Neito doesn’t know exactly when it starts.
There’s no defining, pivotal moment of him making eye contact with Shinsou Hitoshi in anime slow-motion and the world stopping around them, phantom violins blasting in the distance as Neito abruptly thinks, shit, he’s the one for me. That’s how he imagines people feel like when they develop an interest in another human being anyway, but there’s none of that.
No, there is just one day he doesn’t give a shit about the lanky, sleep deprived kid from 1-C and then another when he just…does and it’s the least dramatic thing that’s ever happened in Neito’s life.
It’s not a crush, per se. Not that he would know because he’s never actually bothered to do something as mundane and human as pine after people in his solid sixteen years of being alive. Aren’t people supposed to crush on people they actually know or does it happen like it happened for him, fast and random? He doesn’t know what to call…this and he’s not even sure if there’s a word for the way his eyes were drawn to Shinsou in the cafeteria one afternoon and had never wanted to look away again. Infatuation? Admiration? Boredom?
Lust? Shit, he doesn’t fucking know.
If he didn’t already know any better, it almost feels like he’s been hit with some sort of an attraction quirk with how rapidly his interest in Shinsou has peaked to new levels and new heights in just a short while. Or maybe the other boy’s mind-washed him into this…situation, either on purpose or accidentally but Neito doesn’t think that’s likely. He still acts and functions like himself outside of feeling like that.
Though it would help to have some sort of an explanation. Anything at all.
He’d first become aware of Shinsou’s existence at the sports festival, mildly impressed by his quirk and disappointed that he hadn’t been able to crack that stupid apparently god-sent broccoli motherfucker from 1-A, but that had been the extent of it. He hadn’t lost sleep over the guy or anything, hadn’t even thought about him past his fight with Midoriya; he was just another face in the crowd that Neito had pushed back into the recesses of his memory because he’s becoming a hero and he just doesn’t have the time to think about other people; he especially hadn't when he was wrapped up in his crappy internship that had taught him fuck-all.
He’d only seen Shinsou occasionally after the sports festival—in the hallways passing by or at lunch sitting with his General Studies friends—and not given him a second thought until he started one cursed day and now he can’t stop. Giving several second thoughts. Maybe thirds and fourths too.
A part of his brain wonders if he’d always been…interested but had squashed the feeling down into his unconscious mind where it’s now randomly bust out of to ruin his life
Shinsou isn’t some sort of god-send Adonis Nike underwear model which is all the more confusing. Neito doesn’t know him enough—translation: not at all—to argue being drawn to him for his personality so his looks are all he can go off and his looks, well—his dark circles stretch for miles under his tired, sunken eyes that permanently look like they’re judgementally squinting at people. His teeth are just a little high and his rare smile makes him look like he’s doing a bad impression of some serial killer. His hair is unruly and he’s lanky, tall and too thin—
Until he’s not.
And oh. Neito supposes that’s it. Maybe.
Shinsou has significantly bulked up since the sports festival, anyone can see that if they’ve been paying attention like Neito, as if his last-minute loss to Midoriya inspired him to buy weights on Amazon and lift them day and night. He’s still tall, still a little bit of a beanpole but his uniform shirt is now starting to stretch a little tight over his broad chest and strain over his biceps and his shoulders are looking really wide all of a sudden?
And so that’s how Neito comes to justify his daily lunch staring parties to himself so he doesn’t feel too mad at himself. It’s just curiosity as to how Shinsou is doing all that gym shit, how he’s levelling up into a muscle pig in such a short period of time. His semi-rapid change in appearance is what caused Neito to notice him in a new light and you know, heterosexually wonder what the purple-haired boy’s been up to.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Neito knows, deep down, that that’s a load of horseshit in and of itself but if he doesn’t believe that then he’ll have to admit that he’s only started gawking at Shinsou for his improving…assets and he can’t afford to sound like a hormonal teenager with a physical attraction now, can he?
He has his pride after all.
Shinsou’s alone today, leaning back in the cafeteria chair lazily as he nibbles at an apple stupidly slow, brain very obviously somewhere else. He’s got his sleeves rolled up to his elbows and his top two buttons undone, gaze perpetually bored and staring into space like he’d rather be somewhere else entirely.
He reminds Neito very much of a grumpy cat.
Tetsutetsu is sitting next to him, loudly arguing with Awase who’s yapping back equally obnoxiously from across the table. The discussion is probably about Pokemon, as it had been before Neito had very neatly tuned it out—as he tends to do, sitting on one table with his buffoon classmates—in favour of staring holes into Shinsou’s face. The AC in the cafeteria is busted, sweltering heat making everyone whiny and uncomfortable but there’s a beat of sweat rolling down the side of Shinsou’s temple, his purple hair semi-plastered to his head and not sticking up in every direction today as it usually does and Neito’s mouth feels just the tiniest bit dry.
He has a fleeting urge to stalk right over to Shinsou’s table and slide onto his lap for just a strange, weak second and averts his eyes immediately to stare at his stupidly expensive untouched steak lunch before he can do something stupid like actually do it.
His face is on fire.
“What do you think, Monoma?” Tetsutetsu bellows into his ear—because he has no concept of an indoor voice—right as he’s attempting to swallow a mouthful of beef through his chronic case of dry-mouth and he almost chokes.
“About what?” Neito splutters and coughs, throwing him a mild glare but he knows it doesn’t look very intimidating, what with his girly blush and seizing tonsils. He’s tearing up a little, too.
“The best fire-type Pokemon?” Tetsutetsu has the gall to phrase it as a question, voice considerably lower and eyebrow raised as if Neito is acting weird for not listening and has enthusiastically joined in with these stupid grade-schooler discussions in the past (he hasn’t). “What do you think?”
Before Neito can reply and maybe somehow remove himself from this narrative, Awase chimes in with a “It’s fucking Charmander,”; the debate steam-rolls on without him immediately and he swallows a sigh of relief with his food. He doesn’t know what to do or say when Kendou isn’t around and she’s left him to the dogs today, helping Vlad-sensei with something for the upcoming first year final exams so he’s left to battle his classmates alone.
It’s not that he doesn’t like them. They’re all very different from him in their own right, but they’re not terrible people and they don’t piss him off like class A does; they even make an A-plus effort to include him into their shit, whether he wants them to or not. He just hasn’t been raised on the same things they have, what with the wealth of his parents and the lack of friends and healthy social interaction with people his own age growing up. He’s not sure how they’d take it if he ever told them he’s never watched Pokemon in his life.
Kendou’s the only person that knows about his social ineptitude, because she’s the only one he’s bothered to tell, the only person in this school he can hold a conversation with and when she’s not here to rescue him, well.
“Fuck you, Tetsu-kun,” Awase huffs, pout audible in his voice and Neito suppresses a snort with a mouthful of his steak when Tetsutetsu straight screams in response. Distantly, he wishes he could partake in the conversation because it sounds really fun, make up some bullshit about Pokemon and he looks up to contribute in a moment of false bravado and opens his mouth, if only to tell them they’re annoying—
Shinsou’s looking towards their table.
Neito suddenly can’t remember how words are formed, much less how to clamp his mouth shut again.
He looks bored as usual, chewing coolly on the last of his apple as he stares straight at him, purple eyes intense and judgemental as usual. Neito feels like he’s getting sucker punched in the gut, over and over again and he is so grateful.
Shinsou raises an eyebrow at him when he continues to uncoolly gawk back, probably at the dead-fish expression he’s wearing and he blushes straight up to his hairline, lip quivering like he’s about to cry because God is real and Shinsou Hitoshi is really fucking hot. Has he always been this hot? How did Neito ever think he’s not hot?
There’s steak stuffed in the corner of his mouth but he can’t recall how chewing works, can’t even muster up one of his smug-asshole smirks to look at least a little suave in his first ever episode of Shinsou now knows I exist and we’re eye-fucking.
Tetsutetsu cackles next to him and Shinsou’s gaze flickers to him briefly, still perpetually annoyed, and back to Neito. He tries his best to hold the other boy’s gaze, purple eyes curb stomping him with every slow irritated blink and then Shinsou looks away, like he hasn’t just committed first degree murder.
Neito does his very best to not physically slump from the…the ordeal.
Logically, he knows what that was. Their table was too loud and Shinsou was trying to will their silence into existence with his sexy brain powers probably. Tetsutetsu is now on the floor, dramatically fake-dying and Awase is doubled up with laughter. They’re arguably the loudest ones in the whole cafeteria, so of course he’d look. A lot of other people are looking, too.
But to look at him, at Neito, who wasn’t saying a thing…
He aggressively stabs at his steak as soon as that thought dares to penetrate his rational brain until it’s destroyed, the steak being a metaphor for, you know, false hope and downs his food robotically. His blush doesn’t go away all day, all through lesson and then even as he’s being driven home and he’s so fucking annoyed.
He can’t study.
Neito wants to scream and bang his stupid head down on his stupid study table, textbooks all over the place and his motivation on vacation in America. He’s trying his best, he is, but the words in his English textbook are blurring together and he can’t bring himself to even do a practice exercise he could probably do a week ago, easy-peasy no problem.
All he can think of when he lets his mind wander, which he isn’t, is what it would feel like if his seat was actually Shinsou’s thighs and he was sitting on them and studying while the other boy studied too, his chest pressed against his back and a comfortable silence in the—
Neito shakes his head aggressively to block out the thought, finger curling around his pencil and digging into his book. The written portion of the final exam is in a day and a half and he has done fuck-all all weekend, brain choosing all the wrong things to concentrate on. The only thing he’s firmly ingrained into his head is that yes, he definitely has a crush on Shinsou for no fucking reason whatsoever with no interaction and no dice, but admitting it hasn’t done him any favours. All it’s done is amp up his longing levels and now he wants to be held and…stuff.
It hasn’t been that long since he’s ruined his life by noticing Shinsou—long enough that he’s now grudgingly sure this isn’t some quirk effect because that would’ve worn off by now, but still—so Neito is left to ponder on the what the fucks and how the fucks of the situation and why he’s letting it affect him this much.
He can feel the weekend waltzing away from him, his notes laughing in his face but he just can’t wrap his head around it.
Why Shinsou? Why is he in so deep already? How is he in so deep already? Does he like guys? Shinsou doesn’t have tits or anything. Wait, has he ever been attracted to a girl? He can’t remember. Probably not? Has he ever been attracted to anyone ever? But even so, he doesn’t even fully remember what Shinsou sounds like, hasn’t had one conversation with him, so why has his brain chosen to fixate on him? Why not someone like Kendou or Awase or, god forbid, Tetsutetsu? Even Pony. Hell, Shiozaki!
Wait so, does he have a muscle kink? Tetsutetsu is pretty built and Neito doesn’t feel anything for him so…probably not? But he wants Shinsou with all his developing muscly glory to put him in a chokehold and/or pin him to a bed and show off whatever strength his arms have until—
Is he lonely? Sexually repressed? Is constantly thinking jerking-off-is-for-middle-class-boys all these years backing him up? Should he jerk off and get it done with? Is that morally appropriate? It doesn’t sound morally appropriate. Shinsou wouldn’t appreciate that.
But wait, is he slowly being killed by the fact that he hides behind being a dick to everyone in his vicinity to cover up his social deficiency? Is he only pining after Shinsou because he subconsciously knows he can never have him so technically he can’t have his feelings hurt?
Is his brain breaking? Is he hormonal? Is this puberty?
Neito bangs his head down onto the table and lets out a drawn-out, long suffering groan.
He fails his exams, the written portion spectacularly and the practical just barely—he’s super fucking mad about that—because of course he does.
Moving into the dorms after the fiasco that was training camp with a new layer of trauma fucking with his brain and the occasional night terror or two—because Neito is not allowed to have fun ever—is a whole other layer of bullshit. No one in his class disturbs him for the most part; he’s made too many sarcastic comments at their expense, more of them recently because he’s been that much sourer since almost dying miles away from home and no amount of Kendou backhanding will stop him. He’s content with just floating through life and trying to concentrate on class and not losing his shit mostly but then.
There’s the 1-C dorm building. Or rather, the knowledge that it exists.
Class 1-C’s dorms are in the building right next to his and his brain, along with trying to murder him with the memories and what-ifs of training camp, won’t stop its god-awful chant of Shinsou, Shinsou, Shinsou that’s only gotten louder as the days have gone by. Shinsou, living only a little walk away at all times, is a little overwhelming and Neito is pretty sure he’s never going to be able to concentrate on anything ever again.
He hasn’t even begun with acknowledging the fact that Shinsou was the first person he thought of when he felt like he was going to die, when that villain guy had broken in and almost cremated them, could’ve if he wanted to. Not his mother or his father, who he knows even less than Shinsou to be quite fair, but motherfucking Shinsou Hitoshi.
So, if Neito wakes up some nights drenched in sweat, gasping and reaching out for someone who isn’t there and almost spews that stupid boy’s name in his blind terror then it isn’t anyone’s business but his own.
How did he let his crush get this bad? It doesn’t even feel like a crush anymore.
The only reasonable solution to fixing the hollow longing in his chest and burying his predicament is you know, actually talking to Shinsou like a normal human being would, maybe befriending him to begin with—because Neito has taken a nuclear leap into Be My Boyfriend territory all at once—but the thought makes him want to hurl all over his room’s cheap carpet. Shinsou is quietly intimidating and that dramatic eye-contact encounter from all those days ago haunts Neito in his dreams.
And the dreams. The fucking dreams.
His Shinsou dreams. Those ones. He figures they might actually be more terrible than his night terrors.
They started a little bit after training camp and are a whole other horror story he doesn’t want to get into. They’re not sexual or anything, Neito doesn’t even want to think about that, but they’re cute and fluffy and of being held when he’s back in the extra lessons’ classroom miles away from home and inwardly terrified of death—not that he’d told this to anyone, fuck everyone—so yes that’s…a little worse.
He almost snaps one day when he wakes, sweaty and overwhelmed, to the phantom sensation of lips brushing against his forehead and head aching like he hasn’t slept at all; he almost stalks right up to Shinsou and socks him in the goddamn motherfucking mouth—with his lips—on god, but then they announce the upcoming hero provisional license exams in class that day before he has the chance and Neito’s priorities change because he really doesn’t want to fail again.
He doesn’t pussy out, not at all. He does not.
It’s just…compartmentalising. Or something.
So, he forcibly pushes Shinsou to the back of his mind, temporarily of course—it doesn’t work as well as he’d want to think— and channels his aggression into shitting on Class A instead and prepares for the exam like it’s going to pay his electricity bill for the rest of his life. He is not going to fail again.
His whole class passes and Neito is unnecessarily proud of all of them, even more so because two of the Class-A idiots fail, which brings him ungodly amounts of joy. He wouldn’t compliment his class to their face though, lest they think he’s like their friend or something. Which he is. But they don’t have to know that.
Being able to think about Shinsou freely again after passing is a relief, almost like a reward after he’s done something good. He’s long given up on thinking about why he feels the way he does about Shinsou; he’s a hormonal teenager. Shinsou is moderately attractive and only improving with the day, not to mention aloof and is one of the only people Neito isn’t sure he can manage to look down his nose on.
He’s here and he’s accepted the sweet, imminent release of death by crush.
When Neito gets back from his exam, body aching in a worth it kind of way and collapses on his bed face first with all the grace of a baby penguin, all he can think about is Shinsou. It’s almost like his brain is punishing him for pushing him to the back of his mind over and over in the past few days, for denying himself this, whatever…this is.
His hair is still slightly wet from his shower, pyjamas soft and making him feel sleep heavy even though he hasn’t had dinner. He hasn’t texted his parents yet, to tell them he got his license, even though he knows he won’t get a reply, at least for a week. They’re too busy for him, always have been and the thought should bother him because he’s achieved something today.
But all he can think about is fucking Shinsou.
Neito isn’t too mad, though. Thinking of his…crush feels like a safety blanket, even though the mental admission of the fact makes him go all red like a girl in a romcom, and he wishes he could stalk up to the 1-C dorms and tell Shinsou all about his exam and how it went. He can’t, of course, he knows Shinsou doesn’t actually know him—he doesn’t have anything if not realism—but it makes him feel the tiniest bit sad at the back of his unconscious mind, anyway. It’s his fault for not making a move sooner, before he’d descended into this ten-thousand-watt longing territory but still, no one can pay him a billion yen to take that step.
He can’t make contact with him, not yet.
Soon, but not yet. He doesn’t feel ready and he doesn’t think he has the time or mental capacity to do that to himself at this moment in time but he does wonder. He wonders what Shinsou sounds like when he isn’t yelling at Midoriya, and what he smells like, and if his hands are bigger than Neito’s or not, and what food he likes, and what his parents do, and what it would feel like to touch him, or absorb his quirk, or maybe kiss—
Neito huffs, trying to will down the blood that has just rushed to his face and wonders how girls do this…pining thing so casually, how people make it look so easy in the few movies he’s watched, to have crushes on people they can realistically only admire from afar. He remembers laughing too, at the idea of being so infatuated with someone you know virtually nothing about when Tetsutetsu had wistfully whined about his crush on a western celebrity one day at lunch but now.
Now he understands, he thinks; not that Shinsou is a celebrity but still.
But then, just because he understands doesn’t mean he’s ready to introduce himself. He’s not ready because he doesn’t want to be fuck it up, doesn’t want to be the brand of embarrassing or loud or pretentious or too big for his age he’s modelled himself up to be at UA in front of Shinsou, so until he can learn to tone it down and not act like a rude, wild animal—the kind of behaviour that earns him Kendou-backhands—whether it be out of nervousness or habit, it’ll have to wait.
Excuses, his brain quips and he buries his face into his pillow stubbornly, as if rebelling against himself and feels ridiculously sixteen and vulnerable, just in that moment.
Neito can allow himself a moment.