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sometimes life ain't ferret all

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Eijirou finds that Saturdays often bring light business and hazy mornings to his door.

 

Well, to be fair, business is light in general here, but a small-town pet store isn’t exactly an area of prime interest all year ‘round. 

 

There’s the occasional fire-fueled visit from Katsuki, brows tightened and eyes sparking because Izuku waved to him or something—or sweet old Inko will meander inside bearing cinnamon cookies and pats for the puppies, or Hitoshi will pop by to adopt a kitten for the fifth week in a row.

 

Yet, there’s an unspoken something in this town about the lull between semi-bustling workdays and Sunday communal brunches (always cooked by a faux reluctant Katsuki, held at Momo’s absurdly large barnhouse, and organized by the ever-giving Midoriya family). Saturdays are for relaxing—they’re for lounging on the counter all day long and texting memes to Denki when Mr. Inui isn’t looking. They’re for slipping over to the bakery next door for a cupcake or three or five and cackling as Katsuki beats him with a ladle. The whole town is like this; everyone just indulges in comfortably barren streets and shorter work days come the weekend.

 

So, Eijirou expects nothing substantial from today, barring any explosive visits from his business neighbor (and even then, those are more fondly familiar than anything else). He’s currently twirling half-heartedly in the spinny chair behind the front counter-desk, pen between his lips as he scratches out answers on a crossword puzzle Izuku sent him a couple weeks back. The windows are propped open by old wooden planks, and a tinny breeze brushes inside, the soft whooshing twining with the sounds of twittering birds and yelping puppies from adjacent rooms.

 

Eijirou is running a hand through his hair, contemplating what can’t be bought, can be stolen with a glance, is worthless to one, but priceless to two when the bell at the door jingles. 

 

“Hi there, welcome to Hound Dog’s! I’m Eijirou!” he waves amicably, immediately tossing his crossword aside and hoping he looks remotely productive. Some of the birds echo cherry-picked syllables from his greeting, sending the room into a frenzy of chirping noises. Eijirou glares at the main offenders—in particular, Mic, a back-talking cockatoo with a heart full of enthusiastic songs, all of which are exclusively off-pitch and ear-piercing. 

 

“Hello,” the person at the door dips his head politely—it’s a young man, probably in his twenties, carrying a dog crate and sporting one of the strangest dye jobs he’s ever seen: half white and half red, split straight down the middle as if cut with a knife. His face exudes an air of decided flippancy—and hoo boy, he’s really smoking hot, holy shit. And that scar, damn; (Eijirou has an ongoing thing for rugged men. It’s why he had that trainwreck deal with Katsuki a while back that makes him nauseous to think about).

 

He mentally fans himself—both from the perpetual heat of this scalding town and the immaculately aligned features on this guy’s lovely face.

 

“Is there anythin’ I can help you with, sweetheart?” he drawls.

 

He leans against the counter and just manages to remove all suggestive intonation from that sentence, but it’s a near thing. Well, there is the “sweetheart”, but that’s kinda his verbal M.O.—Mina tells him it’s certifiably adorable and he should never stop. He probably couldn’t even if he wanted to; Southern parents and life have drilled dovey, honey-coated pet names into his everyday vocabulary. However, flirting with customers is against company policy, and the chances of this pretty stranger staying in town long enough for anything worthwhile are slim to nothing, so he wafts stray thoughts of something new away.

 

“Yes, actually,” the man says in a way that would be clippy coming from anyone else, setting the crate on the floor. He sort of just seems indifferent in all of his movements thus far, and his accent is hard to pinpoint—definitely from up North, though, “I require professional guidance. My dog is behaving strangely.”

 

Eijirou hops over the counter so he can get a closer look at the pup (definitely not to see if the man’s eyes really are two different colors like they appeared—but as a side note: yeah, they are, and it’s wildly attractive).

 

“Okay! I’m no professional or anythin’ too advanced like that, but I do have some experience! Animals are usually pretty chill around me, so we can let him roam about if you want. I can grab one of the puppies in a few minutes so he can socialize,” he gets on his knees and holds out a finger to the crate’s bars, trying to coax the animal out. Quiet shuffling noises rustle inside, “Lay it on me.”

 

The elegant Saturday surprise of a man—one Todoroki Shouto, according to the black-rimmed nametag on the crate—unhooks the door for him to see. Eijirou moves excitedly, always happy to meet a new furry friend, but he freezes in his tracks when he chances a look inside, double-taking and double-checking to confirm that he isn’t hallucinating.

 

“He won’t eat any dog food no matter what I try, he climbs on top of things frequently, and he has an overwhelming biting habit,” Todoroki reaches inside and holds up the squirming creature like Simba, “Do you think you can help me?”

 

Eijirou stares at him with the best reflex customer service smile he has, honed to polished perfection after years of working next to Bakugou Katsuki. The guy even seems sincere, which is a little sad in a comedic sort of way. He inhales after an admittedly uncomfortable silence, grin locked in place now as he meets a beady-eyed (resolutely not canine) gaze. Hot and a bit dumb—just my type, he thinks, holding back disbelieving giggles.

 

“Sweetheart, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but that there is most certainly a ferret.”

 

Todoroki’s perfect mouth drops slightly—preciously, and Eijirou wants to squeeze his rosy cheeks. 

 

“What.”

 

“He’s—uh,” Eijirou waves at the miffed ball of fur, blushing slightly at how close they’re standing, “He’s a ferret, y’know? Not a dog.”

 

Todoroki squints suspiciously, “Are you certain?”

 

Eijirou scratches his neck, “Yes? I mean, just look up a picture if you wanna check for yourself. Oh, here—I’ll hold him.”

 

He takes the ferret in his hands, and receives frantic wiggling a small litany of scratches as a reward.

 

“Hellfire, be nice,” Todoroki hums while tapping through his phone. Somehow, the ferret stops, albeit reluctantly by the looks of it.

 

“Hellfire?” Eijirou questions, giddy with how delightfully unfitting that name is for the skinny little thing nipping at his arms.

 

“My brother picked it out before...oh,” Todoroki sighs, stuffing his phone in his back pocket and massaging his temples; he spends a long pause looking like someone who’s either contemplating or regretting every choice he’s made up to this point, “My apologies. It seems my family has been lying to me my entire life.”

 

Eijirou runs his gaze over dual-colored lashes and wonders idly if they’re dyed too, “What d’you mean?” he asks while scratching Hellfire’s knobby head. Todoroki sure has nice bone structure. He’s never thought about it before, but Ochako once explained the attractiveness of balance in depth—and even though he wasn’t really listening, he can tell this (very nice) face is a strange, alluring duality between symmetry and the perfect amount of asymmetry.

 

“My siblings have been running an elaborate scheme for the last twenty years in which they’ve convinced me that ferrets are mythical creatures. And then my brother left me his dog—ahem, ferret—without informing me of his true species.”

 

“Uh-huh. That’s nice. Why would he...why would he...wait, what?” he pauses his staring (not-so-subtle gawking, really—calm the fuck down, Eijirou) to bark-laugh like an idiot, “You’re jokin'.”

 

Todoroki scrunches his nose, the caricature of a sulking toddler whose candy has just been ripped away, “They used to read me bedtime stories about them and compare them to unicorns and forest nymphs. Fuck, I knew something was wrong when they wouldn’t take me with them when they got our cat.”

 

Eijirou’s lips widen so much they nearly split his face, and he’s sure his dimples have come fully out of hiding. It’s just so absurd, “Pfft, you—how did’ya never come across them—in a picture? An article? Anythin’?”

 

“I thought they were fake,” he pouts, “Don’t laugh. I’ve been terribly deceived.”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” Eijirou snickers, wiping away a few mock tears while holding the ferret in an iron grip, “They must’ve been really serious about this, huh?”

 

“Yes, their pranks are by and large ridiculous and time-consuming. Their patience is abysmal, but in all things mischief they are patron saints,” Todoroki shakes his head, still appearing to question his place in the world more every second, scowling all the while, “One time, they filled my entire apartment to the brim with horrid magenta balloons while I was away. Every single room.”

 

“Oh, well that’s a bit less absurd, I think. My friends did the same thing to my bedroom on April Fool’s last year.”

 

“It was my birthday,” Todoroki deadpans, “I’m allergic to latex.”

 

“Oh. That’s—ha. That’s rough.”

 

“Indeed,” Todoroki takes back Hellfire, who curls around his neck snugly and snarls at Eijirou, “Well, there’s nothing that can be done now. Would you happen to know anything about ferret care?”

 

He backs a  safe distance away, “Yeah, of course! We don’t have any here, but I’m required to know the basics for most of the common household pets.”

 

“Ferrets are common?”

 

Eijirou rummages through the pamphlets under the counter, “Uh, not really around here. But Port Riot’s a super small town as is—most of the residents have adopted pups from our shelter out back—or a trained army of kittens if you visit the last house down the street; it’s the, um, big purple one with the eyesore paint job. I don’t mind caring for the animals, though! They’re all like children to me.”

 

Todoroki hmms faintly while Hellfire chitters, “I do like cats.”

 

“Me too!” Eijirou smiles at the man’s endearing blatancy, “We’ve got a new litter comin’ soon if you’re interested. Ol’ Midnight’s due anytime now.”

 

Blue and grey eyes sparkle in a way they haven’t since Todoroki walked in, “I’ll consider it.” And it sounds like he really will (and maybe, just maybe he’s staying around as more than just a sightseer. And maybe, just maybe Eijirou has shot).

 

“Here you are, sweetheart,” he hands over a dusty Ferrets: 101 pamphlet that he has no memory of actually existing, “You can come back if there’s anything you don’t understand. The language in there’s a tad outdated from what I skimmed, but it’s good stuff. Scout’s honor.”

 

“I’m not worried,” Todoroki tucks the pamphlet away with his phone and holds out an arm towards the crate. Hellfire shoots down it and leaps inside, hissing at Eijirou a few times during his descent for good measure. 

 

Then, Todoroki glances up at Eijirou under his pretty oddball lashes, seeming inexplicably shy in a way that makes Eijirou's heart pitter-patter in his rib cage. He shuffles his feet and hides behind that fantastical hair, and Eijirou wants to brush it out of the way like the protagonists do in all the rom-com movies Katsuki swears he doesn’t watch.

 

Todoroki clears his throat, pupils pinballing from side to side, “I was wondering if—”

 

A hearty, remarkably pitchy rendition of When You’re Evil from Hercules barrels through whatever Todoroki was planning to say. His features instantaneously sour as if he’s chewed on something particularly rotten and his body hunches in. He glances back at Eijirou almost sadly, resigned.

 

“I’m sorry,” he holds up his phone, the screen displaying a matching picture to the song still ringing—blue fire and a disproportionate cartoon face, “I need to take this,” he bows hastily, “Thank you for your assistance.”

 

“You’re welcome!” Eijirou forces a bubbly goodbye, but Todoroki is already out the door, Hellfire secure under his arm; he whispers once he’s alone, “Holy shit.”

 

Mic warbles loudly over the goodbye rings of the welcome bell, and Eijirou exhales with a dejected puff. He flops back into the chair and stares at vibrant feathers.

 

“Here, boy,” he absentmindedly tosses a pelt into the bird’s cage, swimming through the last ten minutes in his head and repeating himself, “Holy shit, he was really pretty. Hottest man I’ve ever seen ever. Who let him look like that? All elegant and mysterious—a real stair-step up from mean ol’ Katsuki, for sure. D’you think he’ll stay around long enough for me to get to know him?”

 

Mic screeches like a bass-boosted ambulance siren.

 

Eijirou winces and hauls himself up to change the hamster cages, reality flooding over his work-heavy bones.

 

“Yeah, bud. You’re probably right. Better luck next time, I guess.”

 

***

 

“—and then this absolute shifuckin’ motherfuckin’ bitch looks me in the eyes and says ‘thank you’! Can you believe the nerve?! The audacity?”

 

Ochako claps her hands in rapt attention, “Truly abominable, Katsuki. Absolutely unacceptable behavior. Treason, even.”

 

“Oh, shut it, Round Face. It’s the tone he used. Sounded all high-and-mighty and shit with his prissy accent and his bitch baby clothes.”

 

“Okay, I hate to ruin your I-hate-everyone-and-fuck-you spiel,” Eijirou tosses a piece of caramel corn into his mouth, propping his legs on the counter, “But does an off-kilter accent really warrant a rant worth my entire lunch break? You met the guy like two days ago.”

 

“Invalid,” Ochako strokes one of their senile cats distractedly—the one with honest-to-god eyebags who survives solely to swipe his paws at Mic through his cage, “Katsuki can and will rant about all minor inconveniences, no matter how minuscule. Or how much of a hypocrite that makes him.”

 

Katsuki snarls at her, face perfectly miming the orange tabby he’s rocking in his arms, “What the hell are you insinuating?!”

 

“Sorry, you’re totally right. Minor feels like the wrong word. Any ideas, Ei?”

 

Eijirou scratches his chin while Katsuki fumes, “I dunno…massive? Enormous? Colossal?”

 

“Ooh, I like that one. Bakugou “Colossal Inconvenience” Katsuki. What do you think, hon?”

 

“I think,” his tone is deadly but soft, catering to the finally dozing cat that’s moved to his lap, “that you two oughta stop showing up at my shop, because I’m poisoning your goddamn banana bread next time you do.”

 

“Worth it,” Ochako decides, probably dreaming about Katsuki’s inherently godlike baking and cooking skills. It’s a shame his personality can’t be that sweet.

 

“Good fuckin’ answer,” Katsuki harumphs, feathers smoothing.

 

He cranks down his trademark spartan aura after that, and Eijirou grins privately at how easy it is to quell that supposedly militaristic anger nowadays. Once upon a time, even a small show of Bakugou Katsuki’s bared teeth was enough to send him into a tizzy of apologies and vague petrification. Now, watching the gruff man play with a puffy cat tail while complaining about his new roommate’s odd sleeping habits—he feels a lot closer to the rest of Port Riot’s lowlife fucking losers, as he would put it. It’s truly heartwarming to tame such a once-savage beast.

 

“Speaking of new guys,” Ochako wiggles her eyebrows in a way that makes Eijirou want to flee the country, “You mentioned something about a hottie stopping by Hound Dog’s yesterday.”

 

Eijirou groans, earning a shush from Katsuki, “Take that gay panic with a grain of salt. I was too nervous to get the guy’s number. He ended up leavin’ in a hurry anyway.”

 

“Probably saw how fuckin’ ugly you were—mmff—”

 

Ochako cramps her hand over Katsuki’s mouth and smiles unnervingly, “How do you know he’s not comin’ back again? Maybe he’s searchin’ for a place to stay—y’know, runaway city boy and all that glamorous jazz.”

 

“If only. But really, Ocha. The last new face around here that actually stayed for more than a few months was Draca’s little runt pup—y'all know that. Katsuki wouldn't be takin' roommates otherwise. And even if he is here longer, why would he want to chance it with me?”

 

Hey,” they both snap simultaneously, apparently trying to stink-eye his insecurities away. After ten consecutive seconds of silence, it’s sort of working (which is somewhat amusing, considering the insult Katsuki spewed approximately two milliseconds ago; though Eijirou knows he doesn’t mean harm the slightest—he’s just programmed to shit talk everything that moves and their mother and also their grandma). 

 

“So, uh,” Eijirou quickly hurries the subject along, growing steadily more uncomfortable at the eerie lack of conversation—as well as the two sets of eyes boring sizzling holes in his head, “I get it, alright? Tone it down, guys. I don’t think I’ll ever see him again, anyway. You don’t have to worry.”

 

Ochako secures her hands on her hips and narrows her eyes, tens scarier than a raging Katsuki, “And if he is stayin’?”

 

Eijirou shrugs and smiles thinly, “I’ll leave him be?”

 

“Fuck no,” Ochako punches his arm way too hard, holy hell, “You ask him the fuck out! You’re Kirishima Eijirou, you hot piece of ass, you! Everybody wants to bury their face in those pecs.”

 

“Ocha!” he chokes, then again when Katsuki nods sagely, “Dude!”

 

“I’m not a fuckin’ liar, Shitty Hair. We’ve all seen your tits,” he gestures with a that-right-there sort of flourish. The compliment wracks Eijirou to his core, because he can definitely count on one hand the number of positive comments he’s gotten from Katsuki. He feels like he should be writing this down, committing the exact phrasing memory and writing a couple diagrams to compare with Izuku’s Two Katsuki Compliments.

 

Instead, Eijirou covers his chest, mildly embarrassed despite the heavy-duty sweatshirt he’s wearing and tempers his rising blush, “Thanks?”

 

“You’d sure as hell better be,” Katsuki growls and frowns at the ball of fur nuzzling his knee, “Now can you get this fuckin’ animal off of me so I can do my job?”

 

Aw, did you reach your good deed quota for the month, Kacchan? S’that why you’re gettin’ pissy?” Ochako teases, standing up and brushing her legs off. She points two fingers at herself and then to Eijirou as if to say ‘love yourself, fucker. I’m watchin’ in Ochako speak. 

 

A pellet flies across the room, “Call me that wretched nickname again and see what happens.”

 

“Oh, like Izuku would let you do anything to me,” the fire is returned with a hailstorm of bacon treats that Eijirou resigns himself to cleaning later—at least it wasn’t the litter box this time, “Plus, we all know you secretly like it.”

 

Teeth grind loud enough to carry, “Poison, Round Face. Deku’s scrawny ass can’t beat chemistry.”

 

“Well, he certainly beat you in it during college.”

 

You. Mother. Fucker—”

 

Eijirou grins widely as his friends’ antics, expertly removing the cat from Katsuki’s lap and lulling her back to sleep in practiced sways. The playful banter-fighting of theirs brings an aura of joy to his heart whenever they do it (and he’s aware, in the back of his mind, that they must be cheering him up for his split-second of insecurity earlier—that they communicated to each other silently and chose to put on this show for lifting his spirits, and the thought makes his chest ache with candied affection). 

 

“Are y’all out of here soon?” He taps an invisible wristwatch and mock glares. Even though he’s brimming with endearment, he has to get the shop in shape pretty fast if he wants to get home safely—and without his rabid boss yelling at him. 

 

“Give me a sec,” Katsuki bares his abnormally white fangs at Ochako, flipping the bird with both hands, “Gotta pummel someone real quick.”

 

“Oh, bite me, Kacchan.”

 

“I’ll fuckin’ bite you, all right—”

 

Eijirou rings the little gold ringer at the register rapidly, not stopping until the argument ceases. He points at the door.

 

“As entertaining as a wrestling match with an animal audience is, my lunch break is over as of two minutes ago. I’ll meet y’all for dinner after this shift.”

 

The other two begrudgingly slide outside, Eijirou a firm divider between them. He watches their departure with a warm nostalgia; seeing Katsuki’s descent over the years into the realm of niceties and decent human interaction is something of an eighth wonder. His wrinkling eyelids and actual real life laugh lines tell a story that, once upon a time, Eijirou never thought he would see play out. Now, every day has these moments so inexplicably soft that he’s pretty sure high school Katsuki would desire nothing more than to sock his current self in the face and spit on him.

 

And then there’s Ochako—she’s the perfect bubbly, sarcastic, badass bitch of a friend. He’s forever lucky that she tried to arrest him for tax fraud on the day of their first meeting, or he wouldn’t have met fifty-percent of his current inner circle (a glorious start to any friendship, really—and a good party tale too). 

 

Behind the banter and the annoyances and the throwing his fucking supplies everywhere, Eijirou has a lot that he owes to these two in terms of where he is now. So he tells them, seeing no valid reason not to:

 

“Hey guys,” his voice is a gentle puff, floating by before they trek towards Katsuki’s café in a clashing storm of stark personalities, “Thank you.”

 

He doesn’t elaborate, but he can tell they receive the underlying message loud and clear: his saying thank you for keeping him determined the same way he’ll always do for them. Neither respond with anything more than a slight head tilt, but Eijirou hears them, and he decides one thing for himself right here, confidence abounding along with admiration:

 

If he ever sees Todoroki Shouto again, he’s going to ask him the fuck out, and he is going to own it, because Kirishima Eijirou is hot shit.

 

***

 

Kirishima Eijirou is a cold shit coward.

 

He’s always considered himself a man of action, but—

 

There’s an issue with his derisive Todoroki-centric plan, and that is: there is no plan to begin with, because he foolishly assumed that Todoroki would be like every other passerby who wanders into Hound Dog’s—that he would be in town to try a lick of Katsuki’s famous desserts or to see if the Yaoyorozu Momo actually lives in a place this obviously-middle class; and then he would inevitably realize the most interesting thing happening here is Hanta’s uncanny ability to untangle himself from any knot (he claims he learned it in Eagle Scouts—it’s a party trick exclusive to the Port Riot idiots, but ultimately a one-time-impressive deal) and find another, more entertaining town to direct his travels.

 

This was a false assumption.

 

And the problem is, Eijirou never breaks a promise; loyalty comes easier than any other virtue, and he lives his entire life with it as a carved tablet in his heart. Unfortunately for his quickly dwindling ego, this includes promises he’s made to himself.

 

See, Todoroki Shouto is (dare he say it again) really fucking hot, and he is also now apparently the cutest being on this earth, and Eijirou can not ask him out. The crippling anxiety snuggling up to the fear of rejection squatting in his brain will not allow it. He hasn’t felt this nervous since he met Katsuki’s parents for the first time (two days after their breakup, no less; it was a messy ordeal in the sense that Bakugou Mitsuki is still the most aggressively nice person he’s ever met and cannot stop herself from embarrassing her son in every situation—befriending his freshly ex-boyfriend and supplying him with enough blackmail to last into the afterlife included).

 

Normally Eijirou’s good with popping the romance questions—suggesting a moonlit walk through the local park or asking for an evening coffee date at Satou’s (never Dynamocchi where Katsuki works; it does not bode well for a multitude of reasons, the main one being Katsuki has to angrily background check every one of his “suitors” until they meet his impossibly high standards—the next most relevant reason being Katsuki in general, which speaks—nay, screams bloody murder—for itself). 

 

Eijirou’s also never felt so drawn to the orbit of another person so effortlessly before. In theory, this situation is a recipe for success.

 

The thing is, though.

 

Todoroki Shouto is killing him. He’s so fucking adorable it hurts, and he’s sitting with Izuku Midoriya—probaby the most eligible, boyfriend material bachelor in the country. He has a club of fangirls somewhere that discuss how bouncy his curls are every week, and Eijirou would be in the club if Katsuki wasn’t the fucking president (even though he himself doesn’t know that yet). And they’re at Eijirou’s go-to date place, four tables away from where he and Denki grab dinner every Tuesday. 

 

The two converse over piping cinnamon rolls, the spicewood steam wrapping around heat-pink noses and skin. Izuku smiles like he’s looking straight at a supernova, which would make Eijirou green-eyed jealous if he didn’t look at literally all of his friends like that—or if he wasn’t so nice that it’s probably illegal to harbor any ill will towards him. The jealousy prods at his pores, but he wills it down by thinking of all the favors Izuku has done for him and reminding himself that he does enjoy being a good person most of the time.

 

And then there’s him. Todoroki, as fairy-like as he was in the pet store earlier in the week—impeccable in each fathomable sense and ticking every single one of Eijirou’s “ideal man” boxes and doing extra credit. The scuttling and chatter of Satou’s dulls into background noise as Eijirou subconsciously tracks white eyelashes and a peach-toned scar, actual shoujo sparkles flashing in the edges of his vision. Todoroki has this millimeter smile gracing his mouth, and it’s just so...

 

He sticks his tongue out and fans it, biting into the treat too eagerly. His cheeks turn reddish while Izuku giggles.

 

“Fuck,” Eijirou breathes reverently, that’s so fucking cute.

 

“You okay, Kiri?” Denki kicks his foot under the table and follows his gaze. There’s a drawn-out moment where he processes the scene, and a wicked grin lathers his face as soon as he catches on. Eijirou has never been hailed for his subtlety when it comes to crushes, and this is a big one. A whopper. It’s fast-acting, barb-wired, and deadly. He doesn’t stand a chance against Denki’s parasitic penchant for gossip, but he pretends he can’t understand English for the majority of his meal.

 

At one point, Todoroki hurries to drink water so fast that he spills some on himself, and he droops his head like a miffed kitten. Eijirou knows kittens, and they’ve never fucked him up like this before—watching Todoroki struggle awkwardly is genuinely purifying him. He’ll reach Heaven soon enough.

 

Fuck,” he repeats, drawing out the ‘u’.

 

Denki snaps his fingers aggressively and suggestively, eyebrows waggling at record-breaking speeds, “Kirishima Eijirou, I know that look. Quit ignoring me! Give me details, man! Have you fucked—?”

 

“Denki!” Eijirou hides from the conversation in his elbow, “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, dude.”

 

“We’ve been friends for five years, dude,” Denki gives Todoroki an all-too-obvious once over, entirely unaware of Eijirou’s internal catastrophe, “Not bad. Probably could’ve picked someone who wasn’t Kacchan’s roommate, though.”

 

A moment passes as he remains hidden and sulky. The words register, and he lifts his head.

 

“Wait—”

 

The front door suddenly swings open in a whirlwind, one of its cherry pie decor stickers fluttering weakly to the ground. None of the customers have to glance up—they all inherently recognize these barbaric heavy footsteps and grand entrances. By the display counter, Satou sighs long-sufferingly and crosses his arms. 

 

You,” Katsuki hones in on Todoroki and charges, sniffing the air and out for blood, “I’m going to fucking kill you.”

 

He doesn’t even scream, which, in Eijirou’s expert opinion, is the most terrifying brand of Bakugou anger. He’s seen it from both generations, and it never fails to strike the fear of God into his very soul.

 

“Why?” Todoroki stares him straight on, braver than any man or woman he’s met (not including Ochako, but she’s chief of police and even more trauma-inducing when angered—closer to an Amazon warrior than a person, honestly).

 

Katsuki sputters, “‘Why?’ Why the fuck do you think?”

 

He reaches deep into his jacket and yanks a squirming figure out of it by the scruff of its neck.

 

This,” he drops it directly on Todoroki’s lap. Tense silence ensues.

 

“Hello, Hellfire,” he gives the ferret a tiny, one-fingered wave, and Eijirou’s heart grows three or four sizes. It almost leaps straight out of his chest.

 

“Don’t talk to it!” Katsuki slams his hands on the table, veins popping as he sends chunks of food flying to the ground. Satou already has a dustpan ready, having had a mutual culinary brothers-in-arms relationship with Katsuki long enough to anticipate collateral damage following any of his visits.

 

“It’s rude not to greet people,” Todoroki reasons, letting Hellfire latch onto his arm. A pink nose prods at his skin, much calmer now.

 

“That is a fucking ferret.”

 

A resigned nod, “So I’ve been told.”

 

“You’ve—” Katsuki glowers, “What the fuck does that even mean?! Are you mockin’ me? Huh?”

 

Todoroki squints while Izuku chokes laughter into his palm, “No, Bakugou, I mean that I have been told—”

 

A loud groan, “Holy shit! I literally could not care less. Just—why did you leave it with me?!”

 

Todoroki squints even more, “You said I could?”

 

“No?! Fuck, I didn’t even know you had…” Katsuki’s brows move through a couple stages of something evil—anger, confusion, rage, processing, outrage, realization, and then his baseline thunderous wrath.

 

He cocks his head ever-so-slightly and exhales just loud enough for Eijirou and just about all of the attendees in the shop to hear, “Deku.”

 

Izuku bites his lip, swallowing some form of either amusement or devout fear, “Yes, Kacchan?”

 

“You—” actual smoke trickles through Katsuki’s nose as he takes whatever the opposite of a calming breath is, “Come with me.” He grabs Izuku’s hood and hauls him out the door. Izuku waves apologetically at Todoroki, who’s now sitting lonesome at their table for two and sticking out quite awkwardly.

 

“What the hell sort of freaky childhood friend sexual tension was that?” Denki snaps him out of his attentive daze. Awe colors his voice, and Eijirou’s surprised it’s taken him this long to catch on to their friends’ dynamite-lined love dance ritual.

 

“Oh, nothing,” Eijirou holds a finger to his lips, budding hope and belated bemusement filtering through his mind, “Izuku probably just gave Todoroki a lot more power over Katsuki than any man should have.”

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing, Denki.”

 

(Nothing being:

 

There’s a secret among those who have been closest to Katsuki in their lives—a world-ending, government-classified sort of secret. And that is: Bakugou Katsuki is extremely agreeable right when he wakes up—enough so that he’d even say yes to caring for a ferret the entire day while still blinking sleep out of his eyes and yawning intermittently. 

 

In the past, Eijirou has exploited this weakness many times—back rubs, compliments, you name it. But Izuku has always been more daring when it comes to taunting Katsuki and matching his flare. He’s the carrot-on-a-stick to Eijirou’s approach-with-caution tactic.

 

Izuku likely told Todoroki to ask him for any favors before eight in the morning, eager to rile him up in any way possible, since those two have a “weirdly” charged feud that’s been running for years now. Eijirou appreciates it—Katsuki’s nanometer fuse is hilarious on its own, but there’s a huge, smokin’ hot bonus to this particular instance). 

 

“I’m gonna go in,” Eijirou stands up, pushes in his chair promptly, and adopts his friendliest posture in hopes of making a good second impression.

 

“Wait—Kiri? Ei! What the fuck did that mean? Where are you—oh,” Denki pauses and smiles slyly, “Ohh—no, no, it’s fine. Tell me your Katsu-secret later and get some.” He vigorously shoots finger guns and thumbs ups at Eijirou. All in plain sight of the entire restaurant, including Todoroki.

 

“Hi again!” Eijirou blatantly ignores his friend and the overwhelming urge to ram his fist into Denki’s nose. He approaches the lone man, feigning bravery to himself, “Mind if I sit?”

 

“Hello,” Todoroki stares wide-eyed and then gestures to the now empty, slightly singed seat. There are a few bits of pastry littering the floor, but neither pay them any mind, “Be my guest. Kirishima, right?”

 

“Yeah,” he doesn’t linger too long on the way that name rolls off his tongue, “And you are the ferret guy—Todoroki Shouto?”

 

Speckled pink rises on Todoroki’s ears, “Ah—yes, astute observation. Will I ever live that down?”

 

“Depends. How long are you in town?”

 

“The foreseeable future.”

 

Hmm,” Eijirou strokes an invisible beard as if he’s not shouting to the heavens in his excitement, “We’ll see. You have to get on my good side first.”

 

Todoroki leans back, lips dancing upwards, “Interesting. And where am I at now?”

 

“Undecided. I need to gather more information.”

 

Lips raise further, and Todoroki’s demeanor is shifting—warming into something cordial and intrigued, “I guess we ought to get to know each other, then. For my sake.”

 

“Yeah, I guess so,” Eijirou settles down, breathless but somewhat confident that every single one of his senses freaking the fuck out isn’t too apparent, “So, Katsuki’s roommate?”

 

A mirthful glint blooms in lovely multicolored eyes, “As of last week, yes. He’s...entertaining.”

 

A chuckle wracks Eijirou, “Hah. No need to hold back your insults, sweetheart. His colors ain’t a secret, and he’d be offended if you restrained yourself on his behalf.”

 

Todoroki absentmindedly fiddles with Hellfire’s fur, “Oh. In that case, he’s remarkably rude, wholly unpleasant, and genuinely one of the worst people I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing. And yet, against all odds...I find myself charmed.”

 

“Yeah?” Eijirou’s heart sinks a bit unwillingly despite how much he agrees with Todoroki’s assessment—and an awful thought briefly crosses his mind, poisonous in the uncharacteristic envy that accompanies it, “Are you, ah, interested? Or already, y’know?”

 

Furrowed brows, red and white, “Come again?”

 

“Are you interested in him romantically?” he tries to ask nonchalantly, and it strikes him how much it makes sense. Katsuki almost never takes roommates, and for the one he does choose to be this attractive? It’s a logical conclusion. Maybe he and Ochako really have been the fools—thinking he'd really pine after Izuku for this long. Though, he hopes that Katsuki would have the heart to tell Eijirou about it himself at some point. He’s not so sensitive that he can’t move on from a stupid crush, even if it is a visceral one. It’ll be embarrassing after the flirting, and yeah, it’ll suck, but maybe they can still be friends—

 

“Fuck no,” Todoroki says, simultaneously shocking Eijirou’s core and completely rerouting his internal dialogue to resemble a celebratory rager, “He may be charming in a rabid puppy sort of way, but I am not inclined to...any of his personality traits. He’s also a Taurus—we’d be too boring together.”

 

Eijirou feels relief crash over him as he covers his mouth, mildly surprised, “Astrology? You the type to see if the stars align and the spirits will it, Todoroki?”

 

“Shouto, please,” Shouto corrects with such ease that it makes Eijirou want to happy-vomit, “My father is a big fan of...concrete ideals, if you will. I tend to indulge in everything that goes against his many philosophies. Thus, I took a course on astrology in college, among various other obscure classes.”

 

“You can do that?” Eijirou marvels, tacking onto the end, “And call me Eijirou, if we’re gettin’ all friendly.”

 

“Eijirou,” Todoroki tests the name softly, sending him on a one-route trip into the stratosphere, “I was surprised too, about the class. I’d never heard of it until then. Still ended up being the top student that semester.”

 

“In astrology?”

 

“Indeed,” Shouto cradles a restless Hellfire to his chest; the ferret leers at Eijirou ominously, “The professor loved me and said all of my analyses were impeccable. I just blurted whatever random anecdote I was thinking at the time, but she always agreed with it.”

 

“Impressive, Mr. Psychic,” Eijirou resolutely does not look anywhere under Shouto’s chin, thoroughly intimidated, “And you decided that a Taurus isn’t your best match?”

 

“The ones I’ve met are far too abrasive. We’d clash horribly.”

 

Eijirou feels a spark of hope ignite into (probably) misplaced confidence. He charges forward before it fades away and morphs into nerves.

 

“How about Libras?”

 

“Well,” Shouto rolls his eyes upwards in thought; his dainty eyelashes are accentuated nicely by the position, “They’re very unpredictable. Generally loud—but…”

 

He gives Eijirou this earnest, deep-thinking look that has him blushing like a schoolgirl and yearning to write Todoroki Eijirou in his fucking diary.

 

“...I do like surprises.”

 

Oh goodness.

 

“That’s—ah,” Eijirou giggles and, wow, he actually is blushing now, “Nice. Very...nice. And what’s your, um, sign?”

 

“Capricorn.”

 

He realizes belatedly that he knows fuck all about stars, “Ah. They’re very...exciting?”

 

Shouto smirks good-naturedly, “And you must be an astrology connoisseur, Eijirou.”

 

“Well, you know me,” Eijirou winks somehow, like his body is drawing confidence from thin air and isn’t even remotely connected to his running-in-crazed-circles brain that can’t stop replaying “Eijirou” in that winter-blue accent.

 

Shouto mulls over this for longer than he expected. His mulling expression is nice, Eijirou thinks, even though Hellfire smothers a fair amount of it by valiantly biting at him, “I don’t actually.”

 

Eijirou panics.

 

Shit. Was he being too forward? Fuck. He’s probably getting uncomfortable—why the hell is he sitting with this stranger that’s light years out of his league and trying to have a conversation? Unthinkable. He’s an idiot and also a stalker—

 

“I’d like to, though—since you know all about my secret astrology rebellion and childhood of lies, it’s only fair you return the favor,” and there’s that cute shy stance again, and he’s having a couple heart palpitations, “What do you say?”

 

Eijirou’s blood pressure rises and drops simultaneously, creating this sort of stasis where he his dumb brain can’t decide between terror and elation. His eyes pull open as wide as a deer in headlights. Is this flirting? Is he being asked out right now? What the fuck. He’s flirted before. He has—he’s a good, hot flirter, he swears. 

 

“Do you—uh. Would you...dinner? With me?”

 

He swears. It’s just—y’know, Todoroki Shouto. Y’know?

 

Shouto inclines his head, straining to hear his choked offer, “Dinner?”

 

Eijirou tries to ignore the mini-versions of himself screaming abort abort abort in the interior of his mind, but the sudden (probably tiny, but still too looming) thought of rejection squashes his conviction like a bug. And Hellfire is looking at him as if he knows Eijirou wants to take his owner away and kiss his pretty face. In an unanticipated swivet, his mouth blurts out the first excuse it can conjure. Like a coward:

 

“Sorry, hah—brunch,” he wheezes, a bit hysterical, “There’s a Port Riot brunch every Sunday. You should come. With me. I mean not with me, but I’ll show you ‘round.”

 

“Oh. I heard about those,” that velvet voice is flatter, a tad more monotonous than before—and Eijirou’s internal berating takes Katsuki’s scorching tone, as it always does in his toughest hours: wow, Shitty Hair, you either creeped him out with your abysmal flirting and stalker ass, or you horribly rejected him without meaning to. Nice going, fuckwad!

 

“It’s okay if you don’t want to, though,” Eijirou makes sure to say, flapping his hands, a fucking loser. 

 

“I want to get to know you,” Shouto states as his answer, worrying his bottom lip as Hellfire scratches intently at his palm, “Since I’ll be staying a bit. When do you want to pick me up?”

 

Eijirou’s jaw snaps open after he pries his eyes off of the lip bite, “You. You want me to pick you up.”

 

“I don’t have a vehicle currently, and from what I’ve seen, Ubers aren’t available around here. If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I can get there with Izuku.”

 

“No! Er—uh, yes. I mean—I’ll take you! Uh, literally whenever you want,” Eijirou says, strained and setting about forty mental reminders to clean his fucking truck and also learn basic English. Deep under all of that, though, is the confetti-piñata-ring toss mental almost-date party being thrown by the tiny Eijirous in vibrant triangle hats, “We normally start at around noonish, but I usually get there an hour early to help Momo set up everything.”

 

“Come whenever—I wake up at nine, anyway,” he leans on lithe fingers, “Make sure to bang on the door really loud. Bring a frying pan. Something Bakugou will be able to hear even if he’s sleeping.”

 

Eijirou snorts, “Alright, you menace. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when the reaper comes for your sorry soul. I almost didn’t make it out alive last time I messed with his agenda.”

 

“He’s not that scary after you’ve seen him cuddling with a ferret for two hours of his volition.”

 

“No way.”

 

“Yes way. I can send pictures if you’re willing to strike a compromise.”

 

Eijirou leans forward, smelling the potential million-dollar blackmail for when Katsuki finally leaves town and becomes a pro chef like he always threatens to, “I’d legitimately sacrifice my entire soul for that, holy shit, please. Name your price, sweetheart.”

 

Shouto points at him, cat-eyed, “Forget about the ferret-dog incident and they’re yours.”

 

“You mean how you thought ferrets were fairy tales until like last wee—?”

 

Ahem.”

 

“Oh, yeah. My bad,” Eijirou seals a zipper over his lips and makes grabby hands towards Shouto’s phone, “Your secret will never see the light of day, sweetheart. Cross my heart.”

 

Shouto relinquishes the phone quite easily, and Eijirou expects to be met with the best image he’s seen all week (really, Katsuki all domestic with a ferret—the words alone send shit-eating vibrations to his toes—again, the blackmail), but instead he just ends up with the best image he’s seen in his life.

 

Eijirou,” he reads his own name off the screen, mental cogs squealing to a halt and flying off their fucking hinges as he absorbs the puppy emoji punctuating it, “What…”

 

Shouto coughs, “Your phone number. For the pictures...and so you can text before you pick me up.”

 

Phone. Number

 

Eijirou’s pretty sure he’s astral projecting right now. Maybe he’s having a fever dream. He pinches himself just in case, hard enough to leave a mark.

 

“Sure, yeah. I’ll just...type it in,” the stunted words slip out of his soulless, awake body—holy shit? Phone number. Puppy Emoji. Phone number. Puppy emoji. 

 

The phone returns to its owner, and he’s still not quite back to his normal blood pressure. The last minutes finally catch up to his enamored internal toils, and he realizes that he ought to warn Shouto for the chaotic mess Eijirou’s about to drag him into. Fuck, he can’t believe just invited a newcomer—a goddamn city boy to one of Port Riot’s infamous brunches. He’s an idiot, and this is an awful backup plan to his date cop-out—which he would have predicted if his middle-schooler brain would shut up literally once in Shouto’s hallowed vicinity.

 

Now, this almost-date saga could very well conclude with Shouto packing his boxes and bolting for the concrete jungles, all because the number one Port Riot rule slipped out of Eijirou’s mental storage and down the drain at the barest hint of an attractive human—and that is: never bring a newbie to brunch.

 

His conscience almost convinces him that it’s a better idea to just cancel and leave the poor man to adjust to Port Riot’s trademark insanity himself, but Eijirou has always been taught that throwing newbies to the sharks is the best way to teach them how to swim in the batshit water here. It’s also morbidly entertaining, and even though he’s entirely willing to take a train for Shouto, this town hasn’t housed a new face in ages. Probably not since Camie two-ish years ago, and she matches the manic brunch energy so well that she hardly had any reaction to it.

 

“About brunch,” Eijirou has a little mercy, “I should probably warn you. The people can be a bit. Intense at times. If big crowds aren’t your style, we can call a raincheck for any day, sweetheart.”

 

Shouto purses his lips, “What kind of intense?”

 

Eijirou snorts and claps a hand over his mouth, snapshots of multiple food fights swimming to the forefront of his mind; he composes himself, “It’s...sorta like a rambunctious family reunion every week. Except it’s mostly a bunch of twenty-years olds who will pry into your private and never leave you alone again. They’re parasites, and once you meet them, you join the hive mind against your will. Can you, ah, handle that?”

 

Shouto shrugs, scarily unperturbed by what Eijirou hopes was a sufficient enough warning, “Can’t be worse than my family.”

 

Eijirou wants to say that’s what you think, but a blockade he can’t place stops him—and he opts to pursue that particular topic—the way Shouto’s light dulls around familial discussions (from what he can gather over text-messaging and the few real life conversations they’ve had)—for post-confession, whenever that happens (and it will, he promises; his tongue just loops itself in a bow whenever Shouto, like, exists).

 

After a bit more fumbling smalltalk and elementary stammering, Shouto waves his goodbye and pads out into the beating sun, squinting at the cloudless Port Riot sky. Hellfire drapes over one of his shoulders, watching his back and poised for attack. A spike of fondness jolts Eijirou—an emotion usually meant for year-breaking relationships and long-term boyfriends, not sort-of-flirting sort-of-friends. There’s a first time for everything, he guesses—including instakill infatuation.

 

Eijirou’s phone pings as he walks slowly towards his forgotten table, wary of whatever bullshit will inevitably spew out of Denki’s mouth. The text is a simple “hello, this is Todoroki Shouto”, but giddiness ricochets in Eijirou’s ribcage despite the lack of any romantic implications in the sentence whatsoever. 

 

He thumbs through the available animal emojis. Tragically, there isn’t a ferret option, so he settles for a candy-cane in its temporary stead, vowing to hunt for a downloadable wildlife keyboard when he gets home. He may have promised to keep their initial meeting hush-hush, but a little wordless reminder now and then might get Shouto’s milky skin to burn pink, and he just can’t throw that kind of power away (fuck, the fact that there even is a chance of a “now and then” happening—as in seeing Todoroki Shouto frequently, or like, ever—feels like too much for his eyes to handle, and maybe his organs too).

 

A finger jabs into his side, jolting the butterflies samba-ing in his stomach, “I take back my Katsuki and Izuku comment earlier. Their sexual tension has nothing on that shitshow. I think I’m gonna vomit.”

 

Eijirou shoves back, “Shut up, Denki. I’m processing.”

 

He doesn’t have a pillow right now—but if he did and wasn’t standing smack in the middle of a restaurant, he would stuff his face in it and scream.

 

***

 

They text.

 

It’s an unthinkable thing, so surreal in every possible way that Eijirou has to do actual breathing exercises every time his phone flashes with notifications, most of which are just false alarms—Denki funneling stunt videos and tiny-food tutorials into his inbox, or Sero’s weed-fueled novel-length rambles, or Katsuki being angry at his continued existence. 

 

But for every thirty of those much-appreciated but currently disappointing happenings, there’s a dry anecdote or two from Shouto. He’s learning that they’re usually complemented by videos of small animals doing dumb shit, because he seems to think that’s the way to Eijirou’s heart—which it is, but he kind of already had that the second he told Eijirou he took a class on zodiac signs out of pure spite and asked him out on an almost-date—passing no judgement on Eijirou’s incredible inability to form words at the time.

 

And there’s the other Katsuki texts, thanks to Denki’s traitorous tendencies when it comes to keeping his mouth shut. Katsuki, met with Eijirou’s festering crush, has taken it upon himself to send him quote unquote “fugly bitch pics” of Shouto when Eijirou least expects it, thinking that showcasing the unattractive side of the man will scare Eijirou away. 

 

It scares him in the sense that Eijirou graduates from breathing exercises to stress watching nature documentaries the first time he opens his phone to Shouto, mid-sneeze and in the midst of dropping a spoonful of ice cream in his lap. 

 

In the large scheme of things, it has far from the desired effect. If Katsuki intends to deter Eijirou, he's sorely mistaken. In fact, he’s fanning the spark into a trampling wildfire at breakneck speeds. ‘Marriage proposals being written before the first date’ kind of speeds. 

 

But before Eijirou can hope to corral his feelings into a presentable manner (or at least stop screeching like a fucking pterodactyl when his phone goes off), Sunday roundhouse kicks him right in the ass.

 

He goes to sleep, thinking I have a whole eight hours to figure out how to look cool and I’ve totally got this in the bag—I’m actually, like, kind of hot and wakes up two hours later than he intended, decidedly uncool and having wasted the time he set aside to pick an outfit. In a blind panic, he calls Katsuki for advice, which is, as a rule, the worst option in every single situation—but this is fashion, the only thing other than cooking that Katsuki isn’t a total douchebag about.

 

Well—that’s a lie, actually. He is, but at least he’s a helpful one. 

 

After being digitally abused and whipped into tip-top aesthetic shape by Katsuki’s unique brand of compliments wrapped tight in barbed insults (or was it insults wrapped in the layer of a ghost of a compliment?), he finds himself in front of his mirror, posing in as many positions as he can manage. The outfit has a strangely specific, almost out-of-place vibe compared to the pastel pinks and yellows Katsuki bears himself, but he doesn’t mind it at all.

 

Normally, the grungy look is one he strays away from, tending to lean towards loose-fitting sportswear and fashion “crimes against humanity” as Katsuki so wonderfully spits at him once a week, minimum. 

 

Today, however, is a special enough occasion—an almost-date is at least dress-up material, right? The black leather and swooping chains look sort of—well, nice. If he turns his head the right way. And he hasn’t worn earrings in a long time, but he misses them now that the weight of dangling stones tugs comfortably on his earlobes, a friend that he’s forgotten about in all the dangers that come with handling finicky birds who chomp on shiny objects. 


He did end up cleaning his truck yesterday in a tizzy, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t get rid of the oily stench embedded into its seats. The handful of years Eijirou worked at Power Load motor shop down the street, alternating from pomeranians and grease-slicked fingernails every other day is what put it there. The scent isn’t a bad one, and it actually serves to coax his nerves down as he winds across the dirt path to Shouto’s street—he just hopes it isn’t too noticeable (and that his eye bags aren’t showing after he forced himself to go to bed early, and that his acne won’t peek through the rough layer of foundation he had Katsuki talk him through applying, and that he can form actual words that make sense in the context of human interaction, and—).

 

He reaches a familiar house, heart stuffed in his throat and goosebumps arising with his jittery anticipation. The garden outside taunts the single, sorry excuse for a cactus in his yard, the vibrant flora flaunts Katsuki’s innate (and unfair) ability to master any skill thrown at him that isn’t compassion or goodwill, and the old wood of the building creaks with the scorching summer heat, windows all opened for the AC that Katsuki manages to break once a month.

 

He staggers to the door, palms sweating bullets, and he types his arrival text.

 

He scuffs his shoes on the polished patio stones to annoy Katsuki later, whistling idly as the message struggles to send through the immorally patchy Port Riot WiFi. He swipes over the array of orange tabbies Shouto sends at around the devil’s hour each day without fail. 

 

When he reaches the good-morning chinchillas from Thursday, the little delivered check mark pops into view, and the front door swings open, groaning on its rusting brass hinges. The skidding sound prompts a jump out of Eijirou, who certainly hadn’t expected Shouto to answer him approximately three seconds after he announced his presence. He yearns to check his hair six more times and request another feel-good pep talk from Ocha, but now he has to fake composure instead. He gets one once-over in and breaks.

 

“Hello, Eijirou,” Shouto greets him, bowing awkwardly as Eijirou’s jaw unhinges and clatters to the perfectly paved patio.

 

“Hiya, sweetheart,” he rasps on instinct alone, mostly unaware of his own voice in lieu of this level ten disaster—is that a headband—with flowers? And a choker? Skinny jeans?

 

This is appalling in the best kind of way. It’s legitimately as if someone compiled Eijirou’s guarded lists of most attractive wardrobe qualities and rubbed them all over Todoroki Shouto’s perfect body to mold the ideal human. He’s stunning—and so, so fuzzy and soft—Eijirou could reach out to touch and his arm would pass through a mildly disgruntled yet endearing cloud.

 

“—Eijirou?” Shouto’s concerned lisp runs smooth over his ear. Eijirou happily bathes in it before realizing he’s been fucking staring for God knows how long, fuck.

 

Ahem—ah, sorry. I zonked out a little there,” Eijirou’s sure he’s matching his hair a little too well with the flames licking his cheeks, “You ready to go?”

 

“Yes,” he ducks his head, peeking up, “I like your earrings.”

 

Eijirou twiddles with the bedazzled red, the compliment melting happy down to the tips of his toes, “Thanks, Shouto. I like your...you.”  

 

By the grace of some watchful deity that Eijirou will later be worshipping, Shouto absorbs that comment as more positive than weird and creepy. He even sticks his head down, somehow the most flustered in their mesh-mash equation, and Eijirou wants to bite his nose. 

 

“Likewise. Um,” Shouto wrings his fingers, tone teetering to somber, “I have an inquiry.”

 

Eijirou gulps. This is a question he’s prepared for—Shouto’s gonna get all worriedly bashful and he’s gonna ask “is this a date?”, and Eijirou will reassure him and say “of course, sweetheart”—and then they’ll prance into the blistering sunset together, flower petals raining from the sky. It’s going to be glorious. He just needs to—

 

“Would you mind if Hellfire joined us for the evening?”

 

He grins, “Come again?”

 

Shouto reaches into his bag and pulls out the furry man-of-the-hour like a rabbit in a magician’s hat, “Katsuki is a petulant child and won’t watch him anymore. Apparently he chewed up a limited edition comic and deserves to rot in his namesake. Also, he said he might come to brunch as well, and the pamphlet told me that I can’t leave him l for this long. I thought he could come eat with us.”

 

Hellfire hangs limp, little expressive blonde brows daring Eijirou to refuse. He’s surprised a rodent can convey such contempt, but he guesses that living with Katsuki has to affect someone, and Shouto’s an angel on earth.

 

Eijirou crunches down on the urge to bang his head into the wall and settles by cursing himself for ever giving Shouto that fucking pamphlet. If he had known he’d be cockblocked by a ferret for his grave miscalculations, he would have offered some hands-on lessons for pet care. Maybe he could’ve gotten an invite to the house, and they could’ve watched those movies together, getting closer and closer on the couch...

 

Though—Shouto’s irises twirl with silver anticipation, Hellfire squeaks in a wheedling manner, and Eijirou is a strong man with two weaknesses (and, even if the ferret personifies Lucifer, he’s also a small fluffy animal; Eijirou doesn’t work at a pet store to kick puppies and step on tails). 

 

His eyes soften, and he’s not really all that disappointed.

 

“Of course, sweetheart.”



***




“Shouto, sweetie! You’ve gotten so big!’

 

Shouto stares as Inko shakes his hand vigorously, his wrist looking like it might dislocate soon.

 

“I’m sorry, who are you?”

 

“Oh, hon, forgive me,” Inko does waver in her ministrations, fluttering her other hand as if saying don’t worry about it, and Eijirou stifles a laugh, “I’m Izuku’s mother. He’s told me all about you and your move. I hope you’re settlin’ down ‘round here—oh, and he said you like soba! I made some last week in case you decided to come, but don’t worry, I brought some this time too! You’re far too skinny, especially for living with that Katsuki. He’s a little bastard when he wants to be—never sharin’ those delightful meals with anyone but himself. Come over sometime, and we’ll show you some real hospitality. Izu can finally flex his cookin’ muscles and make—”

 

“Momma!” a disheveled Izuku skids into view, cartoon dust and all, gripping two foldable tables with his elbows as if they’re nothing, “I don’t know what you’re sayin’, but please stop. I beg of you. He’s new and he’s shy and he doesn’t deserve—.”

 

Shouto opens his mouth to protest this immediately, but Eijirou shushes him, bemused. He mutters, “Don’t worry. It’s better this way. Let us do the talkin’, sweetheart. It’s for your own good.”

 

“—oh please, Izuku. I’m just givin’ him the Port Riot welcome. No need to use that tone with me,” Inko assumes the threatening-yet-pleasant voice specially reserved for her son, then flips around and pinches Eijirou’s cheeks so fast he almost misses the switch, “You takin’ care of yourself too, Eijirou?”

 

“Of course, Momma Inko,” he salutes, words slurred slightly.

 

“Good boy,” she pats him a couple times and checks her watch, “Oh, goodness. The bread’s ready and Katsuki still isn’t here. I’m gonna smack that boy one day, I swear. Satou and I have to do everything ourselves ‘round here.” She shakes her head, fond and exasperated, and plants a wet kiss on Eijirou’s cheek, “The kitchen calls. Make sure that boy feels at home, Eijirou. I’ll beat some sense into anyone who back-talks him.”

 

“Will do, Momma,” Eijirou calls as she shuffles back inside Momo’s old-timey barn house, nearly tripping in her haste. They’re outdoors today, the early birds gathering on hay-fashioned seats and the sunrise proving to have mercy on this eighty-degree morning. 

 

“I’m so sorry!” Izuku bows as best he can while lugging the tables, jerking with the movement, “She’s normally not that overbearing. We just haven’t had someone new move here in a while.”

 

“It’s quite alright,” Shouto reaches his hands out as if to calm him down, obviously not knowing what to do with himself, “She seems...nice.”

 

“Understatement,” Eijirou snorts.

 

“Yeah, she has a lot of love to give,” Izuku sets up both the tables at rocket pace and rushes off to find something obnoxiously heavy, probably, “I’ll leave y’all to it. We still have a ton more tables to bring out and about fifty minutes to do it.” He suddenly looks like he might cry, flicking his phone on, “Thirty-five minutes, holy shit, I gotta go. Save me a spot next to Kacchan, Ei! And good to see you, Shouto!”

 

“Good to see you, too,” Shouto mumbles to a gust of wind.

 

“Chaos too much for you, yet?” Eijirou tugs him to one of the empty haystacks, “We’re just gettin’ started."

 

“No, just giving me whiplash. It’s...lively, but it helps to at least know you and Izuku.”

 

Eijirou hums, realizing there’s something he’s been meaning to ask about, “Wait, how did you meet Izuku? You two seemed close on that day at Satou’s.”

 

Shouto wipes a sheen of sweat off his forehead, moisture gathering on North-trained skin, “He comes to the house to heckle Bakugou sometimes, from what I’ve gathered. The first time I was the only one home, so he offered to steal some of Bakugou’s movie stash and watch them on the comfortable couch. The shows are...mushy. Unexpectedly so. And whenever he has been home, there’s lots of yelling, but it just feels like convoluted flirting to me.”

 

That surprises a chuckle out of Eijirou, “On the nose, sweetheart. Damn, I didn’t know Izu was hangin’ by his house. Denki’s gonna have a field day with that ammunition.”

 

“Denki?”

 

“Oh, he’s—”

 

“Comin’ through!” Kyouka bellows as she slices directly in between them, about seven plates balanced meticulously across all of her appendages, one puff away from collapsing into a heap of splintered ceramic, “Sorry, Eijirou and pretty boy! Sorry! Sorr—Denki, get the fuck outta’ my way!”

 

The blonde boy in question scrambles to flee, gangly legs twitching, but stumbles over his own feet and sends them both careening spectacularly to the ground. A layer of dirt dusts their clothes, and the plates scatter, one of them rolling in a couple circles before settling pathetically at Eijirou’s feet. 

 

“That one,” He points at a dizzied Denki, unfazed by the collision, “Are y’all in one piece?”

 

Shouto nods, running hand over the Hellfire-shaped lump in his bag. There’s a grumpy “chrr” in response that clashes with muffled screaming from the ground.

 

“Are they okay?” Shouto blinks as the two fallen soldiers start to wrestle with each other

 

“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” he bends over and grabs the plates, piling them in his arms while yelling, “Want me to take these to the wash, Kyouka?”

 

She pins Denki’s arms over his head while he cries out ‘ow ow ow’ in a squeal, “Yeah, thanks!” She then growls menacingly, “I’ve got someone on my hit list I need to take care of.”

 

Eijirou beckons Shouto with a tilt of his head, and they start trekking towards the barn. He marvels at the infinitesimal grin playing on Shouto’s lips, ribs banging from the bungee jumping going down inside of them. 

 

“Uncle!” Denki slaps the grass and cranes his neck, apparently out to ruin Eijirou’s life, “Eijirou, you didn’t tell me you got a boyfrie—ow, Kyouka, what the fuck!”

 

Bless you, Kyouka, angel of angels. Eijirou doesn’t chance a look at Shouto, heart too fragile for any form of rejection this early in the day. He makes a note to self to rub peanut butter on Denki next time he visits the shop while wearing something nice. The ever-vigilant puppies will ruin his crop-tops just like he nearly ruined Eijirou’s almost-date.

 

The sounds of frankly concerning punches fade into the rustling of wind and dried grass, and they step inside Momo’s towering house. The archway is lined by garnet and marble embedded in wood—a strange choice, but very Momo in it’s bizarrely artsy architecture.

 

“This is a barn?” Shouto absorbs the paintings and chandeliers and polished wood walls. The carpet runs velvet under them—the kind of expensive that no one wants to stain, lest they lose the ability to pay medical bills for the next five to ten years. There’s a reason that everyone uses the back door when carrying anything. And that Katsuki is only allowed in the kitchen, no exceptions.

 

Eijirou picks one of the many doors and walks down the winding hallway after it, seventy-percent sure he can find the kitchen without needing to call Inko like last time, “I can’t believe it either, sometimes. Momo had the whole thing redone when she moved in, and I’m pretty sure she paid a small country of a fee to fix the place up this well. She came to town a couple years before me—around the same time as Hanta, I think—but I’ve seen pictures. It used to be a right shitshow—near collapsin’ until she decided to live here.”

 

“Why did she? Decide to stay, that is.”

 

“Ah, well. An array of things, I think. You met her girlfriend back there—Kyouka, with all the piercings and those tacky gold headphones she never lets out of her sight. Seriously, she will scratch you if you touch them, and her nails are sharp, holy shit. But, anyways, Momo’s, like, huge on art and stuff, so she’s sort of become an impromptu teacher for the kids in town. They have two hour sessions one a week in her studio, and splatter paint always ends up everywhere. You’ll probably meet them later—they’re kind of hard to miss with their, uh...volume,” he stops in front of the correct doorway (he pats himself on the back), and by the enraged screeches emitting from inside, he can tell that Katsuki must have arrived fashionably late, “What about you, though? I never asked. Why’d you pack it up and come to our little desert?”

 

Like a button pressed, Shouto dulls from soft hues until he’s borderline monochrome, and Eijirou wants to fling himself into the floor.

 

“Oh. Uh, sorry. You don’t have to answer that if you don’t—”

 

“No. It’s okay,” Shouto closes his eyes for a few taut moments, “Long story short, I needed somewhere to go. My brother gave me an address, and here I am.”

 

Concern and curiosity flush through Eijirou in equal measures, and he prays he isn’t overstepping any lines here, “And the long story?”

 

Shouto merely inhales, a sad smile that Eijirou wants to wipe away overtaking his features, “Not today. Maybe another time, but not today.”

 

“Hey, no pressure, sweetheart. You don’t ever gotta tell me anything you don’t wanna,” Eijirou aches to wrap his arms around him and hold him for a while, but he still can tell the man doesn’t like touch (and—well, Hellfire might get squished; his hugs are all-in), “I’m sorry for doing that without thinkin’.”

 

There’s a serenity in Shouto’s body language—an acceptance that rumbles tender in Eijirou bones, because this feels special—the kind of thing not many people get to see. Shouto is relieved, body slack as someone who’s safe and knows it. 

 

“No reason to apologize, Eijirou,” any remnants of tension are gone like that, and in their place come the butterflies, a swarming storm that somersaults at one word.

 

Eijirou places his hand on the doorknob, intricate designs imprinting on his fingertips, “If you say so, sweetheart. You ready to go in?”

 

The jesting mood returns, playful and fun and everything Shouto should be, “I’ll admit, I don’t think I ever will be truly ready. My training can only get me so far.”

 

Eijirou turns the knob, “Fair point. Then, are you prepared to attempt this with what you’ve learned until now?”

 

He asks it as a joke, but there’s sincerity hidden underneath layers—a genuine question for Shouto, who’s so evidently unsure around hordes of people, but so willing to try, whether it be for Eijirou or Port Riot itself.

 

“I have you, don’t I?” Shouto aims and releases an arrow into Eijirou’s chest, pushing the door open himself, their hands grazing against one another.

 

Before he can really say something stupid like ‘yes, you fuckinhave me—take whatever you want, whenever’, Katsuki pinpoints them and caveman-bellows across the impressively spacious kitchen:

 

“Get that fucker the hell outta here, Ei!” he swings his signature weapon—an ominously large ladle with a sharp handle that he definitely fashioned himself—in their direction.

 

“Be nice, Katsuki!” Inko scolds from the island, hands kneading the dough for the best pie in the country. Her glare could burn holes in steel.

 

“We come bearing plates, Kacchan,” Eijirou teases; he hands the stack off to Satou, “No need to get all fired up.”

 

“That’s ‘Katsuki’ to you, fuckwad. And pretty boy there has an animal in my goddamn kitchen. I ain’t lettin’ his unsanitary, filthy, dirty paws touch my shit!”

 

“Dirty, filthy, and unsanitary? Quite redundant, aren’t you?”

 

“Todoroki, I hoped to fuckin’ God I wouldn’t ever see you at one of these. It’s bad enough the loser brigade forces me to come, and if you don’t get the hell out of my kitchen with your fuckin’ furry bitch friend, I will spray you with fuckin’ Lysol—don’t think I won’t!”

 

Inko snorts, “Oh, it’s your kitchen now?”

 

“Does he have a puppy?!” Mina pokes her head inside, bubblegum hair frizzed up from the humidity. She tosses a pair of freshly-washed tongs at Katsuki, which he catches easily.

 

Eijirou laughs quietly, “He sure thinks so.”

 

Shouto glares but indulges a starry-eyed Mina, prodding at Hellfire in his habitat-in-a-bag (he explained how he made it over text the other night; it’s a DIY project Eijirou giggles whenever he thinks about, complete with a flat floor, breathing holes, a tube for sleep, and and a custom feeding bowl; the idea is so cute that it stings).

 

He holds Hellfire out for her, and Mina, predictably, stares.

 

“Is that...a ferret?”

 

Shouto shrugs, Hellfire’s paws bobbing as he does so, “Apparently.”

 

An hour-long moment passes, brimming with palpable incredulity, and then Mina gasps, “Oh. My. God. That’s a ferret. He’s adorable. You’re adorable—”

 

Eijirou scowls instinctively.

 

“—you’re...oh. Oho,” she watches Eijirou like a hawk, likely plotting his romantic demise right here in live time, “Pretty boy. What’s your name?”

 

“Um. Shouto.”

 

“Shouto, you wanna tell me how long you’ve known Kiri here—?”

 

“Mitts off, Mina,” Eijirou presses her into her shoulder, friendly to the untrained eye, “I don’t want him going off with the likes of you.”

 

“What a terrible thing to say about your best friend.”

 

“I don’t see Denki anywhere.”

 

Ouch. Low blow, man,” she clutches her shirt, hurt, until a lightbulb materializes above her “Wait. Hey, pretty boy Shouto! Can we show the ferret to the kids? They’ll totally have a blast with him—or her.”

 

Eijirou and Shouto exchange glances, and thankfully, Shouto’s mildly amused more than anything else.

 

“It’s up to you, sweetheart.”

 

Shouto cradles the half-moon of fur contemplatively, forehead creasing in concentration; he and Hellfire face Eijirou in an eerie synchronization, “Can I keep him with me?”

 

Eijirou nibbles his lip and just narrowly avoids cooing out loud, “How ‘bout this? Mina, you can tell the kids come see us later, and they can meet Hellfire from a safe distance after we eat.”

 

Shouto nods his approval, relieved, and Mina claps after mouthing ‘Hellfire’ delightedly, “Aye, aye! I’ll go find Momo! Thanks, pretty boy—they all get so excited when Kiri brings the new pups. I’m sure this will be the same!”

 

She beelines, backtracking out the door, and Eijirou gingerly takes Shouto’s wrist (slowly, carefully—and he lets him, holy fuck) to bring him to shoddy tables and his friend-family, but Hellfire interrupts their departure, scampering to the ground and right up to Katsuki. 

 

Eijirou buries his head in his hands.

 

Katsuki’s truly melodic voice barks ferociously, dead-locked on Hellfire as ferret and man meet in a ruthless battle of wills. Shouto isn’t any help, encouraging Hellfire with a couple of sarcastic fist pumps in the air. Beaded black wars with crimson red, and Eijirou has to stop this before that medieval ladle gets put to use.

 

“Here, boy,” Eijirou thinks fast, grabbing the nearest meat variation he can find and swinging it in a pendulum motion. To his utter astonishment, Hellfire backs off, sniffing for the food and climbing up Eijirou’s leg.

 

“Ha. Coward!” Katsuki goads, triumphant, earning an ear pinch from Inko.

 

“Jesus, leave the ferret alone, dude. Don’t charge at me—we’re going, Kacchan!” Eijirou yells, greeting all the other, respectable and approachable chefs before exiting, “Try not to bust a gasket, bud!”

 

Katsuki flips him off, his customary farewell, he and Hellfire stink-eyeing each other with mutual contempt. Eijirou pets the weight on his shoulder, oddly proud. Shouto does the same.

 

Everything after that is a blur of gregarious commotion, the majority of Port Riot banding together and doing what they do best: routine chaos. The schedule for Sunday is always the same, a slap-in-the-face pick-me-up after the typically serene Saturdays, like a splash of ice cold water or a pounding alarm clock.

 

Eijirou nestles into his seat, so worn that it’s almost assigned at this point. Shouto unknowingly steals the spot that Denki normally sits in, and Hellfire takes Katsuki’s chair and curls into a ball, an act of staunch betrayal that will surely find consequences later. Out of the corner of his eye, Eijirou sees Momma Inko hop onto a chair.

 

“G’dmornin’ everyone!”

 

Nobody bothers paying attention to Inko’s mass greeting other than Eijirou, Shouto, and Izuku. Amazing—that’s already two more than usual. Shouto gives him a mildly confused goggle, but Eijirou just shakes his head. 

 

Inko crosses her arms, foot tapping out earthquakes, “I said. G’dmornin’ everyone!”

 

A few others turn now, but all the kids and Denki are still louder than not—and since none of their voices have dropped yet, all reedy and recorder-ish, it hurts extra. Tenya and Ochako debate over something trivial and wave around fork-weapons forged in plastic. Hanta is chugging his fifth can of soda, trying to break Eijirou’s record again, even though he’ll end up vomiting into the bushes later. Yagi still has three children using his body as monkey bars, hanging off his arms like sloths on their preferred tree.

 

On her throne of a chair, Inko clenches her fists at the continued commotion.

 

Right on schedule, Kyouka leaps onto the table, barely avoiding Yuuga’s nails in her attempts to save the day (and if she hadn’t, there would be hell to pay—Eijirou knows).

 

Kyouka brandishes a microphone plugged into who-knows-where, taps it once, waits a beat, and hollers, “Listen up motherfuckers, it’s time for a toast—”

 

Thank you, dear,” Inko snatches the mic out of her hand before she injures anyone, surveying the shocked silence, “If you all could please settle down—Izuku and Katsuki.” She glares at her son, who’s trying to stuff the appetizer mashed-potatoes down Katsuki’s shirt. Eijirou thinks he hears two sheepish “sorry, Momma”s after a good five seconds of wordless motherly scolding. He also hears Shouto snicker, which karate-chops him right in the spleen.

 

Inko clears her throat, “There’s a couple’a things to mention this week. First and foremost, everyone please thank Satou for makin’ us such a lovely meal. He’s truly the backbone of Port Riot.”

 

There’s a chorus of “thank you, Satou!”s and a solo from Katsuki that’s unintelligible but certainly incensed. 

 

“Keigo finally broke up with that trouble girl from outta’ town. It’s about time you came to your senses, dearie. We’re proud of you.”

 

Rumi kickstarts a fierce round of applause. Keigo curtsies in his strange skirt-slash-kilt thing—one of the many outlandish outfits he wears every Sunday to entertain the kids (Eijirou’s favorite is the Easter Bunny outfit he wore on Christmas two years ago, followed by the Rapunzel cosplay made entirely out of straw in the barnyard).

 

“And I’m sure y’all have met Shouto by now,” Inko stares at Katsuki, “Make sure to give him a warm welcome!”

 

Shouto sits frozen in his chair as numerous hands wave at him with interminable enthusiasm. Eijirou nudges him, and he jolts, timidly returning the gestures. Inko runs through rudimentary town issues and announcements until it comes to a close:

 

“And lastly—Hizashi, Shouta wanted me to publicly inform you that he will be divorcing you the next time he walks out of the kitchen with a wet sock. Now,” she holds her cup to Port Riot, the liquid sloshing over the edge in her ardor, “Let’s eat!”

 

Friendly faces bring out mounds of comfort food, and they dig in.

 

There’s every type of food imaginable—from roasted turkey to soggy peanut butter and jellies brought by the kids. To Eijirou’s pleasant amazement, Shouto takes the latter without a second thought—and, even though there’s a mound of ribs with his name on it, he takes one for himself too.

 

Shouto opens up beautifully after all that ruckus, finally relaxed. Or maybe it’s the soothing vibe of dry leaves and summer breeze, or the reassurance of steady cicadas plucking in the background, or the taste of care and precision woven into their sandwiches—it's something.

 

All he knows is that shoulders bleed their tension to the soil, and that if Eijirou poses the right question in the right way, Shouto talks.

 

No, he rambles—it’s phenomenal, honestly. Adorable, too.

 

As Katsuki brings out the food and his special brand of insults for each person, Shouto unloads vignettes in spades, and Eijirou takes notes that would put Izuku to shame, recording each word carefully in the depths of his mind. It’s not hard. Shouto is interesting. He’s a boy from another place—another world, almost—and Eijirou hangs onto everything in rapt attention.

 

He brings up his siblings and his mother and his cat, and Eijirou's he’s never wanted to meet anyone more than the Todoroki clan right at this moment. And he echoes already-spoken words to himself, one day, maybe, one day. Soon.

 

(His mental checklist-slash-summary goes a little something like this:

 

There’s Shouto’s mother, who he describes in looping calligraphy for longer than any of the others. For some reason, Eijirou thinks this has less to do with favoritism and more to do with being able to talk about her. The way his hands project—shadows of sweeps and the way he seems to want to gesture grandly, flurried in love and excitement, but he doesn’t know how. It makes Eijirou think that he’s never doted on her to another person before. His adoration seeps into every anecdote on flower-languages and pottery and knitting and all the things that slot together and form Todoroki Rei, someone Eijirou longs to meet one day, if only to converse with a person Shouto cherishes unconditionally.

 

In a similar tone to Rei is his sister Fuyumi—the international ice skater, holy shit. He praises her knowledge and academic prowess, Ivy League credentials and medical degrees. She’s charismatic in a soft way—caring and sweet as snowflakes as opposed to fire-brash and charming. She and Shouto used to spend countless hours by their fireplace during winter, boardgame boxes piling to the ceiling as they cycled through every off-brand iteration of monopoly and checkers imaginable. The image of baby Shouto bundled in blankets with his sister under an ice-chilled moon brings fizzy bubbles to Eijirou’s throat.

 

The brothers get an annoyed, entertaining flare added to their stories.

 

Shouto mentions Natsuo first—a vet and a bartender—apparently because the combination would infuriate a certain unnamed member of their household to no end. He’s surprisingly not the one with the ferret, but he played a large part in the alleged ferrets-aren’t-real conspiracy. Shouto claims his fondest memories of Natsuo are brotherly wrestling matches that devolved into outright cold-blooded battle, citing that it made him feel like a normal kid with normal problems, and Eijirou’s fizzy bubbles curdle a bit at that—the 'normal', like there’s more to that story—but he saves it for later—another time when they’re closer and he’s sure Shouto won’t retreat somewhere he can’t find him.

 

The last name he drops is Touya—and this is the brilliant brother who passed on the fireball-furball of a torch that is Hellfire and spearheaded the misconception that brought Eijirou and Todoroki together on that fateful Saturday. He has half a mind to call the guy up and thank him for his mindless pranking if he wasn’t scared of Shouto drop-kicking him for his efforts.

 

Strangely, though, the flow of Touya content ends when Shouto’s around ten, his name abruptly vanishing from the family dinners and the visits to Rei, and Eijirou still has yet to figure out what Shouto means by visit. He doesn’t pry.

 

And there is another, shrouded character from Shouto’s past. He’s not mentioned by name, but Eijirou develops a fierce dislike for him just by sensing how much Shouto leaves out. How the cider-spiked Christmas tales are over with heavy footsteps and an array of knocks on their door—how board games are only prevalent until middle school, even though Shouto’s still buzzing just speaking about them—how he seems enthralled, awed even, by his happiness retelling own stories, like the joyous lyrics flowing from him can’t be real—

 

Just. There are implications there, but that’s for one day, maybe. Later).

 

All of this overflow from the previously quiet Todoroki Shouto pools between them and them only, a personal pocket for trading the whos and the hows and the whys of two people dancing around each other. 

 

(And Shouto still is—quiet, that is; he’s just a mindless rambler when prompted—like Izuku, but also not in that there’s nothing particularly intellectual in the way his words topple and bump against one another. He simply speaks his mind—which in turn speaks for him. He doesn’t harbor Izuku’s mazey compilation of scripts and riddles, instead snagging floating thoughts and swinging on vines between them, letting the ones he loses fade away with no worries about them). 

 

Shouto’s monologue is the undertone to chit-chat emanating from the patchwork spread of hay and tables. An onlooker would know he’s muttering, but the words would remain murky and indiscernible.

 

In short, and to the great pleasure of a dopey Eijirou, this fond familial snapshot is just for him (well—and Hellfire, who smugly wiggles his body, taunting Eijirou because he’s heard all of this before. He was first, fuck you. This is an interpretation, but he’d bet on its accuracy). Even Katsuki, visibly livid that he ranks equal with a ferret on the proverbial seating chart, can tell that Shouto and Eijirou are having a moment, and maybe he shouldn’t butt in just this once. Eijirou could kiss him as thanks, but he’s got someone else on his mind right about now.

 

And then the moment crashes and burns, courtesy to whom other than Kaminari Denki.

 

“I am so sorry,” Eijirou apologizes in advance as he spots the blonde menace heading towards their table, a group of his awful, horrible, terrible friends trailing behind.

 

“Pretty boy!” Denki waves right in Shouto’s space, tongue practically hanging out of his mouth and tail wagging, “I missed you!”

 

“Hello, boy who...dropped the plates.”

 

Denki gasps and slams his head into Hanta’s chest, grabbing Mina’s hand, “Bro!”

 

Hanta reassures him with pats, parsing Shouto’s appearance, “You wanna get a tattoo? If you let me practice on you I’ll do it for free. Might be a few mistakes, but I can do removals too—

 

“Um—”

 

“—I do piercings too if you’re down for that kind of thing. You remind me of a client I had a while back; he had great skin and more piercings than is probably legal—

 

Eijirou whacks him across the neck, “Hanta! For the love of God, leave him alone.”

 

“Aw, but Kiri,” Hanta hits him back, leering, “My proposals worked on you when we first met.”

 

Mina fist bumps him, “They worked on all of us. Hey pretty boy, wanna see—”

 

Eijirou flushes, “Guys—”

 

Shouto lights up with curiosity, “You have a tattoo? Where?”

 

Hanta cackles, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

 

Eijirou wants to die, “Don’t listen to him, sweetheart. It’s just on my ribs, and it hurt like a motherfucker.”

 

“He took it like a champ, though,” Hanta says.

 

Mina leans over to whisper in Shouto’s ear, “You know what else he takes like a champ—?”

 

“Don’t y’all,” Eijirou slaps a hand over her mouth, sticky lipgloss rubbing on his palm, “have somewhere to be?”

 

“No, sir,” Denki drones, “We’re here with you for the rest of the day. You’re stuck with us—”

 

Dunce Face!”

 

Denki pales, and Mina and Hanta share a private giggle.

 

Katsuki belts, using Izuku as a step stool, “Is that my fuckin’ phone I see in your fuckin’ shirt?”

 

“What? No—” Denki checks his pocket and finds a phone with explosion stickers on the case, “Fuck.”

 

The other two troublemakers are clutching their stomachs now.

 

Realization dawns on their victim, “You guys set me up! Holy shit—Katsuki!” He shouts, “Mina and Hanta were the ones that signed you up for that strip club last year!”

 

Identical expressions of horror spread over Mina and Hanta as Katsuki springboards off of Izuku into a dead sprint.

 

Traitor!”

 

“Oh I’m the traitor? Filthy scheming bitches—”

 

“Y’all might wanna run,” Eijirou points to Katsuki's rapidly approaching form. They all nod in agreement, charging towards the horses.

 

“Shit, yeah. Bye, pretty boy!”

 

Ciao! Come see me about that tattoo!”

 

“See you, boys! Oh—and I told the kids about Hellfire! They’ll come by soon—Denki, run faster, Jesus Christ—”

 

With the disruption out of sight, Shouto and Eijirou can indulge in desserts—really, just a scoop of ice cream and some pistachios for him, and an unholy amount of chocolate for Shouto.

 

At some point after they’ve cleaned their bowls, little Eri waddles up and tugs at Shouto’s shirt, all precious big eyes. Eijirou is obligated to ruffle her hair a minimum of three times every time she speaks, and he does. 

 

“Hiya, Eri,” he bends over until they’re level with each other, “Have you met Shouto? He’s a newbie ‘round my side of town, and he’s on the lookout for new friends.”

 

She shuffles her hard-toed shoes, dirtying them with a layer of dust, “Really?”

 

Shouto, continuing strong on his quest to enthrall Eijirou every five minutes, nods gravely, “Indeed. It gets very lonely. All I have is Katsuki for company.”

 

“That’s awful!” Eri exclaims, aghast and so sincerely concerned that Eijirou has to laugh, “I’ll be your friend, Mister Shouto! I will, I will!”

 

“Why, thank you, Eri,” Shouto responds, and Eijirou inwardly bawls over Shouto—with—child—fuck—

 

Shouto, endearingly and awkward, compliments Eri’s pearly hair and magenta frock dress, and Eijirou observes as her attention periodically swerves to their third party. He takes it upon himself to help them along to the end Eri’s vibrating out of her skin for, “You know, sweetheart—friends do friends favors. Is there anything you want to ask Mister Shouto?”

 

She nods bashfully, her bow sliding off-center. 

 

“Don’t worry. He only bites Katsuki when he’s actin’ up,” Eijirou encourages, adjusting her hair. Shouto affirms the statement.

 

She giggles and holds a brave finger up to Hellfire’s honed teeth, “Um...can I pet your dog?” 

 

Eijirou chokes, sputters, and loses his shit.

 

“Sure,” Shouto ignores the belly-laughing and breathless swaying, letting Hellfire climb over her shoulders—and blessedly, the rat behaves. Maybe ferrets do have standards, and Eijirou just doesn’t meet any of them, “Try not move around too much. He gets nauseous.”

 

Eri notes this dutifully, scratching at Hellfire’s head, and the thing almost purrs. He slumps around her neck, a happy scarf of spiky hair-fur and anger issues.

 

As the sun crawls up to mid-sky and Hellfire grows begrudgingly more carefree, and the rest of the children inevitably show up for this Sunday’s brand new attraction.

 

They all get along splendidly—Katsuma being a natural with animals. He wraps his grubby hands around Hellfire and cuddles him into his tiny chest. Shouto takes to him as well, exchanging stilted sentences and factoids that only a select brand of introverts understand. 

 

Kouta, having spilled a whole jug of milk and honey on his overalls, earns Hellfire’s approval due to the saccharine taste of his fingers—and Shouto has to pry him off the boy when the licking turns to hunting for prey, but Kouta rolls with it, play-fighting with the ferret in browning grass while Eijirou introduces Shouto to around a third of the Port Riot family—who can’t for the life of them leave Shouto alone to adjust slowly. Everyone has his number now, and he’ll be in the group chat by morning. 

 

The only outlier in ferret-luck is Mahoro, and Eijirou theorizes that this may be due to her resemblance to Katsuki after his babysitting her for all these years. She’s like a miniature version—complete with tiger scowls and easy-bake cooking and a bizarre obsession with Deku that she denies at every turn. Hellfire recognizes this Katsuki wannabe-slash-protege and promptly spits up on her dress skirt.

 

And then it all winds down, a relief from that overload of Shouto and domesticity that turns Eijirou’s soul to putty.

 

They just manage to escape safely and round a sleepy Hellfire into his luxurious habi-bag. Inko tosses them a goodbye on their way out, and Shouto calls her “Momma”, prompting a geyser of tears that will water the soil for days to come. Thankfully, Denki has already turned in for the night, and Hanta is only really demon when accompanied by him—alone and Denki-less, he offers a wave and a “night-night, pretty boy” and no more than two tattoo ideas. They dodge Katsuki and his militaristic cleanup crew by the grace of God—which, by the way, is so apparently an excuse for him and Deku to stay behind and watch the stars together that Eijirou grinds his teeth at the notion that they still haven't fucked. 

 

Eijirou resents Katsuki for wasting a perfectly good and romantic stargazing date and not confessing. And then he thinks about years of unnecessary pining, and how he’s always preaching to Katsuki about taking a chance—and maybe...

 

By the time Eijirou’s truck pulls into that masterfully-decorated driveway, the sun has dipped to the horizon, silhouettes of heat-dead trees watching over them.

 

Eijirou clicks his key out of the ignition and walks Shouto to the door, loathe to leave him despite the six-odd hours they spent just enjoying, “How’s that for Port Riot?” 

 

Dawn’s light reflects gold on Shouto’s skin, flushing him in Eijirou’s favorite autumn tones. The nature-made filter highlights the warm—the goddamn kiddish wonder radiating off of him. He mirrors that enthralled expression, shivering with how content this day has made him. 

 

“It’s…” Shouto curves his jaw to the clouds, “Cozy. Like a family.”

 

That resonates with Eijirou more than he can express, so he tells him the thing he wanted to hear back in his early months in Port Riot, “Not ‘like’. And you’re one of us now, sweetheart. The brand new stoic uncle.”

 

“I’ll treasure my title,” Shouto rests the back of his head on smooth brick, and he’s so, so beautiful—scar under the flickering house light, blue peeking behind brilliant red, lips, lips, lips...

 

“Uh, so, speaking of titles,” Eijirou thinks to hell with it, stuffs his insecurities in the pit of his stomach, and plunges, “Was this a date?”

 

The words wind Shouto for a moment, eyes expanding a fraction, but then he regains his composure and seems to consider it carefully, “I...don’t know. I’ve never been on one myself.”

 

And that excites him a little too much—to be the first for such a sweet and kind and perfect, fuck—

 

Eijirou thinks his voice cracks only once, which is better than he expects, “Ahem. Would you—ah, like to?”

 

Crinkling eyelids and roses on cheeks and a pokey grin—and Eijirou is waking closer and Shouto just lets him, “I think I’d need the right person.”

 

The tips of their noses touch, and Eijirou asks, tumbling deep under a spell he never wants to break, “Yeah? Who’s that?”

 

And then Shouto does the unimaginable and ghosts over his mouth like a feather, “I think I’ve already found him.”

 

They kiss, and it’s all molasses and honey and not quite love, but could be, maybe, someday soon. It’s mostly open-mouthed, the core of the touch in his hand cupping Shouto’s jaw like it's priceless and the arms winded around Eijirou’s lower back. 

 

It’s everything he’s ever wanted.

 

Eijirou bumps their foreheads together, all shades of eyelashes mingling with their proximity. He sighs, “You, Todoroki Shouto, are the man of my dreams.”

 

Shouto blushes, ripe and pink, and Eijirou doesn’t think the gut aww effect resounding in his brain will ever dull. They move back in at the same time, Eijirou’s teeth appearing to nip a path inside, but a “chh” stops them in their tracks.

 

Chh. Chh,” the noise twists to a whine, so loud that Eijirou’s eardrums complain each time it happens. He hastily wishes every ferret on this earth an unpleasant year and mildly bad fortune.

 

But then Shouto only laughs and cures the pain, releasing a pure and angelic tune that’s oh-so-close to heaven and detrimental to Eijirou’s wellbeing. 

 

“No Hellfire next time?” Shouto slips a finger into his bag to reassure their eternally vexed third wheel.

 

And yeah, Eijirou’s peeved that it’s over, but he’s stuck on next time, next time, next time.

 

“Yeah, sweetheart,” he rests his lips on Shouto’s forehead, because he can now, “No Hellfire next time. It’s a date. A real one.”

 

***

 

The real-date starts just like their almost-date—except this time, Katsuki and Hellfire have mended their relationship enough to remain together for a whole night. Eijirou doesn’t know how, why, where or when it happened, but he can’t imagine it not involving at least a few ritualistic elements.

 

It’s both a blessing and a curse that Port Riot’s two most explosive personalities can finally stay in the same room without biting or scratching (note that applies to both human and ferret, because Katsuki knows exactly no bounds whatsoever and has a list of more than five Bitten Individuals)—on the one hand, Katsuki conversing with the ferret as if he’s able to comprehend English and nodding along like he’s responding the whole time is hilarious.

 

On the other hand, Hellfire somehow seems to understand, and has nipped and chomped everyone Katsuki has commanded him to thus far, including Shouto, his owner

 

Eijirou fears what may come of allowing them to bond for an entire night alone, but even if they return to a joint Katsuki-Hellfire Port Riot tyranny, he hardly can find a reason to care.

 

Because he and Shouto are finally here, on the same fucking page and entangled together in the bed of his truck, dusty air tickling their noses and boyish giggles painting the atmosphere.

 

“I wanna show you somethin’ real pretty,” Eijirou brushes their knuckles together, feather-light, some hours after the sun has set and the stars are pinprick diamonds cheering him on. Shouto offers a quizzical look (at least by Shouto standards), and he chuckles, “Trust me, sweetheart. We’re goin’ for a ride.”

 

The syrupy tang of country guitar floats from scratchy car speakers into humid air as they drive. Warm wind rushes by, whipping hair every which way, bleeding red and white together, and mussing Eijirou’s ponytail. The strands frizz up to the humidity, poofing and provoking Shouto to run his fingers through them from time to time.

 

Whenever he’s sure the path is totally clear, Eijirou glances sideways to find Shouto attentively eyeing the nighttime crows and deer prancing in towering grasses, a childish lick of sparkle-eyed wonder coating his cheekbones. The expression is one of Eijirou’s most treasured, reminiscent of Shouto’s surefire, feline-centered enthusiasm. Eijirou has a hard time returning to the road witnessing such contentment on a typically passive canvas.

 

When the car slows, Shouto snaps out of whatever daydream he’s playing out, blinking rapidly at their surroundings. It’s certifiably adorable, like a disoriented pup.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“Nowhere too special,” Eijirou hops out and helps him down, avoiding the loose screws and sharp edges of his tuckered old truck, “Just my favorite place in town.”

 

“Oh. This…” Shouto does a painstaking three-sixty, scanning the barren perimeter and searching for something, anything, “Is...a field.”

 

“Exactly,” Eijirou tugs his arm, steering them away from the road and into brush-itchy green. Shouto allows himself to be dragged, legs jogging in time with Eijirou’s, even though he has a vocal dislike for any and all means of exercise. Dried plant life tickles their legs and mosquitoes buzz by their ears. It feels like home for him, and he hopes it’s starting to be the same for Shouto.

 

He pulls them along until they’re at the foot of a lone tree in a sea of flat land, and he slides down with his back against it, bark scraping the thin material of his shirt. Shouto follows suit, and their shoulders bump together. There’s a silence, companionable and welcome and everything. They’ll do the coffee and the candle-lit dinner and the bouquets one day, but this—this is an evening just for them, away from standards, because they’re not really that kind of couple, and Port Riot has never been a suit-and-tie kind of place.

 

“Wanna know something about Capricorns, sweetheart?” he laces their fingers together into a knot that he never wants to untangle, the last slices of sun receding under the horizon. The grasses shift from brownish to violet-grey, and the only light left is the peak of the moon in the distance.

 

Shouto stows his head on Eijirou’s shoulder, nuzzling and leaning against him, “Finally researching the important subjects? Are you planning on earning your degree soon?” 

 

“Anythin’ for you,” Eijirou tucks Shouto’s hair back, eskimo-kissing his forehead as he cradles the man’s lithe hands in his own. He massages the joints there, whistling airily under his breath, “They’re beautiful. Capricorns.” 

 

“Hmm,” Shouto flexes his fingers and snuggles up closer.

 

“Yeah,” Eijirou uses his free hand to smooth through wind-blown hair, crisp white against the steady nighttime backdrop, “They’re smart too—always thinkin’ about things you’d never expect, but it’s all brilliant. Every last word.” 

 

“Like what?”

 

“I dunno, everything—the stars’ alignments, oddly specific facts about jellyfish, dogs—sorry, ferrets.”

“Hilarious, Eijirou.”

 

“I do try,” Eijirou wraps an arm around Shouto’s shoulders and just holds, and his boyfriend’s eyelids are droopy, prey to the comfort of shared warmth and tender touches, “My favorite, though? Their eyes.”

 

Shouto clutches his arm as a makeshift pillow, toeing on the cusp of slumber, “Cheesy, much?”

 

“A little, probably. But I can’t look away with all those fireflies they’re reflectin’.”

 

A beat, and then he feels Shouto’s hushed gasp against his shoulder—and yeah, no matter how many times he sees it, the moon pales in comparison to this.

 

It’s a scene out of a storybook—tiny lantern fireflies blinking into existence everywhere, floating and flickering and flaming, fashioning the field into a chapel lined with candles. 

 

And of course, who are they worshipping but grey and blue, red and white—who are they praying to but Todoroki Shouto? Eijirou is right there with them, plummeting headfirst from like to something else, the should-be in-between blurring with the speed of his descent. 

 

Shouto reaches out to touch, and Eijirou did the exact same thing the first time he wandered out here, searching for quiet and peace of mind, only to find Mother Nature’s very own neon lights show. The pendulum movements, the synth feel of on and off, the dance of two fireflies matching each other—they’re captivating, and that’s why Eijirou chose to bring Shouto here. Like likes like.

 

“Wait,” he unhooks his bag and pulls out a clear jar, placing it gingerly in Shouto’s outstretched hands.

 

Shouto’s words are lathered in wonderment that coils around Eijirou in a way he can’t describe, “What’s it for?”

 

Eijirou pulls the lid off of the jar, stands up in one motion, and holds out his hand. He can’t decide whether he prefers the blue and yellow or the grey and white lights—(and deep inside of him, he knows that soon is almost here. The lovely ground below is waiting for the last stretch of his fall).

 

He kisses Shouto under the pirouetting fireflies, promises spilling out of him like confessions.

 

“We’re gonna make some wishes tonight, sweetheart.”



***



It's one of those pivotal Saturday mornings when a man with black hair and pedestaled burns pays Hound Dog’s a visit—and Eijirou’s beginning to think that his weekend routine is morphing into a pattern of new things and not that familiarity he’s so accustomed to.

 

He beams at the tinkling of the bells, snapping into position, having been rummaging through that crossword he never finished, “Hi! Welcome to—”

 

“Hey, red hair fucker.”

Eijirou stutters a bit over his greeting and remains planted behind the counter, slightly intimidated by rows of silver piercing and tattoos so dark they’re almost clothing, “Me?” He asks for good measure, confused as to why he’s being dubbed Katsuki-esque nicknames when he’s the only other person in the room.

 

“Who else?” the man runs slender fingers over the display case holding paw-print charms and paraphernalia; he huffs under his breath a few times and picks one out, dangling it in front of Eijirou like a fish; it swings so fast that he can’t see the design, “Can I get one of these?”

 

Eijirou takes the kitten keychain skeptically. It’s one of the ones that makes a robotic meowing noise when squeezed, and doesn’t really fit this guy’s gothic aesthetic at all, but who is he to judge? He runs the barcode, humming a song from an obscure band that Shouto loves—all piano and violin and average household items recycled as instruments—and tall-dark-and-spooky goes positively predatory.

 

“You wouldn’t happen to be Kirishima Eijirou, would you?” he smirks, entirely unsettling teeth and a silver-studded tongue. He reminds Eijirou of a snake slithering around his prey.

 

Eijirou bags the keychain, and the resulting ‘meow’ is ignored, “At your service. Who’s askin’?”

 

“Just a passerby," his voice is rumbling, and his next words cause ice to creep down Eijirou's spine, "What are you planning on doing with Todoroki Shouto?”

 

Something steely blooms in his throat, worried and protective and confused, “Sorry, I dunno who that is.”

 

The man eyes him for an uncomfortably long period before he snorts, taking his bag. At least, Eijirou thinks it’s snorting. It sounds like a noise Mic would make.

 

Ha. Shit, kid. Good answer. I’m flattered that you feel spooked enough to lie. Is it the piercings, the tattoos, or the horror movie burns?”

 

Eijirou grips the counter, willing his cheeks into a polite smile, “Sir, could you please tell me why you’re—”

 

Placating hands go up, slender tattooed in a style eerily similar to Hanta’s, “Okay, okay. Sorry. I was just teasing. Let me start over. The name’s Todoroki Touya, and I believe I should be the one doing the interrogations here.”

 

Eijirou once again takes in the punk-rockiness, “You’re Shouto’s brother.”

 

“The one and only.”

 

“He has two,” Eijirou accuses.

 

“Natsu’s a bitch. He doesn’t count.”

 

Eijirou waits a moment, still ragingly skeptical, “Even if you are, why are you here to talk to me and not Shou—”

 

“Listen,” Touya drawls, “I’m not in here for friendship bracelets or hair-braiding or all the feel-good shit that goes on in this town. I just want to make sure my baby bro’s doing fine.”

 

“He is,” Eijirou says carefully.

 

“Yeah? Give me a little more, would you? Has he got a lot of friends?”

 

Eijirou thinks of their trip to Mina’s yesterday; Shouto ended up black-out drunk with his hair braided radically—all the handiwork of Hanta and Denki, “Yeah. He does.”

 

Bastard,” the name is fond, almost. Brotherly—and it’s this point where Eijirou relaxes a bit, “A boyfriend?”

 

Never mind. He is not in any way prepared for a shovel talk from Shouto’s apparent runaway emo brother, “I have a feelin’ you already know the answer to that. Otherwise you wouldn’t be talkin’ to me.”

 

“Hey, don’t sound so defensive, kid,” Touya points a finger at him, the air cooling around them, “I’m just saying, whoever his boyfriend is ought to know that I’m very protective of my family. And that kid’s been through enough. Hypothetically, if someone were to hurt him, it would not be all dandy and good.”

 

Eijirou gulps, “You won’t have to worry about that.”

 

Touya slips something into Eijirou’s hand, eyes twinkling with fire, “Glad we’re on the same page. Make sure that gets to him, will you?”

 

Eijirou gapes at the check in his hand, enough to pay his rent for a fucking year, “Shit.”

 

“I’ll know if you don’t give it to him.”

 

Eijirou shakes his head, wishing on every star that Shouto was here to talk to the brother he yearns to see so much, “No, I will. Just. Why are you here if you won’t go to him? He’s been missin’ you.”

 

Grey clouds Touya’s eyes, and he stuffs his hands in his jeans, “All he ever did was not want to take over the family company. Our old man told him that life isn’t fair, and all I gave him was a couple thousand bucks and a fake ID. It isn’t exactly luxury living, and I’m here to rectify that. Nothing more.”

 

“And a ferret.”

 

“And a ferret,” Touya grins, “I gave him that too. How is Hellfire without little ol’ me?”

 

Eijirou envisions the demon-with-fur eating his yogurt yesterday, “Trouble.”

 

“Yeah, he's the furry after my own heart. I guess that means Shou finally figured out he isn’t a dog. I would’ve paid to see that. Do you think you can reenact it for me—”

 

The bell dings again, and Eijirou groans when he spots the culprit—and that dreadful flirty look on his face.

 

“Well hello,” Denki props his elbows on the counter, bottom half pointedly stuck outwards as he checks Touya out openly, eyes lingering on silver bits twinkling in the low-quality store lights, “Eijirou has never mentioned you.”

 

Bile rises in Eijirou’s throat with loving exasperation. Dammit, Denki.

 

To his abounding horror, Touya matches the shameless tone, voice dripping, “He hasn’t? How rude of him.”

 

Holy fuck, “Denki, please do not do this to me right now. If I have ever done anything for you.”

 

“How could I not, though?” Denki struts closer, “What’s your name, darlin’?”

 

"Denki, not right now—"

 

“Give this to Shou too,” Touya checks his phone and tosses the kitten keychain at Eijirou, snatching a pen and a napkin off his side of the register. 

 

While he scribbles on the napkin, Denki gesticulates passionately at Eijirou, making hearts with his hands and a few vaguely lewd motions. Eijirou recites the alphabet in his head to not laugh. It ceases when Touya finishes writing.

 

“Give Hellfire a pinch for me. And give him,” to the dismay of all humanity, Touya winks at Denki, sliding the folded napkin over, “my number.”

 

And then he’s gone in a blur of black leather, confidence, and cocky steps. The door whooshes closed.

 

“Alright. Who the fuck was that,” Denki practically drools, clutching the number to his chest like it's a sacred treasure. 

 

Eijirou exhales for what feels the first time since Touya came inside, unsure if he’s astonished or overjoyed at meeting an aspect Shouto’s family—of one puzzle piece slotting into place.

 

“You wouldn't believe me if I told you.”

 

***



Oh.”

 

“Something wrong, Eijirou?”

 

“Nah, sweetheart. Just finally finished that crossword.”

 

“The one from a month ago?”

 

“Shut it. I had one pesky word left—it was givin’ me a rocky time.”

 

“But you’ve figured it out now?”

 

“Yeah. I have, haven’t I?”

 

“What does that really mean? Ei—Ei, we’re in public.”

 

“Can’t I kiss my pretty boyfriend whenever I want?”

 

Obviously, but why are you so...serious.”

 

“Oh, no reason.”

 

Eijirou. What, is it the crossword?”

 

“Not now, sweetheart. I’ll tell you eventually. Not now—sometime later. Real soon, though. I promise.”

 

Hmm, fine.”

 

“Hey—don’t pout! Here, I’ll go steal some of Katsuki’s lunch for you.”

 

Hmmm, forgiven.”

 

“Just like that, huh?”

 

“He made soba last night.”

 

“I know—that’s why I offered.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You’re very welcome, darlin’.”

 

“...”

 

“Pfft. What’s with that face?”

 

“You call Eri darlin’.”

 

“Aw, you just wanna be my sweetheart, don’t you, Shou?”

 

“...”

 

“No—haha—I’m sorry, don’t hide! I didn’t mean to embarrass you! Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart—d’you feel better now?”

 

“...Quite.”

 

“And I’ll say it as often as you’d like.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“Eijirou…you’ll tell me what that was about...sometime soon?”

 

“Hah. Yeah, don’t worry. Real soon, sweetheart. Real soon.”