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Present Mic’s Awesome Mixtape 2.0

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Aizawa Shōta transfers into the heroics department from gen. ed. halfway through the school year and no one really seems to know what to make of him.

Well, no one except for Yamada Hizashi.

“You were so cool in the sports festival!” Hizashi says, plopping his tray down opposite of Aizawa in the cafeteria and taking a seat.

Aizawa stares at him.

Actually, Hizashi is pretty sure that half their class is staring at him, because in the three days since Aizawa joined class 1-A, no one has dared to sit with Aizawa at lunch. Iida Tensei had tentatively extended an invitation to Aizawa on the first day but had been shot down pretty quickly, with nothing more than a soft snort and a tired glare.

“What?” Aizawa finally says, and Hizashi is pleased to note that his expression is tending more towards bafflement than anger.

“I said you were really cool in the sports festival,” Hizashi repeats, before taking a large bite out of the apple on his tray.

“I erased your quirk and then roundhouse kicked you out of the ring,” Aizawa says flatly.

Hizashi winces. Not exactly his finest moment.

“Which was cool,” Hizashi replies, speaking around a mouthful of apple. Aizawa looks mildly disgusted – but then again, that might just be his default expression. “Not that that’s gonna work on me twice now that I know what your quirk is.”

“It worked on the rest of your classmates,” Aizawa snorts, quirking an eyebrow at Hizashi in challenge.

Alright, so maybe Aizawa stealing the sports festival out from under them might be another reason why the rest of class 1-A is sort of avoiding him. Not that that’s Aizawa’s fault really – he hasn’t been bragging about it or anything. It was sort of humiliating, though.

“They’re your classmates too now,” Hizashi points out.

Aizawa just gives him a blank look in response.

“C’mon, give me something to work with here,” Hizashi whines, his expression dangerously close to a pout. “Talk to me.”

“I don’t like talking,” Aizawa says, before taking a bite of rice.

“Alright, there we go,” Hizashi replies, a grin spreading across his face. “What else don’t you like?”

“People who talk too much,” Aizawa answers, giving Hizashi a very pointed look. Hizashi just lets it roll off of him – it’s hardly the first time someone’s said something along those lines to him. Granted, most people aren’t quite as blunt about it as Aizawa.

“So, what do you like, then?” Hizashi asks, propping up his chin on his hand.

“When people shut up,” Aizawa says through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, that’s not really one of my strong suits,” Hizashi replies, not even missing a beat. Aizawa kind of looks like he’s ready to strangle someone – probably him, Hizashi thinks idly – but Aizawa doesn’t actually make a move to do so. “I’m thinking of going into radio, actually.”

“Then what are you doing in the heroics department?” Aizawa asks, tone a little curious. Hizashi brightens and Aizawa freezes, seeming to realize that he’s just voluntarily expanded the conversation.

“I wanna be both a hero and a radio host!” Hizashi announces. “Saving the world from danger and from boredom!”

“From boredom?” Aizawa repeats, sounding less than impressed.

“You can die from it, I’m pretty sure,” Hizashi replies evenly, “and I’m also pretty sure music is the best cure.”

“I don’t like music,” Aizawa says and Hizashi’s brain just kind of… stops.

“What,” he says flatly.

“I said I don’t like music,” Aizawa repeats, a bored expression on his face.

Hizashi stares at him for a very, very long moment.

“You mean, like, there’s a certain genre you don’t like, right?” Hizashi asks, wondering if this is just a ploy by Aizawa to get him to leave him alone.

“No, I mean I don’t like any of it,” Aizawa answers, wrinkling his nose in distaste. “It’s… noisy.”

For a moment, Hizashi is certain his soul leaves his body in pure horror.

“I need to fix you,” Hizashi blurts out. “There is something horribly, horribly wrong with you and I need to fix it immediately.”

“My hero,” Aizawa says dryly.

“It’s physically impossible to hate all music,” Hizashi replies, his tone booking no argument. “You just haven’t listened to the right stuff yet. I’ll find something you like before the year is up.”

“Good luck,” Aizawa snorts, sounding less than optimistic.

“You know what, let’s make a bet!” Hizashi says, his face lighting up. “If I find some music that you like, you have to sit with everyone at lunch.”

“And if you can’t?” Aizawa asks, quirking an eyebrow at Hizashi.

“Uh,” Hizashi says, frowning slightly. “I’ll leave you alone?”

“Not good enough,” Aizawa replies.

“What do you want, then?” Hizashi asks, a little curious. Aizawa is silent for a moment, his expression contemplative.

“I’ll decide when you lose,” he finally answers.

If I lose,” Hizashi corrects him. Aizawa looks unconvinced.

“So you’re agreeing to my terms?” Aizawa asks, and there’s something dangerous about his tone, but Hizashi’s never been easily intimidated. There’s no going back now, as far as he’s concerned. He’s stubborn that way.

“You can’t lie and tell me you didn’t like the music when you actually did,” Hizashi says firmly. Aizawa looks like he wants to roll his eyes, but apparently manages to resist the urge.

“I won’t cheat,” Aizawa huffs.

“Then we have a deal,” Hizashi announces, a grin spreading across his face.

He’s not about to lose to Aizawa twice.

---

The thing is, Hizashi doesn’t just love music – he practically lives for music.

The one thing he never leaves home without is a pair of headphones: big, clunky things that are bright blue and almost entirely noise cancelling. His parents had given them to him upon his acceptance to UA and Hizashi’s honestly not sure which of those two things he was more excited about.

The only thing he prizes more than those headphones is his CD collection. He had two floor to ceiling bookshelves in his bedroom, both packed to the brim with music of every genre known to man. He doesn’t discriminate between types. Quality music, he’s come to realize, comes in every style, and eliminating an entire genre based on a few songs is a good way to miss hidden gems.

The music is organized in a haphazard sort of system that only the original creator could ever hope to decipher. It’s a mixture of genre, age, and how frequently he listens to it. The only exception to this system is a single bottom shelf which holds flimsy plastic cases, all containing plain silver CDs with titles scrawled haphazardly on them in black sharpie. Hizashi orders his mixtapes solely by date.

When he gets home from school, he makes a beeline for that shelf and spends the next hour digging through his collection. Aizawa had claimed that music was too “noisy” so he needs something more sedate, a little quieter, he thinks.

Unfortunately, his mixtape collection is a bust. There’s nothing that has quite the right vibe, either too loud or too fast or too something. He stands up, stretches, and then turns to survey the rest of his music collection.

It looks like he’ll have to start from scratch.

Acoustic music is what he ends up deciding on. It’s a genre composed of simple beauty, not as forceful and overwhelming as rock and less bone-vibrating than the heavy bass of dubstep. It avoids the complex rhythms of jazz and the peppiness of pop. It’s perfect for a person with an aversion to “noisiness,” in Hizashi’s opinion.

By the time Hizashi finally finishes the mixtape, it’s dark outside and he has about an hour and a half before he really should go to bed. A stack of unfinished homework sits on his desk accusingly.

Hizashi grimaces and resigns himself to a late night.

---

Hizashi is still half asleep when he stumbles into class the next morning, but he feels nothing but triumph as he drops the jewel case down on Aizawa’s desk. Aizawa blinks at it blearily, frowning slightly as he picks it up and turns it over in his hands.

“What’s this?” he asks, tearing his eyes away from the CD case to look at Hizashi.

“Music,” Hizashi answers simply.

“That’s not what I meant,” Aizawa says tersely, frown turning into a scowl.

“It’s a mixtape,” Hizashi explains. “I cobbled together some songs that I’m pretty sure won’t offend your delicate sensibilities.”

Alright, so maybe Aizawa’s sensibilities aren’t exactly delicate , but he does seem to be damn picky. Aizawa narrows his eyes, but doesn’t comment on Hizashi’s word choice.

“I’ll listen to it tonight,” he finally says, tucking the CD case into his schoolbag.

“Prepare to be blown away,” Hizashi replies, a grin spreading over his face.

“I highly doubt that’s going to happen,” Aizawa says dryly.

“Just wait and see,” Hizashi assures him, giving him a wink. The wink seems to throw Aizawa off guard slightly, and Hizashi half thinks he sees a light dusting of pink on Aizawa’s cheeks. It’s probably just his imagination, though – unflappable Aizawa wouldn’t be flustered by something as benign as a wink.

Aizawa looks like he’s about to protest further, but before he can, their teacher strides into the room and Hizashi has to scramble to his seat, two rows in front of Aizawa.

He’s restless for the rest of the day. Somehow he’d thought that his giddiness would dissipate after giving Aizawa the mixtape, but instead it feels renewed as he anticipates Aizawa’s feedback. Of course, it’s useless for him to be keyed up all throughout class – he’s not going to hear Aizawa’s opinion on the music until tomorrow – but he can’t find a way to soothe the excited buzz in his chest.

“So, what was that with Aizawa?” Iida Tensei asks over lunch.

(Strangely enough, Aizawa is absent from the cafeteria. Hizashi can’t help but wonder if he accidentally scared him off after their encounter the other day.)

“Thought I’d try to get to know him a bit,” Hizashi replies, shrugging.

“And?” Iida prompts, looking at Hizashi expectantly.

“And I found out he doesn’t like music,” Hizashi says, unable to entirely keep the horror from his tone. “ Any music. At all . I had to help him.”

“You sure he didn’t just say that to piss you off?” Iida asks, looking surprised.

“Nope,” Hizashi replies, shaking his head. “He was trying to get me to leave him alone and now it’s practically guaranteed that I’ll keep bothering him. Also, we made a bet. If I can find some music that he likes, he has to sit with the rest of the class at lunch.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Iida questions, sounding more than a little skeptical. “I already tried to get him to join us. If you force him to sit with us, he’s probably just going to hate us more.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s just kind of shy and socially awkward,” Hizashi says.

“You still have a bruise on your chest from where he roundhouse kicked you,” Iida points out, his tone flat.

“Right, but that was during the sports festival,” Hizashi protests. “Now he’s one of us, and we’ve got to show him that.”

“I’m pretty sure your pathological need to be liked is going to get you killed someday,” Iida snorts, but doesn’t try to discourage Hizashi from befriending Aizawa anymore. Hizashi just shrugs in response. It’s not like he can really argue with that.

Of course, it’s not until the next morning that Hizashi starts wondering exactly how much trouble his “pathological need to be liked” has gotten him into.

“So?” he demands, planting his hands on Aizawa’s desk and giving him an eager look. “How was it?”

Aizawa’s quiet for a moment, an expression on his fact that Hizashi can’t quite interpret.

“Boring,” Aizawa finally says.

Hizashi stares at Aizawa, the single word criticism reverberating through his skull.

“What do you mean boring?” Hizashi demands once he finally rediscovers his ability to speak.

“You know, bland,” Aizawa answers, wrinkling his nose. “It all started sounding the same after a while. I fell asleep about halfway through.”

It’s all Hizashi can do to not just stand there gaping at Aizawa. Part of him thinks that it would have been kinder for Aizawa to just snap the mixtape in half and throw the broken pieces at him. (Okay, so maybe he’s being a little overdramatic, but those songs were quality. Subtle, maybe, but quality.)

“I thought you said you didn’t like music because it was too noisy,” Hizashi sputters, indignant.

“Well, that’s been my reason for all other music,” Aizawa says simply.

“Fine,” Hizashi replies sharply. “I’ll make you another mixtape.”

“Good luck,” Aizawa snorts.

Well, if he thinks that Hizashi is going to give up that easily then he’s clearly underestimating Hizashi’s love of music, along with his pure stubbornness. He’d never make it as a hero or a radio host if he let one criticism from Aizawa get to him. He’ll just have to up his game with the next mixtape.

Aizawa definitely won’t be able to call the next CD boring.

---

Maybe the problem with the first mixtape was that he rushed it, Hizashi thinks. After all, he did compile it in only a few hours after school. Aizawa never gave it back to him, so he can’t re-listen to it and figure out where he went wrong, but maybe if he just takes his time and chooses the music more carefully, the next one will go over better.

He decides to go with jazz. Originally he’d avoided it, worrying that Aizawa would find it too “noisy” but if his new complaint is that music is too “boring” then jazz should remedy that nicely. Syncopated rhythms and a menagerie of brass instruments – if Aizawa calls this CD boring then Hizashi will eat his headphones.

Of course, because he’s being more careful in his song selections this time, after three days he still only has about half of the mixtape completed. He doesn’t quite think about it every waking moment, but it’s a near thing.

In fact, he’s so distracted that on his walk home from school on Friday afternoon, he almost doesn’t notice Aizawa crouched in the alleyway next to the convenience store two blocks from his house.

“Watch out!”

Hizashi freezes, breaking out of his thoughts and coming back down to earth. Aizawa practically tumbles out of the alleyway, scooping up a small ball of fuzz that Hizashi had almost stepped on.

“Pay attention to where you’re going,” Aizawa snaps, glaring up at Hizashi.

“Is that a cat?” Hizashi blurts out, peering at the ball of dark colored fur cradled in Aizawa’s arms.

“What does it look like? A cockatoo?” Aizawa snorts, stroking the kitten behind its mangy ears. It yawns, displaying a mouthful of tiny, pointed teeth.

“What’s its name?” Hizashi asks, reaching over to scratch the kitten under the chin. Surprisingly, Aizawa lets him, and soon enough Hizashi feels the kitten’s purrs reverberate against his fingers.

“She doesn’t have a name,” Aizawa answers, turning to head back into the alleyway. Hizashi follows him, unable to retain his curiosity.

“She’s not yours?” Hizashi asks, his lips turning down into a slight frown.

“I just feed them sometimes,” Aizawa replies, and Hizashi’s about to question what he means by “them” when Aizawa crouches down next to a cardboard box, tucked half behind a trash can. There are two other kittens inside, both with the same thick, dark fur at the kitten in Aizawa’s arms. They’re all a little on the scrawny side, but they don’t look sick or injured, and the two still in the box perk up as Aizawa comes into view, letting out little mewls.

“You know, it’s supposed to rain this weekend,” Hizashi says as Aizawa places the escaped cat back into the box.

“I can’t bring them to the shelter,” Aizawa replies, his lips turning down into a scowl. “It’s already overcrowded.”

“Well, couldn’t you keep them at home, just for the weekend?” Hizashi asks, crouching down next to Aizawa in front of the box.

“My dad’s allergic,” Aizawa mutters.

“Oh,” Hizashi replies.

They’re both silent for a few moments.

“I could maybe take them home,” Hizashi finally says, breaking the silence. “For a little while, at least.”

“Really?” Aizawa blurts out, eyes going a little wide, his expression hopeful. It’s probably the most emotion Hizashi’s ever seen him display which isn’t annoyance or tiredness.

“Yeah, I mean, no one in my family is allergic, so,” Hizashi says, shrugging. “It probably won’t be permanent, but we can make signs or something and hang them around the school to see if we can find anyone who’s willing to take them in.”

“Thanks,” Aizawa says softly, catching Hizashi off guard.

“Uh, sure,” Hizashi replies, a little flustered. “I mean, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like I’m adopting them all right now or anything.”

Aizawa shrugs, gaze still fixed on the three kittens, but he doesn’t retract his thanks.

“I need to get home soon,” Aizawa says suddenly, standing up.

“I should too,” Hizashi agrees, hefting the box of kittens up into his arms.

“Do you need help carrying them?” Aizawa asks, nodding to the box.

Hizashi hesitates. The box isn’t heavy enough for him to actually need any help carrying it – three underfed kittens don’t exactly weigh much – but hanging around Aizawa with cats as a buffer is kind of… nice. Hizashi can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt at the idea of forcing Aizawa to walk all the way home with him when he really doesn’t have to, though.

“Nah,” Hizashi answers, shaking his head. “I’ll be okay.”

For a moment, he thinks he sees disappointment in Aizawa’s expression, but it’s gone before he can examine it too closely.

“Alright,” Aizawa says, his tone nonchalant. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“Yeah,” Hizashi replies. “See you tomorrow.”

Aizawa reaches into the box and gives each kitten one last stroke behind the ears before walking out of the alleyway and heading in the opposite direction of Hizashi’s house. Hizashi looks down at the kittens and says, “I hope you like canned tuna, because that’s probably the only cat-appropriate food at my house.”

Two of the kittens reply with a chorus of meowing, but one – the one that Aizawa prevented him from stepping on earlier, he thinks – just blinks at him slowly. Mentally, he can’t help but dub it “Aizawa.”

“Alright, let’s get you home,” Hizashi announces and starts walking.

When he does finally get home, it takes him about ten minutes of pleading to get his mom to let them in the house. It then takes another five minutes of puppy-dog eyes to convince her to let them stay for a few days – and maybe even keep one of them.

“One,” she says firmly, still eying the cats skeptically. “And only if you promise to take care of it. If I have to feed it more than once a week, it’s off to the shelter.”

“I promise!” Hizashi assures her, a grin spreading across his face.

“And you better wash them before letting them loose in the house!” his mother calls after him as he makes his way up the stairs to his room.

Washing the cats is something of an adventure. And by an adventure, Hizashi means that by the end of the experience, he’s probably wetter than the kittens were at any point during this bathing experience. He borrowed some cat shampoo from one of the neighbors and wrote down all the advice they’d given him, so he thinks that overall he did alright, but it’s still not something he wants to attempt again anytime soon. There’s a reason cats normally groom themselves.

They’ve taken a liking to his bed, it seems, sprawled out all over the sheets. He’s pretty sure he’s going to be covered in cat hair come tomorrow morning, but they’re cute enough that he thinks it’s worth it. He wishes he had one of those single-use cameras, or maybe a polaroid even, so he could take some pictures of them rolling around on the pillows. Aizawa would like to see that, he thinks.

Of course, watching them play also reminds him that he’s going to need to choose one of them, eventually. There’s one with a white patch over one eye which is pretty adorable, and another that keeps tripping over its overlarge paws, but if he’s being honest with himself, he kind of likes the one sprawled across his pillow. She’s the one he almost tripped over earlier – the one he’d dubbed “Aizawa” – and the way she’s claimed his pillow makes her seem aloof, like she’s above the other cats.

He tries not to think too deeply about why she’s the one he likes best.

Also he should probably think of a better name than “Aizawa” if he’s going to keep her.

In the end he pushes those thoughts to the back of his mind, instead occupying himself by working on his next mixtape. He manages to find two more good songs to add before crashing in bed, surrounded by cats.

---

He wakes up at three in the morning when not-Aizawa-cat decides to walk directly over his face and wonders if adopting a cat is really a good idea.

---

Hizashi finishes the new mixtape on Saturday evening and spends all of Sunday giddy, actually eager for school on Monday so he can give it to Aizawa. At least the cats occupy him somewhat. He manages to dig out an old laser pointer (him mom’s, he thinks) and uses it to entertain both himself and the cats, making them chase it around his bedroom. He even manages to goad not-Aizawa-cat into playing for a little bit.

When Monday morning finally rolls around, he’s half-forgotten that Aizawa isn’t even technically his friend, because of how much he’s thought of him, between the mixtape and the cats.

“Present Mic’s Awesome Mixtape 2.0,” Hizashi announces, tossing the CD down on Aizawa’s desk as soon as he enters the classroom. “Your mind will be blown.”

“It wasn’t last time,” Aizawa snorts, inspecting the CD.

Hizashi doesn’t dignify that with an answer.

“Hey, you wanna come over to my place after school?” Hizashi asks, leaning against Aizawa’s desk. “I need some help making adoption posters for the cats.”

“I can’t tonight,” Aizawa answers, and Hizashi can’t quite help the way his face falls. “But maybe tomorrow.”

“Sure, that works,” Hizashi replies. “Then you can tell me how much you loved the music while we’re making the posters.”

Aizawa gives him a flat look and Hizashi just grins in response.

Unfortunately, they don’t get to interact much for the rest of the day. The seating chart is such that they’re not close enough to each other to really talk, and passing notes in a class taught by a pro-hero is never a very good idea (not that Hizashi hasn’t tried before). He tries to catch Aizawa at lunch, but he’s not in the cafeteria or the classroom. Iida gives him a knowing look when he comes back from his search, but Hizashi just shakes his head and Iida drops the subject.

They don’t get paired up at all in the hero vs. villain training simulations they do after lunch either, although during the debrief afterwards, Hizashi can almost swear that he feels someone watching him. When he glances over at Aizawa, though, he’s leaning against the back wall with his eyes shut, looking half asleep.

That evening at home, everything he does seems so mundane. There’s no mixtape he needs to make and the kittens seem content to nap wherever they deem suitable. Homework drags on, and it feels like it takes him forever, when in actuality it only takes a couple of hours. When he finishes up, he lies in bed, music blasting through the room, and wonders if maybe he should start making another mixtape for Aizawa, just in case the one he has now is a bust.

That would be admitting defeat, though.

He saunters over to Aizawa’s desk the next morning, trying to infuse as much confidence in his pose as possible. There is a small possibility that Aizawa will reject this mixtape too, but Hizashi’s going for the “fake it ‘till you make it” method at the moment.

“So?” Hizashi asks, sticking his hands in his pockets and leaning back against the desk in front of Aizawa’s.

“It was – ” Aizawa pauses for a moment. “ – better than the last one. But still not good.”

“Oh, come on!” Hizashi whines, losing all of the composure he’d forced into his posture. “What are you, a robot?”

Aizawa glares at him.

“I spent, like, a week making that mixtape!” Hizashi laments. “It was perfect!”

“I don’t like jazz,” Aizawa says, wrinkling his nose. “It’s too… disorganized.”

“Disorganized,” Hizashi repeats flatly. “You don’t like acoustic music because it’s ‘boring’ and you don’t like jazz because it’s ‘disorganized’.”

Aizawa quirks an eyebrow at Hizashi, daring him to comment further.

“Fine,” Hizashi huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “But you haven’t won yet.”

“Yet,” Aizawa replies, a small smirk on his lips.

“Seriously, I will find something you like if it kills me,” Hizashi says. Aizawa looks unconvinced.

Hizashi is agitated all throughout the day, trying to figure out what genre to pick for the next mixtape. Maybe he’s going in the entirely wrong direction with this. Just because Aizawa seems like the sort of person who’d only listen to pretentious music doesn’t mean he is. In fact, now that he thinks about it, with his gloomy expression and dark, messy hair Aizawa almost looks like he could be into emo or punk or something. Hizashi imagines Aizawa wearing studded bracelets and eyeliner and has to hold back a snort of laughter.

Maybe when Aizawa comes over later he’ll just have to put on a radio station with top 40 hits and see what happens.

The rest of the day passes fairly quickly, and soon enough Hizashi is waiting for Aizawa, bouncing on the balls of his feet, impatient as Aizawa collects his things. A couple of their classmates give him odd looks, but he ignores them. He knows that Iida thinks he’s putting too much effort into befriending Aizawa – particularly when Aizawa doesn’t seem to want it – but he’s never been good at knowing when to quit.

Also, he’s not about to lose their bet.

“My dad says I have to be home by seven,” Aizawa says as they make their way out of the building.

“Alright,” Hizashi replies, leading Aizawa down the sidewalk in the direction of his house. “That should be enough time to make the posters and play with the cats for a bit.”

Part of him expects Aizawa to deny the bit about playing with the cats, but he doesn’t, just lets out a small hum of agreement. The rest of the walk consists mostly of Hizashi chattering on about whatever subject comes to mind. Apparently Aizawa’s learned that it’s a futile effort to try to get him to be quiet for more than half a minute, and doesn’t interrupt or get annoyed.

“Mom, I’m home!” Hizashi announces as he pushes the door open, toeing his shoes off. Aizawa hovers slightly behind him, seeming almost wary of entering the house.

However, any and all reticence seems to vanish the moment one of the cats – the one with a white patch over his left eye – comes bounding into the entryway, tiny claws scrabbling for purchase against the hardwood floor. Aizawa bends over to scoop the kitten up almost on instinct. The kitten squirms in his arms for a moment, bumping his head against the underside of Aizawa’s chin, but then he settles down, curling up against Aizawa’s chest.

Hizashi tries not to feel too disappointed that none of the cats are that enthusiastic about him coming home. Then again, they haven’t seen Aizawa in a good three days by now.

(Also, he thinks he might have to name that specific cat “Dog” because no cat should be that enthusiastic about anything. Aren’t they supposed to be all aloof?)

“Welcome home,” Hizashi’s mother says, poking her head through the doorway of her home office to greet them. “Who’s your friend, Hizashi?”

“Aizawa Shōta,” Hizashi answers, stepping aside to let Aizawa further into the hallway. “We’re in 1-A together.”

“Hello,” Aizawa mutters, giving Hizashi’s mom an awkward little nod. He’s still clutching the kitten to his chest.

“Oh, you must be the one who convinced my son to bring a box of stray cats into our house,” Hizashi’s mom says, and Hizashi can tell that she’s just trying to tease Aizawa, but Aizawa goes stiff, his eyes widening a little, like he’s expecting to be kicked out of the house any moment now.

“She’s just pulling your leg,” Hizashi snorts, giving Aizawa a reassuring look. Unfortunately, Aizawa doesn’t look entirely convinced. “She’s okay with it.”

“I am okay with keeping one,” his mother clarifies. “You have to find homes for the other two, though.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Hizashi replies, rolling his eyes. “We’re going to make posters to hang up around the school now.”

“You do that,” Hizashi’s mother says.

“C’mon, let’s go up to my room,” Hizashi says to Aizawa, heading over to the staircase and making his way upstairs. Aizawa follows.

When Hizashi swings his bedroom door open, he belatedly realizes that he probably should have done some tidying up beforehand. Not that he’s trying to impress Aizawa or anything, but there’s a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans lying on the floor, and his bed is in disarray, considering he’d neglected to make it before he left for school.

Not that not-Aizawa-cat seems to have any problem with that, curled up comfortably on his pillow.

“Alright,” Hizashi announces, going over to his desk and digging markers and colored paper out of one of the drawers. “I have some stuff here for the signs. I can write down the home phone number for you so – ”

“You’re keeping one of them?” Aizawa asks suddenly, cutting Hizashi off mid-sentence.

“Uh, yeah,” Hizashi replies, caught off guard. “I’m not sure which one yet. I haven’t named them either. Wanna help?”

“I’m not good with names,” Aizawa mutters.

“It’s not that hard. Like that one – ” Hizashi says, indicating the cat still clutched in Aizawa’s arms. “ – could be Spot.”

“That’s a terrible name,” Aizawa replies, his tone flat. “Also it sounds like something you’d name a dog, not a cat.”

“But that’s why it’s great!” Hizashi insists, earning him a mildly befuddled look from Aizawa. “He acts more like a dog than a cat, so we should give him a dog name.”

“That’s stupid,” Aizawa replies. Hizashi tries not to take it personally.

“You name him, then,” Hizashi says, and Aizawa makes a sour face at the corner he’s backed himself into.

“Fine,” Aizawa replies, looking down at the kitten and studying him carefully. “Jelly.”

Hizashi stares at him for a moment. Briefly, he wonders if he should get his hearing checked, because he could have sworn that Aizawa Shōta just suggested naming a cat Jelly.

“He gets kind of floppy when you try to hold him,” Aizawa says, by way of explanation, and Hizashi realizes that, no, he does not need to schedule an ear exam.

“I guess that’s – accurate,” Hizashi finally manages.

“What about this one?” Aizawa asks, plopping himself down on the floor and sitting cross-legged, letting one of the other kittens crawl into his lap. She’s the one who can’t quite seem to figure out how to walk in a straight line with her overlarge paws, and Hizashi finds himself blurting out, “Bigfoot.”

Aizawa gives him an incredulous look, as if Bigfoot is any more bizarre than Jelly.

“You named the last one. It’s my turn,” Hizashi says, in anticipation of Aizawa’s protests.

“We have one more,” Aizawa points out, and Hizashi doesn’t miss the implication that they might have to actually agree on a name for this one.

Not-Aizawa-cat is still curled up on Hizashi’s pillow, dozing lightly. Actually, the more Hizashi thinks about it, the more this kitten reminds him of Aizawa: aloof, antisocial, dark haired and sleepy-looking. Really, if Aizawa wasn’t right here, he’d be tempted to name the cat after him and just be done with it.

“How about Pepper?” Hizashi asks. “She kind of looks like a Pepper.”

Aizawa makes a small noise of agreement – or at least Hizashi thinks it’s agreement, because he doesn’t make any obvious protests or suggest any other names.

“Pepper it is,” Hizashi announces. “Jelly, Bigfoot, and Pepper.”

“We should start making posters,” Aizawa says, dragging his backpack over to his side and digging around in it for something. A moment later, he comes up with a slightly battered looking polaroid camera. Hizashi watches for a moment as he fiddles with it, before holding it up and taking a picture of the two kittens curled up in his lap. It only takes the photo a few moments to develop. The lighting isn’t spectacular, but you can see the two cats in it clearly enough.

As Aizawa looks at the photo, his lips turn up into a small, soft smile, and Hizashi –

Hizashi can’t look away.

It’s not that he thought Aizawa was ugly or anything, but something about seeing him smile is like brushing all the dust off of an old piece of jewelry. Simply put, Aizawa is kind of really attractive.

Well, fuck.

“I’m going to put on some music,” Hizashi blurts out, scrambling for his radio.

He fiddles with it for longer than he actually needs to, eventually setting it to an English 40’s station. He’s always found music calming, and right now he could definitely use some calming down. The familiar notes of Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” filter through the room and Hizashi takes a deep breath.

It’s not like he hasn’t been attracted to guys before. He’s tentatively labelled himself bisexual, and he’s mostly comfortable with it by now. Honestly, he has more of an issue with the fact that he apparently finds self-proclaimed music hater and semi-professional stormcloud Aizawa Shōta attractive.

This, he thinks, is a problem.

---

Hizashi manages to survive the rest of the evening without spontaneously combusting or somehow completely embarrassing himself in front of Aizawa. He’s suddenly all too aware of how soft Aizawa’s hair actually looks from up close, and how easily his cheeks flush pink when he’s flustered. There’s nothing else about his expression that betrays his embarrassment – just a soft bit of color against his otherwise pale skin. Hizashi has to consciously remind himself not to stare.

That night, not-Aizawa-cat – now Pepper, he reminds himself – sprawls lazily across his chest as he stares at the ceiling, trying to sort out the mess of emotions plaguing him. In retrospect, it should have been obvious that he was at least a little subconsciously attracted to Aizawa. As much as he has an issue with needing to be liked and make friends, he’s definitely put more effort than usual into trying to get Aizawa to like him.

Why he’s somehow attracted to Aizawa, though, he’s still trying to figure out.

Alright, maybe he’s lying to himself about that, a little. Aizawa’s got the whole mysterious new kid thing going on, and he’s kind of mesmerizing to watch when he fights. With how tired he always looks, you’d think that he’d be tripping over his own feet during training, but instead he just becomes impossibly graceful, not a single movement wasted.

Hizashi groans, rubbing a hand over his face. Thinking about why he’s attracted to Aizawa isn’t helping the situation at all. Of course, he’s never been good at figuring out how to stop crushing on someone (and yes, he realizes, he does have a crush on Aizawa). Maybe if he just ignores it for long enough it’ll go away.

Pepper climbs off his chest and directly over his face, one paw leaving a large smudge on the left lense of his Aviators, and then jumps down onto the bed.

Somehow, Hizashi gets the sinking feeling that his crush on Aizawa is going to be about as easy to ignore as the kittens climbing all over his room.

---

Hizashi is kind of nervous about going to school the next day and seeing Aizawa again. They’d agreed to meet up early to put up the posters, though. Hizashi listens to music the entire walk over, trying to distract himself from the situation at hand, but it doesn’t help much, just reminding him that he still has to make another mixtape for Aizawa.

Aizawa hadn’t explicitly complained about any of the top 40 hits he’d played the night before while they were making posters, so maybe he should go for pop this time. Maybe a bit of rock, too.

Of course, all the songs that immediately pop into his mind are love songs. Plenty of pop songs are love songs – in fact, plenty of songs in general are love songs – but he finds his cheeks flushing as he wonders if Aizawa would read too much into it if he were to put too many love songs on a mixtape.

He lets out a frustrated noise and runs a hand through his hair, making it stick up even more than it already is. Normally he tries to avoid touching his hair after he’s perfected it in the morning, but today he’s too distracted to really care.

By the time he gets to UA, Aizawa’s already there, leaning against the side of the building next to the front doors. For a moment, Hizashi thinks he’s sleeping standing up, but as he gets closer, Aizawa cracks an eye open, gaze landing on him.

“Morning, Aizawa!” Hizashi says, plastering a smile on his face and trying to act like he didn’t spend half the night having a crisis over being attracted to Aizawa.

Aizawa’s quiet for a moment, looking at Hizashi with an expression he can’t quite interpret. Then he says, “Shōta.”

“What?” Hizashi asks, blinking at him in confusion.

“You can call me Shōta,” Aizawa mutters, pushing himself away from the wall and turning to enter the school. Hizashi stares after him for a moment, dumbstruck, and then has to scramble to catch up with him.

“Really?” Hizashi blurts out when he finally catches up with Aizawa. “You’re sure?”

“Do you want me to take it back?” Aizawa grumbles, but there’s the slightest flush on his cheeks.

“No! Nope, you do not need to take it back,” Hizashi says quickly. He pauses briefly before tacking on, “Shōta.”

Aizawa’s cheeks flush ever so slightly darker, and Hizashi finds himself unable to look away.

“And you should call me Hizashi,” he continues, even though he knows that hearing Ai – Shōta call him by his given name is probably only going to make his crush that much worse. “You know, if I’m going to call you Shōta.”

“Fine,” Shōta replies, trying to sound gruff, but Hizashi thinks his tone is almost… pleased.

They go around the school, strategically placing the posters, and Hizashi kind of feels like he’s walking on air the entire time. Really, he should be worrying about how this crush on Shōta has hit him less subtly than a sledgehammer to the face, but instead he just finds himself bubbling over with happiness.

His one blessing is that he sits in front of Shōta in class instead of behind him and can’t spend the entire time staring at him, unable to focus on the actual subject at hand. A few times in class, though, he can almost swear that he feels someone’s eyes on him, but whenever he tries to subtly glance over his shoulder, he doesn’t meet anyone’s eyes. He must just be too hyped up today.

When hero training rolls around that afternoon, Hizashi starts to wonder if the universe is somehow conspiring against him.

“I’m coming at you with all I’ve got this time!” Hizashi announces as he stands across from Shōta in the ring, ready to spar. It’s just chance that they got paired together today of all days, and Hizashi braces himself for the fight, sinking his feet into the sand inside the ring and trying to gain a better footing. He’s not sure if the sand is there to cushion them when someone invariably gets slammed against the ground or if it’s to make them accustomed to fighting in different terrain.

An idea occurs to Hizashi.

“Good luck,” Shōta snorts, but there’s a certain smug amusement to his tone, instead of just the usual derision.

“Ready?” their instructor asks, and they both nod. “Begin.”

Hizashi opens his mouth as if he’s about to yell. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see his classmates all grimace and cover their ears. Shōta, meanwhile, activates his quirk, eyes flashing red.

In that moment, Hizashi strikes.

It’s kind of a dirty move, he supposes, but he swings his leg forward, kicking sand directly in Shōta’s eyes. He hears Shōta sputter, surprised, and watches as Shōta squeezes his eyes shut, trying to avoid the sand. Hizashi takes the opportunity to reactivate his quirk, yelling loudly enough that Shōta loses his balance a little from the force. Then, Hizashi darts forward and knocks Shōta neatly to the ground, pinning him firmly.

“I win,” Hizashi chirps as Shōta blinks up at him, looking a little dazed. “Your quirk loses effect when you blink or shut your eyes, doesn’t it? You should wear glasses or something so people can’t exploit that.”

Shōta stares at him, clearly caught off guard, before his face flushes and he growls, “Get off me.”

Hizashi is abruptly reminded of the position they’re in – him straddling Shōta, Shōta’s body warm and solid underneath him. It’s his turn to blush now, and he scrambles off Shōta as quickly as if he’s been burned.

They stand next to each other awkwardly on the sidelines as the next sparring match starts, and Hizashi tries not to let his brain get stuck on the brief memory of Shōta’s body against his. It’s definitely not something he should be thinking about during class, and he curses himself for letting his teenage hormones get the better of him.

“That was – good,” Shōta says abruptly, startling Hizashi.

“What?” he asks, blinking at Shōta.

“Your strategy was smart,” Shōta clarifies, and Hizashi’s brain tries to process the fact that apparently Aizawa Shōta, of all people, is praising his fighting ability. “And your idea about the glasses is – I should do that.”

“Uh,” Hizashi replies. “Thanks.”

Shōta nods stiffly. Clearly he’s not in the habit of complimenting people. Hizashi tries not to feel overly special and mostly fails.

Damn, this is not helping his crush.

---

The next mixtape seems to take even longer to make than the previous one. This is probably because Hizashi finds himself second-guessing practically every song he adds, paranoid that the end product will practically scream, “HEY, I HAVE A HUGE CRUSH ON YOU!”

Because, well, it has become kind of huge. Hizashi’s never been good at doing things halfway, and that apparently extends to crushing on someone. Lately, it feels like he’s spent every waking moment thinking about Shōta: about how cute he looks when he’s sleepy, about how dorky his secret obsession with cats is, about how good it sounds when he says Hizashi’s name.

Shōta, Shōta, Shōta.

He sounds like a broken record.

Part of him wishes he had someone to whine about it to, but he’s not out to anyone at school, and while he’s pretty sure no one would give him shit about it, he’s not really ready to test the waters quite yet. Iida, he thinks, would be a good person to talk to, but Iida would also probably tell him that this is what he gets for trying to force Shōta to be his friend.

Really, this whole mess is his own fault.

He supposes he could talk to his mom about it. She’s still good friends with one of her ex-girlfriends, so Hizashi knows that she’d have no problem with him maybe, sort of liking boys and having a crush on one. But he’s still not sure he wants to talk to his mom about having a stupid teenage crush.

Mainly, he monologues to the kittens about it. They’re good enough listeners, except for when they walk across his face while he’s in the middle of trying to complete a coherent thought.

When he finally finishes the next mixtape, he hesitates before giving it to Shōta. He carries it around in his schoolbag for almost the entire day, anxious thoughts running through his head. In the end he does manage to pluck up the courage to give it to Shōta, trying to act as nonchalant as possible about it.

“Mixtape number three,” Hizashi announces, handing the CD to Shōta at the end of class as he packing up his things. “Third time’s the charm, right?”

“It’s been a while. I was starting to think you’d given up,” Shōta says, accepting the mixtape from Hizashi and inspecting it.

“Most people say I don’t know when to quit,” Hizashi replies, a wide grin stretching across his lips. “I’m going to keep on forcing you to listen to music until you find something you like. I know it’s gotta be out there somewhere.”

“You only have until the end of the year,” Shōta points out.

“I only have until then for our bet ,” Hizashi clarifies.

“I suppose,” Shōta replies, giving Hizashi a look he can’t quite interpret. “But if I win, I could always just make you stop giving me music, as my condition for winning.”

“I – ” Hizashi starts, and then frowns. “I guess you could. But think of all the other great things you could make me do for you instead!”

It takes a moment for Hizashi’s brain to catch up with his mouth and his face immediately flushes as it occurs to him how his words could be misconstrued.

“Uh,” Hizashi says. “Actually – ”

“I’ll try not to make you do anything too horrible when I win,” Shōta says, looking decidedly amused. There’s even a hint of a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips.

If you win,” Hizashi corrects, his face still hot.

“Your time’s running out,” Shōta points out, and Hizashi tries not to think about how eventually he won’t have an excuse to hang out with Shōta when that time comes. Then again, there’s still the cats. Maybe he can tempt Shōta with visitation rights or something.

“Oh, hey, by the way, Kawasaki-sempai from 2-B talked to me about adopting one of the cats today,” Hizashi says. “I think he’s leaning towards Bigfoot.”

“That’s good,” Shōta replies, although he looks slightly disappointed by the prospect of having one less kitten to visit, or at least get updates on through Hizashi.

“Yeah. I think my mom’s starting to get annoyed by having the cats around all the time when she’s at home,” Hizashi says, leaning back against the desk behind him. Idly, he realizes that the rest of the class has cleared out by now, leaving just the two of them. “My mom works from home – she’s a freelance writer – so she has to deal with them all day.”

“Do you know which one you’re keeping?” Shōta asks, and he’s trying to sound bored but Hizashi can tell that it’s just an act.

“Pepper,” Hizashi blurts out.

“Oh,” Shōta says, and he seems a little surprised.

Hizashi knows he’s loud, knows he’s an extrovert and pretty popular. Shōta’s probably thinking that it would make more sense for him to choose Jelly or Bigfoot, the two more energetic kittens, instead of surly, aloof Pepper.

But, well, apparently Hizashi’s been into surly and aloof lately.

“You know, if you wanna come over this weekend, you can,” Hizashi says, before quickly tacking on, “to see the cats.”

Shōta blinks at him slowly.

“I’ll ask my dad,” he finally replies.

Hizashi can’t help but pleased that his answer isn’t just an outright, “No.”

---

Shōta ends up coming over on Saturday. He’s endearingly awkward around Hizashi’s mother like last time, and just as stiff when introducing himself to Hizashi’s father. Eventually Hizashi takes pity on him and drags him upstairs just before the Yamada Family Inquisition starts in earnest.

Hizashi’s kind of proud of himself for actually remembering to tidy up his room a little, this time. Of course, the main reason he remembered was because he’d spent a solid hour the night before freaking out over the thought of having his crush in his bedroom. Never mind the fact that Shōta’s already seen it once and didn’t seem to really care about the mess. It’s the principle of the matter.

Honestly, he probably shouldn’t have worried about the state of his room at all, because Shōta ignores it all in favor of the kittens. There are only two this time – Kawasaki adopted Bigfoot a couple days prior. Jelly pads over to Shōta and rubs against his legs, though, and Pepper even deigns to look over at him.

Maybe Hizashi should feel ignored or neglected, but he’s mostly content to just watch as Shōta sprawls out on the floor and lets the kittens climb on him.

After a moment, Hizashi manages to tear his eyes away, turning to fiddle with the radio instead. Soon enough music is resounding through the room, and Hizashi finds himself humming along idly. He glances over at Shōta, half expecting him to protest the noise, but he doesn’t. Maybe he’s just too occupied by the cats.

“Hey, so did you listen to the mixtape I made you?” Hizashi asks, sitting down on the floor next to Shōta and coaxing Pepper closer to him. Pepper gives him a look that can only be described as skeptical, but then climbs into his lap and curls up against his stomach.

Shōta is quiet for a moment, not answering the question.

“It wasn’t my thing,” Shōta finally says, not meeting Hizashi’s eyes.

“Damn,” Hizashi sighs. “I guess this is progress, though. You had more concrete criticisms before.”

Shōta grunts in response, but doesn’t otherwise comment, instead focusing on pampering Jelly who’s purring like a lawnmower. Shōta’s definitely going to be covered in cat hair by the time he leaves.

The thing is, Hizashi’s not good with silence. Never has been, probably never will be. And sure, the room’s not entirely quiet with the music he has playing in the background, but Hizashi still finds himself itching to fill the space with his voice.

He starts singing along with the music under his breath.

The song’s in English, by an American band, but he has the lyrics almost entirely memorized after hearing it so many times over the summer. He bops his head along to the music and doesn’t even realize that his singing has gotten steadily louder until he looks away from Pepper to find Shōta staring at him.

“Uh,” he says, blinking at Shōta owlishly. “Sorry, sometimes I just – ”

“You don’t have to stop,” Shōta mumbles, eyes darting back down to fix on Jelly, curled up in his lap.

“Okay,” Hizashi says. “I’ll just, um – ”

He doesn’t really sing for anyone except himself, but somehow Shōta doesn’t really feel like an audience. Maybe it’s because Shōta has already made it clear that he doesn’t like music, and therefore it doesn’t feel like there are any expectations tied up in this. He’s not expecting Hizashi to be a good singer, so there’s no pressure.

So Hizashi sings.

He belts out lyrics in accented English, humming along with the instrumental parts and air-guitaring hard enough that Pepper lets out an upset meow as his body vibrates with captive energy. He sings song after song until his throat is scratchy both from overuse and the effort of suppressing his quirk. He might have kept on singing indefinitely, but then Shōta interrupts him, cutting him off mid-verse.

“I have to go now,” Shōta says abruptly, and when Hizashi looks over at the clock, he realizes that it’s the first time Shōta’s spoken in almost three hours.

“Shit, sorry,” Hizashi replies, wincing. “I didn’t think I’d been singing for – ”

“It’s fine,” Shōta interrupts, and somehow it doesn’t sound like a polite lie. Then again, Shōta doesn’t seem to be in the habit of telling polite lies, at least not to Hizashi.

“I’ll, uh, walk you to the door,” Hizashi says, trying not to wince at his own awkwardness. Shōta arches an eyebrow at him, as if to question why Hizashi would need to walk him to the door, but he doesn’t verbally protest.

However, when they get to the front door, instead of just saying a guff goodbye and leaving, Shōta pauses in the doorway for a moment.

Then, he says, “You win.”

“What?” Hizashi asks, confused.

“You win,” Shōa replies, not quite meeting Hizashi’s eyes. “You found me some music that I like.”

Hizashi stares at him, dumbfounded, but before he can demand a proper explanation, Shōta’s already out the door.

---

Hizashi spends all of Sunday trying to figure out what Shōta meant by, “You win.”

Technically he knows what Shōta meant. Somehow, during those three hours, Shōta heard at least one song that he liked. The thing is, Hizashi doesn’t know which one and it’s driving him crazy. He spends all day trying to remember all the songs that the radio had played during that window of time, compiling them all in a messily scrawled list. He can only remember about two thirds of them and it frustrates him to no end.

Eventually he gives up on trying to scrounge up the last few songs and just compiles a hasty mixtape of the ones he can remember. Hopefully one of them is the one that Shōta had liked.

However, when he deposits it on Shōta’s desk the next morning, all he receives in return is a confused look. Shōta picks up the CD, frowning at it, before giving Hizashi a look that demands an explanation.

“I tried my best,” Hizashi replies. “I couldn’t remember all of the songs we listened to, but I got a lot of them. Hopefully the one you liked is on there.”

Shōta gives him a long, blank look.

Then he says, “It’s not on there.”

“What do you mean it’s not on there?” Hizashi asks, frowning. “You haven’t even listened to it!”

“I know it’s not on there,” Shōta sighs, making Hizashi increasingly confused.

“How – ” Hizashi starts, but Shōta cuts him off with a frustrated noise, running a hand through his messy hair.

“Just – figure it out,” Shōta grumbles, his cheeks flushing slightly pink. “It’s not that difficult.”

But apparently for Hizashi it is that difficult. He spends all of Modern Literature class wracking his brain for explanations, but comes up with a fat lot of nothing. Modern Lit. changes to English and Hizashi kind of wishes that he sat somewhere behind Shōta so that he could search him for some clue. How could Shōta possibly know that the song wasn’t on that mixtape? It’s not like they listened to anything –

Oh. Oh .

But no, wait – he couldn’t actually…? There’s no way Shōta actually liked his singing. He’s pretty sure he’s not entirely horrible, but he’s nowhere near professional. How the hell could Shōta like his voice when he’s rejected all the other music?

It’s the only explanation that Hizashi can think of, though, as unbelievable as it sounds.

Hizashi manages to track Shōta down during lunch. He feels a little bit bad about blowing off Iida and some of his other classmates when they ask him to come to the cafeteria with them, but he can’t stand waiting until the end of the day to finally talk to Shōta.

As soon as people start filing out of the classroom, Hizashi makes a beeline for Shōta’s desk. Shōta looks a little wary, glancing around like he’s trying to find an escape route, but Hizashi blocks him in, standing firm.

“There’s only one explanation I could come up with,” Hizashi announces, once everyone else has filed out of the room, leaving only him and Shōta. “But it’s kind of weird, so don’t laugh at me if I’m wrong.”

Shōta gives him a look which seems to translate roughly to, “Go on.” There’s a certain stiffness to his posture though, a certain nervousness, which makes Hizashi think that maybe, possibly he’s on the right track.

“Was it my singing?” Hizashi blurts out. “Because I can’t think of anything else I made you listen to. Wait, unless you lied about not liking one of the earlier mixtapes? Shit, that makes a lot more sense than – ”

“No,” Shōta huffs, looking distinctly embarrassed and avoiding Hizashi’s eyes. “It was your singing.”

Hizashi stares at him for a moment. He hadn’t actually expected that theory to be correct.

“Really?” he blurts out. The flush on Shōta’s cheeks gets darker, but he nods. “Wow, that’s, um – wow.”

“It’s not that surprising,” Shōta mutters, and Hizashi can’t help but laugh.

“I’ve never actually sung for anyone before,” he says, and that seems to surprise Shōta, making him frown. “I mean, other than, like, my parents when we’re in the car together or something. Well, and the cats.”

“Oh,” Shōta says, his tone awkward. He blinks at Hizashi, looking distinctly surprised, like he’d been expecting Hizashi to have sung for everyone he ever met.

“Yeah, it’s something I only do when I feel really comfortable around someone, you know?” Hizashi replies, before his brain catches up with his mouth and he wonders how exactly Shōta will interpret that statement.

Apparently he doesn’t know how to interpret it, because instead he changes the subject and says, “So do you want me to eat lunch with everyone today or should I start tomorrow?”

“What?” Hizashi asks, blinking at Shōta owlishly.

“Our bet,” Shōta clarifies, frowning at Hizashi. “I have to eat lunch with you from now on.”

“Oh. Um,” Hizashi replies. It’s not that he’d exactly forgotten about the bet, but with how Shōta kept rejecting mixtapes, he hadn’t expected it to conclude so soon. The reality of actually winning the bet hasn’t quite sunk in yet. “Well, we're already missing lunch right now.”

“So tomorrow, then,” Shōta sighs, sounding resigned to his fate.

An idea occurs to Hizashi. The knowledge that for some inexplicable reason Shōta likes his singing makes him bold.

“Well, you technically told me I’d won on Saturday, so you should have eaten lunch with everyone today,” Hizashi says quickly, making Shōta’s face twist up in a sour expression. “So to make it up to me, you could get ice cream with me after school or something.” He hastily tacks on, “If you want!”

Shōta blinks at him for a long moment, clearly surprised. Hizashi suppresses a grimace and braces for rejection, but finally Shōta asks, “As friends?”

“Uh,” Hizashi says awkwardly. “I mean, if that’s what you want.”

“And if that’s not what I want?” Shōta asks, studying Hizashi carefully. Hizashi stares at him, wondering where this conversation is going.

“Well, what do you want, then?” Hizashi blurts out, heartbeat tripping into overtime. He tries not to get his hopes up too much and mostly fails.

Shōta bites his already chapped lower lip.

“A date,” Shōta finally mumbles, so quiet that Hizashi almost doesn’t hear him.

“Really?” Hizashi demands, his voice so loud that even he winces at little at it. Shōta shoots him a halfhearted glare. “I mean, yes! Absolutely! A date sounds great!”

Shōta’s lips quirk up into a tiny smile and Hizashi wonders if it’s physically possible for this day to get any better.

---

The following Monday, Hizashi gives Shōta another mixtape and says, “This time I know you'll like it."

Shōta does.

(In fact, he likes it so much that even fifteen years later, it's still the only CD he owns.)