Winter always brought a sense of calm and quiet. It was almost too silent, save for the crackling of the fireplace. Kaminari placed a palm on the cold windowsill, amusing himself at the temperature difference in the house and that of the outside. His hand was starting to numb, but there was not much else in the dorms to do at any rate. Everyone else had gone home for the winter holidays, and he wasn’t in the mood for any manga or games. It could be an experiment to test how long he could withstand the cold. Could he get frostbite like this? If he went out and laid down in the snow and fell asleep, watching the sky with snowflakes falling softly, how peaceful would that be?
Breathing out softly, he watched the condensation form on the window. The windowpane whited out, blocking part of his view of the snowy landscape. He wanted to be part of that. A deep longing pulled at him from his chest. Maybe he should leave the dorms and lie out there in the open until he was covered in snow. He would fade away and become part of the world. Imagine him thawing out in spring, his classmates returning to find a snowman Kaminari. If they thawed him right, would he survive? It would be like cryogenics. Maybe Todoroki could melt him. And if Bakugou blew him apart, would he break into little ice chunks of Kaminari?
Shaking his head wryly, he pulled his stinging, numb hand away from the window. Flexing it experimentally, he waited for the feeling to return to his hand. It didn’t feel like his hand right now. What if he lost his hand? How would living with one arm be like? Would he still be a hero?
Lost, he stood in front of the window, unsure what to do now. He could get under the kotatsu and attempt to sleep the day away. It was lonely all by himself. It was easier to spend the day around others, bouncing off their energy. As it was, he felt hollow. Empty. There was nothing to smile about, nothing to talk about. He existed at the moment all by himself, and no one would know if he was gone. No one thought about him or cared about him right now.
It felt a little strange to stand around just lost in his thoughts, so he settled down on the sofa. Then it felt a little strange to just sit there in front of a blank tv screen, so he switched it on, not watching it. The background noise was a little soothing. But he couldn’t help but wonder, why was he still obsessed with all these things, about being right and being normal , when there was no one else to see it? What was right and normal, and who decided these things?
He was pressed against the side of the sofa, curled up. It was soothing to have a solid surface against his side, telling him that he existed. Everything felt unreal when he reached this stage like he was waddling through a murky dream. He didn’t feel like himself, and what defined him as himself? Time flowed so slowly, and yet so mercilessly. There was a pressing urge for him to stop wasting his time, to do something, anything and yet he couldn’t muster the motivation to move. There was nothing he wanted to do, even though he felt like he should be. He was stuck with himself, with his thoughts, with his feelings. He didn’t want to be here right now, but where else could he be? His feelings were a convoluted mess that he couldn’t untangle, and he wanted to stop feeling. He wanted to rip his heart out of his chest.
That was an unreasonable thought. What would he achieve through that, what purpose would that serve? He could use a knife, but he would bleed all over the carpet. The pain was likely to dissuade him, and he would bleed out before he even got close to completing the task. He would just lie down in a puddle of his blood, slowly dying out, painfully, all alone. One day, some poor classmate would be the first to return and find his corpse on the ground, decaying.
He sighed. He wouldn’t want to put any of them through that. He was so, so bored, but he didn’t feel like moving. Electricity flew carelessly around him, his hair standing up straight from the static electricity. He played with it between his fingers, watching it spark brightly like little fireworks between his fingertips. It didn’t really hurt, he was used to the way electricity ran through his body. It tingled, like a rapid bloodstream within him when he tried to move it. He brought it to his hands easily. Electricity was beautiful, dangerous. It was a huge part of who he was. It danced chaotically like it was alive, more volatile and unpredictable than flames. When he shocked someone, how much did it hurt? If he shocked himself, would he be able to feel it? If he concentrated it at his chest, would it be like defibrillation? Would it make him feel alive because he felt so empty right now, like a dead person? Or would it stop his heart, stop his thoughts, stop everything?
Weary, Kaminari shifted all of the electrical discharge to his hand, all the electricity he could summon. It was blindingly bright like a thunderstorm as he lifted his hand to his heart.
An arm grabbed his wrist suddenly, pulling the electricity away. Surprised, Kaminari looked up to see the pained and concerned eyes of Midoriya Izuku. Oh. He removed the electrical discharge. That must have stung for Midoriya. A muted sense of panic coiled around his ribcage tightly at being caught being abnormal . How was he going to explain this?
He plastered a friendly smile on his face. “Midoriya! Why are you back?” Maybe Midoriya would just let it go. If he acted normal enough, maybe Midoriya could be convinced that it was all a dream.
Midoriya looked intensely worried, a stark contrast to Kaminari’s lighthearted expression. It had been close, way too close. Kaminari had been seconds away from sending a million volts at his heart.
“Kaminari, what were you trying to do?” Midoriya sounded pained, but not from the electricity that zapped him. He looked genuinely concerned and hurt from what Kaminari had been doing, what he thought Kaminari had been doing. Kaminari’s smile faltered. He fucked up. He felt bad , he felt confused . How do you explain something like that? Midoriya looked at him intensely, desperately, waiting for answers.
Kaminari felt like nothing would suffice. Drawing a blank, he felt like he was stepping on uncharted territory when he phrased carefully, “Nothing much.”
Midoriya still didn’t let go of him. The warmth of Midoriya’s hand wrapped tightly around his wrist kept him there in the moment. The freckled boy seemed to be having an internal struggle, emotions flashing rapidly through his eyes. It looked like he didn’t know what to say, whether to pursue the matter or not.
Let it be, Kaminari urged him mentally. Stop asking.
“Kaminari,” Midoriya squatted down in front of the sofa, still not letting him go. He should have known. Should have known that Midoriya was the biggest busybody when it came to saving people and helping them. He didn’t know what expression to wear on his face right now. He had never been in this situation. Smiling didn’t feel quite appropriate. What expression was he making right now?
“Kaminari, were you trying to kill yourself?”
His voice was so gentle it hurt. Kaminari couldn’t stand looking at Midoriya’s pained eyes. Midoriya looked close to tears. Why was he close to tears? Kaminari found it hard to understand. He looked away to the side, towards the window where snow fell slowly and softly. The blond hadn’t been serious about it. Or had he? He did almost do it, without really thinking it through. He’d had thoughts like that for the longest time, though. Thoughts of throwing himself in front of a busy street, thoughts of jumping off a building, thoughts of bleeding out in a bathtub. They had mostly been passing thoughts, recurrent as they were. He had just gotten increasingly tired of them, that’s all.
Silence was louder than words Kaminari could have ever said.
A sob broke the silence, and Kaminari’s golden eyes cut back to Midoriya, surprised that Midoriya was actually crying.
“Hey, don’t cry. I’m okay, aren’t I?” Kaminari said weakly. He wasn’t quite sure how to comfort a crying person, a person crying on his behalf over something he did, or almost did. It didn’t feel quite right to pat Midoriya on the shoulder.
Midoriya wiped at his tears messily. “I almost didn’t make it.” But why did it matter so much to Midoriya? They were classmates, something like friends, though they weren’t that close. They were in two different cliques after all, and as a result, spent much lesser time together than with their own friends. Kaminari was confused. He still wasn’t sure if he wanted Midoriya, or anyone to stop him or not.
Midoriya took in a deep breath, and his face was a miserable mess. He looked more like the person that had been attempting suicide than Kaminari himself. “Please call me whenever you feel like doing it. Please come to my room, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing for you. Please, just don’t do it. You can talk to me about anything.
Kaminari blurted out the word, unable to comprehend why Midoriya cared so much. Midoriya bit his lip, gathering his wits again. A few quiet breaths, in and out, were shared between them. It was okay, they had plenty of time. The seconds crawled during winter. It was better that he was engaged with Midoriya, thinking about Midoriya, trying to make sense of something else other than why he existed and why he should continue existing.
“I’ve been there,” Midoriya said finally, a weak smile on his face. “I know how it feels to be there. It might kind of different from yours, but I know what it’s like to want to kill yourself. It’s miserable. It’s frightening. It feels like everything is wrong and you don’t know how to make it right, and like there’s no other option. But things get better, I swear.”
“You’ve been there?”
Kaminari doesn’t feel quite so weird and abnormal now if it’s more common than he thought. If it’s more than just him. The human instinct should be to survive, not to repeatedly think of ways to hurt or kill oneself.
“I was bullied and outcasted in middle school,” Midoriya admitted. “Someone told me to kill myself. I almost did. I went to the roof and climbed over the railings and cried. I cried for a long time and didn’t do it. I hated myself for a long time, thinking I was a coward for not doing it. But now I’m so glad and proud that I didn’t. I met good friends here, good teachers. Every day has been fun and fulfilling. I do still get bad days, but they’re much lesser than the good.”
Kaminari hadn’t experienced anything quite as dramatic as Midoriya. He had just been tired of everything. He didn’t have a particularly good reason to die, but he had to want to die, given how often he thought about it? He did want to fade away and stop existing sometimes, but that wasn’t quite the same as actively trying to kill or hurt himself. Or perhaps he’s just in denial right now.
“That’s… good,” Kaminari nodded, then amended, “I mean, not good that you were bullied! Good that you stepped out of that. That things are better for you.”
“Thanks,” Midoriya said softly. “Do you want to talk about things? It could help.”
Well, they have the entire day and the entire winter vacation. His thoughts were a jumbled mess, but there was something that stood clear. Something he always understood.
“I’m tired,” Kaminari said simply. There was a general sense of weariness that followed him, especially heavy and blatant whenever he had alone time to stew in his thoughts. It was persistent, like wearing weights on his body, and it seemed like it would never leave until he died.
“Tired how?” Midoriya asked softly without a hint of judgment. His expression was open, willing to listen, willing to help. There wasn't a right answer, though Kaminari felt like there must be. There had always been an appropriate response to any social situation. Yet right now, he wasn't quite sure. Maybe it would be alright to just talk, talk about whatever came to mind. Midoriya caught him in the act, and it doesn't get much worse than that.
"Tired of thinking. Tired of being alone. Tired of being with people and acting how they would like me to. How I think they would like me to. Tired of trying to fit in and be normal, and thinking of what's right and what's wrong. One wrong comment could change your life and turn an entire group against you," Kaminari sighed heavily. "I don't want to be hated or outcasted, maybe. It's the way I've learned to live ever since I was a kid. Saying the right things made people happy and saying the wrong things made people upset. But you can't be too perfect, or people will hate you. Does that make sense?"
Memories of middle school classmates stealing his test scores, outing him out for doing well and refusing to ask him out for group outings haunted him. They had called him names, said he wasn't one of them. They let him back in when he failed the next test, claiming the previous one was a fluke. They laughed and they agreed that someone like him could never do well. But what was someone like him? What defined him? It had been a fragile balance. Far too often he had toed the line, said something that killed the atmosphere and had people staring at him like he was weird. It felt like one wrong move, if he stepped too far out from the unspoken norm, he would be rejected by the group. He had to act according to his role they assigned him at all times, or he would be weird. Weird for liking literature too much. That had been way too close for comfort in U.A.
“You can be yourself, Kaminari. I know what middle school can be like. Being something other than what's deemed as 'normal' can be risky and scary. But it’s different now. All our classmates are so kind, so accepting of all our differences. Just think of Kacchan. Our class likes him and accepts him, especially your friend group.Yaoyorozu is smart but our class loves her. Mineta is never excluded from group activities or outings even though he's a pervert. I'm so awkward but everyone still sees me for who I am, and are patient with me. Our entire class is different, but none of us are left out."
Kaminari had perfected the art of being someone almost anyone would love to be friends with. He had been living that life for so long that he lost a sense of his own identity. He always just blended in like a chameleon. It kept him safe. But it made him so, so tired.
"I can be myself?"
"I don't have to be the class clown?"
"I can be quiet? I don't need to laugh when I don't feel like it? I can study hard and do well and no one will hate me or mock me?"
"You can do what you want and be who you want Kaminari. If anyone has a problem with that they'll have to go through me first."
The warmth of Midoriya’s hands, the certainty of his eyes, made Kaminari want to believe. He didn’t know how long this belief would last, but it was positive emotion, and he wanted to keep it in him as long as possible.
"I can try. It feels… weird, changing something I'm so used to. But I want to try. Just saying and acting what I feel like in the moment, and not worry about how others will take it."
A smile bloomed on Midoriya's face, and it looked like hope. Hesitantly, Kaminari smiled back, not because it seemed right, but because he wanted to.
"Have you eaten anything?" Midoriya asked gently, changing the topic.
"No, actually," Kaminari said honestly. "I didn't feel like it, but I'm really hungry now."
"Great, I'm famished. Let's go make something. Do you know how to cook?"
"Yeah, I was usually home alone. I followed a few online recipes."
It felt like they were rediscovering each other, becoming friends from scratch. They navigated around the kitchen together, making a simple meal of curry rice since curry could be kept and eaten tomorrow as well. It was peaceful, just being together, talking about everything and nothing all at once. He didn't feel the need to force himself to crack jokes and make Midoriya laugh, didn't feel his brain going on overdrive trying to find the right answer. He could admit things he knew, things he didn't know, and not once did Midoriya judge him or react strongly with a "You? No way!" or "You don't even know that?" as his middle school classmates would have. He didn't have to lie that he was only joking after watching Midoriya's reaction because Midoriya accepted anything he said.
“How did you know to come back?” Kaminari asked around a mouthful of food. Their legs were tangled comfortably under the table, keeping each other warm. The touch was comforting, a physical representation of them connecting as they were emotionally. Things were easy with Midoriya. They've already established ground rules. They can agree to disagree, and there would be no hard feelings. They can agree to drop topics they don't want to talk about. They can be 100% honest with each other and it would only stay between them.
“Your smile looked a little strange when you said goodbye to us. It looked like when I was practising my smiles in the mirror so my mom wouldn't know I was bullied and worry about me. I'm glad I decided to come back.”
"Me too," Kaminari agreed. On impulse, he asked, "Wanna go out there and lie in the snow, watch the stars?"
"That sounds nice. Let me just get coats for both of us!"
Making snow angels with their hands joined together was nice. Telling and pointing out constellations to each other was nice. Sitting in front of the fireplace, bundled with copious amounts of blanket, with cups of hot chocolate was nice. Midoriya was a nerd that kept talking and sharing information, such as how seasons came to be called what they were, how there were parts of the world where there was only one season. And that was nice, listening and learning, about everything and each other.
At this moment, Kaminari felt at peace.