Heyy everyone. How are you all doing? What a strange set of circumstances, eh? I hope you're doing good, keeping strong, physically AND mentally. I've been trying to get out on the floor. A lot of my seniors are on the front lines, and I wanted to go help out too. But I was told my help would be to study. So after a month of getting that out of the way, the exam got postponed. Go figure, eh? Hahah. But then I remembered this little story, and how, if it brightened the day of even one person, that was something too.

So here it is, at long last – the last chapter!

(A lot of y'all had doubted I'd finish this in 13 chapters, but here it is! Oh, and happy Ramadan! I hear it's happening right now? I think it's great to be able to celebrate something in these strange, dark and trying times. If any other holidays are happening, let me know, since I love learning about all the different holidays and their history and whatnot)

Aaanyways, onwards, one final time!


THE THIRTEENTH FAULT


The room was dark and barely lit, despite there being a scattering of dull, orange bulbs glowing across the walls. Several large, dusty storage boxes lay stacked, one on top of the other, creating an almost maze-like feel. The air was cold and stale, and there was a dank smell to the room – one could almost see the fungus growing under the run-down, tiled floor. The silence had been untouched for several minutes now, apart from the rhythmic pacing of Kirishima's footsteps.

The redhead threw a glance at chair in the center of the room. The man sitting in front of him was rather nonchalant, looking around idly, studying every nook and cranny around them, as if the presence of the pre-hero was as imminent as a fly on the wall.

Kirishima frowned slightly. Was Todoroki sure about this? Surely a guilty person would be a bit more bothered, and not look like he was at home.

The man caught the young hero's stare. "What?"

The redhead felt his frown deepened. "Why would you hurt a young girl that way?"

"Don't know what you're talking about," he replied airily, waving him aside. "Who are you even?"

Kirshima turned to fully face him now, hands on his hips. "Red Riot," he stated, always proud of stating his name. The room they were in made the syllables echo wonderfully.

"Well you're a riot that's for sure," the man replied.

"Hey," Kirishima snapped. "Not cool, man. Look," he went slightly serious, not appreciating the lack of respect the man was offering. "We have proof of you being there."

Did his eyebrow just twitch? But before Kirishima could analyze further, the other man gave a hefty sigh. "I don't know what to tell ya, man," he said. "I wasn't there."

"So why don't you just fess up already, and not waste my time, or you-?"

"Crimson Riot," the man said suddenly, eyes snapping back to him. "You his kid or something?"

Kirishima paused. "…no."

The man gave a loud 'HAH!'. "And you walk around like you own the place!" and suddenly, he stood up. Kirishima instantly stiffened. After taking a few stretches, leaning back to give his back a solid crack, the man straightened back up. "Do you know where you are?"

"I do," Kirishima said levelly. "Now please sit down."

"Do you know who I am?"

At this, Kirihsima raised his chin. "A criminal."

"Hah!" the man barked. "Endeavor would have never hired a criminal," the man walked towards the young hero. "If I were you, I would get out of my way."

"Like I'd ever-"

CRASH!

Without warning, a large box came hurtling from far left, crashing into Kirishima. The force of the crate cracked the boy's head to the side, smashing into bits, debris and splinters flying every which way. Kirishima didn't flinch, his wide, staring eyes having never moved once from the man in front of him, head still tilted, pupils thinned, unwavering and unreadable.

The man looked back, unshaken. "Consider moving now?"

Kirishima blinked.

Instantly, his arm hardened, layer upon layer of rock forming, molding against the contours of his arm, lining up to a sharp point jutting out past his knuckles. Not once looking away, Kirishima threw his arm out. In one smooth wide arc, he swung, shattering every box, canister and crate within his radius.

"Sit. Down," he said slowly, thick, stony arm stuck in a large crater he'd formed in the nearby pillar, a guttural growl in the back of his throat. "Please."

The man swallowed.

"Aright, look man… Why don't we all just…just calm down, alright?"

The distinct wobble to the man's voice seemed to snap Kirishima out of it. With one sharp pull, his arm came free, turning back into his normal skin and flesh. He stared at the man, who fell back onto the chair.

"Yudai."

Kirishima's arm instantly re-hardened and both him and the man turned at the sound of the new voice entering the room. The redhead noticed the man had shot up once again, but this time his chair scraped backwards in his haste, and he stood stick straight.

"Shouto-san," Yudai croaked.

Todoroki stepped forward, standing so he was directly in front of the man. Before Kirishima's curiosity had even registered, the man sunk into a bow, and the boy paused. It was like the man was an entirely different person from mere seconds ago. Did Todoroki actually command that much respect? Perhaps respect wasn't the word – Power.

The half and half hero continued unperturbed. "The sooner you talk, the sooner we leave."

He looked eerie, like something out of a horror film. Blood coated most of his figure, dark and dried, peeling, like he was suffering from some catastrophic skin disease. Todoroki's expression was masked, as always. But his eyes spoke a different story. They had picked up the light in such a way that it highlighted his contrasting irises, glossing over his pupils, giving him an opalescent, piercing stare. Kirishima felt chills run down his spine, and he wasn't even the subject of that ethereal gaze. Todoroki slowly crossed the room, each step echoing in the thick silence, his eyes never moving. Any distance left disappeared, and then they were face to face. Shouto was a few inches shorter than the man, and yet Kirishima could hardly tell.

Yudai swallowed thickly.

"Shouto-san, what's going on?" Yudai started hurriedly as two mismatched eyes staring unblinkingly at him. "I came in here because Eiji-dono called me in, and next thing I know, I'm in this room and-"

"Yudai," Todoroki's commanding tone instantly stopped the man talking. "The only reason I haven't smeared you onto a wall yet is because you know the full story."

Yudai swallowed visibly. Todoroki slowly stepped forward, the force of his weight pressing so hard on the cold floor that some loose tiles clinked slightly under the pressure. He leaned in further, inching his face closer and closer, until his eyes were mere inches from Yudai's.

"Why did you shoot Momo Yaoyorozu?"

"S-…Shouto-san… I…I don't know-"

The next thing the man knew, he was grabbed by the collar and slammed so roughly into the concrete brick wall he felt the air being knocked out of his lungs. No sooner had he wheezed in some air when sharp, icy daggers morphed into existence, stopping mere centimeters from his skin and crackling ominously. Yudai swallowed slowly, the motion causing the razor thin end of the icicle to graze his neck. Sweat glazed his skin.

"I saw you there, with my own eyes," Todoroki said, slowly. "I saw you shoot, turn around, and run away. Like a coward." Todoroki's voice was quiet, and his tone was light, as if merely stating the weather. Kirishima held in his breath.

"And then," Todoroki raised a hand, an almost manic look tinting his irises, slowly hovering the heel of his palm in front of the bridge of Yudai's nose. The man's eyes grew wide in fear. "I watched you fall and break your nose."

With a sharp push, Todoroki pressed down. Yudai let out a loud scream, the pain-filled sounds bouncing off the walls, the echoes of fear vibrating through Kirishima's very bones. He swallowed thickly, unable to hold in a nervous shuffle, note entirely sure if these actions were hero-endorsable.

"I know Toya is involved," Todoroki continued, voice raised to be heard even above the man's screams. "So either you tell me what happened, or you and Toya will face a lot more than just-"

"Shouto."

The commanding voice cut through all the chaos and finally, much to Kirishima's relief, Todoroki removed the pressure. Yudai gasped, collapsing to the ground under his own weight, breathing heavily, sharp pangs of pain still radiating through his body, blood trickling down through his fingers now covering his nose, on what was clearly a fresh, barely healed wound.

A silence settled in the room as Endeavor made his way over to his son. Kirishima felt himself hold his breath as the powerful hero passed him.

"Yudai," Endeavor's voice echoed through the room. "You will explain yourself. You will explain why someone that I have known for years, whom I had entrusted our safety to, my household sanctity to, suddenly decided to cross me."

A heartbeat passed.

The man called Yudai straightened up slightly against the wall, peering up at the father and son with bloodshot eyes, sweat glazing his skin. The two Todoroki's stared unwaveringly at him. With the light already scarce in the room, they were throwing long, dark shadows over him, and Kirishima had truly never seen something so intimidating. For the fourth time, he wondered why he was even there.

"S-sir," Yudai started through a stutter. He swallowed loudly. "Toya told me… I thought if he said… I swear, I never knew-"

"Explain."

And with the Number-one-Hero's command that left no room for argument, Yudai did.


Satomi looked up as the door opened for the first time in hours.

A young boy entered, no older than her daughter, and only once he closed the door behind him and the harsh backlight of the hallway was cut off did her eyes adjust enough to identify the teen as Shouto Todoroki. He appeared not to have seen her, her dark clothes and hair probably providing the perfect camouflage against the darkened walls.

She instantly stiffened, ready to order him away, far away, but she stopped when she saw the expression on his face. Without moving a muscle, she activated her quirk.

It was like reading a pop-up book meant for children, complete with brilliant colors and bold lines.

He traversed half the room in a second, his expression that of desperate impatience, like he had no idea of her condition, and needing to know took utmost priority. But once he closed in at three feet, he stopped abruptly. His eyebrows were furrowed, turned upwards in worry, spotting the tubes stuffed down her throat. His eyes hadn't left the still form even once. Satomi realized with a start that even if the room's light had been switched off, he probably still wouldn't have spotted her, so transfixed he was.

The boy swallowed and took a step forward.

Ever so slowly, his hand inched over, making to grab Momo's limp one, but then stopped suddenly, his eyes having fell to where it rested on the bed, pale and fragile. With a single twitch, Todoroki instead gripped the metal rail of the bed, knuckles turning white at the force, his eyes burning with a pain and anguish Satomi rarely saw in pro-heroes, let alone teenagers.

For the first time, his eyes drifted to the monitors, beeping harmoniously next to Momo, pulsating with the steady rhythmic tune of life and they stayed there, as if he were trying to let it sink in that indeed, it was her heartbeat, still beating. He stilled, and finally, his eyes fell back onto the sleeping girl, staring at her as if drinking her in.

For the first time since Todoroki had entered the room, relief had begun to relax his features.

So expressive were his emotions, that it was only after he had stopped moving altogether, his face set in a reclusive veil of regret, that the lawyer saw the whole picture.

He was the icon of fatigue, eyelids heavy, remaining open out of what appeared to be pure will power alone. His iconic hair was coated with dust and dirt, and, the most striking feature of all; blood. It lay dried, and crusty, and coated him so heavily he appeared to be fully redheaded. She hadn't noticed him limp or hold a gaping wound. With a jolt, everything slid into place.

The panicked hurry to see Momo.

His inability to touch her.

The expression of pure remorse.

Eyes filled with regret.

The blood that wasn't his.

"Shouto Todoroki."

Like a switch had been flipped, the pre-hero snapped into action. With a swift step back, a column of ice had shot up from the floor the second his foot hid the tile, and a whorl of fire had flared to life, coating half of his left arm, eyes suddenly alert and filled with a frenzy to protect and defend.

The boy's instincts were nothing to be sneered at.

Satomi stood up, taking a few steps to stand next to her daughter's bed, the monitors' light doing nothing compared to what the raging flames on his arm were to light up her figure. In the blink of an eye, the fire was gone, leaving only the monitor's flickering screen and glow of the moon to provide a source of light.

Todoroki's eyes blinked, adjusting to the sudden change in brightness, then widened in recognition. Almost instantly, he bowed formally and when he straightened up again, Satomi had to bite back a low gasp.

It was as if a mask had been pulled down over his face, and even though her quirk was still active, alert with analysis, almost all traces of emotion had been wiped clean. She could hardly believe this was the same boy from just moments ago, who had seemed close to collapsing, with only the visual of Momo's beating heart keeping him upright. Control of emotions this explicit was not something that could be done with practicing every now and then; no, this was the result of years upon years of hardships, where succumbing to one's own thoughts usually lead to suffering.

That just confirmed Satomi's suspicions of the Todoroki family.

He swallowed. Ah. So he was nervous. "How is she?" his voice was raspy; probably with disuse. Or maybe the exact opposite.

"She's alive. For now."

A tight nod was his response, although she saw the sharp, minor deflating of his chest, as if hearing it out loud lessened some greater burden.

"This was your doing."

Her statement cut through the silence. Mismatched eyes closed, and when they opened again, they looked directly into hers.

"...Yes." There was a silence, and his features betrayed nothing, but his hands balled into fists, reflecting the anger and frustration obviously swarming inside. So keeping reign on his expression was taking up so much focus it made him forget about controlling anything else. "...How did they...?"

His eyes left hers to land back on her daughter, and she knew what he meant. "How did they treat such a mortal wound?" her eyes were sharp. He said nothing as a flash darted across his eyes, and all he did was nod. The woman followed his gaze.

"Her gallbladder is gone. They reconnected the two ends of her colon together. They had to cultivate a skin graft to cover it up. Apparently, the flesh lost will fill up in due time, thanks to Recovery Girl's accelerated healing..." She let out a sigh so inaudible, the only give away was an ever so slight drop of her shoulders. "There will be a scar."

After no response, Satomi looked back to the young hero. Todoroki hadn't noticed.

"Why are you here?" she finally asked, eyes narrowed.

Todoroki looked back at her, eyes almost imperceptibly narrowed, knowing the question was a misdirection. He knew she knew the answer to that question. It was 1AM. The only reason anyone would visit at this hour would have only a handful of reasons for doing so.

When he finally spoke, it was like listening to sandpaper. "Not knowing how she was is all I have thought about every second of the past 7 hours."

"Now you know," she said quietly. "And so you will stay away from her. Please leave."

He didn't look away. The mask had begun to fall apart as she watched his eyes crackle with anger, and she could see muscles in his jaw twitch at the effort of suppressing words, probably of defiance. But with a final glance at Momo, he bowed.

And without another word, he left.


"Todoroki?"

At the mention of his name, the half-n-half hero jerked upright. The boy looked terrible; the result of spending the night sleeping on a hospital chair. Or being through what he had. Kyoka held back a wince. The most obvious souvenir of the recent trauma were his blood-soaked clothes, so deeply stained the cloth looked black. Where the cloth ended and skin began was hard to tell, given that it was coated almost as extensively, forearms lined with crimson. It shouldn't have been possible to move after blood-loss like that.

Kyoka felt a chill run down her spine as she realized that's because the blood wasn't his.

"How is she?" she asked, voice barely about a whisper.

"She's alive," he said. Then, almost as an afterthought, "For now."

His eyes were a vortex of contained sadness. It was obvious that he was desperately trying to hide it, but either he was too distracted or he had been pretending for so long he simply couldn't manage to cover it up anymore. Todoroki's face was tired, with deep lines under his eyes, and his figure was slumped over, the antithesis to what he usually exuded, and it made Kyoka think this was how someone looked after the world had ended.

"Why aren't you in there with her?"

He didn't reply, the only movement he made being to turn to face the opposite direction, hands buried within his pockets, sliding deeper and deeper into the metal bench. Kyoka decided to get the rest of the answers herself. She opened the door to Momo's room.

"Is he still out there?" Kyoka jumped at the unexpected voice. Yaoyorozu's mother had been staring out the window. She looked very much like Todoroki did, sans the blood.

"Todoroki? Yeah..."

The woman sighed in a rare display of fatigue, walking back over to sit on the chair by her daughter's bedside. Kyoka watched the mother connect hands with her daughter's, thumb tracing gently over the back of her hand. The simple act of love caused Kyoka to suddenly feel like she maybe shouldn't be there. So that explained it; why Todoroki was outside, looking like a lost Labrador. She remembered the issues Momo had told her her mother had with him. But it wasn't right, and it wasn't fair.

"She loves him, you know," Kyoka said, walking over to stand protectively over her friend's side, opposite to where Mrs. Yaoyorozu now sat.

"And he loves her, I believe."

Kyoka blinked. To hear something she had been intricately theorizing for months now, confirmed so idly from someone who was so much more knowledgeable…the young heroine felt a ray of hope. "So if you know that-"

"If love was all it took, we wouldn't have been given intelligence."

There was a pause as Kyoka tried to decipher what that could possibly mean. "She'll want to see him when she wakes up."

"He'll see her over my dead body."

Kyoka sighed.

"She won't accept this."

"She'll have to."

A flurry of rebuttals flitted through her head, but Kyoka decided everything was too raw, and too fresh, and as things were, they would only get refuted. This would take time, as did all wounds. But she would support her friends all the way.

"How did she survive?" Kyoka asked, taking a seat on the opposite side of the room. "I heard it was a very severe injury..."

"...A block of ice had constricted the vessels and clotted the blood," Mrs. Yaoyorozu murmured, quietly, as if she didn't want to admit it. And suddenly, everything made sense. But before Kyoka could clarify, the woman spoke up.

"I know, Kyoka. I know."


The hours passed by. Kyoka had long ago left to attend school, and yet Todoroki didn't move. Nurses were now eyeing him nervously from a distance after having been glared at searingly for having suggested he maybe leave, if only to shower. As the afternoon sun glowed on the horizon, several classmates began coming in, in two's or three's. Most of them tried asking Todoroki what happened, but hardly managed to get more than a few words out of him.

It was nearing evening time when Kyoka showed up again. Only about half the class had come to visit, some wanting Momo to rest and heal before invading her privacy.

"You're still here?" Kyoka asked, unable to help herself. Todoroki had hardly moved, giving what might have been a nod – or perhaps that was just her eyes playing tricks on her as she shifted a bit. She gave him a once over. "At least go shower," she stated, warily eyeing the crusted blood. Her only answer was a blistering silence. Kyoka sighed, supposing it wasn't really her business anyway. Besides, he was a big boy now.

Momo had been all jittery after the festival with the news of the Endeavor court-case finally coming to light, and she had been avoiding Todoroki; that was the last Kyoka knew. So the news that her best friend had been in an accident – more of an attack, really – had been out of nowhere, and to say she was shocked was an understatement. It had been all anyone could talk about at school all day.

Pushing aside the worry for Todoroki, she turned the handle to enter Momo's room.

Mrs Yaoyorozu looked up as the door swung open. "Kyoka!"

The large smile on the woman's face was far too bright for the situation, but Kyoka couldn't help flash a weak, confused smile back. "How's it going, Mrs. Yaoyorozu?"

"She woke up," Satomi answered.

"What?" Kyoka yelped and skipped over to the bed.

"She's sleeping again now," the mother continued. "But she woke up maybe an hour ago. We talked for a few minutes before she fell asleep again."

"But she'll be fine?" Kyoka asked, scanning her friend's pale face.

"The doctors said the first wakening is the most telling. And the most important sign," Mrs Yaoyorozu said.

The smile that now donned Kyoka's face was wide, beaming, and full of energy. "That's freakin' awesome, Mrs. Yaomomo!"

They exchanged large smiles. But as the mother turned her loving gaze back down to her daughter, Kyoka felt her heart jump, this time uncomfortably.

"Mrs Yaomomo, you have told Todoroki haven't you? That Momo woke up?" Kyoka asked, already knowing the answer.

Satomi adjusted her glasses, not meeting Kyoka's gaze and the young hero's stomach clenched. She could see it so clearly, the shell of a person that Todoroki currently was. He was a wreck. A mess of something so far passed the boy she knew and that it shook her. Kyoka didn't care for him usually, being the distant and closed person he was.

But that was it, she realized. Usually, he was distant and cold and closed off. But not right now. And knowing that he was so unsettled, so invested, so extremely frazzled to his core - it ignited her hero instincts. Someone that destroyed could not be left uncared for. And yet, here, by someone so much older and wiser, someone she respected so deeply, that was exactly what was happening.

"He's been out there all day- actually, I think he spent the night here," Kyoka couldn't control the rise of her voice at the outrage she felt. "He at least deserves to know his friend isn't dying."

Without waiting for a response, Kyoka strode out of the room, closing the door a little harder than perhaps necessary. Once out in the hallway, she paused, trying to steady her breathing, chest heaving in large, deep breaths. It started to sink in that she had not only raised her voice at an elder, not only at a friend's parent, but at one of the most prestigious people of their nation.

As an afterthought, Kyoka looked to her side.

Todoroki was looking at her through a sidelong glance, probably noticed the hurry at which she had left the room. He held her gaze for a second or two before he decided she no longer was worth his attention and resumed staring a hole in the floor. Kyoka sighed. She didn't know why she even wanted to help this guy.

"Momo woke up, Todoroki."

Instantly, his head snapped up, so fast she heard the audible snap of the joints in his neck. His eyes were wide, and with his eyebrows curved up like that he looked so lost, so vulnerable, that for a second Kyoka doubted whether she should have told him.

"What," he whispered, simultaneously shooting up from his seat on the cold, hospital bench. He looked at her imploringly, so intensely it was almost like he was glaring.

She grinned slightly. "She woke up."

He stared at her for only a second longer before twisting smoothly on his heel, marching passed Kyoka, clearly heading towards Momo's room.

"Wait, wait!" Kyoka cried, spinning around after him. "That was a few hours ago; she's gone back to sleep-"

She might as well not have spoken for all the difference it made.

The words had hardly left her mouth before the half-and-half hero's hand shot to the door. Before she could stop him, Todoroki had turned the handle, pushing the door open without a second thought.

Satomi Yaoyorozu rose to her feet, saying nothing. Kyoka swallowed thickly as she noticed the woman lean slightly towards her daughter, and she felt insulted for him. But Todoroki hardly noticed. Momo was still lying in the bed, just as he last remembered, and she still appeared to be sleeping. He remained frozen, trying to process, hand still clutching the doorknob, the other supporting him against the door frame.

"She woke up earlier," Jiro's voice repeated, materializing behind him, gently, patiently, as if she knew he would react so preemptively. "But she went to sleep almost straight after. The doctors say that her waking up at all is the sign we needed that she's going to be okay."

"'She's going to be okay'," Todoroki repeated, a small mumble, hardly louder than a breath. He took a few seconds then, his gaze hovering over Momo's face, drinking in the sight of some color having returned to her previously deathly pale skin. "She's going to be okay."

It was as his lips were trying to pull up into a tight smile (his muscles had forgotten how to do that over the past few hours) that his eyes lifted up, locking with the older Yaoyorozu's, and any instinct to smile disappeared. She was staring at him, an improvement from her usual glare, and for another moment they both analyzed the other.

"She's going to be okay," he said finally, much more quietly than before.

A moment's pause. Kyoka held her breath, not entirely sure what to expect.

But then the older Yaoyorozu nodded.

Todoroki felt a heavy sigh leave his body. He turned, slowly, leaning against the frame, staring unseeingly down the hallway. "She's going to be okay," he said again. The back of his head fell back against the wooden pane, now turning his heavy eyes upwards at the square-tiled ceiling, as if thanking a higher power.

"She woke up," he closed his eyes, and Kyoka swallowed, moved by the blatant, sincere show of relief. Todoroki stood there, quietly, unmoving, taking a few moments to process.

"She woke up," Kyoka confirmed, a shadow of a smile resting uncertainly on her lips. Then, to Kyoka's surprise, he looked back at her, his face stretching into a large, albeit soft smile, and for the first time ever, his face was open and real. And Kyoka couldn't help but feel pangs of worry for the boy, eyes nervously darting to where Mrs Yaoyorozu stood.

Following her gaze, Todoroki turned, locking eyes with the woman. Something in the air shifted, and he slowly stepped back, pulling the door shut after him. He headed back towards his bench, not sitting, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he stared blankly down at the seat.

"She woke up," he muttered out loud, more to himself than to her. Kyoka didn't respond, deciding to let him process this at his own pace. "She woke up…"

He bit his lip, as if scared his wide, ever-growing smile would tear his face in two. The expression on his face was of pure relief, like he'd forgotten stress existed in life, like everything was perfect. The absence of his usual mask meant the tiredness and exhaustion of the last couple of days wormed its way through, and he slumped back against the wall.

"Yeah," Kyoka said softly, his sincere happiness contagious.

Heterogeneous eyes flickered back down to her, and Kyoka realized he had forgotten she was there for a second. She held her breath, waiting for that mask to fall back over his face, blocking him from the world yet again.

But it didn't. Instead his lips tightened together, almost as if embarrassed, although the ghost of a smile still lingered.

The sudden click of the adjacent door made them both turn. Satomi Yaoyorozu stepped out into the hallway, gently shutting the door behind her. Kyoka didn't miss the way Todoroki suddenly straightened, hands pulled out of his pockets. His face was wiped clean. Maybe it was because an expressive Todoroki was so rare, or maybe it was because he had only just trusted her enough to drop his guard down, but the loss of that openness meant Kyoka wasn't feeling very welcoming of the older woman just then.

"Momo woke up an hour and a half ago," Satomi began, tone clipped and formal. "It was only for a few minutes, after which she fell asleep again."

"I see," Todoroki replied, voice just as formal.

There followed a heavy, awkward silence, and Kyoka wished she could be almost anywhere else just then. After another few elongated moments, Todoroki continued. "That is a good sign."

"It is indeed."

The silence resumed again and Kyoka internally winced. This seemed to be Mrs Yaoyorozu's attempt at reconciliation, which made her undoubtedly happy, although she was not quite sure why Momo's mother had suddenly chosen now to acknowledge Todoroki's existence. But the awkwardness levels were too high to bear. She shuffled her feet as quietly as she could, hoping to just slide out of their view without being noticed. Instantly, two pairs of eyes snapped onto her, and she felt herself mentally groan.

"Kyoka-dear, you must be hungry," Mrs. Yoayorozu said. "Why don't you go downstairs and get something for yourself. And for Shouto here, as well."

"Sure," Kyoka said, leaping on the offer, happy to be given an out from whatever had just begun. She gave them a final look, cocking an eyebrow at the two of them as she turned around, hands shoved deep in her pockets.

Todoroki watched forlornly as Kyoka turned the corner. He wasn't especially fond of her, but just then, he would have given anything to go with her.

"Shouto," Satomi continued once Kyoka was far enough from ear-shot. "You should go home. Rest. Shower," she said the last word with an air of command, and Todoroki suddenly felt all the grime and filth clinging to him. And yet, her saying it made him want to do it less.

Still he nodded. Wordlessly, he turned around, backtracking, returning to the bench that had been his bed for the past 24 hours and slumped down on it, leaning back against the wall, forgetting his usual dignity and poise. He let out a sigh. He was so very, extremely, incredibly tired. The only thing that had been keeping him pushing was the crippling guilt of wondering whether or not he had killed his best friend. But now that that worry was pushed aside for now, all of it came crashing down, like an avalanche.

"You probably think of me as the villain," Satomi's voice suddenly cut across. Todoroki jerked at her sudden words, surprised that she was still standing there. After eyeing her warily, Todoroki shrugged. "Do you know why I won't let you near Momo?"

"My father," he answered automatically. A dim echo of 'you're nothing like them' churned through the back of his mind, a memory from another distant time, from a conference room so very far away.

"My daughter is alive now because of you," she replied, choosing not to respond to his answer just. But as Satomi continued, her voice was raw and strong; almost heartfelt. "That is not lost on me."

Todoroki felt himself looking up to meet her gaze.

"However, she was there because of you. This wouldn't have happened if not for you. Not your father. You."

There it was.

The single thought that had been grinding at his soul for every second of every hour since the accident - the attack, he reminded himself harshly – happened. That everything that had happened was solely, singly his fault. It was like she knew his deepest, darkest thoughts.

"How is it that this whole ordeal is caused by your family, involved only you, and yet my daughter is the one on life support, while you get away without a scratch?"

Todoroki stood up. His heart hammered against his chest, the millions and billions of words hammering against his chest finally bursting through.

"You know what's worse?" he turned around, eyes bright and glistening, face flushed, poker face long forgotten. He took two steps forward, drawing level to her gaze. They weren't normal, her eyes. They were shimmering, like oil on water. This had to be her quirk. She had to have the quirk of intimidation, because truly, he had never seen a more menacing look than that of Satomi Yaoyorozu. "It's that she was saving me. She got hurt because she pushed me aside. She wasn't supposed to-…"

His jaw stopped moving just then. Try as he might, his lower lip wouldn't move. His throat was clogged. Something was strangling him. He was choking.

'Are we friends?'

'You're nothing like them.'

'Thank you. Thank you.'

'You're so…incredible'

'My hero.'

Yaoyorozu's voice echoed through his head. Memories from a time he had thought he'd forgotten churned up. Was there ever such a time where he felt he could protect her? Was there truly a time where he felt safe around her, and her around him? Times of such warmth and happiness and comfort – could he have ever really felt them? And yet, he felt it now. That warmth, that comfort; the memories themselves reignited some deep strength.

He lifted his head, closing his eyes, and let out a deep sigh.

"My father isn't guilty," he said, meeting her gaze, eyes steely, mask back, drawn down tighter than ever before.

Satomi didn't falter. "Even after what you saw, you still-"

"My father isn't guilty," he repeated, interrupting her. "My brother is."

Satomi's lips parted a fraction of an inch. "How do you-"

"The only reason I'm telling you this," Todoroki pressed on. "Is that when we ask for a settlement, you take it. My eldest brother is an alcoholic. A loose canon. He framed my father, and he's the reason we're stuck in this mess."

The older woman looked away, thinking over his words. "We'll go to court," she said. "We'll let the facts do the talking, instead of coercion behind the scenes."

"We have a witness," he said. "We will win. I'm telling you because I'm just trying to do the right thing by Yaoyorozu – by Momo," as he said her first name, he choked up slightly, and it wasn't lost on him how his voice wavered despite him now actively erasing his emotions. "I'm telling you because you are her mother. You can interpret what I told you however you like."

Satomi didn't respond, mind racing, but said nothing. She watched Todoroki hesitate for a fraction of a second before he turned to look unwaveringly at her.

"I will stay away from her," he said finally. Satomi blinked in surprise. Before she could say anything he said, "I wish her a speedy recovery."

And with a small bow, he turned and left.


It was almost three days later that Momo was well enough to meet people, sitting upright, and actually engage in conversation. For the next couple of days, she was surrounded by family and friends, several bouquets of flowers, and even more cards.

The first day she had woken up, she hadn't been able to go back to sleep, due to the pain. Her doctor told her that was a good sign. Pain meant receptors had been regenerated and were working, meaning Recovery Girl's treatment had worked, and she was on the path to full recovery. However, Momo didn't really care for any of that; anything was worth it if this pain could just go away. She had been very snappy that day, yelling at her parents and the nurses, which was very unlike her.

The next day was far better, and that was when most of her class came to visit. Her parents had been keeping them away the days before, given how unresponsive she was. Most of them had come to visit while she was asleep, but left after a short conversation with her mother.

Kyoka had been with her all day. It was convenient, of course, that it was a weekend, and so Kyoka had more than enough time to kill. Of course, spending hours at a hospital wasn't anyone's ideal way of fun, and Momo definitely appreciated her best friend's support. Her friend had filled the gaps in between visitors, stepping back whenever someone came in. She'd filled her in on everything that had happened over the past week, although Momo noticed there was a significant lack of Todoroki detail.

However it was now nearing evening time, and the number of guests had slowly died down. Her parents had gone home a while ago, in preparation for the hearing tomorrow. They hadn't given her any details, saying she needed to forget about that and focus on getting better. Momo had been waiting for them to leave, even encouraged it, wanting a chance to openly talk to Kyoka.

"Kyoka," Momo started. "Do you know anything about the Endeavor trial?"

Kyoka popped out an earbud, pausing whatever she was watching on her laptop. "I think everyone knows about it by now, dude."

"No, I mean, any changes?" she asked, rather impatiently.

Kyoka smirked. "You're asking the wrong person. Todoroki probably knows more, given that it's his father on trial."

At the name of the half-and-half hero, Momo immediately quietened, looking down at her twiddling thumbs. "I, uh… I didn't see him today…"

"Don't sweat it too much," Kyoka said amicably. "He's probably busy with the whole trial thing. I saw him at school, so he's fine."

"I suppose you're right," Momo replied. She leaned back against her soft, propped-up pillows, turning her head to watch the sun slowly disappear behind the buildings. Kyoka returned to her laptop, and for a while there was silence, the steady beeps of her machines fading to the background.

"He still should have come," Momo said quietly.

Kyoka looked up at her, and Momo had to remind herself of her friend's excellent hearing.

"He was here you know," Kyoka said, and Momo's eyes instantly snapped up to meet hers. "He didn't leave the hospital until he was sure you'd be okay."

"Oh," Momo said quietly, her heart thrumming rapidly against her rib cage. If she was being honest, every time someone entered the room her heart would jump uncomfortably, thinking it was Todoroki. And every time it would be worse, as the pool of who the visitor could be grew smaller and smaller, and her heart fell harder and harder each time. So to know that he actually had been here, worrying about her, comforted her just a little.

But it didn't change the fact that she wanted to see him while awake.

"Yeah. That was probably the happiest I've seen him," Kyoka continued, smirking at her. "When he found out you woke up the first time."

"Yeah?" Momo asked, smiling quietly. The idea was comforting.

"Yup. You know, he's kinda cute when he smiles."

"Yeah. It's the dimples," Momo said, and the two of them shared a small, brief giggle. When the silence fell on them again, Momo looked down at her hands, limp in her lap. "He could have stayed though," she muttered.

"That was days before you really woke up," Kyoka said, almost sounding like she was defending him, and Momo for the hundredth time wondered what exactly had happened. If her mother and Todoroki had been in close proximity, given what had happened, something had definitely gone down. Kyoka continued. "Also…stuff's pretty complicated."

'Complicated'? "So you do know something! Explain. How so? I'm sure I can find a way-"

"No, Momo," Kyoka cut her across before she turned on lawyer mode, internally rolling her eyes. And Momo said her mother hadn't rubbed off on her. "I think Todoroki has to work stuff out."

"Kyoka-"

"I know it's frustrating Momo, but I think you should give him some time. Especially once this whole court thing passes over."

Momo sighed, slumping back once again. Kyoka continued. "He'll probably show up himself in a day or two."

Except he didn't.

Sunday afternoon her parents came to see her, after the trial. A trial that ended almost as soon as it begun. It turned out that Todoroki's brother, the sadistic hot head that had rubbed her the wrong way from day one, had been behind it – just as Todoroki had hypothesized.

Toya had been sloppy. He had been wandering the streets on one of his drunken strolls. But only he had gotten caught when Mr Yaoyorozu had taken that picture, and the entire thing had been blown far beyond anything he had ever expected.

But Toya's uncanny resemblance to his father gave him the perfect excuse. Toya then figured if he could find the opposition's daughter, see how far this whole thing had escalated, he could blackmail her into dropping the whole thing. That's when he came to the autumn festival, seeking out the Yaoyorozu heiress, and instead, banged heads with his youngest brother. After that, Momo and Todoroki started digging and he grew panicked. His father had several alibis that night, and the case seemed to lean towards the worst for him.

So Toya hit up the family hitman-security team, Yudai being part of them. Toya had been buddy-buddy with them for years, and had built up enough loyalty for them to listen to Toya without any incentive. And so they had attacked Momo, not knowing who she was, in the hopes of getting the Yaoyorozu's to back off. However, they had slipped up, literally, and Todoroki had recognized him.

Together with Endeavor, they ended up testifying against Toya for a reduced sentence. It was a strange event, where neither side really won. Satomi was taking this as a draw, unwilling to add a point to her rather nominal loss-history.

Days passed.

It hit Momo later that it would probably be hard for Todoroki, given her parents would be there, and he understandably wouldn't want to deal with that. But she came up with a strategy alongside Kyoka, where Momo would let her friend know whenever her parents left, or weren't coming and Kyoka would let the boy know then.

But another week, and still Momo hadn't seen, or heard, anything from Todoroki. She would have thought he would have at least wanted to brag about being right. Or at least give her the respect of concluding something he had roped her into in the first place. This was beyond her – as often as he reassured her that they were, indeed, friends, he went and did something proving completely the opposite. How not visiting your sick colleague suggested friendship was beyond her.

Finally, the weekend approached and Momo was finally discharged. She would have to take a few supplements to counter the lack of her gall bladder – recovery girl could salvage something if most of it was left. However, most of her gall bladder had been blown out in the injury. Luckily, her liver and intestines were something that could regenerate if given a boost. So other than some pills, the doctors assured her she would be able to live a completely normal life. Just before going home, she made sure to go thank Recovery Girl personally for saving her. It was a debt she would be trying to repay her entire life.

It was once she was home that Momo started to reach the end of her patience. Momo had tried telling herself that it was fine he wasn't there when she woke, telling herself he didn't have to be there for her every movement. But each time she gave him an excuse, her heart sunk, and so she countered it with hope; since he didn't come today, he would tomorrow; he didn't come on the weekend because of his family's trial, but he'd come over the week; he didn't visit this week because school, but he surely would on this weekend.

But once she had reached home, she realized that he probably wasn't ever coming, given the history between him and her house.

And she was right.


Momo had never felt so bored in her entire life.

If this whole injury had taught her anything, it was to never get hurt – the recovery time was absolute torture and just not worth it. After two days at home, she had requested her assignments be sent to her, which kept her somewhat busy. But within 3 or 4 hours she was usually done. And for the first time ever, Momo Yaoyorozu hated studying. The silence that usually came with reading needed a piece of mind, one not weighed down by stressors and distractions and regrets.

So that left her with a need to turn to other projects, and she found 18 hours was far too much time in a day to do whatever she liked. And with an abdomen that throbbed like something was clawing their way out whenever she moved, moving wasn't much of an option. She had been given a wheelchair, and had some fun trying to work out the mechanics of it, but even that grew mundane.

And so that left absolutely no distractions when it came to her thoughts.

That was why, by the end of the week, as soon as she could walk without a wheelchair, Momo decided to go back to UA. Putting on her uniform was interesting, bending over still being an issue, and after she threw up her breakfast, her parents instantly pushed her against it. But leaving the house filled her with an excitement she hadn't felt in weeks, and in the end they agreed, as long as she went with the driver, who would stay outside all day should she needed anything. And if any incident like breakfast were to happen again, she was to come straight home.

When she finally reached school, it was already first break, and so for the entire 20 minutes, she stood in the center of a large group of teens, chattering away, catching up, and she felt the happiest she had in weeks. It was only when the bell rang that everyone dispersed. That was when he reappeared.

Her ears were ringing, and she wondered distantly if maybe she was having another episode like that morning. But she couldn't look away from him, since he looked so confusingly familiar, and yet like a person she didn't know. Where would they start? The last thing she remembered was visiting Aki Hideyoshi's house, and before that-

Her heart gave an uncomfortable lurch. Momo swallowed heavily, her throat stinging with traces of acid. She needed water.

Todoroki didn't meet her eyes, not once, and that made her already jittery nerves even worse. This was all his fault, she thought. If only he had come to see her at the hospital, they could have already talked it all out. Now she didn't know what to do.

"Hey," she said, nerves sending waves of nausea through her stomach. When he made no response, she repeated, "Hey Todoroki."

He looked up instantly, almost too fast, hair whipping upwards, exposing his forehead for the slightest moment. Momo stared. He had beautiful hair. The expression on his face looked like he was surprised. So he hadn't been ignoring her then? Perhaps he was so accustomed to no one being at her seat that he had learned to ignore it? That's what she told herself anyway.

Seconds passed, and then a minute, and as more and more time ticked by, Momo wondered if he was going to say anything at all. And if he wasn't, what was that expression he was making then?

"Yaoyorozu," he started quietly, and then said nothing after that. Yet again he was choosing to stare at her with a look so intense, so gentle and caring that she forgot what it was she wanted to say, forgot what it was that was bothering her, forgot everything horrible that had ever happened. Again he made that face like he wanted to say something. And this time, after a pause, he did.

"How are you feeling?"

"Better," she replied and even then, her side gave an angry throb.

Mismatched eyes softened in surprise, and then gained a sadness that was so foreign on him Momo felt a frown grow on her lips. A second later, his eyes glazed over, as if drifting into a distant whimsy, as if miles away.

He nodded somberly. "Good."

And then she watched him turn, slowly, back to face forward as his mask went up; something Momo hadn't seen in months. And certainly not around her. In fact, she hadn't seen it in so long she'd forgotten Todoroki had that ability, to wall off the world in the blink of an eye.

Class started then, but that sense of normalcy that should have returned, didn't. Not with Todoroki sitting next to her. The teachers didn't make a big deal of her coming back, which she appreciated, not wanting to explain the details, or be the center of attention more than she already was. That was far too draining for her just then. But at the end of the class, the teacher would pull her aside to quietly ask her if she needed anything, and how she was doing. She truly loved UA.

It was lunch when she finally got a chance to talk to Todoroki. She had to make an excuse from Kyoka, Mina and Kaminari, who wanted to keep her company. And she had missed them undoubtedly, but with how she was feeling, she didn't know if she would be able to come in again before the holidays started, and if she didn't get a chance to talk to Todoroki before then, she'd lose her mind. And the girls could always come over whenever they wanted. For obvious reasons, Todoroki couldn't.

It was on the rooftop that she found him. He was sitting on the concrete floor, staring out past the fence. He looked so calm, soaking in the mellow rays of the winter sun. A still-wrapped sandwich lay next to him, and all she wanted to do was forget her worries and join him – and for a moment she really did consider it.

Momo swallowed thickly, throat going dry. Her hands clenched tightly into the thick material of her skirt. Todoroki still hadn't noticed her presence, although granted she was still a good 10 feet away. But he would usually have noticed her, which meant he was lost in thought, staring at the peaceful streets below. She started to lose her nerve, forgetting what she wanted to say, and why she was there in the first place. All she knew was that she wanted to see him.

Something had happened to him during her weeks at the hospital. He was so far from the Todoroki she knew. Or maybe it had been so long she had forgotten what he was like in the first place. Momo stuffed her hands in her coat pockets, taking a deep, calming breath, and walked towards him.

"Congratulations," she said. She continued even as he turned to look at her. "I heard you passed your prelims."

There was a long pause where he looked at her blankly. She stopped a few feet away, something in the air telling her she should probably hold off on going closer. Then, just as Momo was about to think he'd never respond and started thinking of what to say next, he gave a sharp, curt nod. Whether in gratitude or in affirmation, she didn't know. Momo sighed, turning her gaze from him to look at the gardens down below, full of students enjoying their lunch in the open air.

Then, "How did you know I'd be here?"

His voice was carried by the wind on the winter rooftop. It was much colder up here than on the grounds, the December winds blowing strong, and that was probably why there wasn't anyone else up here, despite it being one of Kyoka's favorite eating spots. Momo pulled her uniform coat a bit tighter around her frame, hiding a wince as her injured side gave a throb. Todoroki seemed unfazed by the weather, and she wondered if it was his right side giving him immunity. Or perhaps his left. Maybe even both.

"I checked the cafeteria," she said, trying her best to keep her face blank, like he was. "You obviously weren't in the classroom. So I checked the place where I would want to go."

Upon hearing this, he glanced up at her, mask down once again, and smiled. It was almost one of appreciation, like he was saying he was proud to be sharing this small secret. But then she blinked, eye contact hardly lasting more than a glance before Todoroki looked away again. Momo sighed. She had forgotten how unreadable he could be, and how unnerving it was. She crossed her ankles and sat down next to him, wincing and holding in a gasp as she leaned heavily on her bad side, her back leaning rather heavily against the fence through which he was looking.

A long silence drew between them as she waited for Todoroki to speak again. He didn't. She pulled her blazer even tighter around her, the concrete cold against her legs despite the blaring sun and she realized she didn't have all that long to speak before the cold started growing uncomfortable.

"You know, I debated with myself over the last two hours whether or not I even wanted to talk to you about this," Momo started. "I thought maybe I could just get over it, and move on. But seeing how you're acting, I don't think I can do that."

Momo drew in a deep breath, her back against the safety fence, facing towards the entry door, looking at the concrete floor in front of her. The emptiness of the roof had been slightly unnerving, but now she was grateful for it.

"You weren't there Todoroki," she started. "Not when I woke up, not after the trial, not for the days after that when I was alone in the hospital, and not when I was discharged." Now that she'd started, the words wouldn't stop. "And I know you knew when all that was, because Kyoka told me she'd keep you updated. Heck, Satou visited me more times than you did."

It came out in a gushing wave, and with it, the pangs of pain that had been building over the weeks. "If you're confused about something, we talk about it. That was our deal, Todoroki. I'm not saying you wouldn't have had other things to do it's just…I don't know. I guess I had expectations…"

She grew quiet, the hurt trickling in to form a lump in her throat. Momo bit the inside of her cheek. She realized technically, he owed her nothing, that those expectations were not his promise to her but a fanciful dream designed by her own wishes. And now when she realized that, it really didn't matter in the long run. Maybe she was the one overreacting...

There was silence, and Momo glanced up at the boy who had caused her so much conflict, and she felt her heart drop in disappointment. The mask was still up, unmoving, showing that her heartfelt words had had no effect on him, although his eyes were glazed over, looking off to the horizon with an unseeing stare. A chill ran through her and she wasn't sure if it was entirely because of the winter wind.

Momo swallowed. "What happened, Todoroki?" she asked quietly, at this point, not sure if he even cared she was trying at all anymore. "Talk to me."

Seconds became minutes. Momo gave a long, soft breath through her nose, trying to steady the shakiness her breath had taken on. She had tried. Maybe he'd feel more like talking later. She would simply have to give him his space. But he would have to come to her, because she had tried, clearly more than he cared for, and she couldn't go through this mental stress again.

With a large holding of her breath, Momo rose to her feet, leaning rather heavily against the fence, and struggling more than she cared to admit, but hiding her efforts pretty well all the same. Finally straightening, she stared at the top of his mismatched head, pausing, giving him one last chance to reply before she left. But after another minute of silence, she turned.

"I was wrong."

Momo realized only after that she may have whipped back around far too fast. Was that a tremble in his voice, or was she imagining it?

"… Your mother was right. About everything. Just…not about this case," Todoroki was almost mumbling for how low he was speaking. If there had been a tremble, it was gone now. Todoroki turned to meet her eyes, peering up at her through translucent lashes, eyes large and bright, and, as if hypnotized, Momo walked back.

He kept looking at her, and she patiently waited, hoping for him to continue. He bit the corner of his lip before turning away.

She had never seen him look so distraught. "You mean about your brother?" Momo asked. "But it's over now, right? He's gone. Aren't you happy about that?"

"Of course I am," Todoroki snapped, then clamped his jaw shut at the harsh tone, muscle pulsating as he chewed on nothing, turning back to look at her with strangely lost eyes. "I wasn't there for you," he elaborated. "Your mother was right. I'm a liability. An imposter. I wasn't there for you when you got attacked-"

"Todoroki-"

"And if I can't be there at times like those," he talked over her. "Then why should I be allowed to otherwise?" his look was intense, eyes boring into hers, and for a second she was caught off guard.

"Allowed? Todoroki-"

"She was wrong about the case. I countered her on this not because I admire my father, but only," his eyes flashed. "Only because he wasn't guilty on this one. But about everything else," there was a pause. "Your mother was right."

He wasn't making much sense, and for several moments, Todoroki simply looked at her and Momo wondered if he was going to be okay. He was talking, which was good, and his expressions were back. But now, all the anguish and pain he felt was apparent, and yet what he was saying didn't compute – they didn't explain why he was acting or feeling the way he was.

And he kept bringing up her mother, which instantly sounded alarm bells. Nothing good could possibly come from her mother. She felt almost guilty. She should have been there for him, if nothing but to warn him.

"I think I should distance myself from you."

Todoroki's words were sudden. They came without warning. It was like someone pulled a rug out from underneath her. Like she missed the final step climbing down stairs. Like a hole had opened up and she was falling.

"…What?"

The impenetrable mask was on once again, inlaid with bricks and concrete. He stood up, stuffing his hands in his pockets, and turned to look at her with an empty, chilling stare.

"I won't disturb you anymore, Yaoyorozu," and he walked past her.

"Todoroki," Momo said, turning to follow him. He didn't stop. "Talk this out."

Temper flaring, Momo strode up to grab him by the elbow and tugged.

"You think this is best for me? If you wanted to do something for me, you would have been there when I woke up," she snapped, patience finally gone. "Maybe not the very second, but at some point. Instead you go and, I don't know, have brunch with my mother and decide what's good for me?"

Todoroki was staring at the distance over her shoulder, and that just made her angrier.

"Are you listening?"

Momo jumped as he wrenched his elbow from her grasp, taking a step closer, using every inch of his height to intimidate. But his eyes hammered home that idea more than anything else could.

"You didn't experience what it felt like, thinking the person closest to you was dying because of your lack of strength," he growled, voice low, and Momo distantly wondering if people could see them past the fence. "You didn't pace the hallways for hours as that person lay in a coma induced entirely because you don't possess even the slightest ability to protect yourself, let alone those closest to you."

Todoroki's heated breath washed over her skin, making the rest of her body shiver with cold. Her expression had to be one of alarm, but he continued, unfazed. "You don't know what it feels like, being the root cause of everything that goes wrong."

He was slightly breathless, large puffs of air stirring his fringe, which had fallen into his eyes. His bangs had grown out ever so slightly. And then it was almost as if he realized their proximity and he straightened up.

"You don't understand the pain of being reminded of your failure, of your inadequacy, every time you look at them," he finished in a rough whisper.

Momo stared at him. She huffed, breaths coming out in heavy, uncomfortable bursts of heat. The world spun a little, but she caught the look he was giving her out of the corner of his eye, a look so heavy, and angry, that she forgot who he was for a moment.

"You know what, fine," she said, voice low, straining a little under her hurt. "Screw this. I've spent days thinking about you, missing you, wanting to know what you've been through."

Her anger spiraled, and she couldn't see straight, not sure if it was the light-headedness she was suddenly feeling, or if it was the dancing of the world through tear-ridden vision. "And since I cause you so much pain," she injected as much venom as she could into the word. "I'll grant you ease of suffering and leave."

A tear rolled down her cheek and her breaths came out in audible, unsteady heaves.

And then she heaved up acid from her empty stomach, and the world turned dark.


She next woke up at home, hot with fever, and feeling worse than when she had first left the hospital. The doctors said she'd pushed herself too hard, and forgotten how different the temperatures were compared to before she'd been injured. And so once again, Momo was home-bound.

Todoroki had been on her mind every hour after that. After another week passed, she sent him a message, thinking that if roles were reversed he would definitely make that effort. But she hadn't received a response, and so Momo did something she never had before.

She gave up.

Winter break started, and her days passed by a lot easier as Kyoka would visit, sometimes accompanied by Mina or Kaminari. She had never felt so happy to have them as friends, and she felt guilty at having put a certain someone ahead of them – this group of people who clearly were loyal enough and cared enough about her to go out of their way to visit; who appreciated and wanted her company enough to do so.

She still dreamed of soft lips and warm hands.

It was January 1st when she was finally well enough to leave her house again. Most of their class was gathering to go to the shrine for the New Year, meeting up at the station near the shrine. Convincing her mother to let her stay out past midnight, outside, after she had only just recovered, had been impossibly hard. In the end, they'd told her that Momo was spending New Years at the dorms with her female friends (the segregation of the dorms helped massively in the persuasion), and her mother had finally caved.

The Yaoyorozu driver dropped her off at the dorms where she met with Kyoka, and from there, the two of them continued to the station, just as they had planned. As long as they didn't oversleep past 3pm the following day, they would get away with this little mis-adventure.

Most of the class had left earlier, some meeting them from home, others having spent most of the day outside prior. It felt good being outside of the house after so long. The air was bitingly chilly – 'spicy' as Kyoka put it – but the cold felt refreshing, like a zap of energy shooting through her.

Momo felt excited, and as they exited the station, she saw the little stalls all set up on the narrow paths leading up to the shrine. There was nothing like the glow of fairy lights in the snow; it warmed everything up in a frosty, beautiful, airy sort of way – like a dream, or the inside of a snow globe. People were gathered in bunches, lined up at food stalls, both for the warmth radiating from the stoves, or for the fresh, soul-warming goodness cooking inside. Students of 1A, and others for that matter, were spotted freckling the crowd.

Momo spotted a poof of forest green hair – Midoriya, next to Iida, holding their takoyaki, while waiting on their third companion to get his order. Momo smothered a confused grin as she glanced over. They stuck out quite obviously, being the only customers at the stall, and understandably so; cold soba in the middle of winter? Someone was getting a little too much into the holiday spirit.

Wait. Her heart skipped a beat.

A shock of red hair.

Wait. Momo's heart stopped.

Her brain was still catching up to her eyes.

Todoroki pulled away from the stall, rejoining the pair of boys. He was bundled up in a large gray-blue windbreaker, which brought out his eyes and made them look almost identical she would notice later, when they were up close. A large scarf was wrapped several times around his neck, bulked up so that it almost covered his small, barely visible smile. He looked so relaxed, so happy. Like he had shared none of the worries she had over the past few weeks.

She hadn't realized how much she really missed him until just then. It just wasn't fair.

Then he glanced up. Momo gulped. Their eyes locked.

Todoroki stared, becoming statue-still for a fraction of a second. Momo chanced a smile back, lips cracking into a stiff, forced grimace. Her hand began raising itself in an awkward attempt at a wave. But before she could do much more, Todoroki looked away.

Oh.

"You fought again?" Momo visibly jumped as Kyoka spoke up next to her. She had completely forgotten her friend was there for a second. "Honestly, I can't keep track of the two of you," Kyoka continued.

Momo didn't reply for a second, folding her hands in front of her and staring heatedly at the floor.

"Wait, seriously Momo? I was just kidding," Kyoka said.

Momo didn't answer immediately.

Over the almost two thirds of the year that she had known him, Momo was finally confident in their friendship. After all the doubts and uncertainties, she was now certain that she knew him pretty well. And that was why this whole situation hurt as much as it did. Todoroki not being there during these few weeks had somehow shifted things. It had essentially solidified that something had not only changed between them, but it had changed to such an extent that he was no longer willing to fight for whatever it was that they had anymore.

He was the one who hadn't shown up. Her chest felt constricted, and it was uncomfortable to breathe. He was the one who hadn't replied to her texts. The cold stung at her eyes and she blinked, hard, trying to push away the burn. He was the one who would reassure her that he would be there for her. Always.

She had had enough of trying to deal with the fickle mind of Shouto Todoroki alone.

"Kyoka," Momo started. She was fully aware that they were currently in the middle of the street fair, surrounded by hundreds of strangers, in the cold, and yet, she felt uncomfortably hot, so hot, and she just wanted some release. "There's something that I need to tell you."

"'Kay?"

Momo blinked once. "Todoroki and I… we kissed."

She was staring straight at Todoroki as she said the words, frustration building by the second. It was the first time she had said it out loud, and the first time she had even remotely referred to it as a kiss. Her heart rate instantly went up, and she felt her face flush uncomfortably. It wasn't fair. While she had been stranded to her bed, frustrated, alone, unable to move without throwing up, worrying, he hadn't cared. It hurt. It hurt her to her core. It hurt her heart.

It hurt.

"WHAT?"

Her friend's yell snapped her back to reality. Momo turned.

Kyoka was currently going through a personal run through of every human expression known to man, while her eyes flicked between her and Todoroki.

"You what?!" Shock. "When?" Confusion. "But you haven't seen him in so long..." Thoughtful. "So this happened before- and you didn't tell me 'til now?" Anger. "What the hell? …was it nice?" Curiosity. "No but then…"

Kyoka finally trailed off, now looking in the direction of the three boys, who had now started walking away. Slowly, she turned to look at Momo, expression now one of sympathy. "Are you okay?"

What a question.

"He's ignoring me," Momo shrugged.

"What, why?" Kyoka's outrage was obvious.

"Apparently he talked to my mother at some point."

"Oh…" Kyoka trailed off. "Oh."

A few moments passed where the two girls just drilled holes in the back of the half-n-half hero's head. "…Yeah. While you were asleep, she was really on his case. It's complicated. And that's putting it lightly."

"Like my life," Momo muttered.

"You guys need to talk this out," Kyoka said.

"No," Momo answered. What was the point? "I already tried."

"…Want me to beat him up?"

Impossibly, Momo laughed. And just like that, she snapped her eyes away from Todoroki, finally, after he hadn't once looked back. Momo wouldn't let her own misery ruin everyone's night. "Let's just enjoy the evening!"

Her forced cheer was nauseatingly obvious, even to her.


Kyoka and Jiro grouped with the girls at an omikuji stall. It comprised of two tables, side by side, with a wire fence spanning the width of both. Tags upon tags of paper fortunes were lined up, hanging off their strings, dancing in the wind. Momo stood off to the side, granted with the task of guarding the group's bags as her friends scribbled down their fortunes to the gods; she however, wasn't one to leave her destiny in the fickle hands of fate. The only one she could really trust was herself. As she'd recently been reminded.

She watched as a mother helped her son write out his sentence, on the table closest to her. Momo gave a scan of the collection that had started to build up there; there were wishes of love, of course. But there were others too; a wish to be successful, to pass exams, for their family to be healthy.

The little boy finally tip toed up to hang his up on the lowest wire; a wish for his goldfish to live forever. Momo smiled wistfully, relaxing slightly as the area cleared for a while. And then one tag in particular caught her eye. Dropping the bunch of bags by the corner of the table, Momo pushed herself between the tables, trying to reach it, so as to read it properly.

'I wasn't wrong, but please fix it between us.'

A frown crept up on her face. Momo wanted to meet whoever wrote that. If only she knew what had happened. There was pain behind those words, and it resonated with her. It wasn't fair that whoever wrote this felt that way. It wasn't fair that good people were made to feel so bad, and so guilty. And it wasn't fair that they had to waste time wallowing away in the pain either. She wanted to grab whoever wrote this and shake them, hard – writing wasn't going to do anything. You had to take action yourself.

Momo blinked, realizing she was still staring at the tag and straightened. With a fierce determination, Momo stepped back, grabbing a pen and her own tag, furiously scribbling down her own tag. With frustration, she realized what she wanted to say wouldn't fit on one tag and grabbed another.

'To whomever needs to see this:'

'I wish for your inner peace.'

She straightened, flipping her long, loose hair over her shoulder, proof-reading her small pieces of advice, an almost furious pride in her work. The world didn't need regret hanging over their shoulder. They didn't need to feel like something was forever destroyed, especially if it wasn't their fault. Momo grabbed a piece of twine and began tying the two pieces together.

"Excuse me, are you done using the pen?"

As Momo looked up it was to find herself staring into an iconic pair of mismatched eyes and she felt her brain wiped clean of any thought. She blinked, hard, closing her lids tightly, thinking she'd finally started hallucinating. But when she reopened them, the eyes were still there, looking at her with their mystical wonder.

'Huh?'

"Uhhm, can I have the pen please?"

With a start Momo realized the sound was coming from somewhere further behind her than the chilled calm of blue and gray staring at her. She turned, ripping her eyes away, to hand over the writing utensil to the young woman behind her.

When she turned back, it was to see that Todoroki was indeed standing there, on the farther end of the stand (why had she thought he had been closer?), staring out at the crowd with an uninterested gaze. Try as she might, no matter how hard Momo tried to focus, he wouldn't disappear. The girl next to her stepped into her line of vision to bend over and use the workspace next to her.

Momo cleared her throat with a sharp grunt, and that was when she realized Todoroki was standing together with a gaggle of her classmates as well, waiting for their own turn at fortune writing. She gave herself an imperceptibly small shake, turning back to her 'fortunes', leaning forward to tie them somewhere in the center, where people could see it a bit better. Finally she stepped back. They weren't too obvious, but she supposed if someone needed to see it, the forces above would guide their eyes to it.

Her chest was still contracting tightly, uncomfortably, the knowledge that Todoroki was right there throwing her off. She had to leave. Momo glance towards her friends, who were having a blissfully ignorant laugh at something, seemingly nowhere near done. She had to leave, now. They'd catch up with her later. Momo inched her way stiffly to her right, closer and closer to where Todoroki so ironically stood. She stopped when she was close enough to pick up only her bag only if she stretched enough, deathly aware of the exact position where Todoroki was standing.

He said nothing.

Her fingers tightened around the handles, and she dragged it upright with her, dusting off where her knees had hit the ground, turning, ready to walk away, hoping despite everything, her heart daring to think he'd speak.

But he didn't.

Silently, her hammering against her chest, Momo walked away, entering the throng of people.

"Yaoyorozu."

She wasn't in control enough to stop her embarrassingly large jump of surprise – it was hard, controlling it when she was trying so hard not to expect him to speak, and yet hoping just as hard that he would. With aching slowness, she turned.

"That's not your bag."

The combination of words did not compute. Momo stared at him like he had lost his mind – which he obviously had, given their last interaction. When all she did was gape at him for a few minutes, and he didn't say anything more, Sero, who was standing next to Todoroki, took over.

"Your bag is over there, VP."

But Momo hardly heard him. Her fingers tightened around the bags' handles and her gaze narrowed ever so slightly, seeing only one person just then. He was unbelievable. That was truly all he had to say? The nerve of him. The gall on this boy. It was outrageous. She glanced towards the table, and, sure enough, hers was still lying there, amongst her friends', in the thin sheet of snow under the table. She had picked up the bag of the girl who had come after her.

Momo felt her blood boil. After saying he didn't want to speak to her, he found a stranger's bag worth breaking that over? Her winter coat was once again far too thick, hot and uncomfortable.

She had two options just then, and both seemed incredibly pleasing. The first was to walk away without a single word, in dignity, without giving him the satisfaction of having her listen to his every word, like some spellbound, lovesick damsel.

But it made more sense to choose option two. Momo grabbed the rather soft bag, pummeled it down into as tight a ball as she could, and threw it straight at Todoroki as hard as she could. Without waiting to see if she made contact (and ignoring the indignant cries of the girl whose bag it actually was), Momo grabbed her bag and turned with a whip of her hair, face on fire, eyes burning.

She felt mortified. If he said he wouldn't talk to her, then that obviously meant he wouldn't. For her to even think for a second that she was different, special or important enough for him to break his code over, that was her own stupidity. Momo inhaled sharply, heading towards nowhere in particular. She tilted her head up to the dark sky, blinking rapidly, trying to have the cold air dry her stinging eyes.

That helped. Looking up at the canopy of treetops overhead, evergreen pines jutting out their thin, leafy needles, framing the pitch black expanse beyond. The crowd churned around her, currents of people heading up or down, each locked in the bubble of their own lives. She was so small in comparison to everything around her. And that idea calmed her down.

With a sharp sniff, Momo looked down. But just before she continued, her eyes fell on the large crowd gathering near the top of the stairs. The shrine. She began walking towards it, not bothering to let her friends know. Like hell was she going back there. Never would she let anyone misdirect her any longer. She was done playing at the beat of someone else's drum.

"I hate him."

What? Had she accidentally vocalized her thoughts again?

"That's too harsh."

"Like hell it is."

Momo looked off to the side to see a small group of girls by the edge of the trees, rather relieved to know that the words were coming from them.

"Listen to me," the supportive friend was saying. "Trust me, it feels bad right now, but it'll pass. You'll both get through this."

Was the universe playing some sort of joke on her? Why did it feel like everything was directed at her? Maybe it was her own bias making her feel like it was trying to tell her something. Regardless of how strange the coincidence was, it had calmed her down somewhat. She no longer felt like crying, which was definitely a win in her eyes.

As Momo looked up, finally starting to climb the steps, her eyes landed on one of the several banners lined up and leading up the stairs.

'Forgiveness is the only path to peace.'

Momo let out an audible groan, throwing her head up to the skies once again. This was getting ridiculous. What did the universe want her do? She'd tried, and he hadn't listened. Then she saw the next banner.

'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'

At this, Momo dropped her gaze to the floor, hand cupping her face. After taking in a stabilizing breath, she paused, only a few steps up. After hesitating for only a second, she glanced back at the fortune stand.

Todoroki had now moved, seemingly uninjured from her vicious assault, hands stuffed in his pockets. He was leaning in, seemingly peering intensely at the rows of tags. Momo's heart leapt to her throat; he was reading hers. Was she being too hopeful? No, but why else would he care what others had written? And it was round about where she'd hung hers.

She felt her heart soften. It was ridiculous, the grip he had on her heart.

The rest of the boys had flooded the table. Sure enough, when her eyes left Todoroki, they landed on Kyoka who was waving furiously at her while jumping up and down trying to get her attention. Momo breathed out a smile. But her eyes drifted back to Todoroki, who had leaned back a bit, still staring at the board of tags.

"What the heck Momo," Mina called when they were within hearing distance. "At least tell us you were leaving!"

"Yeah, we had to hear it from the guys. Not cool," Hagakure pitched in.

"Where's Ochaco?" Momo asked.

"Ditched us for Midoriya," Kyoka said, finally catching up. She continued in a lower voice, so only Momo could hear. "I see you got some of your frustration out on the Ice Prince."

Momo grinned, now climbing the shrine stairs. "Yeah. Felt good."

Her friend chuckled.

The crowd was jam packed near the shrine. They had no choice but to let the wave of people steer them closer. The girls agreed that if they got separated, they'd meet at the ramen stand downstairs in one hour. Not two minutes after, they had lost Asui and Mina.

As they grew closer to the shrine, Momo started thinking about what she wanted to pray for. Scores and success were in her hands and no one else's. Health was a start; for her and her parents. Longevity, perhaps? But if she was being honest, what she wanted most was Todoroki – for things to go back to the way they were. For some miraculous bout of amnesia to befall him, erasing the last two months from his mind. That was something she couldn't do herself – not with a clear conscience at any rate.

Finally, she found herself at the front of the crowd, nearing the altar of the shrine. She threw her coins in, rang the bell and bowed, clapping her hands as she closed her eyes tight.

'Please,' she thought as intensely as she could. 'Please. This is something I can't fix, so please…let me get through to him. Oh, and health and longevity for all, please.'

When Momo opened her eyes finally, it was to see that she was now fully and wholly alone. With a hopeless sigh, she headed out, letting the crowd guide her. The crowd thinned significantly near the top of the stairs, the shrine being much deeper inland, and it was while she was still on top, scanning the floor below the stairs for the ramen stand, or a puff of pink that iconically meant Mina, that Momo spotted the boys – more specifically, Todoroki – climbing the stairs. Kirishima waved up at her, and Kaminari flashed a toothy grin.

Momo's mind raced. She didn't believe in fate all that much. There was something illogical about believing in the invisible waves of the world, pulling you along at its beck and call. And yet her friendship with Todoroki had been the only part of her that was unplanned. Even kyoka she had decidedly befriended – of course, she had been lucky in that regard, since Kyoka had become so much dearer than she had ever thought. But there was still some control there.

With Todoroki, that had never been the case. She had started off largely disliking him, and then somehow, they came together, again and again. Somehow, he had reciprocated – that stoic, arrogant, withdrawn boy no one dared approach approached her. And she had been winging it ever since. If fate existed, it existed in the form of Shouto Todoroki.

Right on cue, a breeze blew through the trees, the dried branches rustling distantly, a noise muted by the chatter of people. It blew through her hair, flitted across her cheeks and numbed the tip of her nose. It swayed the banners she had seen earlier ('Forgiveness', 'The first step'). The sky above was dark, stars muted by the glow of the lights below. Momo's eyes stung with the frosty coolness of the air. It was like the culmination of all the 'signs' (she used that word begrudgingly), guiding her to think.

Momo looked back to the boys, who had now traversed the top of the stairs. She would do it. Although this was outside her range of comfort, so far beyond anything she could have calculated, this time, she'd let 'fate' be her guide. If signs of fate ever existed, tonight was probably how they appeared. With a clench of her fists, Momo strode forward.

"I need an answer."

In perfect synchrony, the entire gaggle of guys turned at once, and suddenly Momo was fixed with the stares of a dozen pairs of eyes. So focused she had been on the head of red and white hair that she had forgotten that anything else existed. She cleared her throat awkwardly before nodding towards the half-n-half hero.

"Todoroki," she said, just for good measure, halfway between an explanatory statement for the gang and a call for the boy in question's attention. The way the stoic hero snapped himself around to face her, eyes wide and lips parted in surprise almost made up for the fact that everyone was still staring at her.

"Hey Yaomomo, do you want to head up with-"

"No thanks," The Creation heroine cut them across, not even knowing who spoke just then, shooting the whole group a powerful glare they had only ever seen her use when someone wasn't paying attention while she taught. She didn't really have the capacity to think of anything other than the conversation she was about to have. And so they slid past, not saying another word, and Momo turned back to Todoroki, who was still watching their classmates leave.

"I need a real answer, Todoorki," she said once the boys were safely out of earshot. "Why don't you want to talk anymore?"

He had turned to look off at the ground to the side, and she wasn't sure he would say anything. A familiar pang chipped at her.

"Todoroki," God saying his name hurt. "Explain this to me. Because I don't understand what your problem is. Is it my mother? Because I can talk to my mother."

"It isn't your mother," he said, surprising her. She was sure she'd have to spend several more minutes of threatening him before he talked. The word 'fate' flickered through her mind before she forcefully pushed it away.

He said nothing else, so she continued. "What then?"

He was now shooting the ground a rather frustrated look, like it had just tried biting him.

"Is it because we kissed?"

As soon as the word left her mouth, heat bloomed up to her cheeks. It was one thing saying it out loud to Kyoka. But telling Todoroki so directly was on a whole other level of intensity. And yet, a wild energy coarsed through her veins, an adrenaline rush, and she stayed looking him straight in the eye unwaveringly - or would be, were he not trying avidly to avoid her gaze.

"Hu- No. No," he repeated, almost snappishly, stuffing his hand into his pockets angrily. She saw them clench into fists before they disappeared into their clothed den. He swallowed, and something in his expression shifted ever so slightly. He glanced up to meet her eyes, surprising Momo, before he looked away again, frustration back on his features. Momo noticed his mask wasn't on at the moment. Her surprise attack was working better than she had hoped.

He continued, much more quietly, "No."

For a moment, he said nothing, and Momo felt herself sigh. She realized he had taken a few steps back when she'd approached him and was now dangerously close to toppling over the top step. She grabbed his elbow and tugged him off the stony cobblestone, away from the walkway and the crowd, towards the thinned out, frozen mud near the outskirts of the surrounding trees.

"So what is it then?" she looked up at him.

He let out a snort of air that sounded suspiciously like 'so stubborn'. Her eyebrow twitched.

"Well?" she demanded. "What is it that causes you so much pain."

He sighed as she spit out the last word. "I'm not worthy," he said.

It wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair that with just three words he could have her heart warmed, have her stepping forward with empathy as if nothing had changed between them. She looked at him with hopeful eyes, not even two feet away, not yet daring to smile.

"What are you talking about?" she asked. "What's there to be worthy of? There's never been anything like that for us-"

"You almost died," he said. He was looking at her now, with eyes colder than the snow surrounding them. "And I didn't do anything."

Wait, he was upset that she got hurt? "Todoroki, I didn't bleed out because my wound was sealed with ice."

But he just clicked his tongue and looked away again, a dark grimace on his face, like he'd just thought of something foul.

"You pushed me aside," he said.

"Of course I did," she said, and watched as his snarl deepened. "Of course I did, Todoroki, that's our job as heroes. That's my job."

"I failed, Yaoyorozu," he said, as if he hadn't heard her. "I failed when it mattered the most. And do you know why?" he stepped forward, narrowing the gap to heart-pounding distance. "Because I was distracted by you. Being with you dulled my senses."

"Wait," Momo said. "You're upset that I saved you?" He didn't respond, just continued his unwavering stare. "That's my duty, Todoroki. Not to mention I care about you." She noticed in hindsight about how she used the present tense when saying she cared for him, and she wondered if he noticed it too.

"But I couldn't save you."

For the life of her Momo could not understand why she wasn't getting through to him. "So what?"

He looked at her incredulously, like she was the one being insane. "You almost died while I was there," he repeated. "I thought that if I was there, nothing would ever happen to you. But it did."

How was what he was saying so incredibly sweet and yet so incredibly irritating all at the same time? "I don't spend my time with you so you can protect me," she said, not knowing how to make herself clearer. "I can take care of myself."

"I understand that," he snapped, eyes slightly wide, as if getting frustrated that she wasn't understanding him. He should join the club. "You almost died. Saving me."

Oh. Oh.

Finally, she understood what he was saying.

"Todoroki," she said as softly and sincerely as she could. "I would do it again."

He sighed, and for the first time, his features softened. But still no smile. "I know," he said, and her heart fluttered for a second in hope. "And that is why I'm going to distance myself from you."

And just like that, she came crashing down.

"That's not how it works, Todoroki," Momo snapped. Enough of this. He would not make her feel bad for being the hero she aspired and trained so hard to be. He had to understand that he was not the only one in the world who felt that way. "You don't get to shut me out and tune me back in whenever you feel it suits you."

"I understand that," he said and Momo blinked. "That's why I'm only shutting you out."

"What?"

"No tuning back in. I won't make the same mistake twice."

He was talking about her getting injured. By 'mistake', she knew he meant her getting hurt. The rational, logical corner of her brain understood that. But in her heart, which was taking up the entirety of her chest just then, it was like he was attacking their friendship personally. Like he was saying he regretted everything the two of them had been through. It was the final straw to all the pain she had been feeling for weeks now.

"Fine," she hissed. "Turn off a friendship like it never mattered. But when you eventually realize it isn't all about youor your flimsy pride, don't expect me to welcome you back with open arms. Because I'm not some robot who can turn off their emotions with the flick of a switch."

Momo spun on her heel to stride away. But before she got too far, she turned back, one last thing on her mind.

"I prayed for us, up there," she said, nodding towards the shrine. "I've thought about us almost every day for the past few months. I care. ButI will be a hero. And I'm not changing that for anyone; even you. Get that through your head."

And then she stormed off, leaving the clearing entirely.


Shouto Todoroki had miscalculated.

He was willing to admit that much. Perhaps. Maybe. Probably. But then again, how probable was probably-

He sighed, running a hand down his face.

The week following the visit to the shrine had left him with many things to think about. Mostly, about his decision to block Momo Yaoyorozu from his life. It had been a sound enough plan, with lots of logical backing as to why it made sense. He couldn't protect her, and hence, he was no longer allowed near her. Simple. Straightforward. And Yaoyorozu, the most logical and straightforward person he knew, would surely understand.

Except that expression she had made had him thinking otherwise.

'I will be a hero.'

Her words still rang clear. They were something he understood, very well. Nothing about Yaoyorozu had been clear, not for weeks now. But being a hero was something he understood. And something about her reaction that day had made him think that he had made her feel like she couldn't do it, and that was the last thing he wanted. And the urge to tell her that began to chew away at him. After she'd left, he felt regret, like maybe he was wrong. But as much as he tried, he couldn't fathom how his logic was flawed. At UA, they taught them that sometimes, admitting defeat was part of being a hero. His father said that was what losers said to feel better.

School had opened up a week later, and at the first opportunity he had turned to Yaoyorozu saying, "I do believe that you are a hero."

Yaoyorozu had paused writing whatever she had been before turning to look at him, her expression carefully displaying nothing – something he had never seen her do. "Thank you Todoroki." She had said, before resuming her work. She had pointedly said nothing after that, and neither had he, unable to speak without her prompting him. And so that was how the entirety of the first week back at school had progressed.

"Okay, what the crap are you doing?"

Todoroki looked up at the sudden interruption as Jiro seated herself across from him.

The boys had fallen into a habit of holding a match or two after classes, sport decided on a day to day basis, lasting until sunset, before everyone headed off to their rooms. It wasn't that Todoroki hated participating in them especially; in fact, being on the losing team a few times had a flare of competition broiling within him. But there was a quiz next Thursday, as Yaoyorozu had informed them all just before leaving, and that meant studying was to be done.

And so that was what Jiro found him doing, skipping a match to study in the dorm common room. It wasn't like he thought scoring exceptionally well on a test would score points in Yaoyorozu's eyes, but it also couldn't hurt.

"…Reading," he replied, before lifting the book up, trying to block the girl from view.

Jiro slammed the book down against the table surface. She was dressed in her casual clothes, hair damp from what he presumed to have been an afternoon shower. The whole getup was too different to what he was used to seeing her in, and it threw him off. He warily met her withering glare and let out an inaudible sigh through his nose. This was going to be a draining conversation.

"No, half-wit," Jiro said, and Todoroki's gaze instantly thinned at the insult, holding in the jump at being ripped out of his thoughts, and fixed her with a steady, poised stare. "I mean what do you think you're pulling with Momo?"

As had become routine now, hearing her name made his pulse jump to his throat and he palpably felt his insides knot up. It confused him, this feeling he got whenever he thought of her. It was a sick, nauseating sort of feeling, and this baffled him so much, given how the idea of being sick was so far from the reality of being with her.

He knew that he was a liability for her, like a weight dragging her down, and so deciding to stay away had been easy. Obvious even.

But not being with her was something he hadn't been prepared for. Being with her had always been an experience; a small recluse where time lost all meaning, where hours passed with him none the wiser, and left him craving more. It was addicting, and invigorating. But being away left this 'sick' feeling. Like a physical discomfort completely detached from his brain.

Even trying to sort it out in his head confused him to no end. How did everything with Yaoyorozu continue to defy all laws of the world? Logically, (though the word held no meaning when facing off with the Creation heroine) if he felt guilt and pain being with her, then staying away from Yaoyorozu should make the feeling disappear. But it didn't. It was all such a conundrum, and any time he tried deciphering it all, he failed miserably. Failure was something he wasn't used to at all, and so he had just pushed the whole thing aside. Or at least, he'd tried to.

It registered to Todoroki then that he'd been asked a question (albeit a slightly rhetorical one). He met Jiro's gaze again, although clearly, his reaction didn't fly past her. If anything she seemed angrier.

"I'm not really ... pulling anything," he finally said. Todoroki smothered a jump as Jiro's hands pounded on the table once more in an apparent outrage.

"You haven't spoken since school's opened," Jiro said. "That one time you two were pinned against each other during spar session, she left to go to the bathroom."

Todoroki remembered that well, only because he had been relieved when Yaoyorozu had left. He had been willing to go easy on her, been willing to lose, just to give her the slight happiness of winning. The idea of throwing a match was so foreign to him and it made him sick to his stomach. That event had just solidified the idea that he was right in staying away. Of course, his heart had leapt uncomfortably at that conclusion.

Finally, he answered. "I don't see your point."

"What is wrong with you? With the bothof you? You obviously both like each other, and you know you both like each other, so why aren't you together?"

Todoroki felt utterly bewildered. "Together…where? In class-"

"No!" The half-and-half hero was just impressed at this point with how high her voice had managed to go. "Why aren't you with her? Don't you want to be with her?"

At this statement, Todoroki looked down, the book he'd temporarily forgotten suddenly looking extremely interesting. That was the basis of the last month and a half of headaches and brain-energy gone wasted. Nothing made sense; with her, without her, nothing.

"I have to study," he said stiffly.

"Todoroki," Jiro continued, an octave lower now. "Don't you care about her?"

"Of course I do," he snapped instantly, his classmate now starting to mildly irritate him. "I don't see how that has anything to do with what you're talking about."

"Oh?" she quipped blandly. "Who else do you care about?"

Todoroki forced himself to meet her gaze again. "I don't see how that matters."

"Do you care about me?"

He couldn't stop the snort that escaped him, but when Jiro raised her eyebrows at him, he added "…I suppose."

Jiro instantly burst into guffaws, a very un-ladylike sound, which sounded, to his untrained ears, rather sarcastic. She rolled her eyes, "Do you care about Yaoyorozu?"

"Yes."

It was hard trying to make his answer seem less like a snap. A savage almost carnal burn flared in his chest, as if every cell in his body wanted to scream back at the ignorant girl in front of him for not knowing something that was so extremely obvious.

"So?" she exclaimed, hands thrusted forward, as if displaying the most obvious thing in the world. His frustration hiked. "Don't you see?"

"See what?"

There was a quick sequence of events that went something like this; a vessel seemed to pop in Jiro's temple, triggering her jack-lobes to sudden shoot to the ground, and suddenly, a loudly muffled sonic boom rippled through the common room floor. Todoroki blinked.

That seemed to funnel out all of the small girl's frustrated energy, and she flopped into the seat in front of him, clutching her head in apparent resignation. She gave a heavy sigh, face obscured by her fingers.

"Momo, I both pity you, and question your taste…" Jiro mumbled to herself. After another long, shaky breath, she lifted her head, resting it against her propped up hand. "Why are you not with her Todoroki? Why haven't you spoken for over half a month?"

For what felt like the fifth time, Todoroki looked away again. He didn't understand where she was going with all of this. Something about Jiro's reaction and how dejected she looked made him want to answer her with something substantial. But how could he when he himself had no idea.

"We have spoken," Todoroki replied, although he mentally prepared himself for another massive ripple through the floor.

"Oh? What about?"

"I said good morning."

Jiro threw her face into her palm. 'That's not a conversation.' He heard her mutter utter her breath.

The music enthusiast let out a groan of frustration, "Alright, listen Todoroki."

There was a note of finesse in her voice, resounding with control and authority, and something about that comforted him. It made him feel like this whirlwind of chaos that he was succumbing to could be passed on, diverted, and even stopped by the small girl in front of him. There was that respect that always seemed to surface when he was with her. Power was a strange thing.

"The only reason I'm here," she continued. "Is because I want my friend back to normal. I want her happy."

Yaoyorozu wasn't happy? His eyebrows furrowed.

"And I certainly am tired of you being the subject of every conversation." Before he could ask what she meant by that, Jiro continued. "Are you happy? Do you like not talking to her like you used to? Do you enjoy being apart?"

"No."

It felt good to finally say it out loud, to confess all the wrongness he'd been feeling. After months of somehow having Yaoyorozu in his life, to not have her with him, to not get her opinions, her ideas, her insight on things... it felt unnatural. To have such a dependence on someone felt weak, very unlike anything he had ever been, and so he'd bottled it away, even from himself.

But Jiro had drawn it out of him, and for the first time, hope swelled in his chest. Jiro was somehow asking him all the right questions, and getting closer to looking at something he'd been staring at for so long, but never been able to understand.

"Then don't you think if you were with her you'd feel better?"

"No," he almost choked on his answer with how quickly he blurted it out.

"You don't feel good with her?"

"No," he repeated, almost desperate with hope. He felt a small load lift. He had opened the door to admitting to the strange feeling of constriction when he was with Yaoyorozu, as well as without. If Jiro only peered in at the right angle, he was certain she'd be able to see how his heart clenched when Yaoyorozu was sitting a mere seat away from him, and yet, despite all that constriction, beat so very fast.

He looked at her imploringly for answers, feeling very vulnerable. But the look she was giving him back was not one of consolation.

"Oh…" she suddenly seemed just as confused as he'd been feeling, and his heart plummeted. She straightened up, rising to her feet slowly, shoving her hands in her dark hoodie's pockets. She stood still for a moment, as if still processing.

"Well, okay then…" she said finally, and turned, starting to walk away. "I tried."

A sense of panic overtook him. That was it?

"Jiro!" he called, standing up in hurry, chair scraping roughly. She looked back at him, observing his slightly hasty tone. "Explain this to me."

The girl huffed, throwing him a sidelong glance over her shoulder. "Why don't you talk to someone else?" she asked. "Kaminari?"

The look he threw her made her blush. "You're not stupid."

Of course Kaminari would be the last person, nay, last mammal he ever went to for feelings advice. That was a careless remark on her part. Kaminari was just the first person for her to consult, and so the projection was sincere, despite being a complete wild miss.

"Midoriya?"

Todoroki shook his head, hands now stuffed in his pockets, saying nothing else. Kyoka let out an exasperated sigh as she gave in.

"Explain what?" she asked.

There it was again – that look that made him look like the teenager that he was. He seemed to have these expressions especially when it came to Yaoyorozu. However, this look he gave her was the most hopeless she'd ever seen on him. It was so blatantly obvious how hard it was for him, asking for her help. She supposed that earned him a few points.

"Explain these feelings."

How did he manage to sound commanding even when his emotions were thrown for whack? He was Todoroki through and through, she supposed. But Kyoka wasn't sure what he was asking of her. With a mental shrug, she walked back and sat down opposite the normally composed prodigy. It was obvious how much he liked Momo; it was borderline gag-inducing.

What he had said moments ago made it seem like he had every intention of not acting on his feelings, which would only cause endless pain to her best friend. Just thinking about how she would even begin going about trying to explain to Momo what the half n half hero had just told her broke Kyoka a little. But this sudden twist changed things.

With raising hope and determination, Kyoka crossed her arms in front of her, leaning on his table, and gave him a look to start explaining.

Todoroki inhaled slowly, sitting back down, solidifying his composure; the nerves of steel were stringing back together. "Why…" he trailed off. "Why does it always hurt? When I'm with her?" Silence. "And why does it hurt even more when I'm not?"

Kyoka didn't know how to even begin processing.

This boy was so complicated in the way he thought. Every person would just translate their emotions as an obvious sign of attraction. In fact, wasn't it just a natural reflex? She had never heard of someone wondering why the feelings existed in the first place, or why they made a person feel the way they did. Then again, Todoroki didn't have the standard upbringing everyone else had. Hadn't he been home schooled up until UA? So perhaps it made all the sense in the world for him to question the pains and woes of love.

He was giving her a look she'd never seen; a strange complex of doubt and irritation, mixed in with curiosity and a touch of insanity. Her throat went dry. She'd have to pick her words carefully.

"Todoroki," it didn't escape her how he clung to her every word. "I'm not claiming to be an expert on the topic," she swiftly shoved aside a fleeting thought of a certain electricity-wielding blond. "But anyone can tell that it hurts to not be with her because you want to be with her."

The half n half hero nodded, almost enthusiastically. "Yes, I understand that part," he stated, almost gloatingly, and the smaller girl had to make an active attempt not to point down her throat. "That's why I've been with her for months."

Kyoka had to blink quickly a few times, processing what she'd just heard. Had he…Did he just confess to having feelings for Momo for months now? But before she could fully wrap her head around it, he continued, as if his previous confession didn't mean anything at all. "What confuses me is why it hurts when I'm with her now."

He was now looking at her imploringly, as if she had all the answers. This look coming from Todoroki made her feel a strange sense of pride and accomplishment, and she couldn't help the stroking of her ego. Yup, she had truly peaked.

"That is confusing," she agreed. After a moment's thought, she continued, "When did you start feeling this way? Did something happen recently? Just before this feeling started?"

Her asking Todoroki those questions were based on the fact that it was very likely Todoroki wasn't interpreting past events properly. Redirecting him back to those events could help him, understand how his mind worked. That, and Kyoka wanted to know what had happened that night. Momo had a knack of hiding things from her. When Momo had left early on New Year's, it was an obvious something had happened. But when Kyoka had asked later, her friend hadn't gone into detail, just said that she was done trying. Kyoka had thought maybe it was a phase and that when school opened things would fix itself. But two weeks into the term, things were worse than ever before.

Todoroki suddenly averted his eyes, finding something of extreme interest on the flawless table in between them. Interesting. Interesting indeed.

"No."

She scoffed, not surprised by his answer in the slightest. "Your reaction says otherwise."

He looked back at her, eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "It doesn't matter."

"It could probably explain all this-"

"Nothing of interest happened."

'Yeah right.' "Fine," she sniffed. "Although I want you to think over whatever happened-"

"Nothing happened-"

"And then," she pressed loudly, ignoring him, which earned her a simmering glare. "Later on, try to connect the dots yourself."

His look of angry disappointment, as if she had just abandoned him and was scum of the earth for doing so, instantly reminded her of why Shouto Todoroki wasn't her favorite person. Kyoka sighed. She wasn't going to get anywhere with him. However, she did make him aware of the point, which was something. He was going to have to figure this out by himself. But before she left him to it, she decided to try one last approach. Her last attempt at giving this whole thing her very best shot.

"Imagine I was Momo, right now," she said.

It always amused her to no end, the effect her friend had over the fiery cold hero. He instantly closed off, jaw clamped, a muscle bulging as he ground his teeth together. His hands knotted together and pulled towards his body, gaze down and hidden by his bangs as he stared at his thumbs. His lips thinned and then relaxed, in repeated cycles. And the gentlest of flushes seemed to dust what was visible of the tips of his ears.

Kyoka couldn't help the smallest of smiles tug at her lips.

With his prickly exterior gone, he truly just looked like a lost little boy confused about a girl.

She stood up and stood in front of him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Todoroki," she said, gently. "Talk to Momo about whatever you're feeling." He glanced upwards at her, the closest to a gape she'd ever seen Todoroki give. "If anyone is going to understand what you're going through, it's her."

With a small, rather awkward tap, she retracted her hand and left him to mull her advice over.


The conversation with Jiro had found him no answers, although it unlocked enough information to spend days mulling over. His initial irritation at having confessed such vulnerability to her in the first place and not have it find any solutions died down eventually when he realized she wasn't the brightest of the lot. Not only that, but if he couldn't decipher Yaoyorozu, he highly doubted Jiro could. Yaoyorozu was one of a kind after all.

Later that evening, in the dorm building's kitchen, Jiro had approached him discretely, whispering "that conversation stays between us." The idea that it wouldn't hadn't even occurred to him, but after imagining what it would be like to have the entire class know made him truly appreciate the statement, and Jiro bumped back up a few points in his books.

However, it had been three school days and a weekend since and he still hadn't come close to taking the smaller girl's advice and asking Yaoyorozu for her consult. This would usually have been the first thing he did had they one, been talking and two, had the subject not involved her so intrinsically. How asking Yaoyorozu would even help still eluded him to a small degree. Admittedly, she had answers to a lot of things, and even if they clashed with his opinions, they always made for good points of consideration. So asking her about this did, in its own twisted way, almost make sense.

What confused him was how Jiro had said Yaoyorozu would understand, and implied that she would more so than others. Which again implied that Yaoyorozu had experience with this strange cacophony of feelings. For some reason, this scared him. Only slightly, of course. What did this mean? Did Yaoyorozu feel this as well, and if so, for whom? Would her answering his confusion even matter if she felt that for someone else?

Why this bothered him to no end confused him since he didn't even know what that 'feeling' was.

This strange fear only pointed towards him talking to her, because the idea of being afraid of her on top of everything else was something he couldn't handle. And on the most simplest of levels, he just missed her. He missed the simple comforting feeling her presence used to bring, and whatever happened, if talking to her could bring that feeling back, it was worth it.

And that was how he found himself waiting by the main gate after texting her to meet him there. He was very obviously restless, trying too hard to seem unbothered and aloof, which ended in stirring him up even more. He spun his pen in his pocket, focusing on that movement before pulling it out and realizing it had been uncapped the entire time. It was while he was mulling over how to begin cleaning his pockets that she arrived.

It had been so long.

There was something about just the two of them meeting there, in this spot, that he'd forgotten about. There was that comfort he always felt when he looked at her, but now that he wanted to talk, there was a breathlessness as well, and his heart clenched in an uncomfortable way. There was an exhilaration he'd never noticed before. An energy surged through him, and there was nothing else that he had wanted more than to be alone with her.

"Hi," she said.

There truly was no one like her. Tall, sleek and slender she was, what one would call picture-perfect. And yet add to that a thirst for knowledge and an inquisitive mind, she was one of the few people who actually made him realize there was a world beyond brute strength and the power of one's quirk. And with dark eyes and hair contrasting beautifully with pale skin, she was a sight to behold.

He could only nod back. That's all he had been capable of doing around her for weeks now. His fists were clenched tightly in his pockets.

Yaoyorozu studied him a moment, before sighing. Not exasperatedly, but almost sadly, disappointedly, and Todoroki closed his slightly parted lips.

She tucked some hair behind her ear. Shouto stared.

"Can I ask why you called me here?" she asked after he remained silent some more.

There was something wrong with him. He'd been poisoned. He was being attacked. There was no other explanation as to why he was unable to move, or why he'd lost all ability to conjure up a thought. She looked at him with half-hearted patience, and he mustered up his brain cells to say something. This was exactly why he had stayed away from her – this lack of control was something he wasn't used to. He got as far as parting his lips again before he stopped once more. It was probably because now was the first time he felt like it was alright to look at her. The last few days he had only snuck glances, each time feeling like he was grabbing for the forbidden fruit.

Yaoyorozu let out another soft breath – she was such a stark contrast to Jiro – before looking off to the side, eyebrows slightly creased, adjusting the hold on her bag. Having her not look directly at him seemed to jump start a part of him.

"Walk with me," he blurted. Her lashes flickered in surprise, and for a fraction of a second, the smallest of smiles tugged at her lips before she bit her lip and looked away again.

"Todoroki," her saying his name was something he had taken for granted previously. "I only came because I want to tell you to stop contacting me."

She was saying no, he realized, and not once had she looked at him.

"Why?" he asked.

She sighed, and raised her eyes slightly, not to look at him, but hovered her gaze somewhere around his shoulder. Not a trace of a smile was visible across her lips. "I told you before," she started. "You can't shut me out and then tune me in whenever you like. That's not how relationships work."

Yaoyorozu then turned around and began walking back towards the dorms before he could say anything. Shoto's eyes widened. This was an improbability he hadn't expected. Her just leaving and refusing to listen at all was a situation that had not occurred to him and he didn't know how he would handle that.

"Yaoyorozu," he said, following her. "Yaoyorozu, please-"

"Todoroki," she stopped, turning slightly to call over her shoulder. "Please don't follow me. You chose to shut me out. We're doing this your way."

"No, I-"

"Please," her voice came out louder than either of them expected, echoing a bit in the open grounds and she instantly straightened, eyes closed, drawing in large, stabilizing breath. "I can't handle it anymore."

This time, Todoroki ran to catch up to her. "Yaoyorozu! Wait, just try and listen-"

"Try?" Yaoyorozu whirled around, her voice had gaining that sharpness which meant she no longer wished to listen. "I tried Todoroki. I tried after the hospital; I tried on New Year's. I tried after we kissed." Shouto's stomach twisted at the memory. "I'm done trying-"

"So I'm trying now," he cut across, hoping against hope she'd listen.

Yaoyorozu stared at him a moment longer, before breathing out slowly. Before he could press on, she raised her hand. "Stop, Todoroki. Please, just," her hand lifted to cover her face. When she finally lowered it again, her expression was hard. "I can't explain this one to you, Todoroki," she said, eyebrows furrowed. "I can't do this."

"Wait, Yaoyorozu," confusion written across his face. "Can't do what?"

She sighed. Now that he was level with her again, he could see implications of something else brewing under her attempt at indifference. Yaoyorozu's eyes were overly bright and not meant to hide emotion, and her mouth twisted into a sad frown. "I told you, you can't shut it off and then tune it back on whenever you feel like it. I'm tired, Todoroki. I'm tired of having expectations. I can't go through even more days and weeks crying like some women in distress. I can't keep thinking-"

"Wait," he stopped her, stepping forward slightly. "You were crying?"

Her dejected words were followed by a small silence as Shouto looked at her, concern overriding any other emotion he had been feeling.

Her lips tightened and her chin dimpled, and all Yaoyorozu could do was nod. Her eyebrows were furrowed so deeply they made her eyes water. Shouto was reminded of that day so many months ago, by the riverside on her birthday, and he wanted to hug her again. But this time, something told him he couldn't.

"…Why?" he breathed.

He was within arm's length of her now. She sniffled, and then drew in a long, shaky breath. After several minutes, when her breathing had stabilized a little, she met finally his gaze, strongly and unwavering.

"Because I love you," she said, voice betraying none of her sadness. There was that word again. Love. The word that started so much confusion, the word that made no sense to him, especially when coming from her. Shouto didn't hear anything after that, and he didn't try to stop her when her arm left his grasp. He'd had an idea, having heard it before, from Yaoyorozu herself, nonetheless. But this was the first time she had offered him the information, and what he had pushed aside as his own imagination, he now had to accept.

When he snapped back to reality, it was to see that Yaoyorozu had left, leaving Shouto standing there, alone. He'd couldn't go after her, not when he knew he was causing her so much pain, and not when he had no idea what her loving him even meant.


Shouto had gone for a walk after that. The L word hung over his head, like a dark cloud. Love was something that brought people happiness, wasn't it? So why did Yaoyorozu seem so sad, so in pain with those feelings? It was probably because she felt them for him. If it were someone else, she might have been happy. His decision to stay away from her made sense again. But he had finally realized he couldn't do it. Seeing her again, talking to her openly again like that? He was a selfish, greedy person who couldn't protect her, and couldn't leave her alone.

When he looked up it was to see he had walked a fair distance around the outskirts of the city. Not far from where his mother's clinic was, in fact. Todoroki looked up at the tall buildings. He was lost in life, that much was certain. He had singlehandedly destroyed everything between him and Yaoyorozu, and he had no idea how to fix it. What scared him most was never being able to be with her ever again.

That couldn't happen.

And so he found himself in front of his mother's room's door. But now that he was here, he didn't know what he wanted to say. He couldn't even express it to himself, let alone to his mother. Would she even understand? How much could his mother even help? He had known Yaoyorozu for much longer, and much more in depth than his mother, and yet he was at a loss.

But he was here now, he supposed, and mothers were supposed to know everything. So with a turn of the handle he walked inside.

The lights were off. That was the first thing he noticed. That wasn't too strange, considering the sun still had to set. But since it was nearing the twilight period, and with the neighboring buildings blocking some of the sun's light, it was rather dreary.

"Who is it?" his mother's voice snapped from the wall on the further side of the room.

"Shouto," he said, flipping on the lights, closing the door behind him.

His mother was sitting on the bed, as usual. However, she didn't look at him. She was hunched over, left arm crossed defensively over her stomach, clutching it like it hurt; her right hand was hovering near her mouth, where she alternated between biting her thumb of rubbing the back of her neck.

"Is today Saturday?" she asked.

"No," Shouto said, watching her carefully. "I just felt like seeing you."

"Mhm," she said. "Mhm. Mhm."

She was having one of her days, he instantly realized.

He had only seen her on her bad days three times. The first time was on his very first visit. She had had an intense reaction after seeing him, his hair color – his entire memory – confusing her immensely. It had been extremely unnerving, watching her flip back and forth between love and hate as her eyes flickered from white to red. He hadn't been able to see her for many days after that.

When he had eventually gathered the courage to see her again, weeks later, she was far more docile, caring and expressive through the entire hour. Her love had come at the right time, because after that he truly felt he needed a mother. The second time was several meetings in, and when it had happened, he had left again, feeling awkward and confused.

The third time, he hadn't left, but stayed, the guilt at leaving the last time keeping him still. Watching her calm down afterwards had solidified their relationship. He saw the imperfection in people, though not to the extent of being locked up in a room. He saw the power of strength and love, and how it helped pull his mother back. It was the first time he had hope in their future. That was also when he realized how vast the definition of being a hero truly was.

Ever since then, she had been fine. At least when he visited. The nurses had told him there was now a pattern; she got better towards the weekends, probably looking forward to his visits. It had been so long since he had witnessed her last episode, and Shouto couldn't help the slight worry and doubt and discomfort that surged through his spine.

"Did you take your pills today?" he asked her, edge to his voice, watching her rock back and forth ever so slightly.

"Mhm," she said. "Mhm."

"Should I call in Nurse Honda-"

"No!" she snapped.

"Alright, alright," he said, pulling away from the door, finally walking into the room and into her line of sight. "I wanted to talk to you. Is that okay?"

"You…wanted me?" she asked, looking at him with wide eyes.

"Of course," he said, and pulled up a chair. "Would you like to hear about my day?"

"Yes," she said, and stopped rocking, a tight smile pulling across her lips. "Yes, tell me about your day."

He had realized that the best way to calm her down was get her out of her head. She had moments where she would drift, but every time he would speak again, she would come back, smiling her soft, motherly smile.

So he told her about his the last couple of days since he had last seen her, carefully avoiding any of his problems. There was no point in overburdening her with his baggage. Any hope that his mother could help him had disappeared once he'd seen her. Still, it was a nice change of pace not being stuck in his mind, and so he didn't mind describing the different matches they had had after school, or the debate that had struck between Iida and Sero over the importance of quickness of reaction time or what they'd learned during classes.

"One of my classmates tried giving me advice," he said absently, recalling his conversation with Jiro.

"Oh?" his mother asked, still listening to his every word. She had stopped rocking back and forth, now lying comfortable against her pillows.

"Yeah, but it wasn't very good," Shouto said. All Jiro had accomplished was make matters worse between them. "She told me to meet Yaoyorozu."

It had just slipped out. He hadn't meant to bring her up, since she was such a sensitive topic, and made him…distraught. Something his mother didn't need just then. But a large smile broke his mother's face, one of genuine happiness.

"Oh, Yaoyorozu," he mother chirped. "Momo Yaoyorozu. Such a nice girl. She makes you so happy."

Shouto studied her for a while. His mother seemed to be much calmer now, lying relaxed against the headboard, arms now loosely lying in her lap. She had stopped chewing on her lip as well. Shouto swallowed, weighing his choices mentally, wondering how much harm it would do. He had come all this way. Might as well try.

"She said she loved me," he said, eyes lowered to stare at his interlocked hands. "Yaoyorozu, I mean, not Jiro…"

His mother didn't reply. After a few more seconds of silence, he looked up. She was still smiling at him, although there was something off about it. Shouto frowned.

"What do you think that means?" he asked, tentatively.

"Well, I love you," his mother said.

"Yes, but you're my mother," Shouto replied.

"There's no other love that I know of, Shouto," the soft, apologetic smile she gave was heartbreaking. Shouto felt horrible bringing it up. He suddenly realized that any parallel to her experience of 'love' would be with his father. She was looking at him with hard eyes, unfocused, as if she was looking at something else entirely, and he felt incredibly guilty. And then, to his surprise, she continued. "I once thought there was a different type of love. But that went up in flames."

Suddenly, her face twisted into anger. "Are you trying to take me back? How dare you! Over my dead body!"

The bed and walls near her had taken on a crystal sheen as her quirk lost control. Ice carved its way around like a web, cracking and ringing, a biting chill saturating the air. Shouto stood up, eyes darting around, already in his attack position.

"Stay back," his mother yelled. "Don't touch me!"

"I won't. I'm not," Shouto held up his hands and backed up. "Don't worry. I'm going to help you."

"Wait, no, Shouto? Where are you going? Don't leave!"

And he didn't. He gave the nurse buzzer by the bed a quick push. Once the nurse had administered the sedative, the next hour was spent helping subdue his mother. He held her hand as the nurse left, sat by her side, and watched the control gently trickle back into her eyes, along with sleep.

"Thank you for staying, sweetheart," she cooed softly.

"Of course," Shouto answered.

"I love you, my boy," she continued, on one of her motherly rambles, he assumed. He breathed into a gentle smile, trying to reflect that he loved her too as much as he could into his expression. If only it was this easy…

His eyes drifted off to the side as he became lost in thought, the twilight darkness settling in, giving its own tranquility to the atmosphere. The gentle warmth of his mother's hand in his was the closest he had been to her in years. Distant memories of sitting in his mother's lap, of playing games and singing songs came back, a time of pure bliss, where trust was still intact and unwavering, where having a whole family was commonplace and where laughing was the simplest thing in the world.

"You love her too, Shouto."

He jerked back, the bed moving with him at his mother's sudden comment cutting through the peaceful silence. He met her groggy, warm grey ones, her smile filling her eyes, contrasting with his wide, surprised ones. She was answering his unanswered question. He had forgotten all about it, but she was referring to Yaoyorozu's confession. Shouto straightened ever so slightly, hanging on to every word.

"Saying 'I love you' was never easy for you, even with me," she hummed. Shouto swallowed, wondering if his mother's thoughts had been in a very similar time as his own. "It's not easy for any of us, really. But it was never who you were. You always show it in your own way, and I'm sure she'll see that."

The sun set completely, leaving a murky darkness behind. After Shouto was sure his mother was finally safe, he left, just as conflicted as he'd been when he'd arrived.


The visit to his mother had been confusing to say the least. She hadn't been of sound mind that day, and so he wasn't sure what to make of her advice, if he could even call it that. It was definitely true that he wasn't one to say those words aloud – even in his deepest of thoughts, they weren't exactly common words floating around.

But if what his mother had said was true, then whatever he felt should be clear to Yaoyorozu. However, she had been avoiding him as incessantly as ever. Every time they so much as entered the same hallway together, she turned on her heel and headed in the opposite direction. UA wasn't the same without Yaoyorozu's after school presence, without her subtle sarcasm and wit, without her advice and suggestions.

Out of ideas, he tried cornering Jiro one morning, but even she told Shouto that her hands were tied. He was essentially on his own. Yaoyorozu had given up on him. And yet, he kept trying, because she had said she loved him, and although he still didn't understand it, he knew enough that it meant something. Clearly he had hurt her in ways he did and didn't understand, and so it was up to him to make it right.

Of course, being Yaoyorozu, she wasn't making this easy.

It was a rainy day, one where the rain was so plummeting so hard it bruised the skin and left indents in the mud. It was one of the city's infamous surprise showers. Every now and then, at the start of February, the skies would just break loose, pummeling down on the ground. Forecasts rarely caught them, and carrying around an umbrella all year just for the one odd day it rained didn't seem worth it. And that was why Todoroki found himself running toward the dorms, through the training arenas, without an umbrella.

Halfway through the buildings' small alleyways, he stopped, rain whacking him mercilessly. Slowly, he reversed his steps. Was that really a shock of midnight black hair he had spotted out of the corner of his eye?

Momo Yaoyorozu was staring straight back at him, huddled under a small overhang on the backside of one of the buildings, frozen while halfway through wringing water out of her hair.

Todoroki offered her a blank stare, not sure what she was going to do.

Yaoyorozu's lips parted, as if she were about to tell him off, but then she decided against it, clamping her lips shut, pressed so tightly they turned white. He wasn't sure if it was because her anger towards him had dwindled or if she felt a flare of her conscience at having to send him back out into the rainstorm, but after shooting him a disgruntled glare, Yaoyorozu looked away without a single word, resuming the detangling of her long, luxurious hair.

Shouto Todoroki made a series of rapid decisions just then, standing still while buckets of water rained down. He could leave her alone, as she had said she wanted. But that wasn't working for him. Perhaps it was the contained energy in the droplets of water, or perhaps it was that he had been waiting for a chance like this for the past several weeks, but he felt a burst of motivation. The thundering rain drowned out the sounds of his approaching footsteps, however, once he had entered the small alcove, now sheltered from the rain, there was no hiding the rather dark, looming figure of the infamous ice wielder. And yet her eyes remained closed, her fingers threading through her hair without a hitch. The half-and-half hero frowned.

She was still determined to not talk to him.

He studied her, watching her eyebrows steadily creep closer and closer together, creating that frustrated crease between them. He straightened up ever so slightly. She had never been good at hiding her emotions. It was obvious she wanted nothing to do with him, but Shouto had a gut feeling. Nature had brought them together. He wasn't one to believe in signs, or the actions of fate, but mother nature was a different entity. Also, he was desperate. And so Shouto decided to push his luck.

He squatted down, a couple of feet away from her, in their small, concrete haven, facing towards her. Small droplets sprayed him gently from the growing puddles in front of them as rain continued to hammer down. He stared at her. Shouto felt awake, the smallest breeze multiplying by the dampness. If she acknowledged him in any way, shape or form, he wouldn't leave. And if she didn't, he would. After continuing his drilling gaze into the side of her head, with a heavy sigh, Yaoyorozu finally turned to give him a very unamused glare.

Success.

"What?" she asked grumpily. Shaking off the fleeting victory, he swallowed.

"Do you hate me?" Shouto asked. The question was sudden, blunt, and clearly she had not been expecting that as her eyelids fluttered in confusion. Not once did he break his steady stare. "Because if you do, I'll leave you alone right now."

Yaoyorozu's face flipped through a series of expression, from surprise to confusion to doubt to sadness, and finally to resignation. She was an honest person, to a fault, and he knew that. And so he asked the one question that had plagued his mind for weeks now.

"No," she said, her voice lined with obvious frustration. "Obviously I don't hate you."

For the first time, Todoroki allowed a celebratory smile to slightly pull at his lips, but he quickly smothered it. He swiveled around on the balls of his feet, still squatting next to her, pushing his back against the wall. He now faced the steady downpour of rain, just as Yaoyorozu was and sunk down so he was sitting flush against the hard ground. He was very aware of their proximity, mere inches between his knee and her, feeling the warmth radiating off of her body.

There was quietness between them for a while as they both sat in silence watching the rain fall in hypnotizing curtains, lost in the way the droplets burst on the ground with small, repetitive synchrony. He wanted this again, Shouto realized with a start. He wanted to be able to do nothing with Yaoyorozu again, to be able to watch the rain and have only complete peace, without this overwhelming buzz of sadness and confusion that currently engulfed them.

"I've been thinking a lot," Shouto started softly, not wanting to break to moment. "And there's still a lot I don't understand, but ...-" he stopped himself there, glancing at her briefly from the corner of his eye. But he got nothing. "But what I have figured out, I wanted to share with you."

Yaoyorozu graced him with a look after this, not saying anything, and Shouto took that as a good sign, that he was using the right words, because she hadn't been this patient with him in a long time. His heartbeat had picked up speed in the excitement. She continued studying him, as if summing him up, and he hoped she would allow curiosity to lend him an ear, if nothing else.

"…Alright," she finally said, and suddenly he had no idea what to say.

With frustration, he reigned in his happiness. Premature hope was always one's greatest downfall. It led to carelessness, something he would never allow to happen again. Yaoyorozu looked back at the grounds ahead of them, back straight against the wall, legs tucked underneath her, arms folded neatly on the lap of her skirt. His stomach gave an uncomfortable clench, and just like that, he knew what to say.

"It hurts being around you."

The pause that followed was unlike any of the ones before. It was like a delicate sheet of glass that could be knocked down with the slightest blow of wind. everything around them was silent, as if in pause for what she would say. What she said determined their fate, determined whether he would be able to be with her. She looked at him finally, with an expression that made his heart sink, that made him want to touch her, to squeeze her slight shoulder, to reassure her everything wasn't as bad as she thought it was. He swallowed.

"It hurts when I'm with you too," she breathed.

Todoroki stared at her. He didn't know why, but that was the last thing he was expecting her to say. She felt it too? There was that relentless surge of hope, banging against his defenses once again. He had thought Yaoyorozu's avoidance of him, her looking away, her fidgeting had all been because her love for him had turned to hate. He had thought it had been too late. But if what she felt was the same as him, perhaps there was hope after all. Todoroki leaned forward, never looking away, feeling a surge of encouragement by something that should be driving them apart.

They stayed like that for a moment, or ten, him sitting beside her, them looking straight at each other, the smallest of unspoken realizations passing between them. She was the first to speak.

"So should one of us leave?"

Todoroki shook his head. "It hurts not being with you more."

Yaoyorozu drew in breath, shoulders tensing ever so slightly, breaking their gaze to look straight ahead. Todoroki paused. He'd told her the basics of what he felt. Those were the bare essentials anyway. He gave a sidelong glance in the direction she was looking at as the seconds of silence grew ever longer. His fate was now in her hands.

"So," he could barely hear her she was speaking so quietly. "Is that all you had to say?"

Far from it.

"I thought if I stayed away, the hurt would disappear. But staying away made it worse. And yet when I'm with you," he continued, but was aware of her glancing at him, and he felt his words fizzle out. Shouto quickly looked down, trying to divert his attention, his hands now out of his pocket and fisted together. He cleared his throat briefly before continuing, "When I'm with you, it hurts. It hurts like…" he faded away, tightening and loosening his fist slowly, unable to really describe it any other way. "But when I'm with you, it's more like this-"

His fist opened and closed faster. Yaoyorozu let out a small giggle. The sound was so sudden and so unexpected and surreal that he couldn't help the look of surprise on his face, and he quirked an eyebrow.

"What?" he asked uncertainly, flashing the smallest of grins, not sure what was so funny, but so happy to hear that sound again.

She gave him a soft, wary smile. "I know what you mean."

Todoroki blinked. "You do?" he couldn't help the surprise in his voice. She smiled back, this time with only a hint of reservation.

And then she nodded, and it had been a while since he had felt so elated. As she looked at him, a foot or two away, he felt that familiar fisting of his internal organs, that discomforting feeling of constriction and inability to breathe. And yet there was a peace and a calm that hadn't been there before. Why was that? What was that? He wanted that connection with her again. She looked away, fiddling idly with the hem of her bag and Shouto's heart gave an uncomfortable throb.

"These past few months have been the most dull and unaccomplished months I've ever had," he said earnestly, something telling him that if he didn't speak now, it would be over. "It's … strange, going to train without you there. And all I think about is what you're doing, and if you're as miserable or unmotivated as I am."

Yaoyorozu looked up with a huff, a pained almost frustrated look on her face. "Todoroki," she sighed. "Do you even know why we haven't spoken all this time?"

"Because you've been avoiding me," he answered easily. She glared at him pointedly and he scratched a nonexistent itch on the side of his head. It was then his turn to sigh as he closed his eyes and tilted his head back against the wall. "Because you said you loved me."

Silence answered him in the form of rhythmic pitter patter of rain until finally Yaoyorozu replied in the quietest of voices, "I was avoiding you before then as well."

Todoroki opened his eyes, looking up at the wooden overhang above, thinking back to the time she said she'd loved him. The festival? No but she hadn't realized she'd told him she loved him then. The next time was some odd days ago, near the dorms. Only a bit further along from where they currently were actually. Ah yes; Jiro had encouraged him to figure out their differences. He hadn't been able to though.

"You started yelling at me when I tried talking back then as well," he recounted.

"No. God, Todoroki," Yaoyorozu covered her face with her fingers. "I 'yelled'" she used air quotations here. "Because even then, you didn't know why I was upset."

"I had an idea," he said defensively. "Jiro came up with a hypothesis."

"You talked to Kyoka?" she asked incredulously.

"I talked to more people than I care to admit about this," he stated. He ignored her horrified mumbles and carried on. "Because that's how confusing all this is to me," he said, and this seemed to quieten her down. "Usually when this happens, I ask you."

She was quiet, hit by the sincerity of his words. The hem fiddling had resumed. "…So… what was the idea you came up with."

Todoroki was now sat up straight against the wall, sitting cross-legged, his hands lying loosely in his lap, fixing her with an unwavering look. "That it wasn't just me that hurt being around you," he said. "You hurt around me too."

There were more rain sounds before, "Well we now know that is true," she said softly, then gave him a sidelong glance. "What now?"

"Now we find out if we have the same reasons," he answered.

Yaoyorozu grabbed the end of her ponytail, fiddling with the ends, Shouto staring as she plucked away. "Well, we know mine," she said quietly.

Yaoyorozu gave him a look just then. It was a look packed with a hundred emotions that were so very foreign and yet so familiar all at the same time. With the slight tilt of her head, and her eyes shining up at him through long lashes, she truly was breathtaking. He felt his throat go dry. If all she ever did was look at him like that, he would be happy forever.

"You l-…ove me," he rasped, word catching in his throat. Yaoyorozu turned to look back at her dark strands of hair and the spell broke. Todoroki looked down at his hands. "I don't really know what loving someone who isn't family feels like." She didn't respond to this. "Why does being with you hurt, but at the same time feel right?"

He asked it.

Finally, the question that had been plaguing him for weeks, that had kept him up at night, disturbed his training sessions and displaced his focus. The question that no one had the answer to. And finally, he had asked the person who had never before failed to give him an answer.

"I'm not sure," she said, in almost ironic comedy. "It's something I'm still trying to figure out, although I kind of gave up trying."

Well, if Yaoyorozu hadn't figured it out, there was no way he would.

"It's kind of like spicy ice cream," she continued suddenly. "It makes no sense, and yet, it exists."

"Spicy ice cream," he repeated softly. He supposed he could just accept this anomaly, and yet it still bugged him, especially since it had had such a chaotic effect on his life.

"Can I try something?" she asked suddenly. "To see if what we're feeling really is the same thing?"

Not sure where she was going with this, Shouto nodded. Slowly, she shuffled closer, her leg pressing up gently against his, and instantly he felt his breath catch in his throat. Her hand slid onto his one. Todoroki was hypnotized by the way her petite hand lay over his, warmth flooding through him. Without thinking he leaned into it, the corner of his head bumping up against hers. But he hardly registered it, gaze fixated on her hand as his rotated underneath it, relaxing as it faced up, his palm meeting hers.

It was as their fingers laced together that Todoroki felt a weight lift. It was like an entire soul had been ripped out of him, one ridden with depression and pain, and now that it was gone, all he felt was warmth and endless, endless peace. His thumb stroked the curve of hers while his other hand gently came over the elegant notches and crevices of her fingers.

It was probably the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen, and he could easily spend hours studying her hand in his, how it was delicate, slight and feminine, and his was larger, and held hers in a way that almost worried him that he might break her. It fascinated him how soft her skin felt and how tracing her hands could probably become the most relaxing thing in the world.

"Does it still hurt?"

Her voice reverberated through him, destroying whatever hypnosis he had been under and he blinked. The only reason he heard that was because of how close she was and with a start he realized that she was leaning against him, the slight pressure against his shoulder. He turned his head back slightly, trying to give her some space, but was instead encased by her scent.

"No," he breathed back, watching as her eyes remained fixed on their hands. "You?"

"I feel…confused," she answered truthfully.

"Do you really…" Todoroki hesitated. "Do you love me?"

There. He said it. The word that had been the bane of his existence for months, ever since that late bus ride home. This was a topic on which he had no idea where to even begin. He had asked so many different people, and nothing had come close to answering this question of his. Todoroki knew the definition of the word, of course. But what he had seen was far too confusing a term. The internet seemed to not agree as to its meaning, and what scared him most was promising Yaoyorozu something he couldn't do.

Because if the internet was right, it meant she saw something in him, something worthy, that he didn't see in himself.

Yaoyorozu drew back her hand gently, folding her hands once again neatly on her lap, and he instantly missed the feeling. Her posture had dissolved, shoulders dropping and head resting back against the wall. The rain had thinned out, now only a barely audible drizzle rippling the shallow puddles. Todoroki let her have her time, staring back at his hand, still feeling traces of her touch tingling across his skin.

Finally, with a large, slow sigh, she angled her head towards him, and then looked up. An expression that almost signaled defeat adorned her face and it made him frown.

"I do."

"Why?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said. "I just do."

The weight of her words struck him. She looked at him, a small smile on her delicate features. A smile so gentle, yet so warm, he felt it radiate through to the very tips of his fingers. And for a second, all that filled his thoughts were that he wanted to be nowhere else at that moment that with her in this cold, damp little sliver of concrete.

"This is it, huh?" she asked. The confusion must have been apparent on his face, because she gave a halfhearted smile. "The conversation I've been wanted to have for so long."

Todoroki didn't know how to respond to that.

"I know this is probably foreign to you, Todoroki," she started. "I think you would have been fine with things being the way they were."

"Yes," Todoroki answered instantly, after the final word had barely left her mouth.

Yaoyorozu gave him an apologetic look. "I tried, Todoroki. But I just wasn't okay with that. Especially not after what happened… you know, in our conference hall that day."

Oh.

"I've been frustrated that you haven't been able to figure out where your mind is at. And I see all you've figured out is that 'it hurts' being around me."

He nodded affirmatively. She sighed.

"So I'm just going to ask you point blank, because I think that's the only way this is going to work," she gave him a serious look. "Do you feel the same?"

Todoroki swallowed past the lump in his throat. "I don't know."

He could tell that was the wrong answer by the way her face fell. She breathed out through her nose and looked at the ground, her smile turning into the reflection of pure sadness.

"What I do know is I don't want you to look like that," he said suddenly. Instantly, she looked back up at him, mouth parted ever so slightly, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Especially if I'm the cause.

"I know that what I want is for you to be happy. Because, oddly, when you're happy, I'm happy," he kept his voice low, soft, not wanting his voice to travel past the curtain of gentle rain around them. He may not know what love meant to Yaoyorozu, or to himself, and he wasn't able to say what love was without a shadow of a doubt. But he felt a lot of things, and if she wanted to know what he felt, he'd tell her.

"I know that the time I spend with you isn't…repulsive." She snorted at this. He continued. "In fact, I rather enjoy it. I know that talking to you makes me think, in a way that no other conversation does. Around you, I feel…important."

Yaoyorozu was looking at him in that way again, but without the smile, and it took everything in him to keep his concentration.

"I know that whenever I'm not with you, everything feels… hollow. And all I think of is the next time I'll see you. I know that when I'm not with you, I worry about how weak you are," he watched as she visibly bristled with anger. "And that if anything happened while I wasn't there, I'd never forgive myself. I also know that every time you prove to be able to actually take care of yourself, I feel…strange." He looked at her as he said this, as if his eyes could somehow explain what he felt. "Like…like I'm not…necessary…

"But I know that the only person I want to spend time with is you. I know that when I learn new things it's with you. I know that when I try my hardest it's with you, and for you," his voice was quiet now, hardly above a whisper. They weren't touching, but he was hardly a few inches away from her, and he was very aware of the magnetic warmth radiating from her body.

"When I look at you, sometimes, it hurts, and I don't understand that, because even though it hurtsI still can't look away." Was it just his imagination, or was she getting closer? Probably, seeing as how he was leaning towards her.

She was so close now. The smell of lavender filled his senses. He watched her eyelashes flutter shut.

"That's not love, is it? Isn't love supposed to be obvious? Because it just confuses me…"

A heartbeat.

"I think that's love, Todoroki." Her breath blew across his lips as she spoke, or rather, whispered.

"…Oh."

There was a pause.

"I've felt this way since early summer."

She blinked.

And then she backed up a little to look up and he instantly regretted saying that. Her eyes were wide with uncontained surprise.

Her heart pounded in leaping, irregular bounds, and she had to swallow hard against her clouded throat. He wasn't looking at her, instead focused down, nor was he smiling, although his expression was more thoughtful than anything else. And then his eyes flicked up to hers, before looking off to the side, and the smallest upwards turn tugged at the corner of his lips.

How was such a small action able to have such an effect on her?

"You felt…" she licked her lips, leaning in. "Since summer?"

"Yeah."

For how erratically her breathing was, she was sure it was only a matter of time before she collapsed entirely. She couldn't take her eyes off of him, and the longer she stared, the redder his ears turned and the wider her smile grew. Her eyes began watering with the sheer intensity of emotions.

Then she punched him.

"Ow." He looked at her, pulling away with an expression that was probably meant to be a glare, but definitely wasn't. "What was that for?"

"You made me go through months of pain and mental trauma, for nothing?" she asked in outrage. She studied him. He looked back, not a clue as to what was going on behind those dark eyes. The word sorry bubble up on his tongue, but fizzled out just as quickly. It was over. The weeks of dysfunction, of confusion and distraction were over. A large beacon of happiness bloomed in his chest. This was what he had tried so hard to achieve, for so long he had thought of it as impossible.

She noticed his look, and suddenly, a swarming, blanketing silence engulfing them.

Todoroki leaned towards her, his hand on the small patch of ground between them for support, but an inch from her lips, he stopped to look at her eyes, now out of focus, but dark, so very, very dark. The moment of silence was now a dull ringing in their ears, every second a heart pounding thump against the ribcage.

And then he kissed her.

This was everything their first kiss hadn't been; slow, soft, gentle, timid, curious, warm. His lips pushed up against hers warmed him and calmed him, and it wiped clean every last thought from his mind. He leaned into her, the hand that wasn't support most of his tilted weight finding and intertwining with hers.

This. This was what he had wanted. The perfection of the moment, the softness of her lips, the warmth of her body, the smallness of her hand, the sound of the rain, the relief of being allowed so close to her – everything encompassing that moment was something he would remember clearly for the rest of his life.

And just as quickly as it started, it ended, with her pulling away. His eyes were still closed, and he felt the strands of her hair brush against his cheek as he leaned in against her forehead. She had probably been holding her breath, because a wave of hot breath blew across his skin just once, and not again.

Finally, Shouto leaned back, ever so slightly, his eyes drinking her in, a small, content smile resting easily on his lips. She sighed, tilting her head, grinning back, now peering at him with a calculating look.

"What?" he asked, almost cautiously.

"I know what we can do," she said. Shouto's mind instantly jumped back to a few minutes ago, her lips pressed up against his. "Spicy ice cream."

He blinked. Wait. Shouto blinked again. Yaoyorozu just looked at him unwaveringly.

Perhaps it was the way she said it. Maybe it was the thought of spicy ice cream itself. Maybe it was the idea of going out when it was raining for such a ridiculous concept. But Shouto felt himself laugh. And that was all he did for the next few minutes, with Yaoyorozu joining uncertainly in halfway through, only enhancing the effect.

When Todoroki finally calmed down again, he finally rose to his feet. With a smile, he held out his hand. "Why not," he said.

Yaoyorozu grinned back, accepting it. As he yanked her to her feet, a thought occurred to him. "Why didn't you make an umbrella for yourself? Instead of being stranded here?"

For a moment, Yaoyorozu simply blinked. And then they were back to laughing.


THE END


A/N: Aaaaand it's done!

So, don't kill me, but….I've had 60% of this written out since June of 2017. I know, I'm horrible, leaving it for so long. But still, to see this finally being posted? Just wow.

During the whole writing process, and I gotta say it's changed the way I perceive BnHA as a whole. I've spent so long developing these characters that it's like…I feel I know them. It's weird writing a story, and a fanfic at that.

One thing though was that what I had planned at the start for this story? It was almost nothing like this! It was like, the characters basically took over (and I've said this before). So I want to encourage anyone who wants to write – guys, please do! The only way to ever get it moving is by starting it; what to write will just come automatically.

A huge massive shout-out to everyone, and I mean everyone, who stuck with this story all the way through. It's so surreal to have this story read by thousands of you – it's an honor. And an extra thank you to everyone who reviewed! You guys made me smile and laugh, you made me think and encouraged me so much. It really means a lot, you liking this little creation of mine enough to see it all the way through. Maybe leave me one last comment, for old time's sake? Even if you've never reviewed before. It can be anonymous (in which case all you do is just fill out that little empty box below and click send! :D). I just want to know what you felt, with this ending, with the story as a whole.

And a huge thank you to jilnachtaugen, my incredible, resilient beta, who has stuck out through this with me ever since... Chapter four, I wanna say? Go check out some of Jil's stories - 'Reach out' is a BnHA one, a warm, hit-you-in-the-feels story about Deku and Bakugo.

Man, I'm so happy to finally be ending one of my stories. My first completed chapter story, ever. And I have to say, I'll miss it to no end. Maybe I hit it up with an epilogue. Even a sequel maybe? If any of you feel there's some unanswered questions or storylines I need to elaborate on, let me know, and maybe I put it together sometime in the future for ya!

But 'til then, that's all folks! Thank you for an amazing ride! Stay safe, stay happy and stay you! ^_^