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A sick day, or well-rested

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            “…Seriously?”

            Toshinori gives a shrug, his grin sheepish. The fingers of one large hand tap anxiously against the steering wheel.

            “I’m sorry, if you don’t like it I can put the top back up!”

            Aizawa sweeps his eyes over the sleek convertible. It’s a soft, sparkling shade of sky blue, with trimmings the color of gold and seats of warm leather. It’s technically a four-seater, but most of the narrow backseat is taken up by the fact that Toshinori has to slide his seat all the way back in order to fit his lanky frame behind the wheel. It’s arguably the nicest car Aizawa has ever seen, and not something he would be caught dead in at any other time or with any other person. But it’s his ride for the afternoon, so he has little choice but to pretend not to hate it, for the sake of Toshinori’s feelings.

            “Well,” he sighs, “at least it’s not hot pink.”

            Some of the tension drains from Toshinori’s shoulders. Aizawa’s first reaction wasn’t outright condemnation, and that’s about as good as it gets. The teacher climbs in the passenger seat, glancing around as he buckles himself in. No one saw him get in. Good.

            Toshinori hesitantly leans across the console, clearly unsure of himself until Aizawa turns and closes the distance. The older man’s face clears and he offers his new boyfriend a quick hello-kiss, just a peck on the corner of the mouth. Then he puts the car in gear and pulls away.

            “Never pegged you for the fancy car type,” says Aizawa, leaning an arm against the door. The wind lifts his hair around his face, warmed by the sun that’s been shining all day.

            “I’m not really,” Toshinori replies, never taking his eyes from the road. “It was a gift from an old friend, back when I studied in the US. I’d trade it in for something more practical, but it has sentimental value at this point.”

            “Why don’t you drive it to work?”

            “Why would I when it’s more economical to take the train?”

            “Surely you of all people don’t have a problem with the economics.”

            “Of course not. But why be wasteful? I have everything I need.”

            Surprisingly practical, thinks Aizawa with an internal nod of approval. Another question occurs to him as he watches his boyfriend’s face.

            “Wait… but aren’t you loaded? You’ve been the number one since like, 1995.”

            “Oh yeah, the merchandise sales alone bring in several million a year,” says Toshinori with a dismissive wave of his hand. “But it’s not like one person could ever use all that in their whole lifetime. I put away a little in savings and then donate the rest to international relief funds.”

            Aizawa stares in mild shock, more arrested by the nonchalance than anything else. His mind is still chocked up over the ‘several million a year’.

            So I’m dating a millionaire.

            He clears his throat loudly, turning his eyes back to the windshield.

            “Interesting. Never thought of that before.”

            “Most people don’t!” Toshinori just laughs brightly.

            They stop at a light on a steep hill. When it turns, the engine growls and momentarily slips before Toshinori revs it forward. As they coast over the peak of the hill, Aizawa glances down at the center console and realizes for the first time that it’s a manual transmission. He watches in mild fascination as Toshinori guides the car smoothly between gears, then throws it into neutral so they can coast down the rest of the hill.

            “Stick shift, huh?” he prompts. The taller man just offers a nod, leaning back in his seat and steering with one hand while he fiddles with the knob of the static-y radio.

            “Yup! It’s more fun, and more efficient, I think. Not many people know how to drive it anymore, though. Did you ever learn?”

            “I don’t drive.”

            “Not at all?”

            “Nope.”

            “Do… do you have a license?”

            “Nope.”

            “Why not?”

            “Never saw the need, living in the city,” Aizawa says, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. He glances out the window to his right to watch the road go by. They’re taking the ‘scenic route’ on the edge of town, where there’s trees and grass. There’s a pause in which he feels Toshinori’s eyes on him, and then at length the other man states:

            “…You nod off at the wheel, don’t you.”

            “Shut up.”

            “That’s fair.”

            They drive in companionable silence for awhile. Aizawa likes that about them. Toshinori is very good at filling empty spaces with all sorts of amiable chatter, and his voice is nice to listen to, but he doesn’t mind quiet either. The pair of them can sit together in silence for hours, sharing a couch in the corner of the school library or the teacher’s lounge while they grade assignments and sip cheap cafeteria tea. It’s become a sort of ritual with them. This arrangement suits Aizawa, who is notoriously taciturn.

            Eventually, when the radio tries and fails for the third time to pick up a static-ridden music station, Toshinori switches modes and points to the glove box.

            “Here- pick something to listen to.”

            Aizawa opens the indicated compartment, then hisses a curse when a torrent of CD cases comes spilling out.

            “Christ, Toshi! There isn’t an aux jack on that radio, is there?”

            “I think so, but I don’t have a cord.”

            “Oh come on, you’re not that old. Get an iPod,” grumbles Aizawa as he gathers up the mess.

            “Hey, I like my CD’s!” laughs Toshinori. Aizawa just wrinkles his nose, searching through the disorganized stack for something decent. Most of the music is in English, and old. There isn’t a single album that dates after 1985, except for the U2 and Sting albums, of which Toshinori owns every single one through U2’s most recent release. Aizawa, who is personally fonder of classic rock, doesn’t mind the music’s age. What he does mind is the stark lack of classic rock, and the proliferation of sixties hippie music, seventies disco, and eighties alternative. So basically, every other genre.

            Dunno what else I expected, he thinks resignedly. He gives up the search, selects an album at random, and shoves it in the CD player.

            The lyrics are English, and if the gentle opening guitar riff is anything is to judge by, it’s probably sixties folk rock. It takes Aizawa a moment to figure out what the singer is saying, but when he does, he discovers that it’s actually rather pleasant music.

            ---I get the news I need on the weather report
            I can gather all the news I need on the weather report
            Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile…
            The only living boy in New York---

            A glance at the scrolling radio header reads the artist name as ‘Simon and Garfunkel’. And for a bright, warm Sunday afternoon, rolling through green hills in a convertible with the top down, the music is surprisingly perfect. Like floating. Like dreaming.

            Aizawa closes his eyes and tilts his head back to feel the warmth of the sunlight shining in the open cab, the breeze whipping his hair around his face, the car shifting gears underneath him. It’s far more pleasant than it has a right to be.

            The image briefly shatters when the car slows and Toshinori hits the pause button on the radio. Aizawa picks up his head. They pull out in front of the restaurant they intended to have lunch at, see the immense crowd of Sunday afternoon eaters waiting to be seated, and exchange a look. They were under the impression that this place was small and quaint, not too busy on the weekends, tucked away on the edge of town where it’s quiet and the air is fresh. Apparently they were misinformed. Now that Toshinori no longer has the public anonymity of All Might, a busy dining room like that promises to be a perfect nightmare.

            “Do you wanna just… drive around for awhile?” wonders Toshinori, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else than the middle of that crowd. Aizawa nods enthusiastic approval. They pull away without another word, turning the car outwards towards the bright green and gold fields of the countryside ahead.

            Aizawa puts his seat back and tucks his arms behind his head, throwing his sunglasses down over his eyes. Toshinori grins at him, then throws the car into fourth gear and punches the gas pedal. The engine purrs deliciously as they pick up speed, swooping over the hills so fast that their stomachs drop at the peaks. They’re speeding, but Toshinori is a very good driver and the roads are mostly empty anyway. Aizawa hits the play button on the radio, determined to enjoy the ride this time. It’s the first break he’s had all week, and the only one he’ll have until the next Sunday, so he intends to make this last.

            Simon and Garfunkel serenade them all through that hazy, sun-baked afternoon. When the disc switches over to the next song in the album, Toshinori starts singing along with the lyrics. It’s like a hymn. His deep voice rings as if the sky was a cathedral, build solely for the purpose of exalting the words.

            ---Sail on silver girl, sail on by

            Your time has come to shine

            All your dreams are on their way…

            I’m sailing right behind

            Like a bridge over trouble water

            I will ease your mind---

            The next song is one that Aizawa actually recognizes, and knows the lyrics to. ‘The Boxer’ is a classic, after all. Toshinori happily sings out each lyric, and the words seem to swell within Aizawa’s chest until he’s fit to burst if he doesn’t release it. So he hesitantly joins in on the harmony, growing in boldness when he sees Toshinori’s face light up. The pair aren’t the best singers in the world, and Aizawa doesn’t always sing the harmony part correctly, but it makes the other man happy enough that it’s worth it.

            ---In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade

            And he carries the reminder

            Of every glove that laid him down and cut him ‘till he cried out

            In his anger and his shame:

            ‘I am leaving, I am leaving!’

            But the fighter still remains---

Aizawa listens, and feels alive.

            The next morning promises a Monday as dismal and grey as the day before was golden and lively. Aizawa rolls out of bed feeling like he’s been rudely awakened from a pleasant dream. It’s days like these that make him resent the world as a whole. He wishes he could go back to Sunday.

            The honk of a horn on the curb outside draws his attention. Aizawa slumps over to the window wondering who the hell is out there and what in the hell they think they’re doing. He yanks the shades up and realizes, to his immense surprise, that Toshinori is parked outside in that damn car. The top is still down despite the impending threat of rain. Bewildered, Aizawa throws the window open and leans out.

            “Toshi?! What the hell?”

            “Good morning Shota! Thought I’d spare you the train ride!” says the other man, waving up at him with a cheery smile.

            “You dumbass! At least let me get dressed, jeez!”

            Aizawa clatters down the stairs with his satchel slung over his shoulder ten minutes later. He slams the car door and then turns to Toshinori with a look of faint annoyance.

            “This is a little much. Where the hell are you even gonna park this thing?”

            “I’ve got a parking permit and everything! Look!”

            Toshinori points at the sticker in the windshield. Then he puts the car in gear and pulls out into the flow of traffic. Aizawa frowns when he realizes they’re getting looks from the drivers around them. Toshinori’s car isn’t exactly subtle. So the teacher slumps low in the seat, pulls his sunglasses down over his eyes, and digs around in his bag for the usual jelly pack, intending to slurp down his liquid breakfast on the way. But the other man notices the green pack and stops him with a light touch on the arm.

            “Hold on. I picked up some real food on the way here.”

            Aizawa glances at the backseat, sees the brown paper bag with the label from a nearby café, and blushes profusely. He pulls it into his lap. It unwraps to reveal one of those croissant-sandwiches, still fresh and steaming in its foil wrapper. The smell is tantalizing, as is the coffee that Toshinori offers him from the cupholders in the center console. Aizawa sits with his sandwich and coffee looking abashed.

            “Toshi, you didn’t have to do all this,” he mumbles. He takes a sip of the coffee. It’s his favorite kind, made just right: strong and black, but with enough sugar that it’s practically syrup. Just like he takes it every morning. The blush deepens.

            “Nonsense,” insists Toshinori with an amiable smile. “I wanted to say thank-you for coming out with me yesterday. It’s not that weird for me to want to do things for you, is it? We’re dating, after all.”

            “I… I guess that's a logical assumption,” admits the other man. He takes a big bite of the sandwich. A groan of pleasure escapes his lips, and then he practically inhales the rest. Real food. He’s practically forgotten what it’s like to eat real, warm food in the mornings. It sits solidly in his belly, a comforting weight.

            He only realizes that there wasn’t a second sandwich for Toshinori when he reaches into the now-empty bag for a napkin to wipe his mouth. He glances at the driver, who is methodically sipping his own coffee (which he takes with a generous serving of cream, but no sugar).

            “Did you eat?” Aizawa inquires. Toshinori shrugs, holding the warm coffee against his thin chest.

            “Not yet. My appetite’s a little off this morning.”

            Aizawa sighs. He wants to scold his boyfriend for not taking care of himself, but what can he say? The man is missing his entire stomach for Christ’s sake, forcing himself to eat breakfast in the morning is probably an ordeal. And Aizawa isn’t one to talk, if it weren’t for his friends he’d probably subsist on jelly packs alone-

            Suddenly he grabs up the abandoned jelly pack from his bag and thrusts it across the console at Toshinori. The other man looks down at it startled.

            “Here,” explains Aizawa, “It’ll be easy on your system.”

            A faint redness creeps into Toshinori’s cheeks, but he accepts the offering with a smile. The car pauses at a stoplight, and while he has the chance, Toshinori leans over and presses a warm kiss to Aizawa’s cheek.

            “Thanks, Shota. I appreciate it.”

            The pair of them stare at each other once Toshinori pulls back, blushing like idiots until the light turns and he has to turn his attention back to driving.

            Toshinori is back the next morning, and the next. By the time next week rolls around, it’s becoming a routine. Usually Aizawa would protest the excesses, but he’s starting to get used to warm solid breakfasts, and riding in that dumb car with the top down. He tried paying Toshinori back for the food once, and when that didn’t work, he resigned himself to it. It’s not as if his boyfriend can’t afford it.

            “You know Toshi, people are gonna notice if we make this a regular thing. And they’re gonna talk,” he points out on a Tuesday morning after he’s buckled up and picked a CD. It’s U2’s Joshua Tree, this time. The commute is actually a little longer by car than it is by train because of the traffic, but the pair don’t mind the extra time as long as they’re spending it together. Toshinori takes a deep breath. When he answers, it sounds like he’s rehearsed the words.

            “It’s got to happen sometime. People will find out eventually because they always do. I don’t care if you don’t. …Do you?”

            Aizawa considers it as he pops off the lid of his coffee and blows the steam away.

            “Hm. I guess I don’t.”

            “Good. Then eat your sandwich.”

            And nothing more is said on the matter.

            Aizawa has felt his students’ eyes on him all morning. This isn’t necessarily abnormal- they’re supposed to be paying attention, aren’t they?- except that he’s pretty sure Aoyama and Ashido have been whispering behind their hands to each other, and Midorya absolutely refuses to make eye contact with him. Even Iida seems antsy. They whole class has been distracted, eyeing him from afar when they think he isn’t watching. It’s been happening for days, and he’s sick and tired of it. Finally, Aizawa pauses in the middle of writing out the due dates for next week’s assignments and turns to glare at them.

            “Is there something you two would like to share with the class?” he says, giving Ashido and Aouyama a pointed look. The girl pauses mid-whisper and sits up suddenly as if trying to make it look like she wasn’t doing anything. Aizawa glances around and sees, much to his annoyance, that the whole group is watching the exchange with great interest.

            “Is this about what I think it’s about? You little goblins have been looking at me funny all week,” he demands. Aoyama gives his teacher ‘the look’. You know, that look.

            “That depends, sir. What do you think it’s about?”

            “My personal life, which is none of your business.”

            “It is if it’s between our teachers,” insists Aoyama, earning himself a steely glare.

            Ashido flashes the teacher a sheepish smile as if to apologize on her friend’s behalf.

            “Sorry, sir. We’re just curious is all.”

            Aizawa looks around him and realizes with a tired sigh that there’s no getting around it. Better to get it out of the way quickly so the kids can get back to focusing on their studies.

            “Fine. You have-” he glances at his watch, “-three minutes, and then I never want to hear about it again. Go.”

            “Sir! Are you dating All Might?!” Iida demands loudly, one hand karate-chopping the air with vicious intensity. Unsurprising that he’d be the one to point out the obvious.

            “Yes. Next question.”

            The kids give each other excited looks, and then there’s inquiries flying from every part of the room and from every mouth.

            “Since when are you and All Might gay?” exclaims Bakugo.

            “Since always, you guys just weren’t paying attention.”

            “How long have you been together?” That’s Sero.

            “I dunno, a month or two.”

            “Who asked who out first?” There’s Ashido.

            “I asked him because he’s an idiot who can’t take a hint.”

            “Does the rest of the staff know?” wonders Yaoyorozu.

            “Probably, by now.”

            “Do you guys like, go out on dates and stuff?” says Kaminari, who’s probably never been on a date in his life.

            “Sometimes.”

            “Does the paparazzi bother you guys?” demands Sato in a very ‘I’ll beat them up if they do’ tone of voice.

            “No. We avoid them like the plague.”

            “Does it bother you? The press, I mean,” asks Hagakure, her voice quiet and concerned. Aizawa shrugs.

            “Nothing can bother you if you don’t let it. Next question.”

            “Is that blue convertible in the teacher’s lot All Might’s car?” demands Kirishima.

            “Yeah, that’s the one.”

            “Cool! Never thought he’d be a car guy!”

            “He’s not. It was a gift. Anyone else?”

            “Have you been to each others’ places? Does he live in a mansion?” wonders Ochako.

            “A couple times, yeah. And no, he has a normal apartment.”

            “Did you sleep over?” wonders Kaminari with a waggle of eyebrows.

            “I’m not gonna dignify that with an answer. Next.”

            Mineta’s mouth opens. The capture weapon shoots out from Aizawa’s neck almost of its own accord, squeezing the purple-haired boy so hard his eyes bulge. Aizawa’s eyes flame a demonic shade of red.

            “Ask me something inappropriate and I will have you in detention until the day you graduate, Mineta.”

            The kid closes his mouth over a question that would have no doubt been disastrous. The class falls silent at last. Aizawa’s scarf re-winds and he glances at his watch again.

            “Time’s up. We’re never talking about this ever again, and that’s final. Get back to work.”

            “Wait!” cries Midorya, his hand shooting up in the air. Aizawa considers denying him, but then again, the kid was silent the entire time and it’s only fair he gets a turn.

            “Yes, Midorya?”

            “Does… does he make you happy?”

            The teacher pauses, thinking about it. He remembers that sunny car ride with the top down, the wind in his hair and Toshinori’s voice rising hymn-like over the green hills.

            “I mean…. Yeah. Yeah, I guess he does.”

            The class smiles at each other and then back at him. The teachers just offers them a stern look, then turns back to the blackboard.

            “Now then, as I was saying before we got side-tracked: your compare-and-contrast essays on villain/vigilante theory are due Friday. If you’re unsure about the strength of your argument, you can run your thesis by me during my office hours-”

            Aizawa can feel the collective groan behind him as he drags their attention back into the drudgery of school work. He’s just relieved to get them off the subject. It wasn’t as annoying as he’d dreaded, but it was still awkward. He’s glad they’ve got that over with.

            It’s a few days after that when someone points out to Aizawa that something might be wrong with the aforementioned boyfriend. He and Present Mic are eating lunch in the cafeteria with Midnight. His two best friends are chatting away over his head when suddenly Hizashi nudges his arm and points across the cafeteria.

            “Hey look, it’s Toshinori. HEY MAN! COME JOIN US!” he shrieks. Aizawa turns to wave over his shoulder. But Toshinori just looks at the three of them like a deer in headlights, then ducks his head and leaves the cafeteria in a hurry. A moment later, Lunch-Rush appears from the kitchen in the spot where the teacher was just standing, holding a thermos. The chef glances around confused, sees his three coworkers staring, and approaches.

            “Did any of you see where All Might went?” he wonders.

            “No, he just kind of… left,” Nemuri supplies unhelpfully. After a pause, Aizawa points at the thermos in Lunch-Rush’s hands.

            “Is that for him?”

            “Oh! Uh, yeah. He asked me to reheat some of yesterday’s soup for him. If you see him later, would you give it to him?”

            “Sure,” says Aizawa, taking the offered thermos and stowing it in his satchel. Most of the school is quietly aware by now that he and Toshinori are dating, so it’s natural for Lunch-Rush to assume Aizawa will see him later.

            The three friends exchange looks once Lunch-Rush has retired to his kitchen.

            “What was that all about, yo?” says Hizashi, shoving a giant bite of sandwich in his mouth.

            “I dunno, Toshi looked kinda green though. And wasn’t yesterday’s soup chicken noodle? Maybe he’s sick,” Nemuri speculates, flicking her blue-black hair over one shoulder.

            Aizawa just shrugs.

            “Someone as ill as him is bound to have off days. I’ll check up on him later.”

            “Oh you will, huh? I bet you’ll ‘check up on him’ alright,” teases Hizashi, He digs an elbow into Aizawa’s ribs. Nemuri grins wickedly as Aizawa snatches Hizashi’s arm away, twisting it viciously until the other man cries ‘uncle’.

            “Aww, Shota, that’s so sweet! Cute boyfriends!” exclaims Nemuri.

            “Will you shut up about it already? It’s not cute, I’m just making sure he’s okay. Christ, you two are immature,” growls Aizawa.

            “C’mon, admit it Shota,” Hizashi urges, “we’re the best wingmen ever and you’re happier than you’ve been in years! If it weren’t for us you’d never have asked him out.”

            “It would’ve happened eventually,” grumbles Aizawa. Nemuri just throws her head back and laughs.

            “Oh puh-lease! You two would have shuffled around each other in awkward circles until the day you died! You have us to thank for your current relationship, and you know it.”

            “Literally all you did was steal his coursework so he would have to ask me to help him. I just asked him out so you’d stop torturing him.”

            “Exactly, and look how it worked out! Best wingmen ever!” exclaims Hizashi. Aizawa just sighs and picks moodily at his rice.

            “More like most obnoxious wingmen ever,” he growls, then shoves the food in his face to give himself an excuse not to talk.

            Class 1-A’s Foundational Hero Studies period is right after lunch, so Aizawa seeks out Toshinori in his office to give him the thermos. He enters without knocking, as is his custom, though he pauses when he hears the rattle of a pill bottle. Toshinori is just downing a dose of some kind of medicine when he looks up. Aizawa realizes that Nemuri was right. Toshinori looks pale and wan, or at least, more than his usual. And it occurs to Aizawa that the other man was unusually quiet on the ride to work, keeping the radio volume very low as if he were fighting off a headache. Toshinori swallows hard and then flashes his boyfriend a thin smile, screwing the lid of his water bottle back on.

            “Oh, Shota! There you are. Sorry about earlier, I uh… something came up, I had to run.”

            “That’s fine. Here: Lunch-Rush wanted me to give this to you.”

            Toshinori takes the proffered thermos but doesn’t open it- just shoves it in his satchel and stands as if to go right to class.

            “Thanks! I’ve got to meet the kids at the gym, but I’ll see you la-”

            “Wait a sec, aren’t you gonna eat?” Aizawa wonders, subtly stepping backwards to block the doorway with his body. Toshinori stops short. He’s got that deer-in-the-headlights look again.

            “Uhh, well… I don’t want to be late. I’ll just eat during class.”

            “It’s okay, there’s no need to rush. I can get them started for you. You can take over once you’ve eaten something.”

            Toshinori shifts his weight from one foot to the other anxiously, looking like he wants to argue. But then he relents with a sigh, turning back to his desk.

            “If you insist. Thanks, Shota.”

            “Of course. Any time,” says the other man, standing on tip-toe to offer a quick kiss. Toshinori accepts it with another one of those thin, trying-too-hard smiles. Aizawa lingers long enough to make sure that Toshinori is actually eating his soup, not just pretending to do so. Then he leaves with a wave to get the Foundational Hero Studies period started for him.

            Aizawa is hoping Toshinori will be better the next day, but he’s disappointed. The other man shows up at Aizawa’s apartment a little late in the morning, bearing the usual sandwich and coffee for his boyfriend but no mug for himself like usual. He keeps the radio turned off and presses his lips into a thin line, silent the entire drive. As the pair are getting out of the car, Aizawa stops him with a touch on the arm.

            “Are you feeling okay, Toshi?” he wonders. His boyfriend just smiles, nodding the concern away.

            “Of course! I’m fine. I just have a little headache, that’s all.”

            Aizawa doesn’t believe it. Toshinori doesn’t look like he’s in the mood to debate, however, so he lets it slide. They walk up to the school hand-in-hand, but let go of each other the moment they pass through the doors. They’ve agreed to keep it mostly professional while at work. This is Aizawa’s rule, and usually he’s more comfortable that way. But today he doesn’t like watching Toshinori walk away. He doesn’t like the fact that they’ll be separated most of the day. Something is going on, and not pursuing it feels wrong to him. He drags himself away with a sigh, knowing he has to be at homeroom in a matter of minutes.

            Aizawa takes to carrying a few extra jelly packs with him throughout the rest of that week, offering one to his boyfriend in place of breakfast or lunch, since it’s clear that the thought of eating anything solid makes Toshinori feel ill. He also makes two cups of tea by default, offering one even when the other man hasn’t asked for it. The tea is always gratefully accepted, as are the lingering touches and very private kisses stolen when he’s sure no one’s looking. But they are never reciprocated. Toshinori doesn’t seem to have the energy to return Aizawa’s small affections with his usual enthusiasm. The lingering sense of wrongness grows in Aizawa’s stomach, caught somewhere between concern and dread and a fear of overstepping the bounds of their very new and fragile relationship.

            It comes to its worst when Aizawa wakes up Friday morning to a text. It’s raining thunderously, and the forecast says it will continue to do so all day. Aizawa rolls out of bed after his usual two hours of sleep, fumbling to turn off the wake-up alarm on his phone. His stomach drops when he sees the message banner right underneath the alarm.

            Sorry, I can’t pick you up today.

            It’s uncharacteristically terse from a man who chronically over-uses emojis to the point where Aizawa wants to throw up in his mouth. No explanation is given.

            That’s fine, I’ll take the train. Aizawa replies, still rubbing the sleep out of his tired eyes. See you later?

            No reply.

            Aizawa arrives a little late because he’s fallen out of the habit of the train, and was delayed by a few minutes when he missed his usual car. The rain doesn’t make anything better. He wrings his sopping-wet hair out and then ties it up so it can dry, walking brusquely down the halls to make up lost time. He later finds out from Hizashi that Toshinori never showed. When the students ask where All Might is, Aizawa just shrugs, tapping his papers into a neat stack.

            “Why would I know? He’s probably got an appointment or something. It’s nothing for you to worry about.”

            His apparent nonchalance seems to placate the students, but it does very little to soothe the roiling in his own gut. The calmer he seems on the outside, the more tightly wound he becomes on the inside. And when Principle Nezu himself shows up to cover Foundational Hero Studies, it only gets worse. Nezu and Recovery Girl are the only two people who Toshinori keeps fully appraised of his condition. If Nezu is teaching his class, does that mean he’s ill again? As the panicked students run the muddy, rain-soaked, slippery obstacle course the Principle set for them, Aizawa texts Toshinori again.

            Hey. Are you feeling okay? Is something going on?

            Still, no response. Both messages, including the one from this morning, are unread. Aizawa argues with himself for a solid half an hour about whether he should call or not. Eventually he decides against it, and resolves not to think about it anymore. Toshinori’s an adult. He can take care of himself, and it’s not Aizawa’s job to hound after him. So the teacher resolutely turns his mind away from thoughts of Toshinori, focusing on his teaching work for the day and patrol later that night.

            It’s still raining when 11:00 rolls around and Aizawa takes to the rooftops. The downpour has relaxed to a drizzle now, but the wind drives the rain nearly sideways. The steady, unrelenting shower soaks him to the skin and keeps him soaked the entire five-hour patrol. It’s cold, too: not one of those pleasant summer rains that offers a welcome relief from heat and humidity. The warmth of the previous weeks is rapidly giving way to autumn, when the nights are fifteen degrees colder and the wind cuts through clothes like they aren’t even there. What’s more, the agency has Aizawa monitoring an area located in the older sector town, where the buildings’ architecture is highly inconvenient for his usual rooftop-and-fire-escape travel. He slips and nearly falls more times than he can count, only saved by his adeptness with his capture weapon. He’s certain he’ll be a banged-up, bruised mess by the time the night is out.

            It doesn’t help that he’s distracted. He almost lets the drug dealers he’s supposed to be monitoring escape his surveillance. He’s busy going back in forth in his head, trying to figure out why Toshinori has suddenly stopped talking to him. His logical mind, which takes up most of his brainpower, insists that there’s any number of normal, mundane reasons for Toshinori to have dropped off the map. But it’s that small part, the non-rational and over-analyzing one, that really gets to him.

            What if it’s he’s too sick to reply? There’s no one there with him, no one to look after him just in case.

            Next thing he knows, he looks up and the targets have disappeared. Snap out of it, Shota! He growls at himself. Luckily, he picks their trail back up and successfully tracks them to the warehouse. The agency has been searching for that base of operations for months, so tracking them back to it is important. Aizawa remains posted outside, hidden against the dark hulk of a nearby smokestack, to be sure that he’s found the right place. He waits until 4:00 AM rolls around, and it’s time for him to report.

            The journey back to his agency is short. He rushes through the report, tapping his foot impatiently the entire time and dripping water on the tile floor of the office building. He doesn’t even pause to dry off and change. It’s a big discovery he’s made, and yet he finds that he couldn’t care less. All he can think about is being done with the paperwork, so he can get on to-

            -to what, exactly? I’m just gonna go to sleep like always, he thinks with an irritated shake of his head. Every night when they release him at 4:30 AM he just goes back home. On weekdays he sleeps one or two hours until 7:00 when he gets up again for work. Since it’s Saturday, and he doesn’t have to be at the school until noon, he’ll sleep in. He desperately needs it, he knows: he can feel the exhausted crash sneaking up on him, as it always does at the end of the week.

            At last, at long last, his report is submitted, his paperwork is complete, and they let him go. Conducting the raid is up to the police and the daytime heroes. Eraserhead’s job is done.

            Aizawa is halfway across town when he realizes his feet aren’t taking him to his own apartment block. He swings from a nearby telephone pole, lands on the top platform of a fire escape, and crouches there with a look of utter confusion on his face. His numb fingers wind into the rusted grill for purchase in the rain, holding himself down against the wind.

            Where the hell does he think he’s going? Is he so tired that he forgot which way home is? No, wait… this is just a few blocks from…

            Damn, I can’t even lie to MYSELF, can I? he thinks with a frustrated sigh. His body has betrayed him. His feet are moving again.

            Aizawa has been to Toshinori’s apartment a few times, mostly in passing: making a quick stop so the retired hero can grab something he forgot, or going home with him for a few hours to watch a movie before Aizawa has to leave for patrol. He’s been there enough times to know where it is, though not enough to be familiar with it. It’s a nice place in a pricey part of town, just the right size for Toshinori, though not for much else. He likes to joke that it still has ‘new apartment smell’, since he only moved into it a few months ago after his retirement. But Aizawa knows from personal experience that it’s actually a comfortable little place: well-furnished with honey-colored woods and soft leathers, sporting multiple sets of bookshelves loaded with all sorts of books and comics and magazines and trinkets, decorated with a wealth of potted plants, Toshinori’s favorite fan-drawings and letters from over the years framed and hung all over the walls, warm and always smelling faintly of the evergreen candles Toshinori burns from time to time. Aizawa likes it a lot better than his own spartan apartment, which is more of a crash site than anything else.

            Aizawa sees that the light is on in the fourth-story window when he swings by. So Toshinori is up at this hour. He drops down to the pavement, re-winds his scarf, comes up to the front door, and then pauses there. His hand hovers next to the button and for a full minute he just stands there staring at the number ‘403’, dripping water on the step.

            He buzzes in. Holds it down for a long time. And despite knowing that Toshinori is awake, he gets no response.

            That clenching feeling is back in his gut. If he didn’t know something was wrong before, he does now. He ducks to the side alley and scales the fire escape up to the fifth-story roof, runs along to the ‘03’ position, and then drops down onto fourth-floor balcony where a soft golden light shines out the glass doors.

            You’re being a giant fucking creep, Shota, he thinks of himself as he peers past the half-open curtains in search of some sign of movement. The living room and the kitchen beyond is empty. The door that leads off into the bedroom is open, however, and although it’s hard to judge from this angle, it looks like the bathroom light is on. Aizawa pauses there, crouching on the balcony with his ear close to the seam between the balcony doors. Listening.

            There. In between howling gusts of wind, there’s a distant noise from within. It’s a lot like the hacking Toshinori makes when he coughs, but it’s louder: loud enough to be heard from outside, and violent enough to make Aizawa’s breath catch in his throat.

            He stands, tests the balcony door, and finds it unlocked, which is not like Toshinori at all. The retired hero is usually so cautious about locking up at night, knowing very well how easy it is to get robbed in this world of super-powered criminals. Aizawa feels like a robber himself as he steals inside, streaming water on the carpeted floor. He listens for it again as the door clicks shut behind him.

            Now that he’s inside, the coughing is unmistakable and enough to make Aizawa’s heart stop in his chest. Toshinori is in the bathroom and whatever is happening, he’s suffering. Caution flies into the wind: Aizawa squelches across the living room, through the bedroom, and up to the bathroom door, where he stops short.

            Toshinori hasn’t even noticed him yet, he’s so far gone. The man sits on a low stool by the toilet, shirtless, his long legs jackknifed under him and his body curled around the bowl. He rests his elbow on the seat and his head in his hand, eyes closed as he focuses on the action of breathing. The sound rattles inside his chest with each inhale, then hisses on the exhale. As Aizawa watches, he lurches forward again and spews a thick, clotted mixture of blood and bile into the toilet, his whole body heaving with each spasm. The blood spatters down his front and over the stained toilet seat, which bears the residue of countless retching fits before that.

            Unable to contain himself, Aizawa steps forward and kneels next to Toshinori, sliding one arm around his waist and placing a palm on his chest to hold him upright. The other man gives a colossal start, dull feverish eyes swinging to look at Aizawa.

            “Sh-Shota? What- ugh!”

            His question is swallowed in another fit, which brings up nothing this time but a little reddish bile and some water. He convulses until there’s nothing left to retch, and then continues to choke even after that, as if his ruined lungs have forgotten how to breathe entirely. His head sinks so low it nearly touches the toilet seat. Aizawa rubs circles between his shoulder-blades, unsure what to do, what he needs. The teacher glances around, sees a water bottle on the counter, and immediately pulls it down to offer it to Toshinori. The other man rouses himself enough to wipe his mouth on a wad of toilet paper and then take the water. He gulps it down, his whole body shuddering from head to toe. Once he’s had a drink, he seems to rally a little. He raises his head, sees Aizawa there next to him, and seems to register his presence (and truly process it) for the first time. His eyes widen in surprise.

            Suddenly there’s a hand on Aizawa’s chest and he’s being pushed away, but also leaned on. Toshinori grabs a fistful of the man’s sopping-wet jumpsuit and hauls himself to his feet, bracing his elbow on the corner of the single sink. But he simultaneously uses the motion to shove Aizawa away from himself, holding him at arm’s length.

            “How… how did you get in here?” he rasps. The look in his eyes is like that of a cornered animal. Aizawa notices that he’s holding his left arm close to his side, like he’s trying to hide something.

            “You left the balcony doors unlocked.”

            “You shouldn’t… be here,” Toshinori pants between heaving breaths, his lips hanging partially open. They’re wet and shining with blood.

            “I know. But I just… when you didn’t answer…”

            Toshinori hangs his head, uncurling his claw-like grip on Aizawa’s jumpsuit so he can run a hand over his face. He sweeps his uncombed hair back, giving it an anxious tug.

            “…You got worried. Right.”

            “I… apologize for intruding,” says Aizawa. For a moment the drip-drip-drip of his hair and clothes are the only noise. Then he offers,

            “If you really want me to go, I’ll… take myself out the way I came in. But I’m really not comfortable leaving you alone, Toshi. This looks bad, whatever it is. Has this… has this been happening all week?”

            Slowly, the retired hero shakes his head, still hiding his face behind one hand.

            “No. It’s been building, though… I could feel it coming.”

            “Why didn’t you say anything, Toshi? I would’ve…”

            “Would’ve what, Shota? Replaced the half a lung I’m missing? Un-fucked my insides? There’s nothing you can do about this, there’s nothing anybody can do. There are some things that just can’t be fixed!”

            Aizawa is taken aback, though he doesn’t show it outwardly. Toshinori doesn’t often get this visibly upset. It’s more than a little disturbing to watch.

            “That’s not what I was gonna say,” he supplies quietly. “I was trying to say, I… I would’ve been here with you. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone.”

            “The hell is that supposed to mean? Why would you want to be here for this? It’s disgusting.”

            “It’s not your fault. You don’t deserve all this pain, and you definitely don’t deserve to suffer it alone.”

            “If that’s true, then you definitely don’t deserve being saddled with… with a burden like me…” Toshinori groans the words out as another wave of some kind of pain seizes him. His face visibly contorts behind the hand that hides it. But when Aizawa steps in to help, to offer a hand or something, Toshinori shoves him off again, holding out his palm to keep him away.

            “No,” he rasps, “you should… leave. You don’t need to… see me like… this.”

            Suddenly Aizawa feels a mounting anger boil within him, searing his skin from the inside out. He crosses his arms and frowns thunderously at his boyfriend.

            “Why? Because you think I can’t handle seeing something ugly about you? Or is it because you’re too proud to admit that sometimes the great and powerful All Might needs help? I would’ve thought it would be obvious to you by now. I don’t need you to be perfect. I care about you as you are, or I wouldn’t be with you.”

            “It’s not that Shota, I just… you shouldn’t waste your time on me.”

            “You’re brave and kind and you’ve given everything you have to a shitty world that’s given you nothing but pain in return. You deserve so much. You’re not a waste, Toshi.”

            “No! I mean… Shota, I’m dying.”

            “Everyone’s dying.”

            “You dumbass! I mean it literally!” Toshinori roars. “I’m rotting from the inside out! I… I won’t live to be the partner you deserve. I don’t understand why you would put your time into me, just so you can be sad and hurt and lonely again someday sooner than you think. You should just leave me already, go find someone else who can actually make you happy!”

            Aizawa narrows his eyes, his arms crossed over his chest. He shivers in the cold bathroom, still streaming water from his hair and clothes. The stare-off lasts a full minute: Toshinori’s feverish blue eyes full of rage and pain and so much confusion, Aizawa’s tired and burning.

            “…It’s 4 AM, Toshi. Not the right time to be having this conversation,” says the teacher at length. “Please, just let me help you tonight. Let me decide for myself if you’re worth it or not. If you recover and still feel like you need to say all those things tomorrow, we can talk about it then. Is that a deal?”

            Toshinori scowls, but when Aizawa shows no signs of wavering, his shoulders drop. He gives in with a resentful mumble. Aizawa heaves an internal sigh of relief. He’s too tired and Toshinori is obviously in too much pain to talk logically about it, so it’s better to not talk at all.

            He convinces Toshinori to un-curl somewhat and sit down with his back to the wall opposite the toilet. The retired hero lets his head fall against the tiles behind him, closing his eyes and breathing deeply like he’s focusing on it. Shota sets about wiping off the toilet bowl and flushing the dismal contents. He then fetches a fleece blanket and pillow from the living room couch. On the way he grabs a couple of towels from the linens closet, for himself. He drapes the blanket over Toshinori, gives him the pillow to sit on as a cushion, and then sits next to him, pulling the other man’s stiff body against himself. The retired hero is reluctant at first, but then he suddenly melts into Aizawa’s wet jumpsuit with a relieved moan.

            “Ugghhh… you’re nice and cool.”

            Momentarily confused, Aizawa holds the back of his hand against his boyfriend’s forehead. His face clears when he feels the dry fire that radiates from Toshinori’s burning skin. He smiles to himself, pulling Toshinori closer into his arms.

            “Mmmmmm. And you’re warm,” he murmurs in reply.

            They sit like that for a long time as Aizawa slowly begins to air-dry. Most of the water pools underneath him. Some evaporates until he’s damp, cold to the touch, and his hair is coiled into a fraying, stringy mop.

            Eventually another paroxysm seizes Toshinori’s tired frame. A low groan escapes his lips, like that of a wounded animal. Aizawa rubs circles into his back, murmuring meaningless platitudes in a low, soothing tone of voice.

            “What hurts,” he asks, unsure what exactly is wrong or what he can do about it.

            “Everything,” comes the other man’s immediate response, wheezed from between clenched teeth. Aizawa rolls his eyes.

            “Okay, that’s obviously a loaded question. What hurts the most, then?”

            “I… it’s my left side. Old injury.”

            “Let me see… Can I see, Toshi?”

            At first, the retired hero just shakes his blonde head and clamps his left arm down protectively. It takes time and some convincing, but Aizawa coaxes him into lifting the arm and showing him his left side. First Aizawa has to promise he won’t tell anyone. The concerned way Toshinori looks at him makes him more nervous than he ought to be, wondering what kind of horrific disfigurement he’s hiding. But finally, Toshinori pulls off the blanket and lets Aizawa get a good look.

            It’s alarming, to be sure. But not nearly as bad as Aizawa thought it would be, considering how loath Toshinori was to expose it. The teacher examines it with something caught between morbid fascination and a sad, thoughtful curiosity. The central point of impact is sunken just under the ribcage, pulling taught at the muscles around it. Surgical scars radiate outward from it like the fiery arms of a sunspot. The location makes sense, considering what Aizawa knows about Toshinori’s condition: right over where the stomach is supposed to be, angled upward to claw at the chest cavity where the lung hides. It’s like someone reached inside him, grabbed a fistful of flesh, and pulled-

            Aizawa shivers, running hesitant fingers over the ragged edge, the curling ridges of scar tissue. The spread of the damage seems bigger than it is because of Toshinori’s narrow frame. He covers it with his hand, feeling the slow, labored rise-and-fall of the other man’s breathing.

            “I can hear him laughing at me, Shota,” whispers Toshinori “laughing like a madman… he laughed when he did it to me, and he laughed even when I finally beat him. That son of a bitch… I fought him so hard the first time. I gave it everything I had at the height of my power. Years I prepared for it, and when the time finally came, I almost didn’t beat him. He almost took me with him, the bastard.”

            It takes Aizawa a moment to figure out who Toshinori is talking about. When he does, he gives an involuntary shiver and curls his body a little further around Toshinori.

            “What happened?”

            There’s a weighty pause, and then the man’s low, rasping voice eventually starts to outline the beginning of a long and painful narrative.

            “I… I didn’t want the public to know about the fight. It would just cause a panic. And I didn’t want any collateral damage. I knew I’d never defeat him if I was holding back, trying not to injure civilians. So when I finally confronted him, I dragged him out over the open ocean to an abandoned oil rig in the middle of the Pacific. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry out there. I could rage to my heart’s content. Oh, I was all rage back then… Rage and grief and so much anger…

            I could never forget that he killed Nana. She made me who I am, she was like my mother, and he killed her and laughed about it. So when I finally fought him with my own hands, so many years later… it was the first and last time I ever fought to kill. Sometimes I wonder if I could’ve won that fight without killing him. Maybe the murder in my heart was what carried me through it, or maybe it was the reason I lost everything. I guess I’ll never be sure. But I know… I know Nana would have wept, to see what I’d become.”

            The words seem to hang heavy on his blood-stained lips, throbbing in the room like a brand. Fight to kill. All Might never fought to kill, as far as the public knows. It’s certainly news to Aizawa. But he reserves judgement, as he always does. He just smooths Toshinori’s hair back from his face as he waits for the story to continue.

            “It took more than thirty hours to wear him down. Never a second to catch my breath, for a whole day and a whole night. Finally I… I landed a good, solid hit. Broke a few of his bones. Made him bleed. I got confident. And just when I thought I was winning, he pulled out the cloning Quirk he’d been hiding from me the entire time. Damn thing came out of the water like a fucking kraken, tried to rip my heart from my chest … Missed, thank god, or I wouldn’t be here. But I don’t remember everything that happened after that. I just knew I had to keep moving, I had to put everything I had into one last smash even if it killed me. I had to take him down no matter what the cost. At one point I thought I heard Nana’s voice… All I really remember is right at the very end. Something titan rose out of me and delivered the final blow that knocked him out of the air. He hit the water like a stone. I dragged him over to the oil rig so I could stand on my own two feet when I finished it. Smashed his face in with my bare hands, snapped his neck, and then sunk him in the ocean for good measure. And the bastard lived… the bastard lived… So I guess in a way, I lost that fight. He reduced me to nothing more than a murder, and lived to taunt me about it…”

            Aizawa’s chest aches just from listening. But Toshinori’s hazy voice lingers on the words, as if he’s thinking about them for the first time in a long time. Perhaps it’s helping him to say it aloud. So Aizawa prompts,

            “What then?”

            “…What?”

            “After the fight. What happened to you.”

            “Oh. I don’t remember the whole journey back. I had barely enough left in me to get to shore, where I had backup waiting. They had to fish me out of the water like a scrap of driftwood… they got me to the hospital just in time. I almost died on the operating table while they were trying to piece my insides back together from what was left. I was legally dead for two minutes and sixteen seconds. I count myself lucky to still be alive at all. But he’s still alive too… I wonder sometimes if I should have killed him at Kamino. Crushed his throat right in front of everyone, cameras be damned. Because now I know he’s still out there, and laughing at me from that little cell of his, knowing that I’m rotting alive because of what he did to me… what he did to my master’s grandson. There’s nothing I can do to fix everything he destroyed. Useless. Useless.

            “Hey, hey hey hey hey… shhhh,” Aizawa soothes, carding his fingers through the ragged golden mane that leans on his shoulder. “You’ve done enough for the world. You’ve done more than enough… everything you could give, you gave. You can be selfish now, for once. Just be selfish. Be with me, and don’t even think about him. He’s the one rotting alive. He lives in a cell the size of this bathroom. You have a home, and people who care about you. All those kids, they look up to you just as much now as before. You’re still All Might to them, and no one can take that away from you. You know how Midorya feels? They all feel like that, all of those kids. Midorya’s just the only who’s fanboy enough to say it out loud.”

            Both of them laugh their tired, little laughs. Another spasm hits Toshinori, but it passes quickly this time. Aizawa applies a steady pressure to the starburst scar, which seems to keep the cramps and pains at bay. The retired hero heaves a sigh once it’s over.

            “And you, Shota? How do you feel?”

            The teacher just rolls his eyes. He lifts Toshinori’s head with a finger under the chin, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips. His mouth tastes of iron, his skin burns, but he’s soft to the touch.

            “There. That’s how I feel,” Aizawa murmurs.

            The fits last until dawn. Toshinori sips water between each, then throws it back up in a mixture of bile and blood, then drinks more as if trying to flush his system of something. He can’t even keep the water down, but he drinks it anyway for fear of dehydrating. He informs a confused Aizawa that, lacking a stomach, sometimes his intestines twist and pinch, causing a blockage that results in a great deal of retching, cramping, and fever-pains until it finally passes. There’s very little that can be done except wait until the body works the kinks out on its own.

            Aizawa resolves to stay with him, and stay awake, until then.

            When the sun finally streams in the bedroom window beyond, and it’s been more than an hour since the last fit, Aizawa convinces Toshinori to shower and change. The pair strip down to their underwear, though they keep that last layer for modesty’s sake, still blushingly unsure about that level of physical intimacy. There’s one of those shower-seats bolted to the wall, the kind that you usually find in the homes of the elderly or disabled but which Aizawa kind of wishes he had because it’s soooo comfortable. Aizawa sits behind Toshinori and washes his hair, letting the suds drip down his own aching body too. The warm water streams over them gently.

            Toshinori allows himself to be handled with little more resistance than a ragdoll. But when the dried blood and sweat and the smell of sickness is finally gone, he turns in the seat and traces a hand over Aizawa’s face. His fingers, still shaking slightly with leftover tremors, sweep the cold wet ropes of hair back from his forehead. Then he tilts the hero’s head aside to examine a bruise forming on the muscle between his neck and shoulder. His shadowed blue eyes rove downward over the various scrapes and dings Aizawa has accumulated over the course of the week’s patrols. Some are fresh and livid, acquired that very night. Others are old, turning yellow and green at the edges, scabbed over.

            Toshinori picks up the soap bar and wipes one large sudsy hand over a recent abrasion: the place just above Aizawa’s knee where he whacked it on a gutter and split the flesh open just a few hours ago. The touch is so achingly gentle it sends an involuntary shiver down Aizawa’s spine. He lets the other man cleanse his many minor wounds, leaning into his hands with a tired sigh. Those hands are terribly familiar with those bruises and scrapes: the abuse only a hero’s body must endure, and which Toshinori himself will never suffer again. He touches them almost as if he misses them, like he’d give anything to run out and submit himself to that everyday battle once more.

            Aizawa is not used to being taken care of like this. Not used to being soothed. But it makes him feel comforted and safe, to the point where he nearly falls asleep right there in the shower. When Toshinori is satisfied with the state of Aizawa’s wounds, he takes up the bottle of conditioner and begins to work it through the other man’s hair, fingers combing out the countless wind-blown knots until the black mane falls in a sleek, silky curtain over his neck. The pair lean on each other, chins tucked against shoulders and cheeks pressed up together as the water washes the weight from their bodies, like the slow melting of ice.

            I would gladly give you my bruises and take that scar on my own body if it meant you didn’t have to suffer anymore, Aizawa thinks as he runs his fingers up the curve of Toshinori’s spine. But he doesn’t give the thought voice. They are futile words, and besides, he’s not sure if he’s able to say them or if the other man can bear to hear them yet.

            Eventually, when Aizawa feels his fingertips pruning in the hot water, he strokes a hand lightly over Toshinori’s head and murmurs:

            “Come on. You should rest for awhile. Would it help you to eat something?”

            “No. It’ll be awhile before I can stomach anything, after a bad day like this.”

            “Okay. Then let’s get dressed and I’ll make tea.”

            Both of them shiver when Aizawa reaches over Toshinori’s shoulder to turn kill the hot water. Aizawa towels himself off rapidly, then bends to pat Toshinori’s aching body dry. They limp out into the bedroom with the taller man leaning heavily on the shorter. Toshinori moves as if every tiny gesture pains him. He sits on the bed as he changes into a fresh pair of pajamas, then directs Aizawa to the dresser drawer where he can find a clean, dry t-shirt and some sweatpants. Toshinori laughs hoarsely when he sees the shirt hanging from the other man’s muscled shoulders, so long it’s practically a dress on him. Aizawa has to roll the waistband of the pants about five times before it sits properly on his hips. Toshinori’s laugh is infectious, so it’s not long before Aizawa is chuckling behind one hand at his own ridiculous appearance.

            “Alright, that’s enough of that,” he says with a sigh when Toshinori’s laughing devolves into a bout of dry coughing. At least it doesn’t end in more spewed blood. He tries to convince Toshinori to lie down and sleep, but the other man insists that sleep is impossible when he’s in this state. Aizawa can’t exactly contradict him, hopeless insomniac that he is. So he lets Toshinori lead him into the living room. The retired hero settles into the corner of the couch while the teacher delves into the kitchen to make tea.

            “There’s some Gatorade in the fridge, would you bring me one?” calls Toshinori’s rasping voice after the tea’s finished brewing. Aizawa sets the mugs down on the counter and opens the fridge, noting with a frown of disapproval that it’s strikingly bare. The only things in there are some condiments, a few containers of leftovers, the 12-pack of Gatorade, and half a jug of milk.

            Momentarily ignoring the emptiness of the fridge, Aizawa asks:

            “What flavor?”

            “Any will do. Feel free to grab one for yourself.”

            Aizawa automatically opens his mouth to decline, but then thinks again. It occurs to him that after a night like the one he’s had, and after going without sleep for so long, some electrolytes might be in order. So he grabs a blue one for himself and a red one for Toshinori. Juggling the chilly bottles under his arms, he picks up the tea mugs, kicks the fridge door shut, and then carefully makes his way back to the living room on bare feet.

            After Aizawa’s set the drinks on the coffee table within reach of the couch, Toshinori moans,

            “One last thing and then I promise I’ll leave you alone. Can you… grab my meds from the cabinet? It’ll be the one on the third shelf on the far right. The uh… the Oxycodone.”

            Aizawa just nods and shuffles into the other room. When he opens the medicine cabinet, he sees all of a sudden why Toshinori was so specific about the bottle’s location. There’s two whole rows of shelving devoted just to orange prescription bottles. He locates the Oxycodone after a moment of squinting his blurry eyes, trying to read the small print. The painkiller’s label is peeling, the refill date nearly six months ago and the bottle still half-full.

            Well at least he’s definitely not abusing it, Aizawa thinks as he returns to the living room. Toshinori regards the medication with distaste as he takes it gingerly from Aizawa’s hand. But he swallows a dose anyway, gulping down half the bottle of Gatorade in one go afterwards. He hands it back to Aizawa quickly as if eager to get it out of his hands.

            “Hate those things,” he mutters darkly as the teacher clambers on the couch with him. He pulls Toshinori against his chest and then lays back against the pile of throw pillows, cradling the man’s bony weight between his thighs and his possessive arms.

            “I know. But they’re a necessary evil, sometimes.”

            “Hm. I’d rather feel the pain.”

            “And I’d rather you didn’t. Drink your tea.”

            Toshinori does as he’s told for once. He takes a long pull, then leans his head back into Aizawa’s shoulder, turning his face into the couch cushions shyly.

            “…You’re too good to me, Shota,” he murmurs at length. “I have no idea why you’re still here.”

            “Dunno. Guess I’ve gotten used to having you around. It bothers me when you’re not yourself. I get distracted from my work, and I don’t like that.”

            “I… I’m sorry about this week. I really am.”

            “Don’t apologize, it’s not like you can help it. I just… God Toshi, why didn’t you say something?”

            A shrug, another sip of tea.

            “I… usually I take care of these things myself. I had to keep it secret for such a long time. There weren’t many people I could call if I had a bad day.”

            “…And it isn’t at all because of your pride,” states Aizawa in a low, gently reprimanding tone of voice. Toshinori sinks lower, his knuckles going white around the mug.

            “I’m not… it’s not that I’m proud. I just… I never needed to ask for help before. All that strength and independence, it’s a hard thing to lose. And now I’m this, I’m… I’m nothing.

            Aizawa stiffens. His arms and legs tighten around Toshinori. He buries his nose in the freshly washed hair and growls vehemently,

            “Say something dumb like that again and so help me God, I will make you regret it.”

            “What’s it to you?” Toshinori challenges, trying to sit up. Aizawa grips his shirt front to hold him down, pinning the feverishly warm body against himself.

            “I find it very offensive when someone insults my boyfriend, even if it’s himself. He doesn’t deserve it. And I’m not leaving until he sees that.”

            “But-”

            “No. No ‘buts’. I haven’t slept in almost thirty-six hours and you’re about to be high as a kite on painkillers. We are SO not having this conversation today. Is that clear?”

            “Shota, I-”

            “Is. That. Clear.”

            Toshinori heaves a frustrated sigh, but relaxes back against Aizawa’s chest again, moodily tugging on the tag of his tea bag.

            “Fine,” he grumbles, like a spoilt child.

            “Good. Now shut the fuck up and drink your tea.”

            The pair lie on that couch for a long time, waiting for the medication to kick in. They watch the orange sun climbing above the city skyline, their hazy eyes fixed out the window staring at everything and nothing. Aizawa dozes sitting-up, forgetting all about his tea. Toshinori finishes both of his drinks, but Aizawa knows when the medication hits because Toshinori goes oddly silent.

            He pats Toshinori’s arm to rouse him, intending to get him in bed. That’s when he realizes his boyfriend is sound asleep, and has been for awhile. He smiles privately.

            ‘Can’t sleep in this state’ my ass, he thinks.

            Carrying Toshinori into his bedroom and tucking him in is harder than he thought it would be. The retires hero weighs more than he looks: probably a product of him being seven foot two, regardless of whether he’s jacked or skinny. Aizawa is relieved to deposit him on the mattress of the oversized bed, where he throws the comforter over top of him.

            Satisfied that Toshinori is finally resting, Aizawa returns to the living room where he collapses into the couch. The morning sunlight streaming into the glass balcony doors casts a pleasant warmth over him. He throws an arm over his eyes, relieved to take a break himself. He’s crashing hard, and he has until noon to recover. As if his body knows he’s in a time crunch, he shuts down almost instantly.

            “Shota… Shota, where’d you go?”

            Aizawa rouses with a faint groan. The bedroom door stands open so that he can hear if Toshinori wakes, which he evidently has. The teacher hauls himself upright, trips over the too-large sweatpants and nearly face-plants, rights himself, and shuffles up to the door. He doesn’t bother looking at the time- the sun is still out and the angle is low, meaning it can’t be noon yet. It’s dimmer in the bedroom with the curtains drawn, so it takes him a moment to make out Toshinori’s body splayed over the expansive mattress.

            “I’m here,” Aizawa murmurs, yawning into the collar of the oversized t-shirt. One of Toshinori’s large hands beckons.

            “What are you doing out there?”

            Aizawa obeys that hand, coming to stand by the bed. The other man grabs him by the wrist and pulls weakly, so Aizawa sits on the mattress to bend over Toshinori, who is buried in the blankets but still shuddering occasionally with fever-chills.

            “I was sleeping on the couch,” Aizawa supplies, keeping his voice at a whisper. Toshinori just sighs, tugging again on the teacher’s hand.

            “Well don’t do that. Come here.”

            “I wasn’t sure if-”

            “I thought you left for a second there,” Toshinori grumbles. That’s what does it for Aizawa. With a sigh, the teacher wriggles under the blankets with him. It’s toasty and warm in the bed. He takes the hand on his wrist and presses the callused knuckles to his lips, enfolding that large palm in both of his own.

            He closes his eyes, and the next thing he knows, he’s opening them to complete darkness.

            Aizawa groggily sits up, distantly aware that his hair has dried into a horrific bedhead. The curtains are drawn, but if the lack of light shining from between them is anything to go by, both of them snoozed through the entire day. At some point, the two boyfriends tossed and turned in bed until Aizawa was the big spoon and Toshinori the ‘little’ one. The retired hero is no longer feverishly warm to the touch, though Aizawa’s shirt is damp with sweat from where it was pressed between their bodies. Toshinori is still fast asleep, curled up on his side.

            Well shit. I slept right through work. That’s never happened before, he thinks in mild annoyance. He leaves the bed briefly to grab his phone from the living room and text Hizashi. That’s when he sees the time.

            A long string of curses issues from his mouth when he sees that it’s already 10:30. He has his briefing for patrol in less than fifteen minutes! He turns to gather up his wrinkled jumpsuit from the previous night, intending to leave the way he came in and run to the agency with all haste.

            But he stops on his way past the bed, staring at Toshinori’s rumpled form on the sheets. And slowly, without understanding the why or the how, Aizawa picks up his phone again. He texts his agent.

            Gonna need to take a sick day tonight.

            The little dots cycle around for a moment before his agent replies.

            ???? Really? That never happens. What’s wrong?

            Like I said. Sick day.

            Okay, well that’s fine. We can manage without you for tonight. That drug bust was successful, so maybe you’ve earned a break.

            Aizawa snorts and thinks to himself, damn right I’ve earned a break. But he doesn’t type or send that bit. He mutes his phone, sets it quietly on the end table, and then clambers back into bed. He resumes his spot curled up behind Toshinori, pressing his nose briefly into that sunflower-yellow hair. For a moment his throat is tight with an emotion he can’t name, except that it feels the same way Toshinori smells. The idea of parting with it is too much for Aizawa to even think about. He just wants to sleep some more. He hasn’t been this rested, this at-peace, in so long.

            A smirk tugs at his lips just as he slips back into slumber.

            I didn’t necessarily say it was MY sick day.