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from the throat, i’m tied to you

Chapter Text

 

Midoriya takes his coffee out to the patio, the cleaned-out flower boxes giving it a little more breathing room than he remembers. He normally doesn’t wake up this early, but he’d wanted to see the sunrise on his first day back in Japan. He leans out a little too far over the railing and breathes deeply.

Even at this time of day, his city is alive - the station is open, there are cars idling in the intersections, and there’s a dull murmur of people on the sidewalks as they commute to work and back home from graveyard shifts. He’d gotten back just in time for cherry blossom season, too, and he watches with delight as the tree across the alley shivers and exhales a handful of petals.

Nothing’s changed, I guess.

The front door to his apartment building slams a few floors down, and he glances over just as his neighbor, Akari, steps out to go unlock the cafe a block over. She catches his eye and waves, shouting up “Welcome back, Izuku!” as loudly as she can without waking the entire building. He beams and waves back.

His phone vibrates while he’s considering whether or not to make the three-block walk to the bakery to get breakfast, realizing he’s not even sure if it’s still open, and he thumbs it open with a smile already forming.

 

me - 11:04 pm

so, has kacchan started getting comfortable as number one hero while i’ve been gone??

tdrk - 5:32 am

Yes. He took to it a little too quickly - we might need to stage a coup to get your spot back.

 

Midoriya bites down on his lip around a laugh.

Nope, nothing’s changed.

 

x

 

“Deku!”

Midoriya braces himself just in time. Uraraka bowls into him at mach twelve, and it’s only because his full cowling descends so quickly that he isn’t knocked flat on his ass.

“Hi!” He manages through a gasp. He’s sure the rest of Uraraka’s agency is equal parts delighted and horrified to see the number one hero get the wind crushed out of him, but they’re both laughing as Midoriya spins her in a circle, arms wrapped tight.

“Don’t break him, ‘Chako,” Tsu says when he sets her back down, and Midoriya blinks over Uraraka’s shoulder. Her hair is much shorter than he remembers, sleek and sharp against the line of her jaw, and the goggles of her hero costume have been streamlined down into something closer to a visor, but her eyes are still wide and soft. 

“Tsu! I didn’t know you were in town.”

Uraraka takes his hand in hers and chucks a thumb over her shoulder at her girlfriend. 

“She had some stuff to go over with Hadou, she’s only here for today.”

“I also wanted to tell you welcome back,” Tsu adds with a soft smile, “and that if you leave for that long again, Ochako’s going to be very upset - ribbit - and I’ll have to drag you back home myself.”

Home, Midoriya thinks with a flicker of warmth, and scratches at the back of his neck sheepishly. 

“I’ll keep it in mind. Would you tell Hadou that I’m borrowing Uraraka for a while?”

Tsu nods and dismisses the amused sidekicks who had assembled to watch them with a gesture as she heads toward the elevators at the back. They scatter in the wake of the number twelve hero, and Uraraka turns to wrap him in another hug. 

“What happened to four months, dummy!” She demands when she pulls back, punching him in the shoulder. He winces but offers her an apologetic look.

“Sorry, I know! I just got held up in Korea, and then I had to push everything back for India -”

Uraraka waves her hand in front of his face to break him out of the oncoming tangent. 

“We get it, you’re so world-wise now! Did you get me any cool souvenirs?”

Midoriya laughs and tugs her by the hand through the front doors of the agency. 

“Tons,” he promises, “now tell me everything I missed.”

“Iida became a warlord and took over most of Kyushu,” Uraraka begins, and flicks up a finger for each point, “and Bakugou declared his own sovereign nation so now they’re at war with each other. Kaminari decided being a villain meant he’d get a cooler costume, so now everyone’s afraid to charge their phones because he’s on the loose. Mister Aizawa expelled all of the UA students and replaced them with cats.”

“Okay,” Midoriya says slowly, “that last one could actually be true.”

Uraraka laughs and gives his hand a squeeze. They take a detour downtown, ignoring the way people pause and stare at their costumes with practiced ease. Uravity and Deku are staples to the Tokyo scene, just as commuters and kids on their way to school are. They always go to the same cafe in the center of the city when they’re off-duty, and by now they can both navigate the route through muscle memory. It helps that he can smell the matcha powder and the fruit syrups they use in the italian sodas from a mile away.

“To be honest, not much besides the usual!” She says, “the HN stats still say organized crime is declining, and the rankings haven’t changed all that much. Most of our calls are for natural disasters and infrastructure collapse, that kind of thing. Oh! Shouji and Tokoyami are finally together, though, so that’s something!”

Midoriya grins. 

“I was wondering when that’d happen! I’m sure Hawks is being the worst about it, too.”

Uraraka gives their hands a swing, and holds the door open for him - the cafe is a small hole-in-the-wall type place, but the staff are used to seeing pros come in, so there’s no resounding gasp as they enter, which Midoriya is thankful for. There’s something about being an instantly-recognizable celebrity that he’s not sure how All Might ever got used to.

“Oh, he’s definitely making Tokoyami’s life hell. He’s still mad about being bumped down to the sixth spot, after all.”

Midoriya lets her go long enough for him to step up to the counter while she tracks down a table near the windows. He’d forgotten just how soothing this place is, warm and welcoming and instantly familiar. Like almost everything in Tokyo, it feels like home. 

“Hero Deku,” greets the person behind the register, and they smile wryly at him, “welcome back.”
Midoriya grins. 

“Thanks! It’s good to be back.”

He orders for them both and sets a cup full of sparkling pink soda topped with whipped cream in front of Uraraka. She’s checking the HN feeds, making sure Hadou hasn’t called her back to the agency, and absently Midoriya flips through his own phone to do the same. He has a few text notifications, and seeing them makes his chest feel tight with warmth.

 

mirio! - 10:13 am

heard you’re back in town, problem child! :D

eri’s excited to see you, you should come over and let her talk about ua for six hours straight sometime!

iida\\\ - 10:40 am

Welcome back! All of us at the agency are very glad you’re home safe! Remember that you’re not back on official hero duty until tomorrow, Midoriya - I won’t hesitate to institute house arrest if you go out patrolling!

eraser - 8:54 am

Try not to knock too many buildings down now that you’re back, makes my patrol route difficult.

shinsou (eraser jr) - 6:41 am

aw, back already? damn, and I was just about to make my big villain debut too

(kaminari says hi and that he’ll zap your ass if you didn’t get him anything from america)

kouta (mini me) - 9:01 am

kayano’s gonna kick your ass if you don’t come by the office today

welcome back, by the way, uncle deku

dad!! - 9:03 am

Japan’s missed you, my boy! :D

 

Midoriya feels himself bite down a little too hard on the inside of his cheek at the last one, but he tucks his phone away into his belt before Uraraka can notice his expression and takes a long sip of his too-hot matcha instead.

 

tdrk - 10:01 am

When can I see you?

 

x

 

Jetlag always makes him feel like death warmed over. Not for the first time, Midoriya wonders if Hatsume would be able to make him some kind of invention that keeps travelling across time zones from laying him out flat. She’d probably make him do something ridiculous to get the rest of her gear some publicity, though, knowing her. He could always ask Melissa, but she’d probably laugh at him and say suck it up, Hero Deku, and deal with it like the rest of us civilians with a knowing fondness.

Midoriya resigns himself to his fate as being Japan’s number one hero with a splitting headache in the morning as he flops back onto his futon. He’s not that old yet - he’s barely twenty six - but he can feel how each individual muscle group screams at him for walking around all day after getting in from the airport late last night.

His doorbell rings.

Midoriya’s first reaction is to tip his head back and groan, even as his body reflexively takes on the alert posture of being on-duty. It’s not common knowledge where his apartment is, and he chose it for being out of the way without being conspicuously so, but there’s a set of instincts that come with being a hero that he knows he’ll never be able to shake. Being frightened of his own doorbell is one of them.

He rolls off his futon and into a pile on the floor, the cold hardwood a godsend for just a second before he shoves himself up and standing. With his luck, it’s either going to be an officer from the station with a summons from Tsukauchi or it’s going to be All Might himself.

The doorbell rings again. He flings the door open with narrowed eyes prepared.

“Yep, I’m back, and no, I don’t have a moment because I’m super focused on my current project of dying on my living room floor , so - “

Midoriya abruptly cuts himself off and blinks.

Todoroki waves his phone at him, screen-first, and tilts his head. It’s too dark to really see him, but his eyes are glinting in the residual light from Midoriya’s apartment and his free hand is slotted into the pocket of the nicest pair of jeans he’s ever seen, barring Best Jeanist himself.

“I thought we’d been over giving appropriate details with your messages,” he says, and his voice is exactly the same, the same cold current that’s pinned Midoriya in place for a decade, “but ‘literally whenever’ isn’t really what I had in mind when I asked when I could see you.”

Midoriya feels a spark at the base of his skull that shifts slowly until he’s grinning so hard it hurts, his chest vibrating with a barely-contained energy that makes One for All feel like a gentle breeze.

“Hey,” he says.

Todoroki’s expression breaks just enough that he smiles, the slightest tug of the corners of his mouth.

“Hi - oof.”

Midoriya knows from experience that Todoroki won’t stumble, so he throws his entire weight behind him as he buries his face in his shoulder and wraps his arms around his neck. Todoroki places a hand at the base of his spine to steady him.

“Missed you,” Midoriya mumbles. 

“You too,” Todoroki says, “what was that about dying on your living room floor?”

Midoriya releases him with a sigh, standing aside so Todoroki can enter and closing the door behind them. He still feels exhausted, but that’s an after-thought compared to the new glow in his chest.

In the light, nothing much has changed about him - his hair is a little longer pulled back into a loose spiral of a bun, maybe, and there’s a layer of medical tape wrapped around his left wrist, but he’s still the same tall, imposing figure as in Midoriya’s memories. The civilian clothes are a little different in their cut, but the blues he’s always favored are still there - dark jeans, light button-up, middle tone undershirt.

“Jetlag,” Midoriya replies, and Todoroki looks at him with the barest impression of sympathy. Nothing’s changed there, either, then; Midoriya can still read his almost-expressions like a book, albeit a book written in a different language and sealed with a padlock.

“I can come by tomorrow,” Todoroki offers, “you do look like you’re about to die.”

“Thanks,” Midoriya shoots back, but there’s no bite behind his tone, and it pulls the smallest of smiles out of Todoroki. He rubs his eyes and folds back up onto the futon. He glares, mutinous, from between his fingers.

“I appreciate the gesture, but seriously, you’re going to have to fight me to get out of this apartment now.”

Todoroki eyes him, eyebrows slightly raised, and decides, “I think I could take you.”

Midoriya laughs. Out of all of his friends, Todoroki’s presence is the easiest. It doesn’t take any effort to be around him, and he doesn’t expect anything from him, either. Uraraka’s energy is constant and infectious, but Todoroki doesn’t press when he isn’t at his best, and seems to understand in some fundamental way that Midoriya can’t be Hero Deku inside his own head all the time.

Todoroki sits next to him, and Midoriya immediately flips so he can rest his head in his lap and stretch his legs out over the lip of the futon. It’s been years since Todoroki stopped being uncomfortable with his need for physical closeness, and five months hasn’t seemed to change that. He places one hand in Midoriya’s mess of curls, and a little of the tension goes out of him.

“You worked today?” Midoriya hazards.

Todoroki nods. 

“Standard patrol and client calls, although there was a bank robbery in the white-collar district.”

Midoriya smiles, all eyeteeth. 

“So how many new tenants does the police station have?”

Todoroki looks down at him and huffs, but his eyes are amused.

“Several,” he says dryly.

Midoriya shifts and holds one hand up, fingers splayed, and counts them off with his other hand as he speaks.

“America is terrifying, and I had to text Mic every ten minutes for translation help. Germany is pretty but there’s way too many statues and museums for villains to knock down. Korea is a lot of fun if you’re not doing hero work. China is China, no surprises there. India is hot but the food is amazing and the people are nice.”

“Good to know,” Todoroki replies, and his hand shifts in his hair enough to make Midoriya’s eyes close, pleased.

“Everyone seemed on board with an international hero program, though,” he sighs after a minute, “so that’s something.”

“Only you wouldn’t be satisfied with being the number one hero in Japan,” Todoroki teases, “even Bakugou knows that one country is enough.”

Midoriya groans and pushes the heels of his palms into his eyes hard enough to see fireworks.

“I swear to god if you ever compare me to Kacchan again our friendship is over,” he says, but he can tell Todoroki is smiling at him anyway. 

After a moment he lowers his hands, knotting them in the hem of his shirt, and looks over at the windows above the kitchen sink. He realizes he has no idea what time it is.

“Would you mind staying over?” He asks quietly, “I’ve been having trouble sleeping again.”

Todoroki’s fingers twitch in his hair, and Midoriya’s eyes flick over to meet his. They’re soft, always soft when they’re looking at him, but there’s worry there, too. He wonders absently how many of his friends are going to have ulcers before they’re thirty because of him. The answer is a non-zero number, probably.

“Sure,” Todoroki says, equally quiet. He hesitates, but his voice keeps steady as he continues, “I could call Shinsou.”

Midoriya shakes his head.

“It’s not that bad yet,” he insists, and Todoroki drops it.

It had been, once, and Midoriya knows that’s what Todoroki’s thinking of; back in their third year of UA, Midoriya hadn’t been able to sleep for more than an hour or two for a week and finally collapsed during a rescue simulation. Shinsou had taken up hypnotizing him into going to sleep pretty soon after, whenever he went too long without a full night’s sleep.

Midoriya shifts until his cheek presses against his leg, eyes closed and breathing deeply. He measures the silence, wondering, but after a minute he bites his lip.

“Okay, so now tell me what you aren’t telling me.”

To Todoroki’s credit, he doesn’t startle, but all at once that tension is back and it freezes the hand in his hair. Midoriya knows him too well, after a solid decade. He’d figured out Bakugou in the same timeframe, after all, and they both know he’s not as complex as the fear-and-fury twisting inside the hero currently holding the number two spot.

He hears Todoroki sigh, but the tension doesn’t budge.

“Endeav - my father’s in the hospital,” he finally says. The words sound too flat, too calm to be anything other than a careful mask, but Midoriya doesn’t press it. Todoroki’s best defense has always been his ability to slip into neutrality.

“Is it serious?” He asks, after biting back the salvo of questions that rise into the back of his throat. He’ll ask them later, when he knows that Todoroki isn’t about to set himself on fire from the stormfront in his mind.

“That’s what I was told.”

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya says.

“I’m not,” Todoroki replies instantly. Midoriya tilts his head back enough to look at him. There’s anger in the tense line of his jaw, the way his eyes are completely shut off. It makes him hurt in a way he can’t describe, but he knows Todoroki isn’t trying to be cruel. He’s locking himself in, not locking Midoriya out. 

“I’m not sorry for him,” he clarifies, “I’m sorry that you have to go through this.”

Todoroki blinks at him.

Midoriya doesn’t try to take his hand in his own, knows somehow that it would overstep a very careful boundary between them, but it’s a close thing. 

“He’s put you through a lot,” Midoriya continues, and there’s a hard edge to it that he can’t manage to swallow down, “it’s the least he could do, to not involve you in this.”

In dying, he doesn’t say, but he knows Todoroki understands by the way his eyes soften again.

“Go to sleep,” he says after a moment, his voice quieting back down. Midoriya’s heard him use that voice to three people as long as he’d known him: Fuyumi, Yaoyorozu, and him.

Midoriya huffs but sits up obediently. He gestures toward his bedroom in wordless invitation, but Todoroki shakes his head. He bites back the words I could always just stay here and fall asleep with you, like he always does, and closes the bedroom door behind him with a click.

Things haven’t changed that much, he tells himself.

 

x

 

By the time he wakes up Todoroki’s gone, but there’s a lukewarm mug of coffee sitting on his kitchen countertop that he smiles at gratefully.

He drinks it outside while he checks the news feeds, and then grabs his costume before heading over to the agency.

Kirishima and Bakugou’s place isn’t too far from the office building that’s become his second home, and it’s always been kind of nice to look out over the skyscrapers and be able to pinpoint where Kacchan is by the massive red zero hanging fixed over the penthouse, maybe even figure out what he’s doing if the building doesn’t rumble with an explosion every few minutes. 

“Hi, Deku!” Sings his coordinator, Kayano, from her desk at the front in the bullpen, and he beams at her and waves. She hops up from her chair and perches on the lip of her desk, pulling over a sheet of printer paper and clearing her throat. Midoriya braces himself for the five months of damage reports.

“I’ve handled all your incomings from the past few months, so don’t worry about those yet - there’s a debrief on your desk, sorted by urgency. You got a call from Red Riot this morning, he asked that I tell you welcome back, and then Ground Zero interrupted to say that ‘if you’re going to be gone from hero work for this long you might as well retire’,” her eyes flick up to his with a deathly dry humor, “and I’m choosing to leave out a lot of expletives there.”

Midoriya laughs. He hands her the extra black tea he’d picked up on his way over, and she accepts it gratefully before continuing.

“Hatsume Mei called last week and requested access to your costume details from Melissa, she said something about enhancing your boots. Melissa also left a message, and I can set up a video call for you upstairs to talk to her. In other news, Lemillion and Suneater are patrolling the blue-collar district today, Ground Zero and Red Riot have the financial district, and Nejire-chan has the coast. Siren will be on patrol in the residentials tonight, and Uravity and Chargebolt will be on standby. Now.”

Kayano closes her eyes and holds out a hand, palm flat, expectant. Midoriya laughs and digs into one of his pockets, shuffling his costume case around as he does. 

She’d given him one request before he left, and of course when he landed in Kanpur it had been the first thing he’d bought. Kayano’s a gift, both to Midoriya and the greater hero network in Tokyo. He’d been searching for the right way to properly thank her for her work for weeks beforehand, anyway, and then she’d told him point-blank what it was she wanted most.

He unfolds the sari, still in its plastic sleeve, and drapes it across her hand. Traditional sunset colors, red and deep orange and stitched with pearlescent gold. Her eyes immediately water when she opens them.

“Oh, it’s beautiful!” She says softly, “I haven’t been able to find a new one…”

Midoriya shrugs, but he can’t suppress the pleased smile that creeps onto his face. He laughs when she hugs him with preternatural strength.

“It’s the least I could do for the best hero coordinator in Japan,” he says, and she sniffles a little against his shoulder.

“It’s still wonderful. Thank you.”

Kayano takes a deep breath and steps back, gesturing him forward toward the elevator. She places the sari lovingly on the opposite side of her desk. Midoriya tips her a two-fingered salute and takes the elevator up to his office on the top floor. There’s not many people besides him and Kayano here, seeing as he doesn’t have sidekicks or other heroes on the ledger, but he still waves and says hello to each intern as they pass by him, running errands for the coordinator. He knows all of their names. Kouta must be in class by now, Midoriya thinks as he checks the office for him, which explains why Kayano didn’t make him slog through every excruciating detail of what happened while he was gone face-to-face. The kid is a menace.

The debriefing on his desk is massive, at least a dozen papers thick, and he sighs when he sees it before setting down his case and changing into his costume behind the screen in the corner. He leaves his cowl off. 

He decides to call Melissa before taking off for patrol, just in case it’s urgent, and the holographic screen pops up from its console on his desk. 

“Hey, you! So you made it back, huh?”

Midoriya smiles as he flicks through the debrief.

“Mostly intact, yeah! Kayano said you called earlier, miss me already?”

Melissa laughs at him, but it’s fond. Her glasses are pushed back into her hair and she’s apparently in her lab, based on the ambient light and noise. 

“I do, but that’s not why I called. Mei said she had some upgrade ideas for your boots, but I’m already beta testing some new synthetic fibers to increase the shock absorption. Do you want me to give her the specs anyway?”

Midoriya hums, and places a finger down on the line item he leaves off at. She’s tinkering with a circuit board when he looks over at her, and although he has no idea what she’s doing, she seems perfectly in her element grafting new lines into the metal.

“That’s fine with me! I can give you Chargebolt’s support info, maybe they can help. A lot of their insulation is made in-lab.”

Melissa smiles at him.

“What, you’re already doubting my work? Jeez, Deku.”

Midoriya sputters but catches himself quickly, sticking his tongue out at her and feeling a pleased tug at his ribs when she returns it.

“How are you doing, by the way?” Melissa asks, “Being back in town going okay?”

“It’s great!” Midoriya replies instantly, “I missed being home. The offer’s still up for you to move out here, though. You’d like Tokyo.”

Melissa hums to herself and sets the circuit board down. Her eyes are analytical, pale blue like her father’s.

“You’re lonely,” she says, curious, and Midoriya feels himself freeze, “but you’re back home. What’s going on, Deku?”

Midoriya flips through the rest of the debriefing to give his hands something to do, his eyes somewhere to look besides at her. Mirio and Todoroki are still jockeying for the third spot, apparently, but it’s looking more and more every day like Todoroki’s going to climb the ranks again. One day he might pass Bakugou, and the thought makes him smile, just a little.

“It’s nothing,” he says after a pause, “I promise it’s nothing. I’m happy to be home, really. It’s just. I’ve missed so much, and I feel like I should’ve been here anyway. Nothing big happened, not this time, but if I leave again something might, and that scares me.”

Melissa presses a hand forward, palm flat, as though she could reach through the call and place it on his shoulder. The gesture is soothing. Midoriya lets the tension go out from his shoulders.

“And some things did change while I was away,” he mutters, “but not the things I wanted to.”

Melissa blinks.

“Oh.”

Midoriya glances at her.

“Oh?”

“You mean Todoroki,” she says, with a devastating sureness, and Midoriya feels heat rise up over his neck and toward his ears.

“What? I don’t - what do you mean?” He squeaks.

She stifles a laugh with her hand.

“Well, I didn’t know you were trying to keep it a secret!” She manages, and Midoriya waits for her to take a deep breath before continuing, “Sorry, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that… Deku, you realize how you sound when you talk about him, right?”

Midoriya looks away, that heat still climbing over his face. 

He knows; he’d spent a few weeks with her in America, meeting with the billboard heroes there, and she’d asked for every detail of his life back home. He’d talked animatedly, for hours, about Uraraka signing on to Hadou’s agency, Iida balancing being the assistant chief of police with hero work, visiting All Might on the weekends to walk through the old park near his home, his mother meticulously buying every piece of his hero merch, agreeing to let Kayano coordinate his agency after he’d jumped to the number two spot, bringing Kouta on as an intern, Mirio and Amajiki taking in Eri while Aizawa tried to wrangle his new position as principal, Todoroki -

He’d talked about Todoroki for a while, he realizes belatedly, and his heart sinks.

“Dekiru,” she coaxes, gentle, the nickname she uses when he’s getting too lost in his own head, the two of them so similar in so many ways, “I didn’t know it bothered you this much.”

Midoriya places his face back into his hands, mortified. He’d tried so hard, for years, to push it aside and deal with it later and not have to think about the fact that he’s - 

Well - 

“Of course it bothers me!” He finally says, muffled by his hands, “I’m in love with my best friend, Melissa, of course that bothers me.”

 

x

 

It’s the one-on-one matches at the sports festival their first year, maybe. Or maybe it’s during the fight with the Hero Killer in that awful alley in Hosu. It’s the way he’d looked so hurt during the provisional license exams, or just after when the ever-present sadness eased from his eyes a bit. It’s the way Midoriya had come back from that day at his internship with his arms still shaking and the phantom-memory of Eri’s own trembling body, and he’d called him Izuku for the first time to get his attention. Maybe it’s their second year, the sports festival again, the way his expression had cleared for the first time in months when he activated both halves of his quirk at once, the way he’d looked nothing like his father during that accident in Musutafu when his flames glowed blue-white and crystalline as he melted through steel i-beams to clear a path for the first responders and raised glaciers to keep the crumbling buildings upright. Third year, sitting on Midoriya’s bed in the dorms and silently doing their homework, smiling a little at a stupid pun Kaminari made over lunch, the way his eyes had gone big and fascinated when Aizawa’s cat got out of the teacher’s dorms. Maybe it’s a lot more recent, like when Midoriya had finally cut his hair and he’d merely tilted his head and said it looks good, it suits you better, when they’d both skyrocketed through the pro ranks and made it into the top ten within six months, how they’d celebrated that night and he’d come this close to kissing him. Maybe it’s the way his eyes had softened as Mirio and Yoarashi separately told him to watch himself, because the number three spot was theirs. 

It’s his hair, or his eyes, or the fine bones in his knuckles when his skin ignites into flame and ice, or the way that even as he stands taller than Midoriya he never seems to be looking down at him. It’s the terrifying power, well-controlled, inside him. It’s all the ways he’s changed, and hasn’t changed at all. Maybe it’s all of it, stacked messily on top of each other, each individual point in a snowflake Midoriya can’t begin to untangle.

Maybe.

It doesn’t matter much to Midoriya, when or how or why he fell in love with him, only that it presses down on his ribs every day, the hurt an ache he can feel as clearly as he used to feel One for All’s kinetic power snapping through his bones.

 

x

Chapter Text

 

Midoriya visits Mirio’s agency after patrol. The sun is beginning to set by the time he finishes the rounds, and he feels exhausted after being stopped every few feet to talk or sign something or pose for a photo. He does it every time without fail, perfected All Might smile and all, but it still tugs on him, draining him a little more to be the charming public face of pro heroism. He’s relieved to see the interlocking sun-and-moon symbol sitting high above the other skyscrapers as he approaches the office.

Their coordinator had let him through with only a strained smile, and Midoriya makes a note that he should buy him a coffee or find out what kind of chocolate he likes the next time he stops by - coordinating two top-twenty heroes, one who can barely speak to another living person without Mirio there as a buffer, has to be the stuff of nightmares. 

Eri’s sitting on Mirio’s desk, kicking her legs. Her face splits into the widest grin he’s ever seen when she spots him.

“Uncle Deku!” She yells, bouncing up to him and holding her arms out wide. He complies, like he always does, and twirls her in the air a few times until she giggles. He puts one hand beneath her knees and carries her over to Mirio, who was facing the windows at the back but had turned when he heard him come in.

“I believe this future hero is yours?” Midoriya intones, and Eri muffles her laughter against his shoulder. Mirio schools his expression and lifts his chin.

“Hero Deku, that future hero belongs to no one but herself!” He says, and emphasizes this by lifting Eri easily and propping her up on his shoulders. She wobbles, but Mirio’s more a solid pillar than a human being, and she finds her balance.

Amajiki appears from the other elevator bay and his expression softens into a small smile as he catches sight of them all. 

“Hi, ‘Maki! Uncle Deku’s back!” Eri tells him.

“I can see that,” Amajiki replies, just above a murmur, and waves to Midoriya. He beams and returns the gesture. 

“It’s good to have you back!” Mirio tells him warmly. 

Midoriya ducks his head. Sometimes it’s strange, how much Mirio’s turned out to remind him of All Might, but at times he can see the differences as clearly as night and day. He wonders if people think the same thing about him.

“It’s good to be back, I missed you all,” Midoriya says. 

“What, even Mirio?” Amajiki asks, dry as the desert, from behind him. He flings himself down onto one of the armchairs in the center of the room and makes way for Eri to perch on the arm. 

Midoriya pretends to consider it. 

“Nah, actually, not Mirio.”

“Hey! I’m right here!”

Eri laughs. Her hair is pulled back away from her face, and it shows off her horn. Midoriya’s proud of that, probably most of all - she’s learning to peak out from behind the shell she’d been trapped in since she was a little kid, doing better and better at it every day. There are little milestones, but they’re big to Midoriya, who knew her first as a scared child with too much pain in her bones and not enough knowledge of kindness. He’s glad, not for the first time, that she has Mirio and Amajiki.

“So, how’s the hero course?” Midoriya asks her. He grins as her face lights up.

“It’s great! It’s really, really great Uncle Deku, ‘Maki says that if I do well in the provisional license exam I can even intern here if I want!”

“You have to pass first, brat,” Amajiki reminds her gently, tugging on the end of her ponytail. 

“And how’s the hero name coming along? You need one for a license,” Midoriya says.

Mirio lays down horizontally across one of the armchairs, phasing his legs through one end so he can keep his head propped up on the other, and looks up at him.

“She hasn’t decided yet,” he tells him, “even though all my suggestions are killer.”

Eri rolls her eyes and huffs.

“I can’t be called Unicorn Girl, Uncle Million.”

Mirio throws his hands up, looking over at Midoriya in exasperation. His eyes glimmer in that particular way they do whenever he’s around Eri, like the strength of his affection for her is contagious.

“See? Can’t win!”

“You’ll think of something,” Midoriya laughs, “and at least you know you can’t do any worse than Aoyama.”

All four of them collectively wince.

“No,” Eri says thoughtfully, “I don’t think I can do worse than that.”

Midoriya gives her a few broad tips about taking the exam, remembering how gut-wrenchingly anxious he’d been to take it as a first-year, and he can see some of the nervous energy fall away from her fingers as her grip on the hem of her uniform skirt loosens. 

“You know that the number two, three, and four heroes didn’t even get their license on the first try, right?” He says, and Eri blinks at him.

He ignores Mirio’s mutter of number three-and-a-half, problem child, but Amajiki isn’t as merciful and sends an octopus tentacle out to wrap around one of his ears and tug. It passes through him effortlessly, but Mirio seems to get the hint and leaves it alone. 

“I didn’t know that,” she says quietly.

“Yeah,” he says, “they only got theirs a few months after, once they took a special course.”

Amajiki shrugs. “Mirio didn’t get his on the first try, either, and I didn’t get mine until third year.”

Eri bites her lip, but she’s relaxed completely now, and Midoriya counts that as a victory.

“It’s okay,” he says with a smile, “we’re all going to be cheering you on, Eri! It’s not as scary when you have people in your corner backing you up.”

Amajiki bumps her hip with his shoulder and shoots her a look.

“Speaking of backing you up, aren’t you supposed to be heading back to the dorms? I’ll walk you over.”

Amajiki nods his head to Midoriya as they pass by, and Eri gives him one last hug that nearly breaks his ribs. He rests his hand over her hair and feels his lungs tug with residual emotion. They’re nearly of a height, even though she’s ten years his junior.

Mirio’s quiet for a long time, studying the ceiling, but then he rolls his head over on the arm of the chair to look at him properly once they’re gone. 

“It was fun being the number two hero for like four months,” he jokes.

Midoriya rolls his eyes.

“Number two-and-a-half,” he corrects, and Mirio grimaces.

“She’s doing well,” he says after a minute, his voice gone soft and fond around the edges like it does when he talks about Amajiki, “I think UA is really good for her, y’know? She’s making friends, learning how to control that quirk of hers.”

“I was worried,” Midoriya admits, “while I was gone.”

“You shouldn’t have been, ‘Maki and I can take care of her. Eraser would kill us if we didn’t, anyway.”

Midoriya sighs and runs a hand through his hair.

“I know that, I wasn’t trying to say you couldn’t. She loves you guys, and she’s already gone so far, it’s just that - “

“It’s the number one hero’s job to worry about everyone,” Mirio finishes, knowing, and he smiles small and soft at Midoriya, “I know, problem child. But as long as she’s with us, you don’t have to worry about her. Promise.”

“Thanks, Mirio,” Midoriya says. 

Mirio shrugs.

“What’s the point of being the number three-and-a-half hero if I can’t protect my niece from the dangers of high school?”

Midoriya laughs. Mirio’s always been good at this; talking people down, wearing that All Might smile so easily sometimes it’s hard to remember that Midoriya’s the successor, not him. It’s never been something he resents about him, not once, but sometimes he envies the ability. The effortless charisma, the way the words come out so easily, always in the right order and the right tone, no hesitation. 

Experience becomes power, Mirio had told him once, but Midoriya’s still wondering how much he has to experience before he feels powerful.

“Hey,” he says, suddenly remembering, and pops open the clasp of one of his belt’s pouches. Mirio eyes him.

“Here,” Midoriya says, saccharine-sweet, and offers his hand, “your souvenir!”

Mirio beams and extends his palm. Midoriya drops the collected change from America and Germany into it, two coins, and smiles wide and brilliant as Mirio looks at him in confusion.

“Three and a half cents, after conversion,” he says.

Mirio laughs so hard he cries.

 

x

 

When he comes back to his apartment, there are flowers sitting in a bouquet in front of his door.

Midoriya crouches down to look at them, realizing as he gets closer that they’re irises, and that there’s a note attached to one of the stems. 

The confusion melts from him immediately - he’d received so many of those little navy blue notes at this point that he could recognize one a mile away. It’s from Todoroki’s agency.

He carefully picks up the bouquet from where it’s propped against the doorframe by the stems, snapping the note off and flipping it open as he hip-checks the door. He knows irises, they’re one of All Might’s favorite flowers. They remind me of my predecessor, he’d said once, but Midoriya hadn’t been able to get anything else out of him after that. They’re the flowers that mean hope. 

He sets them on the counter in the kitchen and leans back against the cupboards, studying the note.

It’s written in Todoroki’s perfect handwriting. 

I realized I didn’t get you a coming home present, is all it says, and it’s sealed with the character for his last name in silver ink. Midoriya bites his lip to suppress a smile, runs a finger once, gently, over the ink, and pulls out his phone.

 

me - 9:03 pm

i’m pretty sure i’m supposed to be the one bringing home gifts, and you did get me a coming home present already

they’re beautiful, by the way!!

tdrk - 9:10 pm

No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t

Hadou’s family are florists, they did most of the work in picking them out

 

Midoriya bangs around the kitchen for a few minutes before he finds a glass tall enough to serve as a makeshift vase, and he carts the flowers over to the windowsill in his bedroom. The irises are dark purple, almost indigo, with tiny sunbursts of yellow near the base. He runs his fingers over the petals, careful not to bruise them.

 

me - 9:13 pm

you came over my first real night back!

weird question - do you know any flower language??

tdrk - 9:14 pm

That doesn’t count

And a little, from Fuyumi. Irises represent strong friendship

 

Midoriya shakes his head a little at his phone, then tucks it into the pocket of his sweatpants. Todoroki’s always been very particular about gifts, giving and receiving them, so he decides it’s not worth arguing over. He drops himself bonelessly onto his bed instead and rolls his head over to look at the flowers.

His mother had had a book on flower language in their old apartment, something from the Victorian era that had been passed down through her side of the family. Sometimes, when he was younger, she’d prop him up on the couch beside her and look through the meticulously drawn flowers with him. Irises represent hope, wisdom, and valor. He picks at that thought, running it around through his head.

Dekiru, I didn’t know it bothered you this much. 

Midoriya sighs and flips over on his All Might sheets, picking absently at them and debating whether or not he wants to watch Star Trek on his laptop until he passes out for the third time this week, until he checks his phone and realizes that a few hours have gone by already. It’s almost midnight.

Midoriya weighs his exhaustion against the heaviness in his chest, and flicks open his lock screen - him, Uraraka, Iida, Tsu, and Todoroki in costume after graduation - before padding across his room to grab his laptop off the charger.

 

me - 11:48 pm

would you mind coming over after patrol?? i’m not sleeping again

shinsou (eraser jr) - 12:05 am

sure, problem child, but only if you make me coffee

 

x

 

The thing about Shinsou is that he never just rings the doorbell. 

Midoriya almost has a heart attack when he hears him knocking against the window - five stories up - on his patio.

He’s still in his hero costume, perched on the railing with a liquid grace that reminds him a little too much of Aizawa, scrolling through his phone with a bored expression. Midoriya cracks the patio door and frowns at him.
“I know I tell you this every time, but really, you can just use the elevator and knock on my door.”

Shinsou grins at him, all eyeteeth, and brushes by him into the apartment. His hair is still just as wild as Midoriya remembers it always being, but it’s grown out enough that he can snare it back into a messy knot, and the new lifts on his boots make him almost inhumanly tall.

Out of the current generation of heroes, Shinsou’s one of the very few who chose to stay underground. Emily and Mudman did, and both Invisigirl and Vantablack considered it, as well as Suneater before Mirio offered him a partnership at his agency, but there’s only one underground hero with any notoriety at the moment - Siren.

Shinsou’s control of his quirk skyrocketed after he joined the hero course with Midoriya’s class; it wasn’t that it was weak before, Midoriya knew exactly how powerful it was from the sports festival, but it was used bluntly. But Shinsou rivals even him and Yaoyorozu for thinking strategically, and coupling that with his vocoder made every sparring match after the first half of second year a dogfight just to stay out of his control as he played with voices and taunts and rhetorical questions meant to catch his opponent off-guard. Midoriya remembers the five-on-five match during third year where Shinsou had clapped his hands together after the bell rang and smiled beatifically at everyone, as though about to speak, and then used his vocoder to project Aizawa’s sharp snap of What do you all think you’re doing? from the opposite side of the gym. All nine of his classmates had been immobilized in an instant as they instinctively scrambled to reply.

“If I ring your doorbell, then people might see me in my costume at your door and assume that we’re friends,” Shinsou says, light and smooth in his Okinawan accent, “and the last thing I want is for people to think I’m actually friends with the number one hero. I have a reputation to uphold.”

Midoriya snorts at him. He crosses back into the kitchen and pulls a few things down. He clicks on the coffee pot and listens to it start to percolate. It’s a chitsy little water heater attached to a filter in All Might’s Silver Age colors, and it’s one of the most well-loved parts of his apartment.

“What, your reputation of being a difficult asshole?” Midoriya asks, teasing.

“That’s the one,” Shinsou replies.

Midoriya sets the filter in the carafe and Shinsou busies himself by grabbing two mugs down from the drying rack.
“How’s work? And Kaminari?” Midoriya asks. He slots his hip against the doorframe and watches as Shinsou takes over his work - he’s always been better at making coffee than him, but then again, he would have to be. Midoriya’s ninety-nine percent certain Shinsou runs off of espresso and sarcasm.

“Both good,” he says, “although it’d be a real breakthrough if Denki didn’t blow out the light bulbs every time we have a thunderstorm.”

Midoriya winces.

“He’s still doing that?”
“He’s still doing that,” Shinsou intones. He gestures toward the fridge and Midoriya pulls out the container of creamer from the door shelf. He likes knowing little details about his friends, and one that never fails to delight him is how Shinsou likes his coffee - ridiculously sweet. It’s not something you’d expect out of him. It’s only compounded by the fact that Shinsou’s hero outfit is meant to be intimidating; it gives him a height advantage over pretty much everyone, solidly black except for where his jacket is struck through with dark purple, his vocoder obscuring most of his face except for his eyes, capture weapon loosely coiled in shiny silver like a snake around his shoulders and eskrima gauntlets wrapped around his wrists, glinting like gunmetal. Seeing him sip what amounts to a pile of sugar topped with the suggestion of coffee like this is funny.

“Patrols have been pretty nominal,” Shinsou continues, and hands Midoriya his own mug. Midoriya accepts it - the caffeine isn’t going to be a problem in about ten minutes anyway. “Mostly it’s bar fights and college kids smashing mailboxes, but Denki’s agency has him running some recon on a yakuza cell, so I’ve been keeping an eye out.”

“Yakuza cell?” Midoriya asks. Shinsou narrows his eyes at him.
“I said recon, problem child. If we need half a city block destroyed, you’ll be the first person I call.”

“Hey!” Midoriya protests, even as Shinsou nudges at his back to get him moving toward his room, “I can do subtle, I’m not All Might.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Shinsou snorts, and Midoriya doesn’t let himself be stung by the comment, but it’s a close thing, “but I already have to deal with Denki trying to be subtle, I don’t need any more flashy quirks to herd. This is why I chose to stay underground.”

“I thought it was because you like cats more than people,” Midoriya retorts. 

Shinsou huffs, but there’s an edge to it that Midoriya can recognize, even if he can’t see his face, as him smiling.

“That too.”

Midoriya sets his mug down on his desk and stretches, but when he turns around with the question ready? on the tip of his tongue, he sees that Shinsou’s frozen, eyes pinned to the flowers on his windowsill.

Fuck. 

“Another fan with a crush?” Shinsou asks, smoothly, and Midoriya already knows he’s figured him out. Midoriya doesn’t keep things like flowers from fans - he keeps fan mail, and even has doodles of himself in his hero costume that kids have shoved in his face from time to time stuck to his fridge, but he’s careful about things like this. Things that can be easily used to conceal poison, or weapons, or the effects of a quirk.

It’s always dangerous to answer Shinsou, but Midoriya hasn’t felt fear toward him for years. His control is a steel trap, and Midoriya knows he isn’t going to use his power against him with any cruelty, has known that since One for All went berserk during the inter-class training their first year and he’d knocked him out with his quirk to stop it.

“A welcome-back present,” Midoriya replies, struggling to keep his voice inflectionless like Shinsou’s so good at doing. He had honed that particular ability with Aizawa, but Midoriya’s mentor never had to conceal his emotions. 

Shinsou hums. He sips his coffee, eyes moving back over to pin Midoriya, and he raises his eyebrows curiously. 

“It’s not important,” Midoriya says. He manages to keep the pleading edge out of it, at least.

Shinsou eyes him.

“Midoriya?”
“Hm?”

Crack.

“Is it important?” Shinsou asks. His expression never changes, but Midoriya can feel his own face go slack and blank under the influence of his quirk. His voice is like a thunderhead, far away and low but loud. 

“Yes,” he says before he can stop himself, and Shinsou shrugs.

“Alright. Go ahead and lay down, get comfortable, and go to sleep.”

Midoriya’s already moving to comply, and Shinsou grabs both of their cups to return them to the kitchen sink.

“See you later, problem child,” he says as he turns the light off and closes the door. Midoriya can’t respond, but as his eyes close he manages to sigh.

 

x

 

Midoriya takes his patrol in the residential district. It’s usually quiet, and he likes watching the cherry blossoms that line the block and creep into the parks. Kirishima and Bakugou rarely take this patrol route, too close to apartment buildings and densely-populated areas for their fighting styles to be effective, and Hadou sticks closer to the coast for the same reason. Mirio’s on call in Yokohama, so Midoriya’s covering his typical route.

It had been cold earlier this morning, but the sun is starting to melt the delicate frost from the grass, and Midoriya pauses just outside of a park gate and watches for a while. It’s too early for most people to be out yet, so he freezes when he hears footsteps behind him. They’re poorly concealed, purposefully light, and Midoriya twists away just in time to knock aside the hand reaching for him with the side of his gauntlet.

The girl’s no older than a high schooler, and for a split second Midoriya feels fear as he thinks he might’ve just retaliated against an innocent fan, but then something hits the pavement beside his foot with a clink and he glances down at the knife before smoothly kicking it away.

The girl recoils, cradling her wrist with her other hand, and glares at him. His first instinct is to restrain her, already reaching for the cuffs in his belt, but he makes himself stop. Her eyes are angry, but they’re filled with tears. As he glances around, he realizes there’s no one else on this street. He makes the decision in a split second.

He pulls his mask down and smiles at her.

“Hi,” he says, “that was a pretty rude way of introducing yourself.”

The girl scowls at him and doesn’t reply. Her eyes dart to the adjoining alleyway. He can see the moment she realizes it won’t work - the hero Deku isn’t known just for immense strength, but also for speed. She knows she’ll be caught. 

Midoriya bends to pick up the knife, being careful not to put his back to her, and holds it up by the hilt with a raised eyebrow.

“You shouldn’t play with knives,” he says casually, “but then I don’t think you were playing with it, were you? You wanted to hurt me.”

“I didn’t think you’d hear me,” the girl finally admits, and Midoriya can’t help but laugh a little. 

“So your plan was to, what? You don’t seem to have any follow-through.”

She grimaces.

“You know who I am,” Midoriya hazards, and she nods like she’d be an idiot not to. There’s truth to that, Midoriya has seen the sheer amount of merchandise of him at the local mall, the news coverage any time he gets an HN notification for a situation in progress. 

“What’s your name?” He asks, and slips the knife into the inside of his belt, against his spine, keeping it out of her reach. He watches the way she moves, having been taught a very real lesson by Stain a long time ago that one knife doesn’t mean the only knife, but she seems to be completely disarmed.

“Why don’t you just arrest me?” She replies, eyeing him warily and sounding miserable . She tries turning her wrist and hisses, and Midoriya winces in sympathy. 

“Because I want to know your name,” he repeats, patient, “and I want to know why you tried to stab me, but we’ll go with the name thing first.”

“Hikaru,” she says after a while, “Akabane Hikaru.”

“It’s kind of too nice a day to be out murdering heroes, don’t you think, Hikaru?” Midoriya asks. He tilts his head at her, and she drops her gaze.

“So you know who I am,” Midoriya summarizes, “but apparently didn’t have a back-up in case your attack didn’t go well, so this isn’t a personal thing. We’re out in public, but without anyone else around, meaning you wanted me to be found, but you care enough not to get caught. So you’re angry about something, angry enough to want to target the face of pro heroism, but not angry enough to throw your own life away doing it.”

She blinks at him. Midoriya smiles and shrugs. Taking notes on everything around him for the first half of his life gave him a skill with rapidfire analysis he’s never shaken. 

“Do you remember Musutafu?” She asks, her voice trembling, and Midoriya feels himself tense up. His mouth goes dry, tongue stuck behind his teeth, and his pulse hammers in his ears.

“Yes,” he says with some effort. A factory collapse that had taken the two adjacent buildings down with it. There had been dozens of people to evacuate, heavy machinery that made escape dangerous, and enough fire to overwhelm the first responders. Todoroki and Midoriya had been the first on the scene, because they’d been in the same place when the call came and Midoriya could navigate the city better than anyone, but it had cost them valuable time for Todoroki to get enough ice around the building’s failing supports so Midoriya could enter. 

“My parents died in that accident,” she says, the anger in her eyes overflowing, making tear tracks down her cheeks, “and no one ever punished the heroes that showed up for being too slow. You were there, you were pulled out, but no one bothered to get to them.”

Midoriya curls his fists. He knows, he’d thought about it for weeks on end. He had received third degree burns from diving into the fire to get people out. A hero who could save everyone, but failed to get the remaining six people out of that mess of steel and rebar before something put too much pressure on the factory’s fuel reserve and it had exploded. He’d stayed for a few days at his mom’s place after being discharged from the hospital, a little too quiet and glassy-eyed, but it had been no one’s fault. He repeated that to himself, it had been no one’s fault. 

It doesn’t change the way his throat constricts now, though.

“You know what they call you in an orphanage?” She asks, her voice quiet with rage but fraying at the edges, and Midoriya breathes in so deeply his lungs hurt.

“They call you unwanted children. I know that’s a lie, my parents loved me, but they’re still dead. And none of you ever said sorry.”

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya responds, instantly, the words pulled from somewhere deep inside him he hadn’t even known he’d been holding onto like a clenched fist, “I know it’s too late for that, but I’m sorry. They pulled me out that day because I would’ve killed myself getting to everyone, but I couldn’t get to your parents. That’s my fault.”

He releases the breath to steady himself, and swallows around something hard lodged in his throat, feeling tears of his own come up in empathy. He blinks them away with effort. 

“You deserve to be angry,” he says in a stronger voice, “and you can be angry with me. But that accident was no one’s fault, and killing people who tried to help isn’t going to make that anger go away.”

“Then what do I do!” She shouts. The words are torn apart with hysteria, almost a scream in her throat, but Midoriya forces himself not to react, not to try to reach out to her. 

“You can make your parents proud,” he murmurs, and her eyes snap up to his. 

“You can find any way to make sure they would be proud of you. You can be better, do better. You can be proud of yourself. It won’t take the anger away, and it might not make you forgive me, but it doesn’t have to.”

“That’s it?” She asks. Her expression crumbles, and this time Midoriya allows himself to take a step toward her. He pulls off his cowl so she can better see him. It’s important that he’s not Hero Deku in this moment, not really, but Midoriya Izuku. Someone who failed.

“What’s your quirk?” He asks, and her mouth thins out into an angry little line. He recognizes it immediately. He’d worn it himself since age five.

“I don’t have one,” she says. 

He’s struck with a pang in his heart so intense it almost makes him gasp. He remembers the day he’d stood in front of All Might, the last best hope in his world, and said the words I’m a normal kid without any powers. It feels ironic, now, to be right back in that moment.

“You can become a hero,” Midoriya says softly, “or design support gear for them. Become a coordinator. Take the test and be a first responder, a firefighter or a paramedic. Do anything you can to make sure something like that doesn’t happen to anyone else. That’s what I did, what I tried to do.”

I’m just a normal kid without any powers. Do you think I could be someone like you?

He crouches, knowing this is the worst defensive position he can take right now but not caring, not when her face looks like that, and makes her meet his eyes. After a second she sniffles, and Midoriya pulls out his phone. 

 

me - 6:04 am

head’s up, i’m sending someone your way

 

“You know the underground hero Siren?” He asks her, and she nods. 

He sighs.
“It’s not my place to talk about it, but he went through something similar as a kid. If you really want to, I can give you the number for his agency. He can help you navigate the hero course, if that’s something you choose to do, but he’s also just good at listening.”

“Why would you do that?” She asks. Her good hand comes up to rub at her cheeks, the drying tears there, and he smiles at her.

“Heroes have a lot of different jobs. I didn’t do mine in Musutafu, so I need to make sure I do it now.”
“Okay,” she says quietly after a few moments. Midoriya beams.

 

shinsou (eraser jr) - 7:34 am

i hate when you say that

as long as it’s not bakugou, i guess

 

x

 

me - 9:56 pm

i talked to one of the survivors from musutafu today

tdrk - 9:58 pm

Oh.

How did it go?

me - 9:58 pm

about as well as you’d expect!

she tried to stab me

tdrk - 9:59 pm

Tried being the operative word there, I guess

Are you alright?

me - 10:01 pm

she was just a kid, she was angry about what happened, i didn’t get hurt

me - 10:08 pm

i think i could’ve been like her yknow

i could’ve been so angry with heroes, and at kacchan, for having something i didn’t

tdrk - 10:09 pm

No, I don’t think so

me - 10:09 pm

??

tdrk - 10:10 pm

You’re too kind

You’ve always been kind

 

x

Chapter Text

 

Midoriya frowns and rubs at his eyes. He hadn’t slept well again last night, but it’s not anything he can’t handle. Today, however, he wishes he had a bit more energy stored up to divert to his patience.

“Are you even listening, you fucking nerd?” Bakugou snarls at him. Midoriya feels his fingers curl tight around his notebook’s cover, but he doesn’t let himself react.

“Just thinking, Kacchan,” he replies, light. Kirishima cuts his eyes to him from where he’s leaned against the front of Bakugou’s desk, but he must not feel like it’s gotten bad enough to intervene yet. Midoriya’s silently grateful for his role as mediator. He has no doubt Bakugou would more willingly try to explode him through the fourteen floors of his agency’s office than discuss intel from the HN. His hair has grown longer since he left, he notices - just below his shoulder blades, but still slicked into its usual style, still the same cherry red, tied back into a decidedly spiky ponytail. His ta moko are visible below his shoulder pads, curling up toward his neck and across the top of his chest.

“Siren mentioned this cell a few nights ago,” he comments, “so they’ve had a while to be on our radar, why are they moving things now?”

“Probably because of you, dumbass,” Bakugou hisses, and Midoriya cocks his head at him.

Kirishima gestures.

“You just got back in town, man,” he explains, “number one hero returning home? That’s bad for business. So, move everything now, do the final transfer once they’re sure you’re not on the case.”

Midoriya shakes his head and bites his cheek, but Bakugou cuts across him before he can speak.

“That just means they’ll do it more subtly, not that they’re gonna stop. They’re fucking yakuzas, dumbass.”

Kirishima folds his arms but doesn’t try to defend himself against Bakugou’s tone - this is the way it is between them, Midoriya’s watched it for years with fascination. Kirishima has a supernatural gift for patience, and for seeing the best in people. Sometimes he envies it, the way Kirishima managed to get so close to Bakugou, to know him in a way that’s been walled-off and sealed with decades of hurt and anger and fear for Midoriya. He envies the fact that no matter how much he tries to hammer on that wall, it never breaks - Bakugou had just let Kirishima into his life, easy and quiet, and let Midoriya suffer like everyone else on the outside.

“Tsukauchi can get us updates on their movements,” Midoriya says, “but until we know exactly what they’re moving and where, there’s not much we can do.”

“What we can do is grab one of the fuckfaces and make them tell us,” Bakugou snarls, and a flicker of faint sparks travels up his wrist. Midoriya keeps his expression composed against his glare, like he’s been doing for years now, and bites his lip to keep no, you impatient idiot, act like a hero for a change from escaping him. It’s close, just like it’s always close. 

“We’re not just gonna grab a guy, man,” Kirishima sighs, “we’ll go through Tsukauchi’s office like Deku said.”

“We’re not following any goddamn plan from this nerd,” Bakugou replies, half-turning to level his glare in his husband’s direction. Kirishima meets his eyes easily, not a trace of fear there. Between the three of them, Midoriya knows Kirishima would be the hardest to take on in a fight - he and Bakugou are both skilled, quick and devastatingly powerful, tactical and clever. But Kirishima does not break.

“Really, dude? You’re gonna stick with kidnapping some guy and torturing him for info, instead of just letting the detectives do their jobs? Doesn’t sound very plus ultra of you.”

Midoriya marvels, not for the first time, at Kirishima’s ability to talk down anyone. It’s different from Mirio’s warm condensed-sunshine approach, but it’s still effective, especially against Bakugou. Appealing to the fact that he’s actually smart and knows this is the best course of action while tossing in a mention of All Might’s catchphrase to stir up his pride is artful.

“The only thing plus ultra around here is gonna be the speed of my fist going through your goddamn teeth,” Bakugou replies, but Midoriya can tell from the microscopic easing of his tone that he’s backing off.

“I’ll get in touch with Tsukauchi, then, and I’ll talk to Chargebolt’s agency about us getting involved. With some luck we could get a member in a room with Siren and Tsukauchi.”

Kirishima points at him.

“Tsukauchi, Chargebolt,” he repeats, and Midoriya nods, “cool, then we’ll keep an eye on the HN and let you know if any of the intel changes. We’ve got it pretty handled, I’d say, but if you wanna let Todoroki know I won’t stop you.”

I  will,” Bakugou mutters, and Midoriya’s pretty certain he’s just being contrary to spite him now.

“The top two heroes in the country are on this thing, but if you don’t think you can handle it, Deku, then you can ask your shitty boyfriend for help,” he continues instead. Midoriya freezes. His teeth come down hard on his tongue and he’s an instant away from saying if you want to pick a fight, Kacchan -

Kirishima moves.

Bakugou brings a gauntlet up to send a shower of sparkling light into his face on reflex, but Kirishima hardly blinks, his hand resting stonelike and heavy on his shoulder. He’s put his back to Midoriya, but there’s no doubt what his face looks like right now. He says nothing, the weight of his disappointment enough, and Bakugou bares his teeth at him. After a moment, though, with Midoriya on the very verge of biting out something that’ll likely put him through the wall with an explosion, the tension leaves his shoulders.

“It’s fine,” Midoriya tells Kirishima. The dregs of his patience tell him no it’s not, but he’s too tired to pick this particular battle today.

“It isn’t,” Bakugou says, and he startles, “that was too far.”

Kirishima finally lets him go. The light in his eyes has changed when he shifts away, and Midoriya recognizes that look. He’d given it to Todoroki when he’d ignited his flames for the first time in their first-year match.

Huh.

“It’s fine,” Midoriya repeats, a little softer, and he forces himself to meet Bakugou’s eyes and nod. He tisk s and looks away. Midoriya still counts it as a victory. It’s the closest he’s ever gotten to hearing him say I’m sorry, after all.

 

x

 

Uraraka invites him out for drinks with her and Iida. He’s tempted, because seeing Iida approach anywhere near drunk is always entertaining, and Uraraka’s company is so soothing sometimes he feels like the luckiest person in the world just to know her, but he thinks he might actually pass out if he leaves his apartment.

“I am twenty six years old,” he mutters against the cold hardwood, cheek pressed flat and his limbs spread like a starfish. Every muscle in his body aches. At least Uraraka’s drunk texts later tonight will be funny.

His day had been cursed since he stepped into Ground Zero’s agency, he’s pretty sure, because as soon as his patrol started he’d had to deal with back-to-back stick-ups and muggings in broad daylight, and someone whose quirk was literally Medusa trying to destroy the Oshima Electronics headquarters as revenge for being fired. Busy days are fewer and farther between with the new generation, but whenever they happen they leave a sour taste in Midoriya’s mouth.

“I’m not even middle-aged,” he complains against his floor as he feels every vertebra in his back pop with the slightest movement, “I should be going out and getting drunk with my friends.”

By his head, his phone vibrates.

 

tdrk - 11:32 pm

It’s late, but if you’re hungry I could stop by

Kayano said you had a busy day

 

Midoriya hisses as he sits up, crossing his legs and leaning back against his futon.

 

me - 11:32 pm

i have literally nothing in my fridge right now, shouto

that wasn’t a no, by the way, i’m just saying i’m gonna order take-out!!

and maybe die on my living room floor again

tdrk - 11:33 pm

Please don’t, we have a meeting with Tsukauchi in the morning

If you order soba I’ll pick it up on my way over

 

Midoriya smiles to himself and calls the nearest take-out place down the block. There are perks to living in Tokyo, after all, and one of them is that he can get his best friend’s favorite food at pretty much any time of night. He orders both of their usuals and then sits upside down on the futon, staring through the kitchen windows, trying to release some of the stiffness in his muscles. 

Todoroki looks tired when he arrives, just as exhausted as Midoriya feels, probably, but better at hiding it. He knows he was called out to Osaka’s harbor with Yoarashi to help with the stormwinds, combining their quirks to shift the air currents and push them up over city-level, and using that much fire for that long still wears him out. Having ten years of practice with one half of his quirk doesn’t quite make up for the fifteen-odd years he spent not using it, and Midoriya knows it frustrates him.

“Hey,” Midoriya says from where he’s half-slumped back onto the floor, and Todoroki only raises an eyebrow at him before sitting cross-legged across from him and setting down the plastic bag of soba. 

“You, too?” Todoroki asks, and Midoriya nods. He feels his neck pop and he winces, a small pitiable sound escaping him.

“Y’know, sometimes I think we should’ve just gotten retail jobs after UA. Done something boring for a while. I almost got turned to stone today, I don’t think that happens to people who work at convenience stores.”
“Reassuring, coming from the symbol of peace,” Todoroki replies easily. He busies himself with taking out the to-go boxes and breaking two pairs of chopsticks. Not for the first time, Midoriya admires the way he never seems to be phased, swallowing down whatever’s bothering him and shouldering his way through it.

Midoriya groans and, with effort, flips himself over on the futon. Todoroki’s lips twitch and he offers him a box of fried rice.

“How were the sidekicks today?” Midoriya asks, just to watch his expression gentle in a way that never fails to make his heart ache. Sidekicks are what he calls the grade-school kids Todoroki’s agency let tour the number three hero’s office on field trips. There’s typically a group every few weeks, and Todoroki always makes a point of walking around the agency with them, explaining what they do and who’s in charge of what, how heroes are deployed and what they do when they’re not on patrol or away on a call. Midoriya thinks it’s sweet, has always thought it’s sweet. He’s good with them in his own quiet way.

“Class 3E from Kunigo middle school toured today,” Todoroki replies, his eyes on his food, “they were monsters. But at least they didn’t try talking me into heating up their lunches with my quirk like the last group.”

Midoriya laughs. 

“Speaking of, I think my freezer’s broken. Wanna make some ice cubes for me? I’ll count it as community service!”

Todoroki levels him with a look, and Midoriya grins. He gestures to the open space on his futon as he sits back upright, and Todoroki drags the rest of their dinner over with him, sitting with his knees curled into his chest and tilted toward the television.

“Movie?” Midoriya offers, watching him.

Todoroki shrugs and picks at his noodles.

Midoriya bites the inside of his cheek. He studies him for a long moment, the subdued look in his eyes, and waits. Todoroki must notice the silence, because he tilts his chin and glances up at him after a while.

“There’s something wrong,” Midoriya guesses, gently. Todoroki bites his lower lip.

“My mother wants to visit him,” he says, “and she wants me to come along with her.”

Midoriya flinches. He doesn’t need to ask to know who him is, has been dreading the moment Todoroki would bring Endeavor back up anyway. He’s had to pick up so much slack from the former number one hero, but this is the part that makes him angriest. Trying to navigate comfort and sympathy for the son he left behind to be swallowed by his legacy.

“That’s probably not a good idea,” he says. Todoroki hums, nodding.

“I don’t want to go, but she shouldn’t go alone.”

“Could you ask Fuyumi? She could probably convince her not to, even, but at least she could go instead.”

“I’m not going to make Fuyumi interact with him, either,” Todoroki replies, firm, “this is something I have to do. But I still don’t want to. I feel - childish.”

Midoriya tilts his head. He can’t wrap his mind around the way Todoroki thinks sometimes, especially when it comes to his father. If it were him, Midoriya would have outright refused, but it isn’t him. It’s Todoroki, and that makes things infinitely more complicated.

“I could come with you,” he suggests quietly after a beat, “if that’d make it easier.”

Todoroki glances at him sharply. He blinks, as though it had never occurred to him he could ask for help, ask Midoriya to do something like that.

“You hate him, too,” he says, and his voice is curious. Midoriya doesn’t bother protesting it - he’s hated Endeavor ever since Todoroki had pinned him at their first sports festival with you know what quirk marriages are, right? and that awful look in his eyes he’d never wanted to see again. Hated him ever since Endeavor had told him, about his own son, his own child, hit him hard. It’s a cold kind of fury that slots just behind his teeth whenever he thinks about the man who had held the title of number one hero before him, a spot All Might had once filled with far more grace and kindness. It’s part of the reason Midoriya does the things he does now - press circuits, autographs for anyone and everyone that offers him a scrap of paper, smiling and laughing in the middle of battles like it’s the easiest thing in the world to be gentle. That period, just after Kamino ward, had been the darkest in a while for Japan. There had been no symbol, no leader, just vacuum, and Endeavor had seemed perfectly fine with letting his fire burn up everything around him. He’d been the only hero in the world to try to step to All Might’s power, to try to claim the spot he held out from under him, but in the process he’d become comfortable with being cruel , hollow all the way through.

“Yeah, and you’re my best friend,” he replies. He pokes at his rice with his chopsticks and drops his gaze. “I became a hero to help people, Shouto, and that doesn’t exclude you, you know.”

Todoroki studies him for a long moment, the silence between them tense but not charged like it used to be back at UA. They’re competitors; rivals, even, if you looked at it in the right light, but Midoriya has always - will always pull him from that sadness in his expression.

You need to stop trying to save me, he’d told him in third year, with no small amount of frustrated amusement. Midoriya knew even then, as he knows now, that he’d never be able to stop.

“Alright,” Todoroki decides, “but only if you let me buy you a drink afterwards. We’ll both need it.”

Midoriya doesn’t let himself react to that the way he wants to, twirling his chopsticks around and around the container, and musters his best All Might smile instead.

“Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you drunk. Movie?”

Todoroki smiles at him a little, and he says dryly, “And you never will. Pacific Rim is on Netflix again.”

 

x

 

The billboard hero ranking ceremony is in a week, and Midoriya has never seen Kayano more frazzled.

“Seriously, we need to be doing more press,” she tells him. She’s positioned herself alongside his desk so that he can’t get her out of his eyeline, hip pressed against the lip and arms folded, and he runs his hands through the sides of his undercut as he leans back in his chair. Getting long again, I need a haircut. And probably a nap.

“We’re already doing that interview thing on Saturday,” he replies, “and I think if I did any more press Kacchan would hunt me down. You know how he gets when he sees me on television.”

Kayano snorts. She shuttles the newest polls over to him through her tablet, and Midoriya looks over the numbers with only a small amount of interest. The rankings aren’t important to him - he’s the number one hero because of incidents resolved and the legacy of All Might that rests on his shoulders as a symbol, not because of brand notoriety. He’s never really had time to think about the hero Deku as a concept, not when he’s out on patrol every day or taking calls to Kyushu to bust a drug runner. Sometimes he thinks Hawks may have a point whenever he gets going about heroes being public figures more than public servants, but that line of thinking never gets him anywhere - he’d told Todoroki already; being a hero is about helping people, protecting them, and the rankings don’t solidify in favor of the most charming smile or most autographs given. If that were the case, Mirio would’ve surpassed him ages ago, and Aoyama would have sat comfortably at number two.

“I don’t know why I bother, Deku,” Kayano sighs, “but if you want to keep being the symbol of peace, then people need to see more of, y’know, their symbol. I can get in contact with Yoshida, ask the guys in PR to set up some small appearances. Maybe a convention? You love doing those!"

Midoriya gives her a helpless smile. He shuts his laptop with a click. Working on an international hero summit is slow, taxing work, and he can only do so much in a day.

“I’m already late for patrol, Kayano, and I have client calls after. If you want, I’ll do an appearance at UA, but I’m not gonna run the press circuit a week before the ceremony anyway. It’ll look desperate, and I’m busy with Tsukauchi’s yakuza case.”

“You’re making me desperate,” she retorts, but Midoriya knows he’s won. She edges back and shuttles him one more document.

“Here,” she says, “at least look over the feedback polls.”

Midoriya tips her a salute and she rolls her eyes before heading back to the elevator. When she’s gone, he pulls up the poll on the desk’s interface and taps through it, curious. The feedback poll is the best source of information he has on how he can do better as a hero; he’d used it in his first year of being a pro to cover his blind spots and shoot up into the top ten, and now he uses it to make sure he’s being the best version of the hero Deku that he can be. He’s pretty sure Bakugou’s is something like please stop yelling all the time, be nicer to people, and the thought makes him smile.

He flicks through his messages from the HN on his phone as he patrols. The stormfront that’s approaching has all of the rescue heroes on edge, and the patrols around the coastline have gotten more stringent as it advances up from Kyushu. Todoroki and Yoarashi’s diverting of the currents yesterday didn’t do much to delay the storm, but at least it pushed it off course enough to move it away from the coastal cities further south. Uraraka, Tsu, Yaoyorozu, and Tokoyami were all put on alert that they might be called in to help with evacuation efforts by Hawks, and Midoriya knows his quirk isn’t suited to it, but he’s still checking in case they need some air pressure assistance. 

His phone vibrates, and Midoriya pulls his mask up over his face as he reads the notification.

Deku, Lemillion, fire at the national bank on 25th and 1st, evacuation in progress.

His full cowl descends over him and he launches up onto the roof of the nearest building, kicking off toward the thin spiral of smoke he sees rising from the city center.

 

x

 

The fire alarms have already been cut off when he arrives, and the first responders are blocking the road with their trucks. Still, there’s panic, as a few people pour out from the main entrance and are pulled away by paramedics, and a wall of onlookers and reporters press up against the blockade of fire trucks.

“Came as fast as I could,” Mirio says to him as Midoriya lands in front of the building, phasing through the pavement and rocketing up with astonishing speed to set back down lightly with a flutter of his cape.

“Find everyone inside, try to get them into the same area so we can pull them out in one group,” Midoriya instructs, instinctive, “I’ll grab everyone closer to the center.”

Mirio nods to him and pulls off his visor, sinking into the wall of the bank and disappearing from view. 

The building is only two stories, but the majority of the fire is coming from the bottom level. Midoriya doesn’t waste any time and ducks in through the entrance, iron soles absorbing the shock from his full cowl, processing the information of what he could see from the outside as he moves. 

If it started from the bottom floor, there could be structural damage. The gas will rise to the next story, so there’ll be less visibility from the smoke there. The heat will melt the metal on the first floor more quickly. Mirio’s quirk makes gathering intel easier, but he can’t phase back through while carrying someone, so I have to be able to get to him to help.

Midoriya spots the first three, employees by their matching uniforms, and hoists one over his shoulder before propping up the other on his free side. The third looks at him blearily but seems able to stand, so Midoriya kicks off back toward the entrance with them in tow and deposits the other two on the curb. His mask’s respirator is only able to filter through so much smoke, and his eyes sting, but he dives immediately back in.

“Deku!” He hears Mirio call from the second level, and finds the stairwell to the east of the building before shooting up vertically to vault it, using the guard rails as levers to propel himself up faster.

The second level is segmented into office cubicles, and half of them have been knocked down by some unseen force. Mirio stands near the rubble, ushering a few people toward him, and glances back at Midoriya as he hears him come through the door. They share a knowing look at the destruction - not something a fire could cause - and Midoriya moves to gather a few of the unconscious employees over either shoulder before kicking in one of the nearest windows and landing on the street below. The soles of his boots crack the concrete on impact, but he forces himself not to buckle. He props up the evacuees against the adjacent building and looks over as Mirio lands next to him, three more people balanced over his shoulders and in his arms. 

“I didn’t see anyone else on the first level,” Midoriya tells him, and Mirio frowns.

“Everyone on the top floor was wearing a uniform,” he replies, “so where - “

Behind them, a section of the roof is knocked away and the fire flickers up to chew through the gap. The debris fall on the opposite side of the street, away from the medics rushing to get to everyone, but Midoriya still takes a step back. The onlookers behind the blockade scream.

“Roof,” Midoriya guesses, and Mirio sinks back through the ground in reply.

He’ll take care of them, there are more people inside. 

For a moment, he’s reminded of Musutafu, of the white-hot heat and the smoke that nearly filled his lungs, the way the explosion vibrated out with teeth-rattling tremors, but he doesn’t flinch away from it, doesn’t hesitate. A hero’s first instinct is to move, All Might had told him once, even if they don’t know why, and he’d made a promise a long time ago to be the hero who saves everyone.

Midoriya curls up and passes through the window he’d broken, reaching the rest of the employees huddled in the center of the floor with a terrifying speed. Most of them are staring, wide-eyed, at the new hole bitten out of the furthest corner of the roof. He feels his teeth clench.

He spots a fire escape on the adjacent wall, and ushers everyone still able to walk through to it before activating blackwhip and gathering the remaining injured to him. He drops back down through the window to the sidewalk below, the whips disappearing as they lay everyone down carefully around him. 

Midoriya sweeps the first floor again, arm held up over his mask as he feels his throat begin to itch, making sure there’s no one else inside. Above him, he hears the ceiling tremor. Mirio’s brought the villain down from the roof, he thinks, and then a wail from the furthest corner draws his attention.

The area is wreathed in flame, so bright it makes tears well in his eyes to look at, but he still darts forward toward the sound, vaulting over the bank’s counter to reach its source.

There’s a crunch behind him, a piece of the ceiling coming loose and landing where he’d been not a split-second before, and Midoriya rolls and braces himself as the spider web fracture cracks wider and rains concrete onto him.

He shifts One for All’s focus into his arms just as the rubble hits, and he bites down on a wordless sound of pain as he feels his shoulder pop out of its socket with the impact against his forearms. 

Behind him, somewhere now on the first floor, he hears Mirio grit out “Deku!”, but he doesn’t slow, shucking the concrete slabs off of him and springing forward again.

I need to get them out of here, and then I can help him. 

“It’s alright!” Midoriya manages through a cough. His vision swims, pitches a little, but he forces himself to keep his eyes open as he searches the fire. He’s close, he has to be. 

“I need you to make another sound so I can find you!”

His eyes catch on the fire exit set into the back wall, covered to the point of being inaccessible by the fire, and feels his heart sink. He hears it again - quieter, this time, and more strained, but the same yell as before.

There’s another counter near the back, toward a door he assumes leads to the vaults, and he clears the remaining distance with a jolt from One for All that buffets the flames. As he lands, he tucks into a roll and comes up just in front of a very small figure that he pulls into his arms without a second thought.

It’s only then that it registers, and every muscle in Midoriya’s body freezes as a tiny, anguished voice cries from his shoulder.

“They left me behind!” La Brava wails against his chest, fists beating feebly against him, “I loved them, and they lied to me! They left me here!”

Fuck. 

 

x

 

Midoriya locks his arms and drags them both up into a standing position. Without a second’s hesitation he sends off a stream of air pressure toward the fire exit, effectively diffusing the flames and knocking the door off its hinges. He dives through and deposits the girl in his arms onto the pavement before taking out his restraints and securing her to a nearby exterior pipe, just far enough that the smoke billowing out can’t reach her.

Mirio’s in danger now, she activated her quirk. I can’t wait here for the police to arrest her, I have to get to him.

He flinches as the fire crackles even louder behind him, and when he turns he realizes the wall of fire has descended again over his entrance. It rages up through the top of the building, and it groans dangerously as the second floor begins to give way.

Fire type quirk, possibly an igniter like Kacchan’s. Either way, it’s going to collapse the building with both of them inside.

Midoriya knows Mirio would survive the impact of the second floor and roof falling onto him, but without knowing the other villain’s quirk, or what state he’s in from the strain of the fight and the carbon monoxide, there’s no way he can chance leaving him inside without back-up. 

Mirio can’t phase me through if this thing comes down on top of us, so I have to be able to get in and out quickly. I can create enough air pressure to kill the fire in certain areas, but it’ll just ignite again. I don’t have enough information, I can’t strategize without being in there.

Midoriya shifts the full cowl and unleashes another volley at the fire exit. He moves in the same moment, and the flames flicker for just a second but with the speed of his cowl he’s through. He vaults back over the pile of rubble and into the center of the floor, blinking and trying to see through the smoke. 

Mirio’s been pushed onto the defensive, standing on top of a mountain of debris and sinking through it before catapulting back up. The villain moves quickly, too fast for Midoriya to see, almost teleporting through the air as they dodge. La Brava’s quirk increased the strength of the flames as well, and he can feel the scratching heat against his skin even through his costume.

“Lemillion!” He calls out and launches toward him. His fist strikes something, hard, before the villain can react to his voice, and he rolls away and comes back up in a crouch on their other side. 

“They’re moving through the smoke,” Mirio tells him, half-phased through a wall of fire, “I think they’re controlling the heat output somehow!”
“Their power’s been amplified,” Midoriya replies, “we won’t be able to get a hold on them for the next few minutes!”
Mirio narrowly avoids a ball of smoke that’s hurled toward him with lightning speed, letting it pass through his left side instead of dodging, and he moves to land another strike on the villain as their form solidifies in the air before disengaging.

“This place isn’t gonna last a few minutes!” Mirio shouts, and Midoriya bites down on his tongue.

They can phase with the smoke, so they’re almost as impermeable as Mirio, but we can’t just leave without capturing them. 

Think through the problem. What are you going to do, symbol of peace?

It clicks.

“Million, phase your whole body!” Midoriya commands, sharp and firm, and he sees Mirio nod at him from across the blanket of smoke before he completely disappears.

I couldn’t do this with him in the way, there’d be too much debris for him to try to avoid at once, he thinks, and drops his cowl. The villain shifts, their entire body a mass of near-black smoke that swirls and twists into inhuman shapes, and Midoriya is reminded viscerally of Kurogiri’s purple-black warp gates.

One for All snaps, an electric dynamo, between the bones of his knuckles as he calls it over his hands. He flexes his fingers in preparation.

“Smash!” 

The air pressure strikes upward, vicious in its intensity, and Midoriya is almost lifted off of his feet as the air in the room changes directions and pushes toward the roof through the hole in the ceiling. The second floor cracks, supports screaming before they snap with the pressure. The flames around him gutter out in one unified wave. His fist snaps up over his head and the smoke dissipates, scattered into a thousand smaller streams in the wind, and the hole in the ceiling widens, the roof buckling before it too is broken into rubble. For a moment, there’s silence, and then a thud as the villain’s form comes unglued from the atomized smoke, spread too thinly now for them to retain their shape, and strikes the floor hard.

Mirio pops back up over them, and in a second his restraints are in his hand. He looks up at the destruction, the sky that’s now visible peeking through the massive hole, and he whistles. Midoriya breathes in deeply and lets his fist drop. His shoulder screams in pain, but he ignores it.

“That one,” he says after a second, wincing at how rough his voice is, “that one was a little close.”
“Tell me about it, problem child,” Mirio replies lightly, and handcuffs the villain.

 

x

 

Midoriya sits in the back of one of the ambulances and kicks his legs. His wrists sting from the heat of the flames, and he has to bite down on a cough every few seconds, but he isn’t too badly hurt. His shoulder’s been reset, too, even though it aches. The burn cream tingles, numbing, and he sighs as one of the medics tapes over a cut on his chin where his mask had dug into his skin.

“Deku!” 

Uraraka bounds over to him, her eyes big behind her visor, and Midoriya feels himself relax a bit.

“They called me and Tentacole in to help clear the rubble,” she explains as she stands on tip-toe to give him a hug, careful of his ribs, “are you okay? You’re not hurt, right? Is he hurt?”

The medic smiles at her and stands, stepping down from the ambulance and placing a hand on her shoulder as she does.

“He’s fine, just a few nicks and some light burns now. He’ll be nauseous from the smoke in a few hours, but I can clear him for hero duty back at the hospital.”

Uraraka nods and bites her lip. 

“I’m fine, I promise,” Midoriya supplies, “I’m pretty sure the people I pulled out are more hurt than I am.”

Uraraka sighs.

“The police just took the two villains away. One of them was unconscious, I think. What happened?”

Midoriya rubs a hand over his eyes and winces at how they ache. He’s never liked doing fire rescue calls, his quirk not enough to shield him from the smoke or the heat or the carbon monoxide. He’d only been able to use his full power because there was no one left inside and the building was in such bad shape, anyway, but it was still a little close. His quirk can level city blocks, he knows it can - he’s done it, once or twice - and redirecting that much raw power always makes him flinch away, just a little. 

“La Brava,” he says after a while, “they were probably in the middle of robbing the bank, or something like it. The other one’s quirk reacted from the electrical fire the firefighters told me and Mirio about, but they couldn’t escape in time. They left her behind, too, and she activated her quirk when I pulled her out.”

Uraraka pulls herself up onto the edge of the ambulance and sits next to him, hand on his arm with her pinky extended.

“Togata’s already back at the agency,” she says, “Amajiki’s keeping an eye on him. You wanna go home?”

Midoriya glances at her.

“I thought you were clearing rubble with Shouji?”

Uraraka shrugs, but the gesture is a little too tight around the edges, and Midoriya realizes she’d been afraid for him - this was the first fire call he’d gotten since Musutafu. His expression gentles, and he feels a little more of the tension fall away from him. There’s not going to be a day that he doesn’t worry his friends, and it’s something he’s had to make his peace with over the years since becoming a pro. 

“I should go to the police station,” he says as he hops down from the ambulance, wincing to suppress a hiss as his shoulder jostles, “make sure their quirks are on profile, get started on the paperwork.”

Uraraka lands a lot more lightly beside him, the soles of her boots hardly making a noise, and she ruffles her hair to dislodge the powdery ash parts of the bank had been reduced to. 

“Tomorrow,” she says in a tired sort of voice, and Midoriya relents. He can already feel the dizziness from smoke inhalation creeping over him, anyway - he wouldn’t be too coherent by the time he reached the station, he tells himself. He smiles at her.

“You should go help Shouji finish up, I’ll wait around, make sure Mirio’s doing okay,” he tells her, and she nods. Her lips tighten into a thin, worried line for a second, but when she ducks in to kiss his cheek she’s smiling a little.

 

x

Chapter Text

 

Todoroki texts him while Uraraka’s busy shucking off her boots at the door and flopping herself down on his futon. 

 

tdrk - 10:05 pm

How are you doing?

 

Midoriya bites down on the inside of his cheek and sits on the arm of the futon, knowing better than to nudge Uraraka to get her to move, his shoulders feeling like he’d held a steel beam across them the entire day. Todoroki doesn’t often ask how he is after a call, unless of course he’s been hospitalized again, trusting him to be able to ask for help if he needs it. Most days, it makes Midoriya smile, just a little, to know he’d achieved that level of trust in someone so unlikely to give it. But this is different - like Urakaka, he must have noticed the similarities between today and Musutafu.

 

me - 10:07 pm

i’m fine, promise!! :)

mirio did most of the work anyway

tdrk - 10:08 pm

Somehow I doubt that’s true

Once you’re done with the paperwork tomorrow, would you come to the hospital with me?

me - 10:08 pm

sure!! i’ll be at the station, so just swing by whenever

 

Midoriya bites down on his lip. Uraraka finally shifts and lets him curl up against the arm of the futon, and she leans into his uninjured side heavily as she gathers up the remote to find something for them to watch. She’s tugging at her bangs with one hand absently, twirling and untwirling her fingers, and when Midoriya finally glances over at her, her nose is scrunched up in thought.

“So,” she says after a minute, the word drawn out slow between her teeth, “I was gonna tell you before the fire, but, um. I guess I can tell you now! Tsu and I were talking it over, and we’re getting married.”

Midoriya jolts, the entire futon rattling beneath him, and in a second he’s wrapping her in a hug that drives them both down over the cushions. Uraraka huffs on impact and then bursts into laughter, bright and happy, kicking out her legs and shoving her hands in his hair. He mutters something that sounds like that’s amazing, Ochako! into her shoulder, muffled by his own grin.

“I know! You’re the first person I’ve told, actually,” she says when he finally tilts his head up to look at her, “and I’m really excited. Well, obviously I’m excited! But uh, I wanted to ask you and Iida to be the best men, if that’s okay.”

Midoriya looks at her. She’d barely changed since that first day at the entrance exam, still bright and wonderful and gentle in all the ways he’s wanted to be since he decided he wanted to be a hero. Uraraka is sweet, in the best way, the way that makes you want to be just like her, want to help people just to see them smile. It’s the reason why they’re such good friends, Midoriya thinks; they see themselves in each other. It’s why he and Shinsou get along like they do, after all. She’s always been his first and best friend ever since UA.

He buries his face against her shoulder in response, making her laugh again, and his of course of course of course of course! is drowned out by her shrieking giggles.

“Okay! Okay, I get it, Deku! God, you’re gonna be a mess at the reception, huh?”

He just gives her a watery smile, blinking back tears, and sits back on his knees.

“You know me,” he says lightly with a helpless shrug, “I’ll probably cry my eyes out.”

She grins at him, gentle and teasing, and then pokes him in the chest.

“You know, you typically bring a plus-one to weddings.”

Midoriya feels the back of his neck heat. He looks away in case it’s already climbed to his cheeks, and Uraraka’s eyes widen with a distinct glee that he doesn’t like.

“Oh, I knew there had to be somebody! C’mon, Deku, you know you can tell me anything.”

Midoriya shakes his head, biting on the inside of his cheek to keep from vibrating out of his skin. 

“Dekiru,” Uraraka coaxes. The sound of the television covers his sigh. 

“It’s nothing, really,” he says, “it’s not gonna happen, anyway.”

“Oh no,” Uraraka says firmly, and sits fully upright to cross her legs in front of her, their knees barely bumping together. She tugs at the hem of his shirt to get him to look at her. After all these years, it’s so hard for him to come to terms with the fact that he has friends, friends who move in and out of his space with ease, who touch him and don’t leave behind impact burns.

“I know that look. You’re capital-t Thinking about something. C’mon, tell me.”

Midoriya runs a hand through his hair and looks at her balefully.

“You’re really stubborn, y’know that, right?”

She bites out a smile, cocking her head. 

“Learned it from the best.”

Midoriya groans and lets himself flop back into her lap, twisting so that he can cover his eyes with his palms and hide his expression from her a bit. There, without having to look her in the eye, he feels a little braver. Still like a little kid telling his friends about his crush during recess, but braver.

“Todoroki,” he croaks. 

Behind his fingers, he can almost pretend the silence isn’t weighted, isn’t charged with Uraraka’s realization, but he still parts them just enough to peek through. She’s staring at him, unreadable, and her mouth is parted into a tiny o between the frame of her bangs

“Oh my god,” she says. Midoriya makes a small, plaintive sound high in his throat.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “I’m totally screwed.”

“Oh my god,” she says again, this time with more force behind it, “why didn’t you tell me, dummy! I’m your best friend!”

Midoriya squeaks in protest as she slaps his good shoulder. His hands fall away and his fingers twitch against the hem of his shirt, agitated. 

“Because it’s not gonna happen, ‘Chako,” he mumbles, “you know Todoroki.”

“I know you, number one,” she says, the conviction in her voice sharp enough to make him blink, “and I know there’s not a person in Japan that isn’t half in love with you already, you dork.”

Midoriya can’t help the tiny laugh that escapes him. He winces at how dull it sounds.

“Okay,” Uraraka decides after a minute, “we need ice cream. We need celebration ice cream, and we need commiseration ice cream.”

Midoriya stares at her, at the way that although her expression is entirely serious, the hand in his hair is gentle. He feels tears prick at the corners of his eyes and blinks them back, irritated. Number one hero, still a crybaby.

“Yeah,” he says, “I think we do.”

 

x

 

He’d asked All Might about it, once, in the vaguest way he could. He’d come over for tea, and All Might’s smile had been effusive and bright as always, listening to him chatter about work with a patience that seemed, sometimes, to be infinite. The sun was low, but All Might’s little house just outside Musutafu was warm and comfortable, gold-toned in the evening light.

“When you were still a pro,” Midoriya had asked, haltingly, as they took their cups outside to sit on the porch steps and watch the clouds, “did you ever - did you ever love anyone?”

All Might had nearly choked on his tea. 

“I - ah,” he’d said, the recognition finally snapping into his expression, and he’d glanced over at him with a sympathy that had made Midoriya bite back tears. Their relationship had changed, over and over, during the years, and they were more comfortable around each other than either of them had ever thought they’d be. But Midoriya had never asked him a question like this. He’d purposefully never asked him a question like this.

“Twice,” All Might had eventually said, and Midoriya looked back over to him with a plain curiosity.

“Having relationships like that is difficult when you’re a hero,” All Might continued at length, fingers steepled around his cup, “same as having a family, or children. It’s why my predecessor chose to keep her son away from her work; it’s dangerous.”

“But you did,” Midoriya hazarded, and All Might had nodded. He looked pinched around the corners of his mouth, as though pushing something away that wanted desperately to surface.

“Something Gran Torino once said convinced me. The first didn’t work out,” he’d sighed, and pushed a hand through his hair, “we had different careers, lived in different places. He knew I’d go back home one day, and that he couldn’t follow. And by the time I left he had a daughter. I justified it, because he would’ve been in danger, would’ve had to see me work on the news and hope that I came home alright. But it was still painful, you know.”

“And the second time?” Midoriya had prompted after a minute of heavy silence.

All Might had beamed at him.

“The second time,” he said with a laugh, “the second time I got married, my boy!”

 

x

 

In the morning, Midoriya slips out quietly and heads to the police station. He leaves Uraraka curled up in a blanket on his futon, the two empty ice cream cartons sitting on the floor by her feet, the television playing some monotonous cooking show they’d both been too tired to turn off. It’s always soothing to have her spend the night, her quiet snoring funny and endearing in equal parts. He wonders fondly, just for a second, if Todoroki still sleeps so silently like he had back at UA, like he was trying not to make any noise at all.

Midoriya shakes his head to dislodge the thought and breathes in a lungful of cold air. It’s becoming more and more frequent, ever since he got back, to purposefully shift his thoughts away from Todoroki. They don’t lead anywhere that Midoriya hasn’t been before, but they still ache in that particular way that makes him duck his head and try not to think of anything at all.

The station is quiet at this time of day, and when he flashes his hero license at the guard at the desk he gets an equally quiet, tired nod to go through.

Midoriya grips his coffee and grimaces. He doesn’t like coming to the station for anything other than paperwork, knows about half of the people here are ones he’s turned in himself, can almost imagine he feels their anger on his back as he moves between the offices. 

Shuzenji is leaning against the door to one of the interrogation rooms when he approaches, and she simply cocks an eyebrow at him before saying, “We’ve kept her overnight, wanted to get your report in before we set up a court date.”

Midoriya nods his thanks and peeks in through the two-way mirror. La Brava looks about as exhausted as he feels, eyes cry-dry and staring vacantly at the desk in front of her, her pigtails undone and hanging loose around her shoulders. She looks older like this, closer to her actual age, and he feels a twinge of sympathy that he silences quickly.

“Has she said anything about her accomplice?” Midoriya asks. His coffee burns the tips of his fingers, and he adjusts his grip.

Shuzenji frowns.

“Not much, actually. We had to run their fingerprints. Petty vandal, no charges on anything this big. Their quirk is called Firebug, they can slip in and out of fire or smoke and control its intensity to some degree. We think they might’ve got the idea to go for the bank after running into her.”
“I thought she was working for the government these days? Strengthening security channels and files, stuff like that?” Midoriya says, curious. She’d seemed so betrayed at the bank, almost to the point of hysteria, angry in a way he’d never seen her, even when he’d fought her former partner.

Shuzenji shrugs and sighs.

“So did we. We’re getting a warrant to search through their correspondence, figure out what it is they were after. But I can tell you that she doesn’t seem like the mastermind type.”

Midoriya taps his fingers against his cup. His thoughts are too quick to pin down, moving in tandem to try to piece together the puzzle.

“I’ll get your paperwork, you can go in,” Shuzenji says, tipping her head toward the door. Midoriya flashes her a smile before she disappears back down the hallway.

“Oh,” La Brava says when she sees him come in, the recognition nothing but dull, “you’re that boy from UA.”

Midoriya startles. He’s used to being identified by his hero career, not as a UA alum. The fact that she can remember that day, even, gives him pause. It seems like lifetimes ago, the day he and Mirio had taken Eri to the cultural festival. But then again, he’s not in uniform - his flannel and sweatshirt probably undercut the pro hero image somewhat.

“Deku,” he introduces himself as he slides into the chair at the opposite side of the desk. Her wrists aren’t bound, but there is a monitor strapped to her wrist with just enough give that he can tell it doesn’t chafe against her skin. He breathes a little easier, knowing at least she’d been taken care of properly overnight.

“I thought you’d been given a job with the government after Gentle Criminal was caught,” he says, conversational, and tries to ignore the way she flinches at the name.

“I was,” she says after a moment, and sighs when he raises his eyebrows at her, “I’m sorry, I promise I wasn’t trying to do anything bad again. Ritsu just said that the bank had taken money from them, and that they wanted to get it back. I checked the bank records, too, just in case. We weren’t trying to rob it or anything.”

Midoriya folds his arms across his stomach and leans back in his chair.

“You checked the records?” He repeats.

She licks her lips and stutters, having enough good sense to know when she’s been caught out, and says with trepidation, “I, um. I cracked their customer files. But only to look for Ritsu’s, I promise! You can check if you don’t believe me.”

Midoriya ignores the way her eyes cut to his mutinously, and pulls a hand through his hair.

“I believe you. I just don’t understand why you decided to help them yourself instead of contacting the right people, or talking to the bank, or pretty much any option other than the illegal one.”

La Brava sticks her bottom lip out in a pout and looks away. He can’t help but smile at her, just a little. With her wide makeup-ringed eyes and earnest expression, she almost looks like a teenager. She certainly looks more than a little like Hikaru, in this moment, sullen and angry and pulled in on herself.

“I thought they loved me,” she mutters after a beat, “I thought that’s why they asked me for help. But they don’t, do they? They left me in that fire.”

Midoriya shakes his head.

“I don’t know,” he says, honestly, “but you played more than a little role in helping them get that far.”
There’s a knock against the two-way mirror, and Midoriya tracks it with his eyes on reflex.

“I have to get some paperwork out of the way,” he says as he stands, and then his expression gentles.

“I remember that day when we ran into each other. I believe you, that this is all a misunderstanding, and if the police’s warrant comes through and backs you up on that, then I’ll testify for you.”

La Brava blinks at him. A little of that sullenness goes out of her expression.

“Why would you do that?” She asks, voice tinged with wonder.

Midoriya shrugs.
“Like I said, I believe you. And I know how it feels, to want to protect someone you love. It’s just in the way you use it.”

Shuzenji hands him a clipboard when he emerges, but her lips are pursed tight as he takes it.

“We haven’t charged her with abetting,” she reminds him, and Midoriya grimaces.
“I know, I know,” he mumbles. Shuzenji relents.

“I get it, you’re a hero, and being a hero means that you want to save everyone,” she says gently, “but some people can’t be saved, y’know.”

“No,” Midoriya responds instantly, “I don’t think so.”

He takes the clipboard and walks down to Tsukauchi’s office before he can register her expression.

But some people can’t be saved. 

Midoriya bites his lip and tries to keep the faint spark of anger in his ribs from growing. Being kind, being generous, isn’t only a hero’s responsibility. It’s his, as Midoriya Izuku, too. Seeing La Brava, right back where she started, confused and rightfully angry about it, had reminded him of that.

Tsukauchi isn’t in his office, which means he’s probably out scouting on the yakuza case, but Midoriya lets himself in anyway and sets up on one of the chairs across from the desk to start in on the paperwork. He sighs; this is the part of his job he likes least, the monotony of papers filed in triplicate.

He taps his pen against his chin, and takes out his phone to check the HN feeds. He blinks as he realizes he has a text notification, and then smiles.

 

tdrk - 6:48 am 

I’ll be by the station in an hour, do you want a coffee?

me - 7:13 am

already on it, but thanks!!

tell natsuo and fuyumi hi for me before you leave!!

tdrk - 7:14 am

I’m getting you one anyway, you’ll need it

Natsu wants to know how many “self-righteous lectures” he should give Touya in your place when he visits today

me - 7:14 am

no more than four, im feeling magnanimous :)

tdrk - 7:15 am

So you can spell magnanimous, but you can’t put the apostrophe in I’m?

me - 7:15 am

apparently not!!

 

Midoriya laughs. He feels his chest ease, the warmth flooding through his ribs familiar and just this side of aching. He tips his empty coffee cup into the trash by the door, his eyes still weighed down with exhaustion, and he’s suddenly grateful that Todoroki seems to know him better than he knows himself, sometimes.

 

x

 

He loses track of time somewhere between papers, filling out over and over the events of the fire as he can remember them, until there’s a knock on the doorframe that makes Midoriya startle.

Todoroki leans against the jam, his hand still up against the metal as though preparing to knock again, and his eyebrows are raised in that amused way that always makes Midoriya bite down hard on his tongue.

“You were muttering again,” Todoroki says. He steps closer to hand Midoriya the cup of coffee he’s brought, still warm through its paper sleeve, and Midoriya glances at him thankfully as he takes it. 

“Just frustrated, I guess,” he replies, and with a sigh shoves the paperwork off his lap and onto Tsukauchi’s desk. He feels his neck pop as he moves, and he winces as he realizes he hasn’t moved much in the last hour. 

Todoroki slides his hands into his back pockets and looks over Midoriya’s shoulder, eyes flickering over the lines of his report, and something must catch on his attention because he frowns just slightly.

“The bank fire,” he says as explanation, and Midoriya nods.

“It’ll be my word against the police’s if their warrant doesn’t get approved to look through La Brava’s messages, and she shouldn’t get into any more trouble than she has to.”

Todoroki tips his head at him and leans back against the far wall of the office next to the door. Midoriya lets him study him, cool and effortless, and forces himself not to fidget. 

Finally, he says, “I pulled her file once, for a case with an enhancement quirk. You really think she didn’t willingly go along with robbing a bank? Isn’t that something she used to do?”

Midoriya shakes his head, firm.

“Her and Gentle Criminal had a code they followed when they worked together, and after he was arrested, she worked for the government. I think it’s likely she was manipulated into cooperating.”

Todoroki shrugs and seems to resolve to let it go, and Midoriya releases a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.

“Are you ready to go?” Todoroki asks instead of pressing it, and Midoriya smiles at him.
“Yeah! Tsukauchi can send these to filing when he gets back. My statement’s done, anyway.”

Midoriya grabs his jacket from the office chair and shrugs it on, grabbing his coffee as he slips by and joins Todoroki in the hallway. The quiet is more companionable now that he’s here, Midoriya thinks, and they both know how to navigate the station by muscle memory at this point. There’s a certain thoughtfulness to Todoroki’s expression that makes him pause, though, but he waits it out until Todoroki finds the words, just like he always does. It had taken years, years of practice and intense scrutiny, but he’s figured out how to measure his silences. He’s always liked knowing little things about his friends, after all.

“Do you really think she loves them?” Todoroki asks after a while, once they’re near the exit, and Midoriya frowns over at him. It’s not what he thought he’d ask - he was expecting something about the hospital, about his mother or his father.

“I don’t know,” Midoriya replies honestly, “they didn’t know each other for very long, apparently.”

Todoroki nods. That thoughtful look is still clouding his expression. There’s something beneath it, though, shifting, and it puts Midoriya’s nerves on edge.

“That’s what I mean,” he says, quiet, “her quirk works by admitting love. But can you love someone without knowing them?”

“Yes,” Midoriya replies instantly, and then his teeth click together to stop himself from saying anything else.

Todoroki glances at him and comes to a stop. His hair has definitely grown out, Midoriya realizes dully, inanely - his bangs are long enough to pin back behind his ears, even beginning to get in his eyes now that they’re loose, and he looks so much younger like this, like it’s their first year of UA again and he’s trying to hide behind it. He remembers in a flash of sense-memory the way their match in the sports festival had pushed his hair up away from his eyes, the force of his flames uncovering them fully for the first time since Midoriya had met him, the way he’d looked wondering, of all things. Not sad, not angry, but curious, surrounded by orange-gold fire.

“I - I mean,” he backtracks, his legs locked and his chest frozen, “I don’t think you need to know everything about a person to love them. You can watch what they do, listen to what they say - don’t you think?”

Todoroki considers it without looking away from him. His calm analytical gaze suddenly feels like it’s pinning Midoriya in place like a butterfly to a corkboard, neutral and inflectionless but effective.

“No,” he decides, “I’m pretty sure you need to know someone’s nature. But I don’t know much about it.”

Midoriya presses his lips together to keep from blurting out something stupid, something that would undo them both, and it’s so close, he could just say -

“That’s not true,” he says quietly, head ducked even though they’re the only ones in the hallway, small and private, and Todoroki blinks, “you love your mom, right? And Fuyumi, and Natsuo, and Yaomomo and Iida, and -”

“Midoriya,” Todoroki says, and Midoriya immediately catches his lip between his teeth to keep and me from tumbling out. He can feel One for All, dull static, crawling across his knuckles and crackling like electricity between the bones of his ribs, but he keeps it pulled down within him as he reaches out and takes Todoroki’s wrist in between his thumb and index finger gently. The contact is barely there, two tiny points of heat, but Midoriya almost recoils on instinct as he realizes he’s grabbed Todoroki’s left.

He breathes in deep.

And some things did change while I was away, but not the things I wanted to.

He’s reminded suddenly of Hikaru, of the way he’d knelt in front of her and told her simply to change, like it was the easiest thing in the world. He thinks about the irises that haven’t yet begun to wilt on his windowsill, the flowers that mean hope . Shinsou’s eyes drawing out the question is it important? and his own immediate answer of yes. Shuzenji saying but some people can’t be saved and how viscerally wrong she was about that, because everyone can be saved, and everyone can change, and that’s a fact he’s staked his entire hero career on, a fact that resonates within him whenever anyone calls him the symbol of peace.

If you want something to change, then you change it yourself, isn’t that right, Hero Deku?

“And I love you,” Midoriya says after a pause that might last hours, committing to the words before they’re even past his teeth, soft and calm and totally unlike the sheer panic that fills the back of his throat.

Todoroki doesn’t react.

Slowly, he turns his wrist inward toward his hip, and reaches up to take Midoriya’s own wrist between his fingers. Midoriya releases him, and he watches as though he’s a million miles away as Todoroki lifts his arm a few inches and then drops it.

His eyes are colder than ice, sealed off in that book Midoriya thought he could read and now realizes he can’t , undecipherable in a way he’s never seen him. It’s wrong, and so unlike the way Midoriya knows him to be, gentle and purposeful and kind, that it makes his entire body lock up.

“So?” Todoroki asks, already turning away, and Midoriya feels his heart shatter.

 

x

Chapter Text

 

Midoriya is silent the entire trip up to the hospital. He’s quiet as he greets Todoroki Rei, her faint smile lost on him, and he makes himself keep perfectly still by the door to the hospice room Endeavor’s been moved to. He watches the three and the rigid way they interact, their words stilted and the pauses between them too long, like he’s a perfect stranger to his own son and wife, and Midoriya guesses that’s true. He’s never known either of them, not really.

I’m pretty sure you need to know someone’s nature. But I don’t know much about it.

Endeavor is a shadow of the man who used to hold the title of number one hero - his flames have guttered, a vague line of embers across his shoulders the only sign of them, and his over-bright eyes have sunken into the shadows of sleep-deprivation. Midoriya can’t bring himself to feel sympathetic. Todoroki holds himself stiffly, never relaxing out of his on-duty posture, and Midoriya has to bite down on his tongue to keep from crossing the room and placing a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to look over at him and melt some of that anger from his eyes. He looks out the bank of windows set into the far wall instead and wills himself not to feel the hurt crawling through his stomach. The sky is serene blue, but it might’ve been a hurricane billowing outside for all that he’s paying attention.

Todoroki walks his mother out to the main exit, Midoriya a few steps behind and watching the tiles of the ceiling. He gives them their space as they talk in low, hushed voices, and finally Rei dips her head to kiss his cheek and waves goodbye to Midoriya before walking out to her car. He waves back, but his smile feels plasticine and forced on his face.

“I still owe you a drink,” Todoroki says after a moment, not looking at him, and Midoriya feels himself nod before he can process the words.

He can’t find anything to say as they walk toward the izakaya closer to Todoroki’s apartment, hands stuffed into the pockets of their jackets, and Midoriya thinks this is probably the longest he’s ever gone without talking. He doesn’t like the texture of the silence - it’s not companionable anymore, not the kind that Todoroki can find the words to fill, not the kind Midoriya can break with his usual cheerful chatter, and it makes him anxious. It’s been almost a decade since they’ve been this on edge around each other, like proper rivals fighting for the main spot, but more like whatever trust they had built between them has fractured. There’s nothing he can say, not in a silence like this.

Todoroki finds them a seat while Midoriya gets their drinks, and they sit and say nothing to each other for minutes that feel like hours. He knows Todoroki likes warm sake, but now that knowledge feels like something he’s taken advantage of, something he only knows because he’s been lying for years to himself and to everyone else, something he knows because they’re friends, and that friendship is suddenly cracked in a way he can’t even begin to figure out how to fix. He wants so desperately just to go home and sleep until he can’t remember why he’s hurt, wake up and pretend this day never happened, but he forces himself to sit and sip at his drink instead.

And some things did change, but not the things I wanted to. 

Midoriya almost snorts - the irony is painful.

“Alright,” Todoroki murmurs after another minute, setting his cup down with a distinct tap on the bartop, “so you love me.”

Midoriya glances at him sharply, and the grip around his drink tightens. He can’t make out Todoroki’s tone, but he doesn’t like the calm, implacable light in his eyes. It feels too much like he’s hiding something again, shifting beneath his expression, and too much like Midoriya’s an open book for him to read. It feels like he could figure it all out with just that look - how long, and with what strength, and all the tiny moments that make it connect together and click.

“Yes,” he makes himself say, because it’s the truth, and it’s been ten years of saying nothing.

Todoroki sits back and traces a pattern on the table with the condensation from his glass of water.

“Why?”

Midoriya chokes. He coughs, and Todoroki frowns, but Midoriya still manages to blink at him incredulously.

“What do you mean why?”

Todoroki doesn’t react, just keeps playing with the drops of water on the bar, his eyebrows strung together in a thoughtful way like he doesn’t know why that’s an unreasonable question.

“Why do you love me,” he elaborates in a way that’s not helpful at all, and Midoriya stares at him. This isn’t how he thought this conversation would go.

“Do you want a list?” He blurts, and Todoroki raises an eyebrow.

“If you have one. But just one reason would be fine.”

Midoriya makes a tiny, frustrated noise in the back of his throat and curls further around his drink. There’s nothing he could say to that that would be enough, he thinks - there’s never been just one thing, and trying to condense it down feels like a lie.

“There’s - there’s no one reason,” Midoriya says after a while, “it’s not like it was a decision .”

Todoroki shrugs, and a small spark of exasperation fills the back of his mouth, cold and desperate.

“Because you’re you,” Midoriya tries, and the words still don’t feel like they’re enough, not big enough or grand enough or said in beautiful verse like they should be - he could wax poetic about any number of things Todoroki does or says, but it would never feel like it did the whole justice, he realizes. And besides that, Todoroki wouldn’t want to hear it, probably.

Todoroki huffs and takes another sip of his drink.

“Is it really that hard to believe?” Midoriya asks weakly, and now he can feel that decade-old hurt clawing its way into his throat again, that ache that refused to go away back when he was sixteen, just like it does now. The ache that told him, over and over again, it’s not going to happen.

Todoroki tips his head, considering, but doesn’t say anything. Midoriya feels his expression crumble.

“You don’t believe me,” he realizes out loud, “you just think I don’t know you well enough.”

“You don’t,” Todoroki counters, “or else you wouldn’t have said that in the first place.”

Midoriya stands before he can make the decision to. He digs into one pocket and places a few coins on the counter, feeling hollow all the way through, and grabs his jacket before walking out the way they had come.

 

x

 

He texts Shinsou to come over as soon as he’s home. He knows he won’t be able to sleep, not after today, and he heads toward the kitchen on autopilot to start the coffee machine as he waits for the reply. He paces back and forth in his living room, not thinking of anything in particular because he knows his head would explode to think of everything at once. He flicks the television on just to give him some background noise, some superhero movie animated the old-fashioned way that he forgets instantly, and walks back into the kitchen. He stares out the windows and lets himself take one deep breath, then two, and starts to cry.

It’s quiet, but he can feel every moment of suppressing tears at the hospital and the bar behind it. He puts his face into his hands and feels relieved. After a few minutes he swipes at his eyes and takes another breath - none of it is performative, none of it beautiful or heartbreaking or raw, but he feels like a weight has been lifted anyway.

Shinsou taps on the glass door to his patio after an hour and Midoriya startles. 

“Denki says to tell you fuck you very much for interrupting my night off duty,” Shinsou drawls without any real bite behind it, but it still makes Midoriya flinch. Class 1A has always been tight-knit, both during school and after they’d graduated, but sometimes it makes him ache to think of Kaminari and Shinsou, Uraraka and Tsu, Bakugou and Kirishima, Yaoyorozu and Jirou, Ojirou and Hagakure, Tokoyami and Shouji. Everyone who’d fit together so seamlessly and left him behind with an emotion he can’t name lodging itself into his throat. An emotion he’d had broken down into its composite atoms today.

Shinsou frowns at him. He’s wearing an oversized letterman, probably one of Kaminari’s based on the over-saturated yellow fabric, and the lifts on the boots of his hero costume have been traded out for some sturdy-looking combat boots.

“Everything okay, Midoriya?”

Midoriya shrugs and manages to summon a weak smile. It’s a reflex, to try to assure his friends.

“Just a rough day. Went to the police station, visited Endeavor.”
Shinsou winces in sympathy and Midoriya is relieved that at least the universal constant of hating Endeavor can serve as his saving grace. In the next second, though, that relief is gone as his body relaxes on its own and he finds his gaze fixed into the middle distance.

Shinsou’s expression resets, and he looks over Midoriya with a cool calculation that reminds him too much of Todoroki.

“I’m not going to press it, since you apparently don’t want to tell me. But you’re lying, problem child,” Shinsou says, and Midoriya would freeze if he could feel his body, “so I’m just going to ask you this - is there another reason you’re upset that you didn’t tell me?”

“Yes,” Midoriya chokes, all of his willpower behind it, and Shinsou drops his hold. His expression has softened, just a little, and it makes him want to drop his gaze. He’s always worn his heart on his sleeve. It doesn’t make him feel vulnerable very often, but standing in front of his friend with tears in his throat, he does.

“Okay,” Shinsou says quietly, and goes to the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee.

“You told that kid, Akabane,” he continues as he moves, and Midoriya watches him with a detached kind of curiosity, “that I was good at listening.”
Midoriya follows after him, and Shinsou shoves a mug into his hands as he leans against the doorframe of the kitchen. 

“Actually, Denki’s the one who’s good at that,” he says, “but I’m flattered anyway.”

Midoriya laughs and rubs at the back of his neck sheepishly. Shinsou leans against the counter, fingers steepled around his mug, and his head is tilted just a fraction of a degree like he’s studying him.

“So,” Shinsou says, and raises an eyebrow, “I’m listening.”

Midoriya sighs and sips at his coffee. It’s too hot, but he can’t find it in him to care.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” he says.

“You called me over,” Shinsou counters.

Midoriya winces.

After a silent moment, Shinsou looks away and shrugs.

“If you really don’t want to talk about it, then I’ll tell you to sleep and leave. But you look like you’re about to cry, Midoriya.”

Midoriya shoots him a glance.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” he says, stubborn, “I cry at everything.”
Shinsou allows him a tiny smile that he only partially hides behind the lip of his mug.

“True,” he concedes, “you cried when Aizawa’s cat got out because it had a pink nose. But that just means I know when you’re crying because you’re you, and when you were crying but stopped because you don’t want me to ask why.”
Midoriya blinks at him. Shinsou gives him a grin that’s all teeth.

“Learned a bit from watching you take notes on everything,” he replies easily, “so, which is it going to be?”

Midoriya sighs and pads back out to the living room to sit cross-legged on his futon. Shinsou follows him and sits on the floor across from him in the same position. Like Tokoyami, Shinsou can’t seem to sit correctly no matter where he is, and it makes him smile just a bit.

He thinks about how to talk about this, how to explain to someone the events of the day without saying the words I’m in love with Todoroki Shouto but he apparently doesn’t believe me, and he pulls a hand through his hair as he realizes he has no idea.

“Was Kaminari the one who asked you out first?” He asks eventually. The words feel pressed to the roof of his mouth, and he swallows hard.

Shinsou blinks at him.

“Not,” he says, haltingly, “the topic I thought you were going to choose, but yeah. I turned him down.”

Midoriya frowns at him, and he huffs.

“He’s annoying, if you hadn’t noticed,” he says as he sips his coffee, “and he can’t take no for an answer. Eventually he just started asking whenever we were in the same room.”

“So why’d you say yes?” Midoriya asks, head cocked to the side.

Shinsou snorts.

“Attrition,” he says dryly, “and I realized the more he asked me, the more he meant it. It’s easier when you know the other person genuinely likes you.”

Midoriya presses his lips together in a firm line and stares down at his cup. It’s one of his collector’s edition All Might mugs, and it makes him feel a little better knowing Shinsou had picked it from the drying rack because he knows it’s his favorite.

“So,” Shinsou drawls, lazy and teasing, “the number one hero’s having boy trouble.”

“Could be having girl trouble,” Midoriya mutters, and Shinsou huffs, an eyebrow raised.

“Then you would’ve called Tsu, not me,” he replies, easy as breathing, “and I know the two of us haven’t had girl trouble since middle school, so to speak.”

Midoriya laughs.

Shinsou’s eyes glint with amusement, and he leans back to flick his gaze up to the ceiling. The television’s playing a rerun of a soap opera now, and the noise covers their silence comfortably.

“Look,” he says quietly after a while, “I’m not going to ask who it is, or if you need Denki to shock them like a taser for making you upset, mostly because the shovel talk is kind of Ashido and Kirishima’s wheelhouse, not mine. But the thing about you, number one, is that you try to save everyone you meet. And sometimes people want to save themselves.”

Midoriya blinks at him, and Shinsou sighs, running a hand through his hair. He checks his phone and frowns.

“Speaking of, Denki might actually murder me if I don’t go back, so if you still want to sleep, it’s now or never.”

“No,” Midoriya says quickly, “no, it’s okay. I should, um. I should think about it a little more, I think. But thanks, Shinsou.”

He ducks his head and bites the corner of his cheek.

“You actually are really good at listening,” he continues, and Shinsou barks out a laugh.

Midoriya takes his mug and places it in the sink, walks him out to the patio where he disappears over the rail with a snap of his capture weapon, and closes the glass door behind him with a sigh.

You try to save everyone you meet. And sometimes people want to save themselves.

Midoriya shakes his head, and goes to grab his notebook from his room.

 

x

 

This is what Midoriya’s good at, he knows it in the core of him.

Think of the problem, then figure out the solution. It’s the essential requirement of being a hero; see something wrong, fix it.

Midoriya rips out another page of his notebook and tries again, his pencil stuck between his teeth.

He goes down the list - Shinsou and Kaminari, Mirio and Amajiki, Melissa and Mei, Aizawa and Present Mic. He frowns, then crosses that last one off his list. He thinks that Aizawa would strangle him with his capture weapon before he even got a word out, most likely, and it’s not a conversation he wants to have with his former teacher, anyway.

See something wrong, fix it. 

He leans back until his head hits the wall behind his bed, and he grimaces.

If you want something to change, then you change it yourself, isn’t that right, Hero Deku?

After a few minutes, he divides the new page in half with a vertical line. On the next, he starts a list.

 

x

 

Midoriya goes to Mirio’s agency before patrol.

It’s early, earlier than he normally gets up, but he hadn’t been able to sleep last night - a combination of the caffeine and the laser-like focus of jotting down notes - and he knows hero agencies don’t have operating hours, anyway, not in the traditional sense.

He drops off an extra coffee at the coordinator’s desk at the bullpen and sends off a text to Kayano letting her know he’ll be a little late to the office. 

Amajiki is leaned against the lip of the main desk when he walks in, reading through a report on his tablet. He looks up when the elevator doors part, and the faintest ghost of a smile crosses his expression in greeting.

“Hi,” Midoriya chirps, “I need to talk to Mirio about how much he loves you, so you should probably not be here for that conversation.”

He winces as he realizes what he’s said, blaming it fully on the lack of sleep, and watches as Amajiki spooks like a startled horse and scrambles toward the adjoining room to grab Mirio.

Midoriya rubs the back of his neck. Not the most artful way of collecting intel, he’d be the first to admit, but he has a limited timeframe now that Todoroki knows .

Mirio shoots him a curious look as soon as Amajiki shoves him into the office, still in civilian clothes with his case in one hand. 

“I was about to go on patrol,” he says bemusedly, “y’wanna come with and explain why ‘Maki looks like he’s gonna faint?”

“Sure,” Midoriya replies with a nervous smile.

Mirio’s back on the residentials today, the flick of his cape easy in the breeze, and Midoriya watches amusedly as they’re each stopped every few feet for autographs and pictures. It’s easier not to feel so drained by it with Mirio beside him, offering the odd joke and grin. He’s always been more graceful under pressure.

“So,” Mirio says after a while, and pauses to wave to a group of middle school kids across the street, “something on your mind, problem child? You made ‘Maki so nervous he had to sign that you were there.”

Midoriya winces and rubs his gloves together.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” he says, feeling sheepish, “I wasn’t thinking. I’ve just been… a little occupied, I guess.”

“Another antisocial kid with anger issues that you’re pushing toward emotional catharsis?” Mirio guesses, not unkindly, but Midoriya shoots him a frown anyway on principle. He’s not incorrect; Midoriya would probably have been voted most likely to meddle in high school, if UA did that kind of thing.

“No,” he says, as conversational as he can make it, “already did that last week.”

Mirio looks like he’s too afraid to ask if he’s joking.

“You and Amajiki,” Midoriya starts, slowly, after they walk another block. The sun is brilliant, but the air is still early spring cold. 

“You’ve known each other since you were kids, right? You were friends for a while.”

Mirio sticks his tongue out between his teeth, looking lost in thought for a long moment. It’s hard to get a read on the rest of his expression through his visor, but he’s never been one to conceal how he’s feeling. They’re alike, in a lot of ways - Midoriya admires how kind he is, how ready he is to listen, how power has never meant cruelty, not to Lemillion, the hero with 1,000,000 embossed onto his chest.

“‘Maki and I met in grade school,” Mirio says, breaking him out of his thoughts, “we kind of just knew we were always gonna be on the same track, y’know? We wanted to be heroes. So when we applied to UA, it seemed - right, I guess, that we’d be going together.”

Midoriya thinks of that afternoon in the alleyway behind Aldera, Bakugou’s fist twisted in his uniform, the unspeakable hurt in his eyes behind the anger. He wonders what it must have been like to have a friend back then, someone who knew you so completely.

“So how did you know you were in love with him?” He asks quietly, dropping his gaze so he doesn’t have to see how Mirio reacts.

They both pause on the curb, watching the intersection lights flicker, red-yellow-green, pedestrians making their way to work and back from graveyard shifts, cars in neat lines beside them idling. The trees are coming to life after the long winter, one Midoriya had thankfully skipped while he was abroad, but in the spring their color makes him feel a little better, a little steadier.

“Y’know, I gave him his hero name,” Mirio says, his voice gone soft, after a beat, “I think I realized I’ve always kind of been in love with him when we picked our code names first year, and he chose the one I gave him. No hesitation, either - it’s the only time I can remember ‘Maki volunteering to get up in front of a group of people.”

Midoriya blinks up at him. He hadn’t known that - Amajiki doesn’t talk about himself very often, after all, and he only seems to warm up around him, Mirio, Eri, Hadou, and Kirishima. But even then, warm up tends to mean he can make eye contact for more than a few seconds.

“That long?” He asks, and it would be disbelieving if he hadn’t known exactly how that feels, the decade-old ache still shored up somewhere between his throat and his sternum. Instead, it’s a little quiet, a little understanding, and Mirio turns his head just enough to look at him. The sun catches on the 1,000,000 on his chestplate.

“It’s not hard,” Mirio says slowly, the careful way he sometimes talks around something instead of directly about it familiar to Midoriya, “when they’re your best friend.”

Midoriya huffs out a laugh and tips his head back, watching the clouds that gather overhead, darker and thicker the closer the storm comes. It’ll make landfall soon.

That’s the thing about it, Midoriya guesses; it’s never been hard to love Todoroki - it comes easily to him, as easy as breathing. It’s everything else that’s hard.

 

x

 

Every week, like clockwork, Midoriya and Bakugou spar.

It’s something they took up in second year, every two weeks - they’d both find their way to gym gamma, frustrated or tired or maybe just unable to properly voice the restless feeling in their stomachs. It’s Bakugou in his rawest form. Midoriya’s known this for two decades; his natural state is a fighting stance.

“Hey, Kacchan,” he says as he steps through the door. There’s an old run-down gym modeled after American boxing rings between his and Bakugou’s offices, a place called Tallet’s that used to host quirk fights, the semi-underground circuits that boasted pure brutality over all. These days, it’s mostly abandoned, used only by pro heroes to practice and train their new hires. 

Bakugou barely looks up at him, already taping his wrists where he’s perched on top of the elevated mat.

“Deku.”

Midoriya still wishes sometimes that they were able to have a proper conversation, one that didn’t involve explosions and shouting and insults, but he’d realized years ago that for better or worse, that’s just not how Bakugou works. There’s too much going on in his head, emotions too big for words, and the only way he knows how to explain what he’s thinking is to show him, often with right hooks. At least this way, Bakugou no longer thinks he’s holding back on him. And at least now, after so many years, they’ve come to a mutual understanding - their sparring has a level of mutual respect to it they’d never experienced as kids, a layer underneath hard as granite that says this is for both of us, to be better.

“So what is it this week?” Midoriya asks, managing to sound only a little put-upon, as he sets his gym bag down and pulls out his own roll of tape.

Bakugou doesn’t answer until they’re both properly in the ring, bracketed by high-tensile elastic ropes made specifically for quirk use. The lights overhead are dull, and it highlights the vicious scar that crawls up the side of his neck and over his jaw, the metal glint of his hearing aids curled over the shell of his ears. Midoriya busies himself with shaking out his fists and pulling One for All over him into a cowl so he doesn’t try to analyze the expression on his former friend’s face. 

“Kirishima,” Bakugou says, and launches himself forward. 

Midoriya neatly side steps his oncoming attack, the explosion that billows out behind him barely background noise, and Bakugou pivots in midair before his blow to his ribs can connect. They disengage, pulling back to circle each other.

Midoriya knows not to comment, not to ask questions, but the curiosity still burns at the back of his throat.

“You?” Bakugou hazards, sounding like he’d rather not know, and Midoriya tilts his head at him.

“Todoroki,” he says simply, and sends a roundhouse in his direction. Bakugou drops low, looking to unbalance him. Midoriya redirects his momentum and lifts into a horizontal spin that lands him on the other side of the mat in a crouch, and he kicks off to come at him again. Bakugou blocks his wrist with his forearm and sends an explosion that’s all bright light and no heat into his face.

Midoriya flinches and pulls away, but Bakugou keeps step with him, pushing him back onto the defensive as another blow connects with his stomach. Midoriya lashes out with a kick that buckles Bakugou’s knee, and another punch that knocks against his jaw sends him sprawling. 

“And?”

Bakugou hisses and spits, rolling to get back up and sending off an explosion that rockets him forward and into Midoriya’s space once again. They block each other’s blows and disengage.

“The billboard ceremony,” he finally growls, and Midoriya blinks.

“Kacchan, you know I -”

Bakugou flies at him again, his wrists sparkling with tiny firecrackers, and he manages to drive his knee up under Midoriya ribcage with a much more dangerous-sounding “I don’t want to hear it, Deku.”

He rolls when he hits the mat, crouching again, and tests his breathing before dodging another kick.

“Fine,” Midoriya mutters as his left hook goes a little wide, “being back.”

Bakugou disengages. His eyes are bright, watchful, as though trying to pick apart the resentment Midoriya couldn’t keep out of his tone. They’ve always been similar as much as they’re dissimilar, and he must have recognized that resentment.

“Being a symbol,” Midoriya continues as he gets to his feet, a little shaky as his lungs struggle under his compressed ribs, but his voice is steady, strong.

“Spending my entire career in your shadow,” Bakugou counters, and Midoriya scowls at him.

“Y’know, this isn’t a competition.”
Bakugou gives him a vicious little smile, no warmth in it at all, and Midoriya is suddenly, viscerally reminded of Todoroki’s small smiles. The genuine, almost delicate ones he wears whenever he’s around his mother, the privately amused ones he flashes when Midoriya teases him, the tiny, proud ones he only allows himself when he thinks no one is paying attention. It makes his teeth clench.

“Of course it’s a competition,” Bakugou says venomously, “isn’t everything?”

Before Midoriya can even start in on how wrong that is, on so many different levels, Bakugou’s on him again with a right hook that feints into a left. Midoriya catches his wrist and disappears from his line of sight, One for All flexing beneath his skin as he pins it to the small of his back and forces him down onto the mat with a knee between his shoulder blades. Bakugou sends off an explosion, trying to shake him, but Midoriya just grimaces through the searing heat and holds tight, twisting his wrist away and toward his head.

“Legacy,” Midoriya hisses, a little more forcefully than he wants to, a little too much of Kacchan’s own anger behind it, “everyone counting on me.”

“Being beaten, again,” Bakugou spits back, wincing against the mat, “not being good enough.”

Midoriya relents and sits back on his heels. His breathing is still slow and even, but his heart is hammering.

“Rejection,” he says quietly, and he catches something flicker across Bakugou’s expression as he gets up. He doesn’t press it, he never does - it’s the unspoken rule between them. Midoriya is allowed this much honesty, this much communication between them, and Bakugou isn’t pressed to answer to the ugly things he keeps wrapped inside his fists. He figures it’s better than the years he spent under Bakugou’s thumb, saying nothing, letting the impact burns fizzle.

“Rejection,” Bakugou agrees. 

Midoriya gets to his feet and begins unwrapping the tape across his knuckles, worrying his lip between his teeth as he does. Bakugou grabs a water bottle from the edge of the mat and unscrews the lid.

“You’re getting sloppy with your hooks,” he says after a while, almost under his breath, and Midoriya flicks his eyes over to him, “it’s annoying.”

“You’re favoring your right again,” Midoriya counters easily. He ignores the way Bakugou scowls at him. He steps off the mat to gather his bag.

“Deku,” he hears behind him, and Midoriya pauses. He slings his bag over his shoulder and turns enough to catch Bakugou’s eyes. He’s still standing in the middle of the ring, the faint scar of his own explosion mark illuminated by the lights, but his eyes aren’t angry. Instead, Midoriya is reminded of that night in field beta, when Bakugou had pinned him and said somehow you still manage to lose to me. The way his expression had been torn open, a wound with too much pressure on it, something there he couldn’t name but so distant from the familiar anger and resentment and hatred that it brought tears to his eyes.

“You’re over-thinking it, golden boy," Bakugou says, “like fucking always.”

Midoriya blinks at him. Then, quietly, he feels himself start to smile. It’s been ten years since they started UA, and ten more since they’d first met - in all that time, Bakugou’s been learning how to read him, too.

“Tell Kirishima hi for me,” he replies, ignoring the way Bakugou huffs and mutters like fuck I will, and turns to leave.

 

x

 

Kouta’s at the office when Midoriya gets back. Kayano’s left for the day already - the sun is setting outside, and he feels a bone-deep weariness of his own setting in after a full shift of hero work and sparring with Bakugou, but he makes himself stop by the agency one more time to go over a few polls for the billboard ceremony and make sure his paperwork for the La Brava case had been filed.

Kouta kicks his legs over the lip of Midoriya’s desk when he comes in, looking out the far windows and fidgeting with an old gameboy.

“Hey, kiddo,” Midoriya greets, and Kouta blinks at him, startled, before that mask of vague irritation descends again over his face. 

“Sorry I haven’t swung by to say hi,” Midoriya continues, chipper, and crosses over to his desk to start pulling a few files onto his tablet from the main server, “I figured you were busy with class.”

Kouta shrugs. 

“Not really, Mei and Melissa are helping me with my physics and mechanistics homework. Melissa’s sending you a new gauntlet prototype they've been working on, by the way, she mentioned it today - and she said not to break it, again.”

Midoriya smiles at his scowl, and he feels the both of them start to relax. Kouta’s a good kid - he’s kind-hearted, smart, and trusts himself more than Midoriya ever did at that age. He just kept the mannerisms of his childhood; he reminds him a little of the old Kacchan some days, that resting expression that says fuck off, the intense eyes, the hero worship wrapped carefully in cool disinterest. Aizawa had announced the extended internship program at UA would be beginning again just before fall term, and Midoriya had immediately placed his one and only offer. Izumi Kouta joined his agency not a week later.

There are times when Midoriya wonders about who he’ll pass One for All onto one day. He knows he’s not nearly done with it yet, the power that snaps between his bones like an ocean current, but he’s always been one to think strategically. Kouta wouldn’t have been a bad choice, if he had decided to take the hero track - he knows more about what it means to save people, to help others selflessly, than most kids his age, and there’s something about his whip-sharp mind that reminds him a little of himself. But Midoriya knows Kouta signed on with him because his support crew is spearheaded by Hatsume Mei and Melissa Shield, not because he’s the number one hero.

“I’ll do my best,” Midoriya promises, “but I might need you to tune them up every once in a while.”

“Fine,” Kouta sighs, sounding aggrieved, and Midoriya beams at him.

“So, what’s up? You don’t typically hang around after-hours.”

Kouta fidgets with his gameboy again, fingers wrapped tight around it.

“I, um,” he starts, and Midoriya glances up at him in surprise. He doesn’t usually hesitate, and never around Midoriya, no matter how much admiration for him he has. He carefully sets his tablet down so Kouta knows he has his full attention and leans his hip against his desk.

“I already sort of talked to Aizawa about it - “ Kouta hedges, and ignores the way Midoriya corrects him gently, Principal Aizawa, his eyes already back to the windows, “- and Thirteen, but I, uh, just wanted to let you know. I’m not really a boy. I mean, I’m not a boy, but I’m not a girl, either. I’m nonbinary, like Thirteen is.”

Midoriya tilts his head at him, considering.

“Okay,” he says, “what pronouns do you want me to use?”

Kouta blinks at him like that’s the last question in the world he’d expected to be asked.

Midoriya feels a faint smile tugging at him, and he shakes his head with obvious fondness.

“Kouta,” he says, “I thought Melissa would have told you, it’s not like it’s a secret.”

Kouta’s eyes widen, and Midoriya gentles his expression at that look - it’s the same one he wore when he met All Might in Musutafu, the same watery glitter to them as his had had when All Might told him he could become a hero. 

Midoriya knew from a young age - a little past grade school maybe, but definitely before he was accepted into UA - that he was a boy. There hadn’t been anything complicated about it, not really; Bakugou figured out the same thing around the same time, and it just seemed to fit, for the both of them. Being the first trans number one hero had felt incredible, though, and Midoriya remembers all of the editorials that had gone out after the billboard announcement that year that called him a role model and an inspiration fondly. He hasn’t done any press about it to date, just like he hasn’t about being bi, but it’s public knowledge that a large portion of his agency’s income is given to LGBT charities. He knows it’s the same for the number two hero Ground Zero and the notorious underground hero Siren. 

“I didn’t - “ Kouta begins, and he grimaces as he realizes that his voice is thick with emotion. He clears his throat and says, a little breathless, “they and them.”

“They and them,” Midoriya repeats, and nods, “sounds good, kiddo.”

“Thanks,” Kouta says, and ducks their head to pretend to be studying their gameboy. Midoriya allows it with an amused little smile. “I - um, thanks.”

“Of course,” Midoriya says softly, nudging them with a shoulder enough that the familiar look of irritation flickers back up in Kouta’s expression.

“If you ever wanna change your name, too, then I hear Present Mic’s a good soundboard,” Midoriya continues, the unintentional pun getting him another sour glance that he laughs off. He picks his tablet back up and shoves it into the outer pocket of his gym bag. Kouta hops off his desk, still holding their gameboy a little too tightly, like it’s a shield, and Midoriya eyes it. It must have sat heavily with them, he realizes - Kouta, in their own way, idolizes Midoriya. They know him first and best as Hero Deku, the UA student who had saved their life, the hero who took them on as an intern. They know so little about Midoriya Izuku, even though they’ve spent so much time together over the internship period.

“Wanna go get some ice cream?” He asks, and he watches as Kouta relaxes a bit.

“Only if you’re paying,” they mutter, and Midoriya laughs again.

He remembers telling All Might about being trans, about being bi, and about how he’d never really had a group of friends before, let alone a group of friends that were like him. All Might had smiled, a little sad at the edges but knowing in a way that made his heart ache. He told him about going to America and meeting pro heroes who were out, about David Shield, and coming back to Japan and realizing his perception of himself had changed while he was away. About how he’d been so focused on creating the pillar that was the Symbol of Peace, he’d completely forgotten about Yagi Toshinori. Midoriya had smiled at him, rubbing at the back of his neck sheepishly as All Might’s eyes had cut to him, amused and a little chiding, the similarities there so stark it stung.

It had taken him years to understand, but Midoriya gets it now, looking over at Kouta and seeing the way they untense as they walk side by side. All Might’s last words as a pro hero, now it’s your turn. 

He had never meant you have to do this on your own. 

He had meant you’re not alone.

 

x

Chapter Text

 

Two days before the billboard ceremony, Midoriya stops by UA.

It’s been a while since he’s visited, and with every step further onto the grounds of the school he had spent the most important years of his life, he feels a kind of growing excitement bubble over until he’s almost bouncing up to the hero department’s building.

 

me - 7:06 am

your favorite student’s arrived! mind if i swing by your office before class starts?

eraser - 7:07 am

You’re many things, Midoriya, but my favorite student was never one of them. Door’s unlocked. We’re doing practice drills today.

 

Midoriya suppresses a laugh as he flashes his hero license at the scanner near the door, and the guard in front waves him in with a smile that’s only a little awash with hero worship. Even at a place like UA, seeing the number one hero is kind of a big deal. Midoriya remembers the first class he ever had with All Might and smiles back.

The hero department hasn’t changed at all since he left - the corridors are still wide enough to fit the entirety of his middle school classroom into, the doors are still ten feet tall and marked by equally-imposing labels. Towards the northwest corner, where the towers of the building intersect, are the teacher offices and lounge. Midoriya lets himself in and waves hello to the staff that arrived early, hunched over their computers and trying to finish their grading for the day before the first bell rings. He recognizes Midnight standing in costume by the coffee maker and beams, and she flicks him a teasing salute in return, sipping at her mug. Even from this distance, he can tell the white cursive over the front reads thank fuck it’s friday, and he covers his laughter with a hand.

Aizawa’s office is unlocked, just like he said it would be. Principal Nedzu’s office was never cluttered, and Midoriya’s somewhat glad that his former teacher is keeping the intimidating tradition of bare walls, bare desk, and a single computer monitor with a stack of folders placed at a neat right angle next to it. As he double takes, though, he sees that the desk isn’t quite empty as he’d thought walking in - there’s two picture frames, side by side, almost hidden behind the angle of the computer and turned away to face the far wall. But Midoriya can take a guess, and it makes him smile, just a little - class 1A’s former teacher has always had something of a soft spot, deep down.

Aizawa stands from his chair, and Midoriya closes the door behind him before bowing. That soft little smile is still on his face when he says, “Principal Aizawa,” and hears the returning huff.

“Problem child,” Aizawa replies, eyebrow raised, and Midoriya’s smile turns into a grin.

They take the long way to field beta - Aizawa’s new position didn’t stop him from his duties as a teacher or an underground hero, although the bags under his eyes are more pronounced than ever - and even after all these years, it feels odd to keep in step with him rather than a few paces behind. All Might may have been his mentor, but Aizawa still commands the respect of class 1A. He’s always been, first and foremost, their homeroom teacher. Not even the inexorable forward march of time could change that.

“I haven’t met any of the new kids,” he says, and Aizawa looks at him with obvious exasperation. His hair is pulled up and away from his face even though the weather could be kindly described as temperate, and there’s more grey hair threaded through his ponytail than Midoriya remembers - he wonders how many individual strands he’s personally responsible for.

“And it’s going to stay that way, Midoriya, at least until the billboard announcement. I’m pretty sure the last thing you need right now is a headline of you making some first-years cry by running circles around them.”

Midoriya grimaces. 

“You’re starting to sound like my coordinator.”

Aizawa doesn’t bother to reply to that.

“You’ll be working with class 3A today, doing standard fetch-and-retrieve rescue training. Think you can teach them something?” He asks as they approach the massive set of double doors. Midoriya remembers field beta, the place he and Bakugou had initially fought first year, the place he’d taken his entrance exam and been completely shattered by One for All’s recoil.

Midoriya looks up at the doors, and then across to his former teacher. They’re of a height, now, and that change in vantage point has never stopped being uncomfortable for him. Aizawa looks older like this, somehow smaller, and it reminds him that even though it hadn’t seemed like it when he was a kid, every mentor he’d had growing up was human. In costumes and reinforced by custom-made armor and supports, but still human. He wonders at that, just a little.

“Sure,” he says, with his best All Might smile, “maybe they’ll get to teach me something, too.”

Aizawa gives him an odd look, and the doors part.

Class 3A is just as rambunctious and maniacally energetic as Midoriya remembers being at that age - their hero costumes are much sleeker than any of his classmates’ had been, though, and their quirks are infinitely varied. He feels, for just a second, as though he’s about to be thrown to the wolves, and sideyes his teacher to gauge whether or not that had been the plan all along.

“Everyone,” Aizawa says, not bothering to raise his voice, and the twenty-odd kids fall into perfect silence. Midoriya can’t help but smile at that, and he gives a friendly wave from Aizawa’s shoulder.

“You’re well aware of the hero Deku, no doubt, so introductions aren’t necessary. He’ll be giving notes on your performances today.”

“Hi, everybody!” Midoriya chirps. A few of the kids look seconds away from actually fainting, and internally he winces - he used to look at All Might with that exact expression on his face. He wonders how his predecessor ever got used to it.

“As you know,” Aizawa continues, well-versed in ignoring his former student’s entire existence, “the curriculum now requires a level of knowledge in emergency medicine as well as standard rescue procedure. I want you to keep that in mind during this exercise. Simulated or not, I will be docking points for anyone who allows their victims to die without performing triage.”

3A seems to be at ease with Aizawa’s sharp tone, and Midoriya relaxes a little. His former teacher had never been one for subtlety, or even tact, but it’s good to know that these kids understand the gravity of the task.

“All right, fan out. You’ll have ten seconds to prepare before we begin.”

Midoriya watches them scatter - a few have speed-enhancing quirks, judging by how far they get - and surveys the field. Beta isn’t too different than how he remembers it; a few cars here and there where he remembers empty roads, stop lights and traffic cones meant to impede movement where there weren’t before, but the architecture and layout of the buildings is the same.

Aizawa counts down the last few seconds, and then, as they both watch, class 3A completely changes.

Midoriya wonders later if that’s how it looked to the teachers, back when he was in UA.

Usually, corralling more than a few heroes at a time takes practice, patience, and an understanding of each person’s skill set that only comes through time and experience. But this group already has that, having had two years of hero course training under their belts, and what Midoriya watches is less like twenty future heroes putting their heads together, and more like a singular wave of motion, tightly coordinated, exceptionally efficient, and completely in control.

Those with speed-enhancing quirks take off first, sprinting to the far end of the wreckage focused primarily in the middle of the field and working to secure the edges. Slower students, those with quirks suited to physical strength or endurance, take the front and move their way slowly inward, coordinating with others to safely lift rubble. One of them, Midoriya is sure, begins to echolocate, and points out areas where groups of makeshift dummies - their victims - are pinned. Aizawa singles that student out with a gesture.

“One of the big three this year,” he explains, and Midoriya blinks, “Mori Koushiro, his codename is Banshee.”

“And the other two?” Midoriya asks.

Aizawa gives him the slightest smile, and his eyes glint in the morning light as though he’s activated his quirk. 

“Take a guess.”

Midoriya watches the group more closely after that. He analyzes each individual, rather than their group strategy and interpersonal skills.

Their quirks are as varied and unpredictable as his class’ had been, but they each seem to use them to their strengths, focusing on a certain task suited to their power and reaching out for help with a versatility that leaves him beaming proudly. The upcoming generation of heroes is off to a running start, if this is anything to go by.

Two of the students catch his eye after a few minutes. One is constantly fiddling with what looks like a pair of baoding balls in one hand, moving through the center of the wreckage and pushing away debris with a single touch. Her face is half-obscured by a triangular visor, and her jacket flutters in the wind, but otherwise her costume is plain. 

The other is a tiny kid rushing around the perimeter of the wreckage, hands already full with one of the dummies he’d picked up and eyes set on another that can be seen just barely peeking out through what remains of a broken window. As Midoriya watches, he picks up the second dummy and slings it over his shoulder easily, sprinting back to the triage center a few others with healing quirks had set up.

“Those two,” Midoriya finally decides, gesturing to both of them, and Aizawa gives him another long, examining look. It’s still second nature to shrink back from it. He’s used to feeling analyzed, but not so much like this.

“What?”

Aizawa tips his head at the girl with the visor. 

“You’re right about that one. Daisuke’s quirk is kinetikinesis, shifting and manipulating kinetic energy. Her codename is Dynamo. But the other one…”

Midoriya blinks at him.

“Not in the big three, then?” He hazards.

For a moment of pure panic, it seems like Aizawa might actually laugh.

“No, Midoriya, he isn’t. But I want to know why you thought so.”

Midoriya narrows his eyes and turns his gaze back to the field. There he is again, that little blue-and-black costume flitting in and out of view. He’s completely absorbed in his task, pausing only to help another student lift a chunk of concrete out of the way as she grabs hold of another dummy. He says something to her, and when she shakes her head he’s off again. He’s the only one without a speed-enhancing quirk moving like that, mindful of the debris but with a tenacious kind of intent, and it -

It reminds him of -

“He looks like me,” Midoriya says quietly, and he sees Aizawa’s head snap around toward him out of the corner of his eye, “like I did back in third year.”

Aizawa huffs and folds his arms.

“You’re not wrong,” he says, voice measured, and then, “Hara Yosuke. He’s the third ever quirkless student admitted to the hero department.”

For a moment, Midoriya feels like he’s about to start yelling.

The third ever. Ten years since he started at UA, a quirkless little nobody who managed to be at the right place at the right time, and the boy he’s seeing in front of him now is the third. 

“He -” Midoriya swallows around a lump in his throat. The impulse to yell, to jump up and down either out of frustration or joy or both is gone, and now he just feels like he wants to cry.

“The third student you were looking for is over there,” Aizawa continues, “a technopath named Shiro Kai.”

Midoriya follows his eyeline and is met by a lanky student with a similar costume to Chargebolt’s, eyes closed and completely still standing on top of what once was a street corner. A few miniature drones buzz around their head like a swarm of bees, and as Midoriya watches they fly in formation through a shallow fissure in the concrete, likely on the lookout for anyone who fell in. After a few seconds, however, he starts noticing them in other places around the wreckage - the kid has eyes in the form of tiny hummingbird-sized drones on almost every vantage point beside his and Aizawa’s.

Midoriya looks at the scene again, tries to watch the rest of the exercise the way he thinks All Might would’ve.

His eyes are drawn back, over and over again, to the quirkless student. Hara Yosuke. He bounces all over the wreckage, moving further in each time, helping his classmates carry dummies and hanging around the triage tent to perform CPR, pointing a few of the lookouts to higher vantage points with more stable footing. His hair is cotton-candy blue, pulled back into a neat puff by a black ribbon.

“What’s his codename?” He asks after a minute. Aizawa cuts him a look.

“Kai?”

“No, Hara. What’s his hero name?” There’s suddenly nothing more important to him.

“Kyokugen,” Aizawa replies, and there’s something about the way he says it that sounds suspiciously like pride.

“Kyokugen,” Midoriya repeats, and then grins.

 

x

 

The rescue drills take up most of the afternoon; it’s not until the sun is starting to set, barely above the horizon, that Aizawa calls 3A back together at the gate to field beta. All of the students are winded, sweaty, and fidgeting on their feet like they might be knocked over by a stiff breeze, but Midoriya recognizes their shared expressions of pride. They’d worked fluidly with each other for hours, establishing and keeping lines of communication between forward, medical, backup, and reconnaissance teams - something that even pro heroes have difficulty with in crisis situations. Not for the first time, Midoriya finds himself admiring Aizawa’s capabilities as a teacher.  

“Not bad,” Aizawa says once they’re all together, and Midoriya barely resists the impulse to grimace at his tone. Not for the first time, either.

“I’m impressed!” Midoriya chimes in, ignoring the way his former teacher cuts him a warning look, “My class had to go through real villain encounters to work with that level of cooperation.”

Aizawa gestures, keeping his sharp eyes on his students, moving between them as though he could break them down into their composite molecules with just his glare - Midoriya’s not entirely sure that he couldn’t.

“However, none of you passed.”

The entire class locks up, frozen. A few from the back groan. Midoriya stifles a laugh behind his hand, trying to keep his expression composed; Aizawa won’t thank him for laughing at their misery.

“Who can tell me why?”

The technopath student - Shiro Kai, Midoriya remembers, eyeing the opaque black glass of their helmet - takes a step forward.

“We didn’t retrieve all of the dummies.”

At that, a few of his classmates look stricken - Midoriya watches closely as Hara looks over at them with obvious horror, and a few of the students with healing quirks look as though they’d personally let the class down.

“Deku,” Aizawa says without looking at him, and gestures toward the debris field. Midoriya glances over it for a second, and then nods.

His full cowl descends from the center of his chest, a familiar static and heat that coats his nerve endings. He recenters his stance and launches forward, moving with practiced purpose. He’s had the advantage of watching the drill for hours; he knows which pieces of rubble are unstable, which are safe to touch down on, and where each of the unrecovered dummies are. For a moment he’s reminded of the obstacle field at I-Island so many years ago, the coiled tension in his stomach that comes unfurled as he moves faster than even the students with speed-enhancing quirks, and then he sets back down next to Aizawa with two armfuls of dummies that he deposits lightly onto the concrete. Up close, he can see that each has a post-it note attached to their chests, with simple lists of sustained injuries.

“Ten,” Aizawa says, and the word is a whip that cracks over his class. A few of them flinch. Midoriya can’t see their face but he watches as Shiro’s shoulders pull microscopically upward, and as Hara’s expression crumbles.

“When there are still injured civilians out in the field, you are not done. Your strategy was well-executed, but you took far too long to recover what victims you did, and those that were not recovered would have died. If this is the performance you’re willing to bring to the hero license test, then each of you can transfer to general studies and save yourselves the trouble now.”

Midoriya winces at his tone, but doesn’t object. He remembers the way failure had tasted at UA; sharper, more desperate, as though the entire world sat on his shoulders with the pressure of All Might’s regard and Aizawa’s expectations. 

He folds his arms.

“As heroes, not every person we’re called on to protect survives,” Midoriya says, measuring the way his voice comes out, strong but not acidic like Aizawa’s, softened with an understanding that pricks at his ribcage, “sometimes, the circumstances are out of our control, and people die. Your limits as a hero are defined by how you choose to accept that, and what you do in response. Being the hero that saves everyone isn’t always possible, but it doesn’t stop you from trying.”

He meets a few of the students’ eyes - the big three, their costumes all covered in a thin layer of chalky dust from the debris field, their eyes a little duller around the edges, but he can recognize the stubborn sets of their jaws and chins, and it makes him smile. Daisuke stares back at him with that stubborn glint he sometimes sees in Mirio’s eyes, like there’s nothing in the world that could force her to back down, to admit defeat.

“Every person who needs your help is counting on you to know your limits, your abilities, and how to use them to your advantage. Coordination, communication, and efficiency like I saw today is a solid foundation. Work from here, make it your start line.”

His eyes meet Hara’s, and Midoriya bites down on his tongue. The kid is almost a decade younger than him, but there’s something to the way he looks at him that makes him think of himself, a third year at UA with limitless potential, a latent ability to become something incredible.

He flashes them all his best All Might smile.

Aizawa tucks his hands into the pockets of his jumpsuit, and tilts his head towards him.

“Everyone say thank you. You’re dismissed.”

Class 3A choruses thank you and begins to shuffle out through the massive double doors behind him.

“I know that look,” Aizawa sighs as Midoriya watches them go, watches as one student in particular bounces between two of his classmates - Daisuke and Mori, two of the big three - and gestures erratically as he speaks.

Midoriya side-eyes him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says.

Aizawa snorts.

“Don’t lie to me, problem child, you were never any good at it,” he replies, “the year isn’t over yet - if you want to put an offer in for him for the spring term, you can. Hero agencies can take on up to two students at a time.”

Midoriya laughs. The thought of Kouta interacting with anyone from the hero department is funny, but especially with a student who so closely resembles the kid he used to be. He knows exactly how that would play out - his unofficial protege’s capacity for patience is a negative number.

“If I could, I’d take on all four of them,” he says instead, “they’re going to be amazing, aren’t they?”

Aizawa flicks his eyes over to where his students are trickling out back towards the dorms on the opposite side of the campus, and where the big three are sticking close to each other, their hanger-on leading the charge and talking with big, animated gestures. He’s reminded suddenly, and viscerally, of third year - Todoroki, Iida, and Uraraka heading back to the dorms after class while he bounced between the three of them, chattering about absolutely everything and nothing at the same time; he, Bakugou, Todoroki, and Yaoyorozu going to the library, the top four of their year; in every memory he has, he’s always been the moral support, the effusive molten core of their class. It’s always been him that galvanizes everyone else, and it’s always been them that push him forward, pick him up when he stumbles. 

“Yes,” Aizawa admits, his voice quieter with an apparent fondness that makes Midoriya smile, “they are.”

 

x

 

Todoroki texts him once he gets home, and Midoriya curls himself around his phone as he leans against his front door as though it’s the most important object in the world. It’s been a few days since he’d heard from him, after all, and the silence feels like it’s been forced down his throat.

 

tdrk - 10:35 pm

The storm should make landfall in Hamamatsu tomorrow

Yoarashi and Kendou were called to Toyohashi, would you come with me?

 

Midoriya bites on the inside of his cheek and pockets his phone, allowing himself to take a deep breath. It’s just the storm, he tells himself, of course it’s just about the storm.

It’s not going to happen.

Midoriya shakes his head and takes his phone back out. He’s not hungry, but he forces himself to make a package of ramen, and while the water boils he rereads the messages.

 

me - 10:41 pm

of course!

i didn’t see anything from hawks on the hn

tdrk - 10:43 pm

He’s keeping the rescue heroes at their local agencies until we’re sure it won’t move onto land

Hadou and Yaoyorozu are going to be in Chiba

 

Midoriya lets himself marvel a little at that - six heroes, spread across three prefectures, diverting a massive storm across the southern coast of Japan. Two hundred years ago, something like this wouldn’t even be an option, just a plot point in a comic book. Natural disasters, acts of violent force outside of anyone’s control - in an age of heroes, you can fight a hurricane.

Midoriya takes his bowl into his room and sits heavily on his bed, debating the merits of watching some b-grade sci fi movie until he falls asleep. The irises on his windowsill are beginning to bend at the stems, their petals sloughing, and he eyes them with a grimace. Bad omen.

 

me - 10:50 pm

i’ll meet you at the train station, then! :)

 

He realizes that their conversation is stilted. Midoriya frowns at his phone, flicking up further through their conversation history. There’s familiarity in the older texts, banter and gentle teasing, fondness in every word, proof of a friendship that’s lasted years. They haven’t talked like this, stripped and spartan and awkward , since UA. The thought makes him flinch.

After a minute, he grabs his laptop and sets one of the older Star Wars films up, curling tight against his pillows and opening his notebook across his lap, bowl tucked into his hip. Not really paying attention to the movie, he twirls his pen between his fingers and starts to write. 

The page is divided into two columns. The one on the left is completely filled in his slanted, hurried handwriting, but the right is completely blank. Up top, on the wide margin, is written: comparative analysis.

Midoriya starts in on the counter-arguments.

 

x

 

Hamamatsu shines dully even through the thick black cloud cover. There are LEDs and old fashioned neon signs on every street, hero agencies all lit up, the Okura Act golden and clearly visible from the train station.

Midoriya keeps in step with Todoroki as they make their way to the coast, both in their hero costumes. Melissa and Mei’s gauntlets had been delivered to his office in the morning before he left, marked with a simple note Kayano had handed to him that said no tune ups from Kouta until after the first twenty four hours, Dekiru. They’re shiny red metal, similar to the design of his first full gauntlet, tight around the wrists to give the joint better support, stopping just across his knuckles so that his fingers are free. He’d switched out his old reinforced gloves for them, the perfect fit unsurprising. They come up to his elbows, where it meets his suit, the same teal and red tones he’d had since his first year of UA. He’d kept his promise from all those years ago - the base of his suit is relatively unchanged, mostly with the help of Melissa’s infinite patience and accommodation, a reinforced and hyper-flexible green jumpsuit inlaid with white in patterns reminiscent of All Might’s Young Age costume. His cowl and mask have been altered by Mei, a sleeker take on the old bunny ears design incorporated into a black slip that fits over his nose and jawline, the mesh in front just thin enough for him to flash a signature grin during combat, the sides polycarbonate and steel.

Todoroki’s costume is almost unrecognizable from its first iteration - the jumpsuit is a blue so dark it’s nearly black now, more form-fitting than Aizawa’s but with the same utility belt slung across his waist. The high collar remains, cinched with a durable bar of tungsten across the base of his throat. The fabric is at once entirely flame-proof up to fifteen thousand degrees Celsius and incapable of being cracked or immobilized by ice, and in the light it swirls into an almost gunmetal blue color. The braces on his shoulders, chest, and knees are whitish, the color of ice, and the inlay around his hips is that of flickering flames. Midoriya forces his eyes down and away as they walk toward the coastline, the promenade almost entirely empty due to the storm warnings in the area, and ignores the way Todoroki’s pulled his hair back into a loop against the back of his neck instead of his usual pin, white and red entwined. He’s always been mesmerising to watch, built taller and leaner than Midoriya, something undeniably proud to the set of his jaw that reminds him, in a way, of Yaoyorozu.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he says after a while, and Midoriya startles. The easy sincerity is back in his voice, but it’s too well-guarded behind something that doesn’t feel like the old fondness they used to share, and it makes his jaw tighten.

“Yoarashi can be - loud.”

Midoriya can’t help but laugh at the way his nose scrunches as he says it, like it’s some kind of criminal offense. 

“He’s a little… enthusiastic,” Midoriya agrees slowly, unable to keep the smile off his face, and Todoroki huffs under his breath.

“Our conversation won’t affect our work relationship,” he says after a minute.

Midoriya nearly trips on a rock. Todoroki barely glances at him, the cool pressure of it too much even as it’s barely there.

“For me, at least. We’ve always worked well together, I’d rather not change that.”

Midoriya swallows around something acidic and heavy in his throat, and forces himself to nod. Todoroki’s tone is inflectionless, perfect and smooth like ice, like they’re discussing the new batch of first-years at UA. 

But he’s right, they’ve always worked well together, side by side and never faltering - and there’s merit in that, Midoriya thinks, even as it makes him want to scream.

The coast is beautiful at this time of day, if you ignore the approaching clouds. The sand is pale and almost white in the sun, the water cold and clear like melted snow. The wind is blowing up from the southwest hard, and it smells like rain.

Midoriya adjusts the strap of his mask and pulls it up over his mouth.

“How do you wanna do this?” He asks. 

Todoroki shakes out his hands and watches the horizon.

“The others will be trying to push it east, so it passes under Tokyo,” he says. His eyes cut to Midoriya’s, and his breath hitches in his throat for a moment. Todoroki’s never lost that analytical edge, the ability to break someone down into their component parts with a sideways glance.

“You think you have enough air pressure to try to help it along?” He asks, and Midoriya bites down on the inside of his cheek even as he grins eagerly.

“One way to find out,” he says, and Todoroki’s left side goes supernova bright.

Flashfire. Midoriya was studying Endeavor’s moves since even before he met the man (since even before he’d been catastrophically disappointed in the man), and the way Todoroki pulls his shoulder back, fire building over the inside of his wrist and shooting up toward his elbow, is painfully familiar. Hero notebook eleven, page nine.

It took him years, from the time they did their internships in first year to the time they graduated from UA, for Todoroki to master it. His body had trouble regulating the temperature needed to create flames that hot, let alone release them. Midoriya remembers sparring with him, every other day after class in their second year for two months, as Todoroki recentered his stance and lashed out over and over, each time with that frustration in his eyes growing more tense.

“I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong,” he’d finally said sometime in the winter after break, staring at his left hand like he could remove it if he glared hard enough.

Midoriya sat cross-legged in the dead grass and tried to steady his breathing - sparring with Todoroki was like fighting a freight train - and picked at the blades with his index finger and thumb.

“Well, how does your dad usually do it?”

Todoroki looked over at him like he might genuinely be an idiot, and Midoriya winced, rubbing the back of his head.

“No, I mean - that move typically uses up a lot of energy, right? So he has to have a way to ground it somehow. What does he do?”

Todoroki rolled his left wrist, holding his forearm with the opposite hand. He looked out over the rest of the park with something in his expression that Midoriya couldn’t quite place. 

“Anger,” Todoroki said after a few minutes, so quietly that he wasn’t sure he’d heard him at first. Midoriya glanced at him out of the corner of his eye.

“He’s always so… angry, with everything. That’s what he uses.”

Todoroki aims, somewhere to the west and far, far over the line of the coast where the waves begin to crash and break up, and his left arm comes around like he’s throwing a curveball as the flames are released.

Midoriya executes a roundhouse at the same time, abandoning his full cowl, feeling the massive power of One for All snap and realign between the bones in his ankle, a 100% shot, and the air pressure makes a noise like the sound barrier being broken as it’s flung away from him and barrels into the fire.

Together, they make thunder. The sound is loud, and vast, shaking through the sand like the band of a hurricane striking ground. The fire is blindingly bright, a blue so clear and vivid that it hurts to look at, and then it’s extinguished as One for All knocks into it.

The first one parts the clouds overhead, revealing a weak layer of sunlight, and Midoriya beams as he sets down, already turning toward Todoroki and bouncing on the balls of his feet. 

He stops.

Todoroki lifts his left hand and turns it over, palm up, in the sunlight. After a second he turns it over again, watching the way his knuckles bend and straighten out with a strange detached kind of look to his eyes. 

“You okay?” Midoriya asks on reflex. Todoroki glances up at him, and for a moment, it’s the same look he gave him all those years ago at the first sports festival, when he’d been consumed by his own fire for the first time, red-gold and beautiful . Not angry, just - wondering. Like he’s seeing him for the first time. Midoriya wonders what it says about him, that he still covets that look, even after Todoroki had frozen him out so effortlessly.

“Yes,” he says after a moment, “I just haven’t been able to do that before without feeling…”

Midoriya turns his head away, enough that Todoroki can’t see the way he bites his lip through the metal panelling of his mask. He already knows - flashfire comes from a place of deep emotion for Todoroki, both in concept and practice. It’s always been Endeavor’s move, but now, at the end of the former number one hero’s life, maybe it’s finally hitting him that it can be his, too. He knows how it feels - he’d felt the same about One for All until he got his official license.

“Again?” He asks, and Midoriya nods.

They stand on the shore for hours, Todoroki summoning flames bigger than his own body and Midoriya creating air pressure that rockets them forward. The hot air pressurizes, rises, and scatters. The noise from the kickback alone shakes the coast. More often than not, the fire that Todoroki sends forward is blue-white and solar-bright, and every time Midoriya smiles a little harder to see it. They look nothing at all like Endeavor’s flames.

They pause only once the dent in the stratosphere is visible - the horizon from one side to the other is clear, just a few overcast clouds hanging around, and the storm approaching has shifted by visible degrees.

“Hadou and Yaomomo can keep it moving east,” Midoriya says, winded but not out of breath. It’s been a while since he’s used One for All at full capacity for longer than half an hour, and keeping that much power transferring between his legs and arms is exhausting. Todoroki doesn’t look much better as he nods, breathing out a thin plume of steam as he activates his quirk on his right to regulate his body temperature.

Both of their phones vibrate, the two-tone alert that signals a notification from the HN. Midoriya sends Todoroki a look, and frowns as he realizes it’s not a singular notification, but a call from a familiar ID number.

“Hawks,” Midoriya greets. Across from him, he can see Todoroki grimace.

“Hey there, number one,” Hawks says cheerily, and the static distortion through the line is familiar - he’s airborne.

“Tsukauchi’s yakuza case just reached a head,” he continues, and Midoriya flicks his eyes over to Todoroki. He fingerspells yakuza case to him and his friend nods once in understanding.

“Problem is,” Hawks says, in a tone of voice that suggests it’s not a problem at all, “they’ve staged three separate moves across Honshu, and it’s anyone’s guess as to which one’s the real deal.”

“I thought the intel said there would be only one transfer,” Midoriya says, as his fingers spell fake out to Todoroki.

Hawks laughs.

“If it were that easy, kiddo! You know the little ball in the cup game? Yeah, that’s what we’re dealing with, apparently. Tsukauchi’s got Chargebolt and Riot on the transfer in Tokyo, and I’m on my way with Zero here to Osaka. You and that Todoroki kid still in Hamamatsu?”

“Yeah, have Tsukauchi send us the address and any intel he has,” Midoriya says, wincing slightly around Hawks’ address of Japan’s number three hero, and heads back toward the promenade with Todoroki in step.

“Can do, number one,” Hawks replies. The line cuts out.

Tsukauchi sends them the relevant details as they make their way back into the city proper, and Midoriya fills in Todoroki on the developments. 

The address for the transfer isn’t far from where they are - in fact, it’s a convenience store only a few blocks from the shore. But another part of the message makes Midoriya stop cold.

Hostages reported from the local department. Make the necessary arrests and alert me if it’s a ploy, Tamakawa is patching you two into the broader comms channel now.

Todoroki and Midoriya both adjust their comms and share a brief look.

“It’ll be easier for you to secure the hostages after I’ve frozen anyone inside,” Todoroki says, as calm and steady as he ever is, the bedrock Midoriya’s leaned on for years, “so stay back from the door until I give the signal.”

Midoriya nods, and they take off into the city.

 

x

 

The convenience store is, unfortunately, multi-level.

Midoriya eyes the pharmacy sign flashing from one of the windows on the second story, and shares a look with Todoroki.

“A thousand yen that they’re up there,” Midoriya mutters, already moving toward the door as Todoroki creates a cordon of ice around the sidewalk, but he hears him huff in amusement anyway.

Midoriya keeps to Todoroki’s left as his partner opens the door and immediately lays down a bed of ice three inches thick, and then he’s off and through and taking in the situation all at once.

There are three men standing toward the back, where the staircase and emergency exit is, and with a gesture another wave of ice covers the fire door until it gleams under the overhead lights. 

The men drop their handguns in surprise, yelping as they try to move their legs and meet resistance, and Midoriya lays them out, methodical and viciously efficient, with a strike to the back of each of their necks.

“Clear,” he calls, and Todoroki enters the building.

“Probably heard that,” he notes, and Midoriya nods as his eyes find the staircase.

“Shouto and Deku,” Todoroki continues into his comm, “contact made. Three villains incapacitated, don’t have confirmation on the hostages or the transfer yet.”

Midoriya hears the comm piece in his ear crackle, and Tamakawa confirms to both of them that he’s heard.

Todoroki restrains the three unconscious men and joins Midoriya at the base of the stairs. Neither of them can hear anything from above. Midoriya points up, and fights a growing smile.

“Wanna do the fastball?”

Todoroki barely manages to suppress his reflexive eye-roll.

“I’ve told you not to call it that, and we don’t know the layout upstairs. I could hit something.”

Midoriya frowns at him.

“You can correct your trajectory in the air, and I wouldn’t throw you that hard, come on.”

Todoroki grimaces.

“If there are civilians up there, it’ll draw their fire, and you know you can control your ice enough not to hit them.”

Todoroki looks at him for a second too long, assessing in a way Midoriya can’t figure out, and then he nods.

“Fine.”

Midoriya climbs the stairs, Todoroki a step behind, until he can see the landing and the ceiling without being visible. There’s no one guarding the top of the stairs, then, just the bottom. Something about that sits heavily in his stomach.

Todoroki touches his shoulder, and he almost jumps. He grits his teeth together and curls his fingers before kneeling on the next step and laying his hand out flat, palm up.

Todoroki’s grip shifts on his shoulder, tightening, and he places one boot lightly on Midoriya’s hand. He breathes in deeply, and then taps him twice.

Ready.

Midoriya pulls One for All into a cowl and in a single motion launches his partner forward at 20% power.

Todoroki rockets up, and disappears from his line of sight. Midoriya’s not far behind, already moving to clear the last few steps and take in the scene. 

He rolls and dodges on instinct as the sound of gunfire lights up the room, and he feels a flash of heat across his eyelids as Todoroki wreathes himself in flames overhead.

Something catches on the fabric of the arm of his costume, and Midoriya barely registers the sting before he’s coming up out of his roll and into a crouch, taking in the number of guns in the room and where they’re pointed, and moving again.

“Dodge!” Todoroki shouts from the opposite side of the room, and Midoriya launches himself up by the sole of one boot as his partner lands and activates the other half of his quirk without missing a beat, pinning the five other yakuza in place with a sheet of ice and leaving the three civilians untouched. Midoriya curls himself up in midair and lands a solid strike against the villain closest to him, driving him down into the ice with a sickening crack as the back of his skull meets the floor. He kicks the gun out of his hands and toward the edge of the room. Across from him, he can see Todoroki lash out with a tendril of flame that licks across another villain’s hands, and with a hiss of pain they drop it, curling over their burned knuckles. Another gesture and a wall of fire is raised between the three civilians, closer to him, and the remaining yakuza, closer to Midoriya, removing them from his vision. 

Midoriya doesn’t waste the opportunity and rockets off the floor, changing direction by leaping off the walls with Gran Torino’s technique, moving too quickly for the fresh wave of gunfire to find him.

“Fuck! There’s nothing goddamn here!” Bakugou hisses into the comm channel.

Midoriya snaps the wrists of two of the yakuza as he kicks their guns away, but he falters as the trajectory takes him too close to the wall of fire, and as he tries to correct, he feels something strike into his right knee, under his costume’s guard, and his vision whites out.

Shit.

He’s not sure if he makes a noise, or if his body buckles, or even if he’s shot again, because he’s already moving to get away, graceless and slower than he should be, half on instinct and half on a desperate attempt to get away from the pain. His cowl drops for just a second, the green sparks that surround him guttered for an instant, and then ice envelops the room around him.

Todoroki drops the wall of fire by stepping through it, right hand already grazing the floor, and as his wrist flicks up, frost spreads from him and solidifies into massive spikes. They puncture through the ceiling and lift the remaining three villains off of the floor, entombing them up to their necks. Midoriya blinks, and tries to stand up, but a hand on his shoulder forces him back down with a strength that’s undercut only by Todoroki’s wide eyes. The rest of his face is blank, shored up behind a neutral expression. For a brief moment Midoriya almost snaps at him to stop it , to drop it and stop hiding already, they’re best fucking friends.

“Deku’s been hit,” Todoroki says into his comm.

Midoriya sighs and lets himself slump back against a slope of ice pressing against his spine. He marvels, not for the first time, at Todoroki’s capacity to end a fight in an instant.

“I’m fine, is everyone else okay?” He asks.

“Sitrep,” Tsukauchi says, featureless and calm.

“Goddammit,” Kirishima swears, overlapping him.

“Gunshot wound,” Todoroki reports as he digs through one of the pockets of his belt, “it didn’t pass through, but it looks like it didn’t hit an artery. He’s conscious and responsive.”

“Is everyone okay?” Midoriya tries again, more urgently this time, and Todoroki finally meets his eyes.

“The hostages are safe and the villains are restrained, no one was hit,” he replies, half to him and half to Tsukauchi, “but there’s nothing here. This wasn’t the transfer location.”

Todoroki finally frees one of his localized anesthetics from his belt, and without a word of warning he sinks it into Midoriya’s thigh, just above his injured knee, and flinches as he hisses in pain.

“Sorry,” he mutters.

“Medics have been alerted, an ambulance should be there soon,” Tamakawa says.

“Nothing here either, boss,” Kaminari chimes in.

“Nothing on our end - was our intel right?” Hawks asks.

“There must have been a fourth location,” Midoriya says. He sighs as the pain ebbs from his leg, and barely feels it as Todoroki presses gauze over the rip in his costume to staunch the bleeding.

Come on, number one, work the problem. There were supposed to be three - Osaka, Tokyo, and Hamamatsu. What do they have in common? How do you fix this?

“They’re using the storm as cover,” he realizes all at once, and Todoroki’s eyes cut to him sharply, “the three cities are all in the direct line of the storm, where we’ve already been to divert it.”
“Toyohashi or Chiba,” Todoroki finishes for him, pressing his fingers to his comm, “send Battle Fist and Creati and anyone local, they’re already on-site.”

“Understood,” Tsukauchi says, “make sure no one leaves until the first responders arrive.”

Hawks and Kaminari confirm in unison, and Midoriya lets a little of the tension go out from his shoulders.

“Make sure everyone else is okay,” he says to Todoroki, and frowns at him as something mutinous glints in his eyes, “I told you I’m fine.”

“You’re bleeding,” Todoroki replies, like he’s testing his patience, “a lot.”

“And those three were just held at gunpoint, so go,” Midoriya retorts.

For a moment, it seems like his partner is going to refuse, and then something resets in his expression and he stands up and crosses the room toward the civilians.

He frowns down at the already-soaked gauze. Uraraka’s going to kill him.

 

x

Chapter Text

 

Uraraka doesn’t, in fact, kill him. But it’s a close thing.

Midoriya sighs and leans back against the hospital bed pillows as Iida starts in on hour two of his lecture - proper procedure on active artillery is something we studied in second year, Midoriya, I would’ve thought you’d stick to appropriate strategy, honestly, this type of mistake is very unbecoming for such a renowned hero - and tries not to meet Uraraka’s eyes. She’s sitting, legs and arms crossed, in the chair closest to his bed.

“Sorry, Iida,” Midoriya tries for the fifth time, and finally his friend looks over at him and adjusts his glasses with a sigh. He’s still in costume, just off of his patrol shift, and Midoriya can’t help but feel appropriately ashamed as he takes in how tired he looks.

“We’re used to these sorts of calls from you, Midoriya,” Iida reminds him gently, “but that doesn’t mean we like it.”

Midoriya nods and ducks his head.

“I know. I got distracted at the last minute by something Kacchan said, and I lost focus.”

Uraraka tilts her head at him and frowns, but she keeps her silence. She hasn’t said anything beyond asking how he was feeling since she came in a few minutes after he was admitted to the overnight ward. The bullet had actually hit an artery, lodged just shy of his kneecap, but the localized anaesthetic Todoroki had given him was also a coagulator, and it kept him from bleeding out until the paramedics could get him to the hospital and into surgery.

Uraraka checks her phone, and stands up.

“Your mom is here,” she says, and bends over the railing on his bed to kiss his forehead, “we’ll go get you something from the cafeteria.”

“Thanks,” Midoriya sighs, looking at her with as much fondness as he can muster. She blinks at him, and smiles in a knowing, flinty way that ices his blood.

“Oh,” she says, “we’re not going to give you some privacy. I just don’t want Ms. Inko to think she can’t kill you for being stupid with two pros in the room.”

“Ochako -” Iida protests, but Uraraka puts her hands against his spine and herds him out of the room with brute force, singing “Bye Deku have fun!” over her shoulder as she does.

Midoriya pushes the heels of his palms into his eyes hard enough to see sparks and groans.

“Number one hero, and my best friends are traitors,” he grumbles.

His phone vibrates on the bedside table, and with effort he twists to grab it.

 

tdrk - 6:54 pm

Yaoyorozu and Kendou found the transfer location, they’re coming with me to file the reports at the station - I’ll take care of your paperwork, too

How are you?

 

Midoriya places his phone in his lap and stares at the screen for a minute. 

“How are you, he asks,” he mutters under his breath, not able to keep the exasperation out of it - Todoroki’s always been blunt to a fault, something so endearing at times and frustrating at others. Right now is the latter.

Before he can respond, the door to his hospital room snaps back open and Midoriya barely has a chance to breathe before his mother is on him, fussing and crying and admonishing him in equal measure.

Midoriya blinks over her shoulder as she finally wraps him in a hug with a helpless little noise.
“Hi, mom. Hi, All Might.”

His mentor waves to him from the door, looking equally amused and concerned, closing it behind him with a quiet click. He’s wearing a sweater in the hero Deku’s costume colors, a tiny stylized version of his cowl stitched onto the chest, and he grins to see it. Judging by the size and softness of the yarn, he has no doubt his mother knitted it for him. 

“How are you feeling, my boy?”  

How are you? I was shot.

“A little lighter now that the bullet’s out,” he jokes, and winces as he realizes that was the wrong answer as his mother’s grip tightens, squeezing the breath out of his lungs.

All Might shakes his head, but there’s the ghost of a smile playing across his expression that Midoriya returns. Life-threatening injuries are part of a pro hero’s job description, and they both know he’s survived worse, anyway.

“Mom, really, I’m okay,” Midoriya soothes, placing a hand in her hair as her crying peters out, “Todoroki was with me the whole time, and the surgery was fast. I’m just gonna be a little slow until it heals.”

Midoriya Inko finally pulls herself away far enough to level him with a capital-L Look

“You’re going to be on bed rest until it heals, young man,” she corrects, “number one hero or not, I will get Tenya to keep you on desk duty.”

Midoriya groans, but relents. He’s got nothing on his mother’s sheer force of will and never has, he knows.

All Might places a hand on his mother’s shoulder, and she stands back upright and wipes at the tear tracks on her cheeks, recomposing herself.

“I already asked Aizawa to send Recovery Girl,” he tells Midoriya gently, “your doctor tells me they’ll keep you overnight to get back some of your strength and keep an eye out for any abnormalities, and then she’ll heal you.”

Midoriya smiles at him.

“Sorry to make you come all the way out here,” he says, but All Might just shakes his head.

“Naomasa was in Hamamatsu taking reports, our place was on his way,” he replies.

His mother sighs, and leans over to kiss him on the cheek.

“I’m going to get some coffee,” she says, “and I might as well get some for your friends, too. You put them through a shock, I’m sure.”

“Nothing they haven’t been through before,” Midoriya tells her, then winces as she purses her lips at him and tries again, “I mean - that’s a great idea, mom, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.”

“That’s more like it,” she says, her tone gentling as she runs her fingers through his hair to neaten it, and turns on a heel back through the door.

All Might takes a seat in the chair Uraraka vacated, sitting heavily as though he couldn’t stand for another second, and Midoriya tracks the motion closely. He’s been having more difficulty walking without assistance lately, and even the braces that Melissa had rolled out for him aren’t enough to keep the stiffness out of his movements. 

All Might must notice, because he cuts a glance toward his successor with a wry kind of grin and places a hand over one of his knees.

“We match now,” he says, and it startles a laugh out of Midoriya, “who knew being a superhero could do so much damage to your joints?”

“Me, in first year,” Midoriya quips back.

All Might runs a hand through his hair and tips his head back toward the ceiling.

“Naomasa didn’t say anything about how young Todoroki was,” he says, “is he alright?”

Midoriya glances toward his darkened phone, still on his lap, and bites his lower lip.

“He’s fine, he’s filing the paperwork now,” he says slowly, “but I think he thought I was hurt pretty badly for a second there.”

All Might eyes him, and then something catches in his expression and he leans forward with a mischievous kind of grin, the sallow set of his eyes not enough to cover their glitter.

“Y’know, a concerned friend would typically send flowers, but I suppose an anesthetic isn’t bad either,” he says, exaggerating the way his voice dips quieter as though he’s confiding a great secret, and when he laughs Midoriya can’t help but join him. There’s something infectious about his mentor’s good humor, the way he looks at everything with obvious fondness and charity, that makes him feel lighter.

“He already did,” Midoriya says before he can think it through, and then immediately winces and looks back at his phone.

How are you? Well, Shouto, do you want the long or short answer?

All Might notices the way he abruptly closes himself off, and places a hand over his wrist, piano-key fingers curled gently. He doesn’t press, that solid point of contact steady even as Midoriya can feel the bones beneath, and for a terrifying moment he’s sure he could take him - he could absolutely beat the man who was his mentor and the symbol of peace before him for so many years in a fight, and the thought makes him tear up. It’s not the first time he’s realized it, but every time it makes him less and less sure of himself, like his admiration for a man he’s already surpassed is the only thing anchoring him.

“Irises,” Midoriya murmurs after a while, flipping his left hand over against the sheets pulled around his waist and watching the washed-out hospital lights catch on the scars across his knuckles, “he sent irises when I got back.”

“My predecessor’s favorite,” All Might replies, blinking.

Midoriya looks up at the ceiling to keep from crying. He knows if he starts now he might not ever stop - and this is the shock, finally hitting home deep within his ribs, ripping out everything he’s been trying to keep small and compact within the confines of his chest. There’s no pain like it, not even a bullet wound.

“He couldn’t have known that,” he says softly, “but they reminded me of you. And while everyone was welcoming me back as a pro, even Uraraka and Iida, he -”

“He welcomed you back as a friend,” All Might finishes, and Midoriya nods, not trusting himself to speak without his old stutter rising back to the surface, “a person he missed.”

Midoriya raises his left hand, the raised scar tissue discolored and vivid like the wounds they traced were still fresh. He thinks of Todoroki - ambidextrous, but always favoring his right, always looking so surprised when he reached out with his left, like he’d forgotten it was there. He thinks of that unfamiliar light in his eyes on the coast of Hamamatsu, the way he’d said I just haven’t been able to do that before without feeling…

Midoriya wonders, now, what he’d been about to say.

“My boy,” All Might says quietly, gently, and Midoriya makes himself meet his eyes. There’s something there so vast, so kind, and so proud, that it forces the tears from his eyes and down his cheeks.

“When I met you, there were so many qualities that made you a hero even then. But the one I never had to teach you, that was your first and best ability, was the capacity to change.

Midoriya blinks at him. All Might meets his eyes with a soft smile, nothing at all like the grin he’d always worn as the number one hero.

“You’d sacrifice yourself to see something fixed, and you’d change the entire world just to make something right. That’s always been what I’m most proud of you for, Izuku, and it had nothing to do with me.”

Midoriya thinks of Hikaru, kneeling in front of her and telling her to change, of Melissa’s soft voice saying Dekiru, I didn’t know it bothered you this much, of seeing something uncomfortable and wrong in Todoroki’s expression at the station and reaching out on instinct to try and chase it away. Of Kouta sitting small and curled in on themself on his office desk, a miserable kind of apprehension on their face that Midoriya knew instantly he’d do anything to make disappear. Of Shuzenji saying not everyone can be saved and Shinsou saying some people want to save themselves. He thinks of Todoroki standing across from him at the sports festival ten years ago and how even then they weren’t rivals, not really, because above wanting to win, above everything else, Midoriya wanted to see that awful coldness leave his expression as he ignited himself in red-orange light.

Midoriya closes his scarred hand over his former mentor’s and breathes deeply.

 

x

 

Midoriya convinces his mother not to stay the night, with the endless repetition of no, I’m fine, I promise, Recovery Girl will see me in the morning, you have work tomorrow, there’s really no need, mom. Uraraka has a night patrol with Shinsou, but she leaves him with a plate of taiyaki from the bakery near his apartment and a promise to let her know when he’s released tomorrow on threat of bodily harm. Iida wraps him in a gentle hug before he leaves and tells him quietly to be more careful. Midoriya looks up at him, through the glare off his glasses, and smiles gently. He’ll never stop worrying his friends, he knows, but that’s never meant that he can’t try.

“I’ll do my best,” he says, and Iida nods as though he knows that’s the closest to a promise as he’s likely to get. He smiles fondly and ruffles his hair, and Midoriya bats him back more on reflex than anything else, beaming.

Tsukauchi stops by to fill him in on the bust - Creati had been the one to find the actual transfer location in Chiba, with startling efficiency once she’d been informed on the make of the guns they’d been carrying in Hamamatsu - and to pick up All Might.

“Shouto’s already filled out the reports, I’ll have Tamakawa send your agency a copy once you’re discharged,” he says as his husband wraps an arm around his waist.

“Stop by the house after the billboard announcement,” All Might says, and Midoriya smiles at him, at the way the two of them stand, easy and comfortable even as they move in and out of each other’s space.

Tsukauchi rolls his eyes.

“You better not try to bake for him, Toshinori. We’ll want to celebrate, not burn the place down.”

Midoriya laughs.

“Yes, sir,” the two symbols of peace, past and present, chorus.

Todoroki only comes by an hour before the hospital ends visitation for the day.

Midoriya is scanning through the HN feeds, taking in what he can about the storm and the remaining formalities on the yakuza case, keeping an eye out for anything to do with La Brava’s trial, when he hears a soft knock.

Todoroki lifts up a plastic bag of take-out as he closes the door behind him, and Midoriya grins bemusedly.

“You’re the second person who’s brought me food today! Honestly, it’s not like the hospital food is that bad.”

Todoroki raises an eyebrow.

“You’d eat anything,” he accuses, and Midoriya tips his head in conceit. He’s twenty-six and works as a pro hero in one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world; it’s not like he can afford to be picky.

Todoroki pulls the chair over closer to Midoriya’s bedside table and unpacks their dinner.

“I’m sorry, by the way,” Midoriya says, and watches curiously as Todoroki startles, “for earlier. I was distracted when Kacchan said their location was empty, and I lost focus.”

“Only you would apologize for being shot,” Todoroki sighs, breaking a pair of chopsticks and handing them over. He doesn’t let go immediately when Midoriya takes them, and makes him meet his eyes as he says, “You scared me, that’s all. I’m not used to having to pick up after you.”

Midoriya weighs his tone against the humor in his eyes and snorts.

“Still, it was stupid of me, Iida already went over the live ammo procedure with me earlier and I -”

“Midoriya,” Todoroki interrupts. 

Midoriya bites his tongue. The furrow between his eyebrows matches his frown, and Midoriya blinks at him.

“Stop blaming yourself for being shot by a villain,” Todoroki instructs, voice still infinitely patient.

“I scared you,” Midoriya replies, echoing him.

Todoroki shrugs and leans back in his chair. His chopsticks tap against the sides of the carton.

“And that’s not your fault, either,” he says, like he’s not entirely sure he believes it.

Midoriya frowns. There’s something tense in the line of his shoulders, and it takes him a moment to pin it before he realizes - he’s still in his on-duty posture. He’s still watching the door to the room, angled so he can see the windows out of the corner of his eye as well, looking at him like he might spontaneously combust or else drop dead on the spot.

“I’ve been hurt worse before,” he says slowly, trying to gauge it, “I’ve been hurt worse at UA before.”

Todoroki looks up at him and grimaces, his hands coming to an abrupt stop as every muscle in his body locks, and Midoriya blinks.

“That’s not the point,” Todoroki hisses. He catches himself almost immediately, sighing and  dragging his fingers over his eyes as the tension eases microscopically from his chest.

“I don’t want to argue about this, not right now, you’re -”

“Shouto,” Midoriya cuts him off. 

“You made this noise,” Todoroki finally breaks, setting his carton of soba to the side and twining his fingers in his lap as though trying to stop them from forming fists. Midoriya can’t tell if they’re shaking, but the purposeful smoothness of his voice is answer enough. Todoroki’s hiding something again, in the only way he knows how; by pushing it back and replacing it with inflectionless neutrality. It’s so familiar by now that it hurts.

“I couldn’t see you,” he continues, “and then there was a gunshot and you made a noise like you were choking, and I thought -”

“Shouto,” Midoriya repeats, softer this time, and he aches to reach out and take his hand, curl his fingers around his wrist, tilt his chin up to make him meet his eyes, anything. He feels it constrict against his sternum, lodged between his lungs and throat, sharp enough that he almost recoils, but he forces himself not to move. He doesn’t think he could stand seeing Todoroki’s eyes ice over again if he did.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

Todoroki huffs and looks out through the windows.

“Stop apologizing,” he mutters after a second, and Midoriya offers him a sheepish grin.

“Not likely,” he replies, and catches the tail end of a small smile in return.

They eat quietly - Midoriya turns on the television set into the far wall, flicking through the channels until he finds the news, and they watch the ticker tape retell the events of the day. The yakuza ring had been a few dozen men strong, and the apparent facilitator for the transfer - a shocking amount of illegal semi-automatic rifles - was put into police custody until Tsukauchi and Shinsou could interrogate them. Yaoyorozu and a few heroes from local agencies were credited with the capture, which Midoriya was more than fine with - they’d done more when the cards were down than he had, anyway. Interspersed between those reports are updated polling data about the billboard announcement tomorrow, and Midoriya watches Todoroki react to the preliminary rankings with interest. The hero commission is the one that makes the final call, but between media coverage, citizen popularity, and general common sense, it isn’t difficult to extrapolate most of the top twenty.

“Yaomomo might take Hadou’s spot,” Midoriya says conversationally. Todoroki narrows his eyes at the screen and folds his arms, leaning back in his chair.

“After today, it’s likely,” he replies, “but she should be further up. She has better popularity than I do.”

“Less resolved incidents than Hawks,” Midoriya reminds him, and Todoroki shrugs.

“If you count carrying luggage up some stairs with his feathers as a resolved incident, then I guess,” he says, and Midoriya laughs.

One of the nurses on the overnight shift peeks his head through the door to remind them that visiting hours are almost over, and Todoroki nods to him.

“You could stay the night, I think they’d make an exception for Hero Deku,” Midoriya says with a cheeky little smile. Todoroki huffs in amusement, but collects his bag and slings it over his shoulder anyway.

“Family only,” he reminds gently, “and I have patrol in the morning.”

Midoriya shrugs, and sets his empty take-out box on the bedside table. 

“I’ll let you know once I’m discharged,” he says, and Todoroki nods to him before saying good night and taking his leave.

After a few minutes, his phone vibrates. Midoriya frowns at it, then shuts the overhead light off with the switch on his bed’s railing and grabs it, flipping over so he’s curled up with his back to the steady hum from the television.

 

tdrk - 10:03 pm

Come to my office after the billboard announcement

I want to congratulate you in person

 

Midoriya bites down on an insistent smile. Congratulate him, as though the number one spot was already assured to be his for another year. He places his phone screen-up on the pillow next to him, watching the light reflect off the tiles of the ceiling.

Either the stalemate between the two number three heroes will be broken tomorrow or it won’t be, and either he’ll congratulate one of his friends or have to deal with another year of Mirio’s constant embittered humor over sharing the spot.

Midoriya smiles to himself. The irony is palpable.

Nothing’s changed, huh, golden boy? Let’s find out.

 

x

 

Recovery Girl wakes him up at an ungodly hour.

The sun is barely over the horizon, turning everything sleep-soft blue and lavender, when she bursts into his room already cursing him for making her life as a school nurse so exciting, flinging little epithets at him and bemoaning the fact that the number one hero can’t keep himself out of the emergency room for more than a week.

Honestly , the five months you weren’t in Japan were the the best nights of sleep I’ve had in years,” she scolds him, and Midoriya manages not to laugh as he tries to look appropriately cowed. It’s important to let her think he’s been properly shamed. He smothers his laughter with big, earnest eyes and solemn nods as she checks and changes his bandages.

“You’ll be fine,” she finally sighs after another five minutes of ranting, “I can heal this in one go, but I want you on desk duty for the rest of the day. No patrol. I’ll know if you go out anyway, and I’m not above telling Principal Aizawa about your utter lack of self-restraint, Izuku.”

Midoriya nods, wincing a little. He can still feel the creeping sensation of eyes on the back of his head from that day Aizawa had activated his quirk on him for the entirety of class because he’d caught him training after lights-out outside the dorm building. 

Midoriya resolves to have Kayano send her some candy for her office once she leaves, and after testing his range of motion by having him walk around the room for a few minutes, his doctor discharges him.

The sun is bright, and the air is starting to warm. Soon they’ll be on the tail end of spring and heading into summer. Midoriya grabs a coffee from the cafe kitty-corner to the hospital and heads back to his apartment, feeling the wind ruffle his hair. Around him, slowly, the city begins to wake up. 

He checks the news on his phone as he walks, waiting for Kayano to message him about the billboard results - they won’t be released until later on in the morning, but she’ll send him any preliminary breakdowns sent to her from the coordinator network. The Public Safety Commission likes to keep all of the top twenty heroes and their agencies abreast of the rankings a few hours before the public announcement anyway, to give them time and breathing room in case there’s an upset. Midoriya learned that in practice the year he jumped ten whole spots and landed at number five. 

He takes a shower, careful not to soak through the bandages wrapped around his knee, texts Uraraka, his mother, and Iida that he’s been discharged, and grabs his costume case from beside the door. After a second he pauses, chewing on his lip. He glances back over to his kotatsu, finds his notebook exactly where he left it the night before Todoroki had called him to Hamamatsu with him. 

Midoriya sets his case down and flips it open. Slowly, methodically, he rips out the pages he’s been working on for the better part of the week. There’s a dozen and a half in total. He divides them up, folding them down the center neatly, and tucks them into the outside pocket of his costume case carefully. 

He stops by a florist’s further downtown as he takes the shorter route to his agency, picking out a few stargazer lilies in vibrant colors for Kayano.

“Those are beautiful,” the shop attendant tells him from across the store where they’re watering a row of clematis with their quirk, “they’re one of my favorites.”

Midoriya smiles at them and leans over to inspect the flowers now doused in a fine layer of mist. They’re bright purple and pale lilac, beautiful and fully in bloom under the soft light of the skylights.

“The stems are fragile,” they explain, gesturing to the gentle mist coming out from their index finger, “y’know, I think we might have a few other species in that color if you wanted to mix them - a few african violet varieties, maybe some tea roses?”

Midoriya looks down at the collection of soft pink lilies and smiles. The idea hits him like nothing in the world could be more obvious.

“Actually,” he says, “do you have any irises? Blue would be best.”

 

x

 

Kouta is sitting in the bullpen, chattering to Kayano as she flicks rapidfire through her datapad, when Midoriya walks in.

“Oh!” Kayano starts when Kouta nudges her, and then as she rounds on him, quieter and with no small amount of wonder, “oh.”

Midoriya holds out the lilies with a grin so big it hurts, and Kayano looks at him with wide, watery eyes.

“I wanted to say thank you,” he explains, “no matter how the announcement goes. You put a lot of work into this.”

Midoriya catches Kouta’s smile even as they immediately move to try and hide it. Kayano barrels into him with preternatural strength, tucking her head against his chest and threatening to crush the lilies between them. Midoriya narrows his eyes over her shoulder at Kouta, mouthing gotcha , but they just stick their tongue out at him.

Kayano sniffs and steps back, taking the lilies and pressing them to her chest. They match the color of her eyes, which crinkle as she smiles at Midoriya.

“Y’know, everyone from Hawks’ agency said you’d be a pain to work for,” she jokes, voice wobbling. She wipes at her eyes primly.

Midoriya raises an eyebrow. He scratches at the back of his neck as he admits, “Well, they weren’t wrong about that - I did just get discharged from the hospital.”

Kouta rolls their eyes behind Kayano, kicking their legs against her desk. They sip loudly and pointedly at their bubble tea, and Midoriya gives them a chastising look.

Kayano places her flowers upright against the side of her computer monitor. She gestures to the irises in his other hand.

“I can have Tashiro drop those off somewhere?” She offers, visibly fighting a smile, and Midoriya knows he’s been caught out. He fidgets with the handle of his costume case, suddenly finding the floor of great interest. Good sturdy hardwood.

“I, uh, should probably drop these off myself,” he says, wincing at how meek it sounds even to his own ears, and he pivots on a heel before he can catch Kouta laughing at him, “I’ll be back for the announcement don’t wait up bye!”

“Tell Shouto hi for me!” Kouta shouts after him. Midoriya’s glad his back is turned; he’s sure his blush is turning his face bright red.

“Nope!” He calls back over his shoulder.

Todoroki’s agency is only a train stop away, closer to the financial district than Midoriya’s or Bakugou’s. It’s a stone’s throw from Yaoyorozu and Kendou’s, only a block - Midoriya smiles to see it, bright silver and tall, lit on all sides by soft white LEDs that catch on their office’s logo, the diamond dust glitter of Yaoyorozu’s creation quirk suspended over an outstretched hand. 

Todoroki’s office is smaller, a corner lot made of bright white plexiglass and labeled with the character for his last name wrought in dark grey steel over the front door. Everything about it is crisp and orderly and perfectly in control, an exact counterpoint to the hero Deku’s office, which always looks like a hurricane just swept through. 

Midoriya grins and waves at Todoroki’s coordinator, Hata, a tall woman with grey hair and a wardrobe he’s sure only consists of professional a-line skirts and blazers. She looks up from over the lip of her raised computer stand when he enters, eyes dropping to the flowers in his hand without a word, and gestures him toward the elevators at the back. None of the interns even look up at him as he passes, completely engrossed in their datapads and talking into their earpieces. The billboard announcement is usually the quietest day of the year for pro heroes, and the busiest for their offices.

Midoriya tucks the irises behind his back as the elevator ascends, other hand fidgeting with the strap of his case. He ignores the way his pulse sounds feverishly loud in his ears, thumping against the edge of his jaw.

You want something to change, you do it yourself. Your first and best ability, Hero Deku.

Todoroki is leaning against the edge of his desk, in full costume, going through the HN feeds on his tablet and flipping a pen between his fingers. He looks up in surprise when Midoriya enters, but his expression smooths over almost instantly. Midoriya offers him a shy kind of smile.

“I know you said to come by later,” he says conversationally, “but I wanted to catch you after patrol. So, ready to officially be the number three hero?”

Todoroki snorts. He sets the tablet down on his desk and folds his arms. His eyes linger a little too long at where Midoriya’s arm disappears behind his back, and there’s suspicion there when he looks back up at him, but all he says is “Don’t jinx it.”

Midoriya sets his case down on one of the office chairs across from Todoroki’s desk, being careful to keep his back fully turned away from him.

“Kayano’s gonna kill me if I don’t make it back in time for the announcement,” he says, “I just came to drop a few things off.”

Todoroki steps around the edge of his desk, the curiosity edging into his eyes growing the longer Midoriya stalls. Complete heterochromia iridum, affects about one percent of the population. He knows, he’d looked it up in high school.

He breathes in, once, to give his lungs something to cling to. He pulls the irises close against his stomach, and tries not to react to the way Todorki’s expression immediately softens, the recognition there almost enough to make him reconsider everything he’s about to do. There’s something in the way he looks at him, now, that’s so gentle, as though they’re right back where they started five months ago before Midoriya ever left, and it makes him swallow down something painfully hopeful in the back of his throat.

It’s not going to happen.

“I asked you what these meant,” Midoriya says, fighting the stutter that tries to derail him, keeping his voice as steady and neutral as Todoroki himself is so good at doing, “and you were right - irises can represent strong friendship. But they mean hope, and trust, too.”

He tips them forward, stems-first, toward Todoroki. They’re light blue - a rare color for their species - and tipped with starbursts of yellow, tied with a warm grey ribbon. The attendant at the florist’s had looked at them for a long time as they tied the little bouquet together, and after a moment of consideration offered, “Purple roses might work, too.”

Midoriya had stammered for a full thirty seconds before squeaking out a no thank you. That wouldn’t have been right, anyway - it had to be these, and it had to be now.

“Whether or not you get the third spot,” Midoriya continues, quieter, “you deserve it. And I wanted to be the first to say congratulations, if you do.”

Todoroki reaches out hesitantly, like he’s not sure if Midoriya’s really offering them to him. There’s something in his expression, just below the surface and shifting, that Midoriya tries to parse. It’s a close cousin of the look he wore in their match at the sports festival first year, that bewildered wonder, like he’s seeing him for the first time. He bites his lip to keep from doing something stupid like pulling him into a hug.

Todoroki’s very particular about gifts, giving them and receiving them, after all.

Midoriya pops the clasps on his costume case once both hands are free. 

“The other thing was this,” he says, unable to keep his voice from fraying, shaking at the edges, and Todoroki’s eyes snap up to meet his as he notices. 

Midoriya pulls the first slim stack of papers out of the case, unfolding them and running a finger down the crease to get them to sit flat. There’s a solid dozen of them, all filled to near-illegibility with his cramped script. He offers them, face-first, toward Todoroki.

“You asked me for a list, if I had one,” he says.

The realization dawns on Todoroki suddenly, and he can’t close down his expression fast enough, can’t hide it away before Midoriya sees it. There’s that look, the same one from the coast, staring out over the water as his flames flickered white-blue, the thin roar of the waves overlapping the crackle and snap of them. Nothing at all like how he’d looked at the station, at the hospital, at the bar.

“Midoriya, I - “ Todoroki forces himself to stop, to reset, and tries again, “Why are you doing this?”

Midoriya shakes his head, and places the papers down on his desk. He suddenly feels very small standing across from him, the knot in his stomach forcing him to look away. He knew he had to do it here, in Todoroki’s office, a place he felt entirely in control, a place he was unquestionably safe. He wants to do this right, more than anything else. He wants to fix this.

“Really, it’s okay,” he says gently, “I just wanted you to know. I wanted you to have it.”

Todoroki looks like he’s about to say something else, his grip on the stems of the irises bruising, and Midoriya glances down at them and then back up to meet his eyes. He offers him an understanding smile, not a trace of the symbol of peace in it. He’s not Hero Deku right now.

“I should get back,” he says. He picks his case back up, closing the clasps. “I’ll see you after the announcement, right?” 

He tips Todoroki a small wave, feeling his smile grow plasticine on his face but unable to drop it, to pretend like Todoroki’s speechlessness isn’t the response he knew from the beginning he’d get. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was expecting in the first place.

Before the elevator closes behind him, he sees Todoroki place the irises gently down across the top of his desk, leaning into it heavily and staring back out the window as though trying to keep his eyes off of the pages three inches to his left.

 

x

Chapter Text

When Midoriya gets back to the agency, Kayano immediately takes his hand and drags him bodily toward the elevators and into his office. Kouta shoots him a look from the bullpen as they pass that says you’re dead. Midoriya swallows.

Kayano drags his chair over to the opposite side of the desk and gestures for him to sit. She flattens her skirt with her palms as she perches on top of the desk, next to his laptop decorated with little All Might stickers, and takes a deep breath.

“You were gone for five months,” she begins. 

Midoriya feels his throat close up. He leans forward, elbows on knees, and tries, “Kayano -“

“No,” she says, holding a hand up, firecracker eyes fixed firmly on him, “we have to talk about this. We have to talk about what’s gonna happen if Ground Zero takes the top spot.”

Midoriya sighs and shakes his head.

Nothing is going to happen. If he gets the number one rank, nothing is going to happen.”

“He won’t be the symbol of peace,” she tells him, as if he doesn’t already know, as if he hadn’t thought about it on loop for the five months he spent away. His resolved incidents from his time out of country still count to his overall ranking, he knows, but it might not matter in ten minutes.

“He doesn’t have to be,” he says, trying and failing to keep the frustration out of his voice, “we’re done with that, Kayano, we’ve been done with that. Japan doesn’t do pillars anymore, doesn’t trust their safety to any one hero. All Might was the beginning and end of that.”

Kayano folds her arms and looks at him, just watches him, for a few seconds.

“You really don’t get it,” she decides, and Midoriya recoils, “you don’t get what Deku means to people. The promise you made to be the hero that saves everyone? That means something to us. People look up to you in a way they could never do with him.”

“They could learn,” Midoriya grits out, “Kacchan isn’t - he isn’t Endeavor , and I’m not All Might. If he takes my place, then he takes my place. We’ll handle it by not handling it, because there’s nothing to handle! God, it’s not like it’d be the end of the world if my friend beat me.”

Kayano blinks.

Midoriya forces himself to exhale, running his fingers through his hair. Something knotted and tight uncoils in his chest, just a little, just enough for him to realize it had been there the entire time. Maybe it should bother him more, the idea of losing the rank he’d worked so hard to earn, of having Bakugou step into the center and leave him just a step behind, but it doesn’t. He’s known, has always known, that Bakugou is incredible, is competent and efficient and viciously smart and never gives up. It wouldn’t be hard, he thinks, to accept it if it’s him. If it’s someone he trusts to win.

“Sorry,” he says, gentler, “I’m sorry. I just -“

“Deku, do you know why I agreed to be your coordinator?” Kayano asks suddenly, and something about her voice sounds so much like Uraraka’s, like Todoroki’s , steady and immovable, that Midoriya blinks, startled.

She places a hand down on the edge of his desk, leaning forward until her eyes catch his.

“You were the number fifteen hero at nineteen years old. At that point, you had a record at the HN three folders thick with incident reports. You had more resolved cases than heroes five ranks above you, more than anyone in your class. Your ascent rivaled Hawks’. I know because I pulled them all when you offered me the job.”

Kayano laughs, a sharp, short, sweet sound. 

“Deku, I came to work for you because you needed help. All Might’s hand-chosen successor, who could’ve picked any team he wanted, came to my office after work in the middle of a snowstorm and told me he wanted to help more people, do more work , that he wasn’t done and wasn’t satisfied and that he needed help.”

Midoriya ducks his head. He feels tears start to pull at the corners of his eyes but blinks them away. He remembers that day - he doubts he can ever forget it - the snow had been thick and smothering and there had been something beating in his chest, right next to his pulse, that told him to go further, do more, this isn’t enough. He’d broken through into the top twenty without an agency, without a coordinator, just him alone in an apartment that felt too big and too small at the same time.

“If Ground Zero becomes the number one hero,” she says softly, “then it means I haven’t done my job well enough. I haven’t helped you enough. So let me prepare a press release just in case. Let me figure out a way for the symbol of peace to get his rank back. Let me do my job, okay?”

Now it’s your turn had never meant you have to do this alone.

Midoriya gives her a watery smile, tepid but strong. He wipes at his eyes.

“Okay,” he agrees.

 

x

 

One of Kayano’s interns had gotten them all coffee while they talked. Midoriya, Kouta, Kayano, and a handful of others sit in the bullpen and try to keep the atmosphere lively as they watch the announcement pregame on the television set into the far wall. In the corner, the HNA news coverage of the announcement plays, a disconcerting echo-on-echo only amplified by the fact that Kayano keeps checking her phone every fifteen seconds for news from the Public Safety Commission.

Midoriya checks his, too, and smiles as he sees he has a few new notifications.

 

kiri - 8:20 am

katsuki containment plans a b and c are ready to go as soon as the ranks are announced ;-)

 

shinsou (eraser jr) - 8:19 am

no hard feelings if i take your spot on the board, right?

everyone loves an underdog

 

eraser - 8:05 am

If you lose your rank because you were gone for half the year then I’m going to disown you as a student.

 

mirio! - 8:04 am

when i get the third spot you better be prepared for a lot of :3 faces, problem child

;3 ;3 ;3 ;3

 

Midoriya bites his lip at the last one and pointedly turns his phone back off. 

 

tdrk - 8:01 am

We should probably talk, tonight if you’re free

 

The lead-up to the announcement is as boring as it is every year. Kouta plays on their gameboy instead of paying attention. 

Kayano gets a notification exactly twenty minutes before the rankings are set to air, and she immediately stands and mutes the television.

Midoriya watches her closely, leaning forward as she slowly scrolls through the list in front of all of them.

Her eyes meet his first. 

He laughs, letting go of a bated breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding, and slumps back into his chair with a dizzy kind of smile. He feels lighter than air.

“Congratulations, everyone,” Kayano sings, beaming, “you get to brag about working for the number one hero’s agency for another year.”

Midoriya grins as each of the interns clap and howl, a few reaching over to give him high fives and clap him on the back.

Kouta only manages to fidget in front of him for a second before Midoriya rolls his eyes and envelops them in a hug, picking them up effortlessly and spinning them around. He ignores the way they bury their face in his sweatshirt to hide their embarrassed smile and laughs. 

Kayano gives him a knowing little smile as he sets them down and turns to her, and holds her phone screen-first toward him.

“Ground Zero in second,” she says, “and Shouto in third. Lemillion is fourth.”

For a moment, Midoriya is sure the entire world falls away.

Todoroki is in third. Todoroki is Japan’s number three hero, the official, irreducible ranking.

Midoriya immediately races over to one of the southern-facing windows. He cranes his neck up and looks for the building on the skyline, the tallest one on the horizon, crowned with a massive red zero.

His team shriek with laughter as the penthouse of the Ground Zero agency lights up with red-orange explosions.

 

x

 

me - 9:03 am

sure. i’ll be home after patrol tonight

 

Midoriya finally sighs and flips over to the HN network, scrolling through the incident reports as he walks through the financial district. Todoroki had seen his message, but he’s not entirely sure if he expects him to say anything else - there’s really nothing to say, if he thinks about it, that can’t be said once he gets home. He tries not to think about it, feeling nervous anticipation crawl its way up his throat.

He stops for autographs on almost every corner, beaming and smiling and thanking the kids who run up to congratulate him, the teenagers that ask for his autograph, the fans fully decked out in Hero Deku gear who pose for pictures with him. There’s something special about the way they all look at him, in a way that reminds him of how he used to look at All Might. It reminds him of how, even now, he’ll sometimes catch himself hanging off his mentor’s every word, as though they’re plated in solid gold, as though he’s still the last best hope in his life. He’s made other hopes, now, new things to anchor himself to, and that’s probably the thing he’s proudest of.

He watches the rain clouds above - they’ve eased, somewhat, as the storm plays itself out over the ocean instead of hitting the coast. It won’t make it to Hokkaido before petering out into regular spring showers.

Midoriya stops across the block from the national bank on 25th, where La Brava had been apprehended, and watches the construction workers set up scaffolding for a while. The turn around rate on construction is fast in a hero society. 

He takes in the street, and stops as his eyes catch on a figure on the other side of the crosswalk. She doesn’t notice him at first, earbuds in and watching the stop light patiently, going back home if her uniform and backpack are anything to go by, but as Midoriya feels a creeping smile form she turns her head towards him and blinks.

Hikaru immediately goes red, having enough good grace to look sheepish. Midoriya bites the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing, and offers her a small wave. She scuffs the tip of her sneaker against the concrete, looking like she wishes she could sink right through it Lemillion-style, but gives him a timid wave back.

Midoriya crosses his arms and watches her go. 

If you want something to change, you do it yourself. 

Some people want to save themselves.

Midoriya shakes his head and picks his route back up, stopping not ten feet later as a little kid in a bunny-ears sweatshirt breaks away from his father and runs up, offering him a little hand-drawn paper, all crayons and scribbled lines, and tells him with the tiniest voice that he wants to be just like him when he grows up.
Midoriya kneels in front of him and grins, taking great care to fold the paper neatly into quarters before tucking it into one of the pouches of his belt.

“You wanna be a hero, too?” He asks, and the little boy almost vibrates out of his skin, bouncing and nodding like at any moment he might take off into the stratosphere. Midoriya can’t help but laugh. He places a hand over the hood of his sweatshirt, ruffling gently.

“I’ll look forward to working with you, then!” He says brightly, “When you get your hero license, come stop by my agency, okay?”

The little boy squeaks and nods, running back to his father before he can shake apart with excitement, and as Midoriya stands he can see the two of them talking animatedly as the kid flings his arms out like he’s practicing throwing a punch against an imaginary villain.

Not for the first time, he’s struck with how happy he is, genuinely and deeply happy, in a way he couldn’t imagine as a quirkless middle schooler. He thinks of watching All Might on the news at night and the disaster footage on the internet, laughing like nothing in the world could possibly make him stop. He thinks of Endeavor, flames over-saturated and bright even as his expression remained cold, the way he used to walk by people who asked for autographs as though they didn’t exist. He thinks of Bakugou, who signs anything shoved into his chest, kneels and talks to kids with that ever-present ferocity, of how neither of them are anything at all like the heroes who they inherited their ranks from. 

And some things did change while I was away, but not the things I wanted to.

Midoriya looks down as his phone vibrates with a notification.

 

tdrk - 10:57 am

I’ll get us both coffee

I have a feeling we’ll need it

 

x

 

Todoroki knocks on his door as he’s in the middle of making dinner.

Midoriya places a lid over the pot of rice simmering on his stove and wipes his hands with a paper towel as he crosses into the living room and opens the door. He remembers doing something similar the night after he got back to Japan, the way that little spark of something lit up the back of his head, and he feels it now.

Todoroki lets himself by as Midoriya cracks the door wider, offering him a cardboard cup as he does. Midoriya tries not to press it to his chest like a shield and fails.

“Hey,” he says.

“Hi,” Todoroki replies. There’s something to the uneasy way he carries himself that Midoriya can pick apart as apprehension, and it’s so out of character for him that he blinks for a few seconds before finally closing the door and walking back into the kitchen.

“I should have enough for two, if you’re hungry,” he tosses over his shoulder as he goes. Todoroki follows and leans against the doorframe. His hair is braided back, halfway up and away from his eyes. He eyes the setup with a raised eyebrow.

“No, thank you. Is this your idea of a celebratory dinner?”

Midoriya points his stirring spoon at him and narrows his eyes.

“This is my mom’s recipe,” he retorts.

Todoroki’s expression doesn’t change. Midoriya makes a face at him, but it’s fond.

“Just because some people can make fancy dishes doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with omurice.”

Todoroki folds his arms and snorts amusedly, and Midoriya catches himself smiling at him.

Midoriya flips the eggs in the pan over gently, scooping rice into the center. Todoroki takes the empty pot off the stove and rinses it in the sink for him, then stands and leans against the countertop and just watches. Their comfortable silences are back, at least, he tells himself, but it feels a little too hollow in his chest.

Midoriya carries his plate and their coffee back to the kotatsu. He hesitates, unsure if he should sit, and then quietly scolds himself for second-guessing himself in his own home .

Todoroki crosses over to the futon, pulls out a stack of papers from his back pocket, and sits, placing them like a peace treaty on the tabletop in front of him.

“You actually made a list,” he says, a note of disbelief creeping into his voice.

Midoriya sighs and runs a hand through his hair. He suddenly doesn’t feel hungry at all, a knot of dread making its home in his stomach.

Twelve pages total, written in a frenzy the night and the morning after Midoriya had told him I love you and felt his world fall apart. There had been something viciously determined in his chest as he wrote them all out, overlapping and contradicting each other, all the many points of the snowflake he’d been trying to untangle. Memories, events, little tics Midoriya had picked up on over the years, things he thinks even Todoroki hadn’t noticed.

“It’s not everything,” he replies, and Todoroki’s eyes flick up to his, “it’s maybe a third. I meant what I said - it’s not like it was a decision.”

Todoroki visibly fumbles over that, but his expression closes off just like it always does when he realizes he’s reacted to something. Midoriya tucks his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants, breathes in deep, and crosses the room to his bookshelf.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for my notebook,” Midoriya responds, running his fingers over the spiral spines until he finds the right one, “if we’re gonna do this now, we might as well do it right.”

He feels a shred of panic race down his spine, with the attached thought that this might not work, that maybe this isn’t something he can fix, that maybe he’s about to make it worse, but he shoves that aside and bites down on his tongue as he flips open the notebook and pulls out the remaining pages.

The last six pages he’d written were two lists, columns and rows, one side corresponding to the other. He walks back over to Todoroki, tries to ignore the way he’s watching him like he’s never seen him before, and places the new pages on top of the list.

Midoriya sits and crosses his legs under the kotatsu as Todoroki blinks at him. He gestures.

“Just - read it.”

Todoroki exhales, visibly frustrated, but manages to rein it in and control it. He takes the new stack of papers off the table and leans back against the futon. They sit silently, Midoriya trying to force his dinner down his throat, unable to taste it through his dry mouth, Todoroki scanning the pages with an unreadable glint in his eyes, neither of them looking at each other. 

After a while, Todoroki puts the papers in his lap and stares up at the ceiling. Midoriya sets down his chopsticks with a quiet click.

“It’s everything I could think of,” he explains, and hates the way his voice shakes, “you said you didn’t believe me, so I tried to think of it from your point of view. That’s everything I could come up with. I figured it would be faster, and easier, than arguing with you.”

Todoroki doesn’t respond for a full minute, looking like he’s on the verge of either bursting into flame or storming out, and with each second the nascent panic Midoriya’s been nursing grows. 

The last six pages had been counterarguments. Everything Midoriya could think of, every reason Todoroki couldn’t believe him, had been placed on the left. Every response he could give was written on the right.

Finally, he leans forward, placing the papers on the kotatsu facing Midoriya. His eyes are blank, but not cold, and there’s nothing shifting behind them for Midoriya to try to reach out and pin. He taps one of the columns with his index finger.

“You missed one.”

Midoriya knows what he’s talking about without even looking down.

You just think I don’t know you well enough.

You don’t, or else you wouldn’t have said that in the first place.

“That one’s blank,” he says, marvelling a little at how steady his voice is, how controlled it is, “because I’m not going to argue about something that’s wrong.”

Todoroki blinks at him.

I’m pretty sure you need to know someone’s nature. But I don’t know much about it.

“You don’t get to tell me that,” Midoriya says quietly. There’s the anger, the frustration, delayed but not diluted, from the past week, and he feels it rise up from deep within his ribs to press against the roof of his mouth.

“You don’t get to tell me I don’t know you,” he continues, “because I knew you when we were fifteen. I knew you when we fought in the sports festival first year. I knew you in Hosu, when you came and no one else did. I knew you at the training camp, I knew you at Kamino, I knew you during our internship. I knew you when we got our licenses, and when we got into the top ten together. I knew you when I became number one and I knew you when you became number three and I know you now.”

Todoroki stands, and Midoriya follows him, chasing him, unable to stop and unable to leave it alone, just like he’s always been.

“Izuku -”

“You don’t get to tell me that,” he finishes. He could be yelling or whispering and there’s not a chance that he could tell the difference, not when Todoroki’s expression is gradually cracking and breaking open, and finally, finally he can read him.

Now it’s your turn had never meant you have to do this on your own. 

What are you going to do, symbol of peace?

“Shouto,” Midoriya starts, his voice stumbling and fraying at the edges. He blinks and shakes his head, taking a step closer. He hedges uncertainly, but Todoroki doesn’t move away, so he takes another. Hesitantly, achingly slowly, he lifts his left hand and places it at the corner of his jaw. Todoroki grabs his wrist reflexively, eyes widening, but he still doesn’t pull away, so Midoriya takes a deep breath.

You need to stop trying to save me, a promise he could never keep, but now he can at least try.

“Shouto,” he tries again, putting everything he can behind it and none of his perfected All Might smile, none of Hero Deku, “I’m not trying to save you.”

Todoroki stares at him for a moment that lasts hours. The pause is heavy, it drags, and Midoriya holds his breath.

It’s not going to happen.

Todoroki blinks, then blinks again, and ducks his head as he smiles. Midoriya’s eyes water as he starts to laugh - quiet, halting, like he’s forgotten how to - and then both of them are laughing, and Midoriya drops his hand to his shoulder to brace himself as he bends at the waist and cries and laughs at the same time.

“You made a list,” Todoroki manages as he pulls himself back together, like that’s the funniest thing in the world. He’s still smiling, nothing at all of that purposeful neutrality on his face, and Midoriya allows himself to wonder at it.

“I made two, actually,” Midoriya corrects, wiping at his eyes with his other hand, and he grins at how wonderful this is, this easy comfort snapping back between them, the tension wiped out of his shoulders all at once. He feels it, stronger than One for All’s white noise static had ever been, pulse against the base of his skull.

Todoroki curls his fingers tighter around his wrist, and Midoriya looks back up to meet his eyes. There’s a shy smile playing across his mouth. He’s struck, suddenly, with the realization that he could fill every notebook in his apartment with reasons that he loves him, and it still wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t even come close.

“Can I -” Todoroki begins uncertainly, and Midoriya tugs at his shoulder and pulls him forward and is already kissing him.

Todoroki freezes for a split second, but as Midoriya twines their fingers together, he relaxes and wraps his other arm around his waist, pinning him in place. He’s always been good at that, Midoriya thinks giddily. He nips his bottom lip and feels Todoroki draw in a sharp breath in response, chases it with his mouth.

Todoroki pulls back enough to kiss the corner of his jaw lightly, and Midoriya smiles up at him, keeping their hands interlocked.

“Probably the best congratulations I’ve gotten all day,” Midoriya remarks. Todoroki raises an eyebrow at him, and he laughs.

Midoriya kisses him again, just because he can, and then looks forlornly over at their forgotten coffee cups sitting on the kotatsu.

“Probably cold by now,” he mutters. Todoroki just shakes his head fondly before untangling their hands and picking one of them up, pressing the fingers of his left hand to the base and handing it back. Midoriya beams at him.

Todoroki studies him for a second, then asks, a touch exasperated, “Did you rehearse saying all that?”

Midoriya sends him a mutinous look over his shoulder as he flops back down on the futon, making space next to him as he curls his legs up to his chest.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he replies, but he’s grinning as he takes a sip from his newly-warmed cup.

Todoroki smiles, quiet and small, and sits down next to him. Midoriya leans into his shoulder and bites his lip.

See something wrong, fix it. Your first and best ability.

“By the way,” Midoriya says, tipping his head back to catch Todoroki’s gaze. His eyes are soft, now, always soft when they’re looking at him.

“Wanna come to a wedding with me?”

 

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