"Well, that final sucked," Izuku kicks a rock down the road, sending it skidding across the pavement.
"It wasn't that bad," Shouto fiddles with the strap on his messenger bag, smoothing down the flap. In all honesty, he's not sure he did all that well, but he knows saying that will just make Izuku freak out more.
He's got some complex where he thinks Shouto is smarter.
It doesn't matter how many times he's insisted otherwise, Izuku won't hear it.
It always sends a rock in his gut that he can't explain when he hears Izuku say those kinds of things.
Makes him think there's something there.
Some ghost haunting the corners of his mind.
Something not unlike the ones that creep and crawl in Shouto's own head.
They're walking down a different path than they usually did to go get lunch, sidestepping the nasty construction that's got the sidewalk out of commission.
It's a corner of town he hasn't seen in a long time.
Since he was eight.
Izuku is chatting on beside him, nose down in his phone, likely reading off a story about an up and coming hero he hasn't heard about yet.
But Shouto can't hear him. The comforting sound of his sneakers scuffing on pavement is absent as well, his shoes stuck like lead on the concrete, mismatched eyes caught on the kids playing beyond the chain link fence across the street.
Glimpses of red and orange flash by, something Shouto is almost able to convince himself is the glare of the sun of the lenses of his glasses, but something in his head snaps, sends his heart pounding in his chest.
His breath sticks in his throat, remembering the day he'd been dragged home from elementary school, the last day he'd ever 'played' with kids his age.
He remembers their jeers.
"Who doesn't know how to play tag? Are you dumb or something?"
He remembers the way his father's temper had flared when he asked him at home.
"What the hell are you asking me about that for?"
"The other kids were playing at recess and I didn't know how. They thought I was stupid."
"You are stupid if you're wasting time with childish games. Eight years old and they allow recess games. Wasting my damn money."
Shouto hadn't had many friends. Most of the kids thought he was odd. Or were too scared to talk to him because of who his father was.
But he had one boy, one kid who wasn't scared or freaked out by him. One kid that didn't call him a freak in the halls.
But he never saw him again.
"I have to make up for all the time you lost at that stupid school," Enji had said, his grip burning as he'd dragged Shouto into their dojo. "Put your hands up boy."
"I haven't had lunch yet, just give me ten minutes," he'd tried but he realizes quickly he should have kept his mouth shut.
He doesn't have time to prepare, doesn't have any kind of warning before heat that singes the ends of his hair is in his face, burning his forearms as he throws them in front of him in a meager shield.
Enji doesn't call him Shouto at home.
He can't breathe.
It's hot and his shoulders ache.
It's not wood beneath his fingers. The surface is too rough, too abrasive.
Fingers brush his back and he jumps, lurching forward, his palms scraping as he catches his momentum.
"Shouto," its Izuku's voice, his touch he'd fled from.
His glasses are fogged and his heart is pounding, ready to burst from the pulse-point at his neck. Sweat drips down his chin, splatting on the concrete.
It's not hot out. The breeze is cool against his face.
Or he's just burning up again.
Izuku's gaudy red shoes settle in front of him, blobs that could may be hands reaching toward him, pulling his glasses gently off his face.
"It's okay Shouto," soft and gentle, like the way the wind caresses his face, trying to tug the sweaty strands of hair away from his forehead.
He wonders how long he's been crouched here making a fool out of himself.
"It's just a memory. You're safe here," the earpieces settle back in place, lenses wiped clean of the tears that had stained the glass. His chest convulses around a sob, the concern and care such a contrast to the place he'd just been drowning in. "Can you breathe for me?"
Shouto shakes his head, whining pitifully in the back of his throat.
Izuku touches his shoulder gently, testing the waters before getting closer, wrapping his arms around Shouto's middle and pulling him up and against him, supporting the other teen's weight in an embrace.
"I don't want to rush you, but we should probably get you home," Izuku's voice is in his ear, lips brushing the shell as he whispers, his tone low and soothing.
Shouto doesn't know if he can walk. His legs feel like lead and jelly, impossible to hold up and nothing stable to support him.
Izuku shrugs off his jacket, wrapping it around Shouto's trembling shoulders.
He feeds his arms through and if Shouto had more than one functioning brain cell right now he'd be mortified at the way he's being more useless than an infant, that he can't even get a jacket on his arms are shaking and spasming, his chest still contracting and contorting painfully, his lungs burning in his chest with no sign of reprieve.
Izuku tucks the hood up over his head, pulls it as far forward as he can. Shouto manages to look up, the hood cutting off Izuku's eyes, but he can see his smile, his fortifying, soft, familiar smile.
Shouto's breath is temporarily stolen the same way the ground biting into his knees and palms is, his chest pressed to Izuku's, his arms slung limply over muscular and broad shoulders, tossed up into Izuku's arms like an empty potato sack.
Shouto buries his head in Izuku's shoulder, hiding the entirety of his face.
It doesn't make it easier to breathe, less so honestly, but at least no one can see it's him being carried near bridal style down the street and struggling for breath without any reasonable injury that could be responsible for it.
Izuku holds him tight to his chest, mutters soft reassurances that only Shouto can hear.
The temporary breath stealing helped calm his flailing lungs some, giving them a slight reset. They're still unruly beneath his sternum, but he doesn't feel like he's dying anymore.
His hand is still stuck in a claw shape, his fingers rigid and his head is light but the black isn't encroaching anymore.
Baby steps he supposes.
When Shouto really focuses again they're halfway up the flight of stairs to Izuku's apartment and he has to marvel at the fact Izuku carried him this far and isn't the least bit short of breath.
Of the two of them, Shouto is still struggling more and he's been limp for the past however long.
He doesn't even feel the tell tale thrum of Izuku's quirk.
Just his bare muscle supporting his weight.
He manages to get them both through the door without knocking Shouto against the frame, though he wonders if a firm knock against something isn't what his brain needs to function properly at this point.
He settled on the couch with the gentlest movements he thinks he's ever felt, Izuku cradling his head against the cushions, keeping his neck in a decent position and working to uncurl his fingers.
"Izuku? Is that you?" Izuku's mother, Inko, calls.
"Me and Shou," Izuku doesn't halt in his gentle massage to respond, doesn't even look up. "Could you make us some tea? In the microwave please?"
Inko questions the microwave but Izuku just says they like it better that way and Shouto tries to look appreciative, but he feels like his mouth is turned into a grimace instead of a smile.
No part of his body is wanting to cooperate with him it seems.
"Do you remember when All-might punched the pants off that villain three years ago? I showed you the video a few weeks ago," Izuku's words are calm and even, matching the smooth tempo his fingers are following.
Shouto shakes his head.
"It was pretty great. I'm betting that guy will wear a belt from now on. Well, once he's out of prison anyway."
When Shouto's fingers feel like they belong to a living person Izuku spreads them over his chest, presses his scarred ones over it.
"Can you feel my breathing? Can you do it with me? You still look kind of blue."
Shouto isn't sure if he responds or not.
Izuku starts working his other hand, keeps up the pleasant hum of conversation.
Shouto doesn't notice when Inko drops off the tea mugs, only that one minute they're there when they weren't the last time he looked.
When he has some semblancce of dexterity in his hand Izuku curls his fingers around the handle, presses the warm ceramic into his palm while he keeps talking.
The conversation is one sided and the topics vary wildly.
Some he talks about old All-might fights, only a third of which Shotuo can actually place. Some are school stories that Shouto does remember, but never quite with the vivid detail that Izuku tells the story with. Some are of his mother and him when he was little.
He never mentions a father.
Shouto thinks he may ask one day.
If he ever remembers during a time his tongue isn't cotton and his chest isn't fighting him on every inhale.
Maybe that day will never come.
Maybe it will be tomorrow.
Feeling comes back into his legs in stages. First, the tightness. Like he's got a wicked sunburn constricting his skin. Then it's the tingles, like thousands of needles pressing into his skin and it's near impossible not to squirm under the onslaught of sensation.
Izuku never stops talking. Even though Shouto isn't responding, even when he's not even listening.
He's not sure when it happens, but at some point his breathing moves to match Izuku's. his fingers swirling over the cooling mug in the same rhythm as Izuku's press into his ankle or his knee, whatever happens to be closest at the time.
"How do you feel?" Izuku asks, his head tilted, his hair exceedingly mussed, his eyes bright with concern.
"Tired," his voice sounds like gravel in a blender and his eyelids are heavy.
The thing about panic attacks is they wring every last ounce of energy out of you, wring it further than one could possibly remove water from a towel.
It takes and takes and takes until there's nothing left; until there's no energy, no will to fight, just the desire to slip into unconsciousness and try and forget the whole thing.
Most of it anyway.
Shouto wants to remember Izuku's rough fingers pressing over his skin, his gentle words as he talked him down. But he could do with less embarrassing instances of it.
There are plenty of those too, but he likes to save these memories for those nights when that evil voice that sounds like a watered down version of his father tells him that Izuku will get bored of him, that he'll get tired of the panic and the insomniac nights. That he'll realize how sought after he really is and settle with someone less high maintenance.
That he'll trade in the equivalent of an old beater project car for the newest model, one that purrs smoothly and doesn't need inordinate amounts of upkeep. That he'll get tired of these small bouts of playing hero when he's licensed and can do the real thing for much more important people.
He tries to fight it with these memories. With the raw affection he sees in those apatite eyes. That the unadulterated concern that always takes over his face and creases his eyes when Shouto starts melting down can't be anything but what it looks like.
Fights it with the knowledge that its give and take, that there are nights where Izuku is the one cradled between Shouto's arms and between the valley of his legs, letting out all of the things he holds in because he tries so hard to be everything All-might was. Everything he thinks he has to be. Because he realizes that there's at least one person he doesn't have to put on that smile for, that he doesn't have to pretend for. That he's allowed to have those moments of reprieve with.
They're each others safe havens, their happy place, their home wherever they happen to be.
They've not projects or brand new sports cars, they're worn and loved and exactly what the other needs.
They adapt and meld into the puzzle pieces of each day.
They work and fight and cry and scream together.
That's not every going to change.
Shouto can see it in his eyes.
"Do you want to show me that video?" Izuku doesn't hesitate to snatch up his computer and throw a blanket over their heads, a makeshift fort held up with spires of ice and overstretched hair ties. It can't possibly last, the hair ties will snap, the battery will die, the ice will melt.
But for now, in this moment, it's perfect.
He's nestled between Izuku's legs with his head against his chest, rising and falling with each breathe, their hands laced together and there are ridiculous videos playing and he's with the love of his life.
It doesn't last.
He falls asleep, but in the morning, when he wakes, he knows one thing that will be there. That will always be there.