Yagi wakes, and he feels warm.
That’s not unusual– since he’s been sleeping in Aizawa’s futon for the past two weeks, he’s gotten very used to the feeling of sharing warmth. It’s nice.
What he’s not used to is the sensation of his cold foot sticking out the other end of the too-short blankets.
It takes him another second to process the implications of this, but the sound of a buzzing phone soon rams him fully into consciousness. He jolts upright with a startled yelp, realizes he’s very human and completely naked, and snatches the blankets up to cover himself.
The bedroom is lit in the blazing gold light of dawn. Classes will be in session by this time of morning, but obviously Nezu will have made sure that Class 3-A is covered so that their teacher can rest. On Yagi’s other side, the lump of rumpled dark hair and wrinkled sheets that makes up the aforementioned teacher stirs. It’s a testament to how truly bone-tired Aizawa must be, that he didn’t jolt awake to the sound of his phone, even on silent mode. He shifts again, giving vent to a miserable groan as if protesting the burden of being awake. Then he goes still for another long moment. Apparently he’s ignoring his phone, since he lets it keep vibrating on the floor. It takes Yagi clearing his throat to finally get through to him.
Instantly the teacher sits bolt upright, wide eyes scanning the room for danger. When his gaze falls on Yagi he freezes in place, just staring. Yagi stares back for a moment, acutely aware of the unanswered phone’s noise. Then, hesitantly, he gives a weak smile and a wave.
In the next instant, Aizawa throws himself at him and Yagi is almost crushed by the frantic strength of the teacher’s embrace. For a moment he’s startled, stiff in the other man’s arms. But then Aizawa’s familiar scent floods his senses and washes away the tension. The feeling of warm skin on skin is a comforting, grounding sensation. His hand comes to rest between Aizawa’s bare shoulder blades as he hugs the other man back, taking a deep breath. They sit there holding each other gratefully for a long, long moment. The phone rings through and hangs itself up on the floorboards.
“Good to have you back,” Aizawa murmurs into his shoulder in the quiet that follows, mangled voice cracking over the words. He sounds almost on the edge of tears, though Yagi dismisses the thought a moment later. It must be because of his throat injury, that’s all.
Yagi pats his bandaged-up back once, then lets go. They sit back upright so the older man can offer him a smile.
“I never actually went anywhere, you know,” he points out, mildly amused. Aizawa just huffs a sigh, rubbing the sand out of one eye. He would look adorable with his sleepy face and bed-hair, Yagi thinks, if it weren’t for the stained bandages around his neck and his torso.
“You know what I mean,” the teacher grumbles. “As cute as you were as a bunny, you’re significantly less of a pain in my ass as a human.”
Yagi doesn’t know why he blushes at that— what a stupid thing to blush for!— but he’s saved by the phone ringing again. Aizawa groans tiredly and asks who it is, his aching eyes still closed against the morning sunlight. Yagi leans over to check for him, one hand carefully holding the blanket against his chest to cover himself.
“Oh… oh dear,” he murmurs, frowning at the screen. “We must’ve really been asleep. There’s two missed calls from Best Jeanist, five from Kayama, and eight from Yamada, going on nine now. And a lot of messages.”
Aizawa’s answer is another put-upon groan. He holds out his hand for the phone and Yagi passes it to him, watching curiously as the teacher hangs up on his friend and then calls Best Jeanist back. He glances at Yagi while it’s ringing, then puts it on speakerphone so they can both hear. The Number Three Hero answers promptly.
“We did it,” Jeanist says without preamble. Not that this is a surprise to either of them. “I just wanted to let you know, we found the Pet-Snatchers’ hideout and all of the kidnapped victims. They’re safe.”
“That’s a relief,” answers Aizawa. “Where were they?”
“In the basement of a condemned apartment building where the Takadas where squatting. It was almost right under our feet last night, ironically enough. Your hunch about them operation out of that quarter was right on the money.”
“And they’re all human again, I assume?”
“Yes, all very human, all present and accounted for, including the detectives and your hero friends. I got confirmation from their caretakers. I assume All Might has turned back too?”
“Yeah, he’s fine,” Aizawa supplies before Yagi can get a word in edgewise.
“ Then that’s all thirty-three victims saved, then.”
The underground hero breathes out a sigh. “That’s good to hear,” he replies. Some of the tension visibly drains out of him, and he sways slightly in place. “What about the kidnapped civilians? They were trapped for almost two months, they must be shaken-up.”
“ The eight original victims are at the hospital now getting checked out. They all seem fine, if a little worse for wear. The doctors are going to keep them for observation, and a psychiatrist is going to visit each one to ascertain their mental state. But after that they’ll be cleared and allowed to go back home. We’ll get their statements today and handle the paperwork.”
“Thanks, Jeanist. I’ll be up to the precinct later to do my part of it.”
“Got it. There’s just a couple things that need your signature. We need to take your statement from last night and file an incident report on your injuries. I can take care of everything else through my agency. We’ll keep it organized for you so you can get in and out quick.”
“I appreciate it.”
“Any further orders?”
“No, no. I trust you to get it done right. You’re a fucking national treasure and I owe you a drink after this.”
Jeanist laughs and tells Aizawa he’ll have to take up on that offer later. It seems like he’s about to hang up so he can get back to work, but then Aizawa sits up straight again, eyes widening as something occurs to him.
“Oh wait! Before you go… you still there?”
“Out of curiosity: what did it? How’d you convince the villains to give it up and turn everyone back?”
“Actually, my friend, that was you,” Jeanist answers, sounding faintly amused, almost as if he can picture the nonplussed face Aizawa is currently making. “You really snapped last night. What you said about your friends and All Might was a real wakeup call for them. We let them stew in their own juices for a couple hours and mull over it while we all took a coffee break. It took a little more talking, and we did end up negotiating a deal with them, but they were willing to cooperate when we came back.”
“That’s what did it? Seriously?!”
“ Seriously! You moved Iku to tears. And Reyusei said your outburst made him think about how he’d feel if someone stole Iku from him. That’s what convinced him to release his Quirk. You’re so quiet and controlled usually, it was a real shock for everyone to see you lose it like that. I mean, I knew you were close with Present Mic and Midnight, but none of us realized you felt so strongly about All Might!”
Aizawa blinks owlishly at that, looking like he has no clue what Jeanist is talking about. But then the teacher glances at Yagi, and evidently he remembers something , because his face flushes cherry-red.
“Yes, well, uh… I was very tired last night so anything I said should be taken with a grain of salt. ‘Kay thanks bye !” Aizawa stammers, then hangs up in a hurry. His hand grips the phone tightly for a long moment, eyes looking anywhere but Yagi. The older hero just glances off to the side, a little red in the face himself and tugging on one bang nervously while he tries to parse through what that latest exchange could mean, what it has to do with him.
None of us realized you felt so strongly about All Might!
Yagi can’t help but wonder what Aizawa said during his so-called ‘outburst’, his heart hammering against his ribs at the thought. But Aizawa won’t look at him.
The awkward pause stretches on and on until, finally, the younger man’s phone goes off yet again. He looks down with a sigh, mumbling,
“It’s Nemuri again… I should probably answer or they’ll never shut up.”
Yagi just nods while Aizawa accepts the call and puts it on speaker once more.
Instantly the bedroom floods with the excited screaming of both of their loudest friends, though primarily Yamada.
“ HEEEYYYYYYYY SHO!!! YOU DID IT, BUDDY!” he screeches. The teacher just flinches and turns the volume down a few notches before replying,
“Yes, I gathered. You two okay?”
Kayama’s voice says, “Yeah, we’re fine. We scared the pants off of poor Thirteen and their friend when we changed back, though. Oh by the way! We heard what happened to Yagi, Thirteen said you were taking care of him while he was a bunny. Is he there?! Is he changed back too?”
The man in question smiles, touched by their concern for him as always. He leans forward a little to say,
“Yes, I’m right here, and human! You’re on speaker.”
“HEY BUDDY!!!” Yamada shouts happily. “Glad to hear you’re alright! Although I’ll admit I’m a little bummed I didn’t get to see bunny-Yagi, I bet you were sooooo cute! Did you wake up in your birthday suit too?!”
“Unfortunately,” the retired hero chuckles in return, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. Aizawa does a double-take at this and then seems to realize all at once that his coworker is sitting on his futon completely naked, with just a corner of the blanket held against his chest to cover himself. Aizawa flushes even harder.
There’s another awkward pause as the two on the other end of the line seem to infer what’s happening while Aizawa just stares at Yagi with an ‘error 404’ look on his haggard face. Eventually Kayama takes advantage of the silence to ask Yagi,
“Umm… you feeling alright, big guy? Hizashi and I woke up with a hell of a stomachache. We puked our guts up after we turned back. I know nausea is even worse for you, without a stomach and all. You doing okay?”
“Ah, I’m very tired, but besides that I seem to be fine for now,” Yagi replies. “I didn’t eat much last night so there’s probably nothing to retch. I’ll see how I feel later. How about now, are you guys okay?”
“Oh yeah, we’re tip-top!” Yamada exclaims. “We were fine once we got all the pet food out of our systems. Thirteen gave us our clothes back and their friend was kind enough to feed us real people-food this morning. We’re on our way back to school to see if we can make it in time to teach class.”
“I should probably do the same,” Yagi sighs, though he looks exhausted at the very thought. And with Aizawa taking the day off to recover, he’d probably have to sub in for homeroom too. Thankfully, Kayama saves him a moment later when she insists,
“Hey, don’t worry about it. I know you guys were running yourselves ragged trying to cover for us, the least we can do is return the favor. And besides, we heard Sho got himself real chewed-up last night. Somebody’s gotta make sure that workaholic idiot stays in bed.”
“Hey, I resent that comment!” objects Aizawa, albeit half-heartedly. Kayama just giggles and sing-songs,
“You wouldn’t resent it if it wasn’t truuueee! Anyway, Yagi: you take care of Sho-chan and we’ll take care of your classes today, yeah?”
Relieved that he doesn’t have to teach directly after all this, Yagi nods his agreement.
“Right,” he replies, “it’s a deal. Thanks so much, guys.”
“No biggie, it’s our pleasure dude! We’ll be over later with dinner and beer to celebrate. Thanks so much for saving us, Shota! LOVE YOU BYEEEEE!!!” Yamada yells. Aizawa just rolls his eyes at the phone.
“Yeah, whatever. Bye,” he grumbles, then jabs the hang-up button.
The silence that follows is, once again, an awkward one. Yagi breaks it by clearing his throat, still twisting and tugging on his bang.
“Right, so uh… clothes?” he prompts. Aizawa just sighs and nods, waving a hand in the general direction of the living room.
“Right, right yeah. I washed them. I’ll just–”
He peels the sheets back and tries to get his legs under him to stand, but the moment he moves, his face twists into a grimace of pain and his arm clamps down over his injured ribs. Yagi, all too familiar with the feeling, just puts a hand on his shoulder to still him.
“It’s fine, Aizawa. Go back to sleep, you need to rest. I can grab them myself. Just, uh… cover your eyes?”
Too tired to argue, the younger man nods and then eases back down into his bedding with a soft moan. He turns on his side and pulls the sheets up over his head. Instantly, his breathing settles back down into the rhythms of sleep, or near-sleep. Yagi’s heart warms at the sight. He flashes Aizawa a smile, unseen, then wraps himself in the blanket to go grab his clothes.
He finds them on a side table in a plastic shopping bag. They’re clean, if a bit rumpled. With the blinds closed for privacy he puts them back on, sighing happily at the secure, human feeling of being clothed.
Significantly more comfortable in his skin now, he turns back to the bedroom with the blanket in hand. Though he pauses on the way to crouch down and pet Himawari, who is rubbing up against his shins for attention.
“Thanks for taking care of me, Hima,” he says, and smiles at the answering purr.
In the bedroom, with Himawari safely locked outside, he drapes the blanket over the Aizawa-shaped lump on the futon. The man grunts his thanks, shifting to curl in on himself even more. It’s a little chilly in the apartment, since the heat only just kicked on, and no doubt the poor man is still exhausted. He hasn’t slept nearly enough to offset the night’s exertions.
So no one will blame Yagi for leaning down and tucking the blanket around Aizawa, with a tender look in his eye that thankfully no one but him can see.
“You go back to sleep,” he says. “I’m going over to my apartment for a shower, but I’ll bring over some breakfast for us.”
“Nnn… don’ hafto…” the teacher mumbles. Somehow understanding it anyway, Yagi just waves a hand airily and insists, “It’s okay. You took care of me. Now it’s my turn.”
The younger man doesn’t say anything in reply– just breathes a little deeper as he drifts off– but Yagi doesn’t mind. He knows Aizawa would’ve said something if he didn’t find that plan agreeable. So Yagi takes the silence as a ‘yes’ and leaves the hero to his well-deserved rest.
The sun has changed angles in the window when Aizawa slowly, painfully, claws his way into consciousness for a second time that day. He lays there just breathing for a long moment, getting used to the way the pain jabs at his injured ribs. If he breathes shallow so his chest doesn’t expand, it doesn’t hurt quite so badly. Sleepily, he wonders if this is how Yagi feels every day.
Yagi … what was it he said he was going to do? Aizawa can’t quite remember.
Maybe Yagi is the reason Aizawa’s apartment smells so temptingly like food. He didn’t realize how starved he was until he caught a whiff of it, and now his stomach is growling ferociously. The teacher blinks a few times to wake himself a bit more, ears tuning to the faint sounds of movement in his kitchen. Even with the bedroom door closed, he can smell something frying on the stove.
Then again, he shouldn’t be surprised. Yagi cooks, and cooks well. This isn’t the first time he’s helped himself to Aizawa’s kitchen. The only proper use his kitchen ever really gets is when Yagi invades it. Ever since the teachers all moved into the dorms two years ago, the retired hero is always eager to cook for company. He’d rather share a meal with friends than cook all by himself, he likes to say.
Groaning softly, Aizawa sits up out of bed and casts around for his jeans from last night. It’s then that he realizes: all his dirty clothes have been picked up, washed, and folded. They’re sitting on the low bedside table, not a drop of blood to be found. Yagi must have taken care of it for him. There’s even a pair of clean, dry sweatpants on the floor by his pillow. The underground hero sighs, though he can’t hide the hint of a smile. Trust Yagi to go Plus Ultra even on the little things. He’s always had a funny way of showing gratitude.
Not that Aizawa is complaining. Especially when he pulls the sweats on and realizes with a pleasant shiver that they’re still warm out of the dryer.
Out in the apartment’s living room and kitchen, Aizawa is unsurprised to find Yagi standing at the stove with a spatula in hand. The taller man turns to glance over his shoulder when he hears the door open. He points the shuffling figure to the corner where the coffee pot– the only appliance in the kitchen that gets any regular use besides the microwave– is quietly percolating.
“Coffee will be done in a minute or two. I only just started on breakfast though, so you’ve got time for a shower.”
Aizawa just grunts his understanding and goes to stand in front of the blessed pot, leaning his hands on the edge of the counter and resting his eyes while he waits and inhales the coffee’s scent like oxygen. The moment it’s done he pours a big mug and loads it with sugar. Then he turns and shuffles back to the bathroom. Before he goes Yagi calls after him,
“Let me know if you need help with the bandages.”
Again, Aizawa just grunts in reply.
In the bathroom, he sets his mug on the alcove in the upper corner of the shower to cool. He goes to strip and unwind his bandages as per his usual post-injury routine, but stops and does a double-take when he sees the rabbit litter box sitting all-too-innocently next to the toilet.
Weird weird weird weird weird, this is weird, his brain chants as he goes through the motions of unwrapping and cleaning himself up, moving with sloth-like slowness to avoid aggravating his newly-closed wounds. The chant continues and then heightens in volume when he gets out of the shower fifteen minutes later and realizes, while trying to dry himself off, that there’s no way he’ll be able to get clean bandages back around his torso without turning or stretching his arms in a way that’ll hurt. Even toweling his hair off sends a hot flash of pain down his bones, let alone trying to reach behind himself. He realizes with a heavy sigh that he’ll have to ask for help.
He does so, reluctantly, once he’s dry and wearing pants again. Yagi obligingly comes to give him a hand, though he does the same double-take Aizawa did when he sees the rabbit litter.
“Can’t believe those bastards made me shit in a box for two goddamn weeks ,” he grumbles under his breath as he cracks open Aizawa’s medical kit. The underground hero snorts at this, but that soon devolves into full-blown, roaring laughter, so hard it hurts. He sits there on the toilet lid with his head in his hand and fucking laughs, because after everything that’s happened, what else can he do? Yagi looks confused at first, but soon enough he’s chuckling along too, shaking his head ruefully.
“Two weeks stuck as a rabbit, we both almost fucking died, and that’s what you’re hung up on?! The shitting in a box part?!” Aizawa gasps, though he dissolves again shortly after.
They only sober up again when the pain in Aizawa’s side outweighs his wry amusement, and when Yagi starts to cough a little, tasting a warning hint of blood in the back of his throat. The pair stand in the blank white lights of the bathroom and just breathe, wiping away tears of mirth, for a long, quiet moment.
Eventually Yagi gives a heavy sigh. “We really lead the strangest lives, don’t we?” he says as he pulls out a fresh roll of gauze and starts measuring out strips. Aizawa tilts his chin up so Yagi can wrap his mangled neck with hands that are gentle almost to a fault. The underground hero sighs. He waits until Yagi is done before he grabs his mug and drains the last of his coffee.
“Comes with the job,” he murmurs, grimacing after he swallows. Everything in his throat– windpipe, esophagus, voice– still hurts like a bitch, even if it was non-fatal. Yagi seems to wordlessly understand this, giving the younger man’s shoulder a comforting squeeze.
They’re quiet after that, while Aizawa holds up his arms and lets Yagi patch up his side. It feels normal again, that silence. That’s one of the things Aizawa has always liked about their friendship: that they can comfortably share silence. That, while Yagi does like to talk, he doesn’t feel the need to fill up empty spaces or make noise for noise’s sake.
But if Aizawa was hoping for that normal, un-awkward quiet to continue, he is sorely disappointed.
They go back to the kitchen after Yagi finishes bandaging Aizawa up, to eat the meal Yagi has made them: a big plate of omurice for Aizawa, and a smaller bowl of plain yogurt and fruit for Yagi. Their first hang-up occurs when, out of all four chairs at the kitchen table, Yagi automatically goes for the one right next to Aizawa. The one where he ate breakfast every day for the past two weeks. As a rabbit. Standing on his hind legs on the chair. He blushes when Aizawa stares at him, then hurriedly shunts himself off to the other side of the table again, sitting across from Aizawa instead.
The quiet while they eat is a little strained, and it gets even worse when Yagi gets up to grab the carton of strawberries from the fridge. He brings the carton and a paring knife back to the table. There’s only a few left, and they’re getting a little old and wrinkled, so he’s going to use them up in his yogurt. He pauses in the middle of slicing them when he realizes Aizawa is staring at him again.
“W-What is it?” he haltingly prompts. Aizawa blinks hard, then gives his head a shake and goes back to eating.
“Nothing, sorry. I just, uh… didn’t know you liked strawberries so much. As a human, I mean.”
Now it’s Yagi’s turn to blink. He reddens again, deeper this time, and once he finishes slicing the berries his free hand starts tugging at his bangs the way he always does when he’s flustered.
“Ah, I um… I’ve always been somewhat partial to them, I suppose. I’m just trying to use them up so they don’t go bad in your fridge. You said you liked raspberries better, right?”
Aizawa freezes, chopsticks dangling from his hand as he gapes at the other man.
“Wait, y-you… you understood all that?!” he exclaims, his mind racing back to re-examine of all the times he talked absentmindedly to himself while Yagi was there in the room… saying things that he never would have said to the man’s face, because he assumed Yagi wouldn’t remember most of it once he changed back.
Jesus Christ, he realizes, I let him sleep with me, right next to me. We practically cuddled most nights…
As if he’s realized where Aizawa’s head just went, Yagi flushes an even deeper shade and starts waving his hands appeasingly, spoon clattering in his bowl when he drops it.
“Oh! Uh, I… I didn’t exactly understand it all, per se?” he stammers, hands fluttering this way and that as he explains. “I only got what you were saying about half the time, you know, when it really mattered, like when you told me to thump twice for yes and once for no. But uh, um… I still remember almost all of what you told me, and uh… well, now it’s sort of un-locked in my brain, I guess? I can go back in my memories from that time and now I understand the words you said where I didn’t before, I dunno, it’s a strange feeling…”
Aizawa stares for another second after Yagi trails off, then abruptly realizes he’s staring. He clears his throat awkwardly.
“Yeah, um… I guess a lot of this has been strange for you,” he mutters, looking back down at his plate so he won’t have to meet the other man’s eye. He feels rather than hears Yagi’s sigh.
“Strange for both of us, I suspect,” he admits. “But, all the same… I should thank you.”
“You don’t have t–”
“No, I do. Just… let me do this. Please?”
Aizawa pauses, then nods and lets Yagi gather his thoughts. At length, the older man clears his throat.
“This all could have been a lot worse, but you made it… bearable, I suppose. I know you went out of your way to accommodate me, and uh, if memory serves, I was, um… not always the best-behaved,” he mutters, frowning down at his yogurt. Aizawa figures they’re probably remembering the same things. He thinks of the scent-marking incident after the grocery store, and the nipping, and the constant nudging for pets and attention, and the clinginess. He tries to be annoyed like Yagi expects him to be. But honestly? He’d be lying if he said he didn’t sort of like it, if it didn’t feel… natural, somehow.
But Yagi is still talking, so he keeps his peace while the man finishes his little speech.
“I didn’t really have a whole lot of control over my behavior with all the… the rabbit instincts, and stuff… but I know it was inconvenient. You still went through a lot of trouble for me anyway, which you didn’t have to do. In the end you saved my life, and then… you made me feel safe, even when I was scared out of my mind. So… thank you, Aizawa. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for everything you’ve done.”
A pause, and then the younger man swallows hard.
Don’t apologize. Don’t thank me, he wants to say. I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. I liked having you around, I’ll miss you when you’re gone, whether you’re a bunny or a man. Don’t leave. Stay with me.
Instead, all he can do is bow his head humbly. He accepts the thanks, and the apology. It feels too… formal, somehow. They finish their meal in tense silence, and Aizawa has a sinking feeling that all of their silences will be tense from now on. There will be no more companionable quiet for the two of them. Something has changed, and though neither man can put their finger on it, it’s there all the same.
They can never go back.
There’s a lot to do in the aftermath of the Pet-Snatcher case. Yagi goes back to his apartment to pick up his life where he left off, while Aizawa attempts to get his shit back in order after two weeks of utter madness. Neither of them really have any time to talk, in all that, and honestly? They’re both perfectly happy with a little distance.
It takes Aizawa another day of rest and two more healing sessions with Recovery Girl before he’s back on his feet, in a state where he can teach and resume his normal schedule of hero work. Though ‘normal’ is relative. The aftermath of the Pet-Snatcher case promises to be a real headache, but he vowed he’d follow it through to the end, which means he’s still task force leader until the trial is over. He’ll only be done when Reyusei and Iku Takada are found guilty.
In the meantime he gets his end of the paperwork done, gives his statement on the takedown, and follows up with the judge and lawyers regarding the deal that Best Jeanist promised the Takadas: that their defense will be built on their mental illness and will get the pair seriously considered for secure psychiatric treatment rather than prison. In all honesty, that was probably going to happen anyway, considering the pair’s history and the clear evidence of insanity contributing to their heinous actions. They’re not the victims here, though they like to think they are, but they’re not some kind of evil, loathsome super-villain either. They don’t deserve to be treated cruelly.
Aizawa can’t find it in himself to feel bad for the pair, with everything they put his friends and Yagi through, and everything they did to him personally too. But he can understand that they only ended up here because somewhere along the line, society failed them. A hero failed them. And the least they deserve is to get the treatment they’ve needed their whole life, even if it’s all too little, too late.
He hates stories like these. They’re all-too-common in his line of work.
With the date of the trial set and the lawyers gathering their witness statements, Aizawa can finally re-focus on teaching, which he’s been missing badly nowadays. Class 3-A is so happy to have him and all their teachers back in one piece, they even pitched in and made everyone a big cake to celebrate. It was mostly Sato’s doing, of course, but everyone insisted that they helped. Aizawa would be too cruel if he didn’t let them take a few minutes at the beginning of class to share out slices of their cake and enjoy it. In the end, he’s just glad to see them lose their haggard, worried looks. Such an expression has no place on their faces. Not yet. Not while they’re still under his care, even if it’s just for a few more precious months.
All in all, he’s simply grateful his life is settling back into its usual rhythm. He’s a creature of habit (as much as a hero can be a creature of habit with lives as crazy as theirs). It’s such a breath of relief to see Nemuri and Hizashi and Snipe in the staff room every day, and to get back in the classroom without having to worry about checking his pager or juggling three separate lesson plans.
Although he has to admit, he misses having a little company while he teaches. The space between his scarf and his chest feels… empty.
It’s a stupid, fanciful thought that he banishes every time he has it. If he really needs the company that bad he can just adopt a bunny for fuck’s sake. But he won’t, and he knows it, because it wouldn’t be the same. The one he really misses is Yagi .
That’s one part of his routine that still hasn’t settled, much to his annoyance. Even after he and Yagi took their time apart and got their distance, somehow they never figured out how to close it again. How to be like they were before. They just sort of… drift, he supposes, like little flecks of dust floating in a beam of light: close, but never touching, always arcing away from each other and off into space at the last moment.
Their routine used to be comfortable, if a little… incomplete. Yagi’s piece in his life fit in nicely next to Nemuri and Hizashi’s, a much calmer counterpoint to theirs and one he found himself gravitating towards more often than not. It usually consisted of one making tea or coffee for the other– whoever got into the staffroom first in the morning would make both drinks– and then sharing the early quiet before the rest of staff filtered in. Then they’d go their separate ways to teach. They’d come together again over 3-A, which has become their shared responsibility with Yagi as involved in their growth as Aizawa is. Lunch was something they shared two or three times a week, when Aizawa sought Yagi out, and dinner was something they also shared two or three times a week, but this time it was when Yagi sought Aizawa out so they could co-work together after hours. Sometimes Hizashi and Nemuri would join in, sometimes not. It was always good either way.
Who cared if it always felt like there was something missing between them, something going unsaid? It was comfortable.
Now it’s all fallen to pieces. The coffee and tea are still made because they’re still being civil, dammit, and both of them need something hot in the mornings to get through the day. They still teach 3-A together, since neither is coward enough to shrink away from their duties just because of a little interpersonal awkwardness. But the stilted way they interact nowadays doesn’t go unnoticed either. Their early mornings aren’t companionable anymore. They feel more like a tense standoff, with both waiting for the other to say something and neither getting the guts up to do it, until someone else finally arrives to shatter the ice. The pair don’t have either lunch or dinner together anymore because Aizawa isn’t sure how to seek Yagi’s company without it being strange, and if he’s waiting for Yagi to come to him then he’ll wait a long time.
Aizawa’s apartment feels empty when he comes back to it, nowadays: even with Himawari to greet him.
He starts to lose sleep again.
If he’s hoping things will smooth out when the Pet-Snatchers’ trial is over, he’s sorely disappointed. At least the trial goes smoothly, thank fuck. The universe finally cuts him a little slack with that one. The stars align so that Reyusei and Iku Takada are tried separately, but both cases are considered together as one. The judge easily finds them guilty on all charges but mentally unfit to serve prison time, then sentences them both to ten to fifteen years in a high-security psychiatric ward with no parole possible, though if their treatment is successful they can be moved to normal prison in the future. The pair will be allowed limited visiting rights with each other considering their marital status. And lastly, all of the villains’ victims who filed restraining orders were approved. Even if the Takadas are released back into the world eventually, they can never come near the people they hurt again. It’s everything Aizawa could have hoped for as a conclusion for this mess of a case, and the judge even commends him personally for his work.
Not that he cares much for that sort of thing. He lets Best Jeanist handle all of the media attention that such an interesting case draws, happy to let the glory fall to someone else.
Aizawa leaves the court building for the last time a few weeks after the day the Pet Snatchers were caught. The trial is officially over, the case closed in every sense of the word. He stops short on the bottom step, loosening his tie and looking around him as if waiting for something to change, waiting for a weight to lift from his shoulders or a kink to smooth out. But whatever intangible thing he’s expecting doesn’t happen, and he leaves feeling just as unsatisfied as before.
Then, the very next morning, something does happen.
When he comes in to school on the Monday after the trial’s conclusion, there’s a second item sitting on his desk next to the coffee Yagi made like usual. The new object is one of those plastic bottles with the big clunky lid, for smoothies, and it appears to contain…
Well. A smoothie.
Confused, Aizawa walks over and picks it up, tilting it this way and that to watch the creamy slush swirl, and then giving it a delicate sniff. The contents is a vibrant shade of pink and smells like something fruity– probably berry-flavored, judging by the color– and also vaguely like yogurt. There are pips interspersed in the mixture and it’s a little grainy with ice, so it must be fresh.
The hero carries it over to Yagi’s desk and holds it out with a quiet mumble.
“Here, I think you left this at my–”
“–It’s for you,” the other man interrupts, pointedly not looking up from his computer screen. Although he does tug on one bang nervously as he explains, “You, uh… you mentioned that eating anything solid before ten AM makes you nauseated, but, erm… well, breakfast is an important meal and you really should have something more besides those jelly packs. I looked at the labels and they’re all chemicals and corn syrup. And stuff. So uh… yeah. That’s for you.”
The younger man blinks once and then looks down at the smoothie, mostly so he has somewhere other than Yagi to look. This is… the first time either of them have brought up what happened between them while Yagi was a bunny, and the awkwardness that ensued when he turned back. Aizawa still isn’t over the realization that Yagi heard and understands everything Aizawa said, all those things he never would have told the man to his face, all those things he let slip when he thought he was talking to himself… He supposes that this is both an acknowledgement and a peace offering of sorts, then. So he just thanks the other man with a nod and quietly returns to his seat.
And… after he’s had half of his coffee, he tries it.
The first sip is mostly out of curiosity, and because he can feel Yagi glancing at him from across the room, waiting on tenterhooks to see if he’s accepted the offering. It’s just meant to appease the other man, to get him to stop fretting. But the moment the smoothie hits his tongue his eyes widen.
Yagi must’ve gone and bought some frozen fruit or something, and probably a little vanilla yogurt to blend in with it. There’s also a hint of something else which might be almond milk, and honey to sweeten it. It’s the kind of thing Yagi wouldn’t be able to have very often with his dietary restrictions, which means he went out of his way to make this. But it’s also the kind of thing Yagi, ever the home chef, would make just for fun. Or to help out a friend.
Aizawa takes another sip, this one longer and with more relish. It tastes… clean. Clean and simple, with none of that heavy chemical sweetness that clings to the tongue for hours afterward when he eats a jelly pack. It’s remarkable, he speculates, how much difference a thing like this can make. He didn’t even realize how funky and strange his mouth always tasted, with his constant diet of liquid meals and greasy takeout, until he had something healthy and homemade. And Yagi is right: the smoothie sits well on his stomach even considering the early hour.
He’d be a shitty friend if he let such a considerate gesture go unappreciated.
So, he finishes the whole thing in near-record time, and he doesn’t make any effort to hide the small signs of enjoyment it incurs. Not that he’s particularly vocal or obvious about such things, but someone who knows him well enough will know where to look. When he’s done he rinses the bottle in the kitchenette, caps it up, and returns it to Yagi’s desk. This time he makes sure to meet his gaze when he says,
“Thank you, for this. It was good.”
Blue eyes brighten with a familiar and much-missed smile.
“Ah, I’m glad you liked it!” the retired hero replies, his cheeks brightening with a dusting of pink. But it’s a happy sort of blush this time, and it feels like a breath of relief to Aizawa. A little hint of a new normal.
And so, that becomes their new routine.
Every morning for the next week, Yagi brings him a smoothie for breakfast. It’s always the same raspberry one that Aizawa likes so much, and it tastes just as good every time. After a few days of this Aizawa finally gets up the courage to invite the other man over for dinner and paper-grading again, like before. They both set aside Friday night, and Yagi promises to bring over some food. In the meantime, the companionable quality comes back to their silences, and when they do talk, the familiar banter edges back in. Not quite flirting, but not just joking either.
It’s not much, but it’s a start.
Hizashi and Nemuri accost Aizawa during lunch on Friday, chanting his name until he rolls his eyes and agrees to eat with them.
“You doin’ anything tonight, Sho-chan?”
The question comes out of nowhere, halfway through the meal and with no lead-in. Aizawa raises one eyebrow, swallowing the bite of rice he was in the middle of chewing when Nemuri asked.
“Why, what are you two up to?”
She just winks in return. “It’s been a couple weeks ya know, and we haven’t hung out just the three of us since before this whole Pet-Snatcher debacle! A night at the bar is long past due.”
“It’s time we had some fun and got shit-faced my duuuude!” Hizashi yells, though only at medium volume, since it’s still school hours. Aizawa flinches anyway. There’s a stress headache building behind his eyes and, as much as he loves his two best friends, he really needs a quiet night in.
“Not tonight,” he sighs, and truthfully begs off, “I’ve got plans.”
He realizes too late that this was the wrong thing to say when the pair share a significant look. His sense of impending doom only grows as they press up next to him on either side, shoulder to shoulder, their smiles almost predatory.
“Really? Plans, huh?” Nemuri drawls, manicured nails tapping rhythmically on the tabletop. Her other arm encircles his waist to draw him close. “Hizashi, when’s the last time Sho-chan had plans with anyone besides us?”
“Well, Midnight my dear, the only person I can think of who he hangs out with that’s not you n’ me is Yagi!” answers the blonde, slinging an arm around Aizawa’s shoulders.
“But he and Yagi weren’t talking last time I checked, were they?”
“No, they weren’t! So what changed, buddy?”
The underground hero scowls at his lunch, then shoves more rice in his mouth, pointedly not looking at either one.
“I said I had plans, I didn’t say they were with anyone,” he mutters around his food. Nemuri just rolls her eyes at him.
“Oh puh- leaze. You never lie about having ‘plans’ if you don’t feel like coming out with us. You just straight-up tell us to fuck off. You can’t pull one over on us Sho-chan, we know you too well.”
“And this time we’re not letting you off the hook,” Hizashi adds. Aizawa just thunks his bowl down on the table and glares at the ceiling as if begging for divine patience.
“There’s nothing to be ‘on the hook’ about,” he growls. But to his surprise, Hizashi’s response is to pull out his phone and queue up a photo.
“You sure about that, bro?” he wonders, flashing his friend a cock-eyed smile. He leans in and shows him a picture– of himself. The underground hero’s hair starts to lift from his shoulders in vague, unnamed embarrassment when he realizes it’s one of those stupid blackmail photos Vlad King took. Evidently he followed through on his threat to share them with Nizashi and Nemuri. This particular picture is the one where he’s asleep face-down on the couch with Yagi, as a rabbit, curled up in the small of his back. Using his ass as a pillow.
Hizashi swipes to the next one, which shows Aizawa standing on the observation platform of Ground Gamma, directing 3-A and 3-B’s joint training while bunny-Yagi sits nestled in his capture weapon and watches. After that are two or three more shots of Aizawa going about his routine while the golden-furred rabbit makes himself comfortable in his perch like he was meant to be there. In one of them, Yagi has fallen asleep with his head tucked under Aizawa’s chin, looking utterly contented. The teacher is lecturing with one hand and petting the rabbit with the other, stroking down the curve of his back soothingly.
The last picture is Aizawa working through lunch in the staffroom while Yagi, sitting on the desk next to him, munches on a couple stems of mint and basil. The teacher is offering him a slice of strawberry, which Yagi seems very eager to accept, eyes shining bright and blue, his big soft ears pricked with interest. Aizawa is smiling at him, an uncharacteristically tender look on his face.
That seems to be the end of the photos Hizashi has, thank god, but Aizawa has been getting redder and redder with every picture. By the time Hizashi sets the phone down he can practically feel his heartbeat roaring in his ears.
“Fucking delete those,” he growls, but it’s half-hearted and neither of his friends pay it any mind. Instead, Nemuri pokes his arm and insists,
“What I want to know is how you guys went from being pals to the cutest fucking thing ever and then right back to awkwardly avoiding each other. Because you’re not subtle, honey. You two have been super-weird around ever since he changed back, and literally everyone has noticed.”
“I’m sure not everyone is–”
“–No dude, it’s everyone ,” Hizashi interjects, “Like, I even heard the kids muttering about it earlier today, yo.”
Aizawa groans and pinches the bridge of his nose.
“Seriously? Even the students?”
His friends each pat his shoulder comfortingly as he finally gives up and puts his forehead down on the table, groaning frustratedly through his teeth.
“It’s all so royally fucked and I don’t know how to fix it,” he complains, defeated by their combined wiles and the weight of his own guilt. “We’re supposed to do dinner and grading tonight, like we used to, but it’s all different now and I’m worried it’s gonna be awkward just like every other fucking thing is.”
“Well maybe we can help if you just tell us what happened,” Nemuri offers, rubbing up and down his back soothingly, like she used to in high school when he had bad days. He just sighs.
“I wish I knew… It’s just strange, is all. You guys weren’t there, but if you’d seen him you’d get it.”
“Then explain it to us. From the beginning”
Aizawa briefly summarizes finding Yagi in his apartment, caught in an ambush meant for him, and rushing him to the nurse’s office. He described how the terrified rabbit latched onto him and refused to let him out of his sight, for more reasons than one, and how he was saddled with the duty of caring for him… though not completely unwillingly. He finishes by declaring, “It wasn’t actually half bad. While he was a bunny he was just so… so… different.”
“Different how, sweetie?”
“Well obviously he was different, he was a fucking rabbit,” Hizashi snorts. Aizawa just rolls his eyes.
“No duh, but it went way beyond that, rabbit or no… You know how the Yagi we know would literally rather walk into traffic than inconvenience someone else by making his needs and wants known?”
“Yeah, that’s him alright,” scoffs the voice hero. It was something the three friends have discussed before, and at length. Nemuri just nods, prompting Aizawa to continue with a pat on the shoulder. He sucks in a deep breath and blows it out slow.
“Well… he wasn’t like that when he was a bunny,” he murmurs. “Something about being in that form must’ve forced him to drop his inhibitions, because… well. He was clingy . And demanding, too. He was always kicking up a fuss if I so much as let him out of my sight, and begging for treats and attention and fuck-all else… And I… I dunno. It was strange.”
“Strange how?” Nemuri prompts again. His reply is a shrug and a long pause before he admits, at length,
“I just… I didn’t mind, I guess. If anything, it was a refreshing change of pace. It … it was better somehow, having him around. Even if he was a dumb rabbit. It made this whole shitshow bearable. It felt better to have him nearby. At least then I knew he was safe, y’know? But it’s just… Now my place feels so fucking empty … I know it shouldn’t, but it does. And what do you even say to someone after all that? He slept in my bed for fuck’s sake… I said things to him that I’d never say to his face. And he remembers all of it. I can’t even look him in the eye without feeling weird now. We had a good thing before, but this went and fucked it all up.”
Unseen by Aizawa, Hizashi and Nemuri share a knowing look over his bowed head. Then Hizashi folds his arms on the table and sets his chin down on them so he can be at Aizawa’s level and look him in the eye.
“Buddy,” he sighs, “I know you think the thing you and Yagi had was good. But in reality it was a bubble waiting to pop. This was what popped it.”
“What are you even talking about?” Aizawa growls.
“I’m talking about the tension, dude. You must’ve felt it. Every single conversation you guys have had for the past year and a half has been at least fifty percent flirting.”
Aizawa flushes cherry-red again as he mumbles, “No it’s not, that’s just how Yagi is. We don’t flirt, we just… talk, is all.”
Nemuri rolls her eyes and sinks down on the table too so she can shoot him a sardonic look.
“You sure about that, hon?” she drawls, “Because I’m very sensitive to sexual tension, and every time you and Yagi are even in the room together, I swear I get chills. Also, he makes you a smoothie for breakfast every day now. Are you sure it’s just nothing? Because he doesn’t do that for anybody else. Just you”
Aizawa looks at her like he’s seen a ghost. Then his lips move as he mumbles something under his breath. Nemrui scoots closer and raises one eyebrow.
“What was that?”
“I said, um… there was one incident while he was a bunny. I guess you could maybe count it as ‘something.”
“Well I… there was this bunny care pdf thing, on my phone … and uh, it had a list of common rabbit behaviors and what they meant. At one point he uh… he did this thing called ‘chinning’, where he sort of rubbed his cheek over me, and uh… the pdf said it was, well… a territory-marking thing. Because rabbits have scent glands there.”
Nemuri has to dig her nails into her palm in order to disguise her obvious glee as she asks,
“And what did you do?”
Another mumble, and another request to repeat what he said. Eventually Aizawa admits,
“ I told him to stop flirting with me and come back when he was human, okay ? I didn’t think he’d remember anything I said!”
Now Hizashi really can’t help it: he gives a sound halfway between a sigh and a chuckle, shaking his head ruefully.
“You dummy,” he says. “No wonder things are awkward! Knowing him he’s been fretting and over-analyzing for weeks. Besides, did it ever occur to you that maybe he was clingy because he likes you? And trusts you?”
“Well of course he likes me, we wouldn’t be friends if he didn’t–”
“–Bro. I don’t mean it like that. I mean he likes you, likes you. Why else would his bunny instincts have told him to scent-mark you? Why else would he only feel safe around you?”
Hizashi scans Aizawa’s face after this to make sure he got it, but all he gets is another blank ‘error 404’ look. So the voice hero sighs and opens up his phone again, scrolling to the picture of Yagi dozing in Aizawa’s scarf and looking for all the world like he belongs there.
“That,” he says, pointing at the golden-haired bunny, “is not a man-trapped-as-a-rabbit who just thinks you’re ‘just a friend’, my dude. That is a man who loves and trusts you so much he’d happily fall asleep on your chest. Bunny-Yagi was just doing and saying all the things Human-Yagi is too insecure to do and say himself.”
Aizawa stares at Hizashi, his gaze blank and petrified. Like his soul has left his body. Nemuri just sighs and pats his shoulder again.
“You were in a good place with him before,” she adds, “but it couldn’t last. You guys were never going to stay ‘just friends’. It was a stepping stone, and you can’t stand on a stepping stone forever without eventually crossing to the other side. And you can’t go back now. The only way to go is forward. So get over yourself and pick one: take the next step with him, or tell him ‘no’ and re-build your friendship from the ground up.”
Aizawa glares at her for a moment as if he literally can’t believe what he’s hearing.
“From the ground up?! What the hell is that supposed to mean? How the fuck am I supposed to choose?”
At this point Nemuri and Hizashi are starting to get (justifiably) frustrated, so they exchange a look and then take deep breaths. When Hizashi speaks again, he does so slowly, as if he’s talking to a five-year-old.
“Look. Buddy. We love you, but you’ve gotta get your head out of your ass. It’s incredibly simple. Yagi likes you, and you like him, and you both have for a long time. But neither of you was gonna say anything about it until this whole mess happened. Because you’re both disasters.”
“Were we really that obvious?” mutters Aizawa. Hizashi just offers him a nod.
“Yup. But that’s changed, ya dig? Now, whether you meant to or not, things have been said. You can’t pretend they weren’t. So, you’ve got two choices: ask him out, or reject him and move on.”
“But I don’t want to lose him as a friend if I say no! What the hell am I supposed to do then?!”
“That’s what Nemuri is saying, bro! Even if you don’t want to date, you won’t lose him. This is Yagi!” Hizashi exclaims, spreading his hands in a ‘there you have it’ gesture. “He’ll still care about you and want to be a part of your life no matter what, but if you reject him, you guys will have to figure out a new way to be friends. And it’ll take time to mend that bridge.”
“One the other hand,” Nemuri interjects, “if you finally ask him out, you’d be getting rid of all this goddamn sexual tension for good, which would frankly be a mercy to the rest of us. And you wouldn’t have to worry about hurting him and having to start over. But you would still have to start something new, either way. Because you can’t keep on like this. I know a change like that is scary, but it’s necessary if you guys are ever going to escape the awkward-cage you’re stuck in right now.”
Hizashi nods his agreement, and then finishes, “So you’ve got two choices, amigo. And you’ve got until tonight to decide.”
“But why does it have to be tonight? ” he grumbles, folding his arms around his head so he doesn’t have to look at either of them.
“Because this is the perfect opportunity to sort out yourself and Yagi for good!” insists Nemuri, giving his shoulder a vigorous shake. “And besides, if I have to watch you two idiots pine after each other for one more day, I might actually throw up in my mouth.”
Hizashi adds, “Just bang already and put us all out of our misery.”
The final ten minutes of their lunch break consists mostly of an enraged Aizawa chasing his two meddling best friends around the staffroom and then down the hall, threatening death and dismemberment and general mayhem on their persons for that last comment. And for daring to interfere in general. The pair just giggle their glee and run away, sing-songing ‘you know we’re right, you know we’re right!’
Honestly, the worst part is that Aizawa does know.
They are right, about one thing. Not the banging, of course– he doesn’t know why he hangs out with those two menaces to society if that’s the first place their minds go. But they’re right that he can’t return to the way things were with Yagi. There’s only one direction he can move now that the bridge backwards is burned, and that’s forward.
He doesn’t actually have to decide tonight . He could wait if he wants to. But after a little mid-afternoon soul-searching, he realizes he’s sick of the way things are. He doesn’t like feeling trapped, and it’s time he did something about it.
So he has until tonight to choose his path.