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When Hizashi wakes up one morning and realizes he can’t see, he grins.

He knows that he should probably be upset. After all, he’s in his last semester of university and he’s definitely way too busy for this shit. Emailing his professors about why he has to miss class is going to be a major pain and Nemuri will absolutely kill him for waking her up before noon after she spent all night out partying. Despite all this, he can’t help but let out a little squeal of delight and squirm around in his bed.

He rationalizes that the only reason he’s so excited is that it's been a while since they had a chance to talk, and this provides a perfect excuse. Anyone would be excited to talk to a friend they haven’t seen in a while. Perhaps the reason for meeting is a bit unorthodox, but that never really bothered Hizashi before.

The time before the meeting is a huge pain in the ass though. He rolls out of bed and immediately stubs his toe against the closet door, which he must have left open last night like an absolute idiot. He hisses and swears as he limps to the bathroom, where a series of catastrophes occur that results in him nearly pissing in the bathtub before he thankfully finds the toilet. His glee is brought down yet another notch when he realizes that he has no way to style his hair like this, and he knows Nemuri will probably make him look stupid if he lets her take charge.

Speaking of Nemuri. He slowly makes his way across the hall to her bedroom, hands stretched out in front of him in the hopes that all toe stubbing will be kept to a minimum. He bumps into a few things, but he doesn’t hear anything fall, which is a plus. When he finally makes it to what he hopes is Nemuri’s bedroom door, he gives a quick knock (which he knows she will not hear because she is dead to the world) before letting himself in.

He can tell that he’s in Nemuri’s room for sure because he can smell her perfume mixed with sweat. She probably crashed as soon as she got home, and he can perfectly picture her passed out in a heap on her bed, covers pushed on the floor and her dress still on, just unzipped at the back to give her some breathing room. He shuffles his way towards her bed and sure enough, his toes come in contact with her blanket. Reaching down slowly, he eventually finds what he hopes is a shoulder, and shakes.

“Nemuri,” he says, not a whisper but soft enough that she won’t startle awake and punch him in the face, because Hizashi is the kind of person that learns his lesson after the first time, thank you very much. “Nem, wake up. I need you to take me to U.A..”

She groans and tries to roll out of his grip. Sighing, he pushes her over until there is enough room for him to join her, carefully laying himself down in her tiny bed and trying not to topple out.

It’s quiet for a few minutes, but Hizashi can hear her breathing and he can tell that she’s awake. He gives her time to wake up and just wraps an arm around her waist, his nose buried into the back of her shoulder. The zipper is uncomfortably pressing against his chest, but he ignores it. He needs her in a moderately good mood if he’s going to make it to U.A. before noon. 

Eventually, she starts to shift against him, rolling more firmly into consciousness. She turns around in his arms, and he thinks he can feel her eyes on his face. There is suddenly a hand on his cheek and a thumb rubbing just under his bottom eyelid.

“Eyes?” she asks, her voice groggy. Her breath puffs against his nose and it smells god awful, but her tender touch has him holding back his complaints. “You sound fine so I’m just assuming.”

“Mm,” he hums in confirmation. “Can’t see a thing. Could you drive me to U.A. soon?”

Nemuri groans, but not in denial. He knows that she would never give him a hard time or tell him no, but he also knows that she’s probably hungover and was looking forward to a day of whining in bed and watching infomercials until she felt better.

“You’re such a pain in my ass, you know?”

“I’m very aware.”

“And you’re going to buy me coffee because I deserve it for being a phenomenal friend.”

“Oh, absolutely. Anything your caffeine-starved heart desires.”

“Fuck. Fine. Give me twenty minutes.”

Yamada Hizashi was fifteen years old when Musutafu experienced it’s largest and most deadly attack in decades. He doesn’t remember much, if he’s completely honest. It’s not because it wasn’t memorable, because it certainly was. He’s not sure if his fuzzy memories surrounding the attack are a result of physical damage, or if it really is his brain trying to protect himself and just choosing to forget.

He was walking home from school. He’d received his test scores from earlier that week and was disappointed to find a monumentally terrible grade. He was thinking about how he was going to tell his mother about it when he suddenly heard a noise like all of the oxygen in the world was being sucked out, and then very, very suddenly released again. He remembers falling to his knees, some invisible force knocking him down, and a heat like nothing he’d ever felt before skimming across his back. He remembers the world erupting into noise, people screaming and running. He might have been screaming too.

He remembers fire. He remembers men with weapons. He remembers the glint of a knife. He remembers blood and police lights and shouting. He remembers an unimaginable pain, a throbbing in his temple, a sharp ringing in his ears as the whole world vibrated like it was crumbling apart. He remembers trying to scream and feeling nothing come out. He remembers running and then falling, scraping his knees against pavement. He remembers someone hitting the back of his head, and then nothing.

And he remembers, waking up probably hours or days later, to the antiseptic smell of a hospital. He remembers how the itchy bed sheets irritated his skin. He remembers squinting open his eyes, prepared to ask someone for water — 

Except, he didn’t see anyone. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say he didn’t see anything. It was when he felt his breathing pick up but couldn’t hear it that he realized he couldn’t hear anything either. And when he tried to speak, to call out for help or ask what was going on or scream for his mom, he realized he couldn’t do that either. It was like there was a stone in his throat, blocking the words from escaping, creating a burn like he’d held his breath for too long. He remembers choking on it, gagging on all the things he couldn’t say, and the only way he knew he was still in the world at all was the firm hand that patted against his back and another set of softer, smaller hands cupping his cheeks, brushing away his tears with the thumbs.

Yamada Hizashi was fifteen years old when Musutafu experienced it’s largest and most deadly attack in decades. He doesn’t remember much, and really, it’s probably better that way. Because the parts he does remember, the fire and pain and screams, were bad enough already. Because with the infinite darkness and silence in front of him, remembering more could only have driven him mad. Because even though he was alive and safe and wrapped in his mother’s arms, it might as well have been the end of the world.

Nemuri is sipping on the world’s most expensive, sugary monstrosity known to man when the car finally rolls to a stop. Hizashi clutches the tray of coffees in his lap like a lifeline, his heart rate picking up and a smile breaking out on his face. He feels just as giddy as he did that morning, and if Nemuri hadn’t been in the car, he would have danced in his seat.

“My, my, Hizashi — bringing coffee and that smile?” Nemuri teases, and Hizashi can clearly picture her scrunched up nose and tongue between her teeth. His cheeks flame without his permission. “Could it be that this is finally the day you’ll make an honest man out—”

“Thanks for the ride, Nem!” he interrupts, because it’s always better to cut these things off before she can get too deep in her imagination. Also, he doesn’t want to look like a tomato when he first walks in. It’s been a whole month since they’ve seen each other, and coming in with a red face is just humiliating. “I should be good to get home on my own, so I’ll just see you later!”

He scurries out of the car before she has an opportunity to embarrass him further. He can feel the coffees sloshing and tipping concerningly in the tray, but he doesn’t feel any liquid, so he figures it’s okay. He’s just about to dash to the nearest building when a car door closes behind him and he has to stop himself from groaning.

“Hizashi, how are you going to find the door by yourself?” Nemuri asks, sounding far too giddy but also quite reasonable, considering it’s been a long time since he was completely blind. He comes to U.A. often, but he’s never really had to remember the feel of the layout before. “I promise I won’t say anything to your favorite little mechanic, but let me at least get you in the building before you go running off.”

Hizashi is an adult, so he absolutely does not pout as Nemuri grabs his arm and drags him along. He’s thinking of complaining about how Nemuri should stop calling him names like “Hizashi’s favorite little mechanic” when he hears a bell chime. Once he’s inside the building, it’s like his ears have some kind of Pavlovian reaction, perking up in anticipation of hearing his favorite sound in the whole world.

“Yamada,” a gruff voice says, and it’s definitely not his least favorite sound in the world or anything, but, well. It also isn’t what he was hoping to hear. Hizashi tries not to look disappointed because he loves Iwasaki, he really does, it’s just— 

He can hear Iwasaki’s familiar laugh, and Hizashi assumes he wasn’t very successful in hiding his preferences. Oops.

“Now, now, son, why the long face? I know I’m not your favorite little mechanic, but I should hope I’m at least second on the list!” Iwasaki jokes, and Hizashi really needs to get better about hiding his definitely-not-a-crush if even Iwasaki knows about his favorite little mechanic. He can feel the tips of his ears burn, and it only gets worse when Nemuri laughs loudly.

“Well, would I buy coffee for a mechanic I don’t like?” Hizashi says, holding out the tray in front of him like a shield. Iwasaki won’t be able to read into his pathetic heart if he’s too busy looking at coffee, right? “And I’ll have you know that the bigger one is for you.”

Iwasaki laughs again, and Hizashi can hear him walking closer. He feels a shift in weight as Iwasaki removes the largest coffee from the tray and hears him take a sip. Iwasaki lets out a little pleased sigh and Hizashi mentally fist pumps. “I’m assuming it’s the eyes, then? You seem to be communicating well enough, and you haven’t tried to ‘subtly’ look around for your prefered mechanic.”

Nemuri laughs again and Hizashi feels his face flame even hotter. He can only bear one person laughing at him at a time, so he nudges Nemuri’s foot with his own and says, “You know, Nem, I think I can take it from here.”

Somehow, a pinch on the cheek feels even worse than it normally does, especially when he can feel just how hot his face has become in contrast to Nemuri’s cold fingers. “Aw, Iwasaki, it looks like his face is malfunctioning! You might want to take a look at that. I’ll leave him in your very capable hands, sir!”

Nemuri scampers away before he can hit her, which he couldn’t do anyways since the coffee tray is in the way. He hears the bell over the door chime once more and thankfully, blissfully, he only has one bully left to deal with. 

Iwasaki laughs, because he has always liked Nemuri and he is a traitor. And he wonders why he’s second on his list of favorite mechanics.

“Alright, Yamada, no need to pout,” Iwasaki says, slapping a hand against his back and pulling him further into the shop. “I’ll take you back and Aizawa will have a look at you.”

Despite the past half hour of embarrassment, Hizashi immediately perks up at the sound of his name. He might be biased, but he’s pretty sure it’s the most wonderful word in the whole world.

Hizashi doesn’t remember the first time he walked into U.A. Cybernetic Replacements and Enhancements, though not for the same reasons that he doesn’t remember the attack. He doesn’t remember walking into U.A. because he wasn’t even aware that it was happening.

After about a week in the hospital, Hizashi figured out a kind of schedule. He could tell the difference between the nurse that took care of him during the day and the one that came for the night shift. Their hands felt vastly different, and while the morning nurse was soft and gentle, the night nurse was a little more practical, never hurting him but far more comfortable with maneuvering him around. There were three meals a day to measure out the hours, and his mother always washed his body with a wet washcloth after dinner, so he knew when it was about time to sleep. She would also brush his hair before breakfast, so he knew when it was time for the day to begin.

But once he left the hospital, time became slippery again. There were still three meals a day and his father would help him bathe when he got home from work, but the hours in between felt strange, like they were constantly distorting, trying to trip him up. It was like his life had transformed into a long sleep only broken up by meals and baths. Sometimes, his mother would hold his hand and take him into her car, and then they were back in the hospital, the antiseptic stench burning in Hizashi’s nose. Unfamiliar hands would poke and prod him, turning him every which way, sticking instruments in his ears and holding up his useless eyelids to get a better look at the damage. And then they would go back home, and Hizashi would lose more and more days to sleep.

Communicating was difficult. He didn’t know braille or sign language at the time, and his mother tried to trace letters into the palm of his hand with her finger, but he could never understand what she was trying to say. He would press his ear against her chest, feel the vibration of her voice against his cheek, would be so close to the sound of her voice, but nothing came through. He was living in the world and yet completely separate from it, unable to interact with anyone inside.

So he doesn’t really remember going to U.A. because he didn’t know where he was. His mother had held his hand and pulled him into her car like usual, but when they entered a building, he wasn’t bombarded with the familiar antiseptic smell. He felt rough hands poke and prod him like normal, but the person touching him didn’t smell like hand sanitizer and rubber. He smelled more like a garage, musky and warm. His hands also felt rougher than any of the doctors or nurses, like he had a collection of calluses that came from hard labor. 

There was a second set of hands, smaller and slightly softer, that grabbed him by the elbow and led him around. He remembers lying down in a bed and feeling long hair tickle his nose, like someone was leaning over him. The smaller hands held his face, the thumbs running over the corners of his useless eyes, softer and more gentle than even the morning nurse had ever been. And then there was a mask over his mouth and nose, and he was pretty familiar with what to do at that point. He breathed slowly and deeply, thinking about how it was ironic that people often describe the effects of anesthesia as “the world going dark.”

As soon as they walk into the back room of the shop, Hizashi realizes, horrified, that he won’t be able to see Shōta at all. He suddenly feels cheated, because it’s been a month since they’ve seen each other and now he can’t actually see him? Total bullshit.

He’s about ready to fall into a full-fledged pout when he hears someone moving across the room, and Hizashi realizes that there could be another customer, but it’s like his ears are attuned to every move that Shōta makes because he just knows that it’s him. And then he hears his voice say, “Hizashi, what have you done this time?”

He can actually feel his ears relaxing at the sound of his low rumble. It’s like when he’s been listening to loud music for too long, the sounds crashing against his skull until his whole body is vibrating, and he finally turns off the speaker and just lets himself sit in silence for a few minutes. His ears feel blissfully hollow and still, like he’s been overstimulated this entire morning and it’s only the sound of Shōta’s voice that can provide some respite.

“Shōta!” he says, sounding far too gleeful, and Iwasaki laughs again. Hizashi forgets to be embarrassed this time because it’s been too long.

Shōta snorts. It’s a sound that is very high on Hizashi’s list of favorite sounds. 

“Looks like the eyes need some repairs,” Iwasaki says, patting Hizashi’s shoulder. “Be gentle with him. Wouldn’t want to lose our favorite customer.”

Shōta snorts again and then he hears the door to the back room open and close, and Hizashi can feel the shift in space and knows that they’re finally alone. His ears are hyperaware of every single sound, and he’s convinced that he can hear Shōta’s gentle breathing even from here.

Footsteps approach. Then, they stop, and Hizashi can feel the heat of Shōta’s body in front of him. He hears Shōta swallow, and it’s not even like it was particularly loud, but without his sight, he feels like he could hear the other man’s heartbeat if he got close enough.

“That for me?” Shōta asks, his voice taking on that soft tone that he only gets when it’s the two of them. It isn’t hard to guess where that particular noise ranks on his list of favorite sounds.

Hizashi practically melts, but he holds out the tray of coffee and nods. “Nemuri had to drive me and she took some bribing, so I figured I’d get you something too.”

Hizashi is half convinced he can hear the smile form on Shōta’s face. Do smiles make a sound? He’s not sure, but he can tell that it’s there. He returns the smile as Shōta takes the tray from his hand. “Dirty chai with four shots of espresso. Just how you like it,” he brags, like it’s some kind of victory to know Shōta’s coffee order.

Shōta actually laughs at that, which ranks lower than his soft voice but higher than his snort. “Hizashi, I have to take out your eyes. I don’t think you want me to drink four shots of espresso right now.”

(The sound of Hizashi’s name is also absurdly high on the list.)

Hizashi waves him off. “Well, save it for later then. Post-op coffee.”

Shōta snorts again, and Hizashi hears him set the cup down. Then, a warm hand wraps around his elbow and pulls him forward. “Ah, yes, because it’s totally acceptable for me to have jittery hands for other clients. So long as it’s not for you.”

“You heard what Iwasaki said. I’m your favorite customer,” Hizashi teases, getting a certain thrill out of implying that Hizashi is his favorite just as Shōta is his. “Once those other clients of yours have been here for seven years, then they can get you without the caffeine jitters.”

Shōta huffs out a little breath at that before easing him into the operating chair. Hizashi makes himself comfortable and listens to the sounds of Shōta rustling through his toolbox. Though he’s upset that he can’t actually see him — is his hair longer now? Is it pulled into a ponytail or clipped back? Are his eyes lighting up every time he laughs? Even the bags under his eyes sound appealing right now — he’s glad that he can’t see the tool that he just knows Shōta is reaching for. Out of all the repairs he gets, eyes are his least favorite.

Shōta seems to read his mind, because he says, “Well, at least you can’t see me scoop your eyes out, hm?”

Hizashi shivers in his seat and makes a gagging noise. Shōta, mean as always, just chuckles. “Shōta, you have an awful bedside manner. We really must work on this.”

“You love it,” Shōta says offhandedly, like Hizashi doesn’t love everything about him. Hizashi decides that responding is a little too dangerous, so he just keeps his mouth shut as Shōta tilts his head back with a few fingers on his chin. “Ready?”

Hizashi takes a deep breath to calm himself down before humming in confirmation. He knows that it won’t hurt and that Shōta has never made a mistake before, but he can’t help the thrum of anxiety that rings in his ears as Shōta lifts his eyelid up with his thumb. He can’t actually see it, but he can so clearly imagine the tool, not very different from a melon baller, inching closer, dipping into opening of his eye socket to curl around his squishy but mechanical eye, scooping and pulling and — 

“So there’s this stray cat that’s been coming to my balcony every night the past few weeks,” Shōta speaks, his voice as soft and quiet as the tiny puffs of breath caressing Hizashi’s nose. He can feel the metal of the melon baller kissing the corner of his eye, and he forces himself to focus on Shōta’s warm breaths instead. “It rained one night after I’d repotted one of my plants, so the old pot filled up with water and I guess he decided my balcony was the best place to get a drink. He looked pretty thin, so I ended up giving him some food, and now he keeps coming back looking for more. And I feel bad that he’s clearly not eating enough, so I just keep feeding him.”

Even though he can feel the tool scraping against the inside of his eye, Hizashi can’t help but snort. His body slowly relaxes. “Why am I not surprised?”

“That’s what Iwasaki-sensei said,” Shōta replies. Hizashi feels the melon baller meet some resistance as it hits the wires at the back of his eyes and he bites down on his tongue, because this is probably one of his least favorite parts. But Shōta knows this, knows him, so he talks over the sound of Hizashi’s eye popping out of his head. “But anyway, I ended up buying actual cat food, because I’m already feeding him, so I might as well give him something that’s good for him. So I just leave it out in a bowl on my balcony. I go out a few days later and see that now there are three cats coming to eat on my balcony every night.”

Hizashi doesn’t even hear the popping noise over Shōta’s voice. He just feels the release in tension as his left eye is finally removed. Shōta sets down the tool and he can feel his fingers working to disconnect the wires leading back inside the socket. And then, Hizashi hears the familiar, squishy sound of his eye being gently placed into a cup.

One down, one to go.

Shōta lifts the melon baller once more. He moves his hand to Hizashi’s other eye, lifting up his eyelid with a thumb, and gets back to work.

“So, now I have three cats looking for food, and they all look pretty thin as well. I have plenty of cat food, so I just put out two more bowls every night so they can have something decent to eat as well,” Shōta continues, and Hizashi actually chuckles.

“This is the most Shōta problem I’ve ever heard of.”

Shōta sighs. Once again, the melon baller meets wires. The popping sound is fast approaching.

“Well, long story short: I’m now feeding nearly eight cats a night. And they’ve gotten bold, too. If I don’t bring the food out by a certain point, they all start yelling and clawing at my back door,” Shōta grumbles. “Turned into a hoard of spoiled brats overnight. Have to spend a small fortune on their food. These damn cats are gonna eat me out of house and home.”

This time, it’s Hizashi’s own laughter that covers up the popping sound. He laughs so long, he doesn’t even hear the squish of his second eyeball falling into a cup.

“Alright,” Shōta says, and Hizashi hears the rolling of his chair wheels move away from him and closer to the small table beside the operating chair. Hizashi’s body finally relaxes. “Worst is over. I’m just gonna take a look and see that these are okay and then we’ll check the connections.”

“Have you ever thought of adopting a cat?” Hizashi asks, turning over in his chair so he can face Shōta even though he can’t see him. Now that he’s not getting his eyes gouged out, he’s feeling much more talkative. “My mom never let us have one when I was growing up, but I always wanted one. Or maybe a dog. Or a bird? I don’t know. But a pet would be cool.”

Shōta snorts, probably because Hizashi ignored his earlier statement, but also maybe because he finds him very charming. Hizashi likes to think it has more to do with the latter than the former. “Don’t have time for a pet. I’m here most of the day.”

“But you could always bring him here! Cats can take pretty good care of themselves and they’re not super destructive, right?” Hizashi says. He can feel the wires extending outside of his eyesockets, and if it was anyone but Shōta, he might have been embarrassed about them. But Shōta has definitely seen much worse, so he figures it’s fine. “And it can help to calm people down! They can just pet a cat while you chop off their leg or crack open their skull.”

Shōta actually chuckles at that, but doesn’t say anything in response. Hizashi is okay with it though because it’s how they usually operate: Shōta is the one to talk during the excruciating parts so Hizashi will calm down; Hizashi is the one to talk during the boring parts to fill the silence. He quite likes their arrangement.

“How’s your thesis coming along?” Shōta asks, and Hizashi actually feels his heart stop and then race. He wonders if he needs to get that replaced too, because that can’t be normal. “And you had an internship at some radio station, right?”

If Hizashi was an actual sixteen year old girl alone in her bedroom, he might have squealed out loud and jumped up and down in his bed because oh my god Shōta remembered my thesis and my internship. He’s been paying attention to me. 

So if his hour long recap of his past month sounds more like gushing than anything else, well. Who could really blame him?

Hizashi already felt like he was living in a plane of existence completely separate from the rest of the world, but anesthesia always made it worse. One second, he felt his eyelids droop and his mind fog over, and the next, he felt the scratchy material of sheets under his fingers and realized that he was thirsty. His mom was always nearby when he woke up though, and he knew from experience that she would come with a gentle hand on his forehead and a cup of water pressed to his lips soon enough.

Except that didn’t happen. What did happen, was that he heard a noise. A voice, a dull rumble, soft and deep, and for a moment, Hizashi was convinced he made it up inside his head. But he could feel a puff of breath against his face with each rumbling sound, like a person was leaning over him, and he knew it was useless to open his eyes, but lifelong habits are hard to kick, so he did it anyway.

And he immediately shut them again because it was bright, so blindingly white and bright, and it hurt so much that he felt tears track down his cheeks, but he couldn’t stop himself from opening them again because it wasn’t dark. He felt his eyes struggling to adjust to the brightness, fighting and functioning in a way they hadn’t done in weeks, and his chest heaved with a sob because he wasn’t sure what was happening, but he didn’t care, because anything was better than that deep, dark, quiet place that had been his universe ever since the attack.

The sound kept rumbling in his ears, a vibration that was more than just vibration because those were words that he could make out, a questioning lilt to the voice, each puff of breath another confirmation that this was real, that someone was speaking above him and he could hear them. He squinted his eyes, desperately pleading for them to adjust, to see the person in front of him, because if this was some kind of fever dream, he wanted to soak it in as much as he could before it went away. He could see a swath of black pooling around a blurry face, the dark strands reaching down like little hands pulling him back to a world he had been absent from for the past month. Slowly, he could see dark circles forming where eyes should be, and a slash for a mouth.

And when the image finally cleared, Hizashi felt another sob bubble up in his chest. The person above him raised their hands and placed them on Hizashi’s forehead, just like his mother, and they were small and soft and he realized that they were the hands from before, the ones that brushed at the corners of his eyes like he thought he could find gold buried within the creases. The slash of a mouth curved into a small smile, looking almost relieved, and then the image blurred again for a whole new reason. Hizashi was crying.

Because before the attack, Hizashi had never given much thought to the idea of love at first sight. If he had been pressed, he probably would have given a neutral answer. He would have said sure, love at first sight is possible, if you mean the kind of love you feel for strangers and humanity in general. Hizashi found himself falling in love with people every day, like the delivery boy who stopped to help a girl get her cat down from a tree or the old couple who held hands and flirted with each other as they walked down the street even though they’d been together for longer than Hizashi had been alive. It was hard not to fall in love with people when there was so much good inherently within them.

But full-blown love? Monumental, world rocking, soul changing love? Regardless of if it was platonic or romantic, that kind of love probably required some time to develop and grow.

In that moment, however, if someone asked him about his thoughts on falling in love at first sight, he would have said yes. A solid, emphatic yes, without a shred of hesitation. Yes, of course it’s possible to fall in love at first sight. Because there he was, hearing a human voice for the first time in weeks, and when he opened his eyes, it wasn’t to the sight of an empty abyss, but to someone looking back at him, and he was so beautiful and Hizashi was so happy to see him, that there’s no way he wasn’t at least a little bit in love.

Eyes are his least favorite repair for a multitude of reasons. The largest reason is definitely the melon baller, which never gets less scary despite the number of times he’s seen it fast approaching his eyeball. Another is that he always gets a headache, because there’s a point where he can kind of see, but his eyes aren’t back in their sockets yet, so it’s a weird disjoint of images that make no sense. Another is that he can’t see Shōta the whole time. But then again, the other two repair options have a higher chance of disrupting their conversations, so he supposes eyes are the lesser of three evils.

They’re currently at the part in the visit where Hizashi can kind of see stuff, but it’s like he has his eyes crossed. Shōta had determined that there was nothing wrong with the eyes themselves, which meant it was a connection issue. So, he connected the eyes back to the wires extending out of Hizashi’s head and started fumbling around with them, which was both uncomfortable because his fingers were literally inside his eyesockets, and also dizzying because he could see a swathe of blue that was probably the gloved hand currently holding his eyes.

“So has Azumi given you any indication that he’s gonna keep you on once you graduate?” Shōta asks. For such a quiet person, Hizashi thinks he’s really good at reading people and figuring out what they need. Or maybe he just knows that Hizashi needs talking when things get rough. 

“He says he has a slot on Friday nights that he’s thinking of having me fill. It wouldn’t be full time work though, so I’ll have to find something else to supplement it,” Hizashi says, trying not to sound too bitter. Getting into radio is hard enough, and he’s lucky to have someone that’s willing to give him a chance.

“Friday night sounds good though. Isn’t that when most people listen to the radio?”

Hizashi shrugs. His vision swims as Shōta moves his left eye, presumably to push it back into its socket. He sees a slash of black that he thinks might be Shōta’s hair. “It’s really late at night. Even for a Friday, I think most people will be asleep.” 

“I’m sure not everyone will be asleep. I stay up pretty late on Fridays.”

Hizashi snorts, because he’s always suspected that Shōta is a bit of a night owl. Having it confirmed after all these years is refreshing. It’s cool to think about how there is still so much to learn about someone he’s known since he was a teenager. “Are you up from 2:30 to 5:00 on emotionally-Friday night and technically-Saturday morning?”

Shōta snorts and finally slots his left eye into place. Hizashi immediately winks it closed so he only has one image to deal with at a time. “Well considering I don’t work on Saturdays — yeah, I’m usually up at that time.”



Shōta quietly reconnects the wires to his right eye before slowly slipping it back into its proper socket. Hizashi closes both his eyes in an attempt to stave off nausea and breathes for a few seconds. While he attempts to get his stomach to calm down, he says, perhaps a bit too softly, “Well, maybe you’ll listen to my show some time.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Shōta says, and Hizashi can’t wait anymore, nausea be damned. He blinks open his eyes and the room is blindingly bright, but he can feel his pupils mechanically shifting and trying to adjust. And then he finally, finally, sees Shōta, his hair pulled back into a ponytail, his chin overrun with little hairs, his smile soft and lovely.

Every time Hizashi gets his vision back, it’s the same. He falls in love all over again.

The mysterious someone peering down at him was actually a boy. He couldn’t be any older than Hizashi, though the concentration creasing his brow made him look too serious to be fifteen. He was short and thin, with long dark hair clipped back out of his face, presumably because he was working. Hizashi could see grease under his fingernails and smudges along his jaw and he was so beautiful, Hizashi couldn’t take his eyes off him.

“How are you feeling?” the boy asked, sticking an instrument in Hizashi’s left ear and getting in close to look around.

Hizashi couldn’t shake his head, so he just pointed to his throat, hoping that that would be enough. After all, it looked like this boy had worked some kind of magic on him, so surely he would know about his voice?

The boy pressed his fingers against his jaw to turn his head and switched his tool over to Hizashi’s other ear. As he made the switch, Hizashi could see a small smile on his face, and he felt himself falling in love even more.

“You can speak. Just start slow and quiet. I might need to make adjustments and I don’t need you blowing the walls down,” he mumbled as he looked in Hizashi’s ear. His breath puffed against his neck and he actually shivered because he didn’t understand, couldn’t understand what he was saying. Getting back his sight and hearing was one thing, but his voice? His throat had been so badly damaged that the doctors had been surprised he was even alive, so how could one boy manage — 

He opened his mouth to speak, his lips shaking around the words as he breathed, “Where—”

Another sob cut him off. He slapped a hand over his mouth, hardly able to believe it, because that was his voice. The hot stones that had been lodged in his throat were gone, and it felt like he was able to breathe for the first time in so long, and as he sobbed, he could hear his whimpers and see the hot tears blurring his vision, and if this was a dream, it felt a bit too cruel.

“Take it easy,” the boy said softly, rubbing a hand up and down Hizashi’s back. The boy pulled away from his ears and instead sat down on the side of Hizashi’s bed, keeping one hand on his shoulder like he was afraid he would tip over otherwise. Given his current state, Hizashi wouldn’t have been surprised if that was a legitimate concern. “I know it’s a lot. Just take it slow.”

He could feel his ears tingle every time the boy spoke, like they were so ecstatic to be able to hear his low voice, to catch every quiet breath as he continued his examination. He flashed lights into Hizashi’s eyes until they watered, and he’d never been so happy to see the blue dots hazing his vision in his entire life. He massaged his fingers against Hizashi’s throat, had him answer a few questions in quiet whispers. He wrote notes down on a clipboard, and Hizashi had never realized how beautiful the sound of pencil scratching against paper was.

Eventually, the boy stood from the bed and set the clipboard down on a small counter near a sink. It was then that Hizashi noticed the assortment of tools scattered about. Some of them were medical tools like scalpels and needles, but others were more likely to be found in a garage. Screwdrivers, wrenches, wire cutters.

The boy shuffled over to a chair near the foot of the bed, and Hizashi also noticed for the first time how tired the boy appeared. He slumped into the chair like a marionette with its strings cut. He leaned back and pointed his eyes towards the ceiling, half-lidded like he could barely keep awake. The harsh lighting washed him out so that he appeared sickly pale, and the dark bags under his bloodshot eyes only added to the effect.

The tools, the exhaustion in the boy’s face, the miracle of Hizashi’s senses coming back to him — he finally realized where he was.

“Is this a mechanic shop?” he asked, his voice still a pathetic whimper. 

“Mm,” the boy hummed, his eyes slipping closed. “U.A. Cybernetic Replacements and Enhancements.”

Hizashi blinked. The name was vaguely familiar, though he couldn’t remember why. But he knew the concept of cybernetic replacements well enough.

He closed one eye and pressed a finger to it. It still felt squishy and gave in to the pressure, very clearly not a ball of steel. He stuck his finger in his ear, but it felt like it’d always had. No strange wires or even a hearing aid. There was a bandage over his throat, but he was sure that if he prodded around enough, it would feel normal too.

But it wasn’t normal. It was mechanical, a collection of wires and screws and microchips patching him back to what he once was. It wasn’t his eyes or his ears or his voice — it was a machine, a machine that was part of him, but also wasn’t. And he knew that in the movies, the cyborg always agonized over their unnatural body, always wondered how they could call themselves human when they were part machine, but he didn’t care if there was metal in his throat or wires behind his eyes because they were his, even if they hadn’t been originally.

He was thinking about this when a man walked in. It was almost painful to tear his eyes away from the boy, but when he finally managed it, he found an older man with a clipboard in his hand and a set of goofy looking goggles strapped to his head. The white hair and wrinkles spoke of old age, but his arms were muscular and looked strong enough to lift a truck. He looked about as exhausted as the boy, but he covered it up with a smile that caused even more wrinkles to form near his eyes.

“Yamada Hizashi,” the man began, reading the name off the clipboard on the counter and waving a hand towards the boy. Obediently, the boy rose groggily from the chair and came to stand beside the man. Hizashi was glad, if only because it meant he could look at him again. “My name is Iwasaki Mamoru, and I’m the lead mechanic here at U.A.,” he continued, bending slightly so that he was level with Hizashi. He smelled like grease and mint tea, and there was something about him that made Hizashi feel calmer than he had in weeks. “This here is my apprentice, Aizawa Shōta. He’s been keeping a close eye on you for the past few days, and—”

Aizawa Shōta, Hizashi thought. He repeated the name over and over in his mind, and he desperately wanted an excuse to say it outloud, if only so he could hear it rolling off his own tongue. He knew he probably should have been listening to Iwasaki, especially since he just implied that Hizashi had been there for several days and just didn’t remember, but he couldn’t stop looking at the boy — at Aizawa Shōta — and thinking about how it was the most wonderful name he’d ever heard.

The little bell above the door chimes, and Hizashi sees Shōta lift his head up from the book he’s reading at the counter. He smirks when he sees Hizashi and sets the book down.

“I figured you’d be coming to see me today,” he says, walking out from around the counter to come closer. “The last hour of your show on Friday nearly gave me a migraine.”

Hizashi wants to reprimand him for being rude because his voice is always warm and inviting even when it’s on the fritz, but he also doesn’t want to burst his eardrums, so he just pouts. He also focuses more on the insult than the reminder that Shōta actually listens to his radio show every Friday night, because that just does gooey things to his heart.

Shōta laughs and then heads for the back room, waving for Hizashi to follow. “Don’t pout. The throat is always fastest, so you should be back to talking Musutafu’s collective ear off in no time.”

Hizashi forgets that speaking could be dangerous to the health of everyone in a ten mile radius and takes in a breath to protest, but Shōta quickly slaps a hand over his mouth because he knows Hizashi very well. “I appreciate you trying to get me more business by deafening half the block, but I like my ears and shop windows just as they are, thanks.”

If Shōta’s hand wasn’t over his mouth, he might grumble out a quick then stop making fun of me, but that grumble would sound more like a shotgun going off next to someone’s ear, so it’s probably better that his hand is there. Shōta rolls his eyes at him because he’s probably a mind reader and nudges Hizashi towards the normal operating chair.

He falls back into the chair with a put upon sigh that sounds like a scream and watches as Shōta gets ready. There’s a little table near his chair with all of his tools laid out in a row, including the melon baller that makes Hizashi’s heart race even though there’s nothing wrong with his eyes today. The scalpel, on the other hand, is definitely in his near future.

Eventually, Shōta plops down in his rolling chair and scoots closer, gloved hands holding a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball. His hair is pulled back in a ponytail, but he must have gotten a haircut recently because several strands near the front need to be clipped back. If it wouldn’t have made him bleed from the ears, Hizashi might have teased him about how adorable he looks.

Shōta plugs the bottle of rubbing alcohol with the cotton ball and turns it upside down for a few seconds to get it wet. Then, he sets the bottle aside and starts wiping down Hizashi’s throat. It feels cold, and they’ve done this so many times that his body knows what’s coming next and immediately tenses.

Of course, Shōta notices. “Iwasaki-sensei is thinking of giving me the shop for my 26th birthday,” he says, because he just has to choose the one time Hizashi can’t speak to drop a bomb like that. “He says he’s thinking of retiring. Which, if I know him at all, means he’s planning on traveling around and performing replacements for people in tiny mountain villages who normally can’t afford it or something.”

Shōta says it dismissively, but Hizashi has gotten very good at reading him, and he can see the fondness and admiration in his eyes. He remembers Iwasaki always talking about how the communities in most need of replacements and repairs are the same communities that can never afford or access it. He can totally picture him backpacking around the globe, finding communities in need, and helping them create their own system of replacements and repairs.

He’s too busy thinking about Iwasaki off in the mountains of Chile or something to notice Shōta grabbing the scalpel. He places it gently against Hizashi’s neck and asks, “Ready?”

Hizashi takes in one more big breath before giving the thumbs up. Shōta nods and continues talking, because he’s a saint.

“I wouldn’t mind taking over the shop,” Shōta says, his rumbling voice covering up the sound of the scalpel slicing into Hizashi’s throat. “Iwasaki-sensei has been working less hours recently anyways, so I handle most of the clients. And in terms of mechanics, I’m pretty sure I can do just about everything he can do, even if I can’t do it as well.”

Hizashi would beg to differ, but, well. His throat is being cut open. So he just frowns to show his absolute disapproval of Shōta ever doubting himself. Shōta’s eyes flick up when he detects movement and rolls his eyes at his expression.

“Iwasaki-sensei has over fifty years of experience. I have ten. Don’t flatter me by implying that I’m in any way as good as him, because I know that’s a lie,” Shōta says around a chuckle, but he smiles like he appreciates the full blown faith Hizashi has in him. He puts the scalpel down gently and digs his fingers into the gap in Hizashi’s throat, tugging. The sound is absolutely grating, but Shōta keeps talking, so Hizashi just focuses on that. “But I like having him here. And I know nothing about the business side of things, so I have no idea what I’ll do about that. I probably should have gotten more involved in the financial side of things years ago, but I never needed to, so I never did.”

The ripping sound, thankfully, stops, and Shōta pulls his hands back to reach for a screwdriver. One hand reaches back to cup the back of Hizashi’s neck, anchoring him, while the other moves the screwdriver towards the panel in his throat. “I keep trying to tell him that I’m just going to fuck up all his hard work, but he’s not having it. He thinks he can teach me about how to run a business in the next few months and that everything will be fine. He goes on and on about how I’m gonna bring fresh new ideas to the place and bring in even more customers, but — I don’t know. I was never in it for the business, I guess. I just want to do my tinkering, and that’s it.”

If Hizashi could speak, he would tell Shōta that he’s just scared. He would tell him that Iwasaki has been a safety net all these years, someone Shōta could rely on, and so having to stand on his own is scary, because of course it is. He would tell him that just because it’s scary, doesn’t mean it’s bad. He would tell him that just because it’s scary, it doesn’t mean he will fail. His mouth is filled with all the things he wants to say, and he wonders if this is why Shōta chose to tell him all this now, when his throat prevents him from saying any of them.

The panel in his throat opens, and Shōta fiddles inside with a few tools, his brow furrowing in concentration. He remembers Shōta saying once that throats are one of his least favorite repairs because there are a million different little wires and having to sift through all of them is a pain in the ass. He also remembers that Shōta has never cut the wrong one, has never gotten them tangled or crossed or misplaced, and he wishes he could remind him of this, remind him of his own capability.

“So anyway, this is my way of telling you to start looking for a new mechanic, because I’m not sure if we’ll be here next year,” he says, and he says it with the same dryness he uses for all of his humor, but there’s an edge to it, as if he actually believes he’ll fail, and if he wasn’t currently holding a screwdriver so close to his throat, Hizashi actually might have punched him. He hears a clicking noise, and then Shōta leans back a bit, setting the tool down and lifting his hands closer to his own ears, ready to cover them just in case. “Okay, try and speak as quietly as possible.”

“Shōta,” he whispers, except it comes out as more of a yell, but it isn’t loud enough to bring the building down, so it’s an improvement. “I’m gonna kick your ass.”

Shōta raises a brow at that. “Calm down, I’m working on—”

“No, not for that,” Hizashi whispers but actually yells. He really hopes Iwasaki isn’t in the building, because he would definitely be able to hear him through the walls. “I don’t like when you talk about yourself like that.”

Shōta sighs and picks his tool back up, leaning in again to make further adjustments. “Maybe we should discuss this later, when you can talk at a normal volume?”

“Fuck that,” Hizashi says, his voice warbling mechanically as Shōta does — well, something. Hizashi isn't the mechanic here. “Iwasaki isn’t an idiot. If he thinks you’ll do well, then you’ll do well.”

Shōta frowns at that, and it’s not an expression Hizashi likes to see, especially when he’s the one causing it, but it’s a necessary consequence right now. “Iwasaki-sensei can’t know anything for sure, and neither can you,” he huffs, sounding annoyed. Hizashi is sure he’s had this same conversation with Iwasaki several times already. “Working as a mechanic and owning a business are two different specialties, and I’ve only been trained in one. Being a good mechanic doesn’t mean I know how to keep the lights on.”

“No, but being a good mechanic means that people will keep coming back to you,” he argues, ignoring how goofily high pitched his voice sounds as Shōta continues working. He hears something click, and the next time he tries to whisper, it comes out slightly softer, like his normal speaking voice. “Isn’t that a thing in business? Try and keep the customers you have before you try and get new ones? Well, you already have a bunch of people that love what you do, so it’s going to be fine.”

Shōta’s frown only deepens, and his eyebrows furrow in that way that means he’s actually getting annoyed. Hizashi just frowns back. “This isn’t the kind of business where repeat customers will completely save it. If given the right upgrade, there are people who only need to come in for repairs once every few years. I can’t get by on that. You insist on keeping the same basic parts for whatever reason, but most people aren’t like that.”

Hizashi quickly backpedals, because this is getting dangerously close to one of his least favorite topics of conversation, which is his inscrutable refusal of any and all upgrades and enhancements. “Well, maybe you should start charging more for repairs. Seriously, I always thought that the work you do is worth way more than what you actually char—”

“I’m not raising prices,” he says with a tone that leaves no room for argument. “What, Iwasaki-sensei is going to go backpacking around the world giving free repairs to communities in need and I’m going to raise my prices through the roof?”

Hizashi doesn’t have a response to that. Shōta just sighs and shakes his head. “Absolutely not. Replacements and repairs should be affordable. There’s no point in offering a service if only a few people can actually access it.”

Hizashi feels his heart hammer in his chest and his throat tighten for a completely new reason. He can’t stop looking at Shōta’s little frown, his tense shoulders, as if just the thought of raising his prices even though it could save the shop, even though the quality of his work demands more than he gets, upsets him beyond measure. He hears the ghost of Shōta’s voice, so much younger and filled with so much love and hope and ambition, quietly saying, I want to help people.

“Well, that’s why you’ll be fine,” he says, and his voice finally comes out as a whisper, but he kind of wishes that it hadn’t because now it sounds far too soft, too tender, and he doesn’t want Shōta to see him too clearly. “Because you’re loyal to your customers and you don’t overprice things, even though most places do. Even though you could.”

Shōta leans back from his work and makes a face at him, like he wants to argue with Hizashi further about how his work doesn’t merit higher prices. Hizashi would argue back about how his work is exemplary and deserves more, but that’s not the point, so he doesn’t. Instead, he just says, “You’ll be fine because you want to help people.”

Shōta’s face softens. Hizashi wonders if he’s also going back in his mind, back to the first time they met when Hizashi was so terrified and nervous and brimming with tears and Shōta just talked about saving the world like it wasn’t even a big deal. He can see Shōta swallow roughly, and he knows that means the conversation is over because Shōta was never one to deal with big emotions, but Hizashi is okay with that. At least he got the last word in this time.

“Okay, so you can whisper,” Shōta says at last, his voice sounding only slightly strained. The only reason Hizashi can even hear it is because he knows what to look for. “Talk at a normal volume for me.”

“You’re an incredible mechanic and a very cool person,” Hizashi says in a normal speaking voice, when he really means I admire you and your selfless love for other people.

Shōta blushes. He also frowns, but it’s his embarrassed one instead of his annoyed one. Hizashi likes this look much, much more. “Don’t be annoying. Say something at a slightly elevated volume, but not screaming.”

“You’re really good at knowing what your clients need and you always guide them through painful and scary times with your gentleness,” he says at a higher volume, when he really means I couldn’t get through this process without you talking me through it, and I know talking makes you uncomfortable but you do it anyways because you care.

“Hizashi,” Shōta chastizes, his cheeks flaming even hotter. It’s a really good look on him. “Stop. Say something normal, but at a yell.”

“You’re dedicated to helping people and a little bookkeeping won’t get in your way!” he yells, when he really means I have watched you push and struggle to better yourself for the past decade. I know your talent and your passion and your resolve. You cannot fail.

Shōta’s whole body is taut like a wire, and Hizashi can feel his hands shaking from where they are resting against his chest. He wants to grab them, but resists. “Oh my god, just scream something so we can be done with—”

“You’re my favorite mechanic!” Hizashi screams as loud as he can, when he really means I love you. 

The older mechanic didn’t stay for long. Iwasaki left a few minutes later after explaining that his parents would be allowed in to see him once Aizawa made a few adjustments. He’d congratulated him on his replacements and then he was out the door. When Hizashi asked why he left in such a hurry, Aizawa just smiled tiredly.

“We’ve had a lot of business since the attack last month,” Aizawa said, grabbing a screwdriver and a scalpel from off the counter and coming in close. “We have two other people recovering from surgery and another one who needs repair work, so Iwasaki-sensei has me covering all minor repairs and adjustments.”

He tilted Hizashi’s head up slightly and then got to work unwrapping the bandages from around his neck. Once the bandage was removed, he wiped down at his throat with a wet rag that smelled strongly of rubbing alcohol. Then, he lifted his scalpel and placed a stabilizing hand on Hizashi’s shoulder. “This area is still gonna be a bit tender, so this might hurt a bit. Let me know if you need to take a break at all.”

The first touch of the scalpel against his neck had him holding his breath, but it didn’t actually feel like getting a cut. He just felt a weird pressure against his throat, like Aizawa was pressing a finger instead of a blade against it. There wasn’t any blood either and he wasn’t struggling to breathe, but the noise — it sounded like someone was literally ripping his flesh apart, because that was exactly what was happening. He knew that it was artificial, that the skin could patch itself back together easily enough, but the sound and the steady, stinging pressure had tears gathering in his eyes and bile bubbling in his stomach.

“Yamada?” Aizawa said, stopping his movements completely. “Yamada, is everything okay?”

“Talk to me,” he whimpered, his voice scratchy and raw. “I can’t — the sound, it’s—”

Aizawa seemed to immediately understand. His palm was warm against his shoulder, and he moved his thumb in soothing circles over his collarbone. “I’ve been working with Iwasaki-sensei for a little over a year now. I’ve wanted to be a mechanic for a while, so when I heard that he was looking for an apprentice, I jumped on the opportunity,” he said, his voice a low rumble that reminded him of all the times he leaned his head against his mother’s chest just to hear the vibrations of her hidden voice. “He’s very good at what he does. He had a high profile client a few years ago. You ever heard of Yagi Toshinori? He was a cop. He’s retired now, but he got into it with some big mob boss and got pretty messed up. Doctors had to remove a lung and like half his stomach. But Iwasaki managed to build a new lung for him. Saved his life.” 

Hizashi’s shoulders relaxed. Aizawa must have felt it, because he slowly lifted the scalpel back up and resumed his work, using his voice to cover up the sound of artificial flesh splitting open. “He was working for some big company then, but he said he didn’t like the office politics, so he got his own place. It’s smaller and he doesn’t get as many clients, but it’s enough to keep the doors open. And it’s small enough that we get a lot of regulars, which makes repair work easier.”

“Oh yeah?” Hizashi said, his voice a strange tremor. “How so?”

Aizawa shrugged and switched his scalpel for a screwdriver. The noises became more mechanical, as if he was working on a car instead of a person. It was slightly more bearable. “Well, everyone has preferences. If you don’t already know what those preferences are, repairs can take longer because they ask you to make different adjustments like a million times. But if you already know how they like it, it’s easy enough to fix it right the first time.”

“Huh,” Hizashi said, but his voice came out strange. It sounded nothing like his own, and there was a weird static to it.

“Don’t worry,” Aizawa assured him. “I’ll get it back to normal in a bit. Your volume is just off, but I can bring the pitch back once I fix it.”

“Oh, okay,” Hizashi said, his voice sounding different once again. It sounded high pitched, like he’d suck helium out of a balloon. If he hadn’t been so freaked out about having his throat cut open, he might have laughed. 

“With more delicate replacements like ears, eyes, and throat, you tend to start off with less complex parts. They’ll need repairs more often and the kinds of enhancements you can get are limited,” Aizawa explained. He moved the hand on his shoulder to support the back of Hizashi’s neck instead, and Hizashi felt a pop that burned that back of his throat. He couldn’t help the small hiss of pain, and Aizawa rubbed the back of his neck with his thumb in apology. “Once we see how your body takes to the replacements, then we can start talking about upgrading to better parts. In the meantime, if you ever notice anything weird about your hearing or sight or speach, just make an appointment and we’ll get you fixed back up.”

Hizashi wanted to nod, but he was too afraid that that would mess up Aizawa’s work, so he just hummed. It was way too loud and sounded more like a yell. 

Aizawa sighed. “Well, that’s clearly too loud.”

Hizashi snorted and it sounded like a bomb going off.

Hizashi first realizes that something is wrong when he hears a voice that sounds — off. It sort of sounds like when criminals in cop shows call the police station using some kind of voice distorter, the sound impossibly deep and almost staticky. The voice itself might not have been too weird, especially since there are plenty of cybernetic enhancements that allow people to change their voice on the fly.

Except the voice is continuing where Nemuri left off in her story, and now it’s saying his name, trying to get his attention, and when he looks back at her, he sees that the voice is indeed coming out of her mouth. Last he checked, she wasn’t in need of replacement parts.

“Are you doing something weird with your voice?” he asks, because despite what his favorite mechanic thinks, he really does pay attention whenever Shōta tells him to troubleshoot his problem before driving all the way to U.A. over nothing.

Nemuri raises a brow at him. “Hizashi, if this is some kind of joke about how you think my voice is annoying, I will actually punch you in the dick.”

It isn’t a joke about her voice because her voice is actually quite lovely (and pretty high up on his list of favorite sounds, though he would never tell her that), but he moves his hands down to cover his dick anyways. Nemuri is unpredictable and it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when they’re sitting across from each other and his crotch is easily within kicking distance. 

“No, I think my—” he reaches up to his ears because he just realized that his own voice also sounds weird, kind of like it’s underwater or something. He looks around the cafe and tries to tune in to the conversations around them. Everyone sounds strange, like their voices are swimming in a sea of molasses. “My ears —”

“Hizashi,” Nemuri’s not-voice says, her hand reaching out to grab his arm. He quickly turns back to look at her and her face is slightly panicked. “Hizashi, you have the benefit tonight, you can’t—”

There’s a roaring in his ears that he knows has nothing to do with the malfunction because holy shit he has to attend a benefit party tonight and he’s presenting. His manager will absolutely kill him if he misses this event.

“Call Shōta,” he says. “Call Shōta and take me to U.A.. He can fix it, he’ll get it done in time, it’ll be fine.”

Nemuri is gathering her things before he’s even done speaking, and then she’s grabbing his arm and hauling him out of the cafe, their coffees abandoned on the table.

Nemuri keeps pacing, and Hizashi isn’t sure how Shōta can focus. Hizashi had told her repeatedly that she didn’t need to stay, but she was adamant. Shōta is sitting off to his side, a pair of long tweezers in hand as he attempts to pull the wires out of his ears, so Hizashi has nothing else to look at besides Nemuri’s impatience and worry, and it’s making the panic rise in his throat.

It’s a few more minutes until he caves and then he’s nearly gasping out, “Shōta. Talk to me.”

Nemuri freezes for just a second and looks over at him, and Hizashi realizes that she’s never sat with him during a repair and she might think that he’s in pain. He’s never thought about how gruesome this kind of procedure must look to an outsider, and he wonders if it’s freaking her out. Shōta looks at him and then over to Nemuri, as if he’s nervous to talk like they normally do when she’s in the room, and Hizashi is almost afraid that he’s going to keep quiet when he says, “I got another postcard from Iwasaki-sensei yesterday.”

“Oh yeah?” he says, his voice coming out in a rush of air. His body instantly starts to relax as he imagines Iwasaki carving his way through a thick jungle with a machete, mainly because he has no point of reference for South American jungles other than how American movies depict them. “Is he still in Brazil?”

“No, India,” Shōta continues, tugging the tweezer out along with some wires. “He sent a postcard from Mumbai. He says it’s really beautiful, but there are a lot of people who need help. The postcard has some famous bridge on it, but I’d never heard of it.”

Hizashi laughs softly and allows his eyes to slip closed. “Uncultured swine.”

Shōta snorts. “Whatever. He said he found a doctor there that’s very interested in learning from him. He says he’s young. Quick study. If he can pick it up well enough, he’s thinking he’ll help him open his own place.”

“Aw, he found a new Shōta,” Hizashi teases. “Don’t get jealous, okay? You’re still my preferred mechanic.”

Shōta hums, but it’s the kind of hum he makes when he wants to laugh but there are too many people in the room and he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. Hizashi wonders how many people he’s allowed himself to truly laugh in front of, and feels strangely touched that he’s one of them. Hizashi opens his eyes because he desperately wants to see the small smile that he knows must be on Shōta’s face, but he sees Nemuri pacing again, and he suddenly remembers that this isn’t a normal, routine repair, that they’re on a strict deadline, that he has somewhere to be soon.

He must tense up, because Shōta stops tinkering for a second. Hizashi can feel his eyes on him, and then Shōta is turning in his chair towards Nemuri. “Kayama, does Hizashi have a particular outfit he needs to wear for this event?”

Nemuri stops suddenly and turns to look at him. Her eyes look a little wider than normal. “What?”

“Like a tux? Does he have something he’s supposed to wear.”

Hizashi answers for her. “Yes?”

“Okay, do you have it with you?”

Hizashi blinks. “No?”

Shōta sighs like he can’t believe this needs explaining. “Okay, well if this is going to take a while and the event starts in a few hours, wouldn’t it make more sense for Kayama to go get the things you need now so you can get ready here and go straight there?”

Nemuri raises her brows like she’s almost shocked. Hizashi is similarly baffled, because he doesn’t think he’s ever gotten away with telling Nemuri what to do. When no one speaks for a minute, Shōta sighs again. “I don’t mind you staying, if that’s what you want to do. But this procedure is very minor and it doesn’t hurt him at all,” Shōta explains. The second the words leave his mouth, Nemuri’s shoulders droop down slightly, like that was all she needed to calm down. “It’s just time consuming. It might make you feel better to do something more productive than watch me turn a bunch of dials and ask Hizashi over and over if he can hear me now.”

Nemuri blinks at him and Hizashi knows the feeling. He too is constantly in awe of Shōta’s boldness, especially because he acts like he isn’t being bold at all. Finally, Nemuri looks back at Hizashi and he nods at her. She nods back and says, “Okay, yeah, I’ll do that. Hizashi, text me if anything —”

Hizashi waves his hand at her. “I know, I know. Don’t worry so much, Nem. I’m in fantastic hands.”

He didn’t totally mean it like that (well, he kind of did), but Nemuri gives him a little smirk anyways, which is definitely better than all of the pacing. And he loves her so much, but all the tension drains out of his body the second she leaves the room. “Bless you,” Hizashi says, finally relaxing back into the chair and closing his eyes once more. He feels like he’s aged a million years in the span of a few hours. “This is why you’re my favorite mechanic.”

Shōta snorts and Hizashi can feel the wires in his head being pulled and stretched. He hears him connecting the wires into a small device, and he knows Shōta will start turning the dials soon. He steels himself because this part is always unpredictable.

“You’re lucky to have a friend that cares about you so much,” Shōta says, his voice sounding far away and very quiet. 

“Too quiet,” Hizashi says and he can barely even hear himself.

He can’t hear Shōta’s hum, but Hizashi knows it happened. There’s a rising static in his ears that gets louder and louder, sounding fuzzy and awful, and Hizashi wrinkles his nose to show Shōta that he’s moving in the wrong direction.

“How is it?” Shōta’s voice sounds like he was whispering, but it comes across so loud in his ears that he might as well have been screaming. Hizashi flinches away and waves his hand downwards.

Shōta, as always, understands. He fiddles with a few more dials, asking him softly spoken questions now and again to try and balance the volume out. After a few minutes of this, Shōta asks, “And now?”

Hizashi can’t help the surprised giggle. The volume feels good enough, but Shōta’s voice sounds high pitched and wobbly, like it went through some weird autotuner. “Volume is good,” Hizashi says, and it’s weird to hear his own voice sound like it’s tripping all over itself. “Sound is weird.”

“Okay, we’ll work on that next,” Shōta replies, and his voice sounds like there is a bit of laughter in it, but it’s hard to tell with how wobbly it is. Hizashi feels him pull the wires out of one device and connect it to another.

Shōta really wasn’t kidding when he said this process is time consuming. And what’s more is that it’s boring. Once the volume has been adjusted well enough, Shōta doesn’t really need his input until the end, and it can take an hour before they get there. He also doesn’t get to hear the sound of Shōta’s voice correctly the whole time, which is always annoying.

“So, a benefit, huh?” Shōta prompts suddenly. Hizashi remembers how he used to remain completely silent until Hizashi asked him to talk. The fact that Shōta often starts conversations between them now is a treat that Hizashi treasures. “That sounds pretty important. You must be a big deal now.”

Hizashi smirks and reaches over to pat his knee. “There, there, Shōta, don’t fret. I won’t forget you in all my fame and glory.”

Shōta actually laughs out loud at that one. “Don’t be a dick.”

“Listen, just because I’m the energetic and lovable host of Musutafu’s most famous and listened to radio show, doesn’t mean I’m going to leave you behind,” Hizashi continues. “The celebrity mechanics for Japan’s rich and famous don’t appeal to me. I’d much rather have you.”

“Oh, how kind of you, Yamada-sama,” Shōta jokes, his tone as dry and unaffected as ever. “I’m so glad you would condescend to associate with a simple, small town mechanic like me.”

Hizashi grins and sticks his tongue out, and Shōta laughs again. He really wishes his ears weren’t so messed up, because it sounds even better when it isn’t distorted and staticky. 

“If you’re done being a dickhead, Yamada-sama,” Shōta chides, flicking his finger against Hizashi’s forehead because he’s a bully. “What’s it for?”

Hizashi suddenly feels himself go a little shy. He knows that Shōta would probably hear about it later anyways, but for some reason, telling him to his face feels too vulnerable. He must take too long to answer, because Shōta prompts again, “You did a few events for that one charity that helped pay for replacement surgeries for people who can’t afford it, right? Is this for them?”

“Uh,” Hizashi says, because as a known name with cybernetic replacements, his participation in those events feels obvious. But this one is different, and he doesn’t know if Shōta will see him and understand once he tells him. “Kind of? It’s like a sister charity or something.”

Shōta raises a brow at that. “Okay, well what do they do?”

Hizashi doesn’t know how to put off answering and it would be too easy to catch him in a lie, so he just tells the truth, looking down at his hands so he doesn’t have to see Shōta’s face. “They focus on teaching cybernetic engineering in low income schools.” His voice sounds stupidly soft when he says it, and he really hopes that it’s just the distortion in his ears. “The logic is that if we teach kids in low income communities how to perform cybernetic replacement surgeries, then they can open their own shops in their communities and hopefully start helping people who really need it.”

Shōta gets very, very quiet. His hands aren’t moving anymore either, and suddenly, Hizashi’s heart is the loudest sound in the world. 

Because of course when his manager brought the organization to his attention, all he could think about was fifteen year old Shōta, so passionate about what he wanted but struggling to find a way to get it. He remembers Shōta telling him about how he learned to build with pieces of scrap he found in his garage or a dumpster, how there wasn’t a program at his school so he just read whatever outdated book they had on it in the library, how Iwasaki’s faith in him and his willingness to teach him is the only reason he got to where he is now. And he’d wondered how much easier Shōta’s adolescence would have been if he’d just had the opportunity. He’d wondered how many kids were out there with that same desire and drive, who just needed someone to be their Iwasaki — someone who would give them a chance.

But he can’t say all of this to Shōta, because it’s too much. They’ve never even hung out outside of the shop. Shōta is technically just his mechanic, someone who probably doesn’t even consider Hizashi as a friend. Just because Hizashi has blown their relationship up into something it’s not, doesn’t mean Shōta will be thrilled to hear that his customer thinks about him so deeply. Hizashi desperately needs a way to distance himself from the situation, so he blurts out, “It made me think of Iwasaki. You know, helping communities by educating the people within them and all that. I just thought it was a really worthy cause, and my manager thought I could bring a lot of positive press to it, so — here we are.”

Shōta still hasn’t moved. Hizashi can feel his eyes on him, but he doesn’t look away from his hands. If he looks at him now, Shōta will see, and the thought of it is too much for Hizashi’s heart to bear.

So he takes the coward’s way out. He continues to look down at his hands and says nothing more, patiently waiting for Shōta to resume his work. And he does, after a few more seconds of silence. He can hear Shōta shift in his chair and get back to turning the dials, and the static in his ears shifts around. He barely resists the urge to let out a sigh of relief.

But of course, Shōta chooses that moment to speak. “I think Iwasaki-sensei would be very honored to know that he inspired you to support that kind of charity,” Shōta says, and his voice is so quiet and tender and vulnerable in a way Hizashi has never heard before, and not even the static can taint it. “I’m. Well. I’m also very proud to know that you’re doing it.”

Hizashi can’t stop himself. He finally looks over at Shōta, even though it pulls at the wires in his ears, and Shōta’s face is pink but he’s looking right at Hizashi. On the very rare occasions that Shōta talks about something even vaguely on the emotional side, he looks down at his work so he doesn’t have to meet Hizashi’s eyes, but now, it’s like he was waiting for it.

If Hizashi was braver, this would have been the moment to tell Shōta everything. He would have told him that, while Iwasaki did come to mind, it was the thought of fifteen year old Shōta missing out on his dream that made him agree. He would have told him that Iwasaki might have changed Shōta’s life, but Shōta changed his — and wasn’t that the whole premise of this charity? To incite a cycle of change that left everyone better off? And Shōta would have looked at him with those wide eyes of his, would have asked if he’d really changed Hizashi’s life, and Hizashi would have said yes, of course. How could he not be changed by the person who convinced him that love at first sight, at first sound, at first word, was possible?

But Hizashi isn’t brave, and he’s especially cowardly when it comes to Shōta. So he says nothing. And eventually, Shōta gives him that timid, awkward smile he puts on whenever he wants to end an emotional conversation, and then looks back down at his work. And the conversation, the opportunity for more, gives way to silence.

They’re still quiet when Nemuri comes back, but thankfully the static is so minimal, that they have to be nearly finished. She has his tux curled over one arm and his shoes in her other hand, and she probably looks completely fine to Shōta, but Hizashi knows her well enough to see the stress lining her face. He can relate.

“How are things coming along?” She sounds almost breathless, her hair even messier than when she left. 

“Almost done,” Shōta replies, not even looking up from his work. He turns a knob and then there’s a clicking noise.

It’s like Hizashi had his head underwater for hours and was finally pulled out, oxygen filling his burning lungs and the whole world coming back into view. The sound of Nemuri’s shoes against the floor is crystal clear, the static and ringing in his ears subsiding, and he practically goes limp with relief.

Shōta chuckles and pats his shoulder sympathetically. Nemuri blinks at them like she has no idea what’s going on, but then again, she’s never experienced the absolute bliss that comes with finally having your ears readjusted back to normal. Hizashi doesn’t even think an orgasm can provide the same feeling of release and relief.

“Better?” Shōta murmurs, and his voice sounds so perfectly him that Hizashi could cry. Ear repairs always make him miss the sound of his voice more than normal.

“Yes,” Hizashi breathes out, his head falling onto his own shoulder like his neck can’t bear the weight anymore. He smiles in a way that probably makes him look drunk. “Thank you.”

Shōta pats his shoulder again and then rises from his chair, putting his tools away. Hizashi normally likes to bask in the euphoria for a few minutes and Shōta always lets him, but Nemuri isn’t as understanding. She grabs at Hizashi’s hand and pulls him to his feet, despite all his protests.

“There’s no time, you’re already gonna be fashionably late,” Nemuri says, tossing his dress shoes on the floor and using her now free hand to tug at his jacket. “Take this off. You need to get changed.”

“We’re in the middle of a shop —”

“Oh my god, there’s no one else here, just start changing already,” Nemuri huffs, walking behind him so she can pull his jacket off herself. Hizashi can feel his face flame and he sneaks a glance over at Shōta, but he looks like he’s trying to hold back from laughing, so it’s not very helpful.

“Nem, there are these things called bathrooms, and I’m sure Shōta would be quite happy to—”

“This obnoxious fucking suit requires two people and I’m sure as hell not getting into whatever bathroom this place finds acceptable,” she says, turning her nose up at the state of the building, which. Sure, it is pretty old and messy and looks kind of hastily put together, but it’s still pretty rude for her to point that out, especially with Shōta right there. She seems to realize this, but can’t care too much, because all she says is, “No offense.”

Shōta just shrugs, and that seems to be the end of that.

And this is how Hizashi gets to the point in his life where he is standing in his boxers in front of the man he’s loved for over a decade while Nemuri desperately tries to get all of the buttons on his dress shirt undone because Hizashi apparently wasn’t going fast enough. Nemuri shamelessly dragged Shōta into this, and now he’s holding a pair of dress pants with buttons down each leg and trying to unbutton them all with the most puzzled look on his face. If he wasn’t so embarrassed, he might have laughed.

“You know, if you would just get the upgrades we talked about, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen to you,” Shōta says as he fumbles with the buttons. He’s sitting on the floor because he clearly thought that standing while trying to figure out experimental fashion was just too much to bear, so Hizashi just stares down at the top of his head while he speaks. “I keep telling you that the reason you’re in here all the time is because you insist on sticking with the most basic parts. They’re meant to be upgraded at some point.”

Hizashi can see Nemuri pause for just a second out of the corner of his eye, and he feels his face flush. He really doesn’t need her to know just how pathetic his crush really is.

“Well, I like the parts I have,” Hizashi says, a tired argument that never gets him far. “I don’t mind coming in for repairs. I don’t want to spend more money on unnecessary things.”

Shōta shakes his head. “The amount of money you put into repairs in one year could easily buy you a good upgrade that would keep you out of here for three.”

“Yeah, but that’s just more work.”

Shōta snorts. “Actually, it’s less work. Once you get used to them, they’ll save you a ton of time. You’re just being irrational.”

Hizashi can feel Nemuri’s eyes on him, clearly judging because he hadn’t exactly told her about any of this, and he kind of wishes he could find a way to shift the conversation.

“Well, like I said, I like the parts I have,” Hizashi insists, because it’s all he has.

“That’s because you don’t know what you’re missing.”

“I’m fine with that.”

Shōta sighs, clearly irked by Hizashi’s stubbornness, but at least he stops talking. Hizashi doesn’t want to know the kind of look Nemuri is making, so he just continues to stare at the top of Shōta’s head and hope that she will conveniently forget all about this conversation by the time they get in the car.

The benefit party is an incredible success. The host is slightly late and wearing a suit that has most people tilting their heads in moderate confusion, but he gives an impassioned speech about how, when he was a boy, he needed to get several replacements after the famous terrorist attack on Musutafu. He paints a picture of a desolate young man who finds renewal not just in the cybernetic replacements he receives, but from the mechanics who helped him and comforted him every step of the way. He claims that mechanics do not just construct prosthetics; they create futures, opportunities, freedoms — hope.

The press goes wild. His statement, “mechanics are the engineers of hope,” is plastered on every major newspaper the next day. They greatly surpass their donation goal at the party, and receive even more donations after the fact.

A week later, a delivery man arrives at the host’s front door with a bouquet of flowers. A small card is attached. It reads: You gave me hope back then too. Still do.

The boy managed to fix his voice soon enough, and Hizashi hummed for at least five minutes straight just to hear the sound of his own voice — his voice, just as he remembered it. He wondered how they were able to replicate it so perfectly.

His eyes, thankfully, did not need adjusting. When Hizashi saw what looked like a melon baller on the counter, he thought he would actually pass out. But Aizawa just sewed his throat back up with a thin wire and replaced the bandages before dumping all of the sharp tools — melon baller included — back into a toolbox.

“Your eyes look okay to me. They’re watering appropriately and seem to be adjusting to light and dark just fine,” Aizawa said, reaching up into a cabinet to grab a small device that sort of looked like an old fashioned walkie-talkie with wires coming out of it. He grabbed a chair, settled down next to Hizashi’s bed, and pulled a pair of long tweezers from the toolbox. “If you notice any kind of distortion, let me know.”

Hizashi hummed in confirmation, thankfully at a normal volume, because if Aizawa had to cut his throat open again, he might have actually died of stress. Then, Aizawa cupped his hand under Hizashi’s jaw to hold him still as he reached deep into his ear with the tweezers.

Once again, he couldn’t actually feel anything. A weird pressure, a sharp sting like a shot at the doctor’s, but nothing excruciating. But the sound of metal grating against metal, especially when it was quite literally directly in his ear, made him grit his teeth.

Aizawa must have been used to reading people, because he caught on to his discomfort immediately. “I know they’re pretty uncomfortable for people while it’s happening, but ears are actually one of my favorite repairs,” he said, digging around in Hizashi’s ear like it was some kind of claw machine. “They’re really delicate and you have to be careful, but people are always so relieved to get it fixed. It’s like when your ears have been plugged up and they finally pop and you feel so good to be back to normal. You can always tell when you fixed it because people just relax right in the chair.”

Despite the grating noise in his ear, Hizashi couldn’t help but smile at that. “Yeah? Is that why you wanted to become a mechanic? Bring that good feeling to people?”

Aizawa froze for a second, but seemed to compose himself pretty quickly. Hizashi felt him pull the tweezers out, and from the corner of his eye, he could see a collection of wires come out with it. Thinking about how those were inside his ear both amazed him and grossed him out.

“I want to help people,” Aizawa said, soft like he hoped Hizashi wouldn’t actually be able to hear him. He connected the wires coming from Hizashi’s ear to the device in his hand, looking down at the screen and fumbling with some knobs. “I’m not the most athletic and I don’t like seeing people die, so working as a cop or in a hospital is out. Probably couldn’t afford medical school anyways. But I’m good at building things and I don’t mind a little blood, and people rarely die or get hurt when it comes to replacements. Even the most dangerous replacements aren’t really that dangerous.”

The sound slowly started to change in Hizashi’s ears, becoming more crisp. He hadn’t realized it before Aizawa started, but it was like he’d had cotton balls in his ears the whole time. With each turn of the knob, the sound cleared more and more, until Aizawa’s low rumble became a firm voice.

“Most of the people who come into our shop have been through something terrible. A lot of them feel like they’ve lost something irreplaceable after an accident or an attack or some degenerative disease,” Aizawa continued, his voice sounding lighter and more awake than it had all day. “Replacements aren’t perfect. They don’t fix anything forever and they can’t get rid of whatever trauma that person is carrying. But knowing that I’m part of that healing process — it’s just very rewarding, I guess.”

Hizashi had thought that hearing Aizawa’s voice when he first woke up was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard. But hearing it right then, clear for the first time, soft and tender and warm, Hizashi was sure he’d never heard anything better.

Hizashi blinks. When the image doesn’t change, he blinks again. When it still doesn’t change, he rubs at his eyes, hoping that maybe it’ll shift things around enough to give him some clarity. But no, the image is the same. He knows that his eyes are a little messed up right now, but he doesn’t think that it would cause something like this.

Because standing behind the front counter of U.A. Cybernetic Replacements and Enhancements is someone who is very much not Shōta. It’s not even Iwasaki, which would be a surprise considering the last he heard, he was heading out of Mumbai for the United States, but it would be much less of a surprise than what he actually sees — which is a teenage boy with strangely colored hair and bags dark enough to rival Shōta’s. 

When the kid hears him enter, he straightens up slightly, looking a little bit lost. He tries to put on a smile, but it looks kind of deranged like he’s not used to making that kind of expression. Hizashi wonders if this kid is sticking Shōta up, and if he needs to go call the police or something.

Before he can do anything crazy, like tackle a sixteen year old to the ground, Shōta walks out from the back room, looking perfectly safe and not at all like he’s being robbed. In fact, he even smiles a little bit when he sees just who is at the door. “Hizashi. What have you done this time?” he gives his characteristic greeting, pulling off a pair of gloves. This is around the time he notices an older woman walking beside him, holding his arm for support as he leads her to the front counter.

“I’ll get you checked out,” the boy behind the counter says, voice deep and slow like he’s still asleep. The woman gives Shōta a smile and pats him on the cheek with a quick “thank you, dear” before transitioning over to the teen who clearly needs a nap or twelve.

Shōta comes closer and looks him up and down, clearly trying to figure out what the problem is. Hizashi fully intends to tell him my right eye has a weird dark spot, but what comes out is, “Who’s the kid?”

Shōta raises a brow at him but he’s smiling a bit, so he can’t be too annoyed. He shakes his head and says, “Shinso Hitoshi. He’s my apprentice.”

Hizashi blinks. But Shōta still looks completely serious. He doesn’t start laughing or roll his eyes at how gullible Hizashi can be. Hizashi blinks again. The image does not change.

“An apprentice?” he practically squawks, peeking over his shoulder to size up the kid who caught Shōta’s eye. He actually reminds him a lot of Shōta when he was in high school, all sleepy eyes and messy hair like he can’t be bothered, but with a certain intensity about him, like he’s all too eager to prove himself.

Shōta just shrugs, as if the concept of him having an apprentice isn’t all that thrilling. “Iwasaki-sensei said he thought it was about time I started looking for one. The next day, this kid shows up and says he wants to learn from me, so I said sure.”

The complete lack of gravity surrounding the situation would surprise him, except it’s Shōta, and Shōta has always had a weird ability to make the wildest things sound perfectly dull. Hizashi is kind of concerned that he might just not know what’s normal and what’s not. “You just turned thirty like, a few weeks ago. You can’t have an apprentice.”

When Shōta raises a brow this time, Hizashi isn’t sure if it’s because he remembered his birthday (which could potentially be creepy) or because of his insistence that he’s not allowed to have an apprentice just yet (which could potentially be insulting). Thankfully, he doesn’t sound offended when he says, “So?”

“So, apprentices are for old people.” Hizashi can hardly believe this needs explaining. Has Shōta never watched any movie ever? “Masters are old men with white hair who pass on their wisdom to an ambitious youngster that reminds them of themselves a few years before they die! You can’t have an apprentice yet! You don’t even have any gray hairs!”

Shōta’s face shifts from what is Hizashi talking about to why is Hizashi allowed to talk at all scarily fast. It’s a look with which Hizashi, unfortunately, is quite familiar. “That’s not how apprenticeships work. Also, Iwasaki-sensei had an apprentice when he was thirty.”

Hizashi’s eyes practically bug out of his head. “Iwasaki was thirty when I met him? How is that even possible? He looked like my grandpa.”

Shōta rolls his eyes like Hizashi is being purposefully dense. “No, dumbass, he had an apprentice before me. He used to work for a huge facility, remember?” He actually doesn’t remember, but he doesn’t want to tell Shōta that because Iwasaki is like a god to him, and he might actually get annoyed if Hizashi does anything other than nod.

“Are we done talking about the kid now? Can you tell me about your problem instead?” Shōta asks, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers. Hizashi is too busy looking at his perfect face and wondering what he would look like with salt and pepper hair (very, very hot) to notice the old woman slip past him and out the door. He’s also too busy wondering if it feels good to kiss a man with that much stubble to notice the kid coming to stand by Shōta’s side like an obedient puppy.

“Um. Eyes,” he says very intelligently, because he needs to get kissing Shōta out of his brain before he passes out. “There’s a dark spot in my right eye.”

He finally notices the kid when his head whips around to look at Shōta, his eyes kind of wide and intense. Shōta doesn’t even spare him a glance. “Besides the dark spot, does everything else look normal?”

“Yup!” Hizashi looks back and forth between Shōta and the kid. He remembers that eager look coming across Shōta’s face more than a few times, so he thinks he knows what’s going on. He also feels an immediate affection for the kid, so he says, “Sounds like a simple enough job. And since I’m a regular, you don’t have to worry about scaring me off. Maybe the kid could try?”

Shōta’s face then reminds him a lot of his mother. It’s the kind of face she would make when his father said something they hadn’t agreed on, like she would have had quite a few words for him if their son wasn’t in the same room. It’s actually kind of funny to see it on him in this context, and he has to bite his lip to keep from laughing.

“Hizashi. You hate eye repairs,” Shōta reminds him, still refusing to look at the kid. “Shinso has only been here for a few weeks, and while he is talented, I’m not sure if you want him to take out your eye.”

The image of the melon baller flashes horrifically in his mind. There are a lot of ways it could go wrong. The edge of the tool is sharp. The kid could accidentally cut into the eye itself or slice the wires attaching the eye to his brain. He could damage his lid and socket pretty easily too. But in every image, he sees Shōta standing behind him, guiding his arm so that it remains steady, speaking softly as he instructs him on what to do next. And maybe it’s foolish of him, but— 

“I trust you,” Hizashi says. “If you’re in the room, I trust it’ll go smoothly.”

Shōta looks oddly touched at that, which is crazy because of course Hizashi trusts him. He’s been coming to him for repairs for years, has had to endure him slitting his throat and gouging his eyes out and sticking tweezers deep into his ears since he was fifteen years old. Shōta’s hand has always been steady.

There’s a moment of silence where they just look at each other. Finally, it’s broken by a quiet, “Aizawa-sensei?”

Shōta finally looks over at the boy, but Hizashi is too busy reeling at the fact that someone just called the love of his life sensei to really pay attention. But looking at the boy seems to do him in, because he caves. “Fine,” Shōta says, though he still looks unsure. The boy just lifts the corners of his mouth in what is probably a smile but looks more like a smirk. 

Hizashi really, really hopes that he hasn’t made a mistake.

Shinso is washing his hands for the third time in a row when Shōta comes over to sit down next to Hizashi, slipping on his own pair of gloves. There’s this mildly fond look in his eyes when he looks at Shinso that is completely foreign, but suits him. Hizashi wishes he could see it more often.

“Thanks for letting him do this,” Shōta says low enough so the kid can’t hear. “I’ve had him doing nothing but basic repairs on arms and legs for the past couple weeks. He’s been wanting to do more complex stuff for a while.”

Hizashi is nervous but he smiles anyways because he could get used to Shōta acting like a doting father. It makes his heart go all gooey inside. “How is he? And tell me honestly.”

Shōta snorts and turns so they’re actually looking at each other. Their faces are really close so Shinso can’t hear their conversation, and even though Shōta’s hands have been inside him dozens of times, this feels like the most intimate thing they’ve ever done. “I wouldn’t let him anywhere near your eyes if I didn’t think he could do it.”

“Aw, look at you. Proud papa of a weird teen,” Hizashi teases and Shōta flicks him in the forehead. “And so protective of me! My knight in shining armor.”

That gets him another flick, this time on the nose. “Nah, I just want to make sure you don’t hit me with a lawsuit.”

“You call me mean names every time I come here. I’m pretty sure I could have sued you a long time ago.”

Shōta smiles, and he opens his mouth to say something else when a soft ahem stops him. They both whip their heads over to find Shinso waiting for them, his hands gloved and held in front of him like he’s afraid to touch anything. Shōta rises from his chair and waves for Shinso to take his place. Hizashi takes a deep breath and looks straight up at the ceiling.

If it wasn’t so terrifying, it might have actually been interesting to hear Shōta talk Shinso through the process. After all, Hizashi has had this procedure done so many times, but he’s never really asked about the logistics of it. He vaguely listens to Shōta explain how to grip the tool and how to hold the head steady, but he more so focuses on the cadence of his voice. It’s so much softer than usual, like he’s trying to keep Shinso calm, but it’s calming Hizashi down as well. When Shinso gently pulls up his eyelid, his heart rate remains even.

Shinso isn’t as precise as Shōta, and he feels the edge of the tool digging into his bottom lid uncomfortably. Shōta must see something in his face, because he gently grabs Shinso’s wrist and adjusts the angle, explaining how he has to come in perfectly parallel to the nose. Shinso nods and tries again, and it isn’t smooth, but it doesn’t hurt either.

It’s in this moment that Hizashi realizes just how much he depends on Shōta’s voice in these moments. He desperately wants to ask him to talk to him, to distract him from going on, but he doesn’t know if he’s allowed. Shōta is supposed to be watching Shinso, and what if Hizashi distracts him and something bad happens? What if Shinso freaks out without Shōta’s steady attention and slips up? What if — 

“I watched a really interesting documentary on giant squids the other day,” Shōta says, apropos of nothing. He says it in the same tone as all of his instructions so it sounds even more absurd than it already is. Shinso must agree, because he halts his movements for a second, like he’s trying to figure out how a documentary on squids indicates that he’s messed something up somewhere. “Keep going, you’re doing fine. Did you know their brains are shaped like a donut? Apparently the esophagus goes through it and if they don’t chew their food well enough, it can rub against their brain and hurt it.”

“I. Huh.” Hizashi is kind of at a loss for words for several reasons. First, because this might be the strangest way Shōta has ever tried to distract him in fifteen years. Second, because it’s hard to focus when a teenager he’s known for ten minutes is holding a melon baller to his eye. Third, because giant squids are fucking weird. “Sounds like they need a mechanic to fix their shit.”

Shōta actually laughs out loud at that. He must really like this Shinso kid if he’s doing that in front of him already. “Okay, you’re hitting a point of resistance right? Don’t force it. That means that you’ve hit the wires. All you have to do is pull it out and towards the nose, while scooping down so it doesn’t fall out. Here, let me—”

He mimics the movement with his hand and then guide’s Shinso’s wrist, explaining why the movements are important as they go. Hizashi can feel the pull, and he knows the popping sound is fast approaching.

“I actually thought about that. The squid needing a mechanic, I mean,” Shōta says just as the dreadful noise begins. “Not that it actually needs one, but I always thought it was beneficial for mechanics to study different anatomical systems. It’s good for coming up with enhancement ideas. I used to read books about animal anatomy a lot when I was a teenager.”

Hizashi feels the tension in his head release, and the eye is finally out. He nearly groans from relief and goes limp in the chair. He didn’t realize just how nervous he was until now, with the worst finally over. He gives himself a few minutes to regulate his heart beat while Shōta walks Shinso through the next steps.

“I remember that,” he breathes out. He sounds exhausted, even though nothing has really happened. Shinso starts working on the eye itself, Shōta watching diligently over his shoulder. “I remember Iwasaki bought you a book about hawks for your birthday and you became obsessed with the idea of prosthetic wings.”

Shōta huffs out a laugh and spares a glance up at him for a few seconds. “I hate that you remember that. I don’t even know why you remember that.”

Hizashi grins. There’s a certain kind of pleasure in teasing Shōta in front of someone who is supposed to respect him. His voice is a low drawl, like he’s only half awake. “You were so excited about it. I remember you were repairing my throat because I couldn’t speak at all, so you just talked for like two hours about how you could attach wings to someone’s back or construct it out of their arms. It was adorable.”

Spots of pink grow on Shōta’s cheeks, and Hizashi can’t help but giggle. Shinso is momentarily distracted from his work and, with a smirk, says, “I never knew Aizawa-sensei to be so talkative.”

The spots of pink quickly turn into patches of red, and Hizashi wishes he could take a picture. Or, at the very least, that he had both his eyes so he could better appreciate the moment. “He is with me,” Hizashi says, closing his one eye sleepily. “He knows that I like it. It calms me down.”

“Well I’ll have to stop now that I know you’re actually paying attention.”

Hizashi hears a snort, but it doesn’t sound like Shōta, so it must be Shinso. He’ll have an existential crisis about the fact that he can pick Shōta’s snort out of a line up later, but for now, he just laughs. 

The rest of the repair goes fairly smooth. Shinso manages not to kill him or blind him, which is nice. It takes him a while to diagnose the problem and even longer to actually fix it, but Shōta keeps a close eye and gives him tips every time he gets stuck. Hizashi actually finds it really soothing to watch Shōta teach. He’s somehow stern and gentle at the same time, both understanding and critical. He keeps pushing Shinso to figure things out on his own and won’t let him off easy, but he also doesn’t let him make any big mistakes. 

Hizashi suddenly wonders if Shōta wants kids. They’re both nearing the age for it, but Shōta’s never talked about a relationship. He knows it’s probably because of professional boundaries, but he also selfishly hopes that it’s because there isn’t anyone. 

But Shōta looks like he would be really good with kids. Hizashi can totally see him walking with a little girl beside him, her hand wrapped around one of his fingers as she babbles happily about whatever is on her mind, and him just quietly listening and humming in all the right places.

When he realizes that he’s literally daydreaming about Shōta being perfect husband/father material, he sucks in a deep breath that has him coughing enough for Shinso to run off and fetch him a bottle of water while Shōta pats his back. His face must be bright red, and when Shōta asks him what’s wrong, he can’t think of anything convincing so he just says that he choked on his own spit.

To avoid embarrassing himself further, Hizashi strictly forbids himself from thinking about Shōta changing diapers or rocking toddlers to sleep. Just considers it illegal from here on out.

Blessedly, Shinso wraps up the repair soon enough. He reconnects the wires and Shōta helps him slot the eye back into place. Hizashi blinks a few times to get his bearings and when he opens his eyes again, his vision is back to normal.

“That’s so much better!” Hizashi chirps, putting an extra bit of enthusiasm into it. “Thank you both so much! You did great, Shinso!”

The kid gives him a little half smile, but his face clearly warms at the praise. He really is a mirror image of Shōta at fifteen, and he’s so adorable, Hizashi kind of wants to hug him.

Shōta rests a hand on Shinso’s shoulder and says, “As a thank you for supporting Shinso’s training, this repair is on me.”

“What? No, Shōta, seriously, it was no big deal. I don’t mind paying —”

“I insist,” Shōta says with a tone of finality. He also has a little half smile on his face, and Hizashi can see the budding sense of pride behind it. 

Hizashi’s brain is itching to crawl back to fantasies of Shōta as a dad, but he quickly swallows it down. It does dangerous things to his heart, and he hears heart replacements are a hassle.

During the examination and subsequent repairs, it’d felt like they’d created a little bubble separate from the rest of the world. Hizashi’s universe was just four white walls and Aizawa speaking quietly about his least favorite repairs or his homework or how much he likes cats. It was slow but warm, like Aizawa was steadfastly putting him back together again, both physically and emotionally. It was just as Aizawa said: he couldn’t heal him completely or rid him of his trauma, but he gave him something instrumental, something essential. 

But when the repairs were done, that bubble of calm exploded. Iwasaki came back into the room and talked him through a folder of documents, all about how to maintain his replacements and when to come in for repairs. There were so many pages with so many words and only like three pictures, and Hizashi was immediately overwhelmed. Then, with no chance to catch his breath, the door to his room opened, and there were his parents, their faces pinched with a mix of worry and hope, tears already streaming down his mother’s face.

He dropped the folder of papers in his lap and cried, calling and reaching out to them, and his ears were filled with his mother’s near shriek of relief and his father’s weeping, the two of them wrapping around him and holding him so tight that he could barely breathe. He could feel their tears on his cheeks, their lips pressing desperate kisses all over his face, their hands shaking as they held onto him. And he just whimpered mom mom mom and dad dad dad over and over again, half to assure them that yes, he could speak again, but also because the words had never sounded so good before.

When he finally stopped crying enough to peak out from between their arms, he saw Iwasaki and Aizawa standing near the door. Iwasaki had his arm around Aizawa, like a proud father might hold his son. And his vision was blurry with tears, but Hizashi knew that Aizawa was smiling.

Walking into U.A. to find Shinso manning the counter has become a familiar sight over the past year, so Hizashi is not all that alarmed when that’s exactly what he sees. He is alarmed, however, when Shōta does not walk out of the back room a few moments later.

His throat is absolutely burning, but he goes to the counter, leaning over it to get in close, and whispers, “Where’s Shōta?”

Shinso looks at him with mild concern. “He’s out right now.”

Hizashi feels his entire body freeze. In all the years he’s been coming here for repairs, Shōta has never not been here. He’s never known Shōta to take a sick day or vacation ever. He doesn’t even leave the building for lunch or breaks. Every time Hizashi has needed him, he’s been right there waiting for him.

His throat burns like he’s swallowing hot wax and he nearly gags on it. Shinso’s mild concern grows and he comes around to the other side of the counter, placing a stabilizing hand on Hizashi’s shoulder as he coughs.

“Mr. Yamada, what can I do? Is it your throat?”

Hizashi nods, gripping onto the back of Shinso’s jacket. He’s dizzy and weak with pain, and the walk here had already taken too much out of him. “I don’t know what’s wrong. This has never happened before,” he whispers, and it comes out sounding like nails on a chalkboard. “Where’s Shōta?”

“He had to go to the bank,” Shinso says as he pulls him towards the back room. Hizashi leans nearly his full weight on him, and he feels guilty when he hears Shinso struggle to hold him up, but he can’t help it. “He had an appointment with — I don’t know, an accountant?”

It’s a small relief when they finally get him reclined in an operating chair, but it’s not enough. It feels like he has glass lodged in his throat and every word just pushes them down deeper. “When will he be back?”

Shinso is starting to look more panicked, his eyes wider than Hizashi has ever seen them. “I don’t know. He didn’t say.”

“Fuck,” Hizashi swears with feeling. He knows he’s putting way too much pressure on him, but he can’t help but ask, “Have you done throats before?”

Shinso physically winces and Hizashi feels like the biggest asshole in the world. “I — we haven’t covered that yet. But maybe —”

“No, it’s best to wait,” Hizashi grunts before breaking out into another round of coughs. Shinso quickly fills up a cup of water from the sink and hands it to him. It does nothing to soothe the ache, but he feels bad enough about worrying the kid, so he drinks it and smiles appreciatively.

“I’ll call him,” Shinso says before practically running out of the room, already pulling his phone out of his pocket.

It’s another excruciating hour before Shōta comes rushing through the front door, the bell chiming almost violently with the force. When he comes into the back room, Hizashi has just enough sense of mind to notice that he’s wearing a suit and looks more flustered than he’s ever seen him. Everything else, however, is lost to the pain.

“Hizashi,” Shōta says, taking off his suit jacket and tossing it on the floor. He practically runs to the sink to wash his hands and put on gloves before coming to sit by Hizashi’s side. “Shinso said that you’ve been feeling pain in your throat since this morning. Can you describe it for me?”

Hizashi knows it isn’t fair to be angry with Shōta, but he’s been in pain for hours and he’s sweating through his clothes, so his first thought is a bitter if you’d been here an hour ago, I could have told you, but I can’t even speak now. 

Shōta must see something in his face because he just nods. He rests a gentle palm against his sweaty forehead and says, “Okay. I’m sorry I made you wait. I’m gonna go ahead and take a look now.”

And he doesn’t know if it’s the gentle touch or the soft words, but the anger in his chest just evaporates. It’s replaced with a sense of desperation and he thinks he might actually be crying now. If he’d been left to simmer for another hour, he might have actually clutched at Shōta’s clothes.

He can hear the soothing rumble of Shōta’s voice talking to him as he works, but he can’t make out any words. He doesn’t even feel the pressure of the scalpel at his throat. He just shivers with pain, closes his eyes, and tries not to pass out.

It’s dark when he wakes up. There aren’t any windows in the back room though, so Shōta more than likely just turned off the overhead lights so he could rest. His throat feels dry and scratchy, but there’s no more pain. It just sort of feels like he’s been sleeping for days without anything to drink.

For a second, he thinks he’s fifteen again and back at the hospital, and as soon as his mother notices that he’s awake, she’ll bring him a cup of water to soothe his aching throat. But he knows that’s not true because he didn’t know Shōta back then. Not yet, anyways.

When he finally cracks open his eyes, he finds Shōta sitting beside him. He’s wearing a pair of glasses that Hizashi has never seen before and holding a packet of very official looking papers. It looks like he’s halfway through the packet when he eventually looks up. The second he realizes Hizashi is awake, he moves the papers to the side and takes off his glasses.

“Hey,” he says like a mother speaking to her sick child. “Hey. How are you feeling?”

Hizashi gives him a weak smile. “Okay. Thirsty.”

“I got you.” Shōta grabs a water bottle resting next to his feet, clearly prepared just for this moment. He unscrews the cap for him and helps him sit up enough to take a few feeble sips.

In between drinks, Hizashi asks, “Where’s Shinso?”

“I sent him home. He got pretty freaked out when you passed out.”

“Oh.” Hizashi feels weirdly guilty about scaring Shinso, even though it isn’t really his fault. “I’m guessing he doesn’t have experience with this kind of — thing?”

Shōta snorts. “If you mean customers being in intense pain and passing out in the middle of a repair, then no, he doesn’t have experience with that. Leave it to you to be the drama queen that traumatizes my apprentice.”

That surprises a laugh out of him, and his throat starts to loosen up a bit. “What was wrong?”

“There was a leak and it caused the system to overheat. You were basically swallowing hot oil all morning. The parts themselves got pretty hot too,” Shōta explains, taking the empty water bottle from him and helping him lay back down. “The oil isn’t harmful if ingested though, and nothing got hot enough to seriously burn or damage anything. I gave you completely new parts to be safe, but you should be okay now.”

Hizashi hums. He wonders how late it is. The low lighting and the softness of their voices makes it feel like it’s the dead of night. He feels bad at the thought of keeping Shōta here so late, but he also doesn’t want to leave. Everything feels warm and safe.

“Where were you?” If his voice sounds too vulnerable, he’ll just blame it on the pain of the day and the calm of the atmosphere.

Shōta instantly looks guilty, which isn’t what Hizashi wanted. He’s trying to come up with a way to comfort him when Shōta says, “The bank. I had a meeting with someone to look over the books for the shop.”

Hizashi frowns at that. The warm comfort slowly starts to fade into concern. “Why?”

Over the past sixteen years, Hizashi has seen a lot of Shōta’s expressions. His resting calm indifference, his intense focus, and his teasing smirk are the most common. His soft smile and his loose laughter are his favorites, though they don’t come out as often. But he’s seen others too. He’s seen his frustration, his anger, his fear and anxiety and barely restrained panic. He’s seen his face go cold and blank in his attempts to hide the things he doesn’t want to feel. He even saw him cry once, back when they were very young. Sometimes he’s baffled by the way he knows Shōta, even though they can go weeks without seeing each other. He imagines it’s a product of them growing up together. It’s hard not to feel like you know someone when you’ve watched them grow and develop right in front of your eyes.

But Hizashi has never seen this look on his face before. He would say it borders on fear, but there’s not enough panic for that. It’s like the panic has been switched out for bitter acceptance. If Hizashi had to categorize this particular expression, he would call it “lost.”

Shōta just gives him this lost expression for a few minutes without speaking, his eyebrows pinched together and his eyes a little too wide and his mouth firmly shut in a slightly downturned line. Eventually, he sighs and runs a hand over his face, and there’s an expression Hizashi is a little more familiar with: exhaustion. 

His hands fall defeatedly into his lap and he stares at his fingers. Then, very quietly, he says, “I don’t think I can keep the shop open for much longer.”

Hizashi just stares at him. He knows that he hasn’t misheard, but he also doesn’t know how to process it. It feels so impossible to think about U.A. closing that he doesn’t even take it seriously.

“A new shop opened up a few miles from here. It’s — it’s nice. Has a lot of the latest equipment, a lot of different mechanics working there. They offer a lot of services that I don’t,” Shōta continues, and even though he’s talking about the end of his livelihood, his tone is completely neutral. “I’m losing a lot of clients to them. They charge a lot more, but if people can afford it, and it’s not too far away, and it looks more official, then who cares? Offering low prices will only get a business so far.”

The more Shōta talks, the more real it becomes. Hizashi sits up in his chair. “But. But there have always been competitors.”

Shōta shakes his head, crossing his arms over his chest and finally looking up at Hizashi. He looks so sad that Hizashi could cry. “Not this close. And they’re more expensive than me, but still a good price. It’s a jump in price that a lot of my customers can easily afford.”

The quiet intimacy of the room suddenly feels suffocating. Hizashi doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know how to make this better, because this is Shōta’s worst nightmare come to life and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. “But there — Shōta, there has to be something we can do.”

Shōta huffs out a breath through his nose, like he’s laughing but it’s too sad. He shakes his head and offers a defeated little smile that Hizashi never wants to see on his face again. “Apparently, there’s not,” he says. He glances down at the packet that he was reading earlier and sighs. “They told me I should consider shutting the place down now. Cut my losses. But I have several customers who need work done that can’t afford to go to this new place. So it’s not that easy.”

He covers his face with his hands again and lets out an even longer sigh. “Plus, I have Shinso to think about. I haven’t been able to pay him so I keep cutting his hours, but that’s not fair to him,” Shōta says, and he somehow sounds even more pitiful than before. When his hands fall back into his lap, his face is harder, almost angry. “I’ve been too soft. I didn’t want to tell the kid what was going on, but I’m just doing him a huge disservice. I should have told him to find another apprenticeship.”

Despite the stinging in the back of his throat and eyes, Hizashi reaches out to set a hand on Shōta’s knee and says, as softly as he can manage, “Shōta, don’t be unkind to yourself. You care about him, so of course you—”

“Caring about people means doing what’s best for them, even if you don’t like it,” Shōta interrupts, his voice wobbling just slightly around the words. “I could have spent this time connecting clients to other mechanics in the area they could afford. I could have helped Shinso find someone else to learn from. Instead, I’ve been burying my head in the sand and pretending that my business isn’t going under for months. I’ve been completely irrational and now other people have to suffer because of it.”


Hizashi has arguments in his mind. He’s ready to remind him of how much he cares about his clients, about how good he’s been to Shinso, about how he’s improved his community one replacement and repair at a time. He’s ready to propose ideas like rebranding or selling some equipment or hosting a goddamn bake sale, but then he sees a tear roll down Shōta’s cheek and it’s like all the air has been sucked out of the room.

Shōta looks stunned by the tear, and he quickly looks up at Hizashi. When he sees Hizashi already looking at him, he quickly slaps his hands against his face, hiding the evidence as if it’s shameful.

And suddenly, Hizashi’s arguments and ideas don’t matter anymore. The boundaries of their so-called “professional relationship” don’t matter either. None of it matters because U.A. is Shōta’s entire world and it’s being ripped right out from under him, and the only person he can lean on is off backpacking in another country, feeling falsely secure in the knowledge that his protege will keep his legacy alive.

None of it matters, so Hizashi gives in to his urges and goes to him. He cradles Shōta’s head against his chest with one hand and rubs his back with the other, determined to hold him together because that’s what Shōta has always done for him. When Shōta’s shaking hands finally wrap themselves around Hizashi’s waist, he doesn’t say anything. He just holds him tight and lets him grieve.

Shōta keeps the shop open, though he does start looking into alternative options for his customers. He also tells Shinso to start looking for a new apprenticeship, but the boy seems determined to stay until the shop’s very last day. Hizashi knows it isn’t his place and that the help he can offer is limited, but he finds himself going to the shop every day at around noon, just so he can have lunch with Shōta. It’s not exactly something they’ve ever really done before, but Shōta never tells him to leave.

Sometimes, they look through the shop’s finances. Any time Hizashi suggests it, Shōta complains about how there’s no point, but he still pulls out his ledger like he hopes that Hizashi will prove him wrong. Other times, they just chat. Hizashi tends to keep away from topics like Shinso and the shop and instead focuses on new albums that he really likes or old stories of Nemuri’s wild adventures from college. Shōta usually doesn’t talk all that much on those days. He listens, but he also seems a little far away. 

There are also days when they don’t talk at all. Shōta just eats his lunch quietly and he looks so caught up in his own thoughts that Hizashi doesn’t bother trying to talk. The silence isn’t awkward by any means, but the clear tension in Shōta’s shoulders ruins Hizashi’s appetite.

But there is one day that is different. Normally, by the time Hizashi arrives, Shōta is already seated in the shop’s tiny break room. Today, however, he is at the front counter. There’s an older woman with him that Hizashi has seen many times before. He recognizes her instantly because half of her body is made of replacement parts. Every time Hizashi has seen her in the past, there’s been a smile on her face as she pats at Shōta’s cheek and calls him “dear.”

There’s no smile on her face now. Instead, she’s crying. She’s gripping Shōta’s arms hard enough to bruise and she’s whimpering something that Hizashi can’t make out, but he can tell by the tense set of Shōta’s shoulders that it’s awful. Hizashi knows he shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be seeing this. So, he goes to the break room and waits.

It’s only a few minutes until the break room door opens, and the second Hizashi sees Shōta’s face, he knows what’s coming. His face is bright red like he’s been fighting to hold something back and his mouth is tightly pinched together. He immediately collapses into the closest chair, hunches over, and tucks his head between his knees. His breathing is rapid and uneven.

Hizashi once again gets the feeling that he’s seeing something he has no right to see, but he can’t leave this time. So, he goes to Shōta’s side and rubs his trembling back. Hizashi isn’t sure if he’s helping or hurting him, because as soon as he starts touching him, little whimpers start to sound out between his rapid breaths.

“I’ve known that woman since before I even worked here,” Shōta says, his voice rough and weak like he’d swallowed rocks. “I’ve known that woman all my life and I just had to tell her that I can’t help her anymore, even though I know there isn’t another mechanic who will take her.”

Hizashi can’t see his face, but he can feel it in the sharp hunch of his shoulders and hear it in the heavings of his breath. Shōta is crying.

“What is she supposed to do? She needs constant repairs and she can’t afford better parts. Hell, she can’t even afford the repairs,” Shōta says, words barely intelligible with how shaky and breathy his voice has become. “I’ve just been doing them in return for fucking sandwiches, but who else is going to do that for her? Who’s gonna take on a client that they know is gonna cost a small fortune and can’t even pay for half of it?”

“Oh, Shōta,” Hizashi says, because he knows that nothing he can say will make him feel any better. He just listens to Shōta’s panicked sniffles and determines that he will do whatever he can to help him, even if it’s unwanted.

After working for over a decade in radio, Hizashi can firmly say that he rarely gets nervous in the studio. Sure, the first few times were terrifying, and he remembers sweating through his shirt and tripping over his words every now and then. But once he got used to it, it became second nature. He always has something to talk about and he doesn’t mind looking a bit silly, so going live to just talk and play music for four hour stretches isn’t all that difficult for him.

Right now, however, he feels like he’s nineteen years old again, preparing to speak on air for the first time with Azumi right by his side, giving him a thumbs up with one hand and a count down with the other. The song is nearing an end and he knows what segment comes up next: local news.

Most of the time, it’s Hizashi reporting on any big headlines and cracking jokes about it. Sometimes, he’ll make a game of it, reading off three ridiculous headlines and asking listeners to pick out the fake among them. This is also the time when he gives a shout out to any charities he’s partnering with. 

Or highlight a local business.

He can see his assistant outside the booth. She’s looking at one of the many monitors and slowly lifts up her hand. She holds up three fingers. Then two. Then one.

Show time.

“Aaaand that was the new, hit single “Fusebox Heart” from local chart toppers, The Wild Wild Pussycats!” Hizashi says in his best presenter voice. “We had them in the studio last week for an exclusive interview, but don’t worry if you missed it, dear listeners! It’s all on our website, so go check it out!”

His heart is hammering in his chest and he can feel his clothes sticking to him uncomfortably with sweat, but he’s a professional, so he pushes forward with an unwavering voice. “Speaking of locals — I’d actually like to highlight a local business this week!”

He looks down at the paper in front of him. He’d tried to write everything out earlier, hoping that maybe having a script to fall back on would make him feel better, but it feels too confining now. It isn’t authentic, and people can always tell when you’re reading from a script.

He’ll just have to wing it and hope for the best.

“So as some of my more attentive listeners already know, I have a few cybernetic replacements, including this lovely voice that you’re hearing right now. I got them when I was fifteen, and I’ve been going to the same place for repairs and upgrades for nearly two decades now!” Hizashi begins, feeling himself grow more sure of himself the more he talks. “It’s a local place here in Musutafu called U.A. Cybernetic Replacements and Enhancements, and it’s run by my absolute favorite mechanic in the entire world. Seriously, one time my voice got all messed up and I ended up shattering all his windows, and he totally just rolled with it.”

He can’t help a little chuckle at the memory. He was only eighteen at the time and no sound was coming out, but he didn’t realize that he was emitting crazy high sound waves. He still remembers Shōta’s shocked little face blinking at him and Iwasaki running into the room with his pants barely buttoned like he’d been in the bathroom, yelling about what the hell are you kids doing in here?

“Anyways, they’re a fantastic business. The mechanics are extremely capable and knowledgeable, and they perform all kinds of replacements and repairs for a crazy affordable price. The lead mechanic is also an absolute wizard when it comes to enhancements. Seriously, you could probably ask him for a way to breathe fire and he’d figure it out,” Hizashi gushes. “And they’re really dedicated to the community. The lead mechanic has always been very adamant about keeping the prices as affordable as possible, even if it meant he wasn’t making as much money as other replacement shops. I also know for a fact that he’s performed repairs for people who couldn’t afford it because he’d rather take the financial hit than ignore someone who needs his help.”

Hizashi’s voice has become absurdly soft. When he realizes it, he sits up straighter in his chair and clears his throat. This isn’t supposed to be a public gushing session about Shōta. It’s meant to get customers through the door.

“It’s easy enough to go to a hospital or big facility and request a replacement or repair, especially if you have the money. And they’ll get the job done just fine, but it’s important to remember the human connection you can only find in a local business run by a single mechanic and his apprentice,” Hizashi says. “Mechanics in larger facilities see tons of customers, and you’re not guaranteed to get the same mechanic every time. How will they know that you need to hear them talk whenever you get an eye repair because you don’t like the sound of it popping out of your head? How will they know that you need them to hold the back of your neck for throat repairs because it grounds you? They won’t, but Aizawa at U.A. will and does. Replacements and repairs can be scary, and he knows that, so he always does his best to make it as painless a process as possible. And it’s why he’s my absolute favorite mechanic, and the only person I ever want touching my parts.”

Hizashi immediately wants to punch himself in the face because he was doing so well and that was not what he meant at all, but he could already see twitter having a field day with his slip of the tongue. Maybe winging it wasn’t such a good idea when he clearly can’t talk about Shōta without putting his foot in his mouth.

“That last bit came out wrong, but you know what I mean, listeners! Do your part to support a local business that is dedicated to bettering the community and adding some real human connection to what can sometimes be a nerve-wracking process. For any replacements, repairs, uprades, and enhancements, call Aizawa Shōta at U.A. Cybernetic Replacements and Enhancements—”

He reads off the phone number and address and then finally, blessedly, plays the next track, giving him a few minutes to bury his face in his hands and whine over how he’s the most embarrassing human alive. He also sends a small mental prayer out to the universe that Shōta won’t be too upset with him for this.

It was Aizawa who checked him and his parents out, guiding them back towards the front of the shop. Iwasaki apparently had another customer recovering from surgery that required his attention, but before he left, he placed a hand on each of his parents’ shoulders, reassuring them that the replacement had been an overwhelming success and that he did not predict any complications. His mother had all but kissed Iwasaki’s hands, and Hizashi stood off to the side with Aizawa and smiled around a fierce blush.

Aizawa printed off a few more papers for his parents to sign and handed him yet another folder filled with information about his replacements. He walked his parents through the basics of his replacements, pointing out the locations of the entry points and spots that could indicate a need for future repairs. His parents listened with rapt attention, asking questions and writing things down, but Hizashi couldn’t focus beyond the touch of Aizawa’s hands against his skin.

“And here,” Aizawa said, grabbing two cards from the desk and handing it to his parents, “are mine and Iwasaki-sensei’s cards. We offer repair services outside of our normal hours for extreme cases and can make house calls, if necessary. Iwasaki-sensei is your main point of contact, but if you ever have trouble getting a hold of him, don’t hesitate to give me a call.”

Hizashi could see the affection in his mother’s eyes. Aizawa was so small and still had baby fat rounding out his jaw, and hearing him speak so professionally probably gave her the urge to pinch his cheeks and give him a caramel candy or something, which would have actually killed him. To save himself from this potential embarrassment, he pulled at his parents’ hands, urging them out of the store.

With at least a thousand more thank yous, his parents finally headed for the door. Before he joined them, Hizashi looked at Aizawa one last time and smiled, feeling bashful all of a sudden. Which was crazy considering Aizawa had been fishing around in his ear and throat only an hour or two ago. 

“Thank you,” he said, softly. “For, um — for everything. For the repairs, but also. For talking to me. You were — you made me feel a lot better.”

It was the most incoherent thank you he could possibly give, but Aizawa smiled. It looked similar to the one he saw earlier, when his parents were hugging him and Iwasaki stood with his arm over Aizawa’s shoulders. Small and proud and softer than anything he’d ever seen.

“Of course,” he said, just as soft. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but he could have sworn Aizawa’s cheeks were pink. “Call me — call us whenever you need.”

It’s been a week since he promoted U.A. on his show. Coincidentally, it has also been a week since he’s seen Shōta. He was too nervous to go to U.A. the day after the show for his usual lunch. He was so sure that Shōta was going to be mad at him, raging about how he doesn’t need help or how Hizashi should have talked to him about it first. And Hizashi realizes he probably should have, but he just knew that Shōta was going to say no, and isn’t it better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission?

But after a week, he can’t take it anymore. He hasn’t heard a word from Shōta, which isn’t all that surprising considering it’s not like they’ve ever texted before, but the silence feels so much louder than normal. He’s not sure what he’s going to say, but he knows he has to go.

He’s thinking about different ways he can convince Shōta to not be mad at him when he approaches the shop. He pauses for a moment outside the door and just stares, because it looks so completely different from all the times he’s ever seen it.

There are people. And not just one or two customers, but several. Enough that some of them actually have to sit in the waiting room. He doesn’t think U.A. has ever had enough customers to actually warrant it. But it looks like it’s certainly needed now, because there are several customers perusing through magazines or chatting quietly while they wait to be served. He can see a woman at the counter handing over a credit card to Shinso while Shōta leads a man and his young son into the back room.

Hizashi’s heart swells because they have business. They have business, and he knows that he only played a small role in that because Shōta is good and he’s earned every customer he’s ever won over, but still — Hizashi helped get them in the door. Shōta has spent over fifteen years of his life giving and giving and giving to Hizashi, and now, Hizashi has finally given him something worthy in return.

He pivots on his heel and immediately turns back around, heading home. Shōta is blessedly busy, and probably won’t be able to take lunch with him today. Hizashi has to bite down on his smile the whole walk home.

It’s another week before he hears from Shōta. Despite the clear success of Hizashi’s promotion, he still feels weird going to the shop when he doesn’t technically need anything. Shōta is busy now, and he doesn’t want to get in the way. He’s also a little embarrassed to go in now, though he can’t really pin down why.

But one day, there’s a knock on his front door, and the scene is oddly familiar, though it’s only happened once before. There is a delivery man with a bouquet of flowers for him, a card tied delicately to the stems. He thanks the man as he takes his prize, closing the door softly behind him and leaning against it like a lovesick teenager. Eventually, he peers down at the card and smiles.

This doesn’t even begin to repay you for what you’ve done for me, but I hope it’s a good start. Come see me soon.

With a clear invitation like that, it’s impossible for Hizashi to resist. It’s technically after hours already, but he knows that Shōta likes to stick around late to work on enhancements for upcoming appointments. The lights are turned off and he can’t see anyone at the counter through the window, but he knocks anyways and waits.

Eventually, he sees a stream of light as the door to the back room opens. The figure that emerges is veiled in shadows, but it can only be Shōta, so Hizashi waves. After a few seconds, the door opens to reveal his favorite mechanic smiling up at him softly.

“Hizashi,” Shōta says, and he sounds so happy to see him that Hizashi nearly passes out. He knows he must have a stupid smile on his face, but he can’t help it. “You’re a little late for lunch, you know.”

Hizashi giggles, because apparently Shōta just has that effect on him. Shōta waves him inside and closes the door behind him. The lights are still off and there’s only a little bit of sunlight left, so Shōta’s skin is almost golden and his eyes look like they’re melting. Hizashi forgets to breathe for a few seconds.

“It’s been a while,” Shōta nearly whispers. Or maybe it just sounds like a whisper with how gentle it is. “I’d gotten used to having you around.”

Hizashi flushes. “Yeah, sorry about that,” he laughs nervously. “I, um. I guess I thought you would be mad at me?”

Shōta just looks at him for a few seconds, eyes scanning his face like he’s looking for something specific. Eventually, he says, “I was, at first.”

Hizashi winces, but Shōta just smiles at him. “I said at first. But I’m not an idiot. I know that there are a lot of people counting on me and this shop. It’d be irrational to reject help when I clearly needed it.”

Hizashi shifts his weight from one foot to another, looking down at Shōta’s feet anxiously. “So… the shop is doing well, then?”

“Extremely well. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many customers before. I hardly know what to do with them.” Shōta’s voice is still so tender that it actually makes a shiver run down his spine. A golden hand reaches out to curl around Hizashi’s fingers, and he finally looks up at his face, and he’s wearing the warmest, most open expression he’s ever seen, and Hizashi could look at it forever. He wonders if this is how all the greatest poets and artists felt when they found their muse, like they could write a million words about that person’s beauty and magic and still never get it right.

“Thank you,” Shōta says. “Thank you for all of the things that you said.”

They’re the most wonderful words he’s ever heard. They quickly skyrocket up Hizashi’s list of favorite sounds because Shōta’s never had reason to thank him for anything before, and Hizashi can’t help but feel like something has shifted. 

“I have something for you,” Shōta says almost shyly, his face turning just the slightest bit pink. “To thank you. It’s in the back.”

Hizashi doesn’t want to leave the gentle warmth and golden lighting of the front room. He doesn’t want this intimacy, this closeness that he’s always yearned for, to fade away. But he nods anyways. Shōta still hasn’t let go of his hand, so he quietly pulls him towards the back room.

The overhead lights are off. In fact, the only source of light comes from a small table lamp where Shōta was clearly working, a mechanical arm with a panel wide open and spewing wires sitting under the glow. Shōta let’s go of his hand to riffle through one of the desk drawers, and when he comes back, he has three flat boxes stacked on top of each other.

“I want you to take a look at these,” Shōta begins, laying the boxes out side by side on the counter. “Just — don’t say anything until I’m done, yeah?”

Hizashi raises a brow but nods. Shōta looks weirdly nervous, but he also has this little smile like he’s kind of excited. Hizashi doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve all these new little expressions in one night, but he’s glad it’s happening.

That is, until Shōta slowly opens each of the three boxes, revealing their contents. 

In the first, a mechanical set of eyes. The metal plating in the back shines even in the dim light, and the squishy exterior looks soft and white. The irises are colorless, but he can see the copper coils inside that would bring them to life.

In the second, two small cochleas with a bouquet of wires streaming out of them. They look smaller than the ones Hizashi has, more delicate and finely made. 

In the third, a small box and flexible sheets of metal plating. He knows from experience that it’s the mechanism that gives him a voice. Once again, it looks more compact than the one he currently has, but it looks more sophisticated too. The metal plating that makes up the base of his throat looks thick and sturdy.

They’re upgrades. Nice looking ones too. Probably don’t require a whole lot of maintenance or repairs. Hizashi feels the back of his throat sting with unshed tears.

Shōta must see something in his face because his tone is nervous as he starts to explain, “I actually started making these a couple of weeks ago, as a thank you for — well. That one night. After the bank? I thought that if I wasn’t going to be able to do repairs for you anymore, then at least I could make you some decent upgrades before I go.”

He goes over to the first box and pulls out one of the eyes, using the pinky of his other finger to point to the iris. “These are a lot sturdier than the model you have, and they actually allow for a lot of cool upgrades. I remember when you were like sixteen, you mentioned that you thought it would be cool if your eyes could be red, so I added a feature that would allow you to change the colors. The default is your normal eye color, but it’s easy to switch between shades. I also added a feature that would let you zoom in so you can see things from far away. I don’t know if you’ll have much use for it, but it’s a commonly requested upgrade, so I just added it. Oh, and also a way to see in the dark better, because I know you walk home at night. This model doesn’t allow for complete night vision, but if that’s something you’re interested in, we can definitely upgrade the parts to make it happen.”

Hizashi doesn’t say anything because Shōta asked him not to. So he just nods his head and tries not to look upset. Shōta puts the eye back into its box and then moves on to the next one, pulling out one of the cochleas.

“These are probably one of the sturdiest and affordable cochleas on the market right now. The sound quality is also phenomenal. I added an enhancement so that you can actually choose specific sounds to focus on. I thought about it because I know you like to focus on my voice so you don’t have to hear your throat being cut, but I thought it might be cool for music as well. Maybe you could focus on particular parts of a track or something. I don’t know, I don’t really listen to music. But I figured someone in radio would want all the latest hearing enhancements, so I added the ones I could.”

Hizashi still wants to cry, but suddenly, it feels like there is more than one reason. He swallows and nods again, and Shōta moves on to the next box.

“This is one of the more compact vocal replacements on the market. It’s also really malleable, so it’s easy to add a ton of enhancements. I added the ability to modify your pitch and volume, because I know you always do little voices on your show. There’s also stuff about recording and preprogramming certain noises so that you can make them on the fly, which I thought would be cool for radio. There’s a lot of stuff about vibrations as well, so if you’re interested in that, we could explore those enhancements together.”

Shōta carefully puts the part back into the box, and looks at Hizashi nervously. He runs his hands down his thighs, like he’s trying to wipe the sweat off of them. “I know that you like the parts that you have, but I really do think you would love these once you get used to them. All upgrades have an adjustment period, but people always end up preferring the new parts to the old.”

Hizashi still doesn’t say anything, half because he’s not sure if Shōta is done yet and half because he has no idea what to say. Shōta has clearly put a ton of work and thought into these gifts. He remembered some random thing he said when he was sixteen and the fact that he walks home every night. He thought about what would be good for him professionally, taking into account his love for music and his career as someone who is supposed to talk quite a bit.

Hizashi has always felt like he’s seen Shōta in a way that very few other people can claim, but now he realizes that Shōta sees him right back. Just as Hizashi can catalog all his little expressions and sounds and movements, Shōta can probably do the same. He’s always been able to read the tense set of his shoulders or the pained pout of his lips or the desperate look in his eyes. Shōta has always seen him, and now more than ever, it feels definitive. It feels real.

But — 

“I can’t accept these,” he says softly, sounding strained. “I — Shōta, I am so appreciative of all the work and thought you’ve put into these, really, I am. This — god, I think these are the most thoughtful gifts anyone has ever given me.”

Shōta’s face is stiff with hurt, like he’s trying to hide it but can’t quite manage it. He shakes his head. “Then — why?”

Hizashi desperately tries to find an adequate excuse, but he can’t come up with anything but the truth, and if he says that outloud, Shōta will know and Hizashi isn’t sure if he’s ready for that yet.

“You don’t have to pay for the parts, Hizashi. They’re a gift.”

“I know.”

“And you don’t have to worry about installation either. It’s kind of a long process, but not overly expensive, and I’m willing to do it on a weekend or something so you don’t have to pay for the man hours.”

“Shōta, of course I would pay you for installation if I took them,” Hizashi says, smiling sadly at Shōta’s overwhelming generosity. “I just — I can’t accept them.”

“Do you not like them?” Shōta asks, looking confused and close to frustrated. “If there’s something you don’t like, I can always change it. These were designs I thought would work best, but of course you have a say, so we can make whatever adjustments you want.”

Hizashi doesn’t want to tell him, doesn’t want to face the rejection or the awkwardness or the possible revulsion. But he can’t stand the confused hurt on his face either, so he sucks down his pride and his fear and says, “That’s not it.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

“How often would I have to come in for repairs?”

“Rarely, Hizashi. That’s the point of them. You would only need to come in once every few years, and they would be quick —”

“That’s why I don’t want them,” Hizashi says before he loses his nerve. He looks down at his hands, the fingers tangled together nervously, and tells them, “I never wanted upgrades because I knew they would increase the amount of time between visits and — well. I wanted to see you. Hell, I already feel like I don’t get to see you as much as I want.”

Shōta doesn’t say anything, and the silence is excruciating. His heart is hammering so violently that it makes it hard to breathe, but the silence is worse than anything, so Hizashi just starts vomiting words. “I know it’s weird, and that I’m just your customer, but I feel like we’ve become friends over the years? I don’t know. And I really love our conversations, and I like spending time with you, and if that means I have to keep basic parts for the rest of my life, I’m fine with that. Like there are times when things are going so well for so long that I actually start to wish that something would break. Which I know is crazy and weird, but I can’t help it. I just start to miss you.”

Hizashi finally bites his tongue because he’s starting to sound absolutely insane, and if he hasn’t already scared Shōta off, it’ll be a goddamn miracle. He’s shaking so much from nerves, and he thinks Shōta is being very cruel with how quiet he’s being. Even if all he does is scream at him, Hizashi wishes he would do something, if only so this moment would stop living in stasis.

After what feels like a lifetime, Shōta makes a noise. A snort.

“You know there are ways for us to hang out that don’t involve me slitting your throat or gouging your eyes out, right?” Shōta says, his voice still so fond and soft that Hizashi thinks he’s going to have a heart attack. Hizashi looks up at him to confirm it and yes, there’s still a smile on his face. He doesn’t look freaked out at all. If anything, he looks almost happy. “Like texting, for starters. Or the coffee shop that’s literally next door.”

Hizashi can’t stop looking at him. And Shōta is smiling but his face goes a little pink as he shrugs and says, “Or, you know. Dinner.”

This would be the absolute worst time for his ears to malfunction, but considering his luck, he doesn’t completely discount it. Because there is no way Shōta just suggested they get dinner some time. “What?”

Shōta sighs and rolls his eyes, but he looks almost giddy about it. He steps closer, so far into Hizashi’s personal space that he stops breathing for a second, and Hizashi just looks down into his face with wide eyes because he can feel the heat rolling off his body in waves and his hands suddenly have an unbearable desire to reach out and hold his hips.

“I’m saying that if you really like talking to me as much as you claim, you could always ask me out,” Shōta says. His face is coy and his voice is flirtatious and it’s once again a new expression to add to Hizashi’s list of favorites and holy shit did he just ask Hizashi out on a date?

Hizashi’s hands reach their limits. They adopt a mind of their own and reach out to hold Shōta’s waist, and Shōta doesn’t push him away. Instead, he comes in closer, gripping the front of Hizashi’s shirt in shaking fingers. Hizashi’s face feels hot enough to fry an egg and he hopes it doesn’t look too stupid, because Shōta is much closer to it than usual.

“I — um. That is — what —”

Shōta rolls his eyes again and pulls down on his shirt. Hizashi has trusted him with everything for over half his life, so he follows his lead, and then there are lips against his own. He can feel the thrashing of Shōta’s heart from where their chests are pressed together. Or maybe it’s just his own heart. He can’t be sure, but either way, he can feel the soft press of Shōta’s lips against his, can feel his hands curling up from where they are squished between their chests, can feel the puff of breath he makes into the kiss, and Hizashi thinks his brain might be malfunctioning because he swears he can see actual sparks going off behind his eyes. Hizashi pulls him in even closer until he can fully wrap his arms around his waist and Shōta makes a little humming noise that sounds better than any song Hizashi has ever heard.

His chest feels like it’s on fire and he suddenly realizes that he’s been holding his breath. He pulls back and leans his forehead against Shōta’s, and his heart thrums when he realizes that Shōta’s breathing is just as fast.

“Does this,” he huffs, rubbing their noses together. “Does this mean that you like — that you like our conversations too?”

Shōta chuckles at that, but he moves his arms up to wrap around Hizashi’s neck, so he figures he couldn’t have said anything too stupid. Now their chests are pressed completely flush against each other, and he knows he can feel Shōta’s heart beating. It feels as quick and feather light as a bird. “Yes, I like our conversations,” Shōta says breathlessly. “I like you, too.”

Hizashi always hoped that he would be cool if Shōta ever said anything like that to him. He’d imagined dipping him back and kissing the hell out of him, or maybe pulling a cool Han Solo and saying “I know.” But no one ever claimed that Hizashi was cool, so what he actually ends up doing is releasing a sound that some might call a squeal and practically wriggling in Shōta’s grasp. Shōta, because he is a saint, just laughs fondly.

“I like you too,” Hizashi says and it feels like there are bubbles floating in his chest, light and bright and sparkling. “I like you so, so much.”

Shōta laughs again, so carefree and wonderful, and Hizashi wants to record it and play it on loop for the rest of his life. He smirks as he looks up at Hizashi and says, "I figured, especially after your little promotion for the shop. You know, most people don't talk about their mechanics like that. And I don't just mean when you said I was the only person you wanted touching your parts."

Hizashi’s face somehow burns even hotter than before and his laugh is ridiculously loud with embarrassment, but he can’t stop nuzzling his forehead against Shōta’s and grinning like an idiot. It’s okay though, because Shōta is grinning widely too, and he looks a little crazy but Hizashi is obsessed with it.

“Please tell me there is something I can do to make you forget that,” Hizashi laughs, running his hands up and down Shōta’s back. “I’ll do anything.”

“Well, I already told you what I wanted and you haven’t given it to me yet,” Shōta teases dryly. “So maybe, you could start there.”

Hizashi’s eyebrow twitches in confusion for only a second until he remembers. And then he grins and says, “Shōta, would you want to go out with me sometime?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve me cutting you open, I'd love to.”

Hizashi laughs and can’t hold back anymore. He pulls Shōta back into another kiss, one hand reaching up to cradle his cheek. His stubble is rough against his palm and his lips are gentle against his, and it’s so much better than anything he could have imagined. But there is so much more skin to explore, and pretty soon, he’s kissing as much of his face as he can. The tip of his nose, the backs of his eyelids, his forehead, his cheeks, his jaw.

He only pulls back once he’s had his fill, and when he does, Shōta’s entire face is bright pink and his mouth grins around a laugh and his eyes are warm and gooey with affection, and Hizashi has never been more thankful for his mechanical eyes and ears, because he looks absolutely beautiful.