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call it dumb, call it love (call it whatever you call it)

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Todoroki manages to make things go smoothly for about four and a half dates.

Well, maybe this shouldn't be counted as even a half-date. Todoroki has never associated being alone with someone as a positive thing, before. He doesn’t feel like he talks enough to make direct interactions with him interesting; his brother and sister have always been present as a unit. Safety in numbers, you might say. No child of Endeavor’s for themselves, not in the Todoroki household.

So he’s still surprised by the genuine, warm spark of joy that comes over him when he realizes that everyone else has trickled out of the third-year dorm common room, and he and Midoriya remain.

“Hi,” Midoriya says quietly. He’s smushed up in the corner of a plush couch, where he’d been relegated by Uraraka earlier, but now he unfurls. He swipes two hands through his fluffy green hair, smiles brilliantly. Just like that, Todoroki’s heartrate is spiking. He was waiting, he realizes, until everyone else left. Waiting for me.

“Hello.” His glance flickers to the closed common room door—nobody’s going to bother them. “Come here?”

“Okay!” Midoriya agrees, with an excited fumbling that Todoroki wishes he could have, as well. When they’re around a group Midoriya can’t help but shrink inwards, take up less space. Like he expects to be punished for it, everything—talking and moving and breathing, though he can’t help any of them. Todoroki knows the feeling.

Yet everything about Midoriya when they’re alone together is just—expressive. Loud. Todoroki wishes he could relax like that, too, could unfreeze his limbs and make them speak. By the time Midoriya tumbles into his lap, arms around his neck and muscular legs bracketing Todoroki’s own, he’s flushed pink and his eyes are sparkling.

“Your heart’s going,” Midoriya notes, a palm pressed against his chest.

You’re here, Todoroki wants to say, but that seems—like an assumption. Not to mention cheesy. “My heart’s on the left side of my body.”

Midoriya’s pupils dilate, right there. Like Todoroki’s said something scandalous, not just referenced his own biology. “I’ve never thought about that before. I mean, I have, but, ah, nevermind. The way your quirk affects—everything. Your heart, your lungs…”

“He,” Todoroki says without specifying. He doesn’t have to specify. Midoriya understands. Even after his father tried to make amends, it's difficult to talk about him. “He took me to a hospital, a few times, had them run tests. My heartrate is fast. One of my lungs expands more than the other.”

“Half your mouth is colder,” Midoriya adds eagerly, and then squeaks and hides his face in his hands. The casual mention of it—the kissing—has Todoroki leaning forward, parting the fingers to get at his lips.

It’s delicate, this thing between them. It only started recently, and Todoroki has been delighted and bewildered and clueless about the entire ordeal. According to his father, kissing feels good but is useless, like most other things that gain you no fame or money or power. According to his brother, kissing can actually get you a lot of sway. According to his sister, he’s only supposed to be kissing someone he cares about.

Todoroki listened to his sister, at least. There’s nobody he cares about like Midoriya. So they’re—dating? Probably? At what point does hand-holding and going out and staying in just to curl up in each others’ laps transition from dating to official boyfriends, is what Todoroki really wants to know. Unfortunately, Midoriya hasn’t really broached the topic either. Todoroki knows he’s lived a life shuttered inside the depths of the familial cage he was born in—reminding Midoriya of that part of his life seems… foolish. Like he’s poking Midoriya to remember that, yes, in terms of his social skills, rich and blessed Todoroki Shouto is probably a lost cause.

Don’t mess up, Todoroki reminds himself fiercely, doing a maneuver with his tongue that he remembers Midoriya liking.

Mm--! Uhm, okay, yes,” Midoriya says, wiggling closer, and elbows himself in the side.

“Careful,” Todoroki warns softly. Then, because Midoriya is blushing and scraping furiously at the side of his own face with one palm, agonizing, “we’ve got time. Slow it down.”

The jittering seems to stop. Midoriya meets his eyes, swallowing, a thousand thoughts swimming just behind the bright green.

“Okay,” he agrees, and leans in again, cupping the back of Todoroki’s neck.

I think I’m doing okay, Todoroki concludes, before he’s too swept away to think of much at all.

Approximately thirty minutes later, Midoriya pulls away from where he’s been experimenting with hickeys on both sides of Todoroki’s neck.

“So,” he ventures. Todoroki groans and, through the most heroic effort of his time at school, swings his head up from the back of the couch. “I… really enjoy this.”

“Good.”

“It’s just…” Ah, here comes the critique. Midoriya is so cute, there’s—there’s no way he’s less experienced than Todoroki. There is no one less experienced than Todoroki. But as always, the hero’s being kind about it, treating it as a mutual opportunity for growth. Todoroki is always looking to improve. As much as he hates to admit it, he shares ambition with his father, though at least for Todoroki it’s universal: a great hero, a good brother. The best boyfriend. God, how Todoroki wants to be the best boyfriend.

“You can tell me,” Todoroki says plainly. Focus, he commands himself, serious. Pay attention so you can keep him. In his lap, Midoriya shifts, smiles just a little awkwardly. Focus, Todoroki has to command himself again.

“Well,” Midoriya mutters, bright red, fidgeting with the strings of his All-Might hoodie, “I guess I’m wondering what to call this?”

“Call this,” Todoroki echoes mindlessly, mesmerized by a freckle. Everything looks different, this close up.

“You know,” Midoriya huffs, letting his poor hoodie free and jittering his fingers in the air, instead, again, “how I should introduce you? To other people?”

Todoroki blinks. This is not the conversation he expected to be having. “…with my name.” His hero name and his real name are the same, even. What’s complicated about it?

The rapid movement stops, the stare Todoroki receives a little wobbly, stricken.

“Oh.”

There’s been a misstep here, but Midoriya—he always guides. Never mocks.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Todoroki reveals plainly. “It seems like you have an expectation here, and I don’t know if I can meet it.”

Help me, he urges silently.

Instead, Midoriya’s eyes drop, all his muscles bunching inwards, oddly small within Todoroki’s lap. “All right,” he breathes. “I thought—with last week and the aquarium and yesterday night…“

He doesn’t so much trail off as become inaudible, lips still working.

“Midoriya?”

His name seems to jumpstart the other student into motion, scrambling off his lap and into the center of the room.

“I get it!” Midoriya announces loudly, saluting and bowing all at once. “No need to talk about it anymore!”

“But I don’t—“

“See you in class, Todoroki!”

He’s about to march from the room, determined, but Todoroki manages to snag one large, scarred hand.

“Don’t go,” he says plainly. “I didn’t mean to make you leave.” To make you stop kissing me.

Midoriya, ever expressive, shifts his face through an onslaught of emotions—Todoroki only catches flustered confusion, nervousness, determination. Determination is where he settles. His grip on Todoroki’s hand, previously loose and sliding out of the hold, now tightens.

“Is this,” Midoriya takes a deep breath, gestures between them, “is it fun, for you?”

This is one of the few things Todoroki looks forward to, so he nods.

“It’s not just fun,” Midoriya finishes, voice small, “for me.”

Their hands separate. Midoriya walks out the common room door.


 

When he goes to her room Momo makes him tea, no questions asked. The soothing steps and her elegant mannerisms do more for Todoroki than a series of invasive personal questions ever could.

Besides Midoriya, Momo is the first one Todoroki wanted to be a good friend for. When their tea is steaming gently on the table before them, she smiles, bright eyed.

“Want to talk about it?”

“I think,” Todoroki says, “that I am such a bad kisser, Midoriya stopped dating me.”

Down Momo’s teacup goes, settling with a little tinkle that Todoroki knows he’d never hear if she weren’t shocked.

“That’s… a lot,” she ventures.

“I know. I must be terrible.” He touches two fingers to his lips, wonders if his right side feels excessively chapped.

“No, Todoroki, I meant that is a lot of information. Nobody told me you guys were dating, firstly. Secondly, I can’t imagine someone as eager and kind as Midoriya not wanting to, well, practice before you gave up on your relationship.”

Todoroki squints. “Is our dating not obvious?” They’d kissed in the common room and out in public. Multiple times. Some of their classmates have super hearing. The rest are just incredibly nosy. And Ochako and Bakugou had seen them at the aquarium together and waved (Ochako had. Bakugou had shaken a fist). As far as Todoroki’s concerned, Yuuei has its secrets… but this isn’t one of them. “Practice?”

“Everybody knows you and Midoriya are,” she considers her wording, primly, “attracted to one another, we just didn’t think any action had been taken. And yes, Todoroki, practice.” Momo goes a little pink. “As with any skill, kissing is something you can improve with practice. Jirou taught me that.”

They both stare for a minute, processing. Politely, Todoroki finishes his tea, then stands. “I’m going to go make this right.”

“I believe in you,” Momo says fervently, “and support you, completely. Go fix this.”

Feeling confident, Todoroki strides out of her room.


 

The situation is not good.

“You—we—what?”

“We should practice,” Todoroki repeats, “kissing.”

Midoriya still looks like somebody just hurled his limited edition All-Might figurine on the ground and stomped on it. Then he grits his teeth. Now it looks like he’s just broken a finger, but is going to continue to be stubborn and stupid about it. “Todoroki, I told you. I told you this wasn’t a good… arrangement for me.” Awkwardness bleeds into his stiff frame, for a split second. “Ochako said,” he takes a quick, punctured breath, “Ochako said I shouldn’t, um, settle.”

Todoroki agrees with her wholeheartedly, but maybe, like Momo, she doesn’t realize the extent to which Todoroki is willing to work on becoming a better version of himself for Midoriya. Momo, at least, had seemed to believe Todoroki’s lack of experience wasn’t an insurmountable problem.

Those scarred fingers are gripping on his door frame, ready to shut it in Todoroki’s face. There’s enough power in every one of those fingers to send Todoroki flying through a wall, and some of them have done that. All Todoroki can think about, when he sees them, is the way they sift through his hair when they’re kissing. The way they brushed against his own when they were at the aquarium, Midoriya always the brave one.

He’s leaning in before he even realizes it himself. “I will make it good for you,” he promises. I will work day and night until I’ve reached where you are. Todoroki isn’t arrogant about his current abilities—he was arrogant about his quirk and his fighting skills because those were things he objectively knew to be true, things burned into him. Here, he knows, is the unknown.

There we go, he thinks, watching pupil eclipse the forest green of Midoriya’s eyes. Like it had been, before Midoriya decided something wasn’t working.

“That’s not fair at all,” Midoriya whispers, soft and strained, darting his gaze down to Todoroki’s lips once and then twice. “I—don’t—“

With a little pained noise, he pushes up on his tiptoes and seals their lips together. Todoroki has spent a portion of his life being literally on fire, and this is somehow hotter. More volcanic.

Focus, Todoroki reminds himself, when he feels his hands start scrabbling for purchase in Midoriya’s clothes, the parts of him that lock into Todoroki’s grip like they were made to fit—hips and shoulders and necks and knees.

“Show me how to make it good for you,” he demands, when Midoriya stumbles backwards and their lips separate for a moment.

All he gets is a stare, blown pupils and a warm hand clenching and unclenching the fabric of his jacket.

“Midoriya?”

That gets movement, a jerk into action. “What makes it good for me,” Midoriya says unsteadily, “is going to make certain things embarrassingly obvious. If you want this, you have to accept that. It’s—it’s going to be—awkward.”

“It’s me,” Todoroki agrees readily, even if he doesn’t really understand. “It’s going to be awkward.” He gets a little chuckle at that, a smile, even though it seems to fade after a few seconds. The freckled face going somber.

Midoriya sucks in a deep breath. "You can't make fun of me for anything I ask."

"I haven't made a joke since freshman year, and that was on accident."

Midoriya laughs for real at that, collapses forward, forehead into Todoroki's shoulder as he smacks at it. "God. God. This is such a bad idea."

Todoroki would like to ask why, but he's a little worried that means Midoriya will give up on the possibility of them all over again.

"Our teachers would say we're good at bad ideas. So."

Midoriya rolls his shoulders back, squares up, like he's ready for a fight.

“What you can do for me,” Midoriya kicks his door shut, tugs Todoroki further into the room, “is say my name.”

“Midoriya,” Todoroki breathes.

“My name,” he repeats fervently, and kisses him again.


 

As suspected, there are a lot of things Todoroki didn’t know about good kissing. For example, he didn’t know that whispering Izuku would make the other student melt, or that while Midoriya liked kissing he liked cuddling even more, along with a heavy dose of eye contact while lounging on the couch or bed together. Hand-holding, too, was a must.

Midoriya seemed embarrassed and shy and awkward about all of these things, even though he’d been the one to suggest them. Todoroki loves it, that he’d asked anyway.

“How’d it go?” Momo pulls him aside to ask. “Is he willing to work with you on it? Are you dating again?”

“We’re working on the kissing,” Todoroki nods, and then realizes: the dating. He’d asked Midoriya on the first date, Midoriya had asked for their second, Todoroki their third, Midoriya their fourth… Todoroki's no genius, but he can recognize a pattern. “I should ask for a date.”

“Don’t you ask him to spar every day?”

“Is that a date?”

Is punching a date, if your name's not Bakugou? He certainly likes watching Midoriya sweat.

Momo considers. “I’ll ask Kyouka. She’s better at dating than I am.” Unlike Todoroki’s situation, Momo is official with Jirou. Neither of them are really sure how they’ve managed to snag the attention of their ideals, which they voice to each other on occasion. “Let me know if you need me to ask Papa to get you a dinner reservation.”

They’ve never gone on a dinner date. It hadn’t even occurred to Todoroki yet. “Could you?”

Momo takes his hands between hers. “Of course! It’ll be someplace so nice that it can’t go badly.”


 

“Are you hungry?” Todoroki says at about six, which he’s calculated gives them just enough time to make the walk to the restaurant. Midoriya rolls over in his arms and tugs at his fuzzy All-Might blanket, which he likes to use when he lays on Todoroki’s cold side.

“Always,” he agrees readily, because you don’t lift weights and exercise for hours a day without consuming a hefty calorie count. “We could pop over to the place on the corner?”

“Where?”

“Right next to the bus stop.”

“That’s an establishment with food in it?”

“It’s a convenience store,” Midoriya laughs. “I know you've been to one before. You live with the rest of us.”

“Not for dinner out,” Todoroki admits readily. “Besides, I had a place in mind.”

Midoriya’s frown is a little disheartening. He looked flustered and nervous, when Todoroki asked him out the first two times. Ready to combust, when he was the one doing the asking. But not wary, like this, calculating. Like he’s trying to figure out some nefarious villain’s trap. This isn’t supposed to be stressful. Todoroki is not part of the League of Villains, just the League-of-Desperate-Teenagers. Stress was supposed to disappear after One-For-All. Momo had said, though, that Jirou felt uncomfortable the first time they went out somewhere expensive and Momo treated her.

It's not logical. Todoroki has a generous allowance every month, and all he does with it is eat cold soba noodles, drink tea, and buy the occasional gift for a classmate. One dinner out would just be spending what his father expects him to spend—no need for insecurity.

There’s one thing Todoroki knows that makes Midoriya relax, instantly, go pliant and content.

“Join me,” he says, “Izuku.”

It works, he notes with a little pride. Midoriya lets him button up his red, white, and blue jacket with yellow streaks for him, squeaks when he kisses his nose (kissing tip #23), and holds his hand all the way to the restaurant without another question.

Yet once they’re seated beneath a chandelier, and Midoriya is staring down at a series of ornate dishes, the muttering starts up. He’s told Midoriya before that he’d rather hear the commentary clearly, and that he doesn’t mind it. When he reminds Midoriya of this, all he gets is a rapid shake of his green head, freckles blurring.

“Doesn’t,” Todoroki catches after their waiter brings them tea and then leaves, “make sense.”

“What doesn’t make sense?” Todoroki is always the confused one, not him.

Midoriya just tiredly drags a hand down his face, pumps his knees up and down in the chair. Beneath his hand there’s more muttering—all that’s left is to wait it out. Their appetizers arrive before Midoriya makes his point.

“Todoroki,” Midoriya says, stilling, looking up with those brilliant eyes, “why did you choose me for this? Why take me out to dinner. Why practice kissing on me. Why—why me, of all people.”

“Because I like you.” Midoriya just stares at him, hard, lips trembling and going white with how firmly he’s pressing them together. Maybe Todoroki hasn’t been clear or convincing enough. “You’re my best friend. You’re very attractive.”

“This--!” Midoriya shoves some of his food in his mouth, almost as if to shut himself up. Indeed, he says almost nothing for the rest of the barely-eaten meal, the fight seeming to fall from him.

Todoroki’s favorite part of Midoriya is that, no matter what, he never stops. He’ll save the day, no matter what he loses or how hopeless the situation. Defeated isn’t a word that describes Midoriya Izuku.

Yet sitting here, across from Todoroki, eyes down and shoulders hunched, that’s all he can see.

“Izuku,” he tries, reaching over and laying his right hand—that hand will always be considered the gentler, the safer, in his head—atop one of Midoriya’s. “You can tell me anything. What’s going on?”

Just like that, all the silence, the muttering, the misery, snaps into startlingly clear words.

This is not how you treat a friends with benefits.”

It would almost be funny—hilariously matches the vision of All-Might in Todoroki’s head that gallantly scolds, this is not hero-like behavior, young Todoroki!—if not for the tears shining in the corners of those green eyes. The shame that follows, when their waiter overhears and fumbles the teapot—Todoroki catches it without looking.

“Sir,” the waiter says faintly, “can I please have…” Todoroki ignores him.

Midoriya’s biting resolutely on one fingernail, looking everywhere but at Todoroki, and Todoroki feels like human garbage. Confused, outdated human garbage.

“By benefits do you mean dating? Friends with… dating?”

“Sir, if I may be so bold, that is definitely not what friends with benefits means. May I please have the teapot back?”

“What does he think it means?” Todoroki questions, handing it over, and Midoriya slowly turns a bright, bright red. The waiter leaves.

Hethinkswe’rehavingsex,” he hisses in a long, incomprehensible string. A single tear runs down his face and he noisily brings a hand to his face, scraping it off to the side.

“He thinks we’re in what sector?”

Sex,” Midoriya blurts out, still red, and if their table neighbors weren’t staring at them yet, they are now. They’re even still in their uniforms. Todoroki vaguely hopes this isn’t the table Momo’s family always uses.

“We haven’t done that yet.”

“Yet?” Midoriya’s pitch swings up by an octave. “Is that what we were supposed to do tonight?” Midoriya says, and all Todoroki can think is that it sounds like information-gathering, like they’re in battle and Midoriya needs to know or someone is going to lose a limb. “Is that what the nice dinner is for?”

“Is that what expensive dates are for?" Todoroki has so much to learn. Suddenly, he's far less worried about the table beside them. Everyone in this fancy restaurant is apparently here for one thing, and one thing alone. What exactly has his father been funding?

"You tell me!" Midoriya blurts, flattening his hair with both hands. "Ahh. Ahh."

"I told you what it was for,” Todoroki insists, “I like you.”

“Two weeks ago you wouldn’t even label what we’re doing as casual dating, and one date and hundreds of ‘practice’ kisses later we’re at the nicest restaurant this side of town and you like me?” Midoriya starts shaking his head, and just keeps shaking it, sinking in on himself. “No. No. I don’t know anything about romance, but I—I want to go home.”

Todoroki is barely coherent enough to stumble to his feet after him, the reply automatic: “I’ll walk you.”

The object of his affections only turns around long enough to jam his backpack into Todoroki’s arms. “You can leave that outside my dorm. I need to run.” He wavers in his resolve, bites his lip. “Please?”

“Of course?”

Then he’s gone. From the massive windows, Todoroki can see a flash of green outside. All he’s left with is a massive check, two plates of barely touched food, a backpack, and a total lack of understanding.


The teacup Momo gives him has tiny, cute little flowers, intricate enough that this is probably one she designed herself for practice. Her room has a window, so her desk is dappled with sunlight. Todoroki sits in the peaceful calm, and can appreciate none of it.

“How was your date?”

“I think,” Todoroki doesn’t even know how to frame this, “I think Midoriya believes I want to get in his pants?”

Momo blinks at him, coughs a little delicately into a handkerchief, personally embroidered with her name. “Based off of our conversations, that seems… reasonable?”

“No,” Todoroki corrects, “he just thinks I want to get in his pants.”

Momo coughs again, but this time with no delicacy. “You’ve had a crush on him since freshman year! You’ve been on dates!”

“I know.” He dissociates towards the wall, disoriented, half-sick. “My chest hurts. I feel dizzy.” Todoroki’s been screamed at and smacked into walls under the guise of training. Something like this shouldn’t hurt his heart like that.

“Well,” Jirou says, from her position curled up beside Momo on the bed, “your mouth says heartbreak but your face says it’s Sunday.”

“It is a Sunday.”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about,” Jirou sighs.

“What are you talking about,” Momo and Todoroki echo in unison.

“I mean this very kindly,” Jirou says, “but both of you are not exactly the easiest people to read, and even when Midoriya or I can read you, you have the social skills of a houseplant. We don’t blame you. But it makes misunderstandings easy.”

“I say exactly what I mean,” Todoroki insists.

“Which can be incredibly confusing, because literally no one else does that. Midoriya’s IQ is off the charts, he probably has diagnosed anxiety, and he’s reading twenty different cues at once, plotting his next steps. It’s like me and hearing. Sometimes when you pay that much attention, everything—even the simple stuff—carries a lot of patterns and significance.”

“Which is incredibly impressive,” Momo interrupts, and Jirou blushes, looking away before continuing on like her girlfriend had said nothing.

“Yeah, well, sometimes all that overwhelming noise goes to static. It doesn’t help that both of you are awkward.”

“Midoriya’s not awkward.” Jirou shoots him a skeptical look. “So he doesn’t know that I want to be his boyfriend.”

“Did you ask him to be his boyfriend?”

“I asked him out on dates, he told me what we had wasn’t ‘fun’ for him, kissed me when I asked him to practice, and… implied to a waiter we were having sex? Then was upset with me for it?”

“Still doesn’t make any sense,” Momo ponders, finger tapping her lips. “But I’m sure we can logic it out. I can create us a whiteboard if we think it’ll be useful! And a list! And maybe some more tea? Don’t worry, Todoroki. We’re here to help—we’re your friends.”

The words spark the memory in him. “That’s it. He said I wasn’t doing a good job of treating him as a friend-with-benefits.”

“Is that like a business partner?” Momo asks, wrinkling her nose, but all Jirou does is slowly sit up straight.

“You two don’t know what that means?”

“From what he said it sounded like a mistress.”

“Maybe a consort!” Momo adds.

“Or a prostitute.”

Jirou’s eyebrows shoot up. “It’s notany of those things. I feel like your families never left the Edo Period. It’s just a friend that you, well,” she avoids Momo’s studious gaze, “have sex with. Or kiss. But you don’t have a relationship. People do it to relieve tension, or avoid boredom.”

But I’m in love with him, is all Todoroki can think. Midoriya is the only one who sees him, who would never judge, who he trusts with his life.  Why wouldn’t I want a relationship?

Unless—unless he’s had it all wrong.

Sure, Midoriya means everything to him—Todoroki is isolated and awkward and still hurting, from all those years before Yuuei and before he realized that being a hero was something he wanted, not just something his father forced upon him.

But Midoriya has a loving mother, and best friends like Ochako and Tensei, and a quirk with no peer. He’s cute and ripped and kind and looked up to by their entire class. Every time he so much as brushes against Todoroki, Todoroki’s need for oxygen disappears.

“Were we ever dating?” Todoroki wants to know. Surely, surely Jirou knows.

“Todoroki,” she says gently, “I wasn’t there. You’ll have to ask him.”

That’s exactly what he was afraid of.


 

The problem with approaching Midoriya is that, after the disastrous dinner date (??), he’s had an ever-present ensemble of Ochako, Tensei, Tsuyu, other classmates, and hell, even Kaminari, who Todoroki is positive doesn’t realize he’s serving as a buffer. He doesn’t answer Todoroki’s texts, or his door when Todoroki knocks. He gives Todoroki small, wobbly smiles when they accidentally make eye contact during class, and then resolutely turns away. He knows Midoriya has more than one quirk, but he never knew one of them was the power of avoidance.

“No,” Ochako says, smiling serenely, when he walks down Midoriya’s hall one evening, for the hundredth time.

“…no?”

“No. Don’t knock on his door, Todoroki. Come over here. Talk with me for a second.”

He makes his way to the end of the hall, going into a cross-legged sit at her side.

“He’s upset with me.”

“He is, yeah.” She gives a vibrant, still-smiling nod. “Being removed from the situation like I am, though, and seeing the way you’re acting now… I have to admit his interactions with you and the way I suspect you truly feel aren’t matching up.” She leans in. “Todoroki, if Midoriya was here, what would you say?”

“That I’m sorry,” Todoroki replies instantly. “I did something wrong. If he’s upset, I did something wrong. I just wanted to date him. Maybe convince him that I could be a good boyfriend. I thought it was going well. Clearly, I was wrong.”

“Okay,” Ochako pauses, processing, then adds dryly, “some wires definitely got crossed there.”

“If he doesn’t want to date me,” Todoroki explains, “I’m happy to be his friend. Maybe not,” he amends, “his friend with benefits. But I can’t imagine not being his friend. I love him.”

Ochako’s gaze is gentle. “Well, you’ve convinced me. You should be telling him this.”

“Okay,” Todoroki agrees, throat tightening, and stands up. “I’ll tell him that I just want to be friends. Not with benefits. But friends.” Todoroki feels a light smack on his back, and then he's floating instead of walking, held in place easily with Ochako's grip.

“Whoa there, dude, let’s not start off with that!” She pinches at the space between her eyebrows. “I’m starting to see how this whole problem started.”

In retrospect, Todoroki sees it wasn’t the best opening. “Help me,” he implores. Ochako claps.

“Oh, geez,” comes her fond, faint reply. But he knows that she will.


 

Mission status: go.

“Hi,” Todoroki says carefully. He has gained access to Midoriya’s room. He cannot lose sight of his goal.

“Hi.”

“Ochako told me to write everything down,” Todoroki says. “I’d appreciate it if you read it all.” Sticking his palm out, he passes it over.

“Your handwriting is neat as always,” Midoriya notes from above, absentminded. “Beautiful.”

Todoroki blushes. “I wish I’d seen your handwriting before you started breaking all your bones and wearing splints on the regular.”

Those bright green eyes meet his, the warmest they’ve been in weeks. “It was bad then, too. I have no patience. Just have to get all my thoughts out. Also, if kids couldn’t read what I was writing in my notebooks, then they’d be less likely to make fun of me for it.”

“So your bones are just an excuse for the teachers,” Todoroki says. Midoriya blinks at him. “It’s a joke.”

“I know,” Midoriya replies, one corner of his mouth twitching up. “It’s funny. Sorry. After everything that's happened I'm a little... slow to react.”

“I don’t make jokes very well,” Todoroki admits. A pause. May as well. “I don’t speak very well. Speaking to people I have little or very positive associations with is new for me. Romance is new for me, too.”

Midoriya’s hands and the letter drop, just a little. Todoroki’s heart sinks with it. Just read it. Please. Read it. 

Fidgeting, Midoriya opens his mouth, and instead, out everything pours.

“This is the first time I’ve ever—ever dated anyone.” Me too, but it doesn’t make sense for you, Todoroki wants to say. He doesn’t get the chance. “I don’t know what to do, I never do. I have no information about relationships to work with. Everything I do know, it doesn't line up, there's contradiction after contradiction! The data is wrong. And you-- you’re so confident and handsome and well-liked—I thought this would be okay, because we’re friends! We're best friends. You're the first person I would call, if I needed help, or if someone hurt me, and then--!" He's all motion and hesitance, a gradual build-up that leads to quiet. "Then it was you who hurt me."

"I didn't mean to."

"Who knows their friend has a crush on them,” his voice cracks, then, “and pulls this, Todoroki?”

A crush on him. On him. His heart is hot and fast and fluttering.

“I didn’t mean to. Never.”

“I know you didn’t.” No, you don’t, you don’t understand. “You’re—you’re blooming. You’re bonding with everyone in our class, you’re valuing things besides fighting and school, you’re finding yourself. You’re being a teenager. It’s a good thing. And while I know I was important,” that’s an understatement, “in you beginning this journey, I’m not all of it. I don’t have to be your,” he swallows, “your most important person. Just please be considerate when I say that you’re mine, okay? Please be kind with me, please, I can’t—“

“Midoriya, you are.”

He cuts off abruptly, lips still moving. So Midoriya that it hurts.

“Read,” is all Todoroki can say then. “Please.”

Midoriya sits, and he does. He’s fast—they’ve studied together—the page should only take him a minute. It's nothing complicated-- Todoroki doesn't do complicated, unless it's a battle maneuver or a question on a test. There's nothing complex about the way he feels for Midoriya. That's what is so beautiful about it. Yet Todoroki watches his eyes move over the words again, and again, and again.

When he’s absolutely sure Midoriya’s read every word, he reaches out with his right hand and tilts his chin up.

"How was the read?"

"Very, uhm. Enlightening."

“Well here's more: I love you." Todoroki nods, firm and sure. "You're my important person. I want to be your boyfriend. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

“I think,” Midoriya says softly, “that your ideas sum everything up pretty nicely. Just. A few additions.” He swallows. “I want you to say my name. I want you to hold my hand. I want to fall asleep with you every night. I want to have sex with you after a nice dinner out because I adore you, and you looked really breathtaking, sitting across the table from me and watching me like I was all you needed, even when I was panicking because that’s not how I expected you to feel. I want to fight villains with you until anyone inspired by All-For-One is gone. I want—everything. Shouto.”

“I will try my hardest,” Todoroki promises, and means every word, “to give you what you want.”


 

"Baseball game next week? They just hired a player with an elasticity quirk.”

Izuku looks up from his paperwork. So, so much paperwork. Todoroki wants to burn it. “Really? The one that can stretch their arms a hundred feet and pitches with their elbow in the outfield?”

“That one. Also.” He takes Izuku’s face between his hands. “It will be a date. I’m going to kiss you on the Jumbotron. Because I love you. Then I’m going to take you home and make love to you, and do that thing you like. Because I love you.”

Izuku giggles, enchanted and fondly fed-up. “You don’t have to lay it all out every single time.”

“Yes, I do.”

“You think you’re funny.”

“You’re smiling. Humor polls would say I’m number one. Shouto: the joke hero.” Izuku kisses his nose. Shouto: the luckiest hero, he thinks, and only feels luckier when Izuku opens his mouth to speak again.

“You’re number one to me.”

“Well, you’re number one in the polls in actuality.”

“Is there ever a date where you’ll ask me out but not reveal all?”

Todoroki considers. “Maybe when I propose to you.”

“Hilarious,” Izuku deadpans, grinning.

“Not a joke.” He checks his watch. “I have to leave now. I’m supposed to open the agency early.”

Izuku snags his sleeve. “Wait. Proposing?”

Todoroki snaps his briefcase shut, then stops and considers. He supposes they haven’t discussed it before. You’ve never been married before, a small and nervous voice inside Todoroki reminds him. But Todoroki knows he has to take plunges, take risks, be bad at things, be open. He knows these things because of Izuku, and because of his friends.

“I’m going to propose to you. Probably sometime next year. Because I love you.” He nods firmly. “Friends-with-marriage-certificates.”

“If you plan on saying that during the proposal, I might have to try and beat you to it.”

“Go ahead,” Todoroki agrees. “Might have to one-up me.”

“Friends-with-marriage-certificates and,” Izuku suggests, unsteadily, gaze landing on his. “Friends with kids.”

Todoroki sucks in a breath. Broken bones, sleepless nights, a million kisses, and they're here. “Sounds like an ideal arrangement to me.”

"That's what i thought."

They’ve had their rough patches—with each other and with the world—but everything is going to be just fine.