The air was hazy, filled with fog that smudged every light. It was oddly cool for late August, humid but cool. Rain was to thank for the low mist that covered the ground, it added something.
It wasn’t the best conditions to perform in, not in a practical way. Overcast skies and slippery pavement just screamed a trip to the E.R.. But the atmosphere, the way the air shimmered and haloed around the two performers, the magic held on a simple street corner, it was perfect.
Hanta looked down from his perch, the sturdy street lamp making the perfect spotlight for his partner. Tape hung from his swaying arms with a seated boy on the end of it. Shouto sat on the connected pieces like a swing. With a tap of his fingers, fire and ice travelled up the strands of tape in a slow crawl. The light of the fire reflected off the crystals of ice, casting an orange and bluish light into the fog. It spread into the slowly growing crowd, with it bringing hushed murmurs of awe.
Hanta let the moment stretch until the two elements were close enough to feel. The slow sway of his arms turned into a twist, back and forth until fire and ice blurred together. He stood, lifting Shouto higher off the ground. With a practiced ease, Hanta yanked one side of the tape upwards, dragging Shouto with it.
Shouto let himself be pulled. To the crowd he was a limp doll, barely hanging on by his fingertips. He wrapped himself in the in the icy rope, tight enough to hang with no hands. The crowd gasped below hum, unsure if he'd drop. He wouldn't, Hanta wouldn't let him.
Growing impatient, and highly aware if their limited time with the flaming tape, Hanta hurried his movements. He snapped his arms together and clasped them. The two strands met in the middle, twisted around Shouto's outstretched form. Steam billowed upwards from the conflicting elements, encompassed Hanta's impressive profile. Like a haunting puppeteer he manipulated the strings and Shouto with it.
Yanking, pulling, adding more tape, Hanta made the stage for his dancer. It was entrancing, the two so different yet so in tandem with each other.
The tape began to weaken. Fire ate at it, ice made it brittle, it was time to finish up. Hanta wrapped his arms in the four strings of tape and yanked upwards with all his might. Shouto came flying towards hin, unravelling as he went. Hanta jumped, meeting Shouto at the crest if his ascent, and together they flipped through the air. They landed as one, the fragile ropes drifting down behind them.
Together they bowed. The final embers of the burning tape trickled into nothing, leaving the street corner completely dark save for the light of the audience’s phones. The small cheers of the crowd was worth their heavy breathing. That and the guitar case nearly filled with cash. They didn’t usually make as much, but it was Friday and that meant Master Moneybags came to visit. Same day, same time, every week.
Hanta closed the case quickly and stood. They had a few blocks of walking to get home and no plans of taking the train. Not with the cash they were carrying.
“Tonight was good,” Hanta slipped an arm around Shouto’s waist, pulling him closer. “A few more weeks like this and we’re golden.”
“If all goes well,” Shouto leaned into the taller boys’ hold. Carefully optimistic, always carefully, Shouto couldn’t help but feel excited. There was room for disaster. For his father to find him and throw a fit. For the crowds to stop. For his mother to fail. For anything. But for now, it felt safe to be hopeful. He let the good mood take him, grabbed his boyfriend's hand and began to skip.
Shouto stopped when he heard a voice. Soft and melodic, it carried on in operatic tones, a steady violin fusing with it. Shouto followed the sound. He barely noticed how he dragged Hanta behind him. It was two streets away where he found the source. Nestled in the crook of a tall statue stood two figures. One with his eyes closed and a galaxy of freckles and one as golden as the sun, his tail curled around the other's feet.
Prince freckles was the one singing. How a sound so big and strong came out of someone so little Shouto would never know but he never wanted to stop hearing it. Those hands, scarred and bent, clutched at his chest. They tightened and loosened as the song went on, formless words echoing off the walls of the statue. He swayed in a way that didn’t seem intentional. The tightening of the tail at his feet seemed to offer more than emotional support.
The sun held the bow and violin like he had no other purpose but to do so. The music moved him though he never strayed too far. The look on his face was focused, scrunched with emotion that was almost desperate. His eyes were closed but slid open every now and then to watch the singer by his side. Dark eyes glimmered with affection, shiny and mesmerising.
Mesmerising. That's what they were. A freckled prince, a golden sun, and the angelic sounds they made together. Shouto felt stuck. With just a note he was sucked into their orbit. Beside him Hanta squeezed his hand. He was strangely quiet, but then again so was the crowd before them. It stayed that for forever. Or maybe just for a moment. Maybe time stopped altogether just to listen.
A small child’s laughter broke the silence. She ran up to the two performers, her tiny legs skipping steps, and dropped a lollipop in the empty beanie at their feet. It snapped everyone back to their senses and a crowd, really just five people, stepped forward to offer a gift as well. Hopefully it was money.
Hanta laughed under his breath. He hadn’t expected to run into another pair of street performers so close to their usual spot. It was comforting somehow. He hoped to see more of them. Looking over to his partner’s curious face he knew he wasn’t the only one. But it was late now, and they had no plans to be any more social than they already had been. Soon though. Hanta had a feeling they’d see a lot more of those two. With a final glance at the musical duo, and a surprising meeting of eyes, they were gone.
In his quiet dorm room, Mashirao sat at his desk with his with a tiny lamp as his only light source. His laptop was open, showing a spreadsheet that he’ll never admit took him twenty minutes to understand. A calculator sat next to it, and an open notebook full of scribbled out numbers. None of it had his attention.
Instead he was focused on the room’s lone window. It was propped open, the curtains he bought himself pulled to the side. He always left it open, rain, snow, hail that one time, it had to stay open.
Mashirao stood up and walked to the window. There were quiet footsteps sounding from the edge of the roof, stilted and unsteady like someone was drunk. Drunk or tired. It was definitely tired.
“Izuku,” Mashirao called for his boyfriend, leaning out the window when Izuku was close enough. “You’re late tonight,” he muttered in the shorter boys’ ear after pulling him in close. There was no accusation in his voice, just an ever present concern.
“‘M tired,” Izuku let himself be pulled into the room, smiling against Mashirao’s neck. “Lost track of time, I’m sorry Mashi,” he leaned back to catch Mashirao’s eye, looking actually sorry for making him worry. Being late was becoming normal for him and he couldn’t say he loved it.
“I know, darling,” Mashirao kissed his love’s forehead, letting his lips linger there for a moment. Izuku was colder than normal, but then again so was the night. “You wanna go to bed? We can look over the spreadsheet tomorrow,” the sheets on the bed were pulled back, and Izuku under them before he could answer.
“Mashi, I’m fine,” Izuku pushed the fussing hands aways. Mashirao was a worrywort on a good day, a mother hen on his worse. It was cute. “I don’t wanna sleep yet, I missed you,” he pouted when the fussy hands came back and tucked him in anyway.
“At least lay with me?”
Mashirao ran a hand through his hair, exasperated only for show. Izuku was impossible to deny. Or maybe he was just really gay, who knows. He pulled down the covers with his tail and settled in, immediately getting squeezed like a teddy bear. This was by far his favorite part of the day.
“How was the hunt today?” he had a feeling he knew the answer already.
“Same as always,” Izuku sighed, disappointed but not surprised. “Almost got around the quirk thing but they never forget to ask in the end,” there was a hint of resentment in his voice. He wasn’t necessarily upset that he was quirkless, more that he was treated differently because of it.
Only five percent of the general population was quirkless now. The number got smaller and smaller each generation and with it the tolerance people had for quirkless people. Barred from schools, living areas, jobs, it was an overlooked issue that no one cared to look into. Afterall, quirkless people wouldn’t exist soon.
Mashirao couldn’t stand it. With these inhumane rules in place Izuku couldn’t attend school with him, couldn’t live with him legally until he could move out of the student dorms. Until they had enough money or one of them could hold a job, Izuku was stuck climbing through his window everyday.
“But I think I met someone who can help me,” Izuku continued on slowly, quietly, like it was a secret. The wide eyed look he got was worth how tired his body felt. “There’s a new guy in town, Mr. Aizawa, he’s moving here with his family and offered me a job in a few weeks,” he finished, trying to restrain his flapping hands.
“That’s amazing, Zuzu!” Mashirao sat up quickly, Izuku pulled up with him by his tail. “You did it!” he laughed, hugging his boyfriend tight. He squeezed round cheeks in his hands, peppered them with kisses while they rocked to and fro.
“Are you gonna tell them?” Mashirao slowed his frenzied rocking. By them he meant Shouto and Hanta. Without fail they showed up to every performance and in return Mashirao and Izuku showed up to theirs. They were nice, much nicer than anyone else they’d met before.
Hanta was a relentless flirt. It was amazing how red he made them. Izuku was an easy blusher, turning red at any compliment or gesture, but the burning in Mashirao’s own cheeks was an entirely new feeling. A smooth talker and every bit of a gentleman, Hanta was terrible at getting flirted at himself. It was a fact taken advantage of by the rest of their little group. Most of all Shouto.
Shouto, Sero Shouto was a prince. That’s all he could be described as. Soft spoken, charming, strong, he had a certain way of walking and talking, as if he found his self worth and was determined to keep it no matter what. And there was a particular grace in his awkwardness that was somehow breathtaking and endearing. He was sweet and kind and wonderful and so, so in love with Hanta.
Sometimes Mashirao thought he was in love with them. Often, Izuku felt the same.
“No,” Izuku stopped his enthused flapping. “I don’t want to disappoint them if Mr. Aizawa changes his mind,” he nodded, convincing no one but himself. “And, I want to surprise them, so maybe we can help them with their dream,” his smile came back, wide and strained and full of determination.
“I want to help them until I can’t anymore,”
The small declaration made Mashirao’s chest ache. Help until he couldn’t. Climb until he couldn’t. Work until he couldn’t. Mashirao hugged Izuku close and settled down in bed once more. He’d let Izuku help until he couldn’t anymore. Even if Izuku couldn’t do anything anymore, Mashirao could always be there. If Izuku couldn’t, Mashirao could.
Papers forgotten, laptop left to run its charge, they held each other close until sleep joined their embrace.
“How’s your mother, Snow?” Hanta lay stretched out on their too tiny couch in their too tiny apartment, with a tiny kitten curled up on his stomach. The little thing was a menace but a warm one and Hanta wasn’t going to pass up a free heater. November winds were not kind to the tiny home.
"She's doing well. Passed all her evaluations and meeting with her lawyers," Shouto dusted the snow off his long coat half heartedly. It was only gonna get more on it soon.
"She says she might be out before new years," Hanta watched him gather a different set of clothes, less formal than the button up and slacks he adorned. "She wont let me help her find a place though," he pouted, or did whatever counted as pouting for him.
Hanta stood, shivering slightly with his hot water bottle gone, and wrapped his arms around Shouto's torso. As stoic as he looked, Hanta could tell he was excited.
"She probably wants to do something completely on her own for now," they swayed, Shouto leaning back in Hantas hold. "She's strong, you worry too much, babe,"
"No, Mashi worries too much," Shouto tapped the arms around him, asking to be released. He passed the couch, not without scratching yuki under her chin, and began to change clothes.
"I thought you'd say Izuku," Hanta perched on coffee table, which was really just a cooler but had a nice cloth over it.
"Well yeah," he slipped on a shirt, sleeveless, and checked his eyeliner. "But Mashirao has taken his place these past few weeks," a small touch up and Shouto was done. "Don't you think?"
Really thinking about it, Shouto was right. Days turned to weeks and Mashirao just got more stressed. Weeks turned to months and Izuku looked more tired. Something was up with them and Hanta could only hope they’d feel comfortable enough to tell them eventually. In the short time of knowing the two of them, he and Shouto had grown quite attached. Well, Shouto would say attached. Hanta called it what it was, they had a crush on the angelic duo.
“Yeah..” Hanta stood and stretched. “They both look a little stressed to me,” he said mostly to himself. Walking to the door he grabbed his and Shouto’s coat. And his gloves. And scarf. It was really cold.
“We should take them out tonight,” Hanta looked excitedly at Shouto. “We can afford a free night. We almost have all the money we need, a night out won’t ruin anything,” he bounced on the heels of his feet, liking the idea the more he thought about it. “We’ll treat them tonight, maybe even confess! That’s two more babes, babe. More love to go around!” he jumped, almost out the door if not for the hand at his elbow.
“Calm down, Stitch,” Shouto placated. Hanta blushed, embarrassed at his enthusiasm.
“Sorry Shou, I didn’t even ask if you wanted that,” Hanta stepped back, ready to call it a night.
“Why would you need to ask? Of course I want to,” Shouto cocked his head to the side. Hanta was silly sometimes. It was cute. “If you think now is the right time, I trust you,” he reached up to cup Hanta’s face in his palms. Brushing his thumbs gently under dark eyes, Shouto pulled him down to give him a peck on the nose.
“Let’s go get our boys,”
The statue corner was crowded as was now to be expected. Since that first night of beautiful music, more people had shown up to listen. It was a pleasant way to finish off the day.
Today though, the music was low. People had to get closer and cluster just to hear well enough. The violin was more prominent, as it had been as the weeks went on. It was changing. The tone was hectic and slow at the same time, careful where before it was carefree. It was still beautiful, but left the crowd nervous instead of relieved.
Mashirao was ready for this performance to be over. He wanted to be home in bed with Izuku, or even on the dorm steps with Shouto and Hanta, anywhere he could get Izuku to rest. Eyes locked on his wavering partner, Mashirao willed the song to be over. They could go a night without cash.
Izuku swayed on his feet. His voice pitched high into nothingness, hidden under the strong tones of the accompanying violin. He was losing breath and steam but he wanted to do this. He had to. Mr. Aizawa wasn’t back yet so this was all Izuku had. The only way he could contribute. He said he was going to help until he couldn’t anymore and he meant it.
But he was so tired. Breathing took so much effort. He could barely keep his eyes open to walk. Coughs racked his body for hours on end. Singing hurt and sapped his energy. Everything sapped his energy. If he could just sleep…
A sharp note pierced the air before it all went silent. In his arms, Mashirao held Izuku’s limp body. Limp body. He passed out, Izuku passed out right in front of him.
“Izuku?” Mashirao wasn't quite sure what he expected. Wasn't quite sure what was going on. Izuku was fine, wasn't he?
Someone dropping to their knees in front of him snapped everything into reality. Unconsciously he wrapped Izuku in his tail, holding him closer to himself.
“Mashibaby, it's just us,” Hanta held his hands up placating the tailed beast. Shouto sat beside him, closer to get a proper look at Izuku.
Dark bags spread under Izuku's eyes, making them look black and bruised. His skin was nearly translucent, only highlighted by the red spread across his nose and cheeks. There was an audible wheezing resonating from his chest. He was sick in the most obvious way and it was astonishing how they didn't catch it.
“Rao?” Shouto’s voice was barely discernible over the blood rushing through his ears. Couldn't feel the hands on his shoulders, the lips on his forehead, the snow beneath his walking feet.
He could only feel Izuku in his arms until they took him away.
“Walking pneumonia,” Shouto startled at the sudden voice. All of them did really.
They were huddled together at Izuku's bedside, Mashirao sandwiched between him and Hanta. The same position since they got to the hospital room. Waiting for hours for someone to tell them anything.
So close to New Years, the hospital was crowded. Drunk people, sick people, injured people. People sick and injured from being to drunk. And Izuku.
“Well, double pneumonia but your friend here is quite the fighter,” the doctor was a kind looking old lady, short with a cane that resembled a large syringe. "And quite the fool. His immune system isn't strong enough to pull a stunt like that, certainly not his lungs," Shuzenji was the name sewn into her coat.
"But he will be okay," Shuzenji put up her hand when Shouto tried to speak. "A few days here and proper rest at home and he'll be right as rain," she ended with an easy smile.
Mashirao melted with relief. Izuku would be okay. He hadn't picked up some incurable disease with his terrible immune system. He wasn't wasting away anymore. Izuku was okay. Happiness bubbled in his chest, he could just kiss someone.
So he did.
Hanta didn't expect to be kissed. Didn't expect Mashirao to be the one taking his breath away. The wide eyed look on the young man before him told him Mashirao hadn't expected it either. It didn't stop him from kissing back, or the smile forming on his lips.
A snort pulled the two apart. Shouto looked both fond and amused, chin resting in the palm of his hand.
"I couldn't pick a worse place to confess but here we are," Shouto started, if only to wipe the confused look off Mashirao's face. "Before all this," he gestured to the whole room, "we planned to take you guys out and...tell you how we felt about you," he finished, much quieter than when he started.
"You and 'Zuku," Hanta cupped Mashirao's face, turning him to lock eyes. "You're so amazing, we couldn't help falling for you if we tried," he rubbed his thumb under a deep brown eye. Hanta slid a glance to Shouto, watching his partner wrap an arm around Mashirao's waist, and a hand around Izuku's wrist. He focused on the man between them, who had stolen their hearts from the start, and together they spoke.
"We love you."
Izuku wasn't completely lucid upon waking. Things blurred together into hazy moments he wasn't sure were real. There was a woman he'd never seen, dressed comfortably with words of "for you" and "home" spilling from her lips. Another woman, short and wrinkled who may have said something to him. He wasn't sure but her voice was comforting.
And then there were three bodies, huddled close to him and close to each other. A mess of voices muttering "I love you's" over and over. He thinks he said it back.
In a brief moment of clarity, Izuku could see. Three pairs of eyes staring with a love he knew he could return, no matter how sick he felt. Under his breath he began to hum, the first song he and Mashirao ever performed for everyone. Exhaustion began to pull him under, and Izuku let it. Whatever he woke up to next, he knew it would be better than anything he lived through before.