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Todoroki walks into class 1-A’s common room and stops, forcing his expression to school itself into something he feels is at least vaguely presentable despite the commotion in front of him. He blinks, once. Twice.

In the back of his mind, he remembers a gif Midoriya had once texted him, of some guy from an American TV show who walked into a burning room with a few pizzas in his hands, his expression going from happiness to horror in the span of a second.

Even though he hadn’t really understood the gif’s meaning at the time, Todoroki relates right about now.

Most of class 1-A is huddled around a massive whiteboard of Yaoyorozu’s creation, if her presence overseeing the board is any indication. In bright red lettering, in all caps, the top of the whiteboard reads: HOTNESS BRACKET: GUYS, the bracket itself underneath the words. Todoroki blinks, again, as if that will completely change his surroundings; like this is all some sort of horrible, horrible illusion he can will away.

Aoyama is in the corner of the room, with a menacing aura emanating from him, uncharacteristic, but-- Todoroki confirms with a cursory glance that his name is crossed out. Mineta is on the floor in the fetal position, crying his eyes out. Uraraka is passionately shouting out a speech defending… someone’s attractiveness, it would have to be? She’s even floating above everyone else’s heads in order to reach a wider audience, and Todoroki commends her for going the extra mile, at the very least. Iida is… being himself, loudly trying to restrain the whole event from taking place yet feeding the fire by doing so. Poor Kouda looks like he very much does not want to be there. A verbal fight breaks out between Bakugou and Ashido as he’s watching.

His life right now would only be more like Midoriya’s gif if the room were, well, actually on fire.

Todoroki blinks, one more time, and turns to head towards his room.

He doesn’t make it far, unfortunately, because with a bird’s-eye view like Uraraka is getting, he’s stopped as soon as he moves.

“Todoroki-kun!” she calls out, the room falling somewhat silent at her voice. Todoroki turns, despite himself.

“Join us!” she continues, floating gently back down to ground level. “You’re in the bracket!”

As if that will convince him.

“Sorry,” he responds flatly, his voice taking on a tone it doesn’t often reach these days.

“Ah,” she says. She sounds dejected, but Todoroki would rather be anywhere than here. “That’s all right, then, Todoroki-kun.”

He does feel a little guilty when she turns away from him, not even bothering to continue the fiery speech she had been so emphatic about just seconds prior. But-- he wouldn’t change his view on this for the world.

When he’s in his room without further incident, he drops his school bag to the floor and wanders aimlessly to his bathroom mirror, gritting his teeth and staring directly at himself, eyes smoldering in the mirror. The panic overtakes him, all at once, burning hot and bright in his chest.

There’s no way they would have known, he reminds himself. There’s no way they would’ve known.

He stares at himself, breathing heavily through his nose, his left hand coming up to his awful, terrible scar, his nails hooking into the marred skin as his breaths come quicker, shorter, he can’t think of anything but how repulsive--

There’s a knock at his door, wrenching him out of his panic attack. A frosted breath escapes from his mouth, as his eyes widen almost imperceptibly at himself in the mirror. He doesn’t know how long he just stands there, his cold breath crystallizing over the mirror, his nails still scrabbling for purchase in the reddened skin under his eye.

The knock sounds again, softer, more hesitant this time, and he’s no longer completely taken by the wave of panic overcoming him. Mechanically, he steps away from his frosted-over mirror and, stilted, steps over to his door, not even thinking to check who is it before opening it.

“Midoriya,” he says, and his voice is still shaking. Of course it had to be Midoriya to see him like this.

The boy standing outside his door picks up on it instantly, because he’s Midoriya, and he moves into Todoroki’s room, a hand on his elbow. Shutting the door quietly behind him, he says, “Todoroki-kun, are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he tries-- and fails, if the shift in Midoriya’s expression is anything to go by.

“I saw your face when you were downstairs, and now you look…” He trails off. “I don’t think this is nothing.” Midoriya’s words are hard, but they’re said with such a gentle, encouraging tone, like he really does want to hear how Todoroki’s feeling. In a second, Todoroki realizes that Midoriya will get it out of him one way or another. He has that effect on him.

“It’s the--” He starts. Stops. His throat is drier than he thought it was. “The hotness bracket. I-- I don’t appreciate being teased. I guess.” After a beat, he adds, “It’s stupid,” as if that will improve the situation.

Midoriya looks at him as if he just calmly explained he was an alien from outer space. “What?”

Not knowing what to say, Todoroki shrugs, blinking quickly. God, the whole point of a panic attack is to get the emotions out of him, not leaving him still wanting to cry when it’s through. He’s pathetic.

“No, Todoroki-kun… I mean, what do you mean? If what I think you’re implying is what you’re implying…” He leaves it open-ended.

“I don’t-- understand.” It’s hard to get out. It’s an awkward subject, talking about your unsightliness to one of your few friends and the one you like, and Todoroki stumbles. “I didn’t appreciate being put in the bracket to be teased for how I look, that’s all.”

“What do you mean, ‘how you look’?” Midoriya asks, and the complete bewilderment in his tone nearly sets Todoroki off, a side-effect of his emotions running as high as they were just a minute ago.

“How I look, Midoriya, don’t play dumb with me,” Todoroki snaps. “I know I’m not attractive by any stretch of the imagination, and forgive me for thinking it’s rude of them to throw it back in my face!” As if for emphasis, he gestures to the left side of his face, mismatched eyes glinting with some unplaceable emotion.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh.” He gets in response, long and drawn-out like he’s come to some grand realization. Midoriya puts his hand to his mouth, thinking hard. “Oh no, Todoroki-kun. You seem to have misunderstood.”

Misunderstood what? He wants to scream. He won’t, though, and he doesn’t, instead letting out a puff of cold air, visible in front of him.

“Um,” Midoriya continues, moving his hand to the back of his neck sheepishly. “You, um.” He coughs, and then, inexplicably, turns bright red. “You have to realize that you’re the best-looking out of all of us in the class.”

He clears his throat, seeming embarrassed about something. “Both, um, objectively and, um, p-personal opinion.” His eyes widen as if he’s just realized what he’s said, blushing even more, and he hastily continues, “And everyone else thinks the same! When Kaminari-kun realized he was against you, he got upset because he thought it wasn’t fair he would be out in the first round.”

And then he’s on a roll. “And—and then Uraraka-san tried to insist that it had to be kept fair, but then Asu— Tsuyu-san said that we might as well have accelerated you to the final round, because it was never a question of who was the most attractive— because of course that went to you, Todoroki-kun— it was who was second-most attractive. And then that got Aoyama-kun protesting, and Kirishima-kun I think was crying at one point for a little while? I mean, clearly the situation got out of hand for a while there but—“ He snaps himself out of it, looks up at Todoroki.

“What I’m trying to say is,” he says, carefully, stepping on eggshells with his words, “no one considers you as unattractive as you seem to think you are.”

Todoroki is steaming. Figuratively and literally, which he realizes a little late. His emotions are running so high right now he can’t even function correctly. Pathetic. Ugly. Disgusting. Worthless.

“Todoroki-kun?” Midoriya says, tentatively, but Todoroki has closed his eyes in order to will away both the steam rising from his left side and some of the crystals of ice on his right. He’s impassive, unreadable.

When Todoroki is finished and his body temperature is semi-normal, he blinks his eyes open at Midoriya.

“Midoriya,” Todoroki says. Stops there, closes his mouth. He opens it and clacks it shut a couple of times before he can articulate his thoughts. “That’s— nice, and all, that our class is involved in a big practical joke, but like I said earlier, it’s a little hurtful to be on the receiving end of it.”

Midoriya’s mouth drops open. “A practical— no, oh my god! Todoroki-kun, I would— we would never!” His expression hardens into something more determined. “What do I have to do to convince you that I’m telling the truth?”

A shrug. “I’m… not nice to look at, Midoriya. It’s okay. I’ve been aware of it for years. There’s not much you can do to convince me of that."

Midoriya’s expression twinges at that, and he shoves his hands into his face. “Okay,” he mumbles to himself, behind his hands. “Okay, okay, okay. You have to do this, Izuku. You have to do this now.”

He lowers his hands from his face, and points dramatically at Todoroki, his face blushing very brightly and very prettily. If Todoroki felt better he’d feel lucky he got to see him like this.

“D-don’t you dare talk that way about the person I like!” Midoriya exclaims, and as his face gets impossibly more red, he shoves his face back into his hands with a squeak.

For what it’s worth, Todoroki plops down heavily on his bed, suddenly unable to support his own weight. He’s completely speechless. His thoughts are a whirlwind.

“Midoriya, what…?” he manages, eventually.

The words come fast and rushed, but muffled behind his hands, which he refuses to come out from behind. “I’m sorry, I just— I don’t like you insulting yourself like that because I really do like you— well, I wouldn’t like you insulting yourself even if I didn’t like you, but I do, so that point doesn’t matter, and I’m sorry to confess in such a bad way, I wasn’t really planning on it soon. Or—or e-ever. I was just going to keep it to myself because there’s no way someone like you would like someone like me, so I’m sorry!"

He bows, sloppily and with his hands still covering his face, and whirls around to face his door.

“No, wait,” Todoroki protests. “Stay. I’m just…” He mulls it over, choosing the right word. “Processing."

Thankfully, Midoriya stops in his tracks, and Todoroki sees a tiny, imperceptible nod, his green curls bouncing.

“You… like me?” he asks, still dumbfounded.

He gets another small, tentative nod in response.

Todoroki blinks. “But…”

Midoriya turns around, and he says, “Todoroki-kun, if you’re about to say something bad about yourself, I will punch you at full power, I promise you that. I like you for your personality-- a-and your looks, promise.” And then he turns red again, and Todoroki can actively see him fighting against the urge to cover his face with his hands. As it is, his hands are balled into fists, shaking, at his sides.

“But I’m not…"

Walking over to stand near Todoroki’s side, he gestures to the spot on his bed next to him, asking, “Is this okay?”

Todoroki nods mutely in lieu of a response.

Midoriya shuffles next to him and clears his throat. “Todoroki-kun, you really are h-handsome. I’m not lying, or--or exaggerating, or playing a prank on you by saying that you’re— um, the best-looking one in the class. Um, by far, I think. I don’t know how to make you believe me, but… you aren’t your scar, Todoroki-kun, just like you aren’t your father. I think people are greater than the sum of their parts, and you aren’t an exception to that rule.” He puts his right hand in front of him, turning it around to inspect his own scarring.

“Do you think I’m ugly because of my scars, Todoroki-kun?” he asks, a distinct lack of emotion in his tone.

Horrified, Todoroki responds reflexively, instantaneous, “No, of course not. Why would that ever—“

He stops when Midoriya turns to look at him, eyes shining and a blinding smile on his face.

His mouth clamps shut. He’d never describe Midoriya’s grins as shit-eating, but this one gets close.

Midoriya pokes him, hard, in the side. “Okay?” he asks. “So don’t think you’re somehow above that. Like I said, I don’t like it when you insult the person I like.”

He waits a beat, seeming to wilt before his eyes. “Sorry I… brought it up again. Sorry if it made anything I said weird. Um, if it helps, I promise I would have the same opinion even if I didn’t like you. Honest."

Sighing, he stands up to leave. “I'll go now. I can give you some space if you need it.”

Todoroki grabs for his hand as soon as he registers what’s happening, though, and closes his eyes. He’s blushing, too, at what he’s about to say, but he still wants to say it.

He clears his throat, willing himself to stay calm, and says, “Don’t go. After all, I don’t want to be separated f-from the… the person I like."

It was only two sentences, but Todoroki feels like he’s run a marathon in the span of those two sentences. He feels like he’s fought ten thousand villains. He feels like he just confessed to who he thought until a few minutes ago was an unrequited crush.

Midoriya turns, achingly slow, shock on his face. “But—“

“Midoriya,” Todoroki breaks in. “It’d be kind of counterproductive if you spent all that time convincing me you weren’t lying and then I lied to you back. I… I like you, too.” His voice drops to a near-whisper at the end, but it’s out there. He’s said it.

And Midoriya likes him back. Wow. He never once thought he would get this far.

All at once, he feels a weight hit him, nearly bowling him over, wrapping around his sides. “Todoroki-kun!” Midoriya squeals happily, and oh.

Before Todoroki can even put his hands on Midoriya’s back to hug him, he’s scrambling off of Todoroki’s lap, blushing again (and wow, can he get used to that).

“Sorry!” he squeaks. “I didn’t ask if that was okay!"

Despite how terribly he was feeling what feels like ages ago, Todoroki lets out a huff of a laugh. “Of course it is. I like you. I can’t think of many things I wouldn’t be okay with you doing.” He realizes what he’s said, blushes madly, and looks away from Midoriya as if it will erase the past few seconds.

When he looks back after Midoriya doesn’t respond, he has his face in his hands, blushing wildly but smiling as well. But he snaps his head up, sidles closer to Todoroki, and asks, “Does that mean… this is okay?"

Todoroki looks up at him like a drowning man looks at the air above the ocean. He’s already said so, but he swallows, waiting nervously for whatever thing Midoriya will do.

Determinedly, Midoriya steps forward so he’s in Todoroki’s personal space, cradles Todoroki’s left cheek in his hand, and presses a gentle kiss to Todoroki’s cheek. Thinking, Todoroki realizes it’s higher up than most cheek kisses would go, and that’s when it hits him that Midoriya kissed his scar.

Oh.

“Oh,” he says aloud.

Midoriya backs away, hesitant, unsure. “Was that— not okay?”

“No, it. It was, it’s okay, you’re okay.” Todoroki stumbles over his words in his efforts to reassure Midoriya, who beams shyly at him.

“Can I…?"

“Please.” It’s a pleasantry that’s ingrained in him, but he finds he means it. Please, he repeats. The notion of him begging for the contact is a little too on-the-nose.

Midoriya steps forward again, alternating between pressing gentle kisses over the scar tissue and running featherlight fingers over where he had just kissed. Todoroki thinks back to when his nails had been digging into the scar tissue, comparing it to just how reverently Midoriya’s ghosting the tips of his fingers, weightless, over his skin. How delicately he leaves gossamer kisses against the damaged skin without a care to how it looks.

It’s nice. It’s so nice, in fact, that Todoroki almost can’t believe he gets to have this. His whole life, he’d convinced himself he didn’t deserve good things, because of what his father did to him, how he looked— but.

As Midoriya steps away, Todoroki finds himself leaning minutely closer as Midoriya’s fingers leave his cheek.

They smile shyly at each other, faces red. Midoriya speaks first. “Do you believe me now?"

Todoroki exhales. “Yeah,” he says.

He gets to have this. He deserves to have this. He’s allowed to have this.

It’ll take time, but. This is a good first step.

“Hey, Midoriya,” he says. “Can I kiss you?”

Midoriya colors, as if he wasn’t already red before. “Y-yes!” he squeaks.

Todoroki rises up, standing so he’s to his full height, a little taller than Midoriya, and sets his hands on his shoulders. He’s going to do this. He’s going to do it.

He leans forward, pressing a light kiss to Midoriya’s lips. He pulls back, mechanically, a second later, nervous.

Um.” They both flush even more as they realize they’d stuttered in tandem, but maybe that’s even better.

“A-anyway!” Midoriya says. “Do you want to go back down so we can watch you win?”

Truthfully, Todoroki kind of wants to just stay here and keep kissing Midoriya for hopefully forever, but he can’t say no to the hopeful expression on his face.

He nods, and Midoriya beams, standing on his tiptoes to press another kiss to his cheek, his right this time.

Todoroki surprises even himself when he initiates their hand-holding, but he wouldn’t trade it for the world when Midoriya looks so happy he might burst with it. It’s about how Todoroki feels, too.

“Oh yeah,” Midoriya remembers, swinging their entwined hands between them before they enter the common room. “When I left, I wanted to tell you that you won against Kaminari-kun. Which, I’ll remind you, everyone knew was going to happen.” Midoriya finishes off smugly.

“All right, all right,” Todoroki responds, rolling his eyes.

Before they enter the room, though, they break their hands apart, with no small amount of reluctance from the both of them. They hadn’t even had a chance to confirm what they were to each other— boyfriends, hopefully, Todoroki’s brain supplies— and he doesn’t want their classmates noticing anything while it’s still new to the both of them.

Because he can’t help himself, Todoroki presses a quick kiss to Midoriya’s cheek and, to disguise his blush, instantly shoulders open the heavy door leading to the common room.

The pandemonium he encountered earlier is no more. Instead, people seem to have split into two factions, one barricading themselves behind the couch, and another taking refuge behind the whiteboard itself, where significant progress has been made in the bracket. It’s organized chaos this time around. If that’s an improvement. The two factions seem to be representing Bakugou and… “Deku-kun deserves second place!” they hear Uraraka’s voice call, voice filled with conviction.

Huh?” Midoriya yelps once they’re inside, the door slamming shut behind them. It’s a grand entrance, certainly. Todoroki looks down, and Midoriya is blushing prettily again.

“Oh! Deku-kun!” Uraraka waves them over. “Come join your side! Todoroki-kun, you too!”

In a daze, they walk over to Midoriya’s team, huddled behind the whiteboard. Uraraka seems to be spearheading the operation, as she whispers to them, “Thanks for coming to the right side.”

“But,” Midoriya protests, “I thought I only w-won… the first round… because Kouda-kun didn’t care for the competition…”

“That’s right,” Uraraka replies with a determined nod of her head. “And that’s how you won the second round, too! But that doesn’t matter! Now that you’re here, it’s about the principle of the thing!”

To Todoroki’s worry, Midoriya looks as if his soul has left his body. “I won… b-because… the others didn’t care… and now I’m against…”

“Bakugou! Bakugou! Bakugou!” chants Bakugou’s team at them. It’s only comprised of a few members, and Bakugou himself looks vaguely murderous at the fact that this situation exists.

“Sorry, Midoriya-kun,” Ashido calls from behind the couch. “I’m not into cute guys! I like someone more manly!”

Manly!” Kirishima parrots back at them, sticking his head over the couch for a second before, giggling, Hagakure lobs a crumpled paper ball at him from… somewhere behind the whiteboard.

Midoriya turns to Todoroki, points at himself almost exaggeratedly. “Me? C-cute?”

Unable to help the small smile that spreads across his face, Todoroki nods in confirmation, and Midoriya flushes even more.

“Exactly!” Uraraka crows. “That’s the principle of the thing! This is a battle between cuteness and hotness!” She slams her fist down in her palm. “And cuteness will win!

For his part, Midoriya looks like he’s going to pass out. “I’m against… Kacchan…”

“Hey,” Todoroki murmurs, close to Midoriya’s ear. “You don’t have to do this. We can leave if you want.” He of all people knows it’s okay if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

But Midoriya shakes his head, determined. “No. It’s okay. I want you to see your first place win.”

Todoroki frowns, but relents. “Okay. Let me know.” He gets a grateful look from Midoriya for that.

It’s Iida, then, who interrupts, standing in the middle of the room, having not chosen a side, or even participating in the bracket, it looks like. “We should cease our fighting! This will only serve to incite strife amongst us, and as a class, we should strive for harmony! The battle between cuteness and hotness is unimportant, because they’re separate categories!”

“Iida-kun!” Uraraka gasps.

Tsuyu laughs. “He’s right--ribbit. Maybe we should just stop this.”

Ashido and Kirishima pop their heads up from behind the couch. “A ceasefire?” they say in unison.

“Well,” Uraraka calls, “we have the numbers advantage on you guys anyway. We were voting, so we would’ve won if we were actually serious. It was just kind of fun to pretend to fight each other for a while.”

Bakugou scoffs, the first thing he’s done since he and Midoriya entered the room except look like he was a second away from blowing something up. “Whatever,” he huffs, standing up and leaving the room. “I never cared about any of this,” the rest of class 1-A hears before the door shuts behind him.

It’s silent for a beat before Uraraka announces, “And Midoriya wins by forfeit… again!” She turns towards him with a grin. “Congratulations on second place, Deku-kun!”

“Um, thanks?” He’s sheepish. “I don’t really think this matters that much…”

“Well, no,” Uraraka agrees, easy. “Plus, we already agreed on the first place winner even before the bracket. The whole thing was to decide second place!”

She switches her gaze to Todoroki. “So, congratulations to you, too, Todoroki-kun!” Her eyes soften, then, too. “I’m glad Midoriya was able to bring you back.”

Todoroki has no idea what to say to any of this, especially because Midoriya is giving him a pointed glare from behind Uraraka. He gives a polite nod and hopes that’s enough; it’ll still take a while for him to believe anything for himself.

“Maybe next time,” she muses, “we could have different categories… One for overall attractiveness, one for hotness, and one for cuteness… ah, but that’s still no fair! There are still winners that would never change.”

That’s a little too far, and Todoroki coughs to interrupt her. “There doesn’t really need to be a next time,” he says, and Midoriya emphatically backs him up with nods.

She laughs. “Okay, Todoroki-kun. Anyway, goodnight! I think that’s enough for me.”

She waves goodbye to them, and at her leave, the rest of the classmates filter out, leaving Midoriya and Todoroki alone to stare at the giant, daunting whiteboard in front of them. Before they know it, they’re laughing, Midoriya loud and full-bodied and Todoroki quiet, more of his shoulders shaking than laughing. It’s still more than he’s let himself laugh in a long, long time.

He looks up and finds Midoriya staring at him, eyes wide and mouth partially open. “What?” he asks, self-conscious.

“Nothing, you’re just… really beautiful, Todoroki-kun.” It sinks in what he’s just said, and Midoriya flushes for what feels like the hundredth time that night (which he will apparently never get used to). “Or-- or something!” he amends, as if that will take back what he said.

Todoroki sidles up closer to him, though, taking his hand in his and tugging him even closer. “You’re beautiful, too, you know. Or should I say, cutest one in class…?”

Midoriya’s face goes impossibly redder, and he pushes Todoroki’s chest with the hand that’s not being held. “Stoooop,” he protests.

“No,” Todoroki says simply, because he knows won’t, even if his face is reddening. “If you can tell me I’m good-looking, I can tell you you are. Because you are. Cute, too. They weren’t lying.”

“Ugh,” Midoriya groans, pressing himself to Todoroki’s chest where a moment ago he was pushing him away. “Stop using my argument against me.”

“Mmmm,” Todoroki hums, his chin on top of Midoriya’s head. He pretends to deliberate for a bit, and then says, “No,” feeling Midoriya deflate against him.

“I guess it’s not really fair of me to ask you to do that, huh,” he mumbles. “We make a good pair, though, huh? First and second place in the hotness bracket?”

“Yeah.” Todoroki lets out a breath. “Best-looking couple in class.” He freezes, takes his chin off of the top of Midoriya’s head. “Uh. If, uh. If you wanted to be, um. Uhhh. A couple. That is. It’s okay if you don’t.” He’s practically whispering by the end of it.

Todoroki feels Midoriya take his hand out of his, and that’s it-- his life is over, and he can finally become the emotionless rock he was always meant to be. Who needs feelings anyway? He starts to step away from Midoriya, until, all at once, he feels strong arms wrap around his torso. Oh. Oh.

“Yes,” Midoriya says, voice muffled from where he’s pressing his face into Todoroki’s chest. “Yes, yes, yes.” He pulls his arms away, instead setting his hands on Todoroki’s cheeks as he straightens to press a kiss to his lips. When he eventually leans back, he bites his bottom lip and leans in for just one more quick kiss, like he can’t help himself, and then says, “On one condition, though.”

Anything. It’s Todoroki’s first thought, before he’s even said anything, and he colors. “What’s that?” he asks, to cover up his immediate willingness.

“You’re not allowed to talk bad about my boyfriend,” Midoriya demands, even with his face red. “Okay?” He’s staring up at Todoroki with determination, and it would almost be funny if he weren’t so serious.

“...All right,” Todoroki concedes, to Midoriya’s elation.

And maybe it is all right. Maybe he’s all right. Or maybe, more importantly, he will be.