is that possible?”

“Well,” Toga squeezed her own cheeks as they flushed. “Dabi’s been watching her and she gets off the train at the stop for Dagoben General, right? She definitely didn’t seem like a fighter but she still knew simple things to make us hurt and slow us down while we were trying to kidnap her...so what if she was a nurse there? Makes sense right? Pro-heroes come in, drink a little of her blood and all their injuries go away!”

Dabi hated how much sense it made and rage began to build within him anew.

“And my-oh-my,” Toga crooned. “How much she loves that pro-hero. I could see it. I could SMELL it on her before I even tasted her blood but after drinking it,” she giggled “I could fall in love with Todoroki myself.”

Dabi roared and sent a column of blue flame up into the rafters scattering bats in a flee for their lives.

“Try to leave something left of this place. We’ll need somewhere to keep her once we get our hands on her again,” Kurogiri said from the corner.

Shigaraki’s manic laugh started. “This is better than I could have hoped. We’ll get a healer again, an advantage we haven’t had since the first nomu, and take the pro-heroes down a peg by getting our hands on one of theirs.” He cackled raucously and opened his arms to the dark night. “And we'll make sure she won’t get away next time!”

Dabi stared down at his hands. He already had his hands on her and was overcome with addiction. He needed more. He would have his hands on her again. And the handy freak show was right. The next time, she wouldn’t get away.

Chapter Text

Shouto was gently pulled out of sleep by the sound of his phone. When he realized it wasn’t his alarm but a phone call, his eyes flew open in a panic only to immediately see Ani’s sleeping face next to him. He huffed in relief and quietly slipped from their futon to answer in the hall.

It was the head of HR.

“Hello?” Shouto answered, concerned why they could be calling so early.

“Good morning Mr. Todoroki. I’m sorry to call you so early.”

“It’s okay. What’s the reason?” He asked, stifling a yawn.

“Something has come up in my personal life that I must attend to today. I will not be in until tomorrow and thus am amending Miss Shida’s first day on her contract to tomorrow. I will call her momentarily to inform her.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Shouto glanced at the closed bedroom door. “I will inform her myself.”

There was a beat of silence from the other end. “If you’d like. I...Mr. Todoroki, I am profoundly sorry to push back Miss Shida’s first day like this and apologize to you, as well, for any negative reflections this has on you and your agency.”

In truth, the HR director rarely took days off. They were one of the most reliable employees next to Dojire so Shouto didn’t mind. He was actually quite grateful Ani could have a day of rest after yesterday.

“All is forgiven,” Shouto assured.

“Thank you, sir. I will see you and Miss Shida tomorrow morning.”

“Yes. Thank you.” Shouto peeked in to see if the call had woken Ani but she was still sound asleep. She had shifted slightly to snuggle deep into Shouto’s pillow and it brought a smile to his face.

The smile stayed in place as Shouto went in search of food for himself and Ani when she woke. Coffee smell wafted down the hall, cautioning Shouto that someone else was awake. He was relieved to find Fuyumi sitting at the counter in the kitchen.

“Good morning,” he greeted her and she caught the unusual lift to his voice. Her eyes followed him as he moved through the kitchen, still smiling.

“Good morning, little brother.” It was heart-warming to see him in such a good mood. “I’m glad to see you’re still here. I thought you and Ani might have snuck out last night.”

Shouto shook his head as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Ani needed rest and she fell asleep after we talked last night.”

Fuyumi’s brow dipped. “Is everything okay?”

“Okay as it can be after what she went through.” He sat down to spend a few minutes with her before Ani woke up. "Thank you for coming here. I can't imagine what would have happened if you didn't"

“I'm glad you called me. I'm always here to help you, Shouto.” She watched her brother carefully. “How are you doing?”

His eyes hardened. “I’m...not sure.”

“What’s wrong?”

Shouto ran his hands through his hair, feeling the two different textures. “I’m angry.”

“With those criminals? The people who attacked Ani?”

He nodded. “And also our father.”

“Our father? Why?”

Shouto’s eyes glinted with hard anger. “He wasn’t there at Ani’s by chance yesterday. He went to interfere with my relationship.”

Fuyumi digested his point and drank her coffee. “I don’t know...maybe he just wanted to meet her.”

Shouto crossed his brawny arms. “I doubt it. Our father is incapable of human decency and lacks basic compassion.”

Fuyumi shrugged. “I don’t know, I think he likes her.”

Shouto eyed his sister flatly as if she’d gone mad. “What makes you think that?”

 


Fuyumi groggily shuffled out of her room and down the hall in desperate need of coffee. She had a hard time falling asleep as she thought about everything that happened. She yawned and moved on auto-pilot through her childhood home. She almost missed the gruff sound of her father’s voice from behind his closed office door.

“Yes, she was the same girl who was attacked.”

--The other person must have been talking and Fuyumi leaned closed, eavesdropping as if she was a little girl again.

“Yes, but I’m not sure how badly.”

--

“No, With her regeneration I’m sure she’s fine. Besides I didn’t want to risk walking into a trap!”

--

“Yes, she seemed fine but the irresponsible child will probably insist on coming in today to make a good impression.”

--

“No, you just need to postpone her start date.”

--

“I don’t care how! Just something unrelated and inconspicuous!”

--

--

“I couldn’t care less! I simply refuse to have a new clinic started at my family’s agency by a nurse who can’t think straight!” He barked “just get it done!”

Fuyumi heard her father slam his phone down and angrily drop into his chair. She rushed away from the closed door back on her mission to find coffee.

 

“Oh,” Fuyumi said with a smile at her secret. “Just a feeling."

Chapter Text

Ani woke up as Shouto slipped back into the room. She watched him turn around and pause.

“You’re awake,” he murmured and joined her on the floor, immediately sensing her distress. “What’s wrong?”

She closed her eyes and stifled the sobs that wracked through her body as tears unwillingly dripped to the pillow. Shouto went under the blankets and brought her to his chest as she cried.

“I just need a minute,” she croaked. “Then I can get up and get ready for work.”

Shouto was beyond relieved he could tell her “your first day has been officially rescheduled for tomorrow and—” he looked down to her red-streaked eyes as she pulled back “before you protest you need to know it’s not my doing. The director called, something personal came up and they needed the day off.”

Ani’s eyes roamed across him as she absorbed the information and relaxed. He welcomed her return to his body. She nuzzled against him, gently sobs silently shaking her. His spirit twisted in pain at her suffering and felt the vehement need to tear the city apart. He wanted to do whatever it took to help her heal. To help her feel safe.

Ani knew what she had to do once she could stop crying. She was going to ask Aino if she could stay with him while her apartment was being cleaned up and thought of all the things she needed to do as if they were simple home repairs. It was less distracting that way.

“Ani...” Shouto’s deep voice parted her thoughts. “Will you move in with me?”

“What?” She gasped against his body.

This time, Shouto didn’t let her pull back. He felt suddenly vulnerable which only made him embarrassed and more self-conscious. He couldn’t bring himself to see her face or reaction until he knew her answer.

“You can’t stay in your apartment. You need a place to live and it’s something I planned on asking you anyway. I want you to move in with me. It’s closer to the agency so you won’t have a long commute. And you’ll be safer in my building. Which will make me feel better when I have to go out to respond to incidents. I have plenty of space.” Oh god why was he rambling?! “You can have the guest room if you want, if you’re more uncomfortable with the idea of sharing my room.”

Ani lay still in his arms, breathing shallowly. “Are...you doing this because you feel guilty?”

Now he pulled back, needing her to see him. “No. Absolutely not. I want you to be safe but more than that...I want you to be with me. To live with me." His eyes were hard and deep as they bored into hers. "The thought of waking up next to you and seeing you every day after work gives me...I don’t even know how to say it...It brings color to my life...when I never realized everything was gray before.” He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, leaving a cold trail. “I love you. And I want however much of yourself you’re willing to share with me.”

There was such power and strength in his voice that Ani was convinced on the sound of it alone but the look in his eyes, the intensity of his two tones as they locked onto hers swept her completely away. She was gone. Long lost into the sea of her own feelings for him. And the way he looked at her now with the passion and certainty in his voice was like a hurricane, drawing up all of her own feelings into a storm threatening to blow her away.

She let her caution go in that wind.

“I want to live with you.” She gazed up at him. “I want you to have all of me.”

She slid her fingers up to his neck and gently brought their lips together, soft skin touching lightly at first until a fire lit in her core and she pressed into his lips. He deeply kissed her back. She accepted his warm, wet tongue to wrestle with her own and dominate her mouth breaking only to lift her shirt up over her head. She pulled him back down on top of her and he straddled her hips, leaning back to take off his own shirt then return to feverishly reclaim her mouth. They kept their relentless attack of each other’s lips and Ani opened Shouto’s zipper as he pushed her sweat pants down.

All he had been able to think about all night was how close she had come to being kidnapped. He couldn’t lose her. He wanted her, needed her, more than anything else.

They chased the kiss around as they each maneuvered out of their pants. Shouto was already fully erect and settled his boxer-brief-covered waist between Ani’s legs. Within moments he felt dampness soaking through the fabric and reached down, eyes opening in shock as he discovered Ani had already stipped her underwear off, too. She laid beneath him completely naked, wet with her evident arousal for him and breasts squished against the smooth, strong planes of his chest. He smiled into their kiss, completely taken and swept away by the girl beneath him. He hesitated no longer.

He pushed down his own boxer-briefs, Ani helping him get them off with as much eager need as he, and still their lips stayed connected. The moment he was naked he positioned himself, head lined up at the silky wet of her entrance, and pulled back only for a moment to look at her.

She smiled, nodded, and pulled him back to her lips.

He eased his way into her, his dick parting her warm, wet folds with a delicious pressure. She pulled back from their kiss to catch her breath as his massive erection pressed into her aching, ready-but-tight cunt. He paused, giving her a moment to adjust to him and to keep himself from ramming into her. She kissed him a few times and held his face gently tracing his jaw and nodded again, wanting him to move.

He pushed farther, squeezed by the sopping walls and watched in concern as her eyes rolled back, closing. Her hands slid down his muscled body and grabbed his firm ass to fully sheath him inside of her with one fluid push. They both groaned at the sudden intrusion. Shouto from being so surrounded, Ani from being so filled.

He lifted an eyebrow at her. “Impatient?” he cheekily asked.

Ani bit her lip as she tried not to smile and pink tinted her cheeks. “Yeah, a little.”

He grinned his full smile and took her breath away. He wanted to take his time with her but the need to take her, to claim her, entirely as his own was far too strong.

She was his girlfriend.

She was going to work for him.

She was going to live with him.

His heart was as surrounded by her as his cock and he couldn’t wait anymore. He pulled out and slammed back into her, ramming so deep he hit her cervix. She moaned and he caught the sound with his mouth to keep her quiet. He didn’t want her to be embarrassed later.

He would make her scream his name. Later at their apartment. And maybe in his office. The new clinic, too, once it was finished.

The thought of having her any way he wanted and all the possibilities made his subconscious run wild as he savored the taste and sound and feeling of the woman beneath him, fueling his hips as they pumped his dick in and out of her. He slipped out and felt pulled back in by the suction of her. He slid an arm under her back to bring her closer to him as he braced himself on his other arm. She arched her back in response, dragging her nipples against his skin. It made her moan into his mouth and his hips snapped a deep thrust. Her pelvis stretched, too, and tightened the muscles around her clit as Shouto thrusted and hit a new angle.

Her hands flew to his face, whining around his tongue as he retraced that stroke. Her breaths began to match his pace and he pumped harder, pumped faster, following the same path that hit deep in her cervix and that bundle of nerves. Her legs folded and gave him deeper access as she continued moaning, whimpering into his mouth. His abs flexed, muscles working as he kept up the relentless pounding. Over and over and over. Thrusting vigorously into her until she was grasping for his shoulders and moaning into his kiss as the wire snapped and her orgasm shot across her body like lightning.

She mewled a muffled cry into his mouth and clutched at him, a rock in rough sea, as her orgasm gushed and clenched down around his cock. He groaned, echoing her cry with a deep sound of his own climax. He came hard and fast in response to her, her walls milking his member as he shot hot, thick ropes of cum deep inside of her, filling her up and marking her with the most primal claim he could make.

He kept pumping, riding out the orgasm, and each thrust grew slower and more subdued as they floated back down to themselves. Shouto gave her mouth one last sweep with his tongue as he withdrew and rested his head next to hers on the pillow. Their ragged breaths were the only sound as he lay there still fully sheathed inside of her.

She wrapped her arms around him and whispered “I love you, Sho.”

Shouto smiled into her messy hair, thinking about how he wanted to hear her say his name like that forever. “I love you, Ani.”

She turned her head to look at him. “Can we please shower together now?”

He smirked. “I guess we’ve already had sex in my old room. A shower isn’t any worse.”

Ani’s eyes popped open and her face turned crimson.

“What?” Shouto asked with a cocked eyebrow.

“I forgot we were in your family’s house!”

Shouto smirked. He couldn’t help feeling a little smug from that. “Come on,” he said pulling out and picking her up bridal-style from the ground. She squeaked and clung to him as cold air swirled around her suddenly empty entrance. He laughed once at her cute reaction and warmed her back against his left side as he carried her into the bathroom.

Chapter Text

Shouto didn’t have Ani’s helmet so Fuyumi offered to drive her brother’s girlfriend back to his apartment. They easily chatted as Shouto followed them. Fuyumi told Ani what it was like growing up under their father’s oppressive rule and a few of the things Shouto had been through. Ani didn’t pry, she wasn’t interested in digging to get more information from Fuyumi because she wanted to know what Shouto was ready to share, when he was ready.

Fuyumi told Ani about her three sons and husband. Ani talked about her late parents and older brother, what the ER had been like until Shouto’s building came into view.

Fuyumi clicked her tongue. “He took the sign down.”

“What sign?” Ani looked around trying to imagine what could have been where.

“The Todoroki Towers sign.” Fuyumi laughed. “It’s not like no one knows what it is.”

Ani’s brow furrowed. “...Todoroki...Towers...?”

“Yeah,” Fuyumi laughed again. “Maybe he finally became a bit more humble about it.”

“Why?” Ani turned to Fuyumi. “Did the other tenants complain?”

Fuyumi gave Ani a curious glance as she parked. “What other tenants?”

Ani blinked flatly at Fuyumi.

Um...whawaat....?

Fuyumi’s eyebrows lifted at Ani’s reaction. “You...didn’t know?”

Shouto pulled in next to them and Ani scanned the other parked vehicles suddenly understanding that they were all Shouto’s. The whole building and everything in it belonged to him. She tried not to hyperventilate.

No wonder Endeavor thought she was a gold-digger.

“Oh, wow, Ani, I’m—oh shit, here comes my brother—hey!” She said opening the door and standing up out of the car. She tried catching Shouto’s attention to warn him but Ani climbed out and her shell-shocked expression took all of his attention.

“Ani, what’s wrong?” He worried she changed her mind about moving in.

“You-” she cleared her hoarse voice “-you own the whole building?”

He nodded sheepishly.

“And...you’re the only one who lives here?”

“Well...now you, too, hopefully...”

Ani’s heart was racing. This man before her must have had unimaginable wealth. Like mind-blowing, no-way-she-could-ever-be-seen-as-his-equal kind of wealth. It was overwhelming. Why did he want to be with her?!

She began to feel light-headed. “Y-yeah, I do...”

“But?” He asked at her hesitation.

It felt like a cruel joke. That this rich, strong, caring, fucking sexy-ass pro hero could be in love with her.

“I’m kind of waiting to wake up...because this just seems like a dream...” Ani said. Shouto let out a laugh and it made Fuyumi gape. Ani’s tension eased. She gave him a playful glower and said “how could that be so funny?”

“I don’t know,” he said and pulled her in for a hug. He kissed the top of Ani’s head and Fuyumi’s heart bloomed. She’d never seen her younger brother like this before. She smiled warmly and went back to her car.

“Hey, heading out?” Shouto asked when she opened her car door.

“Yeah,” she said smiling at them. "You guys need some alone time together."

“Will you visit again soon?” Ani asked from her spot in Shouto’s embrace.

Fuyumi nodded. “I look forward to it.”

Ani and Shouto waved as she got into her car and drove out. Shouto hugged her tightly again and pulled away enough to look at her. “Well,” Shouto said, pressing her against him. “Would you like to come upstairs to our apartment?”

Ani rolled her eyes. “I haven’t even moved in yet...I don’t think it counts.”

“Would you feel better about it if we go get your things?” Fear passed over Ani’s face, draining it of color and he added “I’ll be with you the whole time. I won’t leave your side.” He brushed her hair back. “You will be safe.”

The thought of going back so soon made her skin prickle, dewy with the sweat of fear. But she needed her clothes and whatever other few, measly possessions she still had. She nodded nervously. “Okay.”

“Are you sure? We don’t have to right now.” He rand his hands down to her hips. There was no point in hiding his wealth now. “Or ever again, really. We can buy you a whole new wardrobe.”

Her eyes bulged and she gaped at him. “Wh-what?! No! I don’t want you spending money on me like that! There’s no reason for it!” She swallowed thickly. “I can do this.”

Shouto wasn’t so sure but he had put the idea out there so he would see it through and take care of her. He chose an SUV to bring her across the city and held her hand the whole way there. It trembled as they came through her neighborhood.

“Ani...” Shouto said over the soft radio sounds. “We don’t have to do this.”

“As long as you’re by my side...I can do anything,” Ani whispered. She was going to be working with the pros; she needed to learn how to comeback from something like this. Shouto respected her strength and set aside the concerned words surfacing in his mind as they drove over the scorched pavement. Ani stared. It was the first time she saw the damage outside. They pulled in and parked.

Ani drew in a deep breath and murmured “I won’t let them take my home from me.” It was a verbal sentiment said mainly for herself but Shouto heard it and it echoed inside of him.

He felt the same way.

They waited until another resident finished crossing the parking lot and then got out. Ani didn’t want to have to talk to anyone today; this would be hard enough as it was. She found herself on her own doorstep. There were no signs of damage here. Aside from the police notices, it looked like it always did. Shouto waited patiently behind her, prepared to wait as long as she needed until she pulled out her keys. She unlocked the door and paused to gather strength. Gently she eased it open with a familiar creaking sound and that was the last familiar thing.

A tremor rolled through her as her teary eyes surveyed the carnage. Burns, debris, glass. It was once her cherished home but now...it felt like nothing. Now that she was here, she just wanted to get her stuff and get out. All her courage was evaporating.

“C’mon.” She grabbed Shouto’s hand and they went in together. Shouto looked over the damage again and he felt the sadness flowing from Ani. He helped her stuff all of her clothes into her two suitcases as she tried not to look at the massive blood stain. Her hands, her whole body was shaking as the violent sounds reverberated in her memory.

The sounds of her world being destroyed, strangers growling, attacking her. Their awful voices in her head growing so loudly she was sobbing. Shouto’s heart broke for her. He wrapped her against him and he let her bury herself into his chest. He felt more and more anger building in his veins as he stared at the blood they spilled.

They would pay for this.

Ani was still crying when she said “I don’t want to be here any longer.”

“I understand,” he said and lifted her suitcases. She threw toiletries from her bathroom into a duffel bag and shoved whatever books were undamaged on top. They were approaching the door when Ani said “wait!”

She rushed back to her room and Shouto watched her run to her bed. She pulled something out from under her pillow and returned to his side with a rich color to her face. It was his shirt. The one he wrapped around her to keep her warm during their picnic. She held it to her chest almost guiltily. Shout’s mouth twitched and he restrained a smile. He was inexplicably happy to see she still treasured it and never wanted her to feel badly about it. He set her suitcases down and slipped the duffel bag off her shoulder. She let him take the shirt from her arms and looked up adoringly at him when he draped it over her shoulder.

“I love you, Ani,” he said.

“I love you, too, Sho.” She nuzzled the fabric against her face. He tried to pick up the duffel bag but she quickly sleeved her arms and took it back, refusing to let him carry everything.

She looked back once more across her apartment, not knowing when or how she was going to fix all of it. With a glance at the red-white head waiting for her in the hall she realized she didn't care. She closed and locked the door without a second thought.

Chapter Text

Bakugo had night patrols. He usually didn’t mind but the sidekick with him tonight was being so fucking annoying. He wouldn’t fucking shut up about his stupid weight training or something. Bakugo didn’t give a shit right now. And when his phone dinged he tuned the sidekick out completely.

 

Hey, Bakugo? This is Ani. I got your number from Shouto...I hope that’s okay.

 

His heart pounded. His pulse throbbed. “Oi, take some solo time and meet back at the office,” he said and without waiting for an answer he launched himself into the air, landing on a rooftop in a different part of the neighborhood.

 

What’s up beauti—shit what was he thinking?! What’s up goldilocks?

 

I wanted to say thank you. Shouto told me that you came to my apartment yesterday to help me. So...thank you!

 

He stared at his phone. He was shocked; the damn icy-hot bastard could have just lied! Or just not told her at all... Yeah...whatever...you’re welcome

 

Seriously, I know you hate me so it means a lot that you would come save me despite how you feel

 

I told you, I don’t hate you.

 

Haha, okay...however you feel, then

 

Bakugo swung his feet as they dangled from the edge of the roof where he sat. How are you feeling?

 

He waited but her response was taking longer. He kept waiting. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck. Why did he ask that?! She was probably laughing at him with icy-hot! He shouldn’t have asked. He does NOT care about her.

 

Much better, thanks! Sorry for taking so long to respond, I’m just finishing unpacking

 

The relief he felt was unpalatable. He felt disgusted with himself as he couldn’t help respond. Unpacking?

 

Yeah...I’m unpacking my stuff at Shouto’s place. He says hi, btw

 

Bakugo’s fist clenched around his phone and the case protested the pressure. He huffed out of his nostrils and tried to stay cool. She just gave him her number. If he wanted to keep talking to her at all he knew he had to stay cool.
Oh. Hey. Why are you staying there?

 

Lol, did you sseeee my apartment yesterday? I can’t stay there...

 

Right. That massive fucking blood stain. Yeah...but why are you staying with him. Isn’t your brother a surgeon or something? He should have plenty of space

 

I almost stayed with him but Shouto’s apartment is closer to his agency. I’m starting my new job there tomorrow!!

 

Staying cool was getting harder and harder now. Are you going to go back to your apartment when it’s fixed?

 

Maybe. I don’t know. There’s a lot to fix.

 

Bakugo turned his face up to the night sky and what few, but dazzling stars were visible as he felt the gentle night breeze.

He sent himself off with a few small explosions and launched the extra block to her building and landed on her balcony. Glass crunched under his feet.

The curtains swayed in the dismal night light as he let himself in between the lines of police tape. He couldn’t believe himself. He was here...filled with anger and remorse that this happened, that it drove her away from his neighborhood. He hated how he wanted her to come back. Because if she was here, if she was closer, maybe he had a chance. A chance at crossing her path again, a chance at seeing her...getting to know her as she got to know him...

For fuck’s sake. Just how far gone was he?!

Chapter Text

Ani was nearly skipping into the Todoroki Agency with excitement and Shouto watched her from the corner of his eye with a smirk. He enjoyed the ride in to work with her much more than he thought he would have, her quiet but fizzling energy lighting up the morning along the way.

The director of HR was there and apologized sincerely for missing Ani’s first day; she assured them it wasn’t a problem.

They walked Ani and Shouto through a space on the third floor that was already being cleared to create the clinic. Ani helped outline needs and the floor plan to accommodate space enough for five beds, an office, a generous supply closet, and a small, emergency operating room which she insisted she didn’t need. Shouto insisted she did.

By the end of the first day the design was complete, the space was cleared, and construction had begun.

“Are they going to work here all night?” Ani asked as they left. She remembered the demands of a night shift and felt guilty seeing it put on other workers.

Shouto nodded without a hesitation. “Yes. Construction is to be done by the end of the week.”

Ani’s mouth dropped. “Sho, that’s...” her forehead wrinkled with concern.

He paused on the walk to cup her face and reassure her “I have patrols going around the clock and one of my team could be hurt at any moment so there’s no reason to delay in getting the clinic established.” He searched her eyes. “The workers are being compensated generously for the demanding schedule, if that’s your concern.”

She smirked, wondering how he was getting to know her so well. “Good. I remember how awful night shifts used to be." His expression hardened and her brow furrowed in worry. “What’s wrong?”

He stared into her eyes for a moment. “I’m glad you’re here, Ani.”

“I’m glad to be here,” she said and leaned into the hand still gently pressed against her cheek. She waited, sensing there was more he wanted to ask.

“Would you...come to the hospital with me and have dinner with my mother?”

Ani’s eyes widened. “You...you want me to meet her?”

“Yes.” Shouto’s two-toned eyes bore down into hers, glowing in the dim light of the evening. “She wants to meet you, too.”

Ani took a breath, not needing any longer to consider it. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

His eyes flickered with disbelief. “Really?”

“Yes, definitely.” Ani nodded more confidently. “We can stop and get her favorite take-out on the way.”

Shouto stared at her with wide, glowing eyes and a heart full of appreciation for her. She was willing to do this, even after meeting his father.

“Why do you look so shocked?” She asked him.

“I didn’t think you’d be up for it after meeting Endeavor.”

Ani laughed. “That’s why?” She rested her head against his chest. “Endeavor doesn’t worry me.”

“Does my mother?”

“Yes,” admitted Ani. “I know how much she means to you and how important her opinion is going to be.”

 


Rei saw the things only a mother sees, even a distant mother like herself. “It’s alright...” She watched him searching for words. “This is no ordinary visit...is it, my son?”

He swallowed thickly and shook his head, unable to figure out how to start.

“Well...very few things have ever made you this flustered.” Rei smiled warmly. “What’s her name?”

“Her name is Shida Ani,” Shouto said as a smile teased the corners of his lips. “She’s a nurse.”

“How did you meet?” Rei asked, smiling in the warmth of her son’s timid happiness.

“She saved my life.” Shouto looked at his hands folded together. “Twice.”

“Wow.” Rei weighed her son’s words. “Was that when you were in the hospital recently?”

“Yes.” His eyes drifted to the window. “She fought against my quirk to save me when I first went into the ER and then saved me again when the doctors couldn’t...she gave up everything to save my life.”

“What do you mean?”

“She didn’t want the hospital to find out what she could do. She never wanted anyone to know because she didn’t want to be taken advantage of.” He looked at his mother. “She has as much drive and passion for helping others as Midoriya, she just doesn’t want to be known for it.”

“What does she want?”

He smiled, recalling their first night in her apartment together. “She wants to use her quirk to save others.”

“So what has you so flustered about her?”

“I feel like I’m not myself. I can’t focus on work or patrolling when I’m apart from her. I want to spend all of my time with her, to be with her as much as she’ll let me. I think about her all the time. I...I think I’m in love with her.”

Rei watched her son closely, listening intently. “You think?...Are you unsure?”

“No.” His eyes met his mothers. “I’m sure. I love her.”

“Then what is it?” Her eyes softened. “What’s bothering you?”

“Isn’t this too quick?” He searched her expression with a serious concern. “It’s like everything in my life has shifted so drastically after knowing her for such a short time. It’s reckless.”

“It’s love,” Rei said softly. Shouto looked to her and she saw a ghost of her young son, a lost boy who never learned what love really meant or felt like. “It won’t make sense. It will change everything about you...and that’s okay. As long as you are happy, as long as being with her is what you want you don’t need to make sense of it.

“Some people are together for a few weeks and know they’re each other’s future and spend the rest of their lives together. Some people date for years then get married and can’t stand it and get divorced. Some people have arranged marriages that don’t work and others have the most loving relationship out of an arranged marriage. There is no formula my son.

“As long as you are happy, as long as you’re following your heart, I won’t judge you. You have always had a clear sense of what you want and a pure heart. If you’ve found a partner in this girl, I’m sure she is undoubtedly someone special, someone worthy of your love.”

“Without a doubt,” he said and smiled softly, eyes falling back to his own hands. His mother gently touched his chin, tilting his face back up.

“Then don’t hesitate, my son.” She smiled. “Love her with everything you have and I will, too.”

 

Shouto smiled into her hair, not wanting her to see. “I’m not worried at all.”

 

~

 

Ani began to fall asleep on the ride home. Shouto smiled, incredibly grateful for her in every way. He pulled into his building as quietly as possible and she didn’t stir as he parked. He lifted her carefully from the car and she sighed, still asleep, as she settled against his chest in his arms. He couldn’t take his eyes from her peaceful face as he brought her upstairs. A light smile teased the corners of her lips and he felt his heart thump harder with each passing moment.

He carried her through the doorway and managed to slip her shoes off without waking her. Crossing his—now their apartment—he laid her down in their bed. His hands traced soft, smooth skin of her legs as he tucked her in and he was brought back to the first night he met her.

His heart ripened with the memory and he sat down next to her sleeping form watching her comfortably adjust into the bed. He sat there for a few long moments reflecting on how lucky he was in every way. Lucky she had been working that night. Lucky she had been willing to save his life. And then lucky enough that she cared to save him again. He didn’t know what to expect when Aino brought him to her apartment, what his savior would be like and she surpassed his imagination in every way.

And after everything she had done for him, she was still saving him. Warming his world with her love, strengthening his agency with her hard work, and filling in the gaps of his life he never noticed before.

He brushed a few stray hairs out of her face, tucking them behind her ear. There was so much he wanted to say to her, to give to her but he didn’t know how.

“You’ve saved me so many times, Ani...” he whispered, his voice gruff and deep. “How am I ever going to repay you?”

“Love me,” she whispered back, eyes still closed. His heart skipped a beat in surprise; he didn’t expect her to hear him. She found his hand with hers and intertwined their fingers. “Love me.”

If there was one thing he knew he could promise, it was this. “I will.”

She clutched his hand, pulling it close to her smiling face and nuzzled it with her eyes still closed.

Deep, explosive love burned into his whole being and he laid down next to her, letting her keep his hand as she slept.

He left a light kiss on her temple. “Forever,” he whispered and closed his eyes, slipping asleep.

Chapter Text

Ani woke with a deep yawn as the sun was rising. She found Shouto sleeping next to her, both of them still in their clothes, his face slack with the depth of his slumber. Their hands remained held through the night and Ani couldn’t bring herself to part from him. She snuggled closer admiring the handsome strength in his features. She lightly brushed hair from his forehead but he stirred at her touch and her fingers retreated. His eyes sleepily parted and found hers guiltily avoiding his.

“I’m sorry for waking you,” she whispered. “Go back to sleep, there’s still plenty of time before we have to get up.”

His eyes focused on her as his body responded to her voice. With his free hand he cupped her face and ran his thumb over her lips. Color faintly dusted her cheeks at his touch and the moment he saw it he knew he wasn’t going back to sleep. He pulled them together replacing his thumb with his lips and his whole body responded, awaking fully to the way she kissed him back.

He pulled her on top of him so she was straddling his hips with her sleepy weight. His tongue traced the lines of her plump lips and teased for permission to enter. She hesitantly parted for him, worried he would be repelled by her morning state but he vigorously claimed her mouth and her worries were long forgotten as she felt her own erogenous zones sparkle from his enthusiasm.

She felt him harden under her as she straddled him and her parts began to heat with need. She sat up to quickly lift her shirt over her head and he yanked his own off, bare chest waiting for her as she returned to his mouth. His hands flew to her back and wasted no time in undoing her bra, straps falling limp to his own body. Ani helped him remove the undergarment without losing the connection at their lips and whimpered. Her nipples were already hard and sensitive as they pressed into the planks of Shouto’s muscled chest. She ground her nips against him, his body warming one and cooling the other as she rubbed the sensitive tits into his skin.

A small line of drool dripped down Shouto’s cheek as she salivated in response to the stimulation and Shouto was hungry for more of her body’s reactions. He pushed her pants down with a hard need to make her cum. She willingly shifted, allowing him to fully strip her and helped unclothe his dick. She licked her lips hungrily, wanting to taste him. He growled, strongly resisting the urge to fuck her face to instead watch her ride him to orgasm in the early morning.

He pulled her back to him before she could get her mouth on his cock and brought their lips together. She straddled him again, his head teasing her entrance. He effortlessly lifted her waist and lined himself up but, before he could ease himself in, she slammed herself down, impaling herself on him in one smooth swipe and threw her head back releasing a moan from deep in her body. Shouto’s eyes rolled back in his head at the sudden feeling of her wet, tight cunt squeezing him and they both took a moment to savor the feeling. When he opened his eyes, he found her eyes pressed tightly shut, chest heaving breaths through a mouth parted in pleasure. Her pale skin was flushed, hair unruly from sleep and he possessively marveled at the woman mounted on top of him.

His own breath became deep as he rolled his hips, thrusting up into her. She braced herself on his chest moaning with the movement. A dark greed over took him as he thrusted again, slightly harder, and she clenched her eyes shut, fingertips digging into his chest. His hands slowly traced up the side of her thighs, leaving trails of heat and frost along her skin as he began to rock his hips steadily setting a torturously slow pace that made her moan with every joust of his meaty length into her cervix.

“Mnn, Sho,” she whimpered, moaning in rhythm with his motion as her arousal flowed down his member soaking his pelvis and thighs. He stared at her face gearing up to fuck her hard. He wanted her eyes to open so he could watch her come undone from the depths of her being. He gradually made each thrust faster, each thrust deeper and her cries began to blend together into one long, sensual sound that he pumped out of her.

She was practically falling apart, a slur of groans and cries mingled with his name pouring out as he fucked up into her with a relentless pounding. She felt him slamming away at her pussy so hard her breasts bounced; the perky mounds springing up and down as he no longer held back. She was his.

He felt her walls clenching down with feral strength, gushing fluids as a powerful surge of sensation built in her clit. She cried out, the sound building as he shifted his warm hand, adding a thumb to the bundle of nerves to send her over the edge.

He rubbed with the hot digit and heard her gasping for breath.

“Oh, SHOUTOO!” She shouted, nearly screamed his name, and her eyes flew open to meet his iridescent irises boring up into hers with a primeval intensity that told her this morning wasn’t over yet.

He kept his relentless pounding up into her sopping, spasming cavern and watched in satisfaction as her skin glistened, the way her entire body was flushed, color surfacing across her skin as he aggressively pursued a second climax from her. He replaced his hot thumb with the contrasting digit and sent a shock of cold into her nerves.

Now she screamed.

“AHH— ” her hands flew to her own chest as her nipples hardened painfully and her second orgasm struck her like lightning. “SHOUTOO!”

Frigid cold lightning. It spread like an icy fire through every nerve of her body leaving her muscles limp in its wake as Shouto’s warm seed filled her cunt. His hands snaked up her back and he quickly sat up, despite his own draining finish, to hold her tired form. Her eyes slowly opened and closed. He cupped her face with his right hand and gradually lowered the temperature of his skin to cool her overheating body down enough so she could catch her breath.

She rested her head on his shoulder, sagging against his rugged body.

“You’re amazing,” he whispered and kissed her exposed neck.

She laughed breathlessly. “Says the paragon of morning sex.”

He smirked with immense satisfaction at the way the morning had gone. He could wake up like this every day. A new curiosity formed in his mind: what was her limit? How many times could she finish in one session? He was glad she couldn’t see him as he filed that one away for another time.

“Can I take you out for breakfast?" He asked. He brushed hair from the sweat of her back as she shook her head.

“No...” She murmured against his body. Almost too quiet for him to hear she added “I don’t want to share you.”

He knew that feeling well. “I’ll cook for you then.”

“Mm, that would be amazing,” she said and noticed the state of his loins. “I think a shower is needed first.”

“Of course,” he said. The deep timbre of his voice resonated through her. She leaned back and looked at him hopefully. He raised an eyebrow at her. “Together?”

She smiled sheepishly and nodded.

“Why do you like it so much?” He asked as he shuffled them to the edge of the bed. He held her in place, refusing to let her dismount when she tried to get off of him.

“I love the water,” she admitted. “It’s so soothing and relaxing...It's nice to share that space with you.”

“I understand that.” He pulled out with a sinful squelch of her wet folds and carried her across the room with her legs still wrapped around him. He caught the look in her eye. “Why else?”

She blushed, deeply. “Well...” she couldn’t meet his gaze. “I might have a slight...little...temperature kink.” Slowly she raised her eyes to his. “Which I've only recently discovered."

His own face flushed with the admission. He would’ve fucked her in that moment if he hadn’t already taken her this morning. God she was perfect for him. The two tones of his eyes churned as they scoured the deep blue of her own. She pecked his lips with a simple kiss.

“I love you, Sho,” she said as he lifted her off of his lips and she stood with him in the massive, stone-walled shower.

“I love you, too, Ani.” He drew her into his body for another kiss that made his cock twitch. He held her against him as she looked up into his eyes and he asked “how would you like the water this morning?”

 

 

Ani sat at the table on her new work lap-top while Shouto scrolled through work on his own tablet. Their empty plates of food sat off to the side and coffee mugs emptied to the dregs.

Shouto caught Ani watching him and she smiled at being caught. He lowered his tablet. “What?”

Her smile spread wider and her eyes shimmered. “I’m really happy to be here. With you. With your agency.”

He felt a corner of his mouth pull up. “Me, too.”

Chapter Text

Ani used her second day in the office to meet more of the administrative and support staff who worked for Shouto. She met more of his sidekick heroes who were on duty and formed an outline of what her physicals would need to cover.

Construction was well underway and she made sure to visit and express her appreciation for their hard work. Excitement prickled her skin as she made her way up to Shouto’s office at the end of the day. She couldn’t believe she was going to be running her own clinic! She was more excited than she expected and happiest of all that it was going to be here, for Shouto.

Dojire was working at his desk when the elevator opened; he stood when she stepped out and she encouraged him it wasn’t necessary to stop working. She asked if Shouto was busy.

“He’s on a call right now,” Dojire informed her, still standing. “Can I get you something to drink?”

Ani shook her head. “No, thank you.” She glanced at Sho’s door. “Do you know how long he’ll be?”

“Hm,” Dojire glanced, too. “It’s probably going to be a while. You’re welcome to wait here if you’d like.”

“Thank you, Dojire.” She smiled gratefully. “But I don’t want to be a distraction for you if I’m here and I have a feeling you won’t be able to ignore me to work.”

He nodded sheepishly. “It would be wrong of me, Miss Shida, as my boss’s girlfriend. And as an important member of our staff now.”

“I understand. Will you please let me know when he’s done with his call?”

“Of course, Miss,” he assured her as she went back to the elevator.

Ani took the time to wander through the building and familiarize herself with everything in greater detail. And there was a lot she hadn’t seen during her first visit or her first day. She found herself on the floor right beneath Shouto’s and discovered the Todoroki agency had a library. She combed through the shelves quickly noticing they were all related to serving in the agency in some form. Quirk law, hero history, physical training and fitness and many more topics filled out rows and rows of the serene floor. Tables and chairs were arranged in various pockets throughout the space. Ani found an entire area of plushy, comfortable chairs and she gasped. They faced a wall of windows that overlooked the city with a view that rivaled Shouto’s office. She smiled from ear-to-ear with bright shining eyes as she stood right at the glass and took in all the details of a bustling Dagoben laid out before her. She didn’t know how long she stood there before she felt she was no longer alone. She turned around and almost jumped.

Shouto was leaning against the end of the closest book shelf with his arms crossed, watching her with glowing eyes.

“I thought I might find you here,” he said.

“Hi,” she said, blushing, as he pushed off the shelf. She tucked her hands behind her back. He prowled forward in the quiet of the library. “I-I thought Dojire was going to tell me when you were done.”

The intensity in his stare was enough to make her blush and back up, bumping into the glass. He rested his forearm on the glass next to her head and she bit her lip, feeling like a high-schooler talking to her crush for the first time.

“I wanted to find you myself,” he said simply, tracing the outline of her jaw. He tilted her chin up to him as she looked up from under her eyelashes.

“Oh, well...” she smirked up at him. “You found me.”

“So I did,” he whispered as he leaned closer to her lip and his breath breezed across them with a tingle. He gazed so intently into her eyes that it made her heart pound. She tried to close the distance but he pulled back too quickly for her to make contact. "Miss Shida, that's very unprofessional behavior for this office."

She pouted playfully and narrowed her eyes at him. “Then report me to my boss.” She tried to step around him but he grabbed her hips and whipped them around. He turned them both with such force that she fell against him, pressing him into the glass.

Shouto’s expression smoothed over, he was done playing this game. “I’m sorry I missed you,” he said as he kept her pressed against him and he brushed her long hair behind her ear.

“It’s okay, Sho,” she smiled reassuringly. “I know you have to work. Besides...I get to go home with you...how could I be upset?” She felt the minuscule wave of relief ripple through him and his eyes relaxed.

“What do you want to do tonight?” he asked with a youthful excitement fizzing in his chest.

She pressed her lips in a tight line, trying not to smile as she quietly answered “you.”

“Oh,” his eyes widened a fraction with innocent surprise. The corners of his mouth pulled back in delight. “Sounds good to me.”

Ani bit her lip but couldn’t stop them from spreading into a wide grin as she blushed. Screw cooking tonight. They would grab something on their way home. There were better things to do with their time.

 

 

Ani lifted herself onto the counter as Shouto pulled out the pints of ice-cream. He snickered as he noticed the flavors she picked.

“Okay...did you read these flavors?” He asked and she ginned. “Mint Chocolate Deku? Ground Zero Cinnamon Bun?” That one made Ani laugh out loud.

“I did! I couldn’t resist!” She covered her mouth laughing harder.

“Ochacolate?” Shouto couldn’t help but smirk at her as he pulled out the last two. “Strawberry...Shouto?”

She snatched the last one out of his hands and he looked at her, surprised by her speed.

“This one’s for me!” She said with a playful, defensive challenge in her voice.

“What?” He said with a creased brow. “It literally has my name on it.” She hopped down from the counter and ran around the island. “Hey!” He said with a grin as he chased her around the corner.

She laughed, squealing as he caught up to her before she could make it all the way around the island once.

He grabbed her, yanking her back to his chest as he closed his arms around her in a trap. She was laughing hysterically now, giggling as she squirmed in his arms trying to keep him from getting the pint. His brawny arms and hands were too strong against her and he overpowered her quickly.

“Okay! Okay! I’ll share!” She said, gasping for air between laughs. He stopped reaching for the ice-cream and settled into the embrace. He nuzzled her neck.

“You never have to share me,” he whispered and kissed her cheek. She turned and caught his lips before he could retreat and he tightened his hug of her. She smiled and rotated, setting the pint down, to lift her arms over his shoulders.

“I love you, Todoroki Shouto,” she said as she played with the base of his hairline.

He hummed, enjoying the touch. “I love you, Shida Ani.”

They both glanced at the ice-cream pints spread across the counter and looked back to each other.

“A little of each?” Ani asked him in compromise.

He smirked. “Sure.”

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the day on Friday Ani stood in the clinic with her jaw dropped in awe at the light blue painted walls. Electrical, plumbing, supply lines, everything had been finished in less than a week.

Shouto stood next to her surveying the work with an approving expression. “It looks good,” he offered.

“It’s amazing,” Ani said breathlessly looking around.

With his hands in his pockets he turned to her. “How are you feeling about this?”

She faced him with an incredulous smile. “I can’t believe it. I’m...I’m blown away that it was done this quickly.”

“In...a good way?” He asked, a momentary flicker of worry flashing in his eyes.

“Yes," she nodded. "I feel like I’m waiting to wake up from a dream again. I’m so excited.” Ani saw the smile in his eyes though he tried to hide it.

Shouto was happy. He admitted only to himself that he was nervous she would be scared off as the clinic became more real. Her enthusiasm to be here reinforced his own happiness and enthusiasm. Ani’s phone rang from her pocket and she stepped away, pulling it out and answering.

She paused, listening to the caller with small responses like “oh,” “wow,” “okay.” Shouto stopped surveying the project to watch her expressions. She was alert but not alarmed.

“Okay, thank you,” said Ani and she hung up the phone, turning to Shouto. “That was my landlord.”

“What did they say?” Shouto asked, heart feeling squeezed from the unknown.

Ani’s brow furrowed. “Someone...someone’s paying for my apartment to be remodeled.”

“Oh,” he forced out as his throat tightened. “Wow,” he cleared his throat, feeling like he was being suffocated. What did this mean? Was she going to move out now that her apartment was back to normal?! “That’s...really generous.”

“It’s really annoying,” Ani growled. Her tone made Shouto’s concerned thoughts pause.

“Why?” He asked, watching her face closely.

Ani huffed. “Because Aino told me he didn’t care where I lived as long as I was safe!”

“Aino?” He asked, heart throbbing at every word she said.

“Yes.” She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at her absent sibling. “He’s the only one capable of doing something so overly generous, so selfless, trying to guilt trip me back into my apartment.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Who knows.” Ani rubbed her temples. “I told him I didn’t want to live there anymore, even if it was fixed up but he can be so...”

“Domineering?” Shouto offered.

Ani snapped and turned to him. “Yes. Domineering.” She shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking but I’m going to give him a piece of my mind.”

Shouto was lost in thought. Ani’s older brother Aino seemed to be a lot of things, especially toward his younger sister. Kind. Generous. Caring.

But not domineering.

No. There was only one person he could think of who would go so over-the-top to get what he wanted and the possibility made his blood boil.

“I have to stop on the fitness floor before we leave. Can I meet you upstairs in my office?” He asked her, voice betraying nothing beneath his placid exterior.

“Of course!” She gave him a smile, moving on from her irritation with the person she assumed was her anonymous benefactor. She gave him a quick peck and he brushed her cheek before leaving.

Chapter Text

When Ani heard the elevator doors close she pulled out her phone and called her brother’s cellphone.

It went straight to voicemail.

“Listen up you...controlling jackalope! I don’t know what you’re thinking but you’re just wasting your money! I made it clear that I want to live with Shouto. Apartment repaired or not, I want to live with him. Okay? So call my landlord back and undo this so you don’t throw all that cash down the drain. Okay? Ugh. Call me back brother.” She was about to hang up but added “Love you.”

Ani was happily surveying the furniture-less clinic for another long moment when a few of Shouto’s sidekicks came in.

“Hey Shida,” one of them called and Ani turned to see Aves walking in with Flora and Mechanical Instinct, the one who spoke.

Ani smiled, happy to see three of Shouto’s surveillance and stealth team walking in. Mechanical Instinct’s quirk granted him knowledge of the mechanics in any device and allowed him to interfere with it making him into, one of many things, a very talented lock-pick.

Flora was quiet, much quieter than anyone else at Shouto’s agency and hadn’t said more than a few polite words to Ani since her arrival. She gravitated toward Aves, finding the humming-bird-like girl to be good company unfazed by her quiet nature and offered enough conversation to others for both of them. Aves was there when Ani met Flora and was the one who described Flora’s quirk. She—as Aves described it—was basically a plant. Her pale-greenish skin could photosynthesize, she could settle among plants so well that she nearly disappeared, and she could communicate with plants. Aves had trouble describing it since it was so different from how she spoke with birds but she did her best to say it was like Flora could tap into the root-network of plants, any plants, and receive information like it was a superhighway. The heartbeat of the forest Flora quietly offered. It allowed her to surveil locations for long periods of time making her an invaluable member of the team.

Ani was impressed with all three of them. They were so unique and powerful in their own ways and het worked so well together. Their skills combined made for a powerful force of information for the agency.

“Hi, M-I,” she called him by the short-hand he insisted on. “Hi Flora, Hey Aves.”

They approached her as they looked around, taking in the polished state of the soon-to-be-clinic.

“It looks so amazing in here!” M-I said.

“Well, are you really so surprised?” Aves said with a grin. “I mean, our boss doesn’t do anything half-way or half-effort ever so why would he be casual about this especially since it means his girl-friend will be here every day with us!”

M-I's brown eyes fell to Ani. "That's a good point.” He nodded. “How are you feeling about all of this?”

“Excited,” she said and tried to restrain her grin.

“Ohhhh, look at you you’re so excited to be here and you must love our boss so much you’re so cute!” Aves said.

“Aves!” M-I shot her a glance for running her mouth but Ani’s heart clenched, for a moment hearing that insane psycho’s voice echo in her mind. She gasped, turning away trying to hid her panic but the heroes noticed.

“Shida, what’s wrong?” M-I asked, brow furrowed.

“Oh no, Shida what’s wrong what did I say are you okay??” Aves flitted around her, hands trying to figure out what to do but it was Flora who appeared in front of Ani. Flora gently held Ani’s elbows and took deep, exaggerated breaths as her black eyes stared purposefully into Ani’s. Ani matched the breathing, calming down and panic subsiding.

“Thank you,” Ani said, patting Flora’s forearm and the woman let go. The three sidekicks stepped back, watching her intently. “Sorry. It was just a flashback of...”

“Your attack,” M-I offered. Everyone at the office knew what she’d been through.

Ani nodded.

“We all get them,” Aves said at a determinedly slower pace. She smiled but it didn’t touch her eyes. “It happens after something like that but you’ll be okay.”

“Thanks,” she said again with a weak smile. “I should go. I told Shouto I’d meet him in his office.”

“Oooooooo!” Aves squealed ready to launch into another vomit of sentiment but M-I jabbed her with an elbow. She caught herself and calmed down. “Have a good weekend, Miss Shida.”

“Yes, have a good weekend," Flora said in her placid voice.

“Thank you,” Ani said timidly to all of them. “All of you as well.”

As they walked out, M-I was chastising Aves in a low voice and she responded at full volume from the hall.

“Okay fine I’m going to do my best but they’re really cute both of them together and on their own and I can’t help it if I can see how much they like being around each other but I’m going to try not to—” Her voice cut off as the stair door closed.

Ani took a deep breath and looked around the clinic once more still happy and excited, forgetting about the chilling flashback, and left to meet Shouto.

 

They were in the car, riding home, when Aino called.

“Hey bro,” she answered with a tight voice.

Uhh, hey little sis. What’s...what’s going on?

“I don’t know, Aino. You tell me.”

I literally have no idea. You said something about your apartment in your voicemail? And wasting a whole bunch of cash?

“Yeah. That’s exactly what you’re doing because I’m not going to move back. I live with Shouto now.” She was focused on her conversation and missed Shouto’s elated smirk.

Yeah. I know that. I haven’t put any money into your apartment. I don’t have any idea what you're talking about."

“You mean...you didn’t offer to pay for the repairs?”

Hell no! Why would I do that?! I know how in-love you are with your boyfriend!” Aino paused a beat as Ani’s mind began to spin in circles. “Ani...Ani you don’t think this could be one of those people who attacked you somehow, could it? Like they’re trying to get you back there so you’re easier to get to?” Ani had told her brother everything about the attack, including what she learned afterwards from Shouto.

A cold dew formed across Ani’s skin. Shouto glanced at her pallor. “Ani? Is everything alright?”

“Ai-Aino thinks it could be those people who attacked me...trying to get me back into the apartment,” said Ani in a meek voice.

He took her hand. “I highly doubt that, Ani. It would be far too easy to trace a paper trail back to them.”

Ani? Is that Shouto? What’s he saying?

“He’s saying he doesn’t think it's them...it would be too easy to trace it back to them...”

Hmm, that makes sense.” Aino audibly tapped his pen. "Tell Shouto to look into it to be sure. Just in case.

“Okay, I will.” Ani’s voice sounded small with the possibility it could be them. Until they knew who it was she wouldn’t be able to relax.

Ani, are you going to be alright?” Aino asked with evident worry.

“Yeah...I’ll be fine. Shouto and I are headed home now.”

Okay...well. I’m here if you need anything.

“Thanks Aino. Sorry for yelling at you.”

He chuckled. "It’s alright, I forgive you. Let’s get lunch together sometime soon. I’d love to come see the new clinic when it’s done, too.

“That would be great,” Ani said, her heart relaxing a little bit.

Have a good night Ani.

“Thanks, you too Aino.”

She hung up and relayed Aino’s message to Shouto. He said “it’s worth confirming, for sure.” He lifted their entwined fingers to stroke her cheek with the back of his hand. “Are you okay?”

Ani nodded, eyes falling to her lap. “I am. I’m just...”

“What is it?” He wished they were home already so he could hold her.

“I had a panic attack today.”

“About what?”

Ani shivered. “I was talking with Aves, M-I and Flora were there too, and Aves said something that sounded like what that blonde girl who attacked me said. It’s like my mind went into panic mode.”

Shouto was quiet for several long moments. “What happened?”

“Flora helped me come out of it.” Ani smiled. “I like her.”

“I’m glad she was able to help you.” Shouto was keeping a close eye on Ani from the corner of his eye as he drove.

“Me too,” Ani said softly.

After a few minutes of quiet Shouto said “Ani...I want you to learn how to fight in case the worst should ever happen again.”

Ooof...She did not like the idea. She did not want to fight anyone. Anywhere. Ever.

“How do you feel about that?” He asked.

“I don’t like fighting.” She grimaced, looking away from him. “It’s why I didn’t become a hero and went into nursing.”

“Consider as self-defense then. It’s only to protect yourself, not to go out looking for criminals to fight.”

Ani rolled the idea around, remembering how she had felt that day in her apartment. She felt helpless to do just that: defend herself. She remembered thinking about how she never had any experience or training with a situation like that and sighed heavily. “Okay...you’re probably right. It is a good idea.”

His heart relaxed a little as they pulled into his building. His mind was already mapping out a training program with location and techniques, maybe a few other people to help them so she learned how to defend against different styles of fighting.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling at her as he parked.

Her brow furrowed. “For what?”

“For helping me keep you safe.” He tucked a blonde lock behind her ear. “It will give me a little piece of mind for you to know the basics at the very least.”

She returned his smile with a warm heart. “Thank you for caring.” She pouted playfully at him. "I'm not thrilled with the idea...but I'm willing to learn. Just in case."

Chapter Text

Shouto was showering after dinner as Ani worked on her upcoming physicals, fine-tuning the details she wanted to include. She was sitting comfortably on the couch, scrolling through the forms on her laptop when her phone beeped.

 

Sup Goldilocks.

 

It was Bakugo. Ani’s face pinched in confusion at the random text. Not much. You?

 

Not much...boring night rounds tonight

 

Ani gave the new text a sideways glance and finished typing out her thought. He sent another message before she could respond.

 

Am I interrupting something?

 

No, I’m just working on some things for the clinic

 

Doesn’t your boss give you the night off?

 

Ani smirked. He does. There’s just so much I want to do for it, can’t stop thinking about it

 

I know what that’s like.

 

Everything ok? She started working again, typing well into the next part before he responded.

 

Yeh.

 

The curt response could have been completely in-character for Bakugo but something about it seemed out of place. Ani’s brow furrowed. You sure? What’s up?

 

He didn’t respond. At first Ani thought maybe he was busy with night rounds but she felt it again, that out-of-place feeling. She didn’t know how to make sure he was really okay.

 

Sorry, lol. Didn’t mean to pry...I know we’re not really friends and you’re probably just bored at work. Thank you for saying hi!

 

She went back to working and heard the shower turn off. A few moments later Shouto came out wrapped in a towel with damp hair. Ani glanced up and did a double-take at the definition in his chest and abs.

All thoughts of text messages and health physicals faded as his gaze fell on her. She felt her cheeks tint with heat.

“What are you up to?” He asked, crossing the room.

She gulped, feeling a particular need grow. “I-I was trying to get some work done before tomorrow.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What’s tomorrow?”

“I was going to go into the office when you have your rounds tomorrow and get a head start on some things for Monday.” She tried to keep her eyes on his but they sank down over his exposed skin and she could smell the intoxicating scent of his body wash. Heat flushed her features, betraying her body’s response to his half-naked state.

“You know...” he leaned over her, bracing an arm on the back of the couch. “It’s important to take some time off of work, Miss Shida...The Todoroki Agency promotes a healthy work-life balance and encourages its employees to relax...”

“Oh,” she said, chest beginning to heavily rise and fall with his proximity. It felt like his deep, sultry voice was already undressing her. He loomed over her, red and white hair falling around his eyes as he stared down. A light smirk lifted a corner of his mouth.

“Would you like to...relax...with me?”

She nodded, completely mesmerized and accepted his hand when he offered it and followed him to the bedroom. The door closed and Ani didn’t hear her phone beep one last time.

 

Ani was in the shower the next morning as Shouto was cooking their breakfast. They planned on going into the office together though Shouto would be out for most of the day, making rounds through various parts of the city.

He plated their warm food and noticed Ani’s computer and cellphone waiting on the couch. He brought them into their bedroom and plugged them in to charge before they left. She came out of the bathroom, drying her hair as it dripped on her nearly nude skin covered only by a bra and panties.

“Oh, sorry,” she grinned as she caught him checking her out. “Can I help you with something?”

He cleared his throat as he felt his pants tighten. He wanted to. He really, really wanted to force her back up against the wall and fuck her well into the late morning but it would have to wait. They didn’t have much time before they needed to leave.

“No, maybe later though,” he said with a cheeky smirk and forced his eyes back to her face as she pulled clothes out for the day. “Breakfast is ready when you are. I noticed your phone and computer were on the couch so I plugged them back in to charge.”

“Oo, shoot. Thank you!” She said gratefully as she pulled a shirt down over her head.

As he left the room he added “I think you have a message, too.”

“Thanks!” She said and hustled over to it once she was dressed. As she read through it her brow expression became a muddled mix of confusion and discomfort, a little bit of remorse, too.

“Everything okay?” Shouto asked, poking his head back into the room when he didn’t hear anything from the room. He saw her expression and immediately came to her side. “Ani, what’s wrong?” He asked and lightly touched her cheek.

She turned up to him, eyes churning with the same unsettled emotion. “Is...Has? I...I don’t know what to say.” She handed him the phone displaying the text message.

 

Can you stop it with that ‘we’re not friends’ crap?! I never said that! Look, I’m sorry I’ve been such a dick. It really pisses me off you think I hate you so let me set it straight. I don’t. Okay? I don’t hate you. And I can’t tell you how I really feel because...fuck it. I just can’t. Okay? I’m bad at this whole ‘being a friend’ thing. If you were at your apartment it would be easier. I could just stop by and see if you’re doing okay. Are you going to move back anytime soon?

 

A second message had come not long after the first.

If I’m bothering you, just ignore me.

Shouto’s heart was pounded, throbbing in his head as he read and re-read the text. He was afraid to look at Ani, fearful she would have read it the same way he had. When he finally brought himself to look at her he nearly laughed. Her face was scrunched and she was rubbing her forehead.

“Is it really impossible for him to tell someone they're his friend?” She turned her screwed-up expression to him. “Is he really that much of a nincompoop?”

A laugh burst from Shouto’s chest and he had to clutch his stomach as his shoulders shook from the laugh that was a mixture of both humor and relief. It wasn’t long before Ani was laughing along with him. Shouto wrapped his arms around her and brought her against his chest with a radiating happiness.

“Yeah, he is.”

Ani rolled her eyes though her boyfriend couldn’t see it. “I can’t believe he’s made it to number three being so emotionally warped.”

“Well,” Shouto said as his laughter subdued. “Being empathetic and emotionally reachable is definitely a helpful quality, especially when you look at Midoriya. But a lot of people would say that I’m just like Bakugo in that regard...”

Ani pushed back only far enough to see his face. “No...” Her eyes warmed him. “You are those things. As much as Midoriya.”

He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers thinking he was like that now. He sighed and hugged her tightly. “Come on, our breakfast is getting cold.”

“Mmm, what’d you make?!”

 

As they rode into the agency office Ani finally wrote back to Bakugo.

 

Hey, sorry I didn’t respond!! You weren’t bothering me, I ended up going to bed and didn’t see your message until this morning. Thank you for wanting to check on me. Even though you won’t say it, now I know that I’m your friend and you don’t hate me😊 I’m not going to move back into my apartment but it’s fine to text me! You’re not as bad at being a friend as you think you are

~

Oh for fuck’s SAKE. Did that really just happen?!

Bakugo stood glaring at the phone in one hand, protein shake in the other, as he read through Ani’s text message. He read it again. And again.

There was only one way she interpreted his message. She thought he considered her a fucking FRIEND. God damn it the rage inside him was burning and every time he reread the words his grip tightened on the bottle in his hand until that rage gripped that bottle so hard it popped.

Gritty, sand-colored liquid showered the lounge of his agency, dripping down the cabinets, the fridge, the walls. His spiky hair and uniform hadn’t escaped the blast either but he didn’t notice as his fury simmered at her words.

He...He just got friend-zoned. He just got FUCKING FRIEND-ZONED.

Oh hell no. He wasn’t having this. Any of it.

He dropped the exploded plastic into the garbage on his way out of the destroyed break-room. He barked orders at his assistant to have the mess cleaned up. He stormed into his office and slammed the door with such force it threatened to crack. Good thing his office wasn’t built from shit.

He ripped the black tank-top off and threw it in his garbage. He rested his fists on the desk, bracing himself as he took raging breaths. A few drops of shake dripped onto his desk. He punched a fist down, setting off a small explosion that scorched the wood.

Moments later Kirishima burst into the room and threw the door closed.

“Dude what happened? What’s wrong?” Shitty hair asked.

Bakugo stifled a snarl. Of course his assistant was going to call for help. Every non-hero employee in this agency was such a damn pussy when he got upset. In the haze of his anger he handed the unlocked phone to his friend who read the last message he received. He scrolled up only a few higher to put it into context. Then he saw the name.

“Man, you made it sound like you only think of her as a friend. Why didn’t you just tell her?” Kirishima asked, coming around the desk.

Bakugo’s eyes remained unfocused as he answered. “What the fuck was I supposed to say?”

“You tell her how you feel!” The red-head said waving his arms around. “You tell her you love her!”

His eyes slowly refocused, nostrils flaring as he realized what is friend knew, and he turned his blood-red eyes to one of the only other people whose opinions mattered. "How long.”

“Huh?” Kiri asked, an eyebrow raised in confusion.

“How long have you known?”

Kirishima rubbed the back of his neck. “I...I wondered after we saw them outside of the bar that one night. And then I figured it out at the party.”

“Of course you fucking knew.” Bakugo shook his head, unable to face his friend any longer.

“So...are you going to tell her? Set the record straight?”

“Not over a fucking text message!” The ashy-blonde barked.

Kirishima laughed awkwardly. “Yeah, I guess that’s not something you do over a text.”

“No, it’s not,” Bakugo grumbled as he took his phone back and shoved it into his pocket. “I’m going on a run.”

“Okay, but dude you have to be back before—” his reminder was cut short as Bakugo slammed the door closed, leaving his own office before Kirishima. The red head sighed and smiled to himself. “I hope you find a way to tell her.”

Chapter Text

Ani stretched in Shouto’s plush leather chair. Since the clinic had no furniture yet he offered his own desk to her; he didn’t need it while he was out on rounds. She hesitantly accepted, worried about messing something up in his private space, but found it easy to work in. It was incredibly comfortable, exuding his presence.

She wondered how much longer he would be as the sun began to set, sky darkening, and she began to worry about him. She focused on her work and encouraged herself to leave him be. He would get back when he was done and he would be fine. This is what it meant to be the significant other of a pro-hero. He quietly entered as she was yawning and she didn’t see him until she opened her eyes again; they flew open in excitement.

“You’re back!” She hopped up from the chair and he met her half-way across the spacious room for a kiss. His usual warm smell was masked by the smell of concrete dust and—

“Were you hurt?” Blood. She began looking him over for it and saw the blood stain on the front of his pants. She gasped. “What happened?!”

She tried to drag him to the couch so she could look him over but he stood firm. “Ani, it’s fine! This isn’t my blood.”

She sighed with relief before her eyes flicked back to him with worry. “Whose is it?!”

“It was an unfortunate civilian who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He wanted to hold her but settled for squeezing her hand so he didn’t dirty her. “They’re okay. They're at the hospital now."

She relaxed again. “Thank goodness.” She gave him a smile and released his hands as he turned to go to his bathroom. While he showered and changed she finished saving her work and was ready to leave by the time he came out dressed again.

There was something about her expression. The pensive look in her eye or subdued reactions like something was on her mind...before they left his office he cupped her cheek.

“Ani...is everything alright?”

She drew in a deep breath and her eyes stayed unfocused as her mind churned. “My landlord called again...”

“About what?”

“Someone...I don’t know who...” she looked up at him. “Pre-paid a full year of rent for my apartment. Insisting it remains in my name.”

Shouto’s brow slowly raised. He tried to keep his exterior calm despite his seething internal thoughts. “Wow...did they say it was the same person who wants to pay for the remodeling?"

“They wouldn’t tell me.” She grimaced, adjusting the bag on her shoulder. “But I guess they weren’t totally clear about it yesterday: the apartment’s already been remodeled.” She wrapped an arm around herself, feeling vulnerable. Shouto’s arm wrapped around her waist and he pulled her against his side as they left his office.

“Let’s get you home,” he said leading her to the elevator as he sensed her worries. “I’m going to go talk to your landlord.”

“What?” Her eyes flew up to his face. “Why?”

“I’m going to find out who’s behind this. Since they wouldn’t answer my calls today.”

 

 

Bakugo scuffed his feet along the sidewalk of the dark, quiet street. His agency had been working overtime in the Fog District trying to flush out the damn scum who attacked Ani but they were nowhere to be found here. As a result of their constant vigilance over the past week overall crime in the neighborhood had dropped so significantly it was covered by the Saturday morning news.

He was credited with a large amount of the change and the annoying news anchor’s voice bounced around in his head. Everyone was speculating he was doing it in a bid to move past Todoroki for the second spot after such a dramatic act of violence in his turf. He wondered if Ani had seen the news and if that contributed to the way she interpreted his message. But she was wrong. They were all wrong.

He did all of it for one reason. And one reason only.

Gloomily he rounded the now all-to-familiar corner with his hands in his pockets and turned his sour, reluctant glare up to the darkened balcony. His heart froze.

The light was on.

His thoughts began to spiral out of control as a vivid hope took root in his chest and he began to run. He sprinted down the street, eyes glued to the warm glow of possibility, and he launched himself mid-stride up to the second story perch feeling lighter than he had in weeks.

When he landed, he turned to the newly replaced glass and screen doors that were open letting in the cool night breeze. His frozen heart turned to stone.

Waiting in Ani’s apartment was the only other person he hated as much as Midoriya. Todoroki leaned against the counter with his arms crossed as he stared out the door at Bakugo.

Bakugo’s lip curled in a sneer and he let himself inside. Clearly the dual-haired hero had been waiting for something.

“What are you doing here?” Bakugo spat.

“I could ask you the same question.” Todoroki’s eyes glowed as they scoured the new entrant.

“Tch, stalking your girlfriend now? Waiting for her to come home."

Todoroki’s face remained annoyingly passive. “She’s already home.”

Bakugo’s eyes flitted around in a desperate moment of hope before he realized what Todoroki meant. “For now. Until she realizes she can have her old life back, the one before you ruined it.”

Todoroki’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not the one who ruined it, Bakugo.”

“Who else could have ruined it, asshole?!” Bakugo yelled, fists clenched as his face flushed with anger.

“If you’re really asking me that question, Bakugo, you have even less reason to be interfering in her life.”

“What the fuck are you talking about you dumb bastard?!” Little explosions popped from inside Bakugo’s tight fists. The overly calm and collected moron was really starting to piss him off.

“What part would you like me to explain Bakugo?” Todoroki stood up straight, arms falling to his sides. “That I know it’s you who has been funneling money into this apartment to get Ani back here? Or how all of this happened to her because of you?”

Bakguo’s teeth gnashed together as he snarled back “how could any of this be my fault?”

Todoroki wondered how it was possible that this hot-head could be in the number three spot with his lack of self-awareness. “This happened, all of this, because you were saved from the brink of death by Ani’s blood. Then, you showed the world how perfectly fine you were after your time in the hospital and what did you think the League of Villains was going to do? Let that go? No. They wanted whatever power you had found. So, they went looking and found it here.”

“How is it my fault that air-head chose to save me?!” Bakugo snapped.

Todoroki’s face became deadpan. “You still don’t get it. That’s not the problem, Bakugo. The problem was not telling anyone that your blood was stolen by Toga.”

Bakugo’s posture tensed but he didn’t respond.

“Do you know how the L-o-V was able to get in here so easily that day?” Todoroki gestured to the door. “Because after the first person lied their way in here, you appeared at Ani’s door.”

It was clear Bakguo had not heard this part.

“Ani let someone in, thinking it was you, when it was very much in fact Toga appearing as you, never knowing that would ever be a risk.” Todoroki exhaled with a touch of anger through his nostrils. “If your arrogant self had been upfront with information like that the police would have known. The hero community would have known. Ani would have—”

“You would have loved that, wouldn’t you?” Bakugo cut in, voice dripping with derision. “Yeah, your main competition admitting to such a fucking mistake would have only made you look better than you think you are you idiot. Of course you would have wanted that, take me down a peg in Ani’s eyes.”

Todoroki felt sorry for the deluded ash-blonde. “Do you remember the first thing you ever said to Ani?”

Bakugo pressed his lips together, mood souring as he remembered the poor way he treated her that first morning in his hospital room. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

“Lazy leech,” Todoroki answered his own question.

Bakugo looked at the peppermint haired hero with genuine confusion. “Huh?”

“You called her a lazy leech when you first saw her sleeping in the ER.” Todoroki crossed his arms, eyes shifting to the new couch that was too stiff, to formal to have been in Ani’s taste. “The morning after she saved my life, days before you were injured. She woke up and saw you leaving...And you called her a lazy leech.”

Color drained from Bakugo’s face as the memory came back with a vague, haunting truth. “H-how was I supposed to know what happened?!”

Todoroki shrugged. “I don’t know. What I do know is, in that moment you were the first one between us to meet her. I didn’t get to meet her until a few days later, after I woke up.”

“Yeah, and what’d you do then rich boy? Brainwash her into loving you and hating me.”

Todoroki smirked and rested a hand on the kitchen counter. “I thanked her.” His eyes drifted over the small kitchen with happiness that he had been so bold that night. “I barely did anything to show her how much I appreciated what she did for me...” He smiled, eyes focused on their first meal together.

Bakugo’s heart grew colder with every word Todoroki said. “Yeah. So what? Doesn’t mean she wasn’t rushed into loving you! Once she knows she has another option she’s going to wise up, you icy-hot asshole!”

“Go ahead,” Todoroki said with serene confidence as he turned back to the explosive hero. “Tell her everything. Tell her you’re the one paying for this apartment for her and tell her why.”

The red eyes narrowed. “Yeah? And you’re just going to accept being the loser when she walks away?”

An image of Ani, bright and shining as she walked across his office, surfaced in his mind. “I’m not going to back down from a test of us,” he said with a gentle expression as he looked down into his hand. He looked back to the explosive blonde. “I encourage you to be honest and direct with her. But let me be clear with you, Bakugo. I will not tolerate any attempts to coerce her or her feelings. I will not allow you to ever make her feel unsafe in your attempts to express your feelings.”

An idea was already forming in Bakugo’s mind. “We’ll see how honorable you are after next weekend, you fucking idiot.” Bakugo abruptly left the same way he arrived.

Todoroki leaned back against the counter again, watching the wind drift through the curtains that also seemed too stuffy for Ani’s taste. He looked around the apartment once more, stomach churning at all the ‘upgrades’ that had been made but were really a steamroll over who Ani was. The biggest point of irritation for him was the large new mural that hung in place behind an extravagant tv.

He knew she wouldn’t like the jagged blasts of smoke and orange that had replaced the jade of her idol.

 

~

 

Dabi grinned as he looked around the dark, dank cell. “Yeah, this will be perfect.”

“Nehhh,” Toga sighed from the doorway. “This is so awful. You’re not even going to be able to see her!”

Dabi ignited a handful of blue flame that flickered a chilling light across the walls. He grinned over his shoulder at the unstable blonde. “I’ll be able to.”

Toga stuck her tongue out and Twice appeared over her shoulder. “What about the rest of us, though? You going to stick around and play lantern when we need her?”

“Like you’re going to get your hands on her that much,” Dabi said in a lazy sneer.

A circle of purple haze swirled in the air inside the dark cell. Shigaraki and Kurogiri appeared in the damp chamber. Toga skipped forward with a whiny pout.

“’Raki-san Dabi’s not going to share Ani-san!” She said with exaggerated waves of her hand.

Shigaraki rolled his eyes. “You’re like squabbling siblings. She’s for all of us,” the man said softly from under his sky-colored hair.

Kurogiri set down two bags that clinked on the ground. “We need to finish preparing things.”

 

~

 

Ani had fallen asleep on the couch while she waited for Shouto to get back. Her phone dinged, rousing her from the light sleep. She expected it to be her boyfriend but instead it was Bakugo.

 

You going to the UA Gala with the half-and-half next week?

 

Her brow furrowed together as her phone lit up with a call from Shouto.

“Hey Sho,” she answered.

Hey Ani, I just wanted to let you know that I’m on my way home.

“Oh, okay. Thanks!” She hesitated. “Are you going to...the UA Gala?”

The UA Gala?” Shouto paused and if she was with him she would have seen his eyes pop open as he remembered. “Oh no...I completely forgot about that with everything that’s happened recently.

She couldn’t blame him for that. “I understand...what is it?”

It’s a formal event UA hosts once a year...It’s really an over-the-top fundraiser and networking party for the school with prominent leaders and other important people across the country. All the alumni are invited every year and I usually attend though I don’t particularly enjoy the dancing. Or the politics. Or the small-talk.” She could practically hear the scowl in his voice that turned apologetic. “They send out invitations far in advance so I RSVPed ‘attending’ before we ever met...with everything that’s been happening I just...lost track of the time.

“That’s okay.” She smiled and fiddled with the hem of the blanket across her lap.

Ani, I’m sorry I didn’t mention it to you sooner.

She reassuringly offered “I’m not hurt...or upset.”

Thank you for understanding.” The relief was tangible in his voice. “I feel obligated to still attend since I already sent in my response that I would be there...Would...” Ani waited in anticipation of his next words. “Would you come with me? Attend the event as my date?

Ani grinned and pulled the phone away to silently scream in excitement. He wanted her to go with him! It would be their first formal event out as a couple in the eyes of the public!

Ani?” He asked nervously. “Are you still there?

She cleared her throat. “Y-yes! I’m still here.” She couldn’t hide the smile in her voice. “I would love to go with you!!” She tapped her chin. “But I don’t know if I have any dresses formal enough for an event like this. Even back at my apartment, what I left behind would not be right.”

We can go shopping tomorrow,” he offered. “If you want me to come with you for that, of course.

“That would be amazing,” she said. “I have no idea what would be good to wear. Or where to find it. But you have to let me buy my own dress!"

I can’t agree to that,” said Shouto in simple defense.

Ani huffed. “Shouto, I don’t want you—”

Ani, I know you don’t want me to spend money on you but I’m springing this on you last minute. If you had months to properly search for the dress you felt most comfortable in I wouldn’t be as insistent.

“Fine,” Ani grumbled. “But nothing too extravagant!”

That’s settled, then. Tomorrow we’ll go together.” He added “I’m surprised you thought of the Gala. I didn’t think you were interested in events like that.

“I don’t follow them at all.” She chuckled once. “I only know about it because Bakugo just asked me if I was going with you.”

Shouto was quiet for a long moment. “Well, now you can tell him you are. And thank him for the reminder.

“Thank you, Shouto.” She closed her eyes and smiled. “I’m honored you want me to go with you.”

The honor is all mine, Ani. You’ll be the first person I’ve ever gone with.” Ani’s mouth dropped open. Before she could respond he said “I’ll be home in a little while...Are you sure there’s nothing you’d like me to bring back?

“Just yourself,” she said. “Drive safely Sho. I love you.”

I love you, too.

After the call ended Ani sent off her excited answer to Bakugo:

 

Yes! We’re going together!! He said to thank you for the reminder. With everything going on lately he forgot he said he would go.

 

 

Bakugo stared at his phone, clutching it so hard it was on the verge of disintegrating. His eyes scoured the words she just sent seeing the jibe she unknowingly sent. His mouth scrunched up in anger and he tried thinking of something calm to say but before he could, another message came in.

 

Nice try.

 

Bakugo’s chest was heaving now and he saw red. Without thinking he sent his response to Ani.

 

I’ll see you there. Save a dance for me.

 

He whipped his foot around, slamming his heel into the solid wood dummy as he set off an explosion from the bottom of his foot that shattered the wood into splinters across the gym floor. He was getting better at his new moves. Two-tone dimwit and goldilocks were giving him great motivation.

Chapter Text

Shouto woke up before Ani and stayed in bed. At some point in the night she had cuddled up to his left side, wrapping herself against his radiating warmth; he didn’t want to disturb her sleep. He didn’t mind how her head rested on his shoulder, either. When she began to stir and stretch he took one last deep inhale of her scent.

She nuzzled into his neck, sensing he was already awake.

“Good morning,” he said, brushing a few messy hairs from her face.

She grunted in response and he smirked, content to stay like this for as long as she wanted.

“Aren’t you going to shoo me out of bed to go find a dress for the gala?” She mumbled against his warm skin.

“No,” he said, wrapping his arm around her. “Dresses will still be there later.”

“Okay, wake me up again in an hour...” her voice drifted off as she fell asleep in the sunlight again. Shouto smiled. He knew she was still adjusting to working during the day and sleeping at night. She spent years working the night shift and her body needed some extra sleep at times.

“Take however much time you need,” he whispered at kissed the top of her head. Without trying he found himself slipping back into a peaceful sleep, head resting on hers.

Shouto’s phone rang loudly, cutting through the soft morning silence. Ani groaned and shifted so he could reach his phone and he pulled her back against him as he looked at the screen. She felt his body tense and glanced at his face.

“Who is it?” she asked.

He growled “my father.” Begrudgingly he answered. “Hello.”

Shouto. I called to inform you family dinner will be at 6:45pm this evening. I expect you and your...significant other to be in attendance.

“And why would we do that?” Shouto said through gritted teeth. “Why would I bring my girlfriend to your house for a dinner when you’re going to flaunt your blatant preference for a different choice in my personal life?”

That’s quite an assumption to make Shouto.

“Do you really expect me to willingly attend this façade of an engagement?”

The Yaoyorozu family will not be in attendance tonight.” Endeavor’s words were shocking and belittling at the same time, as if Shouto should have known in some way. “Thus, my request for your girlfriend to attend. Your sister and her family will be here as well as Natsuo.

Shouto’s features displayed his skeptical surprise. “What’s the occasion?”

It’s a family dinner. There doesn’t have to be an occasion,” Endeavor informed him.

Shouto pulled the phone away from his ear and directed his attention to Ani who was tracing the lines of his chest. “My father is inviting us to a family dinner at his house tonight.”

From the phone they both heard Endeavor sputtering “What! Shouto, This isn’t a request!

Shouto rolled his eyes and looked at his girlfriend. “Do you want to go? My sister and her family and one of our other brothers, Natsuo will be there.” He watched her expression. “He’s not...he’s a lot like Fuyumi,” he implied, trying to assure her he was nothing like his estranged sibling.

“Oh wow.” Ani considered the offer. “It would be really fun to see Fuyumi again.”

“So...you want to go?” He asked incredulously.

She nodded. “Yes. I want to meet more of your family.”

“Okay,” he said with a dubious expression. Into the phone he answered “we’ll be there.”

6:45. Don’t be late.” His father hung up abruptly.

“Arrogant ass,” Shouto said at the blank screen on his phone. He dropped his phone to the bed. “I can’t believe you willingly want to spend more time around that insufferable man.”

“It’s more about getting to see Fuyumi again. And meeting Natsuo.” She propped herself up on his chest. “I’m pretty indifferent about your father being there.”

He smirked. “That’s better than how I feel.” He put his hands behind his head revealing one white, one red patch of hair under each arm. He saw a thought cross Ani’s mind.

“What about your mom?” She asked.

He tilted his head. “My mom?”

“I feel badly she won’t be there. Can we bring her lunch today?”

“Of course,” he said as his chest swelled with love and appreciation for her. “She would love that.”

 

 

Ani was happy they were able to visit Rei again. She was beginning to enjoy Rei’s company; it was clear this was from where Shouto’s serene nature came. As they rode in the car on their way to the Todoroki family home Ani savored Rei’s parting words given to her while Shouto was in the bathroom.

 

I’m grateful for your presence in my son’s life.

 

Ani couldn’t help but smile as the city streets of Musutafu rolled past.

 

In the past...he’s had trouble finding someone who could see past the image of him as the pro-hero. Seeing him now with someone who accepts him for who he is...who isn’t driven by the greed of a social status, who doesn’t want to be with him to use him...It’s everything I could have wanted for him. Thank you, Ani. For saving my son’s life...and everything you’ve done for him since.

 

“What’s on your mind?” Shouto asked basking in the warmth of Ani’s happiness.

She turned to him with a shine in her eyes. “I really enjoyed seeing your mom today.”

“I’m glad,” he said and brushed his knuckles along her cheek. “She enjoyed it, too.” When Ani had stepped out of the room to answer a call from her brother Rei turned a mother’s gaze upon him.

 

“How are you my son, truly?” She asked, giving him a private moment to answer.

“I’m doing well,” he said with a small smile. “For the first time in a long time I feel...loved.” He realized what he said and glanced up at her with a tightness in his eyes. “Mother, I’m sorry, I—”

“Please,” she placed her hand on his “don’t apologize. I understand what you mean and I take no offense.”

He nodded solemnly, reluctant to talk about it anymore but she squeezed his hand, urging him on. “She is as selfless and hardworking as the day I met her and still has no interest in reaping the rewards of being with a pro-hero. Or the descendant of a wealthy family.”

“That’s a good thing, though? Isn’t it?”

He sighed. “Mostly. It’s frustrating, though, at times when I want to show my love for her and she refuses it.” He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “It was a struggle to buy her dress for the gala next weekend and she nearly flat-out refused it when she saw how much the dress she wanted cost.”

Rei watched the frustration in her son’s features and held back a smile. “Do you remember when I said that love will change you?” He nodded. “This is one of those moments. I know you, my son, and can tell you want to shower her with all the luxuries of your world but seek to understand why she is reluctant. Listen. Learn the ways in which she does feel your love and use those routes to express it.

“You’re already loving...compassionate...and considerate...But this. It’s a chance to grow,” she smiled “and evolve into a better version of who you are.”

He pressed her words into his heart as the door slid open again and Ani appeared, ending her call with Aino.

 

They pulled into his family’s estate and saw other vehicles parked in front of the house. Shouto glanced at the clock and saw they were a few minutes late; he smirked to himself, happy he was late without trying.

Chapter Text

“UNCLE SHOUTOOOO!” Someone screamed as they entered. Ani’s eyes popped up just in time to see a young boy with light gray hair sprinting down the hall. Shouto dropped Ani’s free hand as he coated the floor in ice. Without missing a beat the boy shifted his weight and used his momentum to slide down the slick surface.

“Who’s that?” He asked still in motion.

“Kiro, this is my girlfriend, Shida Ani.” They high-fived and Shouto smirked as the boy pushed off his uncle to sail back down the hallway. “Ani, that was my youngest nephew Kiro.”

Ani smiled and took his hand again as they walked in. Shouto melted the ice along the floor as they went.

Another boy, older than the first poked his head out of a room, a lollipop sticking out of his mouth. “Grandeavor is soooo upset you’re lateee!”

Shouto gave the boy a flat expression. “Wei, this is my girlfriend Shida Ani. Ani, this is my second-oldest nephew, Wei.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said with a wave to the boy who looked her up and down. He dipped back into the room he’d come from where a tv was playing.

“Where’s Tashkei?” Shouto asked, looking around the room. Wei threw a pillow at the seemingly empty couch and it flumped off of an invisible solid.

“I told you to leave me alone you little sh—!” The teenage boy’s eyes grew wide when he saw his uncle standing in the hall staring in at him.

“Whoa,” Ani whispered. The boy sat up and pulled out his headphones.

“Hey Uncle Shouto,” he said, sitting up and glancing at Ani. “Is that your girlfriend?”

Shouto nodded. “It is. Ani, this is my oldest nephew, Tashkei.”

“Nice to meet you, Tashkei,” she gave a bow of her head and prepared to ask him how he did that but a deafening gong rang through the house.

“Sounds like Gramps knows you’re here,” Tashkei grumbled and stuffed his phone and headphones into his pocket. Shouto took Ani’s hand and led her down the hall as the two younger boys followed. Ani glanced behind and saw Tashkei sulking along with his hands in his pockets as Wei stared at her unabashedly. She heard voices ahead and looked up as they came into an elaborate, traditional dining spread on the low-legged table lined with stiff-backed floor seats.

“Shouto.” Endeavor greeted them unenthusiastically. “Miss Shida. Take a seat.”

“Thank you for having us,” Ani said and he gestured for Ani to take the seat closest to the door. Shouto narrowed his eyes at his father’s subtle jibe but Ani was already sliding into the seat. He didn’t know if she understood what had happened but she looked up at him with a gentle expression.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. She understood his father had assigned her the least important seat. And Endeavor didn’t understand that she didn’t care. Being offered a place at the table was an honor in-and-of itself, least honorable seat or not she was glad to be there.

Shouto clearly disapproved but pulled back the seat next to her.

“Uncle Sho, please don’t make me sit by gramps again,” Kiro urged in the din of everyone else taking their seats.

“This house will probably catch on fire if I sit next to him,” Shouto grimaced.

Ani stifled a giggle. “You’ll be fine,” she assured him.

He frowned in disagreement but let his youngest nephew take the safer seat as Fuyumi’s husband sat across from Ani. Wei sat between his father and mother, Natsuo seated next to Fuyumi at Endeavor’s left hand. Ani, Kiro, Tashkei, and Shouto lined the opposite side and Endeavor gave his son a nauseatingly smug grin as his ultimate creation sat at his right hand. Shouto ignored the expression as he saw Ani already settling into conversation with his nephew and brother-in-law.

Before Endeavor could speak, Shouto caught Ani’s attention. “Ani, this is my brother Natsuo,” he gestured to the politely-smiling sibling across from him. “Natsuo this is my girlfriend, Shida Ani.”

The spikey white-haired man bowed his head from the other end of the table and Endeavor clapped his hands with an obscene volume.

“Thank you for the food," he said practically ordering dinner to begin.

Shouto ate silently, trying to catch pieces of the conversation from the other end of the table. Ani was asking his brother-in-law about himself, learning he was a detective on the Musutafu police force. Across from Shouto, Natsuo was unsuccessfully talking with their father and then gave up, turning his attention to his almost-as-stoic youngest brother. Shouto finally realized his elder sibling was trying to talk to him.

Shouto’s interest in holding a conversation was as non-existent as his teenage nephew next to him and his completely emotionless father. Natsuo soon gave up and chatted happily with Fuyumi who was glad to catch up. Light chatter filled the room, conversations between the group beginning to grow as Ani laughed at a story Kiro was telling her. Shouto smiled, appreciating hearing her under the sound of Fuyumi and Natsuo's conversation.

“Tashkei has some exciting news,” Fuyumi said pointedly to her brothers and father.

“Yeah?” Natsuo turned to his nephew with a warm smile. “What’s happening Tash-kun?”

The teenager pushed some of his food around as he kept his eyes down. “I applied to UA.”

“That’s awesome!” Natsuo grinned.

Shouto turned an eyebrow up at his nephew. “Really?” The boy nodded. “What class?”

“Hero class,” Tashkei answered tentatively. His eyes flicked to his dual-haired uncle, hesitant to see his reaction.

“He didn’t just apply,” Fuyumi urged him on with her eyes.

The teenager huffed and sat up. “I took the exams.”

“And...” his mother pressed further.

“I got in...” Tashkei admitted. His eyes shifted between uncles, one who smiled blindingly white and the other whose eyes glowed down approvingly.

“Congratulations!!” Natsuo exclaimed, causing the other end of the table to tune in.

“What happened?” Ani asked with a shining expression.

Tashkei turned to her without prompting. “I got into UA. Hero course.”

“Wow.” Ani’s mouth parted in awe. “That’s incredible!!” She could already see powerful applications of Tashkei’s quirk.

“Through the examinations.” Endeavor scoffed at Ani’s enthusiasm and brought a cup of tea to his mouth, before taking a drink he said “Not a recommendation.”

Ani’s eyes narrowed and Shouto could see her preparing a piercing rebuttal in defense of his nephew but he didn’t want her in any crossfires.

“The number one hero made it into UA through the exams,” Shouto offered to his nephew.

Tashkei looked up in awe at his uncle for the brazen comment about the current top performing hero. Endeavor gagged on his tea for a moment and Ani’s lips pressed together as she caught Shouto’s eye. It’s exactly what she had planned to say and it was a challenge not to grin.

“You’re going to make a great hero,” Shouto said clapping his hand on his nephew’s shoulder. “Next time you go for something like that, let me know. I would be happy to extend a recommendation for you.”

Tashkei’s eyes widened and gleamed. “Th-thanks Uncle Shouto...”

"It will be interesting to see who will be teaching you.” Shouto’s eyes shifted in consideration.

Ani wished she had known beforehand. “I’m sorry we don’t have a cake or anything to celebrate,” said the blonde.

“That’s okay!” Fuyumi said and gave her son a cheeky smile. “I brought some!”

“Mom,” Tashkei said, slouching in his chair.

Fuyumi stood and began cleaning their dinner to make room for dessert. Ani rose to help but Fuyumi urged her to sit. “Please, relax Ani.”

Ani sat back down and Kiro happily reclaimed her attention. Shouto helped his older siblings clear the table and left the rest of the group to sit with Endeavor.

“Fuyumi I am so sorry Dad said—” Natsuo started to say once they were alone but Fuyumi held up a hand.

“It’s alright,” she sighed. “I should have realized that’s why Tash-kun didn’t want me to say anything. I was just so excited...I wanted to tell everyone all at once.”

“I think he’ll be okay,” Natsuo assured her.

Shouto nodded. “There’s negativity in the hero field that he will be exposed to so it’s good practice for him to ignore those who just want to diminish his accomplishments.” In the silence that followed, he added “he is going to make an amazing hero.” Natsuo made a sound of agreement. When they finished cleaning the dinner plates, they gathered everything for dessert and came out to find an empty room.

“Wh-what?! Where did they go?!” Fuyumi said, head whipping around as if the rest of the group would appear from thin air.

Shouto glanced out the doorway and saw Ani standing in the courtyard between the different wings of the massive house. Kiro and Wei stood at her side as all three of their heads followed something out-of-sight from the room. Shouto heard a familiar, nauseating sound and nearly cracked the plates as he dropped them to the table.

“Sho?” Fuyumi called as he ran out.

He burst from the room, across the hall and outside walkway, leaping over the fence as he saw his father’s flames pour out across the singed ground.

“You have to walk quieter than that!” Endeavor commanded as he whirled the flames around in pursuit of something unseen. The serpent of flames curled around and time seemed to slow for Shouto.

He saw the flames part around a solid shape which he realized was his nephew trying to dodge the attack. In his attempt to evade, the inexperienced fighter’s movement brought the current of heat in the direction of Ani and the two younger boys. The ends of Ani’s hair singed as she whipped around, grabbing both boys against her to shield them against the sudden heat.

Kiro’s hands clutched Ani’s side and a glint of light caught the thin sheet of ice the young boy tried to make but was too weak to offer any protection against the inferno from Endeavor. Ice appeared up and around Ani, instantly covering them in a cave of impenetrable ice from Shouto and he shifted the vein of frost to his father’s feet. Before the ice could rise any higher than his ankles, Endeavor’s fire turned it to mist but it was enough to get the old man to stop his reckless sparring and turn a vehement gaze on Shouto as his son shouted. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

Endeavor looked down his nose at his son though he was no longer the taller one between them. “I’m giving my grandson a valuable training session.”

Shouto’s mind flashed with the memories of his own valuable training sessions that did nothing but warp his childhood. Shouto slowly crossed the barren space, glaring at his father. Ani appeared from the cave of ice and held an arm out to keep Kiro and Wei behind her as they peered out, too.

“You’ve become negligent in your fighting, old man.” Shouto stopped several feet from his father where an embarrassed Tashkei appeared from thin air.

“Father!” Fuyumi scolded, running out into the courtyard. “What are you doing?!”

Endeavor crossed his arms, unwilling to answer the question again. “Nothing your son couldn’t handle. He remains unscathed.”

“That was almost not the case for Ani and your other nephews!” Shouto shouted, hands balled into fists. Ani saw flames and frost begin to smoke from the clenched digits. “You’re a reckless, arrogant has-been!”

Endeavor’s eyes blazed with the insult. Flames began to flicker from his own body. “After all this time, you’re still the same ungrateful. Insolent. Volatile child you’ve always been! Completely incapable of becoming the number one hero!”

Ani’s heart skipped a beat. She lunged and grabbed Tashkei by the wrist, throwing him and his younger brothers into the ice-cave as Fuyumi dove for them and reinforced the frozen structure. In the same moment both Todoroki’s unleashed their quirks. The hair on Ani’s arms and legs stood on end as she felt the air vibrate with the power of an explosion that would surely level the house.

“ENOUGH.” A voice roared and the air became so cold Ani thought it would begin to snow.

Ani and Fuyumi leaned out only far enough to see Natsuo standing between his father and brother, jagged walls of ice formed in front of each of them.

“Enough!” Natsuo commanded again. The man who had smiled throughout the meal was now panting, exasperated between his unraveling relatives. “You’re going to kill us all!”

Father and son alike set their flames ablaze for a moment, only long enough to destroy their respective walls.

“You’ve never been able to keep your emotions in check.” Endeavor looked down on his youngest son, again. “That’s why you haven’t made it to number one, yet. You will make it if you can focus.”

“I’m not the one who’s unfocused. I can see much more than a single goal. Your goal.” Shouto brushed off his arms and stared his father down. “Seeing me as a child means only means you haven't given up your vain ambitions to use my success to overcome your own failures. Trying to convince you I have different aspirations is a waste of my time.”

Endeavor’s mouth parted to respond but Fuyumi’s husband came in. His eyes surveyed the wrecked courtyard with no interest in wanting to know what just happened.

“Shouto-san,” he called to the pro-hero.

The red-white head turned, no longer interested in what his father had to say. When he saw the man’s expression and the gesture to follow, his brow dipped. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Ani and she gave him a supportive nod.

Endeavor’s eyes narrowed as he watched his son leave to have a private conversation with his son-in-law.

“Is everything okay?” Ani asked with worry about what a detective and pro-hero could have to talk about.

“I’m sure everything’s fine,” Fuyumi answered with a smile. “Let’s go back inside and have some cake. What do you say?”

From across the melting plane of ice Endeavor scowled. “Sugar is foul for the hero’s body.” He turned and strode off, shunning his family.

“What do you think, Tashkei?” She asked her son and rested a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged her away.

“I told you I didn’t want to tell Grandfather yet!” He snapped. “I knew this would happen!”

“Tashkei!” Fuyumi called after her son as he stormed off, too, in an opposite direction from Endeavor.

“Mom...” Kiro asked with big eyes. “Can we still have cake?”

Fuyumi sighed and nodded. “I don’t want it to go to waste. Let’s go.” She motioned for her remaining sons, Natsuo, and Ani to follow her.

The cake looked incredible and Ani was craving a large piece of it but the thought of Tashkei made her mind drift away from dessert. “Can you cut an extra piece?” She asked Fuyumi. “I’d like to bring one to Tashkei, if I can find him.”

Fuyumi smiled warmly. “That’s so kind. He's probably in Shouto's room but I’ll warn you that he can be a bit thorny when he’s upset.”

“A bit?!” Wei interjected with a mouthful of cake. “He’s like a damn cactus!”

She bopped her son on his head. “Watch your mouth. And don’t talk with it full, either.”

“I’ll be careful, then,” Ani said with a small laugh as she accepted both plates of cake. She quietly wove through the halls of the Todoroki estate, vaguely recognizing the direction she needed to go. She counted down the doors and found Shouto’s room. She hesitated at the door, wondering if she should knock. Not wanting to be flat-out refused entry she opened the door and leaned in.

Sure enough, Tashkei was sitting on the floor of his uncle’s childhood room holding a picture frame. His eyes flashed up with a mixture of hope and fear that fell flat when he saw who it was.

“Hey Tashkei-san,” Ani said as she set a plate of cake down next to him. She leaned against the wall and slid down, sitting on the floor with him.

“Hey,” the teenager mumbled, ignoring his plate of cake. “What are you doing here?”

Ani shrugged. “Eating cake. What about you?” She leaned only far enough to see the picture. A younger, reserved Shouto stood in the frame with All Might bearing his classic smile and thumbs-up. “Oh wow,” she murmured.

Tashkei glanced up at her. “All Might was Uncle Sho’s teacher at UA.”

“He was.” She nodded, remembering the fact from the Beacons Of Hope documentary. She took a few more bites of cake.

“I wish I could have a teacher as awesome as that.” The boy set the picture down and drew his knees up to his chin.

Ani shrugged. “You never know,” she said between bites. The cake absolutely melted in her mouth but it didn’t distract her from listening intently.

Tashkei scoffed and set the frame aside. "What do you know.”

“Well,” Ani said as she set her fork down to consider the rhetorical question. “Nothing about hero school, I suppose.”

The teenager’s eyes scrutinized her. "You're not a hero, too, like Uncle Sho?”

“No.” She shook her head and took another bite.

Tashkei tried not to look intrigued. “What do you do then?”

“I used to work in an ER, but now I work at the Todoroki Agency.” She took a small bite.

“Really?” The teenager’s eyebrows raised. “You work for Uncle Sho?”

Ani nodded. “He asked me to start a health clinic there, to help take care of his heroes and staff.”

“That’s pretty cool, I guess.” Tashkei flexed his toes, trying to appear disinterested. “What’s your quirk?”

“I can regenerate.”

“Whoa.” Any hesitation at being curious washed away as he looked at her squarely now. “Like...from anything?!”

“Just about...yeah.” She took another bite of cake. “I’m sure there’s some kind of injury I can’t come back from but I don’t want to find out what it is.”

“So...” he took a minute to consider the situation. “Why are you a nurse then?”

“What do you mean?” She finished her last bite of cake and set it aside.

“Why are you a nurse? Can you like...I don’t know...heal other people, too?"

“Kind of,” Ani said quietly. Her expression fell with flashbacks of everything that had happened since the last time she did so. “But I’ll only do it when the patient is hopeless.”

“Why?” Tashkei’s face screwed up in disapproval. “That’s dumb.”

Ani weighed his reaction. “Maybe. But for a long time I was worried about people finding out about what my blood can do. Because I can’t help someone heal unless I give them my blood.”

“But that’s awesome. Why wouldn’t you want people to know about that?”

Ani tried to keep herself calm as a dewy panic rippled down her back. “I didn’t want to be used. I didn’t want other people to find out and force me to do things I didn’t want to, good or bad.” She wondered how much would be okay to share with the teenager and then decided he was going to UA and wanted to become a hero. “People, criminals, tried to kidnap me last week for that exact reason.”

Tashkei’s features paled. “What happened?”

“Your grandfather saved me,” Ani gently answered.

“Endeavor?!” Tashkei’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.

Ani laughed. “Why do you look so surprised? He was a pro hero for a long time.”

“Yeah, but. He’s such a...”

“Jerk?” Ani offered.

Tashkei’s cheeks tinted with color suggesting he had a different word in mind. “Yeah, sure...let’s go with that.”

“He is. But all heroes are different. Your uncle and grandfather may have reached identical rankings and in some ways they’re similar, but in others they’re completely different.” Ani smiled. “Your uncle doesn’t really care about ranking. And he doesn’t give weight to the opinions of those who don’t matter to him.”

Tashkei stayed quiet, listening earnestly to what she had to say.

“Your grandfather is a bully. From what I’ve learned, he always has been and he very well may always be, always ready to knock down the accomplishments of those around him.” She gave the boy a hopeful look. “But it’s not about ranking. Or how you got into UA. Or where you even go to school. What matters is what you do. How will you treat others, treat yourself when you become a hero?

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the number one pro hero or the newest pro. Hero names, costumes, none of that is important. What matters is saving who you can and helping the person in front of you. What truly matters...is what you do as a hero.”

She let her words hang in the air as Tashkei’s eyes shifted back to the photo. She quietly took her empty plate and stood to leave Tashkei alone with his thoughts.

“Thank you,” the teenager murmured without looking up.

Ani smiled though he didn’t see. “Anytime.”

She softly closed the door, still smiling, and nearly ran into Shouto who was waiting in the hall. She gasped audibly and nearly dropped the plate as he smirked and wrapped her in a hug. She melted against him.

“Let’s go home,” he quietly said. She nodded against his chest and let him lead her down the hall.

 

They said their good-byes to the rest of the family except for Endeavor who had secluded himself away somewhere.

Natsuo, Fuyumi, and her husband saw Ani and Shouto to the door. Kiro and Wei gave fleeting goodbyes, anxious to finish a game before they had to leave. They caught sight of Tashkei crossing the hall listening to his headphones and carrying his empty plate to the kitchen. Ani smiled and thanked Shouto’s family again for inviting them.

Chapter Text

Monday morning at the clinic brought Ani’s mind to a screeching stop. She stood in the open doorway gawking at the five finished patient bays complete with beds and privacy curtains. Awestruck, she walked through the clinic that was of a higher quality than the hospital from which she came.

“This is amazing,” she muttered, turning around. Shouto watched silently, waiting for the best part. She didn’t expect her office to be finished, let alone the patient areas, so when she finally made it to her private work space she froze.

Her computers and screens were already installed, systems up-and-running though she couldn’t tell until they were turned on. Shouto must have had people working around the clock for the whole weekend. The only things that weren’t finished was the small operating room—equipment would be arriving today—and the supply closet that was only partially stocked.

“Now you can start the physicals,” Shouto offered.

Ani turned back to him, mouth agape. “This agency is unbelievable.”

“Thank you,” Shouto said with a smug grin. He pulled her against him and she narrowed her eyes playfully.

“That is very inappropriate behavior, Mr. Todoroki.”

His eyes gleamed as he brought his lips close enough to whisper on hers. “Then report me to the boss.” He brushed his lips over hers and saw her pupils dilate with a need for more. Knowing they were alone for the moment he pushed her up against the office wall, bracing himself on an arm above her head. He tilted her chin up as her eyes fluttered closed and he gently kissed her, steadily pressing more and more into her mouth until she parted her lips. He brought his hands down to her waist and wrapped her against him as he gave her opening a claiming swipe and pulled out. He pecked her lips and held her for a long moment in a hug.

Shouto’s phone vibrated from his pocket and he sighed. “I have to get to work...I’ll see you later though.”

“Absolutely,” she said with a smile as he pulled away and left her in the brand-new clinic. She watched him leave from her office window and sat down to get started on her own projects.

 

M.I. was the first scheduled physical; Aves was supposed to come after him but she walked in at the same time and M.I. insisted he didn’t mind if she stayed. Ani was happy to start with them. They were patient with her as she worked through her questionnaire and exams and took notes, working out the kinks in the process. She enjoyed chatting with them and they enjoyed showing off the special details of their quirks and sharing the stories about their scars though Aves didn’t have as many as M.I.

He proudly told the story of fixing his father’s lawn mower when he was only five years old—the moment his quirk manifested—which saved them a ton of money but also meant his brother had to mow the lawn again. M.I. laughed heartily when he admitted his brother socked him in the face and broke his nose he was so upset, resulting in the jagged scar across the bridge. Ani looked horrified until Aves added that was a one-time thing and M.I.’s older brother was a really good person.

Aves had an interesting ladder of scars up her arm that Ani asked about; she described the first time she communicated with birds in the wild. She got so excited she climbed a tree to get up there with them but slipped and fell, injuring her arm on the way down.

“Needless to say I was a little disappointed to learn I couldn’t fly with the birds, too!” She happily said.

Ani bid them farewell and set up for the next physical. By the end of the day she had completed seven physicals and was worn out. She pulled through the fatigue to send the business department a new list of supplies to stock for those sidekicks and their quirks.

Shouto came to find her at the end of the day. “Hey,” he said leaning against her office door-frame.

“Hey,” she said, smiling as she looked up from her computer. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m hungry. I was coming to see if you were ready to leave.” He pushed off the doorway and came behind her, snaking his arms down around her body.

“I just have a few notes to finish,” she said with a chuckle as he nuzzled her neck. “Sho! We’re still at work!”

He traced the lines of her neck with nose and she felt his breath tickle her skin as he responded.

“I’m hungry...” he said again in a hot whisper. “Know a good place to eat...out?”

Ani’s cheeks surged with heat and she cleared her throat. She didn’t respond, only kept typing as quickly as she could to finish her work as her boyfriend/boss pressed his lips into her neck.

The moment she was satisfied she saved her work, turned off the computer and pulled him out of her office, locking it behind them. Shouto grinned as she towed him through the building. Her eager attitude only riled him up further and he spent their whole ride home with his warm hand on her thigh fingers inching closer until they were between her legs as they pulled into the parking garage.

She looked like she was going to jump on him but he got out before she could make a move. He prowled around the car, keeping the two deep colors of his eyes focused on her as she bit her lip and met his mouth with a passionate need. He lifted her hips and she wrapped her legs around him feeling the hardness of his erection.

When they made it into their apartment he didn’t bother with the bedroom and, instead, opted to lay her out on the island counter and strip her bottoms off, diving between her legs with the heady need to draw his name out of her.

 

 

And so the week progressed much in the same fashion. Work. Fuck. Quality time together. Repeat. Until Friday when they got a call that Ani’s dress was ready to be fitted for the gala.

She was giddy as they walked into the sea of swirling fabrics that was the famous dressmaker’s shop and she was escorted back to a fitting room.

Ani’s dress was waiting, ready to for her to slip into. She stripped out of her day clothes, exchanging her normal undergarments for the nude-colored formal ones, and stepped into the luxurious white silk.

The sleeveless, a-line dress had a high neck. A rich blue ribbon wrapped around the back of her neck and traced down around the armhole wrapping around her mid-back to meet itself .

She swished the floor-length white silk and felt the most beautiful she ever had in her whole life. She hadn’t told Shouto about the alteration. He knew she picked out a white dress but the blue ribbon was an addition she requested. Tentatively she parted the curtain and stepped out into the circle of cushioned lounges. Shouto’s mouth parted, eyes glued to the vision stepping out into the light.

“What do you think?” She asked timidly.

He slowly rose from the couch without looking away. “I think that dress looks incredible on you.”

“Thank you,” she said with a light pink dusting her features.

He stepped up to her and traced the blue ribbon down the sides of her chest. “I don’t remember this part.”

She looked up at him under her eyelashes and softly explained. “I...asked for it to be added.”

There was something familiar about it to Shouto as he traced and retraced the curve around her body. He gave a soft laugh. “It makes me think of my hero uniform.”

Ani’s blush ripened as she admitted “that’s where I got the inspiration.”

“Really?” He asked, eyebrows rising.

She nodded. “The seamstress told me your suit was navy and I wanted to match somehow.” She smiled, folding her hands behind her back and shrugged. “Then I thought of your uniform.”

Shouto chuckled. “Like you’re heading into battle?”

“Yeah,” she grinned cheekily. “Kind of, with the way you described it.”

He lifted his hands to cup her face and gently kissed her. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she said with shimmering eyes. Reluctant to take off the beautiful garment, she changed back into her street clothes after the seamstress noted there were no alterations needed. They headed home for the night and, upon Ani’s request, practiced a few styles of formal dancing in case they ended up on the dance floor the following night.

Shouto kept thinking about Ani in the gorgeous dress and felt a possessive urge to claim her one last time before the gala.

 

~

 

On Saturday morning Shouto had a few things to attend to and Ani used the time to visit with Aino. He met her at the agency and she gave him a tour, blowing his mind that Shouto had insisted on giving her a small operating room.

“Well, with everything you’ve done in the ER...it kind of makes sense,” Aino said with a shrug. “You’re going to be dealing with just about everything.”

“I know...” she said as they returned to her office. Aino sat in the stiff chair and smirked. She said “shut up. I don’t need leather couches Mr. Big-Important-Chief-of-Surgery.”

“It’s fine,” he laughed. “So what do you think, do you have time to get lunch before you need to get ready for the gala tonight?”

“I think so,” Ani glanced at the clock and grew thoughtful.

Aino noticed the preoccupied look in her eye. “Ani, what’s up?”

“Huh?” She looked back to him. “What? Oh, nothing.”

“Ani,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “I know it’s not nothing. What’s on your mind?”

She strummed her fingers on her desk. She didn’t expect to have an opportunity to bring her idea up to Aino this soon and she was worried he wouldn’t listen if she didn’t propose the details properly.

She took a deep breath and gave her brother a steady look.

Chapter Text

Ani finished twisting her hair back into a bun at the base of her neck. She twirled the few loose strands of hair around her face with her finger knowing they wouldn’t stay curled if she used the curling iron. She smiled at herself, excited to be making such a public appearance with Shouto, and stepped out of the bathroom in her nude undergarments.

Shouto was tying his bowtie in their full-size mirror. When he saw her coming out he cocked an eyebrow.

“Interesting choice for the gala,” he said with a smirk. “Seems a bit risque for your tastes.”

“Ha. Ha,” she responded with a playfully snarky voice. She pulled the luxurious gown out of the dress bag in their closet and carefully stepped into it. “Will you please zip me up?”

“Of course,” he said coming up behind her and gently eased the zipper up. She turned around and looked up at him under her lashes with a blush.

“Thanks,” she said as she stepped into her heels. She watched him slide into his tuxedo jacket. She bit her lip, holding her hands behind her back. A navy blue tuxedo lined with white accents and a navy blue bow-tie in the collar of a white shirt.

Damn. He looked good.

He finished fastening his cuffs and caught her eye. “What?”

She shrugged at him with an earnest smile. “You look incredible.”

“Thank you,” he said with his heart-stopping smile and came to her side. In her heels she didn’t need to lift herself up on her tiptoes to reach his lips, she just leaned in and gave him a kiss. He pressed his forehead into hers. “I’m so glad you’re coming with me tonight.”

“Me, too.” She closed her eyes and they each savored the closeness before setting off into the sea of socialites together.

He walked her down to the lobby where a car was waiting for them and they slid in the back seat. He took her hand and she rested her head on his shoulder as their driver pulled away. The gala was on the UA campus and the ride there was gentle. Ani enjoyed watching Dagoben then Musutafu pass with the unique pulses of each city. The iconic, massive, four-pillars of glass were the first thing visible and Ani watched in awe as they drove into the awe-inspiring campus.

“I can’t believe this was your school,” Ani said as her eyes followed the passing scene.

“Mm,” Shouto agreed. “I’d love to show it to you sometime.”

“I would like that,” she said with a smile that made his heart skip a beat as she turned to him.

A sound outside the car, like a roaring waterfall, swelled and drew their attention ahead. Their driver pulled in the line of vehicles to drop them off at the wide red-carpet surrounded by massive crowds of fans, reporters and their camera crews, and photographers.

Ani trembled slightly and Shouto gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. He remembered guiltily in that moment how little she wanted to be in the spotlight.

“I’m sorry Ani. I forgot how ridiculous the entrance gets,” he said quietly. “I’ve never given it a second thought before.”

“I-It’s okay,” she said with a gulp. “Just don’t lose me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said and kissed the top of her head. Their driver inched forward and the screaming crowd of people were trying to see through the tinted windows at who was inside as security officers held back the line.

Their driver was waved forward and it was their turn. Shouto stepped out and was met immediately by a raucous wave of shouts and cheers but he paid them no mind. He turned his attention to Ani who was carefully sliding across the bench. He could see the worry in her eyes as she came to the open door and she looked up into his patient, loving eyes which calmed her brewing anxiety. She accepted his hand with a smile and let him help her out of the car. There was another roar at the sight of Shouto now with his girlfriend.

His eyes shined as he slowly wove her through the throngs of people. They greeted other pro-heroes and Shouto briefly introduced Ani though she was quickly overwhelmed with the sheer volume of names and faces. Reporters shoved their microphones out as far as they could while they shouted questions at the stream of public figures. Fans waved their signs and screamed so hard their faces turned red. It was a little frightening, seeing the intensity of their passion for their favorite heroes but some of the pros seemed to bask in it.

Kirishima was leaning into the crowds as hysterical girls swarmed around him taking selfies. Sero was signing pieces of tape and handing them out to his excited fans as Shoji signed six autographs at a time from each of his dupli-arms. Shouto’s fans were dispersed throughout the crowds, clearly visible as they wore red-white wigs. Some even went so far as to decorate their faces with a scar around their left eye but none of them registered on Shouto’s horizon. He kept an arm wrapped around Ani's waist, never letting anyone between them and hadn’t stopped to talk to any reporters or fans. His eyes casually roamed the crowd, part of him always on alert in large crowds like this. Ani looked at him and caught his eye.

“What?” He asked, leaning in to whisper in her ear and then leaned his ear to her mouth.

She blushed lightly. “I can’t believe I’m here with you.”

“I can’t believe you’re here with me. You look stunning.” He grinned and tried to hide the smile by resting his head on hers but noticed more flashes suddenly directed at them. He pulled back knowing they wouldn’t find any privacy here and met her eyes. They glinted impishly and she narrowed hers slightly at him, wondering what he was up to, as he smirked. They stopped walking up the red carpet now as Shouto turned her to face him and slowly reached up to hold her chin. Heat flushed her face as he closed his eyes and slowly leaned in and lightly pressed his lips to hers. Her eyes fluttered closed. With just a simple kiss like this he made everyone else around them disappear and her worries melted away.

When he pulled back and gently released her chin, all she saw was him. The deep gray and deep blue of his eyes. His red and white hair stirring in a breeze. The crinkle of his cheeks as he smiled.

“I love you, Ani.”

A smile slowly spread across her face, shy and warm. “I love you too, Sho.”

Slowly the sounds and sights of the world around them faded into view again and he pulled her back to his side. He was practically glowing.

They started moving down the red carpet again and she leaned her weight into him. Less fans and more reporters filled in the deeper stretches of red carpet where the more administrative public figures stopped to answer questions and pose for pictures.

The loudest, most raucous cheer yet rose from the start of the red carpet and Ani glanced over her shoulder, Shouto following her line of vision. They saw Midoriya and Uraraka stepping out of a car together as fans sporting jade in every way possible pushed their way to the edge of the barriers at the red carpet. Ani’s eyes flicked to Shouto.

“Is he going to be okay?”

Shouto chuckled once. “He’ll be fine. Come on, you won’t want to see what happens when All Might arrives.”

Ani let Shouto lead her the rest of the way to the doors and she went through security imagining what the retired Symbol of Peace must face when he goes out in public. Shouto rejoined her, taking her hand once they were through security and they casually wove their way through a busy lobby as Shouto gave polite greetings to people they passed.

He led her into the massive main hall and Ani’s jaw dropped. The two-story open ballroom was lined with a balcony that wrapped around all four walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows lined the walls of the upper balcony and the exterior wall of the first floor. The windows on the first floor were opened and acting as doors for the extravagantly dressed guests to mingle out onto the charming stone patio. Dancers swirled and swayed across the massive first floor to music played from an orchestra tucked away in a corner. Waiters wove through the crowd carrying trays of food and drinks.

After a long minute of gawking Ani felt Shouto’s gaze on her. “Sorry,” she said. “This is all so...”

“Overwhelming?” He offered. She nodded and he responded with a small, warm smile. “I understand. You have no idea how nice it is to not face this alone.”

Her eyes crinkled and shined as she beamed up at him. “I’m so glad I’m here with you.”

They turned as someone approached, greeting Todoroki and introduced himself to Ani as the mayor’s assistant of Dagoben. He expressed the mayor’s interest in speaking with Todoroki at some point during the evening about the new hero clinic in his agency. Todoroki credited Ani with the idea and creation of the clinic and the mayor’s assistant’s eyes lit up with excitement to report this to the mayor.

Ani blushed as they walked away brimming with enthusiasm. “You didn’t have to do that. It was your idea to follow through with it after all.”

The corners of his mouth lifted in a small, proud smile. “You deserve to be recognized.” His expression fell a fraction. “Unless...you don’t want people to know?”

“No!” She insisted, cupping her blushing face. “I don’t mind...I’m just really flattered the way you talked about me.”

He grinned, stopping her heart and said “it’s only the truth.” He pulled her close and kissed her hair at her breathless expression. “Come on, let’s see who else is here.”

They greeted other members of their class who had made it inside already and Ani met the final few she hadn't met yet. She was especially taken aback when she met Tokoyami. Dark Shadow appeared though his well-groomed state for the occasion made his introduction no less startling. Ani nearly dropped her drink but after the initial shock wore off she began firing questions off at Tokoyami and Dark Shadow wanting to understand how they were connected. Dark Shadow was flattered and continued to answer Ani’s questions when Tokoyami’s attention was claimed by someone else. Shouto smiled and remained at her side while other people came up to him, too, and he was happy to just be near her.

The hall filled with people as the final guests arrived and finished making their way down the red carpet. The UA principal, still the same un-aging Nezu, welcomed everyone and invited them to enjoy themselves as they spent time together making connections to improve their world. They all raised their glasses of champagne and everyone drank, some only a sip to acknowledge the toast, and others drained their glasses empty. Ani settled for a full taste, Shouto only a sip, and a waiter collected their glasses as conversations began to bubble around them.

“Would you like to dance?” Shouto asked her before they could be ensnared in a never-ending stream of conversation.

“Sure,” Ani said. There were already a large number of people dancing to the melody swaying from the orchestra when Shouto led her out to the floor and took her hand with pride. She beamed as he used the dance as an excuse to hold her close and move with the music. They turned, the soft white of her dress swirling in the movement. He spun her, extending his arm out and the fabric twirled, and made her laugh at the uncharacteristically flashy move. He brought her back to his chest, leaving no space between them and she blushed.

The song changed and he adjusted their movements to match the new flow. He held her tenderly, savoring the moment, and a group of people caught his eye. He saw a cluster of his old classmates around All Might’s retired form dressed up in a tuxedo.

“Come with me,” Shouto said. “There’s someone I want to introduce you to.”

“Okay,” Ani said as her eyes scanned the crowd wondering where they could be headed. She saw a few of his old classmates and wondered if there was someone else she hadn’t met. And then she saw All Might.

She nearly tripped. “Shouto—we have to wait! Your class is talking to All Might right now!”

“I know,” he gave her a smug grin. “That’s who I want you to meet.”

Her face paled as he towed her to the group and she tried to pull herself together.

“Young Shouto!” All Might’s voice boomed despite his haggard, retired form. The group’s attention shifted as they parted to make room and All Might caught sight of Ani. “Who is this beautiful woman with you, Young Shouto!”

“All Might,” Shouto said, joining the group. “I wanted to introduce you to my girlfriend, Shida Ani.”

The turquoise marbles that were All Might’s eyes met Ani’s and he saw her expression of shock. “It is an honor to meet you, Miss Shida!” He opened his arms.

“No, please!” she said and dipped her head. “The honor is all mine! I can’t believe I’m meeting you.”

“Ahh, a fan I see!” He said with a huge grin and popped into his hero form for a second before returning to his retired-self.

“No, Not really—I, I mean of course I’m a fan of All Might I just meant that because you were Midoriya’s teacher and basically his mentor but you were also one of Shouto’s teachers when he was here at UA and I just can’t believe I get to meet the person who helped shape these amazing heroes!”

All Might’s expression softened. “Ahh, so you’re a fan of Midoriya and Shouto’s?” He asked, not the least bit offended.

“Yes,” Ani said with a self-conscious smile. “They’re amazing.”

A light blush dusted Shouto’s cheeks and a few of his old classmates tried to hold back their smiles at the crack in his stoic mask.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for them,” Ani said with a deeper bow of her head.

All Might waved his hand. “Thank you but it was all in my honor and duty as number one hero to help train the future of heroes!”

“No,” Ani said quietly. “Well, yes of course...but...I was thinking about your work during your retirement. You spent your whole life saving so many people and when you retired...you could have stepped back and taken time for yourself and disappeared...but you didn’t. You stayed here for them, for all of them” she glanced around at the members of his class that were there “and kept protecting us all by teaching them. Thank you...for going beyond and continuing to be a true hero.”

A gentle silence fell over the group and Ani interpreted it as overstepping a boundary. She cringed inwardly. “That was very forward of me. Excuse me,” she said and turned before anyone could say anything. She wove through the crowd and heard Shouto following her. He caught her hand and gently pulled, stopping her to come around in front of her. He saw the embarrassment in her blue eyes and her self-consciousness squeezed his heart.

“Ani,” he said as she avoided his gaze and shied away from the animated people streaming around them. He wrapped her in a hug, giving her a reprieve from the moment. “Why are you embarrassed?”

Into his chest, loud enough for only him, she said “it’s callous of me to say so much without thinking about All Might and what he may have gone through after his retirement. It was crass and insensitive. And I’m sorry. I feel like I embarrassed you.”

Shouto’s eyes drifted to the ceiling and he sighed. “What you said...was none of those things.” His voice rumbled against the noise of the gala, reverberating throughout her leaving calm in its wake. “I think you would be surprised to see how your words landed.”

She tentatively leaned back to look at his eyes. She searched the two tones for any sign of placation but there was none. He was serious.

“Thank you for following me,” she said.

He smiled warmly, resting his forehead on hers. “I’d follow you to the ends of the earth.”

“I love you,” she said, happiness replacing her embarrassment.

“I love you too,” he said. He kissed her forehead and caught sight of the dance floor. “Would you like to dance again?”

She nodded happily and he led them back into the swaying crowd of couples. He held her tenderly, closely and she asked him to point out other people he knew. He slowly rotated their view and pointed out those faces he recognized.

From across the dance floor All Might was still catching up with some of his old students when he was joined by Midoriya and Uraraka.

“All Might,” the jade hared man said and greeted his mentor with a surprising hug.

All Might smiled and his other old students walked away, giving him space with the student who had always been his obvious favorite. “Midoriya-san. Miss Uraraka.” He greeted the cheery girlfriend who also remained.

“All Might,” she said with a bow of her head. “It’s wonderful to see you here tonight!”

He grinned in his retired form, a shadow of the grin in his hero form but still a bright, gleaming grin. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything! I get to see all of you zygotes grow and mature more every year!”

Uraraka smiled and Midoriya cracked an awkward grimace. “You’re still calling us zygotes.”

“You’ll always be my zygotes!” All Might quietly proclaimed. A smiling, laughing couple on the dance floor caught his attention. “And it’s nice to see certain pupils blooming.”

Mirdoriya followed All Might’s eyes and saw Todoroki dancing with Shida. He smiled. “Yes. Todoroki has changed a lot.” He glanced at his old mentor’s happy face. “Have you had the chance to meet Miss Shida?”

All Might nodded. “I did...but I fear I offended her in some way.”

“Shida?” Midoriya asked. “It took a lot for Bakugo to get under her skin so I can’t imagine how you could have upset her.”

“I don’t know,” All Might said. He snapped his fingers as an idea came to him. “Young Midoriya-san, Miss Uraraka. Would you excuse me?”

“Of course, All Might!” Midoriya said, returning to his overly-accommodating attitude for his old idol, and bowed his head. All Might clapped his prodigy on the shoulder and shuffled his way across the dance floor to where Todoroki was still quietly speaking to Ani, chuckling together.

“Young Todoroki!” All Might greeted, making them both jump. They turned to him but Shida avoided his gaze. “Miss Shida. Would you honor this old man with a dance?”

Her blue eyes shifted back to him. “Me?” When All Might nodded, she glanced at Todoroki who looked reluctant to let her go.

“Don’t let him steal you away from me,” the red-white head coyly commented to his girlfriend.

“I wouldn’t dream of it!” All Might answered with his characteristic “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Todoroki smirked and held Shida’s hand out for All Might who took it in the massive, knotty hands of his retired form. He led her in time to the music as Todoroki stepped away.

Ani glanced away as she blushed. She didn’t know what to say.

“Miss Shida,” the old symbol of peace said in his quiet, rumbly voice. “Thank you for your kind words before.”

Once again her blue eyes flicked back to him in surprise. Her mouth parted in surprise but she didn’t say anything so All Might continued.

“Most of my fans...when they meet me...want pictures with my hero-form. They get upset and disappointed when I can’t hold that form long enough for everyone who wants a picture, even though they try not to let me see.” He sighed, shoulders sagging under the light grip of one of Ani’s hands. “It’s rare to hear anyone comment at all, let alone so honorably, about my time in retirement.”

The turquoise marble of All Might’s eyes caught sight of Midoriya in the corner of his eye. Of Todoroki. Bakugo. And more of his old students.

“It was hard to appear before them in a lesser form...but I didn’t want to abandon them. I worried for a long time that they wouldn’t want to be taught by me after losing my strength. As if I would be a lesser hero because I couldn’t fight anymore.” He smiled weakly at Ani. “They were all very reassuring and offered many kind words but they were hard to accept. Hearing an...” he hesitated.

“Outsider?” Ani quietly offered. All Might shook his head and hands fretfully worried that word would offend her but she smiled warmly. “How about a...non-student?”

“Yes,” he accepted the label with relief. “Hearing a non-student acknowledge the choice I made and how it helped my students...it validates my feelings and eases any doubts I had about my choice to continue to stand with them.”

“I’m glad,” Ani said softly, unable to meet his eye. “I was worried I would have made you uncomfortable by talking about your time in your retirement. I don’t know you personally or what you went through...I just thought you never stopped being a hero.” She slowly raised her eyes to him. “And I wanted to thank you for everything you did for Shouto, to fill in as a role-model for him when others were...less than desirable.”

All Might smirked, knowing exactly who she was talking about but he didn’t want to waste words belittling an old rival. “Miss Shida...Thank you for what you’ve done for our Young Todoroki.”

Her brow dipped. “What I’ve done?”

“Yes,” All Might confirmed. “To see Young Todoroki here dancing...smiling...laughing...it’s like watching the sunrise across a beautiful valley. A place that used to be covered in darkness, now illuminated and emerging with life.”

“Hey!” Ani laughed lightly. “Just because he wasn’t expressive before doesn’t mean he wasn’t alive!”

All Might cracked a smile. “You’re right. That was an unfair detail...but the point is the same. He has changed by your side. For the better.”

“Thank you,” Ani said with a shy smile. “Though anything I’ve done for him pales in comparison to what he’s done for me.”

“Like what?” All Might asked curiously.

Ani sighed. “Opening his heart...welcoming me into his world...being loved by him is the greatest gift I will ever receive.” She looked across the dance floor at her boyfriend having a light conversation with Kaminari. “He deserves all the love in the world.”

“Well...I don’t think any one person deserves that much love,” All Might said with a huge grin. “But all the love from your world? That will do.”

Ani blushed. Her lips opened to answer him but a gruff voice cut-in.

“Oi, All Might...” a gruff voice interjected. “Mind if I cut in?”

Ani’s head turned in surprise to Bakugo who appeared at their side. He was avoiding the other dancing couples, looking only at All Might.

“Y-yes.” All Might glanced between the two of them. “Of Course Young Bakugo.” He gave Ani a small bow of his head, making her blush speechlessly, as he offered her hand to Bakugo who accepted it readily in her pause. Bakugo pulled Ani towards him smoothly slipping into the place where All Might had been.

Ani gasped as Bakugo’s hand pressed on her lower back, bringing her against his body. She pulled back, putting some distance between them and cleared hwe throat. Bakugo pouted grumpily. Once they was an appropriate space she took stock of him.

“Hi Bakugo,” she said with a polite smile. “You look handsome tonight.” And objectively he did, too, dressed in a black tuxedo, red dress shirt, and black tie. The red complemented his eyes well and nearly made them glow when some emotion flashed through them.

“You, too,” he mumbled. “Beautiful, I mean.” The fingers on her back spread, tips flexing as he savored the small contact she was allowing.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. He was quiet, too, almost disinterested as he swayed her back and forth looking at everything but her.

“Are you having fun tonight?” She asked him kindly trying to ease a lingering tension.

He grunted. “S’alright.” A smile spread across Ani’s face and she chuckled; he had not expected that. Her laugh, quiet and easy, made him feel lighter. “It’s better now.”

“Yeah,” Ani said with a playful huff. “I hated coming down the red carpet! I don’t know how all of you do it.”

Bakugo’s lips pressed together in a tight line. It wasn’t what he had meant and he didn’t know how to clarify it. The song began to fade. He had taken her from All Might already part-way through one and she started to pull away, assuming they were done but he held her close. Well. As close as she would let him.

“That wasn’t a full song,” he said defensively. “You still owe me one.”

Ani thought about the text message and smirked. “I don’t think I agreed to it.” Before the sharp remark on the tip of his tongue could fly out she smiled and added “but that’s fine. Shouto’s talking to someone right now so I don’t mind.”

Bakugo’s hand clutched hers defensively at something she said but she wasn’t sure what it was. His mouth puckered and he chided himself, knowing he was wasting his own time.

“What’s wrong?” She asked with a crease in her forehead, sensing his inner turmoil. “Bakugo?”

“Call me Katsuki.”

"What?" Breath hitched in her throat. "W-why?”

“We’re friends aren’t we?” He grumbled and looked away sulkily. “When are you coming back to your apartment?”

“Oh, well...I’m not.” She gratefully accepted the change in conversation. “I’m going to stay with Shouto.”

“You’re going to stay with him? Even though your apartment’s finished?” He asked with narrow eyes.

“How did you know my apartment was finished?” She asked suspiciously, halting in their gentle swaying.

The words caught in his throat. “I...just saw it...walking by...” Why wouldn’t the right words come out damnit!

“Oh,” she relaxed and he used the opportunity as she returned to swaying to pull her in ever-so-slightly. “Yeah...I got a call from my landlord that my apartment was repaired.”

“And you’re not going to go back?”

She shook her head. “No. I want to stay with Sho. Besides...” an anxiety tightened her eyes and she looked away.

“What is it?” He asked. The hand on her back tensed reflexively, protectively.

Her eyes flicked back to him nervously. “Someone paid to have it redone.”

His eyes flattened. “As that’s a bad thing?”

“Not necessarily. But...I can’t help feeling worried why someone would do that. I already asked my brother, thinking maybe he was just trying to be thoughtful or something but he said it wasn’t him.” She nearly shivered, eyes shifting nervously away from him again. “Someone also prepaid a full year of my rent.”

His eyes narrowed at her and his voice was quiet but angry. “So a gracious benefactor gifts you back your apartment, not only in one piece, but for a whole year and you’re not going to use it?!”

“No,” she reiterated. “I want to live with Shouto. And there’s no way to know if it was a generous benefactor or someone, one of those people who attacked me, trying to trick me back into the apartment.”

Bakugo scoffed angrily and nearly threw her hand away as he angrily shook her other hand off his shoulder. He shoved his hands in his pockets and muttered one word as he stalked off, abandoning her on the dance floor.

“Ungrateful.”

It felt like he cut her with that word.

Ungrateful.

She felt suddenly alone on the dance floor with a spotlight trained on her though she was surrounded by people who didn’t pay her any mind.

A chilly hand rubbed down her back and she flinched in surprise.

“Ani?” Shouto stepped in front of her and registered the distress in her features. “What’s wrong?”

“I...I don’t know,” she said as he took her hand and led her off the dance floor. He drew her out one of the doors into the calming night air on the elegant stone patio. When they found a place in the shadows to be alone he stopped and pulled her against his chest.

“What’s wrong?” He asked again. His words were gentle. Soothing. Like the cool fingers tracing her face.

“It’s just something Bakugo said...it was unsettling.” She frowned as she looked in Shouto’s eyes that glowed in the night.

“What did he say?“ Shouto’s heart pounded. His mind ran wild with what the unpredictable ash-blonde would do.

“He called me ungrateful.” Ani’s gaze unfocused as she became introspective. “For not going back to my apartment.”

Shouto hesitated. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Ani’s eyes narrowed. “The coward walked away after making that comment.”

Shouto laughed because of her expression that was supposed to be serious and menacing but he found the intensity endearing.

“What?” She asked, eyes widening at his reaction.

“I like your ferocity,” he said as he touched his lips to her hair.

“Thanks.” She glanced around and—not seeing anyone in their direct view—she turned, catching his lips with her own. His eyes flew open, scanning the area as his cheeks flushed with heat. Not seeing anyone he closed his eyes and gave in, letting her press herself against him from lip, to chest, to hip. One hand slid around her waist, the other around her neck to cup the back of her head as he traced the shape of her lips with his tongue. He felt her breath catch. She pressed herself deeper against him and he felt a warmth begin to stir deep within him.

Before his arousal could harden him he broke the kiss and treasured the way her eyes stared at his under lids heavy with lust.

“How long does the gala go?” She asked him with an unabashed need.

“There’s still a considerable amount of time left.” He smirked, brushing a hair behind her ear. “Though I’m as anxious to leave as you.”

She bit her lip and gave him room to step out of the shadows where she had hidden him. They held hands walking down the patio past a few people quietly talking and Ani planned on going back inside with him when she caught an angry puff of hair sulking in the garden. At her hesitation Shouto looked and saw who she was looking at.

“Should we go talk to him?” He asked. Ani glanced at him.

“You should go back to the gala. I don’t want me yelling at Bakugo to distract from better things you could be doing with your time.” She kissed his cheek. “I’ll be right back in.”

She dashed away, lifting the skirt of her dress as she glided down the stairs and made a beeline for the angry pro hero in the garden. There were important conversations waiting for him back in the ballroom but there was no way he was going to go without making sure she found the hot-head and wasn’t wandering out in the night alone, even if they were on the UA campus. He saw the top of her head bob up and down among the hedges as she stormed toward her victim.

Her heels crunched the gravel path and she steeled her nerve. He was going to explain himself for that cruel comment! She rounded the corner and saw him kicking stones with his hands in his pockets like a dejected high schooler. At the sound of her own footsteps along his path his eyes lifted and he stopped walking. His eyes narrowed defensively.

“What do you want, goldilocks?” He scowled.

She came right up to him and crossed her arms. “I want you to explain yourself. What makes you think I’m ungrateful?!”

His features puckered, eyes rolling. “I didn’t say that.”

“You definitely did.” She stood her ground feeling the same way she had at the party when she called him out on being mean. “It was cruel. And uncalled for.”

“Uncalled for?!” He sneered. “You’re getting an apartment for. Free. And you’re not even going to use it!”

“You’re right, I'm not. I didn’t have any plans to go back. Whoever fronted all of that money never asked me what I wanted or was going to do,” she countered. “Besides, Bakugo, why do you care what I’m doing or where I’m living?!”

His eyes glinted. “I told you to call me Katsuki.”

“Why?” She pressed him, not letting the conversation change. “Why do you care?”

He stared at her with a blaze in his eyes that shifted between anger to discomfort to frustration. “Because I paid for it.”

“What?” She asked, utterly confused.

I paid for it,” he repeated. “All of it. The repairs and your rent.”

Her eyes shifted around as if they could find an explanation along the path before moving back to his intense expression. “Why would you do that? I mean...I know you’re trying to make it clear we’re friends but that’s taking it a little far, don’t you think?”

“It’s not because I want to be your friend it’s because I’m in love with you, dumbass!” He snapped.

He immediately regretted it. The choice of words. The way they sounded. He saw how it landed and he spun around, turning his back to her so he didn’t have to watch her reaction.

Slowly her arms fell to her sides, uncrossing. “You’re...in love...with me?” she said like she was testing the words.

A grunt was the only response.

“But...Bakugo, I don’t understand...”

His back tensed, shoulders hunching at the sound of that name again, and he turned back in an angry rush. His hands were on her before she could gasp, one at her hip and the other at her chin, as his face filled her vision. Fiery red eyes bored into hers merely inches away.

“I told you...to call me Katsuki,” he said with a nearly feral growl and she saw his intention solidify.

She placed a hand over his mouth and he stopped. “Bakugo...” she ignored the confrontation on fire in his eyes “I don’t know where all of this is coming from...but I’m with Shouto. I love him. And nothing’s going to change that...so please...be my friend.”

His glowing red eyes scoured hers, flicking back and forth as he struggled to restrain himself. Ani gently stepped back and he let his hands falls as she pulled hers off of his mouth.

“Thank you for being so generous...” she held her hands together tightly. “It’s...very thoughtful and kind...and I mean you no offense. My intention is not to scorn your feelings or gesture but...I’m staying with Shouto.”

Bakugo’s tongue felt like a lead weight, dragging his heart down somewhere dark where everything he wanted to say couldn’t escape.

“I’m glad to have you as a friend, Bakugo.” She met his glare with a soft, gentle gaze that he scorned, looking away. Ani took a steadying breath. “Thank you for telling me how you feel.”

She waited hoping he would say something to ease the guilt in her heart but she realized how selfish that was and she wanted to give him space. She didn’t want to hurt him. He pouted as she turned, lifting the pearly fabric of her skirt. This conversation had not gone how he had hoped. In any way. But as he watched her start to walk away he wasn’t fueled with rage at her rejection. He respected her for it.

“I’ll be your friend,” he begrudgingly forced the words out and she paused, looking back to him. “But I’m still in love with you. And that half-and-half should know...if he ever fucks up. I’m going to make a big fucking deal about it.”

Ani smiled, stifling a small laugh. “I’m lucky to have a friend like you.”

He crossed his arms and scrunched his mouth. She was loyal. Nearly loyal to a fault. And instead of it pissing him off that he wasn’t able to sway her feelings or change her mind...he found his feelings amplified. Because if he was with someone he wanted that person to be unflaggingly loyal, too.

Ani gave him one more smile and left him standing by himself along the gravel path. She carefully navigated the stones in her heels, no longer distracted by a mission and felt eyes upon her. She looked up to see Shouto coming down the gravel path from the stairs to meet her.

“Hi,” she said, happy to see him.

His eyes searched hers with a fading worry. “Hi,” he gave her a small smile. “Everything okay?”

Nervousness flickered through her features. She was preparing the words to explain what she just learned when Bakugo answered as he came up the path.

“Take a chill-pill you half-n-half bastard. It didn’t even phase her so you have nothing to worry about,” he growled as he passed them.

Shouto’s dual-eyes met Ani’s look of scrutiny. “What?” He asked guiltily.

“Yeah, he knew it. All of it,” Bakugo called over his shoulder, unable to let slide the opportunity to jab at his rival.

Ani huffed, putting her fists on her waist as she looked at her boyfriend. “You let me worry about the apartment!”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “I found out when I went to your apartment that night but I thought Bakugo should be the one to tell you...” His eyes shyly met hers as understanding dawned on her.

“Because...you weren’t going to back down,”

“From a test of us,” he said quietly pulling her to him as they rested their foreheads together.

“Get a room losers,” Bakugo shouted from the patio, casting an embarrassing spotlight on the two of them.

Ani laughed and Shouto rolled his eyes. “What an—”

“Ass,” she finished for him. They shared a grin and he offered her his arm to return to the party. She happily wrapped her arm under and around his, resting her head on his shoulder as they walked toward the stairs.

A gentle rumble reverberated through the air. Shouto paused at the base of the steps as he felt another roll through the atmosphere and Midoriya appeared at the top of the stairs, green lightning sparking around his limbs.

“Did you feel that?” The number one hero asked looking to the number two. Shouto nodded and Bakugo appeared next to Midoriya.

Another rumble.
Louder, stronger.

Closer.

An explosion ripped through the air only a few blocks away from the UA campus and a great orange ball of fire and smoke ballooned into the air.

Chapter Text

Fear spread like ice through Ani as she felt the temperature of Shouto’s arm drop. She released his arm and stepped to the side as a spike of ice punched up, launching him in the air toward the devastation. In the same moment a streak of green lightning and jet blast explosion shot to it, too. Wind whipped around Ani, swirling her dress and pulling the hair from her neat bun with the force of the three departures.

Other people, more heroes were rushing out onto the patio and taking off into the city as they saw the smoke.

And then the screams started.

Ani’s eyes widened as she heard the cries of suffering from so far away. Of Panic and terror. The screams lifted into the night air alongside the towers of smoke. She found herself running as her shoes flew off without a plan, only the instinct to help.

Her quirk was not one that would allow her to go over the wall so she followed the stream of people rushing the main gate. She heard more explosions and flinched with everyone around her. Screams and shouts were bouncing around in a growing chaos that swelled with a tide of people running from the disaster. The first wave were those who were completely uninjured. Ani fought against the tide, trying to get closer to the destruction as a second wave of people began: those injured but still able to move. Behind them Ani could see heroes and other civilians helping the seriously injured who couldn’t walk. She needed a place where the injured could gather so she could begin field surgery and treatment. She quickly scanned the blocks of the unfamiliar city and saw a park only a few blocks down.

“There!” She began yelling to those who were injured. “If you’re injured, go to the park!”

A few people heard her but not enough to change the course of the river of people.

“Damnit,” she cursed under her breath and climbed up onto a bench. As loudly as she could she screamed “take the injured to the park down there!” She screamed it again and again, waving her arms in the direction of the clearing. Finally, the heroes among the crowd, accustomed to thinking through the panic of a disaster, heard her and began to redirect people, too.

She chose an unoccupied hero and put them in her place, shouting to direct the crowd as she ran ahead to start helping people. The first few who had already arrived were huddled together in fearful confusion. They had expected a formal medical tent or someplace already arranged for first-aid. She sat them down in a line across a patch of grass quickly explaining she was a nurse and noted each of their injuries as others began streaming into the open area.

She was shouting directions at heroes, trying to keep a system of order to the area as she took note of more injuries while working to stop the worst injuries from bleeding out. She was multi-tasking like never before. The ER had given her some experience in managing chaos but this was on another level. Before she could send out a prayer to the universe, other healing-type heroes began arriving. Since she had been the first person on the scene, they looked to her for direction. She was thankful she had kept the patients organized in some way because she was able to send each hero to the place they could help the best.

She was managing two levels of the chaos now, the heroes arriving to help and the seemingly infinite stream of the injured, as she continued to treat the worst injuries. All the while smoke still twisted into the air in ominous columns. Ani thought of Shouto in the back of her mind, hoping the disaster was somehow just an unfortunate accident, but was never distracted from helping the person after person before her.

There was a strength forming in the clearing now as the number of injured was slowing and more heroes were arriving providing help and structure. Ani was drenched in sweat, dress covered in dirt and blood. Her hands were starting to shake from the continuously demanding work but she had yet to be injured by someone’s quirk. She was thankful for that.

She kept working as hard as she could when someone tapped on her elbow. She turned and looked down to a very short old woman with a gray bun.

“Recovery Girl?” She asked, recognizing one of the most powerful heroes in her line of work.

The old woman nodded. “The pros need your help.” She gestured over her shoulder to a panic-stricken young man behind her. A pro hero she didn’t recognize.

“I-I was sent to get you, Ma’am,” he said with a gulp. “There’s people who need help but they can’t be moved.”

“Go,” Recovery Girl instructed. “I can’t get out there and you seem to know what you’re doing. Go help them.”

Ani nodded once to the honored elder and took off after the messenger. He was fast, much faster than she would have been even if she wasn’t already worn out. She tried keeping up with him as best as she could but he was taking the turns too quickly now. She couldn't find the breath to call out and ask him to slow down. She was starting to lose sight of him every-other turn as they wove through the unfamiliar city.

She went two turns without seeing him.

She paused for a moment to catch her breath and she realized they had been running parallel to the columns of smoke.

“Shit,” she said. She must have lost him much sooner than she realized! She took off on her own and headed in a beeline to the destruction with panicked thoughts of the injured.

“Ah!” Her foot, thoroughly scraped and bloodied, caught the edge of something and she tripped landing hard on her elbows, forearms, and knees. “AH, Fuck!” She yelled down the empty alleyway.

She paused for a moment, clutching her knee that hurt the most. She could feel the familiar sapping of her body’s energy as regeneration attacked the damaged joint and torn-up feet. Her chest heaved with ragged breath and she shifted to get back on her feet, to get to the pros who needed her help. “Well, well, well...”

With a sickening curdle, Ani’s gut twisted as her eyes rose to the shadow above her and she realized she was not alone in the alley.

The shadow dropped from a fire escape like ink and formed a silhouette Ani was petrified to recognize.

“Look what little flower I found sprouting up here...in the darkness...” Blue eyes glowed iridescent in the dim light and struck fear through Ani’s soul. “...all alone...”

She inched backward, every cell in her body on fire. Flight.

That was the response her body chose: flight.

Without any hesitation she bolted down the alleyway in the opposite direction which happened to be toward the carnage. She could see it. The pros combing through the wreckage and she tried to cry out but her voice betrayed her, breaking from the limits to which she’d already used it. Two blocks.

That was it. Two blocks was all that was left between her and...and...another shadow. It separated itself from the building halfway down the next block in an obvious attempt to trap her. A ghoulish nightmare tall and sinister also with blue eyes. No. The...same...blue eyes?

Panic electrified her muscles as she turned down the next dim street, seeing she would need to avoid trash bags and dumpsters littered along the way like a hellish obstacle course. She glanced in the other direction and saw a clearer path.

The hair on the back of her neck stood up as two pairs of unholy cerulean orbs leisurely approached her and she made a snap decision to take the clearer path.

And immediately regretted it.

A third pair of eyes appeared at the other end, sealing her fate as she felt the other two pairs at the end from which she just came. Frantic, like a rat in a cage, her eyes darted around and caught the lines of a shadow hanging only a few steps down the alley.

A fire escape ladder.

A sliver of hope to deliver her from the darkness closing in. If she could get to the rooftop, she would be in plain sight with a better chance of a hero seeing. They were all over the place only a short distance away. Surely one of them, someone would see her up there, right?

With life-or-death adrenaline pumping in her system she launched herself onto a dumpster and grabbed the ladder as she fought the pull of gravity on the weight of her dress. She clenched her teeth and climbed with all of her might as she heard the three sets of footsteps hustling toward the dumpster.

“Come back pretty flower, don’t drift away on the wind from us!”
“We’re not done with you yet!”
“Where ya going, beautiful?”
Their voices crawled up from the street and she felt them grab at the train of her dress. She had just reached the top of the ladder, still trying to hoist herself onto the first level when they yanked at the fabric. She screamed, clutching the metal framing of the first floor with all her might and they howled below her like wolves. Fighting with every part of her being she dragged herself against their strength. Fingers cut and bleeding on the rough metal of the fire escape she managed to get her waist up as the first one of them was climbing up still clutching the fabric of her dress.

She braced herself with her legs and, without shame, she ripped apart the neck-hem of her dress and felt the zipper tear. It was only an evening gown after all. It wasn’t meant to hold-up to the forces of a fight. She managed to wriggle one arm out and kicked the man below her in the face. He lost his grip and fell, slamming into the dumpster and turning into a squelching puddle of mud. The other two looked up at her with pure fury at the loss of their comrade and she scrambled.

She slipped out of the garment a split second before the dress was wrenched down by the next copy. He slipped from the ladder, too, but kept his balance and landed unharmed.

Ani was already racing up the stairs immune to the frigid night air that swirled around her exposed skin. Unabashed she ran in her skin-colored bra and underwear across the next level, around and up the next flight of stairs. The two men were hurtling up the escape after her and she could feel them closing in.

Before she could start up the next flight of stairs a torrent of blue flame shot up through the staircase causing her to leap back, heat nearly catching her hair on fire. She paused for only a moment form shock and a hand wrapped around her throat.

“Found you.”

He threw her back into the side of the building. She could hear the sound of her own skull cracking and felt the sudden drop in pressure around her brain as blood splattered out against the stone.

The man let go and her vision blurred as she collapsed.

 

~

 

They found the gas leak, the source and cause of the explosions. Rubble still needed to be inspected but full sweeps of the destruction had already been completed. The surrounding area, both above and below ground, had been searched and were now secure. No arsonist or terrorist or villain was found and police ruled out any foul play. It had been an accident. A terrible event but only an accident.

Shouto’s shrewd gaze passed over the scene. Something didn’t feel right.

This was too easy. Too simple.

His skin began to crawl with uneasiness in the air and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He looked around not leaving any detail unnoticed until a flutter of white caught his eye. Across the wreckage was a long swath of fabric once white and dazzlingly pure now coated with dirt and grit. It swayed in the breeze from the arms. Of. His. Brother.

The corner of Dabi’s mouth lifted in a sneer as he met his brother’s eye from a far distance across the rooftops. Shouto’s heart pounded as, out from behind his brother, stepped...a copy...another Dabi...

And in his arms...the limp form of his love wrapped tightly in Dabi’s signature jacket. White hot rage moved Shouto’s body before he could think. He heard his name called from a different world. Maybe an old friend? Or a rival? Maybe it was his own voice shouting something to someone of it’s own accord? He didn’t know. He didn’t care. He could think of nothing but the single most important person of his life. Unconscious. Held by a psychopath.

He was propelling himself as fast as he had ever moved before but he could see it.

He already knew.

He wasn’t going to make it.

But that didn’t stop him from trying. Moving with a speed and ferocity he had not felt since long ago he was only one rooftop away before the purple mist appeared and Dabi stepped backwards—both of them—promptly vanishing into thin air with the love of his life.

And her white dress was all they left behind.

A haunting memento that floated down to the ground, abandoned and empty, as Shouto landed where they had been less than a moment ago.

He was flanked immediately by two other heroes but he couldn’t see them as he slowly sank to the ground. His hands shook as he took the discarded material tenderly in his hands and he felt his heart break at the sight of the blood, dirt, and torn fabric. At the emptiness of the dress that began to spread, echoing out across the world and threatening to collapse the fabric of his reality.

Chapter Text

Oh fuck that was a bad dream.

This was the first thought Ani had as consciousness slowly rose through her like a gentle tide. As she awakened and slipped into more and more of herself she began to feel the aches and pains. Fatigue sagged on her muscles like a damp rag. Her joints were stiff from sleeping on the floor.

Wait.

The floor?

She could feel the unforgiving surface and stretched, trying to crack out any kinks as her eyes opened and bare feet scraped cold stone.

She froze.

What....the actual fuck....

This was a...a goddamn dungeon. With only a sickly orange lamp glowing from where it hung on the wall. Where the fuck was she?

Her head pounded as if her brain was screaming, trying to remember.

Why couldn’t she remember?! Her mind was a total foggy mess, she was surprised she remembered her own name.

She tried coaching herself to back track, okay moments ago she was...where, exactly?

She’d just had a terrible dream that she was being chased through an alleyway but that couldn’t have been real.

Right?

Maybe she wasn’t awake yet. She reached out to pinch herself in a cliché gesture but stopped at the cold metal weight around her wrists. Panic crystalized across her chest as her eyes traced the chain from the cuffs to the wall.

She looked at the shackles in disbelief. Okay. She had to still be dreaming, right?

RIGHT?!

She tried to pull her hand out of the cuff as if this was some weird, cruel joke that someone was playing on her. Her brother maybe? She snorted at herself. Aino? Aino would never do this. Aino! She could remember his name...and that she had a brother so that was good...

As she yanked on the chain, trying to break them out of the wall, she focused on her brother.

Okay, brother.

Aino.

Surgeon. Right. And she was a nurse. She used to work in an ER and now she worked...for the Todoroki Agency.

Todoroki.

SHOUTO!

Like an alarm ringing through her memory everything finally clicked into place.

She had gone to the UA gala with Shouto. There had been some sort of disaster and she was trying to help when

oh no

oh no oh no please.

That feeling she had woken up with, that terrible dream, that was real. This was real. All of it. She had really been kidnapped by that psychopath who had tried to kidnap her before. And this time he’d done it. And there had been...copies of him.

She whimpered in fear as she braced her bare feet against the stone wall and tried to break the chain. If she couldn’t pry it from the wall she would...

She gulped.

She would do what she had to do. She pulled with all of her might and felt the metal started to dig into her skin. A trickle of blood dripped down her forearm as she focused on her left wrist first. She stifled a scream as she felt the joint begin to crack under the strain but before she could get her hand out she heard a lock turn behind her.

She shuffled back around, still on the floor, to face the massive wooden door as it opened. Nausea filled her as the scarred man came in, lazily pushing the thick door aside with one hand as if it were paper.

“Well...you’re finally awake,” he noted. He closed the door and looked her up and down.

It made her skin crawl.

Her senses were on high alert though there was nothing she could do right now.

She was a prisoner.

“I was worried maybe you weren’t so good at regenerating after all.” He leaned against the wall facing her, looking bored. “Thought maybe you weren’t going to wake up.”

Her nostrils flared as she treaded the emotional situation and tried not to drown. She already knew who this man was, Shouto’s brother, and why this...this league of bad guys or whatever...wanted her. It was for the regeneration.

“What are you going to do with me?” she demanded. Well. She tried to make it sound like a demand. Like she wasn’t filled with dread.

He smirked. “Don’t know yet.” He tilted his head to the side, looking her up and down again. “Are you comfortable? Anything I can get you?”

She glowered at him. The massive gray-green sweater someone had put her in was, thankfully, long enough to hang mid-thigh and thick enough to keep her warm against the cold stone floor. She assumed it wasn’t an oversight she wasn’t given pants.

“Are you serious?!” She asked with incredulous anger. He chuckled, a low and grumbling sound, at her reaction. “Am I comfortable?! Of course I’m not comfortable! You kidnapped me!”

He shrugged with a smirk.

Her eyes narrowed at him and her chin wrinkled, stifling angry tears. “Where am I.”

He rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on. You know I’m not going to tell you that.” She looked away from him, lips pressed into a tight line. “That’s it...no other questions for me?”

“As if you would actually answer them.” She wrapped her chained arms around herself huddling into the sweater.

“You never know...I might.” He was teasing her. Taunting her with hope that would appeal to any good-natured person. “Why don’t you give it a try?”

She was trying to ignore him but she took the bait. “What’s your name.”

“Dabi.” He crossed his arms, looking bored again.

“No.” She stared at him blankly. “Your real name.”

He rolled his eyes. “That is my name, cupcake.”

Knowing she was about to push some serious buttons, she asked “the name your family gave you.”

Flames danced around his fingers smoking the leather of his jacket. The eerie blue light betrayed his calm demeanor.

“Don’t know what you’re suggesting, sweetheart.”

“I think you do,” she said calmly. This was dangerous territory but she had to glean something from him. Anything. Any knowledge of his weaknesses or what got under his skin.

He stared back at her unyielding and silent. The flames were gone.

“Or did you not know I was dating your brother: Todoroki Shouto?” There. It was brief but she saw a flicker of annoyance before it disappeared.

He sneered. “Ah yes...the serious boyfriend...how long have you two been dating again?”

What was he suggesting? The confusion muddled her confidence.

He lifted an eyebrow. “Care to remind me how many days it’s been? Or can you say you’ve finally been dating for a few weeks now?”

His sneer deepened, lips curling back to reveal teeth. “Made it to a month yet?”

She pressed her lips together, words catching in her throat, at his suggestion. Surely he didn’t mean...

Dabi stepped away from the wall, sauntering slowly across the room as he watched the calculations rolling in her mind. She flinched when he squatted down in front of her.

“Do you really think he’s going to swoop in and save you?” He looked indifferent. Unimpressed. “You and I both know...that’s not going to happen.”

“That’s not true,” she argued.

Dabi laughed in her face, covering his mouth as the dark chuckles rolled out of him. “You don’t really know the Todoroki family at all, do you.” He grinned, still riding the last bit of laughter. “My little brother doesn’t really care about anyone. He’s a great hero, sure. Doesn’t mean he’s a great person though...after all, he ended up the worst out of all of us: he’s just like our father.”

“He’s nothing like your father.” The strength in her voice was cutting and it killed any trace of his humor.

“You know...” his expression was deadpan. “It doesn’t matter what you believe...or how you feel...or what you think you understand...” his eyes roamed the unmarred skin of her face. “Sooner or later...you’ll see. After all...he’s a Todoroki.”

“He’s Shouto.” The resolution in her defense of him was steadfast. She stared down her kidnapper. “It doesn’t matter if he’s a Todoroki. What he does defines him over that. And it always will.”

“Wow.” Slowly Dabi tilted his head. “...you’re really taken in by him, aren’t you?”

Ani blushed but refused to look away. “I love him.”

“And you think you know him.” Dabi sucked his teeth. “After only a couple of weeks, maybe a handful of dates and special moments together.”

Dabi rose to his feet. His cyan eyes glowed dominantly and never left hers. “I guess only time will tell...if Shouto loves you enough to find you. And rescue you.” He strolled across the cell back to the door and paused to look over his shoulder. “Tell me...do you think a boy raised by parents who do this to their children—” he gestured to his own face “—is really capable of loving someone?”

He grinned as if he was the only one between them who understood the devilish truth.

But he was wrong. ...Wasn’t he?

The wood scraped across the floor as it firmly shut and the lock clicked in place.

He was wrong. He had to be. Shouto...all their time together.

All those weeks...

Dabi’s condescending voice echoed in her ears ...weeks...

She forced herself to swallow. He had to be wrong...didn’t he? So what they hadn’t been dating for a drawn out period of time. They met. They connected. They moved in together. They fell in love.

Didn’t they?

The dust of doubt settled over her in the silence of the cell.

Dabi was insane. He was wrong.

He had to be.

Didn’t he?

 

 

~

 

 

He waited outside the door until he heard what he wanted. It took longer than he hoped but he finally heard it: soft crying. She was clearly trying to hide it in case he was lingering or about to return but he heard it none-the-less. Muffled sobs cast from the shadow of a doubt.

Shoving his hands and the key to the door in his pockets he walked away with a huge grin on his face. He couldn’t believe it. He actually had fun.

He was going to enjoy this.

Nonchalantly he made his way through the dank corridor and up the rusty staircase into the cavernous space. It had been sparsely furnished. Odd couches and chairs thrown together to form a miss-matched lounge where they could meet and take care of various business. Toga skipped out of the dilapidated break-room with a steaming corn-dog at the sound of his steps.

“Ehhhh! Dabi-san!” She trounced over to him. “You’re done already?!”

Everyone else was already looking at him from their places where they were waiting. Shigaraki stayed seated, wild eyes swiveling to Dabi from behind the hand covering his face, but Kurogiri rose from his chair. Twice stayed propped up against a wall while Fuyogi and Gaban turned to face him.

“How did it go?” Kurogiri asked.

Dabi smirked. “Exactly as I planned.”

“So...” Shigaraki prompted. “It worked?”

“Yepp.” He dropped himself into a shabby leather chair. “Give it a little bit more time and she’ll be ready.”

“This is good,” Fuyogi said in her sickly smooth voice. She glanced at Gaban. “We should tell Mom.”

Gaban nodded answering silently as usual. Without asking, Kurogiri opened a warp-gate for them and they stepped through, disappearing.

Once they were gone Shigaraki looked to Dabi. “Does she know who you are?”

“Yeah. She remembers me from the attack a couple months ago.”

“And the rest of us?”

He shrugged. “Couldn’t tell. She might think we’re all still the League of Villains or whatever dumb name you used to call us.”

Shigaraki’s manic smile spread wide enough it could be seen around his hand. “That’s a good sign.” He giggled, building into a laugh as he proclaimed “they don’t have any idea what’s coming!”

 

 

~

 

As much as she tried to resist, there was nothing to distract her from the snaking thoughts that Dabi had put in her mind. His words kept bouncing around, ricocheting destructively as her heart tried to argue with her mind.

No. No. No. He was just trying to manipulate her. There was no reason to doubt Shouto. Their relationship was strong. It was healthy. So what if it happened quickly? That didn't weaken their bond.

Did it?

No. She assured herself. There was no reason for her to doubt him. He was a great person, a Todoroki in last-name only.

She took a steadying breath as silence pressed in around her.

Time ticked on around her.

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick

tooooock

tick tick tick tick t

toooooooooooooooooooooooooooock

Her awareness of it passing came in spurts and jumps as she continued arguing with herself.

At some point she began rocking gently.

Her head ached, throbbed with every beat of her pulse.

ticktock

That's it, she snapped her fingers. Dabi had thrown her against the wall when he finally caught her. She remembered the feeling of her skull cracking from the serious injury and that explained why her mind was so fuzzy right now. She was still trying to regenerate.
She felt better now knowing all she needed was a little extra sleep.
Trying to stretch out the bulky knitted wool around as much of her bare skin as possible, she laid down and closed her eyes.
God, that stupid light.
It's infuriating hue was enough to make her tired but too bright to fall asleep with it on.
She stood up with the intention of unscrewing the light bulb if she couldn't find a switch but her chains yanked back on her, stopping her a few paces away from it.
She cursed.

No Matter. She could still sleep. The sweater was thick enough to block the light.

But not long enough to cover any portion of her lower half and her face.

Sleep in the dark but exposed?

Sleep with her vulnerable parts covered but in the light?

If she could fall asleep either way at all.

Shit.

These assholes were very clearly pushing her mind to break.

And she didn't know if there was a thing she or her regeneration could do to stop it.

Chapter Text

Ani had to admit she felt better. And since the cell wasn’t sweltering hot the smell was...bearable...with the bucket as far away from her as she could manage. That was one need she didn’t have to worry about for a while.

Now all she could think about was hunger.

 

Tick tock

 

And thirst.

 

Tiick toock

 

Her head had begun to pound in time with her heart.

Regeneration was a powerful quirk but it was only a physical ability. A quirk that required fuel. Which she was being denied.

 

Tiiick tooock

 

She gave up on trying to pry her wrist from the cuffs after she saw the scrapes from the metal weren’t healing. She knew panicking was no good but...

 

Tiiiick tooock

 

 

She had never gone so long without food or water before. She knew the average person could survive for only a few days without water. She guessed regeneration could buy her a little more than that but not much. And she couldn’t even pass the time to sleep.

 

Tiiiiick tooooock

 

When she tried she hadn’t been able to sleep with the light on and her chains weren’t long enough to reach it. Not like there would be a switch anyway. The sweater was thick enough to cover her face but then her most vulnerable areas were exposed. She didn’t trust her senses enough to wake up to the door opening.

 

Tiiiiiick toooooock

 

Time was slowing down.

 

An illusion of the isolation.

 

 

Everything ached.

 

 

She longed for sleep.

 

 

Craved food.

 

 

 

Needed water.

 

 

Time no longer seemed to pass, like her brain was shutting down. Her vision even blurred in and out. That scared her the most.

 

 

Why weren’t they coming back to check on her?

 

To use her blood?

 

Isn’t that what they wanted her for?

 

...or maybe...

 

                            ...maybe...

 

                                                   ….there really was no one coming for her.

 

 

If there wasn’t anyone trying to find her …

 

 

...if the heroes didn’t care about getting her back...

 

 

 

...and these people weren’t going to use her blood...

 

 

 

...there wouldn’t be a reason...

 

 

 

 

...to keep her alive....

 

 

 

...

 

 

She couldn’t sit up anymore.

Her head was swimming.

Conviction dissolving.

Will evaporating...

...empty.

 

She slowly slumped over into a heap on the ground.

Chapter Text

Shouto sat in the Musutafu police department, in the superintendent’s office. He had just finished doing a massive sweep of the city and canvassing with police. He was taking a few short minutes away from the commotion to try and catch his breath. Clear his mind. In a few minutes the briefing for a group of police and heroes to the search, an even larger group than before the first attack on Ani, was going to start. Even Aino was here; he had just stepped out to call the hospital. Shouto's back ached. Bags hung under his eyes. Fatigue pulled at his muscles but this was only the beginning. He knew the more time that passed, the harder it would be to find her. His dark eyes shifted to the quiet tv the superintendent left playing.

The morning news was about to start…he knew what the first story was going to be…he spent his night living it.

 

 

“Last night, only blocks away from the prestigious UA gala, Musutafu was rocked with explosions from what police believe to be a gas leak.”

Endeavor was already walking out of his house calling Shouto. His son didn’t answer. A moment later he was in his car, news playing over the car speakers as he sped off.

 

 

“Six city blocks were affected by the blasts killing fourteen and injuring countless others. Among the victims was the nation’s number two pro-hero's girlfriend: Shida Ani, a nurse for the Todoroki Agency.”

Rei dropped her tea. The ceramic mug shattered on the ground and liquid splattered, soaking into her slippers and socks. A nurse rushed in at the hazardous sound.

“Mrs. Todoroki, are you okay?!”

 

 

A smiling headshot of Ani appeared next to the news anchorwoman on screen "Miss Shida Ani was kidnapped last night while caring for those injured during the accident.".

Aino was on the phone with his assistant and he could hear the news in the background.

“...Dr. Shida...is...is that what this is about?”

“Yes.” His answer was curt. Pained.

“Sir...I’m...I’m so sorry...”

“Reschedule my operations with other available surgeons. Call me back immediately if there are any that cannot be handed off.”

 

 

“Police and pro-heroes are asking the public for any information that can help bring the pro-hero's girlfriend home safely including any information or sightings of her kidnappers.” Three headshots appeared on the screen under Ani’s: Dabi, Kurogiri, and Bubaigawara.

All Might stared at the faces with a sickening dread from the central police station in Musutafu. He sat with Recovery Girl who was distraught and wanted to stay at the station to help in anyway she could. He cursed under his breath and gently patted the older woman’s hand.

“They’ll find her,” he tried to assure her.

 

Midoriya, Bakugo, and a few other members of the top-ten heroes looked over the pictures as they displayed on the massive projection screen in the briefing room where they waited.

Bakugo sat in the back by himself with a furious scowl. The smell of smoke wafted from his corner.

 

“A candlelight memorial will be held for the victims of the disaster later tonight at...”

Shouto tuned out the rest of the news. His fingers were laced together, hands gripping each other his knuckles were white, and he rested his head on his hands trying to cope. Trying to process.

Twenty-four hours ago they had woken up together.

They each had lunch with their families.

And then returned to each other at their home. He could recall every vivid detail of the early evening as they prepared for the gala together and the mere memory of Ani crushed his chest.

The smell of her shampoo.

How she slipped into her gown.

The sound of the zipper as he helped her get dressed.

Her compliment of him.

He looked down at his crumpled, disheveled tux. Everyone else had gone home to shower and dress properly for this meeting but Shouto didn’t. He couldn’t. How could he walk into his home—their—home they had shared for so long together?

He couldn’t bring himself to do it. And any moment he spent at home was a moment of searching lost. He was out all night with the Musutafu police canvassing and interviewing anyone and everyone in the neighborhood who may have seen something or heard something.

He looked over his hands, eyes unfocusing as he replayed every detail of the night. What had he missed? What could he have done differently?

He was used to replaying events over in his mind but this was different because regret tinted everything. It was more than just trying to learn from his mistakes and improve. It was the unassuageable need to go back and do it differently.

A knock on the door.

“Shouto-san?” Superintendent Jozu said as he quietly stepped into his colleague’s office. “We’re going to begin the briefing now.”

Shouto followed him down the hall like a phantom. The edges of his mind were touched with a numbness to the world that scared him. He could feel the mask of cold chagrin he wore. He couldn’t believe this happened.

And yet...he could.

How long had it been clear the L-o-V was after her? He chided himself. When he saw the explosion he launched into action without thinking, without a second thought about Ani. From everything he heard, too, she had been essential in saving countless lives as she organized the wounded and found them help. Everything had been fine.

Until someone couldn’t make it out of the blasted zone. He was still so focused he didn’t consider that it would be Ani asked to come help.

And that pro-hero.

That foul, failure of a pro-hero who left Ani behind as he ran too quickly and didn’t stop to think about the person he was leading or stop to check they were still with him.

Shouto watched a portion of the pro-hero's interview from behind the two-way mirror but he was disgusted. He blamed that pro-hero of course, but it was clear there was no malicious intent in his behavior. He had made a mistake.

Just like Shouto.

The briefing room was packed. Every seat was filled and most of the standing room was occupied as well. He took the last clear patch of wall near the door and leaned against the wall, uninterested in meeting anyone’s eye.

“Thank you all for coming in on such short notice this morning. I’m Superintendent Yekuro of Musutafu,” he introduced himself. “We’re here to discuss the relocation and reacquisition of nurse Shida Ani who was kidnapped last night.”

Reacquisition. She wasn’t a device, damnit! She was a person, his person!

“At least three members of the former League-of-Villains were involved in the kidnapping.” He aimed the pointer at the projection screen and named the three headshots of Twice, Dabi, and Kurogiri. “From information we were able to gather last night through witness account and investigation there were four other people involved who detonated the explosions in what we now know was an attack, not an accident.”

He added four more faces to the screen. An amber-eyed blonde, Toga. A sky-blue haired man, Shigaraki. A completely bald woman with no eyebrows or any other kind of facial hair named Fuyogi Hara and another man, blue hair slicked back, dressed in a suit and tie, Gaban Dagodaro.

“These last two have been in the shadows for a long time. They’re members of a group from the west coast and it’s now safe to assume there’s a connection between the League of Villains and that criminal organization, the Absolved.”

Shouto felt tension roll off Midoriya from the middle of the room at the unfortunate news.

Midoriya’s spot as number one hero was secured not long after they all graduated and became professional heroes. All-for-One's last stand, and the peak villain himself, were thwarted by Midoriya’s power. After ridding their country of the epicenter of evil, Midoriya had officially become the number one hero and the public began to look to him as they used to look to All Might.

The years since All-for-One's death had not been quiet. There were many in the underground who were enraged and out for Midoriya’s blood. They wanted vengeance.

The Absolved included.

“We’ve gathered information from several precincts in cities along the west coast and this is the only photo available of their leader, Hogo Sareta” a grainy photo appeared on the screen of a woman’s face, scar across her bottom lip, framed with fluffy pink hair. A few people snickered and Superintendent Yekuro scowled. “Make no mistake by what you see. Hogo Sareta is one of the few people All-for-One respected and tolerated and he allowed her organization to operate autonomously because of that respect. And now it seems Hogo Sareta has taken in the League of Villains to carry-out her own long-awaited revenge for the death of All-for-One.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” a detective called out. “Why would they kidnap Miss Shida if they wanted a hostage? She’s Todoroki’s girlfriend, not Deku’s.”

Shouto's whole body tensed. More and more people had learned about what Ani could do but it still was not common, public knowledge.

“Miss Shida has the ability to regenerate. It’s her quirk. And if an injured victim is injected with Miss Shida’s blood they, too, gain the ability of regeneration for a short period of time.”

Whispers bubbled around the room.

“Heh,” a sergeant behind Bakugo chuckled lowly and elbowed her colleague. “Makes a lot more sense now, why he was with her.”

“Yeah,” the man responded in a condescending tone. “Healing on tap for whatever he needs.”

“For anyone wondering,” Bakugo called out in annoyance, shutting them up. His feet, propped up on the desk, and his arms were crossed as he stared moodily at the front of the room. “Shida Ani is not only able to regenerate. She’s an experienced nurse with a wide range of medical skills. She’s an asset because of what she can do, not just her blood.”

Shouto scrutinized Bakugo with a flat expression as Superintendent Yekuro recalled everyone’s attention. Bakugo gave Shouto a fleeting, challenging glance.

“Yes, Mr. Bakugo is correct. She’s an asset that’s going to put the Absolved in a very strong, very dangerous position to carry out whatever major attacks they’ve planned.”

Another round of whispers swept through the room.

“Our main goal is finding Miss Shida and figuring out what, exactly, the Absolved plan to do.” He motioned to his assistant who began distributing folders. “Your commissioners will go over the outline for each prefecture in detail.”

He dismissed the large group and they began to file out of the room talking in clusters as they received their folders. Shouto saw Bakugo stand up and brush off the folder offered to him as he moved to leave the room.

“Bakugo, where are you going?” Midoriya asked. “The briefing for the rest of the pro-heroes is next. We need to stay for that.”

The explosive hero yanked his shoulder out from under Midoriya’s grip and stormed out the door at the back of the room. Shouto slipped out into the hallway.

“Bakugo,” he called. The ash-blonde paused with a hunch and glanced at Shouto over his shoulder. Shouto waited until the other officers in the hall were out of earshot before he walked over. “Where are you going?”

“What’s it to you damn bastard?” He wouldn’t look at Shouto.

Shouto exhaled through flared nostrils. “You’re the number three hero. You should be here for this. And I assumed—”

“You assumed,” Bakugo snarled and whipped around with a fearsome glow in his eyes. “that I was going to follow along like a little fucking love-sick puppy dog. Didn’t you?”

“What did those officers say?”

Bakugo scoffed “what?”

“You overheard something that made you defend Ani. What was it?” Shouto pressed him. “I can tell you’re worried about her. You want to help rescue her, despite what you say, I can see it.”

“I heard enough to make me not want to work with these scumbags.”

“So, what? You’re going off on your own now?!”

“I’m going off to do what these assholes aren’t capable of doing.” Bakugo stared at his rival and smirked. “Afraid I’ll find her first and her feelings will change?”

“This isn’t a joke, Bakguo!” Shouto growled. “You need to stay and be a part of this.”

“No, I don’t.” He turned and waved the red-white head off. “She’s your girlfriend. Find her yourself.”

Shouto was seething and he could feel the air swirling around him as he tried to hold back his quirk. As Bakugo strolled away others began walking toward the room. The pro-heroes were coming up for their own briefing and suddenly Shouto couldn’t do it. He couldn’t sit through another meeting about Ani.

“Todoroki-san,” he heard Midoriya from behind him. “Is everything okay?”

He turned to his old friend, letting just a sliver of his feelings show through. “Midoriya. I need to go home.”

Though it would be painful to go into their home without her, he suddenly needed to see evidence of her existence. It had already been twelve hours since she disappeared and something was beginning to gnaw at his gut. Maybe fear. Maybe dread. Whatever it was, it made him need to connect to her in some way.

Midoriya nodded, his fluffy jade hair bouncing. “I’ll be here. I’ll pass along everything after the briefing.”

“Thank you,” Shouto said and the weight of fatigue began to sink onto his chest. He quickly left before the other pro-heroes could reach him and disappeared into a back stairwell. His mind was churning so heavily he almost crashed into a haggard man helping an old woman up the stairs.

“My apologies,” he said in a rush. The man’s large, knotty hand touched Shouto’s arm and he noticed it was his old mentor. “All Might, what are you doing here?”

“We stayed, wanting to help the police in anyway that we could," his gravelly voice echoed through the empty stair. Shouto glanced to his side at the word we and saw Recovery Girl. She was looking up at him with wet eyes full of dismay.

“Todoroki-san,” her voice wobbled. “I’m so sorry about what happened to Miss Shida-san.”

“It’s alright—” his voice was tight.

“No. It’s not. I feel responsible having been the one to ask her to go in my place.” She wiped at her eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

His heart began to ache. In part for the old woman who blamed herself and for Ani who was paying the price.

“If there’s anything I can do for you or your agency in her stead, please do not hesitate to ask,” she offered.

“Thank you very much, Recovery Girl,” he said with a bow of his head.

“Young Todoroki, are you going to the pro-hero briefing?” asked All Might.

Guiltily he declined. “No. I already sat through one…I need to go home.”

“I understand.” The Symbol of Peace squeezed his arm with nothing but compassion. Shouto moved past them without another word needing to get out. Be alone and away from this place.

He checked his phone as he strode out of the police station.

Seven missed calls.

Twelve text messages.

Heart throbbing he checked the call list. Three from his father. Two from Dojire. One from his mother. And One from Aves.

He couldn’t bring himself to look at the text messages right now so he locked his phone and dropped it into his pocket.

“Shouto.”

He nearly made it out. He was at his car—dropped off last night by Dojire—about to climb in and escape the overbearing attention from everyone and everything but his father had found him. Slowly he turned.

“What do you want, Endeavor.”

A flicker of flame danced around his features. “I heard about the attack. Has there been any news?”

“They’re having a pro-hero briefing upstairs. Why don’t you go upstairs and find out for yourself?” He opened his car door; Endeavor grabbed it, not letting him open it far enough to get in.

“I’m asking you.”

“What’s the difference.” Shout’s patience were quickly evaporating. There was no buffer of rest, food, or l—...Love. Pain streaked across his chest.

Endeavor saw the flicker of emotion across the two-toned eyes, a rare glimpse into his son. “I…I’m sorry my son.”

Don’t.” He spoke through clenched teeth. “Don’t you dare say that like she’s gone for good.”

“Is it so hard for you to hear something other than the worst when I speak to you?!” Endeavor quietly demanded. “I came here to help.”

“Then go help!” Shouto snapped. “And stop acting like you’re in any way affected by this! Stop pretending like you’re not basking in the revelry of her disappearance.”

There it was. Patience gone. He shoved his father’s hand off of the door and climbed in without another glance at the old man. It wasn’t until he was driving away that he caught one more glimpse of Endeavor, still standing in the parking lot with his fists clenched as he stared at the ground.

Shouto couldn’t think about him right now. The old man wasn’t worth sparing any thought or feeling for when everything he had needed to be directed at finding Ani.

He called Dojire who had a dozen questions ready and waiting. Other heroes and staff of his agency were babbling in the background and he knew they were all anxious to hear, too. Dojire put him on speaker phone and he answered everyone’s questions with as little irritation as he could manage. This was a very informal team-briefing, he knew, but it was all he could manage right now. He was already on the way out of Musutafu and he assured them he would be in the office as soon as he could. He needed to go home to change at the very least.

Once he was off the phone with his team he silenced his phone. He made it home on auto-pilot, lost in thought and not as focused on the road as he should have been. But he made it home. He was here.

At their front doorstep.

He stared at the small, delicate handwriting that had begun to wear off:

Love lives here

Fuck.

How the hell was he going to get through this.

Deep inhale.

He opened the door.

Deep exhale.

He gently stepped over the threshold and felt the emptiness of the apartment threaten to swallow him. Each step brought him past a memory, each place tied to a special moment.

By the time he made it to the bedroom he thought he was going to collapse from grief.

There was no way…

And yet he knew she wouldn’t be there.

The bedroom was as empty as the rest of the place. No snoring rolling out of the bed in time with a rise and fall of the blankets. No shower running from the bathroom muting the sound of her carefree singing.

He nearly stumbled to the bed where her hoodie still laid. Tears formed at the corners of his eyes and his hands shook as he picked it up and pressed the fabric to his face. Slowly, he sank to his knees, burying his face in the garment and hid his sobs from the world.

Chapter Text

Shouto was aware of the high standards he set for his agency, gaining a reputation for being one of the toughest workplaces. Despite the lofty demands he made, his staff stayed with him and worked hard time and time again. And it was during a time like this that he was reminded of how amazing they really were. The administrative staff offices were balancing overtime schedules, hour limitations, equipment management, all of it without missing a beat. For the past twenty-four hours they had organized themselves into a constant-running machine that kept the rest of his agency functioning without restriction.

His sidekicks had already pooled their efforts in patrolling Dagoben, connecting with other agencies in Mustuafu for updates, and collaborating on ways to put their own quirks to the best use to help find Ani. He was not surprised at their level of dedication to bring her back. She had affected everyone in the agency, saving a countless number of lives and limbs throughout her time with them, as well as treating any of their non-life-threatening illnesses. He was moved by their passion to find her and it made him open to ideas he wouldn't normally consider.

When Aves asked to convert an area of the roof to a bird sanctuary he didn’t hesitate to grant her half of the entire roof so birds could come and go freely. He didn't care about the superficial image of the building. It was more important to spread their search far beyond any reach they had before.

Flora quietly informed him there was a weed-growing solution she could apply in the shadows of Dagoben to create a city-wide network for reconnaissance. She admitted there was a good chance the weeds could get out of hand very quickly but he approved it, sending her to their legal department first. That would improve their ability to search within the secret veins of the city.

Anything.

Everything.

Whatever it took to bring her back.

Unwelcome in his mind, Bakugo’s words wouldn’t leave him alone…what these assholes aren’t capable of doing. He didn’t know what that meant, exactly. And no one had heard from the ash-blonde except for Kirishima who could only confirm the explosive pro was alive. The group text his former classmates shared frequently pinged with updates that could be useful of any kind. He noticed that Bakugo never responded to anything but he didn’t leave the group chat like previous times. It made Shouto wonder what the ash-blonde was doing…did he really insist on not helping because Ani didn’t reciprocate his feelings? Or…was he really off on his own, doing god knows what…

Shouto had concerns for his fellow pro who was known to be reckless, especially when he was worked up whether he admitted it or not, and he wanted to know what Bakugo was doing. He didn’t like the idea of a wild card roaming around unchecked in the underground. Dojire was the solution. Loyal and composed. Connected and able, he accepted the task of keeping tabs on the number three pro.

Shouto himself was out on patrols, meeting with various levels of police from around Dagoben, as well as fielding phone calls from various precincts across other major cities. He was going to leave no stone unturned.

Sooner than he expected, Dojire had news.

“Strip clubs.” Shouto stared at Dojire flatly. “He’s been visiting…strip clubs.”

Dojire nodded. “I know he doesn’t care about his image but really…it’s kind of alarming the number he’s been to over the past few days.”

Shouto rubbed his forehead. “For fuck’s sake. Has he lost his mind? Is it stress-relief?” He looked to his assistant for answers where there were none.

“I don’t know, but he’s gone through almost all of them in the city.”

“Which ones has he not been to yet?”

 

 

Shouto couldn’t believe he was doing this. There were two places left that Bakugo hadn’t visited yet and it was a toss-up of which one he would be visiting. By Dojire’s reports it sounded like he would probably visit both. Dressed in jeans and a black hoodie, worn out running shoes, a black cough-mask and large black sunglass, he lingered in the shadow of a building. He could clearly see the plain gray door of the club and caught a glimpse of the flashing lights and pounding music whenever someone entered. He also saw the machamp-looking fucker just inside checking IDs.

When—not if—Ani made it back he wanted to be able to stand before her without a smudge on his conscious. Nausea rolled through him at the thought of going in there. Maybe he wouldn’t have to. Maybe it would just be a matter of waiting until the club closed and Bakugo never showing up. He had covered every identifiable feature of himself and chosen the plainest clothing he could find but he still feared someone recognizing him.

Great.

Here they go.

Bakugo stalked down the block in street clothes but had not gone to nearly the same lengths as Shouto to conceal his identity. The hood of his black zip-up was already falling off his head, fully revealing his face and the front of his symbolic hair.

Sure enough, he went inside. Before the door swung shut Shouto was crossing the street, pulse racing.

A pair of grubby looking college-age dudes stepped up to the door before him and he shadowed them inside.

“Oi,” the bouncer called for their IDs. “You even old enough to be in here?!” He loudly demanded. The two guys offered their IDs and were waved in after dropping a couple bills in one of the gray man’s hands.

“And what about you?” He asked Shouto, giving him a once-over with a skeptical glare.

Shouto tried to drop his voice. “First time.” He slid a large bill into the bouncer’s hand who raised an eyebrow at him.

“Yeah. Lotta dudes don’t want anyone to know who they are, 'specially the first time. Once you start coming enough the risk wears off. You’ll get used to it.” He slapped Shouto on the back and the pro clenched his jaw. He didn’t like being fucking touched, let alone hit as if he was a table, but there were more important things.

He followed the shadow of the room scanning for Bakugo. Every one of his senses were overwhelmed. The smell was vile; sweat and sickly-sweet perfumes rode the waves of smoke clouds. Music played so loud people had to lean into each other and speak their words right into each other’s ears. Lights were flashing, strobing, constantly shifting. There were too many people. From the overly relaxed, drunk and high, to the sinister shadow dwelling creeps, the crowd was churning as the dancers changed and a new round of semi-dressed women took to the platforms.

On the other side of the packed room he caught a glimpse of Bakugo’s hair as it wove through the crowd following someone. He paralleled their movement, trying to stay with them. Bakugo slipped behind a thick, black curtain that melded into the wall perfectly. Shouto kept his eyes on that spot as he made his way around the action with his head down. He fended off a few eager shot girls with some brightly colored, fizzing tubes and finally made it to the spot. He glanced around, making sure no one was there to stop him, and disappeared behind the heavy fabric.

Immediately the atmosphere changed. The music was muted. The air was stale. Dim lights lined the dark hallway marked with alcoves, more dark curtains, and doors. Soft giggles and rough sounds bubbled out from various rooms but none of them sounded like Bakugo. A woman dressed in lingerie led a dazed man back toward the club and looked Shouto up and down as they approached. He ducked inside the empty room closes to him.

Well. Almost empty.

“Hey, get the fuck out!” Someone snapped as he closed the curtain.

He froze. Of all the rooms.

He turned to see Bakugo stepping out of the dark corner defensively, hands already clenched into fists.

Shouto looked around, making sure they were alone as best as he could tell.

“You better back the fuck up,” Bakugo snarled. He set off an small explosion as Shouto’s hand reached up but the flames went out as Shouto pulled off his sunglasses. “What the fuck are you doing here?!”

“What the fuck are you doing here?!” He snapped back, keeping his voice much lower than Bakugo’s who looked…almost concerned.

“Dude, get the fuck out. Now.” He got in Shouto’s face with a gleam in his eye, ready to explode.

“Not until you tell me what the fuck you’re doing here.” He pulled his face mask down. “Are you having some sort of mental breakdown?! Why the fuck are you going to all the strip-clubs in this city?!”

“Fuck off, before you ruin everything.” Sweat glistened across Bakugo’s body with his growing anger.

“What—”

A light blinked in the back of the room.

“Goddamnit. Put your fucking shit back on.” He shoved Shouto’s hands up toward his face.

“What? Why?”

“Just fucking DO IT!” He nearly did it himself but the heterochromatic hero pulled his mask back up and slipped his glasses on the moment they heard a click. A door opened from a wall in the back of the room and a sugary voice sounded.

“Hi there, sorry that took so long,” a dark-blue haired woman sashayed into the room wearing a corset and stockings and Bakugo immediately stiffened. Shouto noticed the change in his posture.

“Oh,” she gasped flirtatiously as the door closed behind her. “I—I’m sorry,” she blinked dramatically. “They didn’t tell me there’d be two of you…” She bit her lip playfully as she glanced back at the wall but Shouto saw the real apprehension in her eyes and understood there was more going on here.

Bakugo had been searching for this specific person. He stared her down. “We’re only here to talk.”

Somehow this made her look more nervous than the idea of being two-timed. “Oh, what about?” She wrapped her arms around herself pushing her boobs up in a failed distraction. She was backing toward the door.

“Shida Ani.”

Shouto’s heart stopped as his eyes flashed to Bakugo who was still staring at this woman.

“Ehe he,” she grimaced. “And who is that?”

“You fucking know who that is,” seethed Bakugo.

“Really…I don’t…is she a friend of yours?” The indigo-haired woman stepped back nervously. “Did she work here or something?”

Bakugo stepped forward following her movement. “No?” He pulled a picture out of his pocket, Shouto caught a glimpse of Ani as he turned it to the stripper.

She recognized her.

In that moment ice flashed around the room sealing both doorways and dropping the temperature dramatically. “You’ve seen her,” Shouto snarled.

“O-only on the news,” the woman waved her hands in front of herself. “I-I swear.”

Shouto felt it in his gut. She knew. She had seen something. Been a part of something.

“Where is she,” demanded Bakugo. He looked like he was about to cross some serious lines.

“I don’t. Know.” She glowered back at them. “Now either get rid of this ice and let me go or fucking pay-up to play.”

Shouto ripped his mask down, losing his patience at this clear lead on Ani but Bakugo grabbed his arms before he could pull away his sunglasses.

“Leave them on,” the ash-blonde muttered. “Her quirk has something to do with her eyes.”

“Ohhh,” the woman crooned, overhearing the comment. “So you’ve heard of me…what, a couple of big, bad pro-heroes looking to rough up a woman because they heard some stupid rumor?”

“What rumor?” Shouto posed.

She laughed. “I don’t know. I’m just assuming.”

“Stop playing dumb,” Bakugo barked sounding as fed-up as Shouto felt.

“Stop playing desperate.” She started to turn back to the wall as if there was a place to go. “You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

In an instant a band of ice shot up and wrapped around her hands, trapping her in place.

“I’m tired of these games,” Shouto growled. “Where. The Fuck. Is Ani.”

“I already told you I don’t know.”

“You think you’re going to get off the hook with a technicality.” Shouto smirked at her expression. “I believe you don’t know her geographic location…I’m assuming they brought you to her with a warp-gate right?” He saw the truth in her eyes. “So yes, you may not now exactly where she is but you’ve seen her, haven’t you? Since she’s been kidnapped.”

Silence fell over the room.

“You know something…have done something since she’s been kidnapped?”

Again the woman refused to answer. Bakugo slowly leaned over her, making her jump as he spoke.

“I have to admit, I admire your resolve…but I’m starting to get pissed off. And I’m starting to wonder how much I could get away with as a pro.” He sneered “do you think the people who run this place will protect you? Do you think they give a damn about some piece of trash like you?”

“I’m not a piece of trash,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Of course not,” Bakugo jeered. “That’s why the league of villains asked for your help but dumped you back here at their leisure…isn’t it? Because you’re not trash.”

“What do you want with me?” She spat.

“We just want to know what you saw or what you did with Ani,” said Shouto.

She stared down at him through his sunglasses and it looked like she was straining. Bakugo gripped her hair and yanked her head back.

“I don’t want to wait any longer. You can stop trying to use whatever fucking quirk it is you have.”

“Then just kill me,” she relented and closed her eyes in defeat.

Shouto’s brow furrowed and he held up a hand to stop Bakugo from getting any rougher. He demanded “why?”

“Because if you don’t the Absolved will.” Tears began to leak out. “If they find out you were here they’ll assume I told you everything and kill me no matter what I say.”

Bakugo and Shouto exchanged a glance. They stayed silent as the girl began to cry.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to, I really didn’t want to.”

“Cut the act.” Bakugo rolled his eyes.

“What did you do?” Shouto asked, sensing the girl’s genuine regret as despair sank in his stomach. “What did you do to Ani?”

“They made me, okay!” She sobbed. “They made me do it!”

“What did they make you do?” Shouto stared at her, patiently waiting. “What can you do with your quirk?”

She met his eyes through the dark shades of his lenses as snot dripped down her nose joining the rivers of tears.

“I make people forget.”

Horror bloomed in Shouto. “What do you mean you make people forget? Forget what?”

“Whatever I want them to,” she sniffled. Bakugo cursed under his breath.

Shouto could barely force out the words. “And how much…did you make Ani forget?” His eyes grew wide. “How much did you take from her?”

The woman’s eyes pleaded up at Shouto. “I…” Tears rolled freely down her cheek.

“How much did you take from her?!” Bakugo nearly shouted. The woman flinched.

“I was supposed to take everything…Mom wanted her to be a clean slate.”

“Mom?” Shouto asked. “Do you mean Hogo Sareta?”

The woman nodded weakly. “Yes…”

“But you didn’t?” Shouto asked with a glimmer of hope.

The woman shook her head. “Her mind…it didn’t let me. As soon as I started pulling the threads out and removing her memories…her mind…” the woman was a loss for words. “I don’t know how to describe it…her mind…it held tight to memories like…like a flood washing away dirt and mud but leaving behind the rock that’s too strong to be worn away.”

A glimmer of hope flared. Her regeneration. Maybe it was able to prevent this woman from erasing everything they shared.

He asked “How much…did you take from her?”

She met his two-toned eyes earnestly. “Years.”

“Years…” his voice was tentative “years of her time with…”

“You.”

The hope was extinguished almost as quickly as it had appeared. Shouto clenched his fists. “Does she remember who I am at all?”

The woman nodded. “I couldn’t erase you from her memory, no matter how hard I tried. The Absolved threatened to kill me and the best I could do for them was to alter what I couldn’t remove.”

Shouto glared at the woman. “How does she remember me.”

Sagging against her ice restraints, the woman was looking more and more exhausted by the moment. “She thinks you’ve only been together a couple of months.”

“And how does that help the Absolved?” demanded Shouto.

Again, the woman turned her pleading gaze up to Shouto, asking for forgiveness. “They’re going to try to convince her that you don’t actually love her. That you’re not going to come for her…and... they’re going to try to convince her to help them...to turn her against you for abandoning her.”

Shouto covered his face feeling like he was going to explode.

Years.

Years.

Their memories. Their times together.

Shouto felt his heart palpitate at the devastating implications of this situation and he clutched his chest.

It was like his life had been taken from him.

No. Not his life.

Ani’s life, their life together, had been taken from her.

“What, exactly, does she remember.” He glowered down at the trembling woman. “And how does she remember it?”

 

~

 

Shouto, identity fully concealed again, stumbled out of the club as the bouncer chuckled.

“Rough first time, eh?”

He felt like he was going to vomit. There was barely anything left of their time together. A few years reduced to a few weeks.

He was mortified and waited until he was a few blocks away before he sank to the ground in the shadows. Bakugo quickly caught up to him.

“Come on, dude, we can’t stop here.”

“I just need a minute,” Shouto panted.

Bakugo kept glancing up and down the dark street and said “fuck it.” He took a seat next to his rival on the ground.

“So this is…pretty messed up…” he said aloud.

“Years,” said Shouto, voice saturated with everything lost.

Bakugo chuckled but held his tongue. After all, he had shared memories with Ani that were lost now, too. “Think of it this way…at least she remembers us at all.”

Shouto let out one rough, weak laugh. “Looking on the bright side.”

“I’m made of explosions,” he grinned snarkily. “I am the bright side.”

Shouto leaned his head back and stared at the stars hoping, wishing, wherever Ani was that she was alive. And still had some memory of how much he loved her, no matter how small.

 

Chapter Text

Shouto couldn’t make it more than a few steps into their apartment before he had to lean against a wall and sank to the ground.

So much of their time was erased from her memory.

If what that woman from the club said was true, then Ani remembered how they met and many of their firsts...but there were so many things forgotten. That woman had condensed everything and he tried to think of what he was feeling during those times Ani would remember as if he could rewrite their own history in his mind, too. He wanted his memory to match hers, for her not to be alone in this but his heart wouldn’t let his mind forget anything.

From the weeks they spent talking over text and hanging out while she still worked at the hospital, getting to know each other to getting ready for this past gala and everything in-between. It was all too valuable to ever forget.

He remembered the change in her life when Bakugo was hurt and her secret began to be uncovered. She didn’t resent Shouto or blame him for anything that happened, reassuring him time and time again that she never regretted saving him, any of it. He expected her to distance herself from him once the hospital began disciplinary proceedings. The process had been long and tedious for her but she put up with all of it. She insisted everything was for the better, that she wouldn’t trade their relationship for any struggle in the world.

Even that night she was attacked in the park. And Bakugo was the one who saved her...he expected her to flat-out refuse to see him when he found out it was his fans that had hurt her. But she didn’t. She still wanted him by her side and still wanted to be by his.

He admired how true-to-herself she had been in quitting. She didn’t want to be used and stuck up for herself, even though it meant having to find another job. Her abilities as a nurse spoke for themselves when she already had two job offers before he remembered their conversation weeks prior about how an in-agency clinic could benefit his agency. She was hesitant; she didn’t want to be seen as riding his coattails or using him. It had taken a great deal of convincing from his staff that it wasn’t just Shouto who wanted her there.

His stomach flipped remembering the events just after she had accepted the position. He couldn’t imagine how she still wanted to be with him, work with him, after every last shred of her life was ripped open. His brother. His father. It was like his family and his name was a curse and fate had set-out to destroy her from the moment he entered her life. No matter what she went through, the night terrors, therapy, he stood by her through it all. How could he not? He had never felt such admiration and love for another person before. Or from another person. He wasn’t sure he was worthy of what she went through for him but he wasn’t going to deny their feelings. She loved him. And he loved her.

She was determined not to let her attackers derail her life. She went through with the clinic at his agency. And once she started working? The agency changed. They began to truly feel like a family. His administrative and hero staff got to know Ani over time and came to rely on her for everything they might need. They grew to care for her and helped her through everything she faced in recovering from the attack.

He had wondered if she ever used her blood in her work but he decided he didn’t want to know. It was her clinic. She was free to do as she saw fit.

Her success in establishing and running the clinic did not go unnoticed. There were multiple people who approached her with job offers but she always turned them down. He was grateful Midoriya never tried to poach her. Though Shouto knew he was her favorite hero, he also knew she had a long-time admiration for Deku and it would’ve been a tempting offer.

The most surprising person interested in Ani was Recovery Girl. She and Ani had met at Ani’s first UA gala and Recovery Girl always seemed to check in with Ani periodically. A quick phone call or email. Sometimes even a personal visit to meet with her fellow healing hero. And Recovery Girl always sought Ani out at the UA gala. For three years Ani had gone with him to the gala, building her own connections and reputation among the hero community beyond Recovery Girl. She enjoyed the galas and he had grown to like them, too, after going with her. She insisted on wearing that same white gown she wore to the first gala...after the first year, he stopped trying to fight it. He wanted to spoil her but she wouldn’t let him. She wasn’t bothered by the gossip columns that spoke poorly of her choice, there would be no other gown design she wanted to wear than the one that represented him. From what it sounded like...Ani’s memory retained almost all of the first gala and the woman blended the fateful events of the most recent onto the memory of their first.

He sighed, staring at the ceiling of their apartment and began thinking about their time in this home together. When she moved in, it felt right. He remembered talking with his mother about it and looked back at his concerns about moving too quickly with humor. What had he been worried about? They fit together like master-crafted wood joints. Strong and perfectly matched. He wondered if she would still feel that way about their relationship. It had been like spring blooming as her presence appeared in the apartment over their long time here together. His eyes roamed the space seeing her books mingled with his. Her reading blanket draped over the couch and book on the coffee table as if she was in the bathroom and was going to come right back and pick up where she left off. She wouldn’t remember anything she had read of it now. Just like everything else. Nearly every other detail of their time together, save for the abridged version that couldn’t be erased from her mind, was gone. All of it, gone.

No.

Not gone.

He remembered what had been taken from her, at least everything from his perspective, the way he had seen it. And he wouldn’t risk forgetting. He hurried to his feet and ran to their bedroom to find his computer.

 

~

 

Bakguo laid limply on the sofa in his apartment. He stared at the plain white ceiling as that woman’s words echoed painfully in his mind.

She had looked at him directly, unquestionably confirming what he didn’t want to ask aloud.

You were in her memories, too. Things I couldn’t erase.

He wanted to know exactly which memories Ani could still remember but that goddamned icy-hot dumbass was having a mental breakdown and rushed out of the club, barely thawing the woman before they left.

Bakugo’s mind was churning. It was infuriating not knowing what she would and wouldn’t remember. He had been an ass for a long time. And it wasn’t until he confessed his feelings for her that he finally calmed down around her. She rejected him, sure. But it was so...civil. He didn’t expect to still be friends with her after that. To have his feelings only grow after he knew how she felt.

She was firm with him, steadfast in her relationship with Shouto...though it infuriated him...it also infatuated him. She didn’t react to him like other people did. She wasn’t easily annoyed by his boisterous nature. Didn't admire his strength or try to put him down for his arrogance. She just...let him be. It was unnerving and it was why he kept coming around. He guessed it was the years she spent in the ER that trained her to see through the thick emotions of a situation and focus on what needed to be done. To cut through his bullshit without malice and be direct.

The possibility that she wouldn’t treat him the same way...that all she would remember were the horrible things...it was eating him alive.

His eyes closed as his muscles flexed and again appreciated her abilities as a nurse as a memory floated to the surface of his mind.

 


"Come on,” she said as she dragged him past security, applying pressure to his bleeding arm. Once they were in the elevator she demanded “what the hell happened?”

“I...” he avoided her eyes. “Lifted too much weight and snapped the cable.”

She rolled hers. “I don’t know if that’s what really happened but this is a serious injury, Bakugo.” She pulled him down the hallway and through the doors of her clinic. “If you weren’t already on our doorstep, I would have made you to go the ER.”

“You’re an ER nurse, aren’t you?” he challenged. “You should be able to do this no sweat.”

She sighed as she brought him into the surgical room. “Yeah, but this isn’t a walk-in clinic.”

She made him sit and took the hand on his good arm; he hoped she didn’t notice how his pulse raced at the contact. “Hold this, here,” she instructed and began quickly moving through the room preparing to do his stitches. His eyes followed her, glancing away when she returned to the table.

Once the tourniquet was in place and the blood flow slowed, she moved his good hand and began inspecting the wound. Her brows furrowed in concentration as she worked and Bakugo couldn’t help the heat that creeped into his face at her proximity. With all of her attention on his arm he could look over her face without making her feel awkward.

“Is icy-hot going to give you a hard time for this?” he asked quietly. She glanced up, not noticing his blush, and shook her head.

“No,” she smirked. “But he’ll probably send you a bill.”

Bakugo scoffed “tch, what is he? Your pimp?”

Her eyes flicked up to him with a wide shock that made him worry he crossed a line...until her shock spread into a smile and she broke into laughter. He could feel every undulation of the laugh from her hands paused in their work but still holding onto him. He felt his whole body heat up at the sound and sight of her laughing so hard from him.

“I’ve—” she gasped for air between laughs “I’ve never heard it compared to that before.” She wiped a tear away on her shoulder and chuckled a few more times with the shake of her head.

He was blushing deeply now, corner of his mouth lifted, as he soaked in every moment. “Yeah...well...just make sure he doesn’t get too controlling of your time.”

“Thank you for being concerned for me,” she said with a smile “but I have nothing to be worried about.”

She sank back into focus and he let his eyes roam over her. She was wearing light blue scrubs that hid most of her figure but he could still see the shape of her breasts and he felt himself throb. He wanted to know what they would feel like. Taste like. She faintly smelled of vanilla and he wondered if it was her shampoo...or a perfume...lotion? His mind wandered over her body wishing he could splay her out on the table and go over every inch of her until he figured it out.

Too much was left to his imagination. Everything was covered except for her arms, her collarbone, and her neck. He felt more blood rush between his legs when he thought about kissing the planes of her neck. It would be so easy; she was so close. He could just...lean in and press his lips to her soft, smooth looking skin. His breaths became heavy, ragged as he considered the possibilities and he was cringing from the fabric of his shirt dragging over his sensitive nipples with every rise and fall of his chest. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fist.

“I’m almost done,” she said reassuringly.

He glanced at her face and saw she misread his discomfort. “It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt that much.”

“I wasn’t talking about your stitches,” Ani said quietly, deft fingers never faltering.

He stared at her and felt his cheeks warm even more. Defensively he demanded “what are you talking about then?”

“I’m making you nervous, aren’t I?” guessed Ani without meeting his eye. It was a tentative assumption without haughtiness or pride.

In a hoarse whisper, looking away, he said “I didn’t think it would be this bad.” After he confessed his feelings and she rejected him he expected his heart to start changing, to start seeing her as a friend who only saw him that way, too. But in the months that had passed, he couldn’t; nothing changed. And it was driving him mad.

The stitches were finished and she was cleaning off the rest of his blood. It hurt but the pain of his injury was not nearly as bad as the longing.

“Why did you let me in?” His voice was rough with everything he was feeling and couldn’t say.

“You were hurt. You needed help,” was her simple answer. “Were you hoping there was more to it?”

“I’m not stupid.” He forced a lump down in his throat and answered again. “I didn’t want to.”

“I don’t think you’re stupid for feeling that way,” she offered. “We can’t control how we feel. I asked because I didn’t want you to leave with a false hope. I don’t want to lead you on.”

“So you do care about me?” He gave her a cheeky grin and she laughed.

“Of course, I do—”

“I know, I know. Just not in the way I want. You’re all Shouto’s.” He crossed his arms and sucked in a tight breath as the flexing of his muscle stretched his skin and pulled at the stitches. She frowned at him.

“Okay, obviously you need to be careful with this arm.” She listed off the ways to care for the injury and stitches and wrote him a referral to meet with a doctor the next day and have it re-examined.

“Take it easy for a while until it heals properly.” She stared him down. “I mean it.”

“Okay, okay!” He held up his hands defensively.

"Let me know what the doctor says tomorrow.” She turned, starting to gather her supplies to clean up.

Bakugo hesitated with his back to her. “Shida...”

She looked up at the unusual softness to his voice. “...yes?”

“Thank you for taking care me,” he forced out the words.

“Of course,” she smiled though he couldn’t see.

“No. I mean...” his back tensed. “Thank you for everything.” Ani stayed quiet as she sensed how hard it was for him to say what was on his mind right now. “I...I’m not a gentle or a kind person. I never have been, never saw the point.” He opened and closed his fists. “But I at least understand how much of an asshole I’ve been before this...I’m sorry...For being that way. And not thanking you sooner...for...helping me.”

“Of course, it was only a few stitches, Bakugo—”

“No.” He cut her off. “I mean before. At the hospital...thank you for...saving my life...I’m sorry that...all that shit happened because of me.”

“Like what?” Ani stared at the back of his head, confused.

“Like all of this!” He turned around sharply gesturing around the room. “If I didn’t fuck up that day you never would have had to save me! No one would have known about your regeneration and your life would’ve gone on just fine!” He was huffing out of flared nostrils.

“Everyone makes their own choices, Bakugo,” she said softly and he finally met her eye. “It wasn’t your choice that I saved you...it was mine. It was my brother’s choice to ask me. There is no one person to blame.”

"Even when you were attacked?” He challenged. “When those villains broke into your apartment using my face?”

Ani looked at him curiously. “I don’t blame you for that.”

“But,” Bakugo’s eyes narrowed. “That icy-hot asshole told me it was my fault you were attacked, because I didn’t tell anyone they got my blood.”

“Hmm, I never thought of it that way...” considered Ani for a short moment. “But...I still don’t blame you.”

“How?” He asked, mystified and angry.

Ani shrugged. “It wasn’t your choice they did what they did. Yeah, it might have been helpful to know beforehand but it’s not your fault I was attacked. They would have done it one way or another.” She could see he didn’t accept it. “I forgive you, Bakugo. For whatever guilt you’re holding against yourself, whether I think that guilt is justified or not. I forgive you.”

The anger that was usually always broiling and bubbling away inside of him stilled. He stared at her with something he couldn’t name as he fought every urge to close the distance between them and pull her into a hug.

“Thank you, Bakugo.” She looked at him with such appreciation it made his heart hurt. “You’re more kind than you realize.”

He turned before he lost the battle with himself and she bid him good-bye as she gathered the tray of supplies.

He watched her for a long moment through the glass of the surgical room doors and felt frustrated and validated and tense and calm all at once. Damn her. This was not the way he wanted to see her. He almost regretted coming here but the feeling of her fingers confidently caring for him and her words erasing all of his guilt was something he didn't want to forget. Ever.

“Bakugo,” a deep voice quietly called. The ash-blonde turned to see his white-red headed rival waiting in Ani’s office. They stared each other down. “What are you doing here, Bakugo?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” the hot-head spat. “Here to spy on your servant?”

Shouto’s two-toned eyes narrowed. “I was told that you walked into the agency bleeding profusely and was escorted to the clinic.”

“Sounds like you already know what happened. Don’t worry, I made an explosion so she knew it was me.” Bakugo walked away and Shouto followed him out. “Stalking me now, too?”

“No, I’m escorting you out of the building.”

“No need, I can find my way.”

Shouto stepped onto the elevator with him. “You’re a fellow top-pro hero. You should understand the privacy essential to running an agency.”

“Please, I’m not here to steal secrets.” Bakugo rolled his eyes. “What could you possibly have that I would want.”

“Aside from Ani? I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t feel like putting my staff at risk by having you roaming around.”

“I wasn’t interested in harassing any of your goddamned lackeys alright!” Bakguo snarled, growing angry at his fellow hero’s implications. The elevator doors opened to the lobby. “I’m not a psychopath who enjoys torturing extras!” He stormed toward the security gate.

“Bakugo,” Shouto’s voice called out in warning. The number-three paused and looked over his shoulder. “Next time, go to the hospital.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Bakugo waved him off. “Send me a bill, asshole.”

Bakugo angrily crossed the lobby and went out onto the street. It was already night and despite the bustling crowds still milling around it was cold. Bakugo shivered begrudgingly in his black tank-top with one more glance up at the annoying Todoroki agency building, knowing she was still there somewhere inside.

He walked off into the night, heart lighter as he carried absolution with him.

 

~

 

 

Shouto worked through the night typing up everything he could remember from their time together. He couldn’t sleep; he was too ensnared by the need to write everything down. He only got up to make coffee so he could keep writing.

He kept his phone out on the table, scrolling through pictures to match the stories he was writing with as much detail as he could remember. He cursed himself for not taking more pictures—then he remembered their shared library. Like a gift from Ani herself, he found three-times as many pictures from her and he backed up all of them. As he made his way through them, he came across pictures of their vacation when he took her to the beach.

His family’s vacation home on a grassy hill, only a short walk up from the beach, with views of the ocean from nearly every window, especially the backside of the house which was just a wall of windows on both floors. Natural rocky outcroppings divided their stretch of private beach from the other areas of shoreline and natural foliage blocked their view of any other beach houses. Ani’s mouth had dropped and she was speechless for the entire tour of the house. He was actually worried by the time they made it to the bedroom to unpack.

 


“I...I just don’t even know what to say,” she answered hoarsely when he asked what was wrong.

His brow furrowed. “Do you...still want to be here?”

“Of course!” She assured him and rubbed her forehead. "I just can't imagine any place in the world nicer than this...” She sank forlornly onto the bed and he sat next to her.

“Why do you look so sad?”

She met his gaze earnestly. “Does it bother you...that I...that I’m from a different world? That I don’t come from a wealthy family?”

“No,” he answered without doubt. He brushed hair back out of her face. “Because it doesn’t matter what’s in your bank account...who you are as a person is more important to me than your family’s status.”

Her eyes shined at him. “I love you.”

They rested their foreheads against each other, eyes closed, and he whispered back “I love you, too, Ani.” They stayed like that for a long moment.

“Now,” he said pulling back with a warm smile. “Let’s get unpacked so we can relax.”

“Okay.” She smiled back glowingly at him.

They settled into the room and Ani wanted to see the beach. Shouto got ready in the bathroom and when he came out Ani was already in her bikini, enjoying the view from the balcony.

The sight of her so relaxed and content was worth the world to him. She turned her face to the breeze and sun and he saw it again: that smile. The same one he’d seen on their first date as she looked peacefully over the bay. He was glad to see it and even more so to know that he was the one who made it happen, again. His eyes roamed down her exposed skin and felt a deeper stirring in himself that made him think of other things they could do.

As if she felt his intense gaze upon her, Ani turned around and came back in the room when she saw him. Her eyes drank in his shirtless form. She was about to say something when she caught him looking down at the orange and pink swimsuit.

“Sho...?”

His eyes hungrily met hers and she blushed with understanding. He closed the short distance between them and his hands pulled her against his bare chest. His fingers spread across the soft, smooth skin of her back and he gripped her hips tightly to his as she cupped his face and met his mouth for a kiss that was parted with passion. It wasn’t long before he was delving inside to dominate her mouth while a hand snaked up in her hair and left her nowhere to go, not that she wanted to pull away. She was as aroused as he was, matching his tongue’s movements.

Not able to hold back any longer he grabbed her half-covered butt and lifted her off the floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck and legs around his waist to help him move them both to the bed. He held her tightly so she wouldn’t fall away from him as he leaned down and laid himself down on top of her. His covered dick pressed right up against her and she began to grind against him making him pulse with need. She was beginning to mewl softly into their kiss as he followed her movements. She broke out of the kiss to catch her breath as he trailed kisses down her neck and over the thin straps of her top. His lips made a line across her shoulder and she whimpered, craving his attention everywhere all at once.

He kissed back to the outside of her ear and lightly whispered “don’t ever wear this bathing suit or anything like it in front of anyone else.”

She pulled his face up to give him a small pout. “Since when did you become so possessive?”

“I have always been possessive of you...” He smirked cheekily. “But in this swimsuit? I don’t know if the women could keep their hands off of you.”

Ani’s face turned so red she covered it to hide her face from him. “Stop. I’m going to go change.”

“What? Why?” He asked, puzzled as she climbed out from under him.

She gave him a playfully grumpy face. “You’re making me self-conscious!”

“Ani, there’s no one else here,” he growled, matching her playful tone. She yelped as he jumped up and reached for her but missed as she darted around the corner of the bed laughing.

“Come here!” He laughed as he chased her to the other side and caught her before she could get any farther away. She was laughing so hard she couldn’t speak as he buried his face in her neck and nuzzled her bare skin.

“Hey!” She said breathlessly and still laughing. “Stop!! Okay, Okay! I get it. I’m all yours here!!”

He made a low chuckling sound of approval and smiled against her. “You’re all mine, everywhere.”

“Obviously,” said Ani with another light laugh. “I meant I’ll keep the bikini on...here...for you...” she was blushing again and met his eyes as the dark, wanton need returned to hers. He lifted an eyebrow at her.

“Well...” he pressed his lips slowly against the corner of her jaw and traced the tips of his fingers along the edge of the triangle of fabric over her breast. “You don’t have to keep it on right now...”

He could see her nipples hardening under the fabric, the slight bite of her lip, and slowly walked her back until her legs hit the bed and she fell with a gasp. She crawled backward away from him as he kneeled down onto the bed running his hands along her legs with two drastically different temperatures all the way up to her hips. He pulled her bottoms off. She almost folded her knees together but he kept them apart, wanting to see her pink folds wet and waiting for him.

He slid a warm finger over her slit and watched her eyes flutter closed at his touch. Knowing he would want to be inside of her very soon he quickly stepped back from the bed and dropped his own trunks. Ani sat up on her knees waiting patiently for him as she watched him undress. He was back on the bed with her, hands groping her uncovered butt and moving up to the ties of her top. It was tied so tightly he was having trouble undoing it.

“Need some help?” asked Ani playfully and Shouto’s eyes narrowed at her. His only response was to spin her around and look at what he was doing. Ani didn’t mind; she was happy to stare out over the ocean as his fingers worked to undress her. The string around her back fell limply and his hands slipped up under her suit. She moaned at the satisfying touch of his skin on hers. He began kneading her boobs and savored the way she squirmed in response, grinding her backside against his erection. He rubbed back against her.

“I love the sounds you make,” he whispered in her ear. She knew how much he enjoyed them but she liked to make him work for them. His fingers fiddled with her little buds and he could see her resisting. “Won’t you let them out for me?”

He gave them a light pinch. All he got was a strained “mnh.” He pinched them harder and she sucked in a tight breath.

“Come on,” he breathed, deep voice rumbling through her. He pulsed her left with heat and her right with cold. “I want to hear you.”

She let out a tentative moan that grew as he massaged the whole fleshy mounds, each with a different temperature. The pressure on her sensitive tips was finally beginning to build up a tension in her body and she couldn’t hold back the embarrassing sounds he was milking out of her.

“Sho, please...”

“Mm?” He sounded almost lazy, voice calmly betraying his own excitement as he leaked precum.

“Please...”

He wanted to hear her say it. “What is it you need?”

“I need you.”

“I’m right here.” He gave her breasts an exaggerated squeeze and she panted.

“No...not like that.”

He hummed deeply through her. “...I want to hear you say it.”

“Sho,” she protested weakly, losing the battle of wills against him. Whatever remained of her energy to not give in was quickly washed away when his warm fingers disappeared from her breast and reappeared between her legs. “I want you...t-to...” she let out another soft whine of protest before completely relenting.

“I want you to fuck me.”

He wasn’t able to claim any sort of victory as his own desire burned up his last bit of restraint. He pulled her legs apart and she bent down on her hands and knees in front of him, ass exposed and her tight hole ready and waiting.

“Please, Sho,” she begged. “Fuck me!”

It took one thrust to fully sheath himself in her warm, wet folds. His head fell back in satisfaction and they both moaned deeply together. She felt so tight. He made her feel so full. They panted for a few breaths until Shouto started pulling back out at a torturously slow pace. Ani wiggled trying to force him back in but the grip he had on her hips overpowered her efforts and he made her endure the agonizing, teasingly slow speed he was using.

“Ohhh,” she moaned when he finally started pushing back into her with a deep pressure that left her feeling stuffed from the angle.

Shouto softly said “you take me so well.” Ani whined at the praise and tried to rub against him for some kind of friction. When he had pulled almost all the way out he paused, keeping only the very tip of his cock at the entrance of her wetness.

“You’re mine, Shida Ani...” he stared down at her disheveled hair as she nodded.

“I’m yours, Todoroki Shouto...” she was breathless with want and need. “I’m yours, forever.”

He pushed back into her, slightly faster and she sighed with pleasure. He pulled out and pushed back in faster still, slowly building his pace as he thrust into her while keeping her hips in place.

“Oh god, Ani...you feel so good,” he groaned.

She leaned down, forcing her ass against his pelvis to meet his thrusts and gripped the sheets as he pounded sounds out of her. “Nnnggh! Mnngggh! Unghh! Ouuhhh!”

He was truly fucking her now, no longer pausing between each thrust as each motion blended into the next. Sweat began to form across his forehead and body as he rammed into her, punching the tip of his cock against her cervix over and over.

“Oh—Sh-Shouto!” He could hear her nearing her peak and he bent down forming himself against her as he propped himself up and reached a hand around between her legs. It only took a few strokes of her nerves to tip her over the edge. She came moaning his name and clenching down around his member with hot wetness that filled the room with sinful sounds. He shot his own hot fluids deep into her as her walls squeezed him. The rolling of their hips slowed and they slowly sank to the bed, Shouto still deep inside of her.

“I love you,” she mumbled with a happy glow.

He grinned and brushed a few hairs back from her rosy cheeks. “I love you, too, Ani.”

 

He had enjoyed that vacation very much, spending uninterrupted time together just hanging out, fucking, and relaxing. It was his favorite vacation of his life so far.

He wasn’t going to give up hope that he would find her and when she was safe and home he wanted to give her back as many memories as he could bring himself to write down. It was enough, thinking they would be back together soon, to keep him working through the night.

His fingers were aching by the time he finished. Though it was nearly dawn, the sun had not yet risen. His eyes swept over the still-dark and dazzling, moonlit city. He checked the clock. The sun would rise in about an hour...he leaned back in his chair, stretching his neck and cracking his back.

There was enough time to shower and have something to eat before he needed to get to the agency. It was going to be a nap-on-the-couch-in-the-office kind of day. He smiled, thinking of the times when he had come back to his office late at night to find Ani snoring on the couch waiting for him. On his way to the bathroom his phone rang, breaking his reverie. He hustled back to the table and saw his brother-in-law calling. At this time of the night—morning—it could only be something serious.

“Utsubei? What’s wro—”

I saw her.” The detective’s deep voice made Shouto’s mind freeze for only a moment before his heart began to wildly soar with hope. “Can you meet me at your office?

“Yes,” Shouto answered as he flew through his apartment to find his things. "When?”

Now. I’m already on my way from Musutafu.

“Thank you, Ustubei. I’m on my way there now,” he said.

Shouto—does that plant girl still work at your agency?

“Flora? Yes, why?”

Because we’re going to need her help.

Shout’s mind was already racing. He couldn't remember when Flora’s last shift was and if he should be calling her into the office at this hour or not. Ultimately, he knew that Flora would answer and come to help in any way she could.

“I’ll get a hold of her,” Shouto said. “I’m on my way to the office now.”

The elevator doors opened; he sprinted out, across the garage and climbed into the car closest to him.

 

~

 

Bakugo’s phone lit up and he rolled over feeling like a specter of rage. He snatched it off his desk. “What the fuck do you want you ass—”

Come to my agency. We have a lead on Ani.

Bakugo’s mind jolted awake and Shouto hung up before he could respond.

Chapter Text

Ani’s body gently swayed back and forth.

She was barely conscious...was her body still real? It felt like she was being carried by death itself. As her vision blurred and focused back-and-forth she saw it was the next closest thing: Dabi. She wanted to ask him where the hell he was taking her but she couldn’t find strength enough to form the words. She felt...frail...weak. It wasn’t like the weakness from fatigue after regenerating. It was a deep weakness that left her soul rattling around what little was left of her. She shivered.

Dabi pushed a door open with his boot and the strange flickering light from a fire burned her eyes. She couldn't lift her arm to block it. Unceremoniously he set her down on a musty couch. She could barely see anyone else in the room but the dark shapes scattered about were enough to tell her they weren’t alone. One of the dark shapes separated itself from a chair and crossed the room. Her pathetic pulse limped, unable to race.

A wave of magenta came into focus framing a woman who looked only a few years older than Ani. Her face was calm, unmarked except for a scar that cut across her bottom lip.

“This is what you brought me here to see?” the woman’s voice demanded. She sounded irritated. Inconvenienced. “There’s nothing remarkable about this bag of bones.”

“This bag-of-bones hasn’t had food or water for five days,” noted Dabi. The woman looked up at him under raised eyebrows.

“Five days?” Her gaze turned back to what was left of Ani with raised eyebrows. “Now that’s impressive.”

Ani’s eyes fluttered. Someone else, an unfamiliar voice, said “five days?!”

“Yeah, what’s it to you?” Dabi snapped defensively.

The voice was directed at someone else. “Shigaraki, this person is a valuable resource. You’ve let Dabi push her too far.”

“No, this was a good test,” The magenta-hair said. “If she can bounce back from this...she can bounce back from anything.” She traced her lips as they grew into a malicious grin. “She’s exactly what I need.”

The woman stood up and several other shapes rose, joining her. “Finish breaking her in. I’ll be back to collect once she’s ready.”

A vaguely familiar dark purple mist appeared and the pink puff disappeared, her shadows following in suit.

“Put her back now,” a man lazily dismissed. “She smells awful.”

Dabi reached down to pick her up again but an ethereal being made of the same warp-gate mist held him back. “You’ve done enough.”

“Kurogiri...” the lazy voice interjected. “This is why I kept your clone for so long and sent you to Mom’s...He was a lot more relaxed.”

The ethereal mist—Kurogiri—leaned away and Ani heard him faintly say "how we treat her from now on will dictate her cooperation with us. Do you want her to assimilate, or not?”

Kurogiri must have heard what he wanted because he came over and picked up the weak woman.

“Seriously?” Dabi jeered.

Kurogiri began carrying her away and she couldn’t hear the words to the heated but quiet argument they were leaving behind.

“I’m sorry about them,” the mist said as he carried her away through a dark hallway. “They are extreme people by nature.”

Ani’s eyelids fluttered closed and her head fell limply against the surprisingly solid chest of the man. He jostled her slightly and she opened her eyes with irritation though her body was too weak to show it. He was carrying her into an old bathroom with faded, dusty decorations and a floor tiled with tacky black and white squares. With much more care than Dabi, Kurogiri gently put her down in the bathtub. She wanted to cringe or shudder from the cold, stained porcelain but couldn’t.

“Here, drink this,” he said as he offered her a cup of water.

Her hands flashed out with surprising speed and she chugged the water as if he might cruelly change his mind and take the cup back. She clutched the empty glass against her chest, feeling a tiny sliver of relief.

“Would you like some more?” He asked. Though she couldn’t see the features of his face, she guessed he was cocking an eyebrow at her from the shape of his flat, yellow eyes.

She nodded timidly and relinquished the glass when he reached for it. He turned back to her a moment later, full again. She took it eagerly and gulped it down, too. Her stomach sloshed feeling more full than it had in...well...she wasn’t sure how long it had been.

“Are you feeling better?” Kurogiri asked, taking the glass from her begrudging grasp.

She nodded. She couldn’t find the energy to speak yet but her body was quickly soaking up the water like a sponge. He could see the subtle shift in her breathing that seemed to come easier after the water.

“Good.” He reached for the bottom of her sweater dress and she weakly pushed his hands off. He looked at her pitifully. “The last thing I’m interested in is taking advantage of you right now. You need to be cleaned.”

Her exhausted blue eyes measured the non-existent features of his face and slowly, hesitantly pulled her own hands back. He pulled the dirty, soiled sweater from her gaunt frame. She shivered, wrapping her arms around her naked form and began to shake when Kurogiri started the water. The sound was overwhelming, like a train blasting through a station; it was the loudest thing she’d heard in days. She whimpered when the cold water splashed her feet and she pulled back as far as she could to the far end of the tub.

“It will get warmer. Give it a moment.” Sure enough the water began to warm and she inched closer to it. “Is that a good temperature?” He asked and she nodded. He plugged the drain and she scooched all the way down to feel the water and absorb the warmth.

She sighed, audibly. Kurogiri watched her closely as she closed her eyes and almost smiled. He stood and found soap from the cabinet behind the mirror. He kneeled back down by the tub and gestured with the soap; he asked “may I?”

She stared at him warily and shook her head no. She flinched expecting him to react harshly when, instead, he simply offered her the bar of soap. Again, she stared at him with an expectation of some other kind of treatment. She glanced down at his hand blurred by the constantly shifting mist that covered his entire body. She wasn’t ready to know what it felt like yet. Ani held out her hand. He dropped the soap into it and stepped back, sitting down on the toilet seat lid. It was clear after a few long moments that he wasn’t going to give her privacy to bathe.

She shifted so her back was facing him and let more water fill up the tub. She waited until the water was half-way up her body and her muscles were finally relaxing in the warmth. Slowly, she scrubbed herself over. The dirt washed off. The sweat washed away. Her body was clean. But it was still here. Trapped.

She started the water again, making it slightly warmer as she pulled the plug to drain the dirty water away. She was surprised Kurogiri didn’t rush her out of the tub when she let it fill up again with clean water. She kept her back to him, scrunched up in a ball, but relaxed and savored the moment for as long as she could.

“Ca-n I ha-ve more wa-ter?” She asked. Her voice cracked from not being used.

“Of course,” Kurogiri said and she heard him filling the cup again. She accepted it when it appeared in front of her and she offered back the empty cup without looking. It was taken from her hand. She sat in the tub, wrapped in warm water and quiet wondering if she would be given more clothes to wear. If she would be locked up again.

“Are you g-oing to put me ba-ck in that cell?” croaked Ani.

Kurogiri was silent but she could tell he was still there.

She hastily wiped away the few tears that fell from her eyes. “Please...I c-an’t go back in there.”

“What would you have us do instead?” He asked. “You can’t be given your own room.”

She sniffled, tilting her head back to stare at the ceiling. “I don’t know. Isn’t there some place else I can be?”

Kurogiri became quiet again.

“Just so I can sleep before that...that woman takes me...” Ani let out a soft sob and covered her face. The water rippled with her gentle movement.

His silence was answer enough.

“What does she want with me?” Ani asked quietly and turned to look at Kurogiri who was staring at her with his bright yellow and unrevealing eyes.

“It’s obvious enough.”

Ani’s face scrunched and she quickly turned away to hide her tears.

“You’ve had time to clean and replenish your energy. It’s time to get out.”

Her heart sank as the time was over too soon. Knowing he could force her out barely breaking a sweat, she pulled the plug out and waited a few moments longer before standing from the tub and covering her shivering form. Kurogiri wrapped a sinfully soft towel around her and helped her step out. She stood on the tile trembling as she dried off as best as she could. Kurogiri reached through thin air and pulled out a pair of warm sweatpants, a matching gray sweatshirt, and thick socks.

“Here.” He handed them to her unceremoniously and waited as she changed under the towel. She held onto the towel as if she would be allowed to keep it. She savored it’s plushy comfort for another second before Kurogiri took it and dropped it through a small warp gate. Not caring if she was ready he ushered her out of the bathroom. She stepped through the doorway and appeared in the cell again. Someone must have cleaned it because the bucket was no longer there and the smell was back to neutral. Well. Dank dungeon neutral. She paused, confused and turned to ask Kurogiri what happened and how they got here but there was only the intimidating wooden door. At least she wasn’t chained up this time...that was...something. Slowly she sank to the ground and curled into a ball finally able to cover her face enough to sleep.

Chapter Text

Something woke her up. She was still so drained she wasn’t quite sure which sense it was—hearing? Touch? No: smell.

Her eyes parted to find a small bowl of something that looked like oatmeal in front of her with the handle of a spoon sticking out. In a flash she was sitting, bowl in her lap, scarfing down the food. It was thick, mushy, lukewarm and she couldn’t tell if it was made from oats or rice but she didn’t care. It was food. And she ate all of it, licking the bowl completely clean before resting back against the wall.

She sighed, stomach feeling like a hundred pounds with real food in it. And slowly drifted off to sleep. When she woke again it was to the sound of the wooden door being pushed open and she stretched, feeling somewhat alive again. The bowl and spoon were gone. She looked up expecting to see Kurogiri again but she froze.

Dabi looked down curiously at her. “Well...aren’t you looking a little more human.”

She pursed her lips and looked away. “What do you want?”

“I was sent to check on you, since your little babysitter is out right now.” Dabi squatted in front of her and she leaned as far away from him as she could. She hated the appealing heat that rolled off of him. “Feeling better?”

She denied him an answer.

He clicked his tongue. “Come on, princess, if you’re not going to participate, we’re not going to play nice.”

Still she wouldn't look at him, respond to him.

“Geez,” he grumbled. “Kurogiri said you were going to be better after we fed you...do you need to be starved again?”

Her eyes flicked involuntarily to his face in panic and he smirked. “Guess that’s a no.” He took her chin in his hands and he tilted her head back and forth, inspecting her frail features. “How are you feeling? Hmm?”

She maintained eye contact but didn’t give him anything more.

His eyes narrowed. “I’m getting impatient. I don’t have the same level of...restraint that Kurogiri has.”

She clenched her jaw trying not to overthink what he meant.

“Are you really not going to speak to me?” He asked with a bored expression. “Are you still holding out hope that your heroes will come for you?” Her eyes gave away her lingering hope. And it lit a fire of rage in him. Flames danced up his arm sending heat rolling off him in waves. With glowing eyes of cyan death he slowly reached out to her neck and she cowered with no place to run. “You know...” he snarled as his fingers wrapped around her throat and began to draw her up from the floor. “They’ll be turned to dust by the time this is all over.”

She was weakly fumbling at his impossibly strong hand as he slowly cut off her air supply.

“Blown apart into nothing.” He pressed flames against her skin adding a depth of pain to his grip as he branded her neck with his hand-print. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she made garbled choking sounds. He began to smile, the corners of his mouth lifting in a sadistic pressure as he challenged her gaze. “Why not just join the winning side now?”

It was a rhetorical question.

He hadn’t expected an answer.

So when she somehow found a gasp of air she forced out one cracked word.

“Ne-ver.”

She stared back at him with conviction as he tightened his grip. He bared his teeth, prepared to rip her apart when they heard a scuffling out in the hall.

Muffled voices arguing intensely approached Ani’s door and they both looked to the door. It was shoved open and a group of people piled inside. They were frantically dragging the body of the purple-mist man and Ani saw a trail of black blood smearing the floor behind him.

“Dabi what the fuck are you doing?!”

“Get her over here!”

“She has to help Kurogiri now—someone shot him!”

The people were disheveled and shouting over each other as Dabi turned back to Ani and said “looks like it’s your time to shine, princess.”

He tossed her to the floor and she coughed, wheezing for air as Kurogiri was roughly laid in front of her.

“Fucking help him!” Dabi spat and went to kick her but the man with blue hair gave Dabi a death-glare.

“Hurt her in a way she can’t help him and I’ll kill you.”

Dabi set his foot back down and held himself back. Ani was still clutching her own throat, filling her air with lungs, when the blue-haired man squatted down on the other side of Kurogiri.

Ani felt her socks begin to soak with blood.

“If you fail to save Kurogiri,” the blue-haired man said. “I won’t give you to Mom. You’ll be Dabi’s to keep...all to himself.”

Ani met his manic, wide open eyes and knew it wasn’t an empty threat.

“Wha-t ha-pp-ened to him?” She croaked through an abused throat.

Blue-hair pulled up the hem of Kurogiri's shirt and Ani saw the oozing bullet wound. “He was shot...”

Ani’s hands were shaking. This was an opportunity, here. To let him die would mean she would belong to Dabi but it would also give the heroes a true advantage. It was obvious how crucial this warp-gate user was to anything the villains were trying to do.

He cracked his eyes, thin slits of yellow that were pale and drained.

They were the only eyes that saw her as a human being here. He was without a doubt the only person looking out for her basic needs. She didn’t want to be at the hands of Dabi and she didn't want to let her only potential ally die. She swallowed a lump of guilt down her throat.

Forgive me, Shouto.

“I need tools to help him,” Ani said quietly. Guilt and shame broiled her stomach as the pig-tailed girl who attacked her in her apartment dashed out of the room.

“Was he shot in the front or the back?” Ani asked as she began rolling her sleeves.

“The front,” someone answered.

“Lift him,” she directed no one in particular. “I need to see if there’s an exit wound.”

Two pairs of hands appeared and twisted Kurogiri’s body enough so Ani could see his back.

“Shit,” she muttered.

“What is it?” someone asked.

“The bullet is still in there.”

The creepy girl returned only a minute later. “A...first aid kit?” Ani gaped around at them. “Are you serious?!”

“Save him.” The blue-haired man stared at her. “Prove you’re worth keeping around for more than just your blood.”

A sour taste filled her mouth and she hated what she was about to do.

She shook her head and opened the kit finding a laughable amount of tools and supplies. She pushed the presence of the other people in the room out of her mind and felt muscle memory take over from the ER.

Plastic fucking tweezers. That’s all she had to find the bullet. And someone’s cellphone flashlight was all the extra light she was given. After the most frustrating few minutes she had experienced in a long time, she eased the small bullet out of Kurogiri’s body and dropped it on the ground.

She rummaged through the kit and found no supplies for stitching. Also no syringes, but she knew there wouldn’t be any.

“I need a sewing kit,” Ani instructed. “Or a needle and a fishing line. Anything I can use to close his wound.”

Dabi clicked his tongue. “We’re not a department store, sweetheart.”

Kurogiri’s weak voice was barely audible. “What do you need?”

Ani’s eyes flashed to him in concern. Holy shit this guy must be tough if he could be talking right now. “I need supplies to give you stitches. Or syringes so I can give you my blood.”

Kurogiri’s yellow eyes closed and he lifted a shaking purple hand that disappeared into thin air. He clumsily pulled out handfuls of random supplies and Ani suspected he was reaching into some doctor’s office that he happened to know. She rifled through the supplies he continued to drop and found what she needed.

“Okay, stop. Stop! I have what I need,” she insisted as she opened the syringe package and lined the needle up the vein in her own elbow. She winced at the piercing feeling in her papery veins and took long, slow deep breaths as she filled the syringe with her own viscous blood. The room was silent, enraptured.

Once she was satisfied with the amount she gently administered a small amount of her blood in several points around Kurogiri’s wound.

“Why is it not healing?” the blue-haired man asked through clenched teeth.

She glanced up at him, feeling drained. “It’s going to take longer because I can barely regenerate myself right now.” She made an angry gesture at her own throat that barely looked different.

“If you want to have a viable source of healing,” she remarked. “You have to take better care of me. My blood won’t do anyone any good if I’m weak.”

“Tch,” Dabi scoffed. “You’re just trying to take advantage of the situation.”

“No, it’s true,” the psycho-blonde pig-tails chimed in. “When I drank her blood before all of my injuries healed so quickly.”

“When did you drink my blood?” Ani asked, disgusted.

The other girl gave a bashful grin. “After we stopped by your apartment.”

Stopped by. Yeah. Right.

Ani turned her attention back to Kurogiri’s wound and gave him another dose of her blood. They all stayed like that, quietly watching Ani periodically give more and more of her blood to Kurogiri until the syringe was empty.

“SEE!” The psycho-blonde squealed. “I told you!”

And she was right. Everyone, except Ani, leaned in a little closer to watch the fibers of Kurogiri’s viscera and skin weave together from the inside-out and close the wound.

Ani exhaled a silent sigh of relief; she was worried her blood wouldn’t be able to help him after all. That relief was quickly washed away with nausea and regret.

What had she done?

 

 

They carried the sleeping Kurogiri from her room and Dabi tried to linger. The blue-haired man ordered him out.

“See you again soon, princess,” he said with a snicker down at her before he sealed the wooden door behind himself.

Ani retreated to the wall and sat staring at the massive pool of blood staining the stone in the center of her cell.

Her chest felt tight. What had she done?!

Would Shouto understand?

She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin. Despair hollowed her heart and she chewed on her lip. This was bad. Quite possibly worse than she had realized in the moment. She just gave these villains back their strongest member and showed them just how much she could do. Her fingers twisted into her hair. Now they knew they could push themselves against the pros—against Shouto—and she would be here, their own personal healing prisoner. Tears fell soundlessly. She began rocking back and forth as panic threatened to drown her in the silence.

What had she done?!

Chapter Text

Ani had fell asleep curled up like a ball, clutching to herself, and awoke with a stiff body. Not to mention a kink in her neck that she tried to massage but couldn’t work out. Her eyes passed over the blood stain. So it hadn’t been a dream.

She sighed heavily feeling like there were no tears left inside herself. She kept drifting in and out of sleep in boredom until she heard a clinking sound at the door. It was being unlocked.

And opened.

She held her breath, fearful of who was coming inside, until the purple mist swirled and Kurogiri’s yellow eyes fell on her. They stared at each other.

“H-how are you feeling?” Ani asked tentatively.

Kurogiri placed a hand over his heart. “Much better, thank you for your efforts.”

Ani nodded in response as she watched him carefully. Something seemed off.

“I came to ask if you were hungry. Would you like something to eat and drink?”

She ignored the shame that twisted her gut; healing their wounds for food? Is that what this would be now? And nodded. “Yes. Please.” Her eyes fell to the floor.

A succulent smell filled the room and Ani’s mouth watered involuntarily. It was no stodgy bowl of gloop this time. Kurogiri placed a plate full of fresh, steamed fish and vegetables in front of her. He added a large glass of water and a bowl of rice, too.

Ani hesitated.

“Is something wrong?” Kurogiri asked. “Are you unable to eat this?”

“No!” she answered quickly and gulped. “I just...don’t understand why you’re being so nice to me.”

Kurogiri sat with formal posture in front of the opposite wall, looking at her over the bloodstain. “You saved my life.”

Her heart fell. Just like she suspected.

“So...I’m only going to be fed if I save someone’s life.” Her eyes fell sadly away from the food. She wasn’t sure why, exactly she wasn’t taking advantage of this moment.

“No.” Kurogiri stated. She watched him patiently waiting for more. His shrewd eyes narrowed at her. “You should eat. It’s getting cold.”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

The lemon color of his eyes held her gaze for a long time. “The version of me that you saved wasn’t this,” he gestured to his body “my original form. It was my clone.”

Ani’s eyes slowly widened at the dreadful implications of this. She was speechless.

“Though my clone was indeed injured, as you saw, the others wanted to use the opportunity to test your loyalty to us. We can easily make other clones so it was a low-risk situation, except for the clone itself.” He crossed his arms. “You could have let me die.”

Ani’s heart pounded with his words.

“And instead, you chose to save my life. Showing your allegiance to the heroes has finally faltered.” There was a faint trace of a smile across his shifting face. “I know there’s still a long way to go in building your trust and earning your faith in us but what you did for me finally showed the others you’re on your way to joining us.”

She slowly turned her gaze away from his face down to her food and she didn’t trust her voice to say anything.

“It’s clear to them—all of them—now that treating you with respect is the way to make that happen. Especially since you’re finally seeing the true sides of the heroes.”

Ani’s brow furrowed and she risked using her voice. It trembled but held calm. “Their true side?”

Kurogiri nodded. “You have been here for a long time. And no one has yet come to find you or rescue you. Professional heroes do what will benefit themselves the most in their popularity contest. Their rankings hold more weight than personal relationships and it is the wide-eyed believers who become fodder on their climb to being number one.

“So they are either terrible at what they do, which means their rating system is a farce. A superficial system to placate the general public into believing their government keeps them safe while, in reality, these so-called-heroes are instead just draining public resources. Or...

“They don’t care enough to try hard enough to find you. And I’m not sure which explanation you would be more disappointed in to know is the truth." Kurogiri took a deep breath and gestured to her food with a wave of his hand. “Now please. Eat. The food is already cooling and I’ve spent my own time preparing it for you.”

“Thank you,” Ani said quietly and bowed her head as her thoughts spun wildly out of control. She began to eat and shivered, savoring the other-worldly goodness to it after starving for so long. She knew it would be polite to pause and take a moment to properly thank him but she couldn’t stop eating. She cleared the plate. Emptied the bowl. Drained the cup.

She leaned back against the wall fully content and could feel her body ripping apart the contents of her stomach to fuel the regeneration of her malnourished body and burned neck.

She sighed. Almost happily. “Thank you. Very much,” she earnestly said.

“It is my pleasure.” He collected her empty dishes and put them away through a portal. “Consider everything I've said to you. Your heroes may no longer have your best interests at heart.”

He moved to the door that he’d left open the entire time. She hadn’t even considered trying to run.

“Kurogiri?” quietly Ani’s voice made him pause. He looked over his shoulder at her. “Is it daytime or nighttime outside?”

His eyes narrowed fractionally. “Nighttime. Why?”

“Can I...” She brought her knees nervously to her chest again. “Can I see the moon?”

“Why.” From his tone, she was surprised he was entertaining her request at all.

She wrapped her arms around herself, eyes falling to the floor. “When I was little...my mom told me whenever she was having a hard time she would look to the moon. Because no matter where she was, no matter what problem she was facing, all of our ancestors stood under that same moon.” Ani gave a frail smile. “She said it was like the ultimate shrine, always helping her make hard choices...

“I was just...hoping...” Ani glanced at his face and could already tell the answer was no. “...that I could have that same peace of mind.”

It became so quiet in the room Ani thought he had left until that eerie sound of a misty gate opened.

“You’re lucky I’m in a giving mood. Five minutes.” He glared at her. “Run? And I’ll cut you in half.”

Ani’s face blanched, stomach flipped. “O-okay. Good to know you could do that.”

“Enjoy the moon. It’s full tonight.”

Ani smiled. It was weak but there was tint of excitement to it when she stood and turned to the warp-gate.

Stepping through the purple mist felt like she was walking through a swarm of flies. Or a misty rain that was completely dry. Either way it made her skin tingle all over and made her feel more alive than she had in...well...however long it had been.

And it was over in a moment.

Ani stepped out onto a balcony under the full moon. She gaped up at it in awe and slowly sank down to sit in its timeless, comforting glow.

She couldn’t take her eyes off of it, barely blinking, as she stared up at the massive rock trying her best to find a future she wanted.

 

 

Ani could feel she was no longer alone and tried to gaze up at the moon for just a few moments longer.

“It’s time, Shida.”

Ani shivered. It was the first time he had said her name. She rose from the rotten wood, giving one last glance at the moon, and turned appreciatively to Kurogiri.

“Thank you,” she quietly said and folded her hands in front of her. “You have no idea how much this means to me.”

He held her gaze evenly. “It’s time to go back now.”

“Mhmm,” agreed Ani. He gestured for her to go first and she stepped through the warp-gate back into her cell with little surprise. Kurogiri did not join her.

The blood stain had been cleaned and she felt oddly at peace. She nestled into a corner of the room and drifted off to sleep, forgiving herself.

 

 

There was another bowl of food waiting for her when she woke up. A bowl of covered ramen that was still steaming when she lifted off the lid. She devoured it.

She sat back with a sigh feeling like she was almost back to normal. When the door opened she expected Dabi, instead it was the psycho-blonde stomping into the room with a playful pout. Dabi followed close behind. Right away Ani noticed the abrasions and burns marring the girl’s overly cheery face.

“Hi Shida-san!” She crowed. “I’m Toga! I can’t believe this is the first time we’re officially meeting!” The girl cupped her own rosy cheeks as she giggled down at Ani.

“Just get to it, already,” Dabi ordered.

Toga pouted. “Hey now, she hasn’t had any company for so long! Besides your sourpuss.” The blonde kneeled in front of Ani.

“What happened to you?” The nurse in her couldn’t help asking.

“Awww, you’re so sweet! No wonder you’re so popular!” Toga reached out to stroke Ani’s hair but she jerked away, not wanting to be touched. “Sorry, I can’t help myself,” Toga laughed.

Toga.” Dabi was getting annoyed.

“Alright, alright!” Toga smiled with a sick, sugary spread of her lips and batted her eyes. "So, besides you and all of your skills, I’m the only other person here who has any experience with needles. So...I’m here to collect some more of your delicious blood!”

Ani shivered. It was beginning.

“Do I have a choice?” Ani asked.

Toga cocked her head like a puppy. “A choice? Of what?”

Dabi glowered down at Ani and she recognized the challenge in his eyes. She answered “do you have to draw it or can I?”

“Ooo!” Toga’s eyes grew wide. “You’re that good?! You can draw your own blood?!”

“You just saw her do it to save Kurogiri, dumbass,” scoffed Dabi.

Toga cackled. “Right! Right! I just thought it would be different if we’re not in a high-stress adrenaline-fueled situation. But yeah, sure, no problem!” Toga handed Ani some syringe with a girthy cannister connected to the pack on Toga’s back.

Ani took it, hating herself. She rolled her sleeve up and tried to reason that this was alright in any way. As the needle pierced her skin, she still wasn’t convinced. The vial filled quickly to Toga’s satisfaction and Dabi’s indifference. When they were satisfied by the volume Toga took the syringe back and bounced up to her feet.

“See ya later cutie!” Toga beamed at their prisoner. “Thanks for the blood!” She skipped out into the hallway and Dabi gave Ani one last scowl. Before he closed the door Ani called out

“Wait!”

Dabi leaned in impassively.

“Can I...” Ani asked timidly. “Can I have something to read?”

Dabi rolled his eyes and locked the door.

 

Ani sank back against the wall. She knew it was a longshot since it was Dabi but she didn't know when anyone would come back again. She sighed. It was worth trying.

 

Purple swirled from the corner of her cell and Ani watched nervously but the gate never got larger than a dinner plate. A book was tossed through, pages rippling through the stagnant air of the cell, and Ani leapt up to catch it. She smiled gratefully where the gate had been hoping to say thanks. It was already gone.

She sat down dusting the ratty cover and gave herself the only escape she could.

 

 

She read the entire book. More food was delivered. She took a quick nap with a full stomach and was halfway through the book for a second time when Kurogiri stepped out of his purple haze, drawing her attention up from the pages.

“How are you enjoying it?” He asked in his deep, mouthless voice.

Ani gave him a small smile. “Very much so. Thank you.”

He gave her a stiff bow of his head. “I’m glad. Though it’s time for you to come with me.”

“For what?” Ani asked, shrinking against the wall.

His yellow eyes stared flatly at her without explanation. Ani closed her eyes and tried to settle her nerves but it was no use. She stood and followed Kurogiri through the grainy static of his gate; they stepped out into a large room. Coals from a dying fire burned in the fireplace and Ani’s stomach flipped. This was where Dabi had brought her, where that woman Mom had seen her. Toga and Dabi were here now. As well as the blue-haired man from her cell when she saved Kurogiri.

“Miss Shida,” Kurogiri said. “This is our leader, Shigaraki.” He gestured to the man with blue-hair covered with hands.

“Mr. Shigaraki,” Ani acknowledged and his angsty eyes fell on her.

“So...you’re...getting along alright?” He asked lazily. “Now that Kurogiri is taking care of you?”

Ani released a shaky breath and gave a small nod.

“Good.” Shigaraki strummed his fingers on the couch. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“In general, yes.”

“And are you ready to join us?” He asked bluntly.

Ani glanced at Kurogiri. “J-join you?”

“Yes.” Shigaraki rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Surely Kurogiri has made it clear that we’d like you to join our cause.”

“What cause is that exactly?” Ani asked earnestly.

Shigaraki leaned forward in his seat. “We want to expose the heroes for what they really are: government thugs, public mercenaries that are paraded around as gods. We want to end this farce of a society. To bring justice for the man who looked out for us, those of us deemed unworthy of protecting, and was brutally murdered by those who faced no consequence for their homicide.

“I know you’ve heard all the stories the media have had to tell. The hero’s side...but our old visionary...All-For-One...just wanted a more balanced society.” Shigaraki growled. “He was never able to see his dream to reality. It is now our task to see it through. It’s what we’ve set out to do from the beginning.”

Ani grew quiet and felt all the eyes of the room on her. They waited expectantly. Ani became lost in thought and Dabi snapped first.

“We’re not going to wait all day, princess!”

She jumped and blushed deeply. “You say you were deemed unworthy of protecting...why?” The atmosphere in the room titled dangerously. Her next words dug her own grave. “What did you do that made the heroes deem you unworthy?”

Dabi’s lips curled in a snarl. Toga’s face fell with a dramatic frown. And Shigaraki rose from his chair. Kurogiri was as still as a statue as his boss approached Ani.

“You...” Shigaraki’s eyes were wild and wide. "You haven’t changed at all! You’re still sympathetic with those bullies!”

“What?” Ani began to panic. “Wait-I—” Anything else she was going to say was cut off as Shigaraki wrapped his hand over her fully-healed neck. She flailed in his grasp as his five-finger-grip began to dissolve her skin.

“You’re never going to join us, are you?” He asked rhetorically. He starred curiously at Ani’s throat as her regeneration kicked into overdrive and fought back against his decay. She was still writhing in pain but he was...impressed. She was the first person whose skin hadn’t flaked away like paper. Her quirk was holding its ground against his. He grinned maniacally. “No matter...we’re still going to use you as we see fit.” He shoved her to the ground and she coughed roughly, clutching her throat. “Put her back. And no more privileges.”

Dabi grinned maniacally and stepped toward her. Ani panicked and screamed, kicking at him as he formed a ball of fire in his hand.

 

An alarm went off.

 

It was quiet but distinct and the sound made all of the villains freeze. They looked at Kurogiri who was already disappearing through a warp gate. Ani, too, had paused. She didn’t know what the alarm was from but she knew if she went back in her cell she would never get to find out and the others seemed to have forgotten about her for the time being.

A long, tense moment passed.

A warp gate opened from the ceiling and a man dressed in plain brown clothes dropped through like a sack of potatoes. Kurogiri appeared a moment later stepping through a properly-orientated swirl.

“He set off the alarm.” Kurogiri loomed over the lump of a pan who groaned and the hair on Ani’s neck stood up. “What’s your name?”

He kicked the man sending his brown leather goggles flying. They skittered across the floor landing next to Ani.

Thump thump.

She could hear her heartbeat in her ears.

“Who are you?!” Shigaraki snarled.

Thump Thump.

Ani’s lungs couldn’t find air to breathe.

“We asked you a fucking question!” Dabi shouted and grabbed the man by the throat lifting him from the floor. Ani’s eyes widened in disbelief.

Thump Thump.

The man gagged and struggled against the choke-hold and started to claw at Dabi’s hand. In his struggles his eyes roamed the room wildly and stopped.

On Ani.

Thump Thump.

They widened.

Dabi noticed the man’s distraction and followed his line of sight, cerulean-ember eyes landing on Ani, too, who lost focus on everyone in the room.

As she stared up...

“Do you know this man?!” Dabi asked in a dangerously dark voice.

...at M.I.

Chapter Text

“What the fuck do you want you ass—”

Shouto cut off Bakugo, now was not the time. “Come to my agency. We have a lead on Ani.” He hung up abruptly and swerved into the Todoroki Agency parking garage. He sprinted past security, launching himself into an elevator as his mind continued to race.

Holy shit. Utsubei...Utsubei saw her.

He had already called Midoriya and Jozu. Flora had been his first call and he gratefully accepted her offer to contact Aves and M.I. on her way into the office. He had called in only a few of these, his most trusted sidekicks, unsure of who else he was going to need. Bakugo had been his last call.

He rushed to the strategy and planning department; the lights were already on. Dojire had arrived first, prepping the necessary facilities.

“Is anyone here yet?” Shouto asked.

Dojire fell into step. “Detective Utsubei and Deku, sir. I’ve notified security to direct the remaining arrivals to this floor.”

“Thank you, Dojire.” As he spoke another elevator opened and Bakugo rushed out.

The explosive hero stormed past Dojire reeking of smoke; he must have blasted across the city to get here so quickly. “This better not be some goddamned prank waking me up in the middle of the fucking night!” Bakugo was fully dressed in his hero uniform giving away the level of seriousness he was giving the situation. Shouto brushed off the comment and went in to join Midoriya and Utsubei.

“Oh great, the damned nerd is here,” Bakugo muttered, ignored again.

Shouto bowed to Midoriya. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course,” Midoriya said with a bow of his head and a clench of his fist. "We're going to find her, for sure.”

“Shouto-san.” His brother-in-law was leaning over a touch-screen computer table covered in...pictures of trees...

“Utsubei, what’s going on?” Shouto stood across the display surface. “What did you see?”

“Not much. I just saw her sitting by herself. Looked like a balcony or something? Of a mountain house.” He tapped a rough sketch and passed it along the screen to Shouto. “Kind of like this. And it was surrounded by trees. Definitely out in the middle of nowhere.”

“So you’re trying to pick-out the trees you saw? So Flora can tell you where they’re found?”

Utsubei nodded. “Yes. Is she coming?”

“She’ll be here as soon as she can—”

“Wait. Wait. Wait.” Bakugo popped a small explosion from his fist. “What the fuck is this you’re saying?! You saw her?!”

“Yes.” Utusbei kept scrolling through pictures of trees.

“What the fuck does that mean?!” Bakugo’s teeth bared impatiently. “Who the fuck even are you?!”

“This is Detective Utsubei, of the Musutafu police force. He’s my brother-in-law,” said Shouto, arms crossed as his eyes stoically surveyed the screen. Utsubei stood up, pausing his search for a moment.

“Who the fuck cares! What did you mean you saw Ani?!” He was facing Utstubei down like a rabid animal.

“It’s my quirk: reflection.” Ustubei sighed. “If I’m looking at something and someone else is looking at that same thing, and I try to look for them specifically, I can see them. It works best if the surface is reflective, like the side of a building.”

“Which makes him particularly talented in metropolitan areas,” Midoriya chimed in.

“Yes, thank you.” Utsubei gave Deku a small bow of his head. “It can be challenging because we have to be looking at the same thing, same time...but it’s useful because I can use it over long distances, too, if the moon is available.”

“The...moon?” Bakugo looked at Utsubei like he was crazy.

“And if the moon is full...”

Bakugo involuntarily glanced outside at the glamorous full-moon as sunlight began to lighten the sky.

“I can get an incredibly clear picture of the person and their immediate surroundings. If they’re looking at it, too,” Utsubei explained. “I've been checking the moon repeatedly, almost obsessively hoping Ani would remember asking me about it so long ago at the Todoroki house. Hoping she might try to contact me through it.”

“And she did,” Midoriya said, feeling encouraged.

“Yes.” Utsubei looked back to the trees. “After I noticed her, she sat still for nearly two straight minutes doing nothing but staring directly at the moon. I was able to get the clearest picture I’ve ever seen, of her and that house and the trees growing up around it. I don’t think she blinked more than once or twice that entire time until someone came to collect her.”

“Someone?” Shouto asked, eyes concentrating on Utstubei who nodded.

Utsubei’s brow furrowed. “She looked back at me once more when she was no longer alone. It was like she was trying to show me that person, too, but I didn’t realize until it was too late and the connection was gone.”

Shouto clenched his fists. The room was beginning to brighten with the sun as it crested the horizon. The elevator dinged and the four of them turned to the doorway where Flora, Aves, and M.I. soon appeared.

“Flora,” Shouto greeted her. “Aves. M.I. Thank you all for coming.”

Flora stepped up to the table with fierce determination. “How can I help?”

“What’s the situation?” M.I. asked.

Utsubei quickly repeated the situation for the three of them and began looking through pictures of the trees with Flora. Within the hour they had narrowed the range of Ani’s possible location to the Tanzawa Mountains.

“It’s hard to pinpoint it any closer than that without additional details,” Flora stated thoughtfully. “Aves, can you search through an area this large?”

“Without a doubt—I already know who to ask,” she said and dashed out of the room before anyone else could speak.

Shouto leaned onto the table staring at the map of the Tanzawa Mountain Range. She was there, somewhere deep in the mountains. The elevator dinged again, catching everyone by surprise. They looked to the door and Shouto immediately scowled as he caught sight of his nephew coming down the hall.

“Tashkei. What are you doing here!” demanded Shouto.

“I’d like to know that as well,” Utsubei sternly added and crossed his arms.

Midoriya’s eyes widened in surprise and worry. “Keijo. You’re here too?”

“Yes!” Tashkei said defensively as he and his peer stormed into the room. “We’re your interns! Why would we not be here for, clearly, such an important meeting?!”

Shouto scowled at them and Midoriya simply sighed, drawing the attention of Shouto’s currently short fuse. Deku smiled at his old friend.

“You know this is Aizawa...right?” He chuckled. “I think he sent them as his own form of payback for everything we did as his students.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Shouto insisted and turned back to the third-year high-schoolers. “This isn’t something for either of you to be involved with.”

“We’re practically pro-heroes already, aren’t we?” Tashkei challenged. “What’s the real reason you don’t want us here?”

“It’s Ani,” Utsubei told his son.

Keijo had joined Midoriya at his side. “Who’s Ani?”

“Did you see her?” Tashkei asked his father urgently stepping up to the table.

“Yes,” the detective answered.

“Then I have all the more reason to be involved!” Tashkei argued and stood toe-to-toe with his uncle.

Again Keijo quietly asked his mentor “who’s Ani?”

“She’s Shouto’s longtime girlfriend,” Midoriya responded in a hush.

“And practically my aunt,” Tashkei loudly added.

He turned away from his satisfied intern-slash-nephew and cracked his neck. He remembered his first internship with Endeavor, when his father didn’t hesitate to bring him along to Hosu city. And also showed no hesitations about Shouto breaking off to go help a friend. He may not have acknowledged it at the time...but it was validating how much confidence his father had in him. And he had only been a first year.

“You’re absolutely right.” Shouto rubbed his face and glanced at his intern. “You should be here for this.”

“So, what did you see, dad?” Tashkei asked as he stepped up to the table and the story was once again repeated. The room slowly fell quiet. Shouto wanted to begin planning but it was difficult to set out exact plans without knowing her location.

The room was bright and full of sunshine when Aves came sprinting out of the doorway.

“I’ve got it!” She zipped to the table. “There are three abandoned cabins in the range that you said.

“Three,” Shouto said as he tapped his chin and glanced at his two fellow pro-heroes who looked at him and nodded in agreement. “Three teams.”

 

~

 

Shouto rode with Tashkei, M.I., Aves, and Flora to the farthest, most abandoned destination. Midoriya and Bakugo had called their own most trusted sidekicks to help them with their searches. Shout's team drove through a small town nestled in the mountains that could hardly count as a town. Utsubei called as they met the end of a dirt road and had to travel forward on foot.

Both Midoriya and Bakugo haven’t found anything at their sites,” Utsubei reported. “They sent me pictures of the houses, too. They didn’t look right.

Shouto’s hopes all came down to this last possibility. “Thanks. I’ll let you know what we find as soon as we get to the site.”

Good luck.”

Shouto turned his attention back to his team where Aves and M.I. stood silently over Flora. Tashkei scanned the forest. The pale-green girl kneeled to the ground, head resting against a tree trunk and eyes closed in deep concentration.

“It’s about three kilometers that way...” said Flora with a whisper of uncertainty.

“What is it?” M.I. asked.

Flora’s face twisted in confusion and she looked up. “It’s hard to tell from this distance...but it doesn’t sound like anyone is there.”

Shouto’s brow furrowed. “Utsubei just called and said neither of the buildings from the other sites were the one he saw. It has to be this one.”

Flora nodded softly. “I’ll keep listening as we go...just in case.”

The four of them took a straight path following Flora’s directions and hiked quietly so Flora could continuously listen. Aves would communicate with passing birds and had similar feedback: there were no signs of anyone inside.

“It’s just up ahead,” Flora whispered after they had been hiking for a long time. The group paused and sank to the ground. Flora and Aves both reported no scouts wandering the perimeter. No visible traps. Aves was able to convince a bird to take her phone as it recorded a video and fly up over the house. They sent the video to Utsubei as soon as the bird dropped it back down to them.

Yepp, that’s the place I saw.

Shouto’s heart steeled. “Okay, this is it. This is the place.”

“I still don’t sense anyone...” Flora said practically laying in the dirt as she rubbed her temples. “There’s...nothing.”

“She was here,” Shouto said as he stared the abandoned house down. “Even if it’s empty now...that warp gate brought her here for a reason.”

“You think we can find another lead inside?” Tashkei quietly asked.

Shouto nodded. “Do you all have your team-coms on?” Everyone nodded. Their small earbuds were secure and ready to keep them all connected as they separated.

“Shouto,” M.I. said. “Let me go in.” When his boss paused, eyes narrowing, M.I. explained “if there’s anything in there that’s some sort of trap I’m the one most capable of disarming it. I’ll call out once it’s all clear.”

“Do it. The rest of you, spread out. Keep your eyes and ears open.” Shouto motioned for them to surround the house through the woods and his team distanced themselves from each other as M.I. cautiously approached the abandoned house.

“Can everyone still hear me?” M.I. whispered, testing to make sure there was no radio jamming in effect. Affirmative response from everyone.

He climbed the creaky wooden steps and could see into almost the entire first floor through the empty window frames. The door opened with minimal protest and M.I. rolled a small ball down the dark hallway. Thin streams of vapor rushed out filling the first floor of the small home with a light mist that quickly dissipated. No lasers. Or other-wise invisible traps so far. Cautiously, he stepped inside.

Nothing. No one. No sounds.

“First floor clear,” he whispered, feeling the tension rolling off of his team from the woods.

Seeing the shabby stair case he began to climb, wood screeching with every step. The second floor was a large, open space and before he was even at the top of the stairs he could see it was empty save for a broken dresser and dusty piano. He lifted his foot to the last step. “Second Floor Cl—”

A sudden darkness appeared in front of him like a nightmarish vision come true.

“NOT CLEA—” M.I. could not force the words out before he was shoved backward, sent flying down the stairs and fell for a longer time than he thought he should have. He slammed into the ground, a different floor covered by a musty rug that had not been in the house before.

 

Shouto burst through the door only to see the warp gates disappearing at the base of the stairs and at the top. He lunged for them but grabbed at nothing. M.I. was gone.

“M.I.!” He shouted. “M.I.!!”

There was no response; from anywhere here or over the com.

NNOO!” Shouto roared and was joined only moments later by the remaining four members of his team. “They got him! They just fucking took M.I.!”

“What?!” Aves asked, mouth dropping open.

“It’s that damned warp-gate!” Shouto snarled. “Quickly! Search the house, find anything, everything!”

Chapter Text

Utsubei sat anxiously at his desk staring at his phone. It rang making the few other detectives around him jump. He answered it before the ring ended.

“Shouto—”

They got M.I.! They’re not here but that fucking warp-gate got M.I.!

Utsubei’s gut dropped. “Oh, shit.”

We’ve already filed a report with the local police and it should be uploading to the national database any moment now. They said this property has been abandoned for a long time and they’re searching town records to find who the last owners were. As soon as we have the name, I need you to check for that name anywhere and everywhere.

“Of course. Where are you now?”

We‘re headed down from the mountains. Bakugo has already gone back to Dagoben. Midoriya is on his way back to Musutafu. Call me if anything changes from your end.

“Will do.”

Shouto abruptly hung up, as per his new norm, and Utsubei relayed the situation to his supervisor. Now they were two victims.

Fuyumi called. She encouraged her husband as best as she could knowing the stress that was weighing on all of them.

“I’m going to get lunch,” Utsubei told his team. He couldn’t shake the terrible feeling creeping up his spine and he wanted to be out of the office. The sun was shining brightly and Utsubei had to pause at the doorway to get the black spot out of his vision once his eyes had adjusted to the light. But the black spot didn’t disappear. It grew.

Purple mist spiraled out at the base of the stairs to the police-station doors and Utsubei froze as a body was tossed like a limp rag onto the sidewalk. Someone else's face popped out with a quick glance at the dumped body but the mist disappeared with the face before Utsubei could see who it was. His eyes fell and widened as the crumpled form didn’t move. He was moving, shouting, before he had consciously chosen to.

“GUYS! SOMEONE’S HURT OUT HERE!”

 

Shouto was weaving toward Dagoben in the silent car.

Aves’s mind was racing with a strategy of how to spread a search. Flora was leaning against the glass, mouth covered as she tried not to cry. Tashkei watched the road in a tense silence.

And Shouto...Shouto’s entire body was tense, every muscle flexing as he gripped the steering wheel with white-knuckles. His mind was a focused list of how to move forward. To expand the search for two of his people now.

The shrill ring of his phone pierced the silence making three of them jump as Shouto swiftly answered.

Shouto!” Utsubei’s voice was saturated with stress. “M.I.-he was just dropped at the feet of my police station in Musutafu! He’s on the way to Musutafu General in an ambulance now. He’s in rough shape, Shouto.

Shouto’s eyes stayed focused on the road as everyone else stared at his phone with rapt attention.

“What happened.” Shouto immediately changed course for their neighboring city.

He heard sirens in the background; Utsubei must have been following the ambulance. “He just...he just flopped out of this weird purple mist—

“Kurogiri,” Shouto snarled.

“It’s the same guy who kidnapped Ani? Right?

“Yeah. What did M.I. say? Did he see Ani?”

The other line was silent for a beat. “Shouto...they cut out M.I.’s tongue.

 

Shouto parked and rushed inside with his three teammates on his tail. Bakugo, Midoriya, and a few other police officers were all talking with Utsubei outside of the hospital room where Utsubei said M.I. was being treated.

“What’s going on?” Shouto asked covered in a sheen of sweat from the day’s stress as the group opened up to include them.

“M.I. is in stable condition now. His injuries are not fatal...” Utsubei said uncomfortably. “But it’s like I said...they cut out his tongue.”

He ignored the repeated reactions of his team and tried to look in the glass door. “Is he awake?”

“Yes. We have a specialist coming who will be able to help us find out what happened.”

Shouto’s phone rang. At a quick glance he saw it was Aino.

Shit.

He stepped away from the group for a moment and took the call. “Aino?”

Have you found anything yet? Have you found her?” The older brother’s voice was breathless and hopeful and worried. Shouto wondered if he should have said anything at all to the surgeon.

“No. Not yet, but we’re still chasing an active lead.”

Aino hesitated. “What aren’t you saying?

“It’s...one of my people. They kidnapped him and he was just recovered but we’re in the hospital.”

Which hospital? What happened to him?!

Shouto grimaced. He didn’t want to tell the surgeon for fear it would make his worries spiral out of control. “We’re in Musutafu general. And they...they cut out his tongue.”

Aino sucked in a tight breath. “I’m coming over.

“No, Ai—” Shouto growled.

“Yeah, annoying as fuck, isn’t it?” Bakugo loudly remarked. “When someone just fucking hangs up on you?”

Shouto brushed the comment off and rejoined the group as another police officer walked up with a plainly-dressed man with huge hands.

“Detective Toei,” Utsubei greeted the man with large-hands. He introduced everyone else standing in the circle.

Toei nodded and skipped over the small talk. “Shall we?"

Utsubei nodded and led them inside.

“Ah,” Toei paused. “Often times a subject such as this will perform better if there are fewer people involved.” His eyes skimmed the group. “Which of you need to know the details of the situation.”

Flora gently pulled Aves and Tashkei’s arms, stepping back with them. “We’re not essential. Shouto will tell us what we need to know.”

The red-white head gave a nod to his team in appreciation. Toei gestured to the extra police officers.

“They’re here to offer our patient protection,” Utsubei commented. Toei gave a nod of obvious approval to number one hero Deku and his eyes fell on Bakugo with a questioning raised eyebrow.

“Aside from being the number-fucking-three top hero,” Bakugo commented hotly “I’ve been a part of this investigation from the beginning.” Midoriya vouched for him. Shouto gave a nod of support, too.

“Four of you...” Toei thought for a moment. “Well...we’ll see how this goes.”

They stepped inside the quiet room and shut the door before going behind M.I.’s drawn privacy curtain. The sidekick, reconnaissance hero was staring at the ceiling with a sad hollowness to his eyes that locked onto his boss, unacknowledging of anyone else in the group. M.I.’s face crumpled as tears streamed down his eyes. He opened his mouth out of habit to talk but only made a gagging noise from the empty cavern and covered his face in shame and despair.

“Hi there, young man.” Detective Toei pulled up a chair next to M.I. and took a seat. He gently squeezed M.I.’s arm and received reluctant eye contact. “Do you know who I am?”

M.I. shook his head.

“My name is Detective Toei. I’m with Musutafu’s division of the Ministry of Justice. I work with victims of crimes share experiences they otherwise cannot bring themselves to physically or mentally share.” He wiggled his Mr. Mime fingers. “My quirk is called Projection. I can project your thoughts and memories for others to see.

“Detective Utsubei?” He asked over his shoulder and the detective stepped up, leaning his head down in offering. Toei placed his fingers along Utsubei’s temple and pointed his other hand to a blank space on the wall. An image of Utsubei holding Tashkei for the first time appeared as crisp and clear as a movie. Toei removed his hand and the vision immediately disappeared.

“It doesn’t hurt. It’s a very gentle, subtle sensation,” Utsubei assured M.I.

Toei turned to the patient lying in the bed. “What do you think, are you open to trying this?”

M.I. nodded fervently. He gave Shouto an urgent, serious glance.

“Let’s begin.”

Chapter Text

“It’s helpful for your mind if you ease into what you most want to share. Rewind your memories back to just before what happened,” Toei instructed. Everyone in the hospital room held their breath as Toei rose from his chair and gently placed his fingertips at M.I.’s temple. He aimed his other hand at the empty wall.

M.I. closed his eyes and let his head sink back.

 

A dark, shabby stair case. He walked to it and began to climb, wood screeching with every step. M.I. looked around the large, open space of the second floor and saw only a broken dresser and dusty piano.

M.I.’s voice quietly echoed in the silent hospital room as he moved to the last step.

“Second Floor Cl—”

A sudden darkness appeared in front of him like a nightmarish vision come true.

“NOT CLEA—” M.I.’s words were cut off as the memory suddenly twisted and jostled from his perspective as he was shoved down the stairs. Toei’s body stiffened for a moment as he felt the impact of the wind being knocked out of M.I. as he slammed into the floor.

The projection was black; M.I.’s eyes were squeezed shut as he tried to catch his breath.

A deep voice rumbled. “He set off the alarm. What’s your name?”

M.I.’s lungs had just found purchase and he opened his eyes to see who was speaking. Toei flinched. M.I.’s face was met with a swift kick from a black dress shoe and he grunted. His goggles were sent flying.

“Who are you?!” Someone else snarled. M.I.’s vision was finally coming back into focus and Shouto felt his arms flex with anger as he saw Kurogiri, Shigaraki, and—

“We asked you a fucking question!” Dabi shouted and lifted M.I. from the floor. Toei trembled as he experienced the strength of Dabi’s grip and M.I.’s memory frantically scanned the room showing a head of pony tails, blue hair, purple mist...

Shouto’s soul nearly left his body as he saw what M.I. had seen.

Ani.

She was alive. She stared up at M.I. with recognition glowing in her eyes. Shouto’s heart leapt in relief; she still remembered M.I. after her memory had been altered. His mind raced as his hopes soared wishing she would take this as a sign: they were coming for her. She was not forgotten and they, he, cared about her. Shouto saw the gears whirring in her mind and willed it to mean that the memory-erasing and tactics to make her believe they had abandoned her weren’t true.

From the corner of the projection, they could see Dabi’s eyes follow M.I.’s and land on Ani.

“Do you know this man?” Dabi asked in a dangerously dark voice. Ani gulped and glanced at Dabi without giving him an answer. Shouto noticed the wound on her neck. “Don’t play dumb,” Dabi challenged.

M.I. was dropped to the floor, he tried to get to his feet but was held back and Shigaraki’s grating voice whispered in his ear.

“Let’s see how this plays out, nehh?” He gave a quiet cackle and the memory made Toei shiver. “Let’s see if she really does remember you.”

Dabi slowly stalked toward Ani and she crawled backward shaking her head.

“Who is this man—”

M.I.’s voice rang out clearly. “I’m no one! Just a hiker who wandered by looking for a place to rest!”

Ani’s eyes flicked between him and Dabi with evident hope he would accept the explanation but Dabi wouldn’t look away from Ani.

Shouto’s heart clenched. He watched helplessly as his deranged sibling raised a foot over Ani’s gut and stomped, hard. Shouto held his breath, waiting for Ani’s cry of pain but it never came. A small misty gate had appeared sending Dabi’s foot into a cushion of the couch instead of Ani’s gut. The scarred man stepped back and turned to the warp gate who was stepping into M.I.’s view.

“STOP INTERFERING!” Dabi roared. “This is all happening because YOU’RE GOING SOFT!”

Kurogiri stood toe-to-toe with the fire-user and spoke calmly. “And yet you’ve never been able to get anything out of her.” Shouto’s heart skipped a beat—what did that mean— “So step aside.”

“Why you—” Dabi moved to hit the misty suit but instead just popped out in a different corner of the room.

“Cool it for a minute, Dabi,” Shigaraki instructed from behind M.I.

“Sh-she doesn’t know anything!” M.I. pleaded as the swirling man approached a cowering Ani. “I don’t know who she is! Please, just leave her alone!”

Kurogiri ignored M.I.’s pleas as he and Ani stared at each other.

“Ani...” Kurogiri’s voice made the girl shiver. It made Shouto’s blood boil. “I would like to think that you and I have come to a sort of...mutual respect. It’s obvious you recognize this man. Who is he?”

Ani hesitated. The room in the memory and the room in the hospital grew absolutely silent.

“He’s...he’s an old ex-boyfriend,” she lied. “I haven’t seen him for such a long time and was just surprised...I have no idea why he’s here.”

Kurogiri gave a condescending look to Dabi and started to turn back to M.I. when Toga’s disgustingly cheery voice pierced the silence with a giggle.

“Oh my gosh that’s so cute!! She used to date one of Shouto’s sidekicks!!”

Everyone froze.

M.I.’s heart pounded audibly. Kurogiri slowly turned back to Ani whose face was blank.

“Why’s everyone acting so weird right now!” Toga giggled bubbly. “It’s not that weird! Maybe that’s how Ani-san and Shouto-san met!”

Shouto’s mind felt like quick sand as all of his hopes sank away. He noticed the tears slipping out of M.I.’s cheeks in real-life. In the projection, his eyes were glued to Ani.

“That’s not what it is at all. Is it.” Kurogiri towered over Ani and she shrank as his voice rose in anger. “How did you do it? How did you contact them?!”

Dabi snickered. “Yeah...not such a well-behaved pet after-all, is she?” He stepped into view clapping a hand on the suited shoulder. “Such a sha—”

Kurogiri shook Dabi’s hand off and elbowed him in the gut, sending the scarred man back a step. Still looming over the wilting girl he demanded “tell me. After everything that I have done for you. Tell. Me.”

Ani's posture changed. She squared her shoulders from where she sat on the ground and the look on her face calmed. She stared up at Kurogiri with a blooming resistance that had laid dormant for so long. “What did you think this was?” Her voice was quiet but strong and it lit a spark in Shouto’s chest. “Did you think you would give me some clean clothes and a few meals...a fucking book, and I was going to leap to join your cause?” Her chest was rising and falling with pent-up emotion. “What kind of weird beauty-and-the-beast stockholm syndrome situation did you think you were in?!”

Her voice rang with hidden strength that even Dabi’s eyebrows lifted in surprise.

Shigaraki tutted, out-of-sight. “You had your chance, Kurogiri, and you failed. Your turn.”

It was clear who he had spoken to as Dabi’s lips spread in a victorious grin. Ani’s confidence and strength began to deflate as Kurogiri walked away emotionlessly and Dabi took his place above Ani.

“So...” he squatted in front of Ani and Shouto’s heart sank. “We have to do this the hard way, huh?” Ani’s eyes grew wide with horror as Dabi leisurely reached out for her leg. With the dying embers of her strength she kicked him square in the chest and he fell back as she tried to get away but there wasn’t enough power to have hurt him. His arms flashed out and grabbed both of her ankles slamming her back down to the ground with an audible crack of her nose as her face hit the ground. She didn’t try to cup her face. Instead, she clawed at the ground trying to find leverage to get away from him. He easily overpowered her and flung her into the wall.

She cried out as she slammed into the stone and she slid to the ground still trying to keep Dabi back with flailing kicks.

“ENOUGH!” Dabi roared impatiently. He drew his arm back and sent a rush of blue flames down over Ani’s whole frame.

She screamed a blood-curdling sound.

Dabi extinguished the flames and grabbed her singed hair that had taken most of the heat, dragging her back to the middle of the room as she held his wrist to lessen the pain. He tossed her in front of M.I.

“So...Shouto thinks he can just slip in and steal his precious thing back?” Dabi took a fistful of what remained of Ani’s hair and lifted her bleeding, sobbing face to M.I. “He can think again.”

Ani met M.I.’s eyes and, though she was crying, her voice was strong. “Tell him I’ll be waiting for him.”

Dabi’s blue eyes burned with fury as he grabbed the back of Ani’s neck and smoke rose from her burning flesh. “What was that?!”

Ani didn’t look away from M.I.’s face even as she crumpled in pain. “I can endure this. For him. I can endure this and I’ll be waiting for him. No matter how long it takes.”

Dabi’s eyes only glowed with eternal rage at the conviction in her voice.

“Even if it takes...”

Dabi squeezed her throat trying to cut off her words but she forced out one more.

“For-ever.”

 

Toei hunched over and they all watched Dabi begin to toss Ani around like a ragdoll. Invigorated by her words to M.I. he challenged her over and over again to repeat herself as he burned away patches of her already charred clothing to sear his handprint into her skin. Ani gritted her teeth and tried her best to suppress the cries of pain.

Dabi’s verbal degradation evolved into demands. Twisted an arm back so hard her shoulder snapped and assured her it would all be over as soon as she swore herself to their cause. She refused. He slapped a flaming palm across her cheek and sunk a punch into her gut making her clutch her stomach with her good arm and vomit what little stomach contents she had. She fell to her knees.

Dabi towered over her. “Well?!”

Ani slowly raised her tear-soaked face to M.I. whose own vision was hazy with sadness.

“A-ani,” M.I.’s voice cracked helplessly.

Her body tremored as the regeneration left her emaciated.

“All you have to do is pledge your allegiance to us,” Dabi said giving her feet a light kick.

Shigaraki sighed. “This is really boring.”

Someone else must have taken Shigaraki’s place, holding back M.I., because the gangly blue-haired man came into view and creeped toward Ani.

“You know...” his voice wavered with deranged enthusiasm. “I was impressed before, how your skin could regenerate so quickly that it rendered my quirk practically useless...but now I wonder...”

He took the last of Ani’s hair and turned it to dust that floated down around Ani’s head.

“I wonder...if you can keep up with me in this state...” His hands drifted over her back and dissolved the back of her tattered sweatshirt. She clutched the thin remains of garment to her chest, eyes growing wide as Shiagraki slowly brought his hands down to her spine.

Her eyes flared instantly, face blanched, with the desiccating pain of Shigaraki’s power and her scream followed a moment later. It was a haunting, hollow sound at the brink of death.

Toei crumpled, almost breaking the connection. Utsubei turned to the garbage and vomited from the sound of the scream. Midoriya covered his mouth, eyes watering. Bakugo looked away.

And Shouto...

Shouto forced himself to watch. The emotional circuits of his mind were blown; he felt numb as he watched the love of his life start to wither away. He knew this was something Ani would never tell him about for wanting to save him the pain. She had to feel the pain; M.I. was forced to watch. He would allow nothing to impede his part in this.

“Stop it! Please! You’re killing her!” M.I. shouted through sobs.

Shigaraki looked over his shoulder and Ani’s eyes cracked open weakly.

“Killing her?” He gave a wide, feral smile. “I’m not going to kill the most important piece of our plan...I’m just having fun...and your...interruptions...are getting really annoying.” Shigaraki glanced between him and Ani and tapped his chin.

“What was it she said to you before?...Tell him you’ll be waiting for him?” Shigraki’s finger traced his chapped lips and he rose from his place on the floor next to Ani. “I think I know how to kill two birds with one stone.”

Ani’s eyes widened with what little strength she had left. M.I.’s heartbeat accelerated like a jackhammer and he tried to fight whoever was holding him. “D-don’t...”

Shigaraki’s eyes gleamed down at M.I. as he reached down to the sidekick’s face.

“D-don’t!”

The blue haired man paused and grinned victoriously as he looked over his shoulder at Ani. “What was that?”

“D-don’t kill him! Don’t touch him!” Still clutching the front of her sweatshirt to her chest she tried to sit up; she had become skin-and-bones in trying to stay alive under Shigaraki’s torture. “L-let him go.”

“And why would I do that?” Shigaraki asked condescendingly.

Ani took a painful swallow. “Bec-cause...if you...l-let him go...i’ll...i’ll help you. I'll s-stop trying to esc-cape and help m-mom.”

Shigaraki looked around at his cohorts. “Well team...what do you say?” He made a big show of spreading his arms wide like a gracious king. “Do you think she’s being honest?”

“We should keep him...just to make sure she’ll cooperate,” said Dabi.

“No,” Ani said with a weak shake of her head. “Let hi-him go now...to a place where I tell you...and you'll have my full c-cooperation...”

“How do we know you’re not lying this time? That you’re not going to trick us again?” said Kurogiri from behind M.I.

Ani lifted her eyes to him. “You don’t...but if you d-don’t set him free now I know you won’t set him free. You’ll t-torture him just like you’ve done to me.”

Shigaraki sighed and scratched his neck. “I don’t care about any of this anymore. I just want to move onto the next stage.”

“Eh...” Dabi shrugged. “I guess we can’t really use this guy for anything. It would send a good message to the heroes if we fuck him up a little bit first, before sending him back.”

“No!” Ani protested. “D-don’t hurt him.”

“Well, which is it princess?” Dabi spat. “Don’t hurt him? Or set him free? You can’t have it both ways.”

“It’s okay, Ani,” M.I. assured her and her face crumpled as their eyes met. He whispered “it’s okay...” as Dabi closed in on him.

“First thing to go is this fucking tongue.”

 

M.I. pulled away from Toei's hand and the projection immediately disappeared. Toei sank into the chair.

“M.I.,” Shouto asked worriedly. “Why did you stop?”

M.I. looked at his boss sadly and shook his head.

“How much more was there!”

M.I. looked away and grimaced.

“You don’t want us to have to sit through that, too?” Shouto guessed and M.I. nodded. “M.I....”

His sidekick met his gaze with a calm expression and bowed his head.

“If you ever change your mind...” Toei whispered and the rest of the group nodded in agreement. M.I. placed a hand on Toei’s shoulder and gave a tired smile of appreciation.

A police guard outside the room knocked and Utsubei stepped back around the privacy curtain; Shouto heard their hushed exchange about a doctor insisting they needed to get in to see M.I. now. Utsubei called them to come out. Shouto left the room last and almost ran right into the waiting physician.

Chapter Text

Shouto stepped quickly to the side with an apology but it was cut off as he noticed who it was. "Aino!"

“I need to talk to you and your sidekick,” the surgeon said as he quickly pulled Shouto back into the hospital room and closed the door behind them, drawing the curtain as they stepped behind it.

“What’s all this about?” Shouto asked standing next to M.I. as Aino stepped around to the other side of the bed.

M.I. was glancing between them in confusion as Aino asked in a hushed voice “Shouto...is this one of your sidekicks?” Shouto nodded. “And he’s trustworthy?” Both men nodded. Aino pulled a small black box out of his jacket pocket and set it on the bed, speaking quickly. “After Ani was attacked the first time by those people in her apartment, she knew they would come back for her. She was convinced, despite my incorrect reassurances, that they wanted the power of her quirk badly enough so she took precautions to look out for all of you, should they ever succeed in capturing her.”

“What are you saying?” Shouto asked, brow furrowed in frustrated confusion.

Aino opened the small box to reveal a vile of eggplant-colored liquid and a syringe nestled in foam.

“Her blood,” Shouto murmured. His eyes flashed to Aino's with a demand. “How.”

“I’ll explain everything later. We have to do this before anyone sees.” He turned to M.I. “Will you open your mouth, please?”

M.I. reluctantly spread his jaws apart and Aino pulled a small flashlight from his pocket; he looked at the empty cavern. “Good. As I suspected it's not healed yet. Close your mouth for now,” he instructed and turned off the flashlight. “If you consent, I can inject you at the sight of your injury with my sisters blood and...there’s a chance that you will be able to regrow your tongue.”

M.I.’s eyes widened and Shouto wondered if Ani had ever used her blood in the clinic after all. Without hesitation, M.I. nodded.

“Shouto if this situation was ever to be uncovered and investigated, I would need you to be my official witness to his consent. Will you do that?”

“Of course.”

Once more Aino turned to M.I. eagerly waiting. “Do you consent to having an injection of Shida Ani’s blood and accept that there is no guarantee your tongue will regrow?”

M.I. nodded.

“I have tested this blood to the best of my abilities and have not found any harmful pathogens but there are still risks and your body may reject her blood completely. Though no one has been hurt by her blood before, do you accept the unknown risks of being injected with Shida Ani’s blood?”

Again, M.I. nodded without a doubt.

“Okay, good.” Aino’s face was smooth and calm as he washed his hands, put on gloves, and set up the syringe. “Please, open your mouth.”

M.I. complied and closed his eyes as Aino wedged a foam block between his teeth and reached into his mouth. The surgeon’s hands were nimble and gentle enough that M.I. could barely feel the needle piercing his open wound. The room grew quiet as Aino slowly injected Ani’s blood. When it was empty, he withdrew the syringe and block, placing everything back in the small black box and stowed it away in his pocket again.

“How are you feeling?” Aino asked, checking the patient’s throat both outside and in. “Any swelling? Shortness of breath? Nausea?” M.I. shook his head three times.

“Please call me right away,” Aino said to Shouto. “If anything about his condition changes, for either the worse or the better, keep me informed.”

“I will. Thank you, Aino.”

M.I. folded his hands and bowed his head in thanks.

“Don’t thank me yet.” He rubbed his forehead. “I’ve seen Ani’s blood do some amazing things...but I'm not sure if it can do this.”

M.I.’s eyes fluttered closed.

His boss asked “are you feeling tired now?” M.I. nodded. “That’s probably Ani’s blood...regenerating always drained her energy.” Shouto watched his sidekick grow drowsy and his eyes suddenly fought to stay open. He made a small scribbling motion with his fingers; he was asking for a pen. Aino pulled one out of his pocket, he always had one on hand, but they couldn’t find any paper.

M.I., losing his battle against fatigue, scribbled two words on his hand.

Goggles.

Locator.

The pen fell from his hand as he passed out, asleep, and Shouto’s heart shined. He pulled out his phone and was talking with the support-team-leader before Aino could blink.

“Can you trace the location of M.I.’s goggles?”

“Yes, why? Goddamned it did he lose them again?!"

“Yes, but they’re at the L-O-V hideout where M.I. had been taken, where Ani is, and we need to find that location now."

“Damn. I’m on it.” They hung up.

Fuck, Bakugo was right. It was annoying as fuck. Shouto shouted out into the hall for Midoriya, Utsubei, Flora, Tashkei, and Aves, all of whom had not gone far. He explained the situation in one breath, displaying M.I.’s hand.

“Why the fuck are we still standing around here for?! Let’s go!” Bakugo snarled.

Shouto nodded. “We need to go to my agency. We can meet with the police there and—”

“The police?! We’re goddamned heroes, what the fuck do we need them for?!”

“For processing,” Utsubei interjected. “Nationwide resources. You're going to want back-up on this; even though you’re the top three.”

“He’s right,” Deku agreed. “Let’s do this properly. I’ll meet you there with my team.”

“Same,” Utsubei said. “I’m going to contact my supervisor right now. Do you want me to get in touch with the Dagoben police?”

“Yes, please.” Utsubei quickly left and Shouto turned to Bakugo. “Will you come to the agency, too?”

“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t piss away this chance half-and-half.” He jammed his fists in his pockets and stormed out. Midoriya followed after a quick good-bye.

Aves glanced at Flora who nodded. “We’ll come, too.” They sounded sure but Flora’s eyes...they gave away how torn she was and Shouto knew what to do.

“Flora, I need you to stay here,” Shouto said with a pointed look and she turned to him with reservation.

“Why?” She askd quietly.

“Because,” Shouto glanced at Aino. “M.I. has received a special treatment and he needs someone to watch over him—someone who can do that and protect the delicate information of our agency.”

Flora nodded slowly, understanding burning in her eyes. “I can do that.”

“Good,” said Shouto. “If any part of his condition changes, let Dr. Shida know right away."

“Dr. Shida like Shida Ani’s older brother who’s a surgeon at a hospital in Dagoben?” Aves's voice flowed as she looked at the odd-man out in the room, Ani’s older sibling who gave an awkward half-smile. Aves’s eyes grew wide and she opened her mouth to unleash a barrage of questions but Flora placed a gentle hand on the girl’s arm.

“Find Ani.” The calming green of her eyes brought Aves back to reality.

“Right. We will,” Aves said with a determined nod.

As the two girls were talking, Shouto glanced at a notification on his phone: M.I.’s locator was live and active. They were tracking the signal and setting up for a mission in the agency, waiting for him to arrive or instruct their next move.

"Let's go," urged Shouto. "I don't want to lose this chance."

“Best of luck, to all of you.” Flora gave a small bow of her head and pulled a chair up next to M.I.’s bed.

“Dr. Shida will explain what to watch for, Flora. If there are any issues with the hospital staff, call our legal team right away.” His sidekick gave a nod of confirmation and Shouto left the room with Tashkei and Aves. They were nearly at the stairs when Aino called after Shouto. He came sprinting down the hall.

“Shouto, I need you to come to my apartment.”

“What?” Shouto's brow furrowed in irritation. “Why?!”

“I need to tell you something.” Aino glanced nervously at Tashkei and Aves who was staring at him with her wide, interested eyes. “There’s something I have to do if you’re going to go out on a mission to go get Ani.”

Shouto ground his teeth in annoyance. Every moment wasted put him farther from the love of his life. “Aino I don’t have ti—”

“Then make time.” Aino glared at the pro-hero with the same look of unshakable conviction that reminded him of Ani. “I’ll come to the agency if I have to.”

“Fine,” Shouto agreed. “Come to the agency.”

“I’ll be waiting in the clinic.” Aino turned down the hall to the elevators and Shouto was about to finally make it to the stairs when a chilling sound of static ripple through the hospital. The ice-fire hero paused and Aves froze, too, as they heard a voice echoing from every tv.

“Hello wary sheep of this tired, superficial society.”

The hair on Shouto’s neck stood on end as he rushed to the nearest screen. A mock-courtroom. A row of people sat in the judicial panel, their faces cast in shadow by black hoods, and in front of them, casually sitting on the clerk’s desk with her face completely exposed, was Hogo Sareta. She sat with her legs crossed and looked into the camera with a caring gaze.

It was beginning.

“Many of you do not yet know me...but I assure you after this you will see my name and face labeled as a villain... I’m not worried if you choose to believe this or not because it’s not about me. It’s about you. The tired. The beleaguered. Those who feel like they’ve been forgotten. Stepped on like dirt by so-called heroes who look down on others because of a number they’re given in a popularity contest.

“A contest that burns away your hard-earned money in a fire that offers you nothing but a distraction from the daily lives they’ve trapped you in. When really, they should be bowing down to you.” Shouto’s hatred hardened with every word.

“You, who pay their salaries. Who open their hearts and cities to heroes who do nothing but interfere and shape the world how they see it. Now...I’m not a hero... I’m a simple person who’s tried to make her way in the world and seen too many others trampled on by these self-obsessed false idols who chase nothing but their own interests. You’re worshipping those who care nothing about you. How do I know?

“I have been working tirelessly in the shadows for you...to set you free from these shackles your government has forced on you. And your heroes? Instead of paying attention to you, to what’s happening in their own cities...they’ve been looking for one person, and one person only.” The camera pulled back to dramatically reveal a person sitting at Hogo Sareta’s feet, face covered with a burlap bag.

The air around Shouto thinned.

“And why? Because this person can regenerate. She offers the heroes a never-ending fountain of youth reserved only for themselves and whoever they consider deserving of such a privilege.” She slowly shook her head with a pained expression.

"How many of you have been in pain? Suffered? Or watched a loved one endure pain and suffering and die because you were told there was no one who could help?” She let her words hang dangerously in the air. “How would you feel to know that your heroes had a way to help...that there was something they could have done?

“What makes you and your loved ones unworthy of such a gift in your time of need? Why should your heroes get to decide who gets such a blessing, when, and how?! My woeful wanderers...allow me to open my heart to you and offer what your heroes would never consider.” She slid off of the podium, pulling the black bag off the person at her feet to reveal Ani’s face. Shouto was not surprised to see her but he was disheartened. She looked empty. Forlorn and beaten...nothing like the person he saw in M.I.'s memory. Her face, voice flashed back to him: Tell him I’m waiting for him. He had to believe that person was still there buried beneath whatever drastic torture and coercion she had endured in the short time since M.I.’s return.

“Come, see for yourselves this power of regeneration your so-called heroes have kept for themselves, how you have worshiped them and they have given you nothing. Come...Join me and be set free—” she leaned down, took a fistful of Ani’s lush regrown hair and put a knife at her throat “—in the blood of absolution.

In one smooth slice she cut through Ani’s neck and a fountain of dark blood gushed out. Ani’s eyes rolled in to the back of her head and Hogo Sareta let go of her hair, dropping the limp, spasming body to the ground. Someone in the hospital screamed. People all around him gasped and gagged.

Shouto was shaken to his core. He had just watched Ani die. No. He was trying to hold onto rationality. No. She couldn’t have. No, they wouldn't have killed her...

“Come and be freed from your title of unworthy.” Hogo Sareta gave one more knowing smile to the camera as she grabbed Ani by the hair and pulled her up. The gash on her throat had already closed and Ani’s wide eyes bored into the camera. “Join me...my children."

The broadcast vanished, replaced by whatever this waiting room had been watching before the hacked broadcast. Fearful commentary and mixed reactions, questions for the heroes began to rise around him and Shouto didn’t hesitate to pull Aves and Taskhei to the stairs and run out of the hospital.

Chapter Text

Adrenaline coursed through Shouto. It was the only thing keeping him going at this point; he could not remember how long it had been since he last slept and he didn’t want to figure it out. He had to keep going. They had a direct lead on Ani. The Absolved made their first move. The stakes were only getting higher with every passing hour and he couldn’t let himself stop. But when Tashkei and Aves reached his car they didn’t get in.

“What are you doing?” He demanded impatiently. “We have to get back to the agency now!”

Tashkei stepped forward meeting his uncle’s eye. “Let me drive.”

“What? Why?!”

“Because you need to rest, Shouto.” Aves stepped to Tashkei’s side.

The two-tones of his eyes darkened. “We don’t have time for this.”

“No Ani doesn’t have time for this!” Tashkei argued. “We can see how tired you are, Uncle Sho! And when this whole thing blows up, and Ani needs you the most, you need to be ready to save her!”

“I have to get things done on the way!” Shouto grit his teeth when Tashkei stepped between him and the car.

“I can do them,” Aves insisted. “Make a list of phone calls or whatever else has to be done and I’ll do it.”

“And I’ll drive,” repeated Tashkei. “So you can get some sleep...And be ready for Ani.”

Fatigue sank through his whole body and he relented. “Fine. Be safe but get us there as fast as you can.” He gave up the car keys and they all piled in. Before Aves finished dialing the first phone number he passed out.

 

Blue.

Like the ocean.

Calming. Welcoming and yet aloof. Deep. Watching. Waiting.

Shouto’s eyes flew open and he saw they were turning down the block to the Todoroki Agency. His heart was beating wildly, sweat dewed across his back as he woke from the dream of Ani. His mind was so much clearer from that short rest and, though he could feel his body needed more, it was enough to recharge him for now.

Tashkei carefully wove through the swelling crowd of reporters to the line of security who let them through without a problem and parked in Shouto’s spot; all three of them rushed out. Dojire was waiting for them at the door.

“Dagoben police are waiting upstairs as are several pro-heroes and their sidekicks,” he informed his boss as he fell into step beside him. “The support team has set-up in mission room four, they’re actively monitoring the location of M.I.’s goggles.”

“It’s still live?” Shouto asked as they stepped into the elevator.

“Yes.” Dojire offered a tablet displaying the location.

Shouto exhaled with unabashed relief. “Good. What pros are here?”

“Bakugo and Kirishima, Kaminari, Uraraka and one of her sidekicks, Yaoyorozu and Jiro, Mina and two sidekicks. More are on their way. We’ve received calls from Midoriya’s agency, Tokoyami, and Iida who are all on their way.”

“Anything else I need to know?” Shouto asked as the elevator stopped.

“Yes,” Dojire said. The doors opened and Shouto paused, fists clenching at the sight of his father down the hall dressed in his hero uniform, speaking with police officers. Dojire, knowing it was too late to warn him, quietly admitted “Endeavor’s here.”

Shouto stormed out of the elevator as Dojire ushered everyone else into the mission room.

“Why are you here.”

Endeavor met his son’s demand with a calm expression. “I saw the broadcast. I’m here to help.”

“I don’t need your help,” stated Shouto.

“It’s not about you.” Endeavor stared at his son. “It’s about Ani.” Before Shouto could retort the retired pro-hero added “after everything she’s done for our family I cannot sit by and watch what is happening. I need to help.”

Their minds flashed to the same memory, each from their own perspective.

 


“Endeavor, I’m sorry to bother you...but...I think Mrs. Todoroki is being abused at the hospital.”

 

“How could you not tell me?!” Shouto yelled; it was the only time he was ever driven to rage by Ani’s actions. “How could you keep this from me but tell MY FATHER!”

Ani stood her ground. “Because I wasn’t sure. I needed help looking into it from someone who could be impartial. You care so much about your mother’s safety and would have put too much faith in what I have to say! When I worked in the ER we had specific staff for investigating cases of potential abuse. If I saw something and was unsure of what it meant, it was always handed off to someone who could investigate from a clear, calm position.”

“And you don’t think I could be calm about this?!” snapped Shouto. He heard the words, how he said them, and could see it in her eyes; she would have laughed if it the situation wasn’t so serious. “Fine!” he relented and gave a heavy huff. “I see your point. But why my father?!”

“Because...” Ani admitted “I thought he deserved a chance to make up for everything he’s done.”

 

“Let me help with his, my son. For her.” Endeavor asked his son in what, Shouto was sure, was the most humble way he could.

Shouto knew if there was ever a time to set the past aside, it was now. “Let’s go.”

They went in together.

 

~

 

Ani watched until the screen went black and Hogo Sareta disappeared along with her clone. Silence followed, disturbed only by the soft fire crackling.

It had begun.

She couldn’t bring herself to move from the couch, anchored with the message Hogo Sareta had just broadcast to the world. She wondered if Hogo understood the significance of what she’d done to Ani with that message...because it didn’t matter that someone stood guard outside the room; she had no desire to go anywhere now. Everyone would know her face and know what she could do. Wherever Ani went, whatever she did...she wouldn’t be herself. She would only be seen for the value of her blood as a means to an end. Hogo had taken her true freedom and, in doing so, made her more of a prisoner than physical walls and locks ever could.

Soft voices came from the hall and the door opened a moment later. Hogo Sareta walked in; the guard closed the door behind her. “Glad to see you’re still here, Yoyo,” said Hogo.

Ani frowned. “...yoyo?”

“Because you always bounce back,” the formidable woman said with a smirk over her shoulder; the name gave Ani heartburn. Hogo brought over two steaming cups and set one down on the table in front of Ani. “Have some tea.”

“No, thank you.”

Hogo sat across from Ani with a shrug. “Well, it’s there if you want it.” She sipped loudly and studied Ani over the rim of her mug. “Have you found anything good to read?”

“No.” Ani’s eyes shifted to the fire.

“Have you looked?” She gestured to the walls lined with book-filled shelves.

“No.”

Hogo leaned back, watching Ani curiously. “Why not? We might have something that interests you.” She crossed her legs. Took another sip.

“You probably do,” admitted Ani. “But I don’t feel like reading right now."

“What would you rather do, then?” Hogo asked. She sounded almost genuine. Almost.

Go back in time. Ani's eyes evenly returned to the woman sitting across from her. “It doesn't matter.”

“It matters to me, Ani.” Hogo sipped her tea then traced the rim of the mug. “I care about what you’ve been through. I want to better understand you so I can help you.”

“What I’ve been through...” Ani’s face grew solemn. “Has been nothing compared to what my life will be like now...”

“Now that what?”

“Now that you’ve told everyone in the world that my blood can heal people.” Ani stared blankly at Hogo. “You don’t want to understand me. You want to use me.”

“Of course I do. You are an incredibly important person and I want to understand you. To make you feel valuable.”

“I’m not a commodity,” stated Ani. “You cannot offer my body up to the world and then say you care about what I’ve been through.”

Hogo smiled forgivingly at Ani. “Why not? It’s true your blood’s going to help us do great things, but why can’t I also care about you as a person?”

Ani grew quiet as she watched Hogo calmly sitting sipping her tea. “Because those desires contradict each other.”

“Contradict...each other...” Hogo gave a knowing smile. “Do you know what else contradicts itself? A nurse who claims to care for others...when she kept her power selfishly to herself and let so many go unaided.” Another drink of tea. She finished the mug and set it on the table between them. “Tell me...did it feel good to stay so healthy compared to others? To know your body had a safety net no one else had?

“How long did you work for those heroes? Caring only for them? Using your blood to save their lives and no one else’s?” She stared into Ani’s eyes watching as she hit Ani’s weakest spot. “Can you really think so highly of yourself when you were failing so many others who were suffering?”

Ani went rigid and the color slowly drained from her face replaced by the orange-yellow glow of the fire. Hogo Sareta remained placid as Ani’s eyes unfocused in her mental turmoil.

Ani thought of every patient she ever helped who had been beyond saving. Saving them meant something but Hogo’s words...they connected to a deeper river of worry Ani had tried to ignore.

 

She was only one person, right?

 

How many people could she have saved?

 

She remembered Midoriya’s words from what felt like so long ago now: I think you’ll find a way to use it to the best of its limits, no matter where you are, as long as you’re looking to help others.

What he said to her that night on the balcony had reassured her decision to join Shouto at his agency...but now...Hogo’s words cast an unavoidable shadow of doubt on the motivation behind her decision. Ani swallowed thickly.

Had she really joined his agency to help people? Or had she been so caught up in the intensity of her own feelings that she ignored the greater need and lived selfishly?

Ani’s mind was beginning to spin as she buried her fingers in her hair, holding her head as she tried to stay calm and keep her breathing even.

Who had she become??!

“Yoyo,” Hogo Sareta’s voice gently cut through the noise storming in Ani’s mind and she looked up, eyes meeting. “You can make this right.”

Ani’s breathing became shallow as she stared up from her hunched position.

“You have a chance now to help people. To really help others...Instead of being told by false idols that you’re helping the suffering...when really you were only serving them.” Hogo slid from her seat to the small table and came in front of Ani, gently pulling her hands from her hair. “Please, let me help you...

“You don’t have to live with this guilt." Her warm hands cupped Ani’s and drew the blue eyes to her face. “Let me help you...we can make this right...together.”

Chapter Text

"Who are you?”

The question had been innocent, simple enough and it slipped from Ani’s mouth without her ever really deciding to say it. Once it was out, she didn’t want to take it back. She stared at this intense person sitting in front of her as the firelight danced across her face with orange flickers and highlighted the scar on her lip stretched in a smile.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

She rose from the coffee table and pulled out a book; Ani saw it was a yearbook. Hogo flipped through almost fondly, the scar on her top lip tightening in a smirk as she found the page she wanted. She handed the open book to Ani. “This is me...when I was in seventh grade.”

Ani found Hogo’s picture among the rows. She was grinning ear-to-ear at the camera with a head of curly cotton-candy locks and no scar across her lip. Without thinking, Ani quietly said “you look so happy.”

“I was.” Hogo sat down on the couch opposite Ani again and crossed her legs. “And for good reason. My parents were successful accountants. I was in the top of my class. Well behaved. Worked hard. My prospects for attending Shiketsu High were very good.”

Ani glanced at Hogo with a confused look. “Shiketsu?”

“U-A-of-the-West, they’re called.” Hogo smiled fondly at the open yearbook. “I have great admiration...almost envy...for that girl who lived with ignorant, idealistic fantasies about the world she lived in. That girl who wanted to be a hero.”

“What happened...?” Ani tentatively asked, trying to understand what could have caused such an extreme shift.

Hogo looked at her evenly. “I was raped.” Ani’s breath shallowed and a faint color rose to her cheeks, concern for the formidable woman. “Look two pictures to the left, one row up.”

Ani followed the directions and saw the equally happy grin of a young boy.

Hogo stated “I liked him. Quite a bit. He was the actual top of the class. Impressive quirk. Strong skills both in and out of the classroom. He was well liked and popular, not just among the students, either. Teachers...parents...many people fawned over him and I was one of them. He wanted to be a hero as so many children do.”

Ani held very still, listening intently to Hogo’s every word.

“We were walking home from school one day, debating about the schools we would be applying to the next year...Shiketsu...or, in his case, UA.” There was a pop from the fire place but neither woman flinched, too lost in the story. “He didn’t like my personal opinion of the nation’s top school. Considered it a personal affront so he challenged me to a duel of sorts. Right then-and-there. We crossed the street and went into an alley, and fought." There was a whisper of a smirk across her face. "He didn’t like the fact that he lost. Surprising, really...how quickly his attitude toward me soured.

“And the next day, at school, he made a big deal of it. I thought he would want to keep his loss to himself but he spun it around. He told everyone about it. That I cheated.” Hogo closed her eyes and took a steadying breath before continuing. “The dissociation was swift. No one wanted to disappoint or upset the number one...so they accepted his story without question. Heckling began and grew more and more intense over the following weeks until I finally snapped and challenged him again.

“Foolishly I did so when we were still at school and I was punished. My parents were furious and embarrassed. They didn’t even want to hear what happened from me. If that wasn’t bad enough...I was attacked on my way home from school one day. This golden boy had gathered a group of our peers to ambush me on the way home from school one day...knowing he couldn't handle me on his own. I still don’t know how he got them to come with him but I knew how he got them to stay. They held me down and watched...while he raped me. And then they each raped me in turn.”

Hogo Sareta’s eyes opened to find Ani’s eyes tight and her mouth parted in horror.

“I was ostracized for simply besting him in a fight...so I truly feared what would happen if I accused him, accused all of them, of something as extreme as that no matter how truthful, and told the police about what happened. I wondered...but I knew the whole school would rally around him.” She sighed. “The whole time it happened all I could think about was: where are the heroes? Aren’t we supposed to be safe because they’re here? All around us, all the time? The experience was transformative and I saw how the world really worked.

“I began to withdraw with cold shame...feeling as if I had somehow brought this on myself. My actions, challenging him to the duel, or something had triggered his vehement behavior. I moved through life as a ghost. Left my dreams of being a hero far behind and wandered aimlessly into my next year of school and stood by as he proclaimed his acceptance to the best hero school in the nation.” Hogo folded her hands in her lap. “My parents were...indifferent to my change in personal aspirations.

“They didn’t care if I became a hero or not. Blind to what might have spurred on this change or maybe just too tired to care. They had no interest in finding out why I no longer believed in the power of heroes. So when they mentioned they heard about the boy from my class getting into UA...and expressed pride that their daughter came from the same class I snapped. I stormed out.” Hogo smiled at something private. “I was angrily sulking through the streets when I saw him strolling casually as if he ran the city. Our eyes met and my fate changed in that moment. I mirrored the arrogant smirk he gave me and I saw a flash of confusion in his eyes as I backed toward the park nearby. He followed me, hands stuffed in his pockets, and I could feel his curious gaze boring into the back of my head as I led him into a dark corner.

“He made some quip in that moment...and I didn't respond. My answer...was action: I began to hurt him. He tried to fight back, even managed to give me this scar,” she traced her lip. “And then his fight eroded and he began to beg for his life. Apologizing over and over again, asking to make up for it.” A dangerous smile spread across her face. Her eyes unfocused. “He atoned for his sin when I ended his life. Extinguished that bright, beautiful future right there without a second-thought. His screaming in the process, however, drew the attention of heroes who were conveniently around then. I was arrested without hesitation.

“My parents were embarrassed, mortified. The school outraged. Police and heroes were a mix of disbelief and horror. There was no excuse for my behavior and no one wanted to know why I had done it. I didn’t bother to tell them either because I knew they didn’t care and they wouldn’t listen. In the reflection of everyone else’s eyes I could see a monster...a villain-in-the-making. But when I looked inside myself...all I saw was peace. I didn’t feel like a villain...not like a hero...but somewhere in between.

“I was sent to a juvenile correction facility and served my time. Aside from killing that boy I had done nothing wrong. I behaved. Paid my debt back to society. And when I was released, I hoped for a chance to start again. I was clinging to some naïve notion that there would be a way to redeem myself. I was met with unconditional dismissal at every turn.

“My parents didn’t even show up the day I got out. When I made it home, they refused to let me in. The shame was too much for them and they apologized, too, but sent me away all the same. My friends denied my existence and I searched for someone to listen to me. To hear why I did what I did and validate me. To make me feel like I was still a person...and I realized...there would be no one.

“The forgiveness I longed for would come from only one place: me. I knew the truth about my actions. I knew my motivations and, even if no one else ever saw it or believed it, I knew. I set myself free. Free from the guilt of taking another person’s life, the guilt that what he did had somehow been my fault. Free from this black-and-white society with it’s clear-cut definitions of right and wrong.

“I slowly started to meet others. People like myself who had wandered in the vast gray borderline dividing our society, who needed someone to listen to them. To understand and validate them. To forgive them. They found that in me. And I found it over and over again in them.” Hogo’s face relaxed and she gazed peacefully at Ani. “Together, we were absolved.”

“And they started to call you mom?” Ani tentatively asked.

Hogo nodded. “Yes. Because we became a family.”

“And we’ve been one ever since.”

Ani’s head whipped to the door to see a bald woman and a man with slicked-back, blue hair standing in the doorway. The woman smiled fondly at Hogo while the man was like a statue, arms-crossed staring at Ani

“Yes, we have.” Hogo welcomed the woman who laid down on the couch and placed her head in Hogo’s lap as the fuchsia-haired woman turned back to Ani. “And we continue to grow, accepting those who feel out-of-place in this stark world.”

“Why haven't you called the public to join you sooner?” Ani asked. “Why wait until now, if you’ve been together all this time, to step into the light and announce your presence?”

Hogo leaned into the couch, resting an arm on the back as she ran her fingers the bald woman’s head as if there was hair. “Despite how enlightened I believe myself to be...I’m still only human. We lost someone very special to us and have been distracted by the lure of revenge for a long time. But an opportunity presented itself, coming from someone who was equally enraged, and we’re taking it.”

“What opportunity?”

A wickedness surfaced in Hogo’s expression as she answered “the opportunity for atonement."

Chapter Text

Aino was sitting in Ani’s office waiting as patiently as any head-of-surgery whose sister had been kidnapped could wait for her pro-hero boyfriend to get out of a mission-planning meeting to rescue said sister. Leaning back in her chair, he spun around. Wondered about her choices for the things in this clinic. When he heard the front door open, he stood up and leaned out of her office to see a very tired Shouto. Bags hung under the heterochromatic eyes as they rose to Aino’s face.

“Thanks for waiting.” He sounded as tired as he looked. “What did you need to talk to me about?”

The surgeon motioned for him to come into Ani’s office. “About something Ani made for you.”

A spark of energy flared in the pro-hero's eyes and he hastened to join Aino. “What is it?”

“These.” Aino stood by five black boxes, the size of briefcases, stacked on Ani’s desk with a burdened look on his face. He lightly brushed the pristine boxes as if there was dust and opened it to reveal rows of small vials. Shouto held his breath as he saw the plum-colored liquid inside.

Ani’s blood.

“Ani came to me a long time ago with an idea...” Aino slid his fingers across the rows and gently lifted one from the foam. “She wanted a way to protect you and your sidekicks when you were out in the field, when she couldn’t be there to help or heal you, and believed this was the solution.” He offered one it to the pro-hero. “It’s a micro-dose of her blood. Concentrated down to provide maximum healing possible in such a small volume.”

Shouto rolled the vial between his fingers and asked “how powerful?”

“That vial was made from two pints of blood.” When Shouto gave the surgeon a questioning look, Aino offered “there’s about 5.5 pints of blood in the average human and people are supposed to donate only one pint every two months. Ani said it took about a pint to save your life.”

Shouto sank back against the doorframe. The tiny vial was smaller than the capsules on his utility belt yet it held so much power. His fist curled around the glass, mind reeling at the unfathomable amount of time and energy it must have taken her to make one of these and the black box was filled with rows of them.

And there was a stack of boxes.

“How many are there?” He asked in a tight voice.

Aino watched the pro-hero as he answered “450.”

Shouto tilted his head back and let that number numbingly crash over him. “How long did it take you?”

“A long time,” was all Aino answered. He watched the pro-hero tilt his head back and close his eyes. “Why do you look wracked with guilt?”

“Because Ani did all of this without telling me. She pushed herself so far and I can’t imagine what would have motivated her to go through this.”

“Isn’t that obvious?” Aino asked. He might’ve laughed if the situation wasn’t what it was. “You.”

Shouto looked at the surgeon. Sure, he knew Ani loved him as much as he loved her...but this was...this was exponentially more powerful.

“Shouto, I don’t know if Ani has ever told you, and don’t take this the wrong way, but for a long time Deku was her favorite hero. She looked up to him...admired his ideals...and tried to emulate his self-sacrificing nature. For years she worked in the hospital, rarely taking a day off and pushing herself to be there as much as possible to work and help and do as much as she could for everyone she could, to ‘go beyond’ as she would say to me.

“But then...she met you...and she started to change.” Aino’s eyes drifted across the room as he spoke. “She still wanted to help people and worked as hard as she could...but it was how she approached it that evolved. That martyrdom shifted into something more appreciative of life itself and it took me a while to figure out what happened: she was happy. And she was happy because of you.

“Being with you. Working with you...she started to enjoy life and that happiness spilled over into every part of her life. Before meeting you, she never wanted anything more than to work in the ER and save people. After saving your life, and then Bakugo’s, she started to see things differently and then she started working here and her world expanded. She wasn’t sure if she really wanted the world to know what she could do but she knew she could do more. More to help others in need, like innocent people caught in the cross-fire of a villain’s attack. Like your sidekicks. You.

“As I said in the hospital, she always believed those people would come back for her until they succeeded and she didn’t want to leave you behind without any protection.” Aino held up his hands as Shouto opened his mouth to protest. “She never considered you weak. It was her obstinate nature to make sure you had a reserve like this hoping, of course, you would never really need it. But now...” He met the pro-hero's eye squarely.

“I hope you won’t need them but after seeing that broadcast today...I know things are going to escalate. These need to be with you and your team.” He lifted another one from the foam, needing to do something to dispel the heavy atmosphere. “Each vial has a needle—” he popped a cap off one end to show him “—for quick injection, easy to self-administer, and is made of indestructible glass.”

He set the tube down on Ani’s desk and brought the hard-end of a stapler down like a hammer. It shot out, denting Ani’s wall and the glass rolled back to Aino, unbroken. “She was considering distributing them to hospitals and other first-responders, too, but never got the chance to share them before this happened.”

“A powerful, light-weight, indestructible healing treatment,” Shouto described. He stared down at the gift Ani had left to help him and so many people. His soul wanted to fly out and cross the universe to find her. To save her. Because even though she was the victim right now, she was still saving him. One corner of his mouth lifted. “She can’t help herself, can she?”

“She can’t.” Aino smiled. “She’s got your back, Shouto.”

Shouto’s face fell, feeling the weight of her absence and the need to bring her home. “And I’ve got hers. I’ll bring her home, Aino,” he assured.

“I know you will,” answered the surgeon without a doubt.

Shouto glanced at the boxes. “Is there anything else I need to know about them?”

“About these?” Aino asked. “No. They’re good to go. Don’t need any special storage or handling.”

“But...” Shouto sensed what went unsaid.

Aino faced the pro-hero with a guarded expression. “There’s one more thing Ani prepared for you.”

 

~

 

Ani’s eyes widened and everything clicked into place. For that microsecond, everything was clear. That broadcacst; all of this...was a trap.

Ani never should have doubted herself. These people were murderers, kidnappers, liars, and who knew what else. She was not like them. She had worked her whole life to save people and had no guilt about her choices...their words were meant to manipulate her into carrying out this wretched plan. Whatever happened to Hogo was terrible, of course, but it didn’t mean that’s what all heroes were like. Deku. Bakugo. Shouto...they were all a testament to that.

And Hogo’s plan, now revealed, was already in action.

As fast as she could move, Ani grabbed her mug of tea and lobbed it at the brawny blue-haired man by the door and kicked the coffee table, spirit ablaze with truth and fight for those she loved. There was a strange sound and the mug shattered, raining tea across the carpet as the coffee table just bounced off of Hogo’s legs. Hogo and the bald woman leapt to their feet. Ani was already diving to the floor, subconsciously noting the failures of each attack, and reached into the fire. She brandished a flaming log as a weapon ignoring the pain as it burned her skin. There was a streak of fear in Hogo’s eyes at the dancing fire before the wooden chunk was knocked from her hand and she was slammed to the floor. Though no one held her down she couldn’t move, held in place by what felt like an invisible, impenetrable sandpaper. She could barely breathe.

She stared up at the ceiling with fear but also anger, healing anger, as she found herself again and promised she would never doubt herself or her heroes again, no matter what she was facing. Three faces appeared over her and Hogo Sareta squatted down.

“You're bold. I'll give you that...coming at us without knowing what our quirks are.” She patted Ani's cheek so hard it was nearly a slap. "But you're completely outmatched. Your heroes, too..." Firelight danced dangerously in her eyes. "And it's time to unburden this country from the oppression of their bourgeois. No matter how strong the number one hero is...He can't defeat me."

 

~

 

Shouto dreamed of her. It would have been hard not to after everything that happened. Dreams bled into memories.

 


The moment they were alone on the floor Shouto locked his door, pushing her up against it as he shoved his tongue in her mouth. She already had her legs wrapped around him, arms wound around his neck, submitting her tongue to his. She moved her hips. He moaned while she was grinding against his growing erection and felt her own spot heat at his sound. He pulled her off of the door, carrying her across his office to his desk as he kissed furiously down her neck.

“You were intoxicating during that meeting,” Ani said breathlessly as he squeezed her ass. Her eyes rolled as he found the sensitive spot on her neck, sucking it with charged enthusiasm. “When you rolled up your sleeves I thought I was going to melt.”

She felt him grin against her skin. “I know. I did it on purpose,” he pridefully admitted as he laid her down on his desk. She dragged her hands up and down his arms and hummed as he went back to her neck. She savored the rough texture of his scar on her cheek as he marked her neck.

“And what about you?” He demanded, fingers running through her hair as his other hand moved to the hem of her shirt. “You took your hair down just for that meeting, didn’t you.”

She bit her lip, trying to contain the embarrassing smile. “Maybe.”

“Were you hoping it would make me think of this?" he loomed over her and took in the sight of her hair splayed out on his massive wooden desk, her chest rising and falling with labored breath as color flushed her face. “Seeing you laid out across my desk?”

She nodded, blushing furiously and grabbed his shirt, buttons threatening to pop open with the force as she brought his lips back down to hers. He propped himself on one forearm and palmed her breast making her arch her back and press her mouth up into his. He ground his hard cock between her legs, drawing soft hums and panting breath from her.

He pulled back momentarily from her and pulled her pants off. She sat up and her fingers flew down his chest, unbuttoning his shirt by the time he had dropped his own pants. On an impulse he switched their positions, flipping her on top of him. As he lay flat on his back, staring up at her, he propped his feet up on his chair and watched the color rise to her face. There was something deeply carnal about her mounting him on his desk, in his office, in his building. Her eyes sparkled adoringly down on him and he realized what he was feeling. He wanted her above him now as expression of how important she was to him, more important than everything else: at the top of his world.

She pulled the shirt off her head, unrushed, sensing the change between them. They were no longer in a sprint toward a finish line. She asked him later what he had been thinking about, but in that moment she simply responded to him. How he savored the feeling of her skin, groped her ass, ran his fingers over every part of her he could reach as she slowly lowered, sliding down on top of him. Faint color rose to his own cheeks at her warmth, her wetness and tightness. He rolled his hips once and her breathing deepened; she planted her hands on his firm chest and squeezed her thighs around his body taking control.

And he let her.

He relinquished control of the speed, the movement, all to her and watched every detail. How she tilted her head, hair falling over her shoulders. The way her breasts bounced, nipples pink and pointed in the cold air. He could feel his release building with every squeezing, warm slip of her walls around him and their ragged breaths filling the office. He could feel her climax, too, in the tell-tale way her breath picked up, fingertips digging into him. Buried deep within her, his cock began to warm with the heat of his quirk and she moaned out, muscles spasming, as she orgasmed in response to the temperature. She clenched down in pleasure so tightly he immediately throbbed with his own release. He stared up at her, flushed and sated, mounted on top of him.

She was still panting when she gently laid down on his chest to rest and listen to his heart. He wrapped his arms around her.

“I love you, Ani.” His voice was layered with everything he was feeling: satisfaction. Appreciation. Protectiveness and possessiveness. And most of all: love.

“I love you, too, Sho.”

He felt her smile on his skin and her weight shift onto him as she fell asleep. He smiled, not caring his thighs were coated with both of their fluids, content to love and be loved.

 

His alarm went off.

He woke up in the clinic where he had slept after his meeting with Aino. He wanted to sleep here because he was so tired he didn’t think he could make it upstairs, let alone make it home. There was more to it, too, as if by sleeping here he would be closer to Ani. But now it was time.

When he rose from the bed he could feel a lingering need for sleep but there was something else, too. A new undercurrent of energy suddenly attainable, hidden dormant within him as it waited until he needed it.

For Ani.

Focusing on the rescue operation ahead he took one last look around the clinic and felt his resolution solidifying down to through the deepest parts of himself. This was going to work. They were going to bring her home.

Chapter Text

Shouto crouched in the dark shadow of the line of trees watching the abandoned shipping yard.

Things are starting to get out of hand here, guys. Radio check,” Midoriya quietly said through the earpiece. Shouto could hear the growing commotion behind his friend's voice.

Bakugo replied with “go fuck yourself.

Seriously, Bakugo. Try to keep it professional,” Iida scolded.

Go fuck yourself, too.

How can you possibly be the number three hero?” Jiro retorted. Shouto ignored the snarky back-and-forth comments between his former classmates.

There was a croak. "Almost to location," Froppy said.

“Good check,” Shouto replied, actually acknowledging Midoriya’s prompt as his eyes caught something. “I’ve got movement.”

 

~

 

“For fuck’s sake, how much longer do we have to wait for this guy?” Twice demanded. “I mean, I know traveling at night can be tough.”

“It will take however long it takes,” Shigaraki grumbled, arms crossed, and his crazed eyes fell to the girl tied up at his feet. Dirtied and gagged, she sat slumped over. She had finally accepted her fate and stopped fighting them once they let the pathetic sidekick go and she even gave them first-rate medical care so they were all healthy and strong before they parted ways. If she wasn’t such a magnet for heroes he would’ve kept her around but she was too much of a liability. She had served her main purpose as payment to the Absolved and was going to give them a final parting gift: a generous lump-sum payment from an international associate.

“Why couldn’t we have just warped her to him, again?” Dabi asked lazily as he looked down at her with an almost regretful gaze. He adjusted the goggles he kept as a memento from his therapeutic stress-relief session with the sidekick.

“They wouldn’t agree to it...didn't want to share their location,” Kurogiri said from behind them as his yellow eyes scanned the horizon and caught sight of the shadow moving silently against the water. “They’re here.”

The villains immediately stood at attention in the shadow of the port watching the vessel grow larger.

“Wait, isn't that...” Dabi started to say. A high-pitched whistling sound cut through the air and Kurogiri grunted. The group turned to see their warp-gate passing out from a dart in his chest.

Twice proclaimed “a fucking hero ship!”

Dabi started to snarl “Shut U—”

“They already know where we fucking are!” Twice shouted back as more darts whistled through the air, striking the walls and ricocheting off the floor. “Let’s fucking go!!”

The captive girl cried out in pain as Dabi grabbed her arm and dragged her, jostling her dislocated shoulders and Twice hefted Kurogiri over his shoulder.

“I told you this was a trap!” Dabi spat at Shigaraki as they piled into the helicopter.

“Shut up and let’s just get the hell out of here!” The blue-haired man said as they dropped Kurogiri and the girl to the floor inside.

Toga giggled and squealed from the front seat as Twice slid in next to her. “Eeee! This is going to be so much fun!! I’m so glad we actually get to use this thing!!”

As the rotors began to spin the ceiling panels opened and they lifted off not a moment to soon. Something hit the ground where they had been and exploded, giving the helicopter a boost.

“Fuck! They’re not messing around!” Twice shouted and Dabi leaned out the door to release a torrent of blue flames down at the rapidly approaching vessel. The helicopter wavered dangerously as they avoided another missile shot up at them; it missed the aircraft and the group waited for the explosion that didn't come. Dabi glanced down at the ground and saw ice cradling the missile.

The temperature of the air dropped dramatically.

“Oh shit,” Twice said as a figure appeared in the air in front of them and ice shout out to the helicopter.

The broken girl gave a whimper of joy and Dabi kicked her. “This isn’t over yet,” he growled and shot flame out. It cleared the path ahead but the ice erupted from below, blocking the doors and trying to stop the rotors. The helicopter’s motor strained to pull out of the ice as Dabi hung out of the helicopter to battle the climbing ice. A strangle sound ‘fwipped’ through the air and Dabi, still trying to keep his youngest brother at bay, grunted. His fellow villains looked up in time to see him disappear, whipped out of the helicopter by a pink rope.

“Damn it,” Shigaraki cursed. He looked back down at the pathetic remains of the girl still struggling to stay alive. “Fine. If it’s you they want so badly, they can have you.”

He shoved her out of the helicopter.

She screamed, her legs flailed wildy, arms still tied behind her back, hair held down in ratty strands from the gag, as her body dropped into darkness toward the waiting, turbulent sea. Ice rolled up to meet her falling body and she slid down a frozen luge to the grassy banks below as the helicopter was completely encased in ice, entombed without their fire-user to free them.

The helicopter’s motor burned out, giving a violent sound of surrender from inside the ice.

 

Shouto looked down and saw Ani’s body safely roll to the ground. Tsu informed him Dabi was in their custody which left him free to turn his attention to the trapped helicopter. He burned his own hole through the ice and prepared to fight the unhinged prisoners.

Shouto!” He heard his name through the radio but was left in a speechless rage.

They had escaped.

“Damn it!” He snarled. “How the hell did they get away?! I thought you knocked out Kurogiri?!!”

We did-kero,” Tsu confirmed. “But if he had any of Shida’s blood in his system it might have worn off much quicker.” She croaked “Shouto—Dabi has the goggles.

Shouto tried not to be consumed by his own rage. There was no way they would be able to track them now but the League was not their primary target in this fight, especially as the situation in Musutafu was escalating. There was still so much to do.

Oh fuck,” he heard Bakugo over the radio. “Eyes on the target.

Shouto’s eyes flew down to the crumpled form down in the grass. He flew down the ice to her and gently rolled her over. He quickly undid the gag and wiped away the tears from her dirty face as she sobbed.

“Hey, hey, you’re okay,” he gently tried to comfort her.

She shook her head furiously, staring up at him with desperate blue eyes. Her voice cracked as she forced out a single word: “c-copy.”

Shouto nodded, heart feeling heavy with the truth he had already suspected. “I know.” He brushed the hair back from her face and saw the light fading from her eyes. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner.”

She sniffled and her eyes closed.

Her boddy softened and turned to gloopy muck that pooled around him.

Shouto tried to put the weight in his heart in perspective: it was a clone. It was just a clone. He was telling himself over and over again but the image of Ani dying in front of him was still too real, too disturbing.

He took a steadying breath.

“Port location just a copy,” he announced over a radio. “She’s gone.”

Confirmed,” Utsubei acknowledged.

If Utsubei was active on the channel it was because the other pro-heroes were too engaged in combat.

This wasn’t over yet. Not in the least.

“Utsubei, the League escaped. The sedative wore off too quickly and Kurogiri got them away.”

Utusubei copied “Froppy’s got Dabi secured and the tracker’s accounted for. That’s enough for now. Shouto we need you in Musutafu.

“What? Why?” He asked, already running back into the woods. Midoriya was supposed to be in Musutfau...

Bakugo, with the sounds of carnage in the background, growled “because Deku’s down you fucking half-and-half!

“What? How?!” Shouto was hurling himself through the woods now on thin spikes of ice.

Shit—” the sound of an explosion cut Bakugo’s voice off. Static rippled across the radio waves and it sent shivers down Shouto’s spine. He felt every cell in his body responding to the crackling words. “-ni—fou—d—nother—py—

“And?” Shouto demanded, hoping his fellow pro could hear him. “Is she dead or alive?”

Bakugo, status,” requested Utsubei.

Jiro, out-of-breath, responded “Bakugo was just buried under rubble! Ani or a copy of Ani or whatever is down there with him!

Shouto’s heart pounded. “Is she dead or alive?!” He demanded again.

We don’t know!” Iida said as sirens sounded in the background. They echoed through several of the pro-hero coms.

~

Bakugo groaned. Smelling no gas in the dusty darkness he lit a small explosion and illuminated the pocket of the building that had collapsed around him and Ani. He had thrown himself on top of her, setting off explosions around them to try and redirect the falling debris and it mostly worked. They were laying in a stable, shallow cave. Though they could hear the faint sounds of people and sirens outside he couldn’t see a way out.

He gently rolled her over and she groaned....she was alive. His heart was racing as he tried to call through his radio: “I’ve got Ani! Repeat I found Ani but I don’t know if it’s another copy!” Static was the only response.

“Damn it,” cursed Bakugo as he brushed dirt out of her face. “Hey, are you okay? Shida? For fuck’s sake, Shida, are you okay?!”

“Can you stop shouting?” She moaned. “You’re so loud.”

Relief flooded his veins. “Then answer me sooner.”

She sucked in a tight breath as she tried to shift and he saw the unnatural angle of her bent knee. “Yeah, sure thing kitten.”

“What did you just call me?” He barked.

With her eyes still closed, she gave him a crooked smile; it made his heart hurt. “Kitten. It’s what Ani called you when you found her in the park that night, right? A fire-breathing kitten?”

His heart sank. The way she talked about the memory made it clear: she was a clone.

“Yeah...” she gulped for air, eyes opened, as she tried to sit up. “I’m a clone. Sorry to disappoint you." She coughed.

“Who said I’m disappointed?” He grumbled. She rolled her eyes.

“Your face says it all.” She heaved a sigh and grimaced at the pain in her leg.

His eyes fell dejectedly to her injury. “Since you’re her clone, you have her quirk right? Can’t you regenerate from this?”

She chuckled weakly. “Yeah...Maybe the real Ani could easily get over it but this is a borrowed body. I don’t have the same resources she has.” She gave a raspy exhale. “I was really looking forward to seeing all of you put those fuckers in their place.”

The weight in his pocket grew heavier with every word she spoke. He knew the mission he agreed to...and it seemed so easy in theory...

Each breath was like the rise and fall of the ocean tide...

“Thanks, Katsuki...” she wheezed.

His chest tightened and he barely got the words out. “For what.”

“For staying with me.”

He snorted, his fists clenched angrily. “Yeah. Like I’ve really got a choice.”

"We all make choices." The color in her eyes, already muted by the darkness, was growing dimmer. “Don’t settle, Katsuki..." He felt each moment like a grain of sand falling in an hourglass as he listened. “You’re worthy of being loved back...”

A tear slipped down her cheek as her eyes fluttered shut.

 

~

 

The police helicopter flew Shouto in a straight line to Musutafu; it was so loud he wasn’t able to hear what was happening over the radio and he rode in anxious tension. The horizon was dotted with towers of smoke that only grew more ominous as they approached. Swaths of the city were in ruin. Fires raged from multiple places, some people were fighting in the street. Fighting each other, fighting heroes, but mostly fighting the situation to rescue victims trapped in rubble.

UA stood like a stronghold in the middle of it all, the only remaining place in the city that looked safe, and Shouto knew the school had opened it’s doors to protect the innocent. The pilot maneuvered through the columns of smoke toward the campus but Shouto leaped out over the city, riding a trail of ice to the ground.

“I’m in Musutafu. What’s the situation?” he asked over the radio and his feet hit the ground running. “Hello? Radio Check! Is anyone there?!”

He came out onto a main street and saw the chaos and destruction up close. Fires raged, store fronts were broken open and looted, people were helping each other out of damaged buildings and rushing to get to safety, wherever they could find it.

“Go to the UA campus!” He shouted, pointing in the school’s general direction. “You’ll be safe there!”

There was a mixed reaction throughout the crowds on the street. Many of them looked thankful at the sound of their number two hero’s voice while some gave him no more than a passing glance. Several of them glowered with conviction in their eyes that this was all happening because of the heroes but Shouto didn’t care. Let them think what they wanted. The priority right now was ending the attack and finding Ani.

The real Ani.

He took off running and kept shouting into his radio, still no one answered. On instinct he headed toward the center of the city. They had known the Hero Public Safety Commission was a potential target of the Absolved and the closer he got, the worse the damage was becoming. Not one building stood without some kind of damage and the streets were deserted. He heard angry shouts along with a ferocious explosion coming from an alleyway and he changed direction toward the familiar sound.

“Come on!” Bakugo shouted and nearly collided with Shouto as they came around the same corner. “Jesus, bastard!”

Shouto opened his mouth to ask Bakugo what happened with the radio but movement in the alley caught his eye. Bakugo glanced beside himself as the figure appeared wearing Bakugo’s black tank top over her tattered shorts, leaving the ash-blonde shirtless.

“Ani...” Shouto said, his mind pausing for a moment amidst the strain and stress.

“Take it easy hot shot,” snarled Bakugo as he angled himself in front of her. “She’s a clone.”

Shouto noticed, despite the dirt smearing her features and dust coating her hair, she was completely uninjured. Not even a scrape. Shouto’s brow dipped angrily and he shifted his attention back to Bakugo. He demanded “you used one of them. You healed her, didn’t you?!”

“She healed herself!” Bakugo snapped defensively.

Flame and frost prickled the air around the angry red-white head. “Those were for emergencies only!”

“At my own discrepancy, you lunatic!” Bakugo’s eyes blazed with an equal anger. “Sorry I couldn’t watch the woman I love die like you could!”

Shouto was ready to roar back when the clone cut in.

“Enough, you two! We don’t have time for this!” An explosion rumbled through the street and a ball of flame rolled up several blocks away. Fresh screams filled the night air and brought Shouto’s mind back into focus.

“Where’s Deku? You said he was hurt?”

“Yeh," answered Bakugo. "He saw Ani and tried to get her but the Absolved got to him first.”

“Is he—”

“No. He’s fine. We heard from him right before the radios went out. Your girlfriend’s magic blood saved him.”

Shouto breathed a sigh of relief. “Where’s Ani now?”

“Mom took her into the HPSC.”

Bakugo and Shouto turned to see Iida and Kirishima joining them at the corner. It was Iida who had spoken.

“It’s still standing?!" Bakugo asked in vexation.

“Yes. They’ve leveled everything around it but left it standing to make a point,” their old class rep informed the small group. “Jiro and Yaoyorozu are trying to get the radios back up. And nearly everyone else is doing damage control with the police trying to save victims and keep rioters and other villains at bay.”

Shouto didn’t need to ask how extensive the damage was; the city was being torn apart from the inside out. “Where’s Midoriya?”

“We don’t know,” Iida admitted. “But knowing him, he’s probably trying to get back to Ani and Mom.”

"That’s where we’re headed, too.” Kirishima nodded in that direction and clenched his fist. “Let’s end this.”

Chapter Text

Ani stared up at the ceiling with fear but also anger, healing anger, as she found herself again and promised she would never doubt herself or her heroes again, no matter what she was facing. Three faces appeared over her and Hogo Sareta squatted down.

“I guess there’s no reason to wait.”

She took a fistful of Ani's hair and dragged her by it. The sandpaper prison released and Ani grabbed Hogo’s wrist, trying to relieve some of the pain.

“Let me go!” She tried kicking but her feet slipped around, unable to get a grip...it was like the floor was slicked with oil as Hogo dragged her along. “I’ll never join you! Stop it!” She screamed “let me go!”

Her flailing did nothing more than a moth could have done, fluttering uselessly along as the other woman and man followed behind unimpressed. The woman looked down at her pathetic attempts to break free.

“Fight all you want. You’re only going to make this harder on yourself,” stated the woman.

Hogo dragged Ani down the hall into a room filled with computer screens and tossed her on the floor. Before she could stand up the strange sandpaper restraint was back and she was glued to the floor.

“Odysseus, how’s the response been?” Hogo asked the humanoid sitting at a massive keyboard

As the person turned to look at Hogo, they glanced at Ani with bright green eyes and she saw lines streaking across their skin like a circuit board. “Not as wide-spread as we would have wanted,” they answered in a raspy voice. “But where it’s hit, it’s hit hard.”

“We can work with that,” said Hogo as she leaned on the counter. “Are you in everywhere?”

“Everywhere except the agencies we wanted; they’ve taken some extra precautions and I couldn’t get through...” a twisted grin spread. “The police were a different story...like a hot knife through butter.”

Hogo’s pink hair bobbed as she gave a satisfied nod. “Good. Push the first round.”

“You got it, Mom.” The person turned back clicking a few keys and opened a few windows displaying major public spaces in Musutafu and typed a few rows of code. “Messages out.”

For what felt like a long time, nothing happened. The five people watched silently as people moved normally throughout their day and Ani felt each passing minute grow more and more painful as she waited anxiously to see what would happen. Slowly people began gathering in the areas, lingering together as they began to form a loose organization. Ani realized: they were protestors.

“Turn up the volume,” the bald woman requested as she crept closer to the screens.

The voices chanted together slowly filling the dark room with their...pro-hero message. Ani held her breath, she couldn’t believe it. These crowds were protesting Hogo’s message and Ani felt a swell of joy. People were rejecting it! Hope filled Ani as she watched the crowds of people grow and she willed them to grow larger, grow stronger. Signs appeared proclaiming the faith they had in their heroes, people dressed in the colors of their favorites. They chanted and cheered about the purity and goodness of their protectors. The hope inside Ani grew with every passing moment, every person that joined the throngs of supporters. Hogo’s message wasn’t going to work! It wasn’t—

“Perfect.” Hogo crossed her arms with a look of elation that halted Ani’s growing hope. “This is better than I was hoping. Prompt the reporters.”

“Are you sure?” Odysseus asked, leaning back in their chair. “They’ve already caught wind of it and are on the move.”

“Yes, make sure they’re all out...even if they’re just swarming the hero agencies. I don’t want to leave any opportunities unused.”

The humanoid’s fingers began to fly across the keyboard as they typed lines of code. Multiple windows opened and messages appeared, flying back and forth, faster than Ani could read. She was trying to imagine how Hogo could be so pleased by this show of support...it was the exact opposite of what she called people to do. Reporters quickly ended up at the scene of the protests, too.

“And the opposition?” Hogo asked.

The person wheezed, coughed once, sending messages out. “It’s picking up with all the coverage now...stories are starting to show up everywhere.” More messages were coming in and the lines of text scrolled up in a blur; it was a chat. And the person wasn’t just in one conversation. They were moving back and forth between multiple windows. With a crackly chuckle, the person said “wow...they’re ready to go whenever you are.”

The sky was getting darker and the street lights came to life “We’re ready.”

With a hard, seemingly satisfied click, Odysseus sent a final message and folded their hands together, propping up their head as they watched the screen.

Anticipation rolled off of Hogo Sareta and crept into Ani with dread as she waited. It didn’t take long for the next wave of people to arrive but they were not like the first.

“Cut the police,” Hogo quickly instructed as they watched the newcomers arrive in dark, muted colors like the night itself and Ani’s hope was gone before the first projectile was thrown. Though it was hard to tell what it was through the screen, it struck someone and they fell to the ground. Ani’s heart began to break as she watched the quickly growing, darkly dressed group crash against the peaceful protestors.

She watched helplessly as more things were thrown into the crowd of hero-supporters. Met with violent opposition, those bright and cheerful colors quickly separated. Some left immediately, driven away by the threat of physical harm, but many stayed behind refusing to give in to supposed ‘villains.’ The slander only incited a stronger wave of violence and Ani saw real fights breaking out.

Odysseus responded almost immediately. “Police are down, but their radios are still active. They have back-up generators.”

“We knew they would,” said Hogo standing erect as she watched heroes arriving in various places of the protest. Ani’s relief was short-lived. The moment heroes began to arrive the violent protestors shed their dark layers revealing bright colors underneath that camouflaged them into the scattering crowds. Dismay prickled Ani’s vision as she watched the people continue fighting among themselves, trying to convince the heroes of who the violent offenders were.

“Radio systems are giving me some trouble.”

“Keep trying.” Hogo surveyed the growing chaos with a glowing pride that made Ani’s blood boil.

“C-coward.”

Hogo looked over her shoulder, eyebrow raised but before she could respond there was a quick ‘fwish’ sound and pain sliced across Ani’s cheek. She grimaced and stifled a cry as her face was whipped again with a harsher ‘fwipp’ and pain cut into the bridge of her nose.

“That’s enough,” Hogo said and there was no third strike of pain. The muscular woman came over and squatted next to Ani, her pink hair keeping her face in shadow. “Coward?”

Ani glowered up as blood dripped down her face. A response burned in her throat but the invisible restraints were pressing down so tightly she could barely breathe.

“You know...” Hogo brushed a strand of hair out of Ani’s face and smirked down lightheartedly. “I’ve been called a lot of things...but not a coward...I suppose you think it’s because I’m not out there fighting?”

Judgement burned in Ani’s eyes.

“I can see why you would think that.” Hogo traced her lips, retracing her scar. “But I was hired for one thing.”

Confusion flickered across Ani’s face.

“What?” Hogo asked. “That I was hired?...” She grinned. “Yeah...I believe in all of this,” she waved her hand at the screen. “Hero reform, atonement, and all that...but I never cared enough to do something like this.”

“They’re arriving,” announced Odysseus. Hogo blocked the screens from Ani’s view so she couldn’t see who they were talking about; it made her heart race in fear.

“No...I have a specific job to do.” Hogo smiled as she stood up over Ani. “And it doesn’t involve messing around with these delinquents.”

She turned back to the monitors and Ani’s eyes teared up as she saw familiar faces running through the streets. The violence had escalated dramatically as gangs had come out to take advantage of the chaos.

“How does our positioning look?” Hogo asked.

Odysseus cracked their knuckles and went back to typing. “Nearly there. Trains have been stopped.”

“Emergency services?”

“Interrupted. I’m starting to break apart the radio systems...They’re having trouble responding properly.”

“Good. You’ve done well, Odysseus. Finish knocking out the radios.” Hogo turned to her other two companions who nodded. “Time to go to work.”

“Finally,” the bald woman said with a devilish grin. She elbowed the blue-haired man who was staring at the screens. His attention returned to them and he gave a nod, tossing Ani over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She grunted.

“You’re not going to get away with this, any of it,” noted Ani. “Whatever you’re trying to do...it’s not going to work with all those heroes out there.”

“Oh Yoyo...” Hogo gave Ani’s cheek a rough pat. “We’re going to work because they’re out there.”

Tears dripped from Ani’s face as the truth cut her heart open. “No...you can’t hurt them. They’re stronger than you are.”

“Maybe,” admitted Hogo. “But with your help, it won’t matter.” Ani was trying to retain a façade of strength as they climbed a set of rusty stairs and Hogo looked at her curiously. “Why do you think I demanded you instead of a clone as payment?” She chuckled quietly. “I need your power to finish the job...a clone would have sufficed for that...but with you... and your incredible ability to endure...there’ll be something left over. And after that...well...” Hogo’s eyes glinted maliciously. “I can have some real fun.”

Ani’s eyes were blurred with tears as they emerged into a alleyway. Ani could hear the screams and cries echoing down the dark passage, drowned out with passing sirens and other sounds of carnage. Hogo put something in her ear, her companions did the same, too.

“Shadows, are you in place?” She asked and waited for an answer. “Good. We’re heading out.”

As they started moving Ani felt the rough, invisible restraints loosen. It was enough she could have screamed but her voice would have been lost among all the other noise. No, she would have to wait for another opportunity to do something.

They wove through the shadows of the city for several blocks and came out among preoccupied looters. If there were any heroes among these buildings they didn’t notice Hogo’s head of pink hair that glowed in the light of fires burning throughout the city. The more action they passed on the street, the more the bonds loosened. When they rounded the next corner there was a crowd of people down the street flipping a car and the bald woman paused, mesmerized by the destruction.

“I can’t believe how quickly they took to the violence,” she said in awe.

The sandpaper was almost breakable.

Hogo commented, as she kept walking with the blue-haired man, “I can. When admiration for their idols dries up, strong feelings remain. And like dry wood, those feelings ignite quickly.”

For a brief moment, Ani felt it: slack.

She yanked out her arms and arched her back to swing back down and elbow the man as hard as she could right in his kidneys. He groaned and the sound was like a heavy weight that shackled her ankles and flung her down to the ground as he let go of her legs and fell to his knees, clutching his side. She slammed down to the ground.

Hogo whirled around with anger flashing in her features.

“Solid Sound!” the bald woman yelled as she caught up to them and the scratching, invisible pressure returned around Ani with such force she felt like she was being burned. She had no freedom to scream. “Damn it, Solid, I’m sorry!”

The man held his side as he slowly stood back up with a grunt and a heavy weight sank onto Ani’s chest threatening to crush her. She understood, then. He never spoke because that was his quirk.

Solid. Sound.

This must have been the reason they were so confident.

“Are you alright?” the bald woman asked, avoiding Hogo’s glare. Solid Sound nodded. Ani’s lungs were on fire under the weight as they ignored her and the bald woman tentatively looked back to Hogo. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

“Pull it together,” demanded Hogo. “We can have our fun—”

“GET”

—after the job is done—”

“AWAY FROM”

The three of them turned at the most well-known voice in the country. The powerful shouting voice

“SHIDA!”

Of Deku.

Green lighting struck the air in front of the small group and Deku ricocheted off of something invisible. At the sight and sound of the number one hero the street emptied, all rioters instantly dispersing into the shadows. Deku rebounded off of a building nearby and a strange sound reverberated through the rapidly heating air. Ani struggled to get free hoping whatever was holding her down would weaken in the attack as he kept coming back, unable to land a hit before bouncing away.

Deku’s raging voice filled the street. “SSSMMMAAA—”

Ani, limbs freed, curled into a ball to protect her head.

“Now,” said Hogo, softly.

“AAASSHHHH!”

There was an explosion and a release of such power that Ani felt the ground beneath her crack and shake. All the glass up and down the street shattered, raining to the pavement and filled the quiet air with an eerie tinkling sound. Ani held her breath as she uncurled and peeked out hoping to see her captors defeated. The world went gray as Ani saw Deku’s crumpled body lying at the end of a long ditch at the other end of the street.

“De-ku?” Ani asked in horror.

There was a crackle of lightning around his body and for a moment Ani thought he would rise but he stayed down. She was blown away by the power of Solid Sound and from the corner of her eye she saw him crack his neck like taking down the number one hero was simple. Hatred burned in her heart until she realized he wasn’t at the start of the long ditch.

It was Hogo.

She slowly relaxed from her fighting stance. “Let’s get going.”

Solid Sound picked Ani up and threw her over his shoulder again. She didn’t bat an eye as the binds returned; she just gaped at Hogo as she reached out and took Ani’s wrist. While they hustled down the road Hogo used a piece of glass to slice Ani’s wrist open and drank from the dark, oozing blood before regeneration quickly sealed the wound. Hogo wiped blood off her face from the back of her hand and gave Ani a wicked grin.

“Still think they’re invincible?”

Chapter Text

Ani’s head bounced around as Solid Sound sprinted beside Hogo and the bald woman.

Hogo cursed under her breath, holding her ear. “At least the radios are down.” She was panting and Solid Sound was blasting buildings as they ran in a loop around the city leaving a trail of destruction behind them. “Does anyone know if the clone's been destroyed?" She waited for the answer.

“No matter, we’re almost there,” said Hogo as they ran up to one of the last buildings standing. Ani saw a blur streaking behind buildings headed in Deku’s direction; the hero paused for a moment at the sight of their small group and Ani recognized Ingenium. Iida. Ani panicked and feared for the safety of the noble hero...her mind scrambled for a way to warn him of her captor’s power. She relaxed when he raced away.

“The HPSC, yeah. We’re here,” said Hogo. Ani saw the sign for the Hero Public Safety Commission and hoped there was no one left in the building. “How many?”

Hogo waited a beat. “Good. We’re going in.”

The building went dark. Ani assumed it was Odysseus who had cut the power as they approached the doors and she heard security guards shouting. They were easily overpowered.

“We’re inside.” Hogo listened intently and they paused at the lobby. Ani cried silently over the unmoving bodies of security guards strewn across the floor. “Heading up now.”

Solid Sound set Ani down on her feet and the pressure released around her legs but kept her arms at her sides. She gave one last effort to turn and run but she was lassoed and fell to the ground. She was still struggling as they rolled her over.

“You’re out of time,” said the bald woman as she grabbed Ani’s foot and pulled her along the slippery floor. “Any one of us on our own could give them a run for their money. But together? We’re unstoppable.”

“You’re nothing,” snarled Ani and she tried to kick the bald woman in the back of her legs but she missed.

“Frik!” Solid Sound snapped and Ani felt her ankle twist unwillingly. The bald woman noticed Ani’s fight and gave her leg a yank, almost breaking the twisted ankle. Ani screamed as the slippery floor turned to fire and burned her skin.

She finally understood: the bald woman could control friction. She stopped struggling and trying to kick her and the bald woman, Ani guessed the word Solid Sound had used was her name: Frik, relaxed the friction between her and the floor. She slipped along again.

“Stop squabbling and pick her up,” Hogo instructed and Solid Sound threw her over his shoulder so they could quickly climb the stairs. Ani’s mind was racing. She was trying to figure out what Frik meant when she said that together the three of them were unstoppable and she wished she could have an ounce of Midoriya’s analytical intelligence. Even if she couldn’t figure anything out, she tried to reassure herself that there were more than enough heroes to stop these three. “Yeah, meet us at the top.”

Oh. Shit....Well, it was harder to reassure herself without knowing who or what was meeting them but she still tried. Their steps echoed in the empty stairwell and Ani kept trying to think about what she could do. How she could help. Something. Anything.

When there were no more stairs to climb, Solid Sound blasted open the door to the roof. Sirens, smoke, and the fizzling energy of fear filled the night sky.

“Really? Just the two of you made it out?” Hogo said with pity.

“What do you want?” The deep voice made the hair on Ani’s back stand up. It was Kurogiri. “Ground Zero showed up and we barely made it out, just the two of us.”

“So? You can make two clones, can’t you?” challenged the bald woman. “Just make us another one.”

“I can’t,” responded another familiar voice. Solid Sound plopped Ani down on the ground and she saw the man dressed in a black suit, face covered in a full black and gray mask. "The original Kurogiri is back with Shigaraki, remember?"

“Damnit!” snapped the bald woman at Twice and Kurogiri but Hogo cut in before she could go on a rant.

“So, her clone is still alive,” said Hogo surveying the city from their massive rooftop. “It is what it is. We’ll work with what we’ve got.” She crouched down by Ani and took her wrist again. “They’ll be here any minute.”

She made a deep gash and Ani held in the cry of pain. Hogo took another big pull and then held out the bleeding wound for each of her companions who took turns drinking in preparation. Tears flowed down Ani’s face as they kept it open to keep the gash open until they were satisfied. She felt regeneration sap her energy as it finally closed the wound.

The group stiffened and Ani knew Odysseus must have warned them of something coming because they all turned just in time to face the crackling bolt of jade streaking toward the roof.

“Hospital,” Hogo quietly said. A purple swirl intercepted the streak of lighting and it vanished.

On the other side of the city there was an explosion and fresh screams filled the night air.

Pressing her ear Hogo responded to something Ani couldn’t hear. “Good. Make sure they get a clear shot that it was him.”

Ani’s heart flooded with grief and sobs wracked her frame. They were going to destroy everything...everyone...and blame it on the heroes.

“Where?” Hogo asked. After a moment, Frik stepped out to the edge of the roof searching for something and crouched down. The attention of the group shifted, drifting in that direction and Ani desperately wanted to know what they saw but didn’t want to draw any attention to herself. She sat as still as she could while her eyes frantically scanned the skyline and realized this rooftop sat alone. All the neighboring buildings had been destroyed while they were running through the city which would make it incredibly difficult for anyone to approach stealthily from a nearby roof. She kept looking nonetheless.

She didn’t see the green lightning until it was shooting around the loop of rubble and heard Hogo say “the mall.” There was a pause as the lightning continued bouncing around. “Kurogiri.”

“I’m trying, but he’s onto it now.”

Ani cheered Deku on her mind. He was sharp and couldn’t be caught in that trap twice—

A ball of fire curved around the streak of lightning as it slowed down, fighting the sudden increase in the air's friction, and Frik cackled. “Got him!” With the sudden burst of resistance, and not knowing where it was coming from, Deku’s movements slowed enough that he was caught by another warp gate. She tried not to be filled with despair as she waited for another explosion that didn’t come.

“Damn it,” snarled Frik, clenching her fists and almost stomping her foot like a toddler. “Did they at least catch him almost hit it?!” She had slowed Deku enough to be caught but it also meant he had time to stop from smashing into another densely populated building. Relief hit Ani as she kept scanning and was dismayed at range of flames that were reaching up into the skyline. There were more fires than the heroes or fire departments could keep up with. Tears kept blurring her vision faster than she could blink them away and began playing tricks on her mind. Fires were jumping between buildings now, spreading the flames from roof to roof.

Ani kept her mouth shut, silencing the gasp as she realized it wasn’t just fire. As the dancing flames tried to stay camouflaged with the fires in the background, she recognized his shape. Endeavor was trying to find an opening or maybe simply trying to gather intel on the group huddled on this far, dark rooftop which hadn’t noticed his presence yet. Thoughts flew through Ani’s mind. She would have only one chance, one action to give the heroes an advantage and it would have to be quick. She waited, watching from the corner of her eye, until Endeavor paused at a window and made himself look like flames erupting from a fresh fire and drew in the deepest breath she could.

Without looking right where Endeavor was hiding but trying to aim the sound in his general direction, she screamed from the deepest depths of her lungs “CAMERAS—"

A hand clamped down over her mouth and the friction of the air around her tightened so she couldn't move. She bit down as hard as she could but Twice’s suit kept him from getting hurt.

“Shhh, princess,” he murmured in her ear.

Hogo appeared in front of her and grabbed the patchy remains of her sweatshirt. “Who were you yelling to?!”

Ani immediately clenched her eyes shut, not wanting to give anything away out of involuntary reaction.

“Tell me!” Hogo roared. Ani shook her head. It took a moment but Ani heard the sound she was hoping for. “Fuck!”

“DAMN IT!” Frik shouted and the friction restraints tightened so hard Ani’s eyes flew open with pain.

Hogo snarled and shoved Ani to the ground. “Keep her quiet. And tone it back Frik! We need to save her regen.”

The bonds loosened only enough to let Ani take shallow breaths through her nose and Twice stayed crouched by her head, mouth firmly covered. Ani stared up into the dark night sky. She was grateful Endeavor had understood her message and destroyed at least some of the cameras.

Hogo resumed her confident surveying of the city, ultimately unperturbed by the loss of some cameras. “It’s fine, Odysseus. Use whatever ones are left and let the radios come back up. We’ll listen if we can’t see.”

Ani gulped and blinked away tears, hoping she hadn’t just made things worse.

Chapter Text

“Where’s Ani now?”

“Mom took her into the HPSC.”

Bakugo and Shouto turned to see Iida and Kirishima joining them at the corner. It was Iida who had spoken.

“It’s still standing?!" Bakugo asked in vexation.

“Yes. They’ve leveled everything around it but left it standing to make a point,” their old class rep informed the small group. “Jiro and Yaoyorozu are trying to get the radios back up. And nearly everyone else is doing damage control with the police trying to save victims and keep rioters and other villains at bay.”

Shouto didn’t need to ask how extensive the damage was; the city was being torn apart from the inside out. “Where’s Midoriya?”

“We don’t know,” Iida admitted. “But knowing him, he’s probably trying to get back to Ani and Mom.”

"That’s where we’re headed, too.” Kirishima nodded in that direction and clenched his fist. “Let’s end this.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice, shitty hair,” Bakugo said with a blazing grin. Over his shoulder he said “Let’s go.”

“What? No—” Shouto reached out as if he was going to block Ani’s clone and Bakugo knocked his hand away.

“Don’t even think about it,” he challenged.

“I’m coming,” the clone said with conviction. “They slit my throat on live tv. I’m going to draw some blood before I die.”

Shouto saw a dangerous glint to the familiar blue eyes and knew he wasn’t going to stop her.

“Come on,” urged Bakugo and the group took off without hesitation. As they ran down the street their earpieces crackled and voices began to break through the static. The words were too choppy to understand but they could hear at least Jiro and Utsubei trying to be heard. Another voice, stronger and clearer, joined the mix.

Cam-ras! Th—have cameras—acr—ss the city—th—been—wching—us!” Endeavor’s booming voice cut through the static enough that they were able to understand and the group immediately looked up at the buildings around them as they ran. Sure enough, on top of the next corner’s traffic light sat a camera.

“They must have hacked the city system—” Kirishima began

“And be following our every move!” yelled Bakugo. He let out an AP shot and disintegrated the camera.

“Keep going to the HPSC!” Iida shouted. “I’ll go look for more.” He powered away turning into a gray blur, pausing only to destroy another camera down the street.

“Either of you have a plan?” Kirishima asked as they kept running.

“Find ‘em. Kill ‘em,” answered Bakugo.

They turned a corner and Shouto grabbed Bakugo’s arm, yanking him and the copy of Ani back behind the building as the sound of something coming cut through the air and shot a hole where they had just been standing.

“We need a little more strategy than that,” Shouto said and pressed his earpiece. “Yaoyorozu, Jiro. Can you hear me?”

Loud and clear,” answered Jiro.

“We found the absolved; they’re on top of the HPSC,” Shouto yelled as they paused at the next corner. “Midoriya. Midoriya! Come in Midoriya, are you there?!”

“Oi, you damn nerd!” snapped Bakugo.

Yeah, I’m here!

“Where are you?” asked Shouto.

I’m coming in from the north side shopping center—every time I try to get close they warp me away.

“Fuck,” cursed Bakugo. “The League must be there, too.”

No, they’re only copies. Twice and Kurogiri are there but not Shigaraki or Toga.” They heard the rush of wind with Deku’s words as he flew across the city. “They’ve got Shida up there!

“We know,” Shouto motioned for them to split up. Bakugo, Ani’s clone, and Kirishima went one way and Shouto went the opposite, paralleling the HPSC. “We’re going to try to flank from the west and south—”

I’m coming in from the northeast, now,” Midoriya countered. “Watch out for the warpgates!

That purple bastard is mine!” shouted Bakugo.

And don’t let Mom land a hit—” Midoriya tried to warn as all three of them emerged at once from their different directions but his words were cut off by a crackling sound. At the same moment a shock wave ‘kathoomed’ across the rubble-filled clearing. Shouto tried to counter with a wall of ice but the sound shattered his ice and knocked him back.

Damn it!” Bakugo snarled. “There must be some fucking cameras still around here!"

Cameras?” Midoriya called over the sound of more rushing wind.

The Absolved have hacked all the cameras in the city and are watching our every move!” answered Iida. “Todoroki. Most of the cameras around the HPSC have been melted already!

Shouto glanced up and saw one on the street above him turned into what looked like the melted remains of a candle. Endeavor. His father must have been nearby and not only told them about the cameras but working to blind the Absolved.

Bakugo roared “then how the hell did they—

“The radios.” Shouto suddenly understood. “If they can watch through the cameras they can probably listen in, too. Jiro, Yaoyorozu! Find whoever’s controlling the—”

Well, well...” a serene voice cut in and Shouto couldn’t hear anyone else anymore. “You’re trying so hard heroes...” Shouto recognized the female voice from the tv broadcast. It was Mom. His mind was flying as he listened and a passing blur caught his eye: Iida. Ingenium paused and motioned for Shouto to follow him.

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed in all of you. So many people have died tonight...under your watch...all because of you...

They raced through the streets and met up with Bakugo, Kirishima, and the clone. Iida pointed and they saw the fiery form of Endeavor coming, too.

“I’m going to find Midoriya, wait here,” said Iida and sped off.

Shouto nodded.

All this destruction you let happen...And even with your top three heroes here...How will you ever make it up to all these poor people?

Mina and Sero came sprinting down the road, sent by Iida.

Can you feel for them...even a little bit? They’ve fought themselves over you...destroyed themselves to bits because of you...with your help, too...

Midoriya appeared, covered in scrapes and dirt, uniform ripped and worn. Mom’s taunting began to distort as Iida returned and stated the obvious.

“We need a plan.”

There was a short zapping sound through their earpieces and a few of them flinched but the radios were out. Silence weighed heavily.

“There’s five of them up there with Shida,” Midoriya said and wiped the sweat off his face with his sleeve. “The clones of Kurogiri and Twice. And the three members of the Absolved. But I can’t get close enough to get Shida out of there. I’ve been holding back because I don’t want to hurt her and they’ve been working together to keep fending me off.” Midoriya was beginning to mutter. “They have some sort of quirk that can slow you down with heat or fire or something and another ranged quirk. Mom has some sort of reflection power and they’re all using their quirks seamlessly together—”

“Wait, reflection?” Bakugo cut in.

“I hit her. Well, not at full strength because Shida was there but it should’ve been enough to overpower her but it didn’t. It was like she deflected it back to me.”

“It’s not reflection,” said a quiet, familiar voice. Everyone turned to Ani’s clone.

“What?” asked Bakugo the same time as Midoriya asked “what do you mean?”

She gave Shouto a quick glance before looking at Bakugo. “It’s not reflection...” she started thinking out loud. “The purple guy and the one with the full body suit, I heard them talking about the bald woman and they called her ‘Frick.’ And Midoriya said she can slow things down...so, what if her name was ‘Frick’ short for ‘friction?’ Like she can control friction?”

“So you’re thinking Mom is short for something, too?” Shouto asked.

“Yeah. Momentum.”

Midoriya’s jade eyes grew wide and tight as he listened. “That could explain what I felt when she hit me back.” He glanced down the road where they could see the rubble but not the building. “And how they slowed me down before.”

“We have to get them off that rooftop,” noted Iida. “They have too much of an advantage up there.”

An angry commotion caught their attention and they saw a quick-moving wave of people coming for them. They were rioters. Violent Rioters.

Chapter Text

“Odysseus, send the rioters out to us. We need that clone destroyed,” said Hogo. “Yeah. Took them long enough. Send the messages and get out of there. Put me on, too.” She waited another moment before beginning a haughty monologue. “Well, well...”

Ani tuned it out, not needing to hear whatever inflammatory nonsense was being spouted. She stared up at the sky, still trapped and mouth covered, and tried to remain as calm as she could. The heroes must have been close because Ani could soon hear violent sounds rising from below.

“Twice, keep trying to make another copy,” instructed Hogo.

~

“Figure out a plan. We’ve got this,” Kirishima said and motioned to Sero and Mina who agreed with a nod. The three of them took off but the rioters avoided the three heroes as much as they could like a flood. They went straight for the small cluster of heroes. And it became clear from the ranged attacks they were there for Ani’s clone.

Bakugo threw her on his back and prepared to launch away but Shouto immobilized the pursuers without sending ice above the tops of buildings. Their location remained hidden.

“We have to end this before there’s nothing left of the city!” shouted Iida.

“Can’t you just freeze them on the roof?” Sero asked, returning to the group.

“They can break it,” Shouto said.

“And they overpowered you?” Kirishima asked Midoriya who nodded.

“We need to swarm them all at once,” said Bakugo. “They can’t over power all of us at the same time.”

“Wait.” Midoriya looked at Shouto. “What about Kamino?”

~

“Nothing yet?” Hogo asked. Twice shook his head.

“Useless commoners,” dismissed Frik and rolled her eyes.

“Stay alert,” chided Hogo. Frustration had begun to creep into her voice. “And kill on sight.”

Ani’s body dewed with the cold sweat of fear and a chilly breeze blew across the roof making her shiver. Like the sound of a jet engine, a roar of sound and light pierced the quiet roof.

“Kurogiri!” Frik screamed. Ani’s restraints clenched with the force of the friction user’s distress.

“Twice! Another Kurogiri, now!”

The masked hand moved from Ani’s mouth and the Absolved’s attention shifted to him. Solid let out a retaliatory sound and Ani heard the glorious sounds of ice before anyone else.

Something shot across the sky.

With no guarantee they were friend, not foe, she screamed “HELP!”

The Absolved looked back in time to see a flash of white connect to her body.

“NO!” Frik leaped and grabbed onto Ani as she was pulled off the roof.

“Twice!” Hogo shouted.

“It takes a minute!” He cried out in the struggle of using his quirk.

Ani, with Frik hanging on, was lifted up. Ani tried to flail the girl off but Frik used her quirk and the friction of the air to break the tape.

As Ani began falling to the ground she saw another purple portal open and slammed back down into the roof. A streak of green lightning chased her through it and Midoriya appeared on the roof. He shifted his weight, grabbing Ani, but Hogo stepped in and turned his force into her own, hitting him right back with his strength plus her own. Ani flew out of his arms from the force and Midoriya was slammed back, knocked down again.

“Keep him in place,” ordered Hogo. “Solid, give me a boost.”

Ani cried out “NOO!” frozen in place by Frik, as Hogo moved to attack the fallen Midoriya. She felt the temperature of the air drop before she saw the ice.

Though it was thick, massive, and appeared instantly, Hogo punched through the wall. There was a rumble across the roof and Ani watched the ice fall in shattered chunks. Hogo stood over an empty crater.

Midoriya’s limp body was being yanked back to a far rooftop by tape.

A raging light of fire burst across the group as Endeavor appeared over the side of the roof.

He swung his arm and the tendrils of flame followed the arc. Frik and Hogo dove away in evident fear as the line of fire cut through Twice. He grunted and melted away into mud.

Kurogiri vanished as the whip passed through the air where he had just been and Endeavor tucked and rolled, avoiding the warp gate that appeared a moment later trying to swallow him up.

Only Solid Sound was unfazed by the flame-wielding hero and fired off a powerful blast that dispelled the string of fire and hit the ground where Endeavor had been.

The old pro had already returned to his feet and scooped Ani up, dashing toward the edge of the roof. From over his shoulder, Ani saw Solid Sound inhale, reloading.

“Watch out!” She yelled but was too late. Endeavor’s arms went limp as he was shot right in the back.

~

Shouto saw the pain in his father’s tortured features and he dropped Ani right at the edge of the roof. He crumpled and fell, pushed over the side by Hogo. He managed to get an ice ramp out just before his father hit the ground and redirected Endeavor behind rubble so he was out of view from the Absolved. He didn’t want to abandon his father but he couldn’t help him until the fight was over; he was out of Ani’s blood.

In the same moment, behind them, Kurogiri cried out in pain as gray goop clung to the metal plates around his neck and dissolved it away.

Hogo roared in fury and grabbed Ani’s hair, dragging her away from the edge of the roof as her comrades tried to help Kurogiri get free from the acid.

"Is he awake yet?!” Shouto demanded over his shoulder, looking at Ani's clone watching over Midoriya as he healed. The syringe in the side of his leg was already empty.

“He’s almost back!” she answered, checking his pulse.

Bakugo landed on the rooftop with them. “Get up ya damn nerd!” He offered a hand and helped Midoriya up when he saw the jade eyes open.

“Midoriya, Bakugo,” said Shouto, calling them to the edge of the rooftop as they watched the Absolved repel the rain of acid and try to disable Mina. “I know how we can stop them, now.”

“How?” Midoriya asked.

“Mom and Frik are afraid of fire. Solid Sound can defend against it but if you can take him, Midoriya, Bakugo and I can take the other two.”

The Absolved managed to stop the acid attack but not before Kurogiri was lost. Hogo howled in rage and turned her wrath upon Ani.

Shouto was in the air.

He moved, launching himself off the roof from a spike of ice without thinking, as Bakugo and Midoriya turned into an orange and jade streak across the gap.

~

“NO!” howled Hogo as Kurogiri mushed into nothing. She turned in a furious rage at Ani. “You don’t need to be conscious to heal us!”

She didn’t need any help to knock the girl out but she felt her power swell with a boost from Solid Sound as she raised her fist. Ani covered her face; Hogo swung and felt the satisfying crunch of breaking bone. Ani froze, waiting in the aftershock of Hogo’s power for the pain to come but it didn’t. She opened her eyes and saw Shouto falling, rolling.

“SHOUTO!” Ani cried as he stopped in a crumpled heap. No...this...this couldn't be happening...No, No, No, Not Shouto! She felt her soul untether from her body with heartbreak and fly out to him...she had waited so long to see him again and this was how it happened. He took a hit for her. She needed to help him, save him somehow.

Solid Sound was knocked from the roof by Midoriya; at the same time Bakugo released a Howitzer Impact strike at Frik, blasting dust across the whole roof. From where Midoriya went over the edge another rush of air exploded, clearing the air. Charred remains of Frik fell to the roof and Bakugo turned his attention to Hogo, redirecting all of his explosive strength. And a streak of green lighting invigorated the orange light.

Ani saw the tenacious glint in Hogo’s eyes; she wasn’t phased by Bakugo and Midoriya’s attack, no matter how much power was behind it. Her attention was on the fallen icy-hot hero and Ani could see determination pulsing through her muscles...Shouto was the one she truly feared. Time slowed as Ani's mind cleared, knowing Shouto was lying defenseless on the ground. With stored energy from Bakugo’s first hit on Frik and she was ready to send the force of Bakugo and Midoriya’s joint attack all onto Shouto. Like Newton’s cradle, the green and orange energy hit Hogo and danced along her skin, she swung her fist and an eruption of power rocked across the roof, shaking the building and sent a rumbling shockwave through the city.

Bakugo and Midoriya gritted their teeth, doing everything they could not to be blown away in the wind. After a few turbulent moments, they looked up to see Hogo standing, frozen in the follow-through of her punch.

Ani blinked, trying to clear the dirt from her eyes as she weakly turned her head and saw Shouto kneeling above her, unharmed.

“Y-you’re...o-o-kay...” Her voice warbled. She could feel the pain of Hogo’s punch radiating across her entire body.

Shouto shook his head, eyes horrified and wet with tears. “No. NO!” He roared. His hands shook and hovered uselessly over Ani, knowing there were no more vials of her blood between the three heroes on the roof.

“No! Tell me you didn’t just do that!” He pleaded.

Hogo stared at the broken body of the girl she had been betting everything on. With nothing left to lose, she jammed a button on her cuff. It beeped. She tried to run but Midoriya and Bakugo blocked her path, easily overpowering her weakened body.

Ani gazed up at Shouto's handsome face framed by the night sky and she tried to reach up to brush his hair back one last time but couldn’t lift her hand more than a few inches off the ground. Her spine was pulverized, nerves on fire. Internal organs turned to jelly. Ignoring the feeling of drowning from a punctured lung, she smiled and whispered “Sh-shouto...”

He shook his head. “No. No, this can’t be happening.” He ignored the sound of Bakugo and Midoriya fighting Hogo, seeing only Ani as she stared up at him. The glow of adoration as she looked at him made it clear. He had been waiting so long to find out if she still felt the same way about him, if she still loved him after they warped her memory. And the look in her eye told him there was no doubt.

Ani took a deep, painful breath and her mind focused on the details of a list she had seen in the corner of Odysseus’s computer. She stared up into the heterochromatic eyes she loved with all of her heart. “Y-youu...” she grimaced, from the pain in her body...and the pain in her heart from the words she knew she had to say. “Y-you have to go...”

“What?” He looked even more horrified. “I’m not going anywhere!”

“B-bombs,” she forced the words out as black rimmed her vision and began to close in, slowly erasing everything, closing in on Shouto’s face. “I-in the c-city.” She dug as deep as she could, rushing against the clock as she could feel her time slipping away. Why did Shouto look so confused...she was saying the words wasn’t she? She fought the blackness, unwilling to give in when she had waited so long to see him again...He was telling her something now. She loved the way his brows furrowed when he got so passionate...but...why couldn’t she hear him?

The weight on her body that had felt so familiar at first, like the fatigue of regeneration, changed. Instead of sinking into slumber she was free falling.

Weightless as she tumbled into an abyss.

It was relaxing, really...

Plummeting, gently turning over...

A pure, cleansing wind rushing through her...

As her eyes closed with one last look at the sacred face of her love.

~

Shouto watched Ani’s eyes close and her chest fall without rising again. Blinding rage and pain filled his heart. He let out a cry of anguish as he cradled the love of his life. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers.

Midoriya and Bakugo, standing over the restrained body of Hogo Sareta, watched as frost flowed freely from their fellow pro coating the ground. The line of ice didn’t stop at the roof. Shouto’s pain radiated out, down the side of the building, over the rubble, and emanated across the city in a flood dropping the temperature so drastically that flurries swirled down from the sky. Bombs, detonating in multiple places around the city, were stifled to nothing more than a puff of smoke.

Several figures joined Midoriya and Bakugo...Sero, Kirishima who watched silently at Bakugo’s side. Mina...who sank to her knees with silent sobs. Iida. Even Yaoyorozu, Jiro, and Kaminari.

They watched their old classmate and friend clutch the limp body in his arms.

“Please!” He turned to the gathered group. “Do any of you have any left?!” He looked to them desperately, willing one vial to save her life.

Heartbreakingly their eyes fell, heads shook and the crippling truth rocked through him. He fumbled around, trying to find her pulse...Ani’s clone flung open the roof door, slipping and sliding and Bakugo rushed over to catch her.

“Use my blood!” she yelled and Bakugo held her back.

“It’s not enough,” Bakugo admitted. His own heart was wrenched with pain at the idea of losing this version of her, too, but he had seen how the clone’s blood was too weak to heal her own injuries.

“Please!” Shouto quietly begged as he hunched over her still-warm body. He whispered “please...you can’t leave me..."

He buried his face in her neck and clutched at the person who had filled him with love. Accepted him and everything in his life.

Who became his home.

Hoping some part of her was still there to hear, he whispered one last time keeping his promise forever “I love you, Ani.”

Chapter Text

“What a disappointment,” Shigaraki said as he watched the news recap of Hogo’s defeat.

“What a liar...” Twice spat. “I mean...her quirk protected her against Deku’s strength like she said.”

“She was still a failure,” Kurogiri noted. “He still remains alive and strong as ever. Our journey of vengeance for our old master continues.”

“And we lost two powerful players,” Shigaraki said as he began scratching his neck. “We lost our firepower, literally, and we need another healer.”

“The search continues,” Toga said as she rolled over on the couch. “New faces. New blood!”

Twice asked “what’s the plan now—” with a howling wind the fire went out. The four members of the league of villains looked to the empty, smoking hearth and a chill began to creep down their spines.

Not just their spines.

Literal frost was turning their abandoned warehouse hideout into an ice tomb.

“Kurogiri!” Shigaraki turned to his essential right-hand man ready to escape but there was a loud pop and the warp-gate's body began convulsing. His aura of purple mist fell to the ground like a tree falling in the forest incapacitated by the electric current flowing through the wires of the taser.

Standing behind him was the sidekick they had tortured.

“That was for what you did to me,” he said in a tight voice. He sent another pulse of debilitating electricity through the wires. "That's...for Shida."

Shigaraki’s eyes grew wide and he whispered “Twice.” The masked man was already struggling, trying to create a clone of the warp gate when they heard a ferocious roar.

“OH NO YOU DON’T YOU SCUMBAG!” An explosive punch landed on Twice who gave up trying to make another Kurogiri and settled for quickly cloning himself to help fight the raging Ground Zero.

Toga’s insane squeal added to the growing noise as she saw the faint lines of green zipping around the room. “TeHeHeeee! You’re here!!!” She flung herself after it but he had one goal in mind: Shigaraki.

But All-for-One's successor would not be so easily defeated.

He met Deku’s fist with an open hand and gave an equal amount of damage. Deku appeared in a far corner, clutching his fist whose flesh had begun to rot away.

“What’s wrong, number one hero?” Shigaraki challenged; it was clear the pro was worked up. “You look upset about something.”

“Aww, don’t be upset cutie,” a voice said into Midoriya’s ear as a weight pressed against his back and made him cringe. Toga’s saccharine voice melted into Uraraka’s and distracted him for too long. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Shigaraki was lunging for the jade hero but before he could land a punch the building shook. Ice cracked through the industrial walls and separated the villains from each other. Shigaraki turned, waiting for the number two hero to reveal himself, as he was being lifted into the air on a plateau of ice.

“Let me guess!” The manic villain called out into the night. “You’re here to avenge the most important person in the world to you!” He cackled out wildly. “You and I have something in common now! We’re both driven by that same need!”

A flicker of flame rose over the edge of the ice as Shouto climbed up in a spiraling inferno and blizzard. “You and I are nothing alike.”

Deku appeared on the ice in-between them. “Shouto! This is my fight!”

“No, Midori—” Before Shouto could protest Deku was launching himself toward Shigaraki but the villain didn’t need to overpower Deku. He just had to make contact and avoid the fatal hits. Shigaraki’s hands grazed Deku’s arm and the jade hero had to withdraw as tendrils of decay multiplied across his arm. Deku tried again and this time Shigaraki reached for Deku’s throat but ice spiked up and drove the two of them apart.

Shouto, still ablaze with the fire and frost of his heart, met Shigaraki head-on with such for that the ice-plateau began to crack. Steaming mist fogged the air and when it cleared Shigaraki saw he had made contact with Shouto’s icy fist but the hero wasn’t hurt.

His skin wasn’t flaking away.

The pro-hero's body was rejecting his quirk...just like Ani’s had.

“No. No!” Shigaraki snarled, eyes frenzied with truth. “That’s impossible!”

“No. It’s not.” Shouto’s heterochromatic stare bored into the villains. He felt the power of regeneration coursing through himself as if Ani’s hands were wrapped around him, encasing his body in a protective layer and fueling it to survive from within.

Ani’s soft voice echoed from his memories

I will always want you around

Shouto clenched his jaw.

I’m so glad you’re here

I don't want you to get hurt

Years of memories surged into his muscles. Shigaraki was putting all of his strength into his quirk, trying to erode the infinite.

I want you to have all of me.

I’m really happy to be here. With you.

I love you, Sho.

There was nothing that could stop him. Shouto blasted through Shigaraki, completely unharmed by the decay, and sent the cursed villain to the ground with a finishing blow. He stared down at the broken body laying in the crater as the police swarmed in and took him into custody.

Shouto’s body throbbed feeling better than ever, he tipped his head back and looked at the starry night sky, heart desolate.

Chapter Text

“In news this morning, the ongoing clean-up of Musutafu has made significant progress. Five days after the dramatic showdown atop the Hero Public Safety Commission headquarters the city is starting to return to normal.” The camera panned across rubble cleared streets where cars and pedestrians were moving steadily. Rei sipped her tea as she and Fuyumi watched together.

 

“Emergency services have declared the final few districts open and safe for residents to return. Schools and businesses have returned to their daily activities. All train lines are open but running on a revised schedule until the repair of two stations is complete. You can find the revised schedule on the rail-line websites.” Tashkei dried his hair, turning the volume up on the news and checked his phone; no new messages.

 

“Earlier this morning the mayor of Musutafu announced an official reopening of the city this weekend to celebrate the hard work of all the rescue crews and construction teams, as well as professional heroes, who have worked endlessly to return their beloved city back to its thriving state.”

“Tch,” Bakugo scoffed. “Great. Another event.”

“Come on,” Hansha, as Ani’s clone insisted on being called, playfully scolded him. “It’s going to be fun.”

Bakugo’s red eyes met her shimmering blue ones and he felt his normal negativity soften. “You’ll come with me?”

“Of course!” She rested her head on his shoulder. “Let’s go get my hair cut and colored first.” She didn’t want anyone mistaking her for the original. Sadness tinged the happy energy surrounding them.

 

M.I. leaned back in his chair as he, Flora, and Aves sat in the office watching the broadcast together. An image of the mayor standing behind the podium appeared. “I’d like to thank all of our diligent, hard-working public servants who have repaired this city and rewoven our infrastructure to be even better than before!” A crowd cheered and was cut off as the news anchor reappeared at her desk.

“Has Dojire heard anything from him today?” M.I. asked his coworkers. They shook their heads.

 

“Approval for the mayor has drastically improved from his response to this tragedy and public support for heroes is at an all-time high following the herculean victory of our pros over a group formerly known as the Absolved.”

Aino ignored the sound of the news as he walked past the staff room and shut himself in his office. The silence he once found so peaceful was now deafening. He looked at the framed picture on his desk from a trip to see the cherry blossoms. Moisture formed at the corners of his eyes at the two other smiling faces standing with him under the beautiful trees.. He rested his head in his hands.

 

“Police investigations have uncovered the group was behind several violent riots that ravaged peaceful demonstrations earlier that day and the destruction around the H-P-S-C headquarters, as well as several bombs that were planted in various locations across the city. Countless lives were saved when pro-hero ‘Shouto’ sealed the city in an indestructible layer of ice, defusing and stifling the bombs moments before they detonated.

“Later that evening, Shouto led an offensive strike against a partner organization named the League-of-Villains that had been working with the Absolved to bring down the pro-hero Deku. Our beloved icy-hot hero was the vital player in ending the league.” The camera cut to a clip of Shouto’s final blow, sending Shigaraki to the ground.

“A-all Might?” whispered the voice of his old rival and friend Endeavor. It tore All Might’s attention away from the screen and he saw the old pro finally awake since falling from the roof. His eyes were tired, barely open; the recent fight had aged him greatly.

“You’re awake!” All Might said happily, trying to keep his booming voice quiet. “How are you fe—”

“Shouto...did...did he...” the old man said between heaving breaths, eyes not open enough to see anything other than the blurry image of All Might.

All Might glanced at the screen as Endeavor spoke. He wasn’t sure Endeavor’s weakened body could endure the news. “Ah...well they’re going to announce the rankings soon...”

Endeavor saw All Might’s glance at the news and heard the predictions of the ranking announcement and gave a subtle shake of his head. “No. Not that....” His eyes fluttered open and closed. “Did he...live?”

All Might smiled and took the old man’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “Yes. He’s alive and well.”

“Good.” Endeavor sighed and almost smiled. “And Shida?...Did he...save her?”

The smile fell from All Might’s face. “I...”

Endeavor’s eyes widened with a painful glisten. “What happened?”

 

 

“The country holds its breath this morning as we await the annual update of the Hero Billboard Chart from the H-P-S-C set to be released today. Will these titanic rescues be enough for the number two hero to upset the long-time standing number one? Stay tuned for the predictions from our very own hero analyst right after this break.” A colorful ad came on, playing some catchy tune.

Uraraka muted the tv, angrily placing her fists on her hips. “How could they possibly consider him for number one?! There’s no way he’s surpassed you!” She began listing Midoriya’s statistics on incident resolution and the public regard for her jade-haired boyfriend. “Besides, you and Bakugo ended the fight with Hogo.”

“But Shouto stopped Shigaraki...the one we’ve been fighting since UA...and put an end to all of this when I couldn’t.” He met his girlfriend’s passionate gaze with a soft smile. “What’s important is that Shigaraki can’t hurt anyone anymore.”

“How are you so okay with this?” Uraraka sat down next to him. “He couldn’t have done it without all of you, especially without that girl’s blood.”

Midoriya’s jade eyes glimmered with sadness. “Neither could I,” he reminded her. “Even All Might had help. It’s not about the glory...or the titles...or the rankings. It's about the lives we save and the people we protect. And Shouto feels the same way...” He took Uraraka’s hand and she rested her head on his shoulder, making his heart ache. “Besides...it won’t mean anything with what he’s going through right now.”

 

Shouto stared out over Dagoben. It was a bright day, a beautiful sunny day that would have amplified the excitement in the air over the annual Hero Billboard Chart. He could see clusters of fans and supporters down on the sidewalk below waiting anxiously for the results to be announced. The city was alive in anticipation.

But for Shouto there was nothing.

The warmth and energy stayed outside on the other side of the glass. He watched two birds fly across the sky flitting around each other in a playful dance and felt a dull stab of pain in his numb chest. A cheer erupted from the ground and his empty gaze fell to see his fans wearing red-white wigs celebrating.

Across the city he caught sight of a large, live tv display naming him

As the new number one hero.

There was a quiet knock before someone cracked open the door and stepped inside. “Congratulations sir,” said Dojire. “You’ve been ranked as the number one hero in the nation.”

“It means nothing...” Shouto said, arms falling to his sides as he turned from the window to look at the hospital bed. “If she doesn’t wake up.”

Chapter Text

Dojire followed the sad gaze of his boss to the vacant face covered in tubes as the ventilator gently inflated her lungs and released. Monitors continued beeping, counting time for Ani’s unmoving body.

The assistant quietly asked “has there been any news?”

“They’re concerned about her lack of brain response so they’re going to take her off the ventilator tomorrow.” Shouto cleared his throat. “And see if her brain can take over.” He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

“Will...will anyone be here with you, sir?”

Shouto nodded. “Aino will be here.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

Silence fell between them except for the monitor’s rhythmic chirping. Shouto shook his head. “Just keep the press away for now.”

“Of course, sir.” Dojire bowed and left quietly.

Shouto sat down beside Ani’s bed and took her hand, wrapping both of his around hers. “Please, Ani...You promised me I wasn’t alone anymore...” He tried to lighten his voice. “Haven’t you heard? I’m the number one hero now...” He half-laughed. “It’s going to be even harder to go out and get things done now.” His eyes held their gaze on her closed lids, hoping there was some combination of words that would unlock her from this state. “I’m not going anywhere, though...because all of this,” he gestured his head to the window “the rankings, the celebrations...None of it matters without you.”

He leaned forward and rested his head on the bed next to her unwilling to let go of her hand as nurses came and went until shadows stretched across the room. His phone had rung numerous times but he ignored the calls and swarm of messages and drifted in and out of sleep to the sound of Ani’s heart monitor.

At the change of shifts, the nurses came in debriefing each other and gave Shouto a few kind, gentle words of support. They asked if he needed anything and he politely declined. Once they left, he realized how stiff his back had gotten from slumping over onto Ani’s bed and he relinquished her hand to stretch. No matter how hard he tried that night, he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned in the reclining chair, refusing to leave the room but unable to relax when every assisted breath of the ventilator reminded him that tomorrow they would be taking her off life support.

Aino found him in the morning with bloodshot eyes. By the look in the surgeon’s eyes, he hadn’t slept well either.

"You're sure there's no way we can help her?" Shouto asked, quietly accepting the coffee Aino offered.

The surgeon stared at his younger sibling. "No...we've tried her concentrated blood but it hasn't helped."

"I was thinking about the bone marrow." Shouto met Aino's tired gaze. "Is there any more?"

Aino shook his head. "We only prepared two samples. The first was the test sample she insisted I have and the second was for you."

"What if you take some from me?" Shouto asked with desperate hope.

He rubbed his baggy eyes. "I don't know. If her concentrated blood didn't help bring her back I don't think her bone marrow would. Besides, what if it's less effective because it's been in someone else's body...and it diminishes her ability to regenerate? There's just no way to know...and I don't want to risk it."

Shouto expected a response like this but still couldn't help feeling defeated. Quiet fell between them as Ani's heart monitor beeped steadily and Shouto wondered if these were the last few beats he would get to hear. Not long after, the hospital staff came in.

The two men stood, watching silently, as the attending physicians and nurses removed the tube from Ani’s throat. Shouto held his breath and covered his mouth; tension hardened the air as the physicians watched the CO2 levels in Ani’s body rise.

Every second was a tangible grain of sand,

A molecule of carbon dioxide

Building up

Until

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her chest rose.

Her nostrils flared.

And her body breathed on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two days had passed since the ventilator was removed. There had been a steady stream of visitors, a nearly constant exchange of friends and family who came to talk to Ani and keep Shouto company. He hadn’t left the hospital since he arrived after his fight with the league and was grateful when his older sister brought him clean clothes. At his reluctance to leave Ani’s side, Fuyumi nearly threw him into the bathroom.

“Make sure she wakes up to a clean version of you!” she shouted as she tossed the bag of clothes and toiletries to him. Tashkei had joined his mother at Ani’s bedside and they were happily updating her on everything happening. They stayed with her until a refreshed Shouto emerged from the bathroom and took up his post with renewed energy.

Between his friends, word spread quickly that the new number one hero wasn’t interested in congratulations. He tolerated their visits and presence as long as they didn’t make a big deal of his new rank. He promised he would have a party upon the condition of Ani’s recovery and that seemed to pacify his old classmates for now.

Word of Ani’s successful weaning from the ventilator had spread outside of their private circle of family and friends. Flowers, get-well cards, and other sentiments from the agency, from Shouto's fans, started filling the room. Balloons. Gift baskets. It was overwhelming to Shouto but Flora, Aves, and M.I. helped organize it when they came. Flora brought her own gift, a joyful-looking plant, that Shouto allowed her to leave as long as she promised not to use it to eavesdrop. Aves kept up a constant one-sided conversation with Ani for at least an hour. M.I. solemnly asked Ani to wake up so he could tell her everything and properly thank her for saving his life and regrowing his tongue. And he wasn’t the only one she had helped.

The vials of blood she had made, Shouto had given several to each pro-hero in preparation of the fight against the Absolved and sent dozens out with Aino’s help to the most critical patients in the aftermath. Because of them many lives had been saved. They all wanted to show thanks to Ani and it was when Flora, Aves, and M.I. were visiting that the cranes began arriving.

Hundreds of paper cranes, strung together. From schools and different organizations. Victims, survivors, and their families. Hundreds quickly turned into thousands. The ICU nurses, along with Shouto's three sidekicks, hung the cranes from the ceiling beginning in Ani’s room and there was enough to line all the hallways of the ICU like a wisteria tunnel. Warmth touched Shouto’s heart and he dared to hope. The sun was setting when visiting hours ended and he said good-bye to his sidekicks.

He went to the window, watching the golden light bathe the city, and heard his name like it had never been said before.

 

There were so many details to notice. It was the same room Shouto had been in when he was in the ICU. The packed displays of well wishes. The cranes gently twisting as they dangled from the ceiling. But there was only one thing worth looking at.

Shouto stood in front of the window, arms crossed, highlighted by the evening sun. Shouto who was there through it all.

“Shouto.”

Her voice was a dry whisper but he turned none-the-less like his name had been sung from the heavens.

Their eyes met and the rest of the world faded away.

 

“Ani,” he said reverently. She was looking at him. Blue eyes open. Head turned. Looking at him.

“Hi,” she said with a weak smile.

He joined her by the bed and cupped her cheek. “Ani...” He couldn’t be embarrassed by his lack of words...not when she was alive and awake. The golden light filled the room and lit up her face. She lifted a shaky hand to his and gently pressed his thumb to her cheek. His brow furrowed as he realized what she wanted.

“Just so I know it’s not a dream...” she smirked and he gave a rough laugh, giving her cheek the lightest scrape with his icy thumb, skin healing instantly, and her face relaxed, eyes filling with joy that echoed his own.

“You waited for me,” she said and a tear slipped down her cheek.

He smiled warmly. “And you came home.”

“I love you, Sho.”

His shoulders shrugged with the half-sob, half-laugh that barely hinted at everything he was feeling. “I love you, too, Ani.” Forever.

She sighed, pushing her cheek into his hand. He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss on her lips and rested his forehead on hers.

 

Aino was running. No, flat-out sprinting through the hallways of the hospital nearly colliding with several people as he rushed to the ICU. The nurses had called to tell him his sister woke up and the doctors were going in to see her. He had to stop so fast he almost slammed into the door and saw Ani still laying on the bed but responsive. Bed angled up, Answering doctor’s questions. Holding Shouto’s hand.

He opened the door and she turned to him with a smile. “Hi big brother.”

“Ani,” he said and rushed to the bed to give her a big hug. Several monitors beeped out in protest and she patted his back. He could feel she didn’t have all her strength back but that was okay. She had passed the hardest milestone: she woke up. He stepped back and cleared his throat. “Sorry for interrupting,” he said to her and the doctors. He met Shouto’s eye and they exchanged a small nod, a gesture of relief and hope.

Aino stayed until the other doctors left and he sat on the unoccupied side of Ani’s bed. He smirked and crossed his arms. “So...I’ll say it before you can give me a hard time. You were right.”

“Wow, well it feels good to hear you admit it...” She smirked with a chuckle. “But...what was I right about?”

“Geez,” he admitted with a roll of his eyes. “You’re going to make me say it, too. You were right. It worked.”

“What worked?” Ani asked with a furrowed brow. She glanced at Shouto who looked equally confused.

“All those treatments you made me prepare...” Confusion soon crossed Aino’s features and he gave a pointed look at Shouto who had a creeping realization that he may have forgotten to tell Aino something important. The surgeon chuckled and shrugged. “It’s alright, you can give me a hard time later. I have to go check on some patients.”

He patted his sister’s hand, giving it a squeeze, and left the two of them alone.

“Okay, that was weird, right?” She said looking to Shouto once the door closed.

He met her gaze with a guarded expression. “Ani...there’s something I have to tell you.”

“What is it?” Caution clouded her face and she tried not to let fear spike in her heart.

Shouto took her hand. “Before I tell you, I want to be clear: I am in love with you and have been through all of this, no matter what.”

“Ookay,” she encouraged him hesitantly.

“When you were kidnapped, the league of villains altered your memory.” he took a steadying breath.

“Are-are we—”

“We’re together. Yes,” he assured her. “But we haven’t been together for a few weeks. Ani...we’ve been together for over three years.”

Years.

Years.

Ani’s eyes widened and tears spilled over.

“Ani, I’m so so sorry, I—” His voice broke with pain. How was he going to be able to explain—

“Why are you sorry?” Her eyes shimmered, cheeks wet with tears. “We’ve been together for years.” She asked with an elated laugh of relief and sniffled. “They tried to convince me you didn’t love me, that you couldn’t love me because we hadn’t been together very long and I felt crazy for still being madly in love with you and believing you loved me the same way.”

From the look in her eyes he saw it didn’t matter that years of their memories had been erased. The love she felt for him had stayed, refusing to be forgotten. It simply saturated what she could remember.

“So you’re...you’re still...” his throat became too thick with emotion to ask.

Her eyes shined. “Very much in love with you. And want to be with you as long as you want me around.”

“I will always want you around.” He laughed once with her and they smiled at each other. “Does it bother you...that you don’t remember a lot of our time together?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know...it kind of just feels like waking up after blacking out. Except instead of just for a night...it was...y’know. A couple of years.” Her eyes shifted away from him. “Does it bother you?”

“As long as you still love me, I don’t care,” he admitted.

A faint pink brushed across her face and it was enough to warm his heart. She gently pulled on his arm, asking him to come closer and he sat on the edge of the bed gently leaning against her chest with his back to the door. She wrapped her arms around him and he listened to the beating of her heart.

“I do love you,” she whispered. “And, Sho...I’m going to love you forever.” She felt the drops of moisture on her hospital gown but didn’t call attention to it. He sank against her and she ran her fingers through his hair feeling the same, unspoken promise from him as she had so many times before.

 

The door was opened abruptly. No knock, no request to enter.

“Oi. Goldilocks, you’re finally awake.” Bakugo appeared in her doorway, hands stuffed in his pockets, typical scowl in place.

Ani kept her arms wrapped around Shouto, giving him a private minute to wipe his face, as she turned to the explosive ash-blonde. “And you’re as moody as ever.”

“I told you to knock!”

Ani heard her own voice and she stiffened. Shouto sat up to see Ani’s clone walking in.

“Hi Ani,” she said with a meek wave as she stood next to Bakugo who had started to relax.

“Whoa...” Ani stared at her identical reflection. Except for the hair. Where Ani had long, blonde hair, her clone