"Are you sure you know our story?"
Shouto chuckles to himself as the new Avatar, a century younger than him, shrieks, turning around to face him before gaping and falling to her knees with a rather remarkable speed.
Shouto sat down, finding his form as a spirit agreeing with the motion, before touching her shoulder gently. "Please. We're the same soul, Momo."
The young Avatar blushes, rising to look at him uncertainly.
"I'm sorry....but did you ask me if you..."
Shouto looks at the cave painting beside them, the light of the flame in her torch casting a glow to it. It depicts him and Izuku, on opposite sides- him surrounded by fire with tears streaking down his cheeks, and Izuku's face, determined and steady, holding out a hand to him. Their faces are obscured, worn down by time, but Shouto knows this painting.
Well, at least it wasn't wholly inaccurate, Shouto muses to himself.
"Your story?" Avatar Momo asks, eyes wide.
Shouto nods. "The tale of the two lovers...which Avatar did you think it represented?"
Momo looks shamefaced. "I did not...think of it."
"And why not?" Shouto gently presses.
Momo swallows. "I believed that it only exemplified the foolishness of the Avatar falling in love." She says, in a small voice and Shouto shakes his head.
"Love is foolish. I won't say it isn't. But that's what love is- it is everything and nothing at once. Do you know why the Avatar is born as a human? Rather as opposed to being a god?"
Momo purses her lips, contemplating the answer, but comes up with nothing, slowly shaking her head.
"Because..." Shouto licks his lips, remembering what Avatar Nana told him. "Because that way, we understand who we are meant to save. The most defining trait of human nature is the capacity to feel. To emote. To possess emotions. Only by possessing said trait can the Avatar begin to understand humans. By falling in love, I understood how strength emerges."
Momo nods, intently drinking his words. She then looks at the painting, then at him, clearly questioning.
Shouto smiles wryly. "You want to know how it happened."
"Yes." Momo says honestly, if not hesitant.
Shouto looks around them. "Very well then. I do hope you try to understand something out of it, otherwise, the other Avatars will have my head. Are you ready to listen?"
Momo nods, letting a little bit of her eagerness show.
Shouto inhales, memories flitting by him.
"It started when the throne to the Fire Nation was ascended by Fire Lord Enji." Shouto's memory sours, even now, upon remembering him, but now he's only filled with pity at the fallibility of short sighted human arrogance. "He believed he was destined for greatness. And soured when a mere earthbender from the Fire Nation, was the Avatar. He sought greatness, so much, that he caused the Fire Nation to attack."
Momo nods, looking grave. "Everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked."
"Indeed. He sought to have his child born to the Fire Nation at the cost of Avatar Toshinori." Shouto said, lips briefly curling with disgust before softening at Momo's face. "The true enemy, a man fascinated with bending, used Fire Lord Enji's foibles to his advantage and eventually murdered Avatar Toshinori in cold blood. But not before collapsing to the brink of death himself."
"A man, you defeated." Momo noted, and Shouto smiled bitterly.
"A man on the brink of death that I killed without honor, young one. His death was celebrated because of the atrocities he had committed." Shouto says softly.
Momo's eyes shine with something akin to understanding and Shouto purses his lips, debating on how to continue the story.
"He forced my mother to marry him, hoping that a powerful waterbender as her could...produce the next Avatar." Shouto feels a little vindicated at the disgust and horror in Momo's face, that flickers by briefly before she regains her composure. "I was the fourth child. When it was clear that I was the Avatar, nothing had given him more joy."
Shouto feels none of the bitterness that had plagued him once, long, long ago. He only now feels the steady determination that had allowed him to know, that he was more than the Avatar. A determination gifted to him by Izuku.
"He thus set around to using this as an excuse that the world must bow down to the Fire Nation. I resolved to stop it." Shouto says, clenching his fist, remembering the night he, Ochako and the rest of his siblings had decided to run away from the Fire Nation palace.
Ochako...even thinking of her now causes him to smile. He could not have asked for a better friend. And sister. Her sheer determination and energy had gotten him through his quest, as did Izuku's steady love, that had been his lifeline.
"I then fled from the palace, hoping to seek a teacher in earthbending, considering that I could firebend and waterbend on my own well enough, I suppose. The trek to the Earth Kingdom was the hardest so far, Agni." He wrinkled his nose, causing Momo to chuckle a little. He then smiled. "It was worth it however."
"You met..." Momo looked uncertain, before her eyes shifted to Izuku's depiction on the wall. Shouto nodded, warmth filling his being.
"Izuku. His name was Izuku." Shouto says quietly, and Momo nods, looking at Izuku with interest.
"He was your earthbending teacher?"
Shouto chuckled as a memory came to him unbidden.
"I'm a humble cabbage vendor first, earthbender second." Izuku said loftily, but his green eyes twinkled with mischief as his fingers threaded through Shouto's hair.
"Ah yes. What shall the good citizens of Ba Sing Se do without their cabbages?" Shouto intoned, voice perfectly blank.
Izuku flicked his forehead. "Brat."
"Ah, but I'm your brat, Izuku, aren't I?" Shouto said dryly, craning his neck backward to smirk at Izuku.
"True!" Izuku chirped, pecking the other on his forehead.
"He'd call himself a cabbage vendor first, earthbender second." Shouto said, hiding a smile when Momo gave him a gobsmacked look before smiling awkwardly.
"Do feel free to laugh." Shouto then says, waving a hand.
Momo then let out a small giggle. "A...cabbage vendor?" She says, voice shaking with laughter.
"Yes. The tale of the Avatar and the Cabbage Vendor. It sounds better than The Tale of Two Tragic Lovers." Shouto said, dryly, ignoring the twinge in his heart.
Momo froze, stiffening and Shouto smiled sadly.
"That's a tale for later. But where was I? Izuku was my earthbending teacher. Our first meeting was rather interesting, considering my brother upset his cabbage cart." Shouto said, his last words blank.
Momo tried hard not to giggle, but it was an admittedly valiant effort. Shouto waved his hand to let her giggle.
Shouto panted, staring at the gates of Ba Sing Se, before glaring at it in annoyance.
"Guards." He hissed at Natsuo, who shrugged before a horrified voice broke through the air. Touya and Ochako had been hard at work trying to find Katsuki, Shouto's temperamental dragon. Honestly, while Katsuki was powerful and a useful ally, he was also a menace as Natsuo never failed to remind them.
Shouto and Natsuo exchanged a look, before turning in the direction of said voice- where, in the latter's haste to run away from the Fire Nation guards, a huge ice ramp had displaced a cabbage cart. In front of said cabbage cart, a green haired young man was staring at the cabbage cart in horror.
"What am I going to sell now?" The cabbage vendor wailed, head in his hands.
Shouto and Natsuo exchanged another dubious look.
"Did you seriously upend a man's livelihood?" Shouto asked, raising an unimpressed scarlet eyebrow.
Natsuo blushed. "It wasn't like I noticed! Father's guards after us, remember?" He hissed, before Shouto rolled his eyes.
"Apologize to him." Shouto intoned, dry.
Natsuo grumbled. "What about the guards?"
Shouto bit on his lip, before cupping his chin with his hand thoughtfully. "He seems to be an Earth Kingdom insider. We could use his help." He remarked in a low voice, to Natsuo.
"What if he knows I upset his cabbages?" Natsuo asked, looking lost.
"Suffer." Shouto said ominously, before walking up to the cabbage vendor.
When the cabbage vendor turned, Shouto was faced with the uncomfortable realization that this vendor had far, far too many freckles for his own good. Those freckles dotted warm, sun-kissed skin, while wide green eyes stared into his own in bewilderment.
"I'm sorry about your cabbages. My brother may be responsible for that." Shouto said courteously, bowing.
Natsuo squawked indignantly from behind while the cabbage vendor squawked as well. "A-A-Ah, please don't bow! T-t-t-that's okay with me, I'll just get more cabbages from my farm, really!" The cabbage vendor squeaked in a high-pitched voice.
Shouto faced him. "Could we help you with that for something in return?"
The cabbage vendor's hands had been flailing around, as evident by them standing in front of his own face. He looked panicked, and he blinked several times. "W-W-What do you want? It's not like I can provide much-"
"Are you a resident of Ba Sing Se?" Shouto asked, smoothly.
The cabbage vendor blinked before nodding. "Yes! Why?" He then asked, tilting his head to the side in curiosity.
Shouto eyed the guards, who were busy chatting away to each other, before resolutely facing the cabbage vendor.
"I'm the Avatar." The young man's eyes widened a size too large, while Natsuo smacked his forehead behind him. But he had to take a leap of faith. If this cabbage vendor was not who he seemed, then fine.
He would dispose of him quickly.
"I would like passage to find an earthbender." Shouto explained, knowing Natsuo was throwing up his hands from behind him.
The cabbage vendor gaped, before inhaling and smiling slightly.
"Well, you don't have to look that far, Avatar Shouto." The cabbage vendor said, smile lopsided, causing Shouto to narrow his eyes.
"What do you mean?"
The cabbage vendor smiled more fully now, eyes dancing in an electrifying way. "I'd like to think I'm a pretty good earthbender, Avatar Shouto. Besides," his eyes were twinkling as he grinned.
"I'll have somebody helping me with the cabbages!"
"He was happy because someone was helping him with the cabbages." Shouto deadpanned, making Momo laugh into her hand.
Shouto nodded, letting out a breath of amusement. "Indeed. Of course, my friends found my dragon, and he led the way. He asked us to rest in his home that night," and what a warm home it had been.
One man. One man had been his home. He inhaled, continuing.
"And next day, he volunteered to help me with my earthbending." Shouto's lips quirk with amusement. "Of course, he was a relentless teacher."
Shouto panted, before pushing at the earth from under him, clenching his fist and panting even more heavily.
"You're trying too hard." Izuku said, but his voice was gentle.
"Isn't earthbending about being hard?" Shouto asked rhetorically, before gritting his teeth and trying harder.
Finally, a clump of earth lifted itself off the ground, and Shouto gasped, before falling to the ground in exhaustion.
"Why is this so hard." Shouto said to nothing in particular.
"It's earthbending, it's supposed to be about being hard." Izuku said dryly, stifling laughter.
"But he knew when rewards were due," Shouto recollected, before feeling something like heat crawl up in his cheeks.
"You did well, Shoucchan." Izuku murmured, sneaking a hand along Shouto's neck before removing the hair tie and pulling him closer by the back of his neck.
"Well enough to grant me this?" Shouto asked breathlessly, lost in Izuku's ever-restless green eyes.
"Oh, certainly." Izuku said gently, smiling as he kissed Shouto.
That impossible man, Shouto thought as he hid a smile behind his hand. Flustering him even though they were both spirits now.
Thank Agni for being transparent- at least Momo wouldn't ask him why he had to blush for that.
"And he was fair. Somewhere along the line, sometime as he taught, I fell for him." Shouto said softly, his eyes on another painting above the one they had seen; it was of Izuku holding him in his arms by the waterfall.
Shouto knew that night. It had been after the Dai Li had caught him, and Izuku fought tooth and nail to get him back.
"Izuku?" Shouto called, confused.
"He seemed distressed, Shouto. You should talk to him." Ochako said gently.
Touya snorted before Natsuo elbowed him, subtly shaking his head.
Katsuki snorted at him, before looking at the lake. Shouto gave the dragon an exasperated look before earning himself a grunt.
"Why though?" Shouto wondered to himself, running to the lake.
Sure enough, as Katsuki had expressed, Izuku was sitting by the lake, bare chested as he was throwing rocks into the lake.
By now, with his earthbending training soon to a finish, and after three months of having known Izuku- he knew what he was feeling for the other young man went beyond mere friendship. He didn't know what it was, but he knew that Izuku had changed him.
"That's your problem, Shouto." Izuku growled out, shaking his head, voice filled with anger of some sort.
Shouto glared up at him from where Izuku had smashed a boulder on him. This spar had decidedly been more heated though he couldn't have told you why. All he knew was that he wanted to pummel Izuku into the ground with the same ease Izuku had done so to him.
"Your bending is your own, isn't it? It's not your father's gift, it's not your mother's gift, it's yours! You can't be stupid enough to let somebody else let you decide what you want to do with your bending! Unless you accept that your powers are your own, you're not going to be able to earthbend! The earth doesn't bend for the strongest of heart, what makes you think it'll bend for someone so indecisive?!" Izuku roared, boulders moving to the side as he moved his hand to the right wildly.
Shouto widened his eyes, looking up at the other.
"So come at me with all you got!" Izuku yelled, blood streaking down one side of his face.
Izuku had changed him so much- and Shouto was honestly scared of it. Scared of how much he cared for Izuku.
"Izuku?" Shouto called, frowning.
Izuku turned to look at him, eyes wide as his hand, about to throw another rock, froze.
"Shouto." Izuku said, voice surprisingly measured despite the fight they had gotten into, earlier in the day.
"What are you doing here?" Shouto asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Nothing." Izuku said quietly, before resuming his throwing rocks.
"Oh yes, that's why you haven't said a word since we came out of that arena." Shouto snapped, jogging so that he could stand next to the other. Izuku was still sitting and made no move to turn to face Shouto.
"It's nothing important." Izuku said shortly, before throwing another rock at the lake with decidedly more force.
"Yes. I can see that." Shouto said slowly.
"Why are you here anyway?" Izuku asked, looking tired.
Shouto swallowed, feeling a little hurt well up in him. And anger. What, was Izuku the only one who was allowed to ask if the others were all right? If Shouto was all right? Was Izuku the only one supposed to care?
"Because I'm worried!" Shouto snapped, and Izuku widened his eyes, hand freezing again.
"Worried about what?" Izuku asked, looking at the other as if he had grown another head.
Shouto was on the verge of pulling out his own hair. "For you, you idiot." He hissed, kneeling down to the other's height and glaring at him.
"Why?" Izuku asked, voice hoarse.
"Because you, you-" Shouto groaned before talking again. "You literally destroyed an entire building in Ba Sing Se, never mind that it was supposed to never exist anyway, you've been short and rude to me-" and it hurts, hurts so much because I don't know what I did to deserve that from you! "You haven't spoken a word, you've been sulking since we came out of there-"
"Oh, so what, I'm supposed to smile even though you got captured and nearly got sent to your father?" Izuku asked softly, but it was perturbing in a way that stopped Shouto's rant.
The words, coupled with that sort of tone from the usually cheerful Izuku....it chilled Shouto.
"Do you know," Izuku says, voice disturbingly measured. "How worried I was?"
"It wasn't like I meant to get captured-"
"But it still hurt!" Izuku yelled, slamming a hand into the tree behind Shouto, causing the young Avatar's eyes to widen.
"Thinking about how you must have felt at the thought of getting sent to your father, knowing that I could have done something more to stop that from happening, wondering what if, what if you were sent to your father after all, what if we had been a second late-"
Shouto couldn't speak even if he wanted to. Izuku was way too close for comfort and his words rattled him.
"Wondering what I'd do if I lost you." Izuku murmured softly, and Shouto inhaled sharply.
"I'm still here."
"I know. Doesn't mean I don't wish for better." Izuku said quietly, and Shouto squints suspiciously.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean....ah no, forget it."
"No, oh no, you don't. You don't get to just scream at me and not answer me as to what the hell all that, was about." Shouto says decisively, narrowing his eyes.
Izuku sighs, and it's then by the sight of his green eyes glowing under the moonlight, looking at him, it hits Shouto like a punch to the face and he widens his eyes again.
I'm in love with him.
"Was it easy to do so? Despite your duty?" Momo asks, timidly.
Shouto breathed out. "Duty, love, honor are all bonded in the most complex of ways, or so I have found out. Falling in love is different for everyone. For someone as me, who had been isolated from the rest of the world till age 15, it certainly wasn't." He remarks wryly.
Momo looks concerned. "Oh."
"But for you it is perhaps different. Each Avatar, while sharing the same soul and therefore being the same person in reality, is different. My circumstances were different from my predecessor, who had never found romantic love. He found the love he was looking for in his family." Shouto explained gently.
Momo seemed reassured by that. "I see...and after you fell in love?"
Shouto smiled. "I never confronted him with it. Too scared of rejection, I didn't speak a word. Izuku was the one who took the initiative- maybe I am biased, but even among mortals he was something...different."
Momo smiles mischievously. Good. She was comfortable with him then. "I'd say you are biased, Avatar Shouto." She says, a tad too cheekily perhaps.
Shouto stares at her, raising an eyebrow playfully. "Oh? How clever of you, I'd say."
"How clever of me, indeed." Momo says, grinning. She reminded him a bit of Avatar Nana, and the thought makes him smile a little.
It was raining.
Shouto didn't cease his meditations, letting the rain gently cover him, until he heard a shuffling of feet and then a yell before something loudly splashed into the water.
Raising an eyebrow, he opens an eye, only to see Izuku splayed over the water face first in a very awkward manner. Shouto opens his eyes fully, raising his eyebrows. "Izuku, what are you doing?"
Izuku quickly snaps his head up in a comical manner, before waving his hands around. "Ah! I wanted to- see," Izuku got up awkwardly, laughing endearingly. Fuck. He was starting to find all of Izuku's smiles lovely these days.
Shouto acknowledged that he had a problem.
"I wanted to see if you were doing okay." Izuku admits with a shy smile, rubbing the back of his neck with a gnarled hand.
Shouto knows that the heat in his cheeks is because of his firebending. Absolutely. It was cold. So it was logical to use firebending when cold. Nothing more to it. Nope.
"I'm okay." Shouto says simply, coughing.
"You're doing really good on your earthbending." Izuku says warmly, sitting on a puddle next to him.
So now Shouto is questioning if the heat in his cheeks has anything to do with firebending.
"Thank you. I have a good teacher." Shouto says, hiding a smile when Izuku blushes, flustered.
"Oh no, no- absolutely not! Don't give all the credit to me!" Izuku squawks out, laughing as Shouto chuckles with him.
"I'm serious though, Izuku. You're a good teacher. And an even better friend." Shouto says sincerely, smiling at him.
Izuku's blush becomes even more apparent, though the sky is grey and the clouds are black. It shines, and Shouto is unfortunately charmed.
Shouto nods, heart twisting only a little when he fails to comment how irrevocably hard he's fallen for Izuku. But he'll keep their friendship close- it matters to him more than any feelings of romance ever could. It's not to say he doesn't envisage of a future with Izuku that way but if should their friendship be affected due to this, then he'll gladly shove them down.
"You're a really good friend too, Shouto. You're an amazing person." Izuku says softly, side leaning against the rock Shouto was sitting on.
Shouto's cheeks warm up more. Ah.
"In fact....." Izuku inhales, clearly looking frightened for some reason. It alarms Shouto, and he sits next to Izuku on the ground immediately, concerned.
"Izuku?" Shouto asks softly, but Izuku only turns away, swallowing.
"In fact, I've...there's been something on my mind. Promise me..." Izuku turns to look at Shouto- and like that night on the lake, their faces are too close for comfort, causing Shouto's breath to hitch. "Promise me you won't hate me?"
"I won't." Shouto says after an eternity of silence, suddenly feeling trepidation. Whatever you do, I won't hate you.
Izuku licks his lips, scarred due to constant biting- in fact, they are crisscrossed with faded scars. Shouto wonders what would it be like to run his thumb over there and inhales. That was a very dangerous thought.
"I think..." Izuku's voice drops to a whisper, but his eyes are blazing with life. "I think...I love you."
Shouto widens his eyes. Fearing the worst, Izuku gulps, but Shouto cups his cheeks before the other can even say a word, breathing far too rapid for his own good.
"I think I love you too." Shouto says in the smallest voice he's heard himself speak with.
The tears of joy gently slipping from Izuku's eyes wet his hands, and Shouto rests their foreheads together, the air a little more pleasant to breathe as he relishes the warmth of his friend. The warmth of a friend who loved him back.
It makes him feel dizzy, and he decides, it's the best feeling in the world.
"How happy were you?" Momo asks, almost hesitantly.
Shouto shrugs. "Being next to him always made me happy. I'd say I was very happy by his side." He says softly.
He remembers the day that happiness filled him to extremes.
Shouto washed his hair by the waterfall, grimacing as he saw the grease form a puddle on the ground. This hair of his, really. If anything, he should have cut the blasted thing off, but it was far, far too precious to him to do that.
He glances at a soundly snoring Katsuki, letting out a breath of amusement. His hair and Katsuki were one and the same then.
They're in the wilderness outside the Earth Kingdom now, to gather allies against his father, and Shouto doesn't notice Izuku watch him from a rock behind until he the gaze becomes far, far too piercing for him to ignore.
He turns, smiling slightly, looking at Izuku, who's sitting on a rock and resting his chin on his hand, bare chested and grinning fondly.
"Do you plan on staring at me like that all day?" Shouto asks teasingly, ignoring that Izuku's gaze doesn't unsettle him in all the most pleasurable ways possible.
"Well, the view is great. I don't see why I should complain." Izuku murmurs, smiling wider.
"Oh? How great is the view?" Shouto asks, unable to resist.
"Really gorgeous." Izuku says almost softly, and Shouto's heart is doing all kinds of nonsense right now, marking it a miracle he was even standing upright with his knees unshaken by the way Izuku's eyes rove over his wet clothes.
"Do you plan on showing me how?" Shouto asks quietly.
Izuku chokes, the meaning of the words not lost on him- but Shouto's waited enough. Five months of being in love and what with war and imminent bloodshed on the horizon, the whole thing has caused him to contemplate it heavily, and he knows it's what he wants. He'll back off if it isn't what Izuku wants, but he knows Izuku, knows him enough to see that he wants it too.
It's just a matter of pushing the right buttons to get him to do it.
"I-you, what, wait, would....would you? Let me, that is?" Izuku breathes out, eyes wide.
Shouto licks his lips, watching how eagerly Izuku's eyes follow the movement. "I wouldn't offer you the chance if I didn't want to."
Izuku's eyes almost pop out. "Really?"
Shouto nods, a little embarrassed by his own forwardness, but by Agni, he's waited enough. They love each other- what's to stop them from becoming one with each other? Nothing. They had absolutely nothing to lose. Shouto can't envisage a future without Izuku by his side at this point, and he'd be lying if he said he wasn't curious to feel Izuku inside him. Sure, he may be a teenager, as Touya's remarked snidely on more than one occasion, but he knows this is what he wants.
He wants Izuku.
Izuku slowly gets off the rock, hesitantly approaching Shouto. "You...you want to-"
"I want you to make love to me." Shouto says softly, with supreme calmness that he does not feel.
Izuku chokes on thin air again. "Y-you're not supposed to say it that baldly-" He wheezes out, but Shouto pulls him closer, breathing out at the feel of Izuku's body against the film of his wet clothes, looking up at him.
Izuku makes a strangled noise, cupping Shouto's cheeks, the scars on his hands gently kissing the younger's cheeks. "Tonight then. It's...." his cheeks are flushed pink. "It's more memorable when you do it at night, I've heard. Where-"
"Here." Shouto says, swallowing.
"At the waterfall?" Izuku breathes out in amazement, and Shouto nods, resolute. This waterfall is special to him- it's where he knew for certain that he loves Izuku, it's the place special to him.
"I-you, you're impossible." Izuku whispers, eyes darkening with want, and Shouto smiles.
Shouto coughs into his fist. He was certainly not going to tell what happened after that. Or that. He probably shouldn't have been thinking about it at all right now, in front of this young child. He then coughs again, blushing.
Momo looks at him curiously. "Avatar Shouto, are you all right?"
Shouto clears his throat. "Anyhow. Where was I?"
Momo winces, and Shouto knows what's next, as she looks at a smaller cave painting of a bloodied Izuku kissing Shouto.
"Before you ask, he gave himself over to my father so that I wouldn't be captured. When we sought out to rescue him, my father..." Shouto inhales. For everything that he's brushed aside, this is one thing he will absolutely not forgive nor forget.
Not even Fuyumi's earnest pleas had stayed his father's cruelty. Fuyumi blamed herself for that, for a very long time, but it wasn't her fault their father had been a bastard.
"My father executed him. In front of my eyes." Shouto said, coldly.
Momo gasps, and Shouto looks away.
She's young, yes.
Which was why it was harsher for her to know the cold, hard truth.
Shouto will not let himself remember that horrible, horrible day, not when he died quickly (a broken heart they had said, how ironic), two years later, to reunite with Izuku in the spirit world. He will not remember how his father smiled cruelly and ordered the executioner to slash Izuku's abdomen, the horrified scream he let out at Katsuki's back, the mournful roar the dragon let out and the duel between Touya and his father that followed.
It was fitting, Shouto thought vindictively, that Touya, who suffered the most, killed their father.
He will not let himself remember how Izuku smiled in Shouto's trembling arms, how he brushed away Shouto's tears, and kissed him with his last breath, promising that they would see each other.
Because Izuku kept that promise.
And really, nothing mattered to Shouto more than that.
Momo looks at Shouto through gentle, saddened eyes and Shouto places a translucent hand on her head.
"Love is painful. Love is horrific. Love is everything and nothing at once, Momo. Let me tell you this, never stop yourself from feeling it." He says softly, and Momo nods, swallowing.
He then smiles wryly. "Not so inconsequential now, is it?"
Momo licks her lips, shame-faced but Shouto chuckles.
"Never judge a myth by its voice, Momo. Now, I believe your friends are furiously trying to find a way out of here, and you should go." He says gently.
Momo nods, looking resolute and grateful. She smiles at him, bowing. "Thank you, Avatar Shouto. For telling me your story."
"You needed to hear it. Thank you for listening. Good luck, Avatar Momo."
Momo smiles as he returns to the Spirit World, and Shouto is warmed by it, a certainty and faith in her blossoming in him.
"She's a promising Avatar, isn't she, love?"
Shouto's heart fills with joy at that voice. He turns back to look at Izuku, who's grinning at him.
"Very. You would have loved her."
Izuku shudders exaggeratedly. "She's very graceful and strong- I don't think I can compare with that."
"Flatterer." Shouto says dryly.
Izuku grins cheerily. "You love me for it, don't you, Shoucchan?"
Shouto laughs. "Of course, Izuku."
He always would. The mythology surrounding their tale got that right, too.
"Oi, lovebirds!" Ochako calls from some distant area for something or the other, and Shouto and Izuku grin at each other, as they move together, to be with the rest of their family.