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if they take my hand

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I.

A week after they officially start dating, Inasa takes the long train ride to the east to surprise Todoroki. He sits in his seat, carrying a bouquet of flowers that he is seriously regretting buying (What if he doesn’t like flowers? What if he’s embarrassed?), and nods at every middle-aged woman that smiles at him or asks if the flowers are for a “special someone”. He finds Class 2-A’s dorm eventually, walking around U.A.’s campus and probably looking like a stalker, and he texts Todoroki.

17:35

Come outside!!

17:39

Huh? Why?

17:40

Just do it!!!

17:40

Okay...

Todoroki, dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, emerges from the dorm doors and walks over to Inasa. “Inasa,” he says, “you didn’t have to come all this way,” but he accepts the flowers and blushes slightly, leaning his nose in to sniff them.

“I know!” Inasa says. “I just wanted to, that’s all!” He grins at Todoroki, who blinks back.

“Well, thank you. It’s sweet. Now come inside, you’re going to end up with heat stroke.” Inasa follows Todoroki into the dorm, where he’s met with a flurry of names and questions from his classmates, most of whom he’s met briefly before, but few that he recognize.

“Todoroki!” the pink-skinned girl squeals. “I can’t believe you’re the first one here to get it on with someone! And he’s hot! Go you!” Inasa smirks at Todoroki proudly. Todoroki just rolls his eyes and pulls Inasa to the stairwell and up to his room.

They sit on Todoroki’s floor, an appropriate amount of space between them, and Todoroki cradles the bouquet, admiring it.

“I’m sorry if I interrupted anything,” Inasa says, now worried that Todoroki didn’t want to see him.

“No, don’t be sorry,” Todoroki replies. “I’m glad you came.” Inasa smiles in relief.

“I’m just bummed we can’t see each other more often.” Inasa wriggles in place, thinking about all their late-night phone calls and video chats over lunch periods, taking up space in each other’s lives wherever they fit but never physically so, unable to hold hands or kiss or go to dinner together without planning and schedule comparisons.

“Yeah. Me too. Over vacation, we’ll see each other more,” Todoroki promises, looking up at Inasa, and Inasa’s heart blooms.

They chat for a few hours, enjoying each other’s company without the tinny sound of a phone call, before Inasa has to get the train. He wants to kiss Todoroki, but they haven’t yet and he doesn’t want to rush the ever-careful Todoroki, so he settles on a hug and leaves with the promise of summer vacation in his heart.

II.

Comparing schedules and finding the time to meet takes long enough that by the time they get to actually plan their dates, they’re too lazy to do anything more exciting than favorite restaurants and walks around their cities.

One weekend they’re in Tokyo; it is Todoroki’s turn to pick a restaurant, so it’s soba for lunch, predictably, and then they walk around the city streets, not paying much attention to where they’re going, just wandering aimlessly until they get tired or the conversation gets stale (it never seems to).

Inasa is telling a funny story about his family, or at least, he’s telling the first half, because he trails off when he notices Todoroki’s lack of engagement. His eyes are glazed over a bit, pulled into himself, looking like the boy Inasa met that first day, not the sweet and unintentionally silly boy who has come to occupy the tenderest corners of his heart.

“Sorry. Let’s talk about something else.” He doesn’t know much about Todoroki’s family outside of Endeavor, and from what little he has heard about that relationship, he knows that it is... tenuous, perhaps, so he should know better.

He expects Todoroki to shrug it off and tell him to continue, and to pretend that nothing is wrong, but instead he says, “okay. Thanks,” and then he changes the subject, mentioning something that happened with his friends with U.A., and Inasa is glad that Todoroki doesn’t pretend around him. Even if he isn’t ready to talk about his family, Inasa is happy to wait.

Inasa takes his turn listening, walking through the streets, looking up at all the things he pointed out, marveling the city. He’s walking on Todoroki’s right side, radiating cool air against Inasa’s arm. Their arms swing alongside each other in tandem, space between them but close enough to feel him move beside him, walking in step, Inasa shortening his strides just a tiny bit so Todoroki can keep up.

They’re discussing their favorite recent films (and arguing about it, considering they have opposite opinions, as always) when Inasa’s hand bumps against Todoroki’s. Inasa blushes, thinking about holding that small hand in his own, and before he can second guess himself, feeling brave, he reaches out and grabs it, lacing their fingers together and looking at Todoroki questioningly, hoping it’s okay.

Todoroki just does his tiny little smile and keeps talking, so Inasa internally cheers and swings their hands between them, feeling like he just received something very special, something to be treasured.

Inasa understands that Todoroki can be kind of weird about touching. It doesn’t really bother him that Todoroki’s hand slips out of his own when a little kid recognizes him from the sports festival and congratulates him. He doesn’t mind that Todoroki doesn’t seem to initiate any contact, since he’s always okay with it when Inasa does.

Todoroki is kinda like a cat, Inasa realizes. He isn’t obvious about it, but whenever he wants affection, he slides up in your space and gives you a look that you can’t deny. They’re on the train when this realization hits. Todoroki is leaning more and more towards Inasa, scooting over in his seat until they are sharing the same air, and only when Todoroki lifts his chin and looks at Inasa does he realize. Inasa smiles and wraps his arm around Todoroki’s shoulders, and Todoroki melts into Inasa’s side, burying his face in Inasa’s t-shirt.

Inasa laces their fingers together. “I had a really great time today, Todoroki.”

“Me too.” His voice is slightly muffled and Inasa can feel his cheek against his chest and it’s like his whole body lights up, fireworks dancing under his skin, the feeling of Todoroki’s warm half against him enough to make him see stars.

III.

They haven’t kissed yet, and Inasa isn’t really bothered by this. The more he learns about Todoroki’s past, the more Inasa wants to take things as slow as possible, happy to wait with Todoroki every step of the way until he is ready.

It’s summer vacation, finally, and they’re at Inasa’s house, hanging out in his room and chatting about nothing at all. They’re sitting on his bed, cross-legged, facing each other, and Inasa’s mom had cheekily told them to “keep the door open, boys!” but they’re just talking, fiddling with one another’s hands on the bedspread.

“When does your training camp start?” Inasa asks. Despite the freedoms of summer vacation, there is always more hero training to be done.

“It's all of next week. What about you? Shiketsu has training too, right?” Todoroki replies. Inasa groans.

“Ugh, ours is the week after.” That's two full weeks of summer vacation they won't be able to see each other. After all the plans they made that they promised they'd do once summer rolled around, Inasa deflates a bit at the prospect of the amount of time they have being drastically reduced.

“I know, it sucks,” Todoroki says, patting Inasa's hand. “I suppose we still have this week. Do you still want to go to the beach?”

Inasa grabs Todoroki's hands in his own. “Yes! I have to show you the west coast beaches! I think you'll really love it!”

“Okay, sounds good. And you should come over for dinner sometime and meet Fuyumi and Natsuo. I think they'd really like you.”

“Really? Your siblings? Are you sure?” Todoroki has met all of Inasa's family, but not the other way around. Inasa is slightly overwhelmed, terrified of upsetting or disappointing the siblings he's only heard bits and pieces about.

“Unless you don't want to,” Todoroki says, suddenly unsure.

“No, no no!” Inasa says quickly, squeezing Todoroki's hands. “I definitely want to! I just don't want to make a fool of myself in front of your family.”

“You won't. Besides, I like you, and so they definitely will. I think they'll be glad to see me be sort of, touchy-feely, I guess, with someone.” Todoroki looks down at their intertwined hands.

“Which, you know, you can always ask me to stop doing anything you're uncomfortable with,” Inasa reassures, remembering the few times Todoroki had blanched at touches or intimacy in the beginning of their relationship.

“I know, dummy.” Todoroki reaches up a hand and cradles Inasa's cheek gently. Inasa leans into the cool touch. “It was hard at first. But I think I kind of like being close to you.” Inasa smiles, and it feels like his heart is squeezing in his chest.

He shifts on the bed, going from cross-legged to sitting on his knees. “Todoroki, can I… can I kiss you?”

And Todoroki doesn't pull away; he doesn't retract the hand on Inasa's face or grimace or turn his gaze elsewhere. “Okay,” he whispers, and like always with Todoroki, it's an impossibly special moment that Inasa hopes he never forgets, not the bedspread under his knees or the look in Todoroki's eyes through his shaggy bangs, or even the clatter of pots and pans downstairs that seems to be in a different universe from them.

Inasa puts his hands on Todoroki's shoulders and leans in slowly, pressing his lips against Todoroki's. He doesn't have much experience, he's not ashamed to admit, and he figures Todoroki doesn't either, but they figure it out as they go, moving their lips against each other and hitting their noses together awkwardly until they find a comfortable angle. They kiss for a little while, chastely, Todoroki's hands on either side of Inasa's face, thumbs brushing against the sensitive stubble of his sideburns, and Inasa's hands on Todoroki's shoulders, grounding him to the fact that this is really happening.

He pulls away, and he knows the look on his face is probably pretty goofy, because he's flushed and his mouth is hanging open in disbelief and joy. Todoroki half-giggles behind his hand.

“That was good!” Inasa says stupidly, unable to form anything profound.

“I thought so too.” Todoroki takes one of Inasa's hands in both of his own and caresses it. “I think we need more practice, though.” He looks at Inasa, and it almost sounds like an invitation.

“I agree!” Inasa says, and he kisses Todoroki again, and he never wants to stop.

IV.

After they kiss for the first time, everything gets easier. Inasa meets Todoroki's older siblings and summer vacation quickly turns into the next semester. It feels strange to say that they’re halfway done with hero training, halfway to their entrance into the pro world, but good at the same time. There’s barely any time for anything other than training and nighttime phone calls and eating and sleeping (listed in order of importance).

Inasa visits Todoroki in his dorm as often as he can, slowly getting to know the members of his class better, his friends and the pink-skinned girl (Ashido, Inasa thinks) who always asks questions that are a little too personal. He takes the late train home or just sleeps over, sometimes, and they haven’t done anything further than the occasional kiss but they’re happy where they are. They talk about their days and their futures, how they’ll definitely work in hero agencies nearby each other and never have to do long-distance again.

Inasa wants to work with Hawks if he can and Todoroki just shrugs and says that he’d work wherever, as long as it’s not somewhere where his quirk could hurt people.

Inasa knows more than anything he has ever known to be true that Todoroki could never hurt anyone. He knows what he’s afraid of, especially now that he’s heard everything about his childhood, knows the fear and pain and loneliness he experienced thanks to his father and his quirk. He knows that Todoroki is afraid of becoming his father and of somehow hurting Inasa’s hands (Inasa never really got the fully story on that one).

But Inasa also knows that Todoroki would never willingly hurt another person on the planet. He knows how gentle Todoroki’s touches are, how careful he is with other people, even when he doesn’t really understand them sometimes. He knows that Todoroki has both his hands cradled around Inasa’s heart and he carries it like it’s something very precious.

They’re curled up on the tatami mats enjoying each other’s presence and listening to music with the lights off. Next door there’s some sort of racket happening, but it’s muffled through the door and Inasa barely even notices it because he’s pretty busy committing every detail of Todoroki’s eyes, the flecks and differences in shades, to memory.

“You’re dumb,” Todoroki murmurs, their foreheads pressed together, as if he’s guessed what Inasa is doing.

“Can’t help it,” Inasa says back. “Do you wanna dance with me?”

“Huh?” Todoroki pulls his head up.

“Dance. With me. Right now.” Inasa sits up and holds his hand out, wiggling his fingers.

“...Okay, I guess,” Todoroki says, standing up with Inasa and facing him.

There’s an awkward moment as they figure out where their arms should go, eventually settling with Inasa’s arms around Todoroki’s neck and Todoroki’s around Inasa’s waist. Todoroki looks up at Inasa.

“Now what?”

“Now,” Inasa says, “we sway.” Holding Todoroki, they sway side to side, not really in time to the music. They move slowly across the floor, careful not to trip.

“Sorry,” Todoroki says. “I don’t really know what I’m doing. I haven’t really done this before.”

Inasa just shrugs. “Me neither! But it’s kinda fun, right? I don’t care what we do, it’s just nice to be around you!” Todoroki pauses, then blushes deeply. He leans in and presses his face into Inasa’s shirt.

“You’re so stupid,” he says, voice muffled, even though it sounds like he’s smiling, and he’s squeezing his arms around Inasa’s waist. Inasa can only hum happily in response, wrapping one arm around Todoroki’s back and slipping his fingers of his other hand into Todoroki’s hair.

Stupid in love, Inasa thinks, but he doesn’t say it. It gets caught in his throat, and all he can do is sway to the music, holding Todoroki in his arms.

V.

It kinda just… slips out, one day.

No, not I love you; Inasa can’t get that one out, sticking in his throat every time he opens his mouth to tell Todoroki. He isn’t sure why. It’s not like he thinks Todoroki will react badly, it’s just that it still feels early, despite their six-month anniversary bearing down on them fast. Inasa always knew they were taking things slow.

So he puts that one away in his back pocket, but he hasn’t managed to fully repress the other things he thinks about when it comes to Todoroki.

They’re sitting on the train on a late night, curled into each other, when it happens.

“What’s your schedule next week, Shouto?”

He’s looking at his phone, even. He calls Todoroki by his given name when he’s looking at a photo of a dog on his phone. Somewhat embarrassing. He’s so distracted and tired that he doesn’t even realize Todoroki’s alarmed expression until he picks his head up off Inasa’s shoulder.

Feeling the loss of contact, Inasa looks up and says, “what?”

“You just called me Shouto.”

“What? No I didn’t,” he says, and then his brain rewinds and the realization hits him. “Oh, shit. I totally did. Uh, well, I guess, is that okay? I’d like to keep calling you that, if you’re alright with it.”

Todoroki pauses. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I think so. It’s kinda weird, but you’re kinda weird, and I still like you.”

“That’s reassuring,” Inasa says sarcastically, patting Todoroki (No, scratch that. Shouto. Shouto!) on the back. “I like you too, Shouto.” The name feels good in his mouth, like it was meant to be there.

“Then can I call you Inasa?” Hearing Shouto say his first name temporarily short-circuits his brain, but he nods, excited like a dog hearing the word ‘walk’.

“Yeah, absolutely, Shouto. I’d like that a lot, Shouto,” he says, not able to help it but repeat his name, like a broken record in his brain that just goes ShoutoShoutoShouto.

“Are you gonna say my name every single time you address me from now on?” Shouto rolls his eyes.

“Yes, Shouto.” Inasa grins.

“Okay, Inasa. Whatever you want, Inasa,” Shouto teases, drawing out the syllables in Inasa’s name.

“Shouto, I’m not gonna lie. If you used my given name in every sentence you spoke to me, I might just be the happiest man alive.”

“Hey, that last one didn’t have ‘Shouto’ in it!” Shouto pokes his chest.

“Ah, forgive me, Shouto, it won’t happen again.”

Shouto rolls his eyes again but Inasa doesn’t miss his smile. They sit on the mostly empty train in comfortable silence, and Inasa can hear it repeated like a prayer or the chorus of a song in his head, ShoutoShoutoShouto.

+ I.

Shouto has never been a touchy kind of guy. Growing up, a touch was rare, and the ones he got weren’t really positive. A touch meant something bad, like he’d done something wrong or not good enough or not fast enough. A touch was a reminder that his body wasn’t his own, but just a tool for his father, something to be used for a purpose.

A touch was never playful wrestling or clapping games with his older siblings, and after he was five, a touch wasn’t a hug. At school a touch was an unwelcome slap on the back by a kid he barely knew. When he got to U.A., touches were training, combat and wrestling and Kirishima’s quirk-hardened skin.

He couldn’t understand Inasa’s signs of affection at first. Even Inasa hadn’t liked him at first, stupid hatred over a miscommunication and a misunderstanding. He jumped at the feeling of a hand on his back or in his own, expecting the other shoe to drop, expecting the touch to turn angry at any moment.

But with Inasa, it never does. He visits the dorms and gets along with all his friends, and holds his hand in the stairwell. When Shouto asks why he’s so sweaty, Inasa admits that he was nervous, and Shouto realizes that perhaps they’re not so different. Inasa laughs with him even when they disagree on everything from food to television to the coolest pro heroes, and never gets mad that Shouto’s opinions aren’t his own. Inasa wraps an arm around him on the train and doesn’t pull away even when Shouto falls asleep against him and drools on his shirt.

Inasa becomes his firsts for everything; his first boyfriend, his first kiss, his first love, even.

Love changes its meaning, too, with Inasa. Love isn’t something to be bought; a relationship isn’t a tool; other people aren’t just stepping stones or building blocks. Maybe love is running around with Inasa and his dog in the park until his lungs burn, or sharing desserts with Inasa, once they come to a consensus on what to by, or dancing together in a quiet dorm room while the rest of Class 2-A does something stupid next door.

Love blooms in his chest when he sees Inasa, and he feels like he’s suffocating in it, like affection is filling his lungs and surrounding him like ocean water. It spreads from his chest to the blushing tips of his ears to his stomach and all the way to his toes. When Inasa cups his cheeks and kisses him so gently that it’s feather-light, he feels like it’s going to rise so far that it spills out of his mouth and splatters everywhere. He’s worried it will spill out of his fingertips onto Inasa’s when they walk hand-in-hand around the city.

He can’t stop the rising feeling of rightness when he sees Inasa, his stupid grin and buzzed head and comically large body.

“Inasa?” Shouto finally says when he’s finally certain he’s going to split at some unseen seam and spill love everywhere.

“Mm?” Inasa replies, not paying attention. They’re in his room, but doing homework, taking the afternoon to be together even though neither has the time to actually go on a date.

Shouto reaches up and catches Inasa’s chin in his hand. He absentmindedly runs his thumb along his bottom lip.

“Shouto?” Inasa asks, not used to Shouto initiating contact.

“I love you,” he says, because he’s nothing if he’s not honest, always willing to say what’s on his mind.

“I love you too,” Inasa says, without hesitation, meeting Shouto exactly where he is and affirming him, picking him up and saying yes and it’s okay like always, even in the darkest or scariest parts of his mind.

“Cool.” Shouto can’t really think of anything else. It is pretty cool. “We should probably kiss now, right?” he asks, because that is how they do it in the movies.

“Okay,” Inasa says through a smile, and he kisses him. They’ve done it thousands of times by now, and Shouto’s lost count, but he’s pretty sure they’re improving their technique.

He thinks, it’s important to improve. To become more than oneself. It’s what a hero would do, anyway.