A/N: Just a reminder, this story will be dark, and includes canon up until Chapter 119 of the manga and the end of season 3 of the anime.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Boku no Hero Academia.

The Burden of Choice
Chapter 3

Ashido led Midoriya to a corner of the waiting room. She tried to offer him words of comfort. Her hushed voice, however, was drowned out by the chaos of the ER, not that Midoriya would have heard it anyway. He was exhausted. Every nerve felt like it had been strained to its limits, and after his break down outside, he felt...empty. A gaping silence filled his mind, blocking out everything else.

Soon, Iida, Todoroki, and Kirishima returned, gathering around him.

It didn't matter.

Nothing mattered.

Midoriya didn't acknowledge them. Instead, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back, tuning out the meaningless conversation his four friends were trying to force. His mind jumped from thought to thought, trying to make sense out of the jumbled mess.

He wanted to cry, to scream, to yell. Something, anything that would push him past this awful state he was in, that would make him feel. Something that would wake him up from what seemed like a terrible nightmare.

It didn't matter. Try as he might, the emptiness prevailed.

His brow furrowed as he forced his mind back, working through the night from the beginning.

After Uraraka's disappearance, the campus had been placed on lockdown. Students weren't allowed off without teacher supervision and then only on rare occasions. It was a necessary precaution but made for a long and tedious couple of months. Especially for Midoriya, who missed his mother terribly.

It all seemed so innocent when All Might offered to take him to see his mom. That was the start, he thought, had to be. They'd gone early in the day and spent most of the time visiting. It had been just what he needed. Those few short hours spent in his mother's warm and comforting presence had caused him to forget entirely the chaos that had formed since the kidnapping. It reminded him of the light that once inspired and invigorated him, the reasons he went down this path in the first place. Eventually, it was late and time for them to return to U.A. With a smile on his face, Midoriya had stepped out as Inko discussed something private with his mentor.

That's when he saw the trail…the trail of blood.

A hand pressing into his shoulder ripped the young hero from his thoughts. The world came rushing back, loud and invasive. Green eyes flew open to find Iida standing over him looking concerned.

"Midoriya." He said as if he had been repeating his name for quite some time. "Are you alright?"

Izuku swallowed hard. People kept asking him that, how was he supposed to respond? "I...I'm fine." He gave Iida a shaky smile, as if that would help his friends believe him. The look on the other boy's face, however, made it clear he wasn't convinced. Iida let go of Izuku's shoulder and stood up.

"We're thinking of looking around for a vending machine or something," Kirishima said as he got up from his chair and stretched his back. "Wanna come? Get outta here for a minute." He looked around at the chaos of the busy emergency room. The space was filled with the sounds of chatter. There were some who spoke in hushed, panicked tones, while others were casual and calm. Some coughed, others cried. A strangled scream came from one despondent looking old man. The redhead stared back at his friend. "Come on, stretch your legs."

Izuku shook his head.

His classmates shared glances between themselves before Todoroki spoke up. "I can stay."

"No," Midoriya said, a little too loud and fast. "I mean, you don't have to. I'm fine. It's only for a few minutes, right?" They all seemed hesitant. "Really, please," he tried again more insistent. "I'll be fine. I promise."

Kirishima seemed uneasy. He opened his mouth to say something when Iida put a hand on his shoulder. Their eyes locked as a silent battle waged between them before Kirishima backed down. He turned back to Midoriya, yet couldn't meet his gaze. "We'll be fast. Just…just don't go anywhere."

They began to walk away. All of them except Todoroki. Izuku forced a smile. "Go. I'm okay, really, I'll be fine."

Todoroki looked like he was going to object, but didn't. Izuku watched as his fists tightened and shoulders tensed.

The other boy let out a loud huff of a breath. "Very well." Todoroki bowed slightly before turning and heading off after the others.

Izuku watched him walk away and sighed in relief when he was gone.

He couldn't face them, not yet. Their intentions were good. They wanted to help, but he wasn't ready to accept it. He needed some space, some time to think and actually figure out where he stood and what to do. Leaning forward, elbows on his knees, his face fell into his hands.

He wished he could just wake up and end this as if it was some kind of nightmare. He knew better than that though. It was stone cold and unchangeable. It was reality. Just like that trail of blood that led him...he stopped himself. The area in which his mom lived was a nicer part of town. It was quiet most days, and so the possibility of that blood being from human never crossed his mind. What he expected to find was an animal, an injured animal. A cat or a dog that had dragged itself from the sidewalk into the alley. He would help it if he could. That was his plan.

But what he saw was nothing like what he thought he would find. Izuku's heart began to race at the memory of it all, pounding hard against his chest, so loud it was all he could hear. His throat tightened, his breathing became strained as he struggled to draw in air. The sound, all that sound, the laughing, the crying, the coughing, the screams, that seemed so distant before was suddenly close, it clawed at his mind, threatening to drown him.

Blood. The thick puddles of deep, crimson red reflected the pale light of the moon like mirrors, drawing him down the alley.

His hands tightened into his green hair. The memory of finding his friend like that would forever be seared into his mind. The sound of her voice calling him by name, that nickname she'd given new purpose. "Deku." It was her voice, but different. What had brought him joy in the past was now like nails on a chalkboard, and just remembering it caused a knot to form in his stomach, rising up, burning the back of his throat.

He wanted to fix it, had to fix it. But he couldn't go back, couldn't keep it from happening. That thought would haunt him forever. If he could figure out why, though...why she had been taken, why his name was scrawled over her body, if he could figure that out maybe he could keep it from happening again, to someone else.

A brown paper bag landed with a thud in his lap. He jumped, almost dropping it. He looked up, eyes widening.

"Hey, kid."

"Sn-Snipe?" Clear as day, there he was, the pro-hero himself. "Wha- bu-" He blinked several times. It was the stress. The stress was doing things to his brain. He was imagining things now, he was sure of it.

"What's the matter?" Snipe said, laughing through his mask. "Cat caught your tongue?" The gunslinger cast his gaze around the large room. "You're here alone?" He asked, his tone suddenly serious.

"No...They…" He squeaked. He shook his head to get rid of the surprise. "They, my friends, uh, they went to find something to eat."

"Hmm." Was the gunslinger's only response. He turned back to Izuku, tipping his hat at the younger boy. "You take care now. I'm off to find the principal." He began to walk away.

Something screamed within Izuku. This was his chance. He needed help and here it was right in front of him. "Snipe." He called out before he could stop himself. The pro-hero turned.


"I-" Izuku's voice caught in his throat. He stared down at the hands holding the bag of hot food. They were shaking. "I-" How could he say the words in his mind when his thoughts were so jumbled? The questions he had, the answers he needed. They could only be given by someone who knew, a pro-hero like the one standing right there in front of him. "How?" His eyes stung with tears. Trying to hold them back, he closed them tight as he listened to Snipe move closer. The creak of the metal and plastic seats let him know the man had sat down across from him.

There were several moments of silence before Snipe finally spoke. "You wanna know how to fix this, is that it, kid?" Izuku nodded. Anything more, and his emotions would come rushing back. He heard Snipe give out a heavy sigh through his mask. "Look, I don't know you that well. Heck, I think this is the first time we've talked. But I've seen you, seen your drive."

Izuku looked up. "But… My mother, she…"

"Is she in danger? Yeah." The hero said matter of factly. Midoriya simply nodded before putting his head back down. Snipe regarded him. He looked broken, a far cry from any other time Snipe had seen him. "Don't know what to tell ya, son. This business ain't an easy one. There are risks and there's really no good answer for what to do next. It's something you've gotta decide for yourself."

The despondent look on Midoriya's face sent a sharp pang through Snipe's heart. His features hardened behind his mask. Izuku was young. Too young, in fact. What he was facing was something most pro-heroes were never forced to experience. Their love for others turned into a weapon against him.

Now, Izuku was faced with a choice. Give up, letting his enemy win and abandoning his friend in her time of need, or keep on going, and put everyone he'd ever cared about in danger.

As much as Midoriya may have wanted him to, Snipe couldn't make that decision for him. The pro-hero stood. He considered just walking away and leaving the boy with no other bits of advice to help. Something stopped him. Maybe it was the shattered look in Izuku's eyes. Maybe it was the burning anger Snipe felt at the whole situation. Regardless, Snipe felt a rising in his chest. Something had to be done.

"There's a saying," he began, looking the kid in the eyes. "Heard it a long ways back. Went something like ya either growing or dying, ain't no third direction. You want my advice? You want to know how to survive this? Keep on moving forward or get off the track. Fish or cut bait. Pick a path and stick to it. I reckon you owe that much to the people who believe in ya."

There was a long moment of silence as Izuku considered what Snipe had said. "Thank you." He said quietly.

Snipe tipped his hat. "I'm off to find Nezu." He pointed to the bag on Izuku's lap. "You look a bit peckish, don't let the food go to waste, okay, and hang in there, son. You'll make the right decisions. I'll see later." With that, he left. Izuku watched him as he walked off, his mind full of the hero's words.

Pick a path and stick to it. He grimaced.

"M-Midoriya?" Izuku turned to see Yaoyorozu. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her cheeks puffy like she'd been crying, and he watched as a look of utter confusion washed over her face. She looked back and forth several times between the bag in Izuku's lap and the door through which Snipe had left before speaking. "Did…did Snipe just bring you McDonald's?"

Shoto Todoroki's calm appearance did nothing to betray the chaos swirling beneath. One thought tore through his mind time and time again. Useless. Shoto Todoroki felt absolutely useless. He walked down the halls of the hospital, absentmindedly following behind his fellow classmates.

He couldn't help but think of Midoriya alone in that waiting room. Yaoyorozu left crying on a bench. The best he could do for either of them was offer a shoulder, and even then he'd always retreat. Shoto shook his head, trying to escape from his own sense of inadequacy. He was pitiful. He wanted to help his friends, to comfort them. He owed so much to Izuku. The boy had saved him from himself, and this was how he repaid him?

Dimly registering his friends stopping in front of a machine, Todoroki closed his eyes and slumped back against the wall, sliding his hands into his pockets.

What else could he do? He wasn't warm, like Uraraka. He wasn't friendly, like Asui. He had spent so many years embracing the cold of his quirk that it had become a part of him. He rejected the fire, and in doing so froze his heart. Only now that it had begun to thaw did he realize how alone he was, how removed he'd let himself become because of it.

Why can't I change? He couldn't help but think. His hands clenched tightly in his pockets. A thin layer of frost traveled down his right pant leg, but he ignored it.

"Dammit." The sound of Kirishima's hardened fist slamming into the wall drew his attention. Cracking his eyes open, Shoto saw Iida begin to approach the redhead.

"Kirishima." He said in a hushed, scolding tone.

Kirishima got right in Iida's face. "We shouldn't have left him." The accusation was obvious in his tone.

Iida simply shook his head as he began to mess with the vending machine. "He needs time to think, and he can't do that if we're hovering over him and breathing down his neck."

"But should we have left him by himself?" Ashido asked. "I mean, after everything that happened…" She left the statement hanging, unable to finish it herself.

"He'll be fine." Iida insisted. "I trust Midoriya. He'll talk to us when he's ready."

"Because that's what you did?" Everyone went silent as all eyes turned to Todoroki. Had those words really just come out of his mouth? There was his cold heart, messing things up again. He began to backtrack. "Iida, I'm-"

"No." Iida's hands were clenched so tightly, his knuckles turned white. "You're right. If I had talked to someone sooner things probably would not have turned out the way they did, but…this is Midoriya. Not me." Iida turned to face him, and Todoroki couldn't help but whither slightly under his gaze. "What he needs right now is space. It's too soon. If we push him, we'll only get in his way." He shot a smile towards all of them. "Don't worry. He'll overcome this." Iida's eyes turned back to the machine as he pushed in the numbers. "He'll do it because he has to and he'll do it his own way, with or without us."

The silence that followed was only broken by the clatter of Iida's order being dropped into the bottom of the machine.

"With or without us…" Those words burned their way through Todoroki's subconscious. He really was helpless here. Powerless. Destined to stand on the sidelines as his friends suffered.

"Todoroki?" He ignored Ashido's questioning tone.

The temperature of the air on either side of his body changed rapidly as his breathing increased. The cold he had nurtured all his life was strong. He could see that clearly now, there was no changing it. He looked down at his shaking hands as his quirk began to visually manifest. Bit by bit he thawed, but it would never be enough. He would never be enough. The fire in his left hand burned brightly dancing between his fingertips. A shoulder to cry on, a comforting touch, he wanted to be that kind of friend, but he couldn't even offer a few words of support when his friends needed it most. The ice in his heart made him useless.

"Todoroki." The fire in his left hand died suddenly as the ice in his right crumbled to shards. Turning, he just barely caught a glimpse of Aizawa's greasy, black hair fall back around his head. "No quirk use in public." They winced, all of them at once. It looked like their homeroom teacher was even more sleep deprived than normal. Todoroki simply bowed his head.

"Yes, sir." He uttered in a quiet voice.

"What are you all doing down here?" No one answered. "Your classmate was just threatened by an unknown attacker. You can't do anything about Uraraka, not right now. However, the very reason you were brought here was to help Midoriya. Imagine my surprise when I found him alone in the Waiting Room with Yaoyorozu as his only companion." Again, more silence. Aizawa sighed. "This is hard on all of us, but it was a direct attack. They used Uraraka to get to Midoriya. We're all upset over what's happened to her but he, out of everyone, will be taking this the hardest. You need to push your own problems, your own reactions aside and help him. Consider this experience part of your training." With that, he pushed his way past his students.

Iida stopped him. "Sir, where are you going?"

"I'm off to find Recovery Girl. Now head back to Midoriya. I don't care what he says or does, don't let him out of your sight."

A/N: And that's chapter 3. I know, depressing, but you gotta break a few bones for them to grow back stronger, so bear with me. It won't always be so bleak.

I would like feedback on the whole chapter, but especially on what yall thought of Todoroki and Snipe (bonus points to whoever can spot the Tommy Boy reference). Tell me what you liked and disliked. Please either PM or review. It helps feed the muse.

Special thanks to the reviewers of last chapter, darkprincess238, Ooobserver, The Last Storywriter, fencer29, and MSPRIGGS. Oh, and guest titled Plz. You are all awesome.

Updates might be coming slower, like this one.

Till next time,


A/N 12/15/2018: News flash, if you want updates on the story, feel free to check my profile! I'll take this A/N away next time I post a chapter. Hopefully soon! It's not dead.