If he were ever asked what he was passionate about, Shouto wouldn’t have an answer.
There were things he liked and things he disliked, but nothing had ever triggered such a strong emotion within him that he’d wanted to go back for more and more and more.
Until he met Inasa.
Inasa was a big presence, with a loud voice accompanying it. He’d swept in like the whirlwind he was, taking one look at Shouto before scowling. “I don't like you,” he’d announced.
The words didn't hurt - they didn't cut deep like the lines of disappointment that his father constantly spewed. But the statement had him shaken to the core, nonetheless. He’d nodded, feeling almost breathless, “I understand.”
Weeks later he still remembers the sneer on downturned lips. The sharp furrow of the man’s brow and the fiery detestation that spiked within dilated pupils. It was a passionate hatred, and Shouto almost wishes he could channel such devotion into hating his father. Yet, years and years with the man had left him aloof and nearly void of emotion.
It was better to not care, than to hurt too much.
He wonders if he can ever get his heart back; pick up the pieces that had been left shattered at the pure expression of abhorrence on a broken woman. His last fading memory of his mother before she had been locked away.
As if seeking solace from his past, Shouto finds himself actively looking for the tall man. He searches crowds for a dark, cropped head of hair and broad shoulders, lifted and held high with pride. He almost craves to be a part of - to see firsthand - the way Inasa navigates his zeal for life. He wants to feel something too.
He wants to feel that lightning passion strike down upon him, breaking through the waves of ache and pain that has become a constant toll on his body and mind. The echo of a certain ignited ‘hero’.
When it actually happens, it’s when Shouto is least expecting it. He is caught off-guard by the way that Inasa enters the building. The doors slam from a sudden burst of wind and Inasa enters behind his self-made fanfare, a wide grin stretching across his face. Shouto has a fleeting wish that such a bright smile was reserved just for him.
Instead, he tries not to care about the wild presence within the vicinity and turns back to the selection of paperback novels that have been labelled as new releases.
He hears heavy footsteps approach - a rhythmic swagger that his heart stutters to match its beat. It’s foolish, but he does not deny the way his breath catches at the cliché way his hand extends out at the same moment his does. They both reach for the same book, but Shouto flinches back the very moment that roughened fingertips brush against the back of his hand. Shouto’s mind becomes static as Inasa’s hand pulls back, the man’s expression morphing into a muted grin. It’s sad and limp looking in comparison to when he had entered.
Of course, why would Inasa ever be happy to see him?
“Todoroki-san. Whilst I am disappointed in myself, I believe that you were going to be first to reach this book we are both vying for. It is only fair that you should be the one to take it,” he speaks, far too loud for the small store. He’s unashamed of the many weary gazes that turn in his direction. Shouto is too busy trying not to find himself enamoured with such a commanding presence.
Shouto catches himself staring and clears his throat. “No, you can have it,” he finally insists with a quiet mutter, “... take it as an apology to make up for whatever I have done to make you dislike me so much.” He takes a step back, clearly forfeiting from the so-called competition that Inasa had imposed.
His words linger awkwardly in the air as Inasa’s head tilts to the side in deep thought. Pools of ink seem to stare straight into his soul, dragging over his smaller stature and reading his intentions. Shouto feels trapped, yet he can’t break his gaze from the other.
“It seems that I have misjudged you, Todoroki-san,” he eventually responds, “I sincerely apologize. Allow me to make it up to you, please.” Inasa bends at the waist, head parallel to the ground.
The breath he was holding releases, and Shouto feels as though he can move once more. Everyone in the store is staring at the pair, and he is unsure as to whether they were staring because they recognised him, or if they were watching because Inasa was acting so brazenly.
Wordlessly he reaches out and gestures for Inasa to raise his head. He has a feeling that the man simply won’t let the matter go unless he agrees. Despite him telling himself that he really had no other choice, his stomach flutters at the prospect of spending more time with this man. Inasa is watching him carefully again, and he raises his chin - conveying that perhaps they should speak outside.
Inasa perks up immediately and nearly bounds out of the shop. Shouto follows behind, the book forgotten.
Outside, Inasa offers to take him out for a meal and Shouto readily agrees. Inasa likes to talk with his hands, and Shouto’s gaze is constantly drawn to the way they seem to move with violent grace; like leaves being tousled by a sudden evening squall.
He compares Inasa’s relaxed movements with his own, stiff posture. His arms are deadweight by his sides and his footsteps are stilted. Inasa is a man who loves freely whilst Shouto pushes everyone away. His mother’s haunted expression flashes in his mind once more. They are complete opposites, and Shouto feels very lucky to admire from this close.
“To be honest, I misjudged you as you seemed very similar to your father. Of whom I dislike very much.” Inasa suddenly explains.
Shouto looks down at his hands, hiding a frown, “I… seem like my father?” The last thing he wanted was to follow in his father’s footsteps. It stung a little, to be compared to that man. His hands clasp around each other, fiddling nervously. He wills himself to keep walking.
“No! Not at all! That’s only what I originally thought,” he says, “I apologize if I have offended you. You are nothing like your father; he’s an intolerable load of rubbish, and you are no such thing. I am able to see this now.”
“Oh,” his response is merely voiced through an exhale. He isn’t quite sure how he should be interpreting such words.
No more words are exchanged until they have been seated inside a restaurant and have ordered and received their food. Shouto is usually one to enjoy the silence, but it’s almost off-putting considering Inasa almost always has something to say - constantly talking up a storm. His hands feel clammy, and he hopes he hasn’t just ruined something that could have been more.
He doesn’t know what to do in situations like this. His fingers grip the chopsticks like a vice until they’re trembling with tension. Running on autopilot, he manages to lift the noodles to his mouth. Chew, swallow and repeat.
If he had known that this would take an awkward turn, he would have rejected Inasa’s request to treat him a meal. He’s barely a quarter-way through his bowl when the other lifts his bowl to his lips with bravado and gulp down the rest of the soup.
Shouto really shouldn’t be surprised that Inasa somehow manages to devour his food within a matter of minutes.
The dark-haired man clears his throat when his bowl is set back down on the table with a resounding thunk .
“I feel like I did not explain myself clearly earlier,” he speaks, pausing over his next words, “I would like to say that I have a keen eye for the most passionate of people. And I think you have a lot of potential, Todoroki-san; I think you have a lot of love to give. But perhaps you are scared to do so.”
The words catch him completely off-guard. He knows that they're supposed to come across as a compliment, but few people had ever sung such high praises about him.
Shouto can feel himself flush with shame as he embarrassingly chokes on the soba he’s slurping and coughs. It’s not his finest moment - noodles and soup flicking up to whip his face - and he can’t believe he’s let himself look so stupid in front of Inasa. Even so, the other man bursts out into a full-bodied laugh; gripping is waist and bellowing out so loud it echoes through the restaurant like thunder.
The mere sight of the man displaying such joy around him has Shouto completely enamoured. It is not like he’s ever been particularly worthy of anything, but if Inasa not hating him anymore was the only good thing to happen to him for the next century, then he’d have no complaints.
Glancing back down to his bowl, he could feel his grip on his chopsticks relax as he went in for another bite. He feels better now, knowing his presence no longer sparked contempt within Inasa. The said man is too busy wiping the tears from the corner of his eyes as he slowly finishes his meal.
By the time they leave the restaurant, Shouto’s stomach and heart feels full. He doesn’t deny the opportunity to have Inasa walk him home when the man offers.
It’s dark now, the last dredges of sunlight fading beneath the skyline. It is almost upsetting that Shouto does not live very far from the central shopping district, because in the dark, Shouto can openly admire the man keeping pace beside him.
As they approach his building, he stops Inasa before they cross the road, “Thank you for today…” Although he could not exactly call their outing a date, he would like to say it was wishful thinking.
Inasa, as polite as ever in his speech, says, “Well, it was a misunderstanding that I am only sincere in my apologies for.”
They both hesitate. Inasa stands stock still as if unsure of what to do next, and Shouto’s eyes flicker between his apartment and the broad figure before him. In a split second, he makes up his mind.
“Could we meet again?” He doesn’t want to part yet - that much is obvious - but considering the time of night, this would be the next best option, “I enjoyed spending time with you today.”
A grin lights up the other’s face as he takes the question in stride, “How bold! I admire this trait of yours. It speaks volumes about your hidden passion!” Inasa is almost cheering, “I shall provide you with my contact details so that we can settle our plans for a later date.”
His face twitches unnaturally, and he hopes that wasn’t too obvious as he nods briefly, “I’d like that.”
A pause. “... Todoroki-san, you have a very beautiful smile,” he announces.
“I - um, thank you,” Shouto nearly melts under Inasa’s gaze, and he knows he’s blushing, “And please… just call me Shouto.” He feels an odd emotion welling up within him; like a cup of hot tea that fills his chest with warmth. It’s a foreign emotion, but he realises that he’s actually happy .
He likes Inasa, and the comfort that the man brings. He likes how the man is able to melt his heart and how he’s able to make him smile . He looks up at the man who stands there patiently and allows his lips to curl up once more, “Can we take another walk? Just around the block?” I want to spend more time with you. I don’t want this to end quite yet.
“Of course! It would be my pleasure, Shouto-kun!”
They begin to walk away from his apartment, Inasa taking large strides whilst Todoroki quickened his pace to keep up.
The taller man fills the silence, talking about everything and anything as Shouto hangs onto every word. Inasa already knows that Shouto isn’t a talkative person, and the heterochromatic man can only appreciate how insightful and considerate Inasa can be.
His heart nearly stops as a hand brushes against his knuckles. One, twice and then intertwines with his own. Calloused yet gentle, squeezing tenderly in a warm embrace. He’s almost scared to let go - and he sincerely hopes that this isn’t some kind of far-fetched dream.
When he squeezes the hand back, tightening their connection and grounding him to the fact that this was reality. Inasa’s voice drifts off into silence as he clears his throat at his reciprocation.
“Keep talking,” Shouto quickly murmurs, “I like your voice.” His head slowly leans into the other’s bicep and compact muscles tense beneath his temple.
Inasa gives him a contemplative stare, “I think you are a complex person, Shouto-kun. But I like you very much.” His arm wraps around his shoulder, pulling him closer and shielding him from the evening chill.
Shouto’s heart beats steadily in his chest. A resounding melody that has his body filling with warmth again. He can’t remember the last time he felt this mellow, and he looks up at Inasa with a small smile. He presses a little closer, eyes falling closed with content.
If asked what he was passionate about, Shouto would say, “Embracing the storm.”
They walk around the same block ten more times, and it’s nearing one in the morning when the wind picks up, and sky opens to come pouring down. It’s cold, it’s wet, but they don’t care.
Shouto will forever cherish the memory of his first kiss in the rain.