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You Look So Good In Love

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Shouta had just settled into his favorite spot on his couch, curled up under a blanket with a new book and his cat, Akemi, when he heard a sharp knock on his door. Sighing, he was in the process of deciding whether or not to ignore it when a key slid in the lock and the door opened to reveal Nemuri strutting into his apartment. Shouta commiserated the loss of his quiet night in at the sight of her dressed to the nines in a revealing black dress.

“Why aren’t you dressed?” She asked without any other greeting.

He shot back, “Why did you bother knocking if you were just going to walk in anyway?”

“So you didn’t think I was an intruder and attack me or something,” She grinned down at him, leaning into his space more than he would allow most people, “Now why aren’t you dressed? We’ve got to leave soon to get a good table.”

“A good table? For what?”

She let out an exasperated huff and turned on her heel, storming into his bedroom. From his closet, probably trying to find him acceptable clothes to wear, she called back to him, “The charity event for the school! It’s supposed to start soon and I told you that you were going to be my date!”

He sighed, following her into his bedroom to stop her shouting. “Nemuri, please, I don’t want to go to this charity thing. I’ve been telling you for the last two weeks I wasn’t going,” He complained, plopping down on the edge of his bed.

“It’ll be fun!” Nemuri argued, pulling a dress shirt off the hanger and tossing it in his direction, “And you know I’m going to win this argument, so just get dressed already.” A pair of pants were also thrown at him, followed by a tie.

Shouta sat unmoving under the pile of clothes, glaring up at her. “I don’t have to go. It’s not required. And you know why I don’t want to go. It’s just going to be awkward.”

“Shouta, you can’t keep hiding yourself away in your apartment every second you aren’t working. Being around your friends will do you some good! Trust me,” She offered him a soft smile, full of affection, that she rarely gave anyone. He cursed under his breath before doing as he was told. He may not like it, but she knew exactly where to push his buttons to get him to agree to just about anything if she tried hard enough.

***

Shouta tossed back the rest of his champagne, dropping the flute lightly onto the table as he stood to find himself another. He had been seated at an empty table, the rest of the occupants long since abandoned it in favor of following the party to the dancefloor. Nemuri had tried to get him to join the rest of their friends off to one side, but he had declined enough times to even dissuade her. She had finally backed off and left him alone, despite the fact that he really didn’t want to be alone. He hated being alone during parties because then he was the one responsible for small talk and meaningless exchanges.

Finding a server carrying champagne proved to be more difficult than he would have thought, as most of them had followed the crowd. He internally groaned when he realized that meant he would have to actually get near the horde of partygoers that were all much more drunk than he was if he wanted more alcohol. Weighing his options, his desire to be buzzed won over his desire not to be around strangers and he began to push his way through the crowd.

A chorus of laughter from his right caught his attention. It came from a small group of people who were all clutching at their sides and trying to get a hold of themselves after someone had told a particularly good joke. And of course they were, because Hizashi stood at the center of them.

Parties had always been Hizashi’s forte. Dressing up for an occasion was something he adored and was extremely good at, always managing to be the center of attention in something every bit as gorgeous as he was. He could glide effortlessly through a mass of people and charm each and every one of them with his dazzling smile. There wasn’t a single person who could outshine him while he told stories with people crowding closer, hanging off his every word. No one would argue that he was built for the spotlight.

At one time, Shouta had a place at his side during the parties that he so despised himself. It had made the uncomfortable attire and grotesque amount of social interaction bearable, almost even enjoyable, when he was tucked under one of Hizashi’s arms. He was even given the privilege of receiving smiles that were reserved only for him. Those had been the best days of his life.

Now though, there was someone pressed against his side and it wasn’t Shouta. He had given up that right when he gave up on their relationship.

A server with a tray full of champagne flutes passed in front of him, breaking the spell Hizashi had over him long enough for him to grab two flutes for himself. Settling his back against the adjacent wall, Shouta found himself once again staring at his ex. Hizashi’s brilliant emerald eyes were alight with mirth, practically stars with how much they shined, even from this distance. His ever present smile turned into something softer and sweeter when he looked at the woman who was at his side now; with a sick feeling in his gut, Shouta recognized that smile as one he so desperately missed. The woman leaned in to whisper something in Hizashi’s ear, earning herself a giggle and a light blush spreading across the blonde’s cheeks.

Watching them lit a jealous fire in the pit of his stomach, but he couldn’t find it in himself to be mad at Hizashi. After all, it was his own fault that he was playing wallflower at a charity event for UA that he didn’t want to even be at instead of being on the receiving end of Hizashi’s smile. Throughout their entire relationship, even before they had started dating, Hizashi gave most of his attention to Shouta. If he needed a date for an event, he asked Shouta. When he needed to be patched up after a rough night of patrol, he found himself on Shouta’s doorstep. After his father’s death, he sought comfort in Shouta’s arms. He had never made Shouta share him with anyone before and always made time whenever he needed him. In hindsight, it had been easy to see how in love with him Hizashi had been for all those years.

Shouta had been in love with his best friend for as long as he could remember. There wasn’t any one moment he remembered thinking, ‘this is it, I’m in love with Hizashi.’ It was as if loving him came as easy as breathing. Sometime during their rocky start first year, maybe before they were even friends, thinking about Hizashi and love had become natural. Not even their awful breakup had stopped him from loving Hizashi for even a second.

Now that they were broken up, Shouta knew he would have to get used to not having Hizashi’s attention. It had been over two months now, but his heart still ached at the thought. He found himself trying to drown out the cacophony of thoughts in his head with more champagne. He finished one of his flutes and stashed it on the nearest table before resuming his staring.

Hizashi wore a perfectly tailored purple suit that should look gaudy and obnoxious, but he pulled it off flawlessly. Long hair cascaded down his shoulders in a blonde waterfall, soft and shiny from his constant care. Beautiful as always. The champagne made his brain easier to listen to, but no less depressing. Shouta found himself replaying some of their happiest moments in his mind, before ending up back at their break up.

It had been his fault. Of course it hadn’t been Hizashi’s. Hizashi gave his all in everything he did, which is why he had an award winning radio show, a near flawless hero record, and one of the highest passing rates of all the teachers at UA. He did the same in their relationship: he would cook them dinner after working two of his jobs, plan all their dates, talk out any disagreements they had, and even do Shouta’s laundry when he was too lazy to do it himself. He’d even been the one to talk Shouta out of depressive states after particularly hard cases at work. Shouta had thought Hizashi was a godsend when they became friends, but as his boyfriend, he knew he could never do anything to deserve him.

They had started dating the day Shouta woke up in the hospital after the USJ attack. Hizashi had slept in an uncomfortable, small plastic chair pulled next to his hospital bed and waited for him for two days. No one had been able to convince him to go home, even for a moment. He wanted to be there the second Shouta woke up.

And he was. Still in his wrinkled hero costume, not showered, eyes red from crying, and bloodshot from lack of sleep, but Hizashi was there two days later.

“The kids? Asui?” Shouta had croaked out as soon as he regained consciousness.

Hizashi’s face flooded with relief and his smile seemed to be wedged on his face permanently, “Fine. Everyone is fine. Midoriya broke a few bones with his own quirk, but you were the only one with any severe injuries.”

Satisfied, Shouta let out a sigh. “Good. I’m glad everyone is okay.”

“Yeah, everyone is now,” Hizashi murmured, grasping Shouta’s bandaged hand, “I need to tell you something.” Shouta nodded stiffly before the pain hit him, but gave no other response. Sighing deeply, Hizashi leaned forward to place a featherlight kiss on his mummy wrapped arm. “I thought you were dead when I found you. Shouta, I thought I would never see you smile at some stupid cat joke I made or that look you give me when you want me to think you’re irritated. I never thought I would see you again. And it made me realize that I can’t be a coward anymore because who knows when the last time I’ll ever see you is? I had to tell you before I couldn’t anymore. I’m in love with you and I have been since high school.”

Shouta’s lips parted in surprise, but they sat in silence for the next few minutes. Finally, Hizashi made a move to let go of his hand and he tightened his grip without thinking. “I love you, Hizashi. I always have,” He whispered.

Hizashi had cried then, just like he had when they broke up. Shouta was good at that, making Hizashi cry. He laughed bitterly at himself before tossing back his next champagne flute, already reaching for another as a server passed by him.

Shouta had been late coming back from patrol that night. It was nothing unusual, but Hizashi had been on edge the second he walked in the door. “Shouta, you were supposed to be home over an hour ago. What happened?”

“Just ran into a few idiots on my way home. Nothing big, just some kids trying to mug someone in an alley,” He mumbled, toeing off his boots and dropping his capture weapon next to them. He didn’t make it much farther into Hizashi’s apartment, flopping himself down onto the couch before curling in on himself in pain, “That was a bad idea. Can you get the first aid kit?”

Hizashi had sighed disappointedly, but retrieved the first aid kit from the bathroom without a comment. He sat in front of his boyfriend on the coffee table, digging around for disinfectant and gauze. Shouta stripped his shirt off, revealing a two inch gash along his ribs. “Shouta, that’s not ‘nothing big’. Did they stab you?” He admonished, already beginning the process of cleaning the wound.

Wincing, Shouta nodded, “One of them grew knives out of his body. I didn’t realize it until I was in too close.” Hizashi didn’t fill the silence while he carefully scrubbed the wound, tipping Shouta off that he was unhappy. He let out a sigh, expecting his night to end in a fight as it usually did when Hizashi was quiet like this.

After he finished doctoring his wound, Hizashi slammed the first aid kit shut and stormed out of the room. Shouta resigned himself to waiting for the fight to happen as Hizashi gently sat himself down by Shouta’s head. He shifted closer, lifting Shouta’s head to drop it into his lap. Shouta hummed in contentment when he started to gently pull the knots from his hair. “We were supposed to go to drinks with Nemuri and Tensei tonight. We haven’t seen them in ages,” Hizashi said softly, sounding resigned.

“I know, Hizashi, but I-,” Shouta groaned in frustration, “What was I supposed to do? Just ignore them?”

So it wasn’t a fight, not really. They had already had this fight. Shouta knew Hizashi was worried about him; they weren’t exactly young heroes anymore. Any injury seemed more serious than it did when they were fresh faced nobodies desperate to get their name out there. And of course all injuries seemed particularly worse on Shouta after the USJ incident. But what was he supposed to do? He was a hero to help people. He couldn’t just walk on by when someone needed his help. This conversation grated on his nerves, but he knew it weighed heavy on Hizashi’s heart.

Hizashi’s hands in his hair stilled. “Shou, I would never ask you to ignore someone in help. I just...” He sighed before twirling another strand around his finger, “I don’t want to lose you.”

“Zashi, you aren’t going to. I’m not going anywhere,” Shouta grumbled, readjusting to make himself more comfortable. He understood why Hizashi was worried, he was worried about his boyfriend whenever he went on patrol as well, but he couldn’t take away the potential dangers of his job. He didn’t see why they would talk about this at all when it wasn’t going to fix anything. It put him on edge to have this conversation.

“Shou, have you ever considered,” Hizashi paused for a moment, like he was nervous, but trudged through the rest, “Have you thought about cutting back your hours? Or working in a different neighborhood? One with less... Muggings?”

Quicker than Hizashi had seen him move outside of combat, Shouta shoved himself up and away from his boyfriend, fury clear in his eyes. “Hizashi, I’m a hero. It’s my job to be in dangerous neighborhoods. I’m not going to stop that just because you suddenly don’t like it,” He growled, eyes narrowed into slits. That didn’t follow the script. This wasn’t the fight he thought they were having. They hadn’t ever had a fight about changing their jobs for their relationship before.

“Of course! I know! It’s just, it’s hard for me, Shouta,” Hizashi reached out to pull him back against him, but Shouta leaned further away. He didn’t miss the wince that caused. Regret panged at his heart, but before he could act on it, Hizashi did what he did best and kept talking, “Shouta, it’s just hard when you come home bloody every other night. I worry about you. We’re not young anymore. We don’t just bounce back from everything like we did! Can’t you leave the more dangerous jobs to the younger heroes? The ones who,” Hizashi’s eyes were filling with tears, clearly having sat on this issue for longer than he would have liked. He groaned and scrubbed at his eyes in irritation, looking crestfallen as he finished with, “Can’t you leave it to someone who has less to lose?”

Despite the instinct to reach out and comfort Hizashi, to hold him close and brush away his tears, to whisper reassurances to him and kiss away his fears, irrational anger bubbled up in his chest at the idea of Hizashi asking him to give up his job that he’d given everything to get. He’d fought to even make it into a hero program and after graduation had kept fighting to keep his job since the lack of publicity made it hard to be profitable. It’d taken him five years to even make a livable wage as a hero and he’d fought tooth and nail for every chance he was afforded.

“Hizashi, I’m not giving up my job for you,” He snarled, shoving himself off the couch and moving to the door to gather up his capture weapon from the floor. He couldn’t give up his job, not when it was what he had spent his whole life living for. If Hizashi couldn’t understand that...

Hizashi followed at his heels, reaching out to grab his shoulder, “Shouta, what are you doing? Come sit down and we can talk about this,” He whispered, his voice laced with panic, “Shouta, please, let’s just talk-,”

“No! I’m done talking, Hizashi,” Shouta scowled, ripping his arm out of his grasp, “You know how important my job is to me. I’ve spent my whole life fighting to be recognized as a hero and I’m not about to just give that up just for some relationship. You should know which one I would choose too since you were giving me the ultimatum.”

Shouta pulled his capture weapon around his neck and pointedly ignored Hizashi’s stifled sob. “No, Shou, baby, come on, just sit down and we can work this out, I promise we can, honey, let’s just sit down and talk,” He babbled, reaching out for Shouta’s hand. It stilled his boyfriend for just a moment before he wrenched himself out of his grasp again.

“Clearly this isn’t working, right? You’re upset and I can’t fix this so,” Shouta choked out, voice sounding surprisingly even, almost cold, considering how close to tears he was himself. “It’s just better this way, right? This is the logical move.”

The look on Hizashi’s face said it was most certainly not better this way. He had tears streaming down his face and he sobbed wetly, wrapping himself in his arms as if to physically hold himself together. “Shouta, please,” He whimpered, searching for any sign of hesitance. He must not have found any because he sobbed again, curling further into himself.

Shouta turned his back on Hizashi. If he didn’t he’d do something stupid like change his mind, pull Hizashi back into his arms, and promise to quit both his jobs if it would make Hizashi happier. If he stayed and saw Hizashi crying any longer, he’s not sure there was anything in the world he wouldn’t promise to do to make him happier again. But he couldn’t be that person and have his job.

No it was better this way, he told himself as he closed the door on Hizashi and their relationship. Despite the certainty with which he left, Shouta felt all his reasons disappear as soon as he shut the door. He took a moment to gather his strength to finish what he started when he heard Hizashi crumple the rest of the way to the ground and cry in earnest on the other side of the door. A cold, empty feeling settled in his chest, something he hadn’t felt in ages.

The walk to his apartment at UA was a blur; nothing registered in his head from the moment he left Hizashi’s apartment, which had been more his home than anything else ever had been. It wasn’t until he collapsed into his own bed for the first time in probably the entire two years they had been together that he finally realized what the emotion that had crept into his throat and weighed heavy in his chest was. He hadn’t felt anything like this since he got his acceptance letter for UA, only to find out he was only accepted into general studies: catastrophic grief at having exactly what he wanted for so long only to have it yanked out of his grip. Except this time, regret and loneliness were also mixed in to aid in stealing his breath from him, constricting his throat, and prick at his eyes with tears that so often eluded him. And this time, there was no rigged test to blame.

It wasn’t just Hizashi who had cried when they broke up.

Shouta had pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, trying to reduce the trembling he felt in his limbs. Tears had fallen from his eyes for the first time in what felt like forever. He couldn’t catch his breath between sobs. Everything hurt and he couldn’t fix this. Losing Hizashi was the worst thing that could ever happen to him, maybe even worse than the idea of never being a hero again. But he wasn’t going to be able to give Hizashi what he wanted: a safe life with no risks. Not now, not ever. Hizashi deserved so much better than him. This was for the best.

If he kept telling himself that long enough, maybe he would finally believe himself.

So he stayed away so that the most wonderful person to grace him with his presence could move on and find someone else. Someone better than him.

A crash near him brought him back to the present. Someone dancing had bumped into a server and sent half a tray of champagne flute to the ground. A shame really. He would have drank all of those if he could have. As it stood, he found another server and snagged another two flutes for himself.

Despite the break up fresh on his mind, Shouta’s gaze fell back on Hizashi. It always fell back to Hizashi. His small group had doubled in size, each and every one of them staring at Hizashi just like he was, in awe of his beauty and grace. That had been all he had been good for as Hizashi’s boyfriend. Staring at him like he was one of their fans and letting him take care of everything.

A combination of seventeen years of letting Hizashi do all the work in their relationship and the amount of champagne in his system spurred him with the sudden need to act. He needed to prove to Hizashi that he would make the effort to at least salvage what he could of their friendship. He needed to show him that the last seventeen years of his life he had loved Hizashi with all of his heart and that was never going to change. He needed Hizashi to know he was happy that he was moving on with the beautiful redheaded woman holding onto his arm. He needed Hizashi to know...something, even if he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

He also needed more champagne before he could pull off what he had planned, so he tossed back the two flutes in his hands before making his way to the DJ booth.

“Excuse me,” He slurred, clearly more drunk than he thought he was, but still determined. The DJ turned to him with a raise of his eyebrows with a look as if to simultaneously say ‘Go on’ and ‘What are you doing here?’. “Can you play a song for me? Three songs from now if at all possible,” He sounded marginally less drunk that time as he scribbled the song down on a piece of paper and shoved it toward the DJ.

“Look buddy, I would, but I have a request list three pages long. I can’t just skip everyone for you. Sorry,” The DJ rolled his eyes, not sounding sorry at all.

Shouta sighed and dug out his wallet. He’s lucky the drinks were free all night or he wouldn’t have enough cash on him. Pulling out everything he had set aside for drinks, he shoved 6000 yen at the DJ. “If I give you this, can you play it three songs from now?”

The DJ’s eyes lit up and he flashed a grin, “Yeah, man. Three songs down. It’ll be right after My Heart Will Go On.”

Shouta nodded with a grimace. He never cared much for music himself so he didn’t have a preference in what was played, but he knew Hizashi didn’t care much for Celine Dion. Having bought himself about ten minutes, he ran to the bathroom to make sure he was presentable. He couldn’t remember the last time he had shaved and his hair was a mess without Hizashi’s constant care, but Nemuri had pulled it into a loose bun that still managed to look good even after three hours. His cheeks were flushed from the champagne, but there was nothing he could do about that. He splashed some water on his face to help keep him sober enough to pull this off. He sighed as he felt nervousness creep up his spine.

“It’s just Hizashi. You’ve talked to him for years,” Shouta hummed, making sure his shirt was tucked in and buttoned properly. He vaguely wished he had a razor to shave, but his stubble wasn’t much worse than any given school day so he figured it wasn’t too bad. He couldn’t be nervous to see the love of his life and best friend of seventeen years. There was no way he was actually nervous.

His pep talk to himself did nothing and he was no less nervous, but also no less determined. The second song began to play and he forced himself back to the dancefloor, creeping closer to the edge of Hizashi’s group. He waited out the rest of the song and acted like he was one of Hizashi’s fans, staring and crowding closer but not close enough that Hizashi could spot him until he was ready. Vaguely, he realized that Hizashi was alone now, his date nowhere to be seen.

By the time My Heart Will Go On starts, Shouta had started to sweat. It was now or never. He cleared his throat and murmured a soft, “Excuse me,” before he started pushing forward, getting himself close enough to reach out and touch Hizashi.

He took a deep breath. He could do this. “M-,” Shouta sighed and shook his head, “Zashi,” He tried again, clearing his throat to catch his attention. Hizashi whipped around with a shocked look on his face, already opening his mouth to speak, but Shouta continued, “Can I borrow you for the next dance?”

His lips pressed into a tight, polite smile, a smile that he never used to give Shouta, and he offered a sharp nod, “Sure.”

Shouta lead him away from the throng of people who were now obviously talking about them and towards the edge of the dancefloor, waiting for his requested song to play before either of them spoke again.

“So, what’s this? You haven’t spoke to me in two months , Shou. We haven’t gone this long without talking since... ever. You even made sure to talk to me when you went undercover for six months when we were twenty,” Hizashi gave a mirthless laugh, his polite smile falling into a self-depreciating one since there wasn’t anyone to impress in front of him anymore.

Shouta braced himself with a deep breath before looking directly into his starting green eyes. “Zashi, it occurred to me in seventeen years of friendship and almost two of dating, I never told you how I was feeling often enough. You always did everything when it came to us,” Perfect timing, the current song ended and he held out a hand to Hizashi, “So this is me, finally putting in the effort I should have years ago.”

The first note of You Look So Good In Love by George Strait played as Hizashi took his hand. He gave off a small gasp as he heard it, his eyes shining with tears as he took Shouta’s hand. “Did you request this song?”

“I can’t not be your friend anymore, Hizashi. I barely know who I am without you in my life. And you did all the work for the last seventeen years, so this is me, trying to do my part finally,” He swallowed, leading Hizashi in a simple two-step that the blonde had taught him back in high school.

It seemed like everything always lead back to Hizashi. The shoes he was wearing at the event, the dances he learned at UA, the blanket he knew was spread across his couch back home, the photos filling his apartment, all of it came back to Hizashi. It had been something he had given him, something he taught him, something he did with him. It always came back to Hizashi and it always had for Shouta. There was never any going back or any moving on without Hizashi, even if it meant becoming just his friend.

They had danced in silence for a few beats when he felt the urge to speak again, “Zashi, I’m sorry about everything that happened. I know that doesn’t make up for everything I did, but I am so sorry. I should never have acted that way. You were the best thing – Shit, Hizashi, you’ve always been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” The music swelled with the chorus for the first time and Shouta felt it like a stab straight to his heart. The words were too perfect for tonight. He let the words pass before finishing, “Please give me another chance to be the best friend you’ve always deserved.”

Hizashi’s lips parted in surprise, his eyes still watery. He took a shaky breath and opened his mouth a couple times to speak, but nothing came out. Finally, he let out a weak laugh, shaking his head, “Shou, you’ll always be my best friend. You weren’t ever not my best friend, not back in high school and not when we broke up.”

Tears began to sting at his own eyes, surprising himself. He had suffered from dry eye for so long, he’d only cried a handful of times in his entire life. Crying twice in two months would be absolutely ridiculous and completely illogical of him, but the champagne had made logic take the backseat for this song. Blinking, he managed to keep the tears from spilling over. “I’ll be a better best friend this time. I promise. No more half-assed efforts,” He’d wanted to say it loud enough for Hizashi to hear him over the crowd of those dancing around them, but it came out barely above a whisper.

“I believe you,” He murmured, pulling Shouta closer to his chest like he always had when they danced.

They danced like that, Shouta pulled close into Hizashi despite leading, for the last minute of the song. The soft music washed over them as they spun around the room effortlessly. Shouta spent most of the time trying to blink the tears away, sniffling occasionally when he knew Hizashi’s gaze left him. If he let himself pretend, it was almost like they had never broken up. Hizashi had always let him lead in stance, but quickly took over their steps since he had better rhythm. The hand on his shoulder had slowly slipped down to his bicep and squeezed, just like he would when Shouta would step on his toes. He’d moved it then, curled his arm around to rub Shouta’s back soothingly throughout the rest of their dance. All of it made him want to cry even more, but he knew he couldn’t. He didn’t deserve to. This was his fault after all.

The song faded out and Shouta leaned back to thank Hizashi for the dance when he did something he honestly should have expected. He knew Hizashi better than anyone else in his life, he always had. Just as the last note was too quiet to hear anymore, he spun Shouta around in a single twirl with a sad smile on his face before pulling him back into his chest. He leaned close and whispered in his ear, “Thank you for the dance, Shouta. I appreciated it.”

And then he let go. Shouta had been warm before their dance, sweating from nerves, but now he felt ice cold without Hizashi’s touch. The soft smile Hizashi gave him morphed into a patented Present Mic one as soon as one of his fans crowded back into his space, already talking to him. Shouta watched as he was swallowed up by his mob of fans and his redheaded date took up her spot back, hanging on his arm and his every word.

The champagne had fueled his song choice and asking for a dance, but all the motivation drained out of him once he lost Hizashi’s touch. He didn’t want to be there anymore. He wasn’t sure he could last another five minutes without crying like a high school boy over his first poorly ended crush. Although to be fair, that’s almost what it was.

Every fiber of his being screamed to get out of there. He wanted to be alone. There was nothing left at places like this for him. Even if he had started the rocky process towards becoming friends with Hizashi again, he didn’t belong at big functions like this one. The dance floor, the fancy dress, the small talk, those were Hizashi’s domain, not his. He didn’t even know what charity they were supporting, let alone care to be there. He was sure that Hizashi could name the charity, what it did, and at least five fun facts about it. He always knew everything about those events.

His heartbeat thundered in his ears as he rushed back to the table he’d once occupied with Nemuri and gathered his things as quickly as he could. A sick feeling that had nothing to do with the champagne settled in his stomach while he scrambled to get out of there. The thought of making up with Hizashi had been so time consuming he hadn’t thought about what it would feel like to just be friends again with the love of his life.

He burst from the event hall and felt a rush of cold air hit his skin. It seemed too cool outside to him, which was odd because he already felt cold enough since Hizashi left his arms. He didn’t give it another thought as he started sprinting to his apartment. Luckily enough the event had been on UA campus, which he stilled lived on thanks to his status as a homeroom teacher, so the run wasn’t far.

His apartment was still lit up, the lights forgotten in the aftermath of Nemuri’s coercion to go to the charity event. The blanket Hizashi had gave him was still thrown to one side from where he had been wrapped in it before she came to force him to that stupid event. His book was set on the table just as he had left it. Akemi hadn’t even moved much from her spot on the couch from what he could tell. Everything felt just as he had left it.

But it wasn’t. He wasn’t the same as three hours ago. Three hours ago, he was still mourning the death of a relationship with the best person he’d ever met. Now? He... he had his best friend back, however tentatively. So he should be happy; at the very least, he should be happier than he was. But it almost felt worse. The tears finally broke forth from his carefully constructed dams in his eyes and streamed down his cheeks.

He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be feeling right now, but he was sure it wasn’t this. He knew it wasn’t supposed to feel like his heart was being squeezed by a boa constrictor while his stomach did somersaults. He knew it wasn’t supposed to be the dread that crept up his spine at the thought of acting happy to hang out with Hizashi the next time he asked. Why couldn’t he just be happy he had managed to at least get back a small portion of normalcy in his life after these two months of hell?

Throwing his jacket onto the floor, Shouta flopped down onto the couch and yanked the blanket back around himself. Tears still trickled down his cheeks. When they had broken up, his crying had been loud, filled with sobs and gasps, but now, it was silent. Somehow that was worse too.

It would be easier tomorrow, he told himself. It had to be easier tomorrow.

***

He woke up Sunday with a rather nasty hangover and 16 text messages from Nemuri, all asking where he had ran off too and why he left without letting anyone know. The newest one was from seven that morning and simply said Be ready at 10 am. We’re going to brunch, you asshole. Spending the day with Nemuri sounded appealing after his two months of isolation. He may have broken up with Hizashi, but he’d cut himself off from all of his friends to commiserate alone. Surely she would give him an earful, but it almost sounded pleasant instead of tiresome like it had.

Checking the time, he groaned. It was only eight in the morning, but he knew there was no hope of getting back to sleep with his head pounding like it was. Since he was up anyway, he figured he would enjoy a nice long shower and drink copious amounts of water to fend off his hangover.

He turned the water on to let it warm up while he started to get ready for brunch. Staring at himself in the mirror, he realized just how long it had been since he shaved. His face was no longer dotted with stubble, but a beard was well on its way to growing out on his face. Sighing, he figured if he was going to try to pretend to be okay for Hizashi’s sake, then he could at the very least shave.

The water was warm once he was finished so he slipped into the shower. Letting the water pour over him, he tried to ward off the chill that had set in his bones the moment he left Hizashi’s grip. It wasn’t warm enough, so he turned it up higher, already seeing his skin slightly pink from the heat. It still wasn’t enough. It probably wouldn’t ever be enough, so he gave up and tried to forget about it.

He washed his hair slowly, much slower than usual. Most of his showers would be over in under five minutes, but today he took his time. Hizashi was always the one who had taken long showers, spending up to thirty minutes on a hair and skin care routine every night. They’d showered together on several occasions and it had always been a struggle to stay in as long as his ex-boyfriend, watching his fingers prune in boredom. He’d thought it was stupid before, to shower together when he didn’t need nearly as long and their showers had been too small for both of them, but he found himself missing even that at this point.

He was getting pathetic, wasn’t he?

Sighing, he rinsed his hair out and turned the water off. So much for enjoying a long shower. He couldn’t really spend the rest of his life missing everything he used to do with Hizashi, could he? As soon as he thought that, he gave a mirthless laugh. Of course he could. Hizashi was and always would be the best thing that had ever happened to him. How could he ever stop missing all the things he’d given up two months ago?

He got dressed in his silent apartment before making sure Akemi had food and falling back down onto the couch. His phone was lit up with a notification, so he snagged it off his coffee table to check it. Somehow it was only eight-thirty. The message he’d just gotten read Would you mind if we got brunch this morning? He read it again, not sure what to think.

It was from Hizashi. Hizashi had asked him to get brunch. Which meant he really did want to be friends again. Which should have felt amazing instead of like he was slowly drowning in molasses. He groaned and shoved his head under the nearest pillow, dropping his phone to the floor. Feelings shouldn’t be so complicated. He just wanted to be normal again.

His phone buzzed again, signaling another message. Reluctantly, he pulled his head back out from under the pillow to grab it and read his newest message. You better be up! It was from Nemuri had been followed by a string of emojis he barely registered. He sighed and sent back, I am. Can we move brunch up? I’m hungover and hungry.

Shoving himself up to sit, he looked at his phone again before making a snap judgement and sending her another text. Hizashi is joining us for brunch. He followed it up with texting Hizashi back, Nem and I are going soon. Want to join?

He tossed his phone down to the couch and leaned back, scrubbing at his face restlessly. He could do this. Brunch between the three of them was nothing new. They’d been doing this since high school. It would be easy and familiar.

It was going to hurt so much to have to sit there at brunch and pretend he didn’t want to beg Hizashi to take him back.

He worried at his lip while he thought about how poorly this was going to go. By the time he grabbed his phone again five minutes later, he had received nine new messages. A single message from Hizashi that read, That sounds wonderful, and eight from Nemuri.

What the fuck

Shouta why is Hizashi coming

Did you guys make up?!

Please clear this up for me ASAP!!!

Are you okay???

What happened last night?

SHOUTA

I’M COMING OVER NOW

As soon as he finished reading the last message, a knock at his door startled him. Apparently she really was coming over right that second. Living in the dorms as well, it wasn’t like she had to travel far to get to his apartment. Before he could get up to let her in, she did it herself once again.

“Please stop knocking if you’re just going to come in on your own,” He grumbled, pulling his blanket over his lap as the air from outside his apartment caused him to shiver.

“Nope, not the time, Shouta,” She growled, kicking her shoes off violently before tackling him into a hug, “Now tell me everything!”

So he did. He recounted all the previous night’s events slowly, pausing only for a moment when she went to the kitchen to pour him a glass of water when he admitted how many flutes of champagne he had tossed back and insisted he drink the whole thing that moment. She had immediately latched back onto him and pulled him into her arms as tears gathered back in his eyes. He didn’t even know when they got there, only that some streaked across his face. When he was finished, she was carding her fingers through his damp hair gently and he grumbled, “I love him so much, Nemuri. I don’t know how I’m supposed to move on.”

“Oh, Shou,” Nemuri tightened her grip around his shoulders, as if she could physically hold him together, “I really respect you for trying to make things right, but...”

“It was stupid. I can’t do it,” He groaned, wrapping his own arms around her and allowing the hug to settle some of his anxieties. If all else failed him, Nemuri had always been there to help him pick up the pieces. Hizashi was usually there too, but when it came to his feelings towards the blonde, it had always been Nemuri in his corner. She’d been suffering through his pining since high school and a small part of him always thought she had been happier they got together than either of them had been.

They stayed like that for a few quiet minutes. It actually did seem to help a bit. When they pulled apart, his breaths came easier and deeper than before his shower. A weight seemed to have been lifted from his shoulders. Perhaps he simply couldn’t bear all his regret and grief over his lost relationship on his own. Hizashi always did say he should talk about his feelings more. Internally, he bemoaned the fact that not only was he right, but he kept thinking about Hizashi in literally every situation as if he couldn’t think of anything else.

His phone lit up and he grabbed it once again to see just a single new message. So what time is brunch exactly? And where are you going?

9:30. How about Stella’s? His reply was simple, but after he sent it he felt immediate regret. Stella’s was a great restaurant for brunch, but it was a place they tried together three years ago. It had become their place, their favorite place for brunches or celebrations. He wished he’d suggested somewhere else, but it was too late now.

Oh that sounds heavenly. It’s been too long since I’ve gone to Stella’s! See you soon!

Of course Hizashi wouldn’t make things weird. It was Hizashi after all. He handled every social situation perfectly, like a fish took to water. Maybe with him to pick up the slack, they really could become friends again.

***

Brunch had been... relatively painless. It truly had felt good to sit at brunch with his two best friends and enjoy their company again. It had been too long for any of them to have gone without their outings. Shouta had been so wrapped up in his head about his break up with Hizashi that he didn’t realize he’d begun to miss more than just his relationship.

They ate. They laughed. They shared work stories. It was almost as if everything had gone back to normal, if it weren’t for the slight underlying tension that was almost tangible when silence would settle between the three of them for a half second too long. Hizashi would immediately fill the silence like the entertainer he was and things would move along just like they had before.

By the time work rolled around on Monday, Shouta had almost convinced himself that he could handle being Hizashi’s friend. Going home that night had been hard, almost just as hard as it had been the week following their break up, but the few moments he had spent with Hizashi during lunch, talking about his radio show like before almost made every bit of pain worth it.

Tuesday was even easier. The other teachers seemed to have caught on to the slightly lessened tension between them and invited the both of them to a large faculty lunch. It had been nice to pretend to have everything back to normal, if even just for a lunch. After classes ended, Hizashi and Shouta both stayed behind to finish some grading. They’d even exchanged a few jokes about the essays they had both assigned the week prior. Shouta’s heart still ached when he got home, but it was infinitesimally lighter now. Almost bearable even.

Wednesday was a different story. Nemuri asked Sekijirou, Hizashi, and Shouta to eat lunch together, as they used to every Wednesday, but Hizashi winced, “Ah actually I already have lunch plans today! Kai and I are going to a new ramen shop not far from here. Next Wednesday for sure though!”

“Kai?” Sekijirou asked, an eyebrow quirked up. It was an innocent question. No one should have assumed anything of it.

It was the answer that was the problem. “Yeah! You guys met her. Or well, you saw her at least. She was my date to the Gala this past Saturday!” Hizashi grinned and waved, pulling on his jacket, “So I’ll see you guys after lunch then!”

Shouta felt like the ground had fallen out from beneath him. Somehow in his attempts to smooth over their fractured friendship, he’d completely forgotten that Hizashi had already moved on. He’d taken a beautiful woman to the charity even and he was even going on lunch dates with her. The realization hit him like a truck, knocking the wind out of him. He managed to nod at their blonde friend as he called out a goodbye at the door before collapsing into the couch.

Nemuri and Sekijrou had eaten lunch with him that day, trying to keep his mind off of Hizashi entirely, but it hadn’t helped. He’d been miserable for the rest of the day and cried that night for the fourth time in two months. It was a new low, one he never thought he’d reach in his lifetime. His overworked eyes were straining with the amount of tears they had produced recently and it affected his ability to do hero work that night. He had to cut his patrol short and ended up curling up under the gifted blanket on his couch with Akemi, not able to sleep that night.

Thursday was kinder to him. Hizashi was so busy on Thursdays he was barely in the staff room. The few times their paths crossed, he’d been given one of Hizashi’s thousand watt smiles and it managed to displace some of the weight on his heart. On his way home that evening, he even got a text message from Hizashi with a picture of a cat up for adoption at one of his favorite cat cafés. It had simultaneously meant the world to him and tore a hole in his heart to see it. Hizashi had remembered he was wanting to get a second cat, like the amazing friend he’d always been, but Shouta had always assumed that they would be getting the next one together.

Friday was a blur. His class had a field trip to USJ that day and he was accompanied by Toshinori and Thirteen. It had been educational and extremely fun for the students. It was even a nice break from the mundane tasks of every day for him. The staff had gotten together that evening for drinks, but he’d politely opted out when Hizashi had mentioned maybe bringing Kai. It had hurt, but it was bearable. He just had to keep telling himself he’d come to terms with the fact that Hizashi had moved on and it would eventually be true. Social events were Hizashi’s place to shine anyway, not his.

The best and worst part of the day was getting a text from Hizashi around eleven that night so he’d surely already been drinking for some time. We should go to Furtunate Feline tomorrow for lunch! I miss their strawberry cake. I’ll even buy you your own slice! It made his heart hammer in his chest like it used to in high school, when he’d first come to accept his crush on his blonde best friend. He had scoffed out loud, thankfully only Akemi could hear, before sending back a short message, Sure. He’d gone to bed that night with excitement buzzing in his chest instead of dread for the first night in what felt like forever.

Saturday was going to be a good day. He could feel it when he woke up. Akemi had curled into a ball on his chest during the night, which he appreciated waking up to. She had even deigned to headbutt him softly as she got up. He’d also slept through the whole night, which he hadn’t done sober since... well, since the break up. He just knew that things were looking up that day.

He cooked breakfast and ate with Akemi, finishing up some grading he’d been putting off. It was a quiet, peaceful morning. But even the great start to his day did nothing to ease the nervous energy that had made its home in his chest, like bees buzzing in a hive. By the time lunch rolled around, he was practically vibrating with it.

Furtunate Feline had been his favorite cat café for years now. All the cats were adoptable and taken in from local shelters to help with overcrowding. They also had the best strawberry cake in the city. It had been a go to spot for dates for them as well, but he tried not to linger on that thought for too long. He didn’t want to ruin his good mood as he walked into the café.

Hizashi had already claimed a table for them – not just any table, it had been their table for at least three years. They had always sat at that one so Shouta could have his back to a wall and a good vantage point to ease his anxieties, while still being in the sun for Hizashi to enjoy the warmth. He felt a twinge of pain in his heart thinking about it, but when Hizashi smiled at him, he almost felt like the world was slowly righting itself again.

“Shouta! You’re early!” Hizashi chirped, resting his chin in his hand and grinning. It was a Hizashi smile, not a Present Mic smile like he had been subjected to for the past two months. He practically felt his heart skip a beat again.

Clearing his throat while he sat, he snorted, “I’m just on time, Zashi.”

“But it’s before noon!” He teased, his grin turning devious in a split second, “You usually sleep in until noon. I already ordered tea thinking I’d be waiting on you for a while.” The voice hero had always loved to tease him.

“Whatever,” He grunted back, not able to keep the soft smile off his face. This felt so normal, so natural, so right . After so long without speaking to Hizashi, talking to him again felt as right as breathing.

They ordered their food and ate, Hizashi chattering away about anything and everything as it crossed his mind. There was so much to catch up on from the last two months. Hizashi had done 19 radio shows since their break up and felt the need to recap all of them for Shouta as if he hadn’t listened to every single one of them. Of course, he may have thought he really didn’t listen to them, but he would have been wrong. He’d listened to every single one.

By the time they had finished their lunch and ordered their strawberry cakes, he had been caught up on radio shows and Hizashi had moved on to retelling his favorite stories from patrol. Shouta had been so caught up listening, hanging onto Hizashi’s every word like a it was a lifeline and he was a drowning man, that he didn’t notice the calico kitten scaling his left sleeve until it made its way to his shoulder. It headbutted his cheek, nuzzling against his face and licking him a couple times for good measure too.

“Oh! Shou, that’s the cat I sent you a picture of! You should adopt her! I know you were looking for another cat, right?” Hizashi leaned across the table to scratch under her chin, smiling fondly.

Shouta’s face flushed red. It had been so long since Hizashi had been this close to him, minus the dance the week before. Somehow this felt more intimate that that though, tucked away in the corner of their favorite café, at their table, playing with a kitten he wanted to adopt with the voice hero. He swallowed thickly, trying to push down those kinds of thoughts. It wouldn’t help their friendship at all if he kept thinking of how much he wanted this to be a date.

Their eyes locked and Shouta watched the smile melt off his friend’s face, replaced by a hurt, miserable look. “Shou,” The hand that was on the kitten cupped his cheek gently while he tried to force a smile back onto his face, “I can’t do this.” He let his hand fall heavily to the table, worrying at his bottom lip while he tried his hardest to keep the watery smile on his face.

A beat of silence passed, and then another. They kept staring at each other, Shouta in confusion and Hizashi clearly heartbroken. “What do you mean?” He managed out, swallowing again. “Can’t do what?”

“This. Friends. I can’t do friends,” Hizashi laughed; it was bitter and harsh. “I can’t be your friend. It’s too hard.”

Shouta could tell his jaw had gone slack but he wasn’t sure when. He couldn’t bear to keep looking at the heartbroken look on the love of his life’s face, so he dropped his gaze to the table. His heartbeat thundered in his ears. He couldn’t do this again. Not again. He’d already gone through the pain of losing Hizashi once, he couldn’t lose him a second time. Even their tense attempt at friendship had been better than not having Hizashi in his life at all.

“Why...?” It was barely a whisper. Honestly, it might have been louder, but he could barely hear anything over his own heartbeat.

Hizashi clutched at his chest, fisting his shirt in his hand as tears slid down his cheeks. The sad smile never fell off his face though. “Shouta, it hurts too much. I can’t just smile and pretend I’m okay. I love you so much and I can’t just stop because you did.”

It felt like someone had dumped cold water on him. He’d been so wrapped up in his own head about the break up he initiated, he never thought Hizashi would be suffering as much as he had been. Instinctively, he wanted to comfort him and tell him how much he’d missed him. He wanted nothing more than to say I love you back since he never thought he would hear those words directed at him from Hizashi’s perfect lips ever again.

Instead, he asked, “What about Kai?”

Hizashi blinked in surprise, frowning, “What about her?”

“Aren’t you two...” He struggled to finally put words to it after all this time trying to deny it, “Seeing each other?”

Hizashi grimaced at that, “Shouta, she’s got a girlfriend. She just moved to town and got a job at the radio station as my sound manager. I’ve been trying to help her meet people and make friends.”

Shouta’s breath caught in his throat. She had just been a coworker this whole time? If that were true, that meant....

“I’ve missed you so much,” He felt the words he’d been longing to say pour out of him without a second thought, “I regretted everything I said as soon as I walked out the door. I wanted to take it all back. But you deserve someone who would give up their job for you because you’re worth it and I didn’t want to waste any more of your time.” He swallowed before reaching across the table to grab Hizashi’s hand, “Hizashi, I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

It was Hizashi’s turn to stare at him, slack jawed. For once in his life, he seemed at a loss for words. “Shou,” He murmured, finally and quietly, “What the fuck?” But before he had enough time to actually panic, Hizashi was laughing in earnest, “Oh my god, Shouta, what the fuck are you even talking about? I’ve never loved anyone but you. I don’t want anyone but you. It’s always been you, since you broke my nose during the sports festival. A guy doesn’t recover from that, you know.”

“I thought you had moved on!” He shot back, feeling lighter than he had since their break up, “You’re so.... you! You’re beautiful and kind and smart and funny and you always have people paying attention to you, it’s not like you couldn’t have if you wanted to.”

The voice hero barked another laugh, squeezing Shouta’s hand tight, “Whatever. I wouldn’t have. I don’t want romance if it’s not with you.” Their shouting had drawn the attention of most of the café, including the employees.

On a normal day, he would have been uncomfortable with all the eyes on him, but for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to care about anything else in that moment. All that mattered was Hizashi’s hand in his and the blinding smile that he was blessed with, the same one that had been reserved for him all along.

They had known each other for seventeen years, seven months, twenty-two days and yet Hizashi could still make him blush just as easy as he had in high school. All that time together and yet there was no one else he’d rather be anywhere with. Things weren’t completely fixed by any means, but it was a start.

Despite the blush burning away at his cheeks and the people staring at them from all around the café, Shouta felt like things finally might be okay again.