Hitoshi doesn’t quite know when he noticed it the first time. Doesn’t know when he started reaching for Iida after turning a doorknob, or after they sat down at their desks at the start of each class, or after they’d eaten, when he can’t get to a restroom to wash his hands. He doesn’t know when he started knowing that there’d be hand sanitizer waiting for him before he even asked, with nothing more than a hand held out in Iida’s direction.
He can, however, pinpoint exactly when that faith turned into a warm feeling blooming in his chest. He can remember when the warmth in his chest seeped into his limbs, made buoyant and infinitely heavier all at once.
He can remember when he realized, with overwhelming clarity, “Holy shit. I have a crush on Tenya Iida.”
The first thing he does is go to Denki.
“I think I’ve got a crush. Or. Two crushes. But only one I need to tell you about,” he says, before Denki’s door is even fully shut behind him. They look up, startled at his sudden appearance, and a soft smile settles on their face.
“Yeah? Lay it on me babe! Who is it?”
“If you tell anyone anyone else I will actually kill you I swear. I mean I won’t really. Kill you. But don’t say anything.”
Denki laughs, a bright sound that sends a lance straight through Hitoshi’s already bleeding heart.
“Alright, alright, Eraserhead Junior, I won’t say anything. Tell me who it is!”
“Iida-kun. It’s just so. I— He just— Gay. I gay.”
Denki snorts, trying and failing to smother it with their hand. “Okay. Alright. That’s cute.” They’re laughing through their words in a way that makes Hitoshi want to melt, and makes them just a little bit hard to understand. It’s adorable.
They’re like the sun.
After a moment, Denki cocks an eyebrow, fully setting aside the laptop they’d been scrolling on when Hitoshi entered. They prop their chin on their folded hands. “And who’s the other person, huh?”
“No.” Hitoshi speaks before he thinks, and winces when he realizes how that sounded. “It’s just embarrassing. They’re so pretty and sweet and I— I think about kissing them more often than I probably should, considering they’re one of my friends, and I— I dunno. Never mind.”
Denki scrambles off their bed, only to yank Hitoshi over to sit on it with them.
Like that doesn’t make Hitoshi’s stupid little gay heart do somersaults in his chest.
“Hey, it’s okay, dude! Don’t worry! Crushes are hard and I’m not gonna like. Ask you to tell me shit you don’t wanna tell me yet. It’s super cute though. They’re really lucky to have something like you eyeing them. You’re great!”
Hitoshi wishes he could pretend he isn’t blushing clear down to his chest.
“This is so embarrassing.”
Denki nudges him gently with their elbow. “So you wanna kiss them?”
Hitoshi wonders if he’s capable of blushing down to his stomach. There’s nowhere else for it to go, really. He’s certain he’s the color of a tomato.
He squeaks out a, “Yes,” before clearing his throat to actually speak. “I want to kiss them. Like. Bad. And I don’t know how long I’ve been thinking about this, I just know it’s been such a long time and I just— yeah.” He scrubs a hand over his face, like he can scrub away the bright red blush.
Denki grins devilishly. “You should do it! Just do it! It’ll catch ‘em totally off guard. Just smooch and watch them feel honored! I bet they’d be super into it. And it’s like a double honor, with you!”
Hitoshi can’t help the small smile that tugs at the corners of his mouth. “Double honor?”
“Well yeah, duh! One honor cause you’re awesome, of course, and two honor because physical affection is tough for you, and you’d be giving them some love .” Denki wiggles their eyebrows at him and Hitoshi has to shove them back out of his space a bit.
The smile doesn’t drop from his face though.
“I don’t know about just… randomly kissing them. If they don’t feel the same and I make it weird, I’m going to have to brush my teeth until I’m not humiliated anymore. My enamel won’t be able to handle that much brushing.”
Denki’s expression softens. Hitoshi’s heart goes with it. “There’s nothing to be humiliated about, Tosh. Feelings are complicated! Even if they’re not returned, it’s okay, cause that’s still super flattering. But I bet they’d be into it. Like. It’d be stupid to turn you down.”
“I guess.” Hitoshi mulls it over for a second, and is almost about to say… something, anything to break the silence, when Denki claps a hand on his shoulder with a gasp.
“Hang on a sec, wait, it’s not Bakugou is it? He’s the only one who would flip out at a surprise kiss I think.”
Hitoshi chokes on his next breath. “Oh, fuck no, not him. He’s so not my type.”
Denki laughs. It’s more like a cackle. It is one of the most amazing sounds that Hitoshi’s ever heard.
“Good, I was gonna judge you a little if it was him. He’s cool, and my friend and all but he’s also kinda a snappy doofus. And you’re totally out of his league anyway, dude. You deserve someone special!”
“They are special. Both of them. I—” Fuck it. Sappy hours it is. “Like I want to hold hands with them both without my sleeves in the way. I think about it a lot. Palm to palm hand holding.”
Denki flops over onto the bed beside him dramatically, back of their hand to their forehead and everything. “That’s so cute! What lucky dudes to get to have that honor! Iida’s definitely special enough to warrant that, but this mystery guy…. I know I said I wouldn’t push but come on I gotta know who he is. I gotta make sure you’re taken care of!”
Hitoshi swallows, choking down his fear with it, and lets out a slow breath. “They’re not a he. They’re a they.”
Denki lights up. “Oh shit! So they’re non-binary like me? Awesome! Okay. That pretty much gets rid of… well. Everyone. Were they in your general studies class?”
“No. Not… not in my class before. I didn’t really meet them until I transferred into the hero course?”
Denki laughs. “Okay. Well I’m the only NB person in 1-A that I know of. Oh! Is someone in the closet? That’s cool too.”
“No. They’re not— they weren’t. Not when I met them.”
Their smile slips just a little. Hitoshi’s heart sinks. “But I’m the only NB person in 1-A, so who is it?” Denki whines. “Come on, I swear I’ll keep it secret dude!”
Hitoshi stammers for a moment, trying to formulate the right words and then sighs. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can say it.”
Denki shifts on the bed so they can lie down. Their knee presses into Hitoshi’s back where he’s still perched on the edge of the mattress. “Anxiety thing?” Hitoshi nods. “Okay. I don’t have to know. I’ll stop teasing. I just want you to be happy.”
Hitoshi responds without a beat missed. “I am happy.”
Denki’s grin widens as they look to the ceiling. A spark pops off their nose without them even realizing it.
“They must be someone real special if you want skin to skin contact like that.” They laugh, a note that makes Hitoshi worry about bitterness. “I’m almost jealous. So what’s the plan, Toshi? How you gonna confess? Oh! I can help you make something cool for Iida, and I can help as much as I can with the other one too, if you want me to!”
Toshi shrugs, and sighs miserably. If Denki weren’t in the way, he’d flop onto his back too. “I don’t know, honestly? I sorta barely talk to Iida-kun as it is? I can’t just go up to him out of nowhere and be like ‘hey call me Toshi’. Even though I’d really like that. I bet he still calls me Shinsou-san.”
“I mean, I think you could do it. It’d probably make him happy. Sometimes I call you goofy nicknames when I’m talking to other people in class and I’ve seen him get this look on his face like… I think he’d really like it.”
Hitoshi smirks. “You call me nicknames?”
Denki’s eyes go a little wide, and they splutter for a moment. “I just mean, well, ya know. When I’m feeling especially soft?”
The smirk turns into something impossibly fond. “I get that. My crush called me their hero a couple of times. Super jokey, and I know it was but. Everyone I used to know always insisted I was gonna be a villain and hearing that…”
“Well of course!” Denki scoffs, still staring at the ceiling, like what they’re saying is obvious, and not turning Hitoshi’s brain to a sappy mess. “You’re a hero for sure, and I know you’ve been my hero plenty of times. Always there to make me smile and make me feel safe. Everyone you used to know is stupid and wouldn’t know a gem from a sequin, apparently.”
Tears blur Hitoshi’s vision almost immediately. “Denki.”
“Don’t try to argue, Tosh! No dice, sweetstuff! You’re amazing, and absolutely my hero and if your crush can’t see that then you’re too good for them anyway.”
“No. I. Not argue. Words are hard. I— It—” Hitoshi makes a sound too close to being a whine forces out his next words. “It’s you.”
Denki blinks, still smiling. “Me? What’s me?” They blink again and the smile drops, and Hitoshi’s stomach leaps into his throat. “Wait. Me? I’m— me? You me? Me? Why? ” When Hitoshi chances looking at them again, they’re sitting up again, staring at him like he’s hung the moon in the sky. They are crying, and Hitoshi almost wants to swipe the tears away from their eyes, even though it makes the pads of his fingers prickle.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
Denki makes a sound, somewhere between a laugh and a hysterical giggle.
“You didn’t make me cry. I made me cry. You were so not subtle at all. How did I miss that? Oh my god. You want to hold my hand?”
“Yeah. It’s— It’s you I want to kiss. It’s you I want to hold hands with. It’s you. It’s you. It’s you I think about touching and being around and hugging and I don’t even think a little bit that I might be getting dirty. It’s still there, but I just… I think about kissing you and I don’t even think about needing to wash my face after. I don’t even think about needing to wash my hands. You make everything quieter.”
Denki makes an aborted motion, like they were going to reach out and place their hand on Hitoshi’s face. And that’s a little bit much right now, but Denki’s right there and they look so beautiful…
Hitoshi reaches out and takes their hand.
Denki makes the same hysterical sound again.
“I can’t even pretend I’m not so fucking excited to know that. I wanna kiss you too and hold your hand like this. I want all of that too, but mostly I just. I want you safe, and happy however that looks.”
“I am. With you. But you’re crying.”
Denki squeezes his hand. “Happy crying, doofus. I’m emotional, sue me. I’ve been helpless for you since we met.”
Hitoshi breathes a happy little sigh. “For me it was… I realized you’d learned me. At first it was annoying when you shut off the tap when I still had soap on my hands or opened doors or picked stuff up for me but then, I dunno. Just. There was that time you made sure nobody bumped into me in the cafeteria so I didn’t have to go rewash my hands before I had lunch. I was just thinking ‘Oh, great,’ but then suddenly it was ‘Oh, wow’ . Cause it usually took like three tries to get to eat and you’d noticed. And then you somehow got them to replace the soap in the bathrooms with something that wasn’t clear just cause you know I don’t like clear soap and I just knew I was a goner. And now Iida-kun, he carries hand sanitizer in his bag during school and keeps it in his pocket for me around the dorm and he’s just… there. Ready to help when I need it. I don’t even need to ask. And he doesn’t touch me, and makes sure other people don’t bump into me either just like you do, and it just. It makes me happy. You both make me so happy.”
Denki looks at him, looking something Hitoshi can only describe as awestruck.
“I’m so happy to hear that, Toshi. I— Can I kiss you?”
Hitoshi nods so enthusiastically he thinks he might give himself whiplash.
Denki wastes no time in leaning in and pressing their lips together. It’s a little uncoordinated, and the prickling feeling of needing to clean up still lingers in the back of his mind, but true to his word, Hitoshi feels no compulsion to wash his face. Not even the urge to wash his hands.
After a moment, Denki pulls away, a little breathless and beaming brighter than the sun. They don’t let go of his hand. Hitoshi doesn’t mind.
“Can I help you figure out how to confess to Iida? I think you should. Told you I wanna see you happy, didn’t I?”
And this time, thinking of confessing, Hitoshi doesn’t feel quite so anxious as he did before.