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Shouto knows when Izuku is going to kiss him. It is not because Izuku is easy to read, but because Izuku likes to announce these things to Shouto, and the quiet echo of the empty rooms they kiss in.

These are the tender moments after a fight, when Izuku’s knuckles are stained purple and Shouto’s fingers steam. They are the moments where the two of them are allowed to be them. Not the Top Two Heroes. They are the moments where Izuku removes his half-mask - that shining metal grin - to reveal his own, nervous despite all the good he’s done. They are the moments that Shouto tries (and fails) to smooth down that stubborn tuft of hair sticking up at the back of Izuku’s head. They are the moments where Izuku’s scarred fingers touch gently down on Shouto’s cheeks, the moments where Izuku asks “may I kiss you?” and they do, slow and sweet.

Shouto knows that it kills Izuku sometimes, keeping a secret from the people he’s committed himself to being so honest with. It's plain on Izuku’s face, in the ever-deepening lines by his mouth and the stressed glaze to his eyes whenever he read those tabloids: Has Our Number Two Hero Deku Finally Found a Girl?

“Froppy finds those funny,” Shouto points out once. Izuku’s smile is weak.

“That’s ‘cause Froppy is fearless,” Izuku says. Shouto wonders what he fears. The press? Other heroes? Endeavor? He understands the fear, but he is not sure who it is directed at, if anyone at all.

So they continue, day after day, Shouto cooling his lips just enough that Izuku can kiss him in the entry hall of their apartment. The sun falls and rises, falls and rises, falls and rises. Their life is comfortable. They share a bed with their cat, Iida, (“Ah!” Tenya exclaimed three years ago, when he had met the kitten. “After me?”) they share their life with the public.

Sort of.

For the most part, their relationship is a secret. In public, they are friendly rivals, old schoolmates who work together to constantly improve. Beyond a select few from Class 1-A, and Izuku’s mother, there were few who knew or even suspected.

They came close to being caught once. It was after a fight. Izuku had been hurt. In a brief moment of raw, almost childish panic, Shouto had frozen his foe nearly solid.

“Why would you do that?” The villain demanded through his pain. “What, to save your little b-”

Shouto sealed his mouth with a thin layer of ice.

“It’ll melt in about fifteen minutes. Ten, if he breathes hard enough,” he said to Izuku, who pushed himself weakly to his feet. A dizzy smile spread over his face.

“Thanks, Shouto.” Izuku would have been fine even if Shouto had not intervened. That lay unspoken between them, and the villain.

There was only so long they could hide it, though. So long they would want to hide it. There would come a day where Izuku faced his fears head-on, as he so tended to do. When Shouto saw Izuku’s smile nearing that day, he was taken aback.

“You’re planning something, aren’t you?” Shouto asks. Izuku laughs and slides his fingers through Shouto’s ash-soft hair. Their foreheads touch. Shouto breathes in the scent of sweet flowers and nylon and a spritz of cologne.

Izuku kisses Shouto on the lips before he’s the chance to cool them. He expects Izuku to jerk away, rubbing the heat out of his mouth, but he doesn't. The kiss lasts a full minute, every second of it warm bliss. When Izuku pulls away, his lips are pink, and drawn up in an antsy smile.

“Are you ready for patrol, dear?”

Shouto smiles. “You bet, love.”

The day is quiet. What villains they meet run the moment they see who they're up against, emptying alleyway after alleyway void of everything but two heroes and the distant hum of traffic.

Izuku generally likes to leave alleyways by leaping from wall to wall, Shouto on his arm and their laughter ringing through the air, but today seems to be an exception. Today he hardly jumps at all. They walk from one alley to the next. Izuku looks up and down the street, frowning.

“Do you see something?” Shouto asks.

Izuku frowns. “Not what I’m looking for.”

That day, whatever Izuku looks for evades him. He bottles up his disappointment. Shouto notices how his shoulders slump, though, how his face falls the second they step into their home. Scarred fingers remove his metal grin and peel his costume off.

Izuku is still chatty. The two of them sit down to watch a movie about fictional superheroes in fictional worlds, and they discuss the logistics of this and that. Strategies and abilities and things that don't matter. They're happy, in a relationship they can only share at home.

“If he braced his boots, he wouldn’t waste time recovering from his jumps,” Izuku muses, dragging his thumb over his lips. His brows are furrowed.

“But if he braced his boots, he would be weighed down. It would take him time to adjust to the change, and that’s time he could spend saving people,” Shouto replies. He leans against Izuku’s broad shoulder.

“That depends on who he’s commissioning to design the boots. This universe has already established that there are at least two businesses which create supersuits, which means that at least one of them, going by movie logic, is the more modern of the two, and the other-”

Maybe he speaks for hours, or maybe only for a few minutes. To Shouto, it’s heaven. He listens to Izuku’s gentle cadence and files away as much information as he can. In moments like these they've found breakthroughs. Shouto does not wish to miss one if Izuku reaches it, but he can’t help his eyes from fluttering shut…

He wakes in bed early the next morning, hair a rumpled crown atop his head. He runs his fingers through it and looks about for Izuku, who is nowhere to be seen.

Shouto slides out of bed, ruffling his soft hair with his fingers. A yawn splits his face. He totters groggily into the bathroom to clean up.

When he exits, his hair is combed, his breath fresh, and his eyes clear. There’s still no sign of Izuku, which isn’t a common occurrence, but Shouto is certain that he’ll know what’s going on soon. Izuku would not leave him in the dark without good reason.

Shouto prepares breakfast with a happy sigh. A sweet scent wafts through the air. He smiles.

When it’s finished, he eats, and when he’s done eating, he meanders into the living room to switch on the television. As he reaches for the remote, he finds a simple note in Izuku's quick scrawl:

Publicity meeting today. Love you :) -Deku

Which means Izuku will likely be on TV, smiling bashfully and answering every question he can get to within the allotted time. Shouto wonders if Izuku will ramble this time; he has done so on multiple occasions, to the chagrin of his rival heroes and the delight of the commonpeople and, of course, his boyfriend.

Shouto switches the TV on to Izuku’s stern face. His dark brows are knitted. A cute dimple has formed between them. Izuku is thinking, considering his words more carefully than he ever has - which is to say, very, very, extremely carefully. He wonders what the question was.

“I… it’s hard to explain,” says Izuku. He swallows hard. Even on TV, at a distance, Shouto can see the column of Izuku's throat bob. A bead of sweat clings to his temple. Something’s wrong. Shouto clenches his jaw.

“Take all the time you need, Deku!”

Izuku closes his eyes, draws in a deep breath, and when he opens them again Shouto sees a determined spark there, burning like a flame beneath a dry summer sun.

“I’m bi,” Izuku says. “Bisexual. And I have a boyfriend. I’m the Number Two hero and I’m bi, and soon I’ll be the Number One hero and I’ll still be bi, and I'll still have a boyfriend.”

A silence as thick as sheep's wool spreads over the crowd. Shouto sees the fire in Izuku’s eyes burn brighter.

The crowd erupts. Questions come and go so fast that Shouto cannot keep up with them. Izuku hardens his stance against the onslaught, fingers gripping the edge of the podium so tightly that they go bone-white.

“Did All Might know?” One reporter asks. A smile flickers on Izuku’s face. For the first time in a long time, he looks content. He looks at peace. He will not dole out All Might’s secret, but he will not follow in his tracks and remain mum on his sexuality, either.

Izuku nods. “Yes, All Might knew.”

Hours later, the news is everywhere.

The moment Izuku walks through the front door, Shouto bolts into a hug. Warm breath stirs his silver-white hair.

“Shouto…”

“Izuku,” Shouto answers. There’s a moment of silence, then a kiss. When they pull away, Shouto states:

“I won’t be handing the title of Number One hero over to you so easily, Midoriya Izuku.”

Izuku grins. “I don’t want the title to be handed to me, Shouto. To be honest, I don’t want the title much at all. I just… I just want you.

“And you have me.” Just as I am. Just as I will be.

"May I kiss you?" Izuku asks. His calloused fingers trail over Shouto's cheekbones, his palms on either cheek. Shouto cups Izuku's hand with his own. Steam leaks from between his fingers, curling in the air like winter breaths. They lock eyes, and Shouto lets pride shine through his. In Izuku's, there is nothing but love.

Shouto warms his lips, and he kisses his boyfriend - Deku, Japan's favorite bi hero - with everything he has.