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The Path We Chose

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Relationships were always rather complicated affairs – interaction changed depending on who exactly it was you were interacting with. Some things you did or said around one person might be unwelcome around another person. Everyone communicated slightly differently, everyone had things they did or didn't put more emphasis on. People showed affection differently too, some more touchy, some preferring to share time, some buying gifts, some expressing it outright with words…

And all of it was messy and unintuitive – something you had to figure out through trail and error or sheer luck. Shouta had never been a fan of trail and error scenarios or luck based gambles. If you asked him he actually preferred logic-based puzzles – something that had all the answers right there on first gaze and all you needed to do was follow a rational trail to get to the correct conclusion.

Still, relationships weren't logical and to try and rationalize them was bordering on insanity – Shouta was aware of that fact as well. So really, there was nothing that could be done in those cases except for trying to fumble your way through everything without accidentally botching something up.

“Are you free this weekend?” Shouta asked, his gaze was fixed on the horizon, idly taking in the lights of the city. Loud music was thrumming out of the club they were on – obnoxiously loud really, but he could put up with it as long as he had a good reason to stay. He had a good reason.

Beside him Hizashi stopped chewing for a second. His head turned to regard Shouta, his tinted glasses hanging out of the v of his leather jacket, hooked into his collar – his concentric, electric green eyes unobscured. His blond hair tower dipped a little under its own weight as Hizashi cocked his head to the side.

He swallowed the bit of cake in his mouth and then smacked his lips as if he was trying to suck the last bit of flavour away “I think so. I mean, nothing has come up yet and there isn't really anyone I'm watching either.” he shrugged “So… Completely free.” he added and then after a second he asked “Why?” his brow drew together slightly.

Shouta felt his jaw jump as he grit his teeth for a short moment – he couldn't remember this part being so… well, not quite stressful, but definitely nerve-wracking. Then again it had been a long time since he had last tried to have a meaningful, romantic relationship with someone – literal years in fact. He also couldn't remember the last time he had actually felt this strongly for another person either, so there was the added desire to make sure that everything worked out just fine – nothing amiss, no disappointment, everything just perfect… no matter how utopian and unrealistic that might be.

“I thought that we could have dinner.” he said simply – there really was no sense pussyfooting around it. After all waiting generally only tended to make everything worse, especially when it concerned emotions… especially when Hizashi was involved.

It had been a few days since they had their heart to heart about their relationship and how they wanted to proceed with it… A few days since Shouta had decided to illogically throw caution to the wind and to instead take the emotional, sentimental path – to start a relationship despite all the obvious ways in which all of this could go catastrophically wrong. Simply because at this point in his life he couldn't really remember what it had been like before – before he had met Hizashi.

Maybe ‘decided’ wasn't the best word for what had happened though, it would probably be more apt so say that he had ‘given in’ – given in to both Hizashi's begging and arguing and his own human desires – to the painful squeeze of his heart.

And truly, it had been rather easy to give in once he had made his mind up, once he had realized that there really wasn't much choice at all – that choice had been an illusion he had stubbornly clung to. He was in love, plain and simple, and he knew, deep down, that if anything should ever happen – if anything should ever go wrong – he would choose Hizashi over his own career any day.
He would choose the other man over the steady, calm day-in day-out of his life – no matter how much he valued stability – without a second thought.

The strength of his own emotions was a little disconcerting, a little disquieting as he realized that he would choose Hizashi over his own safety in a heartbeat. Love was a strong emotion, entirely build on irrationality – it was dangerous and frightening in its intensity… and yet Shouta found he was more than unwilling to cast it aside now that he had it within his grasp. Real love just followed no clear patterns – it was utterly annoying… it was also strangely exhilarating, nearly intoxicating.

So really, if the end result was the same – if there would be pain either way if something should ever go sideways – then why choose the path that gave nothing more than a mere illusion of safety without any guaranties? Why choose the path that gave no real gain yet made them both unhappy? Why not – as Hizashi had put it so eloquently – grab life by the fistful? After all, if something you truly desired was offered freely then it would be more than illogical to let the opportunity go to waste.

Still… maybe that was just Shouta's heart talking – maybe this was nothing more than his mind trying to find a way to rationalize his illogical emotions, to frame them so all of this didn't seem quite as reckless as it was.

… Not that he was particularly upset about that. He liked to believe that he was a man who was – at least in big parts – driven by rationality and – rationally – he was quite aware of the fact that emotions and logic were often on odds. Oil and water, so to speak. That was just to be expected. The sensuous and the formal drive so very rarely mingled to create a proper play drive after all. Trying to force logic on emotions was like trying to force fire to be cold.

So really, getting upset over emotions – especially the ones you couldn't ever hope to fully control – was just a right waste of time and energy and only brought another heap of problems along for the ride. Feelings were just such a mess, Shouta thought, feeling a strange mixture of endearment and irritation flood through him.

He tipped his head to the side a little and watched Hizashi's unobscured face flicker through a handful of different emotions. Surprise was there, but also delight and something incredibly soft – his green eyes seemed to positively sparkle and his smile was toothy and broad.

“Oh, a dinner date.” he giggled and Shouta couldn't help but let out a fondly-annoyed huff of air through his nose at the other mans antics.

“Yes.” he gave back simply. Hizashi's tittering calmed down, growing quieter, his cheeks holding a slight flush – caused by his laughter.

“Why yes! I have been waiting for you to buy me dinner since forever. It’s only proper after all.” the blond man said, his voice full of amusement.

Shouta let out a snort at that “And what is that?” he asked and inclined his head a little – indicating to the box of cake on Hizashi's lap.

Hizashi gave a playful hum – fake-thoughtful “The entrée?” he teased.

Given, they had been dancing around each other for much too long – in a big part thanks to Shouta's own doubts… doubts that, in some part, were still there and probably would never truly disappear. So maybe it was only fair to call all of what had happened so far an entrée – an appetizer for the main course that was about to be served now.

Shouta gave a soft hum back “Fair enough.” he answered easily. For a second it was quiet but he could see Hizashi's expression changing – growing warmer, more open. Recognition. Understanding Shouta's implication.

He was really too smart for his own good, Shouta realized, not for the first time. Yet, unlike the first time he had noticed it, the knowledge didn't make him nervous anymore – quite the opposite in fact. It made him feel proud. Proud of the man he was now calling his lover. And really? Who wouldn't be?

Hizashi was so many things that Shouta wasn't and never would be – he was talkative and open, curious and full of life, so very, very vibrant that it took Shouta's breath away. Shouta let his eyes sweep over the other mans face – his high cheekbones, the upturn of his nose, the near invisibly pale freckles dusted over his nose and upper cheeks – Hizashi was beautiful too, groomed and styled in a way that Shouta himself just wasn’t.

Truthfully, Shouta had always believed that the people who insisted that ‘opposites attract’ were just naive. After all, someone who was your complete opposite was more likely to annoy and irritate – all the differences would surely pile up, all the discussions about different interests and ideas that were just bound to happen at some point or another, really, it sounded more stressful than intriguing.

Shouta had no problem admitting that he seemingly had been wrong with that assumption.

Maybe ‘opposites attract’ wasn't about finding the one thing that normally infuriated you and then settling for it, maybe instead it was about finding the one person that was able to buff out your personal shortcomings – finding someone who complimented you and helped you work through your individual character flaws. A mirror that helped you spot your imperfections.

Idly he wondered if that was part of the reason why Hizashi seemed so drawn to him as well.

“Sounds good!” Hizashi smiled towards him “How about Saturday? That’s a good day isn't it? I have never really seen you out and about on a Saturday so I guess it must be one of your free days. Unless you patrol somewhere else on Saturdays? I mean, I wouldn't put it past you, you seem like a right workaholic. Not that I mind. I mean, I'm much the same, so really, stones and glass houses you know? I just think Saturday would be nice since we would have Sunday as a buffer you know? So if it gets a little late it’s not as if we both need to be up at the ass crack of dawn on a Sunday… I mean, I don't have to be up at the ass crack of dawn. I don't know if the same is true for you.” Hizashi prattled and then shrugged his shoulder. He levelled a questioning gaze towards Shouta, his fair brows drawn down in contemplation.

Shouta gave a soft snort and shook his head a little to himself – amused “No, you're right. Saturday is one of my free evenings. I don't work the night from Tuesday to Wednesday nor the one from Saturday to Sunday”

Hizashi gave a soft, triumphant sound “Well, that's perfect then! Dinner date this Saturday!” he nodded to himself “Is seven okay for you? Or do you want to meet later? Earlier?” he sounded so enthusiastic that Shouta couldn't quite help it as a small smile stretched over his face.

“Seven is fine.” he gave back and Hizashi's entire face lit up at that. The blond man leaned to the side a little, moulding himself against Shouta's left – and Shouta, nearly automatically, nearly unconsciously, raised his left arm to sling it around Hizashi's lower back, pulling the other man a little closer still.

Really, Shouta wasn't a very touchy person but Hizashi obviously was and – to Shouta's surprise – he had realized that he didn't really mind. At least when it was Hizashi who initiated contact. He assumed a little trust could go a long way – a little comfort could change a lot of things.

“Well, where do you want to take me darling? Or is it a surprise?” Hizashi asked, curiously.

“We could go to the Italian where I get your pizza.” Shouta offered back – he wanted to shrug but since Hizashi was leaned against him he refrained from it.

For a second he wondered if it had been a good proposal. He himself wasn't big on going to expensive, fancy restaurants – those places where you weren't even allowed in if you wore anything more casual than a full three-piece suit, in fact, he thought places like that were a waste of money and time. After all, there were enough nice, inexpensive restaurants or diners where you could have a good time without having to fear what people thought of your table manners or the way you held yourself.

Shouta liked simple. He liked private, liked slightly dim and comfortable – safe. Somewhere were you could talk openly and where it didn't feel like you were constantly scrutinised by everyone around you.

Then again, Hizashi seemed like the kind of person who would enjoy a glamorous evening out – dressing to impress, walking into a bright, pristine and overpriced restaurant with a swagger to his hips, tittering and playing the part, ordering food in perfect French and eating without confusing all the identical looking cutlery.

Shouta frowned, maybe he should have proposed something less… simplistic? Something more… extraordinaire?

Hizashi beside him let out a soft hum, it sounded intrigued and agreeable “Should I put on my Sunday finery?” he giggled, his green eyes twinkling with mirth as they fixed on Shouta's own dark ones – Shouta felt his uncertainty melting away.

Hizashi would tell him straight away if he was displeased with something. The blond was headstrong – maybe he could even be described as quarrelsome with the way his lively temper sometimes burst through, with how loud he got when he talked about something that displeased him. Shouta liked that.

Shouta was a blunt person by nature, he didn't like to sugar coat things or to pussyfoot around an issue – it was a waste of time and only lead to more problems later down the line. So really? It was nice to know where he was at with Hizashi.

For a few seconds Shouta let his gaze trail over the horizon again, sweeping over all the artificial bright spots in the distance that worked as a substitute for the stars that couldn't be seen from here – thanks to all the light pollution.

“I don't really care for things like that.” he said after a while of silence, his eyes returning to regard Hizashi beside him “You can put on whatever you want.”

A slightly sly grin spread over Hizashi's face at that, his eyes twinkling with mischief “Whatever I want? No exceptions?”

Shouta rolled his eyes but let out a good-natured, somewhat amused huff through his nose. He more felt than heard Hizashi titter against his side, his shoulder shaking against his own. For a little while it was silent and then Shouta spoke up again.

“I mean it.” he said, voice low. He might as well start his usual spiel right here, right now. Every new relationship he entered into was like that for him – going on a few experimental dates and explaining himself and his character to his partners. After all there was no reason to lie – in fact, lying would just make everything worse later down the line when his partner found out that he wasn't all that they had expected him to be, simply because Shouta had never rectified them or had chosen to omit some important bits about himself as a person.

Someone willing to enter into a relationship with him deserved that much honesty, and Shouta expected the same kind of transparency in return – he had been burned a few times before on that front.

“I do not care for fashion.” he stated and then “You haven't really seen me wearing anything beside my hero suit-” he continued.

“Except that time in the alley where you wore casual stuff!” Hizashi suddenly cut in. For a second his face pulled into a frown “I don't even really remember what you wore though.” he sounded seriously put out by that and it made Shouta snort softly.

He suppressed a smile as he went on “Except that one time.” he conceded before he sobered up again “My point is that my casual clothes are much like my hero costume. They are dark and loose fitting and some of them are quite old. I do not like formal clothes so don't expect me to wear them often.” after a second he added “Or at all if I'm not forced to.”

It was the truth. Shouta disliked formal clothing greatly – those clothes were cut to fit, cut to look nice and nothing else. They were impractical, plain and simple. The fabric didn't stretch and had no real give, it constricted movement and made Shouta feel even more aware of his surrounding than he usually was. His hyper-vigilance whispering into his ear that he had to keep an eye out in case anyone tried something, reminding him that he didn't have his full range of motion thanks to the clothes spanning over his chest and biceps. Reminding him that it would be harder to dodge or roll, what with the way his pants were drawn taut over his knees and thighs. The worst part were the dress shoes with their completely smooth soles that slipped on every vaguely flat surface – no grip at all.

Hizashi beside him gave a soft hum – it sounded somewhat thoughtful “Pity.” he finally said and he actually sounded somewhat regretful “I bet you would look really good in a full suit. Or maybe a waistcoat and pushed up shirt sleeves?” he trailed off for a second, as if he was mulling an idea over before he continued, voice peppy “Welp!” he said and made the ‘p’ pop “Nothing to be done about it.” he shrugged against Shouta, seemingly discarding the thought.

There was a second of silence and then Hizashi spoke up again “Tell me, how are my chances of tempting you into putting on a suit in private sometime? You know, only us two?” he said in that soft, flirtatious lilt of his. He turned his head slightly, looking up at Shouta through his fair lashes – he batted them a few times. It was obvious what he was hinting at.

Shouta let out a half-fond half-annoyed huff “Maybe.” he gave back. He watched as – at his answer – a broad, slightly crooked grin settled on Hizashi's face. The blond man let out a pleased hum.

“Oh, you spoil me darling.” Hizashi cooed, tone a mixture between teasing and serious. Shouta just gave a non-committal grunt at that.

“So, Saturday, seven o’clock!” Hizashi repeated unnecessarily, voice excited “Do you want to meet up beforehand or are we just going to meet in front of the restaurant?” he asked.

“In front of the restaurant is fine.”

“Practical.” it sounded amused.

For a few long moments silence fell over them, they were simply leaning against each other, sharing space and heat.

“I have to continue my patrol.” Shouta said after a while and Hizashi hummed beside him.

“Yeah… I have a meeting with someone too and I don't want to be late.” he gave back and Shouta gave a soft, thoughtful hum at that.

Slowly both men extracted themselves from each other – Shouta drawing his arm away from where he had slung it around Hizashi's lower back and Hizashi sitting himself up straight again. Immediately there was a flood of cold air, destroying the pocket of warmth their bodies had created.

Shouta stood up first, his eyes settling on Hizashi “Anything a hero might be able to do?” he asked and Hizashi just shrugged back in answer.

“Depends on how good the information is. If it’s anything useful I’ll let you know, but for now it’s really just seeing where the trail leads.” he gave another shrug “Might just be a dead end.” Shouta simply nodded at that.

A lot had changed since they had met hadn't it? Especially when it came to this – to working together. Before, Shouta had just come to get certain information for his own cases and had found anything else that Hizashi had tried to push towards him automatically suspicious and potentially dangerous.

And Hizashi? Hizashi had just gone about his own business, gathering obscene amounts of information and hunting down the people that he thought needed to be tripped up the most. Those people that – more often than not – were too protected to be caught by anyone else, hidden and protected behind their fame or their money or their expensive lawyers. Those had been the ones he left zip-tied to the lamppost in front of the police station – an obvious public humiliation. For Hizashi it would have been potentially dangerous too, to share too much with Shouta – to put himself out there, at the mercy of a hero.

But with the new feelings between them, with all the personal information they had shared by now, with the fact that they had precious few secrets left there was now an exponentially growing trust on both their sides – a certainty.

And so their roles towards each other had changed too. Hizashi was still up and about gathering information, but now whenever he uncovered something that caught his attention he passed it directly on to Shouta. And Shouta in turn took care of it – after all, as an official, licensed hero he was in that precious grey zone where he wasn't breaking the law if he went after criminals and villains. Something that Hizashi couldn't do – even if he only did the same things that Shouta himself would do. It was the fine line between vigilante and hero.

It was a win-win – less risk and more gain for both of them.

For a second Shouta remained standing where he was, before his eyes trailed back to Hizashi who was still sitting on the protruding ventilation shaft. He felt like he should say something, these partings of theirs just always left a strange feeling thrumming through him – a vague sense of worry.

Shouta knew quite well that it was only his hyper-vigilance speaking out of him, whispering into his ear and twisting his thoughts. He knew that Hizashi could look after himself, his voice quirk – even if Shouta had yet to see it in action – could be incredibly destructive if Hizashi's description was to be believed.

Making buildings and weight carrying beams and walls swing at frequencies that could easily bring them down under their own vibrations; pitching his voice loud and high enough to burst ear drums; using the pressure waves that went hand in hand with the noise… and more still. Hizashi had – on a quiet night not too long ago – told him that he could pitch his humming so low that it hit a frequency that couldn't be picked up by human ears any longer but that was known to induce fear and paranoia in people – infrasound.

Really, there was no reason for Shouta to worry over someone like Hizashi… yet it was also near impossible not to when he knew how dangerous organized crime could be, when he knew of the underground heroes who had vanished over the years… when he himself half believed that that would be his fate one of those days as well.

Leaving without saying anything just seemed… strange. Still, what could he even say? Everything possible option just sounded like empty promises and lies – and Shouta had never liked spouting false reassurances when he knew better. He wasn't in the habit of lying just to make someone else – or maybe even himself – feel better about something.

“Try to be careful.” he finally settled on – he grit his teeth, unsure if he was happy with what he had just said. It seemed like the closest he could get to a goodbye without sounding unrealistic – the closest he could get to placate this gnawing yet vague urging at the back of his mind. Also, the emphasis was on ‘try’ – it certainly wasn't unreasonable to ask the other man to at least not get into trouble on purpose, was it?

Hizashi blinked at him and then cocked his head to the side in that peculiar way of his – his hair tower swinging with the movement, dipping slightly under its own weight. Hizashi's near unnaturally green eyes held a spark, something attentive and a few seconds later Shouta could see a kind of tentative understanding settling on his face.

“I’ll try.’” Hizashi answered and stood as well, like this he on eye level with Shouta again – equal, showing that he was serious. He emphasised ‘try’ and Shouta just knew that the other man had figured out what he had really tried to convey – which was a right relieve, since he had no idea how to word himself any other way right now.

Shouta sometimes downright hated talking – words just never seemed to fit right in his mouth, there always seemed to be more that he wanted to say, something deeper that he just couldn't explain with the limited system that was human language. To him talk was cheap – especially since actions always spoke louder in his opinion.

“You too.” Hizashi added after a second of silence “Try to be careful.” he elaborated not a heartbeat later.

Shouta gave a soft hum and one of his serious nods “I will try.” he gave back before he made to turn. He stopped when he felt a hand on his shoulder though. For a moment his eyes flickered down to Hizashi's slim fingers curling around his shoulder before he raised his gaze to he other mans face again – his brows drew down in question but he remained quiet, letting Hizashi do at his own pace.

Hizashi seemed to hesitate for a second before he dipped in and pressed his lips against Shouta in a chaste, close-mouthed kiss. The contact lasted for a few long moments – both men closing their eyes and angling their faces so their lips would fit seamlessly.

In the end it was Hizashi who drew back first “Just in case…” he said – trailed off – his voice sounded soft and he let out a somewhat hollow giggle “Love you.”

Ah, Shouta's thought – realized, really – it seemed like he wasn't the only one worrying and unable to stop it. He wasn't the only one who was painfully aware of the fact that sometimes things just went wrong no matter what you did. He wasn't the only on with this nagging feeling at the back of his mind urging him to say something even if he didn't know what – trying to convey something that defied language.

“I know. I love you too.” he gave back dutifully – truthfully and the slightest bit raw.

Both men took a few steps away from each other, a heavy silence settled between them – it wasn't uncomfortable though. Shouta found that the pressing need to say something had vanished – instead he now felt a kind of contentment, as if he had gotten everything important out, as if he could be sure that Hizashi understood all the things that had been left hanging in the air.

Hizashi seemingly shared the same sentiment since the blond vigilante remained silent as well – smoothing down his clothes and then raising his hands to make sure his hair was still in place.

Shouta watched the other man straighten himself out for a few seconds longer – in the end Hizashi caught his stare and gave a wordless smile. Shouta felt an answering smile cracking over his face, probably too broad and toothy, probably too eerie, and then he turned his back to the man behind him.

He stepped to the edge of the building and raised his right hand up to his capture weapon, he flung it out and wrapped it around the flagpole on the roof of the neighbouring building – he used his grip to swing down, landing silently. He pulled his capture weapon back to wrap around his neck again and then – with a few fast steps – he vanished into a dark alley.

Back to work.

Chapter Text

Shouta, unexpectedly, got tangled up into a police case that ate up most of his free time and time – as was its very nature – just ticked steadily forward, uncaring. It made it impossible for him to find a free moment to meet up with Hizashi, especially since Hizashi wasn't out and about 24/7 either – he had his own life too after all. The days bled into each other in a stress filled haze and before Shouta knew any better Saturday had already arrived.

Still, work was work and such things just happened from time to time, especially for an active hero. Sure, Shouta would have liked to be able to see Hizashi over the course of the week at some point but sometimes things just got in the way – that was life.

He was dimly aware of the fact that this too was a point he would have to bring up today during dinner – his devotion to his work and the fact that while he might be willing to make compromises on that front, he would only do so if it didn't affect his jobs too much.

It was important that he explained that there would be times where he just wouldn't be available. Times where he just wouldn't be able to make room in his schedule for frivolous activities – or times where he simply didn't want to be dragged around, after all Shouta just wasn't the type that needed to go out every other day. It was a reasonable enough request, Shouta thought, asking Hizashi to accept that he simply wouldn't be able to hover around at all times.

And it wasn't as if Shouta didn't want to spent time with the other man – quite the opposite in fact, if he was honest – but he knew that his work would often pull him into a different direction than he might initially have expected. Sometimes a small case could turn into a huge and time consuming affair that cut into his free time to the point where – between hero work and teaching – he barely got enough time to sleep.

There was also the fact that being idle had just never sat quite right with him – he hated sitting on his hands, twiddling his thumbs when he knew that there was still work to be done. It often got to the point where, even when there was nothing left for him to do, he still had this nagging feeling at the back of his mind that he could be doing something useful instead of relaxing.

Sometimes the only thing that got him to sit down and take a breather was the fact that his logical brain reminded him that relaxing was vital for his overall performance – after all he would just become prone to making mistakes if he was too exhausted to properly concentrate. And even then it was still a struggle.

He pulled out his phone from his pocket and turned the screen on – 6. 55 p.m. – he turned the screen off again and stuffed the small device back into his pant pocket. He turned his head slightly, eyes sweeping towards the entrance of the alley.

His lips thinned as he pressed them together in clear displeasure – if there was one thing that he truly disliked then it were people who couldn't be punctual. He had always thought it was incredibly rude to keep other people waiting. He had also never understood the mentality that there supposedly was something like being ‘fashionably late’. As if being late could ever be something other than a colossal waste of time for all parties involved.

He let out a soft huff through his nose and relaxed his jaw again – there was still a bit of time left after all and Shouta wasn't a man who would judge without reason. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and leaned back against the wall beside the door leading into the small restaurant.

Hizashi seemed like a hectic person – bouncy – his thoughts often flitted about in ways that Shouta was unable to fully retrace – often the blond man would go from topic A to topic B only to suddenly jump straight to topic G without any kind of connection to anything he had mentioned before.

He was fickle like that, Shouta had noticed, and it could certainly get confusing when Hizashi sprang from one point to the other like that. Yet Shouta would be lying if he said he didn't found it intrigued as well – and he certainly wasn't opposed to the idea of learning just how exactly Hizashi's thought processes worked.

‘Knowing’ a person was, after all, a skill that had to be consciously acquired first before it could turn into something subconscious – something comfortable and familiar… something intimate. It was also something very time consuming but Shouta had no problem with putting in the necessary effort for it to work.

His eyes trailed to the entrance of the alley again – searching for movement but finding non.

There was a possibility that this kind of flighty thought process extended to Hizashi's every day life as well – maybe he had simply gotten caught up with something? Or forgotten the time? That seemed likely… then again, it was their first real date and weren't people usually obsessed with making an especially good impression during those?

Shouta frowned thoughtfully, he had been told before that he took such things much too serious – mainly by Kayama – but he himself truly didn't think that he was being too harsh with his expectations.

After all, time was precious – it was a finite resource in a human life. If a person – involuntarily or on purpose – came too late then that was just a lot of wasted opportunities. Plain and simple. In the end it just meant that there was less time that could be spent together.

He let out another soft huff, his right hand – still stuffed in his pocket – wrapped around the phone there, he pulled it out again. He turned the screen on – 6. 59 p.m. – his mouth pulled down and he turned the screen off again – he was just about to stuff the phone and the hand holding it back into his pocket when the sound of hurried steps made him look up.

His eyes immediately snapped towards the sound, his shoulders tensing for a second – self-defence instinct kicking in for a split moment – before he saw Hizashi rounding the corner. His posture relaxed again as he watched the other man heading towards him.

Hizashi came to a stop in front of him, panting, his slim chest heaving with every hasty intake of breath.

“I’m not too late am I?” Hizashi immediately asked, his tone worried. One of his hands reached out – without any regard for personal space or private belongings – to wrap around Shouta's hand still holding his phone. The blond man drew Shouta's hand closer, his fingers swept over the side of the phone till they found the button there and a second later the screen turned on again – 7 p.m. on the dot.

Hizashi let go again and instead flung both his arms up in triumph “Oh yeah!” he exclaimed loudly, fists pumping in the air – Shouta couldn't quite suppress a small smile at the other mans boyish excitement.

While Hizashi was still busy celebrating – unnecessarily – Shouta took the time to take in the other man. Hizashi's choice in clothes wasn't too colourful or fancy, but it was still neat, and it was obvious that he must have spent some time consciously choosing his wardrobe – his black, tight jeans drew attention to his long legs, his wine red button down – the colour did looked quite flattering on him – was stuffed into his pants, drawing the eye and giving a clear view of his slim hips and their slight sway when he walked. All of it only aided by the fact that his black leather jacket was cropped and only just reached the middle of his back. His blond hair was styled into a simple side braid, covering his left ear and falling forward over his chest, which gave a clear view of the right side of his neck and the two earrings he wore in his right ear.

Dressed to impress – Shouta noted with a hint of amusement. Hizashi had gone out of his way to dress up even after he had told the other man that he didn't need to bother with such things. Still, Shouta recognized the effort for what it was and really, it was somewhat flattering to think that Hizashi had put in that kind of extra work just for him.

When he looked up to Hizashi's face he noticed that the other man was watching him back, his concentric eyes easily visible behind his casual rectangular, red-framed glasses. He raised an eyebrow towards the blond man and Hizashi answered him with a warm smile.

The blond man let out a low hum – it sounded pleased “Look at you.” Hizashi commented, voice a soft lilt – nearly a coo “Handsome.” he added, his smile growing into a broad grin. He bridged the gap between them and – again, disregarding any concept of personal space – put both his hands on Shouta's chest, his fingers spread, palms flattened.

Shouta let out a half-annoyed breath of air through his nose at the other mans overblown reaction “It’s nothing special.” he gave back, half a scoff, he only just managed to suppress an eye-roll. And it was true, it wasn't like he looked fancy or something – there was nothing to be impressed about here. He had simply donned a pair of black pants and a simple button down – which was black as well; his sleeves were pushed up to the middle of his forearms and he hadn't even bothered stuffing his shirt into his pants like Hizashi had. For a ‘hairstyle’ he had simply pulled the outer layer of his hair up into a bun while the rest still fell freely around his shoulders and down to his upper back.

Hizashi gave him a somewhat sly grin “Just because it isn't special doesn't mean it can’t look really enticing.” he argued back, his hands drew up over Shouta's pectorals until his fingers could wrap around his collar – and then Hizashi popped open the first two buttons before he pulled the fabric into place a little, making it fall a certain way.

He stepped back after he was done with his handiwork, letting his eyes sweep over Shouta in a rather obvious way, and then – after his gaze had caught Shouta's again – he let out a wolf-whistle.

This time around Shouta did roll his eyes. He shook his head, tough he could feel a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth despite everything. He left his shirt as it was and turned towards the door, he opened it and made an indicating motion towards Hizashi – the other man gave a slightly crooked grin and stepped through the opened door into the restaurant – Shouta followed behind him. He let the door click back into its lock near silently.

Hizashi let out a soft hum as they stepped from the entrance way into the actual dinner room “Not bad.” he commented, his gaze sweeping around the interior, taking everything in “After you told me about this place I got pizza a few times but only delivery.” he elaborated unprompted, gaze caught by a picture on the far wall.

Shouta gave a small grunt to signal that he was listening while he tried to make eye contact with one of the waitresses – one woman caught his stare. She smiled, nodded and gave a gesture that conveyed that she had noticed them and would be with them shortly.

“It’s a bit dark, isn't it? Might just be because the place has no windows though. Then again we are in an alley, there wouldn't be much to see through a window now, would there? So I guess windows would be a kinda moot point. It’s not that bad though, it gives the whole place a dim kinda feeling, you know? Kinda homely, what with all the brown wood and the dark red accents. Feels more like stepping into a nice living room than a restaurant.” Hizashi continued his blabbering, walking through the room, aiming for one of the tables more towards the back.

Shouta gave a hum at the other mans loud thinking and simply followed after him in silence – he himself always picked a table closer towards the back as well. He liked to be able to see the exit, liked to see who came through the door – the knowledge that there was enough distance, enough space that would allow him to react.

Hizashi sat himself down at the table first, one of his hands immediately starting to fumble with the table cloth “Oh, it’s actual cloth – not cheap plastic or this unpleasant, scratchy crepe paper you see in some places.”

Shouta sat himself down on the second chair, he could feel his lips trying to twitch up at Hizashi's curious exploration of the restaurant – he watched as the other man raised a hand to rub over one of the flowers on the table.

“Oh! The flowers are real too! That must be expensive – getting new flowers every few days.”

Shouta hummed at that, his gaze falling away from the other man to trail over the room – he watched as one of the delivery men rushed towards the door with a styrofoam box balanced on his hand. A waitress easily side stepped around the man and then – without missing a beat – made her way towards their table.

“I actually really like the pictures here. Looks like they are trying to imitate Italian rococo art. Rococo actually originated in France you know, but it became really popular in Italy too and-”

“Good evening, Sirs.” the waitress greeted when she had finally reached their table, unwittingly cutting Hizashi off. She had a friendly, if slightly void smile on her face – the kind of look that every person working customer service perfected at some point or another “I’ll be your waitress for the night.” she continued, her left hand raising to the two menus she had pressed against her front. She reached the first one over to Hizashi and the second one to Shouta before she – seemingly in one fluid motion – grabbed her notepad and a pencil.

“Do you want to order something to drink already or would you like to have a look at the menu first?” she asked blithely.

“A water.” Shouta immediately answered and she nodded, writing it down before she turned her eyes expectantly towards Hizashi.

The blond man was already flicking through the menu “I’d like to try some of the pasta – do you have some kind of wine that would fit to that?” he asked and the waitress nodded, her shoulder-length bubblegum pink hair bobbed with her movements.

“We have a full selection of Italian wines – for pasta I would propose maybe a Pinot Grigio? Or if you’d prefer a red wine then maybe a Chianti or a Sangiovese? Or maybe you would like something more matched to the food? Do you already know what kind of pasta you would like specifically? Sea food? Or tomato sauce? Or-” the waitress fell into her spiel.

Shouta tuned the conversation mostly out and flipped his own menu open, his eyes scanning over his usual picks.

“Oh, the tagliatelle with the red mullet are a favourite of mine. I can only recommend them. For fish I would propose a white wine.” the voice of the waitress filtered in like background noise.

He raised his eyes from his menu and watched the way Hizashi's face pulled into a thoughtful expression “Yeah.” the blond man finally nodded “That’s sounds good. I’ll take the tagliatelle and the Pinot Grigio.” The waitress nodded and wrote everything down dutifully.

Shouta closed his menu without even flipping through the rest of the page “The same for me.” he said simply when the waitress raised her eyes towards him again – she wrote it down – and he reached his menu over – Hizashi followed suit. The woman grabbed both of the leather bound menus and then excused herself with a smile.

It was silent for a second after she had left and then Hizashi spoke up again “Where was I?” he asked, more to himself than to Shouta, his expression seemed thoughtful, there was a furrow between his fair brows.

“I believe it was something about Rococo art.” Shouta supplied and he watched as Hizashi blinked at that – it looked like a mixture between utter shook and complete delight – the strange flicker of emotions made Shouta frown in confusion.

“Oh yes!” Hizashi said, it sounded a little breathy but pleased “I was just blabbering really, I didn't think you would...” he trailed off and then cleared his throat.

Shouta frown melted off his face again as realization settled in – ah, he thought idly, Hizashi hadn't really expected him to actually listen. Hizashi certainly was a man of many words and Shouta could imagine that it was probably very frustrating to talk to someone only to realize that they hadn't been listening – even more so if it was someone you tried to build a relationship with. The shock-delight mixture he had seen for a brief moment made Shouta wonder just how many people Hizashi had tried to get to know better only to realize that they couldn't be bothered to listen to him – to get to know him better too in return.

“Anyways-” the blond man went on, discarding his half finished sentence as if it had never been spoken in the first place “Rococo art really isn't all that important right now. After all we aren't here to talk about European art, we are here so we can get to know each other.”

Shouta gave a soft hum of affirmation at that.

“Well, you already know that I'm a radio host and all the stuff I do outside of that.” Hizashi went on, giving a rather obvious eyebrow wiggle “And you're doing hero work. Are you working another job beside that? I know that many heroes can’t really make ends meet without a second job… then again you work underground, outside of the agencies – your kind usually doesn't have to bother with those kind of problems, now do they?”

Shouta gave another hum “You are right.” he finally said “I do make enough money with my hero work but I also do have a second job.”

Hizashi gave an intrigued noise at that “Oh?” he breathed, clearly curious “I can’t really picture you doing anything beside hero work. I really don't see you in an office or behind a counter. Is it like, something voluntary? Like, I don't know, fire fighting?”

Shouta gave a soft snort at that “No. I'm a teacher.”

“A teacher?!” Hizashi burst out before Shouta could even think of elaborating.

“Yes.” Shouta gave back, his tone half irritated half amused “I teach heroics at UA.” he finished. He watched as Hizashi's green eyes went wide and readied himself for the inevitable scoff that would soon follow, the shocked sounding comments, the doubt and…

“Oh, that's awesome!” Hizashi downright cooed, a broad grin settling on his face “That fits you so well! Your morals are amazing, I mean, sure I'm probably a little biased when it comes to stuff like that. But really, in my opinion the next generation of heroes can only benefit from having someone like you teach them. That might get some sense into all of them, might make the whole atmosphere less toxic than it is right now – hopefully. I bet the kids have a lot of respect for you.” Hizashi snickered at that “They probably know that they won’t get away with acting out – not with you as their teacher.” he giggled.

Shouta's eyes widened slightly and he let out a low hum – it sounded surprised even to his own ears.

“What?” Hizashi asked, sobering up again, tone turning to confusion.

“Nothing really.” Shouta shrugged “Most people are more critical of my skills as a teacher.”

Hizashi gave a scoff and waved one hand in the air as if batting away some imaginary comment “Well, that's just typical isn't it? The people with no idea what’s actually going on are always the ones screaming the loudest. As if anyone is actually interested in their opinion.” at the last part Hizashi blew out a sarcastic raspberry.

Shouta gave a noise of agreement. He had never understood this need that some people exhibited – this urge to stick your nose into other peoples private business unprompted when it was non of your concern. Judging on rumours and half-truths.

For a second Shouta's attention was caught by movement and he briefly flickered his gaze away from Hizashi, looking out into the room – he saw the waitress head towards their table again, a tray with their drinks in hand.

He turned his head back to Hizashi. The blond man regarded him for a few moments but remained silent – it was obvious that Hizashi wanted to say something, he waited until the waitress had reached their table, placed all the drinks there and had disappeared again.

“You are very aware of your surrounding.” Hizashi commented, voice light. Shouta just gave a non-committal grunt and a shrug of his shoulders.

“Hyper-vigilance.” he conceded after a moment “It comes with the job.”

Hizashi reached for his wine glass – he fingered the thin steam for a second – and then he picked it up. He took a small sip “No.” he said, swirling the wine a little “I understand. I get that too from time to time. It’s just part of mingling with...” he trailed off for a second, then took another sip before he continued “-mingling in those kind of circles.”

Shouta gave a short nod, his own hand reaching towards his water glass and pulling it in front of him, both his hands cupping nearly unconsciously around it – making sure no one else would get to it.

“I assumed that was why you choose a place so far in the back.” Shouta commented – despite the wording it was clearly not a question – and the man opposite of him gave a hum in confirmation.

For a second silence settled between them and Shouta used the lull to bring his glass up so he could take a few sips – he didn't fully set it down again after he was done but instead put his elbows up on the table, holding his glass with both his hands at chest level.

“There are a few things I’d like to get straight.” he started after a few moments and Hizashi shot him a clearly curious look, his brows raised “I believe it is important to be honest, especially when you are about to enter a serious relationship with someone. I know that I am not the easiest person to be around so I want to be up-front that way you will be able to decide if you truly want to pursue a relationship with someone like me.” he took another sip of his water, half expecting Hizashi to chip in now that he had the chance – what with the lull in conversation – but the other man remained silent, his expression had turned serious as he waited for Shouta to continue.

“I work a daytime and a night job.” Shouta went on, letting his glass sink back to chest level “Both are often hectic – my hero work more so than teaching. But there will be times when I simply won’t be able to spent a lot of time with you, for various reasons. I am devoted to my work and I do not like to be idle. That does not mean that I am unwilling to clear out my schedule for you but it does mean that I expect you to understand that I will be very busy at some points and therefore not available.” he explained.

Hizashi gave an understanding hum at that, nodding “No, I know what you mean.” he said. He propped one of his elbows up on the table, his hand curling into a fist for his chin to rest on “I put a lot of work into my radio segment and I also help with song selections, or I do charity events, or specials on air… just all sorts of stuff and then there is… the other thing, you know, and that takes up a good chunk of my free time too, sometimes more sometimes less depending on what I'm looking into.” he raised his head from his fist and instead stretched his newly freed hand out, fingers playing with the steam of his wine glass again, turning the delicate glass around and around.

“I also like to go out and party, go to clubs, or concerts and the likes. It’s quite obvious that you aren't the type for that but I just need to get out sometimes, meet people, have fun…” he drew his hand back from the glass and instead started waving it around in the air, gesticulating as if to emphasis his words “So really, I won’t be available 24/7 either, and sometimes I will just be too busy to do anything with you too.” he trailed off for a second, his face flitting through a mess of different emotions before he settled on something that looked determined “As I said I’ll just have to get out sometimes – I have no problem with you not coming along or anything, that's fine, just don't expect me to stop because of you or anything.”

Shouta's face pulled into a frown at that “Have you had problems like that with previous partners?” he asked – he knew he shouldn't, it was non of his business after all, yet he could basically feel his hero training slamming to the forefront of his mind.

Hizashi gave a sardonic giggle “Sometimes. But I gave everyone of them a right piece of my mind, don't worry.” he waved his hand in the air in something akin to a dismissive motion, though it seemed a little to forceful to be purely non-nonchalant.

On the front of the room another delivery man rushed out of the door with a styrofoam box in hand and it drew Shouta's attention for a split second before he turned back to Hizashi “I don't care about things like that.” he said simply “In fact, it is good to know that you have other people you can spent time with, especially during the times where I am unavailable. I would not expect you to sit around and give up things you enjoy simply because I do not enjoy them.”

Hizashi shot him an easy smile “Then everything is fine and dandy! I understand that work sometimes has priority, since I'm much the same and you understand that I just have to go out sometimes and that I like to have other people around. No problems then!” his smile seemed to soften – growing warmer “Anything else that you think might be important?” he asked, opening the conversation up again.

Shouta nodded at that “A few things actually.” he said, for a second his eyes were caught by bubblegum pink hair and he turned his head slightly – seeing their waitress coming back to their table, one plate in each hand. Hizashi followed his gaze.

“Oh, that looks good!” the blond commented, tone giddy, as if he was close to clapping his hands in excitement. There was a lull in their conversation as the waitress set the table before returning from where she had come.

Hizashi made a grab for his wine glass, lifting it up and tilting it slightly so the bottom was tipped towards Shouta. Shouta let one hand drop away from his own glass in response before he gently clinked both glasses together.

“To us, I guess.” Hizashi tittered. He took a sip of his wine, placed the glass back on the table and then started to eat without further preamble.

Shouta let out a hum as he watched the other man “To us.” he agreed and nodded. He placed his own glass to the far side of the table – so anyone who might want to get to it would have to move around him first – and then started to eat as well.

They ate mostly in silence, except for a few interjections and comments Hizashi just couldn't seem to keep to himself – again Shouta found himself wondering if Hizashi just loved to talk or if he simply disliked quiet. Well, he assumed he would find out in due time if they really wanted pursue this relationship.

He suddenly stopped in his motions – fork half raised to his mouth – as he felt something brush against one of his legs. He levelled an even gaze at the man opposite of him and, sure enough, Hizashi shot him a coy grin back, his leg rubbing against Shouta's again.

“Really?” Shouta asked, voice deadpan and Hizashi's grin grew until his teeth were visible.

“I don't know what you mean.” the blond man said, feigning innocence. Shouta just let out a fondly-annoyed huff.

“Sure.” he gave back sarcastically but other than that he decided to simply ignore Hizashi – it wasn't as if he was doing something overtly irritating. In the end the other man stopped his rubbing motion; but he stretched both his legs out further than they were before – more or less tangling them around Shouta's own.

“Before you continue with everything else-” Hizashi started, one hand reaching out to pick up a piece of bread from the small wicker basket on the table. He ripped it apart and used it to soak up the last remnants of sauce on his plate “I just want to mention something too.” he popped one of the pieces into his mouth and after he had swallowed he continued.

“Look, as you have probably already noticed I'm a rather touchy person.” as if to emphasise his point he rubbed one of his legs up and down Shouta's own a few more times before he set it down again “I like holding hands, and rubbing up against my partners, and cuddling – just the full package. You seem like the private type, and I won’t mind too much if you don't want to be partake in PDA. I can understand that. But any other time when we’re in a vaguely private setting I’ll sooner or later start hanging off of you. That’s just something you'll have to deal with.” Hizashi ended before he popped another piece of bread into his mouth. He chewed slowly.

“I don't mind.” Shouta gave back easily. He raised is napkin to pat at his mouth before he neatly folded the piece of cloth into a square and shoved it under the rim of his empty plate.

It was the truth.

Sure, Shouta wasn't big on people touching him – especially strangers – and most of the time he barely tolerated it; the rest of the times he outright shoved peoples hands away. Still, there was a rather big difference between strangers or acquaintances and his actual lover. He had never minded any of his previous partners touching or drawing close to him – physical closeness, after all, was just another element to a stable relationship.

Shouta certainly wouldn't expect Hizashi to forgo something he obviously needed and wanted. And it wasn't like al of it was some kind of hardship for Shouta, he actually quite enjoyed Hizashi's proximity and his touch even if he himself didn't often initiate body contact – it didn't mean he had a problem with Hizashi initiating it.

Shouta drew his glass back towards him, cupping it between both his hands as he had done before “You are right, I'm not big on physical contact but if you want to touch me then I won’t refuse you. In fact, I fully expect you to initiate contact if you feel like you need or want it. Though I would ask that you refrain from doing anything too intimate in public.”

“That’s good then.” Hizashi said and shot him a smile “Just wanted to make sure.”

Shouta gave a soft hum of understanding at that. He took a sip of his water before he spoke up again “I’m not really someone for socializing.” Shouta started and Hizashi gave a soft giggle.

“Yeah, no, I noticed.” the blond man teased good natured and Shouta couldn't help cracking a small smile of his own. He sobered up again soon enough tough.

“If you want to take me somewhere to meet other people or to some kind of party I’ll at least consider it – but if I actually do go along with it then don't expect me to chip in a lot. I normally prefer to just listen during big gatherings and to not interact too much.”

“No offence, but I really didn't peg you for the life of the party.” Hizashi tittered, his concentric eyes twinkling with mirth.

Shouta gave an amused noise at that “Non taken.”

Hizashi had by now started twisting his wine glass between his fingers again “Honestly though, in all seriousness: that’s fine. Some people just aren't the social butterfly kind and that's completely okay. If you already go out of your comfort zone for me then I certainly won’t expect you to be the kind of guy who dances on a table with a lampshade on his head.”

Shouta snorted at that mental image “Does something like that happen often when you party?” he asked teasingly.

“Once.” Hizashi grinned “Well, maybe twice.” he added after a while, his free hand waving in the air “I might actually have a few incriminating photos on my phone.”

“That seems like you.” there was a small smile quirking up the corners of Shouta's mouth.

Hizashi gave a snicker at that “Information is key, you know. Knowledge is power, yadda, yadda.” he raised his wine glass and drained it before he placed it down on the table again. His newly freed hand reached towards the carafe at the edge of the table – he refilled his glass “And while we are on knowledge – anything else I should know?”

Shouta gave a soft hum at that “Sometimes I just need a bit of quiet. It has nothing to do with the people around me and it doesn't mean I'm angry or that I'm ignoring you. I just need to draw back from time to time.”

“Well, that seems normal enough.” Hizashi said and took a sip from his newly refilled glass, but suddenly his expression turned confused – he put the glass back on the table “Have people actually complained to you about that before?” he asked, tone incredulous.

Shouta shrugged “Some have.”

Hizashi wrinkled his nose in clear distaste “No offence, but what kind of douchebags have you been dating before?” he asked, though it was clear he didn't expect an answer. He grabbed his glass and knocked back the wine in it before refilling it again – emptying the carafe while he was at it “Makes me angry just thinking about it.” he huffed, voice pitching higher in indignation.

Shouta felt a small pull at the corners of his mouth – it was somewhat flattering that Hizashi got so offended on his behalf even if it really wasn't necessary. His eyes idly swept around the room, following one of the waitresses around for a few moments.

“You want to get going again?” Hizashi suddenly asked, voice lilting softly as it often did and Shouta's eyes drew back to the other man.

He shrugged “If you don't want to order something else there really is no sense staying here.” he gave back bluntly.

Hizashi gave him a soft smile at that – though there was definitely something else in there beside mirth. The vigilante pushed his glass a little towards Shouta “You want the rest of the wine?” he asked but then stopped short, blinking his eyes as if he had just realized something “I mean, unless you don't drink. You don't have to feel pressured or anything.”

Shouta gave a snort at Hizashi's fast, worried babble and instead simply reached for the glass wordlessly. He had no problem drinking, it was just that he often had no reason to do it. He usually only drank when he actually wanted to get drunk and then he normally didn't dawdle with wine or beer but instead went straight for the hard stuff.

He had never really seen alcoholic beverages as a treat or a semi-luxury food – he viewed it more like a means to an end. Still, that didn't mean that he was opposed to engaging in this kind of ‘social drinking’ from time to time when he was out with other people.

He brought the glass to his lips and took a sip. He pulled the glass back again a little, pleasantly surprised – where he had expected something overtly – nearly sickeningly – sweet, like some of his previous dates had ordered, he instead tasted something dry and acidic and somewhat bitter. It was even more surprising since he knew of Hizashi's slight sweet tooth.

“Not bad.” he commented and swirled the rest of the wine around a few times before he drained it. He placed the now empty glass back on the table. Shouta was someone who preferred strong flavours – black coffee, salmiac, liquorice… to name a few things – and he ate pretty much everything if it wasn't too overtly sweet.

“If you like it then we can get a bigger carafe next time and share.” Hizashi said easily and Shouta's eyes flickered up to him. Next time – those words had a certain ring to them, they held a tentative promise… There was something warm unfurling in Shouta's chest – and it had nothing to do with the wine he had just drank – he liked the sound of those words: next time.

For a few seconds both men simply remained as they were, silently sitting at their table, the constant, low mutter from the rest of the restaurant a low background noise. Shouta was suddenly very aware of the weight of Hizashi's legs leaning against his own – aware of the warmth seeping into his skin through his pants. The air was shifting, it was palpable.

“Now for the awkward part.” Hizashi said after a few more moments – breaking the silence again – his concentric green eyes held an amused twinkle as he spoke “Who is going to pay the bill? Or are we splitting?”

“I actually assumed I would be paying. The last time we met you made it sound like you wanted me to.”

Hizashi gave a hum at that “But I mean you already paid for all that other food before.” he sounded thoughtful, one of his his hands was raised, his pointer finger tapping against his lower lip in an unconscious motion. His hand sunk a little – finger slipping from his mouth – as he continued “Then again the food was a kind of payment too, a bribe to make me talk… but not all of it…” he blabbered as if he was talking himself through a complicated math problem.

Shouta let out an amused snort and it caught the blonds attention “How about I just pay the bill and you can pay next time.” he offered. Next time – there it was again, an offer, a challenge, a question…

“Oh, that's sounds good! We can take turns!” Hizashi nodded, a grin settling on his face.

It didn't take long to wrap everything else up – Shouta waved the waitress over so he could pay, and barely ten minutes later they were out of the restaurant again.

Hizashi pulled his jacket into place a little – it seemingly had bunched up to one side a little while they had been in the restaurant – before he started walking. Shouta feel into step beside him easily.

“Well, that was nice.” Hizashi commented and then stopped his walking as both of them reached the exit of the alley. For a second everything was quiet and then the blond man wrapped one of his hands around Shouta's upper arm “Would you mind terribly if I asked you to walk me home?” the question was worded prim and proper but the sly glint in Hizashi's eyes, along with the coquettish pitch of his voice made it rather obvious what he was hinting at “It can be dangerous when it gets dark and I would feel so much better if a hero helped me to get home.” Hizashi fluttered his fair lashes at that, tipping his head a little so he was actually able to look up at Shouta – what with both of them being the same height.

Shouta gave a disbelieving snort at that “You don't really need my protection.” he pointed out bluntly yet, at the same time, he bumped the arm Hizashi was still holding into the other mans side – a clear indicator that the blond should lead the way.

Hizashi's smile morphed into something softer, the coy edge vanishing as he wrapped his right arm around Shouta's left “True.” he said and started walking again, Shouta following beside him “But you never know.” he shrugged “Also I don't mind it if someone fusses over me a little – even if I might not need it.”

Shouta gave a soft grunt at that and filed that information away. Hizashi was undoubtedly and obviously an independent person, as was Shouta, and Shouta knew from personal experience how irritating it could be when someone tried to patronize him. Truly, it was somewhat unexpected to hear Hizashi saying something like that – yet, for a strange reason Shouta felt something undoubtedly positive flood through him, nearly pleased… he didn't really know how to categorize this odd feeling, or what had even caused it. He frowned, momentarily confused… he was ripped out of his musings again a moment later though as Hizashi spoke up again.

“You know-” Hizashi started and shot him a look, a strange spark in his eyes “It can be kinda nice to know...” here he trailed off. He sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, chewing on it – in the end he didn't elaborate and Shouta felt like he shouldn't push for an answer. If Hizashi truly wanted to share then Shouta was sure he would do so at a later time.

Otherwise the walk was spent mostly in silence on Shouta's part and filled with meaningless comments on Hizashi's, thought Shouta made the effort to hum or nod at the appropriate points in the conversation – more a monologue really. After another while a realization settled in – at least on Shouta's part. Hizashi was leading him to his own home – after all it was rather unlikely that he had more than one place where he lived.

After tonight Shouta would know just where exactly Hizashi's personal sanctuary was and how to get there. For a second his dark eyes settled intently on the man walking beside him – Hizashi was still blabbering on about a book he had picked up recently, his right arm still linked with Shouta's left; his left hand waving in the air – gesticulating and emphasising his words.

A warm feelings settled in Shouta's chest, his expression gentling as he realized what this was – a willing expression of trust, a show of faith. This truly was the next step wasn't it? No more secrets, no more hiding, no more doubt. All cards on the table.

The realization hit Shouta unexpectedly hard, especially since Hizashi of all people had more than enough reason to be cautious of who he trusted with such knowledge, what with him being a vigilante.

Shouta felt something tender nestled behind the bows of his ribs – unfurling and spreading through him.

Hizashi must have noticed his gaze because he stopped in his babble and instead raised a questioning expression towards Shouta, his brows drawn together in confusion. Shouta on his part just gave a shrug “Nothing.” he said after a while. He simply turned his head to look forward again. He could feel a small smile pulling at his lips though.

For a few seconds after it was quiet between then but then Hizashi started up his talking again, his fingers gently holding onto the inside of Shouta's elbow.

They reached the door of Hizashi's apartment complex soon enough. There was a heavy silence between them but in the end Hizashi broke it.

“So-” he started, drawing out the ‘o’ “You want to come up for a coffee?” he asked, tone coy.

Shouta shot the other man a crooked grin – probably too wide and too creepy, though Hizashi didn't seem like he minded “Would it actually be for coffee or do you have something else in mind?”

Hizashi gave an answering grin at that “Why not both?” he asked challengingly, but then he seemed to sober up a little “You don't have to if you don't want to. If this is too fast then I understand, that was only our first real date after all. What’s the ‘proper number’ for this? Three, I think?”

Shouta let out an amused hum “I never cared for things like that. We can go as fast or as slow as we want.” he said and then, after a second, he added “You don't have to feel compelled to invite me either.”

“Well, aren't you a real gentleman?” Hizashi said voice a mix between serious and teasing. There was a heartbeat of silence “So, coffee?” he asked again, more conviction in his voice this time around.

“Sure.” Shouta gave back easily. At that answer Hizashi pulled his arm back from around Shouta's and fished his keys out of his pocket. The atmosphere between them suddenly seemed to shift, from easy companionship to something much more charged – somewhat electric – anticipation.

*****************************************

Hizashi finally got the door open and both men stepped into the stairway. The blond vigilante pulled the door shut behind them. He kept his keys in his right hand but reached his free left hand out to wrap his fingers around Shouta's left wrist – he started climbing up the stairs, leading Shouta after him.

Shouta pulled his left arm back a little, far enough for him to be able to close his fingers around the other mans hand – he felt how Hizashi's fingers squeezed around his.

It would be a lie to say that this didn't feel somewhat tense – just the slightest hint of nervousness. Yet it also felt easy – like a conclusion that had been in the making for quite some time. If Shouta was honest – and he always tried to be honest with himself, after all, there was no sense trying to hide something from his own psyche – this here, right now, actually seemed a little playful; with the way Hizashi was walking in front of him and pulling him along, his fingers clutching around Shouta's own.

Hizashi's steps seemed to have a slight skip to them – or at least something close to an expectant bounce. It felt – just the slightest bit – like a chase, with how many flights of stairs there were, the excitement buzzing between them, the hurried fall of Hizashi's feet… at the thought Shouta felt a thrill running through his body, making his heart pick up its pace.

They finally reached Hizashi's floor and the blond man stepped towards his door to unlock it – letting his hand slip from Shouta's – and Shouta, now that both his hands were free again, bridged what little distance remained between them and wrapped his arms around the other man from behind, moulding his front against Hizashi's back, pressing them together seamlessly.

“Got you.” he whispered, his voice pitched even deeper than it usually was as he spoke directly into Hizashi's unobscured right ear – he felt Hizashi's slim frame shudder in his hold and couldn't suppress a toothy grin at that.

The front door finally unlocked and Hizashi twisted out of Shouta's loose hold, playfully stepping into his apartment, an obvious swing to his hips “You think so?” he challenged teasingly, tone a soft, enticing lilt. Hizashi's hand found the wall and the lights of his entrance way flickered on “I like to play hard to get.” he went on and toed his shoes off – the motions far too fast to seem non-nonchalant or disinterested.

Shouta only shot the other man a wordless wide grin – he felt a dark kind of satisfaction run through him as he noticed how Hizashi's chest hitched with a deep breath, the blond man carelessly flung his shoes into the corner of the entrance before he stepped backwards, over the raised step of the genkan and into what looked like his living room – a clear invitation that Shouta took without hesitation.

He stepped into the apartment as well, pulling his shoes off and – his usual neatness forgotten for the moment – he simply let them drop, left them lying however they fell without care. He closed the door behind himself “Give me the key so I can lock up.” he said, his voice still a little raspier than it usually was. Even now it was hard to just ignore the caution that always nagged at the back of his mind. Fortunately Hizashi didn't comment on any of it and simply threw his keys to Shouta, so he could lock up.

“Well?” Hizashi lilted, voice full of smiles as he watched Shouta place the keys on the small table beside the door after he was done.

Shouta took a step closer and Hizashi took one backwards in answer – it was clear that he expected him to give chase. Experimentally he reached one hand out and Hizashi dodged easily – well, Shouta thought as a broad grin appeared on his face, toothy and eerie, this would be interesting.

He stepped fully into the living room – Hizashi cautiously backing away and out of his range, there was an excited smile on his face – his dark eyes swept over the room, taking in the outlay and the placement of the furniture that he would have to account for – before his gaze finally settled back on the vigilante.

After a second or two of complete stillness Shouta lunged forward – his movements fluid and fast, yet at the same time they were nothing more than a playful echo of his usual fighting style.

Hizashi dodged again, his unnaturally green, concentric eyes twinkling with mirth – he let out a loud, delighted titter as he skipped a few steps back still; putting more distance between them.

Hizashi's laughter was clear and bright and – for one moment – Shouta couldn't help but link it to the sound of a crystal bell. The sound was contagious and Shouta let out a low chuckle of his own as he stepped around the white couch with careful, measured steps.

He lunged again and Hizashi stepped away and around the table that stood in front of the couch – putting a physical object between them in the hopes of keeping Shouta away – his laughter was beautiful, full of excitement and just the slightest bit breathless with exhilaration. And when Shouta snapped forward again he was too distracted by his own tittering to dodge properly.

Shouta wrapped both his arms tightly around the other mans waist, pulling him back until his back was flush against his chest. He felt Hizashi's frame shaking against his own body – nearly quacking with delighted laughter and Shouta pressed his own smile into Hizashi's hair, his nose nuzzling into the blond strands – they smelled of honey and lavender.

Slowly, very slowly, Hizashi calmed down again “Seems like I have been gotten.” he giggled and Shouta couldn't suppress an answering chuckle, dark and amused “What will you do with me now, hero?” Hizashi's voice had dropped to a coquettish lilt. He had tilted his head backwards, tipped it do the side a little, resting it on Shouta's shoulder so he could look at him – his hands had come up to wrap around Shouta's over his chest.

“I have a thing or two in mind.” Shouta gave back, grinding his hips forward into Hizashi's ass so the other man would know just how much their little game of catch had affected him. Hizashi just gave a low hum at that, turning his head enough so he could nuzzle against Shouta's jawline.

“Got you going didn't it?” Hizashi giggled, voice growing rough “Me too.” he added after a second and pressed his hips back so he could rub himself against Shouta's already half hard cock. Shouta let out a slightly breathy noise at that. He tipped his head down, angling it so that he could mouth along the other mans jaw and then down.

“Careful with my neck and throat, darling. I'm sensitive there.” Hizashi warned softly “I usually don't really like it when people touch there, but I’ll make an exception for you.”

“If it makes you uncomfortable-”

“No, no.” Hizashi hastily reassured, cocking his head and baring the right side of his neck – unobscured by the side braid “I trust you.” Shouta gave a low, rumbling hum at that – those words just went straight to his groin for some strange reason.

With the okay-go that he had gotten he didn't wait any longer and started kissing along the other mans neck. Hizashi's reaction was beautiful – he arched his back against Shouta's front, a high and slightly airy sound escaping from between his parted lips. Nearly a keen.

Sensitive indeed, Shouta thought, equal parts delighted and predatory and closed his lips around a patch of skin that was far enough down so Hizashi would be able to cover it with his clothes – he started to suck.

“Oh-” Hizashi sighed “Are you marking me up?” He sounded fake-scandalized, one of his hands raising from where he had been holding onto Shouta's arms to bury itself in dark hair – he pulled, pushing Shouta's face into his neck in clear encouragement. Shouta could feel the vibration of Hizashi's pleased moan against his lips.

He finally drew back and pressed a gentle kiss against the angry red spot he had created before he laved his tongue over it – soothing the sting.

Hizashi had by now started a slow rhythm with his hips, rubbing his ass over Shouta's crotch “You’ll have to let me return the favour at some point.” he said, voice amused.

Shouta just gave a noise of agreement while kissed his way back up the column of Hizashi's neck, over jaw and cheek, stopping just a little below the other mans earlobe “Where’s the bedroom?” he asked, husky.

Hizashi's body shuddered slightly and, experimentally, Shouta gave a low, deep hum that vibrated in his chest – he felt Hizashi's hips breaking their rhythm for a moment, seemingly jerking nearly reflexively back and against his front. A wide, slightly crooked grin settled on Shouta's face at the realization that the other man was seemingly getting turned on by his voice.

“Second door to your right.” Hizashi answered, tone nothing more than an enticing lilt – like a Siren trying to lure their pray into the water. Dangerous, Shouta thought, a thrill running through him. He tightened his grip on the other mans middle and then lifted him up easily.

Hizashi gave a shocked sound – not unlike a squawk – before he started laughing – loud and blithe – he kicked his legs out in a playful fake-struggle, his hands came down to hold onto Shouta's forearms to keep balance.

“Jesus!” Hizashi giggled “You show-off!” more giggling “I already knew you were strong, you don't have to carry me to the bed like a fainting maiden.” his protests were betrayed by the clear delight in his voice.

Shouta felt the corners of his mouth twitch up as he moved Hizashi in his hold – re-angling the other mans body so he could get a better grip on him and carry him more comfortably – Hizashi started twisting at that – working with Shouta – turning his upper body till he could get his arms around the hero’s shoulders so he could hold onto him.

Shouta hoisted the vigilante up higher, making him bounce in his hold briefly – he used the short moment where Hizashi was, more or less, airborne to move his arms to where he wanted them. It ended with a classic bridal carry.

“Are you going to carry me over the threshold?” Hizashi crooned playfully, his fingers playing with Shouta's strands where he had his arms wrapped around his neck.

“Of the bedroom? Sure.” Shouta gave back easily, taking the tease for what it was. He started to walk and a second later he felt Hizashi's body shake in his hold as the blond man laughed into the side of his neck – he could feel how chapped lips pressed a few kisses against his throat. And – only a moment later – Hizashi fastened his mouth onto the patch of skin where shoulder met neck and started sucking. Shouta let out a soft noise and tightened his hold a little, pressing the other man closer against his front as he bumped his foot into the door Hizashi had pointed out.

The door swung open easily and the light of the living room started spilling into the room, illuminating it indirectly – enough to see.

Hizashi pulled his mouth back a little, teeth scrapping over the bruise he had just caused “Now we are even.” he lilted, clearly pleased with himself “We match.” he added after a second and then started to trail kisses up Shouta's throat. Shouta let out a low, pleased sound at that.

They finally reached the bed and Shouta bowed down so he could put Hizashi down at the foot. The blond man continued to mouth at Shouta's neck a little longer before he finally drew back, his arms loosening their hold – he let his hands run from Shouta's upper back, over his shoulders, clavicle and pectorals, following the other mans movement as he straightened up again, and in the end Hizashi let them drop to the bed when Shouta had moved too far away for him to touch. He scooted back, more into the middle of the bed.

Shouta stepped back from the bed a little, his hands reaching up so he could undo his buttons – the movement of his fingers focused and fluid; maybe a little too fast, a little too eager. He popped the last button open and the shirt fell open around his front.

A soft cooing noise made him look up to Hizashi – who was currently in the process of opening his braid up, untangling the strands. The blond man racked his eyes over his torso before locking their gazes – he gave an eyebrow wiggle and let out an impressed whistle – all the while his hands continued to loosen his hair till it finally fell freely over his back, like spilled gold pigment.

Shouta felt warmth flooding through him – he felt strangely pleased at Hizashi's reaction. A grin settled on his face – he would do him one better, he thought, and slipped his shirt off his shoulders. He let it fall carelessly to the floor before he took a small step back – Hizashi's expression became confused for a second at that – and then Shouta tensed his muscles, flexing.

“Oh dear god.” Hizashi breathed, his green, concentric eyes darkening, his voice growing choked as his gaze swept over Shouta, taking in every detail “Holy hell!” he added and it sounded nearly unconscious, as if his lips had formed the words without consulting his mind beforehand. He scooted closer to the edge of the bed again, bowing forwards slightly, his hands reaching out, his palms flattening over Shouta's chest – fingers pressing firmly, making the skin and muscle of Shouta's pectoral ripple under their touch.

Shouta felt himself preening at Hizashi's reaction “Wow.” the blond vigilante whispered, hands slowly roaming lower, fingers dipping into the hollows of his tensed abdominal muscles “You have a six-pack.” Hizashi pointed out – unnecessarily – his fingers trailing lower still, till they hit the edge of Shouta's pants, they followed the prominent v of the other mans hips up and down where it wasn't covered by the pants.

Hizashi's finger pressed harder, thumbs digging into the flesh of Shouta's hips as if he was testing the give of the muscles “Man, you're build like a brick wall.” the blond man praised, hands patting up and down a few more moments “You know-” he added suddenly, tone becoming amused “You can stop flexing now, you already accomplished what you wanted: I'm impressed.” he said, voice holding clear admiration – Shouta let his muscles relax again at that.

Hizashi let out a pleased hum, his hands settling on either side of Shouta's hips. He leaned forward, kissing from where his right hand was still holding Shouta's hip upwards, over his abdomen, between the dip of his pectoral, up over his throat, teeth scrapping over his adam’s apple for a second, then over his jaw before he stopped – his lips hovering in front of Shouta's. His head was tilted back, lips pursed, his back stretched and bent so he could hold his position – he looked expectantly up at Shouta and the hero saw now reason to deny him.

Shouta stepped closer again and bent down, his mouth fitting against Hizashi's seamlessly, their lips moving and parting, tongues brushing against each other – he bowed farther down still so Hizashi could sit on the bed properly again, without stretching up too much. His hands tangled in soft blond hair, feeling the smooth, slightly cool texture, mussing the strands up a little before he brushed his fingers around, over Hizashi's throat and clavicle to his collar, where he started unbuttoning the other mans red shirt.

He felt a tug against his scalp as Hizashi's fingers fought against his hair tie – it finally came loose and Shouta felt how his hair flopped down, around his head and partially over his face in the way it usually did. For a second Hizashi drew back, taking in Shouta's expression, his two hands coming up to comb the strands that always fell over Shouta's face back – there was a smile on his face as he leaned in again for another kiss.

Shouta for his part had by now undone all the buttons and was just about to push Hizashi's shirt off when he felt hands brushing from the back of his head down – down over his neck, his shoulders, back, hips, where they shoved eagerly into the back of his pants, grabbing at his ass.

Hizashi hummed against his lips “Nice.” he mouthed and nipped at Shouta's bottom lip once before he licked his way back into the hero’s mouth.

The red shirt was thrown onto the ground and Shouta bent back – for a moment Hizashi was trying to follow him, lips pursed and trying to slant back against Shouta's. Shouta couldn't help but grin as he leaned farther back still, completely out of Hizashi's reach – it made the other man pout.

He cupped his hands around Hizashi's jaw, rubbed them down the sides of his neck and over his slim chest – taking in the other man.

“Nice.” he gave back – echoing Hizashi. The blond man only gave a giggle at that, he drew his hands out of Shouta's pants so he could put them on the bed – stabilization as he leaned back; showing himself off as well.

Really, Hizashi was beautiful – long and lean – here or there Shouta could see muscles moving under skin – a clear indicator that there was some hidden strength – but over all Hizashi seemed rather skinny.

“Not as impressive as you, for sure.” Hizashi said, though there was mirth in his voice, not a hint of self-depreciation. He leaned even farther back, now laying on his elbows, he raised and rolled his hips, his legs falling open “Never really managed to put anything on, neither fat nor muscles, no matter what I eat or how much I train.”

Shouta let out a soft hum at that – some people just were built like that – and he knew quite well that appearances could be deceiving; just because someone didn't have a six-pack didn't mean that they couldn't put up a fight if pressed.

The light that shone into the room from the living room hit Hizashi's left side, bathing it in warm, slightly yellowed light, his right side was mostly shadowed. For a second Shouta indulged himself and simply drank in the image of the other man – the way he was leaned back, the way he had his long legs stretched out and the way he moved and rolled his slim hips, clearly trying to get Shouta to join him on the bed – Shouta could feel the tight stretch of his pants over his straining erection.

Shouta's dark eyes swept over the other mans flat stomach and lean chest, over his shoulder and… wait a second. He blinked and then leaned down. Hizashi had a triumphant grin on his face, he pulled himself up on the bed so his legs were no longer dangling over the edge – Shouta followed the movement, crawling over the other man – left hand on the bed to keep himself up he reached his right hand out to brush it over Hizashi's left shoulder.

In the light that spilled in through the open door the pale freckles were easily visible. Shouta hummed low and deep as he rubbed his thump over the tiny dots that dusted Hizashi's skin – nearly as if he expected them to smudge under his finger.

Well, seemingly Hizashi didn't just have nearly invisibly pale freckles smeared over his nose and cheekbones but also over his shoulders.

Shouta rubbed his right hand downwards, over Hizashi's upper arm, he closed his fingers around the inside of the other mans elbow and then bowed down till he could press his lips against that beautiful, freckled shoulder.

“You’re breathtaking.” Shouta whispered, nearly reverently, as he pressed more kisses into the soft skin of Hizashi's shoulder.

For a second it was quiet and then Hizashi let out a near breathless sounding laugh “You don't have to flatter me, you know? I'm already on board with spreading my legs for you.”

Shouta darted his tongue out, giving a few licks, before he scrapped his teeth gently over the other mans shoulder. Finally he pulled back again – at least enough so that he was able to look Hizashi directly into his eyes – he held the other mans gaze easily.

“I hate empty flattery. I think it’s disingenuous.” he said bluntly “You should know that I am not someone who gives out false praise. When I tell you that I think you are breathtaking I mean it. A hundred percent.” he put special emphasis on that last sentence.

For a second Hizashi seemed to shrink a little under him – his eyes dropping; avoiding Shouta's intense, unapologetic stare – a slight flush settled on his face and he let out a titter that sounded somewhat embarrassed “Well, that's quite the compliment from someone who looks like you.”

Shouta gave a snort “Like something the cat dragged in?” he asked amused and Hizashi let out a squawk that sounded honestly offended.

“You’re gorgeous!” Hizashi huffed out, sounding crossly “Whoever says something else has no eyes in their skull.”

Shouta couldn't quite suppress a chuckle at that, his lips curling upwards. It wasn't that he didn't believe Hizashi that he really thought Shouta was good-looking, it was simply that he knew just what he himself looked like on his worst days – tangled hair, bloodshot eyes, waxy pale; like something returning from the grave.

Suddenly and without any kind of warning Hizashi dug his heels into the bed and bucked upwards. Their cocks rubbed together and even with their pants still on it felt good, sending a jolt along Shouta's spine – he let out a deep moan and Hizashi answered in kind.

The blond man pushed up further still, his hardness pressing into Shouta's hip insistently “You feel that darling?” Hizashi asked, tone thick with arousal “That’s all because of you.” his voice was low, lilting alluringly.

Shouta's right hand caressed down the rest of Hizashi's arm, over his hand, slipping to his side and lower, he shoved his hand between Hizashi's lower back and the mattress till the inside of his elbow was flush against the other mans waist, his palm flat on the small of Hizashi's back. He pulled the other man up at the same time that he thrust is hips down, rubbing both their cocks together and making Hizashi groan appreciatively.

“And that's all for me it seems.” the blond man laughed breathlessly before he cut himself of with another moan as Shouta set up a steady rhythm with his hips – both men rutting together.

They continued like that for a while – Hizashi let his arms slip over the bed, now laying flat on his back instead of propped up on his elbows and Shouta followed suit, stretching himself out along Hizashi's body, using his lower left arm to keep himself up so he wasn't resting all his weight on the other man, his right arm was still around Hizashi's waist, helping their movement.

“Maybe-” Hizashi started before he cut himself off with a low moan that tapered off into a hum at the end – the sound seemed to vibrate in his chest, not unlike the purr of a cat – something that humans really shouldn't be capable of. Maybe it was his quirk?

“Maybe we should lose the pants so we can continue?” he teased, his head turning so he could watch Shouta, his glasses were crooked on his nose “Before we both come in our underwear like horny teenagers, you know?”

Shouta gave a sound in agreement at that but still kept the steady grind of his hips up “How do you want to do this?” he asked, his voice raspy and dark – he felt the shudder run through Hizashi's body.

“I don't mind topping but I prefer bottoming.” Hizashi answered “You?” he asked back, his hips twitching against Shouta's nearly unconsciously, meeting him push for push.

“I don't care either way.” he gave back simply. Truthfully, bottoming didn't do all that much for him but he had never minded rolling over for any of his previous partners, if they had wanted him to.

Hizashi's hands rubbed down the expanse of his back before he pushed them back under his pants, slim legs moved from under his weight until Hizashi could bracket them around his hips and then the blond man used his grip to haul him in on the next downwards thrust – showing him exactly what he wanted. Both men moaned.

“Then let do it like this, yeah?” Hizashi's voice was breathy.

“Okay.” Shouta agreed, the single word nearly a growl. He bent down a little further, propping himself up on his left elbow, he kissed down Hizashi's throat and over his clavicle where he started to nip and suck – his right hand drew away from where it had been stabilizing Hizashi's lower back and instead went to the front of the other mans pants – popping the button open and pulling down the zipper.

Shouta moved himself lower, kissing over Hizashi's chest and belly before he drew away so he could settle on his haunches between the other mans spread legs. His eyes swept over Hizashi greedily, he let out a low hum that vibrated in his chest. The other man looked beautiful like that, tousled and flushed, the light of the living room and the shadow of the bedroom playing over the dips and plains of his body, his hair fanned around his head like a sunburst.

Shouta's hands fell down to his own pants where he undid his belt “You want me to fuck you?” he asked bluntly. He watched as Hizashi bit his lower lip, his eyes seemed to spark at his words and his hips raised invitingly before they settled back on the bed.

Hizashi licked his lips open again “Hell yeah.” he groaned.

“You got everything here?”

“Bedside table, first drawer.”

“Good.” Shouta said before he stood up from the bed so he could push his pants down properly – he didn't waste any time with it and pulled his underwear down in the same motion as well. He let the fabric pool at his feet and then stepped out of it.

There was a soft coo and Shouta's eyes returned to the man still spread out on the bed. Hizashi was moving his body, showing himself off enticingly – tempting – though his concentric eyes were clearly and unashamedly racking over Shouta's form.

“Seems like everything on you is broader than the average guy, huh?” Hizashi teased good-natured, voice a lilt, his eyebrows drawing up slightly. The tip of his tongue drew over his bottom lip for a second “Not that I'm complaining mind you. Quite the opposite actually.”

Shouta gave a snort at that – it wasn't the first time that someone had commented on the girth of his cock, though Shouta himself thought it wasn't that much bigger than what was considered average. He wordlessly bent at the waist – one knee on the edge of the mattress to stabilize himself – both his hands reaching out to wrap around the top of Hizashi's pants and underwear – he pulled both down without preamble.

Hizashi’s hips were pulled up with the motion and then – once the fabric had come off – he flopped back down flat on the bed, bouncing a little as he went. He started laughing and Shouta found that smiling back when he heard that noise had turned into something near automatic for him by now. He used the little moment to sweep his eyes over Hizashi's now naked figure, gaze lingering on the occasional scar here or there and for a second he found himself idly wondering what might have caused them.

Still, he had enough scars of his own – though Hizashi's were far fewer in number, less ragged too, less deep, less long – to know that some scars had stories. Stories that you might not really want to share with someone else – and so Shouta kept quiet. Another time perhaps.

The blond man calmed down again a few moments later – though there was still a smile on his lips - he pushed himself higher on the bed so he could reach the bedside table without having to stretch too much. He pulled his glasses off and set them on the table top before he opened the upper drawer and pulled out a bottle of lube and a pack of condoms “Well, then let’s get this party on the road.” he giggled, eyes shining with both arousal and mirth. It was a beautiful mixture.

Shouta gave a hum of agreement and settled back on the bed between the other mans legs, he bent down, pressing kisses over the inside of Hizashi's right thigh.

“Your stubbles are scratchy.” Hizashi commented, squirming a little under Shouta's attention “Doesn’t feel bad though.” he added. Shouta moved his kisses up – he could hear Hizashi's breath hitching in something like excitement – and then he rubbed his chin over the soft inside of his thigh and Hizashi briefly jerked under him, both legs twitching for the fraction of a second.

“No. You’re going to give me stubble burn.” Hizashi giggled with no hint of protest in his voice, clearly amused. Shouta pressed another kiss against the abused area – it was more of a smile really – before he moved further up, licking over the v of Hizashi's waist, teeth scrapping for a moment before he continued on his way. He looked up briefly when he felt hands in his hair. Hizashi was grinning down at him, his chest heaving with his breathes.

“Come here you.” Hizashi smiled and pulled him the rest of the way up. Their mouths slanted together and Shouta could feel Hizashi's legs spreading further, making room for his bulk. Shouta wrapped his hands around the other mans waist and rolled his pelvis down, their cocks lining up and dragging against each other.

Hizashi broke away from his mouth and let out one of those low, nearly purr like hums – Shouta answered with a rumbling hum of his own at the pleasure running through him, though it sounded nothing like the noise Hizashi was able to produce “Feels nice darling.” the blond man moaned before he pulled Shouta down for another round of kissing, his hips raising to meet Shouta's rhythm, making both men pant and gasp – the kiss devolving into something that was more tongues than lips.

In the end Shouta broke away completely, mouth drawing down over Hizashi's right cheek to his ear, his tongue flicked out over the shell briefly before he sucked the lobe between his lips, teeth pulling gently on the earring there before he let go again to speak “Want me to open you up or do you want to do it yourself?” he whispered right into the other mans ear.

Hizashi shuddered, his hands caressing down over the back of Shouta's neck before they started to knead into his shoulders “Be my guest.” Hizashi said one hand falling away from Shouta so he could reach over and grab for the bottle of lube – he pushed it against Shouta's chest.

One of Shouta's hands raised up from Hizashi's waist to wrap around the bottle before he pulled back completely, settling on his knees and sitting on his haunches between Hizashi's legs – the other man wiggled his hips slightly, seemingly getting into a more comfortable position.

Shouta opened the bottle and squirted a generous amount on the fingers of his right hand – near absent-mindedly he rubbed his thumb over the gel, feeling the consistency – his left hand settled on the inside of Hizashi's right leg, pushing it open wider “Tell me if anything feels weird.” Shouta said, his eyes flicking up to Hizashi's, catching his gaze.

“Sure thing, darling.” the blond man responded easily. Shouta gave a hum at that, his eyes trailing down again, over Hizashi's heaving chest and his trim waist, his slim hips that seemed to buck up unconsciously now and then – his flush cock, laying against his stomach, tip glistening with pre-come.

For a second Shouta lost his focus, his right hand moving upwards instead, to wrap around Hizashi's cock. The blond man let out a startled, nearly choked gasp that tampered into a moan at the end. His hips raising to jerk up into Shouta's wet grip, heels slipping over the bed before digging in to give himself more leverage to thrust up. His back bowed beautifully, like the bend of a bowstring, as he chased the friction Shouta's hand provided.

Hizashi's expression caught Shouta's undivided attention – the way his fair brows knit together in pleasure, how his wet, kiss swollen lips feel open around soft gasps and moans ever time the tip of his dick disappeared in Shouta's fist on the upstroke, the way his eyes rolled up before he closed them, blond lashes resting on his flushed cheeks – his near invisibly pale freckles seemingly standing out more against the redness on his face.

Shouta rubbed his thumb over the other mans slit, catching the droplets of pre-come there, intent on seeing Hizashi's expression scrunching up even further in ecstasy. Another swipe of his thumb over the very tip of Hizashi's cock and the blond mans thighs started to quake around Shouta, a loud groan tumbled from between his lips, head thrown back, throat bared, spine bowing even further. Shouta felt his own dick twitch at the sight. It went on like that for a while, Shouta trying to wring more and more needy sounds out of the other man – every moan and groan going straight to his own cock.

Finally Hizashi's near unnaturally green, concentric eyes opened again, they seemed hazy – clouded with lust “Baby-” Hizashi gasped, cutting himself off with a moan at the twist of Shouta's wrist on the upstroke “If you keep that up this is going to end really soon.” he gasped out, voice hoarse.

Shouta gave another slow stroke before he pulled his hand back again, nearly reluctantly – his other hand reached back down for he lube bottle. He popped the cap open again – re-coating his fingers. There was a snap as the cap closed again. Shouta let the bottle drop back onto the bed.

His left hand settled onto Hizashi's hip while his right reached down and started to rub over Hizashi's hole “Okay?” Shouta asked. Hizashi rolled his body down into his fingers eagerly.

“Better than okay.” he affirmed with a sly smile and, a moment later, he let out a long moan as Shouta finally pressed the first finger into him.

Shouta moved methodically, making sure there was enough lube to ease the way before he added a second finger – rotating his wrist and twisting his fingers. He scissored them carefully, pushing deeper – as far as he could go.

Hizashi was moving his hips, trying to follow the rhythm Shouta set, though his movements stuttered from time to time – interrupted by small, involuntary twitches. He let out a sound somewhere between a low hum and a moan “Has anyone ever told you that you're really-” he grit his teeth, rolling himself down into Shouta's hand, fingers flexing into the bedding, a bitten off groan pushing out from between his teeth “That you're really good with your hands?” he finished his thought, panting.

Shouta absent-mindedly had begun to rub circles into Hizashi's hip with the thumb of his left hand “Not in this context.” he answered, tone amused. He twisted his wrist, fingers fucking in and out of the other mans hole at a steady pace – he crooked his fingers, angling his pushes.

“Really?” Hizashi panted “Can’t really believe that. Your hands feel really-” he suddenly cut himself off and threw his head back, choking out a half strangled moan – as if he was trying to keep himself quiet. His hips rolled down near forcefully, his body tensed and Shouta felt him tightening around his fingers for a moment as pleasure wracked through him.

“There?” Shouta asked, pushing his fingers upwards and wringing another bitten back noise out of the man under him.

“Yes. Yes.” Hizashi gasped, heels digging into the bed so he could push himself down every time Shouta pressed in.

Shouta gave a rumbling hum. He made sure his fingers brushed against the other mans prostate every few strokes – giving enough pleasure without being overwhelming. Hizashi quacked beneath him, chest jumping as if he wanted to let out a slew of noises but held back – he was biting his lower lip, brows drawn together into something that came close to agony but was clearly something completely different.

Shouta bent down and kissed over Hizashi's chest, up, over his throat – he felt the vibration against his lips – and up to his ear. His fingers were still pumping and he slipped in a third one for good measure – just to be sure – before he spoke up, whispering directly onto Hizashi's ear.

“Let me hear you.”

Hizashi let out a titter that sounded more like a few hiccups in succession “You don't know how noisy I can get.” he gasped “It’s not pretty when I lose control.”

Shouta pressed a kiss against Hizashi's jaw, just under his ear “If you’ll let me I can erase it if you get too loud.” he offered. He felt Hizashi's chest brushing against his with every deep indraw of air the other man took “I like hearing my partners enjoy themselves and that way no one would get hurt.”

One of Hizashi's hands was on his back, well kept nails digging into his skin “Okay, yes.” Hizashi agreed after a few moments, his head turning towards Shouta's, nose nuzzling into dark hair before he moved down a little, sucking another mark into Shouta's other shoulder.

Shouta let out a soft hiss at the slight sting, his hips bucking down in search of friction – cock rubbing against the soft skin of Hizashi's inner thigh. He felt a twitch around his fingers as Hizashi tightened for a second – clearly excited. And honestly? Shouta was reaching the end of his patience too, slowly but surely.

Hizashi was clenching hot and tight around his fingers, twitching and moaning so beautifully each time he pressed his digits up to rub over that spot inside of him – and the thought that his cock would soon be surrounded by that clutching heat made him rut his hips against Hizashi's thigh in something close to desperation – made his breath come out in shallow pants.

He spread his fingers out, feeling one of Hizashi's legs twitching up to hook around his lower back, the hand on his back dug in deeper – rippling the skin and probably leaving behind crescent shaped indents. There were teeth nipping on the base of his neck and a tongue that seemed to lick nearly mindlessly.

He pushed his finger up again, rubbing the tips against Hizashi's prostate – he felt the vibration against his chest as Hizashi moaned around the flesh of his shoulder. Shouta dipped his head down and started to mouth at Hizashi's neck as well, leaving a few more hickeys of his own.

He felt Hizashi's second hand bump into his arm then move up, over his back till it could bury into his hair, twisting the thick strands between fingers – as if Hizashi tried to find something to hold onto.

If they continued like this Shouta might just come from nothing more than rubbing himself against Hizashi's leg and hearing the other mans moans – from feeling the other mans body shake apart beneath his hands and the enticing thought of shoving his cock into the burning space his fingers were fucking into right now.

He pulled away slowly – a little reluctantly – Hizashi got his idea, his hold slackened enough so Shouta could properly prop himself up again.

“Okay?” Shouta asked voice husky and deep and filled with arousal – he felt Hizashi clenching around his finger.

“Not gonna get any more ready.” the blond man affirmed, nodding his head for good measure.

“Good.” Shouta gave back and then pulled his fingers free, he smeared the excess lube onto the sheets while his eyes swept over the bed searchingly. Where was…?

“Let me?” Hizashi offered and Shouta's gaze immediately snapped towards him. Hizashi was propped up on one elbow, flapping the condom package around in the air in a two-fingered grip – a coy grin on his flushed face.

“Be my guest.” Shouta echoed the other mans previous words and sat back a little so Hizashi could sit up as well. The blond man ripped the package open and then rolled the condom on, all the way down where his hand wrapped loosely around Shouta's cock – Shouta couldn't help but let out a groan at that, hips twitching into the contact.

Hizashi hummed, clearly pleased, his green eyes seemed to nearly glow with the light from the living room hitting them just so “It’s really a nice dick.” he said, his fingers tightening their hold. Shouta couldn't help but let out a sound that was half breathless huff and half amused snort at that comment, the noise died soon enough though as Hizashi started pumping his fist from base to top in a nearly tortuously slow stroke.

A grin settled on the vigilantes face, alluring and mischievous in equal parts – it made Shouta's stomach roll, his heartbeat kicking into high-gear as excitement and arousal pumped through him “Can’t wait to feel it inside me. Gonna stretch me so good darling. Gonna be so full with you.” Hizashi's lilted, voice dangerously close to a moan as his hand started a steady rhythm.

His second hand rose so he could flatten his palm against Shouta's chest, stabilizing himself as he leaned forward – nearly slipping into the hero’s lap – he bowed closer, placing a kiss on Shouta's lips that was much too sweet compared to his words and the filthy movements of his hand.

Shouta wrapped his arms around Hizashi's waist, his hands caressing up and down the length of his back as he kissed back – he sucked at Hizashi's always slightly chapped bottom lip before he pressed his tongue into the other mans pliant mouth.

Hizashi twisted his hand on the upstroke and Shouta had to break the kiss to gasp “Come on, darling.” the blond man lilted coquettishly before he pulled his hand back – nearly giving Shouta whiplash at the sudden loss of contact “Fuck me.” he was nearly moaning the words into Shouta's ear before he pushed himself back, slipping out of Shouta's hold and putting space between them. He settled back down onto the bed, legs spread and knees bent, strands of his fair hair spilling over his chest – he looked like sin itself… Or maybe that was just Shouta's lust addled brain speaking.

In any case, Shouta saw no reason to refuse an order like that – for a moment his hands fumbled to grab the lube bottle again, he popped the cap open and squirted a good amount directly onto his cock – a soft hiss leaving between his teeth at the sudden cold against his heated flesh. He closed the bottle again and let it fall off the bed – forgotten – before he spread the slick properly.

He wiped his hand off on the bed sheet and then settled between Hizashi's open legs “Yes?” he asked.

Hizashi grinned, his tongue darting out for a second before he answered “Give it to me baby.” his body moving and rolling invitingly. Not wasting any more time after he had gotten the okay-go Shouta pressed one hand against Hizashi's chest to keep the other man still and used the other to guide himself inside.

Hizashi's grin melted off his face at the first push – his mouth instead formed a noiseless ‘o’ as his body twitched, his eyes closing and his head tipping back, his hips raising near unconsciously to meet Shouta's. Shouta took a deep breath, trying to find some shred of composure. The attempt was in vain, instead a low groan ripped out of his throat as he felt the tight muscles give around him and he slipped into scorching, wet heat.

Hizashi's hands rose, nails digging into his upper arms – clutching – and Shouta's eyes immediately flickered up, momentarily concerned that he was hurting the other man. But instead what he saw made him groan again – Hizashi, wild eyed and panting, lips shining, mouth hanging half open, his face flushed a deep red.

“Come on, come on.” the blond man moaned – urged – his fingers squeezing harder into Shouta's biceps “More. Fuck me.” he used the grip he had for leverage and pushed himself down, sinking further onto Shouta's cock and making himself gasp and shake “God, you're big.” he panted, voice nearly reverently, his quivering legs came up to wrap around Shouta's lower back, ankles locked, pulling – trying to coax the hero into moving.

Shouta moved both his hands to grip at the other mans squirming hips and then hauled him in, sinking down to the base with one long, fluid push. Hizashi was gasping and laughing in something like exhilaration beneath him, back bowing and thighs squeezing around his waist.

“Damn, it’s ridiculously hot how strong you are.” he giggled only to cut himself of with another moan as Shouta experimentally ground his hips – not really able to push deeper but still trying to anyway.

Shouta could feel his hair starting to stick to his back and his forehead. He lifted one hand up from Hizashi's hips to push the strands that flopped into his face back and out of his eyes. Hizashi suddenly tightened around him, making him groan. His dark eyes flickered upwards, taking in the way Hizashi was coyly biting at his lower lip.

“Beautiful.” the blond man panted out and Shouta let his arm sink again, hand settling back on Hizashi's hips – some of his hair immediately fell back into its previous place. He grinned down at the man beneath him – too wide and eerie – and Hizashi clenched around him a second time “Fucking hot.” the vigilante groaned as both his hands moved from Shouta's arms upwards, burying themselves into black hair. He pulled and Shouta went easily. For a few moments both of them simply kissed before Shouta pulled back again – Hizashi's hands falling from his hair to grip at his shoulders and upper back instead.

Shouta drew his hips back slowly, feeling Hizashi's nails scrambling at him, before he thrust all the way back in – his arms pulling Hizashi into the movement. The sound of skin slapping together alongside two moans mingling in the air.

Shouta set a deep, steady rhythm, pulling barely halfway out before he shoved forward again – back in, to the hilt. He could feel Hizashi's legs clutching tighter around him, could feel the way the other man tried to find purchase on the sweaty skin of his back, could see the way his concentric green eyes rolled up as he tipped his head back, moaning loudly and with abandon – the noises going straight to Shouta's cock.

Shouta's chest was heaving, gasps and groans slipping out of him as he moved. Hizashi below him was panting too, nearly hiccuping every time Shouta bottomed out – as if the air was punched out of his lungs.

Suddenly the blond man let out a near shout, his back bending as his legs seemed to spasm around Shouta's waist “Yes, yes!” he moaned, his head raising up so he could look down where their bodies joined – his eyes wild and slightly unfocused. He threw his head back again only a second later, throat straining “Right there!”

Shouta stopped his movement briefly and instead ground hard into that particular spot – Hizashi below him was nearly quacking and let out a sound not unlike a mewl. Shouta couldn't keep the grin off his face as he pulled back only to snap his hips forward again, hands pulling Hizashi into his thrust – hitting that same angle again. A loud keen ripped out of the man underneath him, he could feel nails scrapping over his back.

“Yes, yes, yes-” Hizashi was chanting, every ‘s’ a sharp hiss from between his teeth. Shouta picked his pace up again and made sure that he would hit Hizashi's prostate every few strokes.

Truthfully, Shouta wasn't sure how long he would last like this – fucking into Hizashi's tight heat, seeing the other man unravel at the seams, his expression twisted by pleasure so strong it could nearly be mistaken for pain, the way his body shook, along with all the noises that bubbled out of him – all of it just made Shouta feel like his blood would start boiling in his veins any second now.

“Yes. Fuck me, fuck me.” Hizashi was babbling mindlessly, filth and encouragements spilling from his mouth in equal measures “Like that, yes. Feels so good, baby. Don't stop.” he threw his head back at a particularly strong thrust and let out a loud groan – Shouta swore he was able to feel the noise reverberate in his own chest.

“Shouta, Shouta, Shou-” the blond man cut himself off with a moan as Shouta ground his hips again – right into his sweet spot – his eyes rolling up at the wave of pleasure crashing through him. It took a moment but finally his concentric eyes focused again, settling on Shouta's face as if he had hung the stars into the sky and, for a second, Shouta's rhythm faltered as a warmth that had nothing to do with arousal spread through his chest.

Shouta raised his right hand from Hizashi's hip so he could wrap it around the other mans cock, pumping his fist in the same rhythm his hips followed. Hizashi let out a chocked sound, his hips gyrating momentarily – as if he wasn't sure if he should buck up into the stroking hand or down to meet Shouta's thrusts.

“Gonna come, gonna come.” he panted, words like a mantra, his hands scraping over Shouta's back, moving till he could wrap his arms around the hero’s neck – clutching him close “Gonna-” he let out a loud keen “Oh my god, oh god, oh god-” his – too loud – moaning suddenly cut out, as if someone had just flipped a radio off, his lips still moving mutely, forming words without sound.

Shouta twisted his wrist on the upstroke, thumb swiping over Hizashi's drooling slit, his movement slippery with pre-come and the residues of lube – his gaze was glowing red as he stared down at the writhing man beneath him with unblinking eyes, his dark hair dancing in the air.

Hizashi was staring at him with wide eyes, equal parts lust and wonder, his hips bucking wildly as he chased his peak.

“Come on.” Shouta urged, feeling the burn of his always irritated eyes, his thumb teasing over the tip of Hizashi's dick “Come for me. I’ve got you, Hizashi.”

He watched as Hizashi grit his teeth and for a second a near pained expression passed over his face before his eyes rolled up and his hips started to stutter. His body pulled taut, his back bending like a bow string, legs quivering and squeezing desperately around Shouta's hips. With his head thrown back and his mouth opened in a silent scream he finally shook apart in Shouta's hold.

Shouta grit his teeth at the sudden tight squeeze around his dick. His rhythm stuttered slightly as he fucked the other man through his height, his right hand twisting to milk everything Hizashi had to offer out of him. Finally Hizashi's body stopped jerking, all his muscles losing their tension as he feel limp. Only then did Shouta blink and the sound of Hizashi's strained panting filled the air around them – nearly drowned out by Shouta's heavy panting and the slap of skin on skin.

Shouta drew his right hand back from Hizashi's softening cock and instead cupped it around his slim waist again – now using both arms to haul the limp man into his thrusts. Hizashi let out a weak keen, his arms loosening their hold around Shouta's neck and instead moving up, hands burying in soft black hair – combing through the thick strands in a nearly soothing manner. His legs shook in a near flinch every time Shouta bottomed out, but they still held fast, ankles crossed over Shouta's lower back.

“That’s it baby.” Hizashi cooed “Come on. You too. Wanna feel you come inside me. Wanna see your face when you come.” Shouta's rhythm stuttered, his thrusts becoming shallow and nearly jerky as he neared his end “Yes, that's it, darling.” Hizashi's voice was a lilting croon “Come on.” he coaxed again before he pulled Shouta's head down with the grip he had on his hair – slanting their mouths together.

It was the final push Shouta needed. His groan was muffled against Hizashi's lips as his hips twitched – trying to bury himself deeper into the other mans heat – his orgasm roared through him, turning every thought in his head into white noise. The only thing that mattered the man that was currently kissing him. His hands clutching tightly, holding Hizashi close.

He could still feel his muscles twitching slightly as he finally pulled away from Hizashi's lips and then – maybe in a fit of post-orgasmic madness – he bent down again so he could kiss over the freckles dusted over Hizashi's nose and cheekbones.

Hizashi let out a breathless giggle underneath him and Shouta felt his chest squeeze painfully as he continued to feather kisses over the other mans face.

God help him, he was in love.

It took a few more moments before both men had calmed down enough to actually contemplate moving.

Shouta moved his hands from where he had been clutching at Hizashi's hips, one hand steadying himself on the bed while the other went to the base of his softening cock – making sure the condom wouldn't slip while he pulled out – Hizashi let out a soft noise as he slipped free.

He removed the condom and tied it off – his eyes momentarily sweeping over the room until they landed on a small trash can beside what looked like a writing table. He stood up and threw the rubber away.

*****************************************

“Can you throw me the tissues?” Hizashi asked from behind him. Shouta gave a soft grunt and grabbed the small box of tissues on the edge of the table before he made his way back to the bed. He sat down at Hizashi's side – the other man was still sprawled flat on his back, his eyes closed, chest still rising and falling just a tad faster than what was normal… Pliant and obviously satisfied – he was beautiful.

“Here.” Shouta said, gently pushing one of the edges of the box into Hizashi's chest. The blond man reached one of his arms up, hand tacking the box from Shouta and, after a second of stillness, he pushed himself up. He pulled out a few tissue papers and started rubbing his come off his stomach.

He wrinkled his nose slightly at the sticky mess “I think I'm going to take a shower.” he said as he crumbled the tissue up in his hand “Want to join me? The shower stall is big enough.” he offered, green eyes settling on Shouta.

The hero shrugged “Sure.” he said and stood up again, he picked up his clothes while he was was at it. Behind him Hizashi pushed himself up as well, the blond man threw the tissue away and toed his own clothes into a pile beside the writing table before he padded towards Shouta.

“You can throw your stuff over the back of the chair.” Hizashi offered easily and Shouta did just that – draping his clothes over the chair at the writing desk. Hizashi shot him a smile and then walked towards the door. Out in the living room he turned right – Shouta followed after him.

“The bathroom is right here.” Hizashi said and opened the door. His hand reached out and a second later the light flickered on.

The bathroom wasn't big but it wasn't small either. Shouta's eyes swept over the space in something like idle curiosity. The room was clean, the tiles mostly white – the typical, generic look a rented flat had. Yet there were enough splashes of colour to give the room some character – the colourful towels stacked in a baby blue shelve for example – Hizashi's doing no doubt.

The rushing of water drew his attention a few moments later. He watched Hizashi turning the knobs on the wall, waving his hand under the spray as he adjusted the temperature.

“Is this good for you?” the blond man asked over his shoulder and Shouta drew closer, his chest pressing into Hizashi's back as he reached his arm around the other man so he could feel the water for himself.

It was a little on the hot side but not so much that Shouta truly minded “It is fine.”

“Good then.” was all Hizashi answered before he stepped under the spray, his hair immediately soaking up the water and growing heavy with wetness, sticking to his lean body. Shouta followed suit.

He raised his left hand up so he could pull all of Hizashi's hair back and then drape it over the other mans right shoulder – so it fell against his chest, baring his nap and the left side of his neck and shoulder. He bent down and pressed a few kisses against the freckled skin there, his hands fell down to rub circles into the soft skin of Hizashi's belly.

“Are you one of those guys that turn all affectionate after sex?” Hizashi asked, teasing good-naturedly, before he tipped his head to the side, giving Shouta more space to mouth at his shoulder and neck, his hands lowered to cup around Shouta's on his lower abdomen – thumbs rubbing circles against the hero’s knuckles.

Hizashi let out a soft hum as Shouta gently scraped his teeth over the knob at his nap – where his neck met the rest of his spine “Not complaining about that at all.” the vigilante added, letting his head fall forward a little.

Shouta pressed a final kiss against one of the hickeys that he had left before he pulled back “Let’s get cleaned up before the water turns cold.”

Hizashi gave a soft giggle but then reached wordlessly for one of the bottles that were placed on a small clip-on-tray. He flipped the cap open and – grabbing Shouta's left hand – he squirted a rather generous amount into the hero’s palm before he did the same for himself.

They washed mostly in silence, their hands wandering from time to time, rubbing over shoulders and arms, feeling the slick glide of skin against skin – touching just because they could with no real goal in mind.

After a while Hizashi reached his hand out to grab another bottle, he snapped it open and then turned to Shouta “Close you're eyes.” he said and Shouta's heart jumped at the words, anxious.

The idea of closing his eyes around someone else never sat right with him… and yet he did it anyway, his lids dropping, he felt the cold burn of his dry eyes as his vision turned dark. Here he was in Hizashi's apartment, both of them naked in his shower, after they had just had sex… Hizashi's neck covered in love bites even though the blond man had mentioned before how he usually didn't like people close to his throat – clear self-preservation, guarding his voice box.

… Shouta found that he wanted to return the favour – show the other man that he was ready to trust him as well.

There was a second of near nervous anticipation and then he felt hands bury themselves into his hair, fingers combing through the thick strands, rubbing against his scalp in a near massage – the scent of honey and lavender wafted into his nose.

It was the same smell he had noticed before – it must be Hizashi's shampoo then.

The movements of the other mans fingers was incredibly relaxing and Shouta felt his shoulders dropping as he lost the last bit of his near ever present tension, his mind finally accepting that he was truly save here. That there was nothing he needed to look out for.

He had never really felt like that – at least not outside of his own home, with another person beside him no less. It was a weird feeling – yet heady at the same time. He found himself drawing closer to the other man nearly unconsciously, his hands raising to cup around either side of Hizashi's hips – holding him close – his thumbs rubbing circles into the warm skin there.

This was new and somewhat terrifying – this knowledge that he was utterly vulnerable right now – but it was also strangely wonderful to realize that there was someone beside him who would be able to watch out for him while he himself took a moment to just… be. To let his guard down.

Something that was dangerously close to disappointment flooded through him when he felt Hizashi pulling his head towards the spray of water so he could rinse out the suds – he was surprised to realize that he really didn't want the moment to end just yet.

When Hizashi was finally done Shouta pulled back again, both his hands falling away from the other mans waist. He used his right hand to rub the water away from his face so he could open his eyes again.

He watched as Hizashi reached for the shampoo bottle…

“May I?” he asked. Hizashi blinked at him and then, barely a second later, a broad, beaming smile settled on his face.

“Sure thing darling.” he said. He gave the bottle a shake and then squeezed the liquid onto Shouta's palm. He capped and put it away again, before he tipped his head into his neck so Shouta could work from behind him.

Shouta carefully massaged the shampoo into the other mans blond hair, making sure not to get the wet strands needlessly tangled. Hizashi's hair wasn't quite as thick as his own – where Shouta's hair felt soft to the touch but also always just the tiniest bit wiry Hizashi's hair was downright silky.

The vigilante let out a pleased hum, it seemed to vibrate in the shower stall in that odd way of his.

“Is that noise tied to your quirk?” Shouta asked, fingers gently spreading the sweet smelling shampoo.

Hizashi gave an inquisitive noise before he seemingly understood what Shouta meant – the vibrations stopped “Ah, yes. It’s basically when your vocal folds vibrate when you hum, but with an amplification behind it? Kinda like a purr but not really?” there was a second of silence “Does it bother you?”

“No.” Shouta answered simply – it didn't. In fact, he actually found it quite charming. In a way he even found it calming – it might sound strange but he had always started to relax when a purring cat was on his lap or close to him and the sound of Hizashi's vibration was close enough to that specific kind of noise that Shouta felt nearly serene when he heard it. - the vibration partially bleeding into his own chest, the noise reverberating through him.

“Turn around.” he ordered softly and Hizashi did. Shouta led the other man back under the water spray and started to rinse all the shampoo out, he was focused, making sure no residue would stay behind.

“Done.” he said and pulled his hands away. He stepped back so Hizashi could move from beneath the stream and whip the water out of his eyes. The blond man blinked a few times and then twisted his torso around enough so he was able to turn off the water again. Once that was done he turned back around to face Shouta, he placed both his hands on the hero’s pectorals and then leaned in to press a chaste kiss onto the other mans lips.

“Thanks.” the blond man muttered against Shouta's lips after he had pulled back a little again.

“It is fine.” Shouta said – he didn't really see the reason why Hizashi would thank him for something as simple as washing his hair – it seemed like a normal thing between lovers.

They stepped out of the cabin, the cooler air of the bathroom hitting their wet skin. Both men towelled off as best as possible – Shouta ruffled a second towel through his hair, while Hizashi beside him was patting his own hair down much more gently; probably so it wouldn't tangle too much.

“I’m not really sure if I have something that fits you.” Hizashi mused idly as he squeezed the wetness from his hair, his green, concentric eyes sweeping over Shouta's form, fair brows knitted together into contemplation – as if he was just mentally going through his closet.

Shouta's hands stopped their movements – towel draped around his head – as he raised his gaze towards the man opposite of him “You want me to sleep over?”

Hizashi shrugged “I mean only if you want to. Like, you don't have to if you would rather go home. But I mean the bed is big enough for both of us.” he said and then after a moment added “Also I haven't gotten any post-sex cuddles yet, so there’s that too.” his mouth was pulled up into a soft, slightly teasing smile.

Shouta's own mouth pulled down into a slight frown at that. He knew he needed to have this specific conversation sooner or later, he just hadn't expected it to crop up quite so soon. He opened his mouth but then closed it again – not really sure how to approach the topic.

Hizashi caught up on the shift in the air – smile falling of his face to make room for a more serious expression, his inquisitive eyes flickered between Shouta's but he remained quiet – waiting for Shouta to elaborate.

Shouta let out a half annoyed, half resigned sigh. He let the towel fall around his shoulders before he started to speak “You already know that I am...” here he trailed off for a second, unsure what word to use “hyper-vigilant-” he settled on “I’m an underground hero, I have to be aware of my surrounding to stay alive so most noises tend to wake me up when I sleep.”

Hizashi's eyes took on a nearly concerned shine “You have sleeping troubles?” he asked and Shouta just gave a soft grunt.

“Yes.” he answered a moment later, voice thick “Your movements will wake me up, if I am even able to fall asleep in the first place.” here he paused for a second “I sometimes have nightmares too.” he added after a second – better to get everything out at once while he was already at it – and then gave shrug “If I spent enough time around people and my mind starts to register them as harmless I am usually able to blend their noises out and ignore them. I actually started to notice that it happened with you too a while ago. Sleeping is still different to that though. So I'm not sure it will work.” another shrug “I’d rather not keep you up all night.”

There was a moment of heavy silence as an expression of deep concentration settled on Hizashi's face, as if he was staring at an unsolvable puzzle but still, stubbornly, wanted to find a solution to it.

Shouta huffed out an amused breath at the other mans furrowed brows and serious expression “We can try, though.” he offered “I will have to get used to your noises sooner or later anyway. We might as well start early.” Hizashi's eyes rose up to his face again and Shouta saw the other man drawing his bottom lip between his teeth – chewing.

“You don't have to feel forced.” Hizashi finally said.

“I don't.” Shouta gave back easily – blunt and honest. If he didn't truly want to be here he would already be gone again. He wasn't the kind of person who put up with something just for courtesies sake after all.

Hizashi nodded at that “Okay, then let’s see if we can find you something to wear.” he said, his easy going smile back on his face, all traces of seriousness blown away. They finished up in the bathroom and made their way back into the bedroom flicking out all the lights as they went.

The light of the bedroom turned on as Hizashi stepped into the room, making a beeline for his wardrobe – he threw open one of the smaller doors at the side and started rummaging through a bunch of stacked clothes.

“That’s an old pair, the elastic band isn't all that it used to be…” he mumbled to himself as he threw a pair of shorts into the bed before he continued his search. He pulled out a dark shirt, the front showing some kind of band logo that Shouta had never seen before. The blond man held the shirt in front of his own chest “That should work.” he said and nodded to himself. He draped the shirt over his arm and then went to the bed to pick up the shorts too. He threw both of them at Shouta who caught the clothes easily “That should fit.” the blond man said before he turned back to the wardrobe – pulling out something to wear for himself.

Shouta pulled on the clothes without comment. The shorts fit surprisingly well, the shirt was a little on the tight side though, stretching over Shouta's broad chest – not so much though that Shouta found it constricting. He pulled at the dark fabric a bit so it would fall better.

He looked up as he heard rustling. Hizashi had thrown the blanket and the pillows off the bed and was currently yanking the dirty sheets off. He threw them onto the pile of his own clothes beside the table.

“Do you need a sheet?” Hizashi asked and Shouta just shot him a flat look in answer. The blond man only giggled at that “Thought so.” he said, sounding amused. He bent down and threw the pillows and the blanket back on the now sheet-less bed.

The blond man flopped down onto the mattress then, bouncing a little as he landed “Well then-” he said, a slightly sly smile settling on his face as he turned his head to look at Shouta “Turn the lights off and then sleep with me.”

Shouta let out a soft, fondly-annoyed noise at that and then did as he was told before he padded towards the bed. He sat himself down and then slipped under the blankets, he felt Hizashi settle beside him.

It took a few moments before both men managed to get comfortable and then silence settled in the room.

Shouta closed his eyes – he cracked them open again though as the bed beside him started moving again. He felt Hizashi drawing closer to him, a hand on his chest and a pair of lips pressed against his shoulder “Try to get some sleep.” the blond man whispered.

Shouta couldn't quite stop the corners of his mouth from twitching up a little “I’ll try.” he promised. He felt Hizashi's vibrating hum in answer and then the other man settled heavier against his side.

“Good night.”

“Good night Hizashi.”

Chapter Text

The night was… stressful to put it mildly. It already took long enough for Shouta to even relax what with having another person beside him – even if he rationally knew that that person was no danger at all.

And the few times where he had actually managed to relax enough to doze off noises had startled him awake again not too long after. The unfamiliar sounds coming from outside – a strange neighbourhood and the unique sounds there. There there was the rustling of the blanket beside him, the turning, twisting and settling of sleeping person.

On one or two occasions Shouta had flinched awake because Hizashi had unconsciously moved closer to him in his sleep – snuggling into him, Hizashi's hands brushing over his skin. On one hand it was a sweet show of trust – the way Hizashi seemed to seek out his warmth while asleep and Shouta couldn't stop himself from smiling, something warm spreading through him – yet, on the other hand he just wished he was able to nod off for longer than a handful of minutes at a time before he was woken up again by something or else.

It was… exhausting.

Still, he hadn't been lying when he had said it was better to get used to this sooner rather than later – and as with everything you had to consciously learn the beginning always seemed unreasonably hard. Besides he had to start somewhere. He had known this would be an ordeal – but it would also be rewarding later down the line when he didn't have to worry about any of this anymore.

At some point Shouta must have finally fallen asleep properly, because he woke up again when the bed beside him started moving, dipping, the sheets rustling softly – a foot brushing against his calf, fingers twitching against his side. Hizashi was waking up – nothing that needed his immediate attention – so he simply kept his body lax and his eyes closed.

The bed dipped as the other man pushed himself up a little, a deep indent in the mattress where he stabilized his weight with his elbows – there was a second of silence “You’re awake aren't you?” Hizashi asked, voice still raspy from sleep, a strange cadence to his words.

“Yes.” Shouta gave back, his own voice scratchy from disuse as well.

“Sorry.” it was a squawk, sounding regretful, a hint of guilt.

“It is fine.” honest and truthful.

“I’m going to get up and make breakfast, do you want anything?”

Shouta let out a grunt, his nose wrinkling at the mere thought of food, his stomach telling him just what exactly it thought of that proposition “No. I get nauseous if I eat after just having woken up.”

There was a soft noise to his right, it sounded curious, questioning “How long does it last? I mean, how long until you can eat?”

“Usually an hour, just to be sure.” he answered. The mattress beside him dipped even more as Hizashi finally pushed himself up completely to get out of bed. Wood creaking, the moan of an old hinge, the rustling of clothes, a few soft noises from Hizashi as he moved.

“I could make something cold and you can eat when you feel up to it.” Hizashi offered and Shouta finally cracked his eyes open. The sun light was falling through a window on his left but fortunately the blinds were drawn, as were the orange curtains – the sunlight was dim at best, illuminating just enough without being annoying. The whole room seemed warm, slightly reddish-orange – thanks to the tint the curtains seemingly gave the light that filtered through them. Optical illusion.

Shouta turned his head towards Hizashi – the blond man was obviously tousled, his hair falling around his head in slightly tangled strands. He had already changed out of his sleep clothes and was now wearing a simple shirt and sweatpants combo – clothes that were probably for home use only. Hizashi's shirt was a little loose and where it slipped slightly it revealed parts of his left collar bone – Shouta could make out a few of the hickeys there; the ones he had left only a few hours ago.

His gaze trailed up from the other mans neck to settle on his face instead. Hizashi's concentric green eyes watched him right back from behind his pair of casual rectangular glasses. Hizashi looked sleep-rumpled and soft like this, not at all put together or neat and tidy – Shouta gave a pleased hum, it rumbled deep in his chest. He liked that look, he really, really liked that look on Hizashi – warm and relaxed and slightly mussed. He found that Hizashi looked just as enticing like this as he had done the night before – just in a different way; unguarded and at ease… Shouta liked the knowledge that he was now invited – even encouraged – to see that particular side of the other man.

“It is fine. You do not need to prepare something specifically for me.” he said simply, a small smile cracking over his face “A mug of coffee would be nice though.” he added after a second.

“Oh? Liquids are fine then?” Hizashi asked, clearly intrigued – taking an interest. He was currently using his foot to kick up his old clothes that still lay in a pile on the floor – grabbing them out of the air, too lazy to bow down.

“Tea, coffee, water, things like that. Soup would still make me nauseous.” Shouta gave back, his eyes idly following Hizashi's path around the room.

“Well, since I'm making coffee anyway that isn't a problem.” Hizashi said excitedly, draping all his old clothes over his arm “I’m gonna use the bathroom first, yeah?”

Shouta gave a grunt in answer and waved his hand – a half-hearted shooing motion. He heard Hizashi giggle as he disappeared out of the room with a slight skip in his steps. For a few moments Shouta closed his eyes again. It was quiet here – he had noticed that during the night as well, even if there had been the occasional noise, like a car door slamming, or people walking through the stairway of the apartment complex they were in right now, it had still been quieter than he was used to.

Shouta wasn't sure if that was simply because of the early hour or because Hizashi had just gotten lucky and was living in a calm neighbourhood. Maybe it was a bit of both. Faintly he could hear Hizashi puttering around the bathroom, a soft background noise – he listened, trying to memorize the noises – the sound of water running, Hizashi's soft humming, the creak of hinges…

He didn't know how much time had passed when he heard the other man walking past the ajar bedroom door “Hey, bathroom’s free if you need it!” Hizashi called into the room, his voice sing-songy and much too energetic for the early hour.

Shouta just gave a grunt back in answer and, after he heard Hizashi walk away again he finally opened his eyes. His gaze sweeped over the room idly, taking everything in – the walls were painted in a soft blue-gray. Shouta's dark eyes were drawn back to the orange curtains over the window again and afterwards to the reddish-brown carpet on the far side of the room – a table was placed on it.

The colours of the room should clash… yet they didn't – despite that, it was still a bit too much colours for Shouta's taste – especially since everything looked much too bright in the dim light falling through the curtains.

He preferred a dark bedroom. He had never understood why some people went all out to decorate a room they only spent a few hours a day in – and those few hours were spent unconscious too – sleeping. It seemed a waste of time and money to him. His own bedroom reflected that mentality, the walls dark blue, the curtains thick and dark – the only luxury there was his bed, big and warm and soft.

He sat up and turned, his feet touching the floor – he ruffled a hand through his hair, blunt nails scratching over his scalp. For a second he found himself idly wondering where Hizashi might have dropped his hair tie to last night, his eyes sweeping over the floor of the room. When he couldn't find it after a few moments he simply decided that it didn't really matter either way – one hair tie more or less wasn't the end of the world after all.

He stood up and padded over to the chair in front of the table standing against the far wall, intent on fetching his clothes. As he started to pick up his stuff he let his eyes trail over the table top in a kind of bored curiosity.

He saw a small pile of books, some had actual names on their spines, some others were clearly notebooks for personal use. A few pens, a closed laptop, a microphone with a… pop-filter? That was what it was called wasn't it? Something that looked like a box with a lot of buttons and controls – here Shouta gave up trying to name things. He didn't have a lot of knowledge about sound set-ups – he assumed that was what all the cables and boxes were for.

On top of the closed laptop lid was a pair of neon green headphones – a small smile stretched over Shouta's lips as he recognized them; those were the ones Hizashi had bought with the money he had given him that first time he had asked for information for a case. He raised his hand, fingers brushing over the back of one of the ear-pieces. It all seemed so long ago now.

Well, their first meeting had been months and months ago – nearly a whole year had passed since then. A lot could change in that time – a lot had change in that time. Shouta drew his hand back again and let out a soft yawn – he still felt incredibly tired – before he started changing back into his old clothes.

He assumed it wasn't too strange for Hizashi to have all that technical stuff in his home. He was a radio host after all – maybe he pre-recorded some of his shows here? Or maybe he did podcasts? - everyone seemed to be doing them nowadays, at least that was what he overheard his students saying.

When he was finished changing he decided to drape the sleep clothes neatly over the back of the chair – he didn't know where Hizashi's hamper or washing machine was after all – and then made his way into the bathroom.

When he stepped out of the bathroom again a while later he could already smell the scent of fried eggs and coffee wafting through the whole apartment. His nose wrinkled slightly at the smell of bacon, his mouth pulling back in something close to a grimace as his stomach reminded him non to gently that it wasn't ready for food just yet.

He simply followed the scent and ended up in the kitchen not too long after. He sat down at the table and watched Hizashi cook – the blond was humming a song under his breath, his hips swaying slightly to a silent beat, his head bobbing to the rhythm, loose hair swinging slightly with the movement.

This was… nice. It had been a long time since Shouta had felt so… domestic. Enjoying this kind of quiet, slow morning – waking up with a warm body beside him, no pressing issues that demanded his attention right that moment, nowhere to be… able to simply watch the man he currently was allowed to call his lover bustle around the kitchen.

It felt dangerously safe – comfortable and easy… like something Shouta could get used to… Like something he would get used to if they allowed it to continue.

Following Hizashi's movements, watching his happy smile as he half danced around the kitchen and listening to his peppy humming… it was easy to forget that this was the same man that had beaten people up as a vigilante, that this was the same man that had tied people to the lamppost in front of the police station – that this was the man the media had dubbed ‘Zip-tie-man’; an incredibly intelligent and highly dangerous person that sometimes skirted, sometimes stepped right over the line of what was considered legal.

It was also easy to forget that – speaking strictly black and white – Shouta should be trying to hunt the other man down. After all this right here, right now, wasn't just an easy morning-after shared between two lovers. No, it was also a risky – blossoming – relationship between two people who should be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet, they had somehow met in the middle – sharing ideas and morals.

A hero and one of the most sought after vigilantes, trying to build up a stable, romantic relationship – it was a scandal in the making… and yet Shouta found that he really didn't want to change anything about it. He didn't want it any other way – no matter the possible risk. This was something preposterous… something incredibly sweet. A tentative commitment between two like-minded people. Two opposites clicking into place seamlessly – and it was beautiful.

Hizashi stepped closer to where he sat, he grinned down at him and placed a mug of steaming coffee in front of him “You want sugar or milk? I got crème too.”

“No. I drink it black.” Shouta gave back easily, looking up at Hizashi – his gaze momentarily caught by the other mans concentric eyes, they seemed nearly hypnotic.

Hizashi wrinkled his nose at his words “Bleh!” he said, sticking his tongue out – it was childish, true, yet it made Shouta chuckle in amusement anyway. He reached out and cupped his hands around the mug while Hizashi sat himself down on the opposing chair.

For a few long moments it was quiet in the kitchen – the only noises the soft clinking of a fork hitting porcelain while Hizashi ate.

“School will start up again soon, won’t it?” Hizashi suddenly asked.

The question was a little out of the blue, somewhat unnecessary, and it made Shouta blink. He gave an affirmative noise at that and then took a sip of his coffee – waiting for Hizashi to elaborate.

The blond man finished the rest of his breakfast, his brows slightly furrowed, as if he was deep in thought “I’m just wondering, you know. You’ll be busy from early morning to early noon with teaching and I’ll have to be at the station from pre-noon to late afternoon. And then we have our evening-” here he smacked his lips “-‘jobs’ to attend to.” he ended. There was a short pause “It might get tricky trying to find time to, you know, just hang out… Well, where there’s a will there’s a way! I'm sure we can make it work!” the last part was peppy and optimistic.

Shouta gave a hum at that – it seemed Hizashi took all of this already very serious, taking their time schedules into account, already trying to plan ahead. It was a surprisingly sweet sentiment and Shouta felt his mouth quirking up the slightest bit at the corners “I’m sure we can.” he agreed, taking another sip of his coffee.

“Oh!” the blond suddenly breathed out, sounding as if he just had an enlightening moment “We still have to exchange phone numbers!” it was half a shout.

Shouta gave a low hum at that, he reached down into his pocket to pull out his phone. He clicked it on and then he pulled up his own contact informations. He shoved the mobile towards Hizashi and then cupped his newly freed hands around his mug again, lifting it back up to chest level – just holding it “Here, just copy the number.” he said.

For a thoughtless second he felt a kind of uncalled for and rather unwelcome unease washing through him – something he rationally knew was completely unnecessary. It was his hyper-vigilance, nagging at the back of his mind in the way it often did – chastising him for giving his phone number away so easily.

Shouta grit his jaw and tried to shake the anxious voice in the back of his mind off – this was Hizashi after all. This wasn't some stranger, it wasn't someone who was out to hurt Shouta nor was it someone who was a potential threat – no, this was his lover.

Shouta took a sip of coffee, forcefully shutting out the distrustful whisper. He let out a noiseless huff, internally shaking his head over himself. He closed his eyes for a moment – resigned. He was rather sure that such small shock moments – like the one he had just experienced – would continue to happen… at least for some time.

On the other hand he also knew that there would come a time where he would be able finally put all his irrational doubts to rest – a time where even the always alert, hyper-vigilant part of his mind would realize that those kind of thoughts were pointless; nothing more than an annoying hindrance. It would take a while, sure, but he was more than willing to make the effort for Hizashi.

Shouta wanted to trust him. Fully. No exceptions.

He took a sip of his coffee – it was nearly empty by now – and watched as Hizashi pulled his own phone out to save his number. When the blond man was done he pushed Shouta's phone back towards him before he started tapping on the screen of his own phone. Barely a few seconds later Shouta's phone suddenly buzzed – an unknown number lighting up the display.

Hizashi grinned at him “Now you got my number too.” he said, his voice giddy, as if he had just received some kind of gift – not unlike a child on Christmas eve. The obvious delight in Hizashi's expression threw Shouta for a second – as a kind of confused but pleased surprise rolling through him. Never before had someone been so excited about getting something as simple like his number from him.

Shouta blinked at the man opposite of him before he slowly placed the mug down again. His phone stopped its buzzing and he turned the dark screen back on. New number – block or save? He tapped on the screen – running through all the necessary steps to save the number.

“Thanks.” Hizashi suddenly said – out of the blue and without any reason. Shouta's eyes flickered up from the screen – where he was currently typing in Hizashi's name – his brows furrowed. Hizashi wore a strange expression – a smile that seemingly said more than Shouta could hope to decipher.

… For a second Shouta wondered just what exactly Hizashi had just figured out about him – about them. Was this a simple thanks because of the number? Or had Hizashi picked up on the small flare of Shouta's hyper-awareness? Was it something else?

Shouta's brows drew together even more, his expression turning into a frown, his mouth pulled downwards “You are too smart for your own good.” he said – putting it out there like a fact, no heat, no teasing, just a simple statement.

Hizashi's smile turned a little wistful at that “Maybe.” he giggled and then shrugged. Shouta's jaw jumped at that comment and then his entire expression smoothed out again, blank as always. He felt that there was something more lingering there, just out of sight, just below the surface.

He turned back to his phone and finished adding Hizashi's contacts. Maybe he would be able to dive a little deeper, press a little further if he really wanted to – get something out of Hizashi… but he didn't. He had no desire to push or prod at something that the blond man obviously wasn't willing to disclose just yet. He could wait and there was no rush after all.

Trust took time. Building a relationship took time – and sometimes there were things on your mind or in your past that you didn't want to share, no matter with whom. And that was fine. Sometimes you didn't even want to share those things with yourself – trying to bury them deep… no matter how pointless and redundant it was to try and hide from your own psyche.

Shouta was aware of the fact that he himself would still need more time too – more time before he might feel comfortable sharing the more hidden parts of himself with Hizashi, the ugly, jagged pieces he didn't like to show… the soft bits he didn't like to expose.

So really, it would be nothing if not hypocritical for him to demand from Hizashi that he should share his secrets when Shouta himself wasn't ready to do so just yet either.

Beside, Shouta had never been someone who went digging – he had never seen the point. Either people told him something or they didn't. Simple as that. He himself hated pushy people and he certainly wasn't about to inflict that special mixture of annoyed irritation that he always felt when someone tried to pry something from him onto others.

He stuffed the phone back into his pocket and drank down the last dregs of his coffee. Hizashi's gaze trailed around the kitchen, settling onto the wall clock “I have to go to the station later.” he said and Shouta gave a grunt that he had heard “What about you? Anything to do today, darling?”

“Sleep.” Shouta gave back bluntly. He was tired, his eyes burned cold whenever he closed them – irritated and dry. He was at that delicate cusp of exhaustion where everything felt just slightly … off. It was a familiar feeling to him, yet one he had never been able to fully describe – this moment where your gaze seemed to shift slightly, where it seemed liker your body just did not move quite right… A feeling like coming home and realizing something was strange yet being unable to put a finger on why exactly that was – nothing had moved but the air had seemingly changed.

He usually didn't have to put up with that feeling during the school break when he only had to concentrate on one job – with only his hero work to do he didn't quite run the same risk of just completely losing sight of time the way he normally did either. Those days where he blearily blinked at the clock and idly realized that he had already been awake for over 24 hours.

Hizashi let out a soft noise, it sounded like it got caught up somewhere between his vocal cords and his mouth – fracturing slightly “Sorry.” he said again, lowering his eyes to the table.

Shouta let out an annoyed huff at that “I told you it is fine.” he said, his mouth thinned into a flat line. He let out a soft breath, his expression smoothing out again – gentling really “Listen” he started softly “-if it truly bothered me I would have told you so already. In fact, I wouldn't even have stayed over in the first place. If I say that something is fine then I mean it.” he gave another annoyed huff – this one sounding just the slightest bit fond though “I hate repeating myself, so don't make me do it constantly, okay?”

Hizashi raised his eyes towards Shouta again, his gaze sweeping over the hero’s face for a few seconds before he nodded – okay. A few heartbeats passed in silence and then Hizashi propped his chin on his fist “You’re really blunt.” he pointed out – quite unnecessarily.

Shouta gave a snort at that, a wry smile twisting the corners of his mouth upwards “You only realize that now?”

“No, no. I noticed before. Very direct. It’s just, you know, nice to have someone who tells you how it is. Straight and to the point. No hard feelings involved.” there was a short pause and Hizashi's mouth flattened for a second, his teeth nipped at his bottom lip, once, twice and then he continued “It’s a habit I guess.” he shrugged “The asking I mean. Wanting to make sure.” another shrug “Sometimes people just don't say what they actually mean. I guess I don't have to worry about that with you around though?” the last words where a mixture between statement and question.

“No.” Shouta agreed “If I find something bothersome I will let you know.” he let out an amused noise “Don’t you worry.” he added, tone laced with humour – a promise. Hizashi shot him a slightly crooked yet honest grin at that, his green eyes shining from behind his glasses.

They remained where they were, talking to each other about this or that, safe topics – both of them obviously feeling like they had uncovered – or at least bumped into – enough new revelations about each other for now. It didn't seem right to try and dive deeper just now. This thing between them, while mutual, and clearly growing by the moment was still fragile – it wouldn't do to accidentally crush it with uncaring words or actions just because they wanted to go too deep too soon.

Their relationship was still new after all – and its dynamic seemingly still threw both of them off just the slightest bit. Unexpected reactions, a different mindset than what they were used to from past relationships – it wasn't bad though; pleasant surprise.

And beside that it was obvious that there was still some lingering, hard to shake off caution – the kind of caution both of them had had to cultivate, what with the work they did in and around the organized crime of the underground. It certainly wasn't on purpose yet that kind of vigilance was hard to let go off – even if you wanted to.

So really, there was no need to rush, they had time after all. Slow. That seemed to be a theme between them – but there was nothing wrong with taking it slow either; taking the time to get to know each other until a kind of familiar intimacy had established itself – a sense of belonging. Safe.

Shouta was confident that – with a bit of effort and patience – something like that might not be impossible between them. He hadn't felt this kind of comforting assurance in a long time – not since his late teens, back when he had still been more hopeful and bright eyed when it had come to relationships… before he had decided that maybe neither romance nor friendship were made for him.

Shouta couldn't quite suppress the wry smile appearing on his face as he watched Hizashi wash the dishes – humming some unknown melody. It seemed the blond man just unveiled all kind of things within Shouta; soft youthful ideas, things that seemed dangerously naive, fluttery and warm. A part of him pointed out that that might, in fact, not be the best thing, another – bigger – part of him leaned towards a more positive interpretation though.

He pushed himself up when he saw that Hizashi had finished washing up “I should get going.” he said.

“Yeah, I’ll have to be at the station soon. And I still have to get ready and stuff.” Hizashi gave back while he was drying his hands off. The blond man put the towel back into the kitchen counter and then turned to face Shouta “Well, I’ll take you to the door.”

“Afraid I might get lost otherwise?” it was a well-meaning tease.

Hizashi gave a soft laugh at that “Maybe.” he gave back smiling before he walked past Shouta “Or maybe I just want to see you off. You know? Get a goodbye kiss.” his tone had taken on a near flirtatious lilt, his gaze playful. Shouta followed after the other man, and not a minute later they stood in the entrance way – Hizashi leaning against the wall while Shouta pulled his shoes back on.

When the hero was done he straightened up again. For a heartbeat or two both man simply regarded each other and then Hizashi bridged what little distance there was between them. His hands rose up to bury themselves in Shouta's hair – he pulled and Shouta went easily, his own hands coming to a rest on Hizashi's waist as they closed the gap between their lips.

For a while they simply kissed, unhurried – nearly lazy, drawing out the moment – their bodies pressed together into a close embrace. Hizashi was the first to pull back again “Come back anytime, darling. I really enjoyed last night – and not only because of the desert after dinner.” there was a wry quirk to his mouth but his words sounded honest.

Shouta let out a snort at that, his own mouth drawing up just the slightest bit at the corners. He shook his head but chose not to comment, instead he leaned in again – both men sharing a few more gentle kisses.

Finally they parted again. Hizashi reached for his keys and stepped towards the door “I’ll be busy tonight, I think I might have found something interesting, so you don't have to come looking for me.” Hizashi said as he unlocked the door.

Shouta gave a soft hum to signal that he had heard.

“But maybe we could meet tomorrow?” Hizashi offered “Might have some new information for you then.” his eyes twinkled and he added “I might even part with it in exchange for a kiss or two.”

“You drive a hard bargain.” Shouta's face was serious as he said it, though his tone of voice betrayed him.

Hizashi laughed at that “Don’t I know it darling?” he lilted as he opened the door, his eyelashes fluttering slightly – as if he was still trying hard to tempt Shouta; for whatever reason “Text me when you'll be free the next time, yeah?” Shouta just nodded at that, giving a soft noise of agreement “Good. Try and be careful until then, hero.” Hizashi said before he leaned in, stealing another short, sweet kiss. They parted again barely a few second later.

Shouta only nodded solemnly “You too.” he said – Hizashi shot him a crooked smile at that and gave a short nod. Shouta lingered for a few more heartbeat, silently, and then he turned, making his way down the stairs – he heard the door close behind him.

The walk to his own apartment didn't take terribly long – it was unexpectedly quiet and Shouta took the time to mull a few things over.

Hizashi and him seemed to click surprisingly well – talking was easy, the morning after hadn't been awkward at all, no, it had felt more like something they had already done countless times before – normal, no pressure, bordering on familiar.

This dance they participated in was still halting, skirting a line, both of them struggling to unlearn certain behaviours – caution, distrust, wariness – both of them not yet fully comfortable with the steps they had to waltz… but they were getting there. Their movements were in sync with each other even if their steps were out of tune with the music – a piece they both weren't familiar with just yet, but learning, one note at a time, together.

To Shouta it was rather obvious that, sooner or later, one of them would step on the others feet – and that would be the time where they would find out if they truly worked together in the way they both seemingly hoped for. Would they play the song again and simply start from the top – failure in mind and unafraid to try again without hesitation – or would they clash and decide that another partner might work better for them.

It was a valid concern, really – they were both so different after all, opposites in every sense of the word, foils of each other nearly. It was questionable if it would always feel this easy and peaceful between them – questionable if they could find a middling ground that they were both satisfied with.

For a second movement caught Shouta's eyes as he walked past a small kiosk. The owner was laying out the magazines and newspapers of the day. One especially colourful – near garish – cover drew Shouta's gaze.

Where Has He Vanished To? The Potential Whereabouts of the Zip-tie-man! it read in a font that reminded Shouta vaguely of a bad slid-show presentation one of his pupils might present. His face darkened, a frown pulling his mouth down, his jaw jumping.

There was that too. Something that couldn't be ignored. For a second Shouta felt a strange mixture of emotions rolling through him as he was unkindly reminded of just who exactly he was dating. He let out an inaudible sigh – it would be so much simpler if they were nothing more than a radio host and a teacher. It would be so much simpler if there wasn't the added danger of someone or something else just barrelling into their life and knocking over everything they might build together. One slip was all it took.

Shouta took a consciously deep breath and then let it out slowly through his nose, unclenching his jaw and relaxing his facial muscles again. He shook his head and continued on his way.

This really wasn't an ideal situation for someone like him – someone who dodged attention like it was the plague, someone who was already hyper-aware of every gaze that lingered on him just slightly too long, someone who was still half convinced that he would one day just disappear like so many other underground heroes had over the years.

He wasn't in the habit of blindly putting his trust into something, of just closing his eyes and hoping things would just disappear or blow over… Still, he wanted to keep this relationship going so he would have to find a way to deal with his hyper-vigilance – one way or another.

He tipped his head into his neck for a moment, watching the clouds pass by before he dipped his head forwards again – continuing on his way home.

He had made his decision and sometimes all you could truly do was hope that whatever you had chosen would turn out fine – hope that you would be happy with your decision and that nothing bad would come from it later down the line. He had consciously chosen what road he wanted to walk down – he had consciously chosen Hizashi – and he wasn't the kind of man who turned back once he had made a decision. He was ready to see this through to the end, no matter what; for better or worse.

It didn't take all that much longer for him to arrive at his apartment. He closed the door behind himself and toed his shoes off before he made his way towards his bedroom. Once there he pulled his shirt off – he was just in the process of unclasping his belt buckle when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.

For a second his movement froze and then he let out an annoyed huff. He pulled out his phone and turned the screen on – he swore, if this was Kayama again with some banal, unimportant comment when she knew full well that he was usually catching up on sleep on the nights from Saturday to Sunday…

Shouta let out a long-suffering sigh, he felt his irritation slowly dissipating… sometimes he really wished he could be more angry about that – but he suspected Kayama just genuinely forgot about the fact that some people were neither awake nor eager to go out on a Sunday pre-noon.

He knew she meant well but she could also be so terribly overbearing that it wasn't even funny anymore. God knew why she had taken such an interest in him and had seemingly made it her personal quest to irritate him into ‘changing for the better’. Unfortunately for both of them Shouta just wasn't interested in changing anytime soon – he was happy with who he was – so this charade would likely go on until either Kayama had learned to finally take a hint or until Shouta's patience just snapped clean in half.

He drew up his messenger app and was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't Kayama with an invitation to drinks or something else. No. It was Hizashi.

Heya!! I just thumbed through my calender

I'm a bit busy next week :(

But I would have some time on Sunday afternoon, and there’s this movie I wanted to see

If you catch my drift ;p

Would you like to tag along?

It’s this new horror flick

Shouta blinked at the messages. He set his phone down for a second so he could finally pull his pants off before he sat down at the edge of the bed and pulled his phone close again. He typed out an answer: ‘I thought you got scared easily’

It took a second but then a small ellipse appeared at the upper corner of the screen. Shouta slipped under his blanket and waited.

Oh, you still remember that I said that?

I mean, yeah, I can be a bit of a scaredy cat

But I mean… how bad can it be?

Besides, if you go with me then I would have a big, strong man at my side who could protect me from the bad monster ;p

Shouta rolled his eyes at that, he could basically hear Hizashi's half teasing half flirtatious lilt in the words on his phone screen. ‘Fine’ he typed back and then a second later ‘I’m going to sleep now’.

Oh sorry, didn't want to keep you from napping

Sleep well darling <3

Shouta left it at that. There wasn't really anything to say – though there was a soft quirk to the corners of his mouth. He simply clicked the screen of his phone off again and settled down, pulling the blanket higher – ready to catch at least a few more hours of sleep.

He woke up again a little past noon. He got up and – after making himself a mug of coffee – he started filling out some of his still unfinished reports. He had opened an internet tab so he could listen in to the rest of Hizashi's segment. Time moved steadily as it was prone to, the sun moving surely towards the horizon.

“Well, with that we conclude today's show my dear listeners. I’ll leave you with three more of my personal favourite songs. And don't forget to take care of yourself, drink some water, get some stretches in and if you haven't had any breakfast today don't forget to at least get some late lunch or dinner. Get some rest too so you all can listen in again tomorrow all fresh and bright when its time for Put Your Hands Up Radio here at Hero FM. Hear you around, dear listeners!”

Hizashi's voice trailed off and soft music took its place. Shouta blinked at his laptop screen, his eyes were dry. His gaze moved from his laptop to the wall clock – was it really that late already? He blinked another time. He had forgotten to eat again – as he was prone to when he was focused on his work or any other task that caught his undivided attention.

Hizashi's last comment had been a reminder, hadn't it? It couldn't have been a mere coincident, not with someone like Hizashi… Was the other man worried about him and his eating habits after he had learned that Shouta was unable to eat in the morning? For a second Shouta felt himself become somewhat flustered.

He closed the internet window – the music cut off, his apartment falling completely silent. For a second he lingered where he was, body still and then his eyes scanned over the half finished report before him. Without thinking his fingers started their typing up again – he didn't like to leave stuff unfinished… his fingers stopped suddenly, hovering over the keyboard – but he also knew himself and he was sure that by the time he was finished with this report he would already have forgotten about food again.

He stared at the screen for a few long moments but in the end he let out a soft sigh and saved his current progress. He shut the lid of the laptop before he stood up and made his way into the kitchen so he could actually cook himself something decent for once.

This was… disruptive… but not necessarily in a bad way, Shouta thought as he fried some vegetables.

It felt like he was in the middle of a significant change, a major tilt in his day to day life. He had always liked routines, clear structures and – for the longest time now; more or less since the very moment they had met – Hizashi had been shaking and rattling at the foundation of his carefully composed every day life.

And, by now, the vigilante had successfully managed to shove his way right into Shouta's life – not unlike a whirlwind – and he had brought change along with him. And yet, surprisingly enough Shouta had willingly shifted his routine to accommodate for that change.

Shouta found that he didn't mind the new routine all that much, even if it might take him some time to get fully used to it.

Chapter Text

Before long the new school year had started and the children, energized from the break, poured back into the classroom – disgruntled about the fact that they had to return to their studies. It was understandable, sure – young people needed enough time to explore and refine themselves, their personality and character… Still, they didn't have to show their displeasure quite so blatantly, Shouta thought as he wrote a few catchwords onto the blackboard.

The classroom was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop – some students were half nodding off, not yet used to a ‘normal’ sleep rhythm again, some others were sullenly staring out the window, very rarely there was the noise of a page turning – originating from one or two pupils who were actually writing things down.

It wasn't like Shouta couldn't sympathise though. He was tired too, tired and utterly irritated, though that had nothing to do with school or his students – this time around it was his hero work that just seemed intent on draining him.

A while ago Hizashi had picked up on some rather vague rumours – drug and weapon deliveries that were far too big to merely be the work of some small time villains. A lot of money was changing hands and it seemed like no one had picked up on it till now. The whole thing had only gotten more suspicious when even Hizashi had hit a dead end in his investigations – which meant that everything was either held under tight wrap or that there weren't all that many people around who even knew what was happening there.

Both Hizashi and he had decided to pool their resources – meaning that Shouta was out and about hunting criminals and collaborating with the police to get his hands on known records while Hizashi was trying to figure out from where the information had originated from.

It was a frustrating case to be sure and it only seemed to get bigger and bigger the longer they worked on it.

By the time Hizashi had sombrely informed him that the person who had blabbered about the whole thing in the first place ‘hadn't turned up in their favourite bar for quite some time’ and ‘hadn’t been seen for a while’ - meaning they had quietly vanished all of a sudden – it became very clear that they had stumbled into something much more dangerous than they both had initially suspected.

It was at that point that they had both decided to take a few steps back – to take more time to plan their moves, cautious to not bite off more than they could chew at this moment where they didn't have a concrete picture of what was even going on. It was simply common sense that they tried to thread more lightly and act less heavy handed.

Which unfortunately also meant that new information trickled in at a nearly unbearably slow peace. Still, it was always better to be safe than sorry so they just had to bite the bullet on that front.

What was a little surprising though was the fact that while Shouta might be irritated and aggravated about all of it – the feeling of being useless and wasting time always trailing him – that was nothing compared to the way Hizashi had dug his teeth into the case, like a starved dog with a piece of meat.

Shouta actually believed that Hizashi who – up until not too long ago – had always been right on top of such things took this as a personal slight. As if he couldn't accept that there might be something that he couldn't figure out.

Shouta suppressed a sigh as he turned around – at his movement all eyes hastily flickered towards him, his pupils trying to hide that fact that at least half of them had been spacing out until that very second.

All of them had learned to respect him during their first year and non of them would dare to ignore him – afraid they might soon leave an empty chair behind like the other 2/3 of the class had during the first year.

The few left didn't need to be so worried though… not that Shouta did anything to discourage it either. Still, this were the last ones left, the ones that showed potential… the ones Shouta was confident would survive out there once they had their hero licence in hand. The ones that wouldn't be sucked dry by the industry only to be tossed aside. The ones that might be able to make a difference, and if they couldn't then they would at least be able to make a living.

Truthfully speaking, Shouta believed in them. He saw a fire – a kind of determination – in their eyes, something that wouldn't be snuffed out no matter how hard everyone out there might try… Still, they didn't have to know that, least they started to feel too comfortable and got lazy.

“Do any of you have questions regarding today’s lesson?” he asked. He was met with a handful of empty stares in answer. He waited a little longer just to be sure – there were always some students who were more hesitant or shy about asking questions, and they often needed a little longer to make up their mind about if they should raise their hand or not.

As it became clear though that, no, no one wanted to put their hand up Shouta spoke up again “You may go.”

Immediately all the children jumped up and rushed to put their things away – it barely took a minute before they had all filtered out of the door. Shouta shook his head and set about packing his own things. He cleaned the blackboard and then made his way towards the teachers lounge, half his mind still circling around the case in the same way it had done near non-stop for the past few weeks.

He set his folder down onto his table and then grabbed his mug before he made a beeline towards the coffee machine. A few moments later he sat down in front of his computer, a fresh mug of coffee in hand.

He opened the time table, wondering… He should really start handing out the first pop quiz of the year soon but it was questionable if he would even have enough time to correct them, especially since he had only just finished the questions two days ago – what with the case eating up most of his down time. Really, it had taken him nearly embarrassingly long just to finish a simple pop quiz, he didn't want to know how long it might take him to actually correct it.

Still, he couldn't push it back indefinitely… Maybe if he put it for Wednesday next week… but wasn't that too close to the first physical exam of the year? He knew that the pupils usually spent the week before the physical tests training and in that time they often neglected their other classes and subjects.

Maybe this Friday would be better? He would have the whole weekend to correct it then. He would just have to lay the necessary time to do it aside – no matter what Hizashi's or his own investigations might turn up until then.

Or maybe…

“How’s your successor doing?” the sudden unexpected question ripped Shouta out of his mussing. He blinked in momentary confusion before he raised his gaze over the top of his computer so he could shot Kayama opposite of him an irritated look.

The woman just grinned, her lipstick purple lips pulling back slightly to show the upper row of her teeth. It was clear she wouldn't leave it alone – like a dog with a bone. Shouta let out an annoyed huff and decided that the best course of action would be to just answer her and get it over with. The faster he dealt with her the faster he could go back to his lesson plans after all.

“He’s not my successor.” he gave back, voice gruff – a near scoff. The last thing he needed right now was to be reminded of the millstone around his neck – the one person that, at the moment, made his life even more complicated and erratic than it already was, made him jump through unnecessary hoops.

After the person Hizashi had looked for had ‘vanished’ - which, really, was probably just a nice way of saying ‘had been taken care of’ – Shouta had spent a good portion of his day in the police station – talking to officers, flipping through old folders, poking around cold cases… searching for some kind of link, something that might point a finger at something similar, a new lead, maybe even someone they could track.

Unfortunately while he had been talking to one of the officers about the case another hero had by chance walked past them and had taken an interest for whatever reason – and even though both the officer and Shouta had made it quite clear that he shouldn't get involved… their warnings and sentiments had fallen on deaf ears though.

Afterwards said young hero had decided that he wanted to get in on ‘the action’ – and that wording alone had already made Shouta's eyes want roll back. He had managed to shake the overly annoying man though and had – more or less – made a run for it, slipping away before the other hero could get any more information on either the case or Shouta himself.

Unfortunately the young man had still managed to get his hands on said information anyway – maybe he had somehow sweet talked the police into sharing it or maybe – more likely – he had simply been so annoying that the chief had just surrendered in hopes of shaking the man off.

So now Shouta had another hero trailing after him like a lost puppy – trying to intercept him or get his attention some other way… Which just made everything much harder than it needed to be really. Before, he could simply seek Hizashi out during the night, share information with him immediately – bounce ideas back and forth and plan their next steps… but now he was forced to always look over his shoulder in case he was followed by the other hero, because, no matter how other Shouta just snapped at him to stay away it was akin to talking to a wall.

True, Shouta was too fast for the other man – the way he moved and jumped over the roofs of the city too hard to follow – yet Shouta didn't want to test his luck. If the other hero realized where he was going – seeking out Hizashi – it would be a huge risk for the vigilantes safety and anonymity. And Shouta wasn't about to blow the other mans cover just because of his own negligence.

Shouta let out an annoyed sigh. He really didn't know how he always ended up in situations like that when he always tried his best to avoid others. He just walked through his life and on his way other people suddenly decided they wanted to stick themselves to him like old gum. Shouta really wished he knew a way to make that stop.

One of the worst things to come from all of this this was the fact that Hizashi and him were unable to see each other… at least unless it was as civilians. Which brought another pile of annoyances with it.

If they wanted to talk about the case they now could only do that in their down-time when both of them were free. Which meant that their work ended up bleeding into their ‘couple time’ … and so their dates – the time that should have been reserved for only them – had slowly turned into lengthy discussions about their case, and information trading, and speculations…

It was all a right mess. Truly.

“What’s his name again?” Kayama asked, tapping her finger against her lower lip in fake contemplation “Oh yes, Outbreak!” she snapped her fingers as if she had just been enlightened “Just a young hero in his early to mid twenties, following you for no reason. Sure, definitely not your successor. How silly of me.”

Shouta shot the woman opposite of him a withering look “He is not my successor.” he repeated, more forceful, more emphasis on the third word, his voice nearly a growl “He is an annoyance at best and a death weight at worst. All he does is get in my way.”

Kayama blinked at him, her teasing grin slowly falling off her face. She put her elbow on the table and propped her cheek onto her fist “Isn't that a bit harsh?” she asked, voice turning a little more serious, her blue eyes watching him curiously from behind her cat-eye glasses.

Shouta let out another sigh, his drawn up shoulders dropping a little – losing some of their tension. God, he was just exhausted what with everything that was currently going on. He resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose.

He held Kayama's gaze as he spoke, making sure the woman knew he wasn't kidding “No” he answered bluntly. Kayama's brows furrowed at that in displeasure and Shouta let out a huff of air through his nose, deciding that it would be best to elaborate so Kayama would be able to understand his thought process “Form what the police and Outbreak himself told me it seems that he is a small time hero, working for an equally small agency. It is rather obvious that he is trying to use this whole case as a springboard into the lime light.”

Kayama's expression turned thoughtful at that, her filled brows drawing together slightly “Building a career on the back of others.” he concluded “Well, he wouldn't be the first. But don't you think you're a little too fast there? Maybe he’s just impressed with the work you do – maybe he realized he wants to be a part of that?”

Shouta gave a snort “It needs a special kind of person to become an underground hero and believe me, he isn't that kind of person. You should hear him talk.” he shook his head. He had been a teacher long enough – raising the following generations of heroes – and he knew when he saw potential, he also knew when he didn't – and in the case of Outbreak he didn't see much of anything “Even if he has no ulterior motives” Shouta conceded “-he is doing more harm than good. I really don't need someone else running around and potentially tipping off the criminals I'm after. At this point he’s a liability to me.”

Truthfully, the only thing that kept Shouta from constantly looking over his shoulder was the fact that Outbreak didn't know anything about him except the things that just couldn't be hidden – his last name and hero name, for example. Which, in Shouta's opinion, was already too much – Outbreak didn't really seem like the person who could keep a secret and that made Shouta very wary.

Fortunately Outbreak would very likely not get any other information about Shouta from anyone else – since everyone who had ever worked with Shouta either was keenly aware of his desire for privacy and wouldn't dare risk his wrath by tattling.

Kayama let out a soft hum, seemingly mulling everything he had said over, her purple lips pulling down the slightest bit at the corners “Have you tried talking to him?”

Shouta let out a noise that was somewhere between an irritated huff and a sardonic scoff “Tried.” he snorted sarcastically. ‘Tried’ was the keyword there – he had tried multiple times in fact but no matter what he said it just bounced off the other man. It was like there was a force field around him that repelled any and all common sense before it could even attempt to reach his brain.

“What’s his quirk anyway?” Kayama asked, trying to keep the conversation going.

“Energy Blast.” Shouta gave back, slowly but surely becoming irritated that the woman just wouldn't drop it.

“I didn't think you knew that. Did you ask?”

“No. I have been told – multiple times” he huffed back – Outbreak was very proud of his quirk, overconfident really. All in all it really wasn't a bad quirk for hero work – Outbreak basically was able to bundle ambient energy and then direct it as a concentrated blast. Yet Outbreak also gave of that very special vibe that told Shouta that he liked to rely on his quirk much too often – too cocky, too self-assured.

It was quiet for several long moments and Shouta let out an internal breath of relieve as he turned back to his computer screen. His mind focusing back on his work… maybe if he put the pop quiz at the beginning of next week he could…

His phone vibrated mutely in his pocket and he grit his teeth in annoyance – he swore he could feel his pulse pounding at his neck. His hand reached down to pull his phone out of his hero costume. He clicked the screen on – one new text message. His jaw jumped. He unlocked the screen and pulled up his messenger app.

His bad mood mellowed out nearly immediately as he saw that the text was from Hizashi.

Heya! You wanna meet up for an early dinner later?

You know, after I'm done with my show and before you have to get ready for your patrol?

His eyes flickered to his computer screen for a moment, taking in all the different documents that he had opened up – remembering all the things he had to do. He had planned to stay in after his last class, so he could try and get on top of his work a little – really, he had time to goof around… Then again… maybe Hizashi had some information on the case, maybe that was the reason why he had texted.

At least that was what Shouta told himself to rationalize the fact that he was already in the process of typing out an affirmative. A much less rational part of his mind was actually hoping that this wouldn't turn out to be a mere work related meeting.

… Hizashi and he hadn't been able to find time to see each other for nearly a week by now – and maybe Shouta just found himself missing the other mans easy company and his bubbly nature… their comfortable closeness, having someone there right beside him… There was nothing wrong with that though – missing his lover. And there was nothing wrong with trying to find the time – or to find an excuse to make the time – to meet up at least once a week.

Shouta had been neck deep in old police reports and lesson plans and pop quiz question for days now, while still going on patrol – working through his free days as well, doggedly trying to find some useful clue…

He was exhausted – so maybe it wouldn't be so bad to just… sit down for a while and think of something else beside work, just a little breather wouldn't hurt, now would it?

Shouta hated those times where his conscientiousness nagged at him and told him that there was no time to do anything else but work while his mind tried to rationalize that relaxing – at least for a little while – was fine… he was arguing with himself again…

Thankfully it barely took a second before a small ellipse appeared at the top of the phone screen – ripping him out of his circling thoughts – and then, a moment later, Hizashi's response popped up on the screen.

Awesome!!

Let’s go to that family restaurant we’ve been at before

This early they should still have some tables that don't need a reservation.

Meet you there! Typical time

Looking forward to seeing you darling <3 I miss looking at your pretty eyes <3<3

Shouta couldn't quite suppress the small smile that pulled the corners of his mouth up just the slightest bit as he read that last line. He really didn't know what Hizashi found so fascinating about his flat, blank stare but Shouta wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

“What are you smiling at?” Kayama's voice sing-songed and the warm expression immediately feel off Shouta's face again. He stuffed his phone back into his pocket.

“Non of your business.” he gave back, blunt and direct – no embellishment. Kayama wasn't deterred by it though. A near sharkish grin split her face, her eyes twinkling – full of mischief.

“Aww don't be such a sourpuss!” she chuckled “You just smiled at your phone. I saw it with my own two eyes.” she suddenly let out a fake-scandalized gasp, one of her hands raising to press against her chest “Don't tell me you actually made a friend?” behind all the joking and sarcasm was a spark of real surprise though – honest shock in her eyes.

Shouta's jaw jumped at that. Kayama's behaviour was utterly infantile at the moment – and her words were nearly belittling.

Rationally Shouta knew that that was just who Kayama was – getting involved, putting in her own two cents no matter if she had been asked, playful and nosy, often overbearing… sometimes accidentally hurtful. Shouta knew that there wasn't a malicious intent… but it felt like it sometimes… Like a child giddily skipping home after writing a C in a subject they previously only had F’s in, and the first thing their parent would say was ‘You know that a C still isn't an A’ – not necessarily meant to be insulting yet it still left a sour taste.

“If I did, it still would be non of your business.” Shouta gave back, voice low and borderline angry – maybe a little too harsh, yet he couldn't feel guilty about it when it felt so much like Kayama was ridiculing him. As if she genuinely couldn't believe that he might be able to get close to other people without help or without being forced into it.

“I am truly hurt! Here I thought we were finally getting along – the shopping, and our passionate coffee date and harassing the police together but now you tell me that you found someone else already?! I am heartbroken! I thought we had something special!” her head was tipped back, her lower lip wobbling as she put everything into her acting – under different circumstances it might even be impressive; the way Kayama managed to pitch her voice just so with a slight quiver to each syllable, the way she positioned her body, her facial expression. She would have made an incredible actress.

It wasn't a different situation though and so all her acting did was irritate Shouta even more than he already was – rubbing salt right into the wound. He grit his teeth, his jaw jumping.

“God damn it, woman! Let the poor guy work.” Snipe suddenly sighed from his table – his voice exasperated “Better yet, let all of us work in peace. No one can concentrate with you jabbering on and on like that.”

Kayama's expression immediately became annoyed, she swung around in her chair “No one asked you, Cowboy. Did no one ever tell you that it is bad behaviour to interrupt a conversation?”

“Have your conversation somewhere else then! This is a work space and – big surprise – people are trying to get their work done. Oh, shoot! Just imagine that!” the last part was utterly drenched in sarcasm.

Kayama shot something back but Shouta had by now already tuned the noise out. He never thought that a day might come where he was actually thankful for this strange animosity between Kayama and Snipe when he usually always rolled his eyes at them… well, life was just full of surprises sometimes wasn't it?

His eyes settled on the lesson plan on his screen again – he would simply do the pop quiz on Friday, he decided then and there. That seemed reasonable enough, he thought. He saved and double saved his documents and then turned the computer off. He gulped down the rest of his by now cold coffee and then grabbed all his papers and his folder, stuffing them under his armpit before he made a beeline for the door – leaving the still ongoing bickering behind and finding himself a quieter place to work at.

Sure, all his important documents might be on the computer but he still had to come up with the questions for the first real test of the year – he couldn't write a decent report if he only had pop quiz grades after all – and fortunately he had always preferred to write those kind of questions down by hand. For him it was simply easier that way – when he was able to retrace his thought process, crossing out things and rewording others.

And really, it wasn't so bad to get a head start on the test questions either… far away from the teacher lounge… maybe in some nook or cranny where no one would every think to search for him… maybe behind some bookcases in the library, in some dim corner where no one every strayed to – that sounded good.

“Hey! Wait!” Shouta heard Kayama's voice shout from behind him – he quickened his pace near unconsciously “You still have to tell me who your new bosom buddy is! Aizawa-san!!” He hastily dipped around a corner and down the stairs.

Maybe he wouldn't have to downright flee from the teacher room if Kayama could just… learn. Shouta knew that she was a smart and kind woman underneath it all – yet she had an obvious problem when it came down to actually listening to other people.

Most often it seemed like Kayama just saw a problem in certain behaviours or happen-stances, so – obviously meaning well – she decided to get involved and help with the ‘problem’. The thing just was that, once she had made up her mind about something she should couldn't be stopped anymore. It often seemed like Kayama believed she knew best – even better than the people she tried to actually help out.

It had been like that between them from the very beginning – Kayama had taken one look at him and had then spontaneously decided that she had to help him get out more, find people to befriend with, drag him to parties and what not. And no matter how often Shouta told her ‘no’ no matter how often he tried to explain that he was content with things the way they were… she just wouldn't listen. It was clear that she didn't believe that Shouta could ever be happy with his current life – she wanted to be the hero who helped an ‘antisocial mess’ find some friends, no matter if said ‘antisocial mess’ even wanted that.

Truthfully Shouta had hoped that her whole behaviour would get a little better, that she might have learned something – after all she hadn't seemed pushy the few times they had meet up before, in fact, their conversation, while rather one sided, had been pleasant enough. Kayama had talked about her work, the things she liked, hobbies – and Shouta had listened; that was simply how he preferred things to go.

It had been… nice, honestly – and Shouta had found himself questioning if he hadn't been a bit too harsh to Kayama all those years. Maybe he had just tried to block out other people so much that he hadn't been able to see a genuine attempt at friendship… maybe befriending Kayama wouldn't be so bad after all it seemed like she could behave herself if she really wanted to…

But no. After today it was clear enough that Kayama just couldn't leave it alone – using every opportunity to bring the old subject up again – teasing and prodding and pushing… sometimes borderline ridiculing.

Shouta knew that that wasn't Kayama's intention at all but it still felt just like it – like some unholy amalgamation between a bully pointing a finger and laughing at the friendless kid of the class and the good, well-meaning Samaritan trying to help said kid find some friends.

This too had just been another branch of the same old discussion they had had for years now: Oh, you have a friend now? – the shocked expression, the disbelieve in her eyes. Well, I told you so didn't I? I told you that you should get involved with other people – haughty and dogmatic. Tell me who it is. I'm sure I can do something more – nosy and self-martyring, believing it wouldn't be done right if she didn't do it herself.

It was well intentioned, truly it was – Shouta had known Kayama long enough now to know that all of it came from a place of genuine kind-heartedness… but as people were prone to say: The way to hell was paved with good intentions.

Some days Shouta thought Kayama was actually trying to get to know him better as a person – other days he wasn't so sure about that. And like he has said, it wasn't that he was necessarily opposed to befriending Kayama… but the thing was that she would first need to learn some boundaries before Shouta would even seriously consider it… and some days it just seemed like she never would…

Thankfully the rest of the school day passed by without much of a hitch – and after his last class of the day was done Shouta decided to spent the remaining time until his meeting with Hizashi with work. At some point his phone alarm went off – the one he had specifically set so he wouldn't accidentally forget the time – so he packed up and made his way out of the school, heading to the family restaurant.

The walk was quiet and uneventful and he reached the restaurant soon enough. He entered and found himself a boot towards the back – it was easy for him to trail his gaze over the whole room, the entrance right in his field of view. He waved for a waitress and ordered himself a cup of coffee.

He was already on his second cup of coffee when Hizashi finally entered the small restaurant. The blond man let his eyes trail over the room and when they settled on Shouta a grin lit up his entire face. While Hizashi made his way to the table Shouta caught the attention of the waitress and flagged her over – she nodded as a sign that she would be there in a bit.

The fake leather upholstery of the chair creaked as Hizashi sat himself down – his chest was heaving slightly, as if he had ran. He looked hurried as well, Shouta noticed, with his long hair tangling at the tips, his glasses slightly askew… the circles under his eyes, just dark enough to be noticeable if you knew what to look for.

Shouta felt his face pulling down into a concerned frown “Are you feeling fine?” he asked.

Hizashi's concentric eyes fixed on him. He blinked in surprise “What?” he squawked before an expression of understanding settled on his face “Oh!” his grin softened, growing warmer “Yeah. Just tired is all. I have been visiting some special places the last few days and it got a bit late.” he said and reached on of his hands over the table, curling his fingers around Shouta's wrist reassuringly – he gave a slight squeeze, thumb brushing up and down for a while before he pulled his arm back again as soon as the waitress approached their table. A moment later Shouta felt Hizashi's legs brushing against his under the table, as the blond man settled for a less obvious point of contact between them.

The typical spiel happened as both men ordered their early dinner, and after the waitress had disappeared again, Shouta uncurled one of his hands from where he had them wrapped around his coffee cup. He laid it smack in the middle of the table, palm raised upwards – expectantly.

“I told you before, if you need some kind of physical contact it is fine.” he curled his fingers slightly, a beckoning motion. Hizashi's eyes flickered between Shouta's hand and his dark stare for a few seconds before he reached out his own hand, clasping it around Shouta's, twisting and pulling at it until their fingers were able to tangle together – a gentle hold.

“We’re in public.” Hizashi pointed out – unnecessarily – and Shouta let out a snort.

“We are holding hands, it is not like we are having sex on the table.” he said teasingly – though he had to admit that he appreciated the sentiment, this fact that Hizashi was obviously willing to compromise on his own wants and needs so Shouta wouldn't feel uncomfortable.

Hizashi wrinkled his nose at that “That’s disgusting, like, just think what’s on this table… on second thought: Don't think about it. Yuck!” he stuck his tongue out and gave a fake retch “Come back when you can offer me a clean table to do it on – I have standards after all.” he added, teasingly.

Shouta just gave a soft, slightly amused hum at that, his thumb starting up a stroking motion – caressing gently up and down the other mans knuckles “So you were up and about the last few nights. Did you at least find out something useful?”

Hizashi let out an annoyed sounding sigh and used his free hand to prop his chin up “Generally speaking? Oh, I could tell you stories darling! Actually useful for what we are working on right now? Nah. Nothing. Nada. Niente. Non. Just-” here he blew out a raspberry, his expression obviously miffed. For a second it was silent between them before Hizashi asked “What about you? Did you find anything?”

Shouta shook his head “I followed the trail of a few of the people we suspected but they all turned out to be dead ends. I'm going to continue tonight.”

Hizashi hummed “Yeah. I mean, they can’t all be duds.” he said, though every word sounded more doubtful than the last. Another few seconds of silence “How’s school going?”

Shouta gave a half shrug “As always. I’m half finished with the first big test of the year.”

Hizashi's brows drew down “Isn’t it a bit soon for a big test?”

A hum “Yes, but I just want to finish it in advance so I won’t have to worry about it too much anymore.” he took a sip of his coffee before he continued “How is the bi-annual fundraiser coming along?”

The blond man let out a sardonic scoff “Everyone of the guests we invited to the show can hand in a list of songs they want and there are so many who just hand in too many songs – even though they knew there was a limit! So now I'm working on balancing it out, while also adding more modern music to whatever howling some of them want so that it at least won’t sound like someone drags two cats down a chalkboard – I'm trying to make it sound like one cat at max… Maybe a kitten if I'm lucky. I hate people who can’t follow simple instructions. The song limit was ten, why are you giving me a list with twenty songs? What are you expecting me to do with it? I swear I can already hear the bitching!” he pressed the heel of his free hand against his brow “Future-me will have to deal with that crap though, because current-me really has no patience for that stuff right now. I'm tired and hungry.”

Shouta gave a soft, soothing noise at that, his voice pitched low and darker “Maybe you should rest tonight.” he offered. Hizashi just shot him a wry grin.

“I can rest when I'm dead… Also just look at the pot trying to call out the kettle!” the blond man snickered “At this point your dark circles will soon look like smudged eyeliner, like, do you remember the time where everyone had like, raccoon eyes? Just black eyeliner and eyeshadow over the entire eye?” Hizashi was giggling.

“What was that about pot and kettle? At this rate you will soon look like that too.” Shouta shot back, his tone amused.

“Eye bag partner look! It’s gonna be the new hot thing on the walkways. Just you wait!” Hizashi tittered. His giggling calmed down a little when the waitress appeared at their table again, placing down Hizashi's coffee and their food. They unclasped their hands and started to eat – mostly in silence.

“Did you get rid of the dunce by now?” Hizashi asked, voice nearly nonchalant, as he pushed his empty plate a little more towards the middle of the table – out of the way, so he could bow closer to Shouta, both his elbows on the table top.

Shouta snorted “I wish.” he gave back, the eye-roll audible in his tone before he finished his own dinner. He saw Hizashi wrinkling his nose slightly, face pinching as if he had just swallowed something disgusting – the expression disappeared again barely a second later.

Shouta took a sip from his by now cold coffee, one hand wrapping around the cup while he reached the other one out again. It took a moment or two but then Hizashi slowly – nearly hesitantly – brushed one of his own hand over the table till his fingers bumped into Shouta's – he curled his fingers around Shouta's palm and squeezed gently, thumb momentarily brushing over the hero’s knuckles.

There was a long pause and then “I don't like that guy.” Hizashi finally said, there was a furrow between his brows, an uncertain glint in his eyes as he chewed on his bottom lip – his thumb had by now started to stroke over Shouta's inner wrist, passing over the pulse point over and over.

Shouta regarded the other man for a while but in the end he let out a hum – a neutral sound, no affirmation and no denial. Truthfully Shouta didn't like Outbreak either, there was something about the other man that just rubbed him the wrong way, something in his gaze that involuntarily made Shouta's face darken into a frown. He couldn't put his finger on why exactly yet it made him bristle all the same.

And yet… Hizashi had never meet the other hero face to face – had only gathered information on him and then shared it with Shouta… and Shouta was rather sure that Hizashi knew a lot more about Outbreak than he had actually shared with him… probably things that weren't really important and that Shouta didn't care for, like personal details for example.

All of that made Shouta wonder a little… did Hizashi simply disliked Outbreak for his personality – like Shouta did – or was it because for more… personal reasons? Was this simply two people not clicking or something more akin to jealousy? Shouta hadn't really pegged Hizashi for a jealous person… then again it wouldn't be a surprise for him either…

In the end it was hard to say… Maybe that was the reason for Hizashi's strange expression right now as well – maybe the vigilante wasn't too sure from where exactly his displeasure steamed from either?

In the end Hizashi's face smoothed out again “I don't like him.” he said again and then fell silent. His free hand turned his coffee cup around on its saucer – round and round.

“Maybe we both just need a free day.” Hizashi finally spoke up again – he lifted his cup and knocked back whatever coffee was left in it “You know? A day where we can just kick back a little. Before we become too unfocused and irritated with everything, like, hell, I feel like everything is just pissing me off as of late. It might do us some good, you know, clear our minds, yes? Are you free this weekend?”

Shouta gave a slightly rueful smile “I want to have a pop quiz tomorrow and then correct it over the weekend.”

Hizashi's face darkened a little at that “Wait a second!” he burst out as if he was afraid Shouta might run away any second now “I have to check something.” he said and pulled his hand away from Shouta's. He fished his phone out of his pocket and started tapping on the screen giving soft ‘hum’s and ‘ha’s as he looked at whatever he had pulled up.

“Well, my calendar tells me that I would be able to push my stuff around a little and clear out my Saturday? How’s that? Next week, Saturday? That fine with you?”

Shouta frowned as he thought it over in the end he nodded “Yes, I'm free then.”

“Goody!” Hizashi grinned and put his phone away, his right hand reaching over the table again to wrap around Shouta's left “Then that's a date! We can meet up at noon so you can sleep in a little longer. Oh! We can go down town, I really wanted to try out that one cafe there – they supposedly have amazing layered cakes. And as far as I know they also have crepes, filled with like ham and cheese and stuff, so you can eat something too, since you aren't all that big on sweet stuff. Sounds good?” Hizashi's tone was excited and full of smiles, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

Shouta gave a grunt in agreement, his left pointer and middle finger rubbing softly over Hizashi's pulse point on his wrist.

“Amazing!” Hizashi cheered “Maybe we can look around in some of the shops afterwards. And then go have dinner later. We could get something delivered, go to my place or yours. Have a nice evening.” here Hizashi's tone of voice suddenly turned into a coquettish lilt “Maybe have a really nice evening.” he emphasises his words with a raise of his brow.

“If you want to.” Shouta agreed easily, a wry quirk to the corners of his mouth. They had had precious little time to meet up over the last few weeks and Shouta would be a lair if he said that he hadn't thought about sex with Hizashi. Some days he hadn't thought about it at all, some others it had seemingly been the only thing his mind had been able to hone onto during the few moments where he hadn't been busy with either work or sleeping.

“Oh darling.” Hizashi lilted softly, fluttering his fair lashes “You know I want to. I-” here he suddenly trailed of, he blinked, his green eyes focusing on something over Shouta's shoulder. Another blink and then his eyes widened in shock “Aw crap!” he exclaimed “Its gotten so late already! Sorry, darling, I’ll have to cut this short. I have to be somewhere in half an hour.” he looked around the restaurant – probably trying to find a waitress he could flag down to pay.

“Just go. I will pay for you too.” Shouta said easily, giving a shrug. For a second Hizashi's mouth pulled back into something close to a grimace.

“But it’s my turn to pay!” he protested – nearly whined really – though his eyes flickered back over Shouta's shoulder. Shouta followed his gaze and saw a wall clock hanging on the far side of the restaurant.

“Just pay the next two times in a row then. This isn't rocket science.” Shouta said simply and shrugged again.

“Thanks darling!” Hizashi said and it sounded truly grateful. He drew his hand away from Shouta's and then downright jumped from his chair. He brushed his clothes off, smoothing out some wrinkles and then – seemingly unconsciously – leaned over Shouta who was still sitting.

The blond man stopped mid-motion a second later though – as if he had just realized what he was doing. A slightly sheepish smile appeared on his face “Sorry.” it was a near squawk.

Shouta let out a fondly-annoyed huff and raised his right hand – he crooked his pointer finger curling it under Hizashi's chin, his thumb just below the other mans bottom lip before he pulled him down the rest of the way.

Two pairs of chapped lips slanted against each other in a slow, chaste kiss. It barely lasted more than a few seconds and then they parted again.

Hizashi's own two hands rose upwards to cup around Shouta's jaw, thumbs brushing over stubble “See you Saturday, at the latest.” he near whispered and Shouta just hummed back lowly in answer. They drew away completely then, Hizashi brushing over his clothes again and then through his hair a few times – trying to get the worst tangles out – before he gave a grin and a wave before he turned around.

Shouta watched the other man rush out of the restaurant and then waited a minute or two more before he raised his hand and flagged down a waitress. He emptied his cup of coffee while the woman made her way towards his table and then paid the bill before he stood up as well.

He still had his own work to get back to and it wouldn't do to dawdle. After all, he hated sitting on his hands when there was still more to be done.

Chapter Text

The days passed in a blur, bleeding into one another to the point where his lesson plan was the thing that most reliably informed Shouta about what date it currently was. Teaching was the usual routine, nothing worth mentioning happened; hero work was dragging, leading from one dead end to the next – to the point where Shouta actually found himself wishing that something would happen, just anything that might give them a lead, or a hint.

It was an unusual thought for sure – since Shouta normally was more than content with uneventful, boring days. After all if there was nothing for him to do then it meant that less criminals were up and about which automatically meant that less people were in danger of falling victim to crimes. A boring day for a hero was a peaceful day for civilians.

And yet, with his current case, he was very aware of the fact that there was something going on, hidden behind a curtain – and the fact that he didn't make any steps forward just meant that some criminal organization was running rampant without anyone there to stop them or even notice that they were there in the first place. And that knowledge drove him up the walls.

On Friday – well, actually very early morning on Saturday – he flopped onto his bed, exhausted and annoyed and utterly irritated – twitchy and feeling useless with how little progress he had made with the case. He hated feeling useless, it wore him down, made him question himself and the things he did, made him feel like dead weight – a burden on everyone else.

Doing nothing, your fault if something happens, why aren't you helping… His thoughts were spiralling, louder and louder – why are you laying down? You did nothing! No progress, there’s no time to rest...

He grit his teeth, his jaw jumping – he had half a mind to just get up again and work on more test questions, or go over the lessons for the next weeks, or clean the flat – even though he knew it was already spotless – just do something… keep busy…

But he could feel the burn of his eyes – cold and vicious behind his closed lids – could feel the way his body felt slightly off – overworked and just the tiniest bit sluggish. So he simply took a deep breath and crawled under the sheets of his bed.

He needed to rest – his rational mind told his anxious, illogical emotions; he wouldn't be of any use if he continued like this, his productivity would just suffer under his sleep deprivation to the point where he truly became useless.

It really was one of those nights where Shouta found himself desperately wishing that the human body wouldn't need all this babying – sleep was such a waste of time, truly, he could think of so many things he could do right now – productive things – but no, instead he was laying in a bed doing absolutely nothing. He knew – rationally – that sleep was important for a healthy mind and body – yet that knowledge alone did very little to placate his overworked and restless mind.

Hizashi had been right, Shouta thought as he turned onto his side – trying to find an acceptable sleeping position – it was high time that both of them took a day off… just doing whatever came to their minds, no work or talk of work. Just a little breather… before one or both of them ran themselves into the ground.

Honestly, it was a good thing that it was already Saturday. Shouta had truly been looking forward to their date later today – he would be lying if he said that he wasn't missing Hizashi's company and his bubbly personality.

Still, there wouldn't be much to enjoy if he couldn't find at least a few hours of sleep – which was easier said than done, what with the part of his mind that screamed at him to get up and work. It was the same part that whispered that a date day was wasted time that could be spent doing something ‘worthwhile’.

In the end Shouta pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth right behind his hard palate and exhaled forcefully through his mouth before he inhaled silently through his nose again, hold the breath, exhale through the mouth again. Repeat. Repeat… repeat…

Slowly, very slowly, he felt his clamouring mind settle down and once the urgent need to move had settled down his body easily caught up on with how utterly tired it was and barely a minute later Shouta finally feel asleep.

Fortunately his sleep wasn't interrupted by noises or anything else and he was only woken up again by the blaring of his phone alarm. He let out a soft huff, taking a moment to just lay still where he was, face half pressed into the pillow, before he finally reached his arm out and grabbed his phone off the night stand.

He silenced his alarm and, after another short second of something akin to mental preparation, he pushed himself up.

It was only half past eleven – which meant he had enough time to get ready and maybe drink a coffee before Hizashi would pick him up; the time gap between waking up and actually meeting Hizashi would also give his stomach enough time to settle – so he would actually be able to eat something.

Still tired and sleep ruffled he made his way into the bathroom. Sometimes he idly wondered where he might have gotten his morning nausea from. As far as he knew his father never had to deal with things like that. Maybe from his mother? He certainly didn't know enough about her to either disprove or affirm that particular idea… His mother had always been a rather precarious topic – thin ice, so to speak.

Not that it was anything worth dwelling on. Shouta knew everything he needed to know and everything else was of no interest to him.

He brushed his teeth and after he was done he took a moment to comb a hand through his hair – the strands felt a little greasy to the touch. He heaved out a noiseless sigh and started to pull his clothes off, grabbing a towel out of the small bathroom cabinet and draping it over the edge of the sink before he made his way towards the shower. He regulated the temperature of the water for a few moments before he decided that it was good enough the way it was. He stepped under the spray.

While he was lathering up his hair his mind idly drew back to the previous topic it had circled – or at least a variation of it. Hizashi and he had been together of some time now and while Shouta was still hesitating to use words like ‘stable’ or ‘constant’ or ‘sure’ he would be lying if he said that he couldn't see something lasting developing between them in the not too far future.

Hizashi and he just… clicked, if that was the right word. There was an understanding there between them, something that felt all too easy and familiar – something warm, a sense of acceptance and recognition.

Where Shouta had previously always struggled to try and convey his workaholic nature to his other partners – had tried to justify himself and his behaviours only to be meet with confusion or sometimes even hostility – in Hizashi he now had someone who understood him intimately when it came to that particular aspect of his personality.

Furthermore Hizashi just had a way of breaking his day to day routine up – not in an overly disruptive way that made him feel off-kilter or as if he was forced to do something he didn't want to, no, but instead in a gentler, near coaxing way. A careful, soft, suggesting nudge during the times when Shouta was so set on his current task that he was unable to think beyond what was right in front of him – unable to think about other things that might be important.

They both were slowly learning and uncovering more about each other, about their peculiarities, their ticks and certain quirks that they had and – so far at least – they had taken all of it in stride. Shouta hadn't yet found a thing about Hizashi that annoyed or irritated him to the point where he felt like he had to draw a line… in fact, more often than not, he had noticed that he found those small peculiarities that Hizashi exhibited strangely… endearing.

He rinsed his hair out and then washed the rest of his body before he turned the water off again and stepped out of the shower. He grabbed the towel on the sink and rubbed himself dry. He ruffled the towel through his hair.

When his hair was dry enough so it wouldn't drip everywhere he flung the towel in the hamper with the other dirty laundry and made his way back to his bedroom. He opened the wardrobe and got dressed, he grabbed his phone before he padded into the kitchen on socked feet – turning on the coffee machine.

While he leaned against the kitchen counter and waited for his coffee machine to stop its sputtering he turned the screen of his phone on – five past noon. He clicked the screen off again, his dark gaze falling out of the window, looking at the wall of the opposing building that was blocking both the sun and the view nearly completely.

Hizashi would be here in roughly half an hour to get him… That too was new, and strange but not necessarily bad. There was something heady about the knowledge that Hizashi knew where he lived – and that it had been Shouta himself who had told him.

Really, Shouta couldn't be too sure how much Hizashi knew about him exactly – all the things he had mentioned, all the things he hadn't mentioned but that Hizashi had picked up on regardless… the things the other man might have uncovered on his own, accidentally or maybe because he went looking…

Truly, their dynamic was an odd one – on one hand there was this desire to share, to reach out, the comforting knowledge that it would be fine, yet on the other hand there was also this strange residue of caution, left over from the very beginning; back when both of them hadn't been a hundred percent sure if they could trust each other.

And now every little thing they shared without being prompted – every private snipped of their life’s – felt, for some bizarre reason like some monumental secret they choose to unveil, like an explicit show of trust, like a grand romantic gesture.

The coffee machine stopped its sputtering and Shouta pulled out a mug, pouring his coffee before he sat himself down on one of the chairs in front of his kitchen table. He blew onto the steaming brew, hoping it would cool a little faster that way.

He wondered if that kind of amazement would ever go away – this kind of pleased giddiness at being trusted with something intimate; this heady exhilaration at sharing something private with someone you felt safe around.

Safe. That had always been a fleeting thing… something that Shouta had never quite managed to feel in full… but with Hizashi around it seemed close enough to grasp. Shouta wasn't quite there yet but he felt like he could be one day – just give it a little more time and care and patience.

He let out a soft chuckle before he took a sip of his coffee – how ironic. Of all the people in the world it had turned out to be a vigilante – obviously dangerous and cunning – who managed to make him feel less tense and less on edge than he had been in literal years. Talk about unexpected. Life, with all its twists and turns, just sometimes lead you down roads you wouldn't even have been able to imagine if you had tried.

He sipped slowly on his coffee and when he was done he rinsed the mug out again before he made his way into the living room – he still had a quarter hour before Hizashi would get him, he might as well try and get some work done while he waited.

In the end he only managed about half a police report before his doorbell rang – he saved and double saved before he closed his laptop. He stood up, stretched his stiff limbs out and then made his way towards the front door. He pulled his shoes on, grabbed everything important and then left – locking the door behind him.

His phone buzzed in his pocket while he took the stairs downwards – he pulled it out in a near absent-minded motion.

It’s me!! Peekaboo! Are you there?

Shouta couldn't quite suppress a slightly amused snort. He just typed ‘Coming’ back so that the other man would know he was on his way – he was about to stuff the phone back in his pocket, but before he could do so it buzzed again.

Kay kay

Can’t wait to see you <3 <3

It’s been much too long

Hurry up!! I want a kiss <3

Shouta rolled his eyes, fond-annoyance washing through him. He shook his head to himself and pushed his phone back into his pocket. Hizashi had this way of texting – just sending a slew of small one or two sentence texts, as if he was typing out each individual thought, or maybe as if his fingers were just too fast – already sending one text before his mind could convey that there was still more it wanted to communicate.

It was a stark contrast to Shouta who usually typed out whole text blocks; just getting everything important out of the way in one self-contained text instead of many – unnecessarily – small ones. There was also the fact that, while Shouta only texted when something truly important had happened, Hizashi didn't operate on the same mentality.

Hizashi texted him about everything under the sun and then some more – he texted to complain about his work, to talk about more or less interesting trivia, to send him pictures he had found funny, to ask him about his opinion on something he didn't really cared about.

It was a little… exhausting sometimes – especially when he woke up and the first thing that greeted him when he clicked his phone on was a bubble that informed him that he had forty unread messages… yet, on the other hand, it was also strangely fathering to see Hizashi reaching out to him like that, to see how often the other man obviously thought about him on a day to day basis, to see all the things Hizashi wanted to share with him – it was, for lack of better words, kind of sweet.

He reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door – he was greeted by Hizashi bouncing excitedly on the balls of his feet.

“Took you long enough!” the blond man chastised playfully, a broad grin on his face. He threw a glance over his shoulder and then looked up and down the street, his hair – bound up in a half bun – following the movement.

Shouta frowned at that – it nearly looked like Hizashi was making sure that there was no one around. Was the other man afraid that he was being followed? Who would follow him? Was…?

Shouta's hyper-vigilant mind calmed down again immediately when Hizashi's eyes settled back on him, amusement clearly visible – the blond man stepped closer, over the threshold, farther away still from eventual prying eyes; both his hands rose up, palms flat on Shouta's chest as he closed the last bit of distance between them.

Two pairs of chapped lips met and Shouta's eyes fluttered shut near reflexively. The one hand that he wasn't using to hold the door open rose to curl around Hizashi's waist – he pulled the other man closer and tilted his own head a little more so their lips would fit against each other better. He could feel some part of Hizashi's glasses pressing into his cheekbone.

Hizashi pulled away first, humming, sounding utterly pleased – the noise vibrated in that unique way of his and Shouta could feel the vibration in his own chest.

He opened his eyes again and watched Hizashi watching him back, his concentric eyes lidded, holding a certain shine. Shouta felt a finger drawing near coy circles on his chest as a smile settled on Hizashi's face – too sly to be entirely innocent but also too warm and sincere to be teasing.

“I really missed this.” Hizashi said, voice as quiet as it ever got and then he dipped in again, stealing another chaste kiss “It’s really busy as of late.” he murmured against Shouta's mouth, lips brushing before he leaned in again – kiss “Guess we just have to make the most of the time we have, huh?” another kiss and another one “We should really get going or I might just shove you back inside and then we won’t make it anywhere today.” kiss “Except the bed of course.” the blond man giggled, both his hands were by now rubbing up and down Shouta's chest, palms flattened and fingers spread – touching as much as possible.

Shouta gave a low, amused hum at that “I would not complain if that happened.”

“Don’t I know it?” Hizashi nearly whispered against his mouth, voice lilting in that enticing way of his – Sirens song “But we both have to get a bit of fresh air from time to time. Won’t do us any good to just be cooped up when we aren't working. In fact, I have been going a little stir crazy as of late. We can have some fun tonight if we are sill in the mood for it then.” Hizashi said, fluttering his lashes for effect before he stepped back – Shouta loosened his hold immediately, letting the other man move away easily.

“Oh, by the by. Don't you have like, an intercom?” Hizashi asked, brows furrowed as he stepped back out onto the street. Shouta followed – locking the door behind them and pocketing his key.

He let out a grunt in affirmation and then elaborated “It is broken.”

“The whole thing?” it sounded incredulous.

Another affirmative grunt in answer.

“Well,” Hizashi said and his voice was nearly offended, he threw a glance up the building “-looking at that thing it really doesn't surprise me. It’s definitely not some five star hotel. Looks more like a minus five star hotel in fact.” he wrinkled his nose.

“It is cheap and close to my work and patrol route.” Shouta said and shrugged.

Hizashi gave a displeased hum but didn't comment on it further. Instead he simply hooked both his arms around Shouta's right, pressing it into his side, fingers curling slightly into the fabric of Shouta's long sleeved shirt – holding onto.

“Is that okay?” Hizashi asked, voice curious and eyes sincere.

“Yeah.”

At his answer Hizashi's face lit up “Perfect! If it gets uncomfortable for you just tell me and I’ll back off a little.” he smiled and then started to walk, dragging Shouta along with him “I spent the last three nights in some of the bars and clubs that certain villains and criminals prefer, you know, see and be seen, sweet talking a few people, fluttering my eyelashes, offering a bit of irrelevant information in exchange for a few favours and let me tell you, I'm thoroughly pissed off by now.” Hizashi started prattling not even ten steps away from Shouta's apartment complex.

“I hate those dingy, seedy bars! The floors are so sticky it’s like they are trying to pull the shoes off your feet, and the people in there are either completely useless henchmen, drunk off their asses and complaining about nothing or arrogant would-be villains who are so far up their own ass they haven't seen any sunlight in years.” one of his hands uncurled from around Shouta's arm so he could wave it in the air while he talked, emphasising his words, making mock gestures or silly signs.

“That’s not the worst thing though, believe me darling, the thing that just really makes me loath those places is the fact that they are just full of smoke. I absolutely hate cigarette smoke! It smells awful and it just makes my throat so scratchy. It feels like I'm constantly on the verge of coughing one of my lungs up – or maybe both. I hate to think about what that stink actually does to my pharynx and alveoli...” for a second Hizashi trailed off, a small frown settling onto his features, fair brows drawn down.

“You don't smoke do you? I mean, I never smelt it on you before so it didn't occur to me to ask, and I mean, I haven't seen any cigarettes on you when we where together but I mean, that doesn't mean that much, I just-”

“I do not.” Shouta answered easily, cutting Hizashi's long winded blabber off and getting straight to the point “Never have.” he added after a second, thinking that Hizashi might like to know that as well.

Hizashi hummed, clearly pleased “That’s good then. I mean, I wouldn't have thrown the towel in if it had turned out you are a smoker but it’s really just a big no-no for me, so you would have to smoke outside or far, like super far, away from me.” His nose wrinkled in a way that made it obvious what he thought… it also made it obvious that, despite his words, there probably would have been more than a few fights lurking in the not so far future if Shouta had turned out to be a smoker “I mean, there really isn't a problem here in the first place since you don't smoke. One less thing to worry about. It’s bad for your health anyway, those damnable cancer sticks.” he scoffed.

“You know what just really annoys me honey? Everyone is always like, ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘it’s just second hand smoke’ but that doesn't make it any better. Did you know that in most cigarettes there are roughly around 70 chemicals that are known to cause cancer? And those are the ones that are known, so who knows how many others are in there that we can’t yet fully identify or trace back yet? Like, there’s arsenics in it, the stuff’s in lead and rat poison and people are just puffing away.”

Shouta felt Hizashi shudder against his side and a second later there was a retching sound as Hizashi gave a few gags of disgust for show.

“I know.” Shouta gave back after a few moments, shooting Hizashi a look from the corner of his eyes before he turned his gaze back to look straight ahead “In some cases it can cause blindness.” he supplied after a moment and let that speak for itself.

He seemed to remember that Hizashi once said that he didn't really care what people choose as their preferred vices – and truthfully, Shouta was much the same. He certainly wouldn't chastise people for smoking or drinking or whatever else they did to cope – it was their life after all and therefore non of his business.

Still smoking just overall seemed like a truly bad deal, especially for an active hero. The diminishing lung capacity, breathing problems, the infamous smoker coughing, reduced physical performance… the list went on and on, and it was long enough that Shouta had never even thought about indulging in that particular bad habit. After all there was the very real possibility that it would hinder his work or make it more dangerous in the long run. So to Shouta it really wasn't worth it – doing something that had more cons than pros just was irrational.

Hizashi gave a thoughtful hum, Shouta could feel his inquisitive, intelligent green eyes regarding him and he somehow just knew that Hizashi had already put one and one together – he wouldn't need to elaborate.

In a strange way this was a novel experience as well. Shouta was a rather taciturn person, he knew – he had been told as much a few times as well, even though it had been unnecessary since he had already been aware of that particular fact. He found that he said enough, yet, there were so many people that seemingly had trouble thinking for themselves, needing everything spelled out for them – in a way they reminded Shouta of his pupils… with the only difference that he wasn't talking to still learning and growing children but to adults who by all accounts should already know better.

The fact that Hizashi just… knew – was able to figure out what Shouta was saying without any need for unnecessary explanation or redundant elaboration was a nice change… Truthfully, it had been a long time since Shouta had truly felt like someone understood him… or at the very least made the obvious effort to try and understand him. Learning to read a person – taking a few steps in their shoes; that was an important part of a growing relationship.

“Yeah, that too.” Hizashi finally spoke up again “But you know, I didn't drag you along so we could rant to each other all day long.”

Shouta gave a soft huff and a wry half-smile “We?” he asked, voice nearly teasing – this felt comfortable, novel in a different way.

Hizashi let out a slightly self-conscious giggle “Okay, okay, you caught me. I'm the only one ranting. Still-” he moved his head in a fast motion, flicking his hair over his shoulder again without the aid of his hands “Let’s talk about something positive, how about that? Let me think.” he said and used the one hand he had been swinging in the air up until now to instead tap a finger against his bottom lip in a contemplative motion “Oh, oh!” he said it in a tone of boyish excitement “I know something-” and with that he started prattling – like a sluice gate had just been opened.

Shouta choose to remain silent for most of it – only throwing in a comment here or there when he felt like Hizashi was overlooking something – otherwise he simply hummed and nodded at the appropriate points in the conversation.

Talking with Hizashi in that way was always nice and easy – this knowledge that he was welcome to interject if he so wanted to but wasn't forced to participate if he didn't… comfortable.

In the end Hizashi stopped his constant near-monologue when they had finally reached the subway. They bought a ticket each and then crammed into one of the always overflowing carts.

Hizashi's back was pressed against Shouta's front – they were standing close to the door so they wouldn't accidentally miss their stop in the shuffle. Hizashi bumped against him from time to time though Shouta simply chalked it up to the movement of the train that rattled everybody against everybody else.

At a particularly harder bump – a near shove really – Shouta focused his attention on the man in front of him though. He raised a questioning eyebrow as he saw that Hizashi was half turned – looking at him. The blond man gave a slightly mischievous smile in answer, one of his hands – hidden between their bodies – move to Shouta's front, fingers skimming over his shirt covered side.

“Are you ticklish?” Hizashi grinned, hands prodding.

Shouta let out a huff that was less annoyed than he would have liked “Are you an actual child?” he asked back, though it lacked fire. It was incredible how serious Hizashi could be when the situation called for it compared to how juvenile and boyish he acted when he was free to do so. Shouta gave another huff – this one dangerously close to fond “No.” he answered and the prodding and poking fingers stopped their movement.

“Boo!” Hizashi let out a disappointed noise, face pulling into something that was reminiscent of a pout – Shouta couldn't help but to let out an amused snort at the other mans expression. For a few moments silence settled between them and then Shouta let one of his own hands fall to Hizashi's waist – cupping around it, thumb stroking circles – gentle yet hard and deliberate enough to not be ticklish even on accident… a clear sign.

“Are you?” he asked, voice pitched low and even darker than it usually was – husky – speaking directly into Hizashi's ear. He felt the blond man shudder against him for a moment before he stiffened up, and a second later a hand snapped down to clamp around his own on Hizashi's waist.

“Don’t you dare!” The blond man gave back in a pressed whisper, half a hiss, half fearful anticipation. Well, if that wasn't answer enough. Shouta's mouth pulled into a wry grin as he pulled his hand out of Hizashi's grip and stuffed it back into his pocket without further comment.

The rest of the subway ride was spent in silence and soon enough they were walking up the stairs of the station and into the street – heading towards the cafe Hizashi wanted to eat at. It only took a minute or two of walking at most before Hizashi's left hand started moving – inching closer, arm brushing against Shouta's while they walked, and in the end his hand cupped around Shouta's own, nearly tentatively.

Shouta saw the was Hizashi was throwing him a few side-glances – as if he was observing his reaction. He let out a soundless huff and squeezed his own fingers around Hizashi's – reassuring and accepting, easy. And it wasn't as if this whole thing wasn't sweet in its own right – Shouta had told the other man that he wasn't someone who liked most physical contact and now Hizashi obviously went out of his way to make sure Shouta wasn't feeling uncomfortable with his touchy nature… even though Shouta had already affirmed that he was fine with Hizashi's touch – even in public; at least as long as it wasn't going too far.

It was a sentiment he could appreciate – something he hadn't really seen with previous partners, who normally had just taken his tentative okay-go and had ran with it as far as they could before Shouta put his foot down when it became just too much. Give them an inch and they take a mile.

The fact that someone as tactile as Hizashi actually made more of an effort than most other people had definitely was saying something. Right now they were still learning each others boundaries, learning what was okay or even wanted and what wasn't – and it was nice to see that Hizashi put in just as much effort as Shouta did.

At his squeeze Hizashi stopped his constant side-eyeing, instead a small smile pulled the corners of his mouth up and a moment or two later he spread his fingers apart and slotted them between Shouta's – intertwined. Shouta gave another reassuring squeeze immediately – signalling that this was fine too.

Shouta's eyes trailed around – he wasn't in this part of the city very often – it was as much idle curiosity as it was a habit born from caution… Still, everything seemed normal enough. People buzzing around them, trying to reach their next destination.

“-the funniest part about the whole ‘we’ll play your song wishes bit’ is the rare oddball who wants some kind of real obscure song. A few days ago we had an old lady calling who wanted to hear Chopin. I mean, I can understand that, the guy composed some real bangers but that kind of music just doesn't really fit a pop station? Like, imagine calling a music station that plays all kinds of modern music and then you demand a classical piano piece. Well, I put on one of his Nocturnes anyways and-”

Shouta's eyes trailed back to Hizashi beside him who was still dragging him along – a small barely there smile pulling at the corners of his mouth as he watched the other man enthusiastically prattling on, his free hand that wasn't clasped around Shouta's own was waving in the air animatedly.

Not for the fist time Shouta noted that he liked how boyishly excited Hizashi could get – he mulled that fact over a fair bit. Usually he didn't like people like that – people who were overly bubbly, never able to be still for longer stretches of time, always talking when thy could get away with it – but there was just something about Hizashi, something Shouta just couldn't put his finger on no matter how much he tried… Maybe be would understand why exactly he liked it on Hizashi but not really on other people at a later point – some other day, that wasn't today or tomorrow or next week.

There was a short lull in his thoughts as his mind hummed in contemplation – well, maybe it was because Hizashi just-

“Aizawa-kun!”

Shouta's mind screeched to a halt immediately, he blinked at the female voice suddenly shouting his name, his head snapping around – towards the source of the noise. His nose wrinkled and his expression scrunched up, his jaw jumped as he grit his teeth – his mouth a thin, bloodless line. Hizashi beside him feel quiet too – like someone had just unplugged a running radio set to your favourite station.

Kayama was waving at him from the other side of the road and – after a hasty look left and right – she crossed the street, making her way towards them. Her steps long and fast, nearly jogging.

… So much for a relaxed day without worries, Shouta thought, expression turning resigned – he let out a long suffering breath through his nose. He suppressed the urge to close his eyes and pinch the bridge of his nose in exhausted annoyance.

“Who’s that?” Hizashi beside him leaned closer to whisper.

“A work colleague.” Shouta gave back. For a second it was silent between them as they both watched the woman hurrying towards them.

“Oh!” Hizashi suddenly breathed out in surprised recognition “That’s Midnight, isn't it?” he said – it wasn't really a question.

“Mhm.” Shouta grunted an answer back anyway, nodding in affirmation. Another second of silence followed and then Shouta felt a pull at his hand as Hizashi tried to untangle their fingers.

For a split second a hundred different thoughts screamed over each other in Shouta's mind – warring with each other, trying to find some kind of balance between emotions and logic – some compromise that would satisfy both sides.

On one hand it was probably smarter to unclasp their hands and take a few steps away from each other – to just spin some tale about how they were ‘just friends’ or maybe acquaintances, or something else…

Kayama, after all, had a big mouth. She would tell everyone who was willing to listen what she had seen – wildly gossiping about it, come up with a multitude of different – equally idiotic – explanations for what was going on.

How much could that damage? Shouta knew her well enough to know that she would only blabber to close friends or their colleagues at school – she wouldn't try and make some kind of sensationalist story out of it. He was sure about that.

… But he was also sure about the fact that she would stick her nose into his private life even more than she already did the second she could smell blood in the water. For a second his thoughts nearly automatically circled back to her near bully-like behaviour, the know-it-all tone of her voice.

How big would that problem be? How bad would it be if she started sniffing around? She didn't know Hizashi, after all… still, just because Hizashi was nothing more than some random civilian to her didn't make this oncoming interaction any safe.

Shouta knew that Kayama wasn't stupid, what if she noticed something off, what if she thought something was fishy and started investigating? Would she even do that? Would she be willing to disregard Shouta's privacy to this extreme extend only to satisfy her curiosity and her constant need to ‘help Shouta’?

… Would she find out something about Hizashi that she really shouldn't?

And what about Shouta? What would happen if people found out he had started forming significant relationships? Sure, in the underground no one knew who he really was – currently that was – but it might not stay that way forever. What if someone saw Hizashi as a possible weak spot they could exploit to get to Shouta? And what if all of it somehow influenced Hizashi's work as Present Mic? What if that would be what ultimately lead to him – them – being exposed?

Shouta grit his teeth as weeks of repressed – near paranoid – thoughts suddenly roared their ugly head, reminding him again what a bad idea this whole relationship had been, the dangers it entailed – not only for himself but for Hizashi too… If it was only he who was in danger he wouldn't really care, he had made a decision and he would shoulder the responsibility for that… but as Hizashi had said – it takes two, doesn't it?

Another tug – this one more insistent – ripped his mind out of the mental vortex it tried to disappear into. He threw a side eye at Hizashi beside him.

… On the other hand he didn't want to hide Hizashi as if he was some dirty, little secret that Shouta was afraid might come to light. He didn't want to deny his feelings like that. They were lovers and that meant that Shouta should support Hizashi, that he should stand by his side – tall and proud and sure. Unyielding. Come what may. They were a team and Shouta wasn't about to act as if that wasn't the case, as if everything between them was non existent – the very thought made him feel vaguely nauseous, the very insinuation made his stomach roll uneasily.

Another tug at his hands – nearly desperate this time around. Shouta squeezed the hand in his tighter, consciously utilizing a small part of the grip strength he had build up over years using his capture weapon to hold fast – Hizashi's fingers twitched for a second, as if they tried to flinch away from the pressure but were unable to.

Shouta loosened his hold again after that – after all he didn't want to hurt Hizashi, only to keep him close, to keep him right there where he was. It took a split second but then Hizashi gave a squeeze of his own – thumb brushing over the side of Shouta's hand – as both of them waited for Kayama to finally catch up with them.

“Never thought I’d see you around here. In the middle of the day no less!” Kayama chuckled as she came to a stop in front of both of them. It took her a second to notice that Hizashi was there to stay – not merely a passer-by or someone who just happened to stand right beside Shouta on accident. Her eyebrows drew up a little. She shot the blond man a curious look, half intrigued, half confused “And you are?” she asked slowly.

Hizashi shot her a blinding smile, his free right hand immediately stretching out towards her – Kayama's raised brows drew down a fraction – a stumped frown – but she stretched her hand out as well, clasping it around Hizashi's who, in turn, started shaking her hand enthusiastically. Kayama's brows drew down farther still – confusion slowly making way for wariness.

“I’m Yamada Hizashi. Nice to meet you…?” the blond man let his sentence trail off into an obvious question, smile still stretched over his face.

Kayama drew her hand back “Kayama Nemuri.” she answered – a little stilted.

“Oh!” Hizashi let out an impressed woosh of air “I know that name!” he burst out in boyishly excitement “You’re Midnight! I heard so much good stuff about you. Huge fan, really! Can’t really believe I'm lucky enough to meet you like this!”

Kayama gave a thin smile at that “Aww, thanks. It’s always such a pleasure to meet a fan.” her eyes trailed to Shouta, they seemed to convey a silent ‘What?’ before her gaze trailed back to Hizashi – regarding him as if he might be some kind of weird hallucination. She blinked and for a second it was utterly quiet between them before her mouth opened again, her eyes sliding back to Shouta – a hint of something not unlike betrayal swimming in her blue gaze “It’s such a nice surprise to see you hanging out with other people.” she commented in her usual way – asking and inquiring without mentioning the real problem – trying to wring an answer out the indirect way. Her tone of voice was just the tinniest bit strained though – forced nonchalance.

Shouta gave a soft grunt at that and then a shrug. He couldn't quite understand why Kayama shot him those looks – hadn't she always bothered him about going out and finding other people to talk to? Hadn’t she always nagged him and used the fact that Shouta just was no good at the whole ‘meeting other people bit’ as her favourite topic to gripe about? Why was she looking so perturbed right now then? Shouldn’t she be ecstatic right now? Triumphant? ‘I-told-you-so’?

Hizashi let out a giggle “Yeah, I noticed he isn't too big on other people. And most people aren't too big on him either – which I just can’t really understand, it kinda boggles the mind, doesn't it? I mean, he’s so nice to be around.” his smile was so wide it was nearly a grin, there was a spark in his eyes – maybe observation, maybe something sharper, Shouta wasn't sure if Kayama even noticed it.

Kayama blinked, looking for all the world as if Hizashi had just spontaneously sprouted three more heads and maybe a bunch of other extra limbs “I mean, he is a right stick in the mud.” Kayama said slowly, her forehead creasing “Excuse me but you are his… brother? Friend?”

Shouta let out a huff, for a second he felt a strange spike shoot through him – uncertainty, a split moment of doubt – but he just squeezed Hizashi's hand in his before he answered “He is my lover.” direct and to the point – no sense beating around the bush. On a whole it was probably better to get ‘everything juicy’ out of the way first – that way Kayama would see no sense in digging deeper; nothing left to unveil. After all, no secrets meant that there was no thrill to the hunt.

For a second it was utterly silent between all of them. Kayama blinked and then blinked another time as realization settled on her featured “Your what?!” her eyes widened nearly comically behind her cat-eye glasses, her lips forming words without sound as her mind obviously tried to process what she had just heard.

Hizashi gave a small titter, leaning his weight against Shouta's right side – Kayama's gaze flickered between them, watching where they touched, her eyes trailing from their shoulders down, down, down… she blinked in something close to incomprehension as they landed on their entangled hands “His boyfriend!” Hizashi answered Kayama's shocked question blithely, tone giddy and self-satisfied and proud all at once – like the cat who got the cream “We have been going out for a while now.” he added after a moment. Hizashi placed his free left hand in the crook of Shouta's elbow – his right hand still intertwined with Shouta's left.

Slowly, very slowly Kayama raised her gaze again – looking at both of them – and then after a few moments something like enlightenment sparked up in her eyes and she let out an amused sounding snort “Good one!” he chuckled, fixing her blue gaze on Shouta “Is this to get back at me for trying to get you to go outside a little more? Now you’re using some random guy as a date-prop just so I leave you alone?” she let out another amused chuckle “Come on!” she said to Hizashi “How much is he paying you?” she asked, grinning.

Shouta saw Hizashi's expression twitching a little, lips trying to break the smile, brows trying to pull together – a micro-fracture in the mask he had donned… and as quickly as it had appeared it disappeared again. Hizashi's smile remained unwavering, though there was something in his eyes – to Shouta it looked like an angry spark, genuine wrath.

“Nothing at all!” Hizashi answered peppy and amused “Unless kisses and cuddles count as payment.” he added with a coy titter, leaning heavier against Shouta, resting his temple against the other mans shoulder – his grip tightened around Shouta's hand, as if he tried to pull him closer still.

Kayama rolled her eyes “Be real with me.” she let out a huff that sounded like a parent who had just found their kid with their hand stuck in the cookie jar – yet the kid insisted they hadn't tried to get a cookie before dinner.

Shouta rolled his eyes right back at her. Irritation was flowing through him in thick waves and he could feel himself bristle at Kayama's behaviour – at the fact that she obviously believed that he, of all people, would joke about being in a relationship with someone.

To Shouta a relationship, especially a romantic one, was something serious – he would never even think of faking a relationship. Even less so with some complete stranger; a ‘date-prop’ as Kayama had called it. And the fact that Kayama thought he would pull off that entire ruse just because he was fed up with her constant meddling?!

Sure, Kayama and he had never really spent all that much time together – so it begged the question of how well they really knew each other – but he had assumed she would at least know him better than that by now.

“We are ‘real’ with you. Hizashi is my lover.” he gave back testily, irritation rolling off of him in waves – he felt Hizashi's hand squeezing around his and, as if on reflex, his annoyance mellowed out at least a little.

Kayama still looked more than a little doubtful, her eyes trailing from Shouta back to Hizashi and then back again – over and over “Well, if that's the case then where are you two lovebirds going to?” she asked Shouta.

“Oh, I really wanted to try out that cafe a little farther down the road and Shouta is humouring me by coming along. We wanted to have breakfast there… or well, more like lunch.” Hizashi answered instead.

Kayama let out a sound of recognition “Oh yes.” she said, nodding “That’s the new place that just opened a few weeks ago isn't it? It’s like a French bakery style, isn't it? With cakes and crepes and stuff like that.”

“Yeah!” Hizashi nodded enthusiastically “Exactly that one! Though they have other things too, not just sweet stuff. That’s actually why we picked it.” Kayama gave a curious noise and Hizashi smilingly elaborated “Shouta isn't too big on sweets, but I assume you already knew that.” the second part of his sentence had the oddest pitch to it, his eyes showing that same sharp flicker again – it was gone again as soon as it had appeared.

Kayama's expression twitched for a split second “No.” she said slowly “I actually didn't know that.” her eyes settled on Shouta nearly demandingly – for whatever reason “Is that why you refused all the invitations to go get some cake together?”

Shouta gave a half nod and an affirmative hum “I know you like sugar pressed into cake form but I just don't like the taste of most sweets.” he shrugged, it wasn't a secret or anything – Kayama had just never asked before and Shouta simply wasn't the kind of person who brought banal things like that up for no reason.

For a second there was a kind of realization settling on Kayama's face – she blinked in a way that looked like a soundless ‘huh, never thought of that’… Shouta was familiar enough with that expression, after all he was a teacher.

Kayama gave a low, contemplating noise “So now you’re off to have some breakfast-lunch? You know, come to think of it, I haven't really eaten anything as of yet either, I mean, unless shoving down a cereal bar is considered as a good kind of food intake. I guess it’s still better than some nutrition pack.” she waggled her eyebrow in Shouta's direction “So a piece of cake sounds divine right about now. Mind if I tag along?” she was smiling one of her cheshire smiles.

Shouta's expression nearly immediately pulled into a frown, he drew in a deep breath through his nose. What was Kayama planing now? Was she trying to meddle again?

“You know,” Hizashi smiled, teeth showing “-a piece of cake probably has less nutritional value than the packs Shouta is always drinking.” he let his left hands fall away from Shouta's arm to tap a finger against his chin in a thoughtful manner “Though, you know, I'm not a nutritionist or something, so I might be mistaken.” he added with a sheepish giggle and then hooked his arm back around Shouta's.

“Well,” Kayama shot back, sounding a little sharp – peeved “-you said there was other stuff too that wasn't too sweet. If it’s French it might actually have some quiches with vegetables or meat. That sounds like a decent lunch.”

Shouta let out an utterly irritated huff, his free hand raising to pinch at the bridge of his nose – he let it fall to his side again before he spoke up “What do you want Kayama-san?” he had no patience for this pussyfooting around an issue and it seemed like both Kayama as well as Hizashi were gearing up to have an entire argument thinly veiled behind some petty remarks and unimportant blabber.

For a second Kayama had the decency to look bashful – but then the expression was gone again as fast as it had appeared “We’re colleagues and we have helped each other out from time to time. I’d just like to get to know your other friends, or in this case your boyfriend. You never talk about stuff like that after all. You can’t fault me for being curious! I'm just trying to be friendly here.” she defended herself.

Shouta felt his eye twitching. If there was one thing he knew for certain then it was that Kayama was fishing for something – she was following her own agenda. He wasn't exactly sure what she was trying to achieve with this whole charade though… and that only made him more wary than he usually was… The tension in the air didn't make it any better.

Also, it was obvious that Hizashi was irritated as well even though he showed it in different ways. For a second Shouta's eyes trailed to the other man – taking in his sharp smile, nearly aggressively friendly – his brows furrowed slightly. It was obvious that Hizashi was annoyed at the interruption yet there seemed to be something else lurking just out of sight and Shouta couldn't quite put his finger on what exactly it was.

He heaved a mental sigh – this was a bad idea all around. He felt like he was in a room full of gunpowder and everyone around him was smoking and waving matches around – completely oblivious to the explosion that could happen any moment now.

“Any friend of Shouta's is a friend of mine!” Hizashi said, his smile growing impossibly wider “I wouldn't want him to miss out on potential bonding time. Do you go out together often?” he asked innocently as he started walking again – more or less dragging Shouta along. Kayama feel into steep beside them, walking on Shouta's free side.

Her eyebrow twitched at the question “Not as often as I would like to.” she gave back – a non answer, dodging the question elegantly. There was a twinkle in Hizashi's eyes as if he had just won an argument and Shouta let out a deep but silent exhale – exhausted annoyance.

“What about you?” Kayama shot back.

“Ah, you know, work can be hectic, especially since Shouta is a hero, but we make sure we take the time to hang out whenever we can. It’s a little hard with our schedules.”

“Oh? Why’s that?” casually curious, her eyes sharp.

“I work afternoons and Shouta works pre-noon and night. It’s a little tricky to find some free time but we manage.” broad smile, showing the upper row of his teeth.

Shouta gave another mute sigh, the walk to the cafe seemed too long all of a sudden. Still, perceived time and real time were two very different things – all in all they reached the cafe after what couldn't have been more than a five minute walk.

All three of them took a table at the end of the entrance corridor. Hizashi slotting himself beside Shouta onto the bench and Kayama taking a chair opposite of them. The waiter appeared nearly immediately, handing out menus and taking first orders for their drinks before he weaved away again.

“So what’s your job exactly?” Kayama went on, propping her chin up on one of her hands.

“I’m a radio host.” Hizashi gave back.

“A radio host?” Kayama asked “I didn't know you liked music or radio stuff that much.” she was addressing Shouta.

“Because I don't.” Shouta gave back simply. To be truthful he didn't see the point of that question – people usually fell in love with other people after all and not with a profession.

“So...” Kayama said, drawing the vowel out just the slightest bit, her expression a strange cross between confused and doubtful “A civilian.” she said it like a question, raising a brow towards Shouta.

“Yeah.” was all he answered. This was a question that always came up in hero circles. Is it okay to date? And if you do date is it better to date a fellow hero or a civilian? What are the pros and cons of those two options… and so on and so forth. He was rather sure that Kayama was weighing the current situation in those kind of terms as well right about now – a civilian, is that good or bad, better or worse? Oh, if she knew that this situation was even more complicated than she could ever imagine in that moment.

“How did you two meet then?” she asked, and then, as if it was meant to be a jab she added “Aizawa-kun isn't the kind to go out much.”

Hizashi gave a thoughtful noise “Well, I guess that depends on the company.” he giggled and Kayama's brows drew down into a severe frown “Anyways-” Hizashi went on as if he didn't see the look on the woman's face “We had a few run-ins, you see. I was up and about late at night, clubbing and stuff, and I ran into this really nasty dude. Shouta showed up and took care of things and we just kinda started talking with each other.” he explained. It was just enough truth to be believable and just enough lie to not seem overly suspicious.

Kayama blinked “You talked with one of the people you saved?” she asked Shouta, seemingly caught off-guard.

Shouta shrugged “It just happened. It was more Hizashi talking at me. I was just waiting beside him for the police.”

Hizashi tittered “Anyways, I'm like, a super stubborn guy when I want to be and that mysterious hero just piqued my interest so I kept at it – trying to make small-talk and stuff. And lo and behold, if you make a bit of an effort to get to know him it actually turns out that he’s a very sweet guy.”

Kayama let out a snort “Are we talking about the same guy?” she teased.

“I don't know.” Hizashi gave back enigmatic, that sharp glint in his eyes again, smile too toothy “Are we?” he challenged. At that a sort of uncomfortable, tense silence settled over the table – only interrupted as the waiter brought their drinks and asked for their orders. And after that? It was straight back to tense silence…

A soft chime cut through the heavy air.

Shouta let out a sigh as he pulled his phone out from his pocket and opened his messages.

We might have a lead on one of the people you wanted us to look into. Call me when you have time

The message read and Shouta frowned down at his phone.

“Who is it?” Hizashi asked, dropping his overly enthusiastic tone for a moment – voice now sounding both curious and serious at the same time.

“Takahasi-san.” Shouta gave back “She wrote that she might have some info on the case I'm currently on.”

“Oh, that sounds super important. You should call her right away!” Hizashi urged.

For a second Shouta's eyes trailed between the other man and Kayama – something like doubt settling right in the pit of his stomach.

“He’s right.” Kayama agreed and nodded, making a shooing motion with her hand “Don’t worry, I won’t eat your food, so go and make your call.” she teased good-naturedly.

Shouta let out a soft breath through his nose and closed his eyes for a second before he stood up without another word and made his way outside. So be wouldn't bother the other guests too much – and also to find a somewhat more secluded spot, since he didn't want anyone to overhear him.

#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#

Hizashi watched Shouta's retreating back, a slight frown threatened to pull the corners of his mouth down. This call might just be another fluke… yet there was also the possibility that it wasn't – that it would turn out to be something actually important. And the suspense and his curiosity were burning him up from inside. For a second his eyes flickered to the woman opposite of him – he really wanted to know what the phone call might reveal… But there was just no plausible excuse he could make up for why he – as a civilian – was trailing after Shouta in this situation.

… He would just have to wait – if it was actually important news then Shouta would share it with him later when they were alone with each other again; for now it was important to keep up the illusion. He turned his coffee mug in his hands a few times – movement for the sake of movement, he had always been like that. His gaze settled back on Kayama.

The woman seemed nice enough. She was seemingly interested in Shouta too, not in a romantic sense of the word though, that was plain to see. No, she seemed to see Shouta not only as another colleague but as someone she cared about… After all she was obviously concerned for his well-being and what kind of people he met up with in his free time… The kind of scrutiny she put Hizashi under was kind of self-evident.

Truthfully, she seemed a little like the mothering type Hizashi thought wryly. He just wasn't too sure yet if Kayama was a ‘cool mom’, the controlling type, or the over protective one… maybe an unholy amalgamation of all three?

She seemed intelligent yet paradoxically she also gave of that certain vibe that told Hizashi that she was a bit of a wiseacre too. Now normally that wouldn't be a problem for Hizashi… if only it wouldn't have been linked to Shouta as well…

What truly bothered Hizashi – the thing he really took umbrage with – was the fact that Kayama acted as if she had seen through both Shouta and he as if they were nothing but a clear pane of glass. Which simple and plainly wasn't true… also – Hizashi had to admit – some of her accusations stung in more ways than one.

For one: Did she honestly believe that Shouta was incapable of forming interpersonal relationships like she had – maybe even unwittingly – implied? This shock Hizashi had seen in her eyes, the disbelieve right there on her face as if Shouta getting to know another person was the biggest miracle she could have ever hoped to witness…
And then the fact that, once she was confronted with the possibility that Shouta might have a boyfriend she immediately suspected that it was nothing more than a joke… It made Hizashi's blood heat up with anger.

As if Shouta was the kind of man to joke about something like that. The insinuation was like a painful stab for Hizashi. Especially with all the things he had learned about Shouta by now, all those little things he had noticed over time. He hadn't been lying when he said that Shouta was ‘a very sweet guy’.

Sure… Shouta was a little rough around the edges but then again so was Hizashi himself. It was nearly painfully obvious how serious Shouta took their new relationship – it was plain to see how willing he was to accommodate Hizashi, to compromise with him… For Hizashi it was very plain to see that Shouta truly loved him…

His hand still remembered the phantom squeeze of Shouta's – that moment on the street when Kayama had approached them and Hizashi had, for a split second, panicked; had tried to pull away… and Shouta's grip had been so strong, not letting go… a clear sign.

That was the man Hizashi had the privilege of calling his boyfriend – and that man would never even think of faking a relationship, or playing something like that as a joke… Shouta would never – Hizashi knew.

The fact that Kayama so easily came up with a ‘prop-date’ as an answer just made Hizashi unreasonably mad.

He let out a soft half hum and lifted his mug to take a few sips – he watched Kayama from under his lashes. Did she see herself as some kind of Samaritan – someone who had taken on the gruelling task of trying to befriend Shouta and now was confronted with the fact that Shouta seemingly already had friends and people who cared for him? Was she hurt by that fact? Had she wanted to be ‘The first’?

… Was he too cynical here? Maybe… After all, maybe Kayama really had nothing but the purest intentions and she simply was bad at showing that? Maybe she truly just had wanted to be friends with Shouta… and maybe it had just been nicer to convince herself that Shouta was simply incapable of build meaningful connections; that it wasn't her fault that he wanted nothing to do with her.

Maybe she had used that idea not unlike one might use a comfort blanket and now that she was suddenly face to face with the truth – the fact that Shouta was indeed able to accept other into his life – she was forced to realize that maybe it had been something she had done that had driven Shouta away. That she couldn't blame the rejection entirely on Shouta.

…In any case, it was a lot of speculation and Hizashi had no real answer to any of those questions just yet. The one thing he did know however was that Kayama was clearly trying to trip him up – catch him in some sort of lie… but why?

“Really now-” Kayama said, voice dropping a little, a serious note clearly audible, her blue eyes sparking with something – intelligent and attentive. She seemed like a shark trying to find some drop of blood in the water – like some hunting hound waiting for the command to pounce.

Hizashi just gave a soft noise, signalling that he was listening while he continued to sip at his coffee – utterly unimpressed.

“What’s the joke here?” Kayama had by now put both her arms on the table – leaning closer to Hizashi.

“Whatever do you mean?” he asked, smiling.

“Don’t act dumb with me!” she hissed sharply and in answer Hizashi's smile grew sharper too.

“I honestly don't know what you want. You’ll have to elaborate, I'm not a mind reader after all.” he took another sip from his coffee.

“Something is up here, don't try to hide it. I mean, look at you! You two don't fit together. You’re not his type by a long shot and yet you expect me to believe that you two are boyfriends?! You're everything Aizawa-kun hates. Why would he start a relationship with someone like you? Really, how stupid do you think I am?” she took a sip of her own macchiato, her eyes fixed on Hizashi like ice.

“I wouldn't say stupid, you know. You are clearly smart.” he swung one hand in a small arch through the air “But I would definitely call you blind-sided… or maybe ignorant would be a better word… Or maybe up your own ass.”

“Excuse me?!”

“No.” Hizashi said simply “No, I won’t.” he took a sip of his coffee, his near permanent smile finally dropping to make room for a far more severe and serious expression “Look, you clearly seem all concerned for him and I can appreciate that. It’s nice to know that there are other people who care about him but I simply find it extremely offensive that you think you know him well enough to judge who he would and wouldn't spent time with.” he turned his coffee mug between his hands, eyes momentarily flickering to the entrance of the cafe to make sure Shouta wasn't already coming back.

“You see, Shouta takes the whole getting-to-know-people bit very serious. He does try to avoid others, that much is true, but he is certainly able to make the effort to get to know someone if he wants to… I mean, guess the biggest problem is getting to the ‘wanting to’ part first… Anyways, my point here is that he’s a sweet guy… and you kinda directly saying that he is unable to form meaningful relationships while at the same time also kinda insinuating that my only reason for hanging around him is that I'm getting paid to pretend for a joke is...” Hizashi blew his cheeks out “Uff!” he finally settled on, blowing the word out through his lips as if he had just been punched in the stomach.

Hizashi raised both his brows, giving Kayama a very pointed look “No offence but no wonder he avoids you.” and then after a second he added “Like, seriously, I'm not trying to insult you here – promise. You seem like a good enough person, concerned and what not, but also snoopy, you know, the ‘getting involved’ kinda type. Not that that is a bad thing for a hero – I mean, your whole job is basically to get involved, so no hard feelings there. But the thing here is that Shouta just doesn't react well to stuff like that, you see? He’s all about being self-sufficient and not relying on other people and carrying his own weight and stuff – and he just doesn't like when people get needlessly involved or try to tell him what to do.” he took a sip of his coffee “But look at me prattling and prattling without stop!” he tittered, feelings slightly sheepish “I don't even really know you. Sorry, sorry! It’s a bad habit of mine.” he waved one hand in the air in a cutesy manner.

Kayama's eyes during his whole speech had turned from offended to surprised to shocked and then they had slitted in suspicion “What do you want from him?” she hissed angrily, her defences coming up, blue eyes hard like steel and cold as ice.

Hizashi let out a soft hum – he really hadn't tried to make the woman feel like she needed to be wary around him… on the other hand he also hadn't tried to come of as some delicate flower just waiting to be picked.

“What do I want from him? Mostly his attention and a few cuddles and kisses.” he said, his tone meant to rile up yet his words were also one hundred percent true “Jokes aside!” he waved his arm in the air again “I already told you, he’s a sweet guy. Maybe you don't see that but I do. I genuinely love him – exactly the way he is.” there was a second of pause “The idea that I could only be interested in him because I have ulterior motives is – just by the by – also kinda big time offensive. Like uff my dude!” Hizashi said, frowning.

“Maybe you should get to know him better first, like, I'm sure if you did you would be able to see what I like about him so much. Or why I like him. You seem to have a really skewered perspective.” Hizashi said, still frowning at the woman opposite of him. His expression soon turned thoughtful though and after a few seconds of silence he added “You know what? I’ll tell you something. Big secret right here: Try meet him halfway.” Hizashi said and he saw Kayama's eyes widening a little, the guarded distrust was still there yet underneath he could clearly see her curiosity – she was intrigued.

He suppressed a wry grin. Gotcha! he thought amused – it really seemed like Kayama honestly just wanted to get to know Shouta and was now kind of put out by the fact that someone had so thoroughly beaten her to the punch; leaving her stumped and back at square one.

“Don’t automatically assume that you know best, he’s not a child after all, just because something seems weird to you doesn't mean that it automatically makes him unhappy or is bad in some other way. Like, that is kinda crucial, like, Shouta is weird… not that that is a bad thing! I'm weird too! We are weird together!” here Hizashi tittered “Sounds kinda romantic doesn't it?” his tone was amused.

“Oh!” he continued “-And also: When he tells you to back off just back off. If he wants to share something he’ll do so on his own time – just let him know you're there to listen if he wants to talk – don't try to squeeze some kind of information out of him in an attempt to help. Like, that’ll just make him clam up ‘cause he thinks he has to guard himself and his privacy. Like, even if it’s well intended, don't do it! It's just an abysmal idea, yo. Just a big no-no!” he made a cutting-off motion with his hand for emphasis.

“Just try and move at his pace, you'll see, it’ll do wonders.” Hizashi said before let out a soft noise “Just reach out and wait. Easy as pie.”

Kayama's filled brows were furrowed by now, a deep crease visible on her forehead, she seemed deeply in thought. For a second her eyes flickered to Hizashi, a look on her face as if he had just sprouted a few extra heads out of nowhere. Her mouth twisted in a strange way, not downwards but not upwards per say either, it just pulled back, lips pressed together slightly.

For a second it was deadly quiet between them and then Kayama's expression smoothed out again, she raised a hand, pushing her glasses farther up her nose and then let out a small sigh “You know...” she started slowly, levelling her gaze back at Hizashi “-I think I'm starting to see why he sticks around you.” she said before she lifted her tall macchiato glass to her lips to take a sip “No offence, but you seem like a complete airhead – smiley and overactive and kinda dumb but there's actually some real insight hidden under all of it.” she continued after she had sat her glass down on the table again, her cutting blue eyes fixed on Hizashi.

“Eh!” Hizashi shrugged, a wry smile on his lips “You know, books and covers and all that jazz. I’d like to think I'm at least not a complete moron.”

Kayama let out a low chuckle “Moron really isn't the word I would use. More like: Self-satisfied prick. Or what about: Prideful bastard?”

“Ouch!” Hizashi said, fake hurt, pressing a hand over his chest in a dramatic motion “Your words cut deep!” he gave a titter “But I mean, yeah, fair enough.” he shrugged, voice nonchalant. Really, it wasn't like Kayama was wrong – he could be up his own ass sometimes so it was always nice to have people around who didn't take shit from him. In fact, that was one of the many reasons why he liked to be around Shouta… maybe it could become one of the reasons why he liked to be around Kayama too, at some point in the near future.

Kayama's early chuckle morphed into a low laugh “And you're clearly arrogant too.” she added, her voice full of mirth.

“Dude!” Hizashi tried to sound offended but it was somewhat ruined by his giggling.

“Seemingly a right stubborn hard-head.” Kayama's smile was slightly crooked “But I guess that’s what it takes.” he continued after a few seconds “Aizawa-kun is a hard-head too, so if you stuck around this long it means you must be just as stubborn as him, if not more so.”

Hizashi just gave a hum – affirmative. He took a sip of his coffee “And what about you? Here you are! Concerned for his well-being and what kinda people he meets up with, trying to get to know him better. Don't you think that's kinda like the pot calling the kettle black?”

Kayama gave a bark of a laugh, as if it had been startled out of her “Touché!” she said, humour filling her tone “Guess all three of us are terribly bullheaded just in different ways, huh?”

For a second it was quiet between them, the only noise the clinking of glass and porcelain – Kayama tapping her nail-polish purple nails against the macchiato glass and Hizashi turning his mug between his hands.

“Well,” Kayama finally said, a serious note in her tone “-If you managed to stick around this long – and even got into his pants – then I can do that too!” her voice was full of conviction, a determined fire in her eyes.

“Get into his pants?” Hizashi joked wryly.

Kayama immediately wrinkled her nose, her face pulled into a near grimace – she stuck her tongue out in something close to disgust “No thank you!” she gave a gag “I meant becoming friends. He may be a hunk but he’s really not my type. He’s all yours. No need to worry.”

At her words Hizashi's mouth quirked up into the softest expression “I don't. Shouta is a very honest, loyal man.”

There was surprise visible on Kayama's face – but only for a second or two, and then her expression morphed into something warm and understanding “You really like him.” she said it as if it was some sort of revelation, something she hadn't quite believed before but was now – slowly – coming around to.

“I do.” Hizashi said, tone serious, he concentric eyes fixed on the woman opposite of him.

Kayama gave a low hum “Okay then.” she nodded, her voice serious, her tone warning “But if you hurt him I will make your life miserable, believe me.”

“Oh no!” Hizashi gasped, fake shocked “The shovel talk!” he gave an amused half laugh but sobered up quickly enough again. He shot Kayama a look – brushing close to grimly determined “I won’t.” he swore.

He wouldn't. Not if he could help it. All he had said was true. Shouta was an incredible man – dedicated, honest, loyal. He was gentle and sweet in his own way, attentive too… he made Hizashi feel appreciated for who he was – with all his rough edges, as a whole, rounded person; not just snippets or parts of him.

… Shouta made him feel loved in a way he hadn't really experienced before and he would be damned if he let that wonderful man slip away from him.

And on top of all of that Shouta just fascinated him. His personality, his quirk, his morals and judgement – Hizashi felt like he had found a true equal in Shouta and yet, at the same time, he was also paradoxically aware of the fact that Shouta and he were very obviously opposites. Shouta was the other half he needed to make a whole… It was sappy, true, but Hizashi had always been a rather romantic person and he just couldn't help where his mind trailed off to in such moments.

In any case, Shouta was special and he made Hizashi feel special in turn… and Hizashi was far from having enough – he wanted to know more. Wanted to learn more about Shouta, wanted to get to know him so intimately that he would be able to read him like an open book.

And after that? Well, he would see where the road lead him to – both of them. Maybe it was the infatuation speaking – the honeymoon phase of a fresh relationship – but right now he couldn't imagine that he would ever get bored of Shouta at his side.

From that point forward Kayama and he delved into a simpler conversation – it felt nearly easy now that all the initial hostility was gone, nearly effortless now that they had both established a first base. A safe common ground they could use to get to know each other.

The waiter came and went – leaving their lunch on the table. Both of them talking around mouthfuls of food, their hands swinging in the air – Kayama's only from time to time and then only for accentuation; Hizashi's near constantly, used for articulating emotions to emphasising words to mimicking movement to silly gestures.

Hizashi's babble slowed somewhat when he saw a very familiar figure making his way back to their table. A genuine smile settled on his face – making Kayama look up as well, following his gaze.

+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#

Shouta felt annoyed as he made his way back towards the table on the far end of the cafe. The call had been nothing but useless filler – it hadn't helped at all.

He let out a huff. He would still bring it up later when Hizashi and he were alone – save was save after all, and a second opinion was never a bad thing… but first they needed to get rid of Kayama – Shouta let out another huff, this one both exhausted as well as annoyed. They would probably be able to ditch her after lunch and until then he would have to live with the barely concealed hostility zapping back and forth between Hizashi and Kayama.

When he got closer to the table he noticed that the food was already there. He raised his eyes from the table top – both Hizashi and Kayama were watching him, nearly expectantly, both of them with a twinkle in their eyes… Shouta's steps unconsciously slowed and he blinked at both of them in confusion.

Hizashi shot him a beaming smile “Come, come!” he urged, making an indicating motion with his hand “The food will get cold!”

Shouta slipped back into the space beside Hizashi. Kayama opposite of them had just finished the last bites of her food – she shoved her empty plate a little more into the middle of the table and then placed both her elbows on the surface, folding her hands in the air, in front of her chest.

“You don't need to hurry.” she said reassuringly “I can wait till both of you are finished.”

Shouta internally groaned – Kayama's words making him feel the opposite of reassured. He remained quiet and simply started eating his lukewarm food.

“Actually I wanted to ask,” Kayama spoke up again a second later “-You said before that you really liked Dubliners. Have you also read Ulysses?”

Hizashi let out a snort and gave a fake offended scoff “I read it but it can be such a drag at times! For me it’s just one of those books where at some point your brain tunes out completely and you realize you read three pages but can’t remember a single thing of what you read. Like, my mind just completely glossed over. And the worst thing are those people who feel all high and mighty for reading it as if it’s some sort of badge of honour to them – all arrogant and elitist. Like, super pretentious.”

Kayama gave a laugh “Oh yeah. There are those people too. In my opinion just because a book is hard to read and choke full of epiphanies doesn't necessarily mean it’s good. The companion guide is book length as well, which is never a good sign.” she chuckled “I enjoyed Dubliners a lot more, to be honest. It was shorter, and more on the nose. It just hit my sweet spot – sometimes you just want a quickie and not something long and dragging that makes your feet fall asleep.”

Shouta frowned, and then shot Hizashi a questioning gaze, raising one of his eyebrows. Hizashi just smiled back at him “Why haven't you ever told me that Kayama-san studied art and literature?” he asked and Shouta swallowed down the bite he had been chewing. He took a sip of his nearly cold coffee to wash everything down. He blinked at the other man, feeling somewhat befuddled.

“She is the art teacher. I assumed it was obvious.” he answered, somewhat slowly, his gaze flickering between both Hizashi and Kayama – he felt somewhat stumped by the sudden change in atmosphere. After that Hizashi and Kayama's conversation simply went on – and the longer it lasted the more out of the loop Shouta felt.

By the time both Hizashi and he said their goodbyes to Kayama he just felt utterly confused. He just couldn't explain the sudden shift… obviously something must have happened while he had been outside talking with the police… but for the life of him he wasn't able to imagine what Hizashi and Kayama could have possibly talked about that would lead to such a drastic change in such a short time.

Hizashi had the fingers of his left hand intertwined with the fingers of his right again – the blond man was leading him towards one of the shops he had wanted to visit “She seems like a good sort.” Hizashi commented idly, a small smile on his lips. Shouta's brows drew down into a severe frown.

“What did you talk about?” he asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.

“Mostly about not being too presumptuous and that you shouldn't judge people too fast.” Hizashi shrugged “You know, don't just assume you know best just because you mean well.” there was a short pause and Shouta's brows drew down even farther, there was a crease on his forehead. Now all of that sounded strangely specific… In fact, it sounded a little like what he had mulled over not to long ago… but then again Hizashi wouldn't… or would he?

“Also she doesn't want to fuck you and I'm not sure if I should be relieved by that or offended. After all, you're, like, super hot.” Hizashi suddenly continued and Shouta's mind needed a moment before everything the vigilante had just said had sunk in.

He blinked as the meaning filtered through and then let out a startled noise – half an exclamation half shocked surprise “You two talked about having sex with me?” his tone was disbelieving.

“No!” Hizashi's head snapped towards him, his voice vehement “We didn't! Jeez! I don't need random people to know that you can turn me into putty. That's, like, super embarrassing. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere.” Hizashi shook his head “It just kinda came up. Like, she worded herself weirdly and I just quipped in and she went along with it and was all like: ‘Yuck! No thank you.’ I didn't say anything else! Really!”

Shouta let out a soft huff through his nose, fondly-annoyed “I believe you.” he said simply. He rolled his eyes though, wondering silently why every conversation with Kayama at some point or another started revolving around some kind of sex. Shouta just internally shook his head to himself – he gave long suffering sigh. He decided to let the whole thing rest – that was probably for the best. Hizashi and Kayama got along – so better not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Chapter Text

Shouta's phone alarm went off, insistent beeping filling the otherwise quiet room. Shouta gave a soft, irritated grunt and pressed his face deeper into the pillow – he was tired, he had only just managed to truly fall asleep maybe an hour or two ago. To his right side the blanket started moving and rustling as the man beside him was pulled into the realm of wakefulness as well.

More rustling and movement – the bed dipped deeper beside Shouta as Hizashi pushed himself up a little before half slumping over Shouta's side, his hand reaching out to the bedside table to Shouta's left and a second later the room fell silent again. Blessed silence.

Hizashi – still draped over his side like an extra blanked – let out a high-pitched sigh. For a second everything was utterly still and then the vigilante pushed himself up so he could properly sit beside Shouta. There was groaning and rustling as the other man stretched the stiffness of sleep out of his limps… and then Shouta felt it – fingers prodding into his side.

“It’s time to get up.” Hizashi said, voice slightly raspy from sleep.

“I know.” Shouta slurred, his own words sounding rough as well – even deeper than usually. Still heavy with sleep.

Hizashi gave a soft hum and then flopped back down over Shouta's stomach and chest “Then get up. You’re going to be late otherwise.” he bounced a little on top of Shouta.

“I know.” Shouta mumbled into the pillow. He wished he didn't have to get up – his mind felt sluggish. He usually wasn't the type of person who lazed around in bed after his alarm had went off but right now all he could think about was ‘five more minutes’.

There was a beat of silence “Did you sleep better?” Hizashi asked, voice strangely quiet and soft.

Shouta's mouth quirked into a slight smile at that. He gave an affirmative hum “I’m starting to get used to you. It is still going to take a while though.” he answered. It was true, his mind was slowly getting used to the rustling beside him, the body that would brush up against his in the night – drawing closer, seeking warmth – the dipping of the mattress and everything else. It had been a rough night, he could feel it in the heaviness of his limbs, but it had also been a lot better than that first night they had slept together in one bed.

“But it’s better? Better than before anyways?” insistent, concerned, soft. Shouta let out a deep, vibrating hum in answer.

A few moments passed in silence and then, suddenly, Hizashi started bouncing the bed again – bouncing on top of Shouta “Then get up!” he ordered – though it sounded playful, the smile clearly audible and it made Shouta's own impossibly small smile grow a little wider too, stretching his lips wider.

He freed his two arms from beneath the blanket and Hizashi's weight and then slung them around the other mans waist – grabbing him, holding fast – before he rolled over onto his stomach – Hizashi now stuck below him. The blond man let out a surprised squawk at the sudden movement.

“No fair!” Hizashi giggled – fake-offended – and started to playfully thrash but Shouta just tightened his hold slightly, keeping Hizashi exactly where he was. He burrowed his face into the other mans neck – hiding his amusement. A second passed and then he rubbed his chin against the sensitive skin of Hizashi's throat – it made the vigilante squirm harder.

“Don’t give me stubble burn.” Hizashi tittered in a voice that wasn't meant to dissuade anyone – Shouta stopped anyway and instead pressed his dry lips against the abused area – he felt the other mans pleased hum against his mouth, felt it vibrating through his entire body. Hizashi below him tipped his head back, giving more room that could be peppered with affection – and Shouta took the invitation for what it was, kissing and nipping gently; carefully.

He felt Hizashi's hands running up and down his back in a lazy caress before they finally tangled in his hair, fingers twisting the black strands in their grip.

“No fair either!” Hizashi said, voice pleased and warm with a slightly vibrating hum to every word – contented “You’re playing dirty.” he chastised playfully.

Shouta smiled against the other mans neck “It is working, isn't it?”

For a second Hizashi's chest jumped under him in silent laughter “It is.” he finally admitted, tone full of smiles, his hands were ruffling through Shouta's hair, patting, fingers curling, massaging slightly against his scalp, a gentle scrap of well-kept nails here or there.

Shouta gave a low noise at the attention, tip of his nose brushing up over the side of Hizashi's throat – he pressed a few kisses against the other mans jaw and then finally pushed himself upwards – untangling the mess of sheets between their bodies, so he could roll off of Hizashi and sit up properly. He stretched his arms above himself, stretching his slightly stiff muscles. His gaze trailed over the bed idly, finally settling on Hizashi beside him.

The blond man was still laying flat on his back, his sleep shirt rucked up slightly thanks to the small tussle they had had – baring a sliver of his lower belly. His hair was fanned out around him, tangled in some placed. He had a slightly crooked smile on his lips, his concentric green eyes twinkling – showing clear humour. He was obviously rumpled and it was clear to see that he had only just woken up.

Shouta gave a soft snort as he noticed that Hizashi's moustache was tousled as well – for lack of better words. He let his arms sink down to his sides again – done with his stretching. He propped himself up on his right hand, balancing his weight while he reached out with his left – thumb smoothing over the unruly hair over Hizashi's cupids bow, so it would lay flat again.

“Sappy.” Hizashi commented from under him, his gaze was warm though, his tone pleased – and all of it made Shouta's chest feel unreasonably heavy. He let his left hand slip away again, making room so he could bow down and press a kiss against the other mans mouth.

Hizashi's lips under his were warm and dry, chapped from his chewing – but also pliant, moving sweetly against his own mouth, nearly lazy. Both of them lingered like that for a few heartbeats before they parted again.

Shouta retreated back to his side of the bed, sliding to the edge of the mattress, feet touching the ground – finally getting up. The sheets behind him started to rustle again, signalling that Hizashi was getting up as well. Shouta threw an idle glance over his shoulder, taking in Hizashi's figure – the way his own loose clothes hung from his slim frame, nearly swamping him, his fair hair draped around him like spilled gold pigment, still looking sleep rumpled, the last remnants of sleep still clinging to his movements, his steps still slow… he was breathtaking. Truly.

Shouta let out a low humming sound – maybe Hizashi was right… maybe he was sappy… still, there was nothing wrong with finding your partner attractive or nice to be around, now, was there? His eyes lingered on Hizashi for a split second longer before he turned his gaze away again. He yawned and made his way towards the door “You can have the bathroom first. I'm going to make coffee.” he announced.

He heard a sympathetic yawn behind him and then “Coffee sounds amazing about right now!” Hizashi said, already perking up, voice taking on its usual excited somewhat exuberant pitch. Shouta gave a short grunt in answer and slipped out the door, padding towards the kitchen.

Once there he got everything ready and while the coffee machine sputtered softly he opened the hanging cabinets to pull out two mugs – for a moment his eyes trailed to the side, out the kitchen window; not that he was able to see much outside – beside the neighbouring building of course. He stared at the dirty wall for a few moments before his gaze settled back on the working coffee machine. He leaned his hip against the counter, his arms crossed in front of his chest as he waited.

The coffee machine was already nearly done when Hizashi appeared in the doorway, a broad grin on his face “All dolled up! Just for you, darling!” he winked and Shouta gave an eye-roll – though his expression was fond “And obviously that means that the bathroom is free again.” Hizashi added after a second. He walked fully into the room, his hips swaying in that particular way of his.

He slung his arms around Shouta's waist from behind, resting his chin on the hero’s shoulder – he let out a pleased hum “Though you already look handsome enough the way you are: All sleep rumpled.” he lilted and Shouta gave a snort and rolled his eyes again – there was a quirk to his lips. He raised a hand and shoved Hizashi's face away before he slipped out of the other mans hold and just wordlessly made his way out of the room – heading for the bathroom. There was a disappointed ‘boo’ behind him.

While Shouta got ready in the bathroom his mind drifted a little – his hands moving in familiar motions, leaving his thoughts free to meander, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes towards an actual goal.

He felt the ever present nervousness thrumming under his skin – it was something he had gotten rather good at ignoring… or at the very least rationalizing away over the years. This feeling of restlessness that settled in the very second someone had gotten the tiniest glimpse of his life, had uncovered something that Shouta hadn't wanted them to… His hyper-vigilance screaming at him.

Right now it was roaring at him again, had been since the moment that Kayama had found out about his relationship in fact… and it was becoming more persistent the more time passed. The thought of seeing Kayama at school today didn't really sit right with him, there was a cold anticipatory weight in his chest – pressing down.

Shouta knew that this weight would lift after he had actually made it too school, after he had actually seen Kayama and his hyper-aware mind had realized that nothing bad had happened – at least nothing life destroying.

He took a deep breath and let it out through his nose – a long, exhausted yet inaudible sigh. He closed his eyes for a moment and, for a split second, anger welled up inside of him – anger over his own reactions, over this illogical panic that always cropped up no matter what he did… over and over and over again. The invisible finger prints left behind by a decade of underground work.

He opened his eyes again and let out a huff – it sounded annoyed. Well, there was no sense crying over spilled milk now was there? These things came with the job and he had been aware of all of it from the very beginning. This was just another aspect – no difference to the scars on his body. And after all, every job had its draw backs, its bad aspects – it was simply a part of life.

He shook his head to himself – dislodging his circling thoughts. Some days were worse than others, that was normal too. There were a few more ‘worse ones’ since he had started his relationship with Hizashi – his relationship with a highly notorious vigilante – but Shouta had expected as much. It wasn't like he had walked into all of this with a pair of rose tinted glasses, expecting sunshine and rainbows.

And really, while this relationship could trip both Hizashi and he up if anyone should find out about it, it was much more likely that it just… wouldn't. After all, if both Hizashi and he did this the right way – whatever that might mean in the end – then, reasonably, nothing bad should come from this.

From the outside they were just a radio host and a no-name hero – they weren't interesting enough for anyone to come digging. Nobody would waste their time with such a trivial headline.

Still, these pointless, fearmongering arguments always circled in his head, like pesky flies. Shouta batted them away – rolling his eyes at his own antics… He was well aware that all those arguments would come to circle again soon enough.

Shouta huffed out a sigh as he ruffled a hand through his hair to make it look somewhat less wild. He would just have to learn to live with the constant nagging at the back of his mind – pointing fingers at his new relationship. After all it wasn't like there weren't enough other bizarre things already there, pestering him… Fear of photographers, caution of every person approaching him, suspicion towards even the most friendly conversations, towards eyes that just lingered a fraction of a second too long…

The point wasn't that those thoughts were there, the point was that Shouta didn't let them hinder him, no matter how loud they might get.

He loved Hizashi, he truly did – maybe he was bad at actually spelling it out and maybe he hoped that his actions were enough to convey his feelings without the need for words. But he truly, truly adored the other man.

For the first time in forever he felt like he had found a like-minded person, someone he could trust – a save harbour. Someone who just got him and who didn't – nearly aggressively – tried to change every little thing about him. Someone who accepted him.

He was… happy.

It was a dangerous emotion, Shouta knew, it took up so much space inside of you, hollowing out parts of you just to fit and it was so easy to get used to it… yet it was also all too fragile – easily broken or knocked over by other people – and then the hollow it had carved out was empty again and left you desperate; trying to fill it again.

… But it was what it was, wasn't it? He was happy – maybe even giddy some days – and he wouldn't let everything be ruined simply because his thoughts were irrational and his mind liked to sound the alarms when there was no reason for it.

Shouta could be a horribly stubborn man if he wanted to be – and he definitely wanted to be when it came to Hizashi. He wanted to make an honest effort.

Once he was done in the bathroom he made his way back to the kitchen again where Hizashi was currently sitting in the chair Shouta usually occupied, a steaming mug in front of him – he was staring out the kitchen window, a severe frown on his face.

“You know-” Hizashi started as Shouta passed by him to pour himself a mug of coffee too. There was a short pause, as if Hizashi was contemplating how to continue and Shouta gave a soft hum to signal that he was listening – encouraging the other man to keep going.

“This is a really dreary place!” the blond man finally burst out, the displeasure audible in his voice “No offence.” he added a second later, tone a near awkward squawk, as if the previous words had slipped out of his mouth without his mind approving first.

Shouta let out an amused sound and walked to the table, hot coffee mug in hand – he passed by Hizashi's – his own – chair and bent at the hip a little so he could press a chaste, short kiss against the other mans temple, before he sat down on the chair opposite of the vigilante.

“Non taken.” Shouta said and gave a shrug, he blew on his coffee a few times “What about it?” he asked after a moment. He knew his apartment wasn't ‘très chic’… or even average for that matter. It was mostly empty – only filled with necessities. It was small too – but he really didn't need more space when all he ever did at home was either work or sleep. He hadn't even bothered painting the walls – except in his bedroom where everything was dark, the walls, the bedding, the carpet… it helped him fall asleep. But everything else in the apartment? Why bother? The greying white of the walls was fine as it was and the little furniture was simple and served its purpose. Why put in needless effort into something like that?

He threw a look over his shoulder, following Hizashi's gaze out of the window – seeing the wall of the opposing building. Shouta – in fact – was actually kind of thankful for the wall right in front of his windows – that way the sun couldn't reach his apartment; which in turn meant less eye strain caused by bright sun light for him. Even if it was clear that Hizashi wasn't sharing his sentiment – the downturn of his mouth and his furrowed brows made that rather obvious.

Still, the apartment was close to Shouta's patrol route and the school, lying more or less smack in the middle which was one less thing he needed to worry about. Also it was cheap – though Shouta really didn't need to be bothered by stuff like that, after all it wasn't like he was strapped for money or anything. He simply wasn't a big spender – that was all – just because he theoretically had the money didn't mean he had to throw it out the window by the fist full – buying frivolous things he didn't need and that would only clutter up his space.

… The apartment wasn't the nicest – that much was true – but there also was nothing wrong with it either.

He turned his head forward again, away from the window, and took a sip of his coffee – keeping the warm mug clasped between both his hands the way he always did.

Hizashi's frown darkened even more if that was still possible “You haven't personalized it at all! Like, there is nothing here that shows who lives here. If you just up and left right now then the whole thing could be resold again tomorrow, no need to change anything or like touch stuff up or something.” Hizashi said, one hand waving in the air – he sounded like that was some sort of big problem.

“And?” Shouta asked, back, tone dry, expression dead-pan. He didn't really see why this was such a big deal to the other man. So what if the apartment could be resold right away, what if there was nothing to get rid off – didn't that just mean less work for everyone involved? Less time spent on returning to the previous state?

Hizashi gave a soft huff, mouth opening and closing a few times as if he wasn't sure what words to use “Don’t you want it too look cozy?” he asked, sounding honestly confused.

“My bedroom is cozy.” Shouta gave back simply – and it was the truth. His bed was big, the mattress had been expensive but worth every penny, the bedding was soft and the walls were dark so nothing would disturb his sleep. It made sense too, the bedroom was meant to be a sleeping space and so Shouta had optimized it for that purpose.

“I don't see why the rest of the apartment has to be cozy.” he continued “I’m not doing anything big here, it is just for working.” he shrugged and Hizashi's mouth pulled down. Shouta took a sip of his coffee, taking in the other mans put out expression – he let out a soft sigh and decided to meet Hizashi halfway “Why does it bother you?” he asked, trying to understand Hizashi – opening the conversation up again, making room for a discussion. He placed his mug on the table opening up his posture as best as he could – though he still had both his hands clamped around the porcelain. Old habits.

Hizashi's expression grew confused as if he couldn't quite comprehend Shouta's question. He drew his bottom lip between his teeth, chewing as he mulled the question over. For a few heartbeats everything was utterly quiet.

“ ‘Cause I like you.” Hizashi started slowly – the answer made Shouta blink… what had that to do with anything? Hizashi's eyes flickered up to him, fixing him with a serious look as he continued “And I don't want to think about you, sitting here alone, in such tiny, unwelcoming apartment all day long.” he said, words nearly halting but the earnestness in his voice made Shouta pause – he felt something warm in his chest. Ah, he thought, a gentle realization settling in – his expression softening.

“I do not have much need for personalization.” he started to explain, lips curled into a gentle up bow “You do not have to worry.” he continued, tone low and warm “I’m not actively depriving myself of something. I simply do not see the why I should decorate this space. It isn't like I'm forced to be here – I actively chose this place.”

Hizashi let out a hum that was clearly meant to be placating – it sounded doubtful around the edges though. His concentric eyes swept over all the empty spaces around them, his brows still furrowed just the slightest bit.

“Hizashi.” Shouta said and the other mans gaze snapped towards him “It is fine.” he smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring expression and the other man seemed to mellow out at that – though there was still a slightly pinch to the edges of his mouth.

“If it’s fine for you.” Hizashi conceded “I guess it’s just that I can’t imagine living here. Then again, I don't have to live here.” for a moment his eyes trailed away, slipping towards the door and looking into the living room “Though a few splashes of colour would be nice…” he said, contemplative, words trailing off slowly – his face took on a far away expression, as if he was mentally rearranging Shouta's apartment.

“Maybe something minimalistic? Like, sleek black and white with a few accents of colour? Would be nicer than this washed out palette here anyway.” the blond man started to ramble and Shouta listened to it patiently, something like warm amusement rolling through him. It didn't go unnoticed that Hizashi tried to draw up a clean, simple and uncluttered space – imagining up something that would align with Shouta's own taste, leaning away from Hizashi's own colourful home decoration. Truthfully, it was rather touching to realize how much Hizashi catered towards Shouta instead of his own preferences. It was… nice to have someone who tried to expand on Shouta's own character – to compliment it – instead of trying to supplant it with something different.

… Even if it was just concerning something as simple as home decoration.

The thought was appreciated and Shouta had to admit that some ideas did indeed sound good. So Shouta just let the other man blabber on in that excited way of his while he himself just hummed from time to time, sipping on his coffee – silently contemplating all the different ideas Hizashi threw at him.

In the end both of them finished their coffee and started to get ready for the day – for Shouta that meant putting on his hero suit and for Hizashi it meant collecting his old clothes and getting properly dressed again.

A while later both of them stood in the entrance way, pulling their shoes on.

“I’m going to sniff around some popular villain hang outs tonight.” Hizashi said and Shouta gave a grunt in acknowledgement.

“I’m still hunting down the guy you pointed me to but I feel like I'm getting closer. I narrowed down some spots he might use to hide. I'm going to check those tonight.” Shouta gave back and kicked his second boot on while Hizashi was kneeling to tie his own shoes.

The vigilante gave a hum in agreement “Sounds good.” there was a beat of silence “Are you free tomorrow then? We can meet up and pool whatever we found out.”

Shouta's brows pulled into a frown as he mentally went through his schedule. In the end he nodded “Yeah, we can meet up before my hero patrol.”

“Goodie! Dinner? My treat this time.” Hizashi smiled and Shouta couldn't suppress an answering smile – even if he knew it was probably too wide and eerie.

“Okay.” he gave back, voice warm before he turned to unlock the door.

“Amazing!” Hizashi nearly yelled before he bounced out the door. Shouta rolled his eyes at the other mans obvious enthusiasm and stepped out as well. They made their way down the stairway and once they had reached the entrance of the building Hizashi pressed a kiss against Shouta's mouth – a little too harshly, clearly eager, maybe somewhat desperate.

“Try to be careful tonight then.” Hizashi said, he was smiling it looked a little crooked though – a little odd around the edges. Tense.

“I will try.” Shouta nodded and then after a second he added “You try to be careful too.” his tone was serious.

“Will try.” Hizashi gave back and then leaned in for another – slightly too rough, slightly too eager – kiss, his hands rose to cup around Shouta's jaw, holding tightly, his nose pressing into Shouta's cheekbone.

Shouta angled his head a little, making their lips slot together more smoothly. He rested one hand against Hizashi's hip, fingers squeezing just the slightest bit – holding. They finally parted again, both of them still standing close – Shouta's thumb was brushing up and down, drawing mindless circles onto the other mans hip.

“Love you.” Hizashi said, breathless and Shouta gave a low rumbling hum.

“Love you too.” he gave back easily – seriously – and without another word Hizashi stepped out of his hold, opened the door and bound outside into the street. He gave a silly wave, sporting a lopsided, toothy grin on his face before he skipped away not unlike a spring ball.

Shouta just shook his head to himself in fond exasperation, a somewhat amused twist to his mouth as he watched the other mans antics. He stared after him silently, until the vigilante had vanished around a corner and then he started to make his way to the subway.

He reached the school not too much later and the day from there on proceeded normally. In the end he found himself listing off all the absences to this point during one of his free periods.

“You look tired. Did you and your boy-toy have fun yesterday?” it sing-songed smugly.

One of his free periods… that he shared with Kayama…

Shouta let out an annoyed sigh and shot the woman a look over his computer screen before he silently went back to his work – not dignifying any of that with a reply. Which – all in all – was also a lot easier than trying to explain that there hadn't been any ‘fun’ yesterday and that he only looked this tired because he was currently still getting used to having another body beside him at night.

Admitting that he had sleeping troubles from time to time might also just encourage Kayama – even if Shouta didn't quite know in what way. It might make her worry, or maybe it would fuel her desire to help and she would – subsequently – stick her nose into something that wasn't really her business…

And, while her actions would be well intended, she would only end up wearing down his nerves even more than she already was – beside, it wasn't like she could do anything about it… Well, maybe she actually could, what with her quirk… but the idea of being knocked out cold by a quirk didn't sit right with Shouta. In fact, the thought of being unconscious and unable to wake up until Kayama's quirk had taken its course and worn off again made him feel more than a little queasy.

There were a few beats of silence and then Kayama's teasing tone morphed into something more serious “Your boyfriend.” she said and it took Shouta a moment to realize that the woman tried to rectify what she had said earlier – substituting ‘boy toy’ with ‘boyfriend’.

Was she trying to sound more respectful? Shouta blinked at his screen, momentarily surprised – truthfully he had already resigned himself to the fact that Kayama would needle him about his newly revealed relationship status from now on – at least until she got bored. His eyes drew up again, meeting Kayama's blue ones over the top of their computer screens. He frowned at her – confused.

The woman shrugged “I mean, you look tired. More so than usual – which means something. Anyway, it’s normal to assume that it’s because of your boyfriend. Some people in relationships just sometimes do it – nothing weird there.” she shrugged again “So I just asked myself if he was over last night.”

Shouta's mouth thinned for a second as he tried to figure out what Kayama's game might be this time around. Why did she want to know what he got up to with other people? Did she want to make fun of his sex life now too?

Kayama gave a third shrug “You don't have to tell me.” she said simply and went back to her own work. Shouta blinked again, utterly befuddled. Was Kayama sick? Had she gotten hit by a quirk of some sort? For an insane second Shouta contemplated activating his Erasure to make sure that the person opposite of him was, in fact, Kayama and not some shape-shifter.

He had stopped his tapping by now, fingers hovering over his keyboard, a crease between his brows “He was over.” he said slowly – cautiously. Experimentally.

Kayama's head snapped back up and Shouta braced himself for whatever remark she would throw his way… but she just grinned lazily and said “Did you two have a nice evening then? It got a little late, huh?” her tone was coy but not teasing, it sounded honestly curious.

Shouta's jaw jumped as he tried to decide how to proceed – something was weird here, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He unclenched his teeth and then slowly answered “We had dinner and watched a movie together. Nothing else happened.”

Kayama hummed softly to herself “Sounds nice.” she commented entirely unfazed by his halting, distrustful response “Fucking is nice, you know, but cuddling can be nice too.” she threw out nonchalantly, waving her hand in the air as if she was batting away something. There was a short pause “Are you two serious then?”

This line of questions was going into a completely different direction than Shouta had initially anticipated. Kayama was steering clear of innuendos and nosy remarks about his sex life. She wasn't digging about what they had done, or how they had meet, or details about Hizashi as a person – which had been one of Shouta's biggest fears. No, instead she was simply asking if Hizashi and he were serious… it was a private question – in the absolute sense – yet at the same time it was also surface level enough to not be too invasive – just polite chit-chat between colleagues with no hidden caveats.

… Kayama usually didn't do surface level, if she was curious about something she usually went the full mile and didn't content herself with anything else. Kayama was a woman who knew what she wanted – in all aspects of her life.

Shouta frowned again, his stare fixed on the woman opposite of him – but he couldn't see anything suspicious, just idle curiosity, an open expression. In the end he gave a grunt in confirmation – nodding.

“That’s nice.” Kayama said, her tone honest “He seems like a good guy. Bit excitable maybe… bit two-faced.” she mumbled the last part in an odd pitch of voice though it didn't sound angry or put out – more like she was intrigued… Shouta didn't know if that was good or bad “But a good guy non the less.” Kayama continued “He seems serious too about your relationship is what I'm trying to say. I'm happy for both of you.” she smiled and it looked completely genuine.

Shouta blinked slowly “Thanks.”

Kayama just chuckled and waved her hand again as if she was swiping Shouta's word away “You two seem so different but I guess opposites attract – that's what everyone always says, anyway.”

Shouta expected her to say more, to maybe press for something else or to try and give him some unasked for relationship advice… but instead Kayama fell silent again and turned her attention back to her work. He blinked and then slowly turned his attention back to his work.

By the time he had finished his absentee list and had moved on to checking his emails Kayama spoke up again “How’s that thing going you work on?” she asked – surface level question, her tone just a tad cautious as if she was seeing how far she could go… Toeing her way closer – to what exactly Shouta didn't know.

“Still at an impasse.” he answered – more comfortable with talking about work than his relationship.

A hum “Are you getting some information at least? Or are you completely stuck?”

“I’m going to scout out a few hiding places tonight.” Shouta supplied.

“Good luck with that then.” Kayama's smile was genuine and encouraging.

“Thanks.” Shouta said slowly.

Again, silence – Kayama returned her attention back to her own work as if nothing had happened, her nails clacking over the keyboard. Shouta raised his gaze over the top of his screen, regarding the woman with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, his eyes slightly slitted – his brows furrowed.

For some bizarre reason he felt like he was being played, like this was a trap and he was walking right into it – like trying to get a stand-offish cat to come closer by ignoring it and piquing its curiosity.

His lips flattened into a thin line and then his mouth opened “How is your own work going?” he didn't know why he asked, he didn't know why he tried to engage Kayama at this level – he didn't even like idle chit-chat, he thought it served no real purpose… and yet here he was.

He saw Kayama blinking at her screen in something that nearly looked like pleasant surprise before she raised her eyes again, looking at him “Oh, good, good.” she gave back easily “I actually caught a villain rampaging through a hospital the other day and no one got injured – I mean, unless ‘sleeping peacefully’ counts as ‘injured’ nowadays anyway.” here she trailed of for a moment “My new merchandise is selling well too and I even got an offer for a modelling job – though I'm not sure if I should take it.” she shrugged.

“Why?” Shouta asked. Why indeed? Why was he continuing to ask questions? Especially since he didn't care for the whole marketing aspect of hero work anyway. Maybe it was simple because Kayama – for some reason or another – seemed to act weird today? Strange in a way that Shouta couldn't quite put his finger on.

Kayama gave a thoughtful noise at his question “Guess it’s mostly because I just really don't like modelling jobs all that much on a whole. The first time I did one I picked up the magazine afterwards and they had just airbrushed the fuck out of me – just photoshopped away a lot of my muscles mass, made my waist and hips smaller and my eyes bigger and everything.” she let out a sigh “It was a little like I was looking into one of those weird distortion mirrors they put up during fairs or carnivals. I mean, that's business as usual and I really shouldn't have been surprised by that… but it just made me feel kind of weird.” she chuckled though it sounded mirthless “Eh!” she shrugged “It’s stupid to be hung up about stuff like that, I know. And actually it’s kind of funny when some random person taking a picture with their phone manages to capture you better than an actual paid professional.”

Shouta gave a low hum and after a moment of thought he replied “There’s nothing stupid about seeing the discrepancy between how you see and perceive yourself and how the world wants to see and interpret you and feeling strange or put out by that. I would assume that it can be disorienting when both those ideas clash with each other – though obviously I'm not speaking from experience here since I do not have to deal with things like that. So I might be wrong.” he spoke his thoughts aloud, shrugging at that last part – as someone who avoided the public eye he obviously had no first hand experience with things like that; so he might just be talking nonsense here.

For a moment it was silent and then he added “If photo-shoots make you uncomfortable then you don't need to feel obligated to participate in them no matter what your agency might tell you.” his voice was serious here – after all it certainly wouldn't be the first time an agency tried to force one of their heroes to do something they didn't want to do just because there was money to be made.

Shouta's mouth flattened into a thin, bloodless line and he grit his teeth – Kayama was a very confident and strong-willed woman and it was a little hard for Shouta to imagine that anyone would be able to force her into anything if she didn't want to do it… but then again the hero market was getting more and more commerce orientated as of late. Maybe…

“Huh…” Kayama said and she sounded surprised – it ripped Shouta out of his mussing, he blinked up at Kayama and the woman blinked back, her eyes slightly widened as if in disbelieve “You really are a sweet guy when you want to be. I honestly thought Yamada-kun was full of shit but now I feel like I own the guy money!” she let out a startled sounding chuckle.

Shouta blinked again as his mind processed the words and then, a second later, after the meaning had sunk in – the compliment had registered – he felt heat creeping up his neck. He ducked his head – lower half hidden behind his capture weapon and upper half curtained by his hair – Kayama's laugh turned into something raucous.

After the woman had calmed down again she said “It’s good to know.” her tone honest, and then a beat or two later she added “You don't have to worry by the way, my agency isn't pressuring me or anything if that’s what you think.” she shot him a reassuring smile before she went back to her work.

Shouta's eyes momentarily flickered to the clock on the far wall – the free period was nearly over – then to his computer screen – nearly done with writing out his email – and then back to Kayama. He blinked – he felt as if something important had just happened and it had just went straight over his head. For a second he contemplated opening his mouth again – asking what Hizashi had exactly told Kayama, asking what the woman had meant with ‘It’s good to know’… but in the end he only shook his head to himself and remained quiet.

He finished typing out his response – and maybe the fall of his fingers was a little more forceful than it had to be – he hit sent and turned his computer off before he made his way out of the teacher lounge.

Kayama waved after him, a cheshire grin on her face – she looked immensely self-satisfied, like the cat that just got the canary and Shouta couldn't really explain why. He felt like he had been played… yet nothing bad had happened – had it? They had merely had a simple conversation and Kayama had gotten nothing of real worth out of it… had she? Shouta squinted slightly at the woman – was Kayama's smile a good sign or a harbinger of worse things to come? Shouta truly hoped it was the first one.

His last lesson of the day went by without a hitch and soon enough he was packing his things up again – making his way home… or at least that had been his plan, but he stopped short as he passed the entrance gates of UA, now face to face with someone he had hoped to never see again. Pity…

The other man jogged towards him, a nearly offensively bright smile on his face and Shouta felt his own mood deteriorating in some kind of reciprocal action – the brighter the other man smiled the more severe his own frown got.

“Eraserhead!” the other man greeted – finally stopping in front of Shouta – his side-swept bangs bobbing with the motion. There was that flicker in his brown eyes that made Shouta feel overtly cautious, made him squint his eyes just the slightest bit in suspicion…

Shouta heaved an internal sigh, he only just managed to not close his eyes in a mixture of long-suffering annoyance and genuine anger. He opened his mouth to respond only to – a second later – realize that he had forgotten the other mans hero name again… oh what a blissful handful of days it had been since he had last been subjected to the other mans shenanigans – he had nearly managed to repress the knowledge of his very existence.

“Outbreak.” the other hero supplied helpfully, his smile not wavering in the slightest at the obvious fact that Shouta had already forgotten about him again.

“Yes.” was all Shouta said, rather flatly. He gave a short nod in acknowledgement and then tried to sidestep around the younger man. In response Outbreak simply moved in front of him again – cutting off his way. Shouta clenched his jaw at that – he really didn't like it when people did that – his lips thinned into an irritated line. He shot Outbreak withering glare and – with no small amount of satisfaction – he noticed that the near aggressive smile the other man sported started to waver and crack at the edges. It didn't take long before Outbreak let his gaze sink – avoiding Shouta's piercing, unblinking stare.

“Can I help you?” Shouta asked, rather sharply, voice nearly a growl – it wasn't really a question. This better be something of considerable magnitude because Shouta really had no nerve for whatever nonsense the other man might have come up with.

His lips thinned into a bloodless line as the absurdity of the current situation fully sunk in – he frowned in something akin to concerned confusion. How had Outbreak even found out that he worked as a teacher too? Had Outbreak just dug up his hero name? Or asked someone for it? But who would he ask? Where could he have read Shouta's hero name? After all Shouta had only started using an actual hero name a handful of months ago. As far as he knew even UA’s official web page hadn't listed his hero name just yet. His eyes slitted. And all of that was before you even considered the fact that Outbreak had seemingly lurked in front of the school and waited for him to leave – like some sort of borderline stalker.

Shouta's nostrils flared slightly as he drew in a deep breath, trying to at least curb some of the irritation that was searing through him, white and hot. His alarm bells were ringing again, his gut telling him that something was fishy here, even if he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

He took another deep breath – calm down, he told himself, this was nothing more than his hyper-vigilance shouting at him again. This was obviously just a case of his distinct dislike of Outbreak teaming up with his general distrust and hyper-awareness – and it was giving him a false reading.

It had been the same before too – with Kayama – being suspicious of her motives when she had only wanted to have an idle conversation, no hooks or hidden strings attached. Shouta consciously relaxed his tense muscles – he really needed to get a grip on his hyper-vigilance, after all, not everyone he meet was a potential danger no matter how much his mind wanted to convince him of just that.

True, Outbreak might be an annoyance but he also was a fellow hero. Shouta had always advocated against the ‘us versus them’ mentality many heroes exhibited – heroes against police, agencies against other agencies, daytime Pros against underground heroes. Really, he of all people should lead by example and not dismiss someone simply because it was a daytime hero who stuck his nose into things he – very likely – didn't even fully grasped or cared to understand.

“Well, you see-” Outbreak started, stuttering, his light brown eyes flickering up to Shouta's face for a second before his gaze fixed on something beyond Shouta's shoulder – looking but also not looking – avoiding eye-contact “I was just curious if you found out something new? The police holds you in really high regard and I just can’t stop thinking about the whole case. I feel like there is something bigger going on and…” there was an awkward pause “I tried keeping an ear to the ground too but...” another awkward pause followed by a cough “I really don't have the connections you types seem to have – underground heroes, I mean.” for a second his eyes flickered to settle on Shouta's face before his gaze slipped away again just as fast “The stuff I managed to figure out just leads to a bunch of dead ends…” he shuffled around a little “I really just want to help, Sir.”

Shouta let out a long-suffering sign, he closed his burning eyes for a second – feeling himself deflating, the anger bleeding out of him. The young man meant well, he was seemingly eager and genuinely invested… yet it was also very obvious that he had no idea what he was getting himself into. He had no experience with organized crime and its dangers, had no experience with staying low, or gathering information, or blending in for that matter – or anything else that was vital to underground hero work. He was blue-eyed and naive – nearly to the point of farce, really.

Shouta let out another sigh and opened his eyes again, fixing them on Outbreak, a serious expression on his face “You should keep out of this.” he finally said, though it wasn't meant to be antagonizing – just the truth “This type of investigation is dangerous, more so than you might think right now. It is better to leave all of this to the people who are experienced and actually know what they are getting themselves into.” and then a moment later – not unlike an after thought – he added “If you really want to go into the underground then I would suggest that you read into it first so that you can make an actual informed decision. Don't just follow your impulses without thought. And if you do go into the underground then start with a few small job, something relatively tame so you can build up your skill-set and learn the inner workings of everything first – before you get yourself involved into something big like this.” Shouta's mouth thinned for a second before he continued “Though I believe underground work would not suit you at all.” he said, blunt and honestly.

Outbreak gave a soft cough – clearing his throat. He seemed embarrassed. There was a second of silence before he moved his head to look at Shouta directly – his side-swept, dark brown bangs bobbing with the slight movement.

“Sorry.” he said and it sounded beaten down “I didn't mean to get in your way or be a bother. I just think what you are doing is really cool. I actually became a hero to help people and I only just realized that there are so many more different ways to help after I meet you – stuff that I never thought about before. And now I feel like I could help more people as an underground hero. That would be better, I think. And I believe that I can make it work!”

Shouta let out a sarcastic snort at that “There is no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ if you do your job properly.” he rolled his eyes, only just suppressing a scoff “A daytime Pro helps just as many people as an underground hero or the police does – if they are doing their job without compromises. Keeping the peace is a joint venture, and in theory no part is less helpful than another part. We should all be moving towards a common goal, namely keeping civilians save from harm, instead of bickering over who does what and what is ‘better’.”

Outbreak frowned at that, looking thoughtful “But there are so many bad daytime heroes out there who really don't care – I don't want to be like them.”

The words reminded Shouta of the talk Hizashi and he had had months ago, way back when they hadn't yet been a couple and sub-sequentially Shouta felt himself mellowing out at least a little “Then don't.” he gave back simply “You do not have to be an underground hero for that. Just be a good daytime Pro and do your job as best as you can.”

Sure, it wasn't easy doing the ‘right’ thing in the current hero economy, especially with agencies railroading their heroes to do the things that made money and leave everything else behind – but ‘being a good hero’ and ‘being a daytime Pro’ weren't two mutually exclusive things. If Outbreak really wanted to make a change then it was better if he stayed where he was and lead by example – change from the inside out if you so will – instead of vanishing into the underground, when he neither had the skill-set and quirk nor the mental attitude for that kind of work.

Outbreaks frown darkened slightly – an expression of deep concentration on his face “I’ll think on that for a bit if it’s all right?”

Shouta snorted and raised his eyebrows in a way that clearly conveyed, without words, how silly he thought that sentence was – Outbreak really didn't need to ask him if it was okay for him to think about something this big for a little longer. No one expected him to come to a conclusion right on the spot.

“Sorry, that sounded stupid.” Outbreak said sheepishly, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. There was a beat of silence, his eyes flickered up to Shouta, nearly shyly “I don't want to be annoying...” he started slowly “-but I still really would like to know if you know anything else – about the case I mean. I promise I will stay out of it if you want me to! But I just can’t stop thinking about the whole thing. I would feel better knowing that the whole case is at least moving forwards...” a short pause and then a hasty revision “Not that I don't trust you! I fully believe that you can get this done with the help of the police and whoever else but I just...” he trailed off and shrugged.

Shouta let out a huff and shook his head to himself “If you must know: I'm currently following the trail of someone I believe to be involved in the case. If I can pin him down and take him in then the police and I might be able to get more information about other people who might be involved through him.”

“Oh?” Outbreak sounded nearly star-struck “Is it one of the big wigs?”

“No.” Shouta gave back simply, voice a little dry “It likely is nothing more a henchman but he is seemingly responsible for some of the dealings around the red-light district.” he said and then, because he was feeling graceful he added – giving a bit of advice “It’s normal to start small in such cases and then work your way up. Catching a weak link in the chain is a lot simpler than going for the leader right away, especially in cases where you lack information.”

“Oh...” it sounded disappointed this time around as if Outbreak had hoped for something bigger, more flashy – something fit to make headlines “Well, I really hope that the guy turns out to give you some reliable information. It’s really about time that you get some good news.” he smiled up at Shouta.

Silently Shouta had to agree – this whole case was like trying to find a needle in a haystack… actually it might have already surpassed that level because, truthfully, it felt more like trying to find the piece of hay in the needlestack.

He didn't say anything else though and simply passed by the other hero – giving a pat to his shoulder as he did so – and then made his way to the subway so he could get home and get some more paper work done before he had to prepare for his patrol tonight.

His way home was uneventful and – once had reached his apartment – he spent most of his afternoon working. The low hum of Hizashi's radio show a familiar and comforting background noise.

Once or twice his mind strayed though, slipping from the pages he was working on, lulled by Hizashi's enthusiastic blabber through the speaker of his laptop and in the short lull that followed Hizashi's spoken segments Shouta found himself mulling over some of the ideas that Hizashi had thrown out only this morning.

… Maybe a new couch wouldn't be such a bad idea after all – and his old one was getting rather ratty, that wasn't a lie. Maybe he would ask Hizashi about that again at some later date.

Time – as it was prone to – moved on and slipped away. The radio show ended and Shouta got up to make himself something to eat. It was a habitual thing by now – a new kind of routine to make himself something to eat after Hizashi's radio segment had closed. It had the added benefit that Shouta's eating habits had gotten a lot better – less missed meals because he had been too focused on his work. He went back to his documents afterwards and, before he really noticed, his phone alarm blared – reminding him that it was time to get ready for his patrol.

Truthfully, he was nearly eager to get going – he had felt like a dog chasing its own tail for much too long now and he was hoping that tonight would be the night where he would finally be able to get his hands on one of the people involved in all of this. At this point he was nearly desperate to finally get some information that Hizashi and he could actually work with – some lead, some breadcrumbs they might be able to follow.

It was already past midnight when he ascended the stairs of the apartment complex – one of the possible hiding spots that Hizashi and he had narrowed down. His footfall was silent, eyes trailing over the numbers beside the doors, 7, 6, 5…

Shouta stopped short, his body immediately tensing, head snapping around but… no… no one was there. He narrowed his eyes – he didn't feel the prickling on his nap that usually told him that he was being watched, heard no steps, no rustling, no breathing – just the quiet of the night.

But… why was the door to the apartment open then?

No one was outside – did that mean that someone was inside? Was someone lurking – somebody else than just the one person Shouta had expected? Or was something else up? Was it a trap to lure him inside – curiosity that was supposed to kill the cat?

Cautiously and slowly he made his way to the door – his eyes flickering over the ground, looking for things meant to trip him up; quite literally. He flattened his back against the wall beside the door and then – gently and carefully – reached his arm out. He pushed his fingers against the door, drawing his arm immediately back against his chest. The door swung open a little bit more… but other than that nothing else happened.

Shouta waited another few seconds just to be sure – after he had had one door blow up into his face he really wasn't hot on a repeat of that situation. Furthermore this time he knew for sure that Hizashi wasn't around to safe him from his own naivety.

Still, everything remained quiet. And in the end Shouta stepped forward again – now no longer flattened against the wall – he raised one of his hands up to his capture weapon and with the other one he pushed the door open slowly.

The apartment was dark except for the little bit of light that fell into the space through the now opened door and the windows on the far side of the room. Shouta walked carefully – making sure he wouldn't accidentally tip something over or step on something that might cause a noise.

He walked through the dark entrance way and stepped into an open living room. His eyes sweeping around, making sure that there was nobody who was hiding in a shady corner only waiting to…

All of a sudden – like a wall – a scent hit him and he froze on the spot. His chest ached with an old phantom pain, his lungs struggling to draw in air, his breathing turning shallow as he tried to avoid the scent – in vain – it was everywhere, soaked into the furniture and cloying the air.

… He knew that smell only too well.

Warm, rusted iron, clinging to the back of his tongue uncomfortably, repugnant, like a butchery on a hot summers day.

He swallowed the smothering scent down – for a second some long past images resurfaced in his mind again, an old thing that still haunted his dreams from time to time… he swore he could smell the sickly sweet smell of rot alongside the scent of fresh blood, the scent of rain mingling with dirt, wet pavement.

He followed the stench and toed open the door to his right. It swung open with a high-pitched wooden creak that seemed to burrow into Shouta's ears, making him shiver involuntarily – making him feel as if he had to shake his head to get the noise out again.

The scent was strongest here – an invisible wall, a blanket draped over the entire room. He reached out a hand, fingers brushing the wall beside the door, searching… the light flickered on with a soft click of the switch – bathing the room in nearly yellowish light.

Shouta swallowed again at the scene in front of him – twisted limps, arms clearly broken, blood soaked into the bedding and the carpet around the bed, splatters on the beige walls… open eyes, expression frozen in horror and pain, throat cut, stomach seemingly too, clothes torn in places.

Dead. Clearly. There was nothing anyone could do to reverse it. Nothing left to do.

Shouta forced himself to look at the grisly scene, eyes open and unblinking, expression stony as he took everything in – signs of a struggle, lamp shattered on the floor, bloody handprint on the wall. Had this altercation been an emotion fuelled fight? It seemed likely why else would there be more wounds beside the one on the throat? Had it been anger? If so: Why had the attacker been angry?

Shouta pulled out the phone from his pocket and dialled the police station, giving a short description, his burning eyes still fixed on the corpse in front of him – the wet scent of iron was trying to suffocate him, like invisible ropes constricting around his chest; yet he remained stationary. He idly noticed that his second hand was still raised to his capture weapon – was clutching at it in fact – and he unclenched his stiff finger.

Nothing to do right now but wait for the police to come. Nothing but waiting. Shouta hated waiting. Hated feeling useless while he waited. Hated the knowledge that there was nothing else to do.

Chapter Text

In the end Shouta came home a several hours later. It was always so much bureaucracy, so much paperwork, so much background checks when something like that happened… a murder that was. Still, Shouta had given his testimony and had helped the police as best as he could – sharing part of his own clues and getting a look into the police database in exchange.

It had turned out that the dead man had been known to the police already – drug abuse, drunken scuffles, domestic abuse… There was nothing of interest other than that though, nothing useful – no known gangs, no association, nothing. All of them had to hope that further investigations might yield some results and give them all some useful information.

Something that was worth something, just a single clue that they could actually use, anything at all…

Shouta let out a tired, annoyed sigh. He closed the door behind himself and locked it again before he pulled off his boots – his movements slower than usually. He was exhausted and he knew that he couldn't completely blame it on his bad nights sleep. No, this was something else than mere physical exhaustion…

He placed his shoes neatly against the wall and then pulled out everything important from his pockets – keys landing on the living room table, wallet next, phone too – before he made his way into the bathroom – already in the process of shucking off his hero costume along the way. The black fabric stank – blood and stale air and his own sweat – and he wanted it off. Preferably as soon as possible.

Once in the bathroom the very first thing he did was to throw his suit and his capture weapon into the washing machine, followed by his white tank top, his dark sweatpants, his underwear and his socks – he didn't care for any possible discolouration or anything else, he just wanted everything to stop smelling, just wanted in as clean as it could get, no matter if if white tank top might come out a grey mess in the aftermath. He poured the laundry detergent and started the washing circle – the machine clanked and rumbled as it started up and soon enough Shouta heard the slosh of water as the laundry drum filled up properly.

For a moment he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and letting it out again slowly before he turned towards the shower stall – he turned on the water and stepped under the spray. The water was too hot but it didn't really matter right about now – it wasn't important. What was important was to get the clean, to get the stink that had soaked into his hair out, the get the smell off his skin.

He washed himself down, using more soap than was strictly necessary, his skin turning pink from a mixture of too hot water and too harsh scrubbing. He poured a hefty amount of shampoo onto his hair, rubbing it in vigorously – the foam dripping down around his shoulders and running down his back and chest in thick, white rivulets.

The shower stall was stinking too… Rationally Shouta knew that that was impossible – the shower only smelled of shampoo and bar soap and hot water mist and yet he still had that sickly sweet stench sticking to the back of his tongue and cloying up his nose. Phantom memories of another night scratching at the back of his mind – a night that was by now ages in the past.

Rot, garbage, wet rain, dirt, stiff limps, disgusting sensation of wet plastic bags sticking to his bare hands like glue, empty eyes, too young… too young… much too young…

He took a shaky breath, his short, blunt nails scrapping over his scalp near painfully – drawing his mind back into the present near violently. He ducked under the spray, the white foam washing down the drain in swirls. He turned the shower off again and grabbed the next best towel or dry himself off, rubbing it along his tender skin and ruffling it through his dripping hair quickly.

Absent-mindedly he wondered why the man had had to die in the first place. Had he been killed by some random robber who just happened to break into that specific apartment? Had he angered someone and that person had gotten their vengeance in this way? His wounds had been deep, not all of them coordinated, more than there had to be – a murder fuelled by emotions, so that last option seemed rather likely.

Shouta's face suddenly drew into a dark frown… or maybe someone had figured out that Shouta had been after him and so the man had to be silenced before Shouta could have gotten to him? Was that what had happened? Tying up loose threads?

He grit his teeth – hands still moving automatically, squeezing the water from his dark strands. Something was going on here, something big and Shouta didn't like it one bit. He felt like someone was running a blade over his spine – something was wrong his hyper-vigilant mind screamed at him and this time around he had to agree with it. Something about this investigation wasn't right at all. His jaw jumped, his hands slowing there movement as he let the towel sink to rest around his shoulders.

For a second or two he was completely still, staring at an invisible spot on the wall – thoughts circling, trying to find something he might have overlooked, just a tiny hint… but no, nothing. Finally he blinked, he let out another sigh and then lifted the wet towel away from his shoulders – draping it over the sink. He exited the bathroom – clicking the light off as he went, plunging his apartment into utter darkness again; since he hadn't bothered turning on any other lights after he had come back. It wasn't like he needed it either, he knew the outline of his apartment like the back of his hand – beside, he had always been able to see just fine even when it was pitch black; thanks to his quirk.

He padded out into the living room – intent on making his way into his bedroom. He stopped short though as his gaze was suddenly drawn by a stark green glow. Complete darkness. Bright green glow. Dark again. The tiny LED on the top of his phone – currently resting on the living room table – was blinking; informing him that he had missed some sort of message – either a call or a text.

For a moment Shouta simply watched the light blink on and off again, indecisive. Could he actually be bothered to go over to the table and see why exactly his phone light was flashing? His mouth thinned slightly as he stared at the blink in the dark… He just wanted to lay down… even if he had an inkling that he wouldn't be able to fall asleep tonight – the repugnant scent of death was still clinging to him, sweet rot sticking to the back of his tongue.

In the end he let out a soft sigh and made his way towards the table. He grabbed his phone before he turned on his heel – heading towards the bedroom again. He clicked the screen on as he walked.

He tapped on the message symbol on his lock-screen twice, which opened up his messenger app immediately. Shouta's expression softened somewhat as he noticed just who exactly had written him at this late hour. He toed the door to his bedroom open as he started to read.

Heya darling <3

Just got out of the bar, had a great ol’ smoke filled time :)

I stink like a pack of cigarettes! D:

Makes me retch!! Yuckie!!!

Anyways…

Not much going on this time of year it seems if you know what I mean

Didn't even find one interesting person

Bleh!

Did you have a nice evening at least? Did you find the dude you wanted to catch?

Shouta's eyes scanned over Hizashi's texts. He frowned down at the too bright screen, his free hand rummaging through his closet so he could draw out something to wear. It seemed that Hizashi's night had been a bust too… just their luck it seemed.

He let out an annoyed huff and threw the phone onto the bed. Now that both his hands were free he started pulling on the clothes he had just picked from his closet and after he was done he let himself sink onto the bed heavily.

He reached for his phone again, contemplating how much he should say or if he even should say anything at all – Hizashi and he would meet up later anyway, so it wasn't like he needed to get everything out right away. He could simply leave the other man on read till then.

For a few long moments his thumb hovered over the screen of his phone – wondering… unsure – and then he started typing.

I found the man I was looking for

His finger moved slowly over the touchscreen. He sent the message and, barely a second later, the small ellipse-bubble popped up at the upper corner of the screen – informing him that Hizashi was already typing an answer back.

Hizashi just had no patience, and while Shouta normally found that somewhat amusing today just was a little… different. Shouta's mouth drew down slightly, lips flattening as his fingers took up their tapping again.

Dead

He added before Hizashi had managed to write back. The ellipse in the upper corner disappeared for a few seconds. Then reappeared. Then vanished again. Nothing happened for the longest time and Shouta had half a mind to turn his phone off and just crawl under the blanket of his bed and stay there until morning.

What?

Popped up on his screen first and, after a short pause – the quiet before the storm – a literal slew of other messages followed – one pling after another.

Dead?

What happened?

No

It’s probably better if you tell me personally

Wait!

Did you find the corpse?

Of course you did what a dumb question

I'm sorry

For a second Shouta's phone actually stopped its buzzing… and then:

Are you okay?

Shouta let out a low hum as he read those three words. Was he okay? He was, wasn't he? No physical injuries, no nothing – just a little tired. Exhausted. The one who wasn't fine was the dead man he had found… and they still didn't know why he had had to die in the first place.

Shouta cocked his head to the side a little – his hair falling in still wet strands around his shoulders and over parts of his face.

I'm fine, I wasn't hurt

He answered truthfully. The ellipse on the upper corner popped up nearly immediately after the message had been sent.

That’s not what I mean

I mean if you are fine-fine?

Sorry, that was another stupid question just…

You know what? Fuck that!

I'm coming over

Shouta frowned down at his screen – confused.

Why?

He asked, completely befuddled. It was the middle of the night and Hizashi was probably just as tired as he himself was. It simply made no sense for Hizashi to come over when nothing was amiss or needed his immediate attention. Was the vigilante so curious about whatever Shouta had found that the just couldn't wait to get the information? Shouta frowned down at the screen – Hizashi could get the information when they meet up too, so why the rush?

Why?

What the hell do you mean ‘why’?

What the fuck?!

Just…

Stay where you are

I'm coming over and you can’t stop me

Shouta blinked at his screen.

It is late, you should go home and sleep instead. Nothing happened and I don't have anything interesting to share

The ellipse popped up lightning fast but then vanished again as quickly as it had appeared – beside Hizashi's name on the upper edge of the screen the word ‘online’ switched over to ‘offline’.

Hizashi had left him on ‘read’ Shouta noted idly. It seemed that the other man had finally realized that it was a complete waste of time to come over and discuss what had happened when there was nothing of worth that they could share right about now – they could only wait and hope they would uncover another trail in time. All in all it seemed like Hizashi's curiosity was sated for the moment – Shouta hoped the other man would actually go to bed now and rest… though knowing how stubborn Hizashi could be he wouldn't be surprised if the vigilante would go out again in the hopes of digging up a few new bread crumbs they could follow.

Shouta let out another low noise – a somewhat resigned sigh – and then reached over to his beside table to plug the phone into its charger before he finally slipped under his blanket – fanning his hair to one side so he wasn't laying on the wet mess.

He closed his eyes… but the second he had shut out the world around him his mind supplied him with a different image behind his lids – night-time, rain, dark alleyways, a pile of wet garbage bags… limbs visible under the black plastic, sticking out stiffly in places.

The rotten scent seemed to get stronger too and Shouta wrinkled his nose, half in disgust and half in irritation – it had been years since he had found his first corpse, he had been 20 then, yet the images and impressions of that night continued to haunt him doggedly.

Sure, the whole thing had shaken him – after all, back then he had still been half a child, only two years out of UA – but he would have assumed that the experience would have faded into the back of his mind by now. Not unlike all the other times where he had found corpses since then… but no.

The fact that the images still trailed him wasn't all that weird though, Shouta supposed. The corpse had been a child, and he had always had a soft spot for children. Furthermore there was just something so utterly jarring about seeing a young life snuffed out so soon… And even if the scene hadn't been too graphic, aside from the dead body obviously – no blood, no visible wounds, etcetera – everything around it – the intention, the deeper meaning of it all, the coldness and wordless contempt – had repulsed him. Revolting, disgusted to his very marrow.

The fact that the child had been thrown into a small, dank alleyway, tucked under old trash bags as if that child hadn't even been a person, hadn't had a life, or a family… as if they had been nothing more than a piece of garbage. Dumped like trash…

The sweet, mouldy scent of old garbage, mingling with the rot of a slowly decomposing body, the pressing and damp after-rain air – all of it had risen into his lungs and had pulled a noose around his throat, chocking him, strangling him.

He remembered stumbling out of the alley and that he had thrown up. He remembered how his fingers had shook as he had called the police. He remembered the nightmares that had followed – trailing him, disembodied but persistent… like a haunting ghost. Always there at the edge of his mind, lingering, not really closing in but not disappearing either; like a shadow flickering in the corner of your gaze – disappearing again as you turned your head.

That too wasn't too weird either. He had been young back then and he hadn't really seen all that much up until that point – contending himself with jobs that helped him hone his skills instead of diving straight into murder cases… So stumbling onto a corpse – even if he had known, in theory, that it would happen one day, sooner or later – had been something that had taken him by surprise. He just hadn't been mentally prepared for it at that time.

He had been stupid and naive, he had no problem admitting that. Back then he had assumed that he would be able to stick to smaller, non-risk jobs until he felt ready for something bigger – he had believed that he wouldn't have to think about homicide cases that soon. That he would have a little more time before he came face to face with a dead body – that he could chose the moment when he would be ready for it…

In hindsight he really had been much too blue-eyed – still a true rookie…

The scent of wet rot seemed to get stronger and Shouta let out a half resigned, half angry noise as he pushed his face into the pillow nearly angrily – he drew in a deep breath and the scent of coffee that always clung to him hit him, bar soap, laundry detergent… a hint of lavender and honey, like a memory… Hizashi's shampoo, Shouta realized.

He had become intimately familiar with that scent over the last months. He drew in another deep breath of air, letting the sweet smell calm him. Thankfully his mind seemed to latch onto Hizashi's image easily enough – discarding everything else to instead hone in on the vigilante. Slowly, comfortingly really, his mind took him back to that morning, when they both had been lax and slow with sleep and they had fooled around in bed like some newly weds, sheets tangling around them, giggling and laughing like teenagers.

It was a warm memory, safe, sweet… Shouta held onto it and then pressed his tongue against his alveolar ridge, releasing all the air in his lungs through his mouth. Close mouth, draw in air through his nose, hold, breathe out through his mouth again. Repeat. Repeat… repeat…

He felt his tense muscles relaxing slowly, slowly, slowly…

Ping! Ping! Ping, ping, ping!

His eyes flew open and all the tension snapped back into his body, pulling him taut like a bowstring – only a few plucks away from snapping.

His phone on the bedside table was vibrating and pinging loudly – informing him that a slew of new messages were pouring in right in that very moment. Shouta let out an angry snarl – of course! Just when he was about to nod off. Typical!

He snatched the phone from the table – flicking his wrist so that the charging cable came unplugged as he did so – and then clicked the screen on. His anger evaporated again a second later as he read the messages – he blinked and his brows drew down into a frown, confusion welling up.

Shouta!

I'm here!

Come on, baby

Open the door

Let me up

It was Hizashi… Shouta blinked again and then slowly pushed himself up as if he was moving on auto-pilot. When Hizashi's status had switched to ‘offline’ before Shouta had assumed that they both had been in agreement about the fact that a meeting right now was unnecessary.

He sighed and only just suppressed the urge to rub a hand down his face – a mixture of both fondness and annoyance rolled through him. Hizashi was really just much too curious for his own good, coming over in the middle of the night because he couldn't wait a little longer to get some useless recollection of a crime scene. Or maybe Hizashi simply wanted to make sure that all the details were still fresh in Shouta's mind? Not watered down by time?

Shouta let out a soft sigh… he didn't quite know how to feel about Hizashi's inquisitive nature – for some reason he had a bad feeling about all of it… Hizashi seemed like the kind of person who could and would get so wrapped up in a puzzle that the forgot to calculate the possible danger of it. Lured by intrigue, straight into a trap – with no one to blame but his own curiosity.

Sure, Hizashi was incredibly smart… but he wouldn't be the first brilliant person who had – fuelled by their own cockiness and hubris – plummeted to the ground. The thought sat uneasy with Shouta and for a second he grit his teeth, his jaw jumping. He shook his head – trying to dislodge the niggling whisper.

He finally reached the front door and pressed the button that opened the door downstairs.

It’s open

He typed with his free hand, just in case Hizashi hadn't noticed the soft buzzing noise the door always made whenever someone pressed the button to open it. He kept the button pressed for a few moments longer, just to be sure that Hizashi had enough time to get in, before he grabbed his key and opened his front door – he slipped his phone into the pocket of his sweatpants and stepped into the stairway.

The first thing he noticed was that the lights were already on – there was loud stomping audible, as if someone couldn't get up the stairs fast enough. Shouta frowned and took a few steps forward so he was able to look over the rail. Sure enough, if he cocked his head just so then he was able to see a flash of blond hair a few flights of stairs lower.

His frown darkened – extremely tousled and tangled blond hair, Shouta noticed, hair that stood in every which direction as if… nearly as if Hizashi had tried to hastily pat the hair tower he was always sporting when he was out and about as Present Mic down. As if he had tried to flatten the hair gel soaked cone into something less suspicious in the shortest possible amount of time.

The more stairs he ascended the more of his figure Shouta could make out – his messy hair, the way he had his leather jacket bunched up and stuffed under his armpit, his white button down shirt pulled out of his pants to fall loosely around his hips; making him look more like someone who had just come out of a club than anything else. He was missing his tinted glasses too. It was clear that he tried not to draw too much attention.

Hizashi finally took the last few stairs and then stopped short in front of Shouta, his chest was heaving, his breath puffing out in pants – as if he had run.

Shouta suppressed an eye-roll, though his mouth quirked up into something half fond, half annoyed “I told you that I have nothing interesting to share. You didn't have to rush here.” it was softly chastising scoff.

Hizashi's gaze snapped up to his face – looking seriously offended and incredulous at the same time. He blinked at Shouta as if the hero had just sprouted a few mores heads or as if he was speaking pure gibberish. His expression suddenly smoothed out again and then morphed into something closer to concern.

“Are you fine?” Hizashi asked and stepped closer, his hands raising to cup around Shouta's jaw, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones. This close Shouta could smell the bitter scent of cigarettes wafting off of the other man – it made it only all the more obvious that Hizashi had hurried here without thinking about changing or showering first.

… Not that Shouta was complaining about the overpowering stink… at least not right now. Maybe later he would, but not right now.

The light of the stairway flickered out – leaving both men standing in the darkness. Which was somewhat silly and utterly unnecessary, Shouta thought. He stepped out of Hizashi's gentle hold, backing towards his door “If you are already here then you can come in too. We shouldn't hold a conversation in the stairway where everyone could hear it.” he motioned with one of his hands towards his still open door. Only a few seconds later did it occur to him that Hizashi might not even be able to see his motion in the suddenly pitch black stairway – ‘normal’ human eyes usually needed more time to adjust to complete darkness, didn't they?

He sometimes forget that not everyone was able to see as well at night as he was – true, he might not have a real night vision quirk and some things were still hard to make out in the dark – even for him – but he had always been able see more than most others. Thanks to his quirk.

“Come in.” Shouta invited the other man again – forced to use words instead of gestures. He watched as Hizashi swayed from foot to foot, seemingly strangely uncertain, before he stepped forwards a few moments later.

They stayed silent as they walked into the apartment. Hizashi busied himself by pulling off his boots while Shouta flipped the light switch on, making sure Hizashi would be able to see as well “Really” he started slowly “-we could have waited with all of this until tomorrow evening.” he pointed out as he stepped over the genkan and into the living room on socked feet – making his way towards the couch.

It didn't take long before he could hear footsteps behind him and he assumed that Hizashi was simply following after him – he was somewhat surprised when a pair of arms suddenly wrapped around him from behind, holding tightly – smushing their bodies together.

“You saw a corpse today.” Hizashi pointed out – quite unnecessarily in Shouta's opinion – his words were mumbled into Shouta's hair. The hero only gave a low hum in affirmation, he wanted to shrug, but seeing as Hizashi was more or less clinging to him he refrained from doing so.

“Not for the first time.” he answered as if he was commenting on the weather – stating a fact “Do you want be to describe it to you, is that why you're here?” Shouta asked, brows furrowing slightly. After all if Hizashi was already here they might as well share information in that very moment, before anything got too blurred by memory. Shouta assumed that was the best course of action in this situation – maybe Hizashi might even be able to point something out that Shouta might have overlooked; maybe some villain ‘trademark’ that had been left behind.

He felt Hizashi stiffening slightly along his back, everything was silent and still for a few heartbeats and then Hizashi moved – circling a little around Shouta so they were both able to look each other in the eyes. Hizashi wore a complicated, nearly scrunched up expression – his brows severely furrowed, his lower lip between his teeth, his eyes sparking with something that Shouta wasn't able to name.

Another second or two of silence passed and then Hizashi spoke up again, his tone nearly tentative, pitched as if he wanted to sooth “Only if you want to.” Hizashi murmured softly – his voice uncommonly quiet. Shouta's own face pulled into a frown as well – confusion twisting his expression, he blinked at Hizashi.

The blond man wiggled closer still until they both were pressed chest to chest – Hizashi's hands were rubbing up and down his back in a soothing caress. A beat of silence and then “I just thought maybe you don't want to talk about it, right after it happened. You don't have to feel forced.” Shouta watched as Hizashi nipped at his bottom lip again, once, twice, before he licked his mouth open again with his tongue – there was a flicker of disbelieving recognition in his concentric eyes “Doesn’t it bother you?” a tentative question, a hint of doubt and confusion.

“What?”

“The corpse.”

Shouta's eyes trailed around the room for a moment, sweeping over the nearly empty space “Of course it does – a person died.” he gave back again. Sure, it had been a truly awful person – but every life had value… even if that knowledge tasted like ash on the back of his tongue some days, even if it was hard to remember why some times – it was important that he did anyway.

“It’s not your fault.” Hizashi whispered, his green eyes searching out Shouta's gaze.

Another hum “Maybe.” Shouta finally answered, his dark stare burrowing straight into Hizashi's “The time of his death is strange.” Shouta continued “Right when we were so close. Maybe he was killed so he would not talk.” there was a beat of quiet, Shouta's expression pulling into a sombre frown “It feels like something is up. Like there is something even bigger than we initially expected.”

Slowly Hizashi drew back, looking into his face as if he was searching for something. After a few heartbeats his mouth suddenly turned down – there was a glint in his eyes; like he had finally found the answer to an impossibly complicated riddle – understanding… sympathy.

“You know you can be upset about the whole thing. It’s fine.” he said and Shouta blinked, feeling like Hizashi had reached some kind of conclusion that he himself hadn't even ever thought of before – like Hizashi had skipped five steps ahead in their conversation and left him behind in the dust. Hizashi seemed to pick up on his stunned confusion – he elaborated “About finding a dead body. You don't have to just accept it… or swallow it down, or be ‘strong’ … or whatever this here is.”

Shouta's mouth flattened as he realized what exactly Hizashi was on about, he gently slipped from the other mans hold, getting a bit of space between them “I’m not… ‘upset’ about it.” he tried to explain – tried was the keyword there though. He didn't really know how to describe what he was feeling right now, he didn't know why it was important either – and, to be honest, he also didn't know why Hizashi acted like a dog with a bone right now when Shouta had already told him that he hadn't been harmed and that everything was fine.

He let out a soft sigh. Hizashi was concerned – not necessarily about his physical well-being but instead about his mental one… And it wasn't as if Shouta didn't appreciate all of it. It was nice to know that someone was there who cared – so much so that they came running in the middle of the night… But Shouta just wasn't sure if he needed – or even wanted – that at this moment.

He wasn't lying either – he wasn't upset. Not really. Sure, finding a dead person was never a pleasant affair but it hadn't been the first time and he was sure that it wouldn't be the last either – not with his job, really, it was only a matter of time before he would stumble upon the next corpse. Maybe sooner, maybe later, but it would happen – of that he was certain.

His eyes trailed around the room as he mulled everything over – he felt Hizashi's gaze on him. Sure, he was also somewhat in consternation about the fact that a man had died – criminal or not. Shouta had just never been one of those people who left common sense at the door and were lusting for death or vengeance. And frankly, he thought less of those heroes who seemingly were, to him that wasn't what being a hero was about…

Furthermore he also didn't really see a reason to be ‘upset’ as Hizashi had put it – after all what would that even accomplish? Nothing. He hadn't even known the man – and dead was dead anyway. No one was able to reverse that. Wading through knee deep self-pity wouldn't change that – in fact it would just make everything even more exhausting and annoying for everyone involved and Shouta had no interest in that. He didn't much care for things that were irreversible and unchanging – he might as well scream at the sun for all the good it would do him. It was a waste of time and effort and just brought a whole lot of negative emotions along that were unresolvable.

“I'm-” he started slowly before he trailed off for a heartbeat or two – trying to find a word that would calm Hizashi down, but really, what could he say? “-fine” he settled on in the end.

“Are you though?” Hizashi asked provocatively – like a challenge. He stepped closer to Shouta again though he wasn't touching him this time around – giving him some space. Shouta didn't really know how to answer that – he didn't know what Hizashi was trying here, wasn't sure if there was a right or wrong answer. A frown settled on his face. He wasn't good navigating conversations like this.

“What are you getting at?” he asked bluntly – if Hizashi wanted something then he could say as much – there really was no need for this coy back and forth, this pussyfooting around an issue.

Hizashi shrugged, a thoughtful expression on his face, a soft glint in his eyes “I don't really know yet.” he said and his words sounded honest.

Shouta gave a mirthless snort “You don't even know yourself?” he asked, incredulous. He shook his head to himself “You are much too curious.” he sighed out. Hizashi was poking at something when he wasn't even sure what he wanted out of it in the first place.

Hizashi shot him a slightly lopsided grin “You’re not the first to tell me.” he nearly quipped.

Shouta huffed and then took the last few steps towards the couch, he let himself sink onto it “I do not like pussyfooting around an issue.” he said bluntly, his dark eyes rising to fix on Hizashi – an intent stare “If you want to know something just ask. If I want to answer I will answer. And if I don't want to answer I won’t. Simple as that.” he scooted towards the far side of the small couch, clearing up space beside himself – an obvious offer.

Hizashi took it and let himself flop down beside him – the couch cushion bounced a little at the impact. He let his legs fall open a little – knocking their knees together before he spoke up “It’s just that...” Hizashi started, words slow “You just seem weird right now.”

“How so?” an honest question – trying to understand.

A shrug, Hizashi drew his bottom lip between his teeth for a moment “There’s something strange in your gaze. Can’t really describe it. I get the feeling that something is bothering you…” he trailed of, his teeth nipping at his lip again – he looked strangely nervous, as if he wasn't sure if it was okay to keep pushing or if he should back off. His concentric eyes settled expectantly at Shouta – expecting the hero to answer that question for him. Was this okay?

Shouta tipped his head into his neck as he mulled that over, his eyes trailing over the ceiling. One of his hands rose nearly unconsciously, brushing the strands of hair that always fell over his forehead back. Fingers trailing lower, combing through his hair – his bangs flopping back over his forehead again – lower still until his hand settled in the nook of his neck. His jaw jumped and his eyes flickered over Hizashi's expression as he tipped his head forward again – no longer resting against the back of the couch.

He opened his mouth but then closed it again, his lips thinning as he pressed them together into a tense line… Just how much did he want to bare? His gaze caught Hizashi's – electric green eyes open, warm, gentle.

… It was fine to be vulnerable with your lover wasn't it? It was fine to talk about things like this with someone you trusted, no?

Shouta let the hand at his neck fall down into his lap, his eyes closing for a second or two, he let out a soft sigh and then opened them again – fixing them on Hizashi “I’m tired.” he said.

“Of?” Hizashi prompted gently – he scooted a little closer, his leg now pressed from thigh to knee against Shouta's – warmth soaking into Shouta's skin there.

Shouta's jaw jumped, a beat of silence and then “Coming too late.” he grit out, voice low and quiet.

A heavy pause.

“Darling.” Hizashi started softly, one of his hands reaching over to settle on Shouta's thigh, thumb rubbing circles “You couldn't have prevented it.”

“Maybe.” was all he said – he shrugged. Hizashi only frowned at him.

“Not ‘maybe’.” he gave back immediately, voice picking up some fire “You couldn't have known any of this would happen and therefore you couldn't have stopped it.”

Shouta let out a non-committal noise, neither agreement nor disagreement. He knew that, logically speaking, Hizashi was right. He hadn't known, that much was true – but he should have. That was his job as a hero after all – he should have suspected something like that, he should have been quicker, he should have done… something.

Also, if the man had indeed been killed so Shouta wouldn't get to him… then wouldn't that also mean that someone knew what Shouta was working on? That someone knew what he was doing? Was aware of his interference? Shouta grit his teeth… that was a whole different can of worms he would have to open sooner rather than later.

“Let me stay over tonight.” Hizashi said, and it ripped Shouta out of his thoughts – it wasn't a question. A second passed and Hizashi elaborated “For my own sake.” he lowered his eyes away from Shouta's face, pulling his one hand in Shouta's lap into his own where he started fiddling with both his hands, fingers picking at his nails “I know this is kinda presumptuous. We have only known each other for so long after all and even if we are in a relationship that doesn't mean I can just barge in and do whatever I want, or demand whatever I will. Like, it’s no free pass…” he nipped at his bottom lips for a second before he licked his mouth open again to continue “I'm aware of the fact that you had to deal with stuff like that before too. Without me there, like, I know that you can deal with this alone and I'm really not trying to baby you here and...” he let out a frustrated huff, his mouth quirking down, his brows furrowed.

“I guess what I'm trying to say is: You dealt with all of this before, sure, and I know you don't necessarily need someone here, yes… but you also don't have to do this alone anymore… if you don't want to, that is. I mean, I would understand if you told me to scram but…” Hizashi's eyes flickered up to Shouta's – sincere and warm “I'm here now. So, I just want you to know that if you feel like you need it then you can always lean on me. I want you to – I want be able to help you. I love you and I just want to make sure you're fine, that's it. No pity, or trying to be some saint or stuff like that – no ulterior motive.”

For a split second his gaze lowered, before it rose to meet Shouta's again – electric green eyes nearly imploring “Also I would feel better too, you know… if I could stay by your side. I worry. I mean, maybe I don't need to – but I do anyway. That's just part of caring about someone.”

Shouta gave a fond sigh, feeling somewhat touched, a warm feeling in his chest. For a second he was warring with himself – unsure if he should dump all of this on Hizashi so early in their relationship.

Shouta hated to be a burden, he hated pushing his problems on other people… but then again, Hizashi had asked… so it wasn't ‘pushing it on others’. And they were in a relationship so Shouta saw no real sense in trying to keep important things like that from Hizashi – that would just be counter productive, wouldn't it? All of this would have come up sooner or later anyway, so trying to push this conversation back indefinitely just wasn't rational. Better to just be upfront about everything – so there wouldn't be any unpleasant surprises later down the line…

“I'm probably going to have a nightmare tonight.” he pointed out as if he was commenting on the weather or something equally mundane “I can smell rot.” he supplied – the cloying phantom scent was always a very reliable indicator. Whenever he was able to ‘smell’ it, it usually meant that he wouldn't get any real rest that night.

Rather belatedly he realized that Hizashi wouldn't know what he was saying with that – the other man didn't know the implications of his words or their relation to each other. His mouth flattened into a thin bloodless line – his fingers twitched minutely in his lap as the desire overcame him to comb his hand through his hair again. He suppressed it.

For a few beats it was utterly quiet and then Shouta decided to just get absolutely everything out while he was at it anyway. Now was as good a time as any. Maybe even the best time – since they both were already more or less talking about corpses and murder.

Shouta opened his mouth – though it took a second or two before he actually started forming words, as if his mind had needed a moment to figure out where to go with all of this “When I was 20 I saw my first dead body.” Shouta started, straight to the point “It was a child tucked away under some garbage bags in an alley.”

His jaw jumped before he continued “I was aware of the fact that in my line of work it was just a matter of time until I would see my first corpse. It was only in the vaguest sense though – I had always just assumed that I would have some kind of forewarning. But back then I just stumbled upon the scene without being able to prepare for it beforehand.” his lips twitched into a mirthless, derisive half-smile, he shook his head “And looking back now I know that I was unbelievably naive to think that I could ever be prepared for something like that. Nobody could be. Not truly.” here he paused for a second, mulling his following words over.

“It shocked me.” he settled on – tone as if he was reading a story out of a book. After all he had had this talk with most of his other lovers too – this was well-treaded ground by now “After moving some of the garbage bags and seeing the dead face of the child and stumbled out of the alley and threw up.”

He swayed his head from side to side in a thoughtful way “I did a lot of growing up that night.” he said after a few seconds of quiet “And I wasn't the same after that – but people change and I do not believe that I changed for the worse. In fact, I realized a lot in that night. In the aftermath I discovered and came to terms with many things that I hadn't really thought about until that point.” he trailed of for a second.

“But that's neither here nor there.” he cut himself off “The point is that I was unable forget the scent of the alley – this indescribable rotting-damp smell of garbage, death and decay after the rain.” he paused for a moment, his eyes trailing to Hizashi beside him. The other mans expression was strange to say the least. There was something there but Shouta just couldn't put a name to it – a strange glint in his eyes coupled with a pinched facial features.

“When I found the corpse in the apartment I started smelling it again. And the scent still lingers, even if I know it is all just in my mind.” he continued, idly watching as Hizashi's right hand reached out to curl around his left in his lap, he felt the warmth of the other man seeping into his fingers “I'm fairly sure I will have a nightmare later.” he gave shrug for lack of anything else to do.

Nightmares just came with the job description, just like injuries and weird work hours, just like hyper-vigilance and scars and a great many more things. Being a hero wasn't a bed of roses after all – then again, no job really was, was it? There was always something that you disliked or at the very least found irritating. For some people it was a crick in the neck, or an annoying manager and for Shouta it were nightmares.

He felt a squeeze around his hand and turned his head – blinking at Hizashi inquisitively. The other man wore a determined expression, his brows drawn together, his concentric eyes fixed on Shouta.

“I want to stay.” Hizashi's voice was serious and strong, yet there was something soft there too, something fragile. As if he was afraid that Shouta would rebuke him and throw him out again. As if he wasn't quite sure of his welcome – afraid he might overstep a line.

Shouta felt his expression soften, his chest flooding with warmth, the corners of his mouth quirking up just the slightest bit. For a split second he wondered – did he want someone there? Did he want Hizashi to maybe see him at one of his lowest points? He could always refuse – if he wasn't comfortable with the thought… In the end it was really just a question of trust – and Shouta wanted to trust.

He squeezed Hizashi's hand in his for a second or two – reassuring. He gave a shrug “Fine.” he agreed simply and then added “If you want to wash up or get the gel out of your hair you can use the bathroom and whatever you find in there.”

“Thanks.” Hizashi's smile was genuine – though it was a little smaller than normally; thankful, relieved.

A low hum “I’m going to get you some clothes.”

“Okay.” a nod.

Shouta slipped his hand out of Hizashi's hold and stood up to make his way into his bedroom and get the other man something to wear – he felt Hizashi's gaze lingering on him for a time, before he heard the creaking of the old couch, a clear sign that the other man had gotten up as well.

He entered the bedroom and opened his wardrobe, pulling out an old shirt and a pair of drawstring sweatpants before he made his way towards the bathroom. He rapped his knuckles against the slightly ajar door. A warning if Hizashi would rather prefer that he remained outside.

“Just come in.” Hizashi called out and Shouta opened the door fully. The other man was currently standing in front of the over sink mirror, using a comb to get his slightly stiff, tousled hair to lie flat.

Shouta watched the struggle for a few long seconds “You can just get in the shower and wash it.” he said flatly.

“It’ll take forever to dry.” Hizashi shot back immediately, tone pouty.

“You can take the blow drier.” Shouta offered.

Hizashi's nose wrinkled for a split second before his expression smoothed out again “Thanks but that’ll take a lot of time too and I’d rather just get into bed and sleep. I'm tired and it’s late.” Shouta hummed lowly – he could relate, he wanted to get into bed too “Unless you insist.” Hizashi blabbered on “I mean I still have all the gel in my hair and I don't want to get your pillows or your sheets dirty or something, like, I can wash my hair if you want me to but-”

Shouta let out a soft snort “It’s fine Hizashi. I don't mind.” his tone was amused. Even if something should get dirty he could always just throw it into the washing machine – it wasn't a big deal.

The blond man gave a slight giggle “Thought as much but eh.” he shrugged “You know, just want to be sure.” a short pause “Do you have a hair tie? Maybe I’ll just braid it.”

Shouta draped the clothes over the edge of the sink and then stepped around Hizashi – pulling open the drawer of the cabinet under the sink, he fished out a hair tie. He closed the drawer again and, without really thinking about what he was doing, he stepped behind Hizashi and started partitioning his hair – his fingers combing out any tangles left before he started pulling the long blond strands into a simple overhand braid.

Braiding hair – be it his own or someone else's – was a soothing, mindless motion Shouta found – something he didn't have to really think about yet it still kept him and his hands busy anyway. He had always liked playing with the hair of his previous lovers’ as well, his hands moving in familiar patterns – over and over.

Hizashi really had beautiful hair, soft and smooth and a little cool at first touch, it fell around his fingers so nicely too. Absent-mindedly Shouta noticed that Hizashi's hair was the perfect length for so many different braids and styles – he was sure a fishtail would look good on Hizashi, but braiding those always took so much time, especially with hair this long. Another time then.

He finally reached the tips of Hizashi's hair, he held the braid fast with one hand while his other one twisted the hair-tie around the end – making sure it was tight so it wouldn't accidentally unravel during the night. Shouta pulled his hands away after he was done, eyes trailing over his handiwork – his fingers felt somewhat sticky with residue gel, he rubbed them along his pants.

“Okay?” he asked and Hizashi nodded before he turned around.

“Yeah.” he answered, his voice an odd pitch, nearly a little hoarse “Nothing pulls or anything.” he added after a short pause, he shot Shouta a warm smile. Shouta couldn't quite keep a frown off his face at Hizashi's strange reaction – he wondered what the other man might be thinking about right now. Well, if Hizashi wanted to share he would surely do it in due time. And if he didn't then that was that.

Shouta just gave a low hum before he picked the clothes resting over the edge of the sink up again – he reached them over to Hizashi “I will wait in the bedroom.” he informed “Just put your old clothes wherever you want and turn off the lights when you are done.”

Hizashi only nodded mutely and took the clothes from him. They lingered motionless in the bathroom for a few more, near awkward, moments and then Shouta turned to make his way towards his bedroom.

Once there he let himself sink down onto his bed, idly he wondered what Hizashi was thinking about right now. Not that there was any point to it, Shouta didn't have a psychic quirk after all and as long as Hizashi didn't outright tell him what he was thinking about he would be non the wiser.

Maybe Hizashi wasn't thinking about anything in particular right about now – or maybe he was wondering how he had accidentally slithered into a relationship with a man like Shouta who had such irrational problems… ‘Baggage’ - that’s what people called it.

Shouta had been told before that he didn't ‘react properly’ to ‘everything’… whatever that meant. Was there a proper way to react to such things? Was there a right and a wrong way to breaching a topic like this? If there was Shouta didn't know and, frankly, he didn't care either. This was the right way for him and maybe it wasn't the right way for others – but Shouta wasn't ‘others’.

He let out a low noise and shook his head over himself – there was no real sense dwelling on the nature of other peoples thought processes, after all he wouldn't be able to figure those out anyway. It was a Schrödinger's cat scenario – every presumption he had was as likely to be true as if was to be false. And spreading rumours or jumping to conclusions without evidence had never really helped anything, now had it?

He simply slipped under his blanket and turned onto his left side, his front turned towards the curtain covered window. He closed his eyes and let out a soft sigh through his nose – he would have to leave for school again in a few hours. He nestled deeper into the bed forcing his body to relax even as, a second later, the door to his bedroom swung open with a soft noise. A quiet ‘click’ followed, signalling that the door had been closed again.

Shouta opened his eyes again, turning his head slightly – he watched as Hizashi carefully made his way through the – for him at least – still somewhat unfamiliar, pitch black room. One of his hands reached out, connecting the corner of the bed to make sure it was really there before he turned his body slightly so he could sink down on it – slow and carefully.

It was a very mundane thing to do and there certainly was nothing special about it yet Shouta felt his mouth quirking up slightly at the corners – for whatever reason. He settled back into his previous position, face turned towards the window – behind him Hizashi got settled as well, the blanket lifted up and lowered again, rustling, shifting… and then silence. Stillness.

… It didn't last long though – barely a minute or two – before the rustling started up again. Shouta felt the mattress dip and a second later there was an arm curling around his waist – chapped lips pressed against the nap of his neck. A beat of quiet, a nose nuzzling into his hair. A chest flush against his back.

“You can be angry or sad or something, you know? That’s fine.” Hizashi said, voice as quiet as it ever got, soft – nearly a whisper. Nearly like a confession; for what Shouta didn't know “About everything.” Hizashi continued “You don't have to just accept everything because you think…” the other man trailed off for a second “…I don't know…”

Shouta gave a soft huff – he really would like to try and get at least an hour of sleep instead of having this kind of conversation. Still, he appreciated what Hizashi tried to do all the same “I know.” he gave back slowly, thinking how to best phrase himself so the other man would understand him and his thoughts “I simply do not see the sense of it. Getting upset serves no purpose – especially when I can’t change what happened anyway. What is done is done. Getting hung up about the past and wasting time and energy worrying about something that has already happened and won’t ever change or undo itself is simply irrational.” he gave a half shrug “I’m just not the type for it.”

There was a beat of silence, Hizashi's grip on his waist tightened slightly “Well, if you ever change your mind about that then I'm here. I know I talk a lot but I can also listen.” another beat of silence “You’re still allowed to be upset about stuff even if you can’t change it. You don't have to just accept everything without complaint. Don't hold yourself to such impossible standards. You’re just human and there’s nothing wrong with that – sometimes people get sad or it gets too much for them and that’s fine.”

Shouta didn't really know what to say to that, the words bounced around in his mind like a screen saver – hitting one corner that didn't really know what to do with it before making its way to another corner of his mind that was equally at a loss what to do with it. Round and round.

His brows furrowed, there was a pinch to his mouth – a look of deep concentration settled on his face. In the end his tight expression smoothed out again. He curled his right hand around Hizashi's on his waist, intertwining their finger “Maybe.” he said – it wasn't meant to be dismissive and he hoped Hizashi understood that “I will think on it.” he added – promised – after a moment, feeling the need to make that clear, to show the other man that he was taking his words serious and would think them over.

The blond man hummed behind him, he snuggled impossibly closer, moulding himself around Shouta's back – spooning “Thanks.” Hizashi said – for what or why Shouta didn't really know. He hadn't really done anything that needed gratitude after all. Still, he refrained from voicing this thought.

Finally the room feel silent again. And Shouta realized that – this time around – it was easier to nod off. Where he had focused on his own breathing before he was now concentrating on Hizashi's instead – the way the vigilantes chest rose and fell against his back. The number of breaths Shouta counted blurred as his mind slowly slipped into unconsciousness.

 

#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#

Shouta walked down the alley, gaze trailing up the walls of the buildings bracketing said alley. Something felt off, though he couldn't really put his finger on what exactly it was – his steps seemed nearly like they were lagging, like he was walking over something that tried to pull his feet down, like there was extra resistance when he moved forward. It was a little like trying to wade through water, he thought idly.

His gaze fell to the ground and he frowned in confusion. Why had he even come here? Where had he been before? He tried to think back… but he couldn't remember. He let out a tense breath at that realization. His gaze swept around him – wary – there wasn't anything around really.

No light from any of the windows he could see, no feeling of being watched, no things that someone could hide behind – not even a trash container…

Focused as he was on everything else he didn't see the puddle on the ground – he stepped right into it and the water splashed up the pant legs of his hero costume. He stopped, his gaze lowering and he frowned down at the mess – lifting his foot out of the wetness. Only now did he notice that everything was dark with wetness, the air heavy with moisture and everything smelt of rain – not the fresh crisp scent usually associated with it but instead a different more musty smell… the stink of soaked dirt and garbage mingled with pollution. A wet metropolis.

He wrinkled his nose briefly as if that could somehow get rid of the overpowering scent – his mouth twisting down in something close to disgust.

He stepped over the puddle on the ground, his gaze turning to his left… his steps slowed again and before long he came to a complete halt. He found himself staring down a dark side alley – a small, pitch-black swath sandwiched between two towering buildings.

He didn't know why he stopped there exactly. He just knew that there was something strange about that particular alleyway…

A strange feeling settled in the pit of his stomach – a vague notion that he shouldn't go into that alley – that he didn't want to know what was at the end of it. He squinted his eyes, staring into the darkness – void black. He was unable to make out anything at all – and that only made his eyes narrow further, a deep frown settling on his features.

That had never happened before – even in complete darkness he was always able to make out at least something, thanks to his quirk, even if it were just vague shapes… but this alley seemed to be nothing more than a gaping maw of blackness – as if there was nothing there, just empty space.

Shouta's jaw jumped as he ground his teeth together, the fine hair on the back of his nap standing on edge. Unconsciously he rose from his usual slouch, straightening to his full height and squaring his shoulders.

He should leave, he knew – his mind was screaming and all his alarm bells were going off… but it was as if he was held fast – and the longer he stared into the darkness the more it felt like he was pulled forward.

Finally he started moving again – slowly, cautiously – making his way to towards the dark alleyway. He didn't want to go into it… yet he somehow also knew that he had to – it was a weird kind of certainty that settled over him. As if whatever lay down that path would hold some deeper meaning – the answer to a question that he didn't know just yet.

And all of it felt uncannily familiar at the same time…

The second he fully stepped into the swath-like alley it was as if a blind had just been drawn away – uncovering what lay beneath. All of a sudden Shouta was able to see the cracks spiderwebbing along the walls, the puddles on the ground – dirty rainwater, shimmering with a sheen of old oil – the smell of moist dirt and rotten garbage nearly smothering, hanging in the air like an unmovable wall.

He threw a glance behind himself and, sure enough, everything past the line where the alley began was now void black. Rationally, Shouta knew that he should be unsettled by that, that all of this was so obviously wrong… and yet he just noted everything with a weird sort of idle detachment.

His lips curled down as he turned his head forward again, continuing on his way.

For some bizarre reason the suffocating smell seemed to grow stronger and stronger still – dirt, trash, sickly sweet rot, mold, wet concrete. All of it threatening to choke him. His breathing came shorter and shorter – flat, barely raising his chest – as he tried to avoid the stench as best as possible.

He stopped as his way was cut off by an impossibly large pile of old garbage bags – his eyes trailed upwards, scanning over the near comically huge pile. Black, thin and rain heavy plastic as far as his gaze could reach – some bags were ripped up, here or there old trash was spilling out. His eyes roamed over the pile, he wasn't sure what exactly he was looking for, only that there was something here. Something he had to find… even if he didn't know what.

Another smell mingled with the already oppressive stink and it took Shouta a moment until he was able to identify it. His eyes widened slightly as he realized what it was that he was smelling – death. His eyes swept over the garbage bags again – urgently – and this time around he knew exactly what he was looking for…

… And sure enough, there it was – a hand poking out from between the trash. Its skin was waxy pale; long, fine fingers stiff with cold… still and motionless.

Morbidly drawn to all of it Shouta stepped closer – one slightly hesitant hand reaching out to push the garbage bags aside. Every bag he moved thumped into the ground around him wit a wet smack and the rustling of plastic.

The first thing he uncovered were two long legs – too long to belong to anyone but a grown adult. Shouta frowned in confusion for a second – he didn't know why that felt strange to him. Only that for some reason he had expected something else – shorter legs… a smaller body.

He continued to shove the bags aside, baring more and more of the lifeless form underneath – a slim waist, a lean figure… Shouta paused for a second, he blinked at the wet strands of hair he could see poking out here or there, sticking to the black plastic – like golden rivulets.

He felt his heart squeeze and stutter in his chest for a second before it suddenly started hammering against his ribs wildly – nearly painfully. An uneven breath quivered out past his lips as his hand – shaking by now, he realized nearly absent-mindedly – hastily shoved the last few bags aside.

The concentric eyes that greeted him were glazed over by death – unseeing. Their near unnatural, electric green colour dull – the familiar, beautiful spark missing… lost.

For a second Shouta choked on nothing, a wheezing breath slipping past his lips – a low, pained noise; not unlike a wounded animal. His body frozen and his mind floundered – a few heartbeats passed, loud in his ears, slamming against his chest insistently. Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thump…

Shouta blinked his eyes, idly realizing that they were burning – it felt different than usually though. Hotter somehow. More painful.

He took the last few steps closer and brushed his still outstretched hand over Hizashi's cheek – knuckles running gently over his cheekbone, a soft caress. Hizashi's skin was cold and wet, nothing warm left there – no life.

Shouta reached his second hand out as well. He pushed both his arms under Hizashi's still form, hoisting him up into his hold – Hizashi was so light Shouta didn't even really feel his weight. Hizashi's head tipped back over his arm at an odd angle. Snapped neck Shouta observed – idly… morbidly calm.

He curled his arms tighter around the man in his hold, moving his elbow so that Hizashi's limp neck would be cushioned properly. He tightened his grip again, tighter, tighter… closer – until he could feel his own ribs protesting the pressure; protesting the strength with which he was crushing Hizashi against himself.

His upper body curled over Hizashi like the terrifying bend of an ancient tree during a hurricane – protective… useless… and slowly he sank to the ground.

#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#

 

Shouta eyes snapped open, his chest raising with a sharp intake of breath – coming face to face with the darkness of his own bedroom. Slowly, consciously he breathed out again, he unclenched his jaw, his shoulder relaxing.

His right hand immediately brushed over the bed and towards his own hip where he could feel the sleep heavy weight of Hizashi's arm. Lax and warm – not stiff, not cold. He felt the other mans chest expanding against his back and the following exhale of breath against his nap. He started to mirror Hizashi's steady breathing rhythm. His right hand clamped around Hizashi's where it rested limply on his lower abdomen – maybe a little harder than he had intended, maybe a little more desperate than he had wanted; his fingers curling tightly.

Hizashi's hand was warm in his – his skin hot with life. Shouta felt the vigilantes heartbeat thrumming against his back, felt it in his own chest. He started to rub his thumb over Hizashi's knuckles as his own heartbeat started to slow down again too – adrenaline and shock slowly dissipating.

He didn't know how long he was just laying there, in the darkness – his thumb caressing up and down Hizashi's hand, mirroring the other mans breathing – until he realized that all of it just wasn't enough.

Another second of stillness passed before Shouta turned carefully in Hizashi's hold. His eyes swept over the other mans face, his gaze drawn by a few fair strands that had managed to escape the braid.

Near unconsciously he lifted his left hand up, reaching out – carefully brushing his palm over Hizashi's temple to sweep the loose strand there away. Something felt strange in his chest – displaced – his heart squeezed painfully and he didn't really know why.

He clenched his jaw and his left hand, seemingly on autopilot – as if he was watching someone else pilot his body – moved until he could cup it around the back of Hizashi's head. He applied gentle pressure and Hizashi's sleep lax body moved easily enough – he pulled the other man closer until the side of Hizashi's face was pressed into his chest.

Shouta dipped his head down then, the bridge of his nose brushing against Hizashi's forehead as he curled his body around the other man – as if that would do anything, how foolish, he thought… despite that he was unable to stop himself.

He didn't know how much time had passed exactly but at some point a sleepy mumble reached his ears – he wanted to loosen his hold, draw back so Hizashi wouldn't wake fully… even if his limps felt frozen in place for some strange reason. But before Shouta could scoot away again he felt Hizashi's arm around his hip tightening – stopping him short. A second later Hizashi's hand gripped onto the back of Shouta's sleep shirt – fingers curling into the fabric, holding fast.

“I’m here.” Hizashi said, words slurring together, tongue still unwieldy from sleep.

Shouta clenched his jaw and he swore he felt his teeth creaking under the force of it. He took a deep breath and pried his teeth apart again, his mouth opening but he didn't really know what to say. What could he say? A few seconds that felt like hours passed and then he said, with a voice that was a little too hoarse “Thank you.”

Hizashi didn't answer, he only tucked himself closer against Shouta's – his right hand positively clawing at Shouta's back, as if he was afraid the other man might disappear if he loosened his hold by even a fraction.

Chapter Text

With their best lead now dead on a table in the police morgue both Hizashi and Shouta were now back at square one – once again. They had spent so much time and resources just to uncover this much… and it was all for naught now – to say that they were both angry and frustrated would be a right understatement.

And they couldn't even continue where they had left of, trying a new angle, asking around again, finding a new weak link in a chain that seemingly was made of titanium… at least Hizashi couldn't. The vigilante had poked around a little too much as of late. He had been nosy, asking too many questions – and now someone was dead.

Things like that drew attention – the bad kind. Suspicious gazes and questions – rumours and whispers about what group might be involved, what crime ring Hizashi might be a part of or if it had been merely a personal thing? Or maybe a very strange coincident?

In any case, poking around an already agitated wasps nest wasn't a good idea and Hizashi had made it clear that he would lay low for a while – rebuild a few bridges that had started to crumble, get his reputation back on track again, meet up with a few people without asking any questions at all to seem more trustworthy again.

The blond man had advised Shouta to do the same thing as well – in fact, Hizashi was even going so far as to suggest that Shouta should cut down on his workload as a whole. After all it was painfully obvious that whoever they were after right now was scrupulous enough to just dispose of loose ends or weak chain links without remorse. So if Shouta continued to stir up the beehive he might get stung sooner rather than later.

There was the possibility that Shouta might get a warning first though – he let out a sardonic snort at that ridiculous thought. Get a warning? More likely not. He would probably just vanish too. And it was questionable if his body would ever even be found.

His mind halted for a second as he found himself wondering if the dead man had been a warning. He had mulled that particular possibility over since the night he had found the body – was this a sign that someone knew that he was on the case? Had the murder been a coincident or a direct answer to Shouta's investigations? And if it had indeed been an answer then he was treading on very thin ice right now.

It was logical to try and lay low for a bit with everything that was going on – Hizashi's request was rational… at least on first glance. Now on second glance though it was very plain to see that Hizashi was worried about him. His warnings weren't fuelled by rationality but instead by emotions – even if the outcome was the same in this case.

There was this strange spark in Hizashi's eyes, a weird pinch to his mouth, his brows furrowed – Shouta wasn't quite able to describe that expression with words but he just knew that it was there because Hizashi was concerned.

Shouta couldn't help but wonder if the sudden worry might have something to do with the nightmare he had had a few days ago. Had that been the catalyst? And if so, why? After all it had just been a bad night for Shouta – he had had those before and he would have them again. He knew that this particular nightmare, this particular setting, would haunt him till he stopped breathing – and with his luck it might as well be the last thing barging into the forefront of his mind while he lay dying; the last conscious image his mind would conjure up before he slipped away.

It was, to put it simply – inevitable.

… Still… just because it was inevitable didn't mean he couldn't be irritated or upset by it – that was what Hizashi had said anyway. Was that what Hizashi was doing too? Was the vigilante upset about something he couldn't change? Was he worried about something he wouldn't be able to ever stop?

Shouta frowned, his lips thinning slightly. Truthfully, he still found the whole idea that Hizashi had brought up somewhat… questionable. Was there even a benefit to it? Really, he still believed that it was simply a waste of time and energy to moan about something he couldn't change either way. It was just a lot of negative emotions and no pay-off – howling at the sun to stop shining like some lunatic. At least to Shouta it seemed like that…

Then again… Hizashi was definitely more adept at handling emotions – that was clear to see and there was no denying it… So maybe the other man did have a point with all of this and Shouta simply wasn't able to see or recognize it – what with his own limitations when it came to feelings and expressing them.

He let out a weary sigh and suppressed the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose in a mixture of annoyance and frustration. He had been mulling this over since Hizashi had first brought it up and he still hadn't made any real headway.

That seemed to become the norm as of late. The case stalling, his mind stalling – everything just sluggishly dragging on and eating up time but nothing of worth coming from any of it. No break through, not even a bread crump that could be used to follow a trail – nothing.

“Bad day?” Kayama asked from where she sat at the table opposite of his.

Shouta raised his gaze, looking over both their computer screens and meeting the woman’s eyes “No.” he gave back simply, because it was true. He didn't have a bad day per se… it was more that all of this was just endlessly frustrating him – leeching off of him to the point where he just felt mentally exhausted.

Maybe Hizashi was right, maybe he should cut down on his work load for at least a little while. This too was somewhat new – suddenly having someone in his life who was concerned for his well being, someone who was hovering around him with that kind of worried look on their face.

He let out another sigh and in response Kayama's lips suddenly curled down, her nose wrinkling slightly as she regarded him. Shouta blinked at the woman as a soft sort of revelation suddenly settled in… Maybe it was unfair to say that Hizashi was the only one concerned for him – Hizashi was just the one who approached it more reasonably and didn't try to lead him by the hand like an especially dense child.

…Then again Kayama had changed somewhat, she was less invasive now, acting less like she knew what Shouta needed better than he himself knew it – offering an opened palm instead of trying to grab a fist-full of him without hesitation or thought. Kayama wasn't as unreasonably as Shouta seemed to remember. Not anymore at least.

Kayama opened her mouth as if to say something, then she closed it again. A thoughtful expression on her face and a second later she finally spoke up “It’s Friday you know.” she started slowly “Maybe you can find something nice to do on the weekend?” Kayama said, her tone was nearly a question – not an offer, not an invitations to some place, no suggestions what to do.

Shouta let out a hum – it was deep and tired “Maybe I will.” was all he said – conceding in his own way. Maybe he really should take a day or two off – no matter how useless he felt… maybe precisely because he felt useless. Stuck in a rut – not making any progress and only chipping away at the same old things.

… Maybe stepping back a little would clear his head and help him see things in a different light – maybe he would be able to find something he had overlooked this way, or at the very least come up with a few new ideas.

He could check up with Hizashi and see if the other man was free – and maybe if he was then they could spent the weekend together. God knew they had only seen each other for a few hours at most this past week and then their meetings had often only revolved around work – they had been nothing more than wolfing down a quick dinner while bouncing ideas back and forth before paying and springing up again to get back to their respective works.

…And if Hizashi wasn't free – and Shouta couldn't believe he was even thinking about it – but maybe he could invite Kayama out for a coffee. He wouldn't even have thought about that not too long ago but things were looking up with Kayama and he felt generous because of that.

He didn't know what might have happened or why Kayama had suddenly changed her approach so drastically but he really wasn't complaining. Kayama was obviously trying to extend her hand even if it was still a little clumsy here or there – so maybe Shouta would actually humour her at some point.

Fortunately the school day went by without any hitches – which was very likely due to the fact that Shouta only had a hand full of pupils left in his class, and every other class knew better than to challenge his authority. After all it wouldn't be the first time he had expelled students from other classes who had acted out – thinking they were save. The only minor annoyance was the fact that this year his longs days – with two afternoon classes – fell on Fridays, which meant it was already late afternoon when he finally left UA.

He was on his way home – standing pressed tightly against a few other people in the always crowded subway – when, suddenly, a thought occurred to him. He usually wasn't the spontaneous type, he liked order, a set schedule – something nearly predictable… Hizashi on the other hand was so fluttering, bouncing from topic to topic, from place to place, pushing his appointments and important dates around as much as he could to free room for new things…

For a few moments Shouta just stood there – mulling his unexpected idea over. He pulled out his phone and clicked the screen on, checking the time, before he pushed the small device back into one of the many hidden pocket of his hero costume.

That was right, he was still wearing his hero suit… then again he couldn't imagine that Hizashi would care much about that. And it wasn't as if his costume was that much different compared to his normal clothes – black and formless and baggy. For a second Shouta's brows furrowed in contemplation.

The subway slowed as it approached its next stop and everyone in the cart gave a slight lurch as it halted, the doors opened, some people started streaming out, some more started streaming in. For a second Shouta's simply watched the bustle, a thoughtful pinch to his lips – and then he followed, slipping out of the door.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets and followed the crowd towards the stairs. He took a deep indraw of fresh air as he emerged from underground – finally stepping into the streets – and then continued on his way; weaving around the other pedestrians.

The walk didn't take terribly long, his fast paced strides slowed as he drew closer to a very specific building. He pulled his phone out of his pocket again, clicking the screen on to see the time – he was a little early but that was fine; better too early than too late. After all Shouta had never liked keeping other people waiting – or being kept waiting himself.

He stuffed his phone back into his pocket, he took another couple of steps and then stopped – he leaned himself against the waist-high stone banister framing the stairs up to the entrance of the building on either side. He shoved his hands back into his pockets, his posture slouching slightly as he settled in to wait… He didn't have to wait long.

Barely a handful of minutes later the door to the radio station swung open with a loud, rusty squee. Shouta raised his gaze, turning his body slightly so he was able to see who exactly had just stepped through the door.

Hizashi stepped outside, one hand on the door handle while his other hand clutched at his phone, pressing against his ear – there was an irritated, dark scowl on his face “I’m telling you no!” Hizashi's voice was a pressed angry whisper.

“No! What the hell? That has nothing to do with it! I already told you ages ago that I wasn't free that day! Don't you spin this around on me I...” Hizashi stopped in his ranting for a second as another person tried to step through the door.

The woman tapped him on the shoulder, catching his attention “Sorry.” the blond man nearly squawked – sounding somewhat embarrassed – he took a step forward so he was no longer standing right in the door way – blocking people. He held the door open and the woman simply stepped past him mutely, though she did shoot him a slightly awkward smile. Hizashi let go of the handle after that and the glass door closed with another ear piercing screech.

Shouta's eyes trailed after the retreating form of the woman for a few seconds – idly watching her walk down the side walk – before he turned his head back, gaze fixing on Hizashi again. The other man was waving his now free hand in the air in an annoyed, choppy and exaggerated way.

“I told you: don’t you turn that on me! This isn’t my fault! If you actually listened to me sometimes we wouldn't even have...” Hizashi raised his gaze – his face distorted into an angry snarl – his concentric eyes suddenly landed on Shouta.

He blinked, confusion and surprise settling on his face “…have that conversation.” he ended, voice much quieter than before, words trailing off at the end. His eyes – still fixed on Shouta – widened a little and his cheeks flushed a soft pink – maybe from embarrassment, maybe because of something else, Shouta didn't know.

“What?!” Hizashi asked, blinking rapidly as if he had just been ripped out of a trance, his eyes snapping from Shouta to the side as if he was trying to see the phone pressed against his ear – or maybe like he was arguing with an invisible person “No, no. I just didn't catch that. I was distracted for a moment and… What? No! God damn it, stop twisting everything I say into something else! Yes! Yes you do that! There!! You’re doing it again right now!” he hissed into the phone.

His gaze slipped to Shouta once again, the dusting of pink over his cheeks darkened. He ducked his head slightly as if he tried to appear smaller, his gaze lowering, avoiding Shouta. Absent-mindedly Shouta noticed that the other man was chewing on his bottom lip.

He watched as Hizashi swayed his weight from foot to foot – as if he was unsure – but in the end the vigilante started to slowly take the stairs down, making his way towards Shouta who just watched everything idly. It was quiet obvious that he had caught Hizashi at a bad time – not that he could change that now.

Hizashi stopped in front of him, his eyes flickering over Shouta's face for a few seconds and then, surprisingly, he pressed his forehead against the hero’s chest “No.” he said into the phone still pressed against his ear, his voice sounded exhausted and annoyed.

With how close both of them were now Shouta was able to make out the voice at the other end of the line at least somewhat; high-pitched and loud, nearly screeching… it sounded like a woman.

Hizashi pressed himself closer still, as if he was trying to hide against Shouta's bulkier form “Look-” he sighed “I can’t help it if I don't have time. Maybe we can do it another time?” a second of silence and then more yelling from the other side of the phone “No, I…” Hizashi gave a hissing sound from the back of his throat as he obviously scrabbled for words, he rubbed his temple against Shouta's chest “I don't know.” he sighed again, utterly defeated “I… no, just… Just stop for a moment okay?! I’ll see if I can change something up. Yes… yes, I promise. I’ll call you. Yeah… yeah. Okay, yeah, bye.”

For a second everything was utterly silent and then the blond man let out a long-suffering sigh, his shoulders slumping in something close to defeat as he clicked his phone off – he stuffed it into his pocket. He pressed his face against Shouta's chest harder – his nose digging slightly into the hero’s sternum – before he stepped back with another exhausted sigh “I swear that woman is such a headache.” he said, rubbing one hand over his face.

Shouta let out a low hum – he took in the drawn expression on Hizashi face. His mouth thinned into a displeased line before his face took on its usual blank look again “Who was it?” he asked.

Hizashi seemed to freeze for a second another flush dusting his cheeks again. He drew his bottom lips between his teeth before he licked his mouth open again a moment later “My mom.” he conceded slowly and a second later he started worrying at his lip again.

Shouta watched the whole thing mutely – the way Hizashi's teeth nervously nipped over his already chapped lip. It was clear to see that the other man wasn't keen on sharing right now – Shouta could sympathise with that “Anyways!” Hizashi suddenly burst out “What are you doing here?” he smiled, rapidly changing the topic – Shouta didn't mention it. Instead he simply played along as if nothing had happened.

“I thought I could pick you up from work but it seems like I have picked a poor time.” he said.

Hizashi's eyes widened a fraction before they crescented slightly, crinkling at the corners as he beamed at Shouta “Aww, that's so sweet of you!” he cooed, he sounded utterly delighted. He slipped his left arm around Shouta's right, waiting for a moment to be sure Shouta didn't want to protest this closeness – he didn't – and then he started walking, dragging Shouta along “Well, then take me home, hero. The streets can be so dangerous and I feel so much better with a strong man at my side protecting me.”

Shouta snorted and rolled his eyes though he didn't comment on Hizashi's ridiculous words this time around – the vigilante really was the last person who needed someone like Shouta to watch out for him… Still, Shouta also wouldn't say no to it if Hizashi truly wanted him to – to protect him that was. In fact, it nearly seemed like the blond man was somewhat enamoured with the abstract concept of someone … watching out for him? Shouta wasn't too sure if that was the right way to put it. He also wasn't sure why someone with a powerful quirk like Hizashi would want another person hovering around him in the first place.

The walk towards the subway station was silent – and it made Shouta's skin crawl. He usually liked silence… but he had gotten so used to Hizashi talking – sometimes downright waffling – about anything and everything under the sun that this sudden quiet threw him completely off. It was just plain weird to walk beside Hizashi without the other man talking a mile a minute about something or else that Shouta had never before heard about.

Shouta’s mouth thinned for a second before his expression smoothed out again. He drew his right arm closer to himself – effectively pulling Hizashi; who was still holding onto that arm, closer as well. He felt the gentle squeeze of fingers against his inner elbow – a clear sign that Hizashi had noticed what he had done. Hizashi's grip relaxed again a second later – the vigilante moved as close as he could, their shoulders now brushing as they walked.

The subway ride was spent in silence as well and Hizashi only truly seemed to perk up again after they had left the station and were on their way to his home.

“The caller segment was so amazing today you know!” Hizashi started to blabber without any preamble “There was this mom calling and about halfway through she gave the phone to her daughter and it was just the cutest thing ever! You know when children are still young and their voices are so adorably high-pitched and the words still seem a little strange?” Hizashi gave a slight snicker “I was just cooing at her the entire time. I didn't even really want to end the call, I could have talked with her for hours. You know how children get really excited when they talk about something they like?” Hizashi let out a soft croon “It was just so adorable!”

Shouta's lips curled upwards the slightest bit at the other mans words – he didn't really feel any mirth though. His tiny smile was more relieved than anything else – he was glad that Hizashi seemingly had found back to his usual enthusiasm. It was so strange to see the other man so beaten down and quiet – it was… unsettling.

He turned his head slightly, his eyes fixing on Hizashi's expression – searching for anything negative there; something that might hint at whatever might be going on in the other mans mind. Hizashi caught his gaze, he grinned at Shouta and bumped his shoulder into him – Shouta tried to mirror the other mans smile but he wasn't really sure how successful he was with that.

In the end they finally reached the vigilantes apartment. They ascended the stairs in silence – Shouta following after Hizashi, his mouth a thin, displeased line as he took in the other mans tense posture. They drew up in front of Hizashi's door – and the blond man pulled the key from his pocket and unlocked the door.

Both of them stepped into the entranceway and while Hizashi was locking the door up again behind them Shouta was already pulling his boots off; placing them neatly against the wall. Once he was done he straightened up again – he threw a look behind himself only to see that Hizashi was leaning with his forehead against the door, his back turned to Shouta, his posture slumped, his shoulders curled inwards as if he expected a blow any second now. Shouta's face darkened into a concerned frown, yet he remained quiet – waiting for Hizashi.

“It’s always the same you know.” Hizashi started after a few long moments of silence, he was talking towards the door – not facing Shouta “With my parents I mean.” there was a short pause “I don't know if… I mean, I should tell you at some point and we have been together for a while now and you're so forthcoming with everything and...” he let out a frustrated puff of air.

Shouta huffed out a half fond half annoyed sigh, he rolled his eyes “Just because I do something it doesn't mean that you have to ape me.” he said, tone a strangely soft scoff “You can take things at your own pace.” he gave another huff and then he reassuringly added “I do not mind. And even if I did you shouldn't care about what I want. This is about you after all.”

Hizashi giggled “You are just so… you.” the last word was nearly a snort – Hizashi's tone low and gentle… fond. A short moment of silence passed “I want to though…” he said after a second, words determined and sure even if his voice was a little softer than Shouta was used to – not quiet as loud or enthusiastic “Just… give me a little longer. A few more minutes or so.”

Shouta just hummed lowly in agreement and Hizashi finally turned around, he pulled off his shoes and placed them beside Shouta's before he stepped past the hero “Want anything?” he asked “I got all kinds of stuff. Water, coffee, juice, tea-”

“Water is fine.” Shouta cut the other man off before the list could get any longer. He walked around Hizashi standing in the middle of the entrance way and made his way towards the living room. Hizashi just laughed.

“Make yourself comfortable then. I’ll be with you in a moment.” the blond man said, the amused smile clearly audible in his voice. Shouta did just as he had been told – getting comfortable. He sat down on the couch and pulled off his capture weapon, he draped it over the back of the couch before he slouched slightly into the cushion.

It barely took a minute before Hizashi appeared beside him again – two glasses in his hands. He passed one to Shouta and then sat down beside him, his legs splaying slightly so their knees could knock together.

“Well…” Hizashi started, taking a sip of his water before he continued “Not that I'm not happy that you walked me home but is there a reason for that?”

Shouta had his own glass cupped between his two hands – a familiar position “I have been thinking what you said over.” he started “I think I’ll focus on smaller crimes tonight and then take the rest of the weekend off.” he took a sip from his water – waiting for Hizashi's reaction.

The blond man let out an intrigued noise at that “Why that? I mean, not that I'm complaining but you seemed so adamant about not doing that before.”

Shouta tipped his head to the side a little, regarding the other man “Because you are right to lay low for a while before you try and get more information. It is the safest choice.” he inclined his head a little in a half nod “And without you actively gathering information I’ll have to purely rely on the police to get another trail – and their investigation is slow. At this point I can’t do anything but wait…” he paused for a moment, his lips pressing together in displeasure, his jaw jumping “I think whoever we are after already knows about me.” he said slowly “Or at the very least that there is someone chasing them.”

“So...” Hizashi drew the vowel out, electric green eyes holding a sharp glint – intelligent “-you want to lay low for a bit to make them feel safe again? Like you have given up on it? So they get comfortable again and maybe make some mistakes?” Hizashi asked and Shouta couldn't help the wry twitch of his mouth.

“Yes.” he answered. That was one reason at least – the other reason was that he had seemingly already stirred up the wasps nest and it wouldn't do to get stung before he even knew what he was after. If the dead man really had been a warning then backing off now would appear as if Shouta was indeed heading that warning, which might move him out of the targeting range – make him less of a priority to get to. Make him something that could be dealt with later – no rush. Laying low and acting as if he had gotten cold feet or lost interest in the case might just help him stay alive.

He didn't want to bring that particular topic up though – the fact that he might have bitten off more than he could chew this time around; the fact that this time around he might be caught before he could catch whoever might be after him.

And besides, at this stage all of this was merely speculation – which was another reason for not bringing it up. He didn't know if someone had truly found out about his investigation. The dead man could have just been a coincident… though Shouta felt that it hadn't been – there was this foreboding feeling deep in his bones, years of experience making his stomach churn uneasily…

For a split second Hizashi's expression seemed nearly solemn but then his face suddenly pulled into a coy smile, his voice a flirtatious lilt as he spoke up again – leaning closer towards Shouta “So since we both can’t do anything but wait right now-” he fluttered his fair lashes, his free hand raising so he could draw circles against Shouta's chest with his pointer finger “Maybe you and I could wait together?”

It nearly felt as if Hizashi had picked up on the dark mood and was now trying to lighten up the situation – what Shouta wasn't sure about though was if it was for his sake or for Hizashi's own… maybe Hizashi didn't want to think about the implications that Shouta didn't want to talk about.

In any case Shouta wasn't opposed to the distraction and so he simply let out a fond huff and played along “Maybe we could.” he gave back, lips pulling into a sly smirk for a moment. He took a sip of his water “If you have time that is.” he shrugged.

“Even if I had other plans-” Hizashi said, putting his glass on the table so he could lean closer to Shouta still “What could be more enticing than spending a bit of time with you, darling?” he cooed and fluttered his eyelashes, his pointer finger still drawing nonsensical lines on Shouta's pectoral. Shouta snort at the display and shook his head at the other mans antics.

Hizashi's lips pulled onto a teasing smile and he more or less draping himself over Shouta's side like a blanket, both his arms raising so he could wrap them around the hero’s neck – he nuzzled his cheek against Shouta's left shoulder before he let out a thoughtful hum, it vibrated through Shouta's own body.

“Oh, I know!” Hizashi exclaimed softly, mindful of his volume – mindful of just how close he was to Shouta's ear “Tomorrow there’s this movie on TV that I really wanted to watch. We could have a nice evening in! Like, buy some food and cook something decent in the kitchen together and then just nestle into the couch cushion and gorge ourself while we watch the film. Doesn’t that sound good?”

“It sounds okay.”

“Boo, that doesn't sound very excited!” Hizashi pouted and Shouta gave a soft chuckle.

“It’s fine. It sounds good.” he reassured and turned his head slightly so he could press a close-mouthed kiss against the top of Hizashi's head.

“If you want to do something else then-”

“Hizashi. It’s fine.” Shouta repeated, this time firmer, words nearly harsh around the edges even if he hadn't really intended for them to sound that way.

Hizashi blinked at him as if he had just remembered something and then a giddy grin settled on his face “Goodie!” he exclaimed before he bounced off the couch “If I still have you all to myself today until you have to go on patrol later then let’s make the most of it. Stay right there! I'm going to get my laptop.” and with that Hizashi had already disappeared into his bedroom. Shouta shook his head to himself – amused.

Hizashi was just so lively and vibrant – it was nearly a little disconnecting from time to time. Though not necessarily in a bad way. Shouta always felt a strange kind of contentment whenever he saw Hizashi this happy.

The vigilante returned soon enough, flopping down beside Shouta on the couch again. He opened his laptop, tipped in the password and then opened his internet browser “Here.” he said and pushed one ear bud into Shouta's hand “Put that in. I want you to give me your opinion on some of the songs I selected for the show.”

Shouta blinked at the other man and then, in the most dead-pan voice, he said “And you are asking me for that why exactly?” he raised a brow in question, his expression doubtful. Really, he didn't know the first thing about music and he was very much not qualified to judge it.

Hizashi didn't answer him and simply pulled up an internet site – it looked like a streaming service, or something of the like – and a few clicks later the blond man had opened what Shouta assumed was one of his playlists.

Shouta only huffed and put the bud into his left ear – humouring Hizashi. He watched as the other man put the second ear bud into his right ear and then leaned a little closer so they wouldn't stretch the cord too much between them and then he pressed play.

Barely a second later music streamed out of the ear bud – loud, peppy music – and Shouta involuntarily wrinkled his nose. Hizashi beside him only let out a soft laugh at his reaction and skipped the song immediately – his concentric eyes twinkling with mirth.

They sat like that for the longest time, Hizashi skipping through the songs and Shouta commenting on them even if it often didn't amount to more than ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Sometimes Hizashi pressed for other information – what exactly is it you like or dislike? Do you like the melody? – sometimes he simply nodded and hummed as if Shouta had just said something incredibly deep and sage.

At some point Hizashi drew his legs up onto the couch, leaning heavily against Shouta's side, his jaw resting on the hero’s shoulder, eyes focused on the glowing laptop screen. The current song trailed off, music slowly fading but instead of letting a new song fade in Hizashi pressed the pause button.

For a few heartbeats utter silence reigned and Shouta chanced a glance at the man resting against him – there was a strange glimmer in Hizashi's eyes, a tight pinch to his mouth – a second later he drew his bottom lips between his teeth, chewing and nipping at it. Ah, Shouta realized idly, he let his gaze slip away again again and instead chose to wait patiently.

“The call before was my mother.” Hizashi started slowly, the fingers of his left hand drummed softly against the plastic casing of the laptop on his legs “She wanted to know if I'm free in three weeks time – which I'm not, because one of my colleagues has taken that time off to go on vacations and I'm taking over his shift that week. All of it isn't so bad, he only works part time and only has a rather short afternoon segment after mine which is only four hours long. It isn't really a big deal for me but it would still be a ten hour shift for me that week instead of a six hour one and I really don't feel like dealing with my parents after that. I don't want all that stress after so much work…”

Here Hizashi trailed off. There was a short pause and the vigilantes expression scrunched up a little “That sounded really mean.” he said before he sighed “I mean, I don't hate my parents or anything but they are so...” he huffed, at a loss for words “I don't know.” he looked down at the screen of the laptop and started scrolling through his playlist “They are just… really straining. They can be a little...” his nose wrinkled slightly as he struggled for words.

“You do not have to tell me any of this if you don't want to.” Shouta cut in gently and Hizashi fell quiet for a heartbeat or two.

“I know...” he heaved another sigh, this one sounding nearly annoyed “-but I want to… I think the fact that I don't ‘need to’ with you only makes me want to share it more.” he shrugged “I don't know. Does that make sense?” he frowned as if he wasn't so sure about the answer himself “You’re not a judgy person so...” he tapped the touch bar of the laptop and a moment later low and soft piano music was filtering through the earbuds.

Hizashi fell silent again and for a second or two only the music played – it was a nice piece, Shouta found; harmonic and flowing. He might actually ask Hizashi who had composed it if he remembered to.

“They can be horrible sometimes.” Hizashi suddenly spoke up again, voice pitched low as if he was confessing to something horrible. His head lowered a little even though it was currently still resting against Shouta's shoulder – his chin tucking towards his own chest as if he tried to curl up into himself. Make himself smaller – maybe even hide against Shouta.

“I think they just want the best for me? But they have such a terrible way of showing it? But sometimes it feels as if they are just disappointed with me?” Shouta saw how Hizashi pressed his mouth into a thin line – his teeth scrapping over his bottom lip for a second before he licked his moth open again to continue.

“I don't even know anymore at this point. I mean, it’s not like I have it rough or something. And it’s not as if I had a bad childhood.” a second of silence “It’s just that they both worked so much when I was younger. I barely saw them… but they made good money because of that. And I had everything a child could dream of. You know: games, books, music… If you can name it I probably had it. And I didn't have to share with anyone either, since I'm an only child.” here Hizashi trailed off again.

“I mean sure, it was a bit too quiet around the house for my taste but I mean, eh, first world problems, am I right?” a mirthless sounding chuckle “I mean, I'm already plenty loud on my own and having an empty house where I can do whatever I want? I mean that is just a dream come true for any child or teenager, isn't it?”

Shouta's lips pressed together into a thin, bloodless line, his jaw clenching. Hizashi's words sounded like excuses, as if he tried to make everything seem better than it had been – as if he tried to downplay his own emotions; and it did not sit well with Shouta.

In that very moment a realization dawned on him. He had always wondered about Hizashi's seemingly nearly compulsive need to talk – his need to fill any possible pause, any lingering silence with talk…

Shouta had often asked himself if it was simply that Hizashi liked talking so much or that he disliked silence… but now the answer was nearly painfully clear. Just thinking about someone like Hizashi as a child – alone in a too big and too quiet house…

No wonder Hizashi was so drawn to big crowds and noisy places. No wonder his preferred hang-out spots were night clubs. No wonder he filled the lulls that happened in every conversation with aimless rambling.

Stupidly Shouta had always just assumed that Hizashi's parents couldn't be all that different compared to their son. He had always just assumed that, even if Hizashi's parents weren't as exuberant or loud as their son they must have at least encouraged Hizashi's vibrant nature, or his free spiritedness, or his social needs.

But right now it was plain to see that Hizashi hadn't turned out the way he was because of his parents but directly in spite of them. Shouta's jaw jumped again.

“Anyways-” Hizashi continued, voice a little more upbeat than before “They both have been retired for a while now – they got me pretty late you know, so they aren't all that young anymore and well, now that they don't have to work anymore they want to do a lot of stuff. Going out and so on, enjoying their free time. I think they might be trying to catch up on family time a little?” Hizashi's mouth twitched momentarily into a helpless expression.

“Still, I'm an adult myself now, and I have a life and a job and responsibilities and stuff and it’s just like they can’t understand that, you know? Like, I’ll tell them I don't have time for something and it’s just such a drama every damn time. Like, it’s as if they just can’t understand that I'm not always available.” there was a pregnant pause “Or that I just don't want to be available sometimes.” he added, lips curling down, expression darkening slightly, brows furrowed “Like… it seems that no one of us even wants to be around each other – like we are all just stranger – but we try anyways and...” he shrugged and trailed off.

For a few long moments Shouta waited silently, expecting Hizashi to continue… but the blond man simply didn't. The music piece had already ended a while ago and now Hizashi was simply scrolling through the list again, searching for a new song to listen to.

Shouta idly watched the other mans fingers moving over the touch bar for a second or two before he spoke up “You do not own them your time.” he said simple and bluntly “If you do not want to spent time with them then don’t.”

Hizashi frowned, he tapped the touch bar twice and another piece started playing softly through the ear buds “It’s not that easy.” the vigilante gave back.

“Why?”

Hizashi blinked at that, his head turning so he could regard Shouta properly. Shouta just blinked back at the other man, his expression serious “Why?” he repeated, an honest question.

“Why?” Hizashi asked back, though it sounded more like he was questioning himself. The music continued to play and on the screen Shouta was able to see the playtime. 30 seconds, a minute, a minute and 30 seconds…

“Like I said, I don't hate them.” Hizashi started slowly “Sure their behaviour is grating sometimes but I mean isn't that normal for family? I mean, I can be difficult too. I know I have a terrible temper sometimes and some days complaining is all I do until I'm blue in the face. I mean, every parent is fed up with their child sometimes; just as every child is fed up with their parents from time to time. I mean, we grew up in different times with different expectations – it’s normal that we don't see eye to eye on some topics but that’s no reason to never speak to each other again.” Hizashi said and gave a shrug.

Shouta let out a low, somewhat displeased hum. All of what Hizashi had just said sounded more like a bunch of excuses – like he was trying to explain something that shouldn't have happened in the first place… like he desperately tried to find some halfway decent reason for why he was humouring his family; even though it obviously made him feel bad.

Still, even Shouta with his lacking social graces was aware of the fact that saying any of his thoughts out aloud would likely not be the best idea in this current situation… so he bit his tongue – at least for now.

“I mean, it’s normal, isn't it? You must fight with your parents too from time to time.” Hizashi continued. He was swiping his fingers over the touch bar, scrolling through his seemingly endless playlist – he didn't click on anything though.

“No.” Shouta said voice flat “I don't.”

Hizashi snorted and shot him an incredulous look “Yeah, sure. Never had your mother nagging you or your father complaining about your job.” he said in what was most likely supposed to be a teasing tone yet it came out sounding nothing but sardonic.

For a moment Shouta was quiet as he mulled over how much he should say – then again, Hizashi was already in the process of airing his dirty laundry, so really, he might as well. And all in all it wasn't as if he hadn't thought about this kind of conversation before.

In a relationship the topic of family always came up sooner or later and Shouta had been prepared to re-open this particular can of worms with Hizashi at his side since the very beginning… Though he had assumed that it would happen under slightly different circumstances.

“My mother is dead.” he said simply “She died during child-birth. I haven't seen my father since I moved out, so I don't know what he’s doing or even where he is, and frankly, I don't care either.” he explained as if he was stating a fact or reciting the plot of a book.

There was a second of utter silence, he could feel Hizashi stiffening against his side “I’m sorry. I didn't know.” the blond man said, his voice soft, words sincere. He moved his left hand away from the touch bar to curl it around Shouta's own instead, squeezing reassuringly.

Shouta just gave a half shrug with his unoccupied shoulder “I never knew my mother so it’s not like I really lost something; as for my father, I do not care for what he is up to, in fact, I hope I never have to see him again in my life.”

Silence.

“Did he do something?” Hizashi asked, nearly tentatively.

“Yes.” Shouta answered easily.

Again silence. Shouta watched Hizashi's thumb rubbing over his knuckles and turned his hand palm up so he could clasp it around the other mans – he waited patiently for Hizashi to ask what exactly had happened, waited for him to become curious and bombard him with questions… And again it took him a while to realize that the other man wouldn't ask.

The piece was still running – soft background music. For a few long moments Shouta wondered if he should elaborate, if he should tell Hizashi about his childhood and his father – he didn't really want to push all of that back indefinitely… but this conversation wasn't about him and his parents – it revolved around Hizashi and his problems and Shouta didn't want to diverge from that. He didn't want to hog the spotlight when non of this was about him in the first place.

… Also, if he was being honest, he wasn't quite sure if he even wanted to go there this early on in their relationship. He didn't particularly mind the thought of talking about all of it… yet he found it was often easier to simply… not think about his childhood at all, to just leave the past in the past. It wasn't like he could retroactively change it after all – it simply was what it was, so why waste time talking or thinking about it when there were so many things – both in the present as well as the future – that he could focus on instead?

For a split second Hizashi's words popped into his mind again ‘Just because you can’t change it doesn't mean you can’t be upset about it’. His mouth thinned into a bloodless line and his jaw jumped as he grit his teeth.

“I told my parents that I was seeing someone a while back.” Hizashi suddenly spoke up again and it ripped Shouta out of his thoughts nearly violently. He blinked, trying to reorientate himself back into the here and now.

“Nothing substantial.” Hizashi added nearly hastily, as if to reassure Shouta and calm down his hyper-vigilance before it could even rear its ugly head “Just that I was seeing a guy and that we like each other and that the thing between us is serious…” he explained, voice pitching low again, he trailed off at the end, nearly a little unsure.

Shouta gave a soft hum to signal that he was listening, that Hizashi could go on. A beat of silence passed and then “Mom wants to meet you.” Hizashi conceded, he didn't sound very excited about the prospect. Another beat of silence “I told her that you work really strange hours and she accepted that for the most part… but it’ll only be a matter of time before she starts to get impatient.” he shrugged “Just wanted to warn you.”

“Parents are rarely thrilled to meet me.” Shouta said, his lips quirked into a wry grin. That might actually be the understatement of the year. As far as ‘judging on first glance’ went Shouta found that the worst offenders were always the parents of his partners. The meetings usually turned into some kind of interrogation – and it was always very irritating to have to justify his very existence to two people who already had formed their opinion before Shouta had even fully stepped into their home.

Hizashi gave a small giggle “I wonder why?” he teased good-naturedly. He stopped the music with a tap of his finger and then closed the lid of the laptop. He pulled the earbud out of his own ear as well as Shouta's and then placed everything on the living room table “Why indeed?” he asked again as he settled back on the couch, leaning towards Shouta, closer and closer. Their lips brushed as he spoke up again “You’re such a sweet guy. Every mother should be ecstatic to meet you.” his words sounded much too serious.

Shouta only scoffed. He was about to open his mouth to retort something but he was silenced before he could even get the first word out – Hizashi had dipped in, closing what little distance had remained so he could slant their lips together into a gentle kiss.

There were hands brushing over Shouta's chest, up over his collarbones, up over his throat and the sides of his neck, up till they could bury into thick black hair. Hizashi was scooting closer still, slotting himself against his front, tipping his head to the side to deepen the kiss – letting out soft, breathy noises that were muffled against Shouta's lips.

Shouta let out a deep and rumbling sound of his own – pleased… smitten. He decided that complaining really wasn't that important right about now, so instead he raised both his hands to cup them around Hizashi's jaw – holding the other mans face close while his thumbs were caressing over his cheeks, back and forth.

Hizashi's tongue teased at the seam of his lips and he opened his mouth – deepening the kiss. He leaned back till he felt the arm of the couch digging into his upper back and then drew his legs up so they lay flat along the cushion – Hizashi followed him, chasing after his lips, crawling over him and straddling his waist, his fingers twisting into black strands, curling there and holding fast.

They parted for a short moment, both of them panting heavily – drawing in a few easily forgettable gulps of air – before their lips met again, nearly desperately. They licked into each others mouths, eagerly making out on the living room couch like two excited teenage boys.

… Loud pop music suddenly blared through the room and Shouta snapped his eyes open again immediately, he ripped his mouth away from Hizashi's as his body tensed, his self-defence instinct kicking into high-gear for a second. He blinked and finally his mind caught up with the fact that the sudden noise was coming from Hizashi's phone. Shouta let out a harsh sigh, his muscles relaxing again.

The blond man on top of him gave a frustrated noise. He clambered off of Shouta and snatched his phone from the table, an angrily offended expression on his face. His green gaze fixed on his blaring phone screen… and suddenly all the anger seemed to evaporate, his entire posture slumping like a puppet which just had its strings cut. He threw a glance behind himself at Shouta – who was still half sprawled onto the couch.

“It’s my mom.” Hizashi said, voice resigned.

“You don't have to take it.” Shouta said easily – nearly reassuringly. Hizashi looked at him and Shouta couldn't really describe the expression on the other mans face in that moment.

“I do have to.” Hizashi sighed and then swiped his thump over the screen before he brought the phone up to his ear “Hi mom! You’re calling again really soon.” Hizashi's voice was so upbeat, sing-songing really, yet the expression he wore looked as if he had just swallowed something absolutely revolting. He let himself sink back down onto the couch heavily.

Shouta sat himself up properly again. For a second he merely watched Hizashi beside him – the blond man looked so downbeat and dejected… Shouta's expression darkened and he reached out one of his hands – he gently brushed a loose strand of hair back behind Hizashi's ear. The vigilante blinked and then shot him a small smile for his trouble.

For a few long moments the only thing audible was the slightly staticy voice coming through the phone speaker and then…

“You did what?!” Hizashi sounded shocked, flabbergasted really “What? No! I mean, that's so nice of you!” he said with forced giddiness “I just mean that you didn't have to go through all that trouble just for me.” a pause, indecipherable words from the other end of the line.

“Oh, no. I don't think he has time. I told you he has a weird work schedule. I… mom no, that's not what’s happening at all. No, sometimes people just don't have time, you know how it is. It’s not like he can help… Mom, please you’re overreacting… what? No! I mean… Look, I already told you that… No, I… yeah… okay. I’ll ask him – promise.” the last few sentences sounded so very exhausted “Yeah… yeah okay, mhm, yeah sure. Thanks again for going through all that trouble, you really didn't have to.” there was a nearly aggressively friendly emphasis on that last part of the sentence and after a few more ‘yes’s and ‘hum’s Hizashi ended the call. He clicked the phone off again, his arm sinking down, the small device slipping from his fingers and into his lap.

He slumped back against the couch nearly boneless an irritated expression on his face. A beat of silence “She rearranged her schedule and made sure she and my dad are free this weekend – so now she invited me over for tomorrow instead.” Hizashi's brows drew together into a severe frown “So much for having a nice evening in and cooking something with you.” Hizashi sounded strangely put out by that, nearly angry really.

“She said you're a bad boyfriend for putting your work above me, which, you know, coming from her is kinda precious.” he continued without missing a beat, his lips twitching as if they weren't sure what direction they should pull into.

Shouta only blinked mutely and – for whatever reason – his reaction seemed to amuse Hizashi, who let out a short giggle.

“She wanted me to invite you over too.” Hizashi blew a raspberry – looking a little like a pouting child while he did so “And then she got angry when I told her that you don't have time – I mean, how fucking shameless can you be? As if everyone is just waiting around for her to invite them over – as if people have no other obligations. That's exactly what I was talking about before.” Hizashi let out an annoyed huff before he fell quiet again.

Shouta's eyes trailed over Hizashi's slumped figure, then around the living room before finally settling back on the man opposite of him again “Do you want me to come?” he asked bluntly. After all, if this was inevitable anyway then pushing it back really wouldn't do them any good. Wasn’t it better to just rip the band aid clean off and get it over with instead of ignoring everything until it became a serious problem?

“What?!” Hizashi's head snapped towards him, he blinked, clearly confused. His mouth opening and closing a few times but no sound escaped from between his parted lips.

“I’m free anyway.” Shouta shrugged. He had said he would take the weekend off after all and it wasn't like he needed to be anywhere else. He wasn't looking forward to an unpleasant evening with Hizashi's parents, but he’d rather just be done with it so he wouldn't have to worry about it in the future.

A short pause “Might as well get it over with, huh? Like pulling a tooth.” Hizashi tittered though it lacked humour “Yeah, sure.” he shrugged, still giggling “Let’s kick back from work by having a horribly awkward dinner with my parents – why not?” he shot Shouta a crooked grin “Well, hope you like bad cooking, because both my dad as well as my mom are abysmal at it.”

Shouta gave a snort “I will live.”

Hizashi gave a soft, high-pitched laugh at that – this time it held actual humour “You say that now.” his tone was wry “Don't die on me. I'm too young to be a widower just yet.”

Shouta just shock his head yet he didn't protest, instead he simply leaned over the other man so he could press a kiss against that beautiful, teasing smile. He loved to feel the curve of Hizashi's smile against his own lips. Really, Hizashi's laughing was doing things to him… not that that was necessarily a bad thing though.

Chapter Text

It was Saturday, somewhere between very late noon and very early evening. Shouta sat on his bed, one leg folded under himself, the other hanging over the edge of the bed – foot touching the ground. He had his arms crossed over his chest while he idly watched Hizashi rummaging through his closet.

“No...” the blond man mumbled to himself – there was loud clanking as he shoved that particular clothes hanger to the side “No.” another near forceful clank. Shouta uncrossed his arms for a moment so he could grab his phone – he clicked the screen on – 5.15 p.m. … they were supposed to met Hizashi's parents in three quarters of an hour – and they still had to get to their house too. Shouta hated coming too late – his gaze flickered up to Hizashi who as still half bent into his closet – and it seemed like that was exactly what would happen at this rate.

He let out an inaudible, irritated sigh and clicked the screen off again before he let the phone drop back down to the bed beside him.

“It is quarter past five.” he informed dryly. He was answered by harsh clanking – more coat hangers being shoved around in a fast motion.

“Don’t you have some jeans or something?” Hizashi asked suddenly.

“No. I do not like jeans material.” Shouta answered duly – it was true too. Jeans material always felt like it didn't had enough give, like there was some extra resistance to his steps if he moved his legs apart too much.

Silence, only interrupted by rustling as Hizashi had seemingly now moved on to rummage through his folded and stacked clothes instead. He gave another soundless annoyed sigh through his nose.

Shouta really didn't know what was wrong with his current clothes – sure, he definitely wasn't dressed to impress but he looked tidy and clean and put together, wearing a simple, long-sleeved black shirt and a pair of dark blue pants. He had tied his hair up so it wouldn't flop into his face like it usually did – he had trimmed his stubble into something neat and even as well, just to look more ‘presentable’.

Still… he was doing this for Hizashi's sake, so if the blond man was displeased with Shouta's choice in clothes then he would change – it was only for one evening anyway. A few hours or craziness before normalcy would settle in again – he would live.

Hizashi pulled out his white dress shirt – the one he usually only wore for formal occasions. Shouta couldn't quite stop his face from scrunching up just the slightest bit – a minute wince. Hizashi looked at the shirt and then turned his head to regard Shouta – Shouta's expression smoothed out again immediately, turning back to the blank look he usually sported. No sign of anything – no agreement nor refusal; just neutral.

He saw as the vigilantes brows drew together, his green, concentric eyes sweeping over Shouta's form and a second later he sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, chewing on it – seemingly deep in thought. Shouta simply waited – waited patiently for Hizashi to finally demand that he change into his formal attire for the evening…

“This is stupid!” Hizashi huffed out, he sounded angry – he stuffed the dress shirt back into the closet, the hanger clanking loudly as it was slammed onto the bar with too much force. He threw the doors of the closet shut with a soft bang and then flopped down onto the bed beside Shouta, laying spread out his stomach – he looked a little like a petulant, pouting child.

Shouta blinked down at the man beside him, momentarily stumped. He frowned in confusion “If you want me to wear my suit then that is fi-”

“No!” Hizashi cut him off angrily and Shouta bristled – he hated it when people cut him off. Sure, he didn't talk much but when he did he wanted to be able to form a full sentence without someone interrupting him as if what he wanted to say wasn't important.

His jaw clenched for a second before he consciously unclenched it again – deciding to let the interruption slide without comment. Hizashi was simply nervous so it was sort of understandable that he would cut Shouta off in his agitation. And furthermore it wasn't as if Shouta didn't cut the other man off too, from time to time – even if Shouta did it mostly to save Hizashi from talking himself into some kind of verbal vortex where he would blabber on without actually saying something… So really, it would be hypocritical if he expected Hizashi to accept it but he himself got offended when the tables were turned.

“I don't want you to put on a full suit for a family evening. That’s stupid!” Hizashi said and then let out something that sounded suspiciously like a whine, he pushed his face into the mattress – at least as best as he could with his glasses still on his face. For a moment it seemed like he was trying to suffocate himself with the sheets but then he turned his face a little, resting with his cheek on the mattress, eyes fixed on Shouta “You look fine like this. I don't know why I'm making such a fuss.” he turned his head a bit, chin propped into the bedding, eyes staring out the window on the far side of Shouta's bedroom – he looked thoughtful, there was a pronounced furrow between his brows.

“You’re looking kinda sloppy most of the time, no offence.” Hizashi started slowly “But it’s not like I mind. I mean, that's just you, and it’s not like you're dirty or something, you're just not very fashion conscious is all.” he blew out a raspberry “That’s not the end of the world. Besides, I like you the way you are. Period. From your character to the stuff you wear.” he turned his face again, cheek against the mattress, eyes on Shouta's face “If my parents don't like you the way you are… well, that's their problem isn't it?” Shouta assumed the other man had tried to aim for nonchalant with his tone but his words sounded more like an uncertain question.

Shouta let out a soft breath through his nose and reached his right hand out to comb through Hizashi's hair – short, blunt nails scrapping gently against his scalp. He shot the other man a small smile.

“I know I'm being silly.” Hizashi said and he sounded nearly embarrassed.

“It is fine.” Shouta reassured calmly, hands still running through blond strands in a gentle caress. He could feel Hizashi moving slightly – pushing his head against Shouta's had just the slightest bit.

“We are going to be late at this point.”

Shouta gave a fondly-annoyed huff at that before he hummed in affirmation, giving a short nod.

Hizashi's face did something weird, as if it wasn't quite sure what expression to show, his moustache twitched slightly as his lips flattened and pulled back into a half grimace before his expression smoothed out again “Well! We’re not going to get more ready. Let’s go!” he said and bounced upwards with near aggressive – clearly faked – enthusiasm; Shouta's hand slipped out of his hair at the sudden movement, falling to the bed.

He stood in front of Shouta and reached out, grabbing both of the hero’s wrists before dragging him upwards in a motion that could nearly be described as cutesy – it was endearing and, for a second, Shouta had to suppress the sudden urge to lean in and slant their mouths together. If they started making out now then they would never get out of the door on time… even if Shouta had a feeling that Hizashi wouldn't be all that upset about that… and, truthfully, neither would Shouta.

They made their way towards the front door, pulling on their shoes in silence before they left. The walk to the subway was quiet as well and Shouta found himself sneaking side-eyes at the man walking beside him – he didn't like when Hizashi was this quiet and subdued, it felt wrong somehow.

Hizashi seemed deeply in thought – he was chewing on his bottom lip again Shouta noticed. Shouta let his gaze rest on the vigilante for a couple of seconds more before he turned his head to look in front of him again. He pushed his hands into his pant pockets – his shoulders hunching a little as he did so – and decided that it was probably best to let the other man reach a conclusion on his own. He wasn't in the habit of pushing people – also, if Hizashi really wanted to talk about something then he would, Shouta was rather sure of that fact.

They had already walked a few blocks before Hizashi decided to speak up “I feel like I should probably warn you.” he said slowly, his teeth nipping at his bottom lip again – once, twice, thrice – before he continued “They and I have a bit of a...” he smacked his lips “-complicated relationship.” he settled on.

“I hadn't noticed. Thanks for mentioning it.” Shouta shot back dryly, his gaze completely dead-pan as it met Hizashi's own. It had the desired effect – Hizashi gave a soft giggle at his answer.

“No, really though.” Hizashi said after his burst of amusement had calmed down again “They probably won’t like you simply because of the fact that you are my boyfriend...” he trailed off for a second “They’ve never really approved of any the people I brought home before either.” a beat of heavy silence “I’m not too sure why though.” he frowned in something akin to deep concentration “I mean… I have an idea or two but...” he trailed off again.

For a few quiet seconds Shouta waited for Hizashi to elaborate – it looked like the vigilante really wanted to continue, there was this particular pinch to his mouth… but in the end he remained silent, letting his sentence remain unfinished. Shouta let out a low, dark hum, his eyes narrowing slightly.

Now really there could be a multitude of reasons for why Hizashi's parents seemingly disproved of everyone Hizashi brought home… the best case scenario was that they just thought that non of Hizashi's previous lovers was ‘good enough’ for their son – sure, that kind of behaviour was still overbearing and presumptuous but at the very least it was understandable… Still, with all the things Shouta had heard so far he really doubted that that was the reason.

“I mean, they haven't disowned me yet.” Hizashi suddenly quipped up again with a giggle – it ripped Shouta out of his musing. The whole thing was clearly meant to be a humorous remark.

Shouta couldn't quite suppress a sardonic snort at that “That is a very low bar.” he pointing out, expression dark, his tone serious – his sharp eyes fixed on Hizashi in an intense stare. Hizashi's own gaze slipped away from Shouta's – dodging him.

Hizashi hummed and ducked his head slightly “I was only joking.” he said, clearly trying to diffuse the suddenly tense situation. He gave another giggle – this one sounding just a tad strained.

Shouta's mouth twitched momentarily – his lips trying to press into a thin line as he forced his jaw to keep from clenching. He managed to keep his expression blank “I wasn't.” he gave back bluntly, stiffly.

It was quiet for a few long moments and Shouta idly watched a group of people – probably friends – walking on the opposite side-walk. They were laughing and shoving at each other good-naturedly… That should be them, Shouta thought.

Hizashi should be blathering and giggling beside him, clutching at him and shoving him teasingly while Shouta scoffed and rolled his eyes in a fondly-exasperated way – not doing or saying anything to discourage Hizashi's bubbly nature.

… But instead they were walking in solemn silence as if they were on their way to a funeral… or maybe like they were two falsely accused men heading for the noose. Shouta's jaw jumped as he grit his teeth in some amalgamation of emotions that he couldn't quite describe – it wasn't really anger but it was close, it felt just as bitter and hot.

His eyes trailed to Hizashi who was walking beside him – his posture still slouched, no swing to his hips, no skip to his steps. Shouta felt another surge of that not-quite anger searing through him – Hizashi shouldn't be this subdued, shouldn't look so beaten down. His teeth seemed to creak and Shouta consciously forced his jaw to unclench.

He had half a mind to apologize if it would just bring back some of Hizashi's usual vibrancy… but Shouta didn't feel sorry, he had meant his words, and he wasn't in the habit of apologizing for things that he didn't regret. He wasn't in the habit of lying or playing duplicitous lip-service either.

They finally reached the subway – the ride was, unsurprisingly, spent in silence; just as the rest of their walk from the station to the house of Hizashi's parents… There had only been a few times prior in his life where Shouta had felt as inadequate when it came to words as he did right in that moment – only a few times where he had wished that he was better at expressing things… at cheering people up…

Finally Hizashi stopped in front of a rather big house – that must be it, Shouta thought. He looked up, gaze trailing over the building – it had two floors and even in the dimness of the evening it looked nice and well-kept, a few bushes and shrubs in front of it, the paint white and not yet greyed at all. There was a lamp over the door and several more around the small patch of grass in front of the house – a small front lawn. Shouta's eyes wandered around idly, taking in all the other houses, the streets around them, the bright lamps illuminating the road – it was obviously a nice neighbourhood. His eyes returned to the Yamada house – living here was probably expensive.

For a second Shouta's lips thinned as he remembered Hizashi telling him that his parents had worked a lot in his youth and had made good money from it – he also remembered Hizashi's rather lost look as he tried to make light of the fact that; while he might have had anything he had asked for; he had obviously felt lonely.

Shouta found himself wondering: Was this the house Hizashi had grown up in or had the Yamada’s moved at some point? Was this meticulously cared for – nearly impersonal looking – place where Hizashi had spent his childhood? Shouta's teeth ground together as he imagined what that must have been like for someone as lively as Hizashi, what it must have been like to be stuck here all alone for most of the time.

In that very moment an epiphany slammed into Shouta with the force of a freight train – it nearly made him stumble back. He blinked in shocked realization. Was that why Hizashi had taken such umbrage with his undecorated, empty, impersonal – lonely – apartment?

He turned his head slightly, regarding the other man beside him – a little as if he was seeing him for the first time. He blinked again – something strange unfurling in his chest, something that felt bitter-sweet.

He regarded the vigilante for the longest time, idly taking in how he was tapping his foot, how he was combing a hand through his hair, how he was pulling at his clothes – fidgeting. After he was done his green eyes landed on Shouta, his hands rose up and for a second it seemed as if he wanted to reach for Shouta's head but then he stopped mid-motion, a scoff appeared on his face as he let his hand sink again – he shook his head, his shoulders slumping a little.

Shouta felt his lips pulling down in something close to worry – he took a step closer and gently bumped his shoulder into Hizashi's, encouraging, a silent ‘I’m here’. It made Hizashi smile for a moment though the expression was gone again nearly as soon as it had appeared.

“Welp!” Hizashi said, popping the ‘p’ in fake-enthusiasm, there was a broad smile on his face but it didn't reach his eyes “After today we probably won’t have to do this again any time soon.” Hizashi continued “After they met you and sated their curiosity they’ll probably get bored and leave well enough alone.” he continued as he stepped closer to the house – Shouta followed after him – he ascended the four steps to the front door and rang the bell – Shouta drew up behind him.

It didn't take too long before the door opened. Shouta blinked as he took in the tiny woman in front of them – her hair was such an intense, deep shade of blond it looked nearly yellow, though there were a few strands of silver visible here or there, betraying her age.

“Oh, you made it on time.” she said, tone surprised, as if she had fully expected otherwise. Her eyes racked over Hizashi and then settled on Shouta who stood behind her son. Her eyes were brown Shouta noticed idly – he met her sharp gaze with one of his own intense stares… it didn't take long before she turned her head a little, looking at a spot beside Shouta's head, over his shoulder into the distance. Shouta would be lying if he said that that particular reaction didn't satisfy something strange inside of him – if she wanted to cower him then she would have to try a lot harder.

“You must be my son’s friend.” she noted bowing a little at the hip in greeting.

“Boyfriend.” Hizashi mumbled softly.

“Oh yes!” Hizashi's mother smiled, though it didn't seem to reach her eyes “Boyfriend.” she corrected herself. She sounded as if she was merely humouring Hizashi and it made the fine hair at the nap of Shouta's neck stand on end.

He ignored the feeling and instead bowed too, deeper, more formal “Aizawa Shouta.” he introduced himself before he straightened up again – up to his full height; tall and broad-shouldered. It was quiet for a moment, just a beat too long to be comfortable.

“Then come in you two.” Hizashi's mother said and waved them in, she held the door open so both of them could step into the entrance way. While the woman closed the door behind them Hizashi and Shouta busied themselves with pulling their shoes off and placing them against the wall.

Hizashi's mother stepped past them “The food is already done. Come before it gets cold again.” she urged and lead them through the house – and it was a nice house, Shouta noted, spacious and bright and spotlessly cleaned… it was also very minimalistic. Downright barren. And while Shouta could imagine himself living here – if everything wouldn't be quite so bright, if there wasn't so much open space with so many hiding places – he really couldn't imagine a child living and growing up here.

They entered the kitchen. A big open space, mostly white, lamp light seemingly reflecting off of every surface – it made Shouta feel somewhat uncomfortable, as if he was in a hospital instead of a home. He had always had an immense dislike for hospitals…

There was a white marble table smack in the middle of the room, and at it sat a man – presumably Hizashi's father. He silently inclined his head at them and Shouta gave a bow in answer.

“This is Hizashi's friend Aizawa-san.” Hizashi's mother introduced him and Hizashi beside him let out a soft, near inaudible huff, his shoulders curling as if he tried to fold into himself. Shouta's jaw jumped for a split second.

“His lover.” he corrected bluntly, voice firm, his dark gaze fixed on Hizashi's mother. Hizashi beside him seemed to flinch, his head snapping to the side to look at Shouta – his expression seemed shocked.

Hizashi's mother seemed stumped at his reaction for a second, she blinked at him and then that false smile was back on her face again “Of course. I'm sorry.” he said and Shouta had never heard something more insincere. The woman turned back to her husband “Hizashi’s boyfriend.” she corrected herself.

Her husband obviously didn't pay attention to her, instead he levelled a look at Shouta – his eyes were concentric and electric green Shouta noted idly as he returned the other mans stare evenly. In the end Hizashi's father had to avert his gaze as well – Shouta could feel a slight twitch at the corners of his mouth. He suppressed it.

For a few long moments the entire room was enveloped into a heavy, pregnant pause. Nearly awkward.

“Sit down you two, the food will get cold.” Hizashi's mother finally prompted. She made her way towards on of the chairs and after a second Hizashi started to move too – Shouta simply trailed after the other man. They sat themselves down, Hizashi's mother beside her husband and Hizashi and Shouta opposite of them.

Hizashi's mother nearly immediately busied herself loading everyone plate with food while Hizashi's father only folded his hands in front of him on top of the table. Shouta's gaze was involuntarily drawn to the other mans eyes… they just looked too much like Hizashi's.

“So Aizawa-san, what are you doing job wise?” the older man asked “You have to know, Hizashi didn't talk terribly much about you before.” he added, rather unnecessarily – just to draw attention to the fact. Beside him his wife nodded.

“He always blabbers on and on about so many thing, but he never really says anything worthwhile you see.” she added, her voice nonchalant but her words snide, clearly meant to be a thinly disguised criticism. Beside Shouta Hizashi had started tapping his finger against the table – fidgeting.

Shouta's eyes flickered to the tapping motion and, for a split second, his eyes narrowed – his expression smoothed out into his usual blank look again soon enough though. He lifted his gaze to fix it on Hizashi's parents “I’m a teacher at UA and-” before he could even finish his sentence he got cut of by Hizashi's mother.

“At UA?” she asked and she sounded downright excited all of a sudden. Shouta grit his jaw at the interruption – he let out a tense breath through his nose and then nodded politely, biting his tongue. He truly hated when people interrupted him “Are you a hero then?” the woman immediately started digging, her eyes glinting.

“Yes.” simple, short, to the point.

“What’s your rank?” Hizashi's father prodded. He sounded intrigued as well, bowing over the table the slightest bit – an inch or so closer towards Shouta.

Shouta felt displeasure course through him in thick waves at those particular reactions. He hated people who only viewed hero work thought the lens of the ranking system. In his opinion the ranking system did much more harm than good, it was as if it was just there to pit heroes against each other – the point wasn't to help people, not really, it was to make a spectacle out of the idea of saving people. Dangers that could kill good people were reduced to potential stepping stones towards a useless title: Number 1.

Really ‘ Number 1’ wasn't even really a title or an honorific, it was just a number and – in Shouta's opinion – that said a lot more than was probably intended. It was nothing but a trophy, an endorsement for the hero industry as a whole. And if the usefulness had been outlived then you could just instate another ‘1’ - after all there were more than enough people trying to grasp for that empty digit.

Hero work was like a game at this point and everyone just looked to get the high score – no matter what it cost. And every fail, every error that destroyed someone's life was just an irritating points deduction on the way to the top… And that was before you even considered that a hero with too many ‘minus points’ would just be discarded by their agency – dropped like an old, used tissue. There were enough to take their place after all.

“I’m not ranked.” Shouta gave back nonchalant. He didn't want to be ranked either, but that was neither here nor there. He saw how the face of Hizashi's father scrunched up for a second at his response – of course, he thought somewhat sardonically. The older man was currently probably wondering how ‘bad’ of a hero he was to be unable to make it onto the list.

“But if you're a teacher at UA then you must be a good hero.” Hizashi's mother quipped in immediately – it sounded like a question, her tone just as confused as her husbands expression.

“I’d like to think so.” Shouta inclined his head slightly “But in my opinion there is always room to improve, especially when it comes to hero work.” he added – hero work was a constant learning curve and Shouta certainly wouldn't let himself end up like so many other heroes who just rested on their laurels and ultimately lost sight of what was truly important.

He was contemplating how to word his thoughts – or if he even should word them when he felt something bump into his calf sharply. He blinked – that had been Hizashi's foot, he realized. He turned his head slightly to regard the man beside him, his brows furrowing I confusion – Hizashi didn't pay him any attention instead the vigilante let out a bashful sounding titter “He’s just so humble! He’s a really awesome hero!” he reassured and then, as ways of explanation, he added “But he works out of the spotlight so he can help more people.”

“That makes no sense.” it was Hizashi's father, his words bordering vehement, his eyes settling on Shouta nearly demandingly “Why wouldn't you want people to recognize what you do? Especially if you are as good as Hizashi says you are?”

“Because it is a bother.” Shouta said bluntly and without hesitation. After a beat if quiet and a befuddled blink he elaborated “The press and media only get in the way. They are a huge hassle for anyone trying to do their job.” his tone was obviously annoyed. He had had this specific discussion before – many more times than he cared to count. Really, he would have thought that a sense of resignation would have set in by now, but no, he still felt just as irritated as the first time – back when he had still been a teenager and had voiced his idea of becoming an underground hero for the first time… only for everyone to immediately question him about it in condescending voices.

Hizashi's father blinked at him again, he looked as if he had just been presented with an extremely complicated riddle. For a second it seemed as if he might say something else – asking about the why’s and how’s but then the man simply leaned back his his chair again and continued to eat in utter silence. It was obvious that he didn't even want to attempt to understand Shouta's viewpoint.

Shouta's jaw jumped and he suppressed the sudden urge to shake his head, instead he simply let out a silent huff and turned his attention back to his own food. Hizashi beside him was too quiet, his green eyes downcast – staring at his plate as if it could give him the answers to the universe. For a split second Shouta's lips twitched as they tried to flatten into a thin line.

Minutes passed. The only noise the clinking of cutlery on porcelain. The silence hanging around the room was stifling.

“You know, Hizashi wanted to be a hero too when he was younger.” Hizashi's mother suddenly spoke up after she had taken a sip of her water, she pressed her palm against her cheek in a strange mixture of remembrance and mourning “He has such a wonderful quirk too. You see, he has an extremely strong form of his grandmothers amplification quirk combined with his fathers pitch quirk – and both of them affect his vocal cords. It’s a real gift. He could get so much attention if he ever became a hero.”

Beside Shouta Hizashi was slowly shrinking in his seat – slipping further down with every word, as if he was about to crawl under the table. He was obviously uncomfortable with the current topic.

“But then he just suddenly decided that a hero career isn't for him and instead he became a host for some no-name, small time radio station.” Hizashi's mother sniffed, waving a hand in the air in a dismissive motion “It’s really such a pity. He’s so smart too. You see, I believe he would have cleared the entrance exam of UA with little trouble. Both the physical as well as the written part.” she let out a deep, dejected sigh “It’s such a waste really.” she shook her head to herself and then continued to eat as if nothing had happened – seemingly not even expecting anyone at the table to respond.

For a second Shouta wanted to retort that Hizashi could do what he wanted with his life, that he could choose whatever career path wanted, that he could be whatever and whoever he wanted to be… but he bit his tongue and swallowed the words down. He didn't want to start a potential fight right about now – especially since Hizashi was already looking so very uncomfortable and out of place.

“Yes, I have noticed that your son is very brilliant indeed.” Shouta gave back instead, voice sincere – Hizashi was brilliant enough, in fact, to see through all the smoke and mirrors the hero industry liked to hide behind. He was able to pull back the curtain and see the ugly charade for what it was… Something that his parents seemingly weren't capable of.

Truthfully speaking, Shouta too did believe that Hizashi would have made an amazing hero – only maybe in another society, in another timeline where heroes and agencies were more concerned with helping people than with making money any way possible… in another timeline where Hizashi would have been able to have more autonomy over what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it… A timeline where he would have been able to choose.

… Choice… that had always been the weak point.

Most people with flashy or destructive quirks only had the choice of becoming a daytime Pro – the ‘choice’ to enter a crowded job market in the hopes of getting a few crumbs and picked clean bones from the table. Getting employed by an agency in the hopes of getting more big time cases forked their way, of getting more money for their work. Starting TV careers, or merchandise lines – selling themselves out – just to keep the lights on and a roof over their head. Praying everyday that they were ‘useful enough’ to their employer so they wouldn't be thrown out onto the street.

And because of the nature of their quirks they were often unable to join the far less crowded and more lucrative underground scene. And that was before you even considered the fact that underground heroes often needed a very specific mind-set – something that many of the daytime Pros clearly lacked.

Yet, on the other hand most people with non-offensive quirks – like Shouta too – either had the ‘choice’ of simply abandoning their dreams and moving on with their lives – since no agency wanted to take in a hero they couldn't market properly anyway – or the ‘choice’ of going into the underground which, again, many people were simply unsuited for.

Now Hizashi's quirk was far too flashy for him to be able to make a living as an underground hero so all that was left for him was the illusionary ‘choice’ of becoming a daytime Pro – with all the pros and cons that that lifestyle brought with it. There wasn't another other option, really… unless of course you considered the ‘lawless’ path of becoming a vigilante, which could be a very slippery slope indeed – no prior hero training, no one who could officially shoulder the responsibility if something went wrong… just everyday people doing what they thought was right with no way to reign them in or hold them accountable.

… Truly, choice was only a flickering mirage that disappeared the second you tried to grab it. If you didn't want to bend to the unwritten rules then you would simply be flushed out… and Hizashi was the kind of person who wouldn't bend his morals for anything… and that alone already made him unfit to be a daytime hero.

And it was clear that Hizashi had realized all of that too – it was why he did what he did, after all. Vigilante work outside the law, toeing that slippery slope carefully and calculating.

“If you're a hero you must have a really impressive quirk too.” Hizashi's mother went on easily and it ripped Shouta out of his dark musings. He blinked at her, momentarily lost – he was about to answer but Hizashi beat him to it.

“Oh yes!” Hizashi downright burst out, his voice full of boyish excitement. It was the most lively he had been all evening so far – there was a glint in his eyes and a broad smile on his face “It’s amazing!” he half-yelled at the same time that Shouta finally answered “Not really.” in a dry tone.

Hizashi's mother blinked at both of their contrasting and overlapping answers, her fair brows drawing together into a confused frown. Under the table Hizashi kicked Shouta again – he shot the hero an affronted, somewhat hurt look before he turned towards his mother again, bright smile back on his face.

“Don’t listen to him!” Hizashi immediately brushed everything off “As I said, he’s so humble about stuff like that. His quirk is incredible! I have honestly never seen something like it! It’s super rare too, a recessive trait, you see.” the blond man was positively gushing – like a teenager who had just gotten the okay-go to talk about their favourite idol. He sounded so proud too…

On one hand it was flattering to see they way Hizashi talked about him, it really was. But on the other hand Shouta didn't think his quirk was anything to write home about. When it came down to it he was essentially quirkless and the only thing he could do was to make other people quirkless too – even the field by dragging them down to his own level.

From there on everything just devolved into a fist fight – and if his opponent was physically stronger than he was? If Shouta was outmatched in a quirkless match? Then he would be killed, or captured and then killed, maybe tortured for information or for ‘fun’ first…

And then, looming above it all, were all the limitations too. The fact that he was always fighting on borrowed time – fighting against his own body to keep himself from blinking or the fact that he was only semi-effective against mutations quirks… So all in all he really didn't know why Hizashi was so enamoured with his quirk.

“Oh?” Hizashi's father perked up again at that “What is it? Super strength? Size shifting?”

“No, no.” Hizashi laughed giddily – as if the idea was a silly thing “It’s actually a non-offensive quirk.” he said voice still brimming with pleased pride.

There was an awkward moment of silence and then “Oh...” Hizashi's mother breathed, visibly deflating a little. Her husbands face scrunched up, his nose wrinkling. And Shouta was forced to watch as Hizashi's bright smile froze on his face before it slowly crumbled away – Hizashi was scooting down in his seat as if he tried to sink into the ground. A flush rose to his face and his green eyes lowered to the table.

Shouta took a deep breath, keeping his face carefully neutral – despite the fact that he could feel his blood heating up in his veins. His jaw jumped as he grit his teeth.

Silence settled over the room and again, for the longest time, the only audible noise was the clinking of cutlery against porcelain.

“What are you teaching Aizawa-san?” again it was Hizashi's mother who asked – it seemed like she was desperate to make small talk, to keep the conversation going at least somewhat… but her expression made it obvious that she was everything but thrilled. She only asked out of obligation and politeness.

“Heroics.” short and to the point.

“Oh? What’s that exactly?” Hizashi's mother asked, seemingly hoping he would just keep talking.

“I teach them everything they need to know about working as a hero.” he answered and it answered nothing. Internally he hoped that the conversation would just peter out again. It was quiet for a few long moments and Shouta nearly thought he would get his wish when…

“You’re rather taciturn.” it was Hizashi's father this time.

“I have been told.” Shouta gave back dryly – maybe even a little mordant.

“Oh, it’s not a bad thing.” Hizashi's mother smiled “Hizashi often brings home such loud and...” here she seemed to stumble for a second, searching for a word “-lively people.” she settled on “And they always have such simple-hearted personalities and work such frivolous jobs. So it’s simply a little surprising to see him bringing home someone so serious, and quiet and down-to-earth for a change.” she was still smiling, though it looked cool “I guess everyone grows up at some point.” she added, her gaze pointedly settling on Hizashi.

Shouta's eyes narrowed dangerously. Beside him Hizashi was ducking his head farther down still – at this point he was only a few inch away from pressing his nose flat against his plate or the table top.

“Hizashi and I are very different, that is true, but I do believe that we balance out each others extremes.” Shouta pointed out, tone sharp as he fixed his intense, dark stare on Hizashi's mother “I actually find his vibrant nature quite charming. In fact, it is what drew me to him in the first place.” his words had a certain forcefulness behind them.

The smile on the woman’s face slowly slipped away, making room for something that looked closer to discomfort – her gaze slipping away from Shouta's. She cleared her throat.

Shouta felt like glowering – he had never before been forced to sit in such an uncomfortable, alienating and passive aggressive environment where every sentence seemed to be laced with some underhanded jape. His skin prickles and he wanted nothing more than to grab Hizashi and leave.

He nearly jerked when he unexpectedly felt fingers bumping into his right leg – his gaze drew to Hizashi beside him but the other man wasn't looking at him; instead Shouta only felt the gentle squeeze of fingers against his thigh… if it was meant as a reassurance or to be calming, a ‘thank you’ or a warning to not go overboard Shouta didn't know. He let out a soft breath of air and consciously relaxed his shoulders.

This time the silence that settled over the room was there to stay – no one spoke a word as they all finished their food – and truthfully, Shouta really wasn't complaining. He had never been one of those people who liked to talk endlessly while his dinner was getting cold in front of him… even if it was a rather mediocre dinner. Tasteless, like the microwave dishes he sometimes bought for himself – lacking flavour; everything having the same consistency.

Shouta gulped down the water in his glass – washing the bland taste down and emptying the glass in one go. He placed it back down on the table after he was done. It barely took a minute before Hizashi's mother noticed it.

“Do you want something more to drink Aizawa-san?” she asked, smiling – it didn't reach her eyes at all.

“No thank you Yamada-san.” Shouta gave back – sitting there with both his plate as well as his glass empty it was rather clear that he was prepared to leave at the drop of a hat; he didn't even have to spell it out in so many words.

It was obvious that Hizashi's mother understood his implication – her lips pursed slightly. Hizashi's left hand on his thigh squeezed again, thumb drawing circles – caressing, Shouta realized… it wasn't meant reprimanding then it seemed.

“Do you want to marry someday Aizawa-san?” it was Hizashi's mother again, there was strange curiosity in her eyes, a weirdly dogged expression on her face.

“Mom, please!” Hizashi immediately jumped into the conversation, he sounded downright embarrassed “We have only known each other for a few months.”

“I’m just curious.” she shrugged nonchalantly, her eyes expectantly fixed on Shouta. Hizashi opened his mouth as if he wanted to protest more but then he closed it again a second later, lips twisting slightly.

“I don't really see the point of marriage.” Shouta answered, locking eyes with her – her gaze slipped away nearly immediately.

“Thought as much.” Hizashi's mother said and her words had such an odd ring to them that it made Shouta bristle for some unknown reason.

“I’m not opposed to the idea either.” he added – he didn't know why. Still, it wasn't a lie. He had never understood why some people were so insistent on getting married someday – if you found the right person did it really matter if you officially married them? Was a ring and a piece of paper really worth that much? Why go through all that trouble when you had already decided to stay together? Moreover, if the whole thing turned sour one day then you had to go through even more trouble just to get a divorce...

Yet Shouta wasn't really opposed to the concept itself – he was just… indifferent towards it. He simply didn't understand the hype, didn't understand why some people made mountains out of molehills because of it.

Furthermore Hizashi was right – they hadn't known each other terribly long… at least not in the intimate way they shared right now. Both of them were still fumbling, trying to find a rhythm in a new relationship. Still, if their dynamic stayed the way it was right now and didn't deteriorate over time, and Hizashi, at some point or another, wanted to get married then Shouta would have no problem with that either.

But that were only vague speculations about an even vaguer future – it was still much too soon to even think about any of that. Truthfully, Shouta didn't know why Hizashi's mother had brought it up in the first place – only that she had seemingly been digging for something with her question… and going by Hizashi's near violent knee-jerk reaction before it seemed like the other man had clearly understood what it was that his mother wanted out of this.

“You know” Hizashi's father suddenly spoke up again, out of nowhere “-it’s probably a good thing that you don't have any high expectations, like marriage. You see, Hizashi never really sticks around all that long. He has a relationship with someone for a few months and then he just ditches them and moves on. He’s so flighty.”

Shouta blinked at that… what was…? He had to suppress a grimace as Hizashi's fingers suddenly dug into his thigh; nearly clawing, well kept nails pressing uncomfortably into his skin even through his pants. He threw a glance towards the other man out of the corner of his eyes – Hizashi had gone very pale, his lower lip drawn between his teeth, something like mortification on his face.

Shouta's own expression softened – turning nearly sympathetic. He let one hand slip under the table, curling it gently around Hizashi's on his thigh, coaxing him to ease up on his clearly panicked grip. He saw the other man blink and then recognition flashed over his face, his fingers unclenching nearly immediately – as if he had just now realized what he was doing.

With that taken care of Shouta turned his head towards Hizashi's father, his expression hardening again, intense eyes fixed on the older man “I don't really see why that is worth mentioning.” he said evenly, bluntly “If a relationship isn't satisfactory anymore it is only logical to break it off. After all there is no sense in remaining in a failing relationship just for the sake of it.”

Both Hizashi's father as well as his mother blinked at him – obviously startled by his reaction. Shouta suppressed a scoff and instead started rubbing his thumb over Hizashi's left hand on his leg, counting the raises of his knuckles – 1, 2, 3, 4 to the left; 1, 2, 3, 4 to the right again, over and over. It took a moment or two but then Hizashi turned his hand – palm facing upwards now, fingers nearly clamping around Shouta's hand. Shouta gave a soft, reassuring squeeze.

An awkward silence hung over the table and this time no one spoke up again – not even Hizashi's mother tried to needle one of them with questions anymore. With all the food gone and the conversation utterly dried up it was nothing if not uncomfortable. They sat there for another ten or maybe fifteen minutes – as if it was out of polite obligation and then “It’s getting pretty late already isn't it?” Hizashi's mother asked, a strained smile on her face.

And that was the cue – Hizashi and Shouta both nodded mutely and not too long after that Hizashi's parents saw both of them off… ‘threw them out’ might be a more apt description, Shouta thought as he heard the door shut behind them with a little too much force.

“Well, that went well.” Hizashi said, voice utterly flat.

Shouta gave a snort at that comment “If you say so.” he gave back just as flatly.

Hizashi shot him a wry smile though it was nowhere near as bright as his smiles usually were. For a few moments they simply stood there, in front of the steps leading up to the door they had just walked out of… and then Hizashi spoke up again, words nearly tentative “Can you take me home?”

“Sure.” Shouta said easily, giving a short nod.

The way to Hizashi's apartment was spent in silence – it was still strange for Shouta to be so close to the other man without hearing his excited blabber, but at the very least the atmosphere between them wasn't as charged with nervous tension anymore. The only thing that hung around them now was a near palpable exhaustion.

In the end they reached Hizashi's apartment complex and only then did the vigilante speak up again “Wanna come upstairs?” he asked, it sounded nonchalant but there was something in his eyes – and Shouta didn't want to refuse.

He gave a soft grunt in affirmation, nodding his head once. Hizashi shot him a somewhat tired but soft smile and turned to unlock the door. They took the stairway upwards and not too long after they were in Hizashi's apartment.

The vigilante locked the front door behind them again and then let out a sigh “This was really shitty.” he huffed.

“Yeah, no, I noticed.” Shouta gave back dryly and then bent down to pull off his shoes.

“Sorry they were so unfriendly to you.” it sounded too quiet.

Shouta's lips flattened for a second before his expression smoothed out again. He placed his shoes neatly against the wall, straightened up again and then shrugged “I have heard worse. I don't care what they think of me.” he said, meaning every word. In fact, the only thing he did care about was the way they had treated Hizashi tonight – just thinking back to it made a surge of heat flare through his blood.

Hizashi's mouth twitched down, he toed his own shoes off and simply left them laying as they had fallen “That doesn't make it better.” he protested “The way they looked when I told them that you had a non-offensive quirk, like, they were so nosy after they realized that you are a hero and then they just… deflated – like some sad balloon. As if destructive quirks are the only way to go. As if a non-offensive quirk automatically makes you a hack or something.” he scoffed, he sounded downright angry.

“It is better to have a destructive quirk if you want to make a career as a hero.” Shouta pointed out idly, not to be contradictory but just because it was the truth.

“Yeah, it’s also worse for civilians. How many people have been killed indirectly thanks to the recklessness of some blockhead hero with some unstoppable quirk?” he was fuming, a near snarl on his lips.

“Too many.” Shouta answered sombrely.

A moment of silence “Yeah… exactly.” Hizashi said, his expression grave – Shouta got the impression that there was something else going on, something that went deeper than their current conversation, something lurking just out if sight – a story he didn't know just yet… Hizashi gave a huff, his serious frown smoothing out again “Sorry. I'm getting angry over nothing.”

Shouta's own expression softened “It is fine. It was a straining evening.” he was quiet for a heartbeat or two and then he added “Your parents are distasteful people.” blunt and honest. Harshly.

For a second Hizashi's entire face scrunched up “Yeah...” he said slowly “-tell me about it...” for a heartbeat or two it was quiet “They aren't always like that. Today was… worse.” Hizashi said as if that could justify what had happened.

“Was it though?” Shouta challenged. Had it truly been ‘worse’ today or was it always like that and Hizashi was just wilfully ignoring the reality of it all? Putting on some rose-coloured glasses and defending some behaviour that shouldn't be defended in the first place?

More silence – this one felt tense. Shouta watched Hizashi's mouth twitch, watched the way his teeth nipped at his bottom lip – once, twice… “Let’s go to sleep. I don't feel like doing anything else today.” Hizashi said, inelegantly changing the topic. Shouta let him.

They both washed up and then changed into sleep clothes. Hizashi had just pulled his sleep shirt into place and had moved on to dragging his hair out from underneath it when he stopped mid-motion, long blond hair draped over one arm still hanging suspended in the air.

There was a second of silence and Shouta raised a confused gaze to the man beside him “Could you braid it again?” Hizashi asked – the same tentative tone as before in his voice, when he had asked Shouta to take him.

Shouta frowned slightly. He didn't know why Hizashi suddenly used that tone, he had never really used it before – it was nearly as if he was afraid Shouta might… reject him. The hero blinked in sudden realization – Hizashi was asking for his time and attention while he was simultaneously afraid that Shouta would rebuked him.

Was this because of the meeting with his parents? Was this the mind-set he reverted into on those occasions? His bubbly, headstrong nature replaced by this? His cocky, loud personality overshadowed and subdued by the fear of rejection? Trying to appear small and low-maintenance?

Shouta felt his chest aching, as if his ribs tried to collapse in on themselves. He swallowed… “Hair tie?” was all he asked back. Hizashi shot him a small smile at that and let his hair fall down around his shoulders so he would have both hands free to rummage around in the drawer of his night stand.

He pulled out a hair tie and reached it over – Shouta took it wordlessly and then sat down on the bed, leaving enough room so Hizashi could sit down beside him. The blond man did just that and then turned his back towards Shouta so he could work better.

Shouta combed his fingers through the smooth, long strands – making sure there were no tangles or knots – before he started to partition them. He started braiding – a simple three strand overhand braid. He felt Hizashi relaxing under his touch, as if all the tension bled out of his muscles and suddenly Shouta found that he didn't want to be done too quickly.

If Hizashi found comfort in this simple touch then Shouta was more than willing to give it to him. He untangled the already braided strand again and started all over – this time he started much farther up, close to the top of Hizashi's head. He partitioned the hair he had gathered into three strands and then started braiding, adding strands of the still loose hair as he went – a loose french braid.

He was focused on the movement of his hands, careful not to accidentally tug too hard. After a while he had reached the end of Hizashi's hair and with a few twists of his fingers he tied the hair tie around it “Done.” he said, letting the heavy braid fall against Hizashi's back.

For a second both men remained sitting the way they were and then Hizashi tipped to the side and flopped onto the mattress, landing on his right side – back still facing towards Shouta, he was staring at the headboard.

“Just so you know, it’s not like I'm some floozy or something.” Hizashi suddenly spoke up, still not turning around to look at Shouta. Shouta for his part could do nothing but blink in utter confusion at the unexpected topic – it felt like he had gotten whiplash. His brows knit together in befuddlement as he levelled a questioning gaze at the back of Hizashi's head.

“My parents are right, I had a lot of relationships before you and I broke up with all of them but it’s not like I'm some...” a frustrated huff “-some … I don't know…” a short pause “The reason why I broke up with everyone else so far is because I tried to keep what I do a secret, you know, the whole Present Mic thing.” again pause “At some point it just always got too complicated, or they asked questions, or jumped to conclusions and I didn't want to lie to them either and I often felt guilty because of everything and…” another huff “You already know what I do so it’s not like I have a reason to break up with you, I mean, at least not because of the vigilante thing… I mean that probably sounded super shitty and like I plan on breaking up with you for some other reason later down the line but that's really not what I meant at all. I mean, like-” Hizashi was rambling by now, talking circles around himself, jumping from the frying pan right into the fire.

“Hizashi.” Shouta cut in gently “You do not have to justify your actions to me. Whatever or whyever you did something in previous relationships shouldn't be important to our current one – not like this at least.”

Everything was still and then, finally, Hizashi turned around, settling onto his other side, his eyes fixing on Shouta – regarding him with a strange expression – if Shouta didn't know any better he might have mistaken it for awe… or maybe ‘besotted’ was a better word for it.

“I love you.” Hizashi said and Shouta let out a huff.

“I know.” he gave back, his voice was soft.

“Sorry, the evening sucked.”

“That’s not your fault.”

“Still…” Hizashi said, his tone could nearly be described as petulant. He was unhappy, that much was obvious – his mouth drawn into an uncharacteristic frown that Shouta really didn't like to look at.

Silence. Shouta's eyes trailed over the other mans form, stopping minutely at the patch of bare skin visible where Hizashi's shirt had ridden up. His eyes lingered there for a few long moments… he blinked as he suddenly remembered their conversation in the subway not all that long ago.

His gaze moved up again – taking in Hizashi's dejected, sombre expression that looked so out of place on his face – before it slipping down again a second later, settling back on the bare skin of Hizashi's right waist…

For a second Shouta mulled the sudden idea over… and in the end he put his right hand on the bed to stabilize himself before he reached his left one out, palm flattening against Hizashi's bared skin – thumb stroking back and forth in a soft caress. The blond man let out a pleased hum at that, his scrunched up expression smoothing out at least a little.

“Your hand is warm.” Hizashi commented, voice half muffled from the way he was pressing his cheek into the mattress – he closed his eyes after a moment; clearly enjoying the attention… and then Shouta started moving his fingers, skimming lightly, prodding, curling, and Hizashi's eyes snapped open again.

“Oh no!” the blond man half screeched, flopping flat onto his back like a stranded fish, both of his hands coming up to swat Shouta's own away – Shouta couldn't keep a half satisfied, half predatory grin off his face. He scooted closer, balancing his weight differently so he could bring down his right hand as well, tickling at Hizashi's other side too.

The blond man let out an extremely unattractive snort – which was endearing in its own right – and started to squirm, both his hands trying to stop Shouta's; though it was a clumsy attempt at best with no real force behind it.

It barely took a few seconds before Hizashi started to giggle, high-pitched laughter bubbling out from between his lips – the sound was the most beautiful thing Shouta had ever hear. Hizashi was still wiggling under Shouta's touch – he threw his head back, hips pushing into the bed as if that would somehow be able to safe him.

Shouta's grin only widened as he moved to straddle the other man – sitting down on his lap, pinning him with his weight and making it impossible for the vigilante to do anything but endure the ticklish torture.

“Oh god!” Hizashi tittered loudly, his glasses askew on his face, shirt ridden up to his armpits, eyes taking on a wet shine as tears sprung up, his face turning red “You monster!” he nearly squealed, his legs quaking where they hung over the bed – feet audibly slipping over the carpet of the bedroom. His hands were clutching around Shouta's wrists – trying to pull his fingers away half-heartedly.

Shouta's grin softened impossibly as he looked down at the other man – he took in the way he gasped and laughed in that peculiar way of his; like the peal of a crystal bell. Shouta's heart squeezed nearly painfully in his chest, his fingers slowed their motions and his touch became firmer until he was rubbing and petting his hands over Hizashi's heaving stomach and chest – soothing, calming.

“You villain!” Hizashi gasped up at him, face completely red, his eyes shining – there was a smile on his face; a carefree blithe one and Shouta's heart squeezed even tighter. There it was, that dazzling smile – he had missed it all evening long.

“You are beautiful when you laugh.” Shouta near whispered, sounding just as breathless as Hizashi. The man under him blinked, momentarily stumped before he let out a soft titter – this one sounding just a tad coy.

“Wow…” Hizashi said, his voice a little hoarse “That came kinda out of the blue.” he chewed on his lip, his eyes lifting up to meet Shouta's own gaze. For a long moment everything was slow and quiet, nearly serene… and then Hizashi's electric green eyes seemed to nearly spark, the air between them shifted… Shouta took a deep breath, it hissed between his teeth. His still patting hands applied a little more pressure.

Hizashi bowed his back as best as he could with Shouta's weight still pressing him down – meeting the touch. He fluttered his fair lashes, voice turning into that smooth lilt – that Siren song that always managed to enthrall Shouta “What do you say we make sure this evening ends better than it has begun?” Hizashi's tone was flirtatious, upper body still squirming and straining upwards to get as much of Shouta's touch on his bare skin as possible.

“Are you sure?” Shouta asked – feeling a little uncertain at the sudden turn of events – his finger tips were feathering over Hizashi's exposed skin – a suggestion, a question. In response Hizashi stretched his arms above his head, left hand clasping around the wrist of his right one – putting himself on full display.

“Oh darling, I'm sure.” he lilted “But you're so sweet to ask first.” it was a coo.

Shouta bowed down, hovering over the other man, their faces only a few inches apart “Yes?” he asked again – the evening had been straining and it had left Hizashi solemn and taciturn and all Shouta had wanted was to make Hizashi smile – he hadn't really planned for something like this to happen of all things. And most of all he didn't want Hizashi to think that this had been his end goal, he didn't want the other man to think that he had to do this right now…

His mind went silent as Hizashi slung his arms around his neck and pulled him down, smushing their mouths together eagerly, his tongue snaking out immediately to slip between Shouta's own slightly parted lips.

Hizashi let out a pleased moan, one hand twisting into the back of Shouta's shirt – clawing, nearly desperate, the ball of his palm pressed down, trying to push the hero against himself – his other hand tangled into black wavy strands, holding Shouta's head fast while his tongue fucked into his mouth, wet and sloppy and excited.

When they parted again after what felt like minutes both men were breathing heavily, their chests rising and falling quickly, both their lips spit slick and kiss red.

“Oh yes.” Hizashi panted out his answer. A second passed, he bit his lower lip and then he added softly – his voice turning a little tentative again “Make love to me.”

For some reason those words struck a cord inside of Shouta and he felt as if he had just understood something that transcended language – something he couldn't put into words, something he wouldn't be able to explain if he tried… but he had understood it. He had understood what Hizashi had meant and what the other man wanted… maybe even needed right now.

Shouta's eyes lidded and he smiled down at the man under him in what he hoped was a tender, sweet expression “I can do that.” he said and he saw Hizashi smile back at him – it looked nearly relieved. Shouta bowed lower, pressing a handful of wet kissed against the column of Hizashi throat “Yeah.” he breathed out reassuringly “I can do that.” he fastened his lips around the other mans pulse point and stared to suck. Leaving a hickey.

If Hizashi needed someone's undivided and unconditional attention and affection right now then Shouta had no problem giving the other man exactly what he wanted. No complaints at all.

“I’ll make you feel so nice.” he whispered, voice dropping even lower than it usually was, warm breath fanning over the other mans neck – he felt Hizashi giving a full body shiver under him, the arms around his shoulders tightening nearly desperately “I’ll make love to you.” it was a low, dark promise.

Chapter Text

Shouta woke up the next morning because the sun had decided to shine directly onto his closed eyelids – he wrinkled his nose in distaste and turned so his back was facing the window… or at least that had been the plan; but he was stopped by a weight on his chest.

It took him a second but then his sleepy, slow mind managed to connect the dots and helpfully informed him that it was Hizashi who was draped over him… it took a moment longer still for him to question why that was the case – Hizashi was an early riser after all, why would he still be in bed when the sun was already well on its way up into the sky? … And then something else occurred to him as he, nearly absent-mindedly, realized that he had been deep asleep. He had slept a dreamless and uninterrupted sleep – no waking up at every wrong turn or rustle of the blankets… He felt strangely pleased about that.

“Morning.” it was Hizashi's voice, still a little raspy from disuse and Shouta's lips quirked up the slightest bit – so the other man was already awake, he seemingly had just been too lazy to move out of bed.

“Morning.” Shouta greeted back, the single word sleep dark and still a little tired sounding. He moved one of his arms to sling it around Hizashi's naked waist and then rolled onto his side – moving Hizashi with him. His hold tightened as he pressed the other man against his chest minutely before he loosened his half embrace again. He tipped his head downwards slightly and pressed his nose against soft strands that smelled of lavender and honey.

Everything was calm and warm and Shouta was already close to drifting off again – limps relaxed, a deep satisfaction still clinging to his body and the back of his mind from the night before. He could still detect the faint scent of sex and sweat still lingering in the room.

But Hizashi's voice roused him from his doze again “I’ve been thinking...” the blond man started slowly – Shouta could feel one of his slim fingers tracing circles into his side; moving in unpredictable, random patterns, drawing nonsense against his skin.

“-about last night… or better yet, about what we talked about… or at least started talking about, well, it was me who brought it up but not really… yeah, well…” Hizashi continued before trailing of again – Shouta felt a huff of air fanning across his chest and throat and in response he started rubbing his palm over Hizashi back, a reassuring caress. He gave a soft hum, signalling that he was listening and that Hizashi could go on if he really wanted to.

A few more seconds of silence and then “I don't really know if now is the best time… or if anytime is the best time. I don't even know if I should spell it out like this, but I don't think letting you figure it out yourself would be very fair to you… I guess… well, I mean...” another huff, this one stronger, frustrated, breath brushing over Shouta's collarbone "Yesterday, when my parents kept hammering on about heroes and quirks and stuff I just got so..."

Shouta just kept his caressing motion up, fingers skimming upwards in a near feathery touch – though he was mindful to apply enough pressure so it wouldn't be ticklish for the other man. At some point the tips of his fingers met with smooth strands – they drew farther up still, till he was able to play with the soft fluff at the nap of Hizashi's neck.

“In the beginning” Hizashi went on, tone nearly tentative “-I was drawn to you, sure, but… not really because I liked you, I mean, I like you now – I love you. You're wonderful… but the first time we met I was only intrigued by the idea of your quirk. I was curious. I had heard so many rumours about you and so many speculations about your quirk but the only thing anyone knew for sure was that you could counter even the most powerful quirks and… and I got infatuated with that thought…”

A short, nearly tense pause.

“After I met you I got curious about you as a person too… but the thing that prompted me to help you that first time, even if it had no real benefit for me, was that I wanted to figure out your quirk… In the beginning at least… I mean, I guess it was a good thing because that way I stuck around long enough to notice what a sweet guy you are… but it still sounds super shallow now that I spell it out like this.”

Another moment of tense silence, Hizashi's palm had by now flattened against Shouta's hip, it was laying there motionlessly – except for his thumb that had started to draw circles into the skin there. It was quiet for so long that Shouta suspected that Hizashi had changed his mind and had decided to leave whatever else he might want to say unspoken.

But after what must have been at least a few minutes the vigilante spoke up again “I was only drawn to you because I thought you could counter me… and I was so delighted when I found out that you could just completely turn my quirk useless … I can’t even describe that feeling. I was elated! I felt like a dream had come true.”

A beat of silence, harsh breath fanning over Shouta's throat “I know my parents were scoffing at you… at both of us really. At me for not becoming a hero with my quirk and at you for being one even though your quirk is non-offensive… but to me-” Hizashi's words were slightly uneven, a little shaky, like they were precariously balanced on the edge of a table, ready to tip over any second “-to me your quirk is amazing. It’s so incredibly powerful – in such a wonderful way.” he was nearly murmuring at this point.

Shouta gave a slightly amused hum “My quirk is useless.” he stated, it was the truth; no self-deprecation, no false humility – just honesty “It doesn't even really work against mutations, or against quirks that don't have to be actively sustained after they have been activated. I'm essentially quirkless. The only thing I can do is make others quirkless too and then fight them on an even playing field.” he tipped his chin down a little, lips brushing over soft, fair strands as he added “And if I stumble upon someone who is physically stronger than me then I’ll lose either way, no matter if I have Erasure activated or not… The fact that I haven't met someone who can overpower me yet is thanks to my own calculations, and in part also thanks to nothing more than dumb luck.”

“Don’t put yourself down like that!” it sounded sharp and nearly angry – offended at Shouta's behalf. It made the hero let out a soft chuckle.

“I’m not putting myself down. I'm being honest.” he said calmly, his tone holding a certain warmth.

“No you're not!” Hizashi hissed back immediately “I have a powerful quirk, you don't even know half of what I can do with it. With the sound waves, with the pitch, with the pressure waves that accompany the sound, the psychological impact that some noises have, and not to mention the nausea I can cause, the swimming vision, the muscle spasms and phantom pain and...” Hizashi cut himself off, breathing heavily “But you!” he continued and he sounded nearly fervent “You can stop that. Everything! You don't even have to touch me. You just have to look at me. No one can stop me except for you! Just like that! So don't say your quirk is useless, it’s incredible! It’s more powerful than anything else I have ever seen in my life. And no one has to get injured when you use it – it’s so perfectly harmless. It’s…” there was a short pause. Hizashi's tone shifted, becoming softer – a near whisper “It’s safe.” he breathed against Shouta's throat, voice full of wonder.

Shouta blinked, a heartbeat or two passed and then a deep realization settled in – a revelation, an answer to a question he had been asking himself for months now “That is why you didn't want to be a hero.” he pointed out, his words sure. Hizashi against him stiffened. A pregnant pause, the air seemed nearly charged and then Hizashi fell limp against him again, as if the fight had drained out of his body.

“I didn't lie… I also hate the hero agencies and the money grubbing and the double standards… the fact that we privatized law enforcement with no real oversight or clear rules and then made a spectacle out of it with everyone trying to get a piece of the cake – like it’s just some shitty old superhero movie – only that the destruction and the causalities are real and not just special effects on a screen. There’s no glamour to that… not really… it’s gilded – cheap plastic with a thin coat of gold pigment…” a short pause “I didn't lie about that.” Hizashi emphasised again.

“I didn't say you had.” Shouta gave back simply, his hand on Hizashi's nap moved, brushing down the braid until his fingers bumped into the hair tie at the end – he slipped it off, wiggling and turning his hand until he could slip it around his wrist before he started to untangle the braid carefully.

“I know...” Hizashi said slowly, his own hand on Shouta's hip taking up its movement again, slipping around his waist to his lower back, skimming up and down, nails scrapping gently – making goosebumps rise “I know.” Hizashi repeated, tone sombre.

“What did you do?” Shouta asked, coaxed softly with no real pressure behind the words – it was an offer. His fingers combed through the newly freed strands of Hizashi's long hair, from root to tip, twisting a few strands around his fingers here or there, flicking them back and forth idly.

A long pause… and then Hizashi answered “I… When… when I was born…” pause “You know when babies are born and they have to scream to open up their lungs properly so they can breath?” Hizashi asked and Shouta hummed, nodding his head “Yeah… now imagine a baby screaming with my quirk.” pause “It was a blessing that I was born in a hospital and they had enough doctors with healing quirks around.” Hizashi's words were acid, biting and bitter and meant to flay skin off of bone.

Shouta felt the other mans heart thrumming loudly against his own chest, felt the fast staccato between the bows of his own ribs. His palm flattened on the back of Hizashi's head and, with a gentle push – a tentative suggestion that was accepted – he pulled the other mans closer against his chest.

“I eventually got the hang of it as I got older but… whenever I got too excited I ruined something – electronics, windows…” a short pause “I mean, I was only a child and no child really has control over their quirk. You know, the thing was that people weren't even mad or angry – everyone just told me what a good hero I would make. Every time my quirk got the best of me someone would comment that I should go to UA… and I just thought: why not? UA will help me get a better handle on my quirk and then I could use it to actually help people… I liked that idea.”

Hizashi suddenly curled up a little, as if he tried to hide against Shouta “I was fifteen and just about to put in an application to UA…” Hizashi said and then after a heartbeat of silence added “-When I accidentally stumbled upon a hero fight in the streets… There was a lot of destruction and whole piles of debris and a crowd of people standing a save distance away jeering like it was some gladiator fight… and in that moment I realized that that is all they want out of me: A spectacle. They don't really want me to help people, they want me to destroy stuff and to put on a show… and I realized that I don't want to be part of that. I don't want to contribute to that kind of mindset, I don't want to be another cog in the machine.” his words were hushed – a confession.

He ducked his head, pressing his face against Shouta's chest, folding into himself as much as he could – trying to appear smaller “I don't want to hurt people. I don't want to be a loose canon… and… and finding you… and realizing what your quirk could do… back then in that alley… It was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I know it sounds weird and I know I have issues but… just knowing that someone like you is there, someone who can overpower me… it just makes me feel…” a harsh, quivering breath, a loud swallow “Makes me feel safe.”

Another shaky intake of breath, another tense pause and then “That’s what drew me to you. That's all. I'm sorry I'm so superficial. I'm sorry I don't have a better reason.”

Shouta gave a soft hum at all of that, his hand combing through Hizashi's hair as he let everything sink – as he let the strange mixture of emotions that this conversation had caused waft through him. Hizashi against him was tense, as if he expected something horrible to happen – as if he thought Shouta might lash out.

In the end Shouta only let out a half amused half disappointed sigh through his nose “You said that was at the beginning.” he started “We already moved past that stage and we got to know each other better by now. Tell me Hizashi: Right now, do you only love me because of my quirk?”

No! Of course not!” Hizashi snapped nearly angry, the words and indignant hiss and then a second later he breathed “Oh...” as if he had just realized what Shouta had done.

The hero hummed lowly, he nodded “Exactly.” he was twirling his fingers around fair strands before he continued “In the beginning I wasn't even sure if I actually liked you or if I had fallen in love with a persona or a mask that you put on… It was part of the reason it took me so long to come to a decision. But right now I do not doubt you anymore. You see, we both moved on from the mindset we had at the beginning – so there is no sense hammering on about it. We are both happy the way it is right now, aren't we? So why bring up such things?” he asked – but not really. It wasn't really a question and he didn't expect an answer.

The room fell silent after that and both men spent what felt like a small eternity just cuddling – the sun bathing everything in warm light as it continued to climb into the sky, the light muted by the curtains.

“What do you want to do today?” Hizashi suddenly asked – seemingly deeming the conversation done; seemingly satisfied with its outcome. His tone was mellow and much happier than it had been mere moments ago – as if he had reached a good conclusion.

Shouta hummed, a hint of a smile on his lips – he pressed a chaste, close-mouthed kiss against the top of Hizashi's head before he spoke up “I thought of going to the police station to see if the autopsy and the investigation has already brought up something interesting… and afterwards I’ll probably just fill out some of my old police reports and go over the next few classes I have. Other than that I'm taking the weekend off, like I said.”

Hizashi gave a thoughtful noise “Well, I still have my radio show today. If we go now we could go to the police station… or well, you could go and I just wait in the visitor area or whatever and after that we could get some breakfast, your stomach should be fine by then, right?”

“Yeah.” Shouta nodded.

“You know? I actually read up on nausea. And I mean, some people are just born with it, but it can actually have a variety of reasons, like irregular sleep patterns, like, if you don't have a proper sleep cycle then that can shift the neuroendocrine response which can lead to nausea in some cases. Stress, excitement or anxiety can also cause stomach problems. I mean, there were, like, so many things that can cause morning sickness but I thought those two might fit best for you. I mean, I just assume you aren't pregnant, like, do your pecs hurt or do you have strange cravings?”

Shouta snorted at that and it made Hizashi giggle softly “I have had morning nausea for as long as I can remember.” he said after a moment “Thanks though.” he added, seriously. Somehow it warmed his chest to know that Hizashi had taken the time to specifically look all of this up. Just for him… just because he cared.

Hizashi let out a soft noise “No problem.” he said and the smile was audible in his voice “Well!” Hizashi exclaimed after another minute or two of cuddling in bed “Time to get up before it gets too late.” he wiggled out of Shouta's loose hold and then stood up to stretch properly.

He was still bare from the night before, miles of pale skin bathed by warm light, the curtain muted sunlight making his blond hair shimmer, the freckles on his shoulders seemed to stand out more prominently. Shouta gave a soft, low rumbling noise as he watched from where he was still laying on his side on the bed, his cheek propped up on his hand, elbow digging into the mattress – the sound was pleased… maybe even the slightest bit enthralled.

Hizashi must have heard the noise because he turned around and shot Shouta a broad grin “You like what you see?” he lilted, fair lashes fluttering coquettishly. He leaning his upper body back a little, putting himself on display.

“Maybe.” Shouta gave back, voice flat – though he was sure his eyes betrayed his actual thoughts.

“Everybody's a critic nowadays!” Hizashi tsked and shook his head in fake disappointment, he let his arms sink to his side again, gaze trailing over Shouta “Well, I certainly appreciate the view.” his words were flirtatious and Shouta let out a low snicker at them.

“No, I mean it. Just...” Hizashi leaned onto the bed with one hand, the other reaching out to pull the blanket a little lower till it was barely covering Shouta's crotch area “There!” the blond man said, sounding proud of himself. He leaned back and then stood up straight again, looking his handiwork over “Looks like a renaissance painting. Maybe a Michelangelo.”

Shouta rolled his eyes “You are so juvenile.” there was no heat behind the words, only fondness.

“Well, yesterday evening you said that you liked my bubbly nature.”

Shouta gave a low, rumbling hum “I guess I do.” his words were warm and full of adoration. A second later a too wide and too eerie grin settled on his face “I wonder why though.” he added teasingly.

“So mean!” Hizashi said, fake offended, pressing a hand over his heart as if he had been deeply wounded – it made Shouta chuckle. The vigilante couldn't hold onto his serious expression for long and he soon joined Shouta's laugh with one of his own high-pitched titters.

“Do you want to borrow something to wear?” Hizashi asked as he picked up the black shirt that Shouta had worn the day before, holding it out questionably.

“Those clothes are still fine. It’s not like they are dirty.” it was true. He had only worn them for a few hours and after that they had landed on the floor.

Hizashi shrugged “Okay then.” he said and threw the shirt onto the bed before he continued to pick up the rest of their other clothes still strewn around the room from the night before – Shouta's pants and his underwear as well as his socks landed on the covers while Hizashi just bunched his own old clothes up and stuffed them under his armpit so he had both his arms free to pull open his closet and get himself some new clothes.

“Well, I’ll be in the bathroom then. Can you make some coffee?” the blond man asked, already halfway to the door.

Shouta shrugged “Sure.” he said easily. Hizashi shot him a smile and then vanished out the door, making his way to the bathroom. Shouta remained in bed for a few moments longer before he stretched and stood up. He pulled on his clothes and then padded out of the room on socked feet – he heard soft clattering coming from the bathroom as be passed the ajar door.

Once in the kitchen he set on preparing the coffee – he had memorized where Hizashi kept his things surprisingly quickly… or maybe it wasn't really all that surprising given how often they slept over at each others places nowadays.

Shouta yawned and ruffled his right hand through his still sleep tousled hair while he waited for the coffee machine to work its magic. He had just finished pouring two mugs – one black and once with milk and sugar – when Hizashi stepped into the kitchen as well.

“If you want to wash up the bathrooms free.” the blond man informed him and Shouta gave a soft grunt. He pressed the milk coffee into Hizashi's hands and a kiss against his temple as he passed him on his way out of the kitchen.

“And they say chivalry is dead.” Hizashi cooed, sounding like a swooning maiden – it was a good-natured tease and Shouta couldn't suppress the slight upturn of his lips as he walked towards the bathroom.

After he was done and had returned back to the kitchen he picked up his own coffee mug and joined Hizashi at the table. The blond man took the chance to talk a little more about the songs he was currently picking for the radio show and even though Shouta didn't really care about most of the things Hizashi said he listened anyway – he found that there was something contagious about the excited way the other man talked about such things; something that showed his clear passion and it made Shouta smile.

It didn't take too long for them to finish their coffees and soon enough they were out of the door and on their way to the police station.

“What are you even hoping to find? The police has done precious little to help you till now.” Hizashi spoke up, walking close enough to Shouta so their shoulders brushed occasionally.

“That’s not their fault. They don't have your kind of resources.”

“They are the law enforcement. I'm some stubborn nobody with too much time on my hands and basic problem solving skills. They should have more resources and contacts than someone like me.” Hizashi said, giving Shouta a pointed look.

“You know what it is like.” Shouta gave back, meeting Hizashi's eyes evenly.

“Yeah… why fund the police when you have heroes?” Hizashi said, his voice nearly sardonic. Shouta gave a hum in agreement at that “You know,” Hizashi added “-that’s also the reason why the police has turned into such pricks. Squabbling over information with heroes like a dog with a bone and generally getting on everyone's nerves because they feel like they have to validate their existence – and what better way to do that than to terrorize people over minor offences?” the vigilante gave a scoff, shaking his head in something close to disgust.

Shouta gave a low hum at that – he was well aware of the overzealous tendencies the police forces had developed over the last decade or so, and it certainly didn't help that the general public had started to perceive them as a kind of nuisance they just had to live with – if they wanted or not… and yet the police still did many things that were important and that no one else wanted to do or was even qualified to do – classic investigation for example. Looking at corpses, reconstructing crime scenes, working through databases…

“They are still useful.” Shouta pointed out idly – though he wondered…

“For how long though?” Hizashi shot back provocatively, voicing Shouta's thoughts.

Shouta's lips flattened into thin line at that “I do not know.” he answered sombrely. He knew that at some point this entire system would just collapse under itself. It was eroding from the inside out and no one saw it or cared to see it. At some point an outsider influence would come and blow it over like it was nothing but a card house. He didn't know when it would happen but he had a feeling that it might not take all that much longer.

He didn't really want to think about what that would mean for society as a whole – what would be left in the end? When everything was gone? What kind of system would sprout up in the wake of everything?

Hizashi gave a shrug, his serious expression melting off his face again, making room for something more light-hearted “Well, maybe you'll get lucky and they figured something out – maybe the corpse had some traces of… I don't know, a quirk that had been used? Something like that.”

“Maybe. Or maybe the police might have figured some of his connections out.”

Hizashi's lips twitched into a half grimace “The guy seemed like a right dick from what I gathered, mostly drunk, aggression problem, fist fights every other week… the whole package. In fact, that’s how I managed to find him – it’s easy to follow the trail of someone who can’t stop blabbering about what he does as soon as he had a beer or two… Still,” he shrugged “-maybe something was going on outside of his circle of criminal acquaintances?” he let out thoughtful hum “Those guy don't really have a social life most of the time though.” another shrug.

“We will see.” Shouta said simply. There was no sense speculating right now – especially since they would reach the police station soon enough. They would have their answer soon enough.

“Guess we will.” Hizashi gave back “I poke around the grimy underbelly and the police pokes around the public spaces… so everything's possible.”

They reached the police station soon enough. And once they drew up to the entrance both men stopped.

“Well, guess I’ll just wait here. Might be the smartest choice.” Hizashi said and Shouta nodded. The hero lingered for another second before he pushed the door open and walked into the station.

“Eraserhead.” the officer at the front desk greeted, a small smile on her lips “Are you here about the murder case?”

Shouta nodded “Yes.”

The woman nodded too “The officer in charge of the investigation is in right now – you're lucky. Just go up the stairs and take the fifth door to the right. I'm sure he can give you a briefing of everything we found out so far and if you have new information you can tell it directly to him too.”

“Thanks” Shouta said and gave a half bow.

The woman smiled at him “Oh, it’s no trouble.” she said, inclining her head a little.

Shouta made his way through the station. He ascended the stairs, mentally counting the doors and then rapped his knuckles over the fifth one.

“Yes?” it came from within. Shouta pushed the handle of the door down and stepped into the room. He closed the door again behind himself.

“Ah, Eraserhead. Let me make a wild guess, you're here because of the dead guy you found?” the man chuckled – Shouta didn't really find the whole situation particularly funny. He only nodded silently though, stepping more into the room and pulling out one of the spare chairs so he could sit down.

“Have you found out anything?” he asked, straight to the point.

“Well, well, well!” the police officer grinned proudly and opened one of his drawers, he pulled out a folder and put it on the table “The autopsy didn't really give us anything. A knife was used to slice his throat – which also was the cause of death. There were a few more stab wounds and a handful of broken bones but other than that there were no traces of quirk usage. We analysed the stab wounds but the knife that was used is from a brand you can buy in every store that sells kitchen supply's. So no hit there either.”

“But?” Shouta asked, already running out of patience. If it all this extra information had just lead to dead ends and therefore was useless then why was the other man even telling him all of it? He had seen the stab wounds himself, it wasn't like it had been a mystery for him what had killed the man.

“But,” the police officer dragged the word out, nearly sing-songing “-we cleaned him up and circulated a photo of his face and someone actually recognized him. His ex girlfriend: Hisakawa Mayu. It seems like the guy was a real scumbag and she was more than eager to smear his name even after death. It seems the guy was an abuser and a drunkard and absolutely dead-beat.”

“And?” Shouta pushed. He could really do without the smug superiority that the other man was oozing out of every pore of his being. Beside, he already knew all of that as well, thanks to Hizashi.

“And!” The officer exclaimed grinning “That is why Hisakawa-san was only too eager to tell us absolutely everything she remembered. And it seems that when they guy got drunk he had a really loose tongue and started talking about his work and how he made money.” there was a pause that Shouta suspected was purely for the sake of anticipation – though all it truly did was to make Shouta fell annoyed. Finally the officer continued “You see, the guy seemingly dropped the name of a hero agency a few times.”

Ah, Shouta thought, realization settling in. That was why the police officer was so smug about his find and so eager to throw everything up like a gossiper – the well-known, petty rivalry between police officer and hero… or in this case: the rivalry between official law enforcement and hero agencies.

Shouta gave an intrigued hum. Now this might actually be something of interest. The police officer must have heard the noise because his self-satisfied grin got even broader. He pulled out a few papers from the folder and placed them on his table in front of Shouta.

“This is the agency.” he pushed a few papers towards Shouta “And here is a list of all the heroes employed there.” another handful of papers. The officer sounded nearly giddy. Shouta's gaze settled on the first bunch of papers – taking in the name of the agency… it seemed familiar somehow, as if he had heard it somewhere before. His brows drew together in concentration but when he couldn't remember where he might have heard the name before he turned his head slightly – his eyes slipping to the second pile of papers instead.

He drew it closer to himself, eyes skimming over the names of the employed heroes. Akuma… Airstrike… Baseline…

He reached the bottom and flipped a page – and after reaching the bottom of the second page he stopped reading. Only two pages in and he had already reached the letter M on the list. He idly noted that it must be a rather small hero agency given that they seemingly didn't have all that many heroes working for them.

He put the first page back on top of the other ones “Can you send me those two files?” he asked, looking up at the officer.

“Sure. Anything to help a hero.” the other mans said – Shouta heard the actual words though ‘anything to damage the reputation of a hero agency’. Still, whatever ulterior motives the officer might have it played into Shouta's hands regardless, so he choose not to comment “Is your email still the same?”

“Yeah.” Shouta nodded.

“Okay then. Give me a second” there was a moment of silence as he turned slightly so he could see the screen of his computer better, one hand coming down on the mouse and the other on the keyboard “… And…” the officer drew out the ‘a’ impossibly long while he worked “Sent!” he finally proclaimed.

Shouta gave a curt nod and then stood up, he bowed deeply at the hip – formal “Thank you very much.”

The officer seemed to nearly glow at the indirect praise, though Shouta saw the self-satisfied spark in the other mans eyes as well “Thank you too for your hard work.” the officer gave back, inclining his head “Please keep us updated if you find out anything new.” he added.

“I will.” Shouta nodded and then made his way out again – closing the door softly behind himself as he exited the office. Well, he thought to himself as he walked down the stairs again, this had yielded more results than he had expected.

Yet, it had also unearthed a great many questions. Why was the man seemingly working for a hero agency? Did the agency know about his shady dealings or had they been tricked too? Had the man been a mole or a spy? What was it he had wanted, what had his goal been? Had someone ordered him or had he done it out of personal interest? Was this part of Shouta's case at all? Or just a disconnected coincident?

Truly, this case was just getting more and more complicated – one answer would seem close enough to grasp… and then something unforeseen would happen, the answer vanishing in thin air and ten new questions taking its place instead. It was like a hydra at this point – lop off one head and two new ones would sprout.

Shouta grit his teeth, his jaw jumped and his lips flattened into a thin line – he had the strangest feeling about all of this, as if someone had just walked over his grave. It was like sitting on a boat and seeing a huge shadow moving under in the depth – you knew there was something big, something frightening… but you just weren't able to make out what it was.

He nodded to the woman at the front desk and then made his way to the door. He consciously unclenched his jaw, one hand reaching for the door handle, he opened the door and as he just was about to step outside he heard two very different exclamations.

“Shouta!” that one was Hizashi's happy greeting. The other man was leaning against a bike rack, green gaze fixed on the entrance to the police station – it was no wonder he had noticed Shouta immediately.

“Eraserhead!” that one though… Shouta huffed out an annoyed sigh as he looked over his shoulder back into the main room of the police station. He saw Outbreak approaching him – he hadn't noticed him before, really, who knew from what nook or cranny the other man might have come from.

Shouta's shoulders slumped slightly as he stepped out of the door and into the street. Hizashi shot him a momentarily confused look at his undoubtedly rather irritated expression but then recognition settled on the vigilantes face as he watched Outbreak walking through the door as well – following after Shouta like a lovestruck puppy… a dark frown appeared on Hizashi's face, though it was gone again as quickly as it had appeared – it was replaced by a broad grin that didn't reach his eyes.

Outbreak stopped in front of Shouta, a smile on his face. A second later his eyes trailed from the hero to Hizashi beside him in clear curiosity.

“Oh, hello!” Outbreak greeted “I’m sorry, I didn't see you there. Are you Eraserhead’s partner? I didn't know he had a side-kick.” the younger man jumped straight into it.

“I don’t.” Shouta gave back, barely suppressing an irritated huff.

“Are you another hero then? I'm sorry but I don't recognise you...” Outbreak trailed off expectantly.

“Yamada Hizashi.” Hizashi filled in the blank “But I'm not a hero or anything, I'm only a civilian.” he smiled nearly aggressively friendly.

“Oh, are you friends then?” Outbreak asked, clearly intrigued, an excited spark in his eyes.

Hizashi let out a slightly coy sounding titter “I’m his boyfriend!” he immediately informed and Shouta's jaw jumped at that. It was one thing to tell it to Kayama and maybe – only maybe – to a handful of other people he was acquainted – people they could trust, people they both knew, people that wouldn't get in the way.

But it was a completely different thing to just burst out and tell it to some random strangers – because Outbreak was exactly that to both of them: A random person that for some reason or another had found an interest in Shouta.

Shouta inched a little closer to the vigilante and inconspicuously jabbed his elbow into Hizashi's side – he shot the other man a pointed stare. Hizashi only smiled up at him though. In response Shouta's expression darkened visibly, a clear frown settling on his face – Hizashi's smile turned slightly sheepish, though there was no trace of regret… Shouta let out an inaudible, somewhat irritated huff.

The very first time Shouta had brought up Outbreak and his behaviour Hizashi had only commented that it seemed strange for a daytime Pro to be so interested in underground work – most daytime heroes only scoffed at the idea after all.

It had all been rather nonchalant and Shouta hadn't really thought about it after that – yet the next thing he knew Hizashi had started supplying him with information about the other man, making it clear that he had went digging… the things he had told Shouta had just barely scratched the surface and Shouta wasn't sure if Hizashi had actually left it at that or if he had continued to poke and prod afterwards.

And after that? Hizashi had been on the offensive whenever Shouta had so much as mentioned Outbreak’s name. It was obvious that the vigilante greatly disliked the other man – though for what reason exactly Shouta didn't know. Maybe Hizashi had found out something or other, or maybe he just couldn't stand Outbreak as a person, maybe there was another explanation, maybe there was no explanation at all.

Truthfully, Shouta wasn't big on the younger man himself – in fact he found Outbreak more than just a little annoying… then again, Shouta really wasn't what one might call a ‘people person’. He assumed that Outbreak was likeable enough as far as people went – he just wasn't the type of person Shouta wanted to be around. Outbreak was a bit too nosy for that, too overeager – chasing some unrealistic pipe-dreams it seemed… still, all of that that wasn't necessarily bad. Irritating? Sure… but not bad.

“Oh...” the younger man sputtered slightly, a soft flush rising to settle on his cheeks, his eyes flickering up to Shouta briefly “I… I didn't know that you were… Sorry… I just kind of assumed that… well… yeah…” he trailed off for a second and then awkwardly cleared his throat before he continued “Well, congratulations! That’s what you say, isn't it?” he joked before he gave another awkward cough and changed the topic without any finesse “You just came out of the police station didn't you? Did you find out anything new?” there was an excited spark in his eyes, like a child on Christmas eve.

“No.” Shouta lied smoothly, his usually inflectionless, flat tone of voice aiding in the ruse. His expression darkened “I thought we talked about this.” he added sharply, giving Outbreak a pointed look – beside him Hizashi snapped his head towards him, his green eyes narrowing slightly.

Outbreak let out a sheepish sounding chuckle, one of his hands rose so he could rub it over the back of his neck “I know, I know… I'm keeping away from the case. Really! No snooping around on my own.” he let his hand slip away from his neck again, he turned his head slightly, flickering his eyes up towards Shouta in an imploring way “Promise!”

There was a beat of silence before he continued “I just dropped off some hero reports at the station and I just so happened to see you walking past… and I thought there would be no harm in asking you about the case.” another sheepish chuckle “Like I said, the whole case just keeps me up… so I just wanted to know how you’re doing and if something new has come up.”

Shouta gave a deep sigh – pure annoyance and disappointment. Outbreaks face flushed from obvious embarrassment and he let his eyes slip away from Shouta's face – he looked like a child who had just been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

“Even if you're just asking around because you're curious” Shouta started “-someone might take an interest in you because of that and it could become dangerous for you. Just keep out of this.” his words booked no argument.

Outbreak lowered his gaze even farther down, his chin pressed against his chest, his eyes fixed on the pavement “Okay…” he said “Sorry if I'm being a bother.” he added after a second, words a disappointed murmur, like a berated kid “I wasn't trying to be, really.” his tone was honest.

“It’s...” Shouta huffed out a long-suffering sigh through his nose “-fine” he ended. He suppressed the urge to rub his hand over his face “Just leave it be from now on.”

The younger man nodded “Okay.” he sounded so very beaten down. There was a moment of heavy silence…

“Well!” Hizashi quipped up loudly – sounding carefree and happy “I still plan to have breakfast before I have to get to work, so if you could excuse us?” he smiled broadly.

“What?” Outbreaks head snapped up to Hizashi. He blinked, obviously stumped and then “Oh! Yes of course!” he nodded hastily and then bowed deeply at the hip – formally “Thanks a lot Eraserhead. I didn't want to keep you two, sorry for that. Have a nice day!” he smiled – it waned after a moment, his expression turning unsure; as if he was uncertain what he should do right now. In the end he only gave another awkward coughed and then turned around to walk down the road.

Both Hizashi as well as Shouta watched the other man for a while until he dipped around a corner and vanished from their sight. There was a beat of utter silence…

“What did you mean when you said ‘I thought we talked about this’?” Hizashi suddenly asked, his voice a little too nonchalant.

Shouta blinked at the question before he suddenly realized that he had never told Hizashi about the last run-in he had had with Outbreak – that had been the day when he had found the corpse, hadn't it? With all the commotion that night it had just completely slipped his mind to mention it to Hizashi, and then he had simply forgotten about it.

He gave a soft sigh “I forgot to tell you but a while back he was waiting for me in front of UA. He asked about the case and I basically told him that he should keep out of it since he has no experience with things like this.”

There was a beat of silence “He found out where you work?!” Hizashi suddenly burst out, clearly shocked – his eyes snapped to Shouta, his face pinched into a grimace; mixture between worry and unease.

Shouta's lips thinned into a bloodless line – that had been his exact reaction as well when he had bumped into Outbreak that day “Well, it’s not a secret where I work. Anyone could find it out if they really wanted to.” he tried to rationalized the restless, nagging feeling in his stomach away.

Hizashi's face darkened into a severe frown “Yeah, that's not creepy at all!” the words were dripping with sarcasm, his expression pulling into a near snarl – it smoothed out again a second later though. He gave an exhausted sounding sigh “I don't like that guy, okay? There’s something about him – I can’t really explain it but it just makes my skin prickle.”

Shouta had to silently agree – though he wasn't sure if the agreement stemmed from his hyper-vigilance or his rational mind… it was hard to tell sometimes, hard to keep track of where what thought originated from when it came to things like this.

He was living his days arguing with his own mind about things like that constantly. And he often discarded his concerns and chalked them up to hyper-vigilance – because at the end of the day that was what they were… and right in that moment he wasn't sure if he should be genuinely concerned or if Outbreak was simply a big weirdo who just so happened to tip his alarms off for no reason – it wasn't like that hadn't happened before…

… In fact, it had happened with Hizashi too, hadn't it? Shouta being so distrustful – unable to calm his alarmist mind down for the longest time; taking so long to reach a conclusion and nearly screwing both of them over in the process. He grit his teeth, his jaw jumped as he fought the urge to raise his hand and comb it through his hair.

“Just keep an eye out.” Hizashi suddenly spoke up again, his tone was a soft urge but his mouth was a tense down-curve, his face pulled into a doubtful expression. A second passed and then he shook his head before a broad grin stretched over his lips “Anyways!” he sing-songed “I wasn't joking when I said I still want to get breakfast before I have to go to the station.” he hooked his left arm around Shouta's right and started to drag him into the direction of the cafe he wanted to visit “Let’s hurry up before the time runs out on us.” he was nearly bouncing along.

Shouta let out a fond breath of air as he followed after the other man, falling into step beside him easily “You still have to tell me what you found out.” Hizashi continued. There was a beat of silence “I mean, I assume you lied to the guy.” Hizashi added as if it was an after-thought.

Shouta let out a nearly pleased sounding hum “I did.” he agreed and nodded “I will tell you over breakfast.”

“Is it something juicy?” it was an excited, fake-hushed whisper.

“I would say so.”

“Uuh! Now I'm just super curious! Come, come!” Hizashi grinned broadly and pulled at Shouta's arm, signalling that the hero should quicken his pace “You can’t say something like that and then expect me to wait patiently.”

“Patience is a virtue.” Shouta pointed out rather wryly.

“I’m not really a very virtuous man, you see.” Hizashi smiled, wagging an eyebrow.

“I noticed.” dead-pan voice, accompanied by a flat stare.

“Hey!” it was a fake-offended squawk – Shouta only let out a low chuckle at that and Hizashi joined in with one of his own high-pitched giggles soon enough.

Chapter Text

It was already late evening when Shouta let Hizashi into his apartment. The vigilante placed the take-out bag on the living room table while Shouta vanished into his kitchen to get some cutlery and something to drink for both of them.

When he came back into the living room he reached Hizashi two chopsticks before he sat down on the thick carpet and drew his laptop over. He flipped the lid open and started typing his password in – Hizashi settled down beside him a second later.

The blond man had already unpacked the take-out, he held one container in his left hand, his right hand was stabbing the chopsticks into the food – stirring it a bit, before he shovelled a bunch of fried noodles into his mouth. His cheeks puffing out like a chipmunk – it had Shouta rolling his eyes in fond amusement.

“I saw that!” Hizashi half yelled after he had chewed and swallowed.

“I wasn't trying to hide.” Shouta gave back flatly. He moved his mouse and opened his email program.

“I’m a growing boy, I need to eat.”

Shouta gave a soft snort “You are a grown 28 year old man.” a few mouse clicks later and the PDF appendix started downloading.

There was a second of silence as Shouta waited. He looked up when he heard the scrapping sound of waxed paper slipping over the table – Hizashi had pushed one of the containers towards him “You should eat too.” the blond man said, pointedly looking at Shouta.

Shouta just gave a low grunt but he didn't move, his eyes instead fixed onto the laptop screen – waiting for the download to finish. Fortunately it didn't take too much longer. He opened the two PDFs and then – without really looking – turned the screen so that Hizashi could see it too.

He picked up his own pair of chopsticks and reached for his food container – he had just opened the lid when Hizashi let out a nearly startled, high-pitched noise. Shouta looked up from his food again, raising an inquisitive eyebrow at the other man.

“It’s his agency.” Hizashi said, his eyes wide behind his glasses – they narrowed a second later though, a suspicious expression settling on his face.

“His agency?” Shouta asked, somewhat confused. True, the name of the agency had been somewhat familiar but he hadn't really been able to pinpoint why exactly that had been the case. It seemed like Hizashi was a few steps ahead of him there.

“Yeah, his agency!” Hizashi nearly hissed out. He half bowed over Shouta's lap, his hand reaching out for the mouse on the table. He pulled it closer and opened the second PDF, he was scrolling – Shouta had by now placed his container back on the table, his food still untouched.

“Here!” Hizashi said and hastily shoved the laptop over the table so Shouta had a clear view of the screen. He furrowed his brows a little as he came face to face with the listed heroes – it was the third and last page, Shouta noted, the one he hadn't read at the police station.

His mouth flattened as he started reading through the names – had he unwittingly missed something important this morning? His eyes scanned over the page…

Hero name: Outbreak.
Age: 23.
Civilian name: Kuronuma Youta.

Shouta blinked at the screen. Ah, he thought idly, that was why the name of the agency had seemed so familiar to him. He was rather sure Hizashi must have mentioned the name back when he had shared the information he had gathered on Outbreak with Shouta – Shouta simply must have forgotten that tidbit again, since he had seen no value in remembering it before.

He gave a low hum, his mouth flattening into a thin line as he stared at the name on the page in front of him.

“Well, well, well!” Hizashi's sardonic voice ripped him out of his thoughts and he turned his head a little to regard the man beside him. The vigilante was clearly miffed, his lips drawn back into an angry expression “Of course he is involved!” he sniffed, his nose wrinkling.

Shouta gave another hum – this one non-committal “We do not know if he is involved in anything.” he said calmly “In fact, we do not even know if the agency is involved at all either. We have to ask and see first.”

Hizashi sniffed again, his mouth twitching as if it was unsure in which direction to pull. There was a beat of silence “I guess.” the vigilante conceded – though he sounded rather put out, obviously displeased by all of this. He poked around in his container before he shoved a big chunk of noodles into his mouth.

Shouta let out a soft sigh and reached for his own food “I know you do not like him but jumping to conclusions will not help us here.” Shouta said calmly – matter of fact.

It was quiet for a few long moments – Hizashi was chewing slower than he usually would. The blond man finally swallowed “I know.” he huffed out. Shouta gave another sigh, his expression softening slightly.

“Look,” he said, voice pitched low – meant to sooth “I will get myself an appointment and ask around in the agency if anyone there knew the dead man, and while I'm there I will keep an eye out for Outbreak too.”

“Yeah, okay.” a beat of silence “It just feels like something is weird here, okay? I have a real weird gut feeling about all of this.” Hizashi wore a strange expression, his eyes lowered to the table.

Shouta gave a soft hum in agreement “I understand.” he said “But it is still too early to point fingers just yet.” for a moment his gaze returned to the laptop screen, his lips thinning a little “Truthfully, I think that something is strange here too – it’s not just you.”

They sat in silence for a while, both men lost in their own thoughts and then “Welp!” it was Hizashi, half shouting that one word, popping the ‘p’. There was a broad grin on his face “Can’t think on an empty stomach!” he said before he dove his chopsticks into his container. He pulled out a few noodles and then thrust them towards Shouta's face “Eat!” he ordered.

Shouta just let out a soft huff through his nose “I have my own food.” he pointed out flatly – though he still bowed forward anyway and opened his mouth. He closed his lips around Hizashi's chopsticks and the vigilante let out a giddy sounding titter.

The rest of the evening passed more or less uneventfully. They ate, bouncing a few ideas back and forth before Hizashi left when it got late. Shouta went to bed early and then spent whatever free time he had the next day – a Monday – trying to get an appointment at the hero agency.

He was told to call back Tuesday – and so he did. The person on the phone told him that they had to talk to their boss first and that they would call him back. At this point Shouta was more than a little annoyed – after all it wasn't like he tried to bring down a PR nightmare on the agency. He just wanted a few answers. He wasn't even pointing fingers just yet – he simply wasn't in the habit of doing that.

All the official talk just made him all the gladder for the fact that he himself didn't have to deal with any of that – seeing as he was working independent of the hero agencies.

He finally got a call-back on Thursday and then spent his Friday afternoon asking around the agency… Which, in the end, turned out to be a complete waste of his time. Really, at first it had seemed as if he might have a proper foot hold with the new information that the police station had managed to dig up… but all he truly had discovered was a whole bunch of nothing.

The official statement the hero agency had given him on this whole matter was that they, first and foremost, wanted to say that they would never deal with shady criminals. At least not knowingly – that one was hidden between the lines though – because after a few pointed questions from Shouta they conceded that they sometimes bought information from outside sources.

It wasn't an uncommon practice – since the police more often than not guarded whatever information they had nearly zealously from hero agencies and so the agencies tried to get their information elsewhere.

It was known that some agencies paid handsomely for useful tips and usually didn't ask where the information had come from or who exactly was giving it to them in the first place. That kind of offer obviously drew in its fair share of small time criminals and people who were just desperate to make money any way possible.

It was a practice that Shouta found more than distasteful. Still, what made Shouta doubtful wasn't the fact that it – the buying of information – had happened, no, what really made him raise an eyebrow was the fact that he really didn't believed that the dead man would have had the kind of useful intel that a hero agency would pay for.

First of all the man had ran in the wrong circles – going with all the things that Hizashi had told him it seemed like the dead man had stuck to underground crime first and foremost; and underground crime wasn't of interest for an agency that only had daytime Pros working for them. There was no glory in solving underground crime after all – only maybe a footnote in a small, local newspaper, and that was only if you were lucky.

Secondly – again going with Hizashi's information – the dead man seemingly hadn't had any noteworthy connections anyway – he had been nothing but a grunt… so really, what kind of information could he have given the agency anyway? What could have been useful enough to justify this kind of information buyer and information broker relationship?

After all, why pay someone for questionable intel? That just made no sense from an economic standpoint – unless the agency hadn't known that the dead man only was a waste of their time and money… which would speak of a kind of incompetency that Shouta was reluctant to believe in.

Maybe there had been other benefits that the hero agency had reaped and they simply hadn't wanted to share that with Shouta? Airing dirty laundry so to speak. A PR nightmare about to happen.

So Shouta had turned his gaze away from the higher-ups in the agency and had instead honed in on Outbreak – putting on a polite, if not downright friendly mask. After all, Outbreak seemed more than a little starry eyed when it came to Shouta and his work.

Sadly, while the young man seemed more than willing to help Shouta it soon became apparent that he had no clue what was going on either. Which wasn't all that surprising really, Outbreak was still a rather young hero, he had only just debut a year ago and it was only natural that he would be left out of the loop on important things like that. Still, it had been worth a shot… even if nothing had come from it in the end.

Shouta left again a few hours later with nothing to show for his troubles except a feeling of mounting frustration burning right under his skin. Great, so the agency seemingly was a bust too – the dead man had, apparently, only scammed them out of a few bucks. A superficial connection that didn't run any deeper than that.

Back to square one yet again. Shouta let out an annoyed huff. He shook his head to himself and stuffed his hands into his pockets – his shoulder slouching slightly in something close to defeat as he made his way back to his apartment.

Another uneventful week passed and Shouta took solace in the fact that at least his hero work was quiet. Whatever organization Hizashi and he were after was apparently trying to lay low too, which made Shouta feel at least somewhat safer than he had before.

After all, even if whoever they were after had figured out that someone tried to take them in, they seemingly hadn't been able to find out just who exactly was after them – or else Shouta's last few weeks wouldn't have been quite as peaceful as they had been…

It was early evening on Saturday and Shouta was scanning over one of the police reports he had just written – checking for any possible errors. When he found non he formatted the document and then opened his email program so he could send it to the police.

The soft hum of music filled his otherwise quiet apartment – Hizashi was still at the station, working the shift of his colleague who had taken the week off to go on a vacation.

Shouta stared nearly listlessly at the blinking cursor on the screen, his fingers working near automatically, typing out the usual words. He clicked ‘send’ and, after he had waited a second – just to be sure that everything had worked – he logged himself out of the email program again.

He let out a tired huff, one hand raising to rub over his eyes – they burned cold when he closed them… he was half tempted to get up and get his bottle of eyedrops…

Ping!

He lowered his hand slightly, palm now covering his mouth as his gaze trailed to the phone on the table. He squinted at the small device.

Ping! Another incoming message. Ping! And another one.

Shouta sighed softly to himself and grabbed the phone, clicking it on and pulling up his messenger app. An exhausted yet fond smile pulled at the corners of his mouth as he realized that it was Hizashi. The messages continued to pour in even as he scrolled upwards so he could read from the beginning.

Hey darling <3

Today’s your free night right?

What if I get some take out after I'm done here and then come over?

So we can eat together and I could spent the night afterwards

Does that sound good?

Shouta's small smile widened a little – he was rather sure that he was looking like a besotted teenager right about now; smiling at his phone fondly… still it wasn't like anyone was around to see him or point it out.

Sounds good he typed back. It took only a few second before the ellipse appeared in the upper corner again, informing him that Hizashi was typing.

Goodie!!

I thought about having Thai

Does that sound okay for you?

Shouta mulled the proposal over for a moment before he answered: That’s fine

Do you want something specific?

Or can I just bring whatever?

I know you eat pretty much everything

But just in case

I don't want to bring something you find disgusting

Shouta's smile softened impossibly – he felt his eyes crinkling at the corners. Just bring whatever he typed back.

Okey-dokey!

See you soon darling <3

I can’t wait!!

Love you <3 <3 <3

Shouta couldn't quite suppress a low chuckle – he could practically hear Hizashi's boyish enthusiasm through the words on the screen. His thumb moved over the screen See you he gave back. Another ellipse appeared on the upper corner and Shouta waited patiently for whatever else Hizashi might want to add.

The apartment was quiet and… wait a second… Shouta blinked as he realized that the music coming from his laptop had completely faded out – utter silence had settled over the room. Suddenly the ellipse on the upper corner of his phone screen disappeared again – no new message sent.

Well, wasn't that a real banger dear listeners?” Hizashi's voice was suddenly audible – filtering through the speakers of the laptop and filling the silence again. He sounded somewhat flustered though…

Shouta snorted as he realized what must have happened. Hizashi must have missed his cue because he had been too distracted writing messages to him. He shook his head to himself, his fingers moving over his phone screen as he typed out a last message: Unprofessional

Still, he would be lying if he said that he didn't find the whole incident rather endearing – to think that Hizashi would be so focused on him that he forgot his cue. It actually was somewhat flattering; especially since Hizashi usually took his work so seriously.

He listened to Hizashi's blabber, noting how excited he sounded – even more so than before. The small-talk segment ended soon enough, replaced again by peppy music. It barely took a few second and then there was another ping from his phone.

Shouta opened the messenger app again and was greeted by one new message: You’re so mean!! D’:

He gave another chuckle at that, simply clicking his phone off again before he went back to his work. As was often the case when he worked he lost track of the time and so he found himself blinking at his screen in something close to befuddlement when Hizashi gave his usual spiel at the end of the show before saying his goodbyes.

Shouta closed the internet tab he had opened to listen to the radio show and then squinted at his half-finished document in the near darkness of the living room. In the end he decided he would finish his current form and then leave well enough alone for the day, he probably wouldn't be able to get all that much more done before Hizashi would arrive anyway – the way from the station wasn't that long after all… for a second or two he wondered if he might have enough time to still go over his notes for his Monday morning class… but then he discarded the idea again – he could do it tomorrow morning too.

He had just stared up his typing again – intent on finishing the other half of his report – when his phone rang. He let out a somewhat irritated huff, a frown settled on his face as he snatched the small device up – his frown morphed into a confusion expression as he saw that the caller ID was Hizashi. Hizashi usually didn't call him – they mostly just wrote messages back and forth.

For some reason he suddenly had a bad feeling about all of this, his confused expression turned worried as he swiped right to take the call. He lifted the phone up to his ear.

“Hizashi?” he asked immediately, tone tight.

“Oh, hey darling!” Hizashi greeted – his voice sounded excited though Shouta swore he could hear an edge to it, something sharp “I just felt like hearing your voice.” he continued. The statement would sound cutesy and carefree enough from anyone else but Shouta felt a prickle running down his back, like the cold tip of a knife trailing over his spine. Something was weird here and he didn't like it one bit.

“Where are you?” Shouta demanded “Are you all right?”

There was a soft giggle at the other end of the line – it sounded much too tense “Oh no baby I'm not, but thanks for asking.” at those words Shouta pushed himself up, he used too much force and the table legs scrapped over the floor of his living room with a loud screech. Hizashi was still talking, voice both too carefree and much too forced at the same time “I just got out of the radio station-” Shouta pressed the phone against his ear with his shoulder, freeing up both his hands as he made his way to the bedroom so he could get his hero costume.

“Anyways,” Hizashi continued “-I’m on my way home right now.” his voice was so upbeat and clearly fake that it made Shouta's stomach churn.

“Is someone following you?” Shouta asked, flinging open his closet. He pulled out his hero suit and stepped into the legs, shrugging on one arm and then switching his phone from one hand into his other hand so he could pull on his second sleeve too.

“Ah yes, you know how it is sometimes.”

Shouta swallowed, he zipped up his suit “Are there other people around?” his free hand shot out to grab his capture weapon.

“Yes, yes, I thought of that. No need to chastise me.” a giggle.

“Okay.” Shouta said, giving a short nod to no one “Just take the normal way to my apartment and I’ll meet you halfway. Try not to get caught alone.” Shouta instructed as he made his way out of his bedroom again, his steps fast. He kicked on his boots at the front door, stuffing everything important into his pockets and a moment later he was out of the door.

He slammed his hand against the light switch in the stairway and then took the stairs downwards as fast as he could “Hizashi,” his tone was urging “-just keep talking to me, don't hang up. If they know you're talking to someone it might discourage whoever is following after you.” he nearly slammed into the door at the bottom of the stairs – forcing it open faster by pushing his weight against the rusty and slow hinges “Did you call the police?”

“Really, I think that might just be a little too… I don't know…” Hizashi smacked his lips in something that sounded like consideration “-a little too flashy. You know? A little too noticeable… what was the French word? ‘Risqué’ I think.” another giggle.

Shouta grit his teeth. Okay, so the police didn't know because Hizashi thought it would be too risky to try and get a call through to them – and Shouta himself couldn't call them either because he couldn't just hang up on Hizashi in a situation like this.

His eyes flickered up towards the sky for a second – it was only just getting dark, the sun was only just setting… Still too early for most underground heroes, but already too late for most daytime heroes. Damn it! Did whoever was after Hizashi plan this? Did they pick this time deliberately? There was no time to think about that now.

Shouta shoved the thoughts aside and instead took off in a sprint – his feet hitting the pavement in quick succession, his eyes scanning over the surrounding buildings… With only one free arm it was questionable if he would even be able to scale any of those buildings. It seemed like he would have to stick to the ground and use the side-alleys as short cuts. Anger and desperation bubbled up at that realization and his left hand tightened its hold on his phone – the flimsy plastic casing groaned under the raw strength of his grip.

“You know, I feel a little lazy today...” Hizashi said, keeping up his talk maybe “Maybe I’ll get myself one of those microwaveable dinner boxes from that 24/7 supermarket close by.”

“Okay.” Shouta said, his breath coming fast. He changed course and dipped into a tiny gap between two houses – sidestepping a few garbage bags and startling up a stray cat “Good thought.” he agreed – he knew what shop Hizashi was talking about and if the vigilante was coming from the radio station then Shouta could guess the way the other man was taking right now “How fast are you walking right now?” he asked, trying to get a bit more information – if Hizashi was walking at a normal pace then he would be able to intercept him easily enough.

“Yeah.” the blond man said “Like I said, I feel lazy today. I’m just kinda tired, you know? I mean it probably sounds stupid since I'm doing my job sitting down but my legs hurt a little bit right now. I'm just not as fast as I used to be in my youth.” a high-pitched giggle.

Okay, so Hizashi was walking slowly “I’ll try and intercept your way. Just keep talking to me. Do you know who follows you? Can you see them?”

“No.” a short pause before Hizashi continued with his chatter “I never really tried foot massages before. I heard they’re, like, super painful. Don't know if that's true though. But it’s not really my feet that are tired, just my legs. They feel kinda achy.” Shouta frowned at that bit of the conversation… Was this just filler or was Hizashi hinting at something important here?

“Like I guess it could be my hip or my joints?” Hizashi went on “Like, maybe something is wrong?” there was special emphasis on that last part and Shouta's frown darkened. So something was wrong? Or felt wrong right about not? Was that what Hizashi was trying to tell him?

“I’m getting close.” Shouta informed “Do you think whoever is following you is on the roofs or the ground?”

A low thoughtful hum “Don’t know, never really thought about it.”

Shouta grit his teeth, his eyes sweeping around him and up the buildings – but nothing stuck out to him – no movement, no humanoid looking silhouettes. Still, he couldn't be sure from just a cursory glance. He turned his gaze straight ahead again “Are you close to the supermarket?” he asked as he turned another corner – he was able to look down the entirety of the alley he was in right now, on the opposing side of the street he could already make out the glowing sign of the supermarket. He quickened his pace.

“Yes, it’s sweet of you to ask, darling.”

“Good, I will be with you any second and-” he was cut off by a lout clattering noise from the other end of the line “Hizashi?!” he nearly shouted into his phone, his heart was slamming against his chest quickly.

A second later there was a sudden bright blue flash shining down the street, followed by a loud boom – it startled Shouta and he ground to an abrupt halt. A tense heartbeat passed before the same bright blue light flashed up again – another loud boom followed.

For a split moment Shouta's heart seemed to stutter and stop in his chest – he stared down the alleyway with wide eyes; his mind was floundering, struggling to try and make sense of what had just happened. He took a shaky breath, his lungs felt tight, like they couldn't get enough air. His left hand – still holding the phone – sunk slowly.

Oh god… oh god, oh god…

He took a staggering step forward, his legs felt both heavy and paradoxically weak at the same time.

Oh please no. Everything but that. No… no, no, no…

For a few moments everything was deadly silent and then a loud sound ripped through the air. It nearly sounded like… screaming…

The shout was so sudden and unexpected it was like a shock to Shouta's system and he involuntarily flinched – it was like the noise was rattling through his bones down to his very marrow. He could feel it slamming against his chest; like standing right in front of a bass boosted loudspeaker.

Across the street he could see the bulbs of the street lights popping one after the other – the street was plunged into early evening darkness. The loud shattering of glass reverberated through the air and Shouta watched with near horrified fascination as the big shop-window of the 24/7 cracked and then splintered into tiny shards. Several car alarms went off – a cacophony of noise mingling with the loud yell – before the car alarms suddenly all cut out, as if they had short circuited. And a second later the screaming stopped too – everything falling eerily silent again.

A heartbeat passed and then life snapped back into Shouta. That had been Hizashi, hadn't it?! His mind was whirling and he hastily stuffed his phone into one of his pockets, nearly fumbling it in his haste. His legs were moving as if on autopilot, both of his hands flew up to his capture weapon – the fabric puffed up around him as he ran down the alleyway and then around the corner, stepping onto the main street.

His eyes swept over the scene in front of him – there was settling dust, two still smoking craters farther down the street – huge holes in the side walk and parts of the street. Broken glass littered the ground, cars smoking from underneath their hood – some had even been toppled over – all of them sported broken windows… Shouta's gaze was momentarily caught by a toppled street lamp that had crushed a car – the metal pole looked like it had been severed clean in half, the ends black and smoking… as if cut by a laser.

Shouta's eyes turned away again, instead flickering around – searching… searching… There! That was Hizashi! Shouta took a few steps forward as if drawn by a magnet…

“You piece of shit!” Hizashi suddenly yelled, he was so loud that Shouta was able to hear it clearly even though he was still a few houses away from where the other man was. Hizashi’s voice was filled with so much wrath that it made the fine hair at the nap of Shouta's neck stand on edge. He ground to a halt again – broken glass crunching under the thick soles of his boots.

“I knew I couldn't trust you!” the vigilante was still shouting. He was keeling on the ground and… no, he was sitting on top of someone. Shouta's brows furrowed and he began to move closer again. Hizashi had his back towards him – blocking most of Shouta's view of whoever he was straddling right now.

Shouta's eyes widened as he saw Hizashi drawing his right arm back, hand balled into a fist – the blond man swung and there was the loud smack of skin hitting skin “I should have known you were involved somehow!” the blond man screeched, voice pitching high with obvious emotions and Shouta grimaced – only just suppressing the urge to lift his hands up to cover his ears. He sped up his steps.

“You thought I would be an easy target?!” Hizashi drew his arm back again and barely a moment later there was another loud smack. Shouta hastily bridged the last few steps of distance between them “You stupid-” Hizashi's arm drew up again mid sentence and Shouta's own hand shot out to wrap around the other mans wrist – stopping him before all of this escalated further.

Hizashi's head snapped around, his hair was a complete mess, his glasses cracked and splintered, there were a few cuts on his face – maybe from the fallen shards? – his eyes were wild and his face was contorted into a wrathful snarl, lips pulled back to bare his teeth.

Dangerous! Shouta's mind screamed at him, his fingers reflexively tightening on Hizashi's wrist – getting a better grip in case it would come to a fight – his shoulders tensed up and he took a sharp breath through his nose. His eyes stared unblinkingly at the other man – he was ready to activate his quirk any second now.

Hizashi blinked up at him and sudden realization settled on his face – the change was near instantaneous. Hizashi's expression morphed from a near feral snarl into a surprised look, his shoulders uncoiled, the balled fist Shouta was holding onto uncurled into something limp and loose fingered.

“Shouta.” the blond man breathed out, voice a lot quiet than it had been only a moment ago. His green eyes were shining with shock and relieve in equal measure.

“Don’t hit them.” Shouta said, his voice like steel “Right now it is still self-defence but if you continue it could turn into assault charges.” he explained slowly – as if on autopilot. He finally unclenched his fingers from around Hizashi's wrist and the other man let his arm sink down again to his side.

A tense moment passed and then Shouta put a gentle hand on the other mans shoulder – comforting, a silent ‘I’m here’. He took the last few step closer and looked over Hizashi's shoulder, trying to get a clear view on whoever the other man was currently straddling.

… He blinked and then blinked again as his mind tried to comprehend what he was seeing “Is that…?”

“Outbreak? Yeah.” Hizashi supplied, voice taking on that angry, burning edge again – as if he was only barely holding on to his composure “I knew something was up with that fucker!” the vigilante hissed through his teeth. He unclenched the hand that was still holding onto the unconscious mans collar and then took a deep breath – he huffed it out through his nose, obviously struggling to calm down.

“He passed out.” Hizashi pointed out nearly dryly, his gaze sweeping over the downed man… a few seconds passed and then something that looked nearly regretful settled on Hizashi's face “His ears are bleeding.” he noted and his voice had taken on a strange pitch, something nearly reluctant that hadn't been there before.

“It was self-defence.” Shouta immediately cut in before Hizashi could start blaming himself.

“I know!” the vigilante snapped back, voice sharp. His expression scrunched up and his eyes slipped away from Shouta for a moment before they settled back on the hero “Sorry, I don't mean to-”

“It’s fine. You are stressed.” Shouta waved the other mans worry away just like that. His dark gaze trailed over the scene in front of him, his mind whirling – he grit his teeth, his jaw jumping, his lips flattening into a thin bloodless line. He drew in a deep breath and then tightened his grip around Hizashi's shoulder “Get up!” he ordered and nearly dragged the other man upwards, his fingers twisted into the fabric of Hizashi's jacket.

Hizashi stumbled upwards, a confused expression on his face. Once the blond man was standing upright again Shouta started pushing him backwards – back… back… until they had reached the first step of a flight of stairs leading up to one of the surrounding buildings. Shouta's eyes trailed over the stairs – no glass, no debris – and then he pushed Hizashi down; the other man let out a noise that sounded half startled half bewildered.

“Sit there.” Shouta instructed and Hizashi did as he said – even though his fair brows were furrowed in clear confusion. In the distance Shouta could make out the sound of sirens – likely police “Act shocked. He attacked and you screamed – that's a normal reaction. You accidentally lost control of your quirk in a high-stress situation – that's normal too. Everything that happened was an accident.” Shouta kept going, his voice tight. A second passed and then he added – a little softer “Just stay here and let me talk to the police.”

Hizashi's eyes widened slightly at that, realization settling on his features “You’re going to lie to them.” he breathed out, sounding nearly disbelieving. Shouta's jaw jumped again, he dug his fingers into the other mans shoulder – urging wordlessly.

“Let me handle this.” he hissed, his eyes fixing on Hizashi, intense and burning “Was he already unconscious before you got on top of him?”

Hizashi blinked up at him, a variety of emotions flickering over his face – shock and wonder… worry too “I think so… He must have been.” Hizashi said slowly, nodding to himself “I probably burst or at least heavily damaged his ear drums or else his ears wouldn't be bleeding. He probably passed out from a combination of the pain and the shock. I only got on top of him afterwards.”

“Did you hit the same place?”

“Yeah.”

Shouta gave a short, solemn nod of his own “Okay. That is good; if someone gets suspicious about the bruising on his face just tell them that he slamming into the ground with his face first when he passed out.”

Out of the corner of eyes Shouta could see the flashing lights of the police cars – he turned his head slightly, watching the vehicles approach for a second before he turned his gaze back towards Hizashi “Just play the victim and I will take care of everything else, yes?”

When Hizashi didn't give an answer Shouta dug his finger into the other mans shoulder harder “Okay?!” he asked, the word nearly shaking out of him, forceful and desperate all at once.

“Okay.” Hizashi nodded – his concentric eyes were fixed on Shouta as if he was trying to figure out an unexpectedly complicated puzzle.

Shouta unclenched his fingers, he stepped away and waited in the middle of the pavement. He watched as the police cars parked – his heart was thrumming strongly, the beat slamming up into his throat. He took a deep breath, schooling his face into its typical indifferent expression… for a second movement caught his eyes and he turned his gaze from where he was watching the police officers approaching him to the surrounding buildings.

He could see people drawing up to their windows now that it was mostly quiet again, some were whispering, other watching with rapt attention… here or there he could see a phone camera pointed into his direction… he turned a little, hoping that the dimness of the evening – no longer brightened up by street lamps thanks to Hizashi's quirk – and his dark hero costume would do enough to hide his identity at least somewhat.

He grit his teeth and drew up to his full height, squaring his shoulders – his mind was racing, trying to figure out what to say; what would sound best. Hizashi hadn't even done something illegal – at least not until he had gotten on top of Outbreak to beat him up – yet Shouta felt a pressing urgency, a near desperate desire to keep the vigilante out of this as best as he could.

If all of this seemed too strange to the police, if things didn't make sense or if there were loose ends then this could turn very ugly very fast. There was also still the fact that they didn't know what Outbreak might say once he became conscious again – would he say something incriminating? Would he point a finger at Hizashi? Would this devolve into possible assault charges? Would this blow up into a possible court case with all the scrutiny something like that entailed?

Shouta could feel his pulse beating in his neck – strong and fast; blood roaring in his ears. If the police got suspicious about something here and started to investigate for real then everything could come crashing down – it would be a disaster. What if they found out about Hizashi and the vigilante work he did? Shouta drew in a deep breath through his nose – he felt the adrenaline pumping through him, it made him feel just the slightest bit unsteady. The weight of the current situation was pressing down on him – he suppressed the urge to clench his hands into fists.

Two of the police officers made their way towards him and he gave a slight bow in greeting as they drew closer – both of them seemed tense; Shouta couldn't fault them for it, after all, the street looked not unlike a battlefield. He raised both of his hands up, palms facing the two police officers – pacifying, signalling that he wasn't a threat.

“I’m a hero.” he called out “I can identify myself.” he went on, trying for eye contact with one of the officers. The woman who caught his gaze nodded and he slowly lowered one of his hands and pushed it into his pocket – pulling out his wallet – he opened it carefully and then took out his hero licence. He extend his hand in an offer, his second one still raised in the air.

The woman nodded to her partner and then stepped forward – bridging the distance. She took the licence from him and pulled out a flash light from her belt. The woman turned the flash light on – ultraviolet light, Shouta noticed – and shone it onto his licence, making sure it wasn't forged.

“Okay.” the woman nodded before she turned her flash light off again. She handed the licence back to Shouta who took this as his cue that he could lower both his hands again – he took his licence and put it back into his wallet.

“Eraserhead is it?” the woman asked as a ways to start a clearly complicated conversation.

“Yes.” Shouta nodded, pushing his wallet back into his pocket.

“Well, looks like a right rubble pile around here.” the second officer – a man – quipped in, his expression was just the slightest bit more open “Can you tell us what happened?” he asked. Beside him his female partner had taken a few steps back, her hands raising to her chest where her walkie talkie was attached.

“The situation is under control. A hero is on the scene and there is no fighting-” she said, her words became quieter and quieter the father away she moved until Shouta couldn't make out anything anymore. He instead fixed his gaze on the police man in front of him.

“Is an ambulance on the way too?” he asked – ignoring the mans initial question.

“Yes, why?” the officers expression turned worried.

“Because there are two injured. One more so than the other.” Shouta informed before he stepped to the side a little so the other man would have an easier time looking down the road – he was sure it must be hard to see in the darkness of the lampless night; at least for someone with ‘normal’ eyes like the officer “Down the road is an unconscious man. He’s a fellow hero going by the name Outbreak, his civilian name is Kuronuma Youta. His ears got damaged and he likely passed out from a combination of the shock and pain, but I do not know if he has any other, more severe injuries.” he paused for a second before he continued “The second person is a civilian, Yamada Hizashi. He only has a few glass cuts but otherwise he is fine – though he is a little shaken right now.”

The police officer nodded, a serious expression on his face, he turned slightly and shouted over his shoulder “Hey!” his partner turned around at that, looking at him “We got two injured people. One is more or less fine but the other one is unconscious and we don't quite know how bad his injuries are!”

The woman nodded, raising a hand in an okay-sign before she turned back around, her head dipping down so her mouth was closer to her walkie talkie again – she was probably sharing that bit of new information with whoever was on the other side right now.

“Well,” the police man said, addressing Shouta again “- any idea how all of this happened?”

Shouta gave a short nod “I do. But before we start with all of this I must disclose that I'm not sure if I can be fully impartial here.” the police officers face scrunched up in confusion at that. Shouta simply nodded his head towards where Hizashi was currently sitting – the vigilante looked beaten down and shaken… though how much of that was acting and how much was genuine Shouta couldn't tell right now. The officer followed his line of sight before he raised a questioning eyebrow at Shouta.

“Yamada Hizashi is my lover.” he explained – truly, he wished he didn't have to put all of this out there like this – he was a private person, he didn't even like talking about personal stuff with people he knew much less with people he didn't know. The thought that this piece of his private life would end up in an official police report made him feel downright queasy – but he also couldn't just omit it.

After all Outbreak knew about Hizashi and him – about their relationship status – and if Shouta said one thing now and Outbreak said another – contradicting – thing later, during the investigation, then that could be disastrous. So Shouta just had to bite the bullet.

Shouta pulled out his phone from his pocket and clicked the screen on “He got off of work and was on his way home when he called me and told me that he thought someone was following after him.” he went on, fingers swiping over the screen of his phone – pulling up his list of callers before he reached his phone over. The police officer took it and gave the call history a cursory once over.

“He called twenty-five minutes ago?” the other man asked duly “And the call lasted fifteen?”

“Yes.” Shouta nodded.

“Why didn't he just call us?”

“He was already out on the street and he said he was afraid that it might be too obvious if he tried to call the police – so he called me instead. I assume it seemed logical to him, since I'm a hero. I told him I would come and get him and that he should stay calm.” the police officer hummed and nodded before he handed the phone back to Shouta “We talked on the phone until the first blast went off.” Shouta finished and took his phone back.

The other mans face scrunched up then “Blast?” he asked and Shouta only nodded.

“Outbreak’s quirk is Energy Blast – he is able to absorb ambient energy and then release it again as a controlled blast. I do not know the exact technicalities of it though.”

“So Outbreak attacked first?”

Another short nod “It points to it.”

“ ‘Points to it’? Did you see what happened then?”

“I didn't see much but-” Shouta started but cut himself off as the distant noise of sirens cut through the air. It got louder and louder – making it impossible to get an actually audible word out. Both the police officer and he turned their heads to look down the street. It was an ambulance – the female officer was waving at the car and it slowed to a stop not too far away from where Shouta stood.

Three emergency physicians jumped out of the vehicle and together with the police woman made their way towards where Outbreak and Hizashi were – passing by Shouta and the police man.

“Two injured.” Shouta heard the woman instructing the emergency personal “One man unconscious and one with seemingly minor injuries.”

Shouta watched as the emergency personal slit into two groups – two people immediately flocking around Outbreak; the third one, accompanied by the police woman, made their way towards Hizashi.

There was a beat of silence “As I was saying,” Shouta started up again “-I didn't see that much. I took a short cut through the alleyways. One opens up towards this street.” he pointed a finger in the direction “There.” the police officer looked behind himself, he gave a nod a moment later and then turned back towards Shouta “I only saw a blue flash from where I stood, it was followed by an explosion and then a few moments later there was another flash and another explosion. I assume it was Outbreak’s quirk.”

“And then?”

“I heard a loud scream – it shattered the street lamps and car windows.”

The officer let out a low thoughtful noise “I assume that that had something to do with Yamada-san’s quirk?”

“Yes. He possesses an amplification quirk that affects his voice. Put very simply: He is able to scream inhumanly loud.” Shouta explained, conveniently leaving out everything else Hizashi was able to do with his voice beside just ‘screaming loudly’.

If the vigilante decided that he wanted to tell the police more then that was his own choice – and Shouta himself could always feign ignorance and say that he simply hadn't been interested in how exactly Hizashi's quirk worked; or that it had simply never really come up before.

“I believe the attack simply shocked him so much that he cried out and accidentally lost control of his quirk.” Shouta continued and he saw the police officer nodding his head, an expression of understanding on his face, his gaze was sympathetic.

“So you would say that Outbreaks injuries were an accident and not a direct attack?”

Shouta nodded “I would. Hizashi isn't the kind of man who would purposefully hurt innocent people. I can vouch for that.” his voice was serious, he meet the other mans eyes with one of his own intense stares.

“Okay.” the police officer said and then, a second later, his gaze trailing away from Shouta, looking at something behind him – the hero followed the other mans line of sight and watched as the emergency physicians loaded Outbreak onto a stretcher and then rolled him towards the ambulance.

He looked on for a second or two before his eyes slipped away from the scene again, his gaze instead seeking out Hizashi – who was still sitting on the steps of the building, a blanket draped over his shoulders; the third emergency physician was dabbing at the cuts on his face and arms with a few cotton swaps. The police woman stood in front of them, she was talking – likely questioning the vigilante in the same way Shouta was currently questioned.

“Do you know why Outbreak would attack your boyfriend?”

At the question Shouta's eyes returned back to the police officer in front of him “No, I don't.” he answered. In fact, that very same question had bothered him this entire time too. He really would like to know the answer – preferably sooner rather than later.

Honestly, what could Outbreak have hoped to gain from all of this? Had he wanted to hurt Hizashi? Maybe even kill him? If so, why? Had there been a particular reason for it? And why attack Hizashi in the first place? He was only a radio host after all, a civilian… unless…

Shouta's mouth flattened into a thin, tense line as a worrisome thought occurred to him. Had Outbreak figured something out about Hizashi? About his vigilante work as Present Mic? After all the so called ‘Zip-Tie-Man’ was still one of the most sought after vigilantes – catching him could be the break-through that a young, rather obscure hero like Outbreak needed to really become popular – to become a high profile hero.

Shouta's brows drew together in something close to doubt. But really, how could Outbreak have figured that out? Hizashi had evaded far smarter people until now, furthermore, he had been laying low as of late so it wasn't as if Outbreak could have caught him red-handed or something. So really, it was very unlikely that Outbreak had any idea about Hizashi's hidden identity. But… if that wasn't the reason for the attack then what other motive could there be?

Maybe…

A sudden cold shudder ran down Shouta's back, like a blade trailing over every knob of his spine, contemplative and slowly – wondering where to stab best. Maybe… maybe Outbreak had been after Hizashi because of Shouta? Had he himself been the catalyst? For a few moments his mind pulled up every conversation, every meeting he had had with Outbreak until now – turning every word and gesture over.

Was all of this ultimately his own fault? Had Hizashi been targeted just because he and Shouta were lovers?

Shouta grit his teeth as the thought settled heavy in his stomach – his throat felt tight all of a sudden, as if he couldn't get quite enough air into his lungs. His mouth was nothing more than a bloodless line by now, his brows pulled into a severe frown – a crease appeared on his forehead.

The police officer seemed to pick up on his sudden and drastic mood change “We’ll have to properly protocol everything but I think it’s best if you and your boyfriend call it a night for now. Just come to the station tomorrow morning – both of you. If we are lucky then Outbreak will be awake again till then as well.” a short pause “We’ll see what he says, but if everything happened the way you told me then nothing’s going to happen to your boyfriend. He would be the victim in that case. You can tell him that.” another short pause “Also, since you are a hero you probably know the drill but I have to mention it anyway: Please be available in case we have further questions and, since this is an on-going investigation, you can’t leave the country, understood?”

Shouta nodded nearly automatically, his mind still turning in circles, trying to figure out where he might have made a mistake, trying to pinpoint what he had done wrong and why Hizashi of all people had to suffer because of it now… “Understood.” he answered duly – voice flat – and then simply turned on his heel without saying anything else.

He walked towards the stairs where Hizashi was sitting – still surrounded by the emergency physician and the police woman – everyone of his steps caused a loud crunching noise; the glass ground into the pavement under his weight.

Hizashi looked up when he realized that he was coming closer – the blond man shot him a smile, though it was visibly exhausted… it lacked the brightness it usually held.

“Hey.” Hizashi greeted when Shouta stopped in front of him. The police woman gave both of them a once over, she taped the tip of her pen onto her notebook – once, twice – before she nodded to herself.

“That’s all for now.” she said “I assume my partner already told you that we need a proper testimony tomorrow?” Shouta gave a short nod in answer “Good. Then get home safely and try to rest a little.” Shouta just gave another mute nod and the police woman stuffed her pen back into the pocket on her uniform before she turned and walked away – heading towards her partner.

The emergency physician straightened up from where he had kneeled to look at Hizashi's lower arm “It’s all just superficial cuts from the glass.” he started, addressing Hizashi “I cleaned the cuts and got the stuck shards out. Just keep everything clean and it should heal in no time.” he explained and then after a second he added “The cuts are so small they probably won’t even scar.” his tone was reassuring.

“Thanks.” Hizashi said, a small smile on his lips.

“You’re very welcome.” the physician returned the smile before he started packing up his things again. Both Hizashi as well as Shouta watched him silently – they watched as he walked down the street, farther and farther away. He hopped into the back of the ambulance, the two swing doors closed and it wasn't too long before the car sprung to life, driving down the street the same way it had arrived.

It was silent and the air felt tense and heavy – finally Shouta turned his head forward again, gaze falling down to Hizashi. The other mans eyes flickered up to him. They were both staring at each other mutely – at a loss for words.

Shouta felt his stomach rolling – now that all was said and done – at least for the moment – he felt how his adrenaline high crashed. He was so tired – there was an amalgamation of emotions washing over him. There was the lingering anxiety and nervousness that came from talking to the police, the uncertainty about what would happen next and all those questions circling and screeching in his mind: had it been good enough? Or would this turn into something horrible and unpredictable? Were they safe? What would happen next? Why had it happened in the first place?

There was shock and exhaustion, his hyper-awareness was thrumming through his blood, prickling under his skin… his body was still tense and wound up – as if he was just waiting for a fight. As if he was just waiting for the other boot to drop.

… There were also still the last lingering echoes of the fear he had felt when he had seen that blue flash, the last remnants of the heart-stopping terror he had felt when he had heard the explosion, the last fragments of the mind-numbing horror that had sliced through him like a cold blade at the thought that Hizashi might be dead.

Shouta swallowed, his throat clicked with dryness. Looking at Hizashi right now, seeing the band-aids and the bandages that covered his face and his arms… For a second his mind conjured up the images of a half remembered dream – wet plastic bags, dull green eyes, cold and clammy skin, snapped neck… the lingering, near suffocating scent of wet rot and death… He felt nauseous just thinking about it.

He swallowed again. He had come so close to living that nightmare today – he had come so close to losing Hizashi… the knowledge sat heavy in his stomach – and mingled alongside all of it was this nagging feeling of guilt and shame – the possibility that all of this might be his fault

He didn't know what to say, he didn't even know where to start… He was terrible with words, he knew, and so he simply acted instead.

He reached his right arm out – he absent-mindedly noticed that his fingers were shaking ever so slightly – his palm caressed along Hizashi's temple, fingers tucking a few loose strands of blond hair behind the other mans ear. Hizashi's hair was a little dirty – dust snagged in its smoothness… but his skin was warm and flushed with life.

Shouta took a slightly uneven breath, the shake of his fingers worsening – Hizashi was watching him, his green eyes unobscured, his broken glasses nowhere to be seen… maybe he had discarded them.

He was still there – right here, right in front of Shouta, blinking up at him with that spark in his beautiful concentric eyes. Alive.

“Shouta?” Hizashi asked, his voice uncertain, his gaze holding worry.

“Just…” Shouta started but he still didn't know what he even wanted to say, he didn't have the words to describe what he was feeling “Just hush.” he whispered, his voice slightly hoarse. He took the last step closer – bridging the small gap between them. He lifted his second arm up as well and both his hands moved to settle on the back of Hizashi's head – he pulled, gently guiding the other man forward until his face was hidden against Shouta's chest. He bowed down where he stood, lower and lower until he was able to bury his face in blond hair.

“Shouta-” Hizashi's voice had the strangest pitch.

“Hush I said.” Shouta mumbled back, his own voice muffled against the top of Hizashi's head.

“I just-”

“Shh.”

“But-”

“Just shut up and let me hold you!” Shouta barked out and he immediately regretted it “I’m sorry.” he apologized, voice low and small “I didn't mean to snap at you.” he pressed a close-mouthed and apologetic kiss against the crown of Hizashi's head. A heartbeat or two passed and then he felt Hizashi's hands settling on his waist, their warmth bleeding through his hero costume and the shirt he wore underneath, soaking into his skin – there were thumbs rubbing over his hipbone.

“It’s fine.” Hizashi said, he turned his face a little so he could rest his cheek against Shouta's chest instead of his forehead. His voice was hushed.

“For a second I...” Shouta began but then trailed off, his lips flattened into a severe line, his jaw jumped. A few moments passed before he continued “For a moment I thought you had died.” silence settled over them, uncomfortably and smothering.

Hizashi's hands moved from where they rested at Shouta's waist, drawing over his sides and settling on his back – hugging him closer.

“I’m fine.” Hizashi reassured softly “It takes more than that to take me down.” it sounded nearly cocky.

Shouta closed his eyes for a second or two, he shook his head against Hizashi's hair “Your quirk might be powerful but you are only human.” he said, his voice had taken on a strange pitch, conveying more meaning than his words ever could. He swallowed, his throat felt too tight “I should have gotten here faster and-”

“No.” Hizashi cut him off gently “No.” he repeated, firmer this time around “You got here as fast as you could.”

Shouta grit his teeth in anger “That’s not good enough.” the words were hissed through his teeth.

“It is for me.” Hizashi retorted, he rubbed his cheek over Shouta's chest, nuzzling into the other mans hold.

“You are a moron if that is good enough for you.” Shouta shot back, his fingers curling into Hizashi's hair, pressing them closer together still. As close as was possible in their current position.

“You’re not the first one to call me a moron.” Hizashi said wryly, he let out a giggle – it trailed off soon enough though “You got here fast enough to stop me. That’s good enough for me...” there was a short pause “Sorry you had to see that.” the words held audible guilt, a kind of burning shame.

Shouta blinked at that. He drew back slightly, bowing away and gently pushing Hizashi's face away from his chest so they could both look at each other properly – he rubbed his thumbs over the vigilantes jaw, careful not to accidentally touch any of the small cuts there.

“What do you mean?” he asked, honestly confused, his brows drawing together slightly.

Hizashi lowered his gaze – avoiding Shouta's eyes. He sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, chewing on it for a moment or two “It was just really ugly, is all. Me on top of that guy, shouting and punching him… like I'm some unhinged madman.”

Shouta's grip tightened and he forced the other mans face up – forced him to look into his eyes “He attacked you. You weren't thinking straight in that moment.”

“I was so angry, what if-”

“Nothing happened. There is no ‘what if’.”

“I nearly lashed out at you too – before, when you stopped me and-”

“You didn’t though.”

“Shouta!” it was loud, holding an edge of irritation.

“Hizashi.” Shouta gave back, his own voice soft and pitched even lower than it usually was – soothing and smooth “It’s fine.” he said and he meant it – and then, after a beat of silence he added “I love you. Even the ugly parts.”

“Now look at who the moron is between both of us.” Hizashi's voice was a near scoff though there was an odd pitch to it, his brows drew together into a doubtful expression, his eyes searching Shouta's face for something – very likely deceit – but Shouta knew Hizashi wouldn't find anything like that at all and after another few seconds Hizashi's expression softened as he realized the same thing.

“You’re a terrible hypocrite.” Hizashi said, his tone holding the slightest wisp of humour “Here you are beating yourself up, but you're telling me to not do the same thing. The pot is calling the kettle black.” he let out a huff, it sounded fondly-annoyed “We are both morons.” his smile was slightly crooked as he said the words. Shouta just hummed softly – he could live with that.

“Hey, Shouta.” Hizashi spoke up again and Shouta gave a low noise, signalling that the other man should continue “Take me home?”

Shouta's lips twitched up into a small smile, his eyes lidding slightly “Of course.” he agreed easily, nodding.

Chapter Text

The night was more than just a little rough for Shouta. While Hizashi beside him at least managed to fall asleep at some point during the night Shouta himself wasn't all that fortunate. Instead his mind was spinning, making it impossible for him to calm down enough to actually close his eyes and consider sleep.

His left arm was slung around Hizashi's middle, his palm flattened against the other mans back – he felt every rise and fall of his chest; every intake of breath. For a second Shouta closed his eyes and let out a soundless breath through his nose.

He opened his eyes again slowly, the fingers of his left hand drawing nonsensical lines against the slope of Hizashi's sleep warm back – light enough not to wake the other man, yet firm and sure enough not to accidentally tickle him awake either.

Truthfully… he felt like a fool right now – like the worlds biggest moron.

He should have know all of this would happen… no, he had known all of this would happen. He had simply disregarded the signs, even though they had been so painfully obvious. He had scoffed at the ring of his alarm bells, had wrinkled his nose at the hyper-vigilant whisper of his mind and had ignored the uneasy feeling in his gut.

He had foolishly thought that maybe, after being wrong about both Hizashi as well as Kayama, it was time to stop meeting every person who crossed his path with suspicion and immediate distrust – as if they were about to stab him in broad daylight in the middle of the street if the didn't keep an eye on them. He had foolishly thought that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to try and partake in society at least a little more than he had done up until that point.

After all, what could be the harm?

Yeah, ‘what could be the harm?’ his mind hissed at him snidely. In the end he had come full circle – he had been so focused on trying to not see threats in every shadow and every interpersonal interaction that he had had completely blinded himself. He had found excuses for things that shouldn't be excusable, he had told himself he was overreacting when in fact he had been under-reacting.

…And now Hizashi had to pay for his negligence. All of this would have been fine if Shouta himself would have been the only one who had to deal with the consequences of his own mistakes. After all, he wasn't afraid to take responsibility for his actions… but no - now it was Hizashi who had to carry Shouta's burden instead.

Shouta's jaw jumped in something close to angry desperation. This – all of this, all that had happened that night – had been his biggest concern, it had been his biggest worry going into this relationship… This fear that something might happen to Hizashi just because he was close to him. And maybe that fear had actually come true last night – maybe Outbreak had attacked Hizashi only to get to him.

He gave another soft sigh through his nose, this one equal parts exhausted and resigned – this was the very reason why most underground heroes simply didn't do relationships. He shouldn't have listened to Hizashi or his own emotions – instead he should have simply cut it all off when he had still had the chance. He should have listened to his gut and his alarmist mind – because in the end it had been right about everything – about Outbreak as well as about this relationship. If he had just listened then non of this would have happened. He should have…

A soft, half muffled noise jerked his thoughts out of the spiral they had sunk into – Hizashi had started moving slightly in his sleep. Shouta simply raised his left arm from where he had it draped around the other man – making it easier for him to move.

But, instead of turning away and onto his other side – as Shouta had expected – Hizashi only slung his right arm around Shouta's waist sloppily before moving closer still, curling up against the heroes chest. He let out another incoherent mumble before he settled again – limbs loose and relaxed once more.

Shouta felt as something soft and warm unfurled in his chest and he couldn't quite suppress the twitch at the corners of his mouth – a gentle, barely there half smile. He draped his arm back around Hizashi's middle and then tipped his head down a little so he was able to press his dry, somewhat chapped lips against the crown of the other mans head. His nose brushed over smooth blond hair – breathing in the lingering scent of lavender and honey.

Well… the milk was already spilt now, wasn't it? So there was no sense moaning about it. After all, no one was able to change the past. So really, the only thing that truly mattered was the present and the future. It simply was a waste of time to get hung up on ‘what if’s – especially in this situation.

His time was better spent worrying about the day ahead instead of wondering about what might have been at some point or another.

In the end the morning came much too soon – beside him Hizashi started stirring. A few seconds passed before his green eyes fluttered open. He blinked sleepily at Shouta, a crooked smile on his lips – the warm expression vanished again as soon as it had appeared though and instead made room for something that looked closer to worry.

“Did you even sleep?” Hizashi asked, his voice still raspy from disuse. Shouta only shot the other man a serious look and it was answer enough – realization settled on Hizashi's face, followed by displeasure, followed by concern. He moved his right hand that had rested on Shouta's waist until now upwards so he could cup it around the heroes jaw, his thumb rubbing over stubble. He bowed forward a little and pressed his mouth against Shouta's in a painfully sweet kiss.

“It’ll work out somehow – life always does. You’ll see.” Hizashi said after they had parted again.

Shouta just gave a non-committal hum “I wish I had your confidence.” he gave back, his words serious – sometimes he truly wished he could see things more positive… but that simply wasn't who he was.

“Well,” Hizashi sing-songed, a broad grin on his face “Good thing I have enough confidence for the both of us, huh?” he let out a giggle and then bounced upwards and out of Shouta's hold “All the doom and gloom won’t do us any good.” he looked over his shoulder at Shouta who was still laying in bed “Let’s get some coffee and then go to the police station right away – that way we’ll be done with it. Kinda like ripping off a band-aid.”

Shouta let out a soft grunt before he pushed himself upwards and followed Hizashi out of the bedroom. They got dressed and while they were both sipping at their respective mugs of coffee they, again, went over everything that had happened the night before – making sure they were both on the same page.

“Do you think he’s awake already?” Hizashi asked at some point.

“Maybe.” Shouta gave back.

“The guy is the only unknown variable. Who knows what he will say? He might just smear us to make this difficult.” Hizashi went on, clearly peeved “I really hope he is already up because I want to know what the hell his problem is.” that last part sounded snappy and angry.

Shouta just gave a soft hum of agreement at that – he himself would like to know what exactly had prompted the attack too. Had Outbreak truly attacked to get to Shouta? And if so, why? What could the younger hero possibly want from him? And if it hadn't been because of Shouta, then what was the sense in attacking a radio host he had barely seen before? Shouta's jaw jumped.

Both men finished their coffee and then left – heading straight for the police station. They reached it not too long after and, once there, they were unsurprisingly split apart so their testimonies could be taken.

Fortunately the questions where nearly identical to the ones Shouta had already answered the night before, in fact, the whole interrogation was strangely friendly and lax and in the end the police woman who had questioned him clicked the tape recorder off again. She pushed the last page of the report she had written towards him and Shouta signed it and, once that was done, she stood up and stretched.

“Well, that's a take.” she said, letting her arms sink down again and shooting a small smile towards Shouta – the hero only gave a furrow-browed stare back. All of this seemed much too easy.

“That’s it?” he asked, nearly distrustful, his eyes narrowing just the slightest bit.

“Testimony wise? Yes. Thought Yukimura-san wants to personally talk to both you and your boyfriend before you leave – she’s the leading officer on this case.” the woman explained.

Shouta had half a mind to continue his own line of question – to ask why this had all went so fast, to ask why the police woman seemed so relaxed and sure… but then he thought better of it – after all, one sure-fire way to get someone to dig deeper was to directly ask why they weren't doing just that.

“Why?” he asked instead.

The police woman threw a near cautious glance at the two way mirror at the far wall, she pursed her lips and then her brown eyes returned to Shouta. She opened her mouth but then seemed to think better of it – she shook her head “You’ll see.” was all she gave back cryptically “It’s nothing serious though.” she said and she put a special emphasis on that last sentence – as if it was something well-known… maybe a running gag that Shouta lacked the context to understand.

Shouta's eyes narrowed further still before his expression smoothed out again “Fine.” he gave a short nod “Where can I find her?”

“Oh that’s easy. When you leave here just go right and then take the first left – walk down that corridor until you reach room 0.14. It’s on the left close to the end of the corridor, you really can’t miss it.” the woman smiled – she had a rather peppy, nearly youthful nature even though she didn't seem any younger than Shouta himself was.

“Well,” she continued “I have to be off again, you know how it is – busy, busy!” she grabbed the signed paper and put it in her folder before picking up both said folder as well as her recording tape “Just close the door when you leave. Good-day Eraserhead.” another smile and then she turned on her heel to walk out of the door.

For a second or two Shouta simply remained sitting where he was – looking at the open door to his right.

… This was… very weird… He would have expected more scrutiny, a handful of new questions, more poking and prodding… but instead this whole thing had been more like a pleasant, if necessary, chat than an actual testimony. In fact, the police woman had acted as if this was nothing more than a mere formality – just getting it done so she could move on to her next case.

Shouta's mouth flattened slightly and his brows drew together – it seemed nearly like the police woman knew something he himself didn't… as if she was already a few steps ahead of him.

In the end he pushed himself up from the rather uncomfortable chair and made his way out of the room – he closed the door behind himself silently before he turned right and made his way towards room 0.14.

Maybe that actually was the case here – maybe the police had found out something and hadn't thought it necessary to share? Or maybe it still had to be kept under wrap because the investigation was still running? Or maybe it wasn't anything like that at all and he would get all his questions answered once he got to Yukimura?

He felt rather cautious though – the police woman had acted so strange after she had brought up Yukimura… and so he was left to wonder what would happen once he got there. His jaw jumped slightly as he dipped into the corridor to his left. He didn't like surprises.

He nearly halted as his gaze fell down the corridor – he blinked. At the far end stood Hizashi – the blond was was levelling a doubtful gaze at the door in front of him, a displeased pinch to his lips. Shouta drew closer and it didn't take long for Hizashi to notice him.

The blond man turned the same doubtful expression towards him and then silently and exaggeratedly mouthed ‘what the hell?!’ - Shouta just shrugging and came to a stand beside him. Hizashi grabbed at his inner elbow and dragged him a few steps away from the door before he leaned closer to Shouta – his voice a soft whisper.

“Did they have some nice chit-chat with you too?” Hizashi asked his tone equally curious and confused. Shouta just gave an affirmative grunt and a short nod in response “The guy talking to me was so… I don't know… like, nearly disinterested?”

Shouta gave a low hum “Yes, the woman taking my testimony seemed more concerned with getting back to her other work too.”

“It’s like they are already done with everything and it’s just like formality at this point… I don't even know, like, I would have asked but I mean it’s just super suspicious to ask about stuff like that, like: ‘Hey, ‘scuse me, but why aren't you asking more questions, yo? Like, why aren't you levelling charges against me or something? Why are you so nice?’ Like, that wouldn’t have gone over well.” Hizashi gave a huff and a second later he drew his bottom lip between his teeth – chewing and chewing for what must have been at least half a minute. Shouta only waited patiently for Hizashi to make up his mind about whatever he was currently worrying about.

In the end the vigilante licked his mouth open again “What do you think this Yukimura-san character wants from us? I mean, if the testimony is done then there is no sense staying here, no?” his concentric eyes flickered over Shouta's face nearly nervously.

Shouta couldn't really fault the other man – he himself was worried too. Still, there was no sense in staying in the middle of the corridor and thinking up scenarios “We will see.” was all he gave back. He inclined his head towards the door behind them “Let’s find out.”

The upper row of Hizashi's teeth scrapped over his bottom lip once, twice and then he nodded and made his way back towards the door – Shouta followed silently behind him. He knocked, a moment passed and then “Come in.” a female voice called.

Hizashi pressed the door handle down and stepped into the room – he held the door open a little longer so Shouta could step through as well and then he closed it again.

At the other side of the room was a table and at it sat a woman with short icy-blue hair. She looked up from her computer screen – her honey-brown eyes watching both men from behind a pair of oval eye-glasses.

Her expression seemed to momentarily darken before it smoothed out again “You two must be Aizawa-san and Yamada-san.” she said and waved her hand towards the two chairs standing on the other side of the table.

Shouta was the first to move – he stepped closer, pulled out a chair and then sat down; Hizashi mirrored him a few delayed seconds later. Yukimura’s gaze swept over both of them, a distrustful glint in her eyes – but again the spark disappeared not a second later.

Shouta suppressed the urge to press his lips together – something was going on here and he didn't know what it was and that made him feel more than a little wary. A few second passed in silence and then Yukimura reached up to pull her glasses off her face – she rubbed her pointer finger and her thumb over her closed lids before she put both her hands down on the table – her fingers intertwining. Her eyes opened again, flickering between Hizashi and Shouta for a moment.

“Now,” Yukimura started, her voice was low “-since we have both your testimonies now I am able to disclose what has happened since last night.” she started but she didn't get much further.

“Why couldn't you have told us that from the beginning?” Hizashi quipped in, his voice light and curious like a child – he wore an innocent expression. Yukimura shot the blond man a displeased look – it was nearly a scowl.

“I’m sorry.” Shouta immediately apologized – leaping to play along with whatever Hizashi was trying to do right now “He does not know how such things work.”

Yukimura’s mouth twitched as if she was only so managing to keep it from pulling down “Of course.” she nodded “It’s understandable since he is a civilian.” she didn't sound very understanding. She turned her sharp eyes towards Hizashi before she elaborated “We simply didn't want to risk that you – either of you – would change your testimony because of the information. We do things like that so that we can be sure that no one lies or takes back things they had previously said. Safety measures, you see.”

“Oh.” Hizashi breathed with wide eyes and then nodded “Yeah, that makes sense. Sorry.” he smiled apologetically, the last word a nearly embarrassed squawk “I should have probably thought of that.” he added – his smile turning somewhat sheepish.

Yukimura only gave a soft sigh “It’s fine.” she said “Now, as I was saying-” she started again, a special emphasis on her words – as if she was daring Hizashi to interrupt again “During the night Kuronuma-san woke up again. His injuries are being treated and he will be fine after a few more healing sessions.”

“That’s a relieve!” Hizashi breathed out – his tone sounding so thankful “I was so worried about that.” he said it as if a huge weight had been lifted off of him.

“Yes, well-” Yukimura continued, her tone taking on an exasperated edge, her eyes fixing on Hizashi sharply for a second or two before she went on “We already have a testimony from him as well. Now this is a very clear cut case, so we fortunately don't have to spend all that much time investigating.

Kuronuma-san attacked you out of jealousy so you are the wounded party in all of this. Now usually I would ask if you want to press charges or if you want to let this drop, but since Kuronuma-san is an active hero who was employed at a hero agency at the time of his crime this will have to go to a court no matter what. Both of you will get a notice in your mail in due time, so you don't have to worry about-”

“He said what?!” Hizashi nearly screeched, cutting the woman off – losing his composure for a second. Shouta wrinkled his nose at loud, uncomfortable noise. Yukimura opposite of them scrunched up her face in something that came close to resembling pain.

A few heartbeats passed in silence and then the woman smacked her lips in distaste “Kuronuma-san testified that he attacked you out of jealousy.” she repeated, her voice holding an obvious edge of irritation “I assume that is was you are referring to?” she asked sharply.

Hizashi's mouth opened and closed a few times – he looked like a stranded fish; obviously floundering “Really?!” he pressed, there was both confusion as well as shock in his voice, his concentric green eyes wide behind his glasses.

Silently Shouta had to agree, Outbreak – or Kuronuma – might have seemed somewhat star struck before, but not like he had been interested in Shouta in a romantic way…

All of this just seemed slightly off and somewhat wrong. Were they really to believe that Kuronuma had attacked Hizashi in the middle of the street, during the time where most daytime heroes had already finished work and most underground heroes hadn't started working yet only because he had been jealous? Especially since Kuronuma had waited long enough for Hizashi to be alone in the street. There seemed to be too much malice there, too much calculation… like it had been planned.

The younger hero had never seemed like he had tried to flirt or get to know Shouta… in fact, all he had ever talked about was the case: ‘Anything new? Did something happen? Are you watching someone right now?’

Shouta's mouth flattened into a thin, bloodless line.

What at first had only appeared as the annoying but ultimately harmless needling of an overeager young hero now seemed more than just a little fishy in hindsight… Had Kuronuma tried to get some kind of information about the case? Had he been looking for something specific?

Or maybe… A sobering thought suddenly occurred to Shouta and a dark frown settled on his face – maybe Kuronuma was involved in all of it?

Shouta suddenly found himself wondering… the man he had found dead not too long ago… he had been killed on the same day that Kuronuma had waited for him in front of UA… The ex-girlfriend of the dead man had said he had worked for Kuronuma’s agency from time to time – maybe he hadn't worked for the agency per se but instead for the young hero? Or with him?

Shouta swallowed and for a second he felt as if the ground was giving out under him, as if the world was tilting slightly. When Kuronuma had asked about the case on that day Shouta had – stupidly – answered him. Sure, he hadn't given the young hero any names and he had only mentioned a very vague location – but that would already be more than enough if Kuronuma had known from the very start who he had talked about. It would have been obvious to him who he needed to take care of.

But if he had been so intent on tying up loose ends – like the dead man – then why had he gone after Hizashi? What was the sense in that? Why hadn't he simply gone after Shouta directly? After the hero who actually worked on the case? The one who was actually trying to foil his plans? Why go after a radio host who wouldn't know anything anyway?

Just to hurt Shouta? Just to teach him a lesson? But why go the extra mile just for that? Why all the extra work? Just out of malice? Or was there maybe another explanation? Something Shouta just couldn't see right now?

Shouta's jaw jumped as he ground his teeth together in barely suppressed anger.

“Those are his own words.” the police woman gave back, her words an angry scoff – she was clearly reaching the end of her patience.

“Did he say something else?” this time it was Shouta who asked, his voice low – its usual monotone – though inside his head his mind was whirling and under his skin he could feel his blood burning hot.

“No.” Yukimura sighed and Shouta had a feeling she would be rolling her eyes right about now if it wasn't considered improper in a situation like this “Everything he said matches up with what you two testified too. He was jealous of Yamada-san and attacked him as he was on his way home from the radio station. Yamada-san accidentally activated his quirk as he screamed – so he can’t be blamed for any injuries or any other damage he caused.”

Here Yukimura paused for a second her gaze fixing on Hizashi “Now since all of this is was an accident you wouldn’t have to pay for the repairs either way but-” here she made another small pause “the hero agency Kuronuma-san worked for took it upon themselves to pay for any and all damage as a recompense. They even wrote an official statement to us.”

She reached for one of the folders on her desk and opened it – pulling out a piece of paper and putting it in front of Hizashi and Shouta, before she continued “They are deeply sorry for what happened and want to show their support and good-will this way.”

Shouta's eyes nearly automatically drew to the paper on the table – he skimmed over the words. It was nothing interesting really, only PR speech – the obligatory ‘we are very sorry, we’ll pay so please don’t sue us’. This was nothing but damage control at its finest.

“Wait, wait! ‘Worked for’, as in past tense?” Hizashi suddenly asked – his eyes widening even more behind his glasses. It would nearly be comical if the situation wasn't so dire. At those words Shouta raised his eyes up again – his brows knitting together.

The woman nodded “Yes. The agency doesn't want to be associated with someone attacking civilians out of jealousy, so they terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

“Just like that?” Hizashi went on.

The woman shrugged, her expression nearly bored “Just like that. Now, it’s not that surprising really. If I were in their shoes I would have terminated the contract as well. It puts a spotlight on them and this way they can finagle their way out of receiving too much negative press coverage.”

“They were awfully quick.” Hizashi said, words soft as if he was mumbling them more to himself than anyone else – a deep frown settled on his face. He drew his bottom lip between his teeth – chewing on it.

“Now, with Kuronuma-san’s testimony it is obvious what happened.” the police woman said, she shrugged again, her tone nonchalant “As I already said, it’s as clear cut as such cases can go – so if the agency dawdles or waits around too long it could seem like they are supporting Kuronuma-san’s actions.” she let out a long-suffering sigh and this time around she did roll her eyes “It’s probably a knee-jerk reaction – it’s all about publicity with those agencies after all. Now, I guess it’s just easier to throw one of their own away like that than to deal with any negative fallout.” there was a short pause “Something like that would never happen in the police.” she added that last part as if it was something to be proud of.

Shouta's lips flattened into a thin line at all of this – Hizashi was right; the agency did get rid of Kuronuma very quickly. After all, the attack had only just happened yesterday evening and then Kuronuma was unconscious for a while after that… the agency must have fired Kuronuma as soon as they heard about what had happened… maybe they hadn't even waited for him to wake up first before they had terminated his contract.

Furthermore there was also the fact that they had already sent a formal statement to the police and had seemingly already negotiated to pay the damage Kuronuma’s attack had caused…

Sure, it could have been nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction… but somehow Shouta didn't quite believe in that possibility. This was way too fast – even for a hero agency desperately trying to avoid public scrutiny.

“Now, I still have one question.” the police woman started again, a forced kind of nonchalance clinging to her tone – her words ripped Shouta out of his spiralling thoughts. It was quiet for a few long, nearly tense moments.

“Yes?” Shouta prompted as it became clear that the woman waited for some kind of okay.

“Have you ever heard about the so called Zip-Tie-Man?” she asked, her eyes seemed much too sharp suddenly. Shouta’s expression was stony and impassive – though he had to keep from clenching his jaw.

“Yeah, I work media after all.” Hizashi gave back easily “Like, there was a time where I couldn't go one day without giving my listeners an update on the situation. The guy has been suspiciously quiet for a while now though, hasn’t he?” his tone held idle curiosity, his eyes momentarily flickering to Shouta, his expression inquisitive.

Shouta shrugged at that “I wouldn't know. I don't keep up to date with his shenanigans.” he paused for a moment, his eyes fixing on the police woman “Why?”

She gave a non-committal noise “It’s just that at the places where he supposedly fought others there usually are a lot of broken windows, and splintered glass. Often times the electric devices in the area cut out. Some victims also had bleeding ears and sustained minor hearing damage.” she paused for a moment, her eyes seemed to glint “It just sounded familiar is all.” her gaze settled on Hizashi nearly pointedly “Don’t you think so too?”

Hizashi shot the woman a disarmingly bright smile “I mean, I guess it kinda sounds like what happened when Kuronuma-san attacked me. What with all the popped lamps and the short circuited cars – but really, that's all that my quirk is able to do. You know, like, those opera singers that can break glasses with their voices? That’s all I can do with it.” he explained.

There was a short pause and a thoughtful expression settled on Hizashi's face before he continued “Doesn’t the guy also, like, causes a lot of head injuries? And like, nausea and swimming vision? That’s not something I can do.” another beat of silence “I actually thought the Zip-Tie-Dude might have some kind of telekinesis or something, wouldn't that make more sense?” Hizashi asked, brows furrowed in contemplation.

Shouta gave a low hum “It might have something to do with force waves.” he mentioned nonchalantly, is if the thought had just occurred to him “Or air gusts. After all, if a lot of wind pressure slams into a person it could certainly damage their hearing, which in turn could cause nausea and swimming vision.”

“Oh! I never really thought of that” Hizashi immediately jumped onto the idea, nodding his head eagerly, his voice excited.

“We assumed the head injuries come from blunt force and not from a quirk.” the police woman cut in – her words forced out from between her lips. There was a short moment of silence as she seemingly tried to get her composure back.

“But yes.” she finally said, sounding more calm again. Her eyes trailed from Hizashi towards Shouta “I assume an air quirk could cause much of the same destruction if utilized in that way.” she was staring straight at Shouta and the hero met her gaze evenly and easily – it didn't take too long before the woman lowered her eyes again; either uncomfortable with the intensity of Shouta's stare or just unable to stop herself from blinking.

“We will be in touch if anything else comes up.” she went on “After we are done with the bureaucracy of this case the court will take over – they will be in touch as soon as they have a date for the hearing. You may go now.”

“Thanks.” Hizashi smiled at her and shoved his chair back so he was able to get up “I really have to get to the station.”

“Already working again?” the police woman asked idly, her eyes following Hizashi with a sharpness that betrayed her casual tone – her gaze drawing over the band-aids on Hizashi's face.

“Well, my voice is still good to go!” Hizashi grinned “And no one can see what I actually look like through the radio anyway – it’s not like TV.” he explained enthusiastically, as if he was honesty excited that someone had asked about his job “On the other hand TV has so many special effects nowadays, maybe they could real time airbrush away all the band-aids?” Hizashi tapped his finger against his chin in contemplation “Can they do that? Sounds fake but who knows? It would be like, super cool though, but also like, really weird, like just imagine, they could put anyone they wanted in front of the camera and then just overlay that person with another image, like-” Hizashi was rambling – very likely trying to appear like a right airhead and, going by the annoyed, yet subtle, eye-roll the police woman tried to hide it seemingly was working.

Shouta suppressed the slight up-twitch at the corner of his mouth as he watched Hizashi playing his role. He raised his right arm and placed it in the nook of Hizashi's left elbow, making the other man stop mid-sentence “You have your radio show and I still have to go over my notes for my Monday class, so let’s go.”

“Oh! Yes, sure thing honey-bunny!” Hizashi giggled like a love-sick teenager and hooked both his arms around Shouta's upper right one “I didn't want to waste time, sorry for going off on a tangent there.” Hizashi let out a slightly sheepish sounding, high-pitched titter. He gave a nearly silly wave towards the police woman “Well, we’ll be going then.” he grinned. The police woman only nodded mutely, her eyes lingering for a second – flickering between both men – before she returned her attention back to her computer screen.

“You know, the TV thing really bothers me now.” Hizashi continued to prattle as he and Shouta made their way towards the door “Like, that sounds like some sci-fi horror movie. Like that cyberpunk stuff… that's what it’s called isn't it?” they both stepped through the door and Shouta closed it behind them with his free hand, Hizashi was still hanging off of him, running his mouth “Like, I haven't read much about the genre, so maybe I'm confusing terms here.” they walked down the corridor, making their way towards the exit.

When they entered the main hall Hizashi gave another silly wave to the person currently manning the front desk, he was still hanging off of Shouta like some sort of decoration, like a trophy… the comparison made Shouta's jaw clench, still, it was probably for the best if everyone just assumed that Hizashi was some air-headed blond who’s only quality was that he looked pretty – no matter how much Shouta might dislike that shallow notion.

They both left the building – stepping outside. One block down the street Hizashi finally stopped his unceasing blubber, his excited expression melted off his face, instead replaced with something closer to calculation. He drew back – his arms no longer clutching around Shouta.

“Something’s not right here.” Hizashi said, his voice quiet, his eyes trailing around the streets as if he expected someone to eavesdrop on them.

Shouta gave a short grunt in agreement, his posture slumping again slightly – back to its usual slouch. He stuffed his hands into his pant pockets “I do not believe that Kuronuma-san attacked you out of jealousy.”

Hizashi nodded, his fair brows furrowing in concentration “I don't believe that either. Something is weird about that guy, I knew it from the start but I don't think that it has anything to do with scorned love or the like.”

Silence settled between them and for a few long moments both men were lost to their own thoughts. Shouta's gaze wandered and finally settled back on Hizashi beside him, taking in the vigilantes face – the band-aids and scabbed over cuts there. He frowned, an uncomfortable feeling settling in his stomach. His lips thinned slightly, a heartbeat passed and then he spoke up again – intent on getting his circling thoughts out in the open “The man I found dead supposedly worked for Kuronuma-san’s agency as an informant. I have been wondering: What if they both worked together?”

Hizashi's lips pursed for a moment and an expression of deep concentration settled over his face. In the end his eyes widened in shocked realization “Do you think Outbreak might have killed the dude for whatever reason?”

“It certainly is a possibility.”

There was a beat of silence. Hizashi had started nipping on his bottom lip. He licked his mouth open again and then spoke up “Just a thought here, but maybe that’s the explanation for why he pulled the whole jealous admirer card. I mean, you heard the police woman, ‘it’s a clear cut case’ she said. If the police thinks he attacked me because of jealousy then they have their motive and their answers and they won’t see any reason to dig deeper into his life – and if they don’t dig deeper then they won’t uncover all the other shit he might have done.”

Shouta let out a low hum – now that would actually make a lot of sense. The police wouldn’t uncover the murder – if Kuronuma had indeed done it – if they had no reason to look in the first place. Maybe this was simply to dissuade everyone from looking too deeply into it – just give them a sound and plausible reason and they would lose interest. A clear cut case, indeed. And after all, a jail sentence for assault was still a lot better than one for murder.

And yet… he still wondered… he still worried “Why go after you?” he asked – speaking his thoughts aloud. A dark frown settled on his face – the question had been haunting him since the night before. The words left a bitter taste in his mouth.

“As far as Kuronuma-san knows you're just a civilian. If he wanted to get rid of the one investigating the murder case and everything around it then he should have just attacked me directly. That would make a lot more sense, and he had enough opportunities to do it.” he elaborated, his dark eyes fixed on Hizashi beside him.

He had agonized over their relationship and its possible dangers since the very beginning… and one of his biggest worries had always been this fear that the people who might come after him might take a look at Hizashi and consider him an easier target. And maybe that had been Kuronuma’s thought process too.

Shouta felt restless and on edge, guilty and ashamed in an abstract way that couldn't be explained with words… concerned and afraid for the well-being of the man he loved… He felt anxious – a sense of dread welling up within him. He had come too late yesterday evening… what if something like all of this happened again? What if he came too late again? What if there was nothing left to do but to bury the body?

Shouta swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat down. His rational mind clung stubbornly to the knowledge that Hizashi's quirk was extremely powerful – it reminded him that the blond man was extremely intelligent and had taken care of himself until now and that he didn't need Shouta clucking after him like a hen… but Hizashi was only human, wasn't he? Powerful quirk or not – he could die just like everybody else.

Hizashi let out a thoughtful noise at his question, his lips twitching in that peculiar way of his “Maybe it was supposed to be one of those: ‘I’ll take everything you love and then kill you’-things?”

Shouta lowered his gaze at that, his lips flattening into a thin bloodless line – it sounded so real when Hizashi spoke it out directly like that “I thought of that too.” he gave back softly. He thought of it more than what was probably considered healthy.

There was a nearly tense pause… “But it just feels kinda lacking.” Hizashi said “Like that isn’t the full picture? Like we might be missing something. Can’t really describe it – just call it a gut feeling.” here he shrugged.

“You know what I have been wondering about?” Hizashi continued after a beat of silence – Shouta gave an inquisitive hum, signalling to the other man that he should keep going “What kind of moron runs that hero agency?”

Shouta let out an intrigued noise at that, happy to occupy his circling – worried and nagging – mind with something else “Like, first they have some completely unqualified guy as an informant, then one of their heroes goes rouge and they cut ties before anything bad happens. Their PR department must be working double time right now trying to put out that trash fire.” Hizashi said, one arm waving in the air as he spoke – emphasising his words.

“When I was investigating at the agency I wondered about that too. Back then I assumed they had not really paid the dead man for information and that there was something else was going on.” a small frown settled on his face “Maybe Kuronuma-san tricked them too and only used them to do his own thing – and that is why so many strings lead back to them?”

Hizashi let out a thoughtful noise at that, his teeth nipping over his bottom lip a few times “Don’t know.” he said slowly “I mean sure, hero agencies can be incredibly incompetent but to this extend? And with their quick promise that they are going to pay for all the damage it just seems like they are trying to sweep something under the rug, like, a mountain of trash but it’s just some small doormat sized rug they place on top of it and then call it done.”

Shouta couldn't help but snort at that mental image and Hizashi bumped into him good-naturedly, smiling at him.

“Also,” the blond man spoke up again, his brows furrowing “I flipped through a few gossip newspapers today and I haven't really seen all that much news coverage concerning this whole thing. I mean, sure, it’s nothing ‘big’ but I would have assumed that more of those rags would have sunk their teeth into the whole ‘Lovers spat destroys several cars’-thing… It’s only a small hand full that mention it at all.”

Truthfully Shouta wasn't very upset about that bit of information – the less people knew about what had happened the night before the happier he was… but still, Hizashi had a point “The agency is probably trying to keep it all under wraps – as you said, their PR department is very likely in full damage control mode right now.” Shouta began but then he paused for a moment “Still, it would probably be a good idea for me to give them another visit and ask some pointed questions – maybe they will slip up and reveal something that could actually explain why all of this happened in the first place.” another short pause “Maybe I will visit Kuronuma-san as well. I don't really expect much but you never know.” he shrugged.

At the very least he wanted an explanation for why the now ex-hero had went after Hizashi – he wanted the true reason. He needed to understand it to be able to prevent it from ever happening again.

Hizashi nodded slowly “That’s a good idea. There might be more people involved beside Outbreak – that dude doesn't quite strike me as a villainous mastermind after all… Gathering information is going to be a lot of trouble though.” a short pause, Hizashi lowered his eyes to the ground “I won’t be able to help you with that.” he said slowly “It’s clear that the police has at least gotten somewhat suspicious of me… I mean, that Yukimura-san really tried to trip both of us up – did you see the way she glared at me? The police will probably start observations or try and keep an eye on me in other ways…” Hizashi trailed off, his expression a cross between worry, anger and thoughtfulness “It looks like you'll have to do all the work alone – at least for a bit, while I see if the police stops being suspicious anytime soon… or not.” at the last part Hizashi's nose wrinkled, his lips pulling down into an unhappy and slightly uncertain frown “Sorry.” it was nearly a squawk.

“It’s fine.” Shouta gave back easily “I’d rather you stay out of this than draw unnecessary attention.” having to deal with the police too was really the last thing they needed right about now.

“It’s not like they can prove anything.” Hizashi pouted.

“Unless they catch you red-handed.” Shouta retorted, his eyes fixing on Hizashi, one brow raised in challenge – the other man wrinkled his nose in clear distaste, his lips twitching in that peculiar way of his, though he didn't say anything else “I can handle this.” Shouta reassured him anyway.

“I know!” Hizashi huffed “Just… if Outbreak is indeed only the tip of this iceberg and there are still more people involved in all of this and they sent someone after me, then they sure as fuck gonna send someone after you too… I worry…”

Shouta's expression softened “I understand.” his words were gentle, holding truth. He worried too – though not about his own safety “Just concentrate on staying low, that is enough for now. You know what might happen otherwise.” he continued, his words were sombre and serious.

“Yeah” Hizashi nodded, tone a mimic of Shouta's “The press is gonna have a field day ripping us apart, and every scumbag in a thousand mile radius will be stuck to our asses, like old gum under a shoe.”

There was a pregnant pause and then “Wow, all of this is a real bummer isn't it?” Hizashi asked, his tone light-hearted, he let out a small giggle - it didn't sound all that amused though - before he continued “Anyways! It’s getting late and I have to be at the station soon.”

Shouta's lips flattened at that – a second later he opened his mouth but in the end he closed it again, uncertain. Hizashi really didn't need him fussing over him but… after last night Shouta still felt somewhat off-kilter “Do you want me to walk you there?” he finally asked.

Hizashi blinked at him, surprise clear on his face – for a heartbeat Shouta fully expected the other man to rebuke him – but then a warm smile settled on Hizashi's face “Sure! It’s really sweet of you to offer, darling.” a short pause, Hizashi's expression seemed to waver “Since I can’t snoop around with the police on my heel I won’t be able to go anywhere tonight anyways… so maybe I could come over after I'm done with the show this evening?” the question was nearly tentative, the tone of Hizashi's words strange and slightly uneven – and in that moment Shouta realized that the other man was just as worried about Shouta as Shouta was worried about him.

He gave a nonchalant shrug “Sure.” he agreed easily “Right now it is more rational to stick together whenever possible, that way no one can catch us alone or unaware.” he said, trying to put a logical spin on both their illogical emotions. Hizashi shot him a slightly sly look – clearly seeing through Shouta's ruse, though he didn't comment “Do you want me to get you after you are done with work?” Shouta asked after a moment.

Hizashi nodded “That would be lovely.” and with that both men were on their way. Hizashi filled the air between them with excited blabber, talking about everything and nothing at the same time, fluttering from one topic to the next easily and fluidly.

Shouta beside him only hummed and grunted from time to time to signal that he was listening – he didn't really feel like talking right in that moment and he was more than content to simply listen to Hizashi's pleasantly lilting voice. This was comfortable and familiar and Shouta felt his shoulders relaxing – he hadn't realized just how tense he had been until now.

The walk to the station didn't take terribly long and they soon reached their destination. They stopped in front of the stairs leading up to the front door.

“Well,” Hizashi said “there we are.” his concentric eyes fixed on Shouta's face, there was a strange glint there “Guess I’ll see you later then.” a second of pause “Try and get home safely.” it sounded nearly like a question.

Shouta gave a soft hum “I’ll try.” he gave back and then he added “Try not to get in unnecessary trouble.” he tried for joking though he felt like he had missed the mark – his words sounding much more concerned than easy-going.

He was sure Hizashi must have picked up on it too but the other man didn't mention it, instead he let out a titter – playing along “I’ll try.” his words were serious despite the mirth that clung to them. For a second they both remained where they were and then Hizashi turned to take the stairs up to the station.

Shouta watched mutely until the other man had disappeared into the building before he turned and made his way home. He made a small detour though – visiting the grocery shop. He arrived at his apartment a while later. And after stowing the grocery's away he flipped open his laptop.

The first thing he did was to open his browser, and a few moments later soft music was flowing out from the speakers – his gaze fell nearly absent-mindedly to the clock at the lower corner of his screen… Hizashi's next talk segment would be in another ten minutes he noticed idly.

A few mouse clicks later he brought up his lesson plan – eyes sweeping over the notes for the classes he had tomorrow, making sure everything was in order and that there was nothing important missing.

At some point he moved on from his lesson plan – pulling out his notebook and a pen as he started wording questions for the next big test. The low hum of music filled the air, it was sometimes interrupted by Hizashi's peppy voice blabbering on about something or else – it made the corners of Shouta's mouth quirk up the slightest bit.

Unlike usually Shouta kept an attentive eye on the time, his gaze drawing to the wall clock every so often. In the end he closed his notebook again and put his pen away. He turned up the volume of his laptop so he would be able to hear it and then stood up, he ruffled a hand through his hair before he made his way into the kitchen.

He washed his hands, shoved his sleeves up to his elbows and then went to work cutting up everything he had bought at the grocery store – the cutting part always was the most time consuming step.

When he was finished he arranged everything neatly on a big plate and then set up the table – first the still unplugged portable stove in the middle of the table and then everything else around it. His eyes flickering to the wall clock in the living room from time to time.

In the end he took the big stoneware pot and filled it with water – he put the kombu in to soak and then put the lid back. He rubbed his hands off with a dish towel and eyed the whole setup – he nodded to himself, placed the towel back on the kitchen counter and then walked out of the kitchen and back into the living room.

He closed the internet tab – his apartment falling silent again – and then closed the lid of the laptop before he made his way to the front door. He pulled on his shoes and not too long after he stepped out of the door.

He felt more hyper-aware than ever but that was to be expected after what had happened the night before. Still, the walk was uneventful and when Shouta drew up to the radio station he slowed his steps slightly – he pulled out his phone from his pocket and checked the time. He still had a handful of minutes before Hizashi would be done.

He pocketed his phone again and then took the last few steps closer so he could lean against the waist-high stone wall framing the steps that lead up to the front door of the station. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and settled in to wait.

At some point the glass door opened with the loud screech of rusty hinges and Shouta turned his head slightly – he watched as Hizashi stepped out of the building. The vigilante obviously looked around and soon enough his green eyes settled on Shouta – a grin appeared on his face.

He made his way towards Shouta – there was an excited skip in his steps and Shouta couldn't quite stop the corners of his mouth from twitching up just the slightest bit. Hizashi drew up beside him “You didn't wait too long did you?” the vigilante asked immediately.

“No.” Shouta gave back simply – he didn't know how long he had waited but he didn't particularly care either.

“Work today was good.” Hizashi began after a moment, he started walking and Shouta fell into step beside him easily enough “You know, we had letter readings this pre-noon and some were so utterly stupid that I had too keep myself from bursting into laughter while I read them. Like, one was from a woman who was so offended that one of her friends put on a yellow dress to her wedding and she was asking for advice on how to passive aggressively let her know that she really hadn't been hype about that. Like, can you imagine? Like, she wrote in the letter that she had wanted everyone to wear like beige colours, like warm tones, somewhere from white to light yellow but apparently that specific yellow just was a big no-no for some reason. As a bit of advice I only said that she should just give her friend a colour chart the next time she marries.” Hizashi snickered.

Shouta only hummed and nodded along to Hizashi's blabber “Ah.” Hizashi sighed after a moment, a kind of sheepish realization in his voice “That’s probably super boring for you.”

“It is.” Shouta gave back bluntly “I listened in so I already know all of that.” here he paused for a second “If you want to tell it to me anyway that's fine.” sure, it was boring to hear something you already knew a second time but Shouta also just loved to hear Hizashi's boyishly excited blabber – so it wasn't like it was annoying or a hardship.

It was quiet for a few heartbeats and Shouta's gaze slipped to the man walking beside him – Hizashi was blinking at him “Oh.” the blond man said, he sounded strangely delighted and then a second later a somewhat teasing grin settled on his face “Aww, do you like my voice so much?”

“I do.” no hesitation.

Another blink… a very faint flush “You’re so blunt.”

“I have been told.” Shouta gave back wryly.

“Welp!” Hizashi exclaimed, popping the ‘p’ “I’m not complaining. But there is no reason for me to waffle on if you know all that stuff already. But!” he sing-songed the last word “I usually flip through all the letters we get, even the ones we don't read out loud on the show. So there is still a lot of stuff I can talk about that you don't know.” he was grinning nearly smugly, he wiggled his eyebrows and it made Shouta snort.

“Go on then.” he prompted and Hizashi took him up on the offer immediately – exuberantly chattering about all the other letters he had flipped through during his work. His talk slowed as they reached the apartment complex and then trailed off completely as soon as they stepped into the stairway – he probably didn't want to bother the other people living there.

They ascended the stairs and finally stopped in front of Shouta's door – the hero unlocked the door and both men stepped inside. While Hizashi was already pulling his shoes off Shouta locked the door behind them again.

Hizashi straightened up again, he stretched a little “I’m gonna use the bathroom for a moment, yes?” he asked but it wasn't really a question – he was already on his way. Not that Shouta minded. He watched Hizashi disappearing into the bathroom and then pulled off his own shoes – he made his way back towards the kitchen.

Once there he plugged the portable stove in, turned it on and then placed the stoneware pot on it. The apartment was quiet and Shouta leaned his hip against the table as he lifted the lid off the pot – waiting for the water to reach a temperature just below boiling before he fished out the kombu again. He threw the piece of kelp away and then waited for the water to reach a proper boil.

“Shouta?” it called – nearly confused.

“Kitchen.” he gave back – moving around the table to sit down on his chair.

“Kitchen?” there was the quiet fall of feet approaching and a short moment later Hizashi appeared in the doorway of the kitchen “Oh...” it sounded pleasantly surprised “You made dinner.” Hizashi pointed out rather redundantly.

Shouta snorted “Why do you sound so surprised?” he asked, voice close to a chuckle, he shot Hizashi a look – one brow raised, lips curled into a small smile.

“Don’t really know.” the blond man shrugged “I didn't take you for the cooking type?” it sounded like a question “More like the take-out or delivery type.” he stepped into the room fully, making his way towards the set table. His green eyes flickering over the big plate – taking in all the chopped vegetables and mushrooms. He suddenly let out a pleased sounding hum “You got marbled beef too.” he noted nearly idly.

Shouta hummed lowly “You’re not wrong. I usually don't cook. It is a hassle and a waste of time to prepare food for only one person.”

Hizashi's eyes flickered from the set table up to Shouta – there was a strange expression on his face, one that Shouta couldn't quite describe. The vigilante drew closer, walking past the second empty chair at the table – instead he drew up behind Shouta.

Shouta blinked in surprise as arms suddenly slipped around his shoulder from behind, two hands interlinking their fingers over his upper chest – a chin settled on the top of his head as Hizashi stepped as close as he cloud with the back of the chair between them.

Hizashi pulled slightly and Shouta went with the motion until the back of his head rested against the other mans chest.

“Looks good.” Hizashi commented, voice softer than it had been a moment ago. He dipped his head down a little, his nose nuzzling through Shouta's black hair.

“It’s just shabu shabu.” Shouta gave back, a frown clearly audible in his voice. It wasn't as if this was something fancy or expensive or extravagant – it wasn't even really difficult to make, the biggest hassle was cutting all the ingredients.

He felt Hizashi's arms tightening around his chest and a second later he felt the soft press of lips against the crown of his head. Shouta let out a huff, yet he still tipped his head to the left a little – Hizashi took the obvious invitation and a second later chapped lips landed on Shouta's right cheek “It’s nothing special, you know.” Shouta said, his voice flat – truthfully he wasn't quite sure what all the commotion was about.

Hizashi suddenly halted, his lips still against Shouta's cheek. He drew back a moment later, his chin returning to rest against the top of Shouta's head “It’s special to me.” Hizashi gave back, his voice soft, nearly a murmur.

Silence settled after that, it lasted so long that Shouta simply assumed Hizashi didn't want to elaborate further but then “I told you, didn't I? My parents were always working when I was young so we didn't really do home made dinners… and certainly not stuff like hot pot.” there was a short yet pregnant pause “This is just… really nice” Hizashi mumbled before he tipped his head down again to nuzzle his nose through Shouta's hair another few times “Maybe next time we can cook something together?” he asked softly.

Shouta only nodded “Yeah.” he said simply “I’d like that.”

Another pause and then Hizashi drew back “Goodie!” he half yelled, back to his excited self. He walked around Shouta and sat himself onto the second chair at the table “Then let’s get eating!” his voice was downright giddy and Shouta couldn't suppress a fond huff.

For a while both men simply ate in silence though it didn't take long for Hizashi to break the quiet again “Oh, oh!” he said, voice full of boyish excitement “I forgot to mention that I got an update from my colleague. I mean, we don't talk all that much because we work different hours and segments but we text sometimes and he sent me a bunch of really nice pictures from his vacation.” Hizashi placed his chopsticks between his lips – freeing both his hands so he could fumble out his phone.

He looked incredibly silly like that – the two reusable chopsticks sticking out of his mouth while his hands were busy tapping away at the screen of his phone. Shouta suppressed a fondly-exasperated snort at the display.

In the end Hizashi pulled the chopsticks out from between his lips with one hand and pushed the mobile over the table top towards Shouta with the other “Here, here! Look!” he urged, smiling and Shouta looked duly – it was a picture of a beach, not that Shouta could tell what beach or where it might be; most beaches looked the same anyway.

They spent the rest of their dinner with idle chit-chat – well, Hizashi did and Shouta listened and nodded and hummed at the appropriate times – they washed the dishes together afterwards. And when everything was stowed away again they moved to settle on the couch in the living room.

It didn't take long before Hizashi started moving closer, until he could snuggle against Shouta's side - he drew his feet up onto the couch “You know,” he said and his voice lacked the peppiness it had held only a few moments ago, his tone uncharacteristically sombre “…all of this is a real mess.”

Shouta hummed in agreement before he moved his left arm so he could sling it around Hizashi's shoulder – he drew the other man closer still until they were flush with each other, holding him. He tipped his chin down a little and pressed his lips against Hizashi's forehead in a tender, lingering kiss – the vigilante let out a slightly uneven yet pleased sigh; his fingers curling a little, clinging onto Shouta's shirt.

Hizashi was right – all of this was a mess.

Chapter Text

Shouta woke to the insistent beeping of his phone alarm – he groaned and buried his face into loose blond hair.

“Your alarm is ringing.” Hizashi mumbled into the crook of his neck, his words slurred – more so than what was normal. Of the two of them Hizashi was, without a doubt, the early bird… yet the fact that the other man was snuggling closer – hiding his face against Shouta's throat – told Shouta more than enough. It was clear that the vigilante was just as exhausted as he himself was – the stress of the weekend catching up with both of them.

“I know.” Shouta rasped back.

“It’s on your side.”

Shouta let out a grunt and tried to untangle himself – it was harder than it should have been, what with Hizashi clinging to him stubbornly and refusing to let go. Finally Shouta managed to turn onto his back – Hizashi had followed along and was now laying draped over his right arm and half of his chest, his cheek smushed against Shouta's pectorals – he stretched his arm out and only just so managed to get a grip on his phone on the night stand.

He pulled it closer, cracking open one eye to stare at the much too bright screen, his thumb swept over the screen nearly clumsily. He shut the alarm off and then let the phone drop to the bed beside him before his now free left hand moved to comb through blond hair – Hizashi let out a noise that was a strange mix between pleased and displeased and turned his head so his nose pressed into Shouta's sternum in a petulant way.

“Just leave me to die.” Hizashi moaned over dramatically while simultaneously nuzzling closer. Shouta snorted at the other mans theatrics.

“You can stay in bed but I have to get up to go to work.” he said, a smile audible in his still scratchy voice.

“Why are all your classes so early?” Hizashi groaned.

“I’m the home room teacher, I have to do roll call.”

“Aww hell, you have to get up this early every morning just to do roll call?”

“It’s going to kill me one of these days.” Shouta said and it was only half joking – as someone who primarily worked night shifts and who only got back home in the wee hours of the morning it could be a real struggle to get up this early. And it only got harder and harder the older he got. Also it didn't help that he hadn't managed to fall asleep the day before either – anxiety and worried keeping him awake.

“It’s going to kill me too!” it was a childish whine – muffled against Shouta's chest.

Shouta let out an amused sounding huff “Let go.”

“No!” Hizashi shot back – petulant and pouting.

Shouta gave a long-suffering sigh through his nose, half fond and half annoyed. A second of stillness passed and then he manhandled Hizashi off of himself – the blond man struggled and clung and complained the whole time. In the end – when it became clear that Hizashi was no match for Shouta like this – the vigilante simply flopped onto the other side of the bed, burying his face in the pillow.

“You’re too strong!” Hizashi griped, sounding miffed.

“I thought you liked that.” Shouta gave back, a chuckle audible in his voice. He pushed himself out of bed.

“Not if you use it against me and deprive me of my well-deserved cuddles!”

Shouta just hummed obligingly at that – humouring Hizashi. He made his way towards his wardrobe to get himself some fresh clothes, behind him the bed rustled as Hizashi propped himself up onto his elbows, his chest lifting slightly, his stomach still flush with the mattress. Shouta threw a glance over his shoulder at the other man – strands of his long blond hair hung over his face… he looked a right tousled mess and Shouta couldn't help it as the corners of his mouth twitched up just the slightest bit – endeared and amused in equal parts.

Hizashi brushed a hand through his hair, shoving the errand strands away – his concentric, green eyes idly trailing Shouta’s movements “You’re going to the police station later?” he asked.

“Yeah. I don't have afternoon classes today so that give me enough time to check up both with the police as well as Kuronuma-san’s agency.” he answered and pulled out a pair of sweatpants and an old shirt – that would do, he thought, he was wearing his hero costume over it anyway. His eyes returned from his clothes selection back to Hizashi.

The vigilante wore a strange expression, his fair brows drawn into a severe frown, eyes thoughtful – he was chewing on his lower lip. Finally he licked his mouth open again “Well, I guess I’ll just go to work as well… later I mean.” Hizashi's expression shifted into something displeased – nearly beaten down.

Shouta let out a huff through his nose “I know you don't like the fact that you can not really do anything right about now, but this is for the best.”

“I know! But that doesn't change the fact that this sucks and that I'm pissed, okay?” Hizashi sighed loudly and high-pitched “I mean that little punk attacked me! Like, yo! This is super personal now and I'm angry as hell, like, the utter gall! He probably thought I was some easy target!” Hizashi's mouth curled downwards, making his moustache twitch slightly with the movement “Like, he nearly blew my cover and now the cops might be on my ass too! And now I can’t do anything except twiddling my thumbs! And that just makes me even more angry, you feel? I hate sitting on my hands like that! I'm just flopping about like some sad sausage.”

Shouta regarded the other man for a few long moments, he felt something inside his chest softening. In the end he let out a low – soothing – noise and sat himself down on the bed beside Hizashi. He turned his upper body so that he could look at the other man properly a heartbeat passed as he caught Hizashi's eyes with his own gaze “I know this is frustrating for you.” he started.

He folded his clothes into his lap and reached his right hand out so he could brush it through the other mans hair – Hizashi leaned into his touch slightly “I understand – I hate sitting idle too when I know there is still work to be done.” he tucked a few loose strands behind Hizashi's ear “But this is for the best. We simply can not risk your secret identity getting out – it would be disastrous for both of us.”

“I know.” Hizashi sighed – he sounded exhausted.

Shouta drew his hand back into his lap, fingers hooking under his clothes again “I can handle this.” his words were sure and steady.

“I know!” Hizashi said, words forceful “I know.” he repeated a little softer – as if he was conceding “You are a good hero in every sense of the word and that's rare but I want to pull my weight too! I know I could help but I'm just sitting around! I can do more than that!”

Shouta shot the other man a small smile, he was sure it was conveying his thoughts well enough but just in case he spoke them out as well – after all Hizashi relied heavily on words and talk and Shouta thought it was important to try and meet halfway “I know that feeling – believe me I do.”

This creeping feeling of uselessness, this uncomfortable knowledge of just floating along with no real idea of what you could do to help, questioning your own worth… Was this good enough? Could he be trusted with this? Was he doing it right? Could he do more? Why wasn't he doing more?

Shouta had long since learned that it was best to push those thoughts aside as soon as they cropped up – they were useless; they made him uncertain when that was something he couldn't allow himself to be as a hero. He needed to be confident in his own abilities and worth, reliable, able to hold his own – and if he couldn't do that then there was no place for him on the hero market, simple as that.

Still, that knowledge and attitude alone didn't guarantee that all those doubting questions didn't rear up again once in a while during a weak moment or after an especially tiresome day – circling like vultures.

“What you do is good enough.” Shouta said, voice earnest and serious.

“It’s still stupid!” Hizashi was huffing and puffing by now.

“I know.” Shouta gave back simply before he stood up again and started to change. Hizashi behind him was silent for the longest time – the atmosphere of the room felt strange – in the end the vigilante spoke up again.

“Should I put your keys into the letterbox when I leave?”

Shouta nodded “Yeah.” there was a beat of silence as Shouta mulled over how inconvenient all of this was “Maybe it is time we exchange keys.” he added finally – it was logical too, both of them were staying at each others place so often by now… it was simply a huge hassle that they couldn't come and go as they pleased.

He looked back towards the bed after he was done changing but all he saw was Hizashi grinning at him blithely for no apparent reason – he didn't dwell on it and instead simply turned to leave.

“Ah!” Hizashi said, sounding playfully chastising “Goodbye kiss.” he sing-songed. Shouta only rolled his eyes but he still walked back to the bed anyway, bowing down to press a kiss against the other mans forehead before he turned and walked towards the door again – he heard Hizashi giggling behind him, it sounded nearly gleeful.

Shouta picked up his hero suit – still draped over the back of the couch – and put it on before he made his way towards the front door; kicking on his boots before he left the apartment.

The warm, relaxed feeling of waking up safe in his own home with Hizashi beside him evaporated as soon as he stepped into the street. His dark eyes swept around, observing tensely. The train ride was the worst part of it all, it made his muscles coil tighter and tighter to the point where he feared he might snap any second now – like a taut bowstring. Every person brushing against him accidentally made him bristle, his teeth grinding together as his rational mind tried to hold onto his composure.

He breathed an inaudible sigh of relive as he finally stepped through the gates to UA – his shoulders dropping a little as some of the tension bled out of his body. He ascended the stairs to his classroom, he pushed the door open and waited until the first ring of the bell. He checked that all his students were there and then left the room so the first period could start properly.

He walked down the corridor towards the teacher lounge, his hands buried deep in his pockets, his shoulders curled inwards, his jaw jumping from time to time as he grit his teeth before consciously unclenching them again a few moments later.

He pushed the door open, making a beeline for his desk intent on getting some work done. He sat down at his desk and pulled out the folder that he used to keep track of what exact topics he had already done this year – he flipped it open and grabbed a notebook and a pen. He was just about to start writing down the first question for the next big test when the door to the teachers room shoved open again and Kayama walked in.

Her heels clicked loudly against the floor as she made her way towards her own desk. She sank into the chair with an exhausted sounding groan “So much stress.” she sighed, the heel of her right hand raising to rub over her forehead “I hate coming in so early.”

Shouta let out a humourless snort “Tell me about it.” he retorted, only just suppressing an eye-roll.

“Oh yes, homeroom and roll call.” Kayama said as if she had just remembered that particular detail – Shouta gave a grunt, his eyes lifting from his notebook for a second to regard the woman opposite of him. Kayama was currently in the process of fumbling her phone out of her too tight pants. Shouta lowered his eyes again, his pen hovering over the paper as he mulled over how many points he wanted to give for that question.

“How was your weekend?” Kayama asked her voice much too nonchalant – her painted red nails clicking against the screen of her phone as he tapped her fingers against it. She was seemingly looking for something specific.

Shouta only just managed to keep his face from scrunching up into a disgruntled grimace “Eventful.” he gave back shortly – truthful, yet also omitting everything else. The weekend had been a mess as Hizashi had so eloquently put it and telling Kayama about all of it would serve no purpose.

“You know I like to keep up with the gossip magazines.” she informed – changing the topic so quickly Shouta felt as if he had gotten mental whiplash from it. He looked up from his notebook again, his dark gaze settling onto Kayama. He blinked at the woman equal parts confused and inquisitive.

“Here.” was all the said before she reached her arm out – pointing the screen of her phone towards Shouta.

Shouta's eyes narrowed dangerously, his jaw jumping as he read the headline “There was this story about some random fight that blew up part of a street.” Kayama elaborated “It wasn't anything big, I have only seen it mentioned once or twice here or there and I didn't think much about it until I saw a photo in one of the articles.” she turned her phone towards her for a second, her thumb scrolling before she pushed the screen back into Shouta's face.

Right there was a photo of him from last Saturday – standing in the middle of the pavement, talking to the police officer. His jaw jumped again as he remembered the people that had drawn up to the windows, pointing their phones at him – it was likely that one of them had taken the photo and it had somehow made its way to whatever gossip rag had written the article in front of him.

Thankfully his back was turned towards the camera. Furthermore the quality of the image was simple and plainly atrocious and then there was also the fact that everything was dark – the lampless street made it nearly impossible to even make out much of his body build, what with his black hero suit blending right into it… and yet his white capture weapon around his neck stood out like a sore thumb in the photo.

For a second Kayama’s face pulled down in a near wince “Truth be told, the photo looks like someone took it with a potato while riding a sybian.” she said “but-” here she put emphasis on the b as well as the t, making the word sound like it popped “-I can easily recognise that white stripe of cloth. There’s only one hero I know who runs around in a black bag like that with a white cloth around their neck.”

Shouta's mouth flattened into a thin line and it took him a second to answer “Yes, that’s me.” he finally conceded, his words nearly a sigh.

Kayama hummed at that, she turned the screen of her phone towards herself again, tapping a few times, her nails clicking softly each time “The article is really vague – no names or anything and it mostly just focuses on the destruction. Did you finally find whoever you have been after for who knows how long now?” she asked, her tone sincere.

“No.” Shouta mumbled, more to himself than anyone else. True, maybe Kuronuma was behind all of this. Maybe he was the head of whatever group Hizashi and he were after… but Shouta just felt that that wasn't the case – he felt it in his bones, down to his very marrow. Non of this made sense.

“No?” Kayama asked and she seemed to deflate a little “Damn, I thought maybe you had finally gotten on top of all of that. So this” she nodded at her phone “-was just some random street fight you broke up?”

For a second Shouta was feeling torn – how much of this did he really want to tell Kayama? Would it even be safe to tell her? He had a chance to just let this die now – hadn't he. He could simply tell her that, yes, it had just been some random fight he had broken up… he regarded the woman for a long moment – indecisive.

“If you don't want to talk about it, I understand.” Kayama suddenly spoke up again her words sounded strange – nearly reassuringly. Shouta's lips flattened, his free left hand rose up to comb through his hair, all the way down until his palm was resting in the nook between his neck and shoulder.

His eyes flickered down for a second, looking at his half written question on the paper and then up again, over the top of both Kayama's and his computer screen – his gaze settling on the woman opposite of him… He let out a soft, resigned huff through his nose.

“Do you remember Outbreak?” Shouta asked and placed his pen down – giving up on getting any work done; at least for the moment.

Kayama's face turned confused “That young hero who has been hanging off of you as of late?”

Shouta nodded solemnly “He attacked Hizashi that Saturday.”

Kayama's mouth opened and closed silently, once, twice – she looked not unlike a stranded fish. Her blue eyes were wide behind her cat-eye glasses “He what?!” she downright shouted – fortunately the room was currently empty expect for both of them. Shouta shot her a look, half disappointment and half long-suffering annoyance “Sorry.” Kayama said, her voice lowering again, back to a more appropriate level “But really.” she continued “You can’t just drop that on me like that and expect me to stay calm.”

Shouta's mouth pinched down a little but he didn't comment – he assumed he couldn't fault Kayama for her reaction. A second of silence passed between them, Kayama's face fell, her eyes taking on a worried spark “Did something happen?” she asked, her tone nearly tentative as if she was talking to a skittish animal “I mean, with Yamada-kun? Was he hurt?” her gaze flickered over Shouta's face – clearly trying to find the answer there.

Shouta felt his irritation mellow out slightly “No, Hizashi wasn't hurt and thankfully no one else got injured either. There was only property damage.”

Kayama's shoulders suddenly dropped, her chest raising and falling with an obviously deep breath “That’s a relieve.” she said. For a second it was quiet and then her expression scrunched up, a frown settling on her face “But why would that guy even attack Yamada-kun?” she asked, leaning as close as she could with two computer screens between them.

Shouta's jaw jumped at that question – it had been driving him up the wall since Saturday and he really wanted to know the answer too “He testified that he had done it because he was jealous.” he answered. Jealousy had been the ‘official’ answer but Shouta would be damned if he believed it.

“Jealous?” Kayama blinked, something like incomprehension on her face. She blinked again slowly and then her blue eyes suddenly widened in shocked realization “Oh my god!” she exclaimed “Is this some love triangle? Did the guy get the wrong impression? Is he one of those crazy obsessive types? Like ‘If I can’t have you nobody can’?”

Shouta heaved an exhausted sighed at the slew of questions “Truthfully I don't believe a word he said.” he explained, his eyes fixing on Kayama's. The woman blinked again and Shouta gave another sigh as he realized that she wanted him to elaborate “He didn't show any romantic or sexual interest in me.” he said simply – deciding to leave all of his other speculations out of this.

Kayama's filled brows drew down in a slight frown “Are you sure?” she asked, her voice careful “Maybe you just didn't notice?” her eyes slipped away from Shouta's gaze and for a few moments she seemed uncertain. Finally her eyes flickered up again “I just mean…” her mouth opened and closed soundlessly. Another few heartbeats passed “Maybe it just went over your head?” she asked cautiously.

At that Shouta’s eyes narrowed slightly, his lips flattening into a thin line and Kayama scrambled to hastily add “I don't mean to offend you or anything I swear. Maybe his flirting just wasn't all that obvious or something… I mean why else would that guy attack your boyfriend? What other reason could he have?” Kayama asked and Shouta didn't answer.

His jaw jumped, his body tensing – he really didn't want to throw around ulterior motives or maybe even murder accusations at this stage, especially since he had no real proof right now… furthermore he also didn't want to drag Kayama into the whole mess Hizashi and he were currently in. And then there was the very simple fact that Shouta didn't really want to delve deeper into all of this, he simply didn't want to elaborate and explain months of investigation while trying to leave Hizashi out of everything… His jaw jumped again.

“Is Yamada-kun fine?” Kayama suddenly asked, letting her previous questions drop just like that – backing off “You know… mentally? I don't want to insinuate anything but civilians aren't trained to deal with such high stress situations.”

Shouta let out a bone-weary sigh at that “He’s more angry than anything else, really.” he said, his mouth twitching slightly at the corners – Hizashi was positively fuming and his biggest concerns seemed to be that he couldn't jump straight into the action again “He’s already working again.” Shouta added.

Kayama gave a chuckle at that “Yeah, he seems the type who would get mad.” she shook her head to herself “Anyway, it’s good to know that everything is okay.” a few moments passed in silence and in the end Kayama pursed his lipstick red mouth a little “Still,” she started “-to think that you would be right in the middle of a quirk powered dick-measurement contest between two guys seems just so… unexpected.”

Shouta let out an irritated huff through his nose “Just leave it.” he groused.

“Sure, it’s shitty that all of this happened in the first place but honestly, Aizawa-kun, you have to admit that this is hilarious at some level. Beside, it is better to laugh at a bad situation than to cry over it – crying will just ruin your mascara.” Kayama said, her tone amused, she waved her hand in the air as if she was batting something away.

Shouta didn't grace that comment with an answer and instead lowered his gaze again to focus on his half written test question.

“You’re still so grumpy” Kayama scoffed good-naturedly, she was grinning as she said it. She didn't push though and instead went back to her own work a few moments later too.

The rest of the day passed slowly, time moving steadily and unstoppably and before Shouta really noticed it the last bell of the day had rung – signalling that his last class had ended. He packed his things and left – making his way towards the police station.

The streets weren't as crowded as they usually were – most people still at work around this time of the day. Shouta's eyes trailed around and he only realized that he was cautiously sweeping his eyes over everyone who was out and about after a handful of minuted. He grit his teeth, his shoulders tensing.

Thankfully he reached the police station quickly enough and without any unnecessary hold ups. He stepped through the front door, making his way towards the front desk. He slowed his steps as he realized that there was no one in the chair – instead two men stood leaned against the desk. Talking.

“Yeah, I don't really believe it either.” one said, fingers pulling absent-mindedly on one strand of his chest long, red hair “The guy just seemed like a complete dunce. Someone like that couldn't possibly be the Zip-Tie-Man. I talked with Hamasaki-kun yesterday – he took his testimony and seriously, from what I heard the guy probably has difficulties finding his own ass with his own two hands.”

The other officer let out a soft hum in what sounded like agreement, a second passed before he spoke up “Still, Yukimura-san seemed rather convinced he’s the real deal.” his words sounded weary for some reason, exhausted beyond physical tiredness.

The first officer blew out a dismissive raspberry “You know that she tends to make mountains out of mole hills. Remember the case a year ago?” the eye-roll was audible in his tone and the second officers expression pinching into a pained grimace as he nodded at that comment. The first man went on “Just because she is ‘convinced’ doesn't mean it’s true. In fact, with her track record I'm sure all of this is just a wild goose chase.” there was a short pause “Besides, I happened to see the guy when he and Eraserhead came in. He was nearly tripping over his own feet and he was talking so much nonsense. I mean he seems like a nice person… but seriously, all the light are on but there is absolutely no one home. Beside, do you really believe someone as elusive as the Zip-Tie-Man would actually start a relationship with a hero? He would have to be completely insane to take that risk.” another raspberry “Don’t make me laugh!” he barked a laugh.

The second officer nodded again in agreement “I mean, it’s true that Yukimura-san’s ‘gut feelings’ are horrible so I won’t hold by breath either. And I heard Hamasaki-kun talking about the testimony stuff too – the guy really doesn't seem too bright.” he started. He tipped his head to the side a little, a seemingly unconscious motion – his gaze went around his colleague in front of him, over his shoulder and he suddenly made direct eye contact with Shouta, who was standing behind both of them. The officers face blanched, his eyes widened – he seemed vaguely nauseous all of a sudden.

Obliviously the first officer went on “Right? That’s exactly what I think too. In all honesty I don't see what a hero like Eraserhead would find in him. The guy seems pretty high maintenance...” here he trailed off for a second “-then again I guess he is pretty enough to look at? At least if you ignore the hideous moustache. I tell you, if I had that kind of fuzz on my upper lip my girlfriend would probably wax it off while I slept and seriously, that would be for the best. I mean-”

“Eraserhead!” the second officer burst out, his voice pitching high and breaking on the last note. Shouta watched as the first officer froze, his entire body stiffening, shoulders and back tense and straight like a ruler. A few moments passed but then he turned around, looking up at Shouta – a forced smile on his face.

“Eraserhead!” he greeted, his face flushing up to the tips his ears, his eyes held a visible spark of something that toed the line to fear. He cleared his throat awkwardly “May I help you with something?”

Shouta regarded the other man for a few seconds, his dark gaze intense and unblinking. He noticed how the officer tried to avoid direct eye contact “I wanted to see if I could question Kuronuma Youta.” he gave back, his voice completely flat and monotone. The man in front of him started to squirm and Shouta watched as his colleague behind him slowly inched backwards – farther and farther away.

“You’ll have to talk to Yukimura-san about that – she is the leading officer on the case after all.” the first officer said, nervously flicking one strand of his chest length red hair between his fingers, his turquoise eyes sweeping over the floor as if he was searching for something that he had dropped.

“Is she in?” Shouta asked.

“Sure, it’s on this floor. Just go down that corridor and then the first one left. Room 0.14 is on your left.” he said, his words slightly uneven, his eyes staring at a spot beside Shouta's shoulder.

Shouta's eyes were still fixed on the other man, unblinkingly. A heartbeat or two passed and then a broad, toothy grin cleaved over his face – eery and insane – the police officer visibly shuddered “Thank you.” Shouta said; too-wide smile still splitting his lips wide. He inclined his head in a polite manner and then turned around to make his way down the corridor.

Behind him he could hear a breathy and shaking whisper “Oh my god!” it sounded downright distressed and Shouta's smile fell off his face again, instead replaced by an irritated scowl – he suppressed an annoyed huff.

Really, if people had something to say then they could say it to his face and not gossip behind his back about him and his relationship. He hated that kind of behaviour. Truly, he would never understand this greed for rumours that other people had. Really, what was the sense in building up a fake story you might never confirm? Why waste the time? What was the thrill there?

Also he couldn't help but disapprove of the fact that the officer seemingly manning the receptionist desk for the day had nothing better to do than ignore his work in favour of running his mouth. He shook his head to himself and stopped in front of the door for room 0.14 – he rapped his knuckles against the wood. A short moment of silence and then “Yes?” it snapped out of the room and Shouta immediately pushed the handle of the door down to step into the room.

Officer Yukimura flickered her eyes up from her work nearly disinterested. She blinked as her gaze settled on Shouta in realization. She put her pen down and folded both her hands onto the table top “Eraserhead.” she greeted and gave a curt nod “Do you need something?” she asked, waving her hand towards the two chairs in front of her desk.

Shouta gave an affirmative hum and nodded. He closed the door behind himself but remained standing where he was “I would like to personally interrogate Kuronuma-san.” he said bluntly – no point pussyfooting around the issue.

Yukimura frowned at him, her brows drawn down and her already thin mouth flattening into a straight line on her face. A moment passed and then she smacked her lips “Now, I don't think this case needs a heroes intervention. Everything is already taken care of after all – we only need to finish the last few reports and then the whole case will go to court. So frankly, I don't really see why you would want to talk to him.”

Shouta's eyes narrowed slightly, his jaw jumped – it was clear that Yukimura was more than just a little distrustful when it came to himself and Hizashi and with the way she spoke it was obvious that she didn't want a hero she suspected of fraternizing with a known vigilante anywhere near her case. It made sense and Shouta really couldn't fault her for it. He would have done the same thing if he were in her place… yet it still threw a wrench into his plans.

His expression smoothed out again – completely blank. Fine, if she didn't want a hero to meddle then Shouta wouldn't approach her as a hero “I would like to hear his reasons for attacking my lover – directly from his mouth. It would put my mind at ease.” Shouta gave back – the perfect picture of a worried boyfriend.

The woman in front of him let out a loud, irritated huff through her nose – she squinted at Shouta for a few long seconds “Look.” she said, her voice harsh “I will be frank here, I don't know what goes on in your private life and really? I don't give a damn either. Whatever weird love triangle you got going on with Kuronuma-san and Yamada-san is of no interested to me.” the way she pronounced Hizashi's surname nearly sounded as if she was spitting the syllables out in disgust “If you want to have another interrogation then that just gives me a whole bunch of extra paperwork for a case that is already done. There is no need for it.”

Shouta regarded the woman idly “But I'm not here as a hero.” he gave back easily “I’m just a visitor who would like some closure. And as far as I know visiting hours are still open. There would be no extra paperwork in that case.”

Yukimura’s eyes slitted into an angry glare. Seconds ticked away in utter silence… in the end she shock her head and let out a tired sounding sigh, one of her hands rose to rub over her forehead as if she was nursing a headache “Fine.” she ground out, clearly displeased. She pushed herself and her chair backwards a little and then stood up.

She walked up to Shouta “Follow me.” she commanded and walked past him and out of the door, Shouta followed after her silently. They down the corridor farther, taking a right and walking down that corridor too until they reached a flight of stairs. They descended the steps and then finally stopped in front of a door “Just keep it brief.” Yukimura said, throwing a sharp gaze over her shoulder at Shouta “I don't need any trouble, yeah?”

Shouta nodded mutely and the woman opened the door “You can find out on your own after you're done.” it wasn't a question – it was a demand.

“Yes.” Shouta answered anyway.

She gave another short nod and then turned and walked away again without saying another word – presumably returning back to her work. Shouta watched her until she had disappeared up the stairs again before he pushed the door open.

He stepped into the room, closing the door behind himself again. His eyes swept around the mostly empty room before he walked towards glass-walled cell. His gaze swept over the thick glass of the cell – it was very likely specifically build to apprehend people with energy or laser quirks like Kuronuma.

Shouta's dark stare settled on the man in question – Kuronuma was sitting on the cot against the wall, his legs hanging off the edge, feet touching the ground, his back flush with the wall behind him. His eyes were closed.

Shouta's lips thinned into a severe line as he contemplated how to start this conversation. Kuronuma’s eyes suddenly blinked open – he was nearly squinting – he slowly turned his head towards where Shouta stood. His head was still leaning against the wall and his eyes were watching Shouta with a kind of detached curiosity.

For a few long moments both men simply stared at each other, the air seemed charged somehow “You weren't jealous.” Shouta pointed out bluntly, speaking through the tiny holes in the glass wall that were there for this specific purpose. His dark gaze piercing right into the other mans eyes.

Kuronuma snorted and shook his head to himself slowly as if he found that particular statement extremely funny “Look, you're aren't a bad guy – character wise, you know.” he started, a crooked grin on his face “But you're really not my type. In fact, I probably wouldn't touch you with a pole if someone else was holding the pole. No offence.”

“Non taken.” Shouta gave back dryly, his expression deadpan “Why did you really attack Hizashi?”

“Well, because I was jealous.” it was a nonchalant quip.

Shouta's lips thinned “Did we not just agree that that isn't true?”

Kuronuma shrugged “That’s the official statement.”

“And the unofficial one?”

“That one is a big secret for everyone.” his lips twisted into a wry and sardonic smile.

Shouta let out a low hum, his expression smoothing out again “You know,” he started up again after a second of silence, his tone nearly bored “-your agency already fired you yesterday. They are washing their hands of you.” he pointed out idly – trying to approach this from a different angle “This whole case will go to a court and you will get sentenced to jail.”

Kuronuma pulled a face at that – half grimace, half resignation. It was quiet for a handful of seconds before the younger man spoke up again “Well, that’s what I expected.” he sighed out “No real surprise there, after all, being a liability isn't all that great for the people you're a liability to. No wonder they ditched me.”

Shouta's eyes momentarily strayed around the nearly empty room before settling back on the other man “Are you only a liability to your agency because you gave them bad PR, or are you a different kind of liability to someone else too? Someone more dangerous?” his eyes narrowed slightly, gaze sharp “You are part of a bigger group and someone is going to come after you, just like they came after your dead informant, no?”

A shrug “Maybe someone will come, maybe not. Depends on how much of a loose end I am.”

“So you think that as long as you mime a jealous, lovestruck idiot you aren't a loose end?”

Another shrug “Hopefully.”

“Your life might or might not be on the line – do you really want to take the chance and find out which way the coin will fall?” he pushed and Kuronuma averted his eyes, a tense expression passing over his face “If you tell me who is behind all of this I can take them in – which would mean you won’t have to worry about being disposed anymore.”

Kuronuma barked out a startled laugh at that, he laughed and laughed – it took a long while for him to calm down again “Look here.” he said, a humourless sort of mirth in his tone – his eyes fixing back on Shouta “I know you're a good hero, this isn't a dig at your prowess or anything, but I think you might have bitten off more than you can chew with this one.”

“That is for me to decide.”

“Stubborn.” Kuronuma chuckled “Also potentially insane.” he added before he let out a long breath through his mouth – not quite a sigh but close “I haven't seen such a serious hero in a long time, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air. But serious conviction or not, running after this is senseless.”

Shouta gave a non-committal hum “Is it though?” he challenged “They are already after me are they not? So either I take them in or they take me out – it is either-or at this point. So is it not even more senseless to back off now? When I would die anyway?”

There was a beat of quiet “Fair point.” Kuronuma said solemnly. Shouta let out an affirmative hum – Kuronuma’s eyes swept over his face “You don't seem overly concerned with your own mortality.” the younger man noted idly – though his eyes held a spark of curiosity; intrigued.

Shouta shrugged “Being an underground hero is inherently dangerous. I realized very early that there is a not insignificant change that I would not make it to retirement age.”

“Sounds like a sad state of mind to be in.” a short pause “That’s why you tried to discourage me from joining the underground before?”

Shouta stayed silent at that question. Kuronuma chuckled, shaking his head “You really are the good sort. Makes me feel bad for what I did.” he blew out a huff of breath, another not-quite-sigh “What a bummer.” there was a long moment of quiet, Kuronuma’s eyes rose to Shouta's blank stare, flickering over his face and then trailing away again – fixing on the opposite wall of his cell. His expression darkened, his brows drew together and his eyes narrowed slightly.

“I guess I can relate though… at least somewhat. I have become very aware of my own mortality too since I got caught.” he let out a thoughtful noise “I guess at this point it really is eat or be eaten – not just for you, but for me too.” he tipped his head into his neck, his chest expanding with a deep breath; he let it out in a dejected huff though his nose “This whole thing really went sideways.”

A wry smile settled on his face and he tipped his head forward again, cocking it to the side so he could look at Shouta again “Go after his boyfriend, they said. It’s easier, they said.” he gave a sardonic snort “What a load of bull! The guys quirk was so powerful it felt like my bones were rattling out of my body. He nearly blew out my eardrums you know? I still feel nauseous and off balance when I try to stand. Talk about deceiving appearances.”

He raised his hand and rubbed it over his jaw, careful not to agitate the dark bruises stretching over his cheekbone downwards “That one got a real temper on him too.” he shot Shouta a sly grin “Is that what you get off to? You like the feisty type?” he chuckled but it sounded mirthless. The noise died down soon enough and instead silence settled.

“What was your real plan? What were you hoping to accomplish by attacking Hizashi?” Shouta asked again and this time around Kuronuma answered, his voice resigned.

“They figured out that you started snooping around and they got really angry that you tried to get in the way of business. At first they just wanted to kill you off and be done with it, but then they found out that you’re a UA teacher – and it would raise more than just a few eyebrows if a UA teacher suddenly vanished. So they told me to stick to you and keep an eye on you while they figured something better out.”

He paused for a second, his hand rubbing over his jaw again – nearly as if it was aching “When I told them that you have a boyfriend they jumped at the idea, you should have seen them. So they came up with a supposedly foolproof plan: Abduct the boyfriend and then use his life as blackmail to get you to tie up your own loose ends – quit your job, tell people you would go away so no one would question why you vanished and so on and so forth. And then they wanted to kill you.”

Another short pause “I assume you already connected the dots since you’ve worked this job long enough and I guess you aren't a complete idiot, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that they planned to kill your boyfriend afterwards too – they wouldn't just have let him go again.”

“And they really thought that that would work?” Shouta asked “Did they really think I would have just naively gone along with all of that – quiet and demure?”

For a few long moments it was quiet and then Kuronuma let out another not-quite sigh, his gaze was tired as it searched out Shouta's “Look, I'm just a grunt. I don't get paid to have opinions. They just point the finger and off I go. Simple as that.”

“Who are ‘they’?” Shouta asked “Who are you working for?”

“A hero agency.”

Shouta blinked and then his brows drew down into a severe frown, his lips thinning into a bloodless line. Was Kuronuma pulling back again? Dodging the question in a dismissive way? An evasion even though he had already started to spill his guts?

A heartbeat passed and then Shouta's eyes widened in realization, his gaze fixing on the other man as if he was just seeing him for the first time – a sort of revelation flooded through him. He could feel everything snapping into focus – all the puzzle pieces coming together to finally form a full picture.

Kuronuma returned Shouta's – no doubt shocked – stare calmly “It’s true.” he said as if he tried to be reassuring – as if he tried to be encouraging. A second passed, another almost sigh “The system is fucked.” he went on and then shrugged “You probably know that though, what with being a teacher and an underground hero – it’s disillusioning isn't it?” Kuronuma’s tone was nearly a challenge, his eyebrows raised in a demanding fashion.

He let out a mirthless chuckle before he went on “They make hero work look so noble like something exceptional, saving people and doing good, even using a word like ‘hero’ in the first place is already manipulation at its finest. Then there’s the hero ranking system and all the media attention, the ad revenue, film roles and isn't that nice too? Being a star with all that romanticizing going on beside it? Working outside of official law enforcement and being told you're better than everyone else.” He blew out a raspberry at that last part and then shook his head slowly.

“Really, it’s a honeyed fly trap is what it is.” he said and leaned more heavily against the wall behind him, posture slouching even more than before, his legs stretched out in front of him to their full length, heels digging into the ground “And it draws all kinds of young people still too stupid to see behind the curtains. You must see that too as a teacher, don't you?”

A wry, humourless smile curled his lips “But then again, that's the whole point isn't it? Getting fresh bodies into an already over-crowded market. A market that isn't controlled by government – not really – but instead it’s controlled by profit and greed. And then it flushes out the ones that don't fit, or that don't make money, or the ones who have a spine and stand up for their own morals.”

He shrugged “It creates a rift in the population too: Those with useless quirks or no quirks at all are a waste of time and space. Only the ones with a ‘hero worthy’ quirk are going to rise to the top. And that whole mentality is why we get shit like quirk marriages and what not.” he hummed softly to himself “You know that too don't you, in an abstract at least, no? Your quirk is rare and useful but it’s non physical and completely unspectacular – with your quirk you wouldn't be able to market yourself if your life depended on it. Doesn’t matter how many people you can save if you don't make money for an agency. So you did the next best thing and went into the underground… but really, that's not a job many can stomach. Beside there is all the danger too, after all, your kind doesn't get flushed out like daytime pros do, with a politely worded notice of termination… no, your kind gets flushed out by being killed off – you don't do your work properly? Hop you go!” he chuckled at that last part.

“Really Eraserhead, tell me, what should those who build their whole identity around becoming a hero do after they realized that all their efforts were doomed from the start? What should they do after they realize they have been pulled into the fly trap? What should they do after their agency decides they are useless and discards them?”

Silence settled and it soon became clear that Kuronuma expected an answer of sorts. Shouta gave a soft thoughtful noise “You’re talking about yourself aren't you?” he asked right back “And your answer to all those questions was to become a villain instead?”

Kuronuma shot him an empty, nearly regretful smile and it was answer enough. He raised a hand and gently scratched his cheek, flinching when his fingers connected with the sore flesh there “Hero work is a broken dream factory and it’s all too easy for people like me to slip into the cracks and fill them up with something else – sabotaging heroes, tipping off criminals, getting rid of people who get too nosy, all while hiding right under their noses and miming being one of them so they’ll unwittingly give us information.” he shrugged “That stuff is easy, after all there’s no real oversight when it comes to hero agencies – another agency just means more heroes, means more money.”

There was a beat of silence “Sometimes I’ve wondered you know? Why are you the first one who comes poking around? Are you simply better than the sorry rest? Or does everyone else just look the other way… After all, by doing crime are we not helping the overcrowded hero economy to stay afloat?” another beat of silence “Now there is some fodder for thoughts.” the words were dry and lacking humour.

Kuronuma tipped his head to the side, regarding Shouta idly “That’s my answer, and it’s really simple: I work for a hero agency.” the smile that stretched over his face was broad and crooked and hollow – dark in a way that Shouta couldn't describe, grim in a way that only highlighted all the things Kuronuma had said.

“Authorities won’t listen to you. What is the word of a more or less useless underground hero against the money and influence and forged proof of a seemingly respectable hero agency?” Kuronuma went on, tone dismissive “And if you do by some miracle actually manage to expose everything? Just think of the damage that would cause to the market, the hit to the general reputation of heroes – no one would trust your kind anymore because what if you're just another villain in disguise?”

He blinked slowly at Shouta “And you?” he challenged “What would that make you? Underground hero who starts lashing out against hero agencies – even if it is righteous? A class traitor!” he chuckled “You see?” he asked yet it didn't really sound like a question, there was an amused yet resigned spark in his eyes “This is futile, you're tilting at windmills.” his face turned grim “There is no winning this and it probably won’t take long until they regroup and come up with a better plan… and then you'll just disappear off the face of the earth, just whoops, there he was! And your boyfriend too.”

Kuronuma’s face suddenly pulled into a near pained grimace “And if they found out that I told you all this stuff then it probably won’t take long until I’ll disappear too – just puff! He died in a jail brawl, how unfortunate, no one could have foreseen this – thoughts and prayers, blah-blah.” Kuronuma waved a hand in the air in a detached motion, though his eyes sparked with fear of the unknown, his mouth a bloodless flat line – he closed his eyes and let out a resigned sigh.

“What are they working on?” Shouta asked after a few long moments of silence “What is their plan?” Kuronuma opened his eyes again, blinking at him tiredly “If they are going to kill you anyway what difference does it make if you tell me about that too?” Shouta pushed.

“None really.” Kuronuma shrugged, he smacked his lips “Only problem is that I don't really know. I was there for the dirty work – they don't tell a grunt their big master plan. Still, they will be cautious after this, probably take a bit more time to plan properly now that they realized how tricky the whole thing is. I guess theoretically you still have time to fight back but really, your chances are close to nil.”

Silence fell over the room “Sorry Eraserhead.” Kuronuma said after a long while, his eyes were sincere “You are really a good guy but the problem is that the good guy’s aren't wanted – you are a wrench between the cogs and you will be removed soon enough to keep the machine going. That’s just how it is. You’re not the first, you won't be the last.” he let out a low hum and closed his eyes again “I’m tired and the room is still spinning – I’m feeling nauseous from just looking around, so just leave and let me sleep. I told you everything I know.”

Shouta remained where he was for a few long moments, mind working through everything he had just learned, his gaze fixed on Kuronuma without actually taking the other man in. He grit his jaw, the severity of everything crushing down on him. Pressing the air from his lungs.

The younger man was right. What was the word of one no-name underground hero against the word of a hero agency that had all the resources of an organized crime ring? He would need proof, or a witness willing to go to court – from the way Kuronuma spoke it seemed rather obvious that he wouldn't play the witness Shouta needed.

He felt his jaw creaking with the force he used to grind his teeth. Then what else? How could he approach this? Where to start? What to do? … He couldn't possibly hope to come up with a solution to all of this right here on the spot and he knew it – and so he let out a tense breath, his shoulders dropping – losing their tension. He consciously unclenched his jaw.

“Thank you.” he said and he meant it – Kuronuma had told him all those things, knowing fully well that if it ever came to light that he had shared his knowledge with Shouta retaliation would be swift and final. In a way he was putting his trust in Shouta – both to keep the secret and to, if at all possible, stop the agency.

Kuronuma cracked his eyes open again, his light brown eyes settling on Shouta – Shouta bowed at the hip, deeper and more formal than he usually would and it made the younger man snort.

“You really aren't made to be a hero. What a waste.” he chuckled, he shook his head to himself and closed his eyes again, hands folding over his lower stomach “See you in hell.” there was a wry smile visible on his face.

Chapter Text

In the end Shouta found himself sitting on his couch, gaze fixed unblinkingly at the blank wall of his apartment – his mind full with half formed ideas. Thoughts and possibilities – hos to continue, what to do, how to go on… all discarded as soon as it became obvious that they wouldn't lead to anything fruitful.

He flinched as his phone suddenly vibrated on the living room table, for a second his heartbeat spiked as his muscles tensed. He blinked at his phone, his heartbeat slowing again as his body uncoiled. For a few seconds it was utterly quiet and then – another soft buzz of the phone.

Slowly Shouta reached out, grabbing the small device. More buzzing.

Heya darling!

I'm nearly done at the station

Are you already done with your work for today?

Shouta's expression turned pinched. Yes he wrote back.

Awesome!

Are you home?

Can I come over later?

For a second Shouta's fingers hovered over the screen – he had felt off-balance since he had left the police station. His mind spinning unceasingly… maybe having someone like Hizashi over would be good – someone who might be able to see things that Shouta's circling mind was unable to.

Shall I come get you? He wrote back – the tiny ellipse at the topmost corner of the screen popped up again nearly immediately. He waited – nearly anxious. Kuronuma’s voice still rang in his mind ‘and then you'll just disappear off the face of the earth… And your boyfriend too

The shock of two days ago still lingered under his skin and the knowledge that it all would happen again at some point if he didn't manage to get a head start, didn't manage to get his hands on something that could still avert all of this made his jaw clench to the point that his teeth creaked from the force.

That would be nice

The message popped up on his screen. Shouta's eyes had barely scanned over it before he was already pushing himself up from his couch, so he could make his way towards the door. He was outside not too long after, his mind was on high alert the whole time it took to get to the radio station.

He leaned against the waist high wall framing the stairs up to the entrance, his arms crossed over his chest, his hands balled into fists – he nearly sighed out a breath of relive when the door finally opened with an ear splitting screech and Hizashi stepped into the open.

The vigilante turned his head, spotting Shouta easily. A bright grin stretched over his face but it soon froze – instead his expression turned confused, concern visible in his concentric green eyes. He hastily made his way down the stairs towards Shouta – no spring or bounce in his steps.

“You look like someone kicked a kitten in front of you.” Hizashi said as he stopped in front of Shouta, his tone joking even if his expression betrayed his voice.

“I have to tell you something.” Shouta gave back, his arms uncrossing from over his chest “But not here. Let’s get to my apartment first.” he added – nearly urged.

“Well, that doesn't sound ominous at all.” the frown was audible “Did you find out something?” Shouta gave a grunt and a curt nod “Okay, then let’s get going so you can share.” Hizashi said, his hand shooting out to grab at Shouta's right elbow – he skipped a step ahead, dragging Shouta along.

Shouta's jaw clenched and unclenched on the whole way – he couldn't wait to be back in the safety of his own apartment… with Hizashi close by too; close enough to grab if he needed to. Close enough to wrap up and keep safe.

#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#+#

There was a heavy silence covering the room and Shouta was sure that he would be able to hear a needle drop right about now. Hizashi’s concentric eyes were fixed on him, his expression grim – it looked strange on his face – wrong – it didn't fit “That isn't good.” the blond man finally said, his mouth opening and closing a few times before he added “In fact, this is really, really bad.” there was a humourless sort of mirth in his voice – as if he had tried to make a joke but it had missed the mark.

Shouta gave a somewhat sardonic snort at that “Yeah? Tell me about it.” his tone was dry – his dark gaze trailing from Hizashi to the window on the far wall of the living room; all he was able to see was the wall of the opposing building, red brick colour nearly black now that the sun had set… and for the first time in his life he thought that his apartment looked rather dreary. Nearly depressing.

He grit his teeth – it was likely that the current serious mood just changed his perspective in that regard… and yet… “I guess after getting all that info you didn't go to the agency?” Hizashi asked and it wasn't really a question. Still, Shouta shook his head anyway.

“Good, it would have been like walking right into a lions den.” Hizashi went on “They might have just skipped the planing part and tried to nap you immediately… I mean, I don't think they would have been that stupid… but safe is safe.”

Hizashi leaned back farther on the couch, his long legs stretched out in front of him – his right one was bouncing. He folded his arms over his chest, a thoughtful expression on his face “Okay, so now we know what we are fighting: A criminal cell disguising itself as a hero agency. That’s point A. So point B would be: How do we smash them up? Rat them out to the authorities?”

Shouta frowned at that suggestion “Usually I would say yes… But Kuronuma-san said that they have forged documents – they would likely be able to disprove everything I might say. And then its the word of an unknown underground hero against the word of a supposedly trustworthy hero agency.” he paused for a second before he added “It would make me look like a raving madman.”

Hizashi hummed at that, his mouth pulling down slightly in that peculiar way of his that seemed to make his moustache twitch slightly. He smacked his lips “Well! If we can’t fight them head on then we simply have to find a more sneaky method. Simple as that.” Hizashi said – as if it was the easiest thing in the world to follow up on that idea.

Shouta levelled a frown at the other man “And what would you propose we do?” his tone was half doubtful, half intrigued. Really, if there was one person who might be able to successfully manoeuvre out of this minefield unscathed then it was Hizashi.

Hizashi shot him a grin – it had a strange edge to it, there was a twinkle in his green eyes “Well, it’s all about what Outbreak said isn't it? You know the one thing that jumps out to me is the kind of people they seemingly recruit. Those disillusioned heroes who got kicked out by their old agencies – the washed up ones, that don't care what they have to do to keep the lights on. The kind that doesn't care if the world ends as long as they got food.”

Shouta gave soft grunt at that “And your point?” Hizashi might have a flare for over dramatic and long winding speeches but Shouta would rather get to the point without a long monologue beforehand.

Hizashi's grin turned crooked – slightly sharp “Well-” he sing-songed “Maybe we can use that to our advantage.” he said, waving a hand in the air “Basically beat them with their own weapons.”

Shouta's brows drew down a little, he leaned forwards slightly, elbows on the table – intrigued “What do you plan?” he asked.

“I mean, just give them what they want? Play along. With all that has happened they are at least one hero short right now, after all Outbreak behind bars. And his informant is dead too so it would only be normal that they would be looking to fill the hole those two left behind. So… if someone were to conveniently appear to fill it, now wouldn't that be an amazing coincident?” Hizashi was grinning broad and toothy and just the slightest bit predatory. He wiggled his eyebrows, making it very clear just who exactly he was talking about.

A dark frown settled on Shouta's face at that – his mouth pinching down severely, his jaw jumping. Hizashi didn't really seem to notice and instead just went on “This could actually work out amazingly!” he giggled, giddy “You’re an UA teacher so you can get your hands on all the papers, grades, reports, credentials; you know, all that stuff that is needed to get a hero licence in the first place – it would be authentic. The real deal! And if I pull a few strings and call in a few favours I might be able to get my hands on a false hero licence – those cards aren't as forgery-proof as some people might have you believe, I’ll let you know. You see? It’s all coming together!”

Shouta leaned back against the arm of the couch – putting some distance between Hizashi and himself. He crossed his arms over his chest, his jaw jumping again “No.” he said simply, dark eyes settling on Hizashi with intensity – catching his electric green gaze.

The other man blinked, a second passed, another blink – his expression showing complete incomprehension… and then he let out a loud squawk “What?!” it was nearly a yell. He slapped both his palms onto his upper legs, a loud smack in the otherwise silent room as skin meet jeans material – his expression was equal parts offended and utterly confused.

“It’s the best option we have!” he insisted vehemently, purpose and heat in his voice “I get in, take as much evidence with me as I'm able to and then we can rip the curtains away. It makes sense! If they can just forge proof – or have it already laying around – then we need something they can’t debunk. You know, something that will prove that you are right and not some absolute nutjob crying wolf! We’re not getting that proof by sitting around!” he argued.

Shouta's jaw jumped again “What you are suggesting is highly dangerous. Especially if you intent to go by yourself. It is, in a word: Stupid.” he retorted, unyielding – nearly harsh in his bluntness, his voice booking no argument “Furthermore you are supposed to lay low right now – or have you already conveniently forgotten about that again? What if the police is really observing you? What if they get wind of this?” he challenged “And what about your appearance or your quirk? They surely know what you look like and what your quirk does after what happened with Kuronuma-san.”

“So what?” Hizashi immediately shot back, not budging at all “My quirk enables me to do a lot more than to just scream loudly. Voice quirks come in all types of flavours – and mine is especially versatile. Instead of volume I could just focus on my pitch and the vibration it can cause. Think about it. I mean, really think about it! It would only help with the ruse!” he waved his hands around in the air wildly, as if he somehow hoped it would make Shouta understand better.

“A pitch quirk can be extremely useful, but it’s not really flashy enough for mainstream marketing, now is it? It would make it more believable that I got washed out of the system, just dropped for someone else with a more marketable quirk.” Hizashi was talking rapid speed, words coming so fast they nearly slurred together as he got worked up “Besides, there are things like coloured contacts and wigs and hair pigment that can be washed out again and all that other stuff! If you wanna dig deeper then there are even appearance affecting quirks. So really, with a bit of effort I could look like a completely different person!” he waved his arms in the air for emphasis, hands following a wild pattern, swinging in big arches “Also I am very good at playing a part if you shouldn't have noticed. This could really work like a charm, don't you see?”

“Hizashi.” Shouta started and there was a note in his voice that even he himself couldn't name properly “Do you even know what you are suggesting here?”

Hizashi’s mouth immediately snapped open as if he was ready to answer but Shouta just raised his right hand, palm flat in the air – a stop motion – and Hizashi's mouth slammed shut again “I simply can not in good faith ask you to do something like that.” Shouta went on “If they find out what you are doing they won’t hesitate to kill you.”

“Well, good thing then that you don't have to ask, because I'm offering… well, more like insisting really, let’s be honest.” the blond man grinned easily and it made something in Shouta's stomach roll – something in his chest seemed to shake loose.

“Hizashi.” Shouta said and it sounded half chastising half imploring. He felt the sudden urge to reach out and so he did, leaning forward again and clamping his right hand over Hizashi's left, his fingers squeezing tightly – hoping he could somehow convey what he was feeling through touch alone, hoping that Hizashi understood what was going on in his head right now, all the things he was unable to put into words.

Hizashi's expression softened, the stubborn pinch of his mouth smoothing out and then stretching into a genuine smile – something tender and warm and understanding. He turned his left hand so it was facing palm upwards, fingers curling around Shouta's gently. And for a second Shouta felt relieved – for a second he thought he had gotten through to Hizashi but…

“I know the dangers I'm not an idiot.” the vigilante reassured “And I know how to put up a fight. I'm not going to be helpless.”

Shouta shook his head, a grim expression settling on his face, lips a bloodless, flat line, his teeth grinding together “I know that.” he grit out and closed his eyes for a moment. He let out a soft sigh “I know.” he repeated softer “But even you have limits to what you can do.” he explained, his eyes seeking out Hizashi's “If you're caught unaware it doesn't matter how smart you are or how powerful your quirk is – a bullet to the heart will kill you just like everyone else.” for a second Shouta paused before he continued “Even you are not invincible… but you like to forget that. Don't get cocky because your quirk is powerful – that could become your biggest weakness in the end.”

For a few long moments silence settled over them, Hizashi's expression had turned serious, his fair brows drawn down into a severe frown “What are you suggesting we do then?” the vigilante finally said – challenged really. He slipped his left hand from beneath Shouta's, instead crossing both his arms over his chest, his brows raised in a demanding fashion.

“I don't know.” Shouta admitted without hesitation. He truly didn't know. Hizashi's plan was probably the best they could come up with in a situation like that… but it was also utterly insane and borderline self-sacrificing…

Genius and madness supposedly were close together weren't they? And Hizashi's character only exacerbated that problems. The other mans self-assuredness was making him reckless, it made him consider high-risk high-reward paths – but he didn't seem to take the risk into consideration, only the reward as if it was just a formality to get it.

He had seen enough people with that kind of mindset come and go – had seen enough of them die. This was exactly the kind of prideful behaviour that Shouta expelled his students for – no hesitation, no mercy. Better a dead dream than a dead person… And to see this self-destructive pride shining in Hizashi's eyes right now… it made his stomach drop. He felt nauseous. The fingers of his – now empty – right hand curled into themselves; a cold fist. He grit his teeth, his jaw jumping.

“We could try and plant a bug.” he finally suggested after a few long moments of silence “They offered to pay for the damage. It wouldn't be too strange for us to visit them and thank them for that, and while we’re inside we could wire the place.”

“And you think they would leave both of us unattended for long enough to actually do that?” Hizashi shot back immediately “If we just waltz in there you bet your ass someone will stick to us like some old piece of gum until we have left the building again.”

Shouta's fingers curled tighter – finger joints creaking, knuckles turning white. His mind was whirling – trying to come up with another plan.

“We can’t just wait for something useful to crop up.” Hizashi pushed “By the time we finally figure a more safe plan out both of us are very likely already seven feet under. We have no time to play games like that and you know it!”

“… I do.” Shouta grudgingly admitted, his jaw jumped and then he let out an exhausted sigh through his nose “How would you even get in in the first place?”

“If you want to get in somewhere it’s best to start at the bottom.” Hizashi immediately jumped on the chance of elaborating – overly eager to get Shouta to agree “You got the list of people working for the hero agency from the police don't you? We are just going to pick an easy and, most importantly, gullible enough target from that list and then I'm gonna get close to them. You know, play up the role a little: mention that I lost my job as a hero and that everything sucks now and that I look for some way to make money. And from there on I just keep poking until they offer to take me in – it’s always less suspicious if one of their own introduces an outsider. And after I'm in I wire tape the place and take everything I can get my sticky fingers on.”

Shouta's mouth curled down “What if they don't take you in?” he demanded. This entire plan hinged on the idea that Hizashi would be able to get in. But what if he didn't? Then it would just be a lot of danger without any sort of pay off. In fact, whoever Hizashi might set his sight on might just find the sudden interest a little too convenient… and what then?

“Why wouldn't they?” the blond man shot back “They don't know that we know their dirty little secret just now – and I doubt Outbreak is going to tattle to them that he ratted them out. That would just be a death sentence for him. So the agency is currently still completely in the dark. They don't know that they need to be careful, so it’s the perfect time for us to strike and catch them unaware.”

“And what if they aren't looking for someone to fill Kuronuma-san’s place? Or if they are currently wary of taking in an unknown variable?” Shouta argued back and Hizashi blew his cheeks up before he let the air out in a childish raspberry.

“Really, it’s either this or we make ourselves comfortable and wait for them to shoot us like sitting ducks.” Hizashi uncrossed one of his arms and started waving it around in the air “You seemed fine with poking around this wasps nest before, what got you so worked up now?”

“That was when the only thing on the line was my own life. It would have been my responsibility and I would have been the only one shouldering the consequences if things went wrong.” Shouta shot back immediately.

For a second Hizashi's bluster vanished, he blinked at Shouta – a strange kind of realization on his face, a glint in his eyes that Shouta couldn't describe – all of it was gone again as soon as it had appeared “This affects both us us if you shouldn't have noticed.” Hizashi continued right where he had left off “I'm a loose end too, Outbreak said as much – you might have told me something that could be dangerous to them, or I might ask questions if my boyfriend disappeared, you know, kick up a stink – so really, they would be stupid not kill me too.” he let out a sigh “This is my responsibility too, you know? We are both in this together so I should shoulder the consequences too. You don't have to self-martyr.”

A few heartbeats of silence. Shouta drew in a deep breath and let it out again as a soundless sigh – his shoulders dropping a little as he did so “Would it not seem weird that you come along just after Kuronuma-san got taken in?” he tried again – though there was no heat to it. The fingers of his right hand uncurled, tension bleeding out of him and instead making room for defeat.

“There are who knows how many heroes who get laid off every day. I don't think it’s going to raise any eyebrows if I suddenly appear.” Hizashi's hands were waving in the air imploringly “And even if they ask for other stuff, like what agency I worked at previously or something, I can always give them your number and you can play the part of agency boss and tell them that yeah, you threw me out. It’s an easy lie to uphold.”

Shouta sighed and closed his eyes for a moment “I didn't want this.” he mumbled softly – more to himself than anyone else really – both his hands came up to rub over his face, his voice was tired.

“What?” Hizashi nearly squawked, he sounded confused.

“This is exactly what I was always afraid of.” Shouta elaborated, he let his hands slip away from his face and instead folded them in his lap “This right here – that you would get dragged into dangerous situations just because you are close to me.” he let out another bone-weary sigh “This is exactly why underground heroes normally don't enter into serious relationships…”

Hizashi's confused expression crumbled slowly, instead making room for understanding – something nearly frightened lingered at the edge of his voice as he spoke up after a few moments of quiet “Do you regret this? I mean, this here between us?” he moved his hand between them.

Shouta gave a mirthless snort “No.” he said truthfully, shaking his head “But I know I should.” he added bluntly. He shouldn't have let it get this far to begin with he knew that, but at the same time he couldn't bring himself to regret it either – it was far too late for regret now anyway. Who knew how many criminals might already know of his relationship with Hizashi at this point thanks to Outbreak or his false hero agency… anyone who might want to come after him would now automatically see Hizashi as a valid target as well. Breaking things off now in a knee-jerk reflex would do nothing to stop that – the wheels were already in motion.

No sense crying over spilt milk – mourning the past never made anything better and neither did drowning in self-pity. The only thing he could do going forward was to try and stay out of the spotlight even more than he already did – stick to the dark, keep his profile low, avoid people recognizing him… and if someone did recognized him then he would simply have to plan for Hizashi's safety alongside his own. Simple as that. They were in this together now.

He closed his eyes for a few long moments but opened them again when he felt fingers bumping into his folded hands. He blinked down at Hizashi's right hand, watched as those slim fingers pried his own two hands apart and slipped between them – Shouta curled his own fingers, both his palms cupping around Hizashi's right hand in his hold.

Hizashi's hands were so smooth, Shouta noticed nearly idly – the tips of his fingers were soft… no callouses, no scars, his bones and joints straight, no bumps, no indication of broken bones that might have healed slightly crooked.

Those were the hands of someone who didn't need to enter into a fist fight to protect themselves, the hands of someone with a powerful quirk… the hands of someone who didn't need someone like Shouta worrying over them.

Shouta let out a sigh, his gaze raising, fixing on Hizashi's electric green, concentric eyes. The other man looked worried too, an uncertain pinch to his mouth – Shouta's mouth quirked up at the corners into something that he hoped looked reassuring.

“If you are really sure about this then I will talk to principal Nezu so I can get all the necessary credentials and reports with your name on them; and you can go and see if any of your contacts can forge a proper licence.” he conceded, though he was sure the displeasure was audible in his voice… Still, Hizashi was right, this might very well be their best shot… yet it didn't mean that Shouta had to like it.

“Shouta...” Hizashi started slowly, his voice pitched into something lilting and sweet, his second hand reaching out to lay on top of Shouta's – both their hands now cupped and folded around each other.

“It’s fine.” Shouta said “You are right with all you have said. And it is worth a try.” he added seriously. Hizashi just shot him a strange smile.

“Darling.” the vigilante spoke up “That’s not what I wanted to say right now. Look I...” he trailed off for a moment, sucking his bottom lips between his teeth before he let it slip free again a second later, he huffed in a manner that seemed nearly frustrated “Just… thank you.” he said and Shouta blinked, feeling confused and lost – as if he had missed some crucial part of the conversation up until now.

“What for?” he asked, his brows drawing together.

Hizashi let out a soft hum “For worrying.”

Shouta snorted sardonically “You don't need me to worry over you.” he said, he couldn't help it if his tone sounded nearly bitter. The knowledge stung in a strange way – one that Shouta couldn't really describe. He had never really noticed before how much he had hovered around his previous lovers like that, how much time he had spent worrying about their safety – but he had been an underground hero and they had only been civilians… and maybe the line had blurred somewhere, maybe his hero mentality had bled through into his relationships, or maybe it was that strange unconscious desire of feeling needed and useful that always lingered at the back of his mind… maybe a combination of both… or maybe neither… maybe it was something else entirely – something he just couldn't see or recognize at this moment.

He had never before noticed just… how much he had liked feeling needed by his lovers in some capacity or another… But Hizashi didn't need that. The vigilante had worked between and around criminals for quite some time now, had his own enemies, was aware of what he was getting himself into and what he was capable of… and he certainly didn't need Shouta to dote on him – cluck over him like an old hen might do to her chicks.

Shouta frowned and shook his head to derail his circling train of thought. Now wasn't the time for self-reflection – they had more important things to worry about. He would think on all of it once he could be sure that both Hizashi and he were safe.

“I don’t.” Hizashi agreed “But it is nice that you still do. I… mean, it sounds kinda shitty when I say that I'm glad you worry, like, I don't want you to be stressed out but… I mean… it means that you care and it’s… nice. I appreciate it.” his lips curled into a slightly sheepish smile, his gaze momentarily slipping away from Shouta as if he was embarrassed.

“This whole discussion also gave me another angle of perspective. You are not wrong; I do tend to be…” here he smacked his lips, obviously searching for a proper word “-overconfident.” he settled on “And I often let myself be guided by the flow or my feelings or the heat of the moment… and to have a more, well… ‘rational’ voice criticizing me from the side line isn't the worst thing in the world. It’s not so bad having a more sceptical opinion that I can consider as well. In fact, it’s a good thing. The more input I have the less likely I am to… well, do something stupid or hasty.”

There was a short pause “It’s sweet, really.” Hizashi smiled, his fingers squeezing around Shouta's hand cupped between his, he started pulling – lifting Shouta's left hand towards him. He bowed forward and pressed his chapped lips against the hero’s knuckles “Actually,” he spoke up again, lips brushing over Shouta's skin “-I kinda like it.” another kiss against Shouta's knuckles “People normally don't worry about me because of my quirk and I guess sometimes I forgot to worry about myself as well… So thanks, you know.”

Shouta let out a soft noise, the fingers of his left hand straightening, arm moving – Hizashi's hands around his slipping lower where they curled around his wrist instead. He placed his hand against the vigilantes jaw, cupping his cheek – his thumb brushing back and forth in a gentle caress “Okay. But if it ever gets too much you have to let me know.” he said seriously.

Hizashi smiled at him nearly indulgently “Fine.” he quipped, much too lightly. Shouta's brows pulled don in a frown but in the end he let it slide – someone as stubborn and independent as Hizashi would surely let him know if he became to overbearing in that regard.

He let out a huff and pulled his hand away from Hizashi's face again, slipping it out from in between the other mans clutch as well. For a few moments they both remained where they were, silently sharing space in Shouta's dim living room…

“Well...” Hizashi started “I better start making a few calls.”

Shouta gave a hum in agreement “I’m going to send an email to principal Nezu so he can get all the documents printed and signed.” he pushed himself up from the couch and Hizashi did the same thing.

“My colleague is going to come back from his vacation soon too – I'm gonna see if I can get a while off. I can’t sit around a hero agency if I have to sit in front of a mic now, can I?” Hizashi blabbered “Well, that's still a bit off isn't it? I have to get in first, no?”

Shouta grunted in answer and leaned against the wall of the entrance way, he watched silently as Hizashi pulled on his shoes “Don’t forget to send me that list of heroes so I can have a looksie” Hizashi continued.

“Okay.” Shouta nodded “Will you go out tonight?” he asked and Hizashi shrugged, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“Nah.” the blond man answered “Not tonight. I have to work through the list first, see if anything rings a bell and then see where to best start and who to pursue. That will probably take a bit.”

“When you decide to go out,” Shouta started “-then tell me about it. I will shadow you as best as I can and make sure the police isn't hovering around you. Even with a disguise safe is safe.”

“Yeah, that might be for the best.” Hizashi nodded a frown settled on his face but it disappeared again as quickly as it had appeared, instead making room for a grin “Well, better get started on that disguise right away then, no?” he tittered “And keep the curtains drawn too – I really don't like people peeking at me you know.” he added.

There was a second of silence and then Hizashi let out another high-pitched laugh “Oh god, I have stalkers now, don't I? I mean, it’s just the police but it’s the same thing, isn't it? Does that mean I'm finally famous now?” he giggled.

Shouta's face darkened into a frown, his mouth opened, words already on the tip of his tongue to chastise the other man – wanting to tell him he should take all of this more serious. This was a life or death situation after all, there was nothing funny about it, nothing remotely worth laughing about…

But then Shouta closed his mouth again and instead let out a controlled breath. Hizashi already was aware of all those things, had mentioned a few himself even. Just because the vigilante choose to take the whole thing with a side of humour didn't mean he wasn't serious about it… just because it wasn't how Shouta chose to react didn't mean that Hizashi's way was necessarily wrong – different things for different people after all.

And usually Shouta liked that positive attitude that the other man always seemed to have… he was just tense right now – that was all.

“Do you want me to walk you home?” Shouta asked instead. He saw how Hizashi paused for a bit – a thoughtful expression on his face.

“You know what? That might actually be a good idea.” Hizashi said and Shouta made to move – intent on pulling on his shoes “You can bring your hero gear and your other stuff too and then just stay there with me. That way we would also have more time to work out a plan together.” there was a short pause and then Hizashi snorted “That’s not how I expected a proposal to move in with me to go.”

Shouta blinked – momentarily stumped. He felt like someone had pulled a rug from under him. He straightened up again, his eyes settling on Hizashi in confusion “What?” he asked, half convinced that he had severely misheard something.

“We are trying to bring down a criminal organization together or die trying. Moving in together – at least temporarily – just seems like a logical step. The more time we spent together the less time we spent apart – which also means less opportunity for someone to catch us alone and unaware.” Hizashi elaborated.

“I’m gonna go ahead and get a head start and you can pack your stuff.” Hizashi grinned – seemingly just assuming Shouta's agreement.

The more logical part of Shouta's mind was rather aware that temporarily moving in together wasn't really necessary… the hyper-vigilant part of his mind though was rather happy with the prospect. His gaze swept over Hizashi's face and for a second he saw the same worry he felt mirrored in the other mans expression.

So he simply nodded “Okay.” he said “Try and be careful on your way home.” he leaned down a little – the genkan in the entranceway created an artificial height-difference between both men. Hizashi tipped his chin upwards expectantly and a moment later their lips met in a gentle, lingering kiss.

“Well!” Hizashi said after they had parted again “See you later then.”

Shouta only hummed and gave a nod. Hizashi shot him another smile before he made his way out of Shouta's apartment. The door closed and the space suddenly felt much too big and much too quiet. Shouta's jaw tensed – he consciously unclenched it again a second later.

Non of this pleased him – but it was what it was. They could only roll with the punches at this point. He let out a weary sigh and turned on his heel – stepping back into the living room. He let himself sink down in front of his laptop – he flipped the lid open, tapped in his password and then immediately opened up his email program.

With a few quick clicks and an obligatory sentence in the otherwise blank mail he had sent a copy of the list of heroes working at the agency to Hizashi's address. After that was done he opened another email. He typed in Nezu’s address and a header and then stopped short for a second.

His brows drew down into a frown as he found himself wondering just how exactly he should word his request. Still, Nezu was a very reasonable person so Shouta assumed it would be best to just explain the situation without giving too many sensitive details away – as long as needed yet at the same time as short as possible.

For a moment he wondered if it might not be more prudent to wait until tomorrow to approach Nezu personally… On the other hand possible negotiations and explanations would likely go a lot faster if Nezu already had an idea of what Shouta wanted exactly – which was an added side benefit, since Shouta really didn't want to spent too much time trying to explain everything that had happened, especially not to someone like Nezu who very likely would pick up on some things regardless how good Shouta tried to hide them.

Yet Shouta was also certain that, no matter how much Nezu might find out or not, he likely wouldn't stop Shouta. Question him, perhaps, test him by coming up with alternative scenarios or trick questions maybe, but actively stop? No. He was sure in the knowledge that Nezu would support him – at least in so far that he wouldn't keep Shouta from protecting his own life.

Shouta stared a the blinking cursor. One thing he could already anticipate was that Nezu would surely bring up Hizashi's civilian status… or his presumed civilian status… It made Shouta wonder just how much he should write – should he mention it at all? Should he say he had an agent? Or a co-worker? Nezu would likely want to know who exactly it was – a fellow hero, a police officer, someone else…

And from there? Would Shouta just stay silent? Should he tell just enough to skirt the truth and make it more believable? Would that already be too much ammunition for someone like Nezu? Would the principal be able to draw a conclusive connection from that alone?

In the end Shouta spent quite some time – frankly, a ridiculously long time – wording and rewording the email; typing out long segments only to be dissatisfied with them in the end.

Shouta was by no means a verbose person though it was definitely easier to express some concepts via text form than verbally; it gave him extra time to think his wording over… not that it helped with the fact that Shouta just didn't see the sense of over-embellished speech when the same thing could also be expressed quicker and more direct with less words. Why write a five page essay when you could pack everything into two easily understandable paragraphs?

He ended up with his mouse cursor hovering over the ‘send’ button for the longest time. He grit his teeth and clicked on it – it wasn't like he could write a better mail than what he had already written, and waiting wouldn't change anything either; it would just prolong everything and make it easier for his mind to find something doubt.

He already doubted – he really didn't need any more of it. He sighed and closed his eyes for a few long moments – feeling the cold burn behind his lids. This was very likely Hizashi and his best chance and Shouta wasn't in the habit of chasing his own tail like a dog when he had an opportunity to act presented right in front of him… and yet…

He couldn't help but question if this truly was the best option… maybe it was with their limited time frame – that was, after all, what they had to plan for; the fact that they likely didn't have enough time to come up with a better idea, the fact that they didn't have the luxury of thinking over every possible plan of action or every little detail.

Maybe that was where Shouta's overall uncertainty came from – this knowledge that there was very likely a smarter and less dangerous way of dealing with all of this, yet they didn't have the time to find it.

He rubbed a palm over his face, rubbing over the stubble on his chin – his eyes were still burning behind the darkness of his lids. He sighed and opened his eyes again, pushing himself upwards so he could get his eye drops.

He squeezed two drops into each eye, for a brief moment everything seemed to worsen and then the relieve finally settled in – he let out a soft sigh as the burning lessened. For a few beats he simply remained where he was – sitting on the couch – with his head tipped back into his neck.

His eyes were fixed on the ceiling. For a moment Shouta found himself wondering just how exactly he had arrived at this point in his life and then he found himself wondering if it was a good or a bad thing all together. Everything that happened over the last year… all the things that changed and all the things that had stayed the same.

In a way this situation right here was still familiar – fighting to get the upper hand on organized crime, facing seemingly impossible odds… really the only difference was that he wasn't alone anymore. And in a strange way that made him feel more… grounded, if that word could even be used to describe this strange feeling inside his chest.

Before everything had felt just the slightest bit blurry, not quite there, not for Shouta at least. It had felt more like he had just been a temporary visitor, doing his part, doing his work for however long he might be able to – always vaguely hoping for retirement but also always bitterly aware that that might be nothing more than wishful thinking. Always convinced that he would just slip away into subconscious obscurity…

He felt more… connected now – tethered. He felt that even if he died he wouldn't just simply disappear… Human connections were strange like that. He felt more raw than he ever had before, more exposed – emotionally – more vulnerable than he strictly felt comfortable with… And he wasn't yet sure if he liked it or not.

He heaved out a low sigh that morphed into a deep hum at the end…

He pushed himself upwards and started packing his most essential things – hero costume, laptop, flash drives – if he was to more or less move in with Hizashi until this whole mess was either sorted out or had swept them along then he wouldn't want to accidentally leave something of importance behind.

Now that he thought about it, he realized that Hizashi's apartment might just logically be a better place to stay at. Hizashi – by virtue of being a civilian – was far harder to track down than a hero – especially if the people asking for information were part of a hero agency.

After all, it wasn't strange for agencies to try and get in contact with heroes, so no one would raise an eyebrow if said agency started asking personal questions like, where the hero Eraserhead might live. And they could just give any number of reasons for why they were inquiring about him in the first place – a collaboration, scouting out new talents, wanting to pen a contract…

It got a lot more suspicious if an agency started asking around to try and find a simple, random civilian with no previous criminal history. That certainly would raise some eyebrows.

In the end he simply slung his packed duffle bag around his shoulder and made his way out of his apartment – locking the door behind himself. His eyes flickered to any kind of hasty movement while he made his way towards Hizashi's apartment.

It was already late evening by this point – the streets were full with those people who just got of work and were now making their way home… and Shouta felt his heartbeat spike. Everytime someone bumped into him, everytime he heard a too loud noise, everytime someone stood out too much against the crowd his muscles tensed.

Truly, it was an utterly illogical reaction – if someone wanted to hunt him down they surely wouldn't do so in the middle of a crowded street. After all, that would just be insanity… and yet Shouta couldn't stop his hyper-vigilant mind from whispering into his ear constantly.

The ride in the crowded subway was the worst part – the proximity of the other people around him growing nearly unbearable. His skin prickling every time someone accidentally brushed against him, the touch nearly making him flinch – the brush of a snake that might just bit at any moment.

He drew in a deep calming breath – the stale air of the cart filling his lungs – before he shook his head to himself, disappointed at his own irrational antics. Once he stepped out of the cart again he suppressed the sudden urge to rub his hands over his upper arm and any other place on his body that seemed to burn with the phantom memory of touch.

His strides were long and fast-paced as he made his way to Hizashi's apartment, weaving around the people on the street as best as he could. His ears always drawn to foot steps that seemed to trail after him a little too long… before ultimately turning into a different direction, or stopping, or entering a building on the way.

Logically Shouta knew that the way hadn't taken longer than it usually would… yet for some reason it had felt like an eternity. He finally stopped in front of Hizashi's apartment. He pressed the doorbell and waited for the vigilantes voice to filter through the intercom.

“Yes?” asked a staticy voice after a while.

Shouta leaned closer to the speaker of the intercom “It’s Aizawa.” he gave back, rather more formal than he really needed to. It barely took a few seconds before he heard the by now familiar buzz of the door unlocking. He pushed the door open and stepped into the entrance way, a few steps more and a left turn and he was already ascending the stairs upwards.

Hizashi was already waiting in front of his door, a smile on his lips as he watched Shouta. In the end both men stepped into the apartment – Shouta busied himself by pulling his shoes off while Hizashi locked the door up again.

Once he was done Shouta straightened up again, a second passed and then he let out a tense breath, his shoulders slumping slightly – he hadn't noticed just how tightly his muscles had coiled; like a spring ready to snap at a moments notice.

He drew in a deep breath – warm air, coffee, the still lingering scent of cooking… he exhaled slowly through his nose, closing his eyes for a second… finally relaxing, his duffle bag sliding off his shoulder and hitting the ground with a dull thud…

He flinched when he suddenly felt arms wrapping around him “I missed you.” it was Hizashi's voice, pitched into a pleasant lilt. The blond man drew himself closer, moulding his body against Shouta's – he let out a contented, nearly relieved sounding sigh… and Shouta's skin prickled everywhere Hizashi touched him – involuntarily and subconsciously he drew back slipping out of the other mans gentle hold.

Hizashi seemed stumped for a second, the smile freezing on his face – he blinked in confusion, his arms still half raised in the air as if he couldn't quite comprehend what had just happened… and then, after a heartbeat or two, realization settled on his face “Not good right now?” he asked – likely assuming that Shouta, at the moment, just didn't want to welcome any sort of touch. After all they had talked about that happening before.

Shouta grit his teeth, his jaw jumping before he answered “I'm just tense. It should be fine in a bit.” he explained.

Hizashi nodded “If I do anything that makes you uncomfortable just tell me.” the blond man said easily before he started walking – Shouta picked up his duffle bag again before he fell into step beside the other man.

“I will.” Shouta gave back simply.

“Make yourself at home for the time being.” Hizashi said, sweeping his hand out in front of him in a half-circular arch – offering the entire living room area. Shouta wordlessly stepped farther into the apartment, heading for the living room couch, where he put his duffle bag down.

“If you want anything to drink or so just take whatever you want from the kitchen.” Hizashi continued before he walked past Shouta, heading for the bathroom “If you need anything just shout.” he threw over his shoulder before he disappeared inside the bathroom – the door closed with a soft click.

Shouta frowned at the door for a second but in the end he just shook his head and opened the zipper on his duffle – he pulled out his laptop and his notebook. He let himself sink down on the big four seat couch; pushing a few throw pillows aside, so he could properly cross his legs. He placed his laptop on top of his folded legs and opened the lid – intent on getting some work done.

His mouse cursor was already on its way towards one of the unfinished documents on his desktop when he stopped short… His gaze drawn by a little icon that told him that he had some unread emails.

For a second he just glared at the icon as if that could simply make it disappear again – he knew exactly who had sent that mail. In the end he just sighed and opened up his email program, after all, there was no sense prolonging all of this, it was inevitable.

As expected the email was from principal Nezu – a ‘re’ to his original mail. Shouta clicked on it and a second later it popped open.

I just wanted to inform you that I received your e-mail. I will make sure the documents you requested will be printed post-haste. They will be done by tomorrow – though before I hand them over I’d like to have a private talk with you if that is all right. Just come to my office whenever you are free.

Shouta grit his teeth, his jaw jumping – well, that was about what he had expected; an order masked behind near aggressive politeness… he really wasn't looking forward to the cross-examination Nezu was probably planing right that moment. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger over his lids before he let his hand sink again, he let out a soft, somewhat resigned sigh through his nose. He closed his email program again before moving on to his unfinished work documents.

He was halfway through his second document when the bathroom door suddenly swung open again – the knob nearly hitting the wall. His gaze was drawn to the noise and motion, it settled on Hizashi and… he blinked… and then blinked again – but the image in front of his eyes didn't change. For a split second he wondered if he had fallen asleep and was having an incredibly real yet at the same time impossibly unrealistic dream.

“So, what say you?” Hizashi asked expectantly, throwing his arms out and turning around his own axis, showing his entire body off.

Shouta blinked again, his brain slowly recovering from its confusion – his mind catching up with the fact that, no, he wasn't dreaming. He opened his mouth slowly… “You look weird.” he said, blunt and truthfully.

Hizashi snickered at that “Weird good or weird bad?” he asked, grinning – clearly amused by the hero’s reaction.

Shouta's mouth pinched down, his brows furrowing slightly as he tried to come up with a better way of wording himself but in the end all he could do was give up “Just weird.” his dark eyes roamed over Hizashi's frame, taking in his loose fitted pants – so unlike the tight jeans he usually preferred – that more or less obscured his slim legs. He had donned an asymmetrical long-sleeved shirt in an atrocious neon green colour – Shouta swore that he could feel the colour burning into his retinae.

The choice of clothes wasn't the worst part though, no, the thing that was most jarring was Hizashi's face – it seemed paler in colour than it usually was and, after a second or two, Shouta noticed that the near invisibly light dusting of freckles over the other mans nose and cheekbones had disappeared completely, as if it had never been there in the first place… Hizashi was wearing make-up, Shouta realized somewhat belated.

The vigilante had shaved off his moustache as well… and while Shouta had never really paid all that much attention to it Hizashi's face without it just seemed… strange, plain and simple. He seemed a lot younger like this… and Shouta, surprisingly enough, found that he actually missed the other mans facial hair – Hizashi just looked odd like this.

For a second Shouta mentally stumbled as his eyes locked with Hizashi's own – where before there had been nearly unnatural, electric green and concentric circles there now was a nearly flat looking crimson red.

Everything about Hizashi's face just seemed… off. It was still familiar and recognizable enough that Shouta was able to easily identify the man he loved… yet it was also different to the point that it nearly bled into uncanny valley territory – the fact that Hizashi's long hair was now a soft lavender instead of its usual near golden blond didn't help either.

Hizashi looked like a reject version of himself like that – like a cheap bootleg. Shouta's mouth thinned and he could feel a prominent furrow appearing between his brows as his face scrunched up.

For a second it was utterly quiet and then Hizashi suddenly burst out laughing – high-pitched, loud tittering. The sound was familiar and soothing… yet it just felt wrong that this noise came out of a face that seemed to belong to a near stranger.

“You look like you swallowed something disgusting!” Hizashi giggled, one hand raising to cover his mouth – though it did little to actually stifle his laughter. It took quite a while until the vigilante had finally calmed down again – he shot Shouta a teasing look, both his brows raised in clear mirth. Shouta simply scoffed back – he couldn't help it if Hizashi looked weird to him like that.

“Is it that ugly?” Hizashi asked and made his way towards the couch where Shouta was sitting. He grabbed the handles of the duffle bag and lifted it up a little before setting it onto the ground so he himself could flop down beside Shouta – the couch cushion bounced slightly at the impact.

The hero let out a huff “It’s not ugly.” he answered, and it was true. Shouta could still recognize Hizashi's oval face, his up-turned nose, the shape of his eyes – the other man still looked handsome; even like that… it was just that he had also lost so many of the other features that Shouta found attractive. His freckles, the long hair that looked like spun gold in the right light, his slightly rosy skin-colour that was now hidden behind under make-up, making the vigilante look nearly sickly pale, his gorgeous concentric, green eyes that were now covered by dull red contacts…

Shouta gave a soft sigh and then returned his gaze back to his half finished report “Hey!” Hizashi exclaimed, clearly trying to get his attention again – Shouta indulged him and lifted his eyes to the other mans face again – he didn't really know where to rest his gaze though, his eyes drawn to and fro by all the differences that shouldn't rightfully be there. He gave a grunt, signalling that Hizashi should get on with whatever he wanted.

“I wanna try some pitches okay?” the blond… lavender haired man said, his words sounded nearly like a question though “Could you give me some feedback?” Shouta only nodded and closed his laptop, focusing all of his attention on the man beside him “Goodie!” Hizashi grinned and then, after a second of silence he started to hum, voice pitching higher – for a second the vigilantes face scrunched up in something that looked like a ‘no’ in facial form and then his tone pitched down instead, running through different octaves.

“How’s that?” Hizashi finally asked and his voice sounded so strange that Shouta couldn't help but blink in confusion. It felt like whiplash and for a second his mind floundered, like there was a disconnect in his brain somewhere. His mind struggled to accept that this unfamiliar, deep – nearly scratchy – voice was coming from Hizashi and not someone else.

“Unsettling.” Shouta gave back after a moment, his mouth twitching – trying to flatten into a displeased line.

“You don't like this voice?” Hizashi asked, his words sounding wrong, the pitch was off, the way he emphasises certain letters and sounds was off, the way there wasn't even a hint of his usual soft lilt was off, the points where he drew in air were off – and Shouta had to consciously stop himself from gritting his teeth or pulling a face.

“I don’t.” he answered bluntly and, after a second, he added “I prefer your real voice.”

Hizashi blinked at him and then a sly smile stretched over his face. He let out a soft coo – his voice back to normal, softer and higher and more melodious than he had sounded only a second ago; a beautiful lilt. A second passed in silence “Do you think this is good enough as a disguise?” Hizashi finally asked.

Shouta considered it, his eyes racking over Hizashi – consciously taking him in – and in the end he let out a low hum “Yeah.” he nodded.

“Awesome!” Hizashi exclaimed and then leaned forward clearly trying to get a kiss and, without really thinking, Shouta leaned back, dodging the other man – driven by unconscious instinct.

Hizashi blinked, an expression of shell-shocked surprise settling on his face and for a second Shouta felt truly bad – he didn't really know why he had pulled back just then. He hadn't really been thinking in that moment.… Hizashi just looked so… strange.

Yet, whatever negative feelings had welled up they evaporated again nearly immediately when he saw a sly grin stretching over Hizashi's face a second later.

“Come on.” the vigilante crooned sweetly “I won’t tell myself that you cheated on me with me.” he giggled, raising a mocking eyebrow – his expression softened a moment later though “Aww, don't pout darling. I think it’s really sweet.” he reassured, one hand reach out to cup around Shouta's jaw.

“I’m not pouting.” Shouta rectified and Hizashi just nodded, a sarcastic ‘uh-huh’ written all over his face – though he didn't comment. His hand slipped away from Shouta's face again.

“Well, Mister Not-Pouting,” he started and got up again – he walked into the bedroom and then a few moments later returned with a few papers in his hand “I made a few notes about who to go after. I wanted you to help me look through them – I already crossed out a few people.” he padded back towards the couch on socked feet and then flopped himself down beside Shouta again “It’s always good to have a second opinion on stuff like that.”

Shouta hummed and placed his laptop on the living room table. He scooted a little closer to the other man so he was able look over his shoulder at the papers – true to Hizashi's words a few names were already crossed out, some others had tiny notes written beside them, a few names were encircled – those were probably the people Hizashi wanted to mainly focus on.

Shouta was so caught up with scanning over the paper – making note of all the things Hizashi had written down – that he nearly startled when the other man beside him twisted towards him and – without prior warning – pressed his lips against Shouta's.

Hizashi pulled back again only a few seconds later, giggling softly – he grinned at Shouta “I won’t tell your boyfriend, don't worry, this will be a secret between us.” he reassured, laying his pointer finger against his lips in a ‘hush’ gesture. Shouta rolled his eyes and let out a huff – it came out more fond than he had intended.

Chapter Text

The alcohol tasted awful – a little like mouthwash only with a bite to it – still, you could get just as drunk of the cheap stuff as you could of the more expensive selection that a better bar might have. And getting drunk was the point – or at least a point right about now. Maybe not the main point, but still.

He stood up, staggering slightly as he tried to get his slightly wobbly legs under himself again. He made his way towards the bar – each of his steps having some sort of extra resistance to it; his shoes trying to stick themselves to the syrupy floor. He half bumped against the old, scratched up wooden counter with his upper body, propping himself up with his elbow as he shoved his empty glass towards the bartender with his other hand.

“Another one.” he said, words not quite slurred – not quite tipsy yet… but well on his way. The bartender gave him a stare that seemed to convey a kind of resigned annoyance but he didn't comment and instead pulled a bottle closer, filling the glass again.

Newly filled glass in hand Yue turned around and promptly bumped into someone – his drink sloshing out and staining the other mans shirt.

“Aw fuck! Sorry dude!” Yue immediately apologized, patting himself down in search for a tissue or a napkin or something that could help him soak up the mess he had made of the man opposite of him “Shit, don't even have anything on me.” he grumbled, his voice exhausted and annoyed in equal measures. He heaved a sigh “God the day just keeps getting worse. Sorry dude, really. Wait I'm gonna ask the bartender if he has a towel or something. I’ll pay for the laundry bill.” he blabbered, sounding a little more sober thanks to the sudden shock that had sparked through him only a second ago.

The other man gave irritated, half angry sound “Great! Now I smell of cheap whiskey just ‘cause you have no eyes in your skull!”

“I said I was sorry!” Yue immediately shot back, tone an awkward squawk, he raised his left hand and pushed the ball of it against his forehead, as if he was nursing a headache “God.” he sighed, looking down at his empty glass, his mouth pulling into a dejected frown “Maybe I had enough.” he mumbled more to himself “Drinking isn't gonna help anything, is it?”

“You think so?” the second man gave back sarcastically and Yue snapped his eyes up towards him, fixing he guy with his angry, red gaze.

“Look dude, I just had a miserable day, okay? Can’t a guy wallow in self pity and alcohol for a night without judgment?” he huffed and puffed, words just spilling out of him – alcohol making his tongue lose “I lost my job and my girlfriend left me today, okay – damned fame digging whore!” he murmured the last part under his breath “She was only together with me ‘cause I'm a hero” here Yue stopped a moment, words trailing off “Well… was a hero… agency threw me out. Fucking vultures!”

He let out a heavy breath through his mouth. A moment passed and then he seemed to remember himself “Sorry dude.” he addressed the other man still standing in front of him “That’s probably super boring for you. No one wants to hear a stranger whine to them about shit that went wrong in their life. Just gimme your number or something and I’ll take care of the laundry bill.”

Here Yue gave a sardonic scoff “Better take the deal quickly before I have no money left in the bank, what with being unemployed now.”

The man opposite regarded him for a few seconds – like a sleazy car salesman trying to strike up a bargain “You were a hero?” he asked, in a tone of voice that was probably supposed to hide his curiosity but didn't.

Yue wrinkled his nose “Don’t have to sound so baffled, man. I know I don't look like much but my quirk isn't bad at all. And yet those dicks just threw me out! Gave me the boot for someone younger and flashier than me even after I busted my ass for them for years. There should be some sort of rule against that.” he sighed, rubbing one hand down his face “Anyway, as I said, no one got time to listen to a guy crying about shit like that. Just gimme your damned number, or address or something… Or maybe I should just give you mine so you can send the bill to me? Either way is fine.”

The other mans eyes flickered around for a moment as if he was looking for something before he leaned in a little, tone growing a bit quieter “What kind of quirk do you have then if you say it is so useful?”

“Perfect Pitch quirk.” Yue answered and, as he saw the confusion on the other mans face he huffed and added an explanation “It’s combination of an auditory and vocal quirk. Basically I can tell exactly what pitch something makes and then replicate it with my voice. It’s really useful if you wanna make stuff vibrate. Like-” he smacked his lips as he tried to think of an easy way to explain it “-if you hit the right tone and frequency you can make stuff swing and then it’ll ultimately collapse in on itself.” he shrugged. A second passed “Why you wanna know?”

“Oh, no particular reason.” the man answered, though his voice betrayed his words. A short pause and then “I heard recently that voice quirks are supposedly really powerful.”

Yue grunted and gave another shrug “Yeah, guess so. Depends on the quirk though – there are also a whole bunch of people who can mimic noises or like, can produce tones that aren't even audible for humans – it’s a nice parlour trick but it can’t really be used offensively like mine.”

The other man seemed intrigued by that “Have you by chance heard about that guy with the voice quirk who busted a whole bunch of cars a while ago? It wasn't too big in the news.”

Yue tipped his head to the side at that, thinking – finally he gave high-pitched sound of realization; a kind of wordless ‘ah’ and nodded his head “Ah yes!” he half exclaimed “Wasn’t that that weird lovers spat story or something? I think I read something about that in one of the gossip magazines my girlfriend… well, ex-girlfriend always bought. Seems like the guy had some sort of amplification quirk, going by the description.” he paused for a moment and then – as if to show off – he added “That kinda stuff needs a lot less skill than my quirk though. Everyone can scream loudly, but modulation and pitch needs work and takes time to train and learn – so don't think of lumping me in with that guy.” the last part of the sentence was a scoff, he waved his hand in the air in a dismissive motion.

“My name is Mori Noburu.” the stranger opposite of him suddenly introduced himself.

“Amaya Yue.” he gave back, slowly, not really sure where this conversation was going all of a sudden. He just wanted to settle the matter with the bill and then get home… or maybe get one last drink – today had just been very, very long and very, very exhausting.

“You know Amaya-san, it really is a small world. I'm a hero as well, you know.” Mori said “I work for a rather small agency and we are always looking for new talents.” the way he said ‘talent’ sounded more than a little strange “Where did you say you graduated hero school?”

“UA.” Yue gave back without really thinking “Wasn’t too bad either. Not top of the class but definitely above average…” here he trailed off, his alcohol slowed mind finally putting the dots together “If you’re trying to get me to sign anything then you can get lost, dude. I have had enough of this whole hero-bullshit. All the posturing and what not, getting used and then thrown away. Those agencies are all the same. They can fuck themselves!”

“Ours is quite different you'll find.” Mori insisted, that strange tone still in his voice. Yue just snorted derisively.

“Yeah, sure, that's what they all say: ‘But we are not like the others’. Damned snake oils salesmen.” he shook his head to himself “Just thinking about all of it makes me angry again. If you don't want me to pay your bill then just shove off dude. I need another drink.” he said the last part with a resigned huff and then he made to turn.

Mori drew closer, throwing an arm around Yue’s shoulder in a companionable manner that was utterly unappreciated behaviour towards a stranger you had only just met a few minutes ago – Yue was just about to shake the arm off when the other man spoke up again “Tell you what, I’ll buy you a drink and in return you'll listen to my proposal? And then we just forget the laundry bill.”

Yue’s brows drew down for a second and then he let out a huff through his nose “Not gonna say no to a free drink. I’ll take a glass of whisky.” he said and ducked out from under the other mans arm – taking the few steps towards the bar counter.

Mori drew up beside him and leaned against the wooden counter too “A whiskey for my friend here.” he ordered and the bartender nodded, taking a new glass and filling it up before he sat it down in front of Yue – he took the old used glass away as well, probably so it could be washed… though Yue wasn't too sure if hygiene was a big concern in this dingy hole… Not that he was complaining as long as the booze was cheap.

“Well then dude-” Yue said and pulled his glass closer – he took a sip and then placed the glass down again “-get talking – if I finish this before you're done then I'm just gonna up and leave. What you wanna sell me?”

Mori raised an eyebrow, his expression looking smug “The hero agency I'm working for isn't quite… conventional, you know? We do a lot of stuff other agencies don't do and we don't do a lot of stuff they do. You see we are honestly searching for talented people, most of them don't even have to have an overtly flashy quirk. You see, I have a plant quirk, that kind of quirk usually isn't all that sought after but my agency took me in anyway. You would be surprised how many people work there who are just like you – flushed out by other hero agencies. We are a bit of a save harbour.”

Yue snorted “Yeah sure. You’re just helping us throw-aways out of the good of your hearts. How do you make money then? How many magazine interviews and merchandise lines do you have?” his tone was sardonic.

“None at all.” Mori grinned and Yue blinked at that – momentarily stumped, his glass half raised to his mouth, his hand suspended in mid-motion.

He blinked a second time, trying to make sense of what he had just heard “Either I'm more sloshed than I realized or someone mixed me something in my drink.” he said and lowered his glass a little – throwing a suspicious look at it as if he half expected the whiskey to become solid and bite him like a sentient being right then and there. He raised his eyes again, squinting slightly at the man beside him “…But I believe you just told me you don't merchandise. What about the others in your agency?”

“They don't merchandise either.” Mori gave back immediately as if he had expected that very question – he probably had. His eyes were sparking in a predatory way as he realized that he had gotten Yue’s undivided attention now.

“For real then, how do you make money? The government funding can’t be that high for you, even if you are a small agency the pay-check has to come from somewhere.” Yue pressed, he placed his glass on the counter – forgotten – and leaned closer to Mori, his lavender brows furrowed in utter confusion.

“We do a lot of small jobs, we are more or less half underground so every hero makes enough money from nothing but hero work itself.” Mori said and Yue’s mouth pulled down slightly.

“Yeah, yeah.” Yue said snidely, one hand waving in the air in a dismissive motion “Sure, wine and ambrosia, that's nice. But how does the agency make money then?”

Mori shrugged “Mostly donations, you see we-”

“Bullshit!” Yue immediately cut the other man off, tone biting “Who the hell would donate to a no-name agency that isn't even close to famous? Underground work doesn't get you into the lime light, it gets you scrubbing alleyways and helping old ladies cross the road.”

Mori smiled – though it looked a little forced around the edges “It seems you have a bit of a misconception about how underground work, well, works. Maybe you should talk to our CEO then, the boss is always happy to have new people. In fact we are a little understaffed at the moment.”

Yue frowned “Are you trying to scam me? Do you want may credit card details? Is this… wait!” he trailed off for a second “Why are you understaffed?” his brows drew together, a crease appearing on his forehead.

“Well, a few heroes...” here Mori smacked his lips together before he continued “-retired.” he settled on, the word sounding strange “So we are currently looking for new people to fill their shoes. Look!” he raised both his hands in a pacifying gesture “I’m not saying you have to give an answer right away – just think it over.” he lowered his hands again, one setting on the counter the other one going to his pant pocket, he fumbled out his wallet and a second later he placed a card on the table “That’s our card, address and name and everything else is on that. If you want to start at our place just come over and bring your credentials. If you have any questions the boss can answer those. To be honest I'm not all that invested when it comes to the whole economy aspect. As long as I can comfortably pay my rent and don't have to worry about being fired I'm happy.”

Yue sighed, one hand reaching out to his glass again – he lifted it and knocked its content back in one go, placing the empty glass back on the counter top “Yeah, I guess I can relate to that.” he said, sounding rather solemn – he turned his empty glass in his hand. After a few seconds of contemplation he unstuck his fingers from the glass and pulled the card on the table top closer, giving it a once over.

He let out a thoughtful hum as his gaze lingered on the piece of laminated paper “I’ll think it over. I'm too wasted to make an informed decision right about now anyways.”

Mori let put a bark of a laugh “That’s fine.” he said. He lingered a little longer, making sure Yue actually put the card into his pant pocket before he spoke up again “Well, I still have places to go.” turning his body slightly – a clear show that he was about to leave.

Yue nodded in the way intoxicated people did – a little too deliberate “Yeah sure.” he said and then after a moment he added “Thanks dude. Really.”

Mori just grinned – it looked downright sharkish “Don’t mention it.” he gave back easily and after another few moments he turned to leave, vanishing between the people and the smoke of the bar.

Yue watched him leave and, after he was sure the other man was truly gone, he flagged down the bartender again “Hey dude, can you do a punch and smash cocktail?” he asked and the bartender just gave him a confused look. Yue let out a huff. Really, what had he expected?

“A grasshopper?” he asked and was met with the same blank stare as before “Well, can you at least do a pear Martini with elderflower liqueur?” for a second he paused and then shook his head to himself, thinking better of it – simply giving up with a half annoyed, half resigned scoff “Just gimme a screwdriver okay?” he sighed and placed down a few coins on the counter.

At this the bartender gave a nod of recognition and set to work. Yue idly watched the other man, he was trying to waste a bit of time anyway so it wasn't as if he was in a rush or something. He bobbed his head in tact with the beat of the music scratching out of the two old speakers mounted to the wall – it was horrible music if he was being honest. Just straight up revolting really. No lyrics, no nothing – just a bass-boosted beat… and a bad beat at that.

A glass slid along the bar top towards him and stopped beside his elbow – he raised it, giving a cheers to the bartender and then started sipping on his drink. He suppressed a wrinkle of his nose – the bartender could have been a bit more generous with the orange juice. The thing tasted like he had just taken a mouthful of vodka directly from a bottle. Really, he might have no problem with dry or slightly bitter wines but straight up alcohol? That just wasn't up his alley – he much preferred sweet or fruity cocktails.

After all you could get just as drunk by drinking those, and as an added bonus your tongue didn't try to burn away in your mouth like an ant colony under a magnifying glass. Truthfully, Yue had never understood the stigma that such cocktails had attached to them – the way a shot of straight up alcohol was somehow more ‘manly’ than some colourful, overdecorated cocktail when both of those had the same percentage of alcohol. The only difference was that one of those things actually tasted good – and it certainly wasn't the whisky on the rock.

He continued to slowly sip at his drink, turning his head slightly every time an especially thick cloud of smoke danced closer towards him. He hated cigarettes and second hand smoke with a burning passion and he couldn't wait to get out of this dingy place – he would probably need to take a shower when he got home so he could scrub the stink off his body and out of his long, lavender hair… and after that he probably would have to burn his clothes before the stench of smoke could seep into his furniture.

In the end he finished his drink. He ended up turning the empty glass in his hands as he waited a little longer – his red eyes sweeping around the room. He couldn't see Mori anymore – the other man had probably left quite a while ago, still, you could never be too careful with that sort and so Yue fiddled with his glass as the songs blaring out of the speakers bled into each other.

After another quarter hour he slid his glass away from himself and straightened up, making his way out. His steps were slightly uneven – clearly drunk. He pushed his hair away from his face in an obviously uncoordinated motion.

He stumbled out of the door of the bar – breathing in the fresh, smoke free air, a strong sense of relieve washing over him now that he didn't feel like someone tried to choke him from the inside out anymore. He staggered away, his steps growing more and more confident the farther away from the bar he got – dragging, uneven gait morphing into something more graceful – a long-legged stride – there was a subtle yet noticeable swing to his slim hips.

He dipped into a few side-streets, taking a very round-about route – he felt watched, felt eyes following him… yet whenever he looked around no one was there. A coy grin stretched over his face and his gaze automatically rose upwards, eyes tracing the roofs of the surrounding buildings – of course he wasn't able to see anything from where he was and that only made his grin widen impossibly, upper row of teeth showing, his expression showing a sort of awed pride… somewhat smitten.

A few streets farther away still his steps finally slowed – there was more than enough distance between him and that dingy bar now. His eyes trailing around the rather nice neighbourhood he had ended up in. He leaned against a chest high wall that closed the front yard of one house off from the pavement – he waited, idly twirling one strand of his lavender hair around his fingers, dipping his body back a little more than he needed to, showing himself off – slim and lean – his legs stretched to show of their full length. He was making a spectacle out of himself.

There was a rustle not too far from him and he couldn't stop a sly grin appearing on his face, his head turning deliberately and slowly towards the noise, showing of the delicate column of his neck “Hello there, handsome stranger.” he greeted the black clad man walking towards him. He licked his lips, red eyes trailing up and down the other mans figure nearly greedily – it was really such a pity that that baggy, dark hero costume hid so much of the ripped physic that Yue knew was just underneath it.

He drew his bottom lip between his teeth and fluttered his eyelashes in a flirtatious manner – he saw the other man rolling his eyes at his antics but there was also the slightest twitch to his thin lips – fond – and it made Yue’s own coquettish smile morph into something more playful and less lascivious.

Finally the other man stopped beside him, leaning against the wall too, he crossed his arms over his chest “And? Got anything useful?” he asked, his impossibly dark eyes swallowing the light of the surrounding street lamps.

Hizashi giggled, his posture slouching a little more, no longer showing himself off. One of his hands reached down and he pulled out the small laminated card from his pant pocket “Got a nice invitation for a job. Guess you just have to hit the pavement sometimes.” he sing-songed, twirling the card between his fingers “What a moron!” he let out a sardonic titter and shook his head to himself in something that was half disbelieve and half mirth “Well, no complaining from me!” he said before he gave a small scoff “You should have seen how proud he was of himself. Thought he played me when it was I who played him like a damned fiddle.”

He tucked the card back into his pocket and the turned slightly – now no longer leaning against the wall with his lower back but instead with his side and hip. He bowed forward a little, his right hand reaching out so his pointer finger could draw circles into Shouta's chest “What about you, gorgeous?” he prompted “Is everything sorted out at school? Or is the principal still on your ass?”

He felt Shouta's chest raise and fall under his finger as the other man let out an inaudible sigh “Yes, I wrapped everything up.” he said and Hizashi frowned at that tone of voice.

“You don't sound very ecstatic.” he noted and drew a step or two closer, his right hand flattening against the other mans pectoral, feeling the strong heartbeat there, even under two layers of clothes – Shouta's warmth was seeping into his fingers and palm.

Shouta let out another sigh, this one audible, sounding exhausted “It was fine. Nezu-san is just...” here he trailed off for a second, his face scrunching up the slightest bit “Let’s just say he has his fun with this whole thing. And he will continue to have fun for quite a whole going forward.” he sounded tired.

Hizashi let out a purring hum – the vibration of his quirk rumbling through his chest. A moment or two passed and then he felt Shouta's tense muscles relaxing slightly in response to the noise “Want me to make your evening better?” he offered, his purring stopping. His lips pulled into a mischievous grin as his second hand rose to flatten against Shouta's chest as well.

The hero gave a huff that sounded fondly-annoyed – he shot Hizashi a chastising look, though it lacked fire, what with the way his gaze seemed so impossibly soft, dark and warm “I still have work to do.” Shouta gave back.

“Afterwards then? I'm gonna be up for another while anyways. I have to wash up and get the cigarette stink out of my hair and clothes after all.” he gave back nearly flippantly. He drew the last few steps closer, his hips and upper legs bumping into Shouta's. He tipped his head down a little – creating an artificial height gap – his gaze raising upwards as he watched the other man from beneath his lashes “What say you? I can get ready and then wait in bed for you to come home, mh?” he licked over his bottom lip.

Shouta's face darkened at that – this time there was true displeasure visible “Hizashi.” the rumble of his name was both sharp as well as utterly exhausted. Hizashi felt something inside of him softening, tender sympathy welling up.

He pulled a gentle smile onto his face, his hands rubbing soothingly over Shouta's chest – he knew the hero took all of this very serious. He could see it in his face – paler than usual, eyes more sunken in and bloodshot, dark circles underneath them. He could feel it in the tense flex of muscles underneath his hands. The other man wasn't sleeping quite right either, Hizashi had noticed. Shouta was driving himself mad, all of this was eating away at him and he was obviously running on fumes – pushing and pushing, unable to stop or rest… breaking himself apart.

“Sorry darling.” Hizashi said, his voice pitched into the lilt he knew Shouta loved so much.

“No.” Shouta said, shaking his head slightly “It’s fine.” he added, his voice losing its tight edge again – back to its usual dark and smooth and warm tone. The one he always used with Hizashi. His dark eyes slipped away from Hizashi's – defeat, a concession, a wordless apology.

Hizashi let out a soft rumble – quirk enhanced; another soothing purr “I’ll wait up for you.” he informed “So don't keep me waiting for too long, okay?” he was lilting softly, coaxing, bending his body towards Shouta's, catching his impossibly dark eyes with his own gaze…

He was trying to manipulate Shouta – he was trying to bend the other man to his will… was trying to manipulate him into coming home before dawn break or school begin, was trying to manipulate him into resting, relaxing, sleeping.

He knew he shouldn't… but he was worried – he couldn't help it. It was no excuse, he knew, but he found he didn't particularly care… maybe he should. In the end Shouta gave a low hum in answer, his chest rumbling with it, vibration bleeding into Hizashi's hands resting there. Agreement. Bowing to Hizashi.

“Goodie!” Hizashi half exclaimed, tone giddy, he nodded, a grin stretching over his face – he was sure he must seem absurdly excited right now but he didn't have it in himself to feel self-conscious about it, not with Shouta. He noted with some satisfaction that the other mans expression seemed to softened a little – his dark eyes lidding slightly, the tense, bloodless line of his mouth relaxing, his jaw unclenching.

For a few heartbeats they simply remained like that – Hizashi humming, putting his quirk behind it, purring softly for Shouta's sake. His hands rubbing comforting circles against the other mans chest – feeling the steady, strong beat under his right palm.

“Try and be careful.” Hizashi finally urged, his tone both gentle as well as serious – a paradox between soft and harsh; something that booked no real argument.

“I’ll try.” Shouta gave back, nodding in that grave manner of his – it made Hizashi's mouth twitch up despite himself; that nod was just so Shouta “You too.” the dark haired man said after a second and Hizashi hummed out an agreement.

A few moments passed in silence and then Hizashi pushed with his hands – he saw the way Shouta blinked in confusion, yet the other man played along and moved with Hizashi. The vigilante was well aware of the fact that Shouta was – physically – a lot stronger than him. If the dark haired man didn't want to be moved then he wouldn't be moved… and yet he always went along with Hizashi anyway – indulging him – letting himself be pushed around by choice.

Hizashi shoved him around the corner of the wall – into the dark, closed-off space between the two houses beside them. He pressed the other man against the wall there and then leaned in – slotting his lips against Shouta's in a chaste, short, yet incredibly tender kiss.

“Love you.” Hizashi whispered against the hero’s mouth, still close enough so that their lips brushed against one another as he sounded out the words. He felt the vibrations of Shouta's low rumbling hum against his fingers, saw the way his intense, dark stare was fixed on him and him alone – it was a heady thing, it made him want to preen. God! It was ridiculous how much the other man affected him, how much he loved the thought of all of Shouta's attention fixed on him “Love you so much.” Hizashi breathed, nearly awed, and then dipped in again to steal another kiss before the other man even had had a chance to respond.

Shouta's lips against his were less chapped than his own, warm and pliant and responsive and Hizashi's fingers against the other mans chest curled involuntarily and unconsciously, gripping into his hero costume – keeping him close. He pressed his body against Shouta's bulkier form, trying to crowd him in – and Shouta let him; it was intoxicating.

When they finally parted again both men were breathing fast, their chests heaving against each other. Hizashi's eyes were momentarily drawn by the wet shine of Shouta's lips before he raised his gaze up again – caught by void black. He licked his own lips – tasting the bitter hint of black, sugarless coffee; he licked over his lips again, chasing the taste.

“Love you too.” Shouta gave back, his voice just the slightest bit rough – rumbling over Hizashi like a warm wave of water and making the vigilantes stomach roll and his heartbeat quicken into something painfully sweet.

It was harder than it should be to step back away again, Hizashi noticed, but he did so anyway; forcing himself – giving the other man enough room to step around him and out of the dim corner they were in. Hizashi watched as Shouta walked away, watched the way his capture weapon puffed up around him, two strands flying up and wrapping around a close by lamppost. It wasn't too long after that that Shouta had vanished from his sight – up on the rooftops again.

For a few heartbeats Hizashi remained where he was before he stuffed his quickly cooling hands into his pant pockets and started to make his way home again – he walked through the back alleys, towards the backside of the apartment complex – taking the fire escape to climb upwards to his tiny balcony.

He didn't know if the two cops in their civilian car where still parked on the street to watch the front door of the apartment complex but safe was safe. He swung his legs over the rail of the balcony and then opened the door – letting himself into his kitchen. He closed and locked the door behind himself again and then made his way towards his bathroom, intent on washing the smoke stench off of himself before he would start retching because of it.

Once in the bathroom he stuffed his clothes into the washing machine right away before he stepped into his shower stall. He took his time, soaping himself down and lathering his hair up – the slightly blueish-pinkish foam running down the drain as the pigment washed out of his hair as well – Hizashi didn't really had it in himself to care. So what? He could put on a new coat tomorrow.

His body bent forward a little, his forehead now leaning against the cool tiles of the shower stall – he closed his eyes for a second. They burned and he remembered that he hadn't taken out his coloured contacts yet. Contacts always felt strange to him which was why he usually only wore normal glasses.

He let out a soft sigh – the warm water running down his back. With the first step taken care of – making contact and even getting an invitation right away – a lot suddenly seemed easier. Now it was just a matter of playing up his character and – fingers crossed – he might soon be able to walk around the hero agency unsupervised.

He didn't know how much time had passed before he finally turned the water off again – he stepped out of the stall, the bathroom filled with warm mist. His hand grabbed blindly for his towel rack, he pulled out an old, already slightly frayed towel – it was good enough, at least that way he wouldn't stain one of his good ones with the last residues of the pigment that was still dripping down his hair.

He rubbed the towel over the crown of his head carefully before he started patting downwards – trying to not unnecessarily tangle his hair. Once his hair wasn't dripping anymore he tied his bathrobe around himself and then sat himself down on the toiled seat, plugging his blow drier in.

His hands moved nearly mechanically, familiar motions – partitioning his hair, fingers combing through the strands, making sure the warm air reached everywhere. His mind took the opportunity to wander a little, playing through scenarios, walking through conversations that hadn't happened yet.

For a second his mind ground to a halt as he asked himself a question that, by all means, shouldn't be that difficult to answer… yet it was. What would they do after they got the evidence?

He knew what Shouta would do – he would take all of it and walk straight to the police… there was no doubt that it would turn into a huge scandal and there was also no doubt that even someone like Shouta wouldn't be able to keep his name out of the media or away from the public.

Shouta hadn't seemed that bothered by it when they had talked about all of this before – Hizashi was sure that the other man saw all of this just as part of his job, as something that had to be done and he was willing to sacrifice his privacy – the thing he valued so much – for it.

And after that? Everyone would know about him, even villains and criminals. It wouldn't take too long for them to make the connection between the mysterious hero with the mystery quirk and the guy plastered on the front page of every newspaper. It would become difficult for Shouta to continue his work as an underground hero that way, wouldn't it?

And then what? His quirk wasn't marketable enough for him to become a daytime Pro, and his temporary fame after all of this would only last so long… and really, what agency would take in a hero that had tripped up another agency – no matter if it had been a good thing or not.

Shouta would tank his own hero career and private life with all of this – just to do the right thing… It was admirable… but also stupid in Hizashi's opinion… there had to be a better option.

He mulled his options over as he dried his hair – he didn't know how long the whole ordeal took him but in the end he unplugged his blow drier again and stood up. He definitely did feel better now that he was clean again.

He made his way out of the bathroom and towards the kitchen – getting himself a glass of water. He sipped slowly. His gaze fixed on the opposing wall in a near glare as his mind turned everything over, his teeth caught his bottom lip and he started chewing unconsciously… There had to be a better way to resolve this… a better way… a better one…

A soft tapping noise ripped him out of his thoughts, he blinked as his mind stumbled back into the here and now. His head turned towards the noise, his eyes settling on the dark figure standing on his balcony.

Hizashi’s lips pulled into a small smile and he placed his water glass on the counter. Shouta had come back early – the thought made his chest feel warm. He made his way towards the glass door of his balcony, one of his hands rose up to pull the collar of his bathrobe slightly lose, baring his throat and a small part of his left collarbone.

He pulled the door open and then leaned his upper body against the frame “Hey there ruggedly handsome.” he greeted, voice a coquettish lilt, a slight playfulness to his words, a good-natured tease “Why don't you come in and show me a good time?” he asked, smile clearly audible in his voice.

Both of his hands rose, reaching out to curl into the front of Shouta's hero costume – he pulled and the other man went easily, letting himself be dragged inside. Hizashi stepped back a little then, turning to close the balcony door again – behind him he heard two soft thuds as Shouta's boots hit the ground. He threw a glance over his shoulder, seeing how Shouta placed his boots against the wall beside the door with a familiar neatness – he smiled at the display before he turned around again, waiting.

The second Shouta had straightened up again Hizashi stepped closer, both his hands flattening against the hero’s chest “Let’s go to bed.” he said, his voice low, he pushed gently, nearly a hesitant question.

For a second everything was still, Shouta's dark eyes caught Hizashi's gaze, they stared at each other for a heartbeat or two… and then Shouta stepped back, moving with Hizashi’s hands on his chest, letting himself be shoved towards the bedroom.

Hizashi's lips pulled into a warm smile.

Both of them made their way towards the bedroom, getting ready for sleep. Hizashi took out his contacts, letting out a soft, relieved sigh – he put them into their designated package and then settled under the blanket beside Shouta.

The hero let out a soft yawn and Hizashi couldn't quite keep his hands to himself, his right arm reached out, fingers combing through thick black hair, brushing it away from Shouta's forehead and temple. His nails scratching gently and he both felt as well as saw the way Shouta's shoulder dropped, his body slowly uncoiling.

“Tired?” Hizashi asked and Shouta gave a nearly sarcastic sounding snort but otherwise didn't answer.

Hizashi pushed himself farther up the bed, closer to the man beside him. It didn't take long before he felt an arm snake around his chest, pulling him closer still, moving and rearranging him – and soon enough his back was flush with Shouta's front. The hero moved too, he shuffled a little until he was able to mould himself better against Hizashi, his arm slipping down to rest around the blond mans waist, holding him close.

Hizashi let out a pleased hum. It was quiet for the longest time, neither man spoke but it was painfully obvious that neither of them was asleep either.

Finally Hizashi spoke up, breaking the deafening silence “I’ll probably call the agency later, after waking up I mean. I’ll explain what happened at the bar and with a bit of luck they’ll give me an appointment in the next few days. I mean, it kinda depends on how they react to the news that one of their guys goes around chatting up strangers at bars, so let’s hope they aren't too mad about that.” he giggled, nearly a little nervously.

Shouta hummed behind him, Hizashi could feel the deep rumble against his back. A moment of quiet and then “Are you really sure about this?” Shouta suddenly asked – his tone was strange, nearly as if he had forced the words out of his mouth; as if he hadn't wanted to say them in the first place… there was a hint of doubt in his voice too for whatever reason.

“I thought we already talked about this.” Hizashi gave back, a resigned breath to his voice – so this was what all of this was about. Again.

He twisted his upper body a little and Shouta got the message – lifting his arm and giving Hizashi the room he needed to move properly. The vigilante turned fully, onto his other side, now able to look at Shouta directly. The room was dark but this close together Hizashi was still able to make out the strange expression the other man wore and, quite unlike himself, Hizashi found himself struggling to interpret it.

Still… maybe that wasn't all that weird. After all, Shouta was one of the very few people who actually managed to throw him off his groove; one of the few to make him doubt and question. And if he was honest then that was actually one of the many things he adored about Shouta… but it could also be confusing and frustrating, especially in situations like this one right now.

Shouta just grunted, his gaze slipping away from Hizashi's – admitting defeat wordlessly.

That had been one of the things Hizashi had learned early on – Shouta talked with his eyes, with his stares to be more precise. He wouldn't look at things he didn't care for – so if something actually caught his attention it was a big deal… which might also explain why Hizashi always got so giddy whenever Shouta focused his gaze on him.

Furthermore Shouta would simply look until he had found what he was searching for – he tended to stare people into submission too, unblinkingly holding their gaze until they looked away – avoiding his eyes and shrinking away… And if Shouta was the one to avert his gaze first? – in the same way as he had done just now? – then it meant that he gave up; submitting quietly.

Hizashi's frowned, his brows drawn together to the point where he could feel a crease appearing on his forehead – he wasn't quite sure what Shouta was forfeiting right now. He moved his hands, fingers bumping into the other mans lower stomach, drawing up and up until he was able to flatten his palms against the hero’s chest. He curled his body a little, tucking himself against Shouta's broader form – their noses nearly touching.

“You have to talk to me if something bothers you.” Hizashi whispered softly, his hands rubbing calming circles against Shouta's pectorals “I know you're more of a ‘do’ than ‘talk’ guy, but I'm not good enough at reading you just yet to be able to figure out what you want right now… so can you just tell me?” he asked, he pitched his voice into the lilt he knew Shouta liked.

The other man drew his left hand over his naked waist, up, down, up, down – a caress. His movements suddenly stopped, palm laying on Hizashi's hip now, thumb resting in the crease where thigh met upper body, stroking circles into the thin, sensitive skin there – a mindless motion. A point of contact.

Shouta's mouth thinned in that peculiar way it often did when he was thinking about something, his jaw jumped and then, after a few heartbeats, his expression smoothed out again – his usual blank look appearing instead. His left hand caressed upwards again, touch light but still firm enough so it wouldn't accidentally tickle, his blunt nails dragging slightly over sensitive skin – making Hizashi shiver as goosebumps rose.

The hand moved farther up, over Hizashi's lower right arm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder… finally cupping around the side of his neck, thumb resting against the edge of his jaw, right in front of his ear, the rest of the fingers cupped around the very base of Hizashi's skull. Shouta pulled gently until Hizashi's forehead was rested against his throat.

He felt lips pressing against the top of his head – a soft kiss that lingered for several seconds. Shouta drew back a little, nose nuzzling into Hizashi's hair “Just try to be careful.” was all the hero said in the end.

Hizashi felt his heart squeeze in near painful adoration as the exact meaning of the words sunk in – Shouta was worrying again. Even after they had already talked about all of this ad nauseam. Of course he would be. Really, the hero was such a delightful paradox, blunt and harsh and hard on one hand, yet also incredibly soft and warm towards the few people he accepted behind his walls.

Hizashi pursed his lips, pressing a kiss against Shouta's throat, feeling the other mans pulse against his mouth – strong and steady “I’ll try.” he answered before he brushed his lips up the other mans neck, kissing against his jaw.

“Thanks for worrying.” Hizashi said and he meant it – he found that he liked that side of Shouta, found that he liked that someone was trying to look out for him. He liked the fact that Shouta wasn't just scoffing and rolling his eyes because he expected Hizashi to be able to do everything on his own. He liked the deeper implications of it… liked having an actual partner – in every sense of the word.

It was a bit of a novelty for him, really – after being left to himself for most of his life. And all of it made his throat tighten up with emotions. He knew he shouldn't feel so happy about the fact that he was making Shouta worry… but he did anyway – he just loved the way the other man cared, loved how protective he was at his very core…

“I love you.” he murmured against the other mans throat, his own voice choked up in the best possible way. He tucked himself as close as he could, folding himself up so he could feel smaller than he really was – safe in Shouta's gentle hold.

There were lips against his temple and then “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Shouta wrinkled his nose as the rising sun hit his closed lids full on and woke him. He unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth and licked it over his dry lips while he thought about what he should do – get up or remain where he was?

Staying put sounded more appealing by far if it wasn't for the sun still shining directly onto his face – his mouth curled in displeasure as he turned onto his left side – intent on getting up to draw the curtains closed.

His movement was stopped though when he felt extra resistance around his middle – limp fingers dragging over his skin where he had started to turn. Shouta blinked his eyes open in confusion, squinting against the light as he pushed his torso up – elbows digging into the mattress. His head cocked to his right.

Hizashi was still sleeping beside him – left cheek pressed into the pillow, making the skin there bunch slightly and forcing his mouth open the tiniest bit. A thick strand of his washed out hair – more blond than lavender right now – was draped half over his face, ends curling into the space between his left shoulder and neck.

Shouta gave a soft hum – pleasant surprise. Now this was new. Usually it was Hizashi who woke up first and consequently woke Shouta with his rustling – even though that hadn't happened for the longest time now. His ever alarmist mind had finally accepted Hizashi beside him – Shouta's lips quirked up the slightest bit, he felt his eyes crinkling a little at the corners.

He assumed it made sense that Hizashi was still out cold – he had been exhausted yesterday, that much had been obvious. There had been that peculiar pinch to his expression – which had also been the reason why Shouta had cut his own business as short as possible last night…

He had played into Hizashi's cards by doing that – he knew. It had been obvious that the other man had tried to seduce him into coming back early. And Shouta had done just that – though for a different reason – he had been worried that Hizashi was pushing himself too far and he had wanted to make sure that the other man got at least one night of proper rest.

The end result was the same thing one way or another – and letting Hizashi think his trick had worked did no harm, so Shouta saw no reason to correct the other man.

For a moment everything in the room was still and then Shouta moved carefully, his left hand gently cupping around Hizashi's on his lower stomach – he moved it and placed it on the bed instead. That taken care of he turned his body slightly, leaning his weight onto his right hip and reaching out with his left arm – his fingers brushed, feathered really, against Hizashi's cheek, catching the fly away strand of hair in the space between his pointer and middle finger. He pulled it away from Hizashi's face, his movement careful and slow.

His hand hovered over Hizashi's cheek for a second longer after he was done – movement forgotten as Shouta simply watched the other man sleep. His fingers curled into themselves unconsciously as he pulled his arm back, dark eyes still fixed on Hizashi, running over his relaxed featured, his slightly opened mouth, watching the way his chest rose with every deep and even breath.

For a second Shouta was overwhelmed with the urge to lean down and kiss the other man, but in the end he simply stayed put where he was – he didn't want to accidentally wake Hizashi by touching him too much after all. He wanted him to rest as much as possible.

He carefully angled his body away again and slipped out from underneath the blankets as silently as possible – Hizashi behind him gave a disgruntled noise as the sun hit him, now that it was no longer blocked by Shouta's body.

Shouta took two hasty steps and dragged the curtains close as fast and as quietly as he could. He threw a look over his shoulder – with the aggressive sun rays blocked out Hizashi's scrunched up face smoothed out again nearly immediately; he continued to sleep. Shouta let out a nearly tense breath of air he hadn't realized he had been holding and turned to make his way out of the bedroom – closing the door softly behind himself.

He padded into the kitchen, bare foot and only wearing his boxer shorts, his hair completely mused. He let out a short yawn as he ruffled a hand through the dark mess on top of his head. Once in the kitchen he started rummaging through the hanging cabinets – pulling out everything he needed to brew a pot of coffee.

He waited leaned against the counter while the machine sputtered, empty mug in hand – his eyes trailed around the kitchen idly, finally falling outside the balcony glass door. He watched as the sun rays flickered over the horizon, bathing everything in a much too bright glow that stung Shouta eyes.

He turned his head away again, avoiding the bright light, and closed his lids – feeling the cold burn there. He let out a soft sigh and opened his eyes again when he heard the coffee machine stopping its noises. He poured the fresh coffee into his mug and then made his way into the living room, blowing onto the steaming beverage as he went.

He threw a glance out of the window on the far left wall, it overlooked the street in front of the apartment. He took a sip of coffee and stepped closer to the window, eyes scanning over the ground below – after a second of searching his eyes landed on a particular black car and his mouth curled downwards into a mix of displeasure and irritation – he would have to inform Hizashi that the police was still camping out in front of his apartment.

They had been doing that for days now, and even though it was indeed doubtful how well they did their job – the last time Shouta had passed by them it had nearly seemed as if they had been playing cards on the dashboard – he would rather not draw their attention unnecessarily. It was truly a blessing that seemingly no one of the officers took Yukimura’s hunch at face value.

He looked for a few seconds longer before he shook his head to himself and gave an annoyed sounding scoff. He made his way towards the couch and let himself sink onto it, taking another careful sip of his hot coffee before he placed the mug on the table and instead reached for his laptop there. He flipped it open, intent on getting some of his school work done.

Lost in a small flood of nearly identical looking documents he nearly flinched as he heard a dull thudding noise. His eyes snapped towards the sound immediately… he blinked, and then let out a tense breath, his shoulders relaxing as his body lost its tension again.

The small book that had before been precariously balanced at the edge of the living room table had seemingly finally given up and had slipped off, hitting the carpeted ground with a soft ‘plop’. It must have landed square on its spine because it was now laying half flipped open.

Shouta let out a huff through his nose – irritated at his own jumpiness – and placed the laptop on the couch cushion beside himself. He stood up, took a small step forward and then reached down to pick the hard-cover book up again. His eyes got caught on a few short lines as he did so – it was poetry he realized; printed in a font that Shouta had never seen before.

His brows drew together in momentary confusion, he closed the book and turned it over in his hand – no summery, no author and no extra cover that might be hiding that information either… it took another second and then he blinked again – this time in realization. Ah, he thought as he gently placed the book – notebook – back on the table, this time more towards the middle so it wouldn't accidentally slide off again.

He hadn't known that Hizashi liked to write prose poetry… then again the topic hadn't really come up before.

He sat himself back down on the couch, pulling his mug closer to take a sip of the fast cooling coffee before he scooted into his previous position again – lifting the laptop back into his lap so he could continue his work.

A long while passed like that before Shouta heard the clanking of the door handle of the bedroom. His eyes lifted from the screen and he watched the door swinging open – a still sleep tousled Hizashi emerged, looking slightly bleary, his glasses a little crooked on his nose.

“There’s coffee in the pot.” Shouta said and Hizashi let out a soft, pleased hum.

“I love you!” the blond man gave back, he sounded positively delighted. Shouta let out a huff at that – his mouth quirking up the slightest bit at one corner “Will be with you in a sec.” Hizashi said as he made a beeline towards the kitchen. Shouta heard quiet movement, the clinking of porcelain and glass and a few moments later Hizashi padded back into the living room – a mug of coffee in his hand.

The vigilante placed the mug on the table and was in the process of sitting down when he stopped “Ah balls! I forgot my phone in the bedroom!” he cussed softly, no real heat in his voice, tone still tired and just the slightest bit raspy. Shouta watched in amusement as the other man disappeared into the bedroom again only to walk back into the living room a few moments later – phone in hand this time.

Hizashi flopped down onto the couch heavily, he let his phone drop into his lap and instead reached for his coffee mug – taking a long drag. He let out one of his purring hums, clearly pleased and then he took another sip, this one not quite as starved as the one before.

He placed the mug back on the table, his concentric green eyes settling on Shouta “Gonna call the agency.” he informed and Shouta's amusement seemed to instantly vanish. He gave a serious nod, fingers stilling their tapping – the room falling completely silent. Shouta's dark gaze rose to watch Hizashi beside him attentively.

The blond man stared at his phone for a few heartbeats before he took a deep breath and started typing the number in. While it dialled he cleared his throat a few times, humming through a few different pitches before settling on the low tone he had chosen for his cover.

It was silent for what seemed to be an impossibly long time, anticipation thick in the air, and then…

“Oh, ehm, yeah, hi...” Hizashi stuttered nearly awkwardly, his voice deep, sounding wrong – at least to Shouta's ears. There was a raspiness there as well that Shouta assumed was supposed to sound like a hang-over “I’m Ayama Yue, I met one of your heroes in a bar yesterday: Mori something… Mori Minoru? I think?” nervous, trying to make a good impression…

There was a short pause, Shouta's eyes fixed on Hizashi intently – it was truly astounding what the other man was able to do with his voice, all the inflections in it, the hint of uncertainty and confusion audible at the end of the sentence, the tired and hung-over rasp to the vowels; all while Hizashi's facial expression was stone sober and serious, a nearly grimly determined pinch to his mouth.

“Oh yes, sorry sorry, Noburu, yes, that's the one… Well, you see, Noburu-san told me that you are currently looking for a few heroes to fill a few vacant spaces in your agency and I’m interested in one of those positions. If they are still open, that is.” another short pause as the person on the other side seemingly talked.

“I graduated from UA with 18 and I have been in the field since then… I'm 28 right now – so I got quiet a bit of experience. A whole decade. Mh? Oh quirk? My quirk is Perfect Pitch, it’s a mixture of an auditorial and vocal quirk, basically I can identify the exact pitch of something, like when you hit it with like a diapason, and then I can mimic that pitch. If you hit the right pitch and frequency you can make nearly everything vibrate and if that vibration is strong enough it breaks. I mean, that's a real rough definition, there’s a lot more nuance to it… but yeah, that's the general gist of it. Think, like, an opera singer who can shatter glass – that's always a good example.”

Another pause, this one longer – Shouta watched as Hizashi sucked his lower lip between his teeth and started chewing on it. His lip slipped from between his teeth a second later as he spoke up again “Yeah sure, no that's no problem at all I’ll just call back later… like afternoon later or early evening later? Ah, okay, sure. Thanks a lot. Goodbye.”

Hizashi ended the call and for a few heartbeats afterwards utter silent settled over the room. In the end the vigilante let out a tense breath, his shoulders dropping slightly. His eyes rose to settle on Shouta who just returned the other mans gaze evenly.

“The woman on the phone said she has to check up with the boss first. I mean, I already suspected that they wouldn't be super thrilled to learn that one of their so called ‘heroes’ is chatting up drunk people in bars… Still, she said that I should call back later and she would tell me if they want me to come for a job interview then.” Hizashi explained and Shouta let out a noise to signal that he had heard “Well, fingers crossed they’ll invite me over.” he paused for a second, a strange expression settled on his face “She seemed pretty curious after I told her that I have an auditorial and vocal quirk.”

Shouta gave a soft hum before he responded “After you knocked out Kuronuma-san with your quirk they probably took an interest in that type of quirk specifically. Maybe they think it could be useful for them?”

“Yeah.” Hizashi nodded “I already thought of that too. The guy yesterday in the bar actually brought up my fight with Outbreak. If they all are suddenly so interested in voice quirks that might give us at least an edge – maybe it makes it more likely that they’ll consider getting me on board…” he trailed of for a second, his mouth twitching down slightly – a serious, somewhat pinched expression; it vanished again a second later, replaced by an easy-going smile “Well! Let’s hope this plays out in our favour. You know, being personally invited in is always better and less suspicious than trying to break in from the outside by force. Let’s just hope they actually have some juicy stuff in their agency or at least a few hints as to where the interesting shit is hidden, because if they don't then we’re gonna be back to square one. And I'm seriously getting fed up with this cat and mouse game by now.”

Shouta had to silently agree, he was sick of this constant back and forth too, this push and pull that always seemed to end with the status quo again. He watched Hizashi chewing at his lower lip for a few quiet moments before he finally spoke up again “There is no sense worrying over what-if’s at this point.” he said simply.

It was true too. Right now their investigation could develop into either direction – either the agency took the bait or they didn't. But thinking themselves into an anxious vortex about those two possibilities would help no one – they would simply have to see what the agency would say when Hizashi called them again later. There was nothing they could do until then, except wait… no matter how much they both detested sitting around and twiddling their thumbs. They were both much the same when it came to that.

Hizashi gave a sigh “I know, but I just hate this, you know? Like, just sitting around doing nothing. Like, waiting just makes me come up with all sorts of horrible scenarios and ways in which this could go wrong. I would rather have an answer right now, that way I could start planing for the next steps, you feel?”

Shouta gave an understanding nod at that “I understand you. But we committed to trying this path and now we have to see it through to the end – for better or for worse. Doubting it now will just make us trip up later down the line, so I choose not to do that.”

Hizashi blinked at him and the let out a giggle that sounded equal parts amused and incredulous “Just listen to yourself!” he tittered “ ‘Doubting is bad so I just don't do it.’ Man! I wish that was me. Just don't do it. Boom! Problem solved!” he waved his hands in the air for emphasis “How the hell do you do that then? Teach me, master.” he asked and his voice was a weird cross between dismissively teasing and actual honest curiosity.

Shouta just shrugged in answer – it wasn't like he could explain his inner workings when it came to such things. He assumed it had something to do with his very character, his personality… He wasn't quite sure if his attitude could be taught directly.

Hizashi blew out a petulant raspberry “Well, would have been too good to be true.” there was a short pause “I’m not good with down time.” Hizashi spoke up again after a moment “When I'm not, like, impulse or emotion-driven and I actually have the time to sit down I tend to overthink stuff. I have, like, ten possible conversations in my head right now. This is some ‘pick the right conversation-option’ video game shit, only that we can’t reset; and if we lose we get dumped into the ocean with a basin full of quick drying cement around our ankles.”

A second of silence and then Shouta let out a low non-committal hum – there was nothing he could say to that, really. Realistically speaking Hizashi was right. The silence dragged on, making the atmosphere feel sombre… and then there was a sudden smacking noise as Hizashi slapped his hands against his own cheeks twice. Shouta only blinked in utter confusion at the display.

“You know what? This moping isn’t gonna help anything! It just throws off my groove! I mean, just look at us, sitting here like we are at some funeral! Let’s not do that, huh? That sounds good, doesn't it? Let’s be more positive!” Hizashi grinned, voice much peppier than a moment ago. He bounced up from the couch “I’m hungry!” he exclaimed “You’ve been awake for a while now haven't you? You think you can eat something already?”

Shouta blinked again, momentarily thrown by the quick change in mood, it felt like he had just gotten complete mental whiplash. Hizashi was grinning down at him where he stood in front of the couch, broad and bright, it crinkled the corners of his eyes.

“I think.” Shouta gave back slowly, a second passed and he also gave a careful nod.

“Goodie! Well then my favourite listener!” here Hizashi pointed two finger guns at Shouta and gave a wink “What about I make us some scrambled eggs? Like, not to blow my own horn but my scrambled eggs are really awesome!”

“Sure, that is fine.” Shouta answered simply.

“Nice! Just stay put I won’t take that long.” and with that Hizashi made his way into the kitchen, a skip in his steps. Shouta watched him leave, a thoughtful expression on his face – his mind mulling over the conversation they just had.

Maybe Hizashi found something to be desired in his sober outlook on life… yet Shouta himself thought that Hizashi's positive force was equally desirable… maybe even more so. Realism could only get you so far after all. Realism wouldn't give you hope when there was non – but sometimes that was exactly what you needed. Hope – no matter how illogical or unreasonable it was.

In the end he returned his gaze back to his laptop screen, re-reading the last few lines he had typed before he continued where he had left off. It didn't take long before the scent of food wafted through the apartment and Shouta had to admit that it definitely did smell good. He got a few more lines done before Hizashi reappeared in the living room, two plates in hand.

“The police is still in front of the apartment.” Shouta mentioned, closing his laptop and reaching his hands out to take one of the plates from Hizashi. He watched as Hizashi's nose wrinkled before he let himself flop down beside Shouta – not quite unlike a petulant child. The blond man wiggled deeper into the couch cushion and then propped both his feet onto the edge of the living room table, knees drawn up. He blew out a childish raspberry.

“Of course! Don’t they have something better to do than bother upstanding people?” he said and stuck his tongue out. He gave a soft huff “Well, just means that I’ll have to pull out the good old hoodie again if I go out. I can’t have them see my hair after all.” a short pause “I tell you, I'm gonna throw a party once all of this is over.” at that particular comment Shouta could feel his lips quirking up just the slightest bit. Yeah, throwing a party certainly sounded like Hizashi.

They spent their breakfast eating in silence and after they were done Hizashi collected both their plates while Shouta went back to his laptop. He raised his gaze sporadically, watching Hizashi putter around the place – the other man obviously wasn't used to sitting idle and he would often move to do minor things, searching distractions.

Shouta raised his eyes again as Hizashi returned from the bedroom – now wearing his green headphones, he had his own laptop stuffed under his armpit. He flopped back down onto the couch beside Shouta, popping his laptop on the table – Shouta watched idly as the other man opened up what looked like one of his playlists before he reached out to pull his notebook and a pen closer. He drew his legs up on the sofa, softly bobbing his head to the tune coming out of his headphones.

Truthfully, Shouta had had already forgotten about the hard-cover notebook again but now, as he watched Hizashi twirling his pen between his fingers with a look of deep concentration on his face, he couldn't help a small spark of curiosity.

“I didn't know that you write poetry.” Shouta said and Hizashi beside him blinked in a mixture of confusion and surprise.

“What?” the vigilante asked as he reached up to pull one ear piece away so he could rest it behind his ear “How did you get that idea?” his fair brows were furrowed in a half intrigued, half confused frown.

“Your notebook fell off the table and flipped open, I picked it up again.”

“Oh…” Hizashi breathed out and it sounded nearly a bit self-conscious – tense.

Shouta immediately picked up on the other mans sudden discomfort and his expression softened “I didn't read anything if you are worried about that. It is non of my business after all. I just caught a few lines accidentally, nothing more.” he reassured.

Hizashi twirled his pen around his fingers a few times before he spoke up again “It isn't poetry.” he clarified “I’m writing lyrics… I mean, lyrics and poetry aren't all that far apart, if you think about it. I mean, poetry was meant to be sung way back when so, there is that… but… yeah…”

Shouta gave a soft hum at that – writing music, it suited Hizashi, he found “I see.” he gave back with a short nod. His idle curiosity sated he returned his attention back to his laptop.

“Do you…?” Hizashi started after a second or two but then he trailed off – Shouta flickered his eyes up to the other man again, noting that he was chewing on his bottom lip “Like… do you want to read some?” Hizashi asked and Shouta blinked – feeling both surprised as well as flattered by the offer.

“Only if you want to share.” he said, giving a half shrug. He didn't want Hizashi to feel cornered after all – as if he had to share something with Shouta that he would rather keep to himself.

Hizashi gave a soft noise and nodded “I do.”

“Give me a second here.” Shouta said and set on finishing his open document. A handful of minutes passed in silence. Once he was done he closed his laptop and put it on the table – Hizashi took the gesture for the obvious invitation it had been and unfolded his legs from under himself so he could scoot closer, pressing his right side against Shouta's left.

They spent a good while like this – Hizashi flipping through the pages of his notebook, asking about Shouta's opinion and noting a few things here or there in the margins. The vigilante hummed a melody for a few of his songs from time to time – he was composing the music himself as well, and Shouta found himself honestly impressed at what he heard. It was calm and quiet and both men spoke in hushed voices as if they were afraid to talk too loudly.

“You think enough time as passed by now?” Hizashi asked suddenly. He chewing on the top of his pen, his eyes focused on the lines on the page in front of him nearly stubbornly – as if he didn't want to look up.

Shouta's eyes raised to the wall clock, noting the time “Probably.” he finally gave back and nodded.

Hizashi hummed lowly, his pen hanging from between his lips limply before he pulled it out completely “Well, let’s see if they're biting then.” he said, voice full of determination. He pushed his notebook and pen into Shouta's hands so he could lean forward to grab his phone off the table.

Shouta's eyes trailed from Hizashi to the pages of the notebook to Hizashi again. He closed the book in his hands gently – nearly as if he was afraid he might rip something otherwise. Hizashi shot him a strange smile at that and Shouta didn't quite know what it was supposed to convey.

A few heartbeats passed and then Hizashi's fingers tapped over the phone screen – dialling – his voice humming through his different tones again before settling on the voice he had picked for Yue.

A few moments passed in tense, anticipatory silence and then “Ah, yes, hello. It’s Amaya Yue again… you told me to call you back? … Oh really? No, sure, that’s fine...” Hizashi trailed off into a long silence and Shouta raised a brow at him in question. ‘Passing the phone’ the blond man mouthed in an exaggerated way in answer.

It was deadly quiet in Hizashi's living room and Shouta felt his heart in his chest speeding up – tension crawling through his veins, adrenaline flooding his blood. Suddenly Hizashi snapped to attention again “Yes, I'm still here! Mh? Oh no, that sounds good. That’s completely possible. Yeah sure, amazing. No that's fine, early morning sounds goog.” the blond man shot Shouta a pleased, if slightly crooked grin – that was a good sign – and Shouta felt his heartbeat calming again in response to it.

“Do I like, need to bring anything? Like a CV or something? Mhm, okay, so just credentials and my report cards? Okay, thanks a lot!”

Another second of silence followed and then Hizashi clicked his phone off again, his head turning so he could directly look at Shouta, his smile turned sly “Guess who got himself a job interview in three days?” he flung his phone onto the couch beside him and then threw himself at Shouta “It’s me.” he whispered into Shouta's ear, voice brimming with excitement.

Shouta let out a surprised breath of air as Hizashi landed half on top of him – the vigilante curled his arms around his neck, bouncing up and down in his lap and on the couch “It worked! It really worked! And so quickly too! They seemingly are really in need of some gullible idiots to help them out – looks like they really cleaned house as of late. They said they have several positions. Several!” he let out a somewhat sardonic giggle “I guess it only follows that if you get rid of all your henchmen then no one is left who does the dirty work.”

He slipped out of Shouta's gently hold, his back connecting with the back of the couch, he drew his knees up and then kicked his lower legs into the air in boyish excitement “And if you're desperate in that way then it just throws the door wide open for people trying to exploit you right back! Oh! The irony!” he gave another giggle “They’re exploiting everyone around them and then throw them away when they feel like it – and that's exactly what is going to bite them in the ass now. Stupid pricks!”

Shouta just gave a low noise at all of that, not flat but not excited either. Truth be told he wasn't really sure how to feel right now – Hizashi seemed ecstatic, and while Shouta could certainly understand that reaction, he himself didn't really feel the same way.

To him all of this were only the first few small step towards a much bigger goal – right now they still didn't know how long the journey might be, or what hazards might lurk on the way. In fact, he dared to say that the most dangerous part was still in front of them… Don't count your chickens before they hatch – there was truth in that saying.

Despite those rather sombre thoughts – maybe it was even because of them – he raised his arms to curl them around Hizashi's waist. He drew the other man closer and leaned his cheek against the crown of his head. After all, how bad could it be to share Hizashi's euphoria? If only for a little while. Think positive.

“I’ll have to be at school again tomorrow. If the interview is in three days time at noon I won’t be able to follow you.” Shouta pointed out after a moment “You will need to call me if you need my help.”

“Sure thing!” Hizashi said easily – nearly flippantly – and Shouta suppressed the urge to grit his teeth in irritation at that kind of response “But it’s just a job interview, I don't think anything big is going to happen.” Hizashi went on as if he didn't have a care in the world “And if they take me then they probably won’t let me stroll around unsupervised right from the start either. It’ll still take some time before I'm really undercover.”

Shouta let out a tense breath through his nose “I guess.” he said slowly – giving in without having put up a fight in the first place. They had talked about this enough and dredging up the same topic again would do nothing but frustrate both of them. Beside, Shouta wasn't the kind of man who liked to repeat himself – he assumed his willingness to bang – senselessly – on the same drum for days on end now said something about how much he cared for Hizashi.

His fingers caressed up the other mans back, drawing nonsensical patterns, touch only for the sake of touch – a nearly nausea inducing urgency bled through the motions. A foreboding feeling of better now than later. Shouta's jaw jumped as he forced himself to let go of that particular string of thoughts.

The rest of the day went by slowly – Hizashi buzzing with success and Shouta trying to relax the tense coil of his shoulder. At some point or another he realized that he was following Hizashi with his eyes – he was not-quite-hovering and it made his jaw clench.

Both men had an early dinner and in the end Shouta got ready for his patrol – just sitting around and avoiding to go out might seem suspicious. It might tip the agency off – might make them wonder why a hero was suddenly not doing hero work anymore. And so Shouta had started doing small, rudimentary patrols – short routes with a multitude of possible escape paths.

At this point in the day both their roles suddenly seemed to switch and now it was Hizashi who was – literally – hovering behind him the entire time, following after him with crossed arms and a pinched expression; chewing on his lower lip.

For a moment Shouta marvelled at how similar both of them were when it came down to it. They were made up of differences… and yet there was still so much overlap. So much ‘same’ that the ‘different’ didn't really stand out quite as starkly as it rightly should have.

Truthfully speaking, Kuronuma had been right – Shouta had never cared all that much for his own mortality. Of course that didn't mean that he wanted to die, not at all – he actually quite liked being alive, and there was still so much to do too. He couldn't die because he still had work to do, he still had a class to teach, he still had villains to catch… and nowadays he had Hizashi waiting for him too. And yet he had a rather detached outlook on the whole matter – after all, if something should happen some day? Well, that was just that, wasn't it? He couldn't do anything about that, could he?

The irony of the situation wasn't lost on him, and neither was the hypocrisy – after all, here he was worrying about Hizashi's safety and getting worked up about the fact that the other man was so flippant about the danger of all of it… while his own mind was still trying to find another loophole, another course of action that might keep Hizashi out of all of this completely – even if it might be at Shouta's own expenses.

But Hizashi and he were much the same here too, weren't they? The blond man was about to cockily walk into a ‘hero agency’ full of villains and criminals with a smug smile on his face, yet here he stood, clucking over Shouta like a hen might over her chicks. His expression one of judging disappointment.

Truly, it was nearly funny in a rather unfunny sort of way – how they both dismissed their own safety while simultaneously getting worked up over each others well-being. Still… that wasn't strictly a bad thing now, was it? After all, what had Hizashi said before? That it was good to have another opinion? That it was nice to know that someone worried even if it wasn't necessarily needed?

As Shouta pulled his capture weapon into place around his neck he suddenly found that he understood Hizashi's sentiments in that regard better than ever before. He didn't need Hizashi's worry – he didn't want it either, simply because he didn't want to worry Hizashi in the first place – yet he couldn't help but feel… comforted by the fact regardless. It felt good to know that someone was there who cared in such a way.

They repeated their by now familiar goodbye routine before Shouta slipped out. The night was surprisingly calm – though Shouta couldn't shake the tension from his shoulders, his ears perking up at every noise, his eyes trying to find movement in every shadow, he felt his heartbeat spiking higher and higher the longer he was out… All of it had gotten worse over the last few days too – if Shouta had thought his hyper-awareness had been bad before then this was an entirely new level.

Truly, if this didn't end soon then the adrenaline would get to him long before any villain could.

He returned to Hizashi's apartment only a handful of hours later – no good came from him being as jumpy and worked up as he was right now… the knowledge frustrated him.

He pulled his hero gear off and washed up before he quietly slipped into bed beside Hizashi – the other man was sleeping deeply and Shouta felt a sense of relieve washing over him at that. Hizashi might be good at hiding it but Shouta knew that the other man was running himself ragged too.

He settled deeper into the mattress, pulling the blanked over himself – there was a slight feeling of pride as he closed his eyes and his body nearly automatically relaxed. After it had taken so much time for him to finally get used to Hizashi this felt like a right victory and he couldn't help being pleased about it.

Three days later that same pride came back to biting him in the ass though.

He flinched awake to the sound of a door unlocking – something he would always categorize as a threat. His shoulders tensed, body coiling as self-defence instinct took over. His hand reached out nearly unconsciously – trying to check up on Hizashi beside him… only to be met with a still slightly warm, yet empty spot beside him.

His eyes snapped open immediately at that, a deep, nearly panicked breath expanding his chest as his still sleepy mind tried to connect the dots – it took him a moment until he realized that the rattling door and the empty space beside him didn't mean that something had happened to Hizashi, but instead that the other man had simply woken up and was currently in the process of leaving the apartment.

Shouta's tense body slumped, his palm flat on the empty space beside him, fingers fanned out slightly. He pressed his face into the pillow – smelling honey and lavender. Of course, the one time where he wouldn't have minded if his hyper-vigilance woke him up unnecessarily… oh, the irony.

He sighed into the pillow, feeling more than just a little miffed. He huffed out another breath, the apartment was utterly silent. In the end he pushed himself up and started to get ready – if he was already awake he might as well make the most of it even if it was a little earlier than usual. Hizashi must have known that too – Shouta was rather sure the other man had slipped out of the apartment early just to avoid another possible altercation about all of this.

Having gotten dressed Shouta made his way into the kitchen to make himself a coffee – he stopped short as he realized that there already was coffee in the pot. He stepped closer, hand reaching for the handle of the pot but he stopped short as his eyes honed in on a yellow sticky-note tapped to the other side of the pot. He pulled it off.

Heya sleeping beauty, I still wanted to get some stuff done so I already left. I'm gonna text you later to tell you how the interview went.

The note was signed with the Latin letter H. Shouta let out a long breath through his nose – looking at the note in his hand right now he wasn't quite sure anymore if his first thought of Hizashi leaving without waking him to avoid a possible confrontation was indeed right. Maybe the blond man simply hadn't known how to handle the situation any other way, maybe he had been worried about something else…

For a second Shouta’s mouth flattened into a thin line, his jaw jumping and then his expression smoothed out again – he let out a soft sigh through his nose and made a mental note to ask Hizashi about this later. Because even if they had nothing to say to each other, even if it might be somewhat awkward, or uncomfortable, or tense… Shouta certainly would prefer all of that over finding a sticky note on the coffee pot.

He stuck the note onto the counter and instead pressed his right hand gently against the glass of the pot – the coffee was still warm, nearly hot really. Shouta gave a low hum. He reached into the hanging cabinet and got himself a mug.

Once the first coffee of the day had been finished off he left as well – making his way to school. He arrived earlier than he usually did, not that that was necessarily a bad thing. He sat himself down at his desk and booted up his computer – if he was early he might as well get a head start with his work.

He barely glanced up when he heard the door opening however many minutes later.

“I know what you are thinking right now.” Kayama said as she walked into the room – the click-clack of her heels loud in the otherwise silent room “It is a early weekday morning, yet this radiant, intelligent young woman is already in so early – all bright and sunny ready to light up the room – oh, how does she do it?” the woman had a near full on performance as she made her way towards her seat.

Shouta gave a snort and an eye roll “Actually what I was really asking myself was if that thing on my screen there is a smudge.” he shot back – his tone nearly teasing.

“And here I wanted to tell you my secret!” Kayama chuckled, clearly picking up on the good-natured jab.

“Seeing as I was in even earlier than you I dare say that I do not need your so called secrets.” Shouta pointed out and it made Kayama chuckle again. The woman sat down at her desk, leaning back in her chair so she could prop her legs up on the table – slouching in a decidedly unladylike fashion, secure in the knowledge that there was no one around who cared about her presentation right about now.

“Always so reluctant to take help when it is offered.” Kayama said and Shouta knew it was only meant as half a joke, after all, it was a well known fact that he wasn't the best when it came to team-work or cooperation with others.

“Help that only throws a wrench into your path is no help at all.” he gave back – nearly harshly. Kayama always had had that particular gift where she could talk circles around people, poking indirectly or throwing out half truths that people found the need to correct. Still, that particular way of asking questions had never really worked on Shouta “Just say what you want to say.” he added after a second of silence, throwing a pointed look at the woman opposite of him.

Kayama's expression seemed to waver at that for a second and when she looked up again her eyes were a lot softer. She let out a low hum “All I'm saying is that there is no shame in asking for a little help here or there. If it is needed of course, if not then that’s fine as well.”

Ah, Shouta thought idly, so that was what all of this was about – Kayama was worrying again in her own way. It was nearly funny to see Kayama back-pedalling so quickly – trying not to offend – and Shouta took pity “I know.” he gave back.

Kayama's lipstick red lips pulled into a small smile at that. She drew her legs down from the table and wiggled in her chair until she sat nearly straight – her hand dropped down to boot up her own computer.

It was quiet for the longest time but then Kayama spoke up again “You know, that tune is really nice, what song is it from?” she asked, her eyes showed clear curiosity as they fixed on Shouta – she looked nearly a little impressed.

Shouta blinked at her, it took him a second to understand what she meant and then his unconscious humming immediately cut off. He had absent-mindedly hummed one of the melodies Hizashi had composed for one of his songs without noticing. He cleared his throat before he answered “I don't remember the name.” he answered and it wasn't a lie – Hizashi hadn't settled on any titles just yet so the song that Shouta had hummed under his breath had no name for him to remember; simple as that.

“Aww!” Kayama sighed and it sounded genuinely disappointed “That one sounded really nice – and your humming wasn't bad either. I don't think I have heard it on the radio before. Is it a really new song? Or maybe a really old one?”

Shouta shrugged “I don't remember.” again, not a lie. Hizashi hadn't told him when exactly he had come up with that song. He frowned at his blinking cursor on his screen, wondering why he had started humming all of a sudden – he usually wasn't the type who would spontaneously break into song.

His frown darkened as he realized that it was very likely because his mind was full to bursting with Hizashi right about now. He wondered what the other man had needed to do so early in the morning, he wondered what he was up to right now, he wondered if the ‘job interview’ would go well – his phone was a heavy weight in his pocket, like a burning coal ready to sear into his flesh any moment now. And silently he was hoping that it wouldn't go off during the school day with Hizashi's panicked voice on the other end asking for help…

Shouta shook his head to himself, dislodging the uncomfortable thoughts, instead he focused back on his work. A few moments of silence passed and then Kayama let out a low noise which made Shouta look up again – he raised an inquisitive eyebrow at the woman.

“Nothing.” Kayama shrugged – it didn't sound like nothing. A beat of quiet and then she spoke up again “Well…” she started “I mean, you look kind of… tense. Is everything, you know, okay?” her blue eyes shone with clear worry and it mollified something in Shouta that he couldn't quite name. Again there was this same feeling from a few days ago, this comforting knowledge that someone did in fact care – just for the sake of it with no ulterior motives.

“I’m fine.” Shouta gave back, hoping his voice wouldn't sound too harsh. Kayama's face scrunched up slightly, her nose wrinkling for a second or two “Thank you for asking though.” Shouta added.

For a second Kayama seemed utterly stumped, she blinked at him but then a smile settled on her face, her eyes crinkling at the corners.

Chapter Text

“I'm telling you-” Hizashi said, waving his fork around. He licked the last of the sugar glaze off his lips and smacked his mouth before he started over “I’m telling you, for a criminal organization of that size, hiding in plain sight too boot I would have expected, like, something more extravagant?” Hizashi was prattling.

He stabbed his fork into the piece of cake Shouta had bought for him on his way back from school and sucked it down – lashes fluttering in clear contentment. Shouta himself used the brief lull in the conversation to take a sip of his coffee, his eyes trailed out the window of Hizashi's kitchen for a second before he refocused his gaze back on the other man.

“Like…” Hizashi continued, fork waving in the air again “I mean, I can’t quite describe it. It just feels a little anti-climactic you know? I mean, they definitely aren't bad… I mean, they are bad in the sense that they are all huge pieces of garbage but what I mean is that they aren't bad at being villains. I’ve stalked down far dumber criminals – I could tell you stories! But that agency isn't made up of dumb people, at least not at the top… I guess that is what is kinda bothering me? Like some of them are really smart but some others are stupid as fuck? I mean, I guess it is kinda beneficial to have stupid henchmen that do the bidding of the smart boss – less questions that way… but still."

Shouta's brows drew down slightly at that, a small frown appearing on his face. He took a sip of his coffee before he spoke up “Do not take this too lightly.” he reminded seriously, his mouth flattening the slightest bit.

Everytime Hizashi talked about his days at the agency he made it sound so easy, or as if he was surrounded by idiots. He was poking fun and acting as if all of it was nothing but a simple theatre performance for him; instead of the highly dangerous infiltration mission he was actually on. Hiding in plain sight, surrounded by who knew how many villains – and one slip would be all it took for this to go horribly wrong.

Hizashi's bluster faltered at that, his animated hand waving slowed and his expression fell a little “I’m not.” he reassured, nearly sounding a little offended.

“Good.” Shouta gave back simply. He surely didn't want to insinuate that Hizashi wasn't taking this serious – he believed the opposite was the case – but he did feel the need to curb the other mans cocky, easy-going nature somewhat. It wouldn't be the first time that someone died because they had started to take things too lightly. He took another sip from his coffee.

Hizashi popped another piece of chocolate cake into his mouth and chewed slowly, likely thinking of how to go on. Shouta saw the other man swallowing yet he still had his fork hanging out from between his lips, a thoughtful frown on his face – his brows drawn down to create a crease on his forehead. He slowly pulled out his fork from between his lips “I have just been wondering about all of this, is all… And it kinda confuses me. This rift between the guys in charge and the people they hire. I can’t quite describe it… I mean, the boss-man certainly seems ruthless enough to get rid of everyone who poses a danger, like, the entire place just reeks of fear … but…” here Hizashi trailed off for a second.

For a few heartbeats it was utterly quiet and then Hizashi continued, voice holding and odd tone “But I mean, no matter how afraid people are and no matter how good the organization is at tying up their own loose ends, with so many smaller henchmen it’s just a little strange that they haven't slipped up before and that no one has caught wind of any of it yet… is all that I'm saying, you know?” his words grew quiet at the end.

Shouta's brows drew together at that, his stare fixing on Hizashi attentively “What do you mean?” he asked, lowering his mug slightly – now no longer holding it at chin level but at chest height, so nothing would obscure his line of sight.

“Like, you know-” Hizashi said, waving the fork around again as if that would somehow explain what he was thinking without him actually having to put it into words “Like, when you know that something is bad but you do it anyway because there are also some benefits you wouldn't get otherwise, so you just comply and play along and look the other way…”

Shouta blinked blankly at the other man, his expression completely flat. There was a beat of utter silence and then “I have no idea what you are trying to say.” he gave back honestly and bluntly.

Hizashi opposite of him let out a soft huff “You haven't connected the dots yet?” he asked, voice somewhat doubtful and just the tiniest bit tentative – as if he was unsure.

Shouta's expression pulled into a confused frown “What exactly am I unable to connect then?” he demanded, honestly at a loss. It was clear that Hizashi was onto something, Shouta just wished the other man would actually say what he thought instead of trying to insinuate it indirectly – Shouta just wasn't good at that type of conversation.

For a second Hizashi seemed uncertain, he started chewing on his bottom lips and then shoved another piece of cake into his mouth – if he did it to stall for time or maybe just to give his mind a bit more time to word everything properly before actually speaking it out Shouta didn't know. Maybe it was a bit of both.

“Like… You told me Outbreak warned you about what kind of negative attention this would draw to you, yeah?” Hizashi started and Shouta nodded, not really sure where the other man was going with this but willing to indulge him “I mean, the dude wasn't wrong now was he? I mean, I assume he over-egged the pudding a bit and made everything seem more severe and stuff… but there is still some truth at the core. I mean, there will be eyes on you – not just from the public but also from all the hero agencies.”

For a second Hizashi's green eyes flitted around the room as if he wasn't quite sure what he should look at. In the end he focused his gaze on Shouta, his tone growing serious as he continued “They’ll ask themselves why you were digging into hero agency stuff in the first place – it’ll make them cautious of you… but what if that isn't the only negative attention you’ll draw from them? What if they are mad that you took away one reliable source of income?” Hizashi lowered his head a little at that last part, nearly watching Shouta from below his fair lashes.

A second passed and then Shouta blinked as he realized what exactly Hizashi was trying to say with all of this. He let out a dark hum, his lips flattening into a thin, bloodless line “You are saying the other agencies wanted that crime ring there on purpose and just wilfully ignored it to exploit it for their own benefits?”

Shouta's jaw jumped at the thought and for a second he could hear the memory of Kuronuma’s voice: ‘Sometimes I’ve wondered you know? Why are you the first one who comes poking around? Are you simply better than the sorry rest? Or does everyone else just look the other way… After all, by doing crime are we not helping the overcrowded hero economy to stay afloat?

It sounded nearly sardonic in his mind – drenched in dark, mirthless amusement. He had mulled the idea over true, but he had also discarded it again rather quickly. There were multiple reasons for why a crime organization masquerading as a hero agency might go unnoticed after all.

But now that Hizashi brought up those same concerns? It certainly left a bitter taste in Shouta's mouth. His lips flattened into a bloodless, tense line.

“…Maybe.” Hizashi said slowly, nodding slightly – his fork was still mashing the cake. He flickered his concentric green eyes down to his plate for a moment before he raised them back up to look at Shouta again. There was a long, pregnant pause and then the vigilante continued.

“I mean, think of it. The hero economy is unstable and not all that lucrative right now, especially with people like All Might cleaning house… so a bit more crime – a bit more work to go around, a bit more marketing and fame… I mean, that might just help everyone out. Like, more good than harm.” here Hizashi trailed off for a second, his fork swirling through the cake mush he had created by now.

“It would make sense, wouldn't it? I mean why go after them? Why slaughter the cash cow? That would be stupid!”

Shouta's jaw jumped, his gaze falling to the table top as he turned all of this over in his mind. On one hand he didn't want to brush Hizashi's idea away – his arguments did make sense, there was no denying that – yet on the other hand, for all the faults the hero industry had… Shouta couldn't quite believe that they had already fallen that far.

Maybe he simply didn't want to believe it…

His jaw jumped again as he mulled that particular possibility over. Did his scepticism regarding Hizashi's thoughts truly steam from logic only? Or merely from a personal desire to discard Hizashi's theory? From a deep seated want to believe despite knowing better?

He was ripped out of his thoughts when he heard a shocked gasp followed by the clink of a fork hitting a plate. Shouta's gaze immediately snapped up to Hizashi again – the other mans face was pale, his concentric eyes widened “If everyone is in on it then they’re going to ruin you for blowing it.” Hizashi sounded as if he had just had a horrible revelation, his words nothing more than a whisper – his gaze settled on Shouta and the hero was taken aback by all the emotions he could see swirling in the other mans eyes, by the silent urging he saw there.

Shouta let out a conscious breath of air and placed his mug on the table with a soft thud – freeing up both his hands. He reached his right one out, curling it around Hizashi's left on the table “Even if what you're saying holds true,” Shouta started, his voice pitched even lower than it usually was – soothing. He was running his thumb over the other mans knuckles.

“-I doubt that everyone is in on it; it would very likely only be a minority of people who had been complacent. I'm not denying that it would be dangerous but I doubt it would ever reach the magnitude you are insinuating.” if it would reach any kind of magnitude at all, Shouta added silently in his mind. After all, all of this was just wild speculation right now – a worry-fuelled, baseless conspiracy theory. A downright paranoid ‘might-be’-scenario.

“So what, even if there’ll only be a handful of people after you, you won’t know who they are until they make a move – but they’ll know who you are!” Hizashi shot back insistently.

“Maybe.” Shouta gave simply. Maybe Hizashi was right, maybe he wasn't. But the reality of the situation was that they didn't know right now, so in the end there was nothing Shouta could do except wait and see, was there? There was no sense worrying about that now.

Hizashi opened his mouth – a retort on his tongue no doubt but then he simply closed his mouth again, a deep frown appearing on his face. His gaze was fixed on Shouta in a way that Shouta couldn't really decipher – his green eyes slitting just the slightest bit.

“They still need to be stopped.” Shouta added after a long moment of silence “This is the right thing to do. Maybe it will have far reaching consequences, maybe I will wake sleeping dogs with this, but I am prepared to take that risk. I'm not afraid to take responsibility for my actions, no matter what form it might take.”

Hizashi's expression did something strange then, his face pulling into grimace but his eyes were infinitely soft – resigned fondness “Goddammit!” he exclaimed, voice nearly weary. He raised the hand that Shouta wasn't currently holding to rub it over his forehead – like he was suddenly nursing a headache “There’s the possibility that all of this will end in an even bigger and more dangerous cluster-fuck and you're still willing to go along with this? Just fuck! This industry really doesn't deserve you!”

The last part of the sentence startled a soft, disbelieving snort out of Shouta – at the noise Hizashi's eyes snapped towards him, a fire burning behind his gaze “This isn't some joke! I'm not saying this for whatever bizarre reason you might have cocked up in your head right now. Don't try and make this funny.” Hizashi was nearly hissing the words and Shouta's expression softened – he shot the other man a small but genuine smile.

“You give me much too much credit – you hold me up on a pedestal when I don't deserve that. I'm not insisting on doing this purely out of the good of my heart. In the end we do not really have another choice here, do we? We have to make a move to stay alive at this point – and everything that might come from that will be a separate issue to deal with after we took care of this.”

“I’m not giving you enough credit.” Hizashi mumbled darkly “And neither does anyone else.” he gave a sardonic scoff “At this point the few bad apples have spoiled the entire barrel to the point where finding a good apple has become some kind of miracle. And in this metaphor you are the good apple – and you’ll be turned into pie because of that. How is that fair?”

Shouta hummed lowly, nearly indulgently “Only if you're theory is right.” he noted.

If.” Hizashi gave back in a mocking tone “This has been going on for who knows how long. Do you honestly want to tell me no one has picked up on it till now?”

“It’s not as unreasonable a thought as you make it sound like.” Shouta gave back calmly “Hero agencies usually aren't scrutinised – especially not by other hero agencies. It’s more likely that no one has tried to dig deeper until now simply because it seems too unlikely that an agency could be the actual villain. Who would dare to doubt them? They are the biggest security sector we currently have, after all.”

“So what? Does that excuse them from being supervised?” Hizashi snapped back, clearly trying to provoke and rile up.

“It doesn't.” Shouta answered without hesitation – simple and honestly – after all, Hizashi was right. There should be a supervising power in place, someone who would take responsibility – Shouta had no desire to argue that point. His answer seemed to take the wind out of Hizashi's sails. The vigilante let out a deep sigh – weary and frustrated in equal measures.

“You’re the most complicated puzzle I have ever picked up, seriously.” Hizashi huffed and Shouta couldn't quite suppress a grin – too broad and too toothy.

“Is that a compliment?”

“You better believe that that is a compliment.” Hizashi scoffed good-naturedly. He shook his head to himself. A short pause and then “Fine. We’ll just continue then – expose those scumbags and then see what will happen after. One step after the other, yeah?”

Shouta gave a pleased hum, nodding his head in agreement “Sounds good.”

Hizashi picked his fork back up and stuffed the mush he had made of his chocolate cake into his mouth – his cheeks rounding slightly. Shouta suppressed an amused noise at the display and simply drew the hand he had cupped over Hizashi's back – both his hands curling back around his, by now cooled, mug. He lifted it up and took a sip of his cold coffee.

All of this was less than optimal, true. Especially if Hizashi was right – it would mean that Shouta would draw the ire of a part of the industry he himself worked and operated in. He was courting disaster and yet that was still preferable to dying – he hadn't been lying when he had said that they had to make a move either way. No matter the eventual consequences.

In his opinion it was still worth it though – they were, after all, taking out a big crime organization; they were making life easier, safer, for everyone that way. And if it should indeed fire back? Well, then he would just have to shoulder the responsibility for it… And really, not everything about it would be strictly bad either… Once the hero agency was taken care of all eyes would turn to Shouta, that much was true – it would make him a priority, which meant that Hizashi would at least be partially out of the spotlight that time around.

It would certainly be less to worry about for Shouta.

He took another drag of his coffee – effectively draining it “Well…” Hizashi said and Shouta raised his eyes up towards the other man again “I’m gonna go and re-dye my hair and then we can get going. After all I don't wanna be late for my ‘work’.”

Shouta hummed and nodded. He watched as Hizashi bounced away and when he heard the bathroom door closing he stood up as well. He collected his mug and Hizashi's plate and started washing up.

All of it was strangely domestic, Shouta realized. He couldn't remember ever clicking quite like this with someone before – truly, it was nearly a little frightening how quickly he had gotten used to Hizashi's presence around him, how quickly he had grown used to ‘living-together’, how fast things that might be annoying to others – or might even have been annoying to Shouta some time ago – had by now become something downright endearing. This felt comfortably easy – it felt right.

He scrubbed the last residues of the mushed cake from Hizashi's plate as he mulled all of that over.

Hizashi was a noisy person – humming and whistling and singing, muttering to himself, tapping his fingers or bouncing his legs to a beat only he could hear – furthermore he also was seemingly incapable of sitting still for too long – getting up to fumble with things, nearly skittishly moving from one task to the other, rotating between them until he was done with all of them, moving around the apartment without any real goal in mind just so he could stretch his legs after he had been sitting for too long.

In that regard he was the complete opposite of Shouta who generally preferred to find a nice, quiet spot and then just stay there – focused on his current task, in utter silence until he was done with whatever he might be working on – or until his phone alarm reminded him that he had other work to do as well that he should get to.

Still, for some reason Shouta liked Hizashi's bouncy ways – sure, he could see himself getting exhausted by them to the point where he might need to draw back a little for his own sake, but not truly annoyed by them. He started drying off both the plate and his mug and then placed them back into their respective places.

Hizashi was just incredibly vibrant and bright and Shouta found that the more time he spent with the other man the more he grew to appreciate that. Especially since Hizashi was a more than reasonable person to be around – sure, he was prone to emotional outbursts and his temper sometimes got the better of him, he was headstrong too – still that wasn't the worst thing in the world; at least that way Shouta knew that he wouldn't ever accidentally talk over the other man or ignore him. Beside, as quickly as Hizashi could flare up, he also calmed down again just as fast.

It was a learning curve – as all relationships were.

Shouta walked out of the kitchen back into the living room where he picked his hero suit up from the back of the couch and started getting dressed. It truly was fortunate that Hizashi had gotten a late afternoon to evening shift, it meant Shouta was able to accompany him without his school schedule getting in the way.

Hizashi was currently only doing grunt work – easy jobs that made it possible for the agency to monitor what he did exactly. That way they could see just how useful he was while simultaneously keeping the vigilante mostly in the dark about their bigger and shadier machinations until a later point in time when they could be sure that Hizashi was on board with all of their doings… or at the very least that was probably the plan they had.

It was actually rather fortunate – those small jobs were done rather quickly, which in turn gave Hizashi ample opportunity to snoop around when the chance presented itself. Also there was the added benefit that Hizashi didn't really have to get his hands too dirty just yet.

Both men left not too long after – Hizashi to do his ‘work’ and Shouta staying close, lurking out of sight in the dark corners close by; ready to jump in at a moments notice should something turn bad. Sadly it turned out that the day was less than fruitful and they both returned back to Hizashi's apartment with empty hands a few hours later.

“Whenever I try to sneak into the big office there is just always someone else lingering around!” Hizashi huffed, clearly frustrated as he flopped down onto the living room couch. Shouta simply stood to the side and watched the obviously annoyed man.

“Patience is a virtue.” was all he said and Hizashi blew a childish raspberry in his direction in answer.

“I’m not a very virtuous man, I thought you might have noticed by now.” Hizashi said and Shouta shot him a small smile which in turn made Hizashi's expression soften at least somewhat. The vigilante let out a soft sigh “I’m gonna get rid of these contacts.” he informed Shouta before he pushed himself up “Hey, what do you say to delivery today? I really want pizza.”

Shouta shrugged “That’s fine.” he gave back simply before he set on unwrapping his capture weapon from around his neck. His movements slowed after a moment – the feeling of eyes burning into his back making him stop short. The room was empty as he looked up and around, the door to the bathroom closed, with soft light spilling out from underneath the door frame. He could hear Hizashi's exasperated fight with his contacts through the door.

He let his gaze trail around the room but no, nothing was out of order and the feeling of being watched had vanished again as well by now. Shouta let out a slightly shaky, borderline angry sigh – he shook his head to himself. His hyper-vigilance was getting the better of him again.

He had those days from time to time – those days where he seemed to see humanoid figures in every flickering shadow; those days where his hyper-awareness flared up to the point where he felt the phantom scrutiny of eyes that weren't there. And all of that certainly wasn't helped by the fact that he was on guard right now anyway – with a criminal organization on his heels; the only thing keeping him safe right about now the fact that they hadn't yet figured out how to get to him without drawing too much attention. He was moving on increasingly borrowed time.

He sighed again and rolled his shoulder – trying to ease the tension there. It didn't help terribly much.

He looked up when the bathroom door opened again and Hizashi stepped out, familiar concentric green eyes framed by strands of unfamiliar lavender hair, and again Shouta realized that he much preferred Hizashi's natural hair colour.

“You have been rolling your shoulders all day now.” Hizashi suddenly pointed out – unusually blunt. Shouta gave a displeased hum at that, nodding his head slightly in concession “Are you feeling stiff?” Hizashi asked, voice growing gentler – morphing into a soft lilt.

He padded over to Shouta on socked feet, his hands rose and curled around Shouta's shoulder “Oh…” the vigilante breathed and it sounded strangely put-out “You are really tense.” there was a frown in his voice and a second later Shouta felt thumbs digging into his coiled muscles – it stung, like slicing a knife through the flesh of his shoulders. He let out a soft hiss through his teeth – not able to suppress the pained sound.

Hizashi stopped his motions immediately as he heard that noise. He gave a thoughtful hum, his hands loosening their clutch and instead rubbing down to the middle of Shouta's back in a gentle caress “Tell you what, I'm gonna call the pizza place and while we wait for our food I'm gonna see if I can’t get you to relax a little.

“I’m fine” Shouta groused back – and it was true, this wasn't nearly as bad as some of the other times before had been. Two hands rubbed towards his front, fingers interlinking over his lower belly – he blinked as he felt Hizashi moulding himself against his back a moment later. The vigilante hooked his chin over his left shoulder, craning his neck slightly – looking at him with lidded eyes, from beneath fair lashes.

“Let me make you feel good, baby.” Hizashi lilted, fluttering his lashes, there was a coy smile on his face. Shouta regarded the other man with a flat look for a few long moments but in the end he only let out a conceding, deep sigh – he was far too besotted, he realized, not really sure if that was a good thing or not.

“Fine.” he agreed. Well, it wasn't like he was losing something – in fact, it could probably be argued that he was the real winner here, wasn't he? He felt chapped lips pressing against his bare throat, nearly like a silent thank-you. Hizashi's fine-boned hands tightening their hold, arms squeezing slightly where they were wrapped around Shouta's waist from behind – Shouta could feel the warmth of those palms seeping in through two layers of clothes.

“Goodie.” Hizashi said, his voice as close to a whisper as it ever got. He nuzzled into Shouta's hair, the hold of his arms tightening again minutely before he drew back – disengaging completely “Gonna get the menu, yeah?” he informed and then bounced away – Shouta watched him, an amused curl to his lips, his shoulders dropping just the slightest bit.

Unfortunately the following days were just as frustratingly unproductive – even if Hizashi swore up and down that he just needed one good opportunity at this point… Sadly, that opportunity seemed rather reluctant to actually appear.

And it certainly didn't help that the longer the whole operation remained in a limbo the more Shouta's hyper-vigilance reared its ugly head – he was on edge, plain and simple. His skin crawled, his sleeping troubles getting worse – at this point he wouldn't be surprised anymore if he started jittering any day now.

“It’s a good thing I have so many vacation days saved up.” Hizashi was huffing as he puttered around the house, in something clearly fuelled by anxious nerves – movement for the sake of movement, just to release pent up energy. It was his very own way of dealing with the stress – Shouta knew, and he didn't want to chastise Hizashi for that… and yet every noise the vigilante made, every time he left and re-entered a room in the span of a few minutes, everytime he started picking things up and moving stuff around… it made the fine hair on Shouta's nap rise.

“It’s such a bummer! I'm so close I can fucking taste it! But I'm never getting lucky, at this point I'm close to just screaming, you know? It’s a fucking farce!” Hizashi threw a look over his shoulder, fixing his gaze on Shouta and Shouta could have sworn he could make out something in those green, concentric eyes; something he couldn't quite name – there was something nearly frighteningly intelligent there and Shouta felt his jaw clenching in unconscious response, his shoulders curling even more…

He didn't feel like he was capable of interpreting that particular gaze right now, he didn't know how to deal with it, or what might be expected of him right now. He didn't know what exactly he was seeing, he didn't know how to ask about it, he didn't know if he was actually seeing something or if he had just finally reached the breaking point where he was growing suspicious of even Hizashi – seeing things that weren't there, his mind tricking him into an overblown reaction.

He let out a tense breath, rolling his shoulders back – uncurling his coiled position at least somewhat – hoping it would relieve at least some of the stress and tension… but it didn't. He consciously and forcefully pried his clenched jaw apart. Those concentric, green eyes were still fixed on him so attentively and Shouta had to shove his tongue between his teeth to keep them from gritting back together.

Silence settled over the room and it soon became clear that Shouta wasn't going to answer or even acknowledge any of the things Hizashi had said up until then.

In the end Hizashi sat down on the couch again, reaching for his lyrics book – it didn't take long before he was tapping his pen against the table and every soft tap made Shouta feel like he was about to claw out of his skin. Every tap like the fall of a hammer onto a nail – a nail that was resting right on his skin.

Shouta took a deep breath, trying to grapple for some sort of desperate composure “Hizashi,” he started, pitching his voice low, hoping to sound soothing – hoping he could dampen the blow of the words he was about to utter. The vigilante gave an inquisitive noise, his eyes raising from the pages of his notebook to settle on Shouta instead.

“Can you be quiet for a bit?” Shouta asked, he raised his right hand, pressing the ball of it against his forehead, feeling a persistent frown there – like a mask welded to his face “I just need you to be quiet for a while right now.” he said, his voice sounded exhausted even to himself. His dark eyes flickered up, uncertain how Hizashi might react to his request.

He didn't want the other man to stop permanently… didn't want him to stop exercising his own more action based coping mechanisms … but he just needed a moment, just needed a little bit of silence. No humming, no tapping, no movement. Just silence.

His shoulders hunched down again as he waited for the fallout, for the screaming, for the accusations, the angry tirades – all the things he was used to from his previous relationships…

Hizashi only blinked at him mutely, his brows furrowing for a second before an expression of nearly shocked realization settled on his face “Oh…” he breathed softly “Of course!” he nodded hastily “Do you want me to, like, I don't know, leave for a bit? Or go into another room or …?”

Shouta released a tense breath he hadn't realized he had been holding, his bend body straightening up again the slightest bit “No.” he breathed out “You can stay. I just need you to be silent and to not move for a while.” he swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing “Please.”

Hizashi's expression turned sympathetic, soft and just the slightest bit pained for Shouta's sake “Okay.” he nodded, his voice already pitching lower – softer, lilting sweetly “Can I touch you?” he asked after a second and Shouta had to actually think about that question for a second. Did he want to be touched right now? Or, better yet, was his body able to be touched right now?

In the end he gave a tiny nod – nothing more than an agreeable inclination of his head “Okay.” Hizashi repeated again before he fell completely silent. The sudden quiet was like a balm to Shouta. The only noises in the room ambient ones – the sound of cars outside the apartment, the whirling of his laptop fan, the scratching of Hizashi's pen on paper. No humming, no tapping, no walking around. It was quiet – no other person around but them – no noise from anyone else.

Shouta let out a relieved sigh and bowed forward until he could place his forehead on the living room table – feeling the cool wood against his skin. A few heartbeats passed and then he felt fingers combing through his hair – a comforting, if slightly hesitant, point of contact – he let his eyes close as he waited for his mind to unwind, waited for his mind to realize that there was nothing he needed to listen for and that it therefore was fine if there was more noise around him since it wouldn't drown out anything ‘important’.

He didn't know how long he spent like that, with his forehead on the table, letting Hizashi's gentle patting lull him into a more relaxed state of mind, but in the end he finally raised his head again, his dark eyes fixing on the man opposite of him.

Hizashi shot him a soft smile – reassuring and warm – and Shouta felt his chest tighten “Okay.” he said, his voice a little too raspy, just the slightest bit choked up. Hizashi took the okay-go for what it was immediately, he scooted closer to Shouta and held his arms out in a clear invitation.

“Come here.” he said and Shouta followed the soft command wordlessly, moving closer until Hizashi was able to wrap his arms around him. He felt hands in his hair, guiding his head lower until the side of his face was pressed flush against Hizashi's chest – the strong ba-bump of the other mans heart right against his right ear. A few seconds passed like that and then Shouta both felt as well as heard how Hizashi started up his quirk enhanced purring – it rumbled right under his cheek, bleeding into him and his eyes dropped close on their own accord as he let himself be comforted.

The days seemed to blur into each other from that point onwards and the growing sense of urgency and pressure crushed down on Shouta as if it tried to crack his chest open. It made it hard to breath, he felt tired in a way he couldn't describe with words. Everytime he closed his lids his eyes burned – he imagined that this was what hellfire felt like.

He was currently squatting on the edge of the building opposite of the hero agency, staring unblinkingly, like some kind of gargoyle – hoping silently that today might be the day that Hizashi finally got what he had been clearly looking for… but his rational thoughts doubted, a sardonic whisper at the back of his mind ‘Nothing will turn up – just like all those days before.’

He knew Hizashi was looking for something specific at this point – finding whatever he seemingly was after was all he had been talking about these last few days: ‘It isn't enough yet. I still haven't gotten what I want. I just need a bot more time.’ … Shouta wasn't really sure what exactly the other man was talking about in that regard – what his endgame was – but he trusted Hizashi. He knew that Hizashi would come through, even if he didn't know how he would do it.

He blinked, feeling the stinging, cold dryness behind his lids – stabbing into his burning eyes like a glowing red fire-fork. He only just allowed himself a second of relieve before he forced his eyes open again, gaze settling back onto the window that opened into the room he knew Hizashi was in right now.

It was the main office from what Shouta had gathered – he wondered what could possibly take so long. Hizashi had never stayed that long in that specific room before – he usually was in and out again rather quickly. Shouta knew he couldn't have accidentally missed the other man – there was a second window just beside the one of the office; showing the bright hallway leading to and away from the office and Shouta would have noticed the backlit shadow of Hizashi.

He was getting restless at this point – he felt the desire to creep closer welling up within him; just so he could get a better look through the window, just so he could make sure that Hizashi wasn't in danger. He forced it away. It was better if he just remained where he was – if someone caught a glimpse of him sneaking around then he wouldn't just risk his own safety but Hizashi's as well.

He felt like he had been staring at the window for so long now that the image was permanently burned into his retinae…

He allowed himself another blink, he drew in a deep breath and held it for a second before he released it again – trying to relax his muscles just the slightest bit, rolling his shoulder to loosen his muscles. He counted the beats of his heart, one, two, three… and then he opened his eyes again – gaze refocusing on the window.

He didn't know how much time had passed by now – he just knew that something felt wrong and off and weird. The need to move was clawing at his flesh, scratching along his mind like nails on a blackboard – loud and shrill and impossible to tune out – ripping him to shred from the inside out.

He drew in another consciously deep breath, holding it for a few moments to… it puffed out of him as an inaudible, surprised gasp only a second later again as the light in the office suddenly flickered out for no discernable reason.

He drew closer to the edge of the building he was on, trying to get a better look into the room, trying to make out what was going on – he nearly flinched back as something collided with the window, an elbow smashing through the glass, leaving streaks of blood behind as the person who had been thrown against the glass was dragged back into the room, the bleeding arm vanishing back into the blackness of the office.

Shouta's body snapped into action immediately – his capture weapon flying out so he could swing himself over to the opposing building, he scaled upwards to the window. With a few flicks of his wrist he had wrapped parts of his capture weapon around his right hand – creating a makeshift glove – he slammed his now covered fist against the splintered glass, breaking off chunks and clearing away jagged pieces so he was able to slip into the room without cutting himself. There was the loud crunch of glass under his boots as he swung his legs into the room.

His eyes adjusted to the dark quickly – more quickly than normal human eyes at any rate – and they soon settled on two shadowed figures close to the other side of the room. There was loud huffing and groaning – the noises of a struggle.

“You piece of shit! Somebody help me! Hey-” the rest of the sentence was cut off, the words becoming muffled and inaudible – as if someone had just clamped a hand around someone's mouth.

“Shut up!” it was an angry hiss and Shouta would be able to identify that lilting voice everywhere, even in a crowd of thousands of screaming people – that was Hizashi “Stop struggling you-” this time it were Hizashi's words that got cut off by a pained grunt and Shouta saw a figure stumbling backwards in the dark… that must be Hizashi then.

The other figure rose up and set to follow, one arm obviously extended – and Shouta moved on pure instinct in that moment – muscle memory and ten years of hero experience guiding his body. His capture weapon snapped out, wrapping around the person with the extended arm.

“What the hell is-” the person started and Shouta freed another strand of his capture weapon, intent to wrap it around their mouth. He didn't get that far though; a loud clinking noise – like porcelain shattering – suddenly resounded in the room and Shouta felt how the body wrapped up in his capture weapon got heavy, no longer fighting against his hold – limp.

“Fuck!” that was Hizashi's soft cursing. Shouta's eyes snapped up to where the noise had come from and he saw the silhouette of the other man sliding down towards the ground. He hastily threw out another few strands of his capture weapon, wrapping the unconscious person up more tightly before he hastily made his way towards where Hizashi was slumped against the wall.

“Fuck that stings!” Hizashi was hissing through his teeth – pain clearly audible in his voice. Shouta's hand reached down, pulling out his phone, the screen lit up and a few swipes later the flash-light on the back illuminated the otherwise dark room.

“Shouta?” Hizashi blinked at him, his eyes trying to adjust to the sudden brightness.

The room was a mess – papers scattered around, glass shards and the remains of what must have been a vase at some point littering the floor – it looked like Hizashi had hit the person he had been fighting with over the head with said now broken vase. For a second Shouta's eyes flickered towards the bound person on the ground – that looked like the boss of the hero agency if he wasn't mistaken – before his eyes immediately settled back on Hizashi.

The vigilante was holding his side, blood was welling up between his fingers, running down his hand. Shouta crouched down beside Hizashi, one hand reaching out to pull the other mans hand away so he could get a proper look at the wound.

“Knife wound.” Hizashi grit out “The fucker had a knife!” he sounded nearly angry about it “Didn't think the asshole could fight back like that.”

Shouta just let out a low soothing sound, hoping it would quell the other mans obvious wrath a little. His fingers wrapped around Hizashi's wrist – pulling gently, trying to pry them away.

“No!” Hizashi shoved and pushed at him with his free hand “We don't have time for this right now! We have to get away before someone figures out what happened. The guy screamed so this room could be crawling with villains any second now.” Hizashi was trying to push himself upwards “You have to-” he gasped and slumped a little into himself.

Shouta's hands shot out immediately, stabilizing the other man and helping him into a more or less upright position, back still leaned against the wall for support “You have to get the bug I planted below the table – don't touch it with your bare hands.” Hizashi instructed.

For a split second Shouta hovered, hands still close in case Hizashi might stumble or fall and when he was sure the other man wouldn't he snapped into motion. He pulled part of his hero suit over his hand and then bowed down – it didn't take long for him to find the small device he was looking for – he pulled it off carefully “Got it.” he informed.

“Good.” Hizashi's voice was strained “Get to the safe. It’s behind that horrendous looking bust.” Shouta pushed the bug into his pocket and then did as he was told. He had just pushed the rather heavy bust aside when a dull thud made him look up again. Hizashi had moved a few steps closer towards him, his side had collided with the wall, pressing against it as he seemingly fought to stay upright.

“There’s a little hole in the wall, push your finger through and press down.” Hizashi panted, hunched over. Shouta covered his hand up again and did as he was told – with a soft click a small, door sized part of the wall swung open, exposing the door of a safe “The code is 992618.” the numbers hissed out between Hizashi's teeth.

Shouta reached out, fingers cupping around the knob of the combination lock. He turned the knob, following Hizashi's instructions and as soon as he was done he heard the soft click of a hinge unlocking. He shone the lamp of his phone into the dark space and was greeted by stacks and stacks of folders. He flickered his eyes towards Hizashi, lost and demanding “Just take whatever you can carry.” Hizashi answered his silent question.

Shouta gave a short nod and stepped away from the safe and towards the window – his hands twisted into the thick curtain there, he pulled and the material came loose from its clasps. He fisted his hands into the material – securing a strong grip – and then he pulled, ripping the fabric apart into a more manageable length and size.

He returned to the safe with the piece of cloth. He covered his hands with it and reached into the safe – he carefully wrapped the folders up into the fabric, mindful to not leave any fingerprints behind – after all, that seemed to be Hizashi's main concern right now.

“You got everything?” Hizashi panted.

“Yes.” Shouta gave back.

“Good.” Hizashi nodded, his face worryingly pale “Then get us all out of here.”

Shouta blinked, momentarily stumped “Us all?” he asked. A second passed and then he questioningly indicated with his hand towards the unconscious man on the ground.

“Yeah, that asshole too.” Hizashi nodded “I got a plan and I need him for it to work.” he added, voice determined. There was a fire burning in his eyes, visible even behind the red contacts he currently wore.

Shouta grit his teeth for a second and then gave a sharp nod. He twisted his capture weapon with his free hand – it uncurled from around the unconscious man on the ground, now dancing around Shouta's head in its full length.

He flicked his arm and one of the strands of his capture weapon moved to tie the folder package securely against his chest – so nothing would slip or fall. With that taken care of he moved towards Hizashi – he went down on one knee and turning his back towards the other man “Get on.”

A heartbeat or two passed and then he felt shaky hands dragging over his shoulders towards his front – one dry the other one slick with blood. Two arms lock over his throat, nearly strangling – but only nearly. It was easily enough to ignore.

One of his arms bent backwards – helping Hizashi to settle properly along his back – before he flicked his second arm out; moving the tendrils of his capture weapon, guiding the strands. It barely took a few seconds before Hizashi was secured on his back, his legs around Shouta's hips – capture weapon fastened around both Hizashi as well as Shouta, tying them together safely.

Shouta straightened up – testing how much extra weight was currently resting on him. Hizashi wasn't all that heavy – he might be as tall as Shouta but he was also less bulky, leaner, a lot lighter. The knot of his capture weapon held fast too and Shouta gave an internal nod – yes, this would do. It had to.

He took the few steps towards the unconscious man on the ground and crouched down a little. His face drew into a severe frown as he mentally calculated how to best do this. In the end he picked the man up, shoving an arm under his ass and angling him so that his legs were falling around Shouta's waist. He hoisted the unconscious man up so most of his weight was resting against Shouta's hip – as if he was carrying a child propped against his pelvis. It took him a moment to get the balance right – distributing the weight as best as he could. Another flick of his wrist and a few strands of his capture weapon secured the other man tighter.

“It’s a good thing that you're so strong.” Hizashi panted, his warm, slightly heaving breaths fanning over the side of Shouta's head “Might not have worked with someone else.” he swallowed and Shouta could hear the dry click of his throat “Might have needed another plan with someone else.”

“This was planned?” Shouta nearly burst out, voice incredulous – sounding harsher than he had intended. He felt Hizashi nodding against his hair.

“I mean, not exactly like this… but yeah.” a short pause “You’ll see. I promise I’ll explain, but we need to get out of here first.” Hizashi urged and Shouta grit his teeth – the other man was right.

He moved towards the window, using what little was still left loose of his capture weapon to wrap it around his hand so he could push the last bits of glass away – it was fortunate that the window was rather big, or else all of them might not have fit through it in one go.

Shouta swung his legs over the sill “Where to?” he asked.

“Police station.”

Shouta blinked “Police station?” he echoed, his question close to a hiss.

“Trust me.” Hizashi's tone was full of soft urging. Shouta's lips flattened into a severe, bloodless line, his jaw jumped as he ground his teeth together – his mind trying to decide which would be the best route to get to the police station as quickly and as inconspicuously as possible in this situation.

In the end he flung his hand out, his capture weapon flying forward to tie around a flagpole sticking out from the wall of the opposite building.

He tugged, testing the strength – he was, after all, two grown men heavier than normal right about now – and, after finding the grip satisfactory – he swung himself over, the soles of his boots slamming against the wall. He used his capture weapon like a climbing rope, walking along the wall – he couldn't hope to draw himself up on the roof like this, weighted down as he was with only one free arm he could use; since his second arm was still stabilizing the unconscious man at his side.

He walked around the building until he reached the fire escape and then used that one to climb the rest of the way upwards. Now with the security of steady ground under his feet he snapped into motion properly, breaking into a run – his chest heaving as his lungs tried to get enough air to fuel his muscles. The sound of his feet hitting the roof seemed too loud – the added weight making his steps heavier than what he was used to. He could feel Hizashi's arms and legs tightening around him.

“I hope you know what you're doing.” Shouta panted as he speed up even more, gaining momentum – heading straight for the edge of the building. His last step landed right at the edge of the roof, he pushed himself off with strength, gritting his teeth against the strain.

He landed heavily on the roof of the opposing building, his knees letting him know exactly what they thought about all the extra shock they had to absorb right now. Shouta let out a strained grunt but it was drowned out by a pained gasp from Hizashi.

“Are you fine?” Shouta panted out, worry thick in his voice. He pushed through the discomfort in his legs, using the momentum he had gained from his jump to propel him forward even faster. His endurance and tenacity were some of his greatest strengths, Shouta knew, so he kept pushing through the strain. He knew he would be able to keep going – for as long as he needed to… for as long as Hizashi needed him to.

“Yeah, that just jostled my wound, is all.” the other man gave back, voice strained.

Shouta swallowed “I can’t slow down.” he explained, his tone apologetic – he couldn't slow down even if he wanted to, he needed the raw speed or else he wouldn't be able to clear his jumps. He felt Hizashi nodding against his head.

“I know.”

Shouta swallowed again “Just hold tight.” he felt Hizashi's arms constricting a little tighter at that – it made it hard to breath, but it was still bearable and so Shouta continued – pushing off the edge of the current building to land on the roof of the next one. Another soft gasp from Hizashi against his back – it made his expression pull into a pained grimace. Another twinge from his two knees – he ignored it.

He didn't quite know how long it took but in the end he landed on the roof two buildings from the police station “Stop here for a moment.” Hizashi panted into his ear.

“Why?” Shouta gave back, his chest heaving, his mouth hanging open so he could draw more air into his lungs. His heart was slamming against his chest and he could feel his pulse drumming in his gums by now, nearly painfully. He swallowed, his mouth dry and his tongue sticky. His thighs burned as he pushed his knees straight, standing upright as best as he could with Hizashi on his back and another man slung over his side and arm. He felt his muscles quivering with strain, jumping under his skin, making him shake just the slightest bit where he stood.

“Let me down.” Hizashi said and Shouta turned his head, looking at the vigilante who had his chin hooked over his shoulder – his brows furrowed, a demanding expression on his face.

“What?” he asked – huffed out, his lungs still trying to get more oxygen.

“There’s cameras all around here. I have to fry those first.” Hizashi explained and Shouta blinked at the other man.

“What is your plan?” Shouta demanded – he would do as Hizashi told him, but before that he would like to know why he was doing it in the first place. Why were they here? Why did they waste so much time when he could feel Hizashi's blood running down the skin of his own back by now – his hero suit saturated with it and unable to soak up more.

“I want to blame this on the Zip-Tie-Man.” Hizashi gave back, he audible swallowed and a second or two passed in utter silence before he continued “Both the chip in the bug as well as the folders are more than enough evidence to blow the cover of the agency – and you know that the police has no love for hero agencies so when they find all this stuff they’re gonna be on top of all of this like a fly on shit. They will rip right into that would-be agency and you can bet your ass that no one will be able to stop them. The press will make a meal out of it too. There will be no way that anyone could sweep this under the rug.” Shouta noticed that Hizashi's fingers shook slightly where they were curled into his hero suit.

“And as long as we disable the cameras and zip-tie that scumbag to the lamppost down there we can just pin all of this on the Zip-Tie-Man. It’s perfect! Whatever backlash might happen – no matter how big or how many people are in on it – it will all be directed at the Zip-Tie-Man.” for a moment Hizashi trailed off, and then he added, in a softer voice “No one will suspect you.” his words were warm, tone low – a sweet confession.

Shouta blinked, his chest expanding with a deep, unconscious breath as everything Hizashi had just said settled in “You did all of that just to protect me?” his voice was breathy, surprise clearly audible, fondness dripping off of every syllable.

He blinked again as another thought suddenly occurred to him “Wait a second! You planned this from the very start didn't you?” his words were nearly accusing “All that talk about not having enough information yet, or waiting for something… You did have enough information, you just didn't want me to take it to the police. You lied to me, didn't you?”

There was a beat of silence “I mean…” Hizashi started, voice half a squawk “I guess… a little? I mean, at first I really didn't know where all the good stuff was, it took me a while to figure it out… but after I found it I realized I could do even better, you know? I thought that if I could just somehow capture the big boss and then pin it all on my vigilante persona then we both would be out of the cross-fire. I just didn't expect the guy to put up such a fight… or to stab me, for that matter. That part wasn't planned.” the last part of the sentence sounded downright sheepish.

“Keep us both out of the cross-fire?” Shouta asked disbelievingly “You do realize that everyone who might or might not have profited from this whole charade will now be after your vigilante persona instead and, by extension, also after you. Everyone will try to find the Zip-Tie-Man after this – even more so than before. So if you continue to operate as Present Mic after this then you will be the one at risk.” he trailed off for a second “This is the exact same situation, only that our roles are switched this way.” he finally finished. He felt like someone had just hit him with a cold wet fish – utterly baffled and gob-smacked.

“I know…” Hizashi said slowly “I thought of all of that too. This will certainly ruin my vigilante work… but I mean, how long would I have been able to keep going like this anyways? I mean, the police is already suspicious –