Shōta manages to fetch a glass of water and a spare towel in record time, placing the first within easy reach and pressing the second into Toshinori’s hand. The man’s coughing does not abate; it’s the kind that wracks his whole body, making his back bow, each one so deep and grasping that they cause him to retch. Shōta clenches his jaw and hesitates only a second more before reaching out to put his hand between Toshinori’s wings so he can rub his back.
It’s a risk. Though he and Toshinori have grown closer it’s not like him to offer physical touches so freely and the shock of that might spiral Toshinori into more coughing. It’s not just that, however; given Toshinori’s lack of control in this moment and their positions, the entirety of Toshinori’s left wing is pressed against Shōta and once he realises he might not be very pleased.
Oh, he’ll likely hide away his true feelings behind a polite and too-wide smile, but most people do not appreciate touches to their wings from people who are not bonded or family. Shōta is not exempt from this, but given his inconvenient feelings, the sensation of long golden feathers brushing his cheek brings a pleasant flush to his face rather than an embarrassed one.
While most of his attention is on Toshinori – cataloguing the depth of his coughs and the severity of his gagging, poised to just fold him into his arms and fly them to Recovery Girl’s home – Shōta still can’t resist inspecting the wings of Japan’s Number One.
They’re golden. Somehow that’s only fitting.
Not completely, though. It’s only the primaries and secondaries that are entirely gold, appearing delicate despite the clear power and strength of their size and shape. The way they fit together reminds Shōta of filigree rather than a solid block, perhaps because the marginal feathers are all white, and the feathers in between are a mixture that creates a gradient of white to gold.
Or, black to gold now. Shōta does remember photos and interviews in All Might’s prime when his wings were unto angel wings – white with an extra shine to prove his otherworldliness, the way he was more than human. Once, All Might’s wings were a symbol in and of themselves. Even if the man’s silhouette wasn’t telling enough, the flare of bright, powerful wings would’ve clued people straightaway: Here was a hero.
They’re still striking these days, the gold unfaded, though the blackened feathers do dull the once-dazzling effect of his wings. Shōta wonders if the colour change is similar to how the whites of Toshinori’s eyes had turned shadowed.
As Toshinori is permanently in his true form now, so too are his wings. When he’d been in his All Might form, the feathers were whole and white – now they’re no longer perfect. Even discounting their colour his feathers are not in the best condition, bent and broken, some are torn, some missing. Their poor condition is a clear indicator of Toshinori’s lack of bonded partner if there ever was one.
Which is strange, but also not. Despite legions of people wishing for the spot, Shōta can only imagine that it’s lonely at the top, and no doubt Toshinori is self sacrificing here as he is in all aspects of his life, not wishing to ‘endanger’ a potential mate.
Whatever. It is, in the end, none of his business (no matter how much he may want it to be). And really, Shōta can’t really pass comments when he himself is mateless (even if, potentially, he’s found someone who could be that for him).
Then again, his mostly black wings are cared for and whole, despite his not having a mate. That’s more to do with his having best friends that will not allow his wings to be unkempt, even if the rest of him is. They’d do the same for Toshinori if allowed it - hell, Shōta would be more than willing to do a little platonic preening in the apparent absence of friends in Toshinori’s life to take up the task.
“Thank you Shōta,” a quiet voice breaks through his thoughts. “I’m sorry if I worried you.”
Shōta immediately snaps back to the present, putting distance between them before Toshinori realises that he’d taken advantage. “Are you alright?” he asks, hating the question. The answer is obvious by the amount of blood over Toshinori’s face, hands, and shirt, as well as on the floor and soaked into the towel. “Or at least… can you stand?”
Toshinori’s wing actually follows Shōta before pulling away and folding tight against his back. Instinct, he supposes, a want to seek out comfort before realising whose comfort it is and then being reined in. It makes sense, so it shouldn’t hurt. It hurts all the same.
Toshinori gestures weakly with a bloody hand. “C-could you… my bag?”
It’s not that far of a reach, given Toshinori had just turned away from their work – Shōta had been attempting to explain marking schemes and how to reduce the number of open ended questions Toshinori preferred in order to use them in the first place – so Shōta is able to grab his bag quickly. Rather than place it amongst the mess of blood he cradles it, offering it to Toshinori.
The man plucks an inhaler from a side pocket, twisting the cap off with the careless ease of someone used to doing so. “Next time, Shōta, if you’re near and I can’t get to my bag for whatever reason, would you mind…?”
“Of course.” Even though it’s rude, he stares. He’d seen the smear on the white plastic. The blood looks dried, though. “You should really wipe that.”
A wet chuckle. “It’s my own blood.” He twists the mechanism and wraps his lips over the mouthpiece before inhaling deeply, allowing the medicine to settle deep in his remaining lung before tossing it aside onto the bloody towel. “And, in any case, empty.” With a snort Toshinori flops inelegantly to sit on the floor, wings flaring briefly to steady him.
Shōta is transfixed for a moment by the shimmer, recalling how feathers are still soft despite how they look. Then he shifts his attention to the no less broken but currently less graceful man they belong to. “What else do you need?”
“I should have an extra shirt in there.” He says this with a downturned gaze, as if he’s ashamed of what Shōta might think – as if Shōta would judge him for being prepared for eventualities. In fact Shōta admires his practicality, the same practicality demonstrated by his wiping bloody palms on the clean bits of the shirt he’s wearing. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just change here. I’m not quite up to… getting up.”
“That’s no problem.” He means it when he says it, but in no time at all, Shōta finds an actual one. “But er. Toshinori, I don’t see a shirt in here.”
There is a moment of staring uncomprehension, then it breaks with a sigh. “I must have forgotten to replace the last one I had to use.”
“I could lend you something.” Shōta doesn’t regret making the offer, especially when Toshinori looks back at him with wide eyes and a dusting of pale pink across his cheeks. His heart flutters, an echo of how his wings move before he can abort the motion. “You could go back home in just your undershirt, but I’m sure there are laws against that. Even if you are All Might.”
Toshinori flips him the bird, which makes Shōta laugh.
When he’d first met Yagi Toshinori - as All Might’s true form rather than his sickly secretary - he’d not expected them to be friends, much less comfortable with each other to this extent. In spite of outward overtures of friendship, Toshinori had held himself apart from everyone else, thanks to years of self- and work-induced isolation. Shōta isn’t sure himself how they’d broken past that awkwardness; maybe having his face broken had been enough of a catalyst.
Growing closer to Toshinori had him slowly blooming, and Shōta was delighted to unfurl each petal, privileged to see what beauty lay beneath. He’d assumed the man was too far up his own ass that he’d lost touch with the real world - but Shōta had learned that Toshinori is more shrewd and genuine than his original perception of All Might allowed for. He learned that the man could cook exquisite dishes and had never owned a pet before.
He also learned that Toshinori had a wicked sense of humour - and in the process of paying too much attention to how nice his actual laugh sounded, realised just how much their friendship had progressed.
“Hold on,” he says, and makes a swift exit to his bedroom. It’s a simple matter to find a neutral jumper that would conceivably not be too tight across Toshinori’s shoulders, but Shōta has to take a moment to quietly panic.
It’s stupid that he does. Offering a shirt is the done thing in this situation and between friends. If it had been Hizashi… well if it had been Hizashi Shōta would’ve laughed first and offered much later, but the point still stands. Somehow just because it’s Toshinori he’s second guessing himself.
That may have to do with how he wants Toshinori in his clothes though. It’s a perverse thought but Shōta thrills at the idea of Toshinori covered in something that belongs to him, that is his aesthetic, that smells of him. It’s possessive and that’s wrong because Toshinori is not his, and isn’t someone to be possessed either.
When he returns Toshinori is still sitting, back facing Shōta as he scrutinises the floor for any missed spots. He’s mopped up the blood presumably with the towel from earlier and is in the process of rolling it into his ruined shirt. Which means… Shōta swallows heavily.
Toshinori’s undershirt is white, the back cut in the usual way to accommodate for his large wings, a thin band of fabric falling between them and swooping under. It’s also loose – which seems par the course for all of his clothes. Not that Shōta can pass comments, but at least he doesn’t wear things five sizes too large. And he’s not going to complain now given the view he’s offered of broad shoulders and the briefer peek at his back and delicate spine when he lifts his wings out of the way.
It’s rude to stare, but Shōta is not polite at the best of times. He manages to tear his eyes away when Toshinori turns to him, though. In the privacy of his head he wishes to see Toshinori in one of those sleeveless undershirts again, black this time, with some loose, hip hugging pants.
When Toshinori accepts the black jumper with a grateful smile, Shōta's heart does flip flops. Ugh.
Things only worsen after that, as Shōta gets to work with some disinfectant wipes. He’s turned away to allow Toshinori some measure of privacy when he hears the rustle of cloth, some frustrated noises, and a sigh. And then, “Shōta? The buttons are giving me a little trouble.”
He freezes for only a second before he makes himself turn. He can’t let Toshinori think he’s uncomfortable – and he’s not. He just feels that such close proximity is unwise for his heart. “Here.”
Toshinori spreads his wings. It’s good that Shōta's apartment is sparse (‘minimalist’, Hizashi calls it, disparaging), because the wingspan of a 7 foot person is accordingly impressive. Shōta's breath catches - at the size and shape of those eagle feathers, at the sharp contrast between dull black and bright gold, at the fact that this is actually the first time he’s seen Toshinori’s wings fully unfurled. No matter how broken and battered the details are, the overall effect is beautiful. He resists the urge to fix the bent feathers he can see – that would be much too forward, even if they’re closer friends now – and goes to do up the dual line of buttons down the back of the jumper.
“I’ll end up touching your wings,” Shōta warns.
Though the reply is quiet and nonchalant, Shōta is aware that he cannot read Toshinori’s expression to accurately gauge the tone behind the permission given. He can make a guess, though; Toshinori is likely uncomfortable that he even has to ask for help, what more having Shōta touch him.
Shōta viciously quashes the hope rising in his chest. Just because touching is allowed in this instance doesn’t mean that Toshinori will permit it in future.
He brushes against Toshinori’s wings, again, but this time Toshinori is aware of it. He wouldn’t have have asked for help if he hadn’t considered the possibility of touching. To keep his mind off it, Shōta concentrates on the particular texture of the metal buttons, the two sharp points at the top, the carved indents and lines denoting eyes and whiskers. This jumper is one of the rare impulse purchases he’d made in his life – but at the time he’d figured that an otherwise plain black jumper was not in the ‘frivolous items’ category. That it had cat button embellishments was an aside.
It’s his favourite jumper, soft and warm, with the floral softener clinging to it still. Though that scent will soon be replaced with one Shōta much prefers. Because Toshinori is wearing it, will be wearing it for some time, and his aftershave will transfer won’t it?
That’s creepy, isn’t it? Wanting his clothes to smell like his crush?
And so is allowing his touch to linger at the small of Toshinori’s back - but it’s alright since he’s touching mostly his own sweater. Right? “Your wings are bigger than mine,” Shōta murmurs, hoping the blush on his face isn’t somehow transmittable through his tone of voice, “so I’ll leave one button undone. How is it?”
Toshinori carefully tests his range of motion as best he can without thwapping Shōta in the face; ideally Shōta should step away to facilitate this, but this way he can pretend the brush of feathers against his hands is deliberate.
Gods, he’s pathetic.
“It’s perfect, Shōta. Thank you.”
Well now he must step away, else Toshinori will suspect something is wrong. Shōta keeps his chin ducked so his hair covers his face and goes to clean away the wipes. “Will you stay? Or are you going to head home?”
There’s a pregnant pause before Toshinori replies: “You still want me to be here?”
The honest surprise in his voice makes Shōta throw an incredulous look over his shoulder. “A little blood doesn’t bother me.” And it doesn’t, even if it had been a lot of blood. Shōta has seen worse in his tenure as hero and teacher. “Truth be told, I’d rather you stay at least long enough for some tea. I feel you walking home alone right now will end poorly.”
Toshinori chuckles. “Tea sounds good,” he says as he follows Shōta to the kitchen. Like he’s done multiple times in the past - at least, once he’d gotten comfortable enough in Shōta's apartment - he goes to the cupboard that holds the only box of tea Shōta owns and plucks out a single teabag, dropping it into what Shōta has come to think of as Toshinori’s mug.
It was a moving in present from Nemuri, and Shōta had used it a few times without knowing the true meaning of the words printed on them. Toshinori had laughingly explained its literal translation of ‘Kiss the Rim’ the first time he’d seen it, seeming doubly tickled that Shōta had so far been ignorant of it. He’s chuckling again now as he traces the printed lipstick mark and waits for the kettle to boil - that throaty laughter that had forced Shōta to come to terms with his feelings, soft and warm and something he wants to sink into forever.
Shōta is in awe. He cannot understand how someone who’s gone through as much as Toshinori can still find joy in little things – but then again, it’s precisely this ability that’s kept the man alive and standing.
It’s precisely this ability that has Shōta drawn to him, in spite of everything.
Shōta clears his thoughts, and then his throat. “If I can ask…”
Toshinori quirks an eyebrow at him, though too polite to point out loud that Shōta normally doesn’t beat around the bush. “Of course. Anything.”
“It’s a bit personal, though.” Arguably more personal than helping him through a bloody coughing fit and clothing him in his favourite jumper.
Toshinori gazes at him far more warmly than he probably deserves. His heart is lighter all the same. “Shōta, please. I’d be happy to, especially if it brings us closer.”
He still takes a moment to steel himself. “Won’t the cold be worse on your health?”
Toshinori blinks a little, clearly thrown. “Yes, most likely. But I’ve invested in some space heaters this year, in my new place. We’ll see how it goes.” His chuckle is a careful, breathy thing. “Perhaps you could advise me on a sleeping bag. I can only assume those keep you warmer than just blankets.”
“Why… why don’t you nest with someone over the winter?”
The ‘ding!’ of the kettle is extra loud in the sudden silence. Toshinori stiffens in surprise, his wings held high though still folded tight against his back. The smile is gone. “Ah. That’s what you meant by personal.”
Shōta feels his hair start to drift upwards, his face accordingly heated. “I apologise, I –”
“No, no, it’s… it’s alright.” Even so, Toshinori takes a long time to continue speaking. He pours the water into the mug slowly and watches the steam rise for a long moment. “Your clan mates for life, don’t they?”
Though he should’ve anticipated the question, Shōta's breath still catches. “Yes.” Logically not all humans emulate the living patterns of their avian counterparts, but the vast majority do. It’s been shown that quirks can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by wing and feather shape.
For Shōta it’s just a truth of the world that his family mate for life like barn owls do. It’s the biggest reason why he will not reveal his true feelings.
“Mine does not,” Toshinori explains, “but I find I wish to do the same.”
Even though he’s half turned away, the bitterness of Toshinori’s smile is clear. “Choice and necessity. No one wants to be saddled with this.” He gestures as if to encapsulate the entirety of himself and all that had just happened in Shōta's living room just minutes ago.
Shōta grits his teeth. “I will address your self deprecation later – because it’s bullshit –” Toshinori snorts. Shōta ignores it and forges on, “But what about when you were All Might?”
Toshinori gingerly lifts his teabag out of the mug, letting it drip before he throws it into the bin. He adds a dash of honey and stirs slowly. Shōta is unsure if he’s buying time or just hoping the awkwardness will cause the conversation to die.
Well, tough shit. There’ve been so many awkward conversations in Shōta's life that he’s immune to them. Never mind his frustration at Toshinori’s continued cavalier attitude to his life even after retirement. His own wings are shuddering tightly as he fights the urge to envelope Toshinori within their embrace. “You had to have had thousands of offers. It’s impossible to think that one or two didn’t catch your eye.”
The laugh Toshinori lets out is sharp and brittle – more suited to Shōta himself than to the Symbol of Peace. “True enough.”
There’s a voice in his head telling him that he should back off, yet he continues. “But?”
Toshinori stares into his mug and mutters, “Well, what do I have to lose?”, following the question with a sigh.
It’s almost too quiet for Shōta to hear, but he does. He can’t help but frown, poised to interrupt what he assumes is information Toshinori isn’t ready to part with but is going to because he feels it’s expected of him.
His mouth clamps shut when carefully blank blue eyes meet his gaze. Toshinori’s voice is hesitant, each word chosen carefully. “Those that I may have considered being intimate with made it very clear what they wanted out of it and…” He swallows audibly, blushing. “That wasn’t something I could give them.”
Shōta tips his head to the side, confused. “They were all in it for your, what? Your money? Reputation?” Not that surprising, all things considered, but it’s unexpected that not a one had been genuine. Toshinori is, despite assumptions otherwise, not a poor judge of character.
“No, it’s not that.” Toshinori looks miserable, his blush having overtaken his entire face. “In the bedroom there were expectations.”
Shōta's first thought is about Toshinori’s abilities – taking into consideration his age, injuries, and medications. But then he dismisses the notion. Toshinori is talking about the past, clearly, where those things are less likely to have held sway.
Considering how embarrassed he is… “Was it the, er.” Shōta winces inwardly, trying to be more delicate than his default. “Was it the size?”
Well shit. Shōta hopes he hadn’t just come across as someone who does put undue stock in whether someone’s dick is big or not. It truly doesn’t matter - Shōta just prefers men, whether they even have a dick. But there are still shallow idiots who measure worth in inches.
The point is moot, since that’s not what Toshinori is hinting at. But the hints are insufficient and Shōta doesn’t know what to conclude. He doesn’t know what it can be and shakes his head, still confused, watching as Toshinori curls in on himself, tugging on his bangs.
“People associate All Might with the pinnacle of manliness. Machismo. That sort of thing.”
Okay, yes. It’d been one of the many annoyances Shōta had associated with him in the past; he now knows not to place blame on Toshinori for public perception skewed by the media. It’s still galling that his perception had been skewed as well.
“So they think that in the bedroom, I’ll be the one to take control and. Er. Take them.” He chances a quick glance at Shōta before darting his eyes away - which is good, because he misses the blush on Shōta's face. He’d certainly had his fair share of such fantasies, and while they’d mostly been of him ‘taking care’ of Toshinori in his true form, he can’t deny there’d been a few idle ones of having the same done to him by All Might.
Okay, no, stop those thoughts.
“They think that I want to be in charge but they’re wrong.”
Shōta cannot stay silent for long. It will give Toshinori the wrong idea, perhaps even reinforce his moronic idea that he’s ‘unworthy’ of affection. And so the obvious way forward is to boldly display that affection.
Slowly, so he doesn’t startle him and start off another coughing fit, Shōta reaches out to run the tips of his primaries along Toshinori’s arm. The motion is deliberate so it can’t be written off as an accident, but he doesn’t linger as much as he wants to.
Toshinori brightens at the touch. He no longer looks as miserable as he had, but the surprise on his face isn’t better, as if he’d expected Shōta to react poorly. It’s heartbreaking.
Shōta clears his throat, crossing his arms with a casualness he doesn’t really feel. “I’m not going to lie and say I’m not surprised, but my assumptions don’t matter. They clearly didn’t when I first thought you nothing more than boorish and brash.”
The words evoke a raised brow. “I am that.”
“You are. But you’re more as well.” He’d learned that, and he’s glad he’d had the opportunity. “And those people.” Shōta's mouth twists in derision of people he’s never met and never wants to. “They were idiots to be blind to everything but their ideas of you. They weren’t willing to accept you as you are.”
Toshinori’s eyes are bright. Beautiful.
Shōta makes sure he’s looking straight into them as he brushes his feathers against Toshinori’s shoulder again. “Their fucking loss.”