Once upon a time, a boy dreamed of happiness (which he experienced rarely), of acceptance (despite his numerous flaws and frailties), of love (though it was a feeling he could only wish to feel in its entirety). He dreamed, he yearned, he wished with all his body, heart, and soul.
One by one, he fulfilled his dreams, he rose and reached new heights.. and he fell in love.
And yet, still he dreams, he yearns, he wishes... and he's realized that happily ever afters, though beautiful and idyllic, have never been real.
Izuku sighs, running a hand through his hair. He sets his phone aside, letting it vibrate, and resolutely ignores the amount of notifications piling up upon its screen. He buries himself into his pillow, muffling his groan. He doesn't need to be reminded of his duties, his responsibilities, his failures and his triumphs.
He doesn't need to be reminded of the memories that flash across his mind's eye with every moment he leaves himself alone with his thoughts.
(Perhaps this is one of the reasons why she left him: Izuku has always been prone to getting lost in his mind. Though he may be keen and observant, there have been times when he's been too lost in his thoughts, in his dreams, to pay attention to his reality.
Izuku has always been a dreamer, and it was past time for him to wake up.)
A knock, quiet but insistent.
Yet another groan leaves his lips, and Izuku pushes himself up and out of the sprawling mess of his bed. He stumbles on his way up, righting himself before his face can be introduced to his flooring one more time.
He doesn't bother with his slippers, instead grumbling beneath his breath as he makes his way to his door. Who can it be? Izuku hasn't really been replying to anyone's messages, even if it has been days - weeks - since the End, though he's made sure to come into work as much as possible to keep prying gazes away from his back.
(Hero work, in addition to being rewarding, has never been more of a great distraction from his personal life than it has been in the past month and a half.)
"Who's there?" Izuku mutters, pulling the door open and almost smacking into a lean, muscular torso.
"Me," he hears a (familiar, frustratingly kind) voice say in response. Izuku looks up to see mismatched eyes and an almost imperceptible smile, his heart aches, and he remembers.
(He remembers each moment, each yearning look and sorrowful glance, each bittersweet smile and painfully gentle brush of fingertips upon his skin.
He remembers the way he had covered him in blankets, gentle hands scarcely lingering over his form, exhausted from his spent tears.)
Todoroki-kun holds up a bag of takeout from Izuku's favorite katsudon place, tipping his head to the side. "You weren't answering our messages, so I took it upon myself to visit you to make sure you haven't keeled over by accident."
Izuku takes a step back, allowing his friend to step inside his apartment. "You didn't have to," his protest, half-hearted as it is, falls short and dies an untimely death upon his lips once Todoroki-kun turns and gives him a look so familiar and so heartbreaking that it steals his breath away.
(He remembers the way he had paused, his features wan and tired, that same bittersweet tilt to his lips tearing at his heart.)
"Of course I had to," Todoroki-kun says, amusement coloring his tone as he sets down the bag of takeout. "Unless you wanted to suffer through Iida-san's lecture about how you ought to take care of your wellbeing, that is."
Izuku manages to muster up a sigh in return, a faint, almost exasperated smile dancing at the corners of his lips. "Well then," he shifts his weight from one foot to the other, taking in the sight of his best friend, the way the moonlight catches in the sweep of his eyelashes, the fall of his rosy hair, the arch of his cheeks and the smile on his lips. He clears his throat and looks away, a scarred hand rubbing at the back of his neck.
"Thanks for saving me from that horrible fate," he jests, and ignores the guilty roil of his stomach, the heavy weight in his chest. Izuku spares him a fleeting glance, his heart in his throat.
(Even after all this time, he still can't look into those eyes and see the warmth that had replaced the coldness that had once been there.)
Todoroki-kun smiles, slow and soft, bright and warm. "No," he whispers, and Izuku can't look away. "Thank you."
(He remembers a time, long ago, in the winter of their first year. He remembers saying, "You're a kind person," and believing it to be the truth.
Todoroki Shouto - for all his flaws, his insecurities, and his horrible past - has always been a kind person.
And Izuku knows that he is too kind, too caring, too loving for his own good.)
I shouldn't hurt you, Izuku thinks, and yet he steps closer, accepting the offered food. I shouldn't hurt you anymore than I already have.
That's why... If you love me, Shouto, please...
I can never be with you.
Let me go.