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Superstar

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*

Hizashi’s fabulously cool DJ girlfriend downs the rest of her vodka soda and brings the glass back to the bar with a clack, raising her hand again to tuck a lock of her black bob-cut hair with neon green tips behind her ear for the five seconds it’s going to stay there before falling back out. This establishment gives Hizashi a crate of their best whiskies in exchange for being seen drinking in here every couple of months, so he’s meant to be paying his dues, but the look on her face bodes trouble.

“I’m sorry, Hizashi.” Just from the tone of her voice, he knows what’s coming, like watching a hammer swing right before it clocks him in the face. “We have to break up.”

“Really?" he heaves in disappointment more than anything. "Why?”

He assumes it’s something he’s done, but there's one excuse above all that Hizashi’s learned to dread, so when she says, "I'm moving to Thailand, I've been offered a spot DJing at a big club on one of the islands,” he’s elated.

"Oh, that's… that's great,” Hizashi replies cheerfully for someone being dumped. “Congratulations, babe! Ah, I mean, good for you.” Probably best not to keep calling her babe if they’re breaking up.

Suspicion is written all over her ghostly white face, accentuated by the thinnest black arcs of her winged eyeliner and razor sharp brows that had struck Hizashi from the first moment he laid eyes on her. She observes, "You seem pretty pleased about this."

"No no, I'm super bummed,” Hizashi admits forwardly. “I'm just relieved you didn't say it was because of Aizawa."

"Well since you mentioned it, it is also because of Aizawa," she has to throw in, tapping her polished black nails against the side of her glass. 

"Seriously?!” Hizashi just can’t catch a break sometimes. “But I thought you liked him."

"He's… fine,” she says awkwardly, and Hizashi never did get to the bottom of what happened that makes her ever so slightly flustered around Aizawa. “It's not… it’s just… I did think about whether we could do long distance, since this gig won't last forever, but I know what you're like." As in, what Hizashi’s relationship with monogamy and impulse control is like.

"That's not fair, you're assuming I'd do something before I've even done it,” he counters. Even if he probably would do it, knowing him. But he’d try not to, and there’s other ways to do long distance than being completely celibate. “And what’s that got to do with Aizawa?”

But then Hizashi’s not-his-girlfriend-anymore says, "No, what I mean is, I don't think it'd work if we tried long distance because you don't actually need a girlfriend when you've got him."

This one comes for Hizashi out of a dark corner with a vengeance.

“What?!” he bursts. "That's ridiculous, babe.” Fuck, he did it again. “Aizawa’s nothing like a girlfriend– or boyfriend." Since he’s a dude and all, though by Aizawa’s own admission that’s ‘only by default’. Hizashi’s not sure Aizawa’s given enough thought to what he is in any sense of sexuality or gender to identify as anything: he’s got better things to do. That’s what he is.

"Well, he kinda is.” Hizashi’s former girlfriend is smart, cool, funny, and insightful as fuck, which makes what she’s saying more worrying than usual, coming from her and not some bimbo or himbo whose opinion Hizashi can just write off as misunderstanding or simple jealousy. 

It’s normal that whoever he dates feels threatened by Aizawa, Hizashi has learned to accept. He and Aizawa have known each other for years, since they were snot-nosed brats with big dreams. There’s a history they share that anyone Hizashi’s dating naturally feels intimidated by. But his… former girlfriend hadn’t been like that. She’s been one of the good ones. Until now.

"In what way is he like that?!” Hizashi demands as much as he squawks like an irate parrot. He can think of one absolutely unmissable way in particular that he and Aizawa are nothing like boyfriends. “We don't have sex." The joke has been made that Aizawa’s too filthy for Hizashi to ever want to fuck him, and likewise Hizashi’s far too clean to get down and dirty, or dirt ier, with him. 

"Okay, but that's like, the only thing you don't do," she explains pretty calmly all in all, and as if she's thought about this for longer than Hizashi ever has. "You and me both know you can get laid anytime you want, so if sex is the only thing you don't do with Aizawa that you do with me, and I'm going away, then it's just not enough to hang onto, is it?"

It’s not the sex, she’s trying to say: it’s everything else. Hizashi… almost gets it. Sure, Kayama has teased him and Aizawa for years over being like an old married couple, but what the fuck does she know about anything?

"I seriously didn't expect this from you,” Hizashi tries not to sound utterly crushed, when it’s exactly what he is. “About me and Aizawa, I mean. I've told you–" 

"And I believe you," she cuts him off. "I'm not saying you and Aizawa are… secret lovers or anything." Which is exactly what the press thought for a while, after the rumour Hizashi may or may not have inadvertently endorsed about him and Aizawa being an item got a bit further around than he'd planned it to.

Aizawa hadn’t been best pleased, not because of the part where he and Hizashi were supposed to be in a relationship – Present Mic dating a mysterious dark stranger?! – which Aizawa didn’t seem to care about in the slightest, just the fact that it put any media attention onto him at all. In the fantasy sequence where they did date it'd surely be a nightmare, since Hizashi tries to be newsworthy at all times, and if Aizawa had it his way Hizashi and his parents would probably be the only people who know he actually exists.

"So why are you acting like Aizawa’s the reason we have to break up?” Hizashi spits in frustration. “If you know there’s nothing like that between us."

"Hizashi," his latest ex-girlfriend says with a fatigued sigh. "There is something between you two."

Hizashi makes a frustrated noise. "But–" 

"I'm not saying it's romantic," she interjects. "But… you love him, right?" 

"I…" Hizashi freezes like a bunny facing down a dazzling pair of headlights. Where the fuck did this come from? "Well… yeah, as a friend."

"Whatever kind of label you give it,” she insists. “I don't think there's anyone you love as much as you love him."

"But it's different.” Hizashi rushes, “The way I love Aizawa…" It feels so weird to say out loud, like putting his shoes on the wrong feet, or a butt plug that's shifted to a funny angle. Like he's admitting to something he hasn't ever admitted to before. Hadn’t even thought about until he was made to, and now he’s not sure he likes the feeling.

But then his former best girlfriend yet stares what feels like straight into Hizashi’s soul and says, "All I'm saying is– is there a chance you haven't realised it?" 

This one, also, catches Hizashi out of nowhere.

"Realised what?" he hisses. 

"I believe you when you say there's nothing romantic between you and Aizawa,” she explains painstakingly, patience of a saint, honestly, not that it’s helping Hizashi now, “but… could there be?"

"What does that have to do with anything?” Hizashi shoots. “I mean…” Briefly, he makes himself think about it. Briefly. “I mean, maybe, yeah, in a parallel universe."

"How about in this universe?” she retorts quicker than Hizashi can keep dismissing anything so insane. “Is there anything actually stopping you?" 

"Aside from the fact that we aren't at all attracted to each other?" Hizashi points out bluntly.

"That kind of chemistry doesn't have to be instant.” The problem when Hizashi’s girlfriend becomes his ex, he has to admit, is that now she knows him way too well and doesn’t have any reason to hold back speaking her mind. It was easier dating shallow minor celebrities and idols who looked good in pictures and didn’t think so damn much. Fuck.

Being one of the few people Hizashi’s dated not to have just not hated Aizawa, but actually seemed to like him, she’s also spent enough time around Hizashi’s best friend to know him pretty well too. “I know there’s usually a spark right away for you, but it's obviously not like that for Aizawa. Did you ever think that maybe it'd only be there if you look for it?" 

Hizashi gives it a hot second’s thought before squashing the consideration like a mosquito hovering around his ear. "No. Nope.” Hizashi gets up off his stool and backs away from her at the bar, as if it’ll help distance him from what she’s saying. “I'm not having this conversation anymore, we're supposed to be breaking up, not… analysing my relationship with Aizawa for weird hidden sexual chemistry that's not there."

"That you think isn't there."

"That I know isn't there!” Hizashi snaps too harsh, and too loud. He needs to get out of here: fast. “I’m sorry, babe. About everything. Have a great time in Thailand."

The worst part is how she doesn't even seem mad. It's like she just… pities him. 

"I will.” Getting up herself, she steps over and reaches out a hand to lay on Hizashi’s shoulder for a moment. He’s a bit more used to being broken up with by now, but this one hurts more than most. “Goodbye, Hizashi."

*

Hizashi doesn’t tell Aizawa about this one because… he just doesn’t, okay? Well, he tells Aizawa his ex got a gig in Thailand and they both agreed he’d struggle not to cheat on her if they did long distance – right before launching into a vindictive string of meaningless hookups to prove to himself that’s what, all it was. He doesn’t say anything about her reasons involving him and Aizawa. That one he hangs onto, and just… thinks about, from time to time.

Aizawa’s not been around quite as much since he moved into his own apartment, which is the least shitty place he’s ever lived in, and Hizashi’s proud of him for that. The night they threw Aizawa’s moving out party at Hizashi’s was one for the books, not least because it featured a game of strip snakes and ladders – instigated by Kayama, obviously – that Aizawa refused to participate in, leading them all to declare he was clearly embarrassed about having a third, fourth and fifth nipple, and teased him until Hizashi was literally crying with laughter. Aizawa climbed out onto the roof in protest to smoke a blunt in sullen peace.

Once Aizawa was done sulking, or more specifically, blazed off his tits, he returned and surprisingly agreed to a round of shots and dares – kinda like truth or dare, but mostly just doing shots and then being dared to do something stupid. That’s how Kayama ended up waving Hizashi’s tattoo gun out and daring Aizawa to prove he could handle the pain as well as he kept saying he could. Hizashi’s stopped getting stupid home-done tattoos and pays actual good money for proper tattoo artists to give him ink now, but that doesn’t mean he gave the gun away.

It was only once Aizawa had grabbed the needle gun and started inking his own fucking name on the top of his foot that Hizashi realised they were both being serious. After snatching the gun off him, Hizashi for some insane reason took it upon himself to finish the lop-sided drunken tattoo scrawl of Aizawa Shota that can now be used to identify his body, so they only sort of joked the next morning on horrendous hangovers. It was better than him just having Aiza on this bloody foot, wasn’t it?

Aizawa does still spend a decent amount of time with Hizashi, which he’s grateful for, after worrying a little that they’d drift apart when Aizawa wasn’t being a recovering junkie on his couch all the time. Or even that he’d go back to being a junkie. Neither came true. 

It tends to be that Aizawa still shows up at Hizashi’s place at least once a week looking to crash, mostly if he ends up working closer to Hizashi’s apartment than his own and can’t be bothered to go home. He still does drugs, too, but never as often or much as he used to. Not seeing Cricket anymore probably helps with that, though he still manages to acquire anything he wants from his seedy underworld contacts when he does want it. Hizashi keeps an eye on him out of habit now, having sworn to himself he’ll never let it get to the stage it was at before he speaks up. That he owes it to Aizawa, and their friendship.

The bit Hizashi ends up thinking about the most is how his ex said Aizawa wasn’t the type of person to have instant chemistry with someone. Not sexual chemistry, in any case. Hizashi’s never paid a huge amount of attention to exactly who Aizawa fucks and why, aside from the canker that was Cricket on account of his being such a uniquely obnoxious and despicable human being whose guts Hizashi hated, but Aizawa managed to like way more than he should’ve. It’d feel weird to pry, so Hizashi doesn’t.

He sort of assumes Aizawa does get laid from time to time, but it’s nothing he ever talks about. Hizashi’s never known him to flirt, or have crushes, or act in the least bit romantically inclined. But even if he were to do any of those things, why would Hizashi see that side of him? They’re best friends, nothing else, so obviously Hizashi wouldn’t be aware of Aizawa’s… tendencies like that. It’s stupid. He tries not to think about it. But does.

His ex looks like she’s having an amazing time in Thailand in any case, and Hizashi’s happy for her, even if he’s less pleased with the weird invasive thoughts she left him with. Whether there could be something there with Aizawa, but they would only know if Hizashi looked for it.

No, Hizashi thinks and tells himself whenever he finds his thoughts lingering around that particular plughole in his brain. He doesn’t need to know if something is there, because he knows there’s not or doesn’t need to be. All he’s doing is getting hung up on something stupid because his ex put the thought in his head and he’s still rebounding. Or something.

*

Aizawa rings Hizashi in the middle of the night, which is fine since Hizashi’s on his way home from a DJ gig with a cute hookup on his arm, but is also why Hizashi answers the phone with, “This better be good.”

“Need your help,” Aizawa says like a shot straight to the temple, and Hizashi stops walking, bemusing the extremely cute androgynous person he’d scooped off the dancefloor on his way out of the club. Aizawa asks for help almost never, far less than he should, so when he does Hizashi knows that it’s serious right away.

“Where are you?”

“Gonna send you my location. I haven’t done anything yet,” Aizawa explains quickly, and that much calms Hizashi somewhat. It’s not past Aizawa’s capability to only call once he’s already fucked up, which makes Hizashi’s work a lot harder since he has to worry about dragging Aizawa out of there on one hand while he restrains the criminals on another. “It’s just a big job. Need some backup.”

“What’s going on, Mic?” his hookup asks, and Hizashi pats their back unconsciously, since his mind is somewhere else.

“And it can’t wait?” Hizashi checks. It’s not likely, but it’s worth a shot. He was kind of looking forward to a one-night stand, rather than an all-night stand-off.

“If it could wait I wouldn’t need help,” Aizawa responds crossly. “Leave the ass and get yours over here.”

Ah, so he did hear someone in the background of Hizashi’s phone.

“Alright, alright. I’ll be there soon.” Hizashi doesn’t say goodbye because Aizawa’s already hung up, but he does turn to his hookup and say, “Sorry but duty just called, I gotta go.”

“Aww,” they coo, reaching for his phone to key their number into it. “Well, text me when you’re done saving the day.”

“Sure, I’ll–” Hizashi starts with a grin, grabbing the phone back when he sees Aizawa’s GPS pin pop up. It’s not too far away, enough that he can run it faster than he can get there most other ways at this time of night, and when it comes to these things Aizawa hates to be kept waiting. “Oops, gotta go, bye!”

In his hurry to get moving, Hizashi forgets to even kiss them goodbye – or save their phone number. But that’s the life of a hero.

Half an hour of hard running later and a quick climb up a rickety fire escape, Aizawa is crouched on the corner of a rooftop looking like a gargoyle when Hizashi finally arrives and then promptly flops flat onto his back panting heavily.

He sprinted here like a madman on fire, and all Aizawa’s got to say is, “Took your damn time.”

“Came as fast as I damn-well could,” Hizashi retorts, still gasping up at the few stars trying to sparkle tonight, “so shut up. I’m here now.” 

While Hizashi’s catching his breath Aizawa catches him up on what they’re dealing with. It’s ‘just a gang’, he says like it’s nothing, because what he means is an absolutely ruthless and bloodthirsty biker gang who have been trafficking the big three: weapons, drugs, and people. Aizawa’s finally honed in on their hideout when the head of the operation is paying a visit, and even he’s not stupid enough to go in there alone.

“And I’m the only one you called?” Hizashi says scathingly.

“Kayama’s out on another job,” Aizawa answers dourly. “There’s a few cops on the way, but I always end up worrying about them more than relying on them for backup.” Hizashi has to agree: the police are mostly for cleanup once the situation is under control. “That’s why I called you.”

“Sure, what are best friend heroes for?” Hizashi remarks wryly, watching Aizawa pull out a couple of short-wave radio earpieces, holding one of them out to Hizashi. They’re next door to the building Aizawa’s led him to believe is full of extremely nasty criminals with any number of dangerous quirks – so, just another day on the job.

“I’m gonna go in first, try and work out where their boss is,” Aizawa explains quietly. “He’ll disappear the second they know anything’s up. You–”

“I do what I always do,” Hizashi hops in without needing to be told. “Wait for your signal then scream the house down.”

Aizawa nods, and he’s not exactly a cheerful character, but Hizashi can tell when something is weighing on him, and knows that it probably means he’s biting off more than he can chew. That they are, since Hizashi’s meant to be the dagger to Aizawa’s cloak.

“Should we call someone else?” Hizashi offers spontaneously, as there’s a dozen ranked heroes he could bring over here to lend a hand, but Aizawa just shakes his head.

“I waited long enough for you already,” he mutters, and Hizashi only ran here as fast as his legs could take him, but obviously it’s still longer than Aizawa ever wants to wait before doing his life’s work “It’ll be fine.”

*

It’s not fine.

Hizashi doesn’t know exactly what happens, but instead of getting a signal from Aizawa to go in he hears a fight break out that it doesn’t sound like Aizawa’s winning. So Hizashi doesn’t wait for a signal to start kicking ass and taking names.

There’s noises, bad noises coming down the shortwave radio as Hizashi storms through the disused industrial estate, dropping his voice to non-combative levels and unmuting the radio to spit, “Eraser, where the fuck are you?!” but gets no answer. The police are moving in hot after Hizashi, cuffing all the thugs rolling around on the floor with blood coming out of their ears, but Hizashi doesn’t care about them.

Aizawa’s breathing is uneven on the radio, too shallow, too fucking quiet, and Hizashi already knows deep in his gut that something’s really wrong. He hasn’t been answering Hizashi’s calls, which isn’t just a bad sign, it’s an absolutely terrible one.

“I found him!” comes the voice of a policeman in the background of Aizawa’s radio, and Hizashi’s just running from place to place in the filthy den getting more and more afraid each time he finds a room full of armed criminals he needs to subdue and not Aizawa. “He’s hurt.”

“Fuck! Where?!” Hizashi belts, static spitting from his earpiece as it protests what Hizashi’s putting it through volume-wise.

Then he hears Aizawa’s voice, but he’s talking to the policeman, and must have forgotten or not realised his radio is still working. Because if Aizawa knew Hizashi could hear him, he wouldn’t need to wheeze, “Tell Mic I…” and trail off into unintelligible sounds Hizashi can't shape into words.

“Tell me yourself!” Hizashi’s barely below screaming, but maybe the radio got fucked up somehow and Hizashi can hear Aizawa, but he can’t hear Hizashi.

Hizashi feels like throwing up all his internal organs at once, especially when Aizawa fades out repeating, “Tell him…”

“Oh shit, just hang on,” the policeman’s saying when Hizashi finally finds them, smashing into a room with a hole in the ceiling and several guys wrapped up in Aizawa’s capture weapon, but more importantly, Aizawa lying in the middle of the floor in a pool of his own blood, a worried policeman crouched at his side.

Hizashi skids to his knees next to Aizawa and sees the policeman holding a blood-soaked dressing over Aizawa’s stomach, while Aizawa’s own hands lay limp by his sides.

For some crazy reason the first thing Hizashi says is, “Tell me what?! Hey! Look at me!” as he hovers over Aizawa’s face and watches him trying to focus. “I’m right here, Eraser.” Snaps his fingers, pulls focus the way he’s always known how to when Aizawa’s concerned. “Stay awake, what did you want to tell me?”

But Aizawa’s not at the point of talking anymore, just bleeding, and Hizashi can only help compress the wound until they get some paramedics in there. The boss is among the men restrained with Aizawa’s capture weapon, so the raid is considered a success, but Hizashi doesn’t stay long enough to get his picture taken, because he muscles his way into the ambulance with Aizawa to the hospital, watching every too-far-apart bleep on the heart rate monitor with Aizawa’s blood all over his hands and fear in his heart.

They take Aizawa straight into emergency surgery while Hizashi calls his parents, who come right away, looking another ten years older between the pair of them. Not the first time Aizawa’s put them through this, unfortunately.

Aizawa’s parents are asked if they want to see him, even though he’s still in surgery, and Hizashi’s too squeamish to consider such an awful sight; not blood generally, but Aizawa’s blood, which he washed off his hands in the hospital bathroom hyperventilating on the cusp of a full panic attack. But it turns out they wouldn’t let him, even if he’d have wanted to.

“Are you his… partner?” one of the nurses says when Hizashi asks her yet again about Aizawa’s condition, and it takes Hizashi a little too long to realise what she means. “Only family are allowed through, but if you were…” Family in the spousal sense, she means, and only then does Hizashi get it.

“Oh, no… he’s just a… friend.” It sounds so underwhelming like that, as if the words Hizashi has to use for what Aizawa means to him don’t fit the feelings he has. That Aizawa’s not just a friend, he’s Hizashi’s best and oldest friend. The person who knows him most in the whole world, and who Hizashi can’t live without if Aizawa dies, because then he won’t have that person who reminds him who he is and will lose himself and… 

Taking another deep breath, Hizashi thanks the nurse and then retreats to the smoking area. He begs a cigarette off the nearest tired Doctor, picks Aizawa’s dried blood out from under his fingernails and tears himself apart wondering what it was that Aizawa wanted to tell him.

When Aizawa’s parents come back, it seems they’re looking for Hizashi, who’s been fidgeting in an uncomfortable hospital chair for hours. Going for periodic smoke breaks on scrounged cigarettes until he feels more ash than human being.

“How is he?” Hizashi gets in before they even open their mouths. They look exhausted, the pair of them, each boasting Aizawa’s own tell-tale under-eye bags. Aizawa’s dad’s has salt and pepper hair, falling in black and silver streaks down from a straight middle parting to around his ears, but his mother’s hair is completely white, and sits in tousled waves that she’s passed down to her son’s ever-unruly mop.

“He’s… stable,” Aizawa’s mother answers, and looks like she’s been crying again. Red on purple from fear and stress carved into every line of her soft sweet face. Fuck, why does Hizashi only ever see her when she’s been crying? “But… there was a moment when his heart stopped during the surgery.”

“What?” Hizashi knows that it means Aizawa was technically dead, if only for a moment. The fucking bastard, he was gonna die on them?

“They got it going again, but it was pretty serious,” his mother says in utter exhaustion. Her husband’s hands are resting on her shoulders. He's like Aizawa in that respect: the strong, silent type. “The Doctors say he’s lucky to be alive.”

“Yeah,” Hizashi murmurs ominously as he pulls up Recovery Girl’s phone number. “He will be, when I’m through with him.”

*

They finally let Hizashi see Aizawa when visiting hours for non-family begin the following morning, and although no sight is quite as bad as the view Hizashi got of Aizawa lying in a puddle of his own blood back in that hideout, this one of him in a hospital bed is a close second.

He’s so pale. And Aizawa usually looks like the sun never shines on him, so now he’s practically the same colour as the goddamn sheets.

Hizashi just stands there awkwardly at first, since Aizawa’s eyes are closed and Hizashi is remembering what it felt like holding Aizawa’s guts in from those nasty stab-wounds in his abdomen. Hizashi’s since found out that Aizawa was slashed by someone with a quirk that turns their limbs into glass, shredding flesh as much as piercing it, the shards breaking off inside Aizawa’s gut with liberal abandon, so the fact that more of his organs weren’t damaged is probably a miracle. His liver will grow back, apparently, and the rest they seem to think he can live with. He’ll have to.

The words keep echoing in Hizashi’s head.

Tell Mic I… and then what?

When Hizashi clears his throat, Aizawa's eyes grind open more than they flutter, and it takes him a moment to focus on Hizashi. There’s no sudden stroke of recognition, just a dry, “Hey.”

“Hi,” Hizashi replies over-eagerly, stepping towards the side of the bed before stopping himself a pace away. Like a compulsion, the next thing that makes it out of his mouth is a desperate, “What were you gonna say to me?”

Aizawa’s eyes narrow, the struggle of his mind translating to his face. “What?”

“Do you know what happened?” Hizashi blurts. “Back at the hideout. You got hurt, and I… I could hear you but you couldn’t hear me. You wanted to tell me something, you said: tell Mic I– and then it was all jumbled up.”

Aizawa makes a face at Hizashi like he’s just started talking another language, crunchy around the edges as he offers a hoarse, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You wanted to tell me something!” Hizashi blurts too loud, making the beeps on Aizawa’s heart rate monitor surge for a second. Then it hits him, as Aizawa’s least impressed stare hits Hizashi: he doesn’t remember. They could have been his dying words, words that above everything, every one else he wanted delivered to Hizashi, and he doesn’t fucking remember them.

“I… never mind,” Hizashi sighs, closing the distance between himself and Aizawa’s bedside. 

He’s just a friend, Hizashi had had to tell the nurse, and wait until ‘just friends’ were allowed to see patients in the ICU. Is that all their friendship is worth? Hizashi reaches for Aizawa’s hand, and it’s so cold. Aizawa looks surprised by the gesture, but what does he know? He doesn’t even know what his almost-dying words to Hizashi were supposed to be.

“I’m just glad you’re still here.”

Aizawa takes a shallow breath, not looking at all like himself, and Hizashi hates it. He contacted Recovery Girl already, but she swore up and down that she wasn’t going to come near Aizawa to expedite his recovery until he’d had at least a full day’s bedrest, so Aizawa’s stuck here for now with a bunch of bloody spaghetti for innards and a tube running out of his hand into an IV bag. He’s had several blood transfusions already, Hizashi knows, since much of his own must have long-since soaked into that grotty hideout floor, the rest washed down the sink from Hizashi’s trembling hands. 

But Aizawa’s still himself on the inside, because Hizashi feels it when that dark, tired gaze turns onto his.

“Me too,” Aizawa says simply, and Hizashi realises he’s still holding onto Aizawa’s hand, bringing warmth to cold flesh with his touch. “They got him, right?” Aizawa asks next. “The boss.”

Hizashi whips his hand back with an exasperated noise. “Would you stop thinking about work for a fucking second?! You almost died!”

Aizawa gives him another of those puzzling looks, and it occurs to Hizashi: did his parents even tell him that?

“What?” Aizawa murmurs. So, apparently not.

“During surgery,” Hizashi explains, since he got this far already. “There was a moment when your heart stopped. Not for long, but… this could’ve been it, Aizawa.” And since Hizashi’s had plenty of time to feel guilty about this already. “We should have called someone else.”

Aizawa shakes his head softly. “It would’ve happened anyway.”

“Don’t just write it off!” Hizashi snaps. “I shouldn’t have let you go in like that, I… we should’ve…”

Aizawa levels Hizashi with one of those looks that says everything and nothing: the remember who you are look. Or perhaps more than that: the remember who we are one.

“Did we get him?” Aizawa repeats, and Hizashi sinks down to sit on the chair by Aizawa’s bedside, back against the wall, and puts his head in his hands.

“Yeah,” he confesses like a much more terrible thing than it is. “Yeah. You got him.”

“Good.” Because to Aizawa it’s worth dying over, or it’s not worth doing at all.

“No,” Hizashi retorts, clenching his brow, trying to drag his fingers through his tangled hair wrapped into a horrendous topknot. He’s had worse things to worry about than his fucking hair, for once. “Not good, Aizawa. You can’t just…”

Hizashi picks his head back up and stares at his best friend, and more than that, his most important fucking rock in this world. The person who always remembers who Hizashi used to be, so he’ll never lose touch with himself as long as Aizawa’s here. But he almost wasn’t here, and that’s too much fear for Hizashi to take.

“You can’t leave me,” Hizashi confesses brokenly, watching Aizawa watch him and reckoning Aizawa probably doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about, because the last person Aizawa ever spares a thought is himself. But he’ll never think about what happens if he dies, so who else is supposed to hammer it into his thick skull?

“First Shirakumo, but not you, Aizawa,” Hizashi unloads like ripping a piece of shrapnel out of his chest, on the verge of the tears he held back when he was washing away Aizawa’s blood and clinging by his fingernails to the edge of a complete fucking meltdown. Because if there is one person that Hizashi can’t live in this world without, it’s this blockhead on the hospital bed. “You can’t just… die on me like that.”

Like Shirakumo did, and they’ve never talked about because what the fuck is there to say: oh yeah, remember when our best friend at school got killed doing what we do now, every day, pretending that it couldn’t be us?

Aizawa takes another careful, deep breath, and the beeps on his heart rate monitor are steady, but might be a little faster than before. Hizashi’s been getting him riled up, of course, since that’s what Hizashi does best.

“I’m still here,” he tells Hizashi, never needing lots of words to mean what he’s saying. 

“I know,” Hizashi replies, tangling his fingers together, thinking about Aizawa’s corpse-like skin against his. “Just… don’t scare me like that again.”

Aizawa closes his eyes again, clearly tired, and Hizashi’s tired too. “Okay.”

What Hizashi thinks he means is he’s sorry, but they can read between the lines all the same.

*

The words of Hizashi’s ex return to him when he’s at the hospital vending machine getting some snacks because Aizawa won’t stop complaining about the hospital portions. One second Hizashi’s deliberating over which kind of bread roll to pick, then the next like a grandfather clock there’s a question ringing out the peals of midnight in his mind.

“But… you love him, right?”

Hizashi ends up resting his head against the cool glass for a second, letting the words wash over him. Finally gives proper consideration to the question many weeks, months after it was first asked to him.

*

Recovery Girl puts off seeing Aizawa for an extra day after speaking with his Doctor, so by the time Aizawa’s finally discharged from hospital Hizashi has been living in a state of self-inflicted torture for two whole days. 

Like a single rock starting off a landslide, everything has seemed to come crashing down with a force far beyond Hizashi’s control. Everything they’ve denied, everything Hizashi has known to be true about his and Aizawa’s relationship: what if it’s wrong?

“Did you ever think that maybe it'd only be there if you look for it?" 

Hizashi’s starting to think he might have to look.

Because it’s not that Hizashi is sure anything is there. He’s not sure a fucking thing right now, except that Aizawa almost died, and his dying words were for Hizashi, and the fear of losing Aizawa is the worst thing he’s ever felt. Worse than other times Aizawa’s been close to death, because none of those times had involved Hizashi being right there and seeing him bleed out under Hizashi’s hands, or being denied information by the hospital because they’re just friends and that doesn’t count enough the way something different, something else would.

It’s not that Hizashi even knows what might be there, if he looked for it, but the idea that something could be is too much for him to handle now. He has to find out, because not knowing is going to destroy him.

That’s why Hizashi’s decided to do it: to talk to Aizawa about that conversation Hizashi had with his ex, the one he never told Aizawa about because he didn’t know how. But the fucking timing. Hizashi picks Aizawa up at the hospital when he’s finally cleared to be discharged, and no mistake, Aizawa’s still fucking wrecked, but he’s the kind of wrecked where he can just go home and sleep Recovery Girl’s super-speed healing process off in his own bed.

“You’re quiet,” Aizawa observes on the ride back. Hizashi drove to get him, since dragging Aizawa back on the train is ridiculous and his parents don’t have a car. The tension in Hizashi’s car is thick enough to cut with a knife.

“Am I?” Hizashi replies guiltily, when really all he can think about is how the fuck does he even start this conversation, when he doesn’t have a clue what he’s even trying to say.

“Yeah. S’nice,” Aizawa mumbles, and Hizashi gives a scoff.

“Oh nice, that’s what I get for being your taxi driver the day you’re discharged from hospital?” Hizashi reverts to familiar bickering, safe in silly chatter and feigned indignation. “Thanks for shutting up?”

“You offered to pick me up.” Aizawa’s still dead on his feet, Hizashi would know just from the tone of his voice even if he weren’t obviously drifting off against the car window.

“Yeah.” Where does Hizashi start? Where’s it gonna end? All he can do is find out. “Aizawa, I…” Hizashi glances over, only to see Aizawa’s basically asleep.

“What?” Aizawa murmurs at such a timbre the air in the car almost vibrates.

“Nothing.” Hizashi backs off. If he’s gonna do this, Aizawa might as well be fully conscious.

Hizashi stops off at a grocery store on the way and insists on buying several days worth of pre-made meals for Aizawa to make sure he’s going to eat. Then he parks up outside Aizawa’s dinky apartment block and carries the shopping bag up for a weary, shuffling best friend who takes about five agonising minutes to find his own keys in the same bloodied jumpsuit he went into hospital in, the tears over his gut and everything. 

Hizashi almost does it. Almost. But once Aizawa’s slumped down on the cheap second-hand sofa, which Hizashi helped him carry up here from the backstreet where Aizawa found it, Hizashi’s nerve wavers, leaving him just staring at Aizawa in hopeless desperation.

“What?” Aizawa repeats almost irately. “You keep giving me funny looks.”

“Nothing,” Hizashi shoots, backing away from the precipice even when he knows it’s probably as good a chance as he’s had yet. “Just… look after yourself properly, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Aizawa agrees like he’ll half-ass it the way he does most self-care. That cuts Hizashi up too, knowing that Aizawa’s not going to take care of himself as well as he should. As Hizashi wants him to. “Bye then.”

It catches Hizashi off-guard, realising Aizawa’s waiting for him to leave. “Right… bye.”

Hizashi turns around and every step he takes toward Aizawa’s door is a mistake. He’s being a ridiculous, stupid, coward. So he’s gotten exactly one pace through the front door and started to pull it shut behind him when he throws himself into reverse. This isn’t the Present Mic way. He barges straight back into the apartment, where Aizawa’s almost falling asleep on the sofa, and bursts, “Okay look, should we go out?!”

Aizawa stares up at Hizashi for a moment, and then says, “I just got here."

“No,” Hizashi counters. “Not like that. Like… okay, remember my last girlfriend, the one who moved to Thailand?”

“What?” Aizawa’s got the most characteristic unimpressed ‘what’ that Hizashi’s ever heard. But it’s started now, he can’t be stopped. He has to settle this once and for all.

“So when we broke up, there’s some stuff we talked about at the time that I didn’t tell you.” Hizashi’s got enough nervous energy to power the whole city, practically vibrating in his boots.

At the complete opposite end of the scale, Aizawa lifts a tired eyebrow. “Do you have to do this right now?”

“Yes!” Hizashi bolts. “Just listen to me.” Hizashi didn’t listen back then, but it’s finally sunk in. “She knew there wasn’t anything going on between us, but then she asked me if there could be. Something… something romantic, you know?” Hizashi feels like he’s about to puke, pass out or something even worse.

Aizawa visibly sighs. “I’m too tired for one of your freakouts, Yamada.”

“It’s important!” Hizashi squawks. “What if we… if you and me… what if everyone was right?”

Aizawa winces. “Right about what?”

“About us!” Hizashi would tear his hair out if it wasn’t his most precious asset, but fuck, he didn’t anticipate Aizawa making it this difficult. “I’m saying what if we should be together?!”

Aizawa stares at him without blinking, then blinks, but very slowly. “Are you feeling alright?”

“No! That’s the point!” Hizashi hasn’t felt alright in days. Not since the moment Aizawa told him it’d be fine on a rooftop and everything after that has been super fucking not fine and Hizashi doesn’t know what will fix it, but he’s desperate enough to try anything.

“My ex was saying that… maybe there is something between the two of us, and we just haven’t noticed it because that kinda chemistry isn’t always instant, even though it usually is for me– but what if it’s not this time, what if it’s…” Hizashi trails off upon recognising the fact that Aizawa is following this not-at-fucking-all.

“Okay.” Hizashi takes a fresh breath, feeling like he might need to be taken off in the ambulance next, but fuck it. He’s paddled out this far, might as well throw himself over the waterfall. “Are you attracted to me?”

Aizawa’s mouth actually hangs open a little, and Hizashi doesn’t know if it’s the time and place, or the proposition itself. Probably both. “What kind of a question is that?”

“One I’m asking you,” Hizashi reasserts with more confidence, because if the kneejerk answer to that was no then Aizawa would’ve surely said it already, wouldn’t he? “Are you attracted to me, Aizawa?”

Aizawa’s actually gawping at Hizashi, so at least he’s got the element of surprise. And it does something fucking weird to Hizashi’s stomach that Aizawa’s answer, agonising moments later, is no more than, “You know you’re attractive.”

“I know it,” Hizashi replies hurriedly. “I want to know if you think so.”

Aizawa’s puzzling look could recite epic tales of its confusion. Hizashi still feels like he could explode from any orifice in his body, but he couldn’t keep that pressure inside him anymore. So even if it’s messy, at least he’s letting it out.  

After another excruciating pause, Aizawa answers, “I guess?”

Hizashi’s ego, truth be told, probably needs taking down a few pegs most days of the week. But this one doesn’t land well.

“You guess?!”

His body moves by itself, or so Hizashi feels like when he goes from standing a short distance in front of Aizawa to kneeling over him on the sofa. His hands are perched either side of Aizawa’s shoulders, tightly gripping the back cushion for dear life. He’s touched Aizawa thousands of times, it must be, since they were first stupid teenagers together at neighbouring desks. But never quite like this. Where it’s thigh to thigh, Hizashi’s weight resting evenly across Aizawa’s and their breaths close enough to mingle.

“Don’t guess,” Hizashi says quietly, actually quietly, for once. He’s not sure he’s ever been this close to Aizawa face to face. Not close enough to see the burnt warmth in the otherwise nearly brown-black of his eyes, or to pick out the different hues of the perpetual bags under each, a deeper purple-green-yellow than usual. Hizashi licks his lips, and feels his heart beating underneath his tongue. “Just think about it for a second.”

Aizawa hasn’t moved a muscle so far, not even when Hizashi climbed into his lap three seconds ago. But all of that seems incomparable when Aizawa raises a single hand to lay lightly against Hizashi’s side, slipping between the leather of his jacket and the cotton of his t-shirt, and then presses Hizashi closer. 

Aizawa kisses him.

Despite Hizashi initiating just about all of this, he doesn’t initiate that. The fact that Aizawa could, and does, catches Hizashi totally off guard. As in, he pulls away after a couple of seconds of feeling Aizawa’s lips against his and covers his mouth with his hands kind of off-guard.

Aizawa gives Hizashi another scathing look, his palm still resting lightly at the base of Hizashi’s ribcage like he’s forgotten about it, and asks, “Is that what you were looking for?”

Through his hands, Hizashi murmurs. “Is it a yes?”

“Yes, what?” Aizawa says with a roll his eyes, and Hizashi drops his hands from his face.

“Yes, you’re attracted to me!” He’s being too loud, which is very obvious just from Aizawa’s flinch.

“I told you.” Aizawa actually shrugs, and the fucking nerve of him. “I guess.”

“But you kissed me!”

“I thought you wanted me to,” Aizawa points out like it’s the most completely obvious thing that he’s given literally no thought about until the moment right before he did it.

“I–!” Hizashi cuts himself off, overwhelmed with the lingering sensation of Aizawa’s mouth on his. Did he want Aizawa to? “I asked you a question.”

“And I answered it,” Aizawa counters matter-of-factly, and when he heaves a deep breath it hits the V of Hizashi's chest above the collar of his t-shirt, lifting the hairs on the back of his neck. “Look, where the fuck is this coming from?”

“You nearly died!” Hizashi fires right from the hip, because even though this is a trainwreck, it’s still a very much in-progress trainwreck. “And your dying words were almost some cryptic message to me that you don’t even fucking remember and you… you…”

Aizawa takes the space while Hizashi splutters into red-faced silence to observe, “You’re freaking out.”

At another wince-inducing pitch Hizashi shrieks, “You think?!” 

Glancing down at their position, meaning Hizashi straddling Aizawa’s lap, he adds the observation, “This was your idea.”

“I know! I just…” Hizashi stops for a shallow breath, collects his scattered thoughts like a handful of marbles on the loose. “I started wondering if there’s a reason why so many people think there’s something going on between us. If… if something has been there, but we wouldn’t know unless we tried to find it, so I’m… trying.”

Aizawa seems a little disgruntled. “To prove what?” he just about accuses, a defensive flair that means something in this is real, because Aizawa never gets defensive unless it matters to him. “That I’m attracted to you?”

“No, not to prove anything, just that we…” Hizashi arrives at the inescapable, overwhelming conclusion. “I think we should date.”

As if he can't believe it, Aizawa states, “You’re asking me out?”

“Uh… maybe.” It sounds so fucking weird when he says it like that.

Aizawa’s eyebrows practically tie themselves in a knot. “Maybe?”

“Okay, yes!” Hizashi confesses under the slightest pressure, like the simple weight of Aizawa’s palm against him. “Yes, I think we should date, because we might be in love!”

Aizawa murmurs, “Ridiculous,” with his head tilted down to stare at Hizashi’s collarbone, and Hizashi’s stomach relocates to an apartment several floors down. But he doesn’t have more time to react before Aizawa continues in the same mumbling tone, “of course I… love you.”

Hizashi wasn’t sure about any of this, but what he’s sure of is that his heart does a triple backflip when Aizawa says that.

“You do?”

“Yeah,” Aizawa replies obviously. “You’re my best friend.”

“Same! I mean, me too,” Hizashi fumbles. “But do you think we could… that maybe we could have other kinds of… love?”

Aizawa shuffles for the first time underneath Hizashi, and it’s worth noting that he doesn’t really seem uncomfortable, just confused. “That’s what all this is about?”

Hizashi, rarely, doesn’t say anything at all. Just nods. 

The pressure of Aizawa’s hand against his side increases again, but this time Hizashi moves as well, leaning in while Aizawa tips his face up curiously and their mouths meet a second, much more tentative time. Hizashi shuts his eyes, devotes himself to the moment, and one thing’s for sure – that gnawing, not-enough fear over Aizawa that Hizashi’s lived with the past few days is nowhere to be found now.

Then Aizawa adjusts the tilt of his head, not by much, but enough to press a little more firmly against Hizashi’s mouth, and oh, that’s a something right there.

Hizashi’s hands fall short of gripping the sofa to alight on Aizawa’s shoulders, and he feels Aizawa’s fingertips curl against his side as the kiss twists and lingers. It’s so weird, so totally completely weird to be doing this with Aizawa – but is it a bad kind of weird? Hizashi’s heart doesn’t think so, apparently, since it’s pounding fit to burst.

When he finally backs away Hizashi is, unsurprisingly, still in Aizawa’s lap. He’s so familiar with Aizawa’s face, every inch and line, but now it’s like looking at him with completely different eyes. Seeing not just his friend, but someone who could be more, and he just never fucking looked for it.

“So…” Hizashi starts unsteadily, still clinging to Aizawa’s shoulders like he’ll float away without an anchor, “is this gonna be a thing?” 

Aizawa looks right back at him, and in his totally underwhelming way that’s also just enough, replies, “I guess so.”

*