Title: In Harm's Way

Summary: Todoroki isn't feeling so good, Kirishima is concerned, and Bakugou doesn't care at all.

Characters: Todoroki Shouto, Bakugou Katsuki, Kirishima Eijirou, plus some Midoriya Izuku and Aizawa Shouta on the side

Words: 20K (oh my god I have a problem)

Warnings: Very, very long one shot, please strap in; also there's plenty of cursing because Bakugou is in this.

Spoilers: There are manga spoilers here! This happens sometime after the provisional license exam and mentions the results of those exams (who failed/passed), and that's all. If you don't mind knowing how that plays out, read on. There are no major spoilers concerning any plot points.

A/N: I know I've got other stories to finish but I am so in love with the series and there weren't that many stories about My Boys on this site so I had to write this. Enjoy some self-indulging todoroki!whump because boy do I love to torture my favs- and please don't forget to leave a review with your thoughts!






("The flame control of your left side . . . it's still too dangerous. Like you can't take your foot off the pedal." – Todoroki Enji, ch. 40)























"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Todoroki thinks that's a terribly inappropriate question to ask considering their current circumstance.

First and foremost, it's a question that begs for an answer that is thematically depressing and tragic and not one he wants to get into at the very moment. It's also a very loaded question considering that he knows there's a great deal of things that is wrong with him, and it would take a very long time to answer objectively. They're pressed for time as it is and both their attentions can't do with such a lingual distraction.

But then Todoroki realizes that Bakugou isn't referring to the constant state of his psych but rather, maybe, is referring to his current physical state, which is him sitting on the ground, out of breath and shaking noticeably.

Yeah, that might be it.

So Todoroki looks up to his scowling classmate and says, "nothing."

Which is very clearly a lie.

Todoroki has already recognized that there is something wrong with him, but he's well aware of the cause and doesn't necessarily want to disclose it with Bakugou, of all people.

Since the first sign of discomfort, he's already reasoned that it was due to consecutively overexerting himself in these supplementary classes he and Bakugou were participating in. The exercise they are currently attempting to complete is substantially taxing, and his body is feeling the brunt of it. Other than that there is nothing wrong with him, physically.

All of which he doesn't say to Bakugou, obviously. The other boy doesn't seem as exhausted or worn out as Todoroki, which is only mildly humiliating. Not to mention, his own sense of pride would suffer if he actually admitted it; he would never hear the end of it from Bakugou.

Luckily, his classmate doesn't care about his wellbeing in the slightest. "Then stop fucking slowing me down, you piece of shit! Hurry the fuck up!"

Ah, Todoroki thinks as he watches Bakugou blast himself away, the question wasn't meant as a query to my emotional or physical state, but instead a rhetorical insult.

He shakes his head a bit to dispel the stupor he put himself in and goes to stand and follow. The longer he remains like this, idle and inactive, only allots to more time being here with Bakugou, and that's something he does not want to keep doing.

But once he stands he is abruptly reminded why he was sitting in the first place; instantaneously he feels the heavy slam of another dizzy spell and almost falls back down. Almost.

His hand catches the wall and he manages to hold himself up. His legs shake and struggle to accommodate his weight, which is baffling to him considering he's never had this problem before and so he thinks, not rhetorically, something is wrong with me.

Bakugou's explosions sound in the distance like a receding thunderstorm.

Todoroki knows he needs to go and follow, knows that this exercise requires them to work together, but he just can't get himself to catch his breath – another abnormality. He leans against the wall and concentrates on settling his lungs – in, out, in, out, in, in, in, out! They burn and rattle fiercely, and every breath leaves him feeling even more winded than before.

It's safe to say he has not enjoyed a single moment of this day.

The supplementary classes they've been partaking in have been challenging, nothing Todoroki wasn't expecting, and Aizawa-sensei hadn't sugarcoated a single thing about them, telling them from the very start that these classes would be as extensive as they were difficult. And Todoroki didn't mind. He welcomed it. If anything, he would have asked for even more difficulty, especially after his shameful actions during the Provisional License Exam.

Today proved to be the most difficult, however.

The exercise they were given was eerily similar to the Provisional License Exam, and even took place in the same arena (to reduce any possibility of property damage, Aizawa-sensei explained tiredly, his eyes drifting to Bakugou). It was also a team exercise, much to the displeasure of the only two participants. It was a practical search, rescue and neutralize mission; there were about twenty mechanical mannequins acting as distressed citizens that were hidden in the arena and twenty robots of various sizes acting as villains scattered around the arena, causing destruction and havoc.

An elaborate game of hide and seek, Aizawa-sensei had described it. Find all the citizens, take out all the villains. Make sure no one dies. Place all the mannequins in the safe area there and the exits will open up and you can go home. Got it? Good. Then he promptly left, a hand covering his wide-mouthed yawn, leaving Todoroki and Bakugou their own accords.

In theory the exercise sounded pretty straightforward and easy, but Todoroki quickly found it was also very tedious, primarily because the mannequins were really, really hard to find. One of them, for example, was buried six feet underneath the rubble – it took Todoroki nearly an hour to dig it out by following its mechanical cries for help.

Thankfully, the day is almost done.

Most of the mannequins have been accounted for, with maybe one or two missing, Todoroki isn't really sure. He lost count a while back. He knows that there are only two robot villains left, though, because he can see them quite clearly in the distance near Bakugou's explosions.

Working with Bakugou . . . now that was a challenge all on its own.

Todoroki isn't sure he would even call it working with him. It was mostly Bakugou yelling out commands and trying to take initiative, followed by Todoroki steadily reminding him that these supplementary lessons were to teach them teamwork and (for Bakugou) empathy. More yelling and cursing ensued, more futile attempts at compromising, and eventually Bakugou just blasted away, screaming to not get in his way.

Todoroki didn't mind. The further away Bakugou was from him, the better.

He blinks several times to allow his vision to right itself. I need to concentrate on finishing this, he reminds himself.

He pushes himself away from the wall and tests his balance. Right. Bakugou isn't his top concern at the moment. He needs to focus on himself and his quirk, and especially focus on how he's going to get through the rest of this exercise without exhausting himself to death.

He frowns at that last thought.

To increase the difficultness of the lesson, or maybe to simply just torture them, Aizawa-sensei required them to sharpen an aspect of their quirk that they were having the most difficulty with. For Todoroki, he wasn't afraid to admit it was his left side. He still had an increasingly hard time getting his fire under control; he couldn't manipulate it with the same focus as his ice, and sometimes he would fail to keep it from running amok. So, for the entire day, ironically, he didn't use his right side, and tried to complete the exercise with only his fire.

Bakugou, on the other hand, initially insisted that there wasn't any part of his quirk that he couldn't handle, that this exercise was 'fucking stupid' and 'a waste of my fucking time what the fuck is the fucking point' and that he was going back to the dorms. Aizawa-sensei, naturally, disagreed, and eventually they came to the conclusion that he could use more practice on keeping himself in the air with just his explosions while simultaneously attacking.

But Todoroki is well aware of his shortcomings and limitations, especially when it came to the hot side of his quirk, and as he learned and continues to learn, his journey to improve it was rigorous and difficult and not something he can accomplish over night. Unlike his sharp and concentrated ice side of his quirk, his fire half was wild and unruly, and took a heavy amount of willpower to reign in and keep under control. It was like trying to keep a dragon at bay. It was exhausting.

And now, the more he uses it, the more he blasts those red and yellow streams of unimaginable heat, the more he feels . . . not OK. He doesn't really have a solid description for it now. It's all very strange, he's starting to discover, how only using his fire quirk was affecting him like this. He's used to the shivering and the earliest signs of frostbite when continuously using his ice quirk, but never experienced what happened when he exclusively used his fire quirk. So far, he would probably say the most alarming side effect was fatigue. Todoroki doesn't care for it much.

(In the back of his mind, he hears an early memory of his father's voice yelling at him, "Enough! Don't complain about the pain, Shouto! If it hurts, then you're making progress! It needs to hurt!" The words are always harsher and louder than they needed to be, bouncing off the walls of the training room like a hundred wild bats, but it never seemed like anyone else in the house could hear them, like the training room was disconnected from the rest of the world.)

Todoroki blinks stupidly. He hears the echo of the memory in his mind, and he feels bile rising in the back of his throat, a bit unnerved that he would think about that, of all things, at a time like this. He shakes his head.

Todoroki takes a tentative step forward and commands himself to wake up, to concentrate, to focus. I'll sleep when this is over, he promises his body, because he knows that's what it's desperately craving right now; his head is already starting to fog over with weariness but he wills himself to ignore it. I can't leave until I finish this. I need to adapt with my fire side, I need to learn to work with it just as fluidly as my ice.

On his way to the north side where Bakugou flies about like a stray firework, Todoroki manages to find the two remaining mannequins. One is crouched under a table inside a destroyed house, and the other is hanging onto a branch of a tree. Whoever manipulated these things sure had a lot of creative freedom, Todoroki thinks as he pulls the mannequin down by its feet.

He carries both of them back to the safe area, their combined weight making his shoulders ache. The arena is littered with concrete blocks and half standing cement walls, all to create the illusion of a city under attack. Todoroki maneuvers around the debris with some ease at first, but the closer he gets to the safe area, the thinner his lungs felt.

It takes a few minutes to reach the safe area, and once his hands are free he places them on his knees and gasps for air.

He swallows his breaths noisily, his lungs searing like fire and his throat as coarse as sand. He stays like that for a few moments because he can't breathe right, because his feet feel hot and heavy, because his stomach is wringing itself like a washcloth.

What the hell . . . he thinks in between those breaths, because this time he didn't even use his quirk and it's already feeling like it's getting worse, whatever it was. Amid those pants he lets out a curse. It's only right that using my fire quirk would sabotage me in some way, he thinks with barely concealed disdain.

He allows himself a few more seconds before he rights himself, determined more than ever to just get this whole thing over with so he doesn't have to deal with his masochistic quirk anymore. He wipes the sweat from his brow, and with grit teeth he sprints to where Bakugou and the two remaining robots are.

"Took your fucking time, you stupid piece of fucking shit!" Bakugou shouts at him from the air when Todoroki reaches him. "Stupid, fucking asshole! If you're going to be useless then go back to the corner and fucking die!"

Todoroki has become rather skilled at ignoring Bakugou's eloquent insults these past few days, so instead of giving him a reply he focuses his attention on the situation at hand. There's only one robot left now, and it's one of the larger ones, towering over Todoroki like a building. Bakugou blasts himself in front of it like a volatile hummingbird, his arms punching the air below him to create explosions to stay afloat. His feet are bare and visibly bleeding, probably from accidentally blasting his shoes off and all the poor landings he's forced to make. He's so focused on keeping himself airborne that he can't allocate any time into actually blasting the robot.

So Todoroki does it for him.

As the mechanical giant tries to swat Bakugou away like he's some kind of pesky mosquito, Todoroki aims his sights on the robot's legs and sends a burst of pirouetting flames. The fire wraps around the mechanical legs and eats away at the bolts and beams and metal and wires, melting the solid into a puddle of black liquid and cementing the robot into the ground.

Todoroki lets out a shuddering breath and feels the world sway. That was much more powerful than he intended to make it. His left arm feels like it's been lit aflame. Distantly, he can hear Bakugou screaming curses at him, but it's hard to make out anything he's saying through the heavy banging noises happening inside his head. The entirety of his left side feels like it's raging a fiery war against the rest of him.

"—and-Half bastard, I'll fucking kill you! That was mine! I fucking had it! Cheap, useless fucker!"

Ah, so that's what Bakugou's saying. Todoroki watches with half lidded eyes as Bakugou does an impressive somersault in midair before landing an explosive punch atop the robot's head. The mechanical giant is pushed back from the force, but because its feet were melted to the ground, it doesn't necessarily fall but snaps in half, half its body falling to the ground while the other remains rooted.

Bakugou lands in front of him clumsily, at the same time the robot's upper body lands, and the sound they both make is deafening. Bakugou, in contrast, doesn't remain on the floor, but marches towards Todoroki and grabs him by the collar of his shirt.

"What the fuck was that! I told you not to get in my fucking way, shithead!"

His shouting makes Todoroki's headache grow. He levels Bakugou with a tired stare and says, "I was doing my share of the assignment."

"I fucking told you! I get to take out the robots while you fucking disappear and pick up those scraps of metals, since that's all you're good for!"

"You were taking too long."

That is apparently the wrong thing to say; Bakugou's snarl deepens and he looks like he'd very much like to bite Todoroki's head off. "What the fuck did you say!? You wanna die, you fucking freak!?"

Todoroki's patience runs low, so he swats Bakugou's hand away. "The citizens are all accounted for. The doors' should be opened now."

Even while he pads back to the exit, Bakugou is still hurling insults at him, unsurprisingly; "Fucking annoying piece of shit. I wasn't taking long, I was taking the perfect amount of time," Bakugou growls to his back. Todoroki yawns, rubbing his head. "Fucker. You're the one who took fucking forever looking for all the stupid robots. I could have found them in a fucking second. I actually did some real fucking work, while you were out there playing hide-and-seek like a goddamn kid. Fucking pathetic . . . "

Bakugou's angry muttering continues all the way to the entrance of the arena, and doesn't stop even while they wait at the bus stop. Todoroki is so familiar with the cursing and the insults and this whole routine in general that it doesn't even faze him anymore. Is this what Midoriya had to endure throughout his childhood, Todoroki wonders briefly as the bus pulls up in front of them, Bakugou shoving his way to the door before he could. Must have been a very unpleasant childhood.

Bakugou takes a seat in the front and for both their sakes' Todoroki doesn't take the seat beside him. The bus is relatively empty so he settles for a seat a few rows back, against a window. The bus huffs to life and starts its excursion. Todoroki closes his eyes and tries to quell the uneasiness that festers in his abdomen like a rotting fruit.

He can feel unconsciousness ebbing away at the surface of his mind and snaps his eyes open. No, I can't sleep here, Todoroki thinks, and not because the last time he fell asleep on the bus Bakugou up and left him there and Todoroki woke up at the opposite end of the city. Well, that's partially the reason, but it's mostly because he knows he needs to sleep in his dorm, in his bed, where he would be the most comfortable and the most relaxed; if he slept on the seat here he would just wake up with an aching neck, a sore back, and a fog filled head, and he really doesn't want to add more things to his running list of unwanted afflictions.

Todoroki sighs through his nose. He uncurls his fingers and stares at his left palm. No matter how steadily he holds his hand, he can't seem to stop it from shaking. He grits his teeth, his frustration building, because all throughout the day now he's been dealing with his disobedient body and he's grown rather sick of it. The headache from earlier today has grown from a light thrumming to a heavy stampede. His stomach is tight, with either nausea or muscle cramps, he doesn't know, and his body feels both hot and cold like twin faucets spilling scorching and freezing blood into his veins at the same time.

He doesn't think he's ever looked forward this much to going to bed in a long time.

(The last time was when he returned from the hospital with a swath of bandages wrapped around his face, to a house without a mother but instead with a father without anything – anyone – to hold him back, and Shouto was so overwhelmed with it all he ran to his bed and couldn't wait to sleep, determined to prove to himself that it was all just a bad dream and when he woke up everything would return to normal.)

The memory hits him so suddenly that Todoroki feels drained. I haven't thought of that in . . . he shakes his head; he doesn't want to think about it anymore. He sags into his seat, his body feeling boneless and limp. I just want to sleep.

The bus makes three more stops before it finally reaches the street adjacent to the dorms. Todoroki is so tired he has to force himself out of the seat when the doors open, and then has to force his feet to cooperate with him since they seem determined to trip him. Just take me to my bed, he almost pleads with them.

Bakugou is already a good few feet ahead of him, his steps awkward and clumsy because of his bare feet. Todoroki is tempted to ask him why he wasn't wearing any shoes in the first place before he remembers that Bakugou blew them off after his first explosive take off. The exercise, supplementary classes, Todoroki has to remind himself because it feels like that all happened days ago, even though he knows it was only less than an hour ago. I'm so damn tired.

Inside the dormitory, it is cool and bright, like a completely different world. The bodies and faces of who he supposes are his classmates all blur together, and instead of trying to decipher the reason for that Todoroki just moves his strained body forward and to his room.

Eventually it's not just the bodies and faces that blur together, but the entirety of his surroundings. Every step he takes distorts his vision. He feels weightless and heavy all at once, and knows for sure that gravity has a grudge against him since it's so unwavering in its mission to pitch him to the floor.

Just let me get to my room, Todoroki wants to scream at his body, at the world, at the universe. I'm almost there, but really, he doesn't know where he's wound up because wherever he is right now is just a mass of colors, of shapes without lines. He takes a step forward and his brain feels too big for his skull, another step and his stomach feels like it's crawling up his throat.

I can't, he finally decides when it just gets too much, when it feels like the world is dissolving and trying to take him with it. Another step and he knows with absolute certainty that his legs will give out and he'll go crashing to the floor.

(How pathetic, he thinks, but the voice in his head sounds an awful lot like his dad so he decides self-deprecation is not the best idea right now.)

In the haze of disorientation, he's managed to shuffle his way over to what he hopes is a couch. He tries to blink the shape into focus, but when that doesn't work he throws caution to the wind and he flops into its soft embrace, and God, was it soft.

He must have been quite the sight, but he doesn't care because he is comfortable and relaxed, and most importantly, no longer standing. He sinks into the cushions with a relief like no other, and already the tension in his body starts to bleed out. His ears are ringing with the warm buzzing going about in his head, and it's so soothing and so consistent that it starts lulling him to sleep.

I'll just sleep here, he decides when his eyes start to droop, his vision flickering like one of those old movies. I'll rest here . . . just for a little while . . . and when I wake up I'll feel as good as new . . . yeah . . .

But sleep never gets a chance to take him; his eyes slide shut and suddenly his shoulder is being shaken and a loud, "Todoroki!" is shouted directly into his face.

He is overwhelmingly tempted to ignore it, to pretend it's just his mind playing tricks on him, or even the start of some strange dream. His eyes are already closed, his mind buzzing like soft static, and the effort it would take to pull himself out of it is just not worth it. But the person shaking his shoulder is persistent, and every shake sends a shockwave of force up his spine, so finally he opens his eyes.

Kirishima's face greets him.

"Dude, finally. I've been calling out to you for forever. You literally just walked past me like I was invisible. The whole dormitory could hear me saying your name."

Todoroki has to blink a few times to make sure that it is Kirishima who was talking to him and not some weird figment of his imagination. After the eighth blink he confirms that yes, it is indeed his classmate. Kirishima is staring at him in earnest, eyes wide and with a bit of worry lining them. That's odd.

Todoroki pushes himself so he's sitting up. He mumbles a small, "sorry," because he doesn't really know how else to respond. The other boy is standing directly in front of him, wearing a shirt with the sleeves torn off and baggy pants. Todoroki frowns at that, in part because it's uncomfortably cold in here and that attire is clearly doing more harm than good, and because he could have sworn the rest of the class had hero training today.

He lets all that remain a mystery and watches Kirishima lean back with a smile, seemingly relieved that he responded at all. "Ha ha, no worries, man. You looked tired so I don't blame ya. Those supp' classes really kicking your ass, huh?"

"Yeah," Todoroki replies slowly because it sounds like the right thing to say. The words coming out of Kirishima's mouth sound garbled, almost like he was underwater, and Todoroki is tempted to ask him how he's doing that.

With awareness returning, he realizes he's in the common space and that it's empty, something that almost never happens. Todoroki shifts in the sofa, not wanting to appear too lax in front of his classmate. He's about to ask him why the common space is void of students sans him when Kirishima's attention shifts. There's a commotion happening behind him where the dining area is, and suddenly Kirishima perks up with a wide smile.

"Oi, Bakugou!" He waves over Todoroki's head excitedly. "There you are! I told you to text me when you were on your way back. We could have grabbed lunch or something, I was so bored."

Bakugou walks over to where the sofas are with a plate full of food. He throws Todoroki a dirty look before he settles in the seat furthest from him, propping his legs on the table and reaching for the TV remote. He doesn't appear to have heard Kirishima, or deliberately chose to ignore him, which is unusual because his voice was so loud that Todoroki can still hear the echoes in his head.

And just at the sight of Bakugou, Todoroki feels wariness wash over him five times over. Usually, on a good day after they return from their class, he would be granted the mercy of not having to interact with the other boy for the rest of the evening. They would either go to their respective rooms, or Todoroki would grab lunch with Midoriya and Iida, or Bakugou would go out to who knows where to do who knows what. It doesn't look like this will be the case.

Kirishima, on the other hand, feels the exact opposite; he doesn't seem to mind the loud, volatile boy. He goes over to Bakugou with his hands behind his head, then stops and cocks his head to the side. "Uh, dude? Where are your shoes? And why are your feet bleeding?"

"Fuck off." Bakugou grunts.

That makes Kirishima snort. "Did you really just go to the kitchen without any shoes on? That's so gross."

"You're gross, you spikey haired asshole!"

Kirishima laughs, but Todoroki doesn't see what's so funny. "I'm just messing with you, no need to pop a blood vessel. But man, I gotta say," he declares almost thoughtfully, looking back at Todoroki. "Every time you guys come back from those extra classes, you look worse and worse. Be honest; is Aizawa-sensei trying to kill you?"

"Those classes are a piece of fucking cake." Bakugou takes a mouthful of his burger and Todoroki has to look away, the sight of food making his stomach churn. He settles his chin on his chest and takes even breaths, mentally willing the two boys to go away so he can go back to sleep in peace.

That doesn't work, because Kirishima seems fixed on including him in the conversation. "Eh, I don't know. Todoroki here looks like he's been put through the wringer, don't ya?"

"That's cause he's weak as shit. Can't do a fucking thing right. Fucking useless."

"Oh, wow, that's a lot of insults. Did Aizawa-sensei make you guys work together again?"

"Ha fucking ha." He takes another bite. "Speaking of useless fuckers, where's the rest of the class?"

"We've got a new training area we're gonna start using tomorrow, so most of the class is there now to check it out. It's pretty far from here, so they should be gone for another hour or so."

"Thank fucking god," Bakugou says.

Kirishima misinterprets his relief; "Yeah, I know, we really needed the space, too, so we're all pretty hyped that Aizawa-sensei managed to get it for us. He says that it'll mean more intense classes and simulations, but I doubt he'll go as hard on us as he's going for you guys. Or maybe he will? Who knows, maybe I'll come back tomorrow looking worse than Todoroki! Ha!"

"Shouldn't be that hard."

Todoroki rolls his eyes before closing them. Maybe if he just tries to block them out, he can fall asleep. Hell, he really wants to sleep. His skin feels like it's crawling with a million hot ants, all trying to chew their way into his bones.

Kirishima continues. "Actually . . . you know, he really doesn't look good. Like, he looks really, really bad." He calls back loudly, "Hey, Todoroki? You alright, man?"

"Yes," he says without opening his eyes. He swims in an ocean of darkness and is in no rush to get out.

"You sure? Cause you look kind of awful. Like, you look really bad."

"You said that already, fuckhead!" Bakugou shouts, the annoyance sticking to every word. Todoroki can just hear the food spilling out of his mouth.

"But don't you think so, too?"

"I don't care." There's a click from the remote, and the television comes to life loudly.

"I think he's hurt. Are you hurt?"

Their voices float over in his mind lazily, and it takes a while before he's able to grasp Kirishima's question and figure out a correct response for it. "No." Any other time, he would be pretty annoyed if people were having a conversation about him right in front of him, without any consideration for him, but right now he's too tired to care.

(It used to happen often with his parents, when his mother was still living with him. They would always talk about him, while he stood in the middle; one telling the other what they thought was best for him. His father always won those arguments.)

Kirishima's voice is now unabashedly concerned. "I think he's hurt or something. He looks pretty out of it. Maybe he got hit pretty hard in the head in the class?"

Todoroki hears Bakugou snort loudly. "Yeah, when he was fucking born."

Suspiciously, Kirishima asks, "Did you hit him on the head?"

"I'll hit you on the fucking head!"

There's the soft sound of padded footsteps, and he feels a presence near him. "Hmmm, he looks pretty unscathed . . ." Kirishima hums thoughtfully, sounding very nearby, and

("You're being too hard on him," his mother almost always said, in the beginning, and Shouto loved when she said that, when she came to his defense, her hand on his head, his body pulled to her chest. But then his father would say, "Stop griping. The boy is unscathed." Which was true in a sense since his body was uninjured, but his father didn't see the exhaustion and burning fatigue that cut deep in his insides. Then there would be a tug, and he was pulled from his mother's warmth, and his father would say, "You're ruining all the work I put into him when you coddle him like that, making him weak and pathetic.")

when Todoroki opens his eyes, he finds that he is correct; Kirishima is towering over him with a thoughtful frown. "What are you doing?" He asks lowly, his voice uncharacteristically deeper and more ragged than usual. He swallows thickly, but the dryness in his mouth doesn't recede.

Kirishima doesn't realize that Todoroki is awake until he speaks up. The other boy straightens instantly and gives a sheepish smile. "Oops. Personal space and all that, right? My bad, my bad, just checking to make sure you're alright. Uh, do you feel alright?"

It throws Todoroki off a bit, those last few sentences. He stares at Kirishima's sincere face for a long time, wondering why the other boy would ask something like that, so frankly and without any predisposition.

"Yes," Todoroki finally answers when he realizes that Kirishima's concern is, while unwanted, completely and genuinely earnest. For good measure, he adds, "I'm just tired."

Kirishima doesn't seem to fully accept his answer, but before he can dwell on it, Bakugou shouts, "You guys are so fucking annoying! I can't hear shit from the TV!"

"Sorry, sorry!" Kirishima's attention is stolen once more, so Todoroki takes that chance to close his eyes. "You could have just stayed in the dining area if you didn't want to be bothered, you know."

"Those chairs are too fucking stiff."

"Oh." Kirishima pauses. "Then how about your room?"

"God fucking dammit I can't fucking eat in my room cause then I'll leave crumbs and fucking ants and shit will show up!"

A few small explosions sound after every other sentence and Todoroki knows his efforts to go to sleep here are futile. So he opens his eyes and watches Kirishima try to cover the smile that creeps over his face. "Heh. I never pegged you for a guy that's so conscious about cleanliness. Are you a closeted neat freak?"

"Are you fucking making fun of me!? I'll fucking kill you, shitty rock!"

"Dude, relax. You'll choke."

"I'll choke you!" Bakugou snarls, and then immediately almost chokes on his last word.

Kirishima bends over laughing, and opposite him Bakugou is red faced and fuming. This is usually how things play out when the two boys are in the same room; plenty of laughs at the expense of Bakugou. But today, Todoroki doesn't feel any of the amusement that their antics create, and decides if he really wanted to sleep – and he really, really wants to sleep – he wouldn't be able to do it here.

Since sitting on the sofa, Todoroki's already started to feel a bit better than earlier. He decides to give going to his room another go. He really believes he can make it there now. The image of his bed and those soft, warm covers are all the motivation he needs.

While Kirishima loudly tries to catch his breath and Bakugou feverishly downs a bottle of water, Todoroki sits up on the sofa. He flattens his feet on the floor, a hand gripping the armrest of the couch, and then pushes himself to his feet.

While standing, he realizes that, no, no, no, this was a terrible idea.

Terrible, terrible, terrible idea because what he thought would happen, which would be him standing up and walking to his room in the most fluid way possible, does not happen, not even a little – he isn't allowed even the luxury of actually standing because the second his knees try to straighten, the world decides to dive – it heaves to the side like a breaching whale, and it twists its entirety very much like one, and Todoroki feels himself plunge to the other side. Everything is white, white, white like sea foam, then it washes away and other colors start blending in, and still matching the enormity of a whale, the world splashes back into reality with the force stronger than a crashing wave, and Todoroki feels everything around him get swallowed in by the impact, and the floor rushes to meet him –

"Hey- Whoa, whoa, whoa!"

A hand clasps onto his arm tightly, another on his shoulder, and suddenly he's standing, but then his feet buckle and fold, and now he's on his knees –

"Holy crap, Todoroki!" Kirishima yells directly to his face, and Todoroki follows the arm that holds him and confirms that it's Kirishima that has him in such a death grip. The redheaded boy looks severely alarmed for some reason, with his wide eyes and pale face, and Todoroki is confused – confused about a lot of things, really, like why he was on kneeling on the floor, why the world was dancing around him, why his blood felt like it was boiling when a second ago he was cold –

"Hey!" Kirishima gives him a rough shake and Todoroki realizes his eyes are closing. A lot of things seemed to have just happened and Todoroki feels the residual of it all, but even so he can't quite place what exactly just happened, or why it did, or if he should be worried about it at all. Did I trip and fall down? He wonders, his mind seemingly refusing to factor in the shooting pains that are ripping apart the muscles in his legs, or the invisible snake that's coiling around his stomach.

Kirishima is searching his face, the smile he had on moments ago completely removed. "Shit, man, you are not alright. Are you

("She's unwell," he overheard his father telling his siblings when they asked what was wrong with their mother, why she didn't come home with him and Shouto. His sister then asked, because she was the bravest and strongest willed of all his siblings, "What do you mean? She didn't look hurt or sick yesterday. Why does she need to stay in the hospital?" and he watched from across the room as his father said, with a vague gesture to his head, "she's not right.")

sick or something? Todoroki?"

The memory plays in front of him like an old film, and when he blinks he is back in the present and staring at Kirishima's concerned face. Todoroki would very much like to not see either of those things, so he lifts his unbelievably heavy knee and pushes himself back onto his feet. "I . . . m'gonna go to my room now."

Kirishima stands with him, his grip never faltering, seemingly getting tighter as Todoroki rises. Breathlessly, he says a quiet, "shit . . . " and when Todoroki starts swaying dangerously to one side, he says it again, much louder, "Shit! Hey, hey, stop. Dude! You need to sit down. Sit down." But Todoroki doesn't want to sit down, he wants to lie down, on his bed and in his own room with the door closed. But Kirishima is relentless in his worry, and guides Todoroki back to the sofa. "Come on, just sit."

So Todoroki does.

He sits on the sofa heavily, like complete and utter deadweight. But internally he feels uncomfortably vigorous, like his sensory threshold has been blown apart. The room is bright and flushed with light, making everything in his immediate sight contrast with it, and the noises; everything is so loud and prominent, especially himself. He can hear his blood rushing like a turbulent rapid, can hear his heart hammering and hammering and hammering, hear his lungs expand and compress. But most distinctly, he can feel his skin; he can feel the heat that emits from it and feel it swell from the temperature, can feel it on his forehead and his cheeks and behind his neck, but that shouldn't make any sense at all because he's not warm – he's cold. He feels cold and chilled, and he knows he's cold too because he's shivering still and hasn't stopped since the bus ride home.

All these acute senses he feels in the span of two seconds. And in those painful, eternal two seconds, Kirishima has gingerly released his grip on him only to turn around and hiss with bewilderment, "What the hell, Bakugou!"

And through Todoroki's haze of blindness, he can make out Bakugou's even more bewildered face as he nearly sputters, "What!?"

Kirishima gestures wildly to Todoroki, like he was an expensive vase that Kirishima just came home to find broken on the floor when moments ago it was in pristine condition. "Why is he like this?"

"How the fuck should I know!?" Bakugou says, equally as animated, like he also just came home to find the broken vase and is now being blamed for its demise.

"You were with him all day." Kirishima stresses. He twists his head to look at Todoroki, grimaces, then looks back at Bakugou. "How could you miss that something is seriously wrong with him?"

"Why the fuck should I? I'm not his fucking mother. Besides, there's nothing wrong with him. Same old shitty fucking self."

"He just collapsed!"

Bakugou scowls, unimpressed. He wipes his mouth and hands with a napkin, then crumbles it. "Whatever. I'm done with this shit show."

When he stands, Kirishima immediately rounds on him. "Oh, no way, man. You can't leave."

"I sure as fuck

("You can't leave," his father said gruffly. "We're not finished here." But Shouto was finished; he was spent and drained, his body quivering from the consecutive exertion. He wanted to stop so badly and leave the training room, maybe go outside and see his siblings, maybe play a bit with the stray cat that likes to visit his yard, but his father said, "We're not finished here" and his word was law in this room. But a part of Shouto was still innocuous, still naïve, and with a foolish hope that only children can possess, he looked toward the door and waited for it to open, waited for his mother to walk in, because she was always the one that defended him, always opposed father in his extreme teachings, but of course, of course, of course, of course, it never did, not anymore.)

can," Bakugou counters flippantly.

Todoroki turns his gaze away from the door to watch as the two boys face each other, Kirishima's stance rigid with unease and nervous tension, Bakugou's slack with callous indifference, his shoulders a bit pointed with impatience. Todoroki wonders why they're standing and yelling and looking at each other like that when a second ago they were laughing and acting like complete idiots.

He notices that Kirishima keeps throwing anxious glances back at him, like he was going to disappear if he didn't keep a watchful eye on him. Todoroki wants to tell him not to worry, that he isn't going anywhere because the world hasn't stopped swimming yet. But then he wonders, in a haze of mismatched thoughts, why Kirishima felt the need to worry at all.

"You can't just leave him like this," Kirishima says, his voice low. He's moved closer to Bakugou, as if confiding a secret with the other boy.

"Yeah? Watch me."

"No, that's not – agh," Kirishima groans, his frustration apparent when Bakugou takes a step forward. Kirishima blocks his way with his body, then in that same cryptic voice, he says slowly. "Just listen for a second, dude. What I mean is you can't leave because you're somewhat . . . responsible."

Bakugou immediately shouts, "I didn't do shit to that little fucker!"

"Yes, OK! I get that, I get it, but I mean like, ah, crap," he scratches at his wild hair. He starts again, holding out his hands passively as he explains in a delicate tone, "Listen. You were with him all day and never noticed anything was off, right?"

"Why the hell should I even –"

"Just! Just . . . just humor me a little."

"Fine! Yes, I didn't notice shit. Get to the fucking point."

"My point is . . . he could be seriously hurt. Don't you think it's a little counterproductive that you, the guy who's taking extra hero classes to be a hero, just up and ignores someone who needs help? No offense, but isn't that how you failed the Provisional License Exam in the first place?"

Todoroki picks up bits and pieces of Kirishima's words and frowns at what he manages to understand. He tries to say, "I don't need help," but his words are horribly slurred and his throat is terribly dry so it comes out more like "I'dunn n'hah" in a wheezing whisper.

The others don't pay him in any mind. Bakugou's eyes have narrowed at Kirishima's rationale, and it's apparent that he is allowing some of it to sink in. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying . . . how do you think Aizawa-sensei is gonna take it when he finds out Todoroki here ended up in the hospital, and you

(And one day, when Shouto was feeling incredibly brave and lonely at the same time, he went up to his father and said, "I want to go see Mom in the hospital", and he was so proud of himself after the final word, because he didn't stutter, his voice didn't break, and he didn't even phrase it as a question, but like a demand. Of course, he was incredibly frightened throughout it all, and he'd been practicing in front of the mirror before the inevitable confrontation, but he did it and he did it perfectly and there was no way father was going to refuse him. Only his father didn't refuse him, not outright, no, he just gave Shouto a cold look and said, "She doesn't want to see you.")

didn't even do anything about it? He's gonna think, oh, here's a guy that wants to be a hero but couldn't even lift a finger to help someone that was right next to him? Nope, not cut out to be a hero."

Todoroki, now with a sudden black string of anxiety laced around his throat, slurs out, "Not going to the hospital," but the two boys are too enthralled in their own conversation to even hear him.

"You're saying this is a test?" Bakugou is asking, and if Todoroki is really paying attention, he could probably hear the bit of alarm hiding behind those words. He points an angry finger at Todoroki. "This fucker's faking it?"

"No! No, Todoroki is definitely not OK; I feel like we've already established this. I mean, just look at him." Now they're both facing him, and every time Kirishima meets Todoroki's half lidded eyes, the boy grimaces. "Everything about him is screaming that something is wrong. He's sweating like crazy! That's not something you can fake, first of all. And secondly, well . . . just look at the rest of him. He looks all kinds of wrong."

"Then what," Bakugou demands impatiently, "are you saying?"

Kirishima looks nervous, and if Todoroki is really, really paying attention here too, he could probably see that Kirishima is actually not nervous about Bakugou's wrath like it seemed, but instead nervous that his misdirection would go over Bakugou's head and it would all be for naught.

So Kirishima keeps up his nervous expression and says, with a bit of hesitation here and there, "Just that . . . I don't know, like, maybe . . ."

"Maybe what? That Aizawa is gonna grade this whole thing? That I might fucking fail again because of this stupid asshole?"

But Todoroki isn't paying attention because he's too tired to focus on the facial queue and body language that Kirishima emits, all that clearly show that the wild haired boy has successful drove home a thought into Bakugou's mind, a thought, an idea really, that is probably the only one of its kind that can actually motivate Bakugou to stick around and help.

Kirishima clears his throat softly. He moves his eyes this way and that way, pretending that that wasn't exactly what he was saying, pretending that he wasn't trying to get Bakugou to come up with that idea on his own. "Well . . . I'm saying it's not gonna look good . . . for you."

There's a lengthy pause.

Bakugou stares at Kirishima intently, searching his face to see if he is serious, then he twists his head and glares at Todoroki, searching his face to see if he actually is in some kind of distress. His mouth curls, and he moves the glare to Kirishima, and slowly, recognition and comprehension settle into his expression . . . but that only stays on for a split second before the ever familiar frustration takes over, and then –


Bakugou slams a fist onto the sofa. Todoroki winces, not because this is going to be the third couch this week that Bakugou has ruined with his quirk and will ultimately lead to the whole class getting a lecture on respecting the dormitory furniture; he winces because the sound of that small explosion that leaves a palm sized burn mark on the couch was so unnaturally loud that it sends a shockwave down his spine.

"This is so fucking stupid!" Bakugou roars.

"Dude, relax. It's probably not that bad."

"You just said all this shit about how he's dying and how I'm going to blamed for it!"

"He's not dying– "

"If I fail because he dies I'm going to fucking kill you!"

"He's not going to die," Kirishima says with an exaggerated eye roll. "We just need to figure out what's wrong with him and fix him. That's all."

"The fuck? We? What's with this 'we' crap? Why are you even here in the first place?"

That's something Todoroki would like to know as well. Why were the both of them here? Why are they fixated on remaining here and bothering him with their incessant arguing over who knows what? Can't they see Todoroki just wants to be alone and

(He sat on his bed with all the blinds pulled closed. He hated being alone, he hated it, he hated it, hated it, hate, hate, hate – he missed his mother, missed her voice and her presence, missed those short years when his quirk hadn't manifested yet and he was still allowed to play with his siblings. He hated being by himself, hated being alone with his father because that was worse, hated those days where the training was so excruciating that he'd be sent to his room to sleep it off, but he would never actually sleep because he ached so badly but more prominently because he was so bitter; bitter and resentful at everything, but mostly because tonight was going to be another night of him being alone, another night by himself and his bitter thoughts, and he hated it.)

sleep. His eyelids feel like they were a thousand times their weight, and opening them after a slow blink required an unusual amount of effort.

Kirishima makes a very offended noise. "What? Come on, don't joke! We're friends, friends help each other out! Plus, Todoroki's my friend too and I don't like seeing him like this."

"You guys aren't friends. You barely even fucking talk to each other."

"We totally are friends! We had a very manly bonding moment during your rescue mission! Hey, Todoroki, we're friends, right?"

("She wouldn't want to see you like this," his sister told him with sad eyes after he confided in her that he'd like to see his mother. It had been months since he'd last seen her, and he was afraid he might start forgetting what she looked like. The last face he'd seen her make was one of complete . . . revulsion, and just thinking about it sent a horrible chill into his legs. But he was sure she wouldn't look at him like that anymore. . . surely she would have forgiven him by now for whatever it was that made her so upset. And the doctors said his face was completely healed, although the scarring would never leave, but that was OK because it didn't hurt anymore and he wanted to show his mother it didn't hurt anymore and that he was fine now. He told his sister all that and more, but with her small, sad eyes, she looked at him and shook her head, "I'm sorry, Shouto. I don't think it would be a good idea . . . she wouldn't want to see you like this. It would hurt her . . . do you understand . . . ?")

"Yes," Todoroki says to his sister, because he didn't understand before but now he does. He understands it with a type of clarity that he didn't and couldn't have when he was younger, a clarity that can only be achieved through methodical thinking and a tragic sort of insight.

Kirishima exclaims a proud, "See!" and Todoroki startles a bit, unknowingly pulled back from the hazy illusion of the past and thrown into the vivid and disorganized present. He blinks wildly, wondering where his sister went. He notices Bakugou and Kirishima staring at him, their expressions contrasting each other. The dull throbbing in his head becomes more pronounced.

"He's fucking deranged. Probably doesn't even know who you are." Bakugou says after an uncomfortable silence, turning to face Kirishima. "And don't call it a rescue mission! I didn't need to be fucking rescued and I sure as hell wasn't!"

But Kirishima's gaze lingers on. "He does look a bit out of it . . . Do you think he might be sick?"

It seems like their mouths are moving faster than the words are coming out, and it occurs to Todoroki after a very long time that the two boys are talking about him. He tries to remember the bits and pieces of conversation he picked up from them, to figure out exactly what it is they are discussing, because as far as Todoroki is concerned he hasn't done or said anything exceptionally interesting to warrant them dedicating an entire discussion to him.

They're worried about you, his mind finally supplies, and Todoroki thinks that cannot possibly be true because simply the very idea of it is ludicrous. First of all, why would they be worried? It's clear that Bakugou isn't worried, that's for sure, but Kirishima looks rigid with concern. But why, Todoroki wonders, a bit irritated. He's fine. He's just tired, is all. Sure, he feels uncomfortable in his overheated skin, and the faintest breeze of air makes him shiver, and the banging in his head hasn't slowed or ceased, and his bones feel like they're made of wires, and his lungs feel like paper, and his limbs feel like they've got rocks in them – but he's fine.

His mouth finally works and he goes to tell them all that, but all that comes out is a mumble of, "I'm just tired."

"See, he's just tired. Don't know fucking why when he didn't do jack shit today," Bakugou mutters, crossing his arms.

"I don't think . . . " Kirishima is saying, but Todoroki can't hear the rest of it; a blaring white noise muzzles all the sound around him, and Todoroki watches as Kirishima's and Bakugou's mouths move silently.

His surroundings start oozing again, morphing into something unfamiliar. Todoroki closes his eyes, feeling incredibly nauseous. Even behind his eyelids he can feel the world twisting and turning. His heart thrums loudly, pumping scorching hot blood into his body. I think I'm evaporating, he realizes.

He opens his eyes and announces in a drunken slur, "I'm going to bed," because that sounds like the only possible solution to all this. Why didn't he think of it earlier? He doesn't hear himself say the words; he feels them tumble out of his mouth, his tongue ten times its normal size.

He can't see Kirishima and Bakugou through the murky fog and neither can he hear them. He wonders if they finally left. The saturation of the common area has been bled dry, Todoroki notices; everything is a dull black, white, and gray. Colorless and cold. He shudders. Suddenly, like a switch flicking on in his head, he feels panic overwhelm him.

I don't want to stay here.

He lurches to his feet instantly.

Someone shouts at him. The monochrome world shuts down, goes completely dark. Everything is black. His skull is shattering like glass, pieces of the bone chipping away and trickling down his throat, his heart, his lungs, his stomach. The floor disappears and he's falling, falling, falling, falling. The impact never comes but that somehow feels worse.

Lights flash and noises become louder, and he gasps loudly, his vision returning so suddenly that a sharp pain assaults the sides of his brain. Todoroki grits his teeth. Feeling returns to his body nimbly, like his nerves were made up of a million little bugs and they were all swarming back inside him. He notices that he's half on the floor, half leaning on the sofa. That's not right. He was supposed to be standing, going to his room. He tries again.

"Shit! Dude, please stay down." Someone says frantically, while someone else shouts, "Stop doing that, fucking idiot! Stay down!" Hands are pushing him back down, but no, he doesn't want to stay here. He wants to leave. "Oh crap, crap, crap. He is definitely not just tired. The guy can't even stand. What do we do? Todoroki, can you hear me? God, he's burning up, too!"

No I'm not, Todoroki thinks with a frown. I'm cold. It's cold in here. I'm freezing.

"What the fuck then?" A vicious voice asks. "I'm no doctor, and you sure as fuck aren't. Call Recovery Girl and have her deal with this shit."

"Recovery girl's not here. Come on, man! I explained this to you when you came in! The guys went to test out the new training grounds we'll be using tomorrow and Aizawa-sensei and Recovery Girl went with them to supervise them or something."

"Is that why that fucker left so early? Why hell is he trying to teach two classes at the same time?"

"I think we have more important things to worry about here!"

His vision is losing its vibrancy. Everything is becoming fuzzy, and all the yelling and panic taints the air, sucking it of its color, and Todoroki thinks, no, no, no, I don't want that memory, but his mind is cruel and merciless.

"Whatever, fine. Fuck them. Call an ambulance then."

("Call an ambulance!" his sister shouted to anyone who was listening, over his hysterical screaming and his mother's frantic crying and his siblings' terrified whimpering, but none of those noises were as loud as the pain in his face because it hurt oh God it hurt so much, he was melting, his face was melting –)

Todoroki groans loudly, squeezing his eyes shut. No, not that, he begs his mind. He doesn't want to remember that. Anything but that.

"That's gonna create so much commotion," a voice that sounds an awful lot like Kirishima says. "Can you imagine an ambulance here, after the fiasco the academy had to deal with in the beginning of the semester? We're gonna have the whole school plus news reporters swarm the place trying to find out what happened. Aizawa-sensei is not gonna like that."

"Fucking hell, fine! Then call his fucking dad and let him deal with him."

("I called dad," one of his siblings said over all the noise, over the screaming and crying and whimpering, and whoever said it, it must have been his oldest brother but he wasn't so sure, whoever said it had said it in such a small, terrified voice, but it was the words that caught all their attentions and not the volume, and everyone stopped, and they all stopped breathing, and –)

"No," Todoroki blurts out. His heart is beating so fast, his words in sync with the rhythm . "I'm fine. I'm- don't call anyone. I'm fine. Just- I'm just tired."

On the floor of his bleakly lit kitchen, Kirishima is kneeling beside him, Bakugou standing over them, his mother on one side holding on to the countertop with a grip like death. Kirishima says doubtfully, "I feel you, man, I really do, but if you could just see yourself I swear you wouldn't be saying that. Ah, crap, Bakugou, I really think we should call someone."

( – then his mother's voice rose, a deathly mixture of white terror and blind panic wrapping around every word, "NO! N-No, don't call your father! Don't call him. Everything is fine! It's fine, it's fine – Shouto! Shouto, honey, sweetheart, please, please, please don't cry! It's alright – you're going to be fine! Don't call him! DON'T! Please –" )

"Then call someone already, fuck!" Bakugou fumes.

"But who? Aizawa-sensei and Recovery Girl aren't here, and if we call them it'll take them too long to get here –"

"We're not calling Aizawa!" Bakugou cuts in harshly. "You call him and tell him to come and by the time he gets here this fucker's gonna be even worse!" There's a small, incremental pause before Bakugou hurriedly adds, "and then I'll get fucked over because Aizawa will see that and blame me for not doing something earlier! God damn it."

"Then what else do we do? Oh man, he's really warm. Like a freakin' stove! Look how red he is! We need to figure something out, slow this down, whatever this is. Maybe we can call Midoriya and ask –"

"Don't you

( – don't tell him. If he finds out – if he – if he – if he – " and then with the one eye he has open, he watched his mother fall to her knees, hand on her chest, watched his older sister grab her shoulders and yell, "Mom? Mom? Mom? Breathe, Mom, please!" then twist her head and shout "I told you to call an ambulance! Not dad!" And Shouto writhed on the floor, his sobbing becoming fast and hitched and uncontrollable and the pain becoming so fierce and wild, his hands twitching to hold his face to relieve the pain but that only made it worse – )

fucking dare. You call that goddamn nerd and you'll be the one that ends up in the fucking hospital."

"But he might know how to fix this!"

"Shut the fuck up! Stop freaking out like he's dying of the damn plague! You want to know how to fix this? I'll fucking show you how to fix this." Suddenly, Bakugou leans over and grabs Todoroki's shirt collar, heaving him to his feet, and Todoroki is instantly light headed and dizzy, and he hears Kirishima shout, "Oi! What are you doing!" but Bakugou ignores him.

Instead, he glares at Todoroki and shouts, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

He wonders why that question sounds so familiar, wonders why that question makes his mind feverishly search for an answer, but he can't figure it out. Maybe that's better. Maybe it's better if he never acknowledges the question, never supplies an answer. Maybe it's better for everyone. It is better for everyone.

"N-Nothing," Todoroki strains to say. "I'm . . . I'm

(and from the other side of the room, his mom moved her own hand, as if reaching for him. A broken and false smile meant to be reassuring was plastered on her face as she said, "Shouto, Shouto, honey – you're fine. You're fine. Please, please, you're fine, OK? Don't cry, please don't cry. PLEASE! You're alright! Shouto! You're alright! You're )


Yeah. Yeah, yeah. He's fine. Of course. He knows that. If he's fine than everyone is fine. He has to be fine. He is fine.

Bakugou gives him a harsh shake. "Stop being annoying, you fuckhead! Goddammit, I'm not gonna let you drag me down with you! If you want to kill yourself that's your own business –"

"Bakugou!" Kirishima hisses.

"– but I am not going to take the fall for it! Now spit it out! What's your problem?"

Kirishima pulls off Bakugou's hands and Todoroki sags onto the couch. "Dude, you need to relax. You're not helping."

"At least I'm doing something here!"

"Stop yelling! God, if the entire school wasn't already use to your screaming, this place would be crawling with nosy people. Hey, Todoroki."

He blinks at his name and looks to who was addressing him this time. Kirishima, of course. His hair is so red, Todoroki notices with a sort of dizzy fascination. It was almost blinding.

"Todoroki," Kirishima says again, holding his gaze. "I think you're getting sick, or you are sick. I don't know, but you're not looking good, and we don't want you getting worse. Can you just tell us how you're feeling, so we can help?"

( fine, you're fine, you're alright," and then his sister gave his mother's shoulders a vicious shake and the ranting came to a stuttering halt. "Mom, Mom. Mom! Please, you need to calm down, you need to r-relax. Shouto needs help. He's hurt," and Shouto's crying has changed to a sort of keening noise, like a wounded animal, and his other siblings are huddled around him, hands outstretched but not touching because they're afraid to do more harm, and Shouto thought that was not possible. There was nothing they can do that was more painful than this. This was absolute )

"Feeling," Todoroki repeats, tasting the word. How he was feeling? Todoroki thinks that's too loaded a question. First and foremost, it's a question that begs for an answer that is straightforward and simple, and Todoroki just doesn't have that. He is feeling all sorts of things, emotions and pains and discomforts. He is feeling


too many things at once.

He swallows thickly. He tries to pinpoint at one of those feelings, the one that is the most outstanding, and when he finds it, he mumbles, "I feel . . . like I'm melting."

"Melting?' Kirishima parrots. He looks at Bakugou, but he only supplies a "What the fuck?" and gives his own stumped expression.

"What do you mean?" Kirishima asks. "Melting as in . . . as in what, exactly? I don't really know what you mean. Can you explain it a little more? Todoroki, what

("Shouto," his sister called out, frantic. He flinched and curled tighter. The pain on his face seemed like it was spreading throughout his body. He moaned louder. "Shouto, please, I need you to show me your face. Let me see it!" But Shouto shook his head, because, because, because, because)

("Enough! Don't complain about the pain, Shouto! If it hurts, then you're making progress! It needs to hurt!")

(no, no, no, that wasn't not why . . . was it? Was it?)

else are you feeling?"

Todoroki closes his eyes, his head shaking. He feels pain and hurt, but has no idea where all of it was progressing towards. He feels so terrible and awful but he doesn't want to say that, doesn't want to tell anyone that, because he knows that if he's fine, if he's fine and alright and fine, then, then everyone else will be fine and alright. Yeah. The static noise in his head becomes louder when Kirishima and Bakugou start speaking.

"Did he pass out again?"

"I don't think so . . . what does he mean by melting?"

"How the fuck should I know? I'm telling you, he's completely delusional. Has no idea what the hell he's talking about."

"Maybe he meant it literally, you know? I mean, he is sweating an awful lot even though the air conditioning is on. I think he might have a fever."

A hand is placed on his forehead and someone yelps in pain and the hand is removed just as quickly. Todoroki grimaces at the heat it left on his forehead, and the ringing noise in his head gets thicker.

(A phone was ringing. "Dad's calling," his brother said, and his sister shouted "Shut up!" at the same time his mother shouted, "Don't answer it!" and Shouto put his hands over his ears and tried to block out all their voices.)

"He's burning up!" Kirishima's voice exclaims. "Holy shit, I think I actually burned my hand. Look! My palm is red! Ow!"

"Wait, shut up, shut up." Bakugou says rapidly, with the smallest sense of urgency. A tense silence follows where the only things Todoroki hears are his two classmates even breathing and his own ragged ones. Then Bakugou starts talking again, and even with his eyes closed he knows Bakugou is speaking to him. "Oh, you've got to be fucking kidding me. You really are a fucking idiot, aren't you? Fucking hell."

(The tears that stream down his left cheek feel like they're made of lava. His sister was trying to calm his mother, but even she was starting to look equal parts as frazzled, and it was the first time he heard her curse, heard her lose her cool, heard her fear, "Mom, please, please, we need to help Shouto. What do we do? Fuck, fuck! What do we . . . we need . . . need)

"What? What is it?" Kirishima asks. "Do you know what's wrong with him?"

Bakugou snorts. "He's a dumbass, that's what's wrong with him."

"Bakugou!" the other boy hisses. "Be serious!"

"I'm dead fucking serious. You remember the Sports Festival, his fight with that nerd, Deku? How he kept using his ice and got slow and sluggish?"

"What? I mean, yeah, but what does that have to do –"

"Same shit is happening now, only it's from using his fire too much, which is what he's been doing all day. Tch. Fucking idiot. He could'a fixed himself this entire time if he just took his head out of his ass and used his

("Ice!" His oldest sister nearly screamed, latching onto the word like it was a lifeline. "Ice! He – He needs ice. Shouto? Shouto, can you hear me? Use your quirk and –Shouto! Are you listening! Damn it!")

ice." Bakugou hisses the last word mockingly. Todoroki swallows, but his throat remains parched and rough, and no noise comes out his mouth when he tries to ask Bakugou "What are you talking about?" because Todoroki doesn't need ice. He's not bruised or burned or injured, why would he need ice?

"His ice?" Kirishima asks doubtfully. Then, more assuredly, "Are you saying he's . . . overheated?"

"Obviously," Bakugou scowls "Aizawa made him use his fire all day today. This dumbass probably never bothered to regulate his body temperature. He's probably got heat exhaustion. Probably a heatstroke. I told you he was an idiot."

"Todoroki, did you hear that?" Kirishima is shaking his shoulder again. Todoroki tries to push him away but his hands just flop back down when he tries to raise them, but Kirishima gets the message. He sits himself next to Todoroki and grabs him by both shoulders. "Todoroki. You with me? Listen, you need to use your ice quirk. You need to cool yourself down, you're too warm. Do you understand?"

Todoroki hears the words but can't, for the life of him, instill meaning to them. He shakes his head.

"Use your ice," Kirishima says again. "Your right side. Ice."

"Ice," Todoroki repeats slowly, but hearing that word makes him grimace. "I don't . . . No, I'm cold, I can't . . ."

"Trust me, you're not cold. You're feverish, you just think you're cold. You're burning up so badly you're steaming."

Todoroki's right hand twitches. He doesn't want to use his ice – he doesn't want to be colder than he already is. Can't they see he's already cold? Why would they want him to be colder? It doesn't make any sense. Nothing seems to be making sense.

Bakugou's voice is an avalanche of annoyance and frustration, "Goddammit! Why aren't you doing anything? Hurry up and use your ice! Fuck! Let's just throw him in the freezer or something!"

(Shouto curled away from his sister's words and thought, no, no, no, no more quirks, no more fire or ice or anything. I don't want any of it. I don't want to feel anything. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. And his sister made a frustrated noise and told one of his siblings, "Just grab a pack of ice from the freezer! Now! Hurry!")

"Dude, no." Kirishima says, exasperated. "What we need to do is be calm and help him understand."

"Fuck that." Bakugou gives his knees a kick and Todoroki startles. "Oi, Half-and-Half bastard. You're half cold for a fucking reason, aren't you? Use that damn quirk already!"

Todoroki blanches because he hears Bakugou's words and understands them at the same time, but there's a huge, booming voice in his mind telling him not to do it, and when he asks that voice for a reason why, he isn't given one.

Bakugou gives him another kick, harder. "Ice. Now."

He bites his lip. His right hand is shaking, as if begging to be used, but the voice in his head is telling him not to, and another voice, Bakugou's voice, is demanding that he does, and his mother and siblings are crying, and there's water all over the floor, and the kettle is laying on its side in the center of the room, and the stove is still lit and the fire is still dancing, and he hears the front door open –

(A pack of ice was pushed onto his face – )

He curls his right hand and summons his ice.

(Shouto screamed.)

His body screams and the world explodes in white.

There's twin shouts of surprise coming from somewhere, somewhere, somewhere where he is, wherever he is, because he can't see anything – everything is white, white, white, and his body feels white; it feels numb and rigid with nothingness, there's no feeling. He can't feel anything; he's not hot or cold or warm or chilled or anything.

And Todoroki, in the blazing nothingness his mind has thrown him into, thinks, this is fine, this is good, this is the right temperature.

"Oh c-c-c-crap," someone says, and then someone else says, "That fu-fu-fu-fucking moron! He did that on p-p-purpose!" and then he hears small explosions go off, pop, pop, pop, hears something shatter, crack, crack, crack, and someone says, "You d-d-d-did tell him to u-u-use it, though," and someone else says, "sh-sh-sh-sh-shut up" and Todoroki hears his heart beat quickly in the background, bu-dum, bu-dum, bu-dum, bu-dum, and the white, white, white, world pulses along with it, and someone says, "d-d-d-did it work-k-k?" and someone else says, "I d-d-d-don't know. I think he p-p-passed out," and someone else says, "I th-th-th-think he looks worse, B-B-Bakugou! Oh s-s-shit, I th-th-think we m-m-messed up," and someone else says, "fu-fu-fuck."

("He's shaking," his other sister said, and his mother put her hands over her face, like she didn't want to look at him. "He's shaking real bad." His eldest sister finally came over to him, and she put her arm around him, her hand on his head, his body pulled to her chest – )

"I th-th-think we should call someone n-n-now," one of the voices says, the words high and sharp and scared. "He's sh-sh-shaking pretty badly. I do-do-don't think he sh-should be doing that."

(–"You're ruining all the work I put into him when you coddle him like that, making him weak and pathetic.")

Todoroki's white, white, white world starts flickering, crumbling, falling apart, and the voices fall away along with it, and he thinks, not rhetorically, something is wrong with me.

( – whispered comforting words, and she was so warm, so warm, so warm, so warm. His last thought before succumbing to the merciful blackness of unconsciousness was, this is fine, this is good, this is the right temperature.)

Then the white turns to black –























"I'm so sorry," His mother whispered into his hair. She was hugging him so tightly. He was holding on to her so tightly. He missed it. He missed it so much. So much. So much. Her touch. It was so warm. So much love. There was so much love in it. He didn't want to let go. Please, don't let go. Please, please don't let go. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Shouto. My Shouto. I'm so, so sorry."



















Suddenly, he is awake.

Awake? I was asleep? He thinks.

Everything is quiet and dark.

But it wasn't before? He asks himself. Right?

Todoroki feels . . . something.

He doesn't know how to explain it, yet.

He doesn't . . . he can't think right, he realizes.

His thoughts are . . . floating around his head, like clouds, scattered, very high up. He tries to reach one of them . . . but they're too far away, and he's tired.

He opens his eyes . . . no, they're already open, it's just dark in here. Here? Where was here? Before, he was somewhere else, somewhere bright and loud, and there were people there, too . . . yeah, he was with people and it was bright. That sounds right.

He breathes in deeply and slowly, slowly, his body starts waking up as well and slowly, slowly, he becomes aware. He's aware of the bed he's lying in . . . aware of the thin blanket over his chest, aware of the foreign clothes he's wearing . . . aware of the needle that's poking his forearm and the bag of clear liquid hanging over his head it's connected to.

He's also aware of the person sitting on the chair in the corner of the room, and even more so aware that the person looks an awful lot like Aizawa-sensei.

"Welcome back," the person that looks like Aizawa-sensei says. His voice carries, seemingly bouncing back and forth against the walls like a blind bird.

Todoroki closes his eyes and swallows, then replies automatically, "Thank you." His voice is surprisingly strong, albeit a bit haggard, but it's louder than he thought it would be and his throat doesn't burn after the words came out. For some reason he remembers it doing that, before. He asks, "Where did I go?"

The person that looks like Aizawa-sensei looks amused by that. He stands up, and now Todoroki is almost positive this person wasn't Aizawa-sensei because the person suddenly multiplies and there are ten of him standing in the room, all moving at the same time, and Todoroki knows for sure that Aizawa-sensei was never able to do that before.

The ten Aizawa-sensei look-alikes stand by the foot of his bed, and when Todoroki blinks, the ten clones are reduced to eight. This close, Todoroki deduces that this is indeed Aizawa-sensei, and that the man must have acquired some sort of cloning quirk while he was sleeping. That's the only explanation, Todoroki affirms.

"Away." Aizawa-sensei answers dully, but Todoroki has already forgotten the question and just blinks. "How are you feeling? Tired, I'm guessing?"

He nods. Tired, yes. That sounds right. He is tired. His head feels like it's stuffed with cotton and wool and a bunch of other soft things that make him feel heavy and warm. He's definitely tired, but that's strange; didn't he just wake up from sleeping? He should be well rested, not tired.

"Yeah, that's to be expected. Do you remember what happened?"

Something happened? Todoroki racks his brain and tries to remember, but it's like there's a giant white wall in his head, blocking his path to his memories, and the more he tries to get past it, the more painful his head feels. So he just shakes his head.

"I doubt you do. You'll remember better in the morning, though, don't worry." The eight Aizawa-sensei's are revolving around each other. Todoroki feels dizzy. "But in the meantime, you should know that you gave a lot of people a lot of trouble."

"Oh," Todoroki says lamely. He doesn't really have a better response than that. He doesn't doubt Aizawa-sensei since he clearly remembers people shouting at him angrily, but he couldn't remember what exactly it was that he did that made him so troublesome.

Aizawa-sensei is watching him intently, his stare seemingly boring into him, trying to read him. Under the gaze, Todoroki feels small. "Do you know what a heatstroke is, Todoroki?"

That's when the giant wall in his head, the one blocking his path to his memories, starts breaking apart, piece by piece, and Todoroki begins to remember the events from earlier, events from hours ago, days ago, years ago, remembers how he was feeling earlier in the day, month, year, remembers what all the yelling and shouting was about. He swallows again but doesn't answer.

"It's when your body overheats from prolonged exposure to high temperatures," Aizawa-sensei answers for him, his tone flat, but there's a deathly somberness that undertones each word. "It's got a range of symptoms that go along with it, too, like nausea, headaches, altered mental states and the like. But you're a smart kid, you know all that already, right?"

Todoroki shudders, but nonetheless nods.

The multiple Aizawa-sensei's become transparent, overlapping one another, and when Todoroki blinks, only one remains. In the darkness, his eyes seem to be glowing.

"Bakugou and Kirishima brought you in to the hospital six hours ago. You've been unconscious since. Recovery Girl told me that you were very close to risking vital organ damage, that your brain had already started to swell up a bit. If your classmates hadn't brought you in when they did you might have suffered some serious and permanent damage."

A part of Todoroki, somehow, impossibly, knows this, but it doesn't make hearing it any easier. So for a second time, he says a quiet, "Oh."

"But they did bring you in on time, obviously, so you're out of the woods now. Recovery Girl said all you need is rest and plenty of water for the next few days before you're back to normal. She also said for you to not get worked up, so neither you nor her will like what I have to say next."

Todoroki frowns, suddenly nervous. Aizawa-sensei squats beside his bed so that their eyes were leveled, and his skin crawls at how quickly Aizawa-sensei's expression shifts, from casual indifference to irate dismay.

"Your actions today have been nothing short of juvenile and irresponsible, Todoroki, and considering you have your sights on becoming a hero makes it downright senseless," Aizawa-sensei says gravely, like a judge reading out a prisoner's crimes before the execution. "Not only did you put yourself in danger, but your classmates as well. Honestly, when it comes to irresponsible usage of one's quirk, I would expect this kind of stupidity to come from Midoriya or even Bakugou, but for you to act this idiotically was a very disappointing surprise. I would ask you what you were thinking, but it's quite clear you weren't thinking at all. Am I wrong?"

Todoroki didn't know he was holding his breath throughout it all until he breathed out. Every word makes his stomach heavy and his chest sting, and he feels the claws of claustrophobia scratch at his neck.

"No," Todoroki answers miserably. The words scrape out of his neck. "You're not."

Aizawa shakes his head. "I'm starting to think that there's some kind of bug going around the school that's making this class incapable of asking for help." Then he focuses on Todoroki again, "There were so many opportunities available for you to avoid this all from happening, but you didn't take any of them. Especially in the beginning, before we started the exercise. You knew this would happen but didn't tell me –"

"I didn't know this would happen," Todoroki blurts out, even though he knows he shouldn't interrupt people when they're talking because it was incredibly rude, but he couldn't help it, he can't help it, because his head hurts and his insides are rotting and he can't handle being reprimanded right now, in that disappointing tone, because it was too close to the reprimands he's received before, too close to the other disappointed looks, disappointed tones. He wonders if all those thoughts are being displayed in his expression because Aizawa is giving him an odd look. In a smaller voice, Todoroki adds, "Not . . . entirely."

Aizawa-sensei stares at him silently for a very long moment. The silence is exponentially louder than any sound he's ever heard. He feels like he's suffocating. Aizawa says, "You didn't know this would happen, but you did know your limitations."

It isn't a question but Todoroki nonetheless answers. "Yes."

In the darkness, Aizawa's dark clothes and dark hair make him seem like some ominous thing floating in the dead of night. "I'd like to think you're not stupid, Todoroki. You know your body is made differently because of your quirk; that you're able withstand temperatures that would otherwise be considered extreme and even dangerous to normal people. That's only possible because you have the capacity to regulate these temperatures, but even with that, your body has its limits, and you pushed them today. You know this."

"I know." And he really does, because looking back now, a part of him was striving for that, in the beginning, striving to see how far he can push himself beyond his limits, how far he can push his left side, to see how far it would go for him, to see how much of it he can endure . . .

"Then why did you not put that knowledge to work?"

He bites his lip. Hard. He doesn't answer.

"Todoroki," Aizawa-sensei says his name gently. "Was there a reason why you didn't use your cold side to regulate your body temperature, when you knew from the start that that would prevent this all from happening?"

Todoroki winces. He searches his memories for that reason, because he knows, somewhere deep down, there was a reason for it –

("Enough! Don't complain about the pain, Shouto! If it hurts, then you're making progress! It needs to hurt!")

His stomach lurches violently. He can feel himself break out into cold sweat, so he swallows thickly and tries to get his reactions in order.

"Yes," he answers. "There was."

Under the thin blanket, his hands are shaking.

"Alright," Aizawa-sensei says slowly. He doesn't prod for more. Todoroki wouldn't have given him more even if he did. The man leans in and then asks, "And was there a reason why you didn't ask for help?"

("Shouto, Shouto, honey – you're fine. You're fine. Please, please, you're fine, OK? Don't cry, please don't cry. PLEASE! You're alright! Shouto! You're alright!")

"Yes," Todoroki rasps.

The memories sound a million miles away, but even so he can still hear them, and that alone barrages him with a torrent of emotions and feelings. His chest is tight and heavy, and Todoroki would very much like to wake up from all this now. But this isn't a dream, and the memories don't get any quieter when Aizawa-sensei asks, "And will these reasons continue to prevent you from asking for help in the future?"

And Todoroki thinks that's a good question, and

("Stop griping. The boy is unscathed –" )

that he would also very much like the answer to it because

("You're ruining all the work I put into him when you coddle him like that –")

sometimes it feels like he's living in two completely different time periods, and when they overlap

("I'm sorry, Shouto. I don't think it would be a good idea . . . she wouldn't want to see you like this. It would hurt – ")

it's like he's trapped in this twisted world that's doomed to have him repeat all his mistakes of the past and

( – don't tell him. If he finds out – if he – if he – if he – ")

experience the repercussions in the present.

So with the darkness of the room enveloping him, Todoroki answers, ". . . probably."

Aizawa's gaze is unfaltering and unnerving, but there's no malice to be seen. "Well, we're just going to have to work on that, don't we?"

"I'm trying," Todoroki says, suddenly exhausted, suddenly very, very miserable. He wants to tell Aizawa that he's been trying; he's been trying for so long now, for years now, to keep those two worlds separate, to live and move and breathe without being strangled by his past, but it's too tiring and he's just too tired of it all. "I'm trying. But it's . . . hard. But I am trying."

"I'm sure."

His voice is gentle and prompting, a clear contrast of the expression on his face. Todoroki has no idea what to make of it. There's such a peculiarly about Aizawa-sensei that he can't figure out and he doesn't know if he's imagining it. Gingerly, he asks, "You're not . . . angry?"

"I am." Todoroki flinches as if someone had just shouted, but Aizawa's voice was barely on the same level as his own. "I am very much so. I'm angry with you, Todoroki. Angry with Bakugou and Kirishima. But mostly, I'm angry with myself."

Todoroki's stomach drops. "Don't. It's not . . . This is my fault. I did this. Even if you didn't leave, I would -"

"That's not where the anger stems, although I am placing the blame on myself mostly for leaving you and Bakugou on your own, thinking you both can be trusted with a simple assignment. That will not go amiss." Aizawa-sensei's gaze seems to pass through Todoroki. "No. I'm angry with myself for not taking action from the very start, from the very moment you've first shown signs of being unwell, because you've started showing symptoms long before this class, Todoroki. You have. And I overlooked it."

He doesn't think Aizawa-sensei is talking about the heatstroke. Todoroki feels a boulder settle on his chest. "Don't."

"Do you know what happens when you leave a fruit out for too long?" Aizawa asks. "It starts to decay, to rot. Before long it starts sprouting fungus, and fruit flies love that. You'll get one fruit fly make its way to that rotting fruit, nestle in there for a little while, and before you know it, it's laying eggs. Doesn't take long before those eggs hatch, and now you've got a hundred little fruit flies flying around the kitchen, all because of that one neglected fruit. You're that fruit, Todoroki. You're letting yourself rot by staying silent. The longer you keep this up, the more misery you attract to yourself. You need to ask for help, because despite the entire point of this melodramatic analogy, a rotten fruit is no good. It becomes garbage and you have no choice but to throw it out. You aren't fruit, and can be improved, put back together. Healed. Only if you ask others for help. Let people help you, Todoroki. Stop letting yourself decompose."

Todoroki nods numbly but doesn't speak. Doesn't think he can speak. The air is too thick, too hot. He's drowining.

Aizawa gives a weary sigh and pats Todoroki's knee before standing, his expression once again flipping. "Well, I've kept you up long enough. Now that I know you're awake and not brain dead, I'll let you get back to sleep. We'll talk more when you're feeling better, and I'll be expecting more than just one word answers then."

"Sorry," he mumbles. "I'm just . . ." he gestures vaguely to his head –

(he watched from across the room as his father said, with a vague gesture to his head, "she's not right.")

He drops his hand and doesn't finish his sentence. Stop doing that.

"You're a smart kid, Todoroki," Aizawa says tiredly. "But you're also too smart for your own good. You think too much before every action, even the simplest ones, and feel the need to validate them. You need to start trusting your instincts and stop diving in here," Aizawa pokes his forehead, "for answers, because you won't find them in there. React externally first, do you understand?"

He nods sullenly, rubbing his head. "I think so."

"Good." His teacher yawns widely. "What else? Oh, right. Everything was a bit disorganized when we brought you in, by the way, so we didn't have time to call your family and tell them what happened. I'll leave that to you when you're feeling up to it. Unless you want me to?"

The mattress feels like it's made of quicksand. "Oh. That's . . . alright. I'll call them in the morning."

But there's something in Aizawa-sensei's eyes that Todoroki can't really decipher, some kind of knowing look, like the man was just given the answer to some silent question. But it's gone just as fast as it came.

"And last thing before I forget." he says flatly, almost bored to have even remembered whatever it is he has to say. "I feel like you already know this, but nonetheless, when you get the chance, make sure you thank Bakugou and Kirishima for their efforts." Todoroki's brow furrows, and Aizawa continues, "Even though they did more harm than good in the end, they were really worried about you and did everything they could to help. You gave them quite the scare."

Todoroki did not already know this, and in fact had completely forgotten about the two boys and their involvement until now. He blinks stupidly at his teacher's back, trying to make sense of the words. "I will."

"Sleep well," Aizawa says, then closes the door, and like an approaching wave in a vast ocean, the silence pulls Todoroki back to sleep.























"Keep going," his mother breathed, tears forming in her eyes anew. "Press onward and don't let anything hold you back. I'd feel like I've been saved, knowing that."





"I feel . . . happy."



























When he wakes up again, he finds the atmosphere has changed dramatically.

It's incredibly bright inside his hospital room, and he knows it's a hospital room because his vision is clear and uncompromised. He takes in the florescent lights, the large windows, the bleak walls, the smell of antiseptics, the whirs of machinery, all of it in one deep inhale.

He sits up on the flat bed and curls his hands, watching as they obediently cooperate and remain steady. Lingering in his head is a thin fog that blurs the corners of his thoughts, but it's still a vivid improvement from what it felt like before.

He prods the IV needle in his forearm gingerly, then tries to make sense of all the machines that beep and drone beside him. Naturally, he can't, so he lets the machines do whatever it is they're doing and just stares ahead.

The door is closed and undisturbed. Through the small, glass window in its center he can see silhouettes of people's heads as they pass by it from the other side, even with the blinds drawn shut. He wonders if they can see him. He wonders why that bothers him.

He spots a chair in the corner of the room and doesn't think anything of it, but then, like the shades of his mind were being pulled open, he remembers Aizawa-sensei sitting there, being there, talking to him –

Then the door opens.

"There he is! Mister Thermostat, alive and well!" Kirishima exclaims brightly, practically shoving his way through the door once his eyes lock on to Todoroki.

Then Midoriya is there, too, lightly elbowing Kirishima in the ribs with a mortified hiss that only makes the redheaded boy smile wider. "Ow! What? Too soon?"

Midoriya rolls his eyes, then looks at Todoroki and seemingly brightens. "Good afternoon, Todoroki-kun! It's good to finally see you awake. You've been asleep for an awful long time. We really missed you!"

Despite their smiles, Todoroki finds himself frowning at their presence. A part of him even feels a bit star struck at them being here, for lack of a better word, because having visitors was the absolute last thing he expected to have while staying in a hospital. They must be here for some other reason, he thinks, but he really hopes not.

"How ya feeling?" Kirishima asks, plopping down on the foot of his bed despite Midoriya's strained protests.

The question throws him off more than their being here. He's been asked that question so many times now, he knows, and he still doesn't know the right answer to it.

Todoroki tries to make sense of their expressions; the happiness is easy enough to interpret, but there's also a blinding relief in their eyes, and for Kirishima there's that familiar tinge of worry hiding beneath the surface that completely baffles Todoroki.

He stares at two boys curiously, then remembers he was asked a question. "I'm – "

"Wait, wait," Midoriya pipes, holding out his arms. He looks to Kirishima, "he's gotta drink water first, remember?"

"Oh, right, right, right."

There's a small two-legged table beside the bed, and atop it were an empty plastic cup and a beaker filled to the brim with water. Midoriya pours water into the cup and hands it Todoroki, and in return Todoroki gives him a mildly bemused look.

"I don't . . . "

The cup is practically shoved into his hands. "Drink first, talk later."

"Yeah, Recovery Girl's gonna have our asses if you don't stay hydrated. She told us that if you're awake when we visit, the first thing we should do is make you drink water. Like, literally force you."

Todoroki nods slowly, not really understanding but complying nonetheless. It's after the first drop of water touches his lips that he discovers how unbelievably parched he was, and practically chugs the cup in mad thirst. He can feel his throat restoring itself with every swallow, feel his body and mind stir and awaken from whatever slumber they were in.

"Yeah, Recovery Girl said you'd be thirsty," Midoriya chuckles, plucking the cup out of his hands. "Do you want more?"

Todoroki clears his throat. "No." He looks from Midoriya to Kirishima. Both boys are dressed casually, no school uniforms or any indication that they had a previous or upcoming event before or after this. But he doesn't ponder it any further; another curiosity presents itself. "Did you say 'afternoon'?"

"What? Uh . . . Oh! You mean when I walked in? Yeah, it's," he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone, reading, "A little after 4pm."

Todoroki cringes. "Then I've been asleep . . ."

"For a full twenty-four hours," Kirishima confirms. "Oh yeah, you were knocked out big time. As still as a rock. Didn't move a muscle or anything. Though Aizawa-sensei did visit you last night, though. Do you remember that?"

"No," Todoroki lies.

"Don't worry about it," Midoriya assures. "He said you were really out of it, and that he only talked to you for, like, five minutes. I'm sure he'll catch you up on whatever it was later on."

Todoroki hopes not. That conversation left a very rotting feeling in the pit of his stomach that he doesn't want to stir again. He isn't too fond either of the fact that he's been sleeping for so long. An entire day, he thinks with a grimace. I must have missed out on so much.

Kirishima continues, "So yeah, not counting that, you were out like a light since. A lot of people from our class came to visit you once they heard what happened. Most of the girls came in the morning, and I'm pretty sure Sero and Ojiro were here at some point. Iida and Tokoyami left right after we came. There is – or was, actually – a bet going around seeing who'd be the first to catch you awake. Looks like we won, Midoriya!"

"B-But that's not the only reason why we visited!" Midoriya hurriedly says, hands waving anxiously. "Everyone was really worried about you, Todoroki-kun! It was pretty scary. We weren't allowed to visit you yesterday after you were brought in, and no one would tell us anything for a long time."

Todoroki's brow furrows. "That's . . . a little excessive. Didn't I just have a heatstroke?"

That question doesn't get the reaction he was expecting. Midoriya grimaces as if Todoroki just broached a topic that was incredibly taboo and inappropriate. The more curious reaction is from the other boy; He can feel it when Kirishima tenses; the bed seems to shift with him. From the corner of his eye, he can see Kirishima's fists curl, too. That's . . . odd.

Midoriya clears his throat. He looks increasingly uncomfortable when he answers, "Well, yeah. But it got pretty bad." He steals a quick glance at Kirishima that doesn't go unnoticed by Todoroki. "Uhm. Like . . . really bad."

Their anxiousness starts creeping its way into Todoroki. "What do you mean?"

Another glance at the quiet Kirishima. "Well, what do you remember?"

What he remembers? Another familiar question that he doesn't have a clear or definitive answer to. He racks his brain for those disorganized memories.

"Very little," he decides. "I remember being in the common area, after the supplementary classes, and you and Bakugou were there, I think." He looks at Kirishima, but the other boy has his head turned, his lips pursed into a thin line. Todoroki continues, "After that, it's all a blur. I remember feeling very tired, and Bakugou was shouting at me, and you were shouting at Bakugou . . . I think, yes . . . I think you both were trying to help me but I was being very difficult."

Kirishima gives a bitter scoff. "Yeah, key word 'trying'."

"Kirishima-kun . . ." Midoriya is a ball of nerves, or more so than usual. He looks like he's prepared for a vicious storm to start any moment.

"Am I wrong?" the apparent storm snaps harshly.

Todoroki's eyes bounce from one boy to the other. There's a cloud of tension floating in this room, Todoroki realizes. Its presence is heavy and suffocating. The side of his head begins to throb dully.

He asks carefully, "Did something . . . happen?"

Kirishima whips his head to him. "Dude. Do you really not remember? At all?"

He clenches his teeth. I really hate that damn question. He swallows down his own harsh reply and instead asks, "Remember what?"

Midoriya interjects. "Maybe – Maybe I should explain it . . ."

Explain what? His headache is starting to gain traction. Kirishima says scathingly, "There isn't really much to explain."

"Don't start this again, please."

"Why not? He wants to know what happened, right?"

"He doesn't – not when you say it like that."

"You mean when I say it accurately, word for word, like Aizawa-sensei said it?"

"What are you talking about," Todoroki asks because this back and forth vagueness is starting to get on his nerves, despite himself.

But he isn't prepared at all for when Kirishima rounds on him, "We're talking about how we almost killed you yesterday! Remember?"

The words instantly stun him like an electric shock. "I – . . . What?"

"No, you didn't Kirishima-kun!" Midoriya cries out in frustration, or maybe anger? But that wouldn't make sense; Midoriya is never genuinely angry with his friends without adequate cause; he's never upset with them unless they're doing something that's deliberately hurting themselves in some way. Todoroki feels like he's missed out on more than just a full day's events.

Kirishima is standing now. "You heard what Recovery Girl said. What Aizawa-sensei said –"

"They didn't mean it like that!" Midoriya says with a bit of an edge, maybe annoyance? It sounds as if this isn't the first time that they've had this particular discussion. Through the blinds of the door's window, someone's silhouette shifts in the corner. Todoroki's head starts that incessant pounding again.

"They made it pretty clear, dude!" Kirishima shouts. "It's cause of us that he's like this!"

"No, it's not. You keep doing this! You're twisting their words!"

"They were straightforward to me!"

"Kirishima-kun –"

"Please stop shouting." Todoroki croaks, his hand on his temple. The bang, bang, banging in his head has made its very unwelcomed return, and every time Midoriya and Kirishima raised their voice, it seemed like the banging was increasing in potency.

But now their shouting is done with, thankfully, and the aching slowly recedes while Midoriya sputters a mortified, "I—I'm so sorry, Todoroki-kun" and Kirishima mutters an embarrassed, "Ah . . . shit. Sorry, man."

Todoroki gropes for the water and Midoriya immediately pours him a new cup and hands it to him. They're looking at him like he's some sort of fragile ornament, Todoroki realizes as he drinks, like he's hanging dangerously on the side of a table that any second now will fall and shatter and become irreversibly destroyed. Why does everyone keep looking at me like that?

But the water does wonders for him and he feels well enough now, the headache reduced to a light buzzing noise in the back of his mind. Midoriya goes to pour him another cup but Todoroki doesn't care about that right now, he wants to know what the hell is going on. Why Kirishima looks so guilty and why Midoriya looks so nervous and why he's suddenly remembering Aizawa-sensei reminding him last night to thank Bakugou and Kirishima for efforts, "Even though they did more harm than good in the end."

The silhouette behind the door shifts again. Todoroki wonders if that's one of the nurses come to see what all the yelling was about, but then he thinks, no. Whoever the silhouette belonged to was clearly not a staff member. Not with that hair.

"The last thing I recall was using my ice," Todoroki says quietly to Kirishima. "You and Bakugou said I was overheated, that I needed to cool myself down. I don't remember anything about either of you attempting to murder me."

"Pft. Yeah, well, turns out we were wrong about that."

Todoroki silently lifts a brow. Kirishima sighs wearily and plops down on the bed by Todoroki's feet. He drags his hands over his face and says between his fingers, "You did have a heatstroke, that part is true enough. Bakugou was the one who figured it out, too. Said it was because you used your fire too much or something during your 'supp class."

Todoroki nods patiently. "Yes, I remember."

"Well, apparently Bakugou also knew that the solution was to get you to cool down, which was true. I did a ton of reading afterward about heatstrokes and its symptoms and treatments and all that – and it did say that the most important thing to do was to cool the body, so Bakugou wasn't wrong."

"Alright." If anything, Todoroki is even more confused. "So what was the problem?"

Kirishima rubs his eyes, and that's when Todoroki notices how tired he looks; how exhausted they both look. Midoriya's hair is in complete and utter disarray, more so than usual, and his posture is horribly slouched, his shoulder slumped, practically sagging. Kirishima, on the other hand, looks completely haggard; his face is worryingly pale and it makes the circles under his eyes much darker than they needed to be.

Midoriya shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other in the tense silence. Kirishima, seemingly pained, finally says, "You were really out of it, man. Like gone. Bakugou kept saying you were delusional, but I thought he was just being an ass. Turns out he was being an ass and he was right. We kept telling you to use your quirk, but you wouldn't listen. Kept mumbling about how you didn't want to and how you were already cold and a bunch of other stuff. You must have gotten really fed up with us, though, because eventually you did use your ice and shit, man, did you use it."

Todoroki does remember using his ice at one point . . . yeah, he remembers that. Bakugou was hounding on him to use it and Kirishima was practically begging. But I used it, he remembers. Wasn't that supposed to fix everything?

Midoriya seems to read his mind. "You – uh – you kind of . . . froze the entire first floor of the dormitories, Todoroki-kun." Now that he doesn't remember. "It's all covered in ice, the floors and walls, everything. They're still working on thawing it as we speak, but um. It's pretty messy. It looks cool, though! Really, really amazing, honestly! Kaachan and Kirishima-kun weren't even hurt, too! They just had runny noses for a bit but they're fine now, so it's all alright!"

". . . Oh." Aizawa-sensei's lecture is starting to make a lot more sense now.

"That's not the worst part," Kirishima says.

Todoroki blanches. "It's not?"

Midoriya says quickly, "I'll let explain it."

Then Kirishima groans, "Dude, it's not –"

"Yes, it is. You're just going to end up making it sound like it was your fault."

"But it –"

"No, nope. Stop." Midoriya turns to Todoroki. "This is what happened, according to Recovery Girl. She said that because you were severely dehydrated from the start and because you changed your body temperature so suddenly and dramatically, you went into shock."

"Shock," Todoroki repeats.

Kirishima interrupts, "Only because we – "

"No, that's all there is to it, Kirishima-kun! That's what it was and that's what happened." To Todoroki, he continues, "you were going into shock and Kaachan and Kirishima-kun didn't know what to do, and at the same time Yaoyorozu-san came back to the dorms earlier than the rest of us because she had a car drive her back, and when she saw you she immediately knew what was happening so she let them," he jerks his chin towards the tight lipped Kirishima, "use her car to take you to the hospital. Then Yaoyorozu-san called Aizawa-sensei, who was still with us in the bus, and she told him what happened and he made the bus driver take us all to the hospital, and then Recovery Girl took charge of your treatment and just around midnight she told us you were fine and would recover. That's all – no, shut up, Kirishima-kun, that's all."

". . . that's . . . all," Todoroki repeats slowly. He stares at his hands in a daze. I was . . . did all that really happen? I wasn't that . . . I didn't know I was . . . He feels like he was just swallowed up by and then spit out of a raging hurricane, all in a matter of seconds.

Kirishima throws his hands in the air, frustrated. "That is not all! Dude, you weren't there when Aizawa-sensei reamed us after he came. You didn't hear what he told us, you didn't hear how mad he was!"

"I don't need to because I know he wasn't mad at you guys, he was mad at the situation, mad at himself –"

"No, no. He was definitely pissed at us. I don't think I've ever seen him that mad. He was downright scary." Todoroki remembers Aizawa-sensei's glowing eyes in the darkness and his mouth goes dry. "He made it perfectly clear that we were responsible for letting it get out of hand. He told us that we acted like brats, that we should have immediately called for help, or called him, or called an ambulance, anyone. Todoroki would not have had to deal with all this shit if we just did that from the start! And he's right, too, but we were being so stupid. You should have seen Bakugou, man, he just took it. Didn't argue or say anything to Aizawa-sensei – because he knows that we messed up. And we did. "

In his mind, Todoroki sees an apple, plump and red, sees as it starts to rot and decay, watches it deplete of color and moisture. It sags and folds into itself, fungus polluting its once red skin, then it bursts and a million little flies swarm out of it.

"Aizawa-sensei was just upset," Midoriya tries. "He was stressed and tired and upset. And it's not you guys' fault that you didn't know what to do! You were scared and freaked out, so it's only natural that you'd be irrational. How could have you known that Todoroki-kun was so sick that he needed to be hospitalized?"

"Bakugou knew," Kirishima says. "He knew it was a heatstroke, and I think he knew from the very start that something was wrong with Todoroki, too. He didn't want to help in the beginning, you know, because I think he thought it wasn't anything serious. I practically had to force him to stay. But after the whole ice thing and the shock . . . I don't know, man. You should have seen him. He just changed. I think he was scared – I mean, I was terrified and freaking the hell out, but he just got really quiet with this look in his eyes. Like he knew he made a mistake. He was . . . subdued, yeah, that's the word. He was subdued. You ever seen that guy subdued? It's freaky, man. Did you notice how he stayed in the hospital until Recovery Girl said Todoroki was fine? I'm telling you, it's cause he knows. He knows that it was our fault and he's accepted it."

The atmosphere in the room seems to have gotten darker, quieter, somber. Todoroki feels ill. He stares ahead blankly. He can see the silhouette of the person behind the door move a little. Are you listening, he wants to ask that person. Can you hear how badly I've inconvenienced everyone with my stupidity? He rubs his forehead with the palm of his head and feels the cold sweat that is just starting to form.

"O-Oh, I'm so sorry, Todoroki-kun! Were we being too loud again? Do you – "

"No." Todoroki picks up his head and feels like a man ten times his age. This is a nightmare, he thinks. It just keeps going and going and won't let me wake up. He leans his head back against his pillow and closes his eyes. Why does this only happen to me?

He opens his eyes tiredly and says, "I've caused you all so much trouble."

Kirishima looks at him like he's just grown a second head. "Dude, wait – "

"Kirishima," and now his voice is starting to get haggard and low from the lack of usage, making him sound deathly solemn. "I want to both thank you and apologize to you, if you'd let me."

Todoroki must have just popped out the third head because Kirishima's eyes are bulging. "What? No, no, no, no."

"I want to thank you," Todoroki says loudly, leveling the other boy with a hard stare despite how heavy his lids are starting to feel. "Because despite how difficult I was being, despite how many times I refused and tried to brush you off, you still worried about me and still wanted to help me. And you did help me."

"I didn't help –"

"You did." Todoroki says again. "Both you and Bakugou. You guys helped me. The only person who compromised my health was myself. I don't know why . . . I don't really . . . understand, I suppose, my rationale for being so stubborn at the time. I guess a part of me also thought I wasn't that sick, or that I could handle it even if it was dangerous . . ."

He trails off here, a loss for words, a loss for thoughts. Midoriya and Kirishima are frowning at him, and Todoroki wonders if it's the delirium speaking for him. He hopes it is. He was going somewhere with all this but his train of thought derailed itself once he realized he's reached the answer –

"I don't like it when people worry about me," he realizes out loud. The words flow out of his mouth fluidly, like a conscious stream of thought. "I don't like when people get involved with my problems, when they're concerned about me . . . I'm not used to it. It's not something that happens often with me, and when it does," he blocks out the sound of his mother's cries, "it doesn't – doesn't bode well."

"Todoroki-kun . . ." Midoriya says softly, and he looks at a loss for words too.

His hands are shaking again and he's really starting to hate how they do that without his consent. "Therefore, I want to thank you for helping, and . . ." he starts, licking his lips. "And I want to apologize."

"Don't," Kirishima says lowly.

"I have to. It was my fault that this all happened and that you and Bakugou got involved. I was being," he searches his memory for the words Aizawa-sensei used, "immature and senseless. Irresponsible. Stupid. I knew I was ill but I didn't do anything about it, didn't want to do anything about it, and so you and Bakugou assumed responsibility when you didn't need to. For that, I'm sorry."

"You don't have anything to be sorry about, though! You were sick –"

"No." Todoroki closes his eyes again. "That doesn't excuse my behavior. I was being selfish and inconsiderate of the burden I placed on you and Bakugou. You're the one that doesn't have anything to be sorry about. You did everything right."

"He's right," Midoriya's voice affirms. "You know he's right, Kirishima-kun."

The redhead shakes his head. "I don't – I just feel so guilty –"

"That guilt is baseless," Todoroki tells him. "I'm the one who is at fault and I'm the one who put you through all this. The only person who should be asking for forgiveness is me."

Suddenly, Kirishima's expression shifts into one of anger. "See, I can't – no. No, no, no. You can't do that, Todoroki. You can't just tell me I can get off guilt free and then just turn around and take all the blame!"

"All the blame belongs to me, though."

"Hell no it doesn't!" The bed shakes when Kirishima slams a fist on the mattress.

"Why not?"

"Because it doesn't work like that! You can't blame yourself for something you can't control. You were sick."

"I was in control of my actions before I was sick."

"None of you are to blame!" Midoriya shouts, waving a hand between them in the same way Iida does whenever he speaks. "Jeez, guys! I don't know why you're both so keen on being condemned for something that wasn't either of your faults."

Kirishima opens his mouth, but Midoriya is quicker. "You both have nothing to apologize for. You were scared, you were sick, you were dealing with so much at the time. There was no way you could have known what was right or what was wrong!" Then he breaks out into a wide, breathless smile. "But it doesn't matter now because it all worked out! Everything's fine now! We're all fine. That's all that matters."

Kirishima mutters, "Todoroki doesn't look fine."

"But he will be. Recovery Girl said there's no permanent damage, no serious injury, and that he'll be back to normal in a few days. It all worked out in the end, right guys?"

Kirishima crosses his arms stubbornly so Midoriya says again, louder, "Right, guys?"

"I guess," Kirishima grumbles. Then he points to Todoroki and says, "But I'll only really accept that if Todoroki does, too. If I can't say sorry than neither can he."

Todoroki notices that the silhouette has shifted again, the black blur barely noticeable in the corner of the window, before it finally leaves, before he leaves. Do you also accept this? Todoroki wants to ask the person. Are you content now?

Then he focuses back on Kirishima and wonders if it really is that easy for him lift the guilt off his shoulders. Maybe after small steps, he thinks. "Only if you accept my thanks."

When Kirishima smiles with that toothy grin of his, the one that he's always sporting, Todoroki feels a fluttering lightness in his stomach. "Deal," the other boy says, grabbing his hand and shaking it.

Midoriya grabs their linked hands with his own and says, "And from now on, and this is for you, Todoroki-kun, from now on you never hide something like this from us again. It's alright to have people worry about you. We want to be worried about you – we want to help you."

Todoroki bites his lip. Midoriya's eyes are intent and determined, like he's already made up his mind even without Todoroki's answer. "I'll try."

Midoriya's smile matches Kirishima's. "That's good. It's a start."

And in this small hospital room, surrounded by his friends – people that worry about me, that want to help me, his mind supplies happily – he thinks, this is fine, this is good, this is the right temperature.


































a/n: did you like this? 54 pages long and 2 months later but here it is! Please let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!