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The front door to the apartment closes with a solid clunk behind him, and thus the process begins.

First, he takes off his boots. They’re a new pair that he’s still breaking in. If he had known that he’d get caught up in a massive downtown brawl after leaving Yuuei that evening, he would have worn an older, slightly less presentable (but much more comfortable) pair, but instead he’s left to suffer the consequences of the daily unforeseen risks of being a pro hero.

He hisses as his raw heels scrape up against every drawn-out inch of the back of his boots. Free at last after an 18-hour day of teaching and grading and fighting and police procedurals, his feet now throb with enhanced intensity in all the places his boots don’t quite give right. He’d love to take off his socks as well, but the way they cling to the darker (and most painful) places on his feet tells him that they’ve become temporary bandages for his fashion-imposed wounds. Until he can address the mess properly, he decides to ignore the desperate pleas of his feet as he heads straight to the bedroom. There are no pleasantries to be exchanged in an empty apartment at 1:30 in the morning, so it’s a quiet trip.

Next, he tackles his support gear. While today’s boots were new, his directional speaker is old, and most of the padding meant to protect his collarbone and shoulders from the unrelenting weight of an entire speaker system strapped to his neck has been worn down to the point that the whole unit needs to get fixed up or completely replaced soon.

He unlatches the directional speaker, wincing as some of the exposed edges scrape at his skin, and holds the massive unit in his arms with a sigh. The problem is, he doesn’t know when he’ll have the time to get it fixed. The student’s midterms are next week, the radio station is holding a big charity event the week after that, and the week after that he has the deadline for the renewal of his hero license. And that’s just the big stuff in his color-coded calendar. He also has an unrelenting scattering of smaller meetings planned with his students, his department staff, his station staff, and his hero agency. And on top of all of that, he really, really, really wants to set up the perfect date night in the coming weeks to help relax his husband, Shouta. It’s been impossible for him not to notice the way Shouta’s head snaps when the wind simply blows in a new direction, and it breaks his heart every time. If he can just get Shouta to take it easy for a night, he knows he’ll be able to relax his husband’s tense muscles and smooth out some of those sharper reflexes.

He stares down at the weight cradled in his arms. As long as no one can see how worn the padding has gotten, he thinks, he can deal with how the sharp corners of his speaker system have begun to dig into his collarbone for a few more weeks at the very least.

He opens his closet doors and rests the worn gear on the top of a small shelving unit inside. He then slips off his headphones and tugs off his gloves, and while they both have very specific set places in his closet, for the moment he simply sets them down next to his directional speaker.

Next, his main outfit. This is the part he has both been dreading and longing for the most since walking out that morning into a sea of thick, warm air that never cleared as the day dragged on. His leather jacket and pants are always a unique form of torture in the summer, but the humid days are particularly awful. On days like this, he almost considers changing his aesthetic (almost).

Peeling both the garments off takes both time and persistence, the sweat of summer making the leather stick like a second skin. Inch by inch the leather releases its hold on him, but not without twisting his arms and legs in painful angles along the way. His twisting opens wounds from the earlier brawl that had just begun to scab over, and the fresh blood makes the already difficult task even more laborious, but, after an imagined eternity, he succeeds in removing the hot leather. While he hangs the jacket up with its less-torn siblings in the closet, the pants get chucked into his special-wash basket.

The bathroom invites him to discard the rest of his clothing -his undershirts and underwear, his socks and sunglasses. All of it comes off easily -except for the socks. Removing those is a bloody, painful procedure that mutes the pain of all the other fresh cuts and bruises, and in the end there is no reward for his efforts. His feet still hurt and they’re still a mess, and he still can’t deal with them properly yet, not before he completes the final big task of the night: his hair.

His hair is really a process in and of itself. It needs brushing and soaking and shampooing and conditioning and drying and blow drying. All in all, getting his hair out of its gravity-defying state takes him a solid hour. While in the shower there are times he feels himself falling asleep when his wounds face away from the cold water, but the feeling of slipping always jolts him back awake just in time.

With his hair down and his body clean, he goes to the sink scrub at his face and remove any eyeliner still clinging to his eyes. He still has some minor first aid to do, though he wishes more than anything that he could just go to bed. Sighing, he reaches for his horn-rimmed glasses sitting on the sink, and glances up into the mirror once he’s put them on.

The view reflected back at him stutters him to a stop.

He stares.

In the silence of the night, Present Mic has been retired to the closet, leaving Hizashi Yamada bare. Despite losing the stereo system from his neck and the sweat from his skin, he feels heavier like this, like Hizashi. He looks heavier too, with his shoulders sagging and his torso crumpling as if the towels hanging on him were made of lead. His prescription glasses frame the bags beneath his eyes that he usually hides beneath layers of foundation and orange-tinted lies. He tries pushing up a smile, tries to lighten himself, but the smile falls, too heavy to bear.

The mirror reflects all the cracks in his performance. Present Mic has always been able handle anything and everything all at once with a loud commanding presence, but Hizashi? Hizashi Yamada is barely holding together at the toughest threads of his being.

Hizashi tears his eyes from the mirror and retreats back to his bedroom, his feet still crying with every step. First aid can wait. He just wants to sleep. It’s already 3 o’clock, and he’ll have to be up again in a couple hours to put all the metal and leather back on again, but he doesn’t care. He wants to throw something loose on, crawl into bed, and close his eyes for however long the world will let him. If he can just sleep, it’ll be fine. Everything will be fine. He’ll be fine. Fine.

He opens a dresser drawer filled with lazy clothes and scrunches his nose when he’s hit with a stale odor. The clothes in here haven’t been used for a long time. Neither he nor Shouta have had the time to use them. They barely have the time to see each other outside of work.  

Pushing those thoughts aside before they take him somewhere he doesn’t have the energy to go right now, he digs through the drawer until he finds an old pair of green pajama shorts shoved into the corner. He goes to grab them, and when he does feels his fingers catch against some sort of small box hidden beneath them. Curious, he grabs the box along with the shorts, but when he separates the two he is immediately thrown back to a darker place.

Back when Hizashi was still a rookie hero, he had done a lot of stupid things to try to push a “cooler” Present Mic brand, and of all those stupid things, there was one particularly bad habit that had stuck with well into his career as a full-blown pro. That habit had been smoking.

Shouta had hated it when he smoked. Always said he couldn’t stand the smell. Hizashi had hated himself when he smoked, too. Even when he had just started, he knew that smoking wouldn’t just be bad for his health, it would be bad for his career. Of all the pros in the business, it had been particularly ironic that the voice hero himself was the one puffing away on sticks of throat cancer.

For both Shouta and himself, he had quit. He had quit a long time ago. And yet, throughout the years, whenever he’d been at his weakest, he’d craved the burn of that smoke in his lungs more than anything.

This box is a particularly devastating weight in his hand. It’s a reminder of the one moment he was so weak he finally broke under the weight of his vices. After not taking a single drag of a cigarette in over seven years, he had bought this particular pack outside the hospital Shouta had been admitted to after the USJ incident. He then proceeded to burn through over half of it before Shouta got released. The cigarettes had been an excuse to get out of the room, to just get some air, yet after smoking each one he’d get hit by such a crippling guilt over how weak he was being while his husband needed him the most that he’d scrub himself raw to get the smell off his skin before seeing Shouta again.

It had been a terrible time for everyone.

Hizashi didn’t like to talk about it, still doesn’t like to talk about it.

He glances at the red numbers glowing from the bedside table. 3:12. Shouta won’t be home for another hour at least. Hizashi doesn’t think he can sleep and he feels terrible. No, not just terrible. He feels weak.

He looks back at the cigarettes.

Fuck it, he thinks, and after having the decency to throw on the shorts he grabbed, he heads out to the apartment’s balcony, rests his arms on the cool railing, and lights up one of those delicious cancer sticks.

The smoke gives him immediate -though temporary- relief.

The Present Mic of today would never do this, his mind cruelly taunts. Present Mic has an image to uphold, and smoking isn’t a part of it. It’s Hizashi who’s weak. It’s Hizashi who’s sabotaging the both of their lives with this one toxic indulgence.  

But that’s not completely fair, some kinder part of his mind counters. Present Mic doesn’t have any need to smoke anymore because he’s too busy to even have the time to think. He doesn’t have to worry about the lack of real food in the fridge or the bills sitting on the kitchen table. He doesn’t have to desperately cram a thousand “I love you”s into the ten minutes he sometimes gets alone with his tragic hero of a husband before one or more of their commitments pulls them apart. He doesn’t have to do anything but smile and entertain, and Present Mic is great at those things, so he hardly worries at all.

Hizashi, on the other hand, worries all the time. He worries about all those things and more. He worries about letting people down by cancelling appointments. He worries about sending his students unprepared into an uncertain and dangerous world. He worries about his husband, who seems to bear the brunt of that world worse than anyone else.  

Present Mic is an escape, and he leaves the problems of reality for Hizashi to handle. It isn’t fair, but what can either side of his personality do? It’s their responsibility not to falter when the lights are on, and the lights are always on Present Mic.

He taps the cigarette with his finger to shake off the excess ashes, and he watches idly as the embers flick out and die in the muggy summer air.

The lights aren’t on right now.

No one can see him.

He takes another long drag of his cigarette and let’s the smoke fill him, consume him.

“Who the hell even is Hizashi Yamada anymore,” he exhales bitterly. He watches as the words fade into the air with the smoke that carried them for only him to see. Quiet settles in place of an actual answer.

Whether from exhaustion or something else, he’s been unusually quiet tonight. He almost feels himself start to fade into it, into the soft, quiet buzz of the city at 3 am.

His body quiets.

His mind quiets.

It’s a numbing feeling, but he’s mildly surprised to find that he doesn’t actually mind it all that much.

It might be nice, he thinks, to fade away with the smoke for a day...

The sudden hand on his arm tugs him back to reality so quickly that it gives his spirit whiplash. His head snaps to the right, bringing him face-to-face with the shadowy form of his husband.

When did Shouta get home?

When did Shouta get here?

Shouta has questions, too. Hizashi can see where they scrunch up his brow, but neither of them speaks. They just stare.

Quiet becomes silence and it sits heavy between them.

“So, uh -you’re home early,” Hizashi says as a smile thoughtlessly smears across his face.

The quiet had been fine. This silence -it’s unbearable. Hizashi will do or say anything just to lift it, but Shouta doesn’t respond. Instead his eyes slowly travel from Hizashi’s face to the cigarette still burning in his hand. Suddenly, Hizashi is hyper aware of every ugly part of himself that he’s been successfully covering up for weeks, months, years even. He can feel every fresh cut he hasn’t dressed, every old bruise that was just starting to fade. The bags he saw in the mirror tug at his eyes and the cigarette becomes hot iron between his fingertips. Clad only in a pair of thin pajama shorts, he’s completely, terribly , exposed.

“You’re… smoking,” Shouta finally says, and Hizashi can’t tell if it’s a statement or a question. His eyes lock back onto Hizashi and he looks… confused. “Why are you smoking,” he asks, his voice low.

Hizashi doesn’t know what to say. No lie would be convincing, and the truth is unspeakable. His throat feels tight as his mouth hangs open, useless.

“Hizashi, what’s going on,” Shouta presses, his tone more demanding than before. Hizashi can tell Shouta isn’t pushing because he’s mad, but because he’s concerned , and Hizashi hates it. He hates himself. With everything else Shouta has to worry about, he shouldn’t have to be worried about Hizashi, too.

“You weren’t supposed to see this,” Hizashi blurts.

Shouta’s shoulders jerk as he’s physically taken aback by the response.

“I wasn’t supposed to…” Shouta’s eyes search his, and Hizashi prays that his smeared on smile is covering something, anything , up. “Wasn’t supposed to see what? You smoking?”

Hizashi laughs to cover up a twitch on his face. “Yes! The smoking! You really weren’t supposed to see, uh...” He quickly crushes the cigarette out on the railing and starts to move his arm out of Shouta’s grip. “Let’s, uh -let’s just go back inside and-”

Shouta’s grip only tightens as he suddenly pulls Hizashi’s arm closer to himself and inspects it in the light of distant street lamps. “Hizashi, you’re bleeding.”

“I am?” Hizashi follows Shouta’s line of sight to a pair of shallow claw marks marring his skin just above his wrist from where a villain had temporarily succeeded in getting in close and grabbing him. “I mean, yeah, I -I am! I was -well, I was about to take care of that, I just hadn’t quite gotten to it yet, but-!”

“Come on,” Shouta commands, tugging Hizashi back through the open balcony door. “We’re taking care of this. Now.”

“Shouta, it’s fine,” Hizashi protests. “I’m fine! I just-”

“It’s not fine.” Shouta slides the glass door closed behind them with a little too much force. “Untreated wounds will only get worse.”

“Says the guys who’s made me bribe him on multiple occasions to let me take him to the hospital when he’s clearly had broken body parts,” Hizashi grumbles.

“It’s because I’m that guy that I can say it.” He points Hizashi to the bed.  “Sit.”

“But-”

“Sit.”

The tips of Shouta’s hair start to curl up into the air just like they always do when he’s tired and not in the mood, and rather than start a fight Hizashi drops himself down on the edge of the bed, his body tense.

Shouta nods and his hair relaxes. “I’ll go get the kit.”

“Shouta, you really don’t have to. You just came back from patrol, and you haven’t even changed clothes! I can take care of this. Just relax and I’ll-”

Shouta rests a hand down on Hizashi’s shoulder to stop him from getting up. “It’s fine. Stay here.”

But-!

Shouta turns, leaving for the bathroom without giving Hizashi the chance to continue his protests.

When Shouta’s out of sight, Hizashi drops his head. He’s totally fucked up. He should have just gone to bed. Now he’s keeping Shouta up, too, and Shouta needs the sleep way more than him. Shouta hasn’t been home before 4:30 in weeks. Sometimes Shouta doesn’t come home at all, just sends Hizashi a text that he’ll see him at school. For Shouta to be home this early (“early” being such an abstract concept in their lives now) must mean that either it’s been a slow night or he’s exhausted to the point that he doesn’t trust himself to not be a liability in the field. Knowing Shouta, the later is the more likely of the two, but now he can’t sleep, and it’s all Hizashi’s fault.

What’s even worse is that now -now Shouta knows . He knows how bad Hizashi looks under all the layers he puts on as Present Mic. He knows how weak Hizashi’s become.

Hizashi hears approaching footsteps, feels the first aid kit rest next to him on the bed, but he doesn’t look up. Something pushes through his curtain of hair before he feels calloused fingertips brush across his cheek. That’s when he lifts his head to smile at Shouta, but Shouta’s frown only deepens in response.

Hizashi’s heart twists in on itself. No, no, no, his heart screams. That’s not how this is supposed to go. I’m supposed to be your sunshine, your happiness. Don’t look so sad because of me.

His smile pushes itself further up his face.

“Stop that,” Shouta says.

“Eh? Stop what?”

Shouta’s eyes narrow. “Stop forcing yourself to smile. I’m not one of your fans. I’m your goddamn husband. I know when you’re faking it, so stop.”

It feels like Shouta’s kicked him in the chest.

Hizashi’s smile breaks apart in pieces.

“I, I’m not-” Hizashi covers his mouth with his hand. He is. He is trying to assure Shouta everything is alright with one of his Present Mic smiles. “Shouta, I’m -I’m sorry, I-”

Shouta’s hand drops from cradling Hizashi’s cheek to softly squeezing his shoulder. “Hizashi, it’s fine.”

Hizashi barks out a laugh, his eyes focusing on some place far away. “No, it’s not. It’s not fine. You don’t deserve to come home to… to this .”

“Hizashi, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Just look at me, Shouta!” Hizashi’s eyes snap up to meet Shouta’s as he gestures at himself. “I’m an absolute fucking wreck! I’m cut up, I’m bruised -you caught me smoking even though we both know you hate it when I smoke and you -you don’t deserve this! While you’re worrying about keeping your students safe and fighting off villains and, and, and everything , the least I can do is keep myself together so that you don’t have to worry about me, too! But no! No, I can’t even do that much for you!” He feels his cheeks get wet, but his words don’t stop, they just come faster. “I’m -I’m a wreck! A failure! A fraud! And -and I’m… I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have to see this. I’m sorry you, I-!

Hizashi tries to stand, tries to run away from this place, run away from himself, but Shouta holds him firmly in place by his shoulders.

Shouta,” he cries, the word a broken plea for freedom.

“Hizashi, stop. How… how long have you been feeling like this?”

“I don’t -It doesn’t matter! Just - just let me go!”

Hizashi pushes forward only for Shouta to push back with equal force and keep him in place.

“It does matter. Of course it matters. How can -how can you say it doesn’t matter?”

“Because I -I’m not-!” A desperate and frustrated cry rips from his throat. “I’m just Hizashi!”

“What? So? What’s wrong with being Hizashi?”

So, I don’t -I don’t even fucking know who that is anymore! All I know about Hizashi is that he’s exhausted and worried all the time and I -I don’t want to be that person! I want to be Present Mic! I want to help people! I want to make them happy! I want to make you happy, and make you feel like you can rely on me, but I can’t do that as Hizashi because he’s - I’m - I’m nothing but a burDEN!”

Hizashi’s hysterics trigger his quirk, but Shouta’s red eyes flash to stop him from causing any real damage in an instant. There are a few tense seconds where they stare each other down, their heavy breaths filling the space between them. Ultimately, it’s Hizashi who concedes momentary defeat, his head dropping as a sob tears through him, and he’s left unsure where the tight feeling in his throat from Shouta’s quirk ends and the tightness from tears begins.

He didn’t think he could feel worse tonight than that moment he decided to breakdown and take a smoke out on the balcony. He had been wrong. He feels a hundred-thousand times worse now. His big mouth couldn’t keep his emotions in check for even a second in his exhausted state, and now all of his insecurities litter both his body and the air between them.

Shouta has some mercy and allows him to sob in relative peace for a couple minutes. His hands eventually ease up off Hizashi’s shoulders, and it’s probably at the moment when realizes Hizashi isn’t really in a state to be bolting anywhere anytime soon.

“Hizashi, do you know why I grabbed you out there on the balcony?”

Shouta’s question comes only after Hizashi’s sobs have broken into intermittent hiccups. Hizashi has the feeling he knows where the question is going, and that feeling brings with it a skin-scraping sense of guilt.

Hizashi’s hands curl to fist the fabric of his shorts. “Because I was smoking, right? I swear, that -that part of tonight was a total fluke! I haven’t smoked in a long time, I swear! Tonight I was just-”

“No,” Shouta cuts him off. “That’s not why. I didn’t even register you were smoking until afterwards. I…” He pauses. “I grabbed you because you fucking scared me.”

“I,” That’s an unexpected enough reason that it gets Hizashi to look at Shouta again. “I what? Huh?”

While Hizashi is looking at Shouta, Shouta is very purposefully not looking at him.

“When you were out there you looked… far away, almost like you were about to fucking vanish. It was irrational, and I panicked, but… for a second I thought that I was going to lose you.” His eyes find Hizashi again, and they seem to pierce right through him. “ That’s why I grabbed you. To bring you back before you went somewhere I couldn’t reach.”

Hizashi has no words. He just stares at Shouta, shocked.

Shouta sighs, long and heavy, and crouches down in front of Hizashi. Hizashi continues to stare.

“Hizashi, I don’t care about the smoking. I don’t care that you’re all beat up and tired. We’re heroes. Fuck it, we’re more than heroes. We cope. It’s fine. What I do care about is the fact that you feel like you need to hide any of this,” he gestures at Hizashi, “ all of this- from me. Do you really think you’re not important enough to be a priority for me even with everything else that’s been going on?”

Hizashi breaks the steady gaze he has on Shouta to focus instead on fists he has resting in his lap. Lies are still pointless, and he still can’t bluntly speak the truth, so…

“You’re not going to like my answer,” he says instead.

He catches Shouta frown out of the corner of his eye. “Look, I didn’t marry Present Mic. I married Hizashi Yamada, and when I did, I promised to be there, to take care of him. Clearly, I’ve been doing a pretty shitty job lately-”

“No, Shouta, you haven’t-”

Yes, I fucking have,” Shouta insists. “I haven’t been paying any attention to you lately, and now you’re falling apart. That’s not your fault, Hizashi. No one can handle all of this shit by themselves, not even me. I’m no good at taking care of myself, and I don’t have to be because you’re always there supporting me and making sure I’m eating and sleeping and functioning about as close to a regular human being as I can manage.”

Through the shock, Hizashi feels a faint tug at his lips. Shouta’s little comment at the end almost gets him to smile. Almost.

Shouta’s hand rests on top of one of Hizashi’s fists. “You’re not a burden, Hizashi,” he murmurs, stopping the breath in Hizashi’s throat. “You’re my goddamn husband. Now let me finally pull my weight in this relationship and take care of you for once.”

Hizashi chances a look back at Shouta’s face, and his expression is indescribable. Not because it’s so complex and nuanced, but because it’s so heartachingly simple: I love you . I’m worried about you . Please let me back in .

The fist curled tight under Shouta’s hand slowly opens.

“O...Okay,” Hizashi says.

“Okay?”

Hizashi takes in a stuttering breath and nods. “Okay.”

Shouta stays where he is for a moment more before slowly taking his hand away and getting back to his feet. Hizashi tries sitting a little straighter in preparation for what’s about to happen, but his shoulders don’t last long before slumping forward again.

The first aid kit opens with a quick click from beside him, and thus the process begins.

Shouta starts with his hair. Hizashi’s long blond locks aren’t just falling all over the place, they’re also covering up more than a few of the wounds on the upper half of his body. To get the hair out of the way and to get a better view of the overall damage, Shouta reaches around Hizashi, gathers up most of his hair, and pulls it all back into a loose ponytail using a hair tie from his wrist. The position puts them at an awkward distance where Hizashi can smell the sweat and city grime embedded in Shouta’s clothing but can’t feel the comfort that comes with a warm embrace. Hizashi thinks to reach out, to pull Shouta in close, but his heavy arms are too slow to catch Shouta at the right moment.

Next, as Shouta pulls away, he starts to assess Hizashi’s wounds. His fingers lightly trace over Hizashi’s arms, outlining bruises and circling cuts as if trying to memorize them. It reminds Hizashi how painfully long it’s been since they really saw each other outside of their hero personas. Hizashi knows all of Shouta’s major scars by heart, but how many smaller, unknown injuries now mark Shouta’s skin? Are there enough of them that a stranger’s chest now lies beneath the black fabric before Hizashi?

Just as Shouta’s about to go on his own exploration of his husband’s chest, he gets caught on the marks around Hizashi’s shoulders and collarbone.

“Hizashi, these…” He traces back over the marks again and again without applying any force that would actually hurt Hizashi. “These look like they’re from your speaker.”

“Oh, yeah, the, uh -the padding on the bottom is getting a little thin,” Hizashi quickly explains.

Shouta narrows his eyes. “You’re going to get hurt,” he says as his hands finally move on to the rest of Hizashi’s chest. “We have to replace it.”

“I know, I know. I just… don’t know when I’ll have the time.”

“You have a spare, though, don’t you? Just wear that and take the old one in to the support department.”

Hizashi groans, not at Shouta but himself. “This is the spare. My other one got crunched up like a month ago.”

“It -what?” Shouta’s hands still. “I….I didn’t know that.”

“Ah, well, that’s because I, uh, I didn’t….tell….you?” Hizashi attempts damage control with a smile. “It would’ve just worried you for no reason, babe.”

“No reason? Hizashi, if someone destroyed your speaker, that means they got close to your throat.”

“Yeah, but they didn’t do any lasting damage, so-”

“So, what, we’re at the point where you’ll only tell me something’s wrong if it’s actually killing you?”

Hizashi shrugs. “Honestly? Maybe not even then, ha.”

He chances a glance up at Shouta and immediately he realizes his mistake. Shouta’s face is twisted up as though Hizashi has physically stabbed him.

“I’m -I’m kidding! ” Hizashi quickly backpedals. “I’m kidding.”

“No… no, you’re not. You really wouldn’t have told me.” There’s a shift as realization turns to righteous anger. “Hizashi, how could you not have told me?”

Hizashi lightly pushes Shouta’s hands off of him. “Well, it -if I really was dying, it would pointless, wouldn’t it?” He purposefully puts on a Present Mic smile. “‘Hey babe! I know you’re busy, but I just wanted to let you know I’m dying and there’s nothing you can do about it! Have a great day! Love you! Bye!’” The smile falls. “Come on, that’s stupid. I could never do that to you during a time like this.”

“But you could fucking die without telling me?!”

“Wait, no, that’s not what I-!”

Yes , that’s exactly what said! God damnit Hizashi! You always ramble about the stupidest shit , but when it comes to the most important things, you never-!

Shouta cuts himself off and storms away to the nearest wall. He goes to slam his fist against the wall, but despite the force that seems to go into the movement, the contact hardly makes a sound at all.

Hizashi stares at his back, paralyzed. Instinctively, he feels like he should get up and comfort Shouta, but he just can’t move. He’s never been the reason for Shouta’s anger before, not like this.

It’s exhaustion, he tells himself. They’re both so clearly exhausted, and they shouldn’t be having this conversation right now, but, well, “right now” is the only time they’ve had alone together in weeks. It’s like all of their emotions have been pressed down into magma, and now that they’re together and weakened by lack of sleep, everything’s erupting all at once.

“You’re an idiot,” Shouta hisses, and if the room weren’t so quiet, Hizashi would have to strain to hear him. As it is, though, the words feel almost painfully loud. “You think I’m too weak to support you, but strong enough to lose you?”

“I-I…” It’s less a word and more a broken syllable, and it’s all Hizashi can manage to get out.

Shouta shakes his head. “You may be smart, Hizashi, but sometimes you’re a goddamn moron. You’ve got it completely fucking backwards. I’m...”

Shouta doesn’t have to say it. Hizashi understands him implicitly.

I’m strong enough to support you, but too weak to lose you.

Hizashi feels another round of tears choke his throat. He’s been more than an idiot. More than a moron. In hiding his pain, in trying to bare all the weight on his shoulders alone, he’s been selfish. No matter how good his original intentions, he’s hurt Shouta. He’s hurt Shouta.

“I’m sorry.”

The words are small, weak. They’re not at all like something Present Mic would say, but that’s because Hizashi is the only one of the two who is allowed to be weak.

Shouta turns, and in the earliest hues of dawn Hizashi sees his husband for the first time in a long time.

He’s exhausted. He’s scared. He’s burned out and heavy. It’s almost like looking in a mirror.

“Let’s,” Shouta starts with a sigh as he slowly makes his way back over to the bed. “Let’s finish patching you up.”

Hizashi nods. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”

Quiet returns as Shouta takes out the supplies he needs to clean up and bandage Hizashi’s various small wounds. Occasionally, Hizashi hisses or flinches when alcohol goes into a cut or a scab is broken back open, but otherwise, he’s still.

That is, until Shouta gets to the final task: his feet.

Hizashi nearly kicks Shouta in the face the first time he touches those.

“What the hell happened,” Shouta asks, carefully holding one of Hizashi’s feet to avoid getting kicked again.

“New boots,” Hizashi replies.

Shouta hums and inspects his feet closer. “They look like they hurt.”

Hizashi chuckles. “You know what? They really fucking do.”

Shouta glances up at him before focusing back on cleaning them up. “Yeah? How much?”

It’s an invitation to bitch, to complain, and Hizashi decides to fucking take it.

“Oh, like you wouldn’t fucking believe, babe. They’ve been killing me all day, but they got like this when I got caught up in that fight downtown. I was scared that when I took off my boots at the door, my feet would come off with them. I don’t think I can wear anything but Crocs today.”

“Crocs, huh?” A ghost of a smile crosses Shouta’s face. “Certainly a bold choice, I’ll give you that.”

Hizashi winces as Shouta wipes at one of his raw heels. “Yeah, well, I think it’s about time Present Mic updated his look.”

“And you’re going to start those updates with your footwear? Honestly, I think there are better places to start. Your boots are probably the most practical thing you wear.”

“Um, my headphones are also very practical, thank you very much.”

“Just your headphones? Nothing else?”

Hizashi hums in thought. “Ehhh, no. Everything else? All aesthetic, baby.”

“Wow. You finally admit it. After all these years.”

Hizashi laughs, and it almost sounds genuine again. “Hey, that’s one thing I’ve never really hidden.”

“Hm. I guess.”

The conversation naturally ends there, and it leaves Hizashi just a tad bit lighter. It felt good to complain. It felt good to tease. It felt good to feel a little bit closer to himself again, whoever that person may be.

Hizashi focuses most of his energy into not kicking Shouta in the face as he finishes up cleaning and bandaging his feet. They still throb after Shouta’s done, but it’s better. Much better. Night and day better.  

“Anything else,” Shouta asks, presumably referring to Hizashi’s wounds.

Hizashi shakes his. “Nope!”

Shouta raises an eyebrow, and Hizashi really can’t blame him for being incredulous. “Are you sure?”

He looks down and gives Shouta a patented private Hizashi smile. “I promise. You got everything from tonight.”

Shouta searches Hizashi face for any telltale signs of lying. “Good,” he sighs once he’s satisfied. He then rises to his feet only to immediately collapse face first onto the bed next to Hizashi.

Hizashi chuckles softly as he turns to admire his husband’s exhausted form. Hizashi would love to join him, would love to fall back into the sheets and just pass out, but as the room around them continues to naturally lighten up with the unimpeded dawn, Hizashi is reminded that he has to start getting ready for the coming day soon.

“Thank you, honey,” he murmurs as he affectionately rubs Shouta’s arm. “Now get some rest. You deserve it.”

“What about you,” Shouta asks as he shifts to aim one pointed eye Hizashi’s way.

Hizashi smiles sadly. “I have to get ready for work.”

Shouta appears to consider this information before voicing a decisive, “No.”

“No?” Hizashi can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of that one tiny no. “Babe, yes. I have a meeting with the English department this morning, so I’d like to get in early.”

“No,” Shouta insists as he pulls himself up only to plop his forehead down on Hizashi’s shoulder. “Stay here.”

“Aw, you’re very cute but-”

“Take the day off.”

“Ta- take the day off?” Hizashi does a double take. “You can’t be serious.”

Shouta lifts his head, and contrary to what Hizashi expects, he looks very serious.

“Shouta, I -I can’t . I have too much to do. The kids' midterms are next week and I-”

“I know. I know you’re busy. I know you have too much to do. You always do.” His hand finds Hizashi’s on the mattress. “I’m telling you to take the day off. With me.”

“With -with you ?” This has to be a joke. Shouta’s messing with him now. Hizashi smiles uncertainly. “Alright, who are you and what have you done with my husband?”

“I’m being serious, Hizashi.”

His smile falls. “But you -you haven’t missed a day of class except for when you-”

“It’s fine,” Shouta interrupts, and Hizashi’s honestly a little thankful. The last thing either of them needs is to be reminded of USJ ( again in Hizashi’s case). “I need a break, you need a break, and both of us will go crazy if we stay home alone. The best solution is just to take the day off together.”

“How are you making this sound so logical?”

“Because it is.”

“It’s not! Shouta!

Hizashi. ” Shouta squeezes his hand. “You can’t keep going like this. We can’t keep going like this. You and I both know there’s still a lot we need to talk about, and I don’t want to risk putting it off anymore. I don’t… ” Shouta’s brow scrunches as he appears to mentally debate his words. Hizashi can see when he’s made a decision because a rare wall crumbles off his face, and the infamous homeroom teacher of 1-A becomes shockingly vulnerable. “I don’t want us to become strangers.”

Any arguments Hizashi had left die instantly on his tongue. No appointments, no midterms, no fans nor hero exams are worth more to him than this, than his relationship with Shouta.

His bandaged up body finally moves, finally does what he’s wanted it to do for a long time and pulls Shouta into a tender embrace. Shouta smells like sweat and dirt, and Hizashi probably smells like cigarettes and shampoo, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what they smell like or look like because they feel so much better together than they ever did apart.

“Me too,” he chokes, attempting to bite back tears and failing as he buries his face into the crook of Shouta’s neck. “Me too, I -I don’t -I think I’m sort of having an identity crisis at the moment because -I don’t know. I think I’ve been going as Present Mic for too hard for too long, so now I’m all mixed up, but I -I don’t want us to become strangers, either. I don’t . I never want that. Ever. I love you, Shouta.”

“It’s okay,” Shouta murmurs softly in reply, and his arms are strong and warm and comfortable and grounding as they wrap around Hizashi. “I love you, too, sunshine. We’ll figure all of this out. Together.”

A soft sob escapes Hizashi’s throat when he hears the private name Shouta usually only whispers to him on kisses. “How can you still call me that?”

“Call you what?”

‘Sunshine’ . After everything you’ve seen tonight, after everything I’ve put you through…”

“Because it’s true,” Shouta says, and Hizashi can hear the small smile in his voice. “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter what you ‘put me through’, you’ll always be my sunshine.”

There’s work to be done. There’s always work to be done, even when they’re just trying to take the day off. There are people to email and details to figure out, but those are Present Mic’s problems. He can deal with them later. For the moment, Hizashi Yamada sits in his husbands arms and sobs because he is just so grateful that even at his most burned out and broken, he is still loved.