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Made of Empty Spaces

Chapter Text

If there’s empty spaces in your heart

They’ll make you think it’s wrong. 

Like having empty spaces,

Means you can never be strong.

-Ernest Hemingway 

 

They’re walking back from class when it happens. 

 

It’s an especially cold day for this time of year, and Hanta shivers at the thought of an early winter. They’ve been studying hard for midterms, all of them following Kirishima’s lead and clinging to Bakugou for tutoring so that maybe (just maybe) they’ll have a chance at passing. 

 

Everyone is laughing and joking, but Hanta is lost in the delicate snowflakes that flutter to the ground. The world resembles a snow globe that’s been just barely disturbed; the flakes take their time reaching the ground. It’s beautiful, sure, but Hanta has never been a fan of winter. He much prefers the summer heat—fewer layers necessary to tug on his bulky elbows, and he’s always cold anyway, so it just makes it that much worse.

 

He shoves his hands into his pockets with another shiver, trying to fend off the cold. Beside him, Kaminari gives him a nudge. 

 

“You good, man?” he asks, seemingly unfazed by the chill in the air, even as a snowflake lands softly on the tip of his nose. 

 

“Freezing,” Hanta replies. “Can someone hit the fast-forward button and skip this winter?”

 

“What?” Ashido yelps. “No way! I love winter. Besides, if it’s really bad this year like they’re predicting we might even get a snow day.”

 

The rest of them erupt into cheers at the thought, but Bakugou (who apparently hasn’t actually been ignoring them this whole time like it seemed) just grumbles over his shoulder. “Morons. They’re not gonna give us a snow day when we live right on campus, and if they did we’d just have to fuckin’ make it up with an extra day later on.”

 

“Killjoy,” Kaminari mutters. 

 

“Eh, he’s probably right,” Kirishima agrees, because he has to agree with everything Bakugou says. “It’ll be nice to cool down though.”

 

“Speak for yourself,” Hanta frowns. 

 

“Here, dude,” Kaminari says, digging around in his jacket’s pocket. “I think I have some gloves in here. Wanna share?”

 

Just as Hanta is about to accept the offer, Kaminari yanks his hands out of his pocket, revealing the gloves and with them, a crumpled up paper that makes a mad dash on the back of the wind. 

 

“Shit!” Kaminari swipes his hands through the air, missing the paper entirely.

 

They all chase after it, and although Hanta tries to capture it with his tape, it’s Kirishima who manages to grab the paper, piercing it with a hardened finger. He’s about to hand it back to Kaminari when he seems to get a real glimpse of it. 

 

“What’s this?”

 

“Give it back,” Kaminari whines, and oh boy, does that make them all want to do anything but that.

 

Kaminari tries to grab it away, but when Kirishima uses his height to an advantage, Bakugou snags it. He narrows his eyes and then scrunches his nose, and even though it’s not fair to Kaminari, Hanta just has to know what’s on that paper. 

 

“Hemingway?” Bakugou grunts, and it’s the last thing Hanta would have ever expected. “The fuck?”

 

“What’s Hemingway?” Mina asks at the same time Kirishima says, “That American writer guy?”

 

“It’s,” Bakugou pauses, seeming genuinely stumped. Hanta glances at Kaminari, whose face is red now from more than the cold. “It’s a poem? I think?”

 

And that’s it—the aforementioned it that changes everything. Hanta just doesn’t know it yet. Instead of gasping in awe or bowing in reverence at the catalyst, he just snorts. 

 

“Since when do you read poetry, dude?” he asks. “Doesn’t really fit with your aesthetic.”

 

“Fuckin’ stupid is what it is,” Bakugou says, dodging Kirishima’s scolding look. 

 

Now Ashido steals the paper, and so Hanta gets to look at it for the first time—albeit, sideways, since she’s turning it every which way in mock stupidity. “Doesn’t this stuff go right over your head, Kami? I don’t get it at all, and I’m definitely smarter than you.”

 

The poem, from what Hanta can see, is in English. He only knows what they’ve learned in class, and he certainly wouldn’t have pegged Kaminari of all people as an expert, so that makes two extra weird aspects of all this, since he wouldn’t have pegged Kaminari as a poetry enthusiast either. He looks at his bro, who seems to suppress the furious blush on his cheeks with a smirk. 

 

“Ha, ha,” Kaminari laughs sarcastically. “It’s hilarious, I know. Don’t knock it til you try it, though. You’d all be lucky to be as cultured as me.”

 

They walk onward for a few seconds with just a low snickering among them. It seems that might be the end of it (although Hanta still has so many questions) until Kaminari erupts and pointed a finger at Mina. 

 

“And don’t act like you’re that much smarter than me!”

 

That just makes them all laugh harder. Ah, Hanta loves his friends. He stares fondly down at his own hand—the one kept warm by Kaminari’s glove. As long as he has this band of idiots, he might just make it through the winter.

 

He’s in a wintery haze and all seems well until Kaminari tries to sneak away from the group, citing the need for a nap as his reason when he’s caught. Nobody tries too hard to convince him to stay, and with a few grumpy curses from Bakugou the group parts ways with him. Hanta lingers, though. He doesn’t know why, but he’s worried that something is wrong, even though Kaminari sort of laughed it all off. Why would something be wrong, though? They were all just having fun, right? Wasn’t Kaminari having fun too?

 

If their words actually wounded him, nobody else seems to notice. Hanta will get an earful if he skips training too, but… He steals another glance at Kaminari, and yes, something is definitely up. Kaminari usually has a certain energy about him—electric, just like his quirk, upbeat and mischievous. It shows in the way he walks, talks, and moves, but Hanta doesn’t see any of that now. 

 

He looks down at his gloved hand and tightens it into a fist. Even if it’s not that big a deal, he can’t stand the thought of Kaminari being bummed out all alone. He has to return Kami’s glove anyway, and if he happens to ask if his bro is okay while he’s at it, then so be it. 

 

Clearly Hanta is stealthier than Kaminari, because he manages to slip away unnoticed. He also manages to scare the daylight out of Kaminari when he invites himself into his open dorm room. 

 

“What the crap, man?” Kaminari squeals, and if Hanta wasn’t here because he was concerned for his friend, he might have laughed. Instead, he just grins sheepishly and shuffles further into the room. 

 

“Sorry, uh,” he holds out his hand, “you forgot your glove,”

 

“Oh.” Kaminari pauses before taking it back. “Thanks.”

 

And then they’re trapped in an awkward silence. Hanta searches for the words he thought he’d prepared and suddenly remembers that he hates subtlety and he’s really bad at it. He didn’t come here to return the glove, and he’d much rather just say what’s on his mind. As he’s playing with the hem of his own shirt and Kaminari inspects the dirt under his nails, Hanta decides that being nosy is better than being careful. 

 

“Did we make you mad or something?” he blurts out. It probably doesn’t sound as rushed and nervous to Kaminari as it does to his own ears. Or maybe it sounds even worse. 

 

“I,” Kaminari pauses, looking like he’s choked on his own words. “No?”

 

Kaminari’s uncertainty prompts a quiet laugh from Hanta, and it’s enough to break the odd tension a little bit. Hanta grins, raising an eyebrow.

 

“You sound really sure about that.”

 

“I don’t know,” Kaminari sighs, sounding a bit frustrated. He digs his toe into the floor a few times, folding his arms over his chest. “You all gave me such a hard time, but you’re surprised I kept it from you? That’s exactly why.”

 

Hanta blinks. “But—we were just messing around, man. We didn’t mean anything by it.”

 

“You did, though,” Kaminari insists. “At least a little, right? It doesn’t fit my aesthetic? It should go right over my head? If I were smart and sensitive like Midoriya or something, then would it be okay?”

 

Hanta isn’t sure if he’s exactly peg Midoriya for the poetic type either. Ashido appreciates all that romantic stuff usually, so it would have been less surprising if it was her, and he can definitely imagine Aoyama being a poet, but… That’s really not the point. Or actually, it’s exactly the point. They’re typecasting Kaminari, deciding what his hobbies and interests should and shouldn’t be because...he’s funny? Because he’s sure of himself and outwardly confident and prefers video games and laughing with his friends to studying like a robot all the time?

 

Those are the things that make Kaminari cool to Hanta—the things he likes most about him. Now he somehow gave Kaminari the impression that those things make him less-than. 

 

“Sorry,” Hanta says genuinely. “I really didn’t mean it like that at all. You do whatever you want, and even if I don’t get it, I’ll still support you. I mean, I’ve never really read classic poetry, so what do I know?”

 

The tiniest of gasps escapes Kaminari. “Really? Maybe you should give it a try. I have a bunch right here, actually.”

 

Hanta wants to say no, because he can’t imagine he’d ever actually like poetry—especially English poetry, since it’d be even more work to understand. But Kaminari has this look in his eyes. They’re shining and full of hope and practically begging him, and he clearly believes that Hanta will fall head over heels in love with Hemingway or whatever other poets he apparently adores, and well, for all Hanta’s bluntness and sarcasm, he just can’t find it in him to say no. 

 

“Alright,” he agrees with a sigh.

 

“Cool!” Kaminari cheers, tugging open his desk drawer and rummaging through. 

 

Over Kaminari’s shoulder, Hanta stares wide-eyed at the mess inside. He’s probably seen the drawer open before—he has to have—but he’s never looked close enough to see past the utter mess and realize that it’s full of paperback books (poetry?) and notepads. Kaminari carefully avoids the notepads, taking less care with the books he pulls out and loads into Hanta’s waiting arms. After pulling out a single notepad and setting it on top of the desk, Kaminari pushes the drawer closed. It’s so full of poetry that it actually gets stuck. Who even is he?

 

“So, uh,” Hanta hesitates, nearly dropping the entire stack he’s been handed. “Where do I begin?”

 

“Hemingway, obviously,” Kaminari says. 

 

“Obviously,” Hanta snorts, watching curiously as Kaminari sifts through the books and throws a number of them onto his bed. He stops at the last one. It’s small in size and rather thin, and its worn paper cover is a testament to how much it’s been loved. “How did you get into all this anyway?”

 

“Poetry?” Kaminari pauses, as if to give some serious thought to the question. With a shrug, he sits down in his desk chair and motions for Hanta to take the bed. “I don’t know. I always thought it was sorta cool, but I guess I really discovered it last year. Present Mic gave us this assignment in English—to research classic Western writers. I got Hemingway. Everyone thinks of him as a novelist, but he actually wrote some pretty wicked poetry too.”

 

The bed creaks as Hanta sits down, almost a hum to show its interest. Hanta mimics it, staring down at the book in his hands. It’s a collection of Hemingway’s poems. Hanta turns open the paper-thin cover, flipping to a random page and settling in for a good read. Just a few feet away, Kaminari has swiveled around to face the desk, and he’s scribbling away in silent contentment. Hanta purses his lips and tries to follow Kaminari’s lead.

 

The poem itself… Well, maybe it’s Hanta’s own fault. He’s trying to translate it in his head and then figure out what the heck it means from an artistic sense. It seems so simple, so straightforward. Aren’t poems supposed to have hidden meanings? There’s nothing very cerebral about this. 

 

“I don’t get it,” he admits with a huff. He studies the poem a few more times until he hears the squeak of Kaminari’s chair as he whirls around to Hanta’s side.

 

When Kaminari holds out his hand, Hanta is helpless to do anything but hand the book over like it’s a broken heirloom and he’s responsible for it. But Kaminari is calm, he inspects the open page and then giggles a little. When he meets Hanta’s eyes, there’s a teasing sort of glow in his gaze. 

 

“You really don’t like it? This one is so sad!”

 

“It is?” He feels a little bad, like maybe he should at least pretend to be into it, but Kaminari doesn’t seem nearly as fragile or on edge as he was just a few minutes ago. The fact that Hanta is trying must be enough. 

 

“Yeah, man. You just have to really feel it,” Kaminari says, and before Hanta can ask what exactly that means, Kaminari is demonstrating by reading the poem aloud himself. For the next minute and a half, Hanta is completely speechless. 

 

A porcupine skin,

Stiff with bad tanning,

It must have ended somewhere.

Stuffed horned owl

Pompous

Yellow eyed;

Chuck-wills-widow on a biased twig

Sooted with dust. 

Piles of old magazines,

Drawers of a boy’s letters

And the line of love

They must have ended somewhere. 

Yesterday’s Tribune is gone

Along with youth

And the canoe that went to pieces on the beach

The year of the big storm

When the hotel burned down

At Seney, Michigan. 

 

Every word has meaning. As for the poem in its entirety? Hanta still has no idea. He’s stuck on the way Kaminari conveyed it—how his eyes fluttered closed and he clenched his fists; how he bowed his head and then looked up, staring off into some distant dimension. It all showed on his face, and he looked so soft and pained and...beautiful almost? It seems like a strange word to use towards a bro, but the strangest part is how it’s the only word that makes sense. Since when is Kaminari Denki so damn elegant?

 

Hanta’s chest is warm and light, and he gets it now. 

 

Hemingway is a total genius. 

Chapter Text

Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.

-Ernest Hemingway 

 

Hanta tries to read more of Hemingway’s work, his blood still pumping and his stomach still fluttering, brain still high from the poem he’d just heard Kaminari read off. He wants to experience that again with a new poem. 

 

He keeps going back to that first one, though. It speaks to him, makes his fingers tingle a bit when he runs them across the fading black ink. He’d really like to have Kaminari read it again, but he won’t bother his friend with it any more. 

 

“What’re you smiling at?” Kaminari asks, catching his attention. 

 

Hanta hadn’t realized he’d been smiling at all, but when he looks up he finds that Kaminari too is wearing a goofy grin. He was so pleased that Hanta liked the poem—and that just made Hanta like it more. They shared excitement in that moment over something pure, and Hanta is pretty sure that they’re both still riding those waves.

 

He’s felt this before—it’s the planted seed of a new obsession. It reminds him of the moment he decided he wanted to be a hero. This can’t be nearly that significant, but it’s meaningful nevertheless. 

 

“You alive?”

 

Oops. He never answered. 

 

“Heh,” Hanta chuckles. “Just weirded out I guess. I never thought I’d be into poetry. What have you been up to?”

 

All the while, Kaminari has been hunched over his desk, writing diligently in his notebook. There’s no way it’s homework that he’s doing; Hanta hasn’t had to twist his arm yet. He moves his arm in front of it now, as if to guard it even though Hanta obviously can’t see a thing from his seat on the bed. 

 

“Just writing a little,” Kaminari says briefly. 

 

“Well yeah,” Hanta rolls his eyes. “I could tell that much. Is it a secret?”

 

“Mmm, I guess not,” Kaminari decides, running fingers through his golden blond hair. “I try and write poems sometimes. They aren’t good or anything, but it’s fun.”

 

“Dude, lemme see!”

 

Kaminari bites his lip. “I don’t know. It’s kinda personal—like a diary entry. I’d feel weird showing you. No offense.”

 

“Nah, I get it,” Hanta says. “When you’re done you should read some more of these out loud though. It sounds better when you do it than it does in my head.”

 

“Alright!” Kaminari agrees, practically shoving his own work aside in favor of reading more with Hanta. 

 

He can’t be sure how long they spend like this, side by side on the bed reading Hemingway’s best works. All the while, Hanta feels a bit like a child during story-time, sitting crisscrossed with hands propping up his head. He’s aware of how completely entranced he is, but he’s helpless to stop it. Thankfully, Kaminari seems to eat it all up, becoming braver and more dramatic with his reading. He’s always liked the attention. 

 

So dumb , Hanta laughs to himself. But he’s the one enabling Kaminari. More than that, he’s actively encouraging.

 

Kaminari was totally right before when he said “don’t knock it til you try it.” Hanta is prepared to use that excuse on anyone who might tease them. If they just gave it a shot—especially if Kaminari were to read it to them—the whole world would understand. 

 

Never before has Hanta heard Kaminari speak with such conviction, such passion. If Hanta ever thought Kaminari was an airhead, or a hopeless flirt, he was completely wrong.

 

Well , Hanta reconsiders when Kaminari delivers an extra dramatic line and grins just to elicit a reaction. Maybe not completely wrong. I’d also add “massive ham” to that list, but in addition to all that…

 

The world “beautiful” again comes to mind, but Hanta swats it away, the pesky thing.  It’s hard to argue with Kaminari’s long eyelashes, his smooth hair, his soft-looking lips—

 

But there’s got to be a better word. That’s definitely not the one he’s looking for. 

 

On the desk, Kaminari’s phone buzzes in unison with Hanta’s. Kaminari seems mildly annoyed by the interruption, but he recovers quickly as they both check their phones. It’s the group chat, of course. 

 

“Smash Bros. tournament,” Hanta smirks. “Beat you there.”

 

“Unlikely.”

 

And just like that, they’re off the bed, Hemingway left behind in favor of their always-reliable favorite game. It’s a race to the common area, two piles of limbs bounding down the stairs, trying to push ahead. Their laughter echoes off the walls, and just as Hanta is about to make it through the doorway (the unofficial finish line), he gets a face full of Kaminari’s palm, shoving him aside and costing him the victory. 

 

“Ha!” Kaminari cheers, raising his fist triumphantly before folding over with his hands on his thighs. “Told you I’d win.”

 

“Barely,” Hanta pants. “One might even say you cheated.”

 

Kaminari shrugs, leading the way towards their friends. “Judges?”

 

The rest of the group awaits in front of the TV, with Ashido lounging on one of the couches and Kirishima and Bakugou on the floor. 

 

“I’ll allow it,” Ashido decides for them all, grunting when Hanta shoves her legs out of the way to make room for himself and Kaminari. “Where have you two been anyway? You both disappeared randomly.”

 

“Yeah,” Kirishima agrees, turning around to face Kaminari. “I thought you were going to take a nap—and then Sero left too. Don’t tell me you guys snuck off to do homework while we were hard at work training.”

 

Bakugou scoffs. “Yeah fuckin’ right.”

 

“Nah,” Hanta says, preparing to drop the bombshell. “We were reading—”

 

“Homework,” Kaminari cuts him off. “You know, the reading for hero history.”

 

“Oh yeah,” Ashido groans, and Hanta shoots Kaminari a confused look. Why is he trying to cover it up? “There’s so much reading to do this weekend, I don’t know how I’m ever going to relax.”

 

The conversation moves on from there, and Hanta finds a video game controller shoved into his hands, but he’s still trying to catch Kaminari’s eye. When the blond finally glances his way, he offers an apologetic shrug. 

 

“Spare yourself,” he whispers a few minutes later when everyone else is distracted, and Hanta wants to tell him that he’s not worried about what anyone thinks. It seems like Kaminari wants to want to put it to rest, though, so Hanta will for now. In the back of his mind, however, he still feels bad—worse now, since Kaminari is going to such great lengths to keep their secret quiet. Had he contributed to this fear? 

 

Hanta sits on that thought for the rest of the hour, and the fact that it costs him most of the matches doesn’t bother him nearly as much as the idea of letting Kaminari think he’s ashamed of him. 

 

“We were reading poetry earlier,” Hanta confesses, trying to sound casual. Beside him, Kaminari chokes on air.  “It’s actually pretty cool.”

 

“Ugh, since when are all my friends such nerds?” Ashido asks, but she’s giggling, so Hanta knows it’s okay. “Whatever floats your boat, you two.”

 

The others are silent. Hanta pauses the game and peers over the edge of the couch where Kirishima and Bakugou have been sitting a little too quietly for some time now. They opted out of the last few rounds, and now it appears that they’re—

 

“Aww!” Ashido exclaims, noticing too how they’ve fallen asleep on each other. Bakugou’s head rests on Kirishima’s shoulder, and it’s probably the most peaceful he’s seen either of them look ever. “That is adorable!”

 

The volume of her voice jars Kirishima awake and makes Bakugou stir. When he becomes aware of their position, Kirishima blushes as red as his own hair. Watching him try to maneuver out from underneath Bakugou without waking him is enough to make Hanta his with stifled laughter. Beside him, Kaminari reaches out a single finger, ready to zap Bakugou awake and probably die as punishment. 

 

“Stop!” Kirishima whispers, shaking his head aggressively. He sighs and snakes an arm around Bakugou, gently pulling him to his feet. 

 

Hanta knows that despite his hardening quirk, Kirishima has the capacity to be extremely soft, but this is something else entirely. All games and snickers stop when Bakugou blinks awake, and instead of exploding the entire room allows Kirishima to lead him to the elevator in a sleepy daze. 

 

“That,” Kaminari says once the pair is gone, “was freaking bizarre.”

 

“More like freaking cute!” Ashido squeals. “There’s definitely something going on with them.”

 

“Going on?” Kaminari questions. “You mean…?”

 

“They’re totally crushing on each other!” Ashido insists. “Don’t you think?”

 

“I mean,” Kaminari considers, and Hanta watches him carefully. The gears are turning in Kaminari’s head, and for some reason Hanta is anxious to hear what he’ll decide. “I guess I  just never thought about it before. Maybe?”

 

It does make sense. Hanta hasn’t thought much of it either, but it almost feels like putting two and two together. “Kirishima does love manly stuff, and what’s more manly than Bakugou?”

 

Meanwhile, Kaminari still seems perplexed for some reason. He taps his chin, humming and offering a simple “Yeah” in response. Hanta can see that something isn’t sitting right with him, and he wants to press for answers. Kaminari has always been a tolerant guy, and he doesn’t seem bothered so much as...well, Hanta isn’t sure, but it’s like a part of his friend has disappeared into his own mind. 

 

He’s going to ask, but by the time they’re packing up and heading to their respective rooms Kaminari is much more like his usual self. Hanta almost wonders if he imagined the whole thing—or maybe was projecting. He has to admit, seeing Kirishima and Bakugou so close does make him feel some kind of something. Whatever it is stirs in his chest, and with each beat of his heart he sees flashes of the hours spent with Kaminari earlier. He hears Hemingway. 

 

This has been a weird day. Hanta needs to sleep; that’s all it is. 

 

The elevator dings and the door opens, but instead of leaving, Kaminari stops in the doorway. When he looks back at Hanta, his eyes are narrowed, searching. 

 

“Why’d you tell about the poetry stuff?” he questions. “I was trying to save you the trouble.”

 

“What trouble?” Hanta points out. The reaction had been quite mild. “It shouldn’t be trouble in the first place, and besides, there’s strength in numbers right?”

 

“I guess,” Kaminari agrees. “Everyone in the class will probably find out, though. What do you think they’ll say?”

 

This is Hanta’s chance to make it right. “Who cares? All that matters is that you like it. You got me to give it a shot and now so do I.”

 

“Do you think Jirou would like it?” Kaminari looks a bit dreamy. Full of hope and dread all at once.

 

There it is. It always comes back to Jirou, or whatever pretty girl Kaminari is pining after at the moment, but usually Jirou. That pleasant bubbling in Hanta’s chest twists a little. He’s not sure what that’s about, but he doesn’t like it and he’s got to ignore it. “Maybe? I mean, she plays lots of music and stuff, so there’s a chance she’d like poetry. It’s kind of like songs.”

 

Kaminari grins. “That’s true! I can spin it that way.”

 

“Right,” Hanta says, and his smile feels more like a cringe. He’s got to get out of here. Forget the interrogation about Bakugou and Kirishima. Forget poetry, because it suddenly hurts to think about it. “See you tomorrow, man.”

 

They part ways, and Hanta returns to his room in a daze. He doesn’t really want to decipher his feelings, but his mind is cycling through them without his permission. There’s just so much that he doesn’t understand.

 

He changes into his pajamas and goes to brush his teeth, staring himself down in the mirror all the while. What does it all mean? He’ll start with his feelings about Kirishima and Bakugou, because those are new and somehow they also seem easier to tackle.

 

Thinking back on the sight of the two of them snuggled up together—and then Ashido’s claim that they like each other—it’s not a bad feeling. He’d almost call it good. It’s warm in his chest and new and exciting. Maybe he’s just sharing in their joy? There’s a pang of sadness too, maybe because deep down he wants that. Not Kirishima, and certainly not Bakugou, but to be loved or liked or to have someone’s attention and attraction.

 

And the two of them together… Well, he’d said it himself: Kirishima likes all things manly, so it’s no real surprise that he likes men. It really has nothing to do with Hanta, and yet here he is, his thoughts going in circles over the idea that it could be him too. If Kirishima can do it, why not Hanta?

 

Toothpaste drips down his chin at that. He’s stopped brushing altogether. Could he like guys? Does he like guys? Hanta knows he likes girls. They’re soft and pretty and they smell nice, and you don’t really get that with guys—most guys, anyway…

 

Okay, that’s enough. Hanta doesn’t want to unpack that one anymore.

 

Then there’s Kaminari—and Jirou. It’s not new, the urge to roll his eyes at Kaminari’s constant attempts to woo her. But Hanta also has the strange need to support Kaminari in these attempts. It’s what a good friend would do, and he wants his bro to be happy. He’d really tried tonight, but the burden felt so much heavier.

 

Disappointment , he realizes suddenly.

 

He rinses his mouth and splashes some water on his face just for good measure. He’s about to go to sleep, but he still feels the need to wake himself up from this haze. 

 

They made it through the entire day without any reference to Jirou or any of Kaminari’s crushes. They spent the evening together, trying new things, laughing, learning, and it was so good. Just him and Kaminari.

 

Why does it matter so much?

 

Just him and Kaminari. 

 

The way those words ring in his ears make his stomach twist. He’s on the verge of discovery, he can tell, but his desire to decode all of this has depleted. In fact, he wants to high-tail it in the other direction.

 

With a groan, Hanta dives face first into bed, clumsily arranging his limbs beneath the covers and burying his head in the pillow. He just wants to sleep—wants to get Kaminari’s stupid face out of his head. 

 

“Goodnight, Hanta,” he tells himself with a measure of finality, as if his brain has ever listened to him before. He knows he’s just going to end up spiraling and overthinking and— “Good. Night. Hanta.”


Goodnight, brain .

Chapter Text

For we have thought the larger thoughts

And gone the shorter way. 

And we have danced to devil’s tunes,

Shivering home to pray;

To serve one master in the night,

Another in the day. 

-Ernest Hemingway 

 

When the sun peeks over the horizon, Hanta feels much more like himself. A good night of sleep can do wonders, and surprisingly after his little crisis, he’d gone out like a light and slept soundly. Now that he’s up and about, rested and showered and hanging out with his classmates in the common area like any other weekend, he realizes how silly he’d been. He even grabbed lunch with Kaminari, and everything went fine. 

Nothing has changed. 

He’s sitting at one of the tables with Jirou, Ojiro, and Momo, trying to pay attention as Momo guides them through their homework. Kaminari sits with Mina and Kirishima, playing video games (procrastinating as usual), while Midoriya, Uraraka, and Iida try to convince Todoroki to join in on the board game they’re playing. It’s a typical day for their class, everyone buzzing and doing their own things, and Hanta now can’t imagine why he’d been so upset last night. 

This is how it is—how it’s always been and always will be, and how it’s meant to be. Right now, that’s comforting. 

The only surprise here is that Kaminari hasn’t tried to approach Jirou. Hanta thinks those thoughts extra carefully, on guard for any conflict of emotions that might arise from those names together. Last night Kaminari was so concerned about Jirou’s opinion on his love affair with poetry, so Hanta kind of expects that he’ll come around soon enough to try and get on top of it before anyone else has the chance to spill the beans first. 

Indeed, it isn’t long before Kami wanders over, trying to play it casual and (from the eyes of a friend who knows his mannerisms well) utterly failing. Jirou doesn’t even seem to notice him at first until he’s right at the table, a folded paper in his hand. 

“I speak of love that comes to mind,” he begins, and when Hanta realizes what’s happening he’s sure he’ll die of second-hand embarrassment. Just dig the grave now. “The moon is faithful, although blind; she moves in thought she cannot speak. Perfect care has made her bleak. I never dreamed—”

“What’s that?” Jirou asks, not entirely put off but also clearly not getting the idea. It’s Kaminari, though, so she’s got to know the intention. 

“It’s, uh, Ginsberg,” Kaminari stammers, and when that doesn’t seem to resonate with Jirou, he goes on to explain further. “It’s poetry.”

“Alan Ginsberg was an American poet whose work was prevalent in the 1950s,” Yaoyarou says, ever the scholar. “Last year in English class Aoyama did a presentation about him.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Jirou recalls with a shrug. “Kaminari, you like poetry?”

“Yeah,” Kaminari says bravely, and Hanta holds his breath. “Do you?”

She grimaces. “Not my thing. It’s so cheesy. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.”

There’s the slightest change in Kaminari’s posture. It’s so small that Hanta wonders if anyone else even noticed. His shoulders drop a little, and that sweet sparkle in his eyes fades away. The smile on his lips is replaced with an impressive imitation, but Hanta can see. 

“Fair enough,” Kaminari says, and he’s a good actor when it counts. “I was just showing Sero since he hasn’t heard as much poetry as me.”

“Yep,” Hanta agrees. “That one’s pretty cool.”

“Gotcha,” Jirou says, already focused on Yaoyarozu and their homework again.

“Well…” Kaminari wrings his hands together. “I guess I’ll see you all around.”

Hanta shoots a sympathetic smile. “Later, man.”

Kaminari doesn’t go back to the sofa for video games. Instead, he disappears upstairs, probably back to his room. Part of Hanta wants to go after him, and he almost does, but his own grip on the table keeps him put. This isn’t that big of a deal, and he can’t smother Kaminari every time something goes wrong; that’d be weird for sure. Instead, he turns to Jirou. 

“You know, you really should give it a chance.”

“Hm?” She glances up, pencil coming to a pause on her study guide.

“You know, all the poetry stuff,” Hanta says. If Jirou gives it a shot and realizes how great Kaminari is, then maybe they’ll get together and the weird feeling in Hanta’s stomach will go away.

“I don’t see why,” Jirou says. “He’s just using it to flirt with me.”

He wants to tell her how important it actually is to Kaminari, but he can’t. He knows he’s already distracting her (which is no doubt irritating Yaoyarozu), and divulging something so personal about Kaminari wouldn’t put him in a better position. Still, he needs to defend his friend. He has to make her understand, if not so that she’ll return Kaminari’s feelings, then so she’ll at least respect him.

“He’s really passionate about it,” Hanta insists, his mind replaying the poems that Kaminari had proved to be amazing. He can hear them all in Kami’s voice. “And it’s actually really cool. You should give it a try—especially if Kaminari will read it out loud to you. He’s so good at it. You’ve never seen him so serious and emotional. And Hemingway! Hemingway is his favorite, and for good reason. The way he reads the sad parts so softly, and the triumphant parts so—”

“Triumphantly?” Jirou suggests, enthusiastic as she ever is. 

“Yes! If you could just see him recite the poems, it would change everything. You’d see that Hemingway is a total genius.”

“Hmph,” Jirou smirks, just as a familiar purple head appears from around the table. “Sounds like it’s definitely Hemingway you like.”

There’s something about the way she says that. A weird emphasis on the words that sounds almost sarcastic, or like she doesn’t believe him. Why, though? Hanta does his best to be a good wingman, but he’s not going to straight-up lie (and if he was, he’d find something more predictable to lie about, he’s sure). There’s that twist in his stomach, again… He's about to confront Jirou and ask what exactly she was trying to imply, but Mineta inserts himself into the conversation before he has the chance. 

“Why are you guys talking about Hemingway?” Mineta asks suspiciously. 

“Apparently Kaminari is into poetry,” Jirou says, still sounding disbelieving. “And according to Sero, it’s not just some big flirting scheme.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Mineta cries. “Who would care about something so cheesy if you can’t use it to make girls kiss you?”

Everyone in their class does pretty well in tolerating one another and being kind, but man, does Mineta ever make it hard with comments like that. 

“You’re really the worst, Mineta,” Hanta says dismissively.

Across the table, Yaoyarozu clears her throat. “I know it’s the weekend. We can continue another time if you don’t feel like studying now.”

Something about that sounds a bit too much like their teachers—the ones who are too nice to make threats like Aizawa and resort to passive aggression instead. Of course, it’s fair; she’s giving her time to help them out, and all Hanta is doing is wasting it. 

“Sorry, Yaomomo,” he says, gathering up his things. “I’ll let you all get back to work. I’m too distracted.”

He goes up to his room and closes himself in. Surprisingly, in the solitude, he’s able to finish up the remainder of his homework, but after that the quiet just about eats him alive. For some reason he wants to be alone—away from everyone downstairs—but he keeps fidgeting and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. 

For a short while, he reads poetry on his phone. It turns out Hemingway isn’t as good when he’s all alone, but he does find a few poems by Ginsberg that speak to him—especially now that he’s heard Kaminari read a bit of him. Still, they’d all sound better if Kaminari were here to read them now. 

And he’s got to stop thinking that way. 

The way Jirou looked at him, that knowing smirk...she’d definitely been implying something. Hanta doesn’t want to think too hard about it. He just got over all those confusing thoughts from last night, but they’re all coming back again. They swim about in his head like a hyper-active school of fish, but every last one of them leads back to Kaminari.

He should reach out to him. Any other day he probably would and neither of them would think anything of it. But now Hanta is thinking. He’s thinking too much, and dammit, this is why he usually goes out of his way to avoid feelings. This isn’t even a big deal, and he’s letting it smother him. 

Just when Hanta is sure he’s going to go crazy, there’s a knock at his door. 

“Uh, yeah?” he calls. 

The door opens, and Hanta is both disappointed and relieved to see that it’s not Kaminari. There’s always a strange comfort in that head of wild, red hair, though.

Kirishima practically tumbles through the door, graceful as always. He’s laughing, his attention divided between Hanta and whoever is standing out in the hallway. Probably Bakugou. 

Hanta clears his throat, channeling his inner Yaoyarozu and finally getting Kirishima to look his way once and for all. 

“Hey, we’re having another Smash Bros tournament downstairs if you wanna join,” Kirishima says. “Bakugou claims the only reason he didn’t win last time was because he was super tired, so Ashido’s gonna beat him a second time.”

“Fuck off, Shitty Hair!” Hanta hears from the hall. He knew it. 

Kirishima just winks in the other direction, then turns back to Hanta. “Anyway, wanna come?”

“Ah—yeah, sure,” Hanta agrees hesitantly.  Truthfully, he doesn’t feel up to it, but it would probably help to have some fun. 

Of course, that brief falter before his smile doesn’t escape Kirishima. 

“Great,” the redhead says slowly, eyes narrowing like he’s trying to get a read on Hanta. He looks over his shoulder again. “Be down in a minute, Bakubro. Okay?”

“Whatever,” Bakugou replies, and after a few seconds Hanta assumes they’re alone. 

He folds his hands together, focusing on the jagged line that his interlocked fingers create instead of looking at Kirishima. He knows what’s coming. 

“You okay?”

There it is. 

“Yeah,” Hanta shrugs. “Just in a funk I guess.”

Kirishima takes a tentative step in and closes the door behind him. “You too, huh? Yikes…”

Hanta doesn’t know what that means, but he doesn’t bother to ask. He wishes he could say he doesn’t feel like talking, but the truth is far more selfish: all he wants to do is talk, but only about himself right now, nobody else. At the same time, he can’t quite find his words. He’s never been good with emotions. That, he’ll leave to Kirishima. 

“So what’s bothering you?” Kirishima prods. 

Hanta shrugs again. “Hard to say. Do you ever have trouble figuring out your own feelings?”

“Lots of times,” Kirishima says. He takes a seat at Hanta’s desk, turning the chair around to face him.  “Usually it’s stuff I’ve been putting off thinking about.”

“Makes sense,” Hanta considers. “Jirou said something while we were studying.”

Kirishima won’t judge. He’s like, the least judgmental person Hanta knows, and he also happens to be very in touch with his emotions, so if anyone can help, it’s him. 

Maybe Kirishima heard what Jirou said already, or maybe he’s just that patient, because instead of questioning or pressuring Hanta to elaborate, he just gives a small nod. It’s reassuring, but Hanta finds himself too nervous to continue. He knows that’s okay too.

“Kaminari’s always flirting with her,” Hanta says instead. He picks at a hangnail on his thumb until it bleeds.

“Yeah? I guess we’ve all noticed.”

“It kinda hurts, you know? Seeing all these people flirting, in relationships, or people who obviously should be in relationships.” Kirishima fidgets a bit at that, making the desk chair squeak. Apparently Hanta had found the courage to look him in the eye without even realizing it. “Anyway, I guess… I guess it just hurts because nobody feels that way about me. Not to be melodramatic, but I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever have that.”

It really does hurt. Literal, actual heartache. So dumb and juvenile, but here he is. Hanta supposes that if there’s any time for something so silly, it’s high school. 

Kirishima just smiles for a moment. It’s not a mocking smile, or even one of pity.

“I get it, dude,” Kirishima says. “I’ve been there too. You can’t doubt yourself, though. You’ve gotta know your worth and stop fearing your own feelings. Emotions are manly!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hanta chuckles. It’s a short-lived moment of laughter. “I think Jirou accused me of having feelings for Kaminari.”

“Accused, like it’s a bad thing?” Kirishima, always asking the hard questions. If he wasn’t going to be a hero, he’d sure make an excellent therapist. 

“Well, no,” Hanta admits. “She didn’t seem to think it’d be bad, but—I don’t know. Having feelings for Kaminari would be really dumb.”

“Dumb of who?”

“Me!” Hanta says, his hands balling into tight fists on the blanket. “Don’t get me wrong, if it was anyone else—preferably a girl—that’d be great, and not dumb at all, but,” he sighs. “But Kaminari is the straightest guy ever. Not to mention he’s my best friend. So many levels of dumb there.”

“Hey, you never know,” Kirishima says. “Kaminari seems pretty open. But even if not, I don’t think anything could ruin your friendship. Not unless you let it.”

Hanta’s chest feels warm, and the beginnings of a smile form on his mouth. “And what about you?”

“Uh—me?”

“Yeah. I doubt anything could ruin your friendship with Bakugou either.”

Kirishima turns a shade of red very similar to that of his hair. He scratches the back of his neck, swiveling a bit in the chair and laughing. “You’ve noticed that, huh? Well, I guess it wouldn’t be very manly if I couldn’t take my own advice, would it?”

“Unfortunately not. Good luck, whatever you decide to do,” Hanta says, flopping back onto his pillow. “And thanks.”

“Any time.” Kirishima slaps his legs and stands. “Should I count you out for tonight?”

“Yeah,” Hanta says. “I doubt I’d be much fun anyway.”

“Well, I guess it’ll just be Bakugou, Ashido, and me then. The competition is mostly between the two of them anyway, so I guess it’s fine. Hope you feel better, dude.”

Hanta gives him a thumbs up and closes his eyes. A few seconds later he hears the door open and close again, and when he sneaks a glance at the room he finds it empty. 

Well, that was a lot. Hanta can’t decide if he really acknowledged his feelings, or if there are feelings for him to acknowledge in the first place. He’d be kidding himself to say there’s nothing there at all, but, after all this time? It seems so ridiculous. Kaminari has been Hanta’s best friend for well over a year now—basically since they started at UA. So unless he’s had these feelings all along and just not noticed…

It doesn’t matter, he tells himself. Only now matters, and now—now he has feelings. Just how big they are, Hanta isn’t sure, but what he does know is that Kirishima is right. Nothing will ruin his friendship with Kaminari; he won’t let it.

Kirishima said that it would just be the three of them playing games tonight, which means that Kaminari is probably still sulking in his room. Hanta has an idea for how to make him feel better, and it might be a little weird, but Kaminari is a little weird, so who knows?

A quick web search does the trick. Hanta finds a little poetry club in town and sends a screenshot of their events page to Kaminari. 

 

You 4:23pm

Ever been to a poetry club?

 

The response is quite instant. 

 

Kaminari 4:23pm

No !! But! Can we?!

 

“Hyperactive moron,” Hanta laughs to himself. 

 

You 4:25pm

Yes, obviously. They have an open reading thing on Wednesday night. Wanna check it out?

 

Hanta sets his phone down on his stomach, tapping his fingers against the case as he awaits a reply. He knows it will be a yes, so what’s with all the anticipation? He can’t pick up his phone fast enough when it finally buzzes. 

 

Kaminari 4:28pm

It’s a date (; wuv u xoxo

 

Hanta actually laughs out loud, and all of the tension is gone. How could he ever imagine that things would get weird with his best bro?

 

You 4:29pm

Shut up. You’re so stupid 

 

Kaminari 4:30pm

):

 

Okay, but, Hanta tells himself, it’s not a date. That’d be ridiculous. Imagine dating Kaminari. 

He pauses. 

Actually, maybe try not to imagine it. 

Chapter Text

“Where should we go?”

“I don’t care. Anywhere you want. Anywhere we don’t know people.”

-Ernest Hemingway


“Sero!”

The top end of a pen clicks against his cheek. He jumps in his chair, and Ashido doubles over laughing.

“What’s with you today?” she giggles, poking him once more for good measure. “You’ve been glassy-eyed all morning.”

“Sorry,” he shrugs. “Just sleepy I guess.”

He may have stayed up late reading A Farewell to Arms by (guess who) Ernest Hemingway. Kaminari highly recommended it, and thankfully had a translated copy hidden away in the abyss of his desk drawer. Hanta would never tell Kaminari, but he might actually like the book better than Hemingway’s poetry.

“Yeah, well you better wake up,” Kaminari says. He’s already packed up his books and is waiting by his desk. “We have stuff to do tonight.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hanta yawns out. “I’ll be fine.”

“Come on, you damn nerds,” Bakugou barks. He waves for them to follow, but doesn’t wait any longer. 

“Aw.” Kirishima smiles proudly. “Look how much he cares.”

Hanta grabs his books and meanders towards the door, nudging Kaminari with his elbow. “That’s what caring looks like?”

The playful comment doesn’t get past Kirishima, though. He shrugs his shoulders, the smile not dropping from his face.

“It’s progress.”

“That’s true,” Kaminari says. “A year ago Bakugou wouldn’t have even acknowledged us.”

“Kirishima is so good for him!” Ashido squeals.

Even if nobody else sees the blush on Kirishima’s face, Hanta does, and he hurries to catch up with him. It’s been a few days since they talked, and while Hanta has done his best to keep the subject of any feelings whatsoever off his own mind, he wonders if Kirishima has come to any conclusions. 

“You are pretty good for him,” he says quietly. “Have you made your move yet?”

“Nah.” Kirishima shakes his head. “Just waiting for the right moment. What about you?”

Hanta looks over his shoulder, where Kaminari and Ashido are blissfully unaware of the swirling storm of emotions just ahead of them.

“I’m not even sure there’s a move to make,” Hanta says, and Kirishima gives him an incredulous look. 

Just then, Kaminari brushes past them, tugging on Hanta’s arm as he goes.

“Come on, dude!” Kaminari urges. “We should try to finish some of our homework during lunch so we can make it to the club at a good time!”

The flutter of Hanta’s heart tickles his chest, and he comes to a stop in the hallway. He imagines that getting tipsy must feel a bit like this—lightheaded and pleasant, with a quiet voice in his mind warning him to slow down. He’s been anticipating this night all week, and it’s finally upon them. He just hopes it will be all that Kaminari wants (and hopes he won’t make a total fool of himself).

“No moves to make, huh?” Kirishima smirks. “I don’t know. That kinda sounds like a date.”

That snaps Hanta right out of it. 

“It’s not a date!” He decidedly looks forward, marching towards the lunchroom. “Seriously, it’s nothing like that. This is Kaminari we’re talking about.”

“I don’t get why you keep saying that. When it comes to me, we’re talking about Bakugou, and you don’t seem to think that makes a difference,” Kirishima points out, and maybe he has a point. 

Really, they’re quite the pair, Hanta and Kirishima. Kaminari is notoriously straight, and Bakugou is—well, he’s Bakugou . The fact that Kirishima stays so optimistic is impressive. Maybe that’s his real quirk. 

For all his nerves, Hanta is actually really excited for tonight. He’s done a little more research into the poetry club, and they have a pretty cool aesthetic and an interesting menu. He can’t think of anywhere similar that he’s been, so it will be a new experience for both of them. Without Kaminari, Hanta doubts he’d ever have even thought of such a thing. 

Once they’ve reached the cafeteria and picked up their lunch, they join their friends at a table near the window. Hanta tries to keep up with Kaminari, knowing that he’s smart to get as much work done as possible now. They eat quickly, paying little attention to the conversation around them.

“Alright, just one more page,” Kaminari says, tapping his pencil against his chin. “This would be a lot faster if I didn’t suck at math so much.”

“Yeah, me too,” Hanta says. “I’m no help.”

“You’re both idiots,” Bakugou adds, unsolicited, and Hanta is pretty sure the sound that follows is Kirishima kicking him under the table.

“I don’t know,” Ashido says with a sly smile. “I’ve never seen Kaminari so eager to do homework. If Kirishima is good for you, Bakugou, maybe Sero is good for Kaminari.”

Against his better judgement, Hanta glances up and accidentally locks eyes with Kaminari right then and there. Kaminari’s eyes are wide, his cheeks pink, and Hanta has to assume that he looks just about the same. What feels like an eternity of the two of them staring helplessly into each other’s eyes is probably little more than a second, and then they’re both turning away, fumbling with their pencils, laughing off the comment. 

Dammit, Mina. 

“What’s that even supposed to mean?” Hanta mumbles, forcing a chuckle. He hopes Ashido won’t try to explain—hopes that he hasn’t been so obvious with his emotions that she actually noticed. He sighs, expelling the awkward tension with the air in his lungs. “Anyway. You excited for tonight?”

“Dude, yes,” Kaminari says earnestly. “I’ve wanted to do this for a really long time. Go to a poetry reading, I mean. I never thought I’d actually be able to.”

“Guess it’s your lucky day,” Hanta grins, but the warmth in Kaminari’s smile and the way he’s literally buzzing with electrifying excitement has Hanta convinced that he’s the lucky one. 

Kaminari puts his attention back on their homework, no longer looking at Hanta. “Guess it is.”

For all his best efforts, the day crawls by from there. When at last they’re released from classes, Hanta tries to play it cool. Even though he feels like springing into action, he forces himself to walk calmly alongside Kaminari and the others. His heart is pumping so quickly that he hardly feels the cold. 

Kaminari shoots him finger guns at his stop in the elevator, and from there Hanta is left to his own devices. He retreats to his own room and sits on his bed for a moment, taking in a deep breath and listening to the silence. When he releases the air, he feels much of the tension in his body going with it. The rest he washes away with a hot shower. 

When he’s fresh and clean with combed hair and an outfit that he totally didn’t take ten minutes to pick out (all that work just for jeans and a button-down), all there is to do is wait. He manages to finish the rest of his homework in some fashion, and then he just sits around twiddling his thumbs until Kaminari texts him. 

Kaminari 5:33pm

U ready?

 

You 5:33pm

Yeah whenever you are

 

As if he hasn’t been on the edge of his seat waiting all week long. 

With a clumsy yank , Hanta pulls his favorite bomber jacket from a hanger and hurries out the door. He finishes putting it on in the elevator, smiling to himself at just how roomy the sleeves are. The pockets are big too, perfect to hold his fidgeting hands. For some reason he feels like he’s showing up empty handed, as if this is a date in the 1960s and he’s forgotten the bouquet of flowers on the kitchen counter. 

But it’s not a date, and Kaminari wouldn’t want flowers anyway. He’d want a funny t-shirt that reminded Hanta of him, or a new journal for writing his poetry—one of the fancy leather ones that always seem too expensive for Hanta’s taste. He’d want a box of his favorite sour candies—a share-sized one like they sell at the movies. He’d want something more personal than flowers. 

But if Hanta were to get Kaminari flowers, they’d be yellow. Sure, yellow is the color of friendship, but they are friends, and yellow is just so Kaminari . Yellow like his energy. Yellow like his lightning. Yellow like happiness. Yellow like sunshine. Yellow like his hair. 

Sunflowers, daisies, marigolds. Kaminari

Ding!

Hanta jolts as the elevator door opens, but he re-centers in time to wave back at Kaminari and return his bright smile. They nod to each other, but neither of them speaks until they’re out the door. 

Hanta shudders at the crisp air, holding his arms close to his body. Around them, the campus trees wave in the gentle breeze, shedding leaves that mimic the colors of the sunset above. 

“It’s a good day for a walk,” Kaminari says, regarding the rustling branches with a content sigh. “Glove?”

“Uh—” Hanta glances down to where Kaminari’s hand holds out the same glove he’d lent Hanta last week.

So sweet .

“Thanks, dude.” Hanta swipes the glove. At least now he can keep one hand out of his pocket. “So tell me, what are you most excited for?”

“Honestly, to hear other people read,” Kaminari says sheepishly. “That’s the obvious answer, I know, but hear me out. I like knowing how the poems should sound, right? And I do my best to research all that and I can find videos online, but there’s only so many, and a lot of times I end up rewatching the same people over and over.”

“I get you,” Hanta says. “It’s like getting a fresh perspective.”

“Exactly,” Kaminari says. “Also, I’m kind of ridiculously excited that you’re coming with me.”

Goosebumps prickle on Hanta’s arms, and it’s not from the cold. “Ridiculously excited?”

“Well, yeah.” Kaminari looks him in the eye as best as he can. The breeze is tussling his golden hair, making it wave softly and get caught in his eyelashes, but even so this gaze lacks all the awkwardness from the one they shared in the cafeteria earlier. “Not to be dramatic, but it’s way cooler to do this with someone else by my side, and I never thought that’d even be a possibility, let alone that it’d be—ah, I don’t know.”

The way Kaminari shakes his head, laughing at himself and kicking a marble-sized pebble on the sidewalk, makes Hanta extra curious. The words he’s already spoken have made Hanta’s chest warm and tingly. Kaminari is happy, and it’s because of something Hanta did. How many people get to say that? How many would even care?

“Come on, man, finish the sentence,” Hanta urges. 

“No really,” Kaminari insists with a shrug. “I don’t know. I’m just—I’m glad it’s you.”

Blood rushes to Hanta’s cheeks, and he doesn’t even attempt to make it go away. He smiles widely, proudly, at his best friend. “I’m glad it’s me too.”

“I feel like you get it,” Kaminari says, and the way he gestures with his hands so seriously reminds Hanta a bit of Iida. “And you actually tried to get it.”

“Well yeah,” Hanta shrugs as they cross through the campus gate and go out into the city. “It seemed important to you, so of course I’d try.”

“It was more than just being cool about it and not teasing, though,” Kaminari continues. He looks ahead, seeming concentrated on whatever he’s about to say. “That would have been enough, you went above and beyond, so...thanks.”

“Oh,” Hanta says dumbly. He should be able to do better than that, but, wow. He doesn’t know what to say. “You’re welcome.”

It’s quiet for a moment, save for the sound of passing cars and their feet on the sidewalk. Hanta bites his lip. There’s a lot he could say; a lot he wants to—and a lot more that he really shouldn’t.

He’d like to tell Kaminari that he did it all because he cares, and that Kaminari deserves to be taken seriously once in a while, and that maybe it’s not so much the poetry Hanta likes as it is Kaminari. Shit. The more he thinks on those feelings, the less crazy they sound. Thankfully, Kaminari clears his throat before Hanta has the chance to ruin anything. 

“Anyway,” Kaminari says, dragging out the word nice and long. “Did you get the chance to start A Farewell to Arms yet?”

“About that,” Hanta flashes him a grin. “I kind of finished it already.”

“Legit?” Kaminari gapes, and Hanta nods back to him. “How is that even possible?”

Hanta just laughs. “I really liked it, okay? Once I got started, I couldn’t put it down. That’s why I was so tired today.”

“You’re insane.”

Hanta snorts. “Guilty as charged.”

It isn’t much farther before they come upon the club. Hanta is grateful for the gust of toasty air as they open the door, and the atmosphere inside is equally as warm. Fairy lights dangle from the ceiling, and small circle tables are scattered around the open room. At the head of it all is a stage, modest in size with a stool and microphone. The poet manning them both right now recites his words with a delicate emphasis on each syllable, and before they’re even seated Hanta can tell that Kaminari is long gone. 

“You think he wrote that himself?” Hanta whispers, shedding his jacket and hanging it on the back of his chair. 

“Probably,” Kaminari replies. “I don’t recognize it.”

As they browse the menu, the first reading comes to an end, and everybody at the tables snaps their fingers in appreciation. Hanta kind of thought that was just something people did it movies, but apparently not.

When the waitress comes to take their order, Kaminari is still entirely wrapped up in the reading. He mumbles that he’ll take the same as Hanta, so they both end up with yakisoba and Kaminari has to pick out all the broccoli from his bowl. Hanta tries not to laugh at him, but he does snort a little to himself when Kaminari gags on a piece that got past him. 

“You should go up there,” Hanta says absentmindedly when the stage is vacant.

Across the table, Kaminari chokes. “What? No way!”

“Why not? I bet your stuff is just as good as theirs. Probably better!”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, but that’s not true, man.” Kaminari takes another bite, eyes wandering off to the stage. “Besides, I couldn’t just jump up there and start reading.”

“Isn’t that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do? There’s a whiteboard over there to sign up, but it looks blank at the moment.” Hanta points to the board near the door. “This whole thing goes for a while still. Besides, nobody’s read any Hemingway yet. Isn’t that a travesty?”

Kaminari pouts. “You really know how to push my buttons. It is definitely a tragedy.”

“Well, then recite some of that instead. We both know you have a bunch of poems memorized.”

Kaminari tries to resist, but two minutes later he’s up on the stage. He clears his throat, uncomfortable in front of an audience. From his seat, Hanta is glad that this is casual; plenty of people are watching, but plenty of others aren’t paying much attention, focused more on their meals and company. 

Their eyes meet for a brief moment, and Hanta nods slowly, a gesture that he hopes is encouraging. 

Up close to the mic, the breath Kaminari takes is audible. He closes his eyes and begins to speak. 

“The Age Demanded,” Kaminari says, his voice a bit shaky. “By Ernest Hemingway.”

Hanta grins, snapping his fingers in spirited applause. It’s probably frowned upon to do so before the poem even begins, but it makes Kaminari laugh and loosens him up a bit, so Hanta counts it as a win. Now when he recites the poem, he has his usual confidence. 

 

The age demanded that we sing

And cut away our tongue.  

The age demanded that we flow

And hammered in the bung.   

The age demanded that we dance

And jammed us into iron pants.   

And in the end the age was handed

The sort of shit that it demanded.  

 

The audience rallies together with snaps, and although it’s sort of difficult to tell, Hanta thinks they liked Kaminari a lot. Maybe that’s because nobody else on that stage could hold a candle to Kaminari’s passionate delivery, if anyone wants Hanta’s opinion. 

The response is so lovely that Kaminari delivers another poem, and a third after that. By the end of it all, Hanta’s forgotten every other face on that stage—in this room—who isn’t Kaminari Denki. 

How dare he be so graceful with his words?

When Kaminari returns to their table, Hanta is flustered and the pleasant warm air feels stuffy. He pulls at this collar and takes a hefty drink of water, but Kaminari is all smiles and trembling hands, adrenaline still coursing through him. It carries him through the remainder of the meal, and he’s still buzzing as they return home. He probably can’t even feel the cold. 

They pass by a few of their classmates who are still awake in the common area, but they both agree they’re totally wiped out and just want to sleep. They’re in the elevator, and Kaminari is just about to say farewell when the thought occurs to Hanta. 

“Hey,” he says, taking a step to follow even though Kaminari hasn’t made a move to leave yet. The way Kaminari wobbles backwards tells Hanta that he’s come too close. He smiles apologetically and motions for Kaminari to lead the way out. “I don’t know if you’ve ever said—what made you like poetry so much in the first place? I know you discovered it from English class, but on a deeper level, why poetry?”

Kaminari hums thoughtfully, taking a slow pace down the hallway. “Honestly, I spend a lot of time cracking jokes and flirting, playing video games and messing around. I love all that, but it’s all so surface-level? You know? But poetry is all emotion. I think I needed an outlet like that—to just feel and be okay with it.”

Me too, Hanta realizes. He spends so much time trying to hide from his own feelings, and that’s why a lot of times poetry makes him squirm. When he indulges his emotions, though, then he becomes free of all that pressure. 

“I get it,” he says. “Thanks for sharing.”

“Yeah, well…” They come to a stop in front of Kaminari’s door, and Kaminari leans back against it. “Thanks, man. For tonight, for everything.”

Hanta’s heartbeat picks up, and his fingers twitch. He knows that they’re not as close as they were in the elevator, but he feels like they are—no, feels like he wants to be. This is dangerous. His palms begin to sweat. Meanwhile, Kaminari is just standing there, staring him down with this look

And then it’s gone. 

“Welp,” Kaminari says, “I’m beat. Time for a good night’s rest.”

“R-right.” Hanta can barely spit the word out. “You’re welcome, by the way. Uh, have a good sleep.”

So stupid. 

“Night, dude.”

Hanta gives him a wave, and then it’s just him and Kaminari’s closed door. 

“Goodnight,” he says quietly. 

And it really was.

Chapter Text

We would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright.

-Ernest Hemingway  

 

The rest of the week comes and goes, and the weather grows colder. Thankfully, the city manages to evade any snowfall, at least for the moment, so Hanta doesn’t completely hate his life yet. 

Things have been good with Kaminari. Really good. Actually, since the poetry club, things have been good altogether. They’ve been keeping up better on their studies, making great strides in their hero training, and the class overall seems to have found a certain harmony. Even Bakugou has been rather docile. Hanta isn’t going to question any of it. He’s just going to sit back and enjoy it. 

He’s in the common room with Ashido right now. They’re trying to get through as much homework as they can tonight so that they’ll have Saturday to just relax and have fun. There have been whispers of a movie night shared by their entire class, so that’s even more incentive for them. 

“How did you become so disciplined?” Ashido whines. “I don’t want to do my homework tomorrow, but I really don’t want to do it now either.”

“Honestly, I think it’s because of the poetry,” Hanta admits. “Ever since I got into it, doing my homework on time has been easier.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Ashido says. “Kaminari was secretly into poetry for like a year and a half, and he never kept up on his studies like this before.”

“Well, maybe it’s just that we want to make time for it as a shared activity? Less time stressing about schoolwork is more time to be enjoyed,” Hanta says. The beat of silence before Ashido speaks again makes him squirm a little. 

“Yeah, but,” she says, and he was expecting this, “we’ve always hung out as a group as a shared activity. Maybe it’s just something with the two of you together.”

Hanta takes a quiet breath. He’s not going to freak out about it; he’s done with that. 

“Yeah, maybe.” He shrugs. “Who even knows? Where is Kaminari anyway?”

“Dunno,” Ashido says. “Probably busy with Hemingway things, right? I asked if he wanted to grab dinner with us, but he said he wouldn’t have time.”

“Lame.” Hanta yawns. “Kirishima and Bakugou?”

“They’ll be back in a half hour,” Ashido says, checking the time on her phone. “Bakugou said, quote, they’ll be able to finish their homework way faster without us morons, and they’ll even have time to train.”

Hanta sighs. “He’s probably not wrong, unfortunately.”

He feels kind of bad putting it all on Ashido to figure things out, but it’s all part of the relaxed attitude he’s trying to develop. He’s been way too stressed lately, and allowing his friends to do as they please without trying to keep track of it all is helping a bit. 

Maintaining both his calm and his focus, they finish their work just in time for Kirishima and Bakugou to wander inside, covered in sweat with towels draped around their necks. 

“Quick shower,” Kirishima pants, and Bakugou grunts, barely acknowledging them at all. 

“Guess we’re waiting a few more minutes,” Ashido says, amused. 

So they do, and in the meantime Hanta decides to send Kaminari a few memes—not to hover; just because he thinks he’ll like them. Kaminari does like them, and sends a few back. 

 

You 6:12pm

What are you doing anyway? Studying?

 

Kaminari 6:13pm

Done already. Take a guess

 

Ashido peeks over his shoulder and gasps. “Are you texting Kaminari? No fair! He’s been ignoring me.”

“Memes are the key,” Hanta says, smug. 

 

You 6:15pm

Poetry

 

Kaminari 6:15pm

Bingo (☞゚ヮ゚)☞ 

 

You 6:17pm

Come have dinner with us

 

He bites his lip. He’s not going to get desperate. 

 

Kaminari 6:20pm

Cant, I’m working on something

 

Cryptic… 

 

You 6:21pm

Lame

 

Kaminari 6:22pm

Nah

 

He leaves it at that for the sake of his sanity, and once he and the others take off for dinner, it’s out of sight and out of mind. It’s easy to distract himself, though, considering the wide variety of personalities between just the four of them at the table. 

“I don’t know how you guys can eat shit like this,” Bakugou remarks, holding up his cheeseburger with disgust.

“Aw, chill out, man,” Hanta says. “Unwinding once in a while is good for you, even if the food isn’t.”

“Besides, if you hate it so much then why did you come to a McDonalds in the first place?” Ashido points out with a shit-eating grin. 

Hanta knows better than to add anything to the teasing, but he can’t help snickering to himself. He’d bet money that the only reason Bakugou is here is to spend time with Kirishima. Maybe Bakugou doesn’t mind the rest of them that much either.

He won’t bring it up now, but Hanta is pretty sure Ashido hit the nail right on the head the other day: Kirishima has done wonders for Bakugou. The boy who was once feared and loathed by everyone in their class has now found a place among them. Hanta might even consider him a friend, and even if Bakugou pretends otherwise, Hanta is pretty sure he feels the same way about all of them.  

It’s beautiful chaos around the table. Bakugou is yelling at Ashido to mind her own business, but their squad is far past finding his verbal explosions intimidating (the physical ones are a different story), so Ashido is a barrel of laughs. The only thing that calms Bakugou down is Kirishima’s hand on his shoulder, and with nothing more than that and a quiet giggle, the redhead has tamed the vicious beast. 

“Fucking whatever,” Bakugou grumbles, finishing off his burger and folding his arms across his chest. 

It’s an act they all see through by now.

Those two are so lucky. Lucky to have each other. Lucky that their feelings are clearly mutual, if only Bakugou would admit it. 

When they return to the dorms, they all go their separate ways—Ashido to meet up with some of the girls from their class, Bakugou to sleep, and Kirishima and Hanta to their respective dorms. If Hanta takes a detour on his way back, well, so what?

He wanders down the hallway that leads to Kaminari’s room. It’s on a completely different floor than his own, but Hanta just wants to pop in and say hello.

From the end of the hall, Hanta can see that the door is cracked open. It’s not too unusual, one might even say it’s common for students to leave their doors wide open as an invitation to hang out any time. It sounds like someone might be in there with him now, in fact, because Hanta can hear Kaminari speaking.

It’s just Kaminari’s voice, though, Hanta realizes, and he tries not to be too relieved that there’s no sign of Jirou. (Jealousy is stupid, and Jirou has done no wrong, he reminds himself.) 

If it’s a conversation he’s hearing, it’s very one-sided—and rhythmically balanced, and poetic in nature.

Hanta freezes when he comes to the realization that Kaminari is practicing his reading. He’s heard it before, obviously, and Kaminari probably would have no problem continuing if he knew Hanta was there, but he can’t help staying quiet for just a moment. He wants to know if Kaminari is different without an audience—if he has stage-fright at all, if he could somehow muster up more joy or despair than he’s able to when Hanta is present. 

He stands there, glued to the wall, the warm light from Kaminari’s dorm spilling out the cracked doorway and onto the wall. It touches Hanta’s arm, curving at his elbow and bending towards his face. The pleasant heat in his chest doesn’t come from that, though; it comes from the poem Kaminari reads:

Desire and

All the sweet pulsing aches

And gentle hurtings

That were you,

Are gone into the sullen dark.

Now in the night you come unsmiling

To lie with me

A full, cold, rigid bayonet

On my hot-swollen, throbbing soul. 

He reads through it once from beginning to end, and a few more times starting and stopping in various places, but every time sounds perfect to Hanta. He shivers a bit—the sad, suggestive words shaking him to his core. Beautiful.

“Now in the night you come unsmiling,” Kaminari says, pausing. “To lie with me—no, that’s not it. Shorter pause. Now in the night you come unsmiling, to lie with me. A full, cold, rigid bayonet on my hot-swollen, throbbing soul.”

“Brilliant, dude,” Hanta announces himself, snapping all the way through the door.

Kaminari jumps at the sound, and his face drains of color. “Oh my gosh—you can’t sneak up on a guy like that, Sero!”

“My bad,” Hanta cackles. “I didn’t really mean to. I just didn’t want to interrupt and ended up listening for a while.”

“Like a creep,” Kaminari glares. 

“Yeah, exactly,” Hanta winks. “Did you write that?”

“Ha, I wish.”

“Hemingway?”

“Good guess,” Kaminari confirms. “Am I that predictable? Actually, don’t answer that.”

Hanta snorts and helps himself onto Kaminari’s bed, lounging on the plush comforter. “How have I never caught you practicing out loud before? Wasn’t this supposed to be a big secret?”

Kaminari just shrugs, crouching on the edge of the bed. “Yeah, but I used to have to be way more careful. I’d never practice in my room where anyone could walk by hear. Now it doesn’t matter so much.”

Rolling onto his elbow, Hanta turns to look at Kaminari, eyes narrowed. “Are you saying you have a secret spot you never mentioned to me?”

“You heard me.”

Hanta fake gasps. “Dude! What ever happened to ‘bros before secret hiding spots?’”

“Funny,” Kaminari taps his chin, “I don’t think I’ve heard that saying before.”

“You’re gonna show me, though, right?”

“Mmm,” Kaminari hums thoughtfully, and Hanta can tell the answer before it’s said. “Nah, it’s still top secret. If I wanted to practice my own poems or just have a private place to think I’d probably go there.”

Hanta sighs. “Fair enough, I suppose.” It’s then that he remembers both that he wasn’t invited and that he hadn’t planned to stay. Hanta wills himself up, stretching the joints that had quickly grown comfortable on the bed. “I’ll leave you to it, though. I’m gonna go crash.”

Kaminari is suspiciously quiet, and he remains that way until Hanta is two steps from the door.

“Hanta,” he says suddenly. “Do you wanna stay?”

The hairs on Hanta’s arms prickle upwards at the sound of his given name on Kaminari’s mouth. He’s not sure if Kaminari wants him to stay for a little while, for the night, or forever, but in this moment the answer is the same regardless.

“Okay,” he says, just a whisper. 

He returns to the bed on a dreamy cloud, sitting down with such reverence that one would never guess he’s spent countless evenings spilling Cheeto crumbs on the same surface. 

“I just,” Kaminari starts, not quite meeting his eyes despite Hanta’s best efforts. “I was kinda being a flake earlier, so I thought I’d make up for it.”

“No biggie, man,” Hanta replies. “But I’m happy to stick around. What do you wanna do?”

“Kick your butt at Mario Kart,” Kaminari says without missing a beat.

“Oh, yeah right!”

But he does. Time and time again. They play several rounds until it’s not even fun anymore because Hanta sucks that bad. He’s always a little iffy with this game, but tonight his focus is completely askew, so his skills are extra trash.

“At least make it a little challenging,” Kaminari laughs, and at this point, he’s not gloating; just being honest. 

“Sorry,” Hanta cringes. “If you wanna play a fighting game I’d be a much better competitor.”

“Eh, I’ll pass. I said I want a challenge, not to be completely destroyed.”

Hanta always wins at fighting games. 

“Suit yourself,” Hanta shrugs as Kaminari turns off the game. 

Kaminari flops back down on the bed, leaving Hanta on the floor where they’d been sitting. He leans back against the mattress, hearing Kaminari rustle around with the blankets and not thinking much of it until the distinct sound of turning pages tickles his ears. 

Craning his neck, Hanta spots the book in Kaminari’s hands. “Were you hiding that under your pillow?”

“Not intentionally! Stuff just gets buried sometimes.”

“Who is it?” Because Hanta already knows what it is. 

Kaminari is already nose-deep into the book. “Ginsberg. I’ve been enjoying his work recently.”

“Care to share with the rest of the class?”

Kaminari scoffs. “If the rest of the class is you, then sure.”

Hanta gives him a thumbs-up, resting his head against the bed and closing his eyes. He’s ready to relax, to let his mind melt away into Kaminari’s soft, smooth voice. Any poem will do, as long as Kaminari is the one to read it.

They fly lazily through Ginsberg, and poem by poem, Hanta feels more at home here. Some of them Kaminari reads in a hushed voice, others he rattles off quick and sharp, some they can’t help but laugh through because Ginsberg is a little dramatic and sometimes inappropriate, and they’re sixteen-year-old boys, so sue them for finding it funny. At some point, Kaminari beckons Hanta to join him on the bed, because his voice is tired and Hanta can’t hear him well from the floor. 

They sit there side by side, backs pressed to the headboard, shoulders gently pressed to one another. It’s comfortable. 

“What now?” Kaminari asks, having just finished the last poem in the collection. His voice is a bit hoarse from all the reading, and he licks his lips to moisten them. 

Hanta cozies down further into the bed, half-laying and letting his head fall against Kaminari’s bicep. He’s too tired to over-think. A quick glance at his phone shows that it’s nearing one in the morning, but he isn’t ready to leave yet. 

“Read a love poem,” he says instead. “You’re good at those.”

“Oh.” Kaminari pauses. Hanta feels him wiggling, presumably pulling out his phone. “Okay.”

He’s quiet then, tapping away on his phone, so Hanta waits patiently—waits for the honey-sweet sound of his voice to permeate the air again. When it does, Hanta isn’t disappointed. 

“One Hundred Love Sonnets,” Kaminari begins. “By Pablo Neruda.”

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,

or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:

I love you as one loves certain obscure things,

secretly, between the shadow and the soul.  

Hanta shifts, hoping to get a decent view of Kaminari’s pretty face without forfeiting this cozy position resting against him. The words feel important. They feel relevant, like they’ve been written specifically for Hanta, and Kaminari is the messenger. 

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries

the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,

and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose

from Earth lives dimly in my body. 

 

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,

I love you directly without problems or pride:

I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,

except in this form which I am not nor are you,

so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,

so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Hanta’s chest is tight, his body full of pleasant tingles and something that feels like adrenaline. He’s tired, and stupidly daring, and he’s feeling all sorts of things, and the voice of tomorrow says that is a very bad combination, but the voice of tonight says to cast away all fears and doubts and to just be

“You’re really amazing, you know,” he whispers. “Not just because of the poetry, but because of you. You’re funny, and stupid, and a dork, but you also have all these feelings, and you can express them so well, and that’s so brave and cool.”

Kaminari is deathly quiet. It turns out that the voice of tomorrow was actually the voice of ten-seconds-from-now, and the regret is already seeping into Hanta’s skin. He sits up fully, turning for a proper look at Kaminari’s face. The expression on it is painfully unreadable, and it sends Hanta scrambling. 

“Sorry,” he shakes his head. “That was probably too much. I meant it, but maybe it was weird to say. It’s just—the poem made me remember how you said people discount your feelings, and—”

“It’s okay, dude,” Kaminari says, hugging his knees. When Hanta looks closely he can see a tiny smile. “You’re all of those things too. And thanks. That’s probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Hanta lets out a quiet hum, and they sink into comfortable silence. After all that just happened, Hanta is all too aware of his shoulder still brushing up against Kaminari’s. He doesn’t dare to move so close as he was before. 

“Hey, Hanta?” Kaminari says softly, and that’s the second time he’s used Hanta’s given name today.

Is that what they’re doing now? Surely, Kaminari’s given name has slipped out once or twice before, right? Suddenly, Hanta isn’t sure.

But he wants to try it—wants to see how it feels on his tongue. 

“Hey, Denki,” he mirrors back, offering Kaminari the chance to laugh it off as a joke.

He doesn’t laugh, though, and that’s good, because it felt so lovely and right that Hanta is sure he could never go back now. 

“Can I show you something?” Denki asks.

Hanta’s heart skips a beat. “O-okay.”

“Okay,” Denki says, and with that, he’s off the bed and rummaging around in his closet.

He pulls out two hoodies and tosses one to Hanta. While Hanta stares down, baffled, at the garment, Denki is gathering up blankets from the bed and closet.

“Come on, dude!” Denki jars him out of his haze, throwing a pillow square at his face. 

Hanta nods, yanking the sweatshirt over his head and splitting the load of pillows and blankets with Denki. All he can do is follow after him as he marches out the door and down the hall. They wind up taking the stairs all the way up, coming to a door Hanta’s never opened before. 

Denki motions for Hanta to pass through first. “After you.”

Hanta follows directions, stepping out the door and onto—the roof? 

“Welcome to my secret spot,” Denki says, closing the door behind them. 

“Wow, but—why’d you show me?”

Denki shrugs. “Just because. C’mon.”

Hanta takes a few steps out to the middle of the rooftop as Denki lays out the blankets. It’s not an especially tall building, but he can see most of the campus from here, and even the distant lights of the city. It’s understandable why Denki would come here. 

Hanta drops the pillows onto the blanket sits down, following Denki’s lead when he lays backwards and rests his hands behind his head.

“Nice, right?” Denki sighs. “It’s quiet and secluded, and if Aizawa forgets to turn the flood light on I can kinda see the stars on an extra clear night.”

The flood light is on tonight, and the clouded sky drowns out any possibility of starlight. Even so, there’s something inherently beautiful about the emptiness in the sky above. 

“It’s really nice,” Hanta agrees. “You come up here to practice poetry?”

“Yeah. Or sometimes I’m trying to write and I just need a change of scene from my room. Sometimes I just want to be alone.”

Hanta steals a glance at Denki, hoping to both study and understand him within a split second. “But not tonight?”

“Nah,” Denki confirms, looking at Hanta from the corner of his eye and smiling softly. “I didn’t wanna be alone tonight.”

Why does this all feel so intimate? Given name or not, this is still Denki—his best friend, his partner in crime. Denki, his bro since the first day of school. Denki, notoriously straight. Denki, who’s lying very close and whose beautiful eyes might just be the death of Hanta. 

“Look,” Denki says suddenly, pointing up at the sky.

Snowflakes tumble gently from the clouded night sky. They twist and turn, glimmering in the flood light and dancing like fairies. It’s better than a sky full of stars. Hanta shivers from the cold as the snow wets his skin, but for once he doesn’t mind. 

“Here,” Denki says, throwing the extra blanket over them both. 

“Thanks.” Hanta pulls the blanket up to his neck and snuggles into the pillow. 

Denki does the same, turning on his side to face Hanta. He isn’t sure how long they stay like that, but every second of it is pure contentment. Sometimes they talk and laugh like normal, sometimes they’re quiet. There’s no poetry this time, nothing for Hanta to blame these feelings on. The more he looks at Denki, the more tempting it is to lean over him and press their lips together.

I like you. Maybe I even love you. 

It’s not a sudden realization. Hanta isn’t startled by it. He’s not frightened. In fact, it feels as if a veil has slowly been lifted from his eyes. The walls of ice he’d put up have melted away, and all that’s left is the tiny flame that has been building in his heart all along. He sits in that flame, ready to accept it, ready to nurture it. He can panic later. 

He manages to hold it together until they find themselves dozing off and decide to call it a night. It’s only when he’s alone that the need for release grows strong, and he seeks out the one person he can talk to about this. 

He finds himself at Kirishima’s door, and usually he’d knock, but he’s too pumped up on emotions, too happy and giddy to even think of it. He swings the door open and as soon as he sees that there’s a lamp on in the room, he lets it all out. 

“I know it’s late, but I just have to say this. I like Denki. You were totally right. I like him as more than a friend. Oh crap, I like him so much. I think I knew already, but I’m not scared of it anymore. I’m ready to face these feelings head-on like a man, just like you said.”

Having gotten that all off his chest, Hanta can finally breathe. He makes eye contact with Kirishima, who just blinks. 

Bakugou blinks too. Why is Bakugou here?

They’re sitting on Kirishima’s bed, both of them looking thoroughly disheveled with red, slightly swollen lips. 

“WHAT THE FUCK, SOY SAUCE FACE!” Bakugou screams before Kirishima presses a pillow to his fire-red face. 

What the hell did he just walk in on?

Chapter Text

“Maybe...you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”

“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”

“Yes, I want to ruin you.”

“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”

-Ernest Hemingway 

 

Once Hanta comes to terms with the fact that yes, he did indeed just walk in on a makeout session between Kirishima and Bakugou, and once it’s absolutely clear that Bakugou isn’t going to explode Hanta into pure ash, they’re able to sit down and talk.

The two of them just had their first kiss tonight (and presumably many more kisses after that), and they’re going to tell everyone about it soon. Hanta promises to keep his mouth shut until then, and since now clearly isn’t a good time for a conversation with Kirishima, he says goodnight quickly after that. 

“I’m proud of you, man,” Kirishima says, beaming with happiness, before Hanta can step out the door. “We’ll talk more later.”

And now he’s here, one terrible night of sleep and most of a lazy Saturday later. He allowed much of the day to pass him by, scrolling through his phone and reading through half of A Farewell to Arms again just for the heck of it. 

He thinks a lot about how happy he is for Kirishima and Bakugou. He thinks about Denki a lot too. If he’d given into his desires last night and kissed Denki, would they have spent hours kissing like Kirishima and Bakugou?

No. It seems so unlikely. Hanta is bi and Denki is straight. Straight, straight, straight. Sure, there’s a slim chance that Denki is secretly bi too, but it hardly seems worth risking their entire friendship to find out. Of course, his heart is much less open to this fact than his brain. 

It’s gonna hurt either way

By the time he’s made himself a bowl of microwave ramen and slurped it down, most of the class has gathered in the commons for movie night. Denki, sandwiched between Ojirou and Midoriya on one couch, gives Hanta a bright wave as he approaches. 

“Heyo,” Hanta waves back tiredly, plopping down next to Ashido. “What are we watching?”

“That freaky horror film that I begged everyone not to vote for,” Ashido frowns, already trembling with fear. 

“I thought you liked scary movies,” Hanta says.

“Yeah, but only in the day time! Now I’m gonna be up all night.”

“Don’t worry, Mina,” Tsu says from the floor in front of them. “I’ll keep you company if you can’t sleep.”

Iida is still trying to get the movie set up when Kirishima and Bakugou finally join them. They take the remainder of Hanta’s couch, which Bakugou has apparently reserved, saying he “wasn’t going to watch some fucking stupid movie if he had to sit on the shitty floor.” Most likely, it was Kirishima’s kind follow-up that convinced the rest of the class to abide by this. Honestly, Hanta is still impressed by how social Bakugou is these days. 

The movie is just beginning, and Iida goes to shut off the lights. Beside him, Bakugou swings an arm around Kirishima’s shoulder. Whether he truly thought nobody would notice or it’s how they’re breaking the news to everyone Hanta can’t be sure, but it’s clearly not a stealthy move. 

“Oh my gosh,” Ashido points, ready to lay on the teasing again. “Will somebody just make those two kiss already?”

“Fuck you.” Bakugou flips her off and pulls Kirishima in by the collar for a kiss. 

Everything stops. A few people gasp, and Hanta can’t help but snap a picture of Ashido’s face, her eyes and mouth wide open. The camera shutter is the only sound to be heard among them. 

And then cheers erupt. 

“It finally happened!”

“How long, you two?”

“Kirishima and Bakugou? Who would’ve thought?”

“Are you kidding? It was totally obvious!”

“As class rep, I offer you both the most sincere congratulations!”

“Yeah—uh—congrats, Kacchan!”

“First of all,” Bakugou roars, quieting them all. He clears his throat. “Fuck you, Deku. Second of all, fuck the rest of you.”

“Or maybe just Kirishima.” Ashido wiggles her eyebrows suggestively. “I totally called it!”

Sparks fly from Bakugou’s hands. “SHUT THE HELL UP, RACCOON EYES!”

“Bakugou, please!” Iida scolds, finally turning off the lights. “Although this is a joyous occasion, I still must insist that you watch your language if we are to proceed with the movie!”

“Alright, alright.” Kirishima calms everyone. “Thank you all. We’re very happy together. Now, uh, let's maybe just watch the movie?”

Everyone seems satisfied with that. They have to restart the movie because they talked over so much of the beginning, but once they get started, everyone sinks into silence—save for Hagakure who is a nervous talker. The movie isn’t even that scary. If they wanted a real horror flick, Hanta is sure he could give them a few suggestions. Nevertheless, it’s fun, and some of the jump scares give him a good laugh.

When the movie is over and the lights are on again, they all stand up and stretch their limbs. Hanta can’t help but smile as Kirishima and Bakugou walk off, hand in hand. He wishes that he’d made time today to talk with Kirishima about what he should do with his feelings for Denki, but now that he thinks about it, he was probably a little nervous that he’d walk in on something again. 

He’s standing there idly, just watching the happy couple as the elevator door shuts behind them, when Denki appears at his side. 

“Wanna hang out for a while?” Denki asks, but when Hanta turns towards him, he sees that Denki’s eyes are fixated on Kirishima and Bakugou too. 

“Sure,” Hanta says, but it sounds a bit like a question. “You good, man?”

Come to think of it, he hadn’t really noticed Denki’s reaction in all the commotion. He seems quiet, and that’s unusual for him in the midst of something so exciting.

“Yeah,” Denki replies, shaking his head as if to snap himself out of it. “Your room? You’ve got the best games.”

“Sounds good.”

“‘Kay.” Denki salutes and runs off to the elevator. “I’m gonna swing by my room and change real quick. If I have to spend another minute in jeans I might just die.”

“O...Kay,” Hanta replies, but Denki is already gone. They could have just rode up together.

He shrugs it off and heads for the stairs instead, taking them two at a time so he might have time to change too. When he gets to his dorm, however, Kirishima is blocking the doorway. 

“Hey, man.” Kirishima leans back against the door. “I’d call that a success, wouldn’t you?”

“Congrats, dude. How does it feel?”

“Weird, but good. I didn’t expect it to be such a big deal, but at least they were supportive. I’m actually not here to talk about me, though.” Folding his arms, Kirishima stares him down, making Hanta squirm.

“I’d really like to talk about—well,” Hanta pauses, double checking that nobody else has wandered down the hall. “I’d like to talk about the stuff I mentioned last night, but it’s not really a good time. Kaminari is gonna be here any minute.”

Kirishima pouts. “Fine. I was really looking forward to some manly conversation about feelings, but I guess it’ll have to wait. Basically, I just wanted to say to take things at your own pace. I hope I haven’t been rushing you.”

“You haven’t,” Hanta says. “Honestly, you were right about everything, and it’s kind of a relief to admit those feelings to myself. I still don’t think he’ll ever feel the same way, but that’s something I can work through.”

“Good.” Kirishima gives him a thumbs-up. “Just remember: no matter what, he’s gonna be your friend. I don’t think you could ruin that if you tried.”

Hanta looks at the floor, trying to ignore the ache in his chest. “I’m not so sure.”

“Well I am,” Kirishima says, “but you take your time with it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Hanta waves him off. “Don’t you have a boyfriend to make out with or something?”

“Pfft.” Kirishima is too busy blushing to give any more of a response than that. He retreats, offering a weak wave and finally letting Hanta into his own room.

Denki is probably on his way here already, so Hanta knows he has to be quick. He practically rips his clothes off, fumbling about and banging his knee against the nightstand as he frantically tugs on his comfiest flannel pajama pants. He’s not yet pulled a fresh T-shirt over his head when Denki invites himself in, and without meaning to, Hanta stops in his tracks to take in the sight. 

None of this should be revolutionary. Denki’s just wearing casual clothes. What should be so special about that? But the sweatpants hug him in all the right places and make him look so soft and cozy, and since when does he wear v-necks? And since when does the sight of his collarbone peeking out from the loose fabric of a v-neck turn Hanta on?

Hanta has never associated softness with masculinity until this moment, and oh man, has he ever been missing out. 

“Sup, dude?” Denki asks, clearing his throat, and Hanta realizes that he’s been staring.

As casually as he can manage, he finishes dressing himself and shrugs. “You just startled me.”

“Sorry. Think fast!” Denki grins wickedly and chucks an orange at Hanta. Their hero training must be paying off, because he’s able to retrieve it with his tape without even thinking. 

“What’s this for?” Hanta hadn’t even noticed Denki carrying it at first. It seems he has one for each of them. 

“Just a snack,” Denki says, and it’s explanation enough, but the way he says it suggests something more.

Hanta won’t question it too much. Oranges are his favorite after all, so he can’t complain.

Denki makes himself at home as Hanta gets the game set up. They start off with a fighting game, and true to form, Hanta takes just about every victory. Denki’s a good sport, though, and they have their oranges to eat anyway, so who can really focus on the game?

Part of Hanta wishes he’d been prepared for a snack, because they had nowhere to put the orange peels except for his nightstand, but the sweet aroma the peels leave in the air is pleasant enough to change his mind. It’s better than an artificial scent from a candle or air freshener, and the fact that it’s thanks to Denki makes it all the more lovely. 

Surprisingly, even when they switch to a racing game (which is usually much more in Denki’s skill set), Hanta still wins each time. The oranges have been eaten, so what’s the problem? For a minute, Hanta actually thinks Denki is going easy on him, but that wouldn’t make sense; Denki is too competitive for that, and he has to reason to pity Hanta. 

“What’s with you tonight?” Hanta asks, and Denki stiffens. 

That doesn’t make Hanta feel better. Even worse is that Denki declines to reply at all. 

“Are you,” Hanta pauses. “Are you mad at me?”

It’s not a very good theory. Denki is the one who asked to hang out, and he’d even brought Hanta an orange to eat. Why would he do either of those things if he was mad? Angry or not, though, he’s definitely acting strange. 

“What?” Denki looks up suddenly. “No, man. No way. Why would you think that?”

“You’re just,” Hanta searches for the right words. “You’re not yourself.”

Hanta watches carefully as Denki bites his lip, guilty. He’s deep in thought, Hanta can tell, but until he’s able to explain, Hanta can’t help him. Denki is so still that he’d look less tense if he were up and pacing the room. Instead, he sits in silence, eyes fixed on the floor and hands folded tightly together. When he does finally meet Hanta’s eyes, Denki looks scared. 

His voice shakes when he speaks. “How do you know if you like guys?”

Hanta’s heart stops. There are a million questions he wants to ask, most of them selfish, but he knows he needs to choose his words wisely and focus on Denki’s needs. Less than two days ago, Hanta had been experiencing this same identity crisis, and it was no fun at all.

“Do you think you might?” Hanta asks, and Denki nods. His next question isn’t meant to be nosy, but he’s worried it will come off that way. He just needs to know how to proceed in helping. “Are you jealous of Bakugou?”

It suddenly seems like a possibility. If Denki secretly had feelings for Kirishima all this time, it would explain why he’s been acting so weird whenever anyone talks about them as a couple. 

Denki actually laughs. He still seems a bit nervous, but the quiet giggles that sneak through his mouth seem genuine. “Definitely not. If I liked guys, it wouldn’t be either of them. I think they’re both way too much man for me.”

Interesting…

“Okay, then…” Hanta pauses, pulling at a loose fiber in the rug. “What’s got you thinking about it?”

“Ever since Ashido first mentioned it,” Denki says slowly, “I haven’t been able to stop wondering. It’s like I opened my mind to it and—and…”

Hanta hates to see Denki so tortured—hates that he doesn’t know how to ease his mind. When Hanta started questioning his sexuality, in the back of his mind he always knew. He’s not in Denki’s mind, though, and if Denki does like boys, who knows how difficult or easy it will be for him to accept himself?

How do you help someone else work through such complicated things when you’ve barely figured it out for yourself?

“Maybe you have to try it to know for sure?” Hanta suggests. It’s a terrible idea, really, but it’s all he’s got. “Like me and poetry.”

Denki’s hands clench into fists. “Okay, but how am I supposed to do that? Just go up to some random guy and ask if I can test my sexuality by kissing him?”

“You could try it on me,” Hanta hears himself say.

Oh. It’s all he can do not to slap his hand over his mouth. Where did he get off making such a suggestion? Hanta knows he likes Denki, and Denki doesn’t know how he feels at all, and it’s a recipe for self-destruction, and surely the last thing Denki will want to do is—

“Really?” Denki’s voice is small. “You mean it? I know it might be weird, but part of me wanted to ask, because—”

“You’re my best friend,” Hanta says, and he’s somehow adopted Kirishima’s certainty. He gets it now. “Nothing will ever be weird between us.”

Hanta wants it, yes, but I’m this moment, he wants it just as much for Denki’s sake as his own. Maybe even more. If it will help Denki, then he’ll try his hardest to swallow his own feelings and just do it. 

“Okay,” Denki whispers as Hanta scoots forward, and Hanta feels the breath on his own lips. 

Their knees are touching, and Hanta can feel Denki’s whole body trembling. He tries to steady him with a gentle hand, cupping Denki’s cheek. Denki shudders at the touch but leans into it, golden eyes fluttering closed. 

With his own heart pounding, Hanta leans in, touching his nose to Denki’s briefly, giving him the chance to call it off before anything happens. He doesn’t call it off, though, so Hanta musters up all the bravery he has and presses his lips to Denki’s.

For a few seconds, they’re still. Tingles buzz up Hanta’s arms, resonating in his chest and warming him to the core. It’s as if Denki is zapping him with ten million volts, but Hanta knows that’s not the case at all.

He didn’t even realize how much he wanted this. 

Losing himself for a moment, Hanta tilts his head to the side, opening his mouth just slightly to deepen the kiss. He lets his hand slide to the back of Denki’s neck, lets his fingers curl softly into his hair.

For his part, Denki remains pliant. Not pulling away, but also not offering much in return. There’s a timidity there, and Hanta doesn’t want to take advantage of him in the midst of his uncertainty.

There’s the quietest of pops when Hanta pulls back, and then the sound of his embarrassingly uneven breathing, but Denki says nothing. He’s looking at Hanta with cloudy, hooded eyes that don’t reveal much at all. 

“So,” Hanta says, trying not to pant. “Did you feel anything?”

“No.”

“Oh.” Hanta nods, trying to play it cool. Trying to mask his disappointment. “Okay, well, at least you know—”

But then Denki is back on him—pulling him by the shoulders back in, kissing him roughly on the mouth. Now Denki’s hands are tangled in Hanta’s hair, and his mouth is the first to fall open, trying to get closer, closer, closer. 

Hanta is shocked at first, but he recovers quickly, his senses alive and on fire. He gives Denki what he wants (he’d give him anything), sitting up on his knees and pulling Denki with him so that their bodies press together. The feeling of Denki’s chest, warm and hard and toned against Hanta’s, is enough to shut off all his thoughts except for those asking how he can keep this going longer. 

“Maybe,” Denki whispers against Hanta’s lips, and it takes Hanta a moment to realize that he’s correcting his earlier answer. 

It’s a good enough response for Hanta. 

His hands wander Denki’s body, touching his collarbone, his shoulder blades, his lower back, grabbing at the fabric of his shirt with a tight fist.

He’s kissing Denki. He’s kissing Denki.

I’m kissing Denki!

No matter how many times he thinks it, he still can’t process it. It doesn’t matter, though. It feels so good and perfect, and it’s better than he’d imagined it would be, and holy shit, he’s kissing Denki. 

Denki’s fingers trace the skin at the hemline of Hanta’s shirt, and when his tongue slides across Hanta’s lower lip he lets out a soft moan against his own volition. He’s not embarrassed, though, because Denki seems to like it. He lets his tongue jut out to brush against Denki’s, and is pleased when Denki makes a similar noise.

In spite of the fact that this is all just a meaningless practice kiss to help Denki decode his feelings, Hanta wants to make it count. He pushes back against Denki, encouraging him to lean backwards to the floor. They’re a pile of limbs, clumsily getting tangled in the cords of their discarded gaming controllers, but once situated, they fall effortlessly back into the kiss. 

Hanta’s knee finds a place between Denki’s, and he rests on his elbows, their lips finding each other’s again. If Denki wants him to stop, he will, but right now they seem equally hungry for more. Maybe too hungry.

Every place where their bodies touch, Hanta feels hot. Denki squirms beneath him, pulling at whatever part of Hanta his hands land on. Every once in a while he makes this little throaty noise against Hanta’s mouth, and Hanta can’t get enough of it. At the same time, if he keeps that up, things might happen that neither of them are prepared to deal with. Hanta can feel where all the blood is flowing in his body, and as much as he wants to let it continue and as good as this all feels—

“Okay,” he whispers, pulling back. This time he’s definitely panting, and he can’t even pretend to hide it, but it’s okay, because Denki is just as flustered. 

His hair is a mess and his glassy eyes keep flickering to Hanta’s mouth. 

“Well that’s,” Denki starts, taking an unsteady breath. “That’s some good food for thought.”

Hanta nods. He’s still on top of Denki, and he wants to caress his face again, but he knows that’s not what this is. He climbs off and offers Denki a hand, pulling him into a sitting position again.

They sit quietly, and it’s a little uncomfortable, Hanta admits. Then he looks at Denki and snickers, because he has an orange peel stuck in his hair. He picks it out and tosses it in the pile on the nightstand, and the ice is once again broken. 

“Your room’s a pit, man,” Denki jokes. “Food everywhere.”

Hanta tries to glare, but he can’t even fake it. “It’s your fault!”

“Me?” Denki gasps angelically. “I’m completely innocent. I bring you gifts, and this is how you repay me?”

Hanta smirks. “Fair, fair.”

It isn’t long after that Denki heads out. The fact that neither of them have any interest in continuing their video game is no shock; on one hand, everything feels perfectly normal, like he’s just hanging out with his best bro, but on the other hand, he really wants to make out with his best bro. It’s difficult to get his mind to settle, and even more so his body. Denki had been the one trembling before, but now it’s all Hanta.

When the door closes and Hanta is alone in his thoughts, he’s his own worst enemy. It’s a battle not to call Denki back, a battle not to overthink it all, a battle not to finish what Denki has started in his body—but no, he refuses to jerk off to Denki. When they’ve already made out and Hanta is well aware of his massive crush, somehow that seems like the line he shouldn’t cross. 

So he distracts himself with the overthinking. It’s a better alternative. He thinks about how stupid he is and how wonderful it was. He wonders if Denki will ever want to do it again; if he’s only causing himself pain; if he’s a bad person for not telling Denki how he feels.

Hanta falls back into his bed and presses his pillow over his face. It’s a functional way to muffle his scream, but he also kind of hopes he might suffocate right here and now.

How can something so good be so...complicated? And complicated was exactly what he’d promised Denki it wouldn’t be. He needs help. He needs Kirishima. 

You 12:38am

Hey man. Can you come to my room? I think you’ll wanna hear about the night I just had. 

Chapter Text

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?

-Ernest Hemingway 



Kirishima is quick. Hanta is halfway suspicious that he’d been waiting around for such a text, ready to burst into action. It’s funny to think about, but not altogether unrealistic. Someone has to be the mom of the group, and goodness knows it isn’t Ashido. 

He comes prepared with popcorn and tissues. Hanta is pretty sure tears won’t be shed, but it’s a nice sentiment.

Kirishima plops onto the bed with a sigh, handing Hanta the bowl of popcorn. “Alright, man. Tell me all about it.”

Hanta scratches the back of his neck. “You’re not gonna believe it.”

“You confessed?” Kirishima guesses hopefully. 

“Well—no, not exactly.”

Now he gasps. “Kaminari confessed?”

“Kirishima!”

“Alright, alright,” Kirishima surrenders. “Just tell me and I’ll listen quietly.”

“Okay.” Hanta takes a deep breath. And then he realizes that he’s in a position of trust with Denki. Shit. He can’t just out him to Kirishima—especially when Denki is still questioning. “Damn.”

Kirishima frowns. “Damn what?”

Hanta throws his arm over his eyes, groaning. A few pieces of popcorn fall into the bedspread and sink into the indent made by his body. “I can’t tell you. I wanted to, but I can’t.”

The bed creaks as Kirishima shifts, but Hanta doesn’t look up. It’s embarrassing to have called him here so excited and then refuse to explain himself. He can’t even explain why he can’t tell; that would just give it all away. 

“Okay,” Kirishima says after a moment. “That’s fine. You seem unhappy, though, so is there any way I can help?”

Is there? Hanta tries to think of something. Obviously Kirishima can’t make Denki like him back, but maybe he can at least cheer Hanta up? Or make this crush dissolve into thin air?

“Can you go find me another orange?” Hanta settles for that. Worldly comforts will have to do for now. 

Kirishima chuckles. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Hanta feels the bed shift and the door open. When Kirishima is gone, he shimmies under the covers and pulls them up over his head, plucking up the straggler pieces of popcorn along his way and eating them. He’d like to just go to sleep, but he’s still pretty worked up and his mind is racing. 

What is he supposed to do if he can’t even talk to Kirishima about this? Being that for a while their situations were so similar, venting to Kirishima was a small comfort, but now that’s off the table.

But maybe it’s not so bad. He got to make out with Denki—what’s more, Denki practically asked him to do it. Even if it never happens again, at least he knows what it’s like. At least he has that experience.

Of course, now he just wants more. You win some, you lose some. 

The door opens again, and from his blanket cocoon Hanta hears footsteps and tiny thud on his nightstand. He reaches a hand out, searching and finding the orange. 

“Thanks, dude,” he says, pulling the fruit back into the blanket. 

“No prob,” Kirishima replies. “Talk to me any time, okay? Now, uh, I’m gonna go—”

“Make out with Bakugou?” Hanta guesses. 

“Dude!” Kirishima whines. More footsteps. The door opens once again. “...Yes.”

Kirishima closes the door quickly behind him, leaving Hanta unsure of whether to laugh or shake his head. Both, perhaps. Both is good. 



•••



Among the millions of other things Hanta is unsure of these days, he’s also unsure of how to move forward from his makeout session with Denki. He knows that emotionally it wasn’t supposed to mean anything, so he tries to tame those feelings (and hormones—gag) so that he’s not all-consumed by it. Even with all that aside, though, there’s still the matter of how the two of them will handle it.

So far, his strategy has been to just pretend it didn’t happen at all. Act completely normal, hard as it is, and then there’s no risk of their friendship being ruined. If Denki ever wants to do it again, Hanta is down, obviously, but he knows better than to bring it up himself. He’ll leave it to Denki, since the situation is about his emotional needs.

If Denki wants to discuss it, they will. If Denki doesn’t want to, they won’t.

So far it’s working pretty well. They’ve made it halfway through the school week without incident or awkwardness, and Hanta is proud of that. The less he thinks about it, the more manageable it all seems. He still gets butterflies every time Denki looks his way too long or reads a particularly chilling poem (or, let’s face it, any poem), but that was true even before they kissed; Hanta’s fine with it. 

Right now, he’s doing his best to focus on English class. Mic speaks so loudly that it shouldn’t be a challenge. He takes notes diligently along with the rest of his classmates, but when Denki pulls out a second notebook, Hanta can’t help but notice. 

It seems like a reasonable assumption that the first notebook had been for actual notes, so Hanta already has an educated guess on what the second might be for. It’s smaller than the first, and it looks a lot nicer too: leather bound with thicker paper. Denki scribbles quickly, glancing up to the front of the room every few seconds like he’s afraid of being caught. 

He’s gotta be writing poetry. 

Hanta knows he’s on the hero track, but there aren’t many laws he wouldn’t break for the chance to see what’s in that notebook. He contemplates shooting his tape out and stealing it. He’s sneaky enough to do that, right? Without Present Mic or Denki or anyone else noticing? Obviously not, and he’d never breach Denki’s privacy like that—but if Denki ever wanted to show Hanta is work, well, Hanta would be immensely flattered. 

“Sero! You look MEGA distracted!” Present Mic howls, pointing finger guns right at him. “Care to tell the rest of us what’s so interesting about Kaminari’s notebook?”

Hanta almost chokes. No, he actually does. On his own spit. Just to make everyone’s eyes on him extra embarrassing.

Denki’s face is beet red and panicked. Hanta hadn’t realized he’d been looking so obviously, and Denki has no idea that Hanta couldn’t actually see anything—and he thinks it’s all going to be exposed to the class. 

“Sorry!” Hanta apologizes, trying to think on his feet. “I was just—I missed the last thing you said, so I was trying to copy it from Denki’s notes instead of interrupting the lesson.”

Just kill him now. Mic and the rest of the class seem to buy it, but Hanta knows he’ll have to explain to Denki after class. There’s no way he can focus on English now, or any of their other classes. 

“Hey, sorry about earlier,” Denki says when it’s finally time to pack up and go home. He thought he should get ahead of the situation. “I didn’t mean to snoop.”

Denki shrugs. “It’s cool. I know everyone wants to bear witness to my genius.” He pauses then, quiet as he throws his supplies in his backpack. “Did you see anything?”

“No,” Hanta assures him. “Not a thing—I swear.”

“Hmm.” Denki studies him, then swings his book bag over his shoulder casually. “Alright. Doing anything tonight?”

“Not really. You?”

“Nah.” Denki shakes his head. He waves to a few kids from class B as they pass by in the hall. Hanta follows him to his locker, unsure of what he’s waiting for. “I was kind of thinking we should go back to that poetry club.”

There it is. 

“Sometime,” Denki clarifies, rummaging through his locker. “Doesn’t have to be today I guess, just—”

“Why not today?” Hanta shrugs. “Neither of us have anything better to do.”

And Hanta can’t think of anything nicer regardless. He’s been wishing they could go back, but he didn’t want to be annoying or clingy by asking. Since Denki’s bringing it up, though, there’s no problem.

“We should invite the others,” Denki says, closing his locker and nodding for Hanta to lead the way to his own. “Show them what they’ve been missing out on.”

Hanta considers it for a moment. It would definitely take the pressure off to have their friends with them—fewer chances for Hanta to overthink and far more to distract him if he does. Furthermore, he really does want the others to love poetry as much as he and Denki do.

“Yeah,” Hanta agrees with a nod. “That’s a great idea.”

And so it’s a plan. They part ways at Hanta’s locker, deciding they should finish up their homework before they go anywhere. They’ll have a far easier time convincing Bakugou to join them if they remove any possible excuse for him to say no. Or so Hanta thinks. 

“Hell no,” Bakugou replies before Hanta has even finished inviting him. 

“Bakugou, come on!” Kirishima pleads. They’re in Bakugou’s dorm, with Bakugou lying on the bed and Kirishima in the desk chair. Kirishima swivels over and flashes sad puppy eyes at his boyfriend. “They’re our friends. We should support them.”

“That’s a generous way of describing them,” Bakugou mutters, pointedly flipping the page of his book as if to demonstrate how little he cares. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a damn poetry restaurant.”

Hanta tries to imitate Kirishima’s big, sad eyes. “Not even for your friends?”

Bakugou just growls. “Fuck off. It’s not nearly as cute when you do it.”

“So that’s a definite no?” Hanta frowns. 

“Mmm.” It’s a low rumble from Bakugou’s chest, somehow scarier than an outright roar. It has Hanta slowly backing away, ready to run at the first sign of trouble. “Fuckin’ whatever. We’ll be down in ten. But don’t think this has anything to you. It’s just for Kirishima.”

“Sweet!” Hanta cheers. “We’re totally friends.”

He darts out of the room before Bakugou can object, meeting Denki down in the common area to wait. He finds him suspiciously alone.

“Where’s Ashido?”

Denki rolls his eyes. “She said she had to study with Tsu and Uraraka, but I think she just didn’t want to come. Since when does Mina study?”

“Never.”

“Exactly,” Denki says. “What about Kirishima and Bakugou?”

“It took a little convincing, but they’ll be down in a few minutes,” Hanta says, just a bit smug. He got Bakugou to participate and Denki couldn’t even get Ashido. 

“Just the four of us then,” Denki says with a sigh. He doesn’t seem to think much of it, but as they go on to chat about other things, Hanta can’t help analyzing the situation. 

Just the four of them. Kirishima and Bakugou, Denki and Hanta. The former are a certified pair. The latter—he and Denki—are…

TBD! his mind insists, and when that sounds a bit too optimistic, Undefined?

More realistically: friends—best friends. Since when is that not good enough?

“Alright, we’re ready!” Kirishima announces, pulling Hanta from his thoughts. 

The approaching pair looks frankly adorable together, all bundled up for the cold weather. Bakugou is still wearing his signature scowl, in direct contrast to the literal ray of sunshine who’s linked arms with him. 

Hanta can’t help admiring the couple as they all walk along. Their contrasting nature makes them an unlikely pair, but somehow they fit perfectly together. They make sense. Hanta wonders if he and Denki would make as much sense—if he’d make sense with anyone. 

“It’s cold out,” Kirishima says, hugging himself to fend off the crisp air. Beside him, Bakugou frowns. 

“Just how far is this place?” he asks, unwinding the scarf from around his neck and handing it to Kirishima. “It’s fucking freezing.”

Kirishima kindly refuses the scarf. Or at least, he tries. “It’s okay, Katsuki. Thanks anyway, though.”

“Take the damn scarf, Shitty Hair.” Bakugou stops, turning Kirishima towards him and draping the scarf around his neck. “I brought it because I knew you’d need it.”

“That’s actually kind of sweet,” Denki mumbles, smiling fondly at their friends. 

Hanta nods. “It’s probably the softest I’ve ever seen him.”

The fact that Denki seems comfortable around them puts Hanta slightly at ease. So far, he’s seemed a bit tense in their presence, or even when their relationship is brought up in conversation. Now, he seems like his normal self. He seems happy for them.

They arrive at the club and quickly take shelter from the cold. Bakugou’s grumbling continues well into their appetizer, but Kirishima’s sunny disposition is just as vigilant. They make it look so easy—being in love. Hanta wants to ask Kirishima how he ever managed it, but as the evening goes on, he finds it more difficult to look at them. 

It’s not an open mic tonight, so all of the poets on stage are scheduled to perform. That means no watching Denki. Everyone who reads is decent, but they’re not him. Hanta can’t help glancing at Kirishima and Bakugou, nervous that they’ll be unimpressed with the lackluster crowd, but they both look surprisingly engaged. Denki does too. 

Is it really just Hanta?

He eyes Kirishima’s hand on the table, tucked casually (safely) under Bakugou’s. It’s such a small gesture, and yet it makes Hanta’s heart feel like it might shrivel up and die.

The poets keep reading, but Hanta doesn’t hear a word of it. All he can do is look back and forth from the couple across from him to beautiful Denki with his beautiful eyes. The sparkle in Denki’s dreamy gaze is enchanting as ever, but somehow it just makes Hanta feel sad. 

Sad that Denki isn’t looking at him that way. 

Sad that he can’t hold Denki’s hand the way Bakugou holds Kirishima’s. 

Sad that after all the questioning—after their kiss—Denki now seems perfectly fine around Bakugou and Kirishima. He doesn’t need Hanta anymore. He’s fine now. 

And that should be a good thing. It is a good thing. Hanta wants Denki to be happy. It’s just that he also wants to kiss Denki, and he wants Denki to want to kiss him back. 

He wants Denki.

And that’s the thought that haunts him all the way through dinner and well into their walk home. He watches, numb, as Bakugou carefully wraps up Kirishima in his scarf again and plants a surprisingly gentle kiss on his cheek. He watches Denki watch them, a sickly sweet smile on his face. 

He’s being an ass and he knows it. He’s got to snap out of it. How can something feel wonderful and addictive and absolutely torturous all at once? Is that what love is?

“You’ve really gotta stop that,” Denki says suddenly.

Hanta jumps in his skin, caught red-handed in his jackassery. “Ah--sorry. I didn’t mean—”

But then he finds a pair of gloves being shoved into his hands. Not just one glove, but two. He stares at them, baffled.

“You always forget,” Denki explains, then pauses. “What did you think I meant?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Hanta says lamely. “Just being overly apologetic I guess.”

Suddenly, all of his worrying seems ridiculous. The gloves serve as an anchor to the truth of what they share. The first time Denki lent him a glove was before all of this even started, and it meant just as much to Hanta back then as it does now. He slides one glove onto his hand, and then gives the other back to Denki.

“You can have them both,” Denki offers, but Hanta refuses.

“It’s tradition,” Hanta smiles. “We have to share.”

The pink on Denki’s cheeks bolsters Hanta’s confidence. “Thanks, dude.”

“Come on, guys!” Kirishima calls. He and Bakugou stand up ahead, waiting to cross at an intersection. “You’re holding us up!”

Hanta nods towards them. “Let’s go.”

Their return to the dorms goes mostly unnoticed, except for Ashido who wiggles her eyebrows and teases. “Double date?”

Hanta shoots her a mean glare, mouthing, “Traitor.”

Thankfully, even if Denki hears her comment, he doesn’t seem to mind too much. He leads the way into the elevator and smirks as the rest of them select their floors. “Not so bad, huh, Bakugou?”

“Yeah, whatever,” Bakugou replies gruffly, and it’s about as positive a response as they can hope for from him.

“I actually thought it was nice.” Kirishima shrugs. 

As the elevator rises, Hanta wishes he’d been more present in their conversations tonight. He allowed a perfectly lovely evening with three of his best friends (one of whom he’s absolutely crazy about) to go to waste as he wallowed in self-pity. 

It kind of was a double date. Not really, since for Denki and himself it wasn’t a date at all, but he’d really missed out on an opportunity to enjoy such an experience and help Denki enjoy it too. Maybe he could have even gotten somewhere with Denki for real.

It isn’t until the elevator chimes and Kirishima and Bakugou depart that Hanta realizes they’ve passed Denki’s floor altogether. He says nothing, curious to see where this might go and if Denki will offer up an explanation. Denki is quiet, though, and he follows Hanta to his dorm with a mischievous glint in his eyes. 

“What?” Hanta snorts. “Are you walking me to the door?”

“Maybe,” Denki jokes. “Since this was a double date and all.”

So he did hear Ashido.

Hanta plays it cool. “Such a gentleman.”

They come to a stop in front of the door, and Denki shoves his hands into his coat pockets. “I try. The question is, are you going to invite me in?”

Denki takes a careful step forward, eyeing Hanta’s lips. By the time he finishes speaking, his words sound less comical and his voice is hushed. By the time Hanta finds the words to reply and the doorknob behind him, their faces are mere centimeters apart. 

“Maybe I will,” Hanta whispers, his voice getting caught in his throat. 

“Is this still okay, man?” Denki asks at the last second, and the delay is torturous. 

Hanta’s words have left him. All he can do is turn the knob and nod silently.

“‘Kay…” Denki breathes, brushing his lips against Hanta’s and pushing him back through the open door.

They stumble backwards, their coats rustling and making it difficult to get close. Hanta tugs on Denki’s collar, trying to overcome the distance and nearly suffocating in the process. He deepens the kiss, overly eager and only able to hope that Denki won’t notice or care. To his delight, Denki just reciprocates.

It’s what he’s wanted all night. It’s what he’s wanted since this first happens. He’d like to say it’s what he’s wanted his entire life, but he knows that’s a bit dramatic. 

Denki’s hands trail down Hanta’s body, grabbing at his arms and pressing closer to him. Without warning, he pulls away—just far enough to take off his coat. The sight of Denki removing any amount of clothing is enough to make Hanta lose his last shred of self-control. 

“It’s hot in here,” Denki says. The explanation does little to tame Hanta’s pounding heart, especially as Denki closes the door and tosses his coat on the chair to signal he won’t be leaving any time soon. 

Hanta takes off his own coat and throws it without care for its destination. He only cares about one thing right now. 

He closes the distance between them, his hands finding Denki’s hips and his mouth opening into the kiss. Denki moans softly when Hanta’s teeth graze his bottom lip, digging his hands roughly into Hanta’s hair.

Hanta’s knees are weak and he’s feeling bold, so he backs them up to his bed, slowly lowering himself down onto it and directing Denki onto his lap. They come to a quiet pause, their breathing heavy and uneven as they look into each other’s eyes. All Hanta sees his hunger.

He goes in for another kiss, but Denki dodges his mouth, ducking instead into the crook of his neck and planting soft kisses along the skin. Hanta breathes in sharply, craning his neck in approval so that Denki has as much access as he might need. When Denki bites down on the sensitive skin just hard enough and follows up immediately with a swipe of his tongue, Hanta all but cries out in pleasure.

They shimmy up to the head of the bed, lying down with intertwined arms, intertwined legs, intertwined everything. Hanta rolls onto his back and pulls Denki on top of him, gripping hard on his hips so that his hands won’t wander anywhere else. He’s a little hard now, and shit, that should be embarrassing, but it’s not. Not even a little. Denki’s hard too, and with their bodies pressed so close together and their mouths hot and wet on one another’s, it takes every ounce of willpower in Hanta’s body not to grind his hips against Denki’s. 

Somehow he doesn’t. Somehow they come to a silent agreement that it’s time to stop. They do so in an impressively casual manner, Denki rolling off of Hanta’s body and falling next to him on the bed.

They’re facing each other, but it’s like a wall of glass has been put up between them. They don’t touch, but Hanta can still feel the heat of Denki’s skin. He’s careful to give them both enough space. 

“You’re really good at that, you know?” Hanta says quietly. “Where’d you learn?”

Because there’s no way Denki’s ever done any of this with a girl. Hanta would have heard all about it from him by now. 

“Google,” Denki confirms with a laugh, and the ice is officially broken. 

That brings up a whole bunch of other questions that Hanta will ask—sometime. Right now, he’s tired. Exhausted really. It’s as if the adrenaline from kissing was suddenly drained out of him, and now he’s just a frail, weak, body. Beside him, Denki yawns too. His peaceful, golden eyes fluttering closed is the last thing Hanta remembers before his own eyes begin to feel heavy. 

When he blinks them open again, he can tell it’s been hours. He’s warm and content, snuggled beneath his blankets and up against—Denki. 

Hanta freezes, careful not to jump in his surprise. His own arm is asleep, but he doesn’t dare to wiggle it awake, because the other arm is thrown over Denki’s sleeping form. They’re spooning.

If Hanta didn’t know this was a complete and utter accident, he would really enjoy it. Something about Denki’s back resting so safe against Hanta’s chest feels right. Hanta is tempted to run his fingers through Denki’s hair, to try and sit up for a glance at his sleeping friend’s peaceful face. 

He wouldn’t be so bold, and he doesn’t have the chance anyway. Denki stirs in his arms, and then goes completely stiff.

He’s awake. 

Sensing Denki’s fear and mirroring it before he even has a chance to think, Hanta pretends to be asleep. It seems like the best way to keep this from being awkward. It also gives Denki the chance to stay if he wants. 

If only. 

Instead, Denki detangles himself from Hanta’s arms in a clumsy panic. Hanta feels the cold absence of Denki’s body first, and then the shift of the bed as he stands up. There isn’t even a pause as footsteps skitter across the room and the door opens and closes. 

Ouch

It’s all Hanta can think. Over and over. Ouch

When he opens his eyes and rolls onto his back, he can see that the sun has crept up in the sky. It’s morning. He should get up and move, but he feels paralyzed. This is a lot to process. It could have been something lovely, but the way Denki left… 

Now Hanta just feels embarrassed.

What did he expect? That they’d stay here and cuddle all morning? He’s forgetting what they are. Friends. That’s it. Friends who make out sometimes. It’s just because Denki is trying to figure himself out, though, and that’s okay.

Pull yourself together, Hanta. 

He can’t, though, and his stupid thoughts won’t shut up. The words and feelings keep repeating in his mind like a broke record, the most haunting ones begging for release. This is where all those cheesy poems come from, isn’t it? He scours the internet for the perfect poem, but none of them—even the ones he’s memorized in Denki’s voice—do justice to what he’s feeling. 

Hanta knows he’s no poet, but it seems like the perfectly melodramatic way to handle this situation. He rummages through his desk and pulls out the first pen and paper he gets his hands on. And then he writes. It isn’t good or special, but it’s what he feels, and the weight on his shoulders is at least a little bit lighter. 



You love like a bee. 



Sweet like honey

Before the sting.



But it’s not your fault

And you mean no harm,



You’re just frightened

You’re just small

And misunderstood. 



You’re all too aware

Of how they perceive you

And all too naive

Of the way that I see you. 



You love like a bee

An innocent bee. 

 

Yellow and diligent

And oblivious to me.



Hanta is late to class that morning. Very late. But he doesn’t even care. He’s stuck in his head, somewhere between proud of the words he’s written and ashamed of the feelings and actions that brought him here in the first place. 

Denki, true to the poem, is his normal, peppy self. Denki is oblivious to it all. 




Chapter Text

I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye, that was the trouble; I wanted to kiss you goodnight. And there’s a lot of difference. 

-Ernest Hemingway



“I love Emily Dickenson,” Denki sighs dreamily, resting a flimsy book on his chest and his head on Hanta’s shoulder. 

“Emily who-now?” Hanta asks, but as soon as he does, he thinks the name sounds familiar. He’s seen it online during his many Google searches of classic poets. 

“Emily Dickenson!” Denki says. “She’s so matter-of-fact in her poems. Some poets can be pretty wordy, but Dickenson always gets straight to the point.”

“You like that better?” Hanta asks, and he’s curious for the answer, but he’ll be satisfied regardless as long as they remain lounging on the bed like this. 

Denki shrugs, his bony shoulder piercing Hanta’s bicep. “Not necessarily. I like fluffy poetry too. It’s just different, and different can be nice sometimes.”

“Hm,” Hanta considers. “That makes sense. I never thought of it that way.”

“Wild nights - Wild nights!” Denki reads dramatically:



Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -

To a Heart in port -

Done with the Compass -

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -

Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -

In thee!

 

Hanta waits a few seconds, allowing himself to be amused before admitting, “Okay, nice, but—I have no idea what any of that meant.”

Denki pauses. “Me neither. I still like it.”

“Fair enough.”

They read for a little while longer, enjoying a peaceful evening to themselves until Denki’s growling stomach makes his hunger known.

Together, they venture down to the kitchen, and Denki sits on the countertop while Hanta tries to whip something up with what’s in the fridge. What they end up with is something that at least resembles a bento box, and even though it’s far from fancy, Denki is appreciative. 

“Food is food,” he says with a thumbs-up. “It’s pretty good too.”

The warmth that pools in Hanta’s belly isn’t just from the hot meal. He likes spending time with Denki like this. Lounging around the dorms, sitting across each other at a table to enjoy a meal that they made together; it feels strangely domestic.

It’s nice to have good days among the stressful ones. 

Speaking of stress…

“We should hurry up to Bakugou’s soon,” Hanta says, glancing at the clock. “He might actually murder us if we’re late tonight.”

Denki releases a drawn-out groan and says nothing more. All Hanta can do is not sympathetically. They have a pretty intense study session scheduled with Bakugou, and those are never particularly fun. It’s part of the reason they’ve been studying on their own lately. However, with midterms upon them, they need all the help they can get. 

They’re already two days in, and Denki doesn’t seem overly optimistic about it. 

“It’ll all be over soon,” Hanta says. “Then we won’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Denki seems skeptical, resting his head drearily on his folded arms and sinking low. “Except that when I fail all my exams Bakugou will explode my body and then explode all the ashes left over.”

“What makes you so sure you’re going to fail?”

“I dunno,” Denki sighs. “It’s kind of what I do, isn’t it?”

“Whoa.” Hanta scoots his chair around the table, closer to Denki. “That’s a seriously negative attitude, dude. Think of how hard we’ve been studying--and how well we’ve been doing in school lately.”

“Yeah, but,” Denki sighs. His eyes are big and round and sad. “I don’t know. Tests are different than keeping up on homework.”

“I mean, that’s true.” Hanta searches for the right words. It’s been a while since he’s seen Denki insecure; he’s kind of out of practice. “You just—you gotta have faith in yourself. How many other things have you accomplished that seemed impossible?”

“Some?” Denki shrugs. “I guess?”

“Tons,” Hanta corrects. He clasps Denki’s shoulder firmly, careful not to let his hand rest there too long. “Think about it—even something as seemingly small as liking poetry. I feel like being open about that has really changed you.”

“Really?” Denki looks up, a light in his eyes.

“Really.” Hanta takes a peek at the rest of the commons. Across the room, Sato and and Shouji are pouring over a pile of textbooks, not paying much attention to anything else around them. Still, Hanta keeps his voice low and his hands tame, even though he wants nothing more than to reach out and intertwine his fingers with Denki’s. “You’ve always seemed confident, but now it feels authentic. You’re staying true to yourself and even learning more about who you are. That’s huge.”

It kind of hurts, looking around and realizing that even if they were alone, he couldn’t touch Denki. Not really. He could kiss him, and things might get pretty heated and shit, would Hanta ever love that, but he also wants to hold Denki—or have the option to. He wants dinner every night with Denki, followed by poems and cuddling and falling asleep in each other’s arms. 

Instead, they’ll say goodnight and go their separate ways. The way Denki took off when they actually did fall asleep together is enough to teach Hanta that they’ll never truly be anything. Nothing more than this. 

Denki fiddles with his chopsticks, barely meeting Hanta’s eyes. “Thanks, man. That means a lot. And I haven’t frozen up on any of my exams so far, so maybe you’re right.”

“I’m definitely right—and,” Hanta emphasizes, swallowing down his ridiculous teenage angst, “we’re gonna absolutely kill it on our practical tomorrow.”

“Yes!” Denki high-fives him. “Now that one I’m confident in.”

“Hell yeah.”

Hanta watches Denki closely, relieved to see the weight seemingly lift off his shoulders. He never feels like he has the right words, but somehow they always come out on top of things. If only he could make Denki see himself the way Hanta sees him—the way he is. Maybe that should be his new mission. If Denki does well on all his exams that will help for sure. 

They study hard that night, and Hanta does his best to keep Denki both encouraged and focused. By 8:30 they’re both exhausted, which is good because Bakugou insists that they go to bed early to get extra sleep. 

The next morning, Hanta doesn’t have much of a chance to talk to Denki before classes (and their only written exam for the day) begin. He does give him a smile and a thumbs up, though, which Denki mirrors back to him. For his part, Hanta doesn’t think he did too bad on the exam; there were only a few questions that stumped him, but most of the time he could feel Bakugou thumping on his head and hear his scratchy voice yelling the answers in his ears. Apparently, fear is an effective study technique. 

“How’d it go?” Hanta asks Denki when they reunite for the practical.

They’re gathered at the training grounds—the artificial city generated for such exams as these. According to Mr. Aizawa’s instructions, they’re meant to be in this massive apartment building, but it’s a few minutes past their start time and Aizawa is nowhere to be found. He’s probably sleeping somewhere. 

“Good?” Denki says with a nod, projecting a confidence that Hanta isn’t sure he actually feels.

Hanta stretches his arms, trying to loosen up the muscles that had grown tense from an hour and a half of sitting in a cramped desk. “Good. Now we ace the practical.”

Denki takes a deep breath. “Right. Apparently the last two days’ exam results will be posted at lunch. That’s like, right after this.”

“Don’t worry about that right now.” Hanta grabs Denki by the shoulders, ducking so that they’re eye to eye. “You’ve got this. Don’t be distracted by things you can’t control.”

Denki’s eyes soften, his gaze melting into Hanta’s and turning his stomach into a kaleidoscope of butterflies. “Okay, I won’t.”

“Good,” Hanta says, and for some reason (out of pure instinct) he nearly leans down to give Denki a quick kiss—just one for encouragement, as if that’s something they’ve ever done. He stops short, thankfully, remembering that they’re on the UA training grounds in front of all of their classmates (oh, and that he and Denki aren’t a couple; that one’s important too). 

“Everybody listen up,” Aizawa calls out in his sleepy voice. The class goes silent, turning their attention to their teacher. He’s still unzipping his sleeping bag, so Hanta is pretty sure suspicions were correct. “As you know, we’re gathered here to take the practical exam for hero studies. I’ve separated you all into pairs, and each pair will face off against one another as either a hero or a villain. Villains, your goal is to steal and escape with a designated item which will be marked with a red flag like this.” Aizawa holds up a small piece of red fabric, showing it to the class. “Heroes, you’ll have twenty minutes to incapacitate your villain, after which time they will have escaped. Remember, police backup is on the way.”

“Sir!” Iida interjects. “If we are facing off against one another, does that mean that fifty percent of the class will fail the exam?”

Hanta’s stomach sinks. If that’s the case, then the odds of passing (and more importantly, Denki passing) just got a whole lot worse. A quick glance to his right shows that Denki is having the same realization. 

Aizawa sighs. “You’ll be facing off against each other, but whether you pass or fail will be determined on the actions you take and how well you apply your training, not whether you win or lose the fight.”

“Of course!” Iida replies. “An excellent system. Thank you, sir!”

Multiple people let out relieved sighs, himself and Denki included. Then, Aizawa begins reading off their predetermined pairs.

From the first few alone, it’s quite obvious what he’s trying to do here. Aizawa might say he just likes messing with their heads or even that it’s to present a realistic challenge in the hero world, but Hanta thinks Aizawa secretly likes the classroom drama. He’s pitted against each other all of the friendships that have been on the rocks, and even a few people who have been notably flirting. With that in mind, it’s no surprise when he gets to Hanta:

“Hero Kaminari versus villain Sero.”

“Villain, huh?” Denki smirks. “I’ll be interested to see if you can pull that off.”

“Trust me,” Hanta replies. “You haven’t even seen how wicked I can be.”

“I’m shaking in my boots.”

The truth is, Hanta is just glad that they both have the opportunity to pass even though they’re fighting each other. It’s irresponsible, but Hanta’s pretty sure he’d fail in a heartbeat if it meant helping Denki’s self-esteem.

They’re given the opportunity to watch the pairs before them face off, and Hanta tries to learn from their mistakes and victories. It’s interesting seeing the different approaches each of them take to the challenge, some of them taking a more head-on method than others.

So far, they’ve seen Yaomomo absolutely pummel Mineta, who was too busy trying to flirt to actually compete, and then Tokoyami faced off as a hero against Shouji. That one was a lot more interesting to watch. At first, Hanta was sure that Tokoyami would claim victory right away; their quirks just don’t seem suited to face each other. But, Shouji was able to keep a low profile, sneaking around and avoiding almost any combat with Tokoyami. Ultimately, he ended up escaping. 

“This should be interesting,” Denki says quietly as Midoriya and Todoroki prepare for their match. “I can’t even remotely imagine Midoriya as a villain.”

“Me neither,” Hanta says. “I guess we’ll see how he does. Maybe they should have saved these two for last. I feel like this whole building is about to be destroyed.”

Surprisingly, the damage isn’t too bad. Todoroki, in true hero form, avoids using his flames so that the building (and it’s imaginary residents) doesn’t burn, and Midoriya utilizes his speed more than his strength. They’re both pretty quick, though, so eventually they do come face to face. After a bit of back and forth in which Todoroki makes it clear he won’t allow for any openings, Midoriya blows a hole in the roof and escapes just as the alarm sounds. 

Why did Midoriya waste so much time making his escape? He could have made it a lot farther had he used more force early on. Sure, he came out on top, but what was his mindset? He’ll have to ask him when he returns, and maybe Midoriya will even give him a few tips—villain to villain.

“Up next, Kaminari and Sero.”

Damn. Maybe not.

Hanta’s nerves suddenly begin to flare, a flood of unease rushing through his chest. He doesn’t want to go up against Denki. He also doesn’t want to fail. He’s been so focused on helping Denki that he hasn’t really prepared himself mentally for all of this. 

“Hey,” Denki says, leading the way and flashing Hanta a reassuring smile. “You’ve got this.”

“Right,” Hanta whispers. It feels good to be on the receiving end of encouragement. 

They make their way to the apartment building, and as the villain, Hanta is allowed a five minute head start in his search for the mysterious item. Seems realistic; a hero usually wouldn’t be called to the scene until after the villain had shown up.

He’s not quite sure where to start, so even though he wants to rush in head first, he allows himself a moment to take in his surroundings and center himself. 

It looks like a typical apartment building so far. An entryway, a stairway, and an elevator down the hall. From the ground level, Hanta can see that the stairs go up several levels, and certainly each floor has multiple apartments. Five minutes will go by quickly—and so will the twenty that come after that. He’d better get moving.

Starts on this floor, slipping into the first apartment and scanning the room for the red flag. So far, the designated object has been different for every pair, so he can’t even go off of what he’s seen from the others.

No red flags on the first floor. He uses his tape to forego both the stairs and the elevator, flying up like Spider-Man to the next level. He’s about three rooms in when he hears the heavy front door of the building open below. Denki is here. 

Time to be extra stealthy.

“I know you’re here, villain,” Hanta hears Denki say through the vents. “It’ll be easier for you if you make yourself known.”

“Ha, you wish,” Hanta scoffs under his breath, sneaking towards the stairwell and shooting himself up to the third floor. 

He’s just turned on the lights in the first apartment when he spots it: the red flag! It’s tied around a tiny flash drive stuck in a laptop.

“Yes,” Hanta hisses. “This should be easy.”

He wastes no time, hurrying to the desk and crouching down to inspect the flash drive. On instinct, he almost pulls it right out from the laptop, but he stops short. He’s got to approach this like a villain—a smart one, ideally.

Don’t flash drives sometimes get messed up if you just yank them out of the computer? Hmm…

He slowly opens the laptop and finds that it is (of course) password protected. He’s not much of a hacker, so what should he do? It’d be a lot easier to just risk it and pull out the flash drive, but he knows he’d be docked major points for that. But if he can’t pull out the flash drive, that means…

Hanta sighs. Aizawa can’t make anything easy, can he?

He closes the laptop, fastening it on his back with a few layers of tape. Now all he has to do is get out of here, and if he can do that without Denki noticing, he’ll definitely pass. 

That’s when the power goes out. 

Hanta feels like a little kid again, because he almost jumps out of his skin and screams when it happens. He’s just startled! Obviously it’s Denki’s doing, but what does it mean? It throws him just enough to keep him frozen in place, worried that any move he makes will land him right in Denki’s clutches.

Slowly, silently, he checks that the laptop is still secure on his back, as if Denki might have swept in and stolen it back without him even knowing. But no, it’s there.

He jumps again as the lights flash back on, and the room looks just the same as before—clean and not-actually-lived-in. The light seems brighter now, more fluorescent, but Hanta knows it’s just his imagination fooling him. The sound of Denki politely knocking on the door, however, is very real.

“Oh, Hanta,” he calls in a sing-song voice. “I found you.”

Hanta curses under his breath, readying himself for a fight just in time for Denki to stroll into the apartment.

“How’d you find me?”

Denki lifts his chin in a cocky manner, and his satisfied grin just about brings Hanta to his knees. “A little work on the electrical circuits and some simple deductive reasoning.”

“Huh?” Hanta says, a little distracted. 

“When I turned the power back on, only the rooms whose lights you’d messed with turned back on,” Denki explains graciously, although he still seems a bit smug about it. “The trail led me right to you. Now, if you’d be so kind as to hand me—”

“No way.” Hanta steps back, taking a fighting stance.

During their brief game of chicken, Hanta looks for a way out. Denki is blocking the door, but maybe he could slip past him somehow. Otherwise, he could always break through the window and escape that way. It’d definitely be easier. 

Something about that doesn’t sit right with him, though. He thinks back to Midoriya’s match and how careful he’d been—almost needlessly so, or so it seemed. Why not break things? Why not be a little messy? When you’re a villain, you don’t need to care about that stuff, right?

Aizawa’s last instructions to the class were that police backup would be on the way. 

Suddenly it makes sense. Not only is it good practice for them as heroes to keep things clean and careful (whether they’re portraying villains or not), but a smart villain won’t leave a trail of debris in their path. They’ll get in and get out—do their job well and hopefully have nothing that ties them to the crime.

So breaking the window is off limits. It’d make a mess and potentially even injure Hanta if he’s not careful, and then there’d be a trail of blood leading right to him. In this case, being cautious means facing Denki head-on and getting out fast. 

Denki shrugs, looking quite pleased with himself. “Guess you leave me no choice.”

For a split second, Hanta’s mind breaks free of the battle—back to the moments beforehand when Denki was so worried. This is the moment of truth.

Please don’t overuse your powers! He’d meant to tell him before they started. How could he forget?

But Denki doesn’t. Instead, he shoots out his pointer disks, one to each corner of the room. It all happens so quickly that Hanta can barely register the fact that Denki has basically made an electric prison for him.

As Denki activates his powers, the currents light up the room, thoroughly blocking Hanta in. If he wants to get out, he’ll have to take Denki down somehow. 

“Alright,” Hanta says. “Now you’ve left me no choice.”

He shoots tape out at Denki, ducking low as the tape wraps around his knees and knocks his feet out from under him. As Denki tumbles towards the floor, Hanta makes his move, darting forward and exerting as much tape as he can like a shield on both sides of himself. The tape isn’t super conductive, so it should block the current in case any of this doesn’t go as planned.

All it takes is one swift leap, because when Denki falls the currents follow, so it’s like one really easy but really dangerous game of jump rope. All Hanta has to do is jump over his body and escape—

The whole world jolts. Hanta’s vision shakes. The world lights up and everything tingles. Now Hanta is the one falling, and as he does, he sees the third disk, placed strategically outside the open door. Denki must have done it before he even came in. 

Genius! Hanta admires, hitting the ground in a tangled mess of his own tape.

“Guess you won’t be needing that backup after all,” Hanta admits in a shaking voice, wiggling around to show that he’s been effectively incapacitated.

Over the loud speaker, Mr. Aizawa announces that Denki has won. 

“Dude, are you okay?” Denki asks, running to Hanta’s side instead of celebrating like he should be. Although, Hanta admits, he appreciates the help because his whole body feels like jelly. 

“I’ll be fine,” Hanta says, and once Denki peels the tape off Hanta is able to sit up. He can’t feel much of anything, but at least he can move. “That was insane.”

Denki pulls him up by the hand, offering an arm for Hanta to lean on as they make their way back to the watch room. Thankfully, it’s not far from here, and as they walk the feeling gradually returns to Hanta’s body. 

“Just got lucky I guess,” Denki says modestly. He lets go of Hanta’s arm and hurries forward to open the door for him.

Sweet.

“No, dude,” Hanta insists, passing through the door but not making any effort to go upstairs. “It was totally calculated. You did that.”

“Alright,” Denki concedes, strolling under the stairwell and leaning against the wall. “Maybe I did, but you were really great too.”

The sunlight from the window casts a warm hue on Denki’s face. He looks like honey and summer and perfection wrapped up in a human being. Hanta ventures close to him, and the red that spreads like watercolor on Denki’s cheeks doesn’t escape him. 

“This is your moment,” Hanta says, stepping close enough that their chests nearly touch. “Just basque in the glory for a second. I wish—I wish you could see yourself like I do.”

“How is that?” Denki asks, just a whisper.

Hanta’s heart pumps in his chest.

“Perfect. You’re the funniest, sweetest, most talented person I know,” Hanta whispers back. Their hands both hang at their sides, both pairs pitifully empty, so Hanta lets his fingers brush against Denki’s. 

When Denki doesn’t retreat, Hanta intertwines their hands, raising them so they rest against the wall just over Denki’s shoulder. His free hand is even more daring, reaching up to gently push the hair out of Denki’s face and then caress his soft cheek. 

“Denki,” Hanta says, his voice trembling. “You’re amazing. Don’t you know that? The amount of time I spend just sitting and thinking about how great you are and how pretty your face is, and how lovely your voice is—you have no idea.”

Denki lets out a breathy laugh, one that rings with disbelief. “You really mean that?”

Hanta isn’t sure who gives in first, but their lips are pressed together and Hanta is leaning his weight on Denki, trapping him against the wall.

Anyone could walk down and see this, and the next pair will probably do just that any second now, but Hanta doesn’t even care.

He tries to communicate just how much he meant his words, kissing Denki more gently than he ever has. Denki squeezes the hand holding his, and the other arm he wraps around Hanta’s waist, settling his hand at the small of Hanta’s back.

The kiss is slow, but it’s anything but lazy. This time, when Denki opens his mouth and their tongues brush against each other’s, Hanta shivers into the kiss. He’d like to breathe Denki right in, but he can’t, so he settles for a low moan against his lips.

“Mmm,” Denki answers back softly. “Hanta…”

He wants this to last forever. He imagines doing this every day just because they can. Imagines crawling into bed together after a long night on the job. Imagines a future where they’re proudly together and happy. 

Imagines.

That’s all he can do, though, because all the sweet words in the world won’t change the truth. Hanta can say all of his best lines and speak them from the heart, but it won’t make Denki love him. He could be available every day, an object for Denki’s experimentation, but it won’t make Denki love him. And he loves Denki. 

And Denki doesn’t love him.

Hanta thinks back on the night they shared together in his bed. Denki left. He left with no hesitation, and he hasn’t brought it up since. They never talk about these things, they just do them. And every time they do it simultaneously feels better and worse. It’s torture. 

“I’m sorry,” Hanta says, breaking the kiss and dropping his hands. He shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I thought I could do this for you, but I can’t.”

Denki looks on with wide eyes, his lips slightly parted but altogether silent in the face of Hanta’s meltdown. 

“I just, I c—” Hanta cuts himself off, covering his mouth and hurrying towards the stairs when he feels a lump rising in his throat. He can see Denki through the gaps in the steps as he trudges upwards, repeating the words one more time as he goes. “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry.

He knows he just ruined everything.




Chapter Text

Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.

-Ernest Hemingway 



Up the stairs he goes, still a little weepy despite his best efforts, not at all ready to face the rest of his class and pretend that everything is just fine. And of course, on the way up he runs into Kirishima. Whether Kiri heard the entire thing go down or just notices the tear Hanta quickly wipes away, Hanta isn’t sure, but he points to Hanta as he passes by, a serious look in his eyes. 

“We’ll talk later,” Kirishima mouths, and the words tie Hanta’s stomach in knots. Everything is crashing down. 

Bakugou is by Kirishima’s side. He looks briefly at Hanta but says nothing, following his boyfriend down the stairs in silence. They’ll have to pass by Denki too. How on Earth will that go?

Back in the watch room, everybody is buzzing with excitement. They congratulate Hanta on his performance and offer consolation for his loss, but they have no idea what kind of disappointment he’s really feeling. He tries his best to mask it. 

“I have to admit, I didn’t expect your match to be so intense, Sero,” Tsu tells him.

“Yeah, I thought you and Kaminari were too good of friends to have a real match,” Uraraka agrees, and ouch, the unintended double-meaning of those words stings. She’s not wrong.

Hanta forces a smile. “Thanks. I gave it my all, but Denki really deserved the win.”

“Where is Kaminari, anyway?” Uraraka asks, and a few others look to Hanta for the answer.

“He’s, uh,” Hanta stalls, coming up empty. “He was just being slow. Tired, I guess.”

The door opens behind him then, and Denki enters the room in silence. Of course, nobody is going to let him just sneak in unnoticed. They cheer for him and offer up high fives and kind words, but Denki is even worse than Hanta at hiding his feelings. He stares ahead with dead eyes, accepting their compliments with low-energy gratitude and isolating himself to the back of the room. 

When they break for lunch, both Hanta and Denki sit with their usual friends at their usual table—together. Maybe that’s a horrible idea, but they’ve been hiding all of this for so long now that Hanta doesn’t know how to act now that it’s all come to a boil. Just try to move on like always, right? It’s just what they do. So even though it hurts, and even though he can’t look Denki in the eye a single time, Hanta tries to be normal, whatever that means. 

“Grades are up on the website!” Mina announces, scrolling through her phone with her eyebrows knitted nervously together.

Even though he’s pointedly not looking at Denki, Hanta still hears him take a deep breath before going to check his own grades.

“I did it,” Denki says with quiet amazement, and Hanta’s heart skips a beat. Even with everything that’s happened, he’s tempted to dive across the table and lift Denki off the ground in celebration. “At least, so far I did it. One B minus, and one B plus.”

“And you know you passed your practical,” Kirishima points out. “Us losers have to wait anxiously to find out.”

“Speak for yourself,” Bakugou grumbles. “I ain’t a loser.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kirishima jokes. “Just rub it in. You won and I lost.”

“Enough of this whining,” Bakugou says. “I’d say you all have a decent chance of passing.”

“Aww,” they all coo in a chorus.

It’s at least some relief to know that Denki passed. Hanta did too (a B on each of his written exams so far), and he feels like he has a decent chance at passing the practical. He’d like to celebrate with Denki, but that’s kind of off the table for now.

When the rest of the class finishes the practical and they’re released for the day, Hanta really just wants to be alone. He’s out of luck, though, because Kirishima hunts him down immediately, showing up at his bedroom door after Hanta closes himself in. 

“Hey, man,” Kirishima calls, his voice muffled through the door. “Can we talk? You know, about today?”

Hanta sighs heavily. He’s just sat himself down for a nice staring contest with the wall, but he knows Kirishima won’t leave without a fight. Talking will probably help anyway, as much as Hanta hates to admit it. 

“Fine,” he says, and the door opens immediately. 

In spite of the way Kirishima rushes in, he’s awfully quiet. Maybe Hanta just looks so pitiful that it stops Kirishima in his tracks. He has a box of tissues again, and after the day Hanta’s had, he might actually need them this time. After a long pause, Kirishima helps himself to the desk chair and rolls over across from the bed where Hanta sits. 

“So,” he begins, and Hanta really wishes he’d hurry up. “Today.”

“How much did you hear?”

“Some,” Kiri shrugs. “Enough. How long has all that been going on?”

Hanta folds his hands together, fidgeting beneath Kirishima’s scrutiny. “A while. That was the thing I couldn’t tell you that one night. Remember?”

Kirishima nods. “I wondered if it was something like that. But...you guys were obviously,” he trails off, gesturing with his hands as if he doesn’t want to say the word. “Kissing. So then, what’s the problem? Fill me in here.”

“The problem is we aren’t kissing because he wants to kiss me,” Hanta says with a huff. “We’re kissing because I’m a guy, and Denki thinks he might be bi.”

Kirishima cringes. “Yikes. But I mean, if you’ve been doing that for so long, doesn’t that maybe tell you that he is indeed bi? Maybe there’s something more to it.”

“That’s not really my call, is it?” Hanta frowns. “And I can't talk about it, to him or to anyone else, and that just makes it so much worse. I don’t want to ruin our friendship, but I want to be with him so bad. I don’t know why I thought I could handle this, and I don’t know what to do because I don’t do feelings, I just don’t, and now I’m practically drowning in them.”

“Hey, hey,” Kirishima soothes, switching from the chair to the bed and pulling Hanta in for a hug. At what point Hanta started crying again he isn’t even sure, but he’s a mess and it’s embarrassing. Still, he’s too tired to object to a nice hug right now. “It’s okay, man. I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this.”

Hanta wipes away his tears with the back of his wrist, but they keep coming until he’s just spreading the salty water over his face rather than drying it. 

“I don’t get it,” Hanta sniffles. “Denki seems so much easier to deal with than Bakugou. No offense, but how am I the one crying right now and you’re in a healthy relationship?”

Kirishima laughs quietly. “Well, Bakubro wears most of his emotions on his sleeve, even if he’s a little more sensitive than he lets on. Kaminari is more guarded. That easygoing persona is just a front.”

“You’re not kidding,” Hanta agrees, sitting up and taking a deep breath to calm himself. “Now I have no idea what’ll happen.”

“It’ll get better,” Kirishima promises, offering Hanta a tissue. He’s all gross and wet and snotty, so he gladly accepts. “You just need to give it time. I know it sucks, but I think it’s good that you ended the kissing stuff. It’s just hurting you, and we don’t need that.”

For the moment, all Hanta can do is nod. A million thoughts are still swirling around in his head, forming a hurricane that has the potential to destroy everything in its path. He has to get this under control, and then maybe they’ll have a chance of moving on like normal. 

“I can’t face him yet,” Hanta says at last. “Do you think he’ll hate me?”

The words alone make Hanta’s body tremble with icy fear. What would his life be without Denki? He doesn’t need him as a lover, he just needs him in his life. He was foolish to risk all that they shared for a few kisses. 

“Sero,” Kirishima says seriously. “Listen to me. Kaminari will never hate you. Never ever.”

Hanta tries to believe him, but at this point he doesn’t even trust himself; how can he be sure he isn’t just fooling himself again? If he could, he’d go back to before all of this began. Things were so simple then, and now it’s all ruined. 

He needs to make things like they were. 

That means no more kissing, no more flirting, no lovey-dovey daydreams, and sadly (definitely) no poetry. Not a single poem—not with Denki, and not by himself. It’s a hard reset. 

It’s for the best, he tells himself as Kirishima sets him up in bed with plenty of blankets and tissues and snacks.

He’s never been so sad that he feels sick before, but it’s honestly like he has the flu. He just lies in bed for the next fourteen hours, drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to stomach the idea of eating dinner or breakfast. When morning finally rolls around, it takes all the strength he has just to lift himself out of bed. 

Fuck love.

It’s a little easier once he gets going and is surrounded by his classmates, but every time he looks Denki’s way his chest feels like it might shatter. Still, he pretends he’s fine, putting on the best show he can manage. 

“Sero, how do you think you did?” Ashido asks over their lunch break.

It takes him a minute to realize she’s referring to the exam today—the one they just took before lunch, the one they’ve all been discussing while Hanta dissociates.

“Ah, I think I did alright,” Hanta replies. It was insanely difficult to focus, and a few times he actually nodded off. How he really did is anyone’s guess.

“I thought it was really hard,” she says. “I’ve been studying so much with Yaomomo but math will never get any easier.”

“I don’t know, after yesterday’s grades I actually felt pretty confident,” Denki says. “I bet we all passed.”

“I hope so,” Hanta mutters.

Even that tiny fragment of conversation is painful. It gives him hope, though, that they might be able to move forward.

Beside him, Kirishima shrugs. “No sense worrying about it while we wait.”

“Hard not to,” Hanta replies.

Hard not to worry about everything. 

By the time the day ends, Hanta is craving the warmth of his bed and the isolation that comes with it, but he allows himself to be dragged along for some video games with the others.

It feels almost normal—almost okay. Bakugou yells profanities, Kirishima gently corrects him, Ashido talks smack, and Denki… Denki is fine. And Hanta is fine. 

It’s all going to be fine!

The best thing he can do right now is act casual around everyone else, act casual as he puts distance between Denki and himself. Denki, of course, has to make that difficult. 

“Hey, wait up!” he hollers once Hanta has called it quits for the night. 

Hanta is reluctant to face Denki, especially without anyone else present. He stops in front of the open elevator, not stepping inside. He needs an exit strategy in case things get messy, so he can’t be holed up with Denki in a tiny space. 

“You feel like doing some poetry?” Denki offers. 

Yes please. But he has to be strong. 

“Uh, no,” Hanta manages. “No thanks.”

“Oh. Yeah, okay. That’s fine.”

“I just,” Hanta sighs. “I think I should study more. We still have exams to take.”

“Right.” Denki doesn’t meet his eyes. “Yeah, you’re right. Can’t get overly confident.”

“Just the right amount of confidence,” Hanta says, hoping to prevent any insecurities on the horizon.

“Yeah…”

Denki tucks his hands into his pockets and wanders back to their friends, and once Hanta is safe and alone in the elevator, he can finally breathe again. He covers his face, prepared to block out any sign of the outer world.

It’s gonna be okay, he tells himself. It’s better this way. 

And so he trudges through another lonely night and another awkward school day. Exams suck, but when the next round of results are posted he’s relieved to see that he hasn’t failed anything yet. There’s still a chance, though. 

It just feels wrong not to talk to Denki—even more wrong to talk around him. They’re avoiding each other; there’s no two ways about it. Actually, Hanta might be doing most of the avoiding. He just needs a break. 

They have a few awkward conversations, all of which Hanta slips out of as soon as he gets an opening. It’s fine among the rest of their friends, though. That’s manageable. 

“Hey,” Denki waves him down in the common area as he’s trying to sneak up to his room. It sounds like Denki wants an actual conversation, but Hanta pretends they’re just saying hello to each other. 

“Hey,” he waves back, hurrying past Denki and bouncing up the stairs. He thinks he hears Denki mumble something before the stairwell door shuts behind him, but he doesn’t bother to turn around and ask. 

He just wants to sleep, but he can’t. He just wants to be happy, but he can’t. He just wants to talk to Denki, but he freaking can’t. 

His stomach growls, but he definitely doesn’t want to eat. Honestly, he feels more like throwing up. What’s happening to him?

For hours on end, he scrolls through his phone without purpose. Social media numbs the pain, but it doesn’t bring any healing. In the middle of his eight thousandth cute cat video, Hanta’s phone buzzes. 

 

Denki 7:43pm

Poetry?

 

Hanta actually groans out loud, shoving his phone beneath his pillow where he won’t have to think about it. Still, the knowledge that Denki is innocently awaiting a reply that will never come breaks his heart a little. Is that what’s happening here? They’ll just never talk or text again? It can’t be.

Putting some space between them was supposed to make Hanta feel better, but he just feels sad. He doesn’t feel at all like his “normal self,” and things with Denki definitely aren’t what he’d call better. He knows it’s only been a couple days, but damn. It’s not supposed to be this way. 

A harsh banging on the door elicits an embarrassing yelp from Hanta. The fear quickly gives way to frustration, because what about his mood today said that he wanted to be anything but alone. Alone! He doesn’t have the chance to tell off his visitor, though, because the door opens with just as much aggression as the hand that knocked on it. 

Behind the door, is the person he least expected to come calling for him. 

“Listen up, Soy Sauce Face, cuz I’m only gonna say this shit once.”




Chapter Text

...So if you’re made of empty spaces,

Don’t ever think it’s wrong,

Because maybe they’re just empty,

Until the right person comes along.

-Ernest Hemingway 



Rage Personified stares him down, prepared to turn this dorm room into a disaster sight. Going from a sleepy pity party to fearing for his life throws Hanta just a little off his game, so he sits up and squints, wondering if his possibly-delirious mind has made it all up. 

“Bakugou, what the heck are you—”

“I said listen up,” Bakugou barks. He slams the door behind him and comes storming over to the foot of Hanta’s bed. “You wanna be friends? Then sit the fuck down and take my advice. I’m sick of this shit.”

Hanta’s already sitting, but Bakugou has piqued his interest, so he won’t make any snarky comments about it. He just does as he’s told and waits for Bakugou to continue. 

“Watching you and Pikachu mope around like sad puppies is fuckin’ annoying. You wanna act like a couple of sad sacks and just hope things will magically get better.”

Hanta sinks into the bed a little. Bakugou is certainly no Kirishima; he didn’t come here with tissues or words of encouragement. This is a lecture, and already Hanta feels extremely called-out. 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing anyway?” Bakugou growls, and it takes a second for Hanta to realize he’s not mocking; he’s actually wondering. “Shit. I can’t believe I’m actually sitting here talking about this, but we heard you guys kissing, and even before that it was obvious you wanted each other or whatever.”

Hanta blushes. “It was?”

“Yes!” Bakugou rolls his eyes like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. But then, if someone as emotionally dense as Bakugou could pick up on it, maybe it’s true. Yikes. “And then you just—stopped? Because? And now you’re gonna ignore him, and Pikachu is following me around like a wounded kitten, crying and shit, and—”

“Crying?” Hanta repeats. That can’t be right. The tiniest of aches resonates in his chest. 

“YES,” Bakugou says again, this time at a volume that would give Present Mic a run for his money. He turns his back on Hanta, pacing the room and rubbing the nape of his neck. “It’s just fuckin’ annoying, okay? That’s the only reason I’m bringing it up.”

Holy shit. 

“Holy shit,” Hanta gasps.

Bakugou cares about Denki.

“You care about Denki! I knew we were all friends!”

“What the-fuck ever,” Bakugou says. “The point is he thinks you hate him, and he won’t shut up about how he ruined everything.”

That ache in Hanta’s heart turns into a gash, leaving him tattered. “But—why would he—”

“Cuz you’re a dumbass.”

Hanta folds his arms. “You’re so mean. I want Kirishima here instead. He actually understands the situation.”

He flops back on the bed, and so what if he looks like a pouting toddler? Things are bad enough without a lecture. His entire world is only crumbling; no big deal, just yell at him to add to it all. 

When Bakugou is frighteningly quiet, Hanta sneaks a peek at him, trying to remain nonchalant. His face is red with fury, and tiny sparks are beginning to fly from his hands. 

“Oh, does he now?” Bakugou asks through gritted teeth. “And I bet you think his advice is better too, huh?”

Hanta should probably be afraid. Maybe he is a little. Mostly, though, he’s annoyed. “Kinda.”

Instead of completely blowing up, Bakugou rolls his eyes again and mutters to himself. “Fuckin’ Shitty Hair…” when Bakugou sits on the edge of the bed, Hanta is definitely afraid. “What? Were you under the impression that saying nothing and waiting for the damn stars to align is what got Kirishima and I together?”

“Uhh?”

“No fuckin’ way.” Bakugou’s voice is as gruff and proud as ever, but he looks at his own folded hands instead of Hanta. “Kirishima would have danced around the subject another thousand years if I hadn’t stepped up and confessed to him.”

“Huh?” Hanta’s yells. “You made the first move?!”

“Hell yeah, I did.”

Bakugou is being way too cool. Hanta yells some more. “Why didn’t Kirishima mention that?”

“Did you ever ask him?”

“Well, no, I didn’t think to—”

Thunk!

Hanta blinks hard, registering Bakugou’s fist on top of his head after it’s long gone. He wouldn’t really call it a punch, but it definitely caught his attention. 

“Then it’s your own fault. You never communicate anything.” Bakugou stands up again, stalking towards the door. “Dumbass.”

He’s at the door, and Hanta thinks that he’s finally going to be free of this unsolicited advice, but Bakugou stops short. He looks back over his shoulder, inspecting Hanta carefully. 

“So you’re gonna talk to him, right?”

“What? No!” Hanta exclaims. “I mean, eventually, maybe? I don’t know!”

How could Hanta ever face Denki right now? Or ever again, for that matter? On top of all the pain, he’s totally humiliated. He kissed Denki all soft and sweet like they were more than makeout buddies—like they were in some cheesy rom-com, and he did it right after detailing how Denki makes his heart flutter, how Hanta obsesses over him, how he thinks he’s absolutely perfect. He called him pretty for goodness sake. 

Another growl from Bakugou. “You’re so annoying. Just talk to him. I don’t like seeing my fuckin’ friends sad.”

The word doesn’t escape Hanta. Friends. As a show of gratitude he decidedly doesn’t tease Bakugou for it, but he’ll remember. Annoying as it is, this is clearly Bakugou’s version of caring, and it’s far more than he’s ever done before. 

“Oh,” Bakugou continues, and Hanta is positive this is the most he’s ever heard Bakugou speak. He has his hand on the doorknob, but doesn’t leave Hanta alone just yet. “Racoon Eyes is having some stupid sleepover tonight to celebrate midterms being over. You’re gonna show up and be perfectly fucking pleasant—to Pikachu and everyone else. Got that?”

“I—” Hanta begins, but the wild look in Bakugou’s eye as he turns back to him is enough to make him stop. It’s like he could sense the hesitation. “Yeah, alright. Uh, thanks, man.”

Bakugou snorts. “Thank me when you have this all worked out.”

He’ll have to do that—if things do work out. There are so many questions right now, so many things up in the air. He does want to talk to Denki, but he doesn’t know where that conversation would even begin. 

Why would Denki ever think this was his fault? Hanta is the one who broke things off, and he all but outed himself and his crush on Denki in the process. If anything, Denki should be mad at him for keeping such a secret all along.

It’s so confusing. 

Feeling beholden to Bakugou, Hanta forces himself to get cleaned up for the evening. As the hot water of the shower pelts him in the back, he tries to build up an endurance. He’s got to be his normal self—he’s got to forget all of these emotions and hurt feelings. As for when he’ll talk to Denki… It’ll have to be soon. Hanta dreads the conversation, but he can’t let Denki think that of the blame for this mess falls on him. It’s all Hanta’s fault.

He dresses in nervous silence, but then decides to fill the rest of his time with a little music. It helps to loosen him up and get him ready for a good time.

See? There are other ways to relax besides poetry. 

When he gets a text from Kirishima asking where he is, he decides he’d better head over to Ashido’s room. The squad is all there when he arrives, already deep into a two liter of soda and a huge bowl of popcorn. 

“Hey, man!” Kirishima greets with a toothy grin. 

“Sorry I’m late,” Hanta says, dodging Bakugou’s glare.

Just be normal, he tells himself. And normal Hanta would sit next to Denki. 

So that’s what he does. It’s a little uncomfortable at first if he’s honest—especially because Denki is sitting farthest from the door, tucked in the corner between the bed and the wall. Hanta has to cross the whole room to get there and then carve out a space for himself where there isn’t one. Still, he offers Denki a smile and a wave, and Denki mirrors him, so it can’t be that bad. 

“How’d you do on the rest of your exams?” Hanta asks Denki while Bakugou yells something or other and Kirishima tries to tame him. Ashido is laughing uncontrollably, so it’s difficult for Hanta to even hear himself. 

Denki seems to get it, though, hugging his knees and halfway meeting Hanta’s eyes. “Not bad. I passed them.”

“Dude, that’s great!”

It feels good to say that. He’s hardly spoken to Denki all week, and things have been so awkward that he hasn’t really congratulated him on his grades yet. 

“What about you?” Denki asks.

All Hanta can do is shrug. “Haven’t checked yet.”

Grades for their final tests were posted today, but Hanta couldn’t bring himself to look. He just didn’t care enough. 

“Too nervous?”

“Um,” Hanta pauses to let Kirishima’s laugh rattle the walls. “Not really. I just—haven’t.”

He doesn’t want to be dramatic, because that would just make things worse—so he can’t mention why he didn’t check his grades. What the heck is he supposed to talk about?

Trying to calm himself, Hanta takes a deep breath. He just can’t talk about anything from this past week. That isn’t so bad.

“Have they been this crazy all night?” Hanta asks, nodding to the others. 

Denki snickers. “You haven’t missed too much. They’re just hyped up on caffeine.”

“Well, whatever they had, just make sure I stay the heck away from it,” Hanta jokes.

They share a laugh over that, one much quieter than the ones resounding around them. The sound sinks into Hanta slowly, saturating his heart and warming his stomach in a pleasant and peaceful way that he hasn’t felt in a while. It’s like he’s returned home.

When he looks over at Denki and sees Denki looking right back, he wonders how he ever thought that putting space between them was the answer. Maybe he’s falling right back into the romantic trap he just escaped; all he knows is that he needs his best friend by his side at all costs—and that probably means taking Bakugou’s advice.

Hanta clears his throat. “So uh, do you think we could talk about—”

“Okay.” Ashido claps her hands, taking center stage. Denki’s eyes keep trailing back to Hanta, but he doesn’t make a move to continue their private conversation as Ashido directs them. “Time for a game. Twenty questions.”

“The hell is that?” Bakugou asks. 

“One person thinks of something,” Kirishima says, “and we get to ask twenty questions to figure it out.”

“Correct,” Ashido smirks, “but also incorrect, because we aren’t playing that way. The game is, I ask you all whatever questions I want, and you are legally required to answer. It’s a classic sleepover game. A must-have.”

“Counter offer,” Kirishima says, but all Hanta can think is that there’s no way this will turn out good. “We all ask each other questions, and we all answer—including you.”

Mina just smiles innocently. “I’m an open book.”

Beside Hanta, the palpable hesitation bubbles out of Denki’s mouth. “I don’t know if I wanna play this.”

“Aw, come on, Kaminari,” Ashido pouts. “For me? I’ll even let you ask the first question.”

Hanta wants to tell Denki that there’s no obligation to play. He actually has to grip the rug to hold himself in place. Objecting so loudly would only put a target on his own back—and probably Denki’s too. So he keeps quiet, but it feels like a definite lose-lose. With all the secrets they’ve been keeping, there are a million ways this could go wrong. 

“Fine,” Denki agrees after a long moment of deliberation. He bites his lip, then turns to Kirishima. “Was Bakugou your first kiss?”

Kirishima looks sideways at Bakugou, a little red in the face. “Uh—yeah. Yeah, he was.”

Hanta fakes a grimace. “Yikes. Sounds like a rough start.”

Bakugou’s fists crackle. “Say that again, Tape Arms!”

The giggles that erupt are just evidence of how far they’ve all come with Bakugou. He doesn’t even scare them anymore—not really. 

“Your turn, Katsuki,” Kirishima urges. 

Bakugou rolls his eyes, but ultimately he doesn’t object. “Whatever. Raccoon eyes, what’s the Pythagorean theorem?”

Ashido just blinks. “The what?”

“The Pythagorean theorem!” Bakugou says again, louder this time. “That’s your question. Answer it or you lose.”

“Bakugou, that’s not how this game—”

“Answer it or I win!”

Ashido groans. “Okay! I guess you ‘win.’ Moving on. Kaminari, why’d you give up poetry?”

Hanta can’t help the dramatic gasp that escapes him. “What?”

He can feel how wide his own eyes are, and Denki’s are a perfect match. He doesn’t answer the question; just sits there with parted lips and shaking hands. 

There are a million questions running through Hanta’s head right now, but somehow the loudest one is asking how Ashido dares to say that so casually. How could she drop a bomb like that and not care? Denki wouldn’t just give up poetry—not unless something was seriously wrong. 

“I,” Denki finally begins, only to stammer over his words. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Aw, come on,” Ashido presses. “I saw all your poetry books in your trash can earlier. What’s that all about?”

In the trash? Hanta leans over, trying to catch Denki’s gaze or make it into his line of sight, but Denki squarely avoids him.

His bitter gaze faces the floor. “I said I’m not answering.”

Hanta reaches out, but his hand stops just short of touching Denki’s shoulder. “Dude—Denki…”

“You’re all really bad at this game,” Ashido remarks. “You’re supposed to actually answer the questions.”

Now, Hanta knows Ashido didn’t mean anything by the comment, but he also feels that the look of shock on her face when Denki stands and marches to the door is a bit unwarranted.

“Kaminari,” she calls, the sincere concern in her voice earning her a few pity points from Hanta. “Where are you going?”

Denki’s fingers tighten into a fist, his back to them all. “I can’t do this tonight.”

And just like that, he’s gone. For a few seconds, nobody says anything. They all sit in stunned silence, sharing uncertain glances. Ashido is the first to move, stepping towards the door in pursuit of their friend, but her movement springs Hanta into action. 

“Hold on, Ashido,” he stops her. “Let me.”

He doesn’t give her or anyone else the chance to disagree, pushing past her and hurrying in his best guess at the direction Denki went. 

Denki can’t give up poetry. Did he do it because of Hanta? It just doesn’t make sense. 

Poetry is everything to Denki. It’s more than Hanta can even understand—let alone everyone else. His heart aches at the idea of Denki physically putting all of his passions into the garbage.

I’m such an idiot!

Truthfully, he has no idea why Denki is doing this, but all of his best suggestions place the blame on himself. If only he hadn’t ended the kissing; if okay he hadn’t started the kissing; if only he hadn’t developed this dumb crush; if only he hadn’t ignored Denki all week—

If only. 

He finds Denki’s room closed and locked, and although it’s possible he’s just not answering when Hanta knocks, he’d have to be holding his breath in there, because it’s dead quiet. Besides, with the way Denki stormed out, it seems more likely that he’d just yell for Hanta to leave him alone if that’s what he wanted.

So if he isn’t in his dorm, then maybe…

“The roof,” Hanta decides.

He takes off, booking it up the stairs and not stopping to ask why he’s in such a hurry until he bursts through the door and is met with peaceful silence. 

Denki sits near the edge, his form illuminated by the lights of the campus and the city in the distance. Otherwise, the rooftop is dark. There’s no way he didn’t hear Hanta’s grand entrance, but Denki says nothing. He doesn’t even turn to look. 

“Hey,” Hanta greets quietly, making his way over and stopping just behind Denki. “Are you—”

“I think I owe you an apology,” Denki blurts. 

Hanta blinks hard. “What? No, what are you—”

“Look, don’t be so humble,” Denki sighs. “I know I really messed up.”

Hanta wants to tell Denki he’s crazy, but he should probably think of a nicer way to word it. He brainstorms a few as he sits down, keeping an appropriate amount of space between them. 

“I don’t know what you mean.” Hanta settles for that. It isn’t eloquent, but he’s really too baffled to play Shakespeare right now. 

“Hanta.” Denki shakes his head, a pained expression on his face. “You can stop pretending, okay? Just let me say it. I don’t think I even realized at first, but I’ve been a really shitty friend. You’ve been uncomfortable all this time, and I—I just let you be. I’m really sorry.”

Hanta bites his lip, confusion and guilt swirling in his stomach. “I don’t—I don’t get it. What are you talking about?”

When Denki meets Hanta’s eyes, Hanta feels his own heart break. Denki’s eyes are big and sad, and he wrings his hands together awkwardly. The quiver in his voice is almost too much to bear.

“I’ve been so miserable all week,” Denki says. “I wanted to give you space, but I—I’ve just been so scared that I ruined our friendship. It’s all so stupid.”

“Nothing you do is stupid,” Hanta disagrees. The cold bites at his knuckles as he clenches his fists.

“Kissing you was!” Denki laments, and Hanta’s heart finds another way to break. “I should never have done it. It was selfish, and—and stupid. I can’t believe I put you through that so many times and never even realized how it was hurting you.”

“Denki…”

“And maybe this is selfish of me too, because I know how weird you must feel around me now, but is there any way we can still be friends?”

It’s only now that Hanta notices Denki’s poetry notebook sitting between them. Denki picks it up and clutches it close to his chest. It’s edges are worn and a bit crumpled. Hanta wonders if maybe it was, indeed, in the garbage, and then Denki stole it back out before coming here.

“Denki,” Hanta tries again. He manages to tear his eyes off the book and meet Denki’s. “I’m always gonna be your friend. I know this week sucked, but—” Hanta closes his eyes. “It’s only because I’ve been worried that I ruined our friendship. Not you.”

“But,” Denki stammers. “But how? When we last kissed, you said you thought you could do it—that you were trying to do it for me, but you couldn’t. You didn’t have to pretend for me.”

Shit. Hanta did say that, and hearing those words through Denki’s ears must have sounded pretty awful. It probably sounded like kissing was torturous—and it was, but not for the reasons Denki’s probably imagining. 

Hanta sighs. There’s no way to clarify all this without outing himself and telling the whole truth.

“Dude, I—it’s not how it sounds. I didn’t hate kissing you...” Hanta takes a deep breath. “I loved it. That was the problem.”

And then, the absolute silence.

Hanta can’t bear to look Denki in the eye, so he focuses on the way his uneven breaths puff out like smoke into the night air. They’re proof of how nervous he is right now, but he’s already laying it all out on the table. There’s nothing to hide. 

At last, Denki speaks, but it isn’t much to go off of. “You—you loved it?”

“I did,” Hanta confirms with all the confidence he can muster. “And I knew you didn’t feel the same way. If anything, I was being selfish. But that’s why I had to stop. I wanted to help you figure yourself out, but it was getting to be too painful, and the more in love with you I fell—”

“In love with me,” Denki repeats. It isn’t quite a question. 

Hanta hadn’t meant to say it. He really hadn’t. Sure, he’s not hiding anything, but to just say something so big and emotionally charged—is he not thinking at all? He covers his face with his hands, hoping that if he can’t see his surroundings he’ll actually disappear.

“In love with you,” Hanta says, his voice muffled by his hands. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Then, there’s a warmth in the cold, wrapping around his hand and pulling it down from his face. Hanta peeks out, and when his eyes meet Denki’s, he’s safe and sound. 

“Dude,” Denki whispers a laugh. He squeezes Hanta’s hand gently. “Maybe we’re both kinda dumb.”

Hanta wants to ask what Denki means, but he just keeps staring and their hands folded together. 

“Can I read you something?” Denki asks after a long moment of quiet. It’s all Hanta can do just to nod.

To his dismay, Denki lets go of his hand to flip through the notebook, and when he settles on a page, he takes a deep breath. Then he reads:



Pursed lips

Tightly sealed and hands tightly balled

Into fists



The heat on my cheeks as you look my way

Betrays me every time

Because the night air with its blistering wind

Is far cooler than I am with you.



Play it casual,

Say only what I should

And avoid at all costs

The dizzying dance of my stomach

All in knots



But at the caress of your hand

On my cheek

I come unraveled,

And along with the words I’ve been hiding

Come out the butterflies

Free of their cage and fluttering

In the stagnant air.



They sit there waiting

And so shall I.



Goosebumps prickle deep in Hanta’s skin, and something in his chest stirs. Those might just be the most beautiful words he’s ever heard, and it feels like Denki read them just for Hanta. 

“Ernest Hemingway?” Hanta guesses instead of trying to tackle all the things that poem made him feel. 

But Denki shakes his head. “Kaminari Denki. I wrote that about you.”

If his chest exploded, would that be a good thing? Because the emotional dam was already in grave danger of bursting when Hanta thought Denki was reading another poet’s words, but knowing that those are Denki’s own words about Hanta… Ten million emotions are already beginning to overflow in his eyes, so he knows he’d better speak before it’s too late. 

“Wow,” he starts, at a loss. “But does that mean—”

“Yeah,” Denki nods. “I figured out my sexuality pretty quickly, but then I had to come to terms with being in love with my best friend.”

Hanta lets out a weepy laugh, his emotions getting the better of him. Denki scoots closer, wiping Hanta’s tears with his thumbs, and then catching a few of his own. 

“Sorry,” Hanta sniffles, a little embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to cry or be dramatic. It’s just—I really thought I’d lost you as a friend.”

“No way,” Denki whispers, resting his forehead on Hanta’s. “Never.”

Hanta puts his hand back on top of Denki’s where it belongs, and for a few joyous moments, he revels in the warmth of Denki’s skin on his. They sit like that—knees touching, heads gently pressed together—in the quiet, in the cold, in the contentment, until the breath of Denki’s low whisper tickles Hanta’s lips. 

“Hanta?”

“Mm?”

“Can I kiss you? For real this time?”

Hanta opens his eyes into Denki’s just long enough to give him the smallest of nods. His eyes flutter closed again as Denki leans in to close the remaining distance between them. 

If Hanta thought that kissing was good before, this is at another level entirely—because now, Hanta knows they both mean it. Now, when Denki curls his hands gingerly into Hanta’s hair, Hanta doesn’t have to hide how much he likes it. Now he can touch Denki too. 

He wraps his arms around Denki, pulling him close to his body and deepening the kiss. It feels so much better actually being comfortable in each other’s arms.

At the caress of Hanta’s fingers on his jawline, Denki breathes in sharply. He opens his mouth, gliding his tongue along Hanta’s lower lip and smiling into the kiss when Hanta lets out a small whimper.

Logically, Hanta knows it’s still freezing out here, but the skin on his body feels red-hot. Every touch of Denki’s fingers on his body has him reeling, stirring up all of the love and the hunger that he’s been fending off for what feels like an eternity.

Feeling bold, Hanta breaks the kiss and puts his hand on the back of Denki’s neck, gently tugging his hair. Denki gasps and throws his head back, giving Hanta perfect access to his slender neck. He kisses down Denki’s jaw, nipping just below his ear and then down to the crook of his neck.

They fall backwards, Hanta not relenting as he crawls on top. Beneath him, Denki writhes and moans, reacting beautifully to every little bite. Frankly, Hanta can’t get enough of it. They’ve already confessed to each other, so if he leaves a hickey, it’s not the worst thing in the world.

“Hanta,” Denki whispers, clawing at the back of his shirt. “Hanta, come back up here. I’m not done with you yet.”

Hanta grins. This is a really sweet moment, but wow, Denki is so hot.

He complies, kissing back up to Denki’s lips and is surprised by the fervor with which Denki kisses him. He’s not even disappointed when Denki slows things down, kissing carefully, deliberately, and stopping more than once to look Hanta over through half-lidded eyes. 

It’s so intimate. 

“This feels different from before,” Denki murmurs. “Better somehow.”

“Mm,” Hanta agrees. “And it was pretty great already.”

“I don’t wanna stop,” Denki says breathlessly, and Hanta would like to just cut him off right there with another kiss, because he agrees, “but the others will be looking for us.”

“Who cares?” Hanta whispers against Denki’s mouth. “We’ve waited long enough for this. They can wait a while longer.”

“Hey,” Denki pulls away, planting one last kiss at the corner of Hanta’s mouth. “The beautiful thing is there’s no rush. We can continue this whenever we want.”

It dawns on Hanta that Denki is right. They don’t have to hurry anymore. They don’t have to hide. Hanta doesn’t have to take every bit that he can get in any isolated moment because there will be many, many more moments to come. More kissing, more cuddling, more sweet shared conversations—more poetry.

Denki pokes Hanta’s nose. “It’s funny seeing you all flustered. I feel like out of the two of us, you always seem to have it all together.”

“Me?” Hanta snorts. “That’s hilarious, because the soundtrack of my brain the last few weeks has been constant screaming.”

“Ha. Same here.”

Reluctantly, Hanta stands up and extends a hand to Denki. “You aren’t really giving up poetry, are you?”

“Nah,” Denki says, taking Hanta’s hand and rising. “But I wanted to. I felt like it had become our thing, and I couldn’t imagine doing it without you anymore. I don’t think I could give it up even if I tried, though.”

“Good.” Hanta squeezes his hand. “You shouldn’t.”

As they head back to Ashido’s room, Hanta dreams of his very real future. Not only will there be more of these lovely romantic moments, but there will be more goofing off and more video games too. More Hanta and Denki. What else could he ask for?

Denki steals one last kiss before they join their friends, and although Hanta can feel everyone’s eyes on them as they cross the room together, they’re all surprisingly cool about it. 

“So,” Ashido grins after a few minutes, “are we going to address the hand-holding?”

“Eh.” Hanta shrugs.

“If you want,” Denki says casually. 

They share a content smile as Ashido gloats that she was right again, claiming that she should really be a matchmaker instead of a hero. Hanta can’t really fault her there; she’s been pretty spot on so far. 

“Proud if you, man,” Kirishima says, throwing his arm around Bakugou. “Both of you.”

Hanta’s heart swells with happiness. Across their little circle, he catches Bakugou’s gaze. He’s wearing his ever-present glare, but when he spots Hanta looking he doesn’t turn away. He holds the stare and gives Hanta a small nod of approval. 

In that moment, everything feels right. Hanta has never been more whole. His love is here, his people are here, and for once in his life, he’s certain that he’s on the right path. 

“You know,” Hanta whispers when the room is dark and everyone else is asleep.

He and Denki are still tucked in that little corner by the bed, snuggled up in furry blankets and folded like pretzels. Denki’s head rests on Hanta’s chest, and he lifts his chin when Hanta speaks. 

“I think part of the reason I was so scared to like you was that,” Hanta pauses, trying to put the words together properly. Denki is patient. “I was worried that our friendship wouldn’t have room for anything more—or even worse, that something was missing, and that’s why I felt this way.”

“Yeah?” Denki says back quietly, sleepily. 

Hanta nods, softly kissing the hair on top of Denki’s head. “But it turns out there was room, and we weren’t lacking in anything. It was just the natural next step—a space that needed to be filled between us.”

Denki mumbles unintelligibly, shifting his weight and snuggling closer into Hanta’s chest. 

Running his fingers down Denki’s back, Hanta decides to let his boyfriend sleep. That’s what they are now, right? Boyfriends? He can’t think of a better title.

He’s spent so much time stressing over titles, trying to put a name to feelings, questioning the validity of his emotions and actions. For all the pain, Hanta is pretty sure he’d do it the exact same way over again, given the choice, because where he is right now is perfect. 

There will be more empty spaces too. 

Hanta adds that to the list. It’s no longer something to be scared of. In fact, he hopes there are a thousand empty spaces to be filled. And they will fill them—together. If this is the beginning, he can’t wait to see how the rest of their life unfolds.

Out the window, it’s just beginning to snow. Instead of a glove, Hanta takes Denki’s hand to warm his own, carefully intertwining their fingers together.

Another empty space filled.