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everything i do comes back to you, somehow

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In an apartment, somewhere in Tokyo.

 

Shouto knows Izuku, he’s known him for years, and has learned him to death as a child rereads their favourite book to shreds, hiding it under the covers when the presence of another is close by. It means no one else knows Izuku the way he does.

Even if Shouto didn’t always know One For All, he still knows Izuku. Maybe.

Or, maybe Shouto is still learning. 

Shouto is 24 years old when he finds out about how much of an impact Toshinori Yagi has on Izuku’s life, even now, years after they’ve outgrown their uniforms and the hallways of UA have become nothing but something to laugh at, now. 

Shouto is 24 years old when he really, truly learns about the consequences of bearing the legacy of One For All.

He already knows about Toshinori and Nana. The way Toshinori’s body is now a cave, and how Nana isn’t even there to tell her story anymore. She’s just a series of worn-out anecdotes and a smile that no one can quite remember correctly, much to Toshinori’s frustration. Memory is a funny thing, a gallery of paintings where the places you’ve been were a little brighter than they really were, edges blurred with time and marred with nostalgia.

Shouto is also familiar with Izuku’s relationship with burden, cradles her in his hands like a newborn and never wants to let her go. Burden is a third party in their relationship because Izuku just keeps feeding her, and she’s getting antsy because he never lets her out of his sight. He knows this, and yet.

And yet.

Izuku stares outside the window, shifting slightly to the side with a wiggle to make room for Shouto. “Hi,” he quietly says. 

Shouto folds himself on the ground and rests his head on the edge of the bed instead. He needs to finish doing the chores and if he climbs into bed, he knows he’ll never leave. It would be blasphemous to consider doing so. 

Besides, Izuku is very good at trapping Shouto. He has very strong arms.

The moonlight shows how gaunt Izuku is, starved of all the things he’s never thought to ask for. His oasis lies ahead, flashes of red and blue against the Tokyo skyline. He faintly glows. His restless power threatens to push him right out of bed and into the fray, mindlessly falling prey to Lady Justice’s siren call.

How many ships have been led astray, wrecked to her sweet sound? Izuku certainly isn’t the first. (He certainly won’t be the last, but Shouto isn’t worried about that right now.)

Shouto sighs. Izuku is supposed to be asleep. He breathes out his name like a precious secret, always quiet and careful, like lips were always meant to carry and curl around Izuku’s name like a prophet and his divine message. 

“I won’t apologise,” Izuku plainly says, sweet as ever, raising a brow, an invitation to a verbal spar. He even smiles like he’s been waiting. Miles away from the battlefield, he still wants to fight something, to feel the scars he’ll wear for years to come being created.

Perhaps that’s what scars are. The unpleasant reminder of unshakable habits learned from long ago, seared and branded into the brain and body. A warning or punishment, of sorts. This particular one, Shouto suspects, is named after someplace from Izuku’s childhood. 

Bakugou is a pyre of many in Izuku’s mind, burning away the graveyard of all the nicer things they could’ve been. Izuku has told Shouto that he wonders time and time again whether he should tear the place down himself or leave it to crumble into obscurity since Bakugou had always hated it when people ignored him. Isn’t it such a shame that Bakugou had to grow up through Izuku and that Izuku was born practically grown?

If Bakugou is ravaging, ruthlessly burning things before they could grow, then Shouto likes to think of himself as the torch that’s kept alight for Izuku for years, steady and patient, as perennial as the chrysanthemums his mother grows. He always has been. He wants to be the first thing that’s ever survived a goddamned fire. He wants to prove he can survive for a reason. (He’s done it once before.)

“Izuku,” Shouto tries again, frowning. 

Something Shouto has learned is that no man is an island, as much as his father tried to prove otherwise. But Izuku doesn’t think he’s just a man—he can never be just anything at all. 

Izuku is tired, and he knows Shouto knows it. Nonetheless, he smiles like someone from a memory and replies, “Yes?” 

But what if people are truly islands? What if people had always been oceans and oceans away from each other? Surely, there’ll be millions of miles between islands Izuku and Shouto. Some days, Shouto wonders if Izuku is even there at all, soon to become a sunken myth, lost forever. No lifeboat to save him, no beacon in the night to let him know he has somewhere to go—how would Shouto even know how to help him if he doesn’t ask? 

But All Might’s voice was addictive, a siren’s call charming and inspiring people into thinking they can be more. That they too, can become neverending pillars in a temple of the greats, forever caught in the momentum of adrenaline. He was the gold standard of heroism, holding up skyscrapers and skylines on his shoulders like it was nothing. 

All Might was worshipped every single day for almost half a century, which was why the world broke when they mourned him. 

Gods weren’t supposed to die.

Years later, at the edges of Kamino Ward, a wrecked ship of a man from many a forgotten voyage rises from the ruins. It was there Toshinori Yagi emerged as the consequence of his martyrdom, the marionette of All Might. He proved that being just anything would never be enough.

Like Izuku.

“It’s a gift,” Izuku passive-aggressively insists, “One For All is a gift.”

But now this game of who gets to play Atlas is reincarnated in Izuku. 

“It’s a curse,” Shouto snaps, glares at Izuku like his gaze will suddenly make him privy to the truth. He takes a deep breath because Izuku is not his enemy. “No quirk is worth… this,” he says lamely.

The darkness of the room is generous enough that Shouto doesn’t have to see just how many different shades of blood and bruises can exist on one body. 

Izuku will insist that not all of it is mine, but Shouto will reply with you shouldn’t have to bleed at all, you were only supposed to be on patrol then Izuku will huff and say he’s a hypocrite and that we both knew what they were signing up for. They’ll go in quiet, tired circles about it until the sun rises and one of them (usually Shouto) will need to leave for patrol and nothing is actually solved.

Izuku huffs a little like he’s prepared himself for this sort of conversation like it’s something mundane as washing the dishes. He smiles in that sweet and earnest way Shouto loves. “I can look out for myself, you know this.”

“Do I?” Shouto searches for something like guilt on Izuku’s face. There’s nothing. Izuku is his own enemy, not Shouto’s.

Izuku frowns, determined. “This is something bigger than just me, Shou—What’ll happen if I stop putting in the effort to save all these lives?”

“That’s not fair, Izuku, don’t say that like I don’t understand what it’s like,” Shouto hisses. He clenches his fists, and the room gets cold. But it’s summer, and Izuku has always run hot, so he doesn’t say anything. He’s always been patient like that. 

“I know, I know,” Izuku mutters, playing with a loose thread from his sleeve. It’s an old, faded limited edition Polarise shirt from long ago, back when they were just starting out as heroes. It’s the only piece of clothing big enough to let Izuku’s cuts and bruises breathe. 

Shouto asks, “What will happen to the life we live? What will happen to yours?”

Izuku says nothing. Burden makes herself present, which makes Izuku’s hands tremble and Shouto’s head hurt.

“This is more than just being good at being a hero—You’re number one, Izuku, and you have been for a while. You don’t need to keep proving whatever it is you need to prove.”

“I don’t need to prove anything,” Izuku softly says, “I just need to be there.”

There is a ring in Shouto’s hand, and it should perfectly fit on Izuku’s finger. It twists around and around, all gold and shiny in his pocket. It sat in his mother’s hospital room for years because if he left it in the apartment, Izuku would most definitely stumble upon it. It was the first thing Shouto bought with money that didn’t come from his father. He’s not sure what to do with it anymore.

Izuku,” Shouto bravely begins, “One for All—it’s in the name—you’re doing nothing but giving yourself away.”

Shouto,” Izuku desperately says, briefly reminded of Shouto's unwavering devotion. It's a little blinding.

Shouto asks, “What happens if you come back one day and there’s nothing left of you?” What if I offer him this ring, all this devotion poured into one piece of metal, and it means nothing? 

Only the Gods would play such cruel tricks on a human, call it divine intervention and a lesson learned. A vessel too small with a power too big, intent and purpose be damned. He’s seen it, they all have, the way Toshinori crumbled and continues to crumble, an eroding cliff being chipped away by the sea. There is a crater in his stomach that proves this, after all. 

All along, Toshinori was a man and had only ever been one.

Meanwhile, Izuku bites his lip, struggling to find an answer. No one has ever bothered him with a question like that before. But Shouto is selfish and has loved him for years. Izuku should’ve expected this. 

Perhaps Delilah lives in Shouto even still, on her way to cut Samson’s hair to prove something. Maybe she saw a man underneath all that god-given talent and decided he was worth keeping, and maybe the ever-present spotlight on Izuku, a giant target in the shape of the number one is the temple he’ll eventually tear down if he wasn’t so blinded by faith. 

Sometimes god-given talent is just a particularly potent saviour complex, and betrayal is Shouto asking, “Izuku, what do you want?”

An invisible power begins to wane at this act of mutiny. If Samson and Atlas live in Izuku, then it makes sense that the old Gods have new names too—the Hero Commission is one of them. 

The police cars have long passed the area, but Izuku’s skin still shimmers with the dredges of adrenaline and sweat, still shines with One For All’s presence. He looks past the window, past Shouto and into the mirror with a discerning gaze hoping to see someone else staring back at him. But when has anyone ever been satisfied with what a mirror has shown them? 

Shouto thinks Izuku’s reflection looks like a painting in that gilded frame of gold, a beautiful, messy thing. He’s the only thing Shouto has ever wanted, yet the only thing Izuku keeps giving away. You don’t always get to choose your battles and you don’t always get to leave them either. 

It’s the moments like these that the world will never see that Izuku really is just a man but Shouto will worship him until the end of time. He’ll see to it that islands Izuku and Shouto become just one, and the sacred temple that connects them won’t ever crumble. 

Shouto will see to it that the circle will end, that the curse of One For All will be lifted. That Izuku will finally learn what it means to have a gold ring on his finger. He’ll learn what forever means. Izuku will have to put out fires that should’ve been put out long ago once more and he’ll learn to be selfish. 

“Izuku,” Shouto tries again, lump in his throat. “What do you want?”

Because Shouto is selfish. He’s loved Izuku for years, so he can wait a little longer for the ring to mean something. He’ll finally outgrow the legacy of burning houses if it means he has to wait.

He’s always been good at waiting.

 

 


 

 

A few days earlier.

 

“Sometimes it’s not enough, Shou,” Fuyumi quietly says. “It’s not enough to love someone and think it’ll change them overnight.”

Fuyumi drinks some iced coffee from the vending machine. Shouto has a suspicion that the hospital staff moved it closer to Izuku’s room just so Shouto would stop contemplating whether leaving Izuku alone for longer than 30 seconds is worth getting anything to eat or drink. 

He isn’t sure if she’s talking about their father or Izuku. But he’s a good brother sometimes, so he says nothing and lets her continue sipping her drink through the flimsy paper straw. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. 

He’s pinning all his hopes on the heart monitor, silently begging for it to continue working into the night like a flickering lighthouse in the darkest storm. Again and again, Izuku thinks the soul of Prometheus lives in him enough to be able to be ripped apart and put back together like it’s nothing. Shouto has sat for so long that he’s convinced that ivy will start to grow all over him like an abandoned statue from long ago. 

There are things they don’t tell you when you’re a hero. The amount of waiting you have to do is one of them.

Izuku’s voice is ever-present, even now, comfortable in the well-worn corners in Shouto’s mind. But a hero must always be selfless. A hero must always believe it’ll turn out fine

Aizawa, a victim of many pumped out of that damned hero factory, tried to protect them. Every year, hundreds of freshly painted heroes graduate, desperate to have their moment to go out in a proud blaze of glory, making their final battles more agonisingly beautiful than the last, fireworks in a sky of many in the countdown to New Year’s. 

There’s a derelict building in a quiet corner of Musutafu. Shouto remembers Aizawa blankly staring past the giant billboard with plans for the development of a new apartment complex, and into this sarcophagus of teenage folly like it plagues him even now. Yamada put a hand on Shouto’s shoulder and said it was gonna be the next big thing, it was gonna change the whole gamedidn’t you know three is a truly magic number?

There is a reason why Aizawa haunts the halls of UA even still, why Yamada looks into thin air—someone’s supposed to be laughing and crying with them too. There’s supposed to be someone in-between Aizawa’s cold rationality and Yamada’s easy-going nature, someone with enough unwavering optimism, earnestness and ambition for them all.

Because of this, Shouto knows looking at Izuku is a little too much, even for them. 

Because here, in this land, there is no greater honour than to keep the earth spinning with your bare hands. Atlas has no idea how many people have died to relish in the suffering he endured, the sweetest death of all. 

But Shouto’s not a hero right now, he’s just Izuku’s boyfriend. He’s selfish and small, desperately clinging onto Izuku’s hand like a lifeline, seconds from trying to shake him awake from these delusions of grandeur.

Izuku is just someone who mumble a lot. Someone who forgets to turn off the bathroom lights when he’s too tired and falls asleep to obscure documentaries from the Golden Age of heroics. He’s someone who goes out after dinner to pick up Shouto’s favourite desserts, talking to the neighbours with a smile because he was raised like any other boy with manners. 

It just so happens that he’s a hero, too—maybe he’s the best of them all. And yet, the world takes that for granted, carries on like they know Deku will get up and start walking on water like they hadn’t nailed him to that cross the day before. They’ll never bear witness to the moments in between, where the waiting is agonisingly long and the recovery— the healing—is nothing more than watching Izuku stare blankly at recordings of all the battles that took him out until the sun comes up, the closest thing to being back there

Like he’s 18 again, running for his life like All For One is still coming to get him.

But right now, Izuku is lying in a hospital bed, deeply unaware, and all Shouto can do is wait.

 

 


 

 

A few years ago.

 

It’s the end of the beginning and Izuku’s bleeding, but when isn’t he? 

Shouto sighs, watching Izuku from the sidelines, wincing when he slowly drags his broken bones onto a jagged mess of what once was an office building like it’s his stage.

Izuku throws his fist in the air and smiles, bloody teeth peeking through. His eyes are aglow with mania and the sweat on his temple makes him dazzle under the sun. His shoulders tremble with laughter and the dredges of adrenaline, but he’s grinning so hard that his cheeks must hurt. Shouto can’t help but smile too. 

Time stops and the world shifts on its axis, Izuku now truly fits into One For All. He welcomes burden in his arms like an old friend and willingly enters the slaughterhouse she’ll lead him through the rest of his life. The only thing in the world is Izuku, and Izuku alone, all bloodied and dirty and freckled and scarred and flushed. He’s here.

The dawn comes to greet Deku, Izuku. The sun, the biggest spotlight, on the world’s stage, where the role of Atlas is being reincarnated in front of the audience’s very eyes. There’s so much blood that Izuku seems to drip into the crimson sky, shepherd's warning.

“It’s over,” Izuku yells as Deku, his voice now a primal thing torn apart by the frenzied battle cries that echoed like howls across the city, back when it all began under the moon. The cover of night was generous enough to hide the ugliness of sending gangly, acne-ridden teenagers to battle. History has a bad habit of doing that. 

Back then, it seemed like the world was going to end the moment Toshinori Yagi admitted defeat, despite having won. But the old gods were never dead because the world is just the same as it’s ever been. Izuku is the new vessel to the same old prayers, the same inherited sin in the same old, wretched world.

Shouto knows it took Izuku a while to come to terms with having placed his faith in someone so ordinary. He loves Toshinori more fiercely than he ever loved All Might, but at the end of the day, Izuku painted a God’s image onto a man and believed it was real. There is a story of a people who wandered for years, punished for worshipping false gods when they were really just lost.

Izuku bellows with all his might, like a prophecy coming to pass. “It’s finally over, you hear?” 

The war is over, and the city is quiet. The world releases a breath at Izuku’s declaration of devotion to them all, One For All playing him like a well-polished tune. 

The city Izuku grew up in is utterly demolished, but that’s only fair—Musutafu did little to protect him as he aged. The cracked concrete and rusted swing sets were nothing but witnesses to the heinous reign of one young Bakugou. But for Izuku, Musutafu is a museum of the loneliest childhood ever known. Shouto knows a thing or two about those; there are years he keeps encased in glass boxes in his own exhibits, left to gather dust.

But the sun finally shines on Izuku after all these years, just like he always wanted, so all is forgiven. He’s always been good like that.

But Izuku’s fair game now and he’s not even fazed. It’s only just begun. The waiting, the mourning, the anxiousness—it’s all over. 

It’s over, you hear?

Izuku is 18 years old when he lands the finishing blow on All For One, almost a mirror image of All Might, and the word Deku becomes something entirely new to the universe. 

For the sin of decades of false worship, it’s clear that Izuku inherited something infinitely worse. One For All has always been unkind to its wielders. Regardless, Izuku willingly steps onto the pedestal himself, so high that not even Shouto can follow and Musutafu roars with anticipation.

In order for a star to be born, something must die. To sacrifice yourself is a privilege—that is what it means to be a hero.

Shouto vomits.

 

 


 

 

A month after Izuku’s most recent hospital visit.

 

Today, Izuku is late for the annual harvest exclusively held in the behemoth of a property that is Toshinori’s house, who bought the place because it looked big enough for everyone to comfortably visit whenever they want. Izuku frantically sprints through the streets of suburban Musutafu in his hero gear, ignoring the gasps of wonder and camera flashes that pass him by. 

Izuku jogs into the house, the red bricks losing the war against ivy, and throws his mask onto the pile of miscellaneous items that belong to his friends near the entrance of Toshinori’s garden. He immediately spots Shouto snoozing next to Tsuyu and Momo under one of Toshinori’s plum trees, like a cat. He’s probably snoring too. 

“Young Izuku, you’re late,” Toshinori booms, failing to be stern in the way parents are when their children are late for curfew. He had never gotten the hang of disciplining his students back when he was still a teacher because he was just as earnest and reckless as them. He grins under an incredibly floppy, wide-brimmed hat, waving with one arm and loosely gripping a pair of gardening clippers with another.

Izuku laughs, “I’m sorry, I had paperwork to do!” Toshinori nods in understanding, abandoning the clippers in favour of bringing Izuku into a hug. They’re not as bone-crushing as they used to be, but just as full. Izuku buries himself into Toshinori’s shoulders, the heaviness of the day washing away with the simple gesture.

Hitoshi pops his head from behind some beanstalks and hums, “Ah, the real villain behind the mask was bureaucracy all along.” He’s wearing a hat that suspiciously looks similar to Toshinori and struggles to keep it from drooping over his face.

Tenya somehow hears Hitoshi’s quip and starts launching into a tirade about how UA taught them about the dangers of filing paperwork incorrectly as if they never sat in the same classroom as each other for three years in a row. It’s like someone forgot to tell him that he’s no longer the class representative.

Ochako bounces over, gravitating towards the sound of her husband’s ranting like a magnet. She unceremoniously dumps a bucket full of beans and assorted root vegetables into Izuku’s arms, and declares, “Since you arrived late, Mr Number One Hero Deku, you can go wash these.” She’s wearing a pair of bright blue gardening gloves with the Ingenium logo plastered across the knuckles. “It’s good to see you, Izuku,” she quietly adds, gently holding his forearm before sighing at Tenya, whose flailing arms almost whack into Mina, who almost steps on Eijirou, who almost elbows Kyouka, who swears with a screech. Tenya's head turns so quickly that the cycle almost starts again.

Toshinori’s shoulders and hat shake with laughter like he’s a cartoon character. His grin fades into something softer. Over the ruckus, he beckons, “I’ll come with you, my boy, I’ll keep you company.” 

Izuku beams. It’s no secret that he’s always been Toshinori’s favourite. Ironically, Hitoshi, who was and undoubtedly continues to be Aizawa’s favourite, rolls his eyes at Izuku.

They’re silently washing some carrots and turnips, watching the sun paint Izuku’s former classmates in a furious scarlet until Toshinori awkwardly clears his throat. He never had any kids, so he’s had a lot of catching up to do in terms of raising Izuku.

“My boy, I’m surprised to see you back in action so soon,” he says over the gush of the running tap. He places a damp hand on Izuku’s shoulder and adds, “Shouto told me you shouldn’t be up on your feet for at least another couple of weeks—if not more.”

Izuku hums in amusement. “I got too restless—besides, I’m fine.” Toshinori raises a brow. “Really, I’m fine.”

“I couldn’t help but notice Shouto came here alone, looking a little worse for wear,” Toshinori gently prods, passing some of the vegetables for Izuku to pack for his friends to take home. “I have always admired how you contrasted each other, but forgive me when I say I think these differences have taken a turn for the worse?”

Izuku runs a hand through his hair and laughs a little. He wants to sulk at Shouto, but he’s still asleep. Typical. “I don’t see what the problem is,” Izuku lightly huffs, “we both knew what we were signing up for when we became heroes.”

Toshinori hums thoughtfully. “I’m afraid that this is partly my fault. When you were all growing up watching me and learning by my example, it seems as though I failed to disclose that I was still growing as a person too,” he dryly adds, “despite being a fully grown adult.”

Izuku almost drops a radish. “What?” 

“Nothing is more precious than life, Izuku, because that’s our job as heroes—to protect lives.” Izuku thinks he’s heard this exact line from an interview All Might did long ago.

Izuku laughs, scrunching his nose from the ridiculousness of it all. “I know, Toshinori.”

“I know you know, silly boy.” He splashes Izuku with some muddy water. “What I forgot to add is that you must always protect your own life, first and foremost,” Toshinori patiently says. “It took me a while to figure it out, but just because One For All is indestructible, doesn’t mean you are.”

Izuku knows this, he has trouble getting his hands and fingers to work with pinpoint precision in the colder months, and they ache like a reminder, scathing and sharp, howling look at what you did to me. (Shouto still blames himself, though. It’s a little endearing, the way he quietly calls himself the Hand Crusher.) 

He knows Toshinori knows this too, because he has trouble keeping food down most of the time, and some days he neglects his kitchen altogether because it’s too much for him. One day, Toshinori was fighting villains with the power to shatter planets, and now he lives a life where he can’t look at his own reflection without frowning in disbelief, like his years of being a hero were lived by someone else completely.

Izuku spent his years at UA learning that one day his body will break down on him and that it is his job to make sure it doesn’t when it matters. 

A memory with the sound of Aizawa’s voice echoes, maintaining a regular sleeping schedule and diet, as well as taking physical and mental breaks, is the bare minimum to ensure you don’t make mistakes. It was funny because Shouto, as blunt as ever, put his hand up and said that he did none of those things. Then Aizawa curled deeper into his sleeping bag and fished out a cereal bar, munching it slowly in front of the class until Shouto sheepishly apologised for interrupting the lesson.

Instead of saying this, Izuku just hums in mild agreement.

Toshinori shakes his head, his voice almost sounding disappointed, “There are people waiting for your safe return every night, me included.”

“But my job, One For All—”

Toshinori smiles, “All For One no longer terrorises our streets—you made sure of that! There is no reason to worry as much as you did back then, but I understand why you do. I will never forgive myself for giving you a centuries-old problem to deal with just because I had failed to end it myself.” He squeezes the washcloth too hard, and his voice is taut with guilt. “You were just a child.”

“But I wanted to,” Izuku says uselessly. “You were the reason I wanted to become a hero, and the reason I was able to become one.”

Toshinori replies, “Well, life works in funny ways, my boy,” he turns off the tap and Izuku is reminded of how swan-like he is, with his lanky frame always pointed towards the sky. He looks at Izuku, hoping what he says next will sink in. “You were the reason why I was comfortable with my no longer being a hero—not because I was relieved of my duty, the burden of One For All, but because I found a reason to keep living once it was all over.”

Toshinori,” Izuku hoarsely whispers, his eyebrows all twisted up. 

“To simply put it: you saved me, not as the man who used to be All Might, but me,” Toshinori admits, the swell of his emotions contagious in the air. “For this, I am forever indebted to you.”

Izuku starts crying, which is honestly on par for him. The hero worship he once had for Toshinori has dissolved into something familial over the years. But it still shocks him, even now, whenever Toshinori reminds him that he’s made of the same stuff as every other person.

“Izuku,” Toshinori announces gravely, to which Izuku wetly laughs. He’s always been a bit overdramatic, but habits are hard to break. “You’ve forgotten that the people who are important to you think you are just as important. Do not let One For All dictate what you do with your life the way it did mine, you hear?” He looks out the window and says with a knowing smile and nudges Izuku, “and don’t keep Shouto waiting, alright?”

“Okay,” he quietly replies, quickly wiping his tears away before pulling his old mentor away from the sink for a hug. “God, after all these years, you’re still teaching me.”

Toshinori declares, “Understand that for you, Izuku, I would do anything. I will tell you this as many times as you need to hear it and more—if that is what you need.”

“Thank you,” Izuku says, voice muffled in Toshinori’s shoulder. He will apologise for the tear stains he leaves behind later.

Shouto’s walking towards the house, blinking away the remains of his nap. He smiles in an eventual way when Izuku comes out to greet him, like a sunrise. His hair is braided, probably done by Momo because he’s never gotten it to look that neat without Izuku’s help.

Toshinori decides he hasn’t seen enough of his pupils. He declares that there are far too many vegetables than he knows how to deal with and enlists their help into making a feast fit for 30 pro heroes and their old teacher. He never had any children or someone to go home to each night, believing the reward of being a hero enough to keep him going— something he’ll regret for the rest of his life—but he’s glad he does now.

A hero always meddles in affairs after all, no matter how big or small. Besides, it’s the only way Toshinori knows how to repay Izuku for all that he’s done for him. It’s the very least he can do for the closest thing to a son. 

If there is any possibility for a happy ending for anyone who bears the monstrosity that is One For All, then let Izuku be the first.

 

 


 

 

Months and months later.

 

Healing is messy, and incredibly so. Izuku learns that it goes beyond having stitches and surgeries, it’s so much more. It’s the waiting for it all. For your bones to slowly fuse back together, accepting that they’re not the same as they were and really, really accept that this time, you need to be careful, Izuku, those hands were made to hold others, to pick yourself up after a long day, they carry a love language all by themselves, a tradition that has spanned for centuries—why do you keep breaking them like it’s nothing?

It’s going on a brutal journey, waiting for the nightmares to go away by facing them in a little room an hour once a week, letting pyres burn out by themselves and graveyards grow new flowers. There, a kind woman, with a quirk that makes her hair shine like glitter, patiently smiles. She writes in her notepad and says things like you are not your quirk, you’re a friend, son and partnermost importantly, you’re your own person, Izuku like it doesn’t take the air out of his lungs each time he hears it.

When you are the antagonist of the story where you are also the hero, it is hard to find reasons to accept redemption from yourself, to hold yourself with the same arms that have sought your destruction for decades. But love is unconditional, Shouto is living proof of this.

Bronze statues of false idols eventually fall down and no one may even remember how to pronounce their names as they rust into obscurity—but Izuku isn’t a god of any kind, he’s made of something more real. Something softer, all freckled and jittery and scarred. But he’s here, he’s lived long enough to tell the tale and so he heals.

He heals.

They’re tangled on Toshinori’s sofa as the rest of their friends and family bustle to and from the kitchen to the living room with various bottles of champagne and snacks to nibble on. 

“Shouto, do not fall asleep during your engagement party,” Ochako scolds, accidentally dropping a few crumbs of cake onto Shouto’s hair. Her lipstick is irreparably smudged, and everyone in the room has a smear or two of it on their cheeks from where she’s kissed them. She adds one more onto Shouto’s nose.

“We didn’t ask you to throw it an hour after we announced it,” Shouto sighs, idly stretching his limbs like a cat lazing about in the sun. As Izuku shakes from silent laughter, wiping away the cake crumbs, Shouto murmurs, “Besides, it’s not like we’ll stop being engaged once I wake up.”

“We can take our time,” Izuku agrees, looking at how the ring shines under the lights, embracing the sentimentality that comes with tipsiness. He sagely adds, “The night is still young, and we have all the time in the world.”

Shouto buries deeper into Izuku’s arms and snorts, “You sound like Toshinori.”

Tenya, the possible world record holder of the most lipstick stains on a single person's face, swoops Ochako into a bridal carry, and spins her around and around. She cackles so loudly that Hitoshi falls out of his own nap from the other sofa and onto Denki, who in turn yelps and causes all the lights to flicker like they’re in a haunted house. Mina and Kyouka laugh in that obnoxious way that happens when you drink something bubbly, and Momo sighs, immediately using her quirk to procure some microfibre cloths with a variation of flowers printed on either side.

“Someone get our Lord and Saviour Momo some… some food! Get those lipocytes back in action, baby,” Kyouka hollers, spilling some of her mimosa over Denki and Hitoshi as she dances around—though, if anything, she’s just aggressively pointing to the beat of the song playing in the background.

Tsuyu and Eijirou slip away on wobbly feet to ensure Toshinori, Aizawa and Yamada do not exit the kitchen just yet. The familiar sound of Toshinori’s warm, fatherly laughter floats from the kitchen, followed by Yamada’s cheering. Aizawa swiftly makes his way into the living room with a mop and bucket, where Denki and Kyouka are throwing mimosa-soaked washcloths at each other in Momo’s honour, stumbling, slipping and stomping on the newly-refurbished wooden floors. (Mina had accidentally dissolved the last floor a few months ago during an overzealous game of 20 Questions.)

While all this is happening, Bakugou reluctantly offers a smile, nodding at Izuku. Izuku grins back. That’s a whole can of worms that Shouto will never completely understand, but it’s gotten a lot better. They even go for walks together, and Katsu is always very excited to see Izuku. Shouto thinks maybe they should get a dog, someone to navigate through Izuku’s restlessness without having to talk.

Shouto can feel Izuku’s voice rumbling from his throat, warm and giddy. “You okay, Shou?”

There are nights where Izuku wakes up in a cold sweat, hand outstretched somewhere he can’t reach, and Shouto will always wake up because he’s always been a light sleeper, having memorised all the exits because they both grew up in burning houses. But they’ll talk about it, letting no one but the moon bear witness to their hushed conversations, and they’ll have many of those. As many as it takes. 

Sometimes, healing won’t always be that straightforward. Izuku won’t always want to talk, he won’t always find it easy to brush off the weight of One For All, and the burden will find its way back to Izuku and Shouto’s little island of an apartment for an unwelcome visit. His hands might drop a mug or a plate on colder days, and he’ll hiss, regretting his recklessness from way back then. 

But Shouto is patient, he’s always been. He’ll wait for Izuku to find the words he wants to say, and the strength to pick himself back again. He’ll wait forever if it means Izuku comes out alive. Izuku made sure he came out alive out of his burning house. So he’ll wait.

Shouto replies, “Yeah, I’m good.” He drifts to the sounds of Izuku giggling at their former classmates and teachers arguing.

 

 


 

 

A few hours earlier.

 

Izuku anxiously wrings his hands together, the new ring on his finger a little unnerving. He shakily admits, “I can’t promise that I’ll change overnight, but I’ve been trying—”

Shouto nods eagerly, tenderly grabbing Izuku’s trembling hands, drawing circles around them with his thumbs. “I know, I know.”

Izuku sniffles, finding it difficult to look into Shouto’s eyes. Of all the things he’s survived, he’s not sure he’ll ever recover from this, the truth: that despite it all, despite Izuku slowly killing the very thing he’s loved for years, Shouto still wants him. “You’re serious about this—about me?”

“You know I’ve always wanted to be around you in any way I can, ring or not,” Shouto says. He’s biting his lip, the only indication he’s nervous. He quietly chuckles, a little embarrassed that he’s heating up the room a little, but it’s fine because it’s almost winter. 

“I’ll always want you around, Shouto,” Izuku says in a rush, squeezing Shouto’s hands like he’s checking if this is a dream. He says, with distressed conviction, “I’ll always, always want you around and I’m sorry that I didn’t always show it.”

Shouto shakes his head and exhales, a light huff. “You show it more often than you think—it’s been a hard year for us, but I know how hard you’re trying.”

“Okay,” Izuku quietly replies, the ring finally warming upon his finger. It fits perfectly. “Okay.”

Sometimes healing is accepting a ring because you’ve promised to live.