No matter how hard you train, or how much you study, there are some parts of hero work you simply can’t be prepared for. For instance, Shouta thinks to himself after the most irritating night patrol of his career, fighting villains with mud-flinging quirks. They don’t talk about that at UA, probably because such a thing could only happen to Shouta Aizawa.
He’d changed out of his uniform at his agency, but his hair and skin were too filthy for public transport, so it had been a long walk back to his apartment. He gets home just in time to miss the end of Hizashi’s radio show, a fitting end to the day. If such things existed, he might think he’d been hit with a bad-luck quirk.
Shouta leaves his shoes and scarf in the entryway, then heads straight for the shower. While he cleans himself up, he listens for the front door, or the cheerful clamor of Hizashi arriving home after a night at the radio station. But when he’s done, clean and dressed in his oldest, most comfortable clothes, the apartment is still empty, dark and too-quiet, and Shouta’s already-fraying temper snaps. He storms into the kitchen, cursing the world and all its inconveniences with every step.
Nothing in the cupboards looks good. He’d forgotten to wash the dishes before his patrol. He was too busy to eat while he was out and they’re out of jelly packets and Hizashi is late. The biggest annoyance of all.
He probably lost track of time talking to his colleagues after the show, which normally wouldn’t bother Shouta, if he weren’t already in such a terrible mood. Twice he picks his phone up to send him a text, and twice he puts it back down without typing anything. He doesn’t want to take his irritation out on Hizashi, he just wants him home. If Hizashi were home, he’d listen to Shouta complain about his terrible night, and laugh at the ridiculousness of it until he had Shouta laughing too. He’d suggest something for Shouta to eat that actually sounded decent, and would sit in the kitchen with him while he made it. If Hizashi were home, they could fall into bed together and forget about everything else.
But Hizashi’s not home, so Shouta just sits in the living room, hungry and miserable, waiting.
The phone rings just after midnight, and Shouta scowls as he reaches for it, until he sees the number for Hizashi’s hero agency on the screen. His stomach drops; there are a few reasons they might be calling, and all of them are bad.
“Eraserhead,” he answers, in case it’s work-related. One of the agency’s other heroes might need backup, and they know Shouta is local and will always respond when he can.
“Shouta Aizawa?” asks a voice on the other end. That’s not a good sign.
His grip on the phone tightens. “Yes,” he confirms.
“I’m calling on behalf of Present Mic. He was injured during the apprehension of a villain and has been taken to Hosu General Hospital. You’re listed as his emergency contact.”
“How injured? What happened? He wasn’t on duty tonight!” Shouta fires the questions off one after another, already moving towards the door.
“I don’t have the details, Sir. We were notified by the local police about thirty minutes ago.”
Shouta throws on his shoes and grabs his capture weapon, just in case. “And you’re only calling me now?” He slams the apartment door behind him. Thirty minutes. He could have left half an hour ago. He’d be at the hospital by now if he’d known right away-
“I apologize, Sir, but the file says we’re only supposed to call if we don’t hear from him after a certain amount of time.” That’s all Shouta needs to hear before he hangs up the phone and starts running. If Hizashi hasn’t checked in with his agency, hasn’t stopped them from notifying Shouta, it’s because he can’t.
The cab ride to the hospital is nearly unendurable. Shouta almost leaps out of the car every time it stops for traffic or a red light, though it would be beyond irrational to do so - he won’t get there any faster on his feet. But just sitting there, not knowing what condition Hizashi is in is almost more than he can stand.
It’s a relief to pull up outside the entrance to the emergency ward, and Shouta sprints to the reception desk. “I’m here for Present Mic - Hizashi Yamada.”
The woman behind the desk blinks at him, takes in the disheveled state of his hair, the worn clothes he’s wearing beneath his weapon. But she stays professional, and her expression makes it clear she’s seen worse. “Are you his spouse?”
Shouta doesn’t have time for this. “No. I’m his emergency contact. Shouta Aizawa.”
Her mouth presses into a line, like she knows her night is about to get less pleasant. “I’m sorry Sir, only immediate family is allowed in the emergency ward.”
He wraps his fingers around the edge of the reception desk, pressing down hard. “We live together. He wants me there.”
She looks genuinely regretful. “Visiting hours begin at ten tomorrow. If he’s been admitted, you can see him then.”
Tomorrow? Shouta isn’t going to wait that long. That’s impossible, crazy. “Look, he’ll tell you who I am. Just ask him!” He can see her mentally debate the idea, before accepting that he is a problem that isn’t going to just go away.
“I’ll call.” She picks up the phone, and motions Shouta to step back from the desk. She speaks to someone on the other end of the line for a few moments before hanging up. Shouta steps forward, ready to go, but she shakes her head. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t reach his nurse.”
It takes everything in Shouta not to explode, to brush this woman aside and find Hizashi himself. He won’t make it far before security catches up, but if this goes on much longer he’s going to have to try. For now, he takes a deep breath and tries to compose himself. That’s his best chance of seeing Hizashi. “Can you at least tell me if he’s all right?”
She just shakes her head. “I couldn’t, even if I knew. I really am sorry.”
Shouta holds himself very still for a count of five. “I’ll wait,” he points to a nearby seating area, “right there. Keep calling. Please,” he adds as an afterthought. A little politeness couldn’t hurt. She nods, and he walks the few steps to a bench and sinks down onto it, burying his face in his capture weapon.
What could have happened? Hizashi hadn’t even been on patrol tonight, whatever went wrong must have been on his way home from the radio station. He hadn’t had his speaker with him, or any of his protective gear. Why had he been fighting villains? How badly is he hurt?
There’s nothing else to do but worry. Hizashi is so close, just a few rooms away, but Shouta can’t see him. They’ve known each other over ten years, been together nearly as long, but apparently that’s not good enough. He’s been waking up beside Hizashi his entire adult life, knows him from the tiny scars at the edge of his hairline to the crooked toe he broke on the corner of a nightstand, but Shouta has no right to him, no claim. It’s illogical and infuriating and Shouta is going to burn this hospital down if something happens to Hizashi and he’s not there. He’s going to-
“Sir? Sir!” He looks up to see the receptionist leaning over him, as if debating whether or not to tap him on the shoulder. He’s glad she decided against it. “Your… he’s asking for you.” She pauses, like she wants to say something else. “Insisting, actually. Loudly.”
Shouta raises an eyebrow as he sweeps past her, the extent of his I told you so. He doesn’t need her anymore, he can hear Hizashi now, well enough to follow his voice through the corridors. “I don’t care if he’s allowed to be here! I want him here! He’s going to be freaking out and-”
“Hizashi.” Shouta interrupts quietly, from the doorway. Instantly, Hizashi stops his diatribe, wilting into the ugly hospital sheets.
“Shouta,” he says, like a sigh of relief. He looks worn out. There’s blood streaked across his forehead, running into his hair. Shouta’s heart pounds in his chest, hard enough that he wonders if it was even beating a minute ago. “Are you okay?”
There’s a lot Shouta wants to say to that. “I’m okay,” is what he settles on, as he approaches Hizashi’s bedside. “What happened?”
Hizashi rolls his eyes. “It was stupid. I stopped to grab more jelly packets on my way home and a couple of villains were holding the place up. One of them had a spine-flinging quirk and I was grazed-”
“You were impaled nine centimeters,” a nurse corrects helpfully, if perhaps a little vengefully. Hizashi had been loud a minute ago. “Dangerously close to your brachial artery.”
“I was slightly impaled,” Hizashi amends, not losing stride. “But I captured the bad guys and isn’t that what really matters?” He bats his eyelashes, like that’s going to get him out of anything.
“Impaled,” Shouta repeats the word slowly, letting the sourness of it coat his tongue. “You were impaled.”
“Slightly! Only slightly!” Hizashi smiles weakly, bringing his thumb and forefinger close together to illustrate just how slightly he means. It doesn’t look like nine centimeters to Shouta. “And I’m all fixed up now so we can go home! Let’s go home!”
Shouta looks to the nurse, knowing full well that Hizashi is not to be trusted. He would drag himself out of this hospital on four broken limbs if they kept him too long. The nurse looks over his chart. “We did a scan to check for nerve damage, and the results should be back within the hour. If it’s clear, he can be discharged.” Hizashi brightens, just a little, like he hadn’t expected such an easy victory.
“Okay,” Shouta says, pulling a chair over so he can sit by the bed. He reaches for Hizashi’s hand, laces their fingers together while he waits for the nurse to leave. “Impaled,” he growls, once they’re alone.
“Just a little bit?” Hizashi offers, biting his lip. “Don’t be mad.”
An impossible demand. He may as well ask the wind not to blow, or the tide not to rise. Shouta is mad, mad that Hizashi was hurt, mad he was kept from him. He’s even mad at the blood marring Hizashi’s tired face.
But he’s not mad at Hizashi. “Okay,” he says, leaning over to brush the hair out of Hizashi’s eyes.
The tension in Hizashi’s shoulders eases, and he settles back against the thin pillow. “I ruined my jacket,” he says mournfully, like Shouta has any thought to spare for that at all.
Shouta wakes up alone the next morning. That’s normal, Hizashi is an early riser, preferring to get up before the sun and start the day, while Shouta tries to steal as much sleep as he can. But after everything that happened the previous evening, opening his eyes to see the other side of the bed empty sends Shouta into a panic.
It’s not logical, he knows that, even as he throws the covers off and rolls to his feet. Hizashi is fine, he was discharged from the hospital with no complications and they’d gone to sleep curled up together, like they always do when they get the chance. But that was last night. This is this morning, and Shouta needs to see Hizashi right now.
His worry takes him as far as the kitchen, where Hizashi is leaning against the counter, pouring coffee into a cup. The sight of him soothes Shouta immediately, eases his racing pulse back to normal. “Good morning!” Hizashi smiles, too cheerful for the earliness of the hour. He’s not ready for the day yet - his hair is loose over his shoulders, and he’s still wearing the pink sweatpants Shouta bought him years ago as a joke. “You’re up early!”
Shouta could have lost this. Any less luck yesterday and their kitchen would be empty right now, dark and silent. Hizashi’s favorite mug would still be sitting on the shelf, untouched until Shouta died or they tore down the building, whichever came first.
He can’t take his eyes off Hizashi, who’s just standing there, drinking his coffee and humming to himself like it’s any other day. Like he hadn’t recently been impaled. “We should get married.”
“What?” Hizashi splutters, jerking his mug sharply enough to splash himself.
Shouta walks over to pass him a napkin. “At the hospital, they would have let me in if we were married. Or if there was some kind of… problem,” Shouta doesn’t even want to think about this, but it needs to be said. “I would have been asked about your wishes. It makes sense.”
Hizashi doesn’t answer, just looks at him for a long time, longer than is comfortable. Shouta thinks back over his words, trying to figure out if he made a mistake, but he can’t find any. It was all correct, logical. They could get the paperwork taken care of tomorrow; last night’s incident never needs to happen again.
“No.” Hizashi says, finally. He sounds firm, serious, and Shouta knows better than to argue with that tone. “I’ll register you as my health care proxy, that’ll be easier. It’s more official than an emergency contact, and you’ll have documentation if there’s ever an issue.”
“Fine,” Shouta says, because it is fine. Hizashi’s solution is better, more efficient and more practical. “I’ll do the same.” Problem solved, conversation over. He turns his attention to the cupboards, tries to find something appealing for breakfast, but nothing looks good. His stomach is churning, something inside him feels jagged, misaligned.
Beside him, Hizashi isn’t humming anymore.
Hizashi is as good as his word. He deals with all his own paperwork and Shouta’s too, and soon enough that night fades into an unpleasant memory and a scar near Hizashi’s collarbone.
Shouta doesn’t think about it much, he can’t without the ghost of his fury making his nerves buzz and his fists clench. Still, it’s impossible to forget completely. He’s reminded of it every time Hizashi introduces Shouta as his boyfriend, or corrects some well-meaning stranger who refers to him as Shouta’s spouse. These things never bothered him before, but after the hospital, after being refused access to Hizashi, the innocent words sound insidious. He’s not really yours, they whisper. In the eyes of the world, you’re nothing to each other.
It makes Shouta push himself closer - he takes Hizashi’s hand more when they’re out walking, holds him tighter when they lay together in bed. Hizashi doesn’t seem to mind. He smiles when Shouta invades his space, shifts nearer to him in his sleep. He is mine, Shouta reminds himself. I don’t know that I deserve it, but he is.
Even the worst things are endurable if Hizashi is nearby. Like filing their taxes, which is something else they never teach you about in Heroics class. Hizashi makes the task easier. He knows all the forms they need, sets everything up in the living room on one of their rare free evenings, so they can do the work together. If it wasn’t for that, Shouta knows he’d end up doing it the night before it was due, probably in some alley while he was on patrol. He’s grateful, for the help and for the company, but after an hour he’s tired of the tiny print on the forms, and irritated with the situation in general. It’s a waste of time - they wouldn’t even have to do this if they didn’t both work so many jobs. To give his mind a break, he puts his pen down and watches Hizashi for a while.
Hizashi doesn’t notice, too caught up in his own work. His glasses are sliding down his nose, and his hair is beginning to fall free of its loose bun. The tip of his tongue pokes out the side of his mouth as he does his calculations, and Shouta is suddenly overcome with the desire to hold onto this moment forever. He’s not sure why it feels so urgent - they’ve spent a thousand nights like this. There are thousands more ahead of them, with any luck at all. But something about the way Hizashi looks right now feels fleeting and precious, like the blink of a firefly.
It’s a child’s wish. You can’t capture time in a bottle, and Shouta doesn’t believe in fairy-tales like always. But right now, in the quiet of their living room, forever feels like something he might be allowed to want. “You know,” Shouta breaks the silence, “this would be easier if we got married.”
“Hm?” Hizashi’s eyes stay on his work. Shouta isn’t sure he even heard him.
Shouta nudges the paper in front of him forward, bumping it into Hizashi’s until he looks up. “If we got married, we could file together. We might even qualify for a tax break.”
The corner of Hizashi’s mouth quirks into a smile. “I’d end up doing all the paperwork anyway. You just want to get out of it.” He adjusts his glasses, tucks a loose strand of hair over his ear.
He’s not wrong, he would end up doing it, so Shouta can’t argue. And he doesn’t know how to explain that he’d still want to sit here, watching Hizashi do this or his grading or any other tedious, irritating chore. That Shouta would do all of them himself, if that was the trade for forever.
The words tangle up in his mouth, choking him. So he doesn’t say anything, just picks up his pen and goes back to work.
Though most people who know him would be surprised to hear it, Shouta doesn’t actually mind weddings. He’s not expected to do anything but sit there and clap when everyone else does, so he can zone out during the endless speeches, mentally preparing lesson plans or tests for his students. And Hizashi always tears up, which is funny to watch. After-parties are another matter. They tend to be loud, busy affairs that Shouta would skip if Hizashi would ever allow it. Kan’s wedding is no different, though Shouta doesn’t begrudge his attendance as much as he normally might. They’ve known each other since UA, and are close colleagues now. Hizashi says they’re friends.
When they arrive at the after-party, Kayama gets them a table by what she refers to as her ‘sheer force of personality,’ but Shouta calls ‘making people uncomfortable until they leave.’ Still, he can’t complain about the results, not with chairs so few and far between around the crowded dance floor. It’s not really his scene, but he passes the time talking with some old acquaintances and laughing at Kan when his new wife drags him away to dance. It’s a good match, Shouta thinks. They look right together, happy and relaxed in each other’s company, even after what must have been a stressful day.
While Shouta camps at their table, Hizashi is in his element, working the room, greeting the other guests and making introductions when necessary. It takes a while - Hizashi knows everyone, never forgets a name or a face. When he finally completes a circuit, he visits Shouta to bring him a drink. He’ll only stay in his seat a few minutes before running off again, but it’s not a bother. He’s having a good time, and Shouta is having a good time watching him.
Hizashi looks wonderful, his colorful formalwear practically glowing under the low lights. He hardly seems like he belongs next to Shouta, who’s wearing the same dark suit he always wears when he’s not allowed sweatpants, and Shouta can’t take his eyes away, struck by how handsome he is like this. He knows not everyone would agree, and objectively he understands their reasons, but he still thinks they’re wrong. Hizashi’s appeal is more than the sum of his features - it’s the way he lights up when he’s happy, or his gentle smile saved for quiet moments. And if other people can’t appreciate those things, that’s their loss, Shouta thinks, as he watches Hizashi throw his head back to laugh at some joke of Kayama’s.
She excuses herself to the bar, and he turns to Shouta with the ghost of his laughter still on his face. “This is fun. We should do this kind of thing more often.”
Shouta isn’t sure what makes him say it, he’s only had two drinks, but before he has time to consider the words, be blurts out: “We’d have to get married if you want an excuse to throw such a big party.”
“I don’t need an excuse for that, Shouta,” Hizashi elbows him. “Come dance with me.”
“No.” Normally Shouta would soften his refusal, make some excuse about how he doesn’t dance, but he’s feeling raw, stung by Hizashi’s outright dismissal. His curtness doesn’t phase Hizashi though.
“Fine, I’ll go by myself!” He smiles, waving at Shouta as he abandons him.
“Have fun,” Shouta says to his retreating back. He stares at the table, lost in thought until Kayama returns a few minutes later.
“Look at that idiot,” she smiles towards Hizashi, who’s jumping around the dance floor, arms raised to the ceiling and grinning like a loon. “When are you two going to tie the knot?”
Shouta gulps at his drink. “Never,” he says, to the rim of the glass.
Kayama raises an eyebrow. “What? You’re not going to take pity on Yamada and make an honest man out of him?”
“Hizashi doesn’t want to get married.” He brings his glass down hard enough that the empty bottles on the table rattle.
Kayama rolls her eyes. “Please. Yamada has wanted to marry you since the first time you grumbled a terse greeting in his direction. Why would you say he wouldn’t?”
“Experience.” If it comes out a little bitterly, Shouta can’t help that.
That gets her attention. She even puts down her drink. “You. Proposed to that man - that man over there, Hizashi Yamada - and he said no?”
Shouta shrugs, looking back to the table. “In a manner of speaking.”
Kayama narrows her eyes, like a hound scenting blood. “There we go, I knew it. You didn’t propose.”
“Three times.” It’s a difficult thing to admit. But Kayama just shakes her head, like he’s making up stories.
“No. You could ask that man to marry you in a filthy alley with a Ring-Pop you found on the ground and he would weep with happiness as he said yes. There’s no way you proposed three times.” She sounds so certain, it gets Shouta’s hackles up.
“I did! With a good reason every time!”
She raises a hand, stopping him before he can go on. “‘A good reason?’ What reason?”
Shouta holds up three fingers, points to them as he counts off. “Medical benefits. Tax benefits. He likes to throw parties.”
“Oh my god.” Kayama stares at him for a moment, dumbfounded. “I wish I could say I can’t believe you but unfortunately now it all makes sense. At any point during what I assume was a slideshow presentation about financial goals did you mention that you love him?”
“He knows that.” Shouta slouches into his chair. He expects another sharp reply, but Kayama softens.
“He does. But sometimes you still need the words.”
Shouta scowls. They’ve been friends since they were students. She ought to know him better than this. “I’m not good at that kind of thing.”
Any softness on her face melts away into irritation. “What a pathetic excuse. Were you born good at drop-kicking criminals? At using your binding cloth to grab those disgusting jelly packs from across the room, as I assume you do when no one is watching? No! But those things are important to you, so you learned. Did you even have a ring?”
He looks away, which is answer enough. She sighs. “No one expects you to rent a stadium and propose on TV. Just… try make it a little special. He deserves that.”
Shouta’s first instinct is to match her barb for barb, but he bites the harsh words back. She’s trying to help, and she isn’t wrong. Hizashi puts up with him every day. He deserves a lot. “True.”
Her eyes widen, like she wasn’t expecting him to admit it so easily. “Huh. So, you’ll try again? Fourth time’s the charm!”
Shouta raises his glass to that.
A week goes by before Shouta works up enough nerve to enter a jewelry store, but once he does he’s out ten minutes, completely satisfied with his purchase. The moment he noticed the small collection of peridots, he’d known they were exactly what Hizashi would prefer. They were the same green of his eyes, not that Shouta would admit that under threat of torture.
The salesperson had tried to talk him into something else, a more traditional diamond or expensive emeralds, but Shouta held firm, settling on a wide gold band with offset stones. It was modern and flashy and made for Hizashi, and Shouta was certain he’d like it. That was the easy part.
The hard part comes after the ring is hidden deep in a rarely-used drawer. Kayama had said he could just give it to Hizashi, but that doesn’t seem like enough. He’s asked directly before, without success. Clearly something more is called for, but what that might be is so far outside of Shouta’s area that he doesn’t even know how to begin.
He hunts down Kayama in the teacher’s lounge, when he’s certain Hizashi is busy teaching a class. “What’s ‘special’?” he asks, dropping into the chair next to hers.
She doesn’t even look up from her computer. “Huh?”
Even though he knows the room is empty except for the two of them, Shouta glances around to make sure. “When we… talked before - you said to make it a little special. What’s special?”
Kayama slams her hands down on either side of her keyboard. “I should get paid for dealing with this. You make everything so much more complicated than it has to be.” She rolls back in her chair so she’s facing him, exasperation pouring off her in waves. “Just pick a nice moment where no one is covered in blood - or even a little splattered with blood - tell him you love him and give him the ring. That’s literally all you have to do.”
Fortunately, her annoyance is nothing to him. “That’s not special.” Even Shouta knows that much.
She scoffs. “From you it is.”
Shouta thinks he should probably be insulted. “What does that mean, ‘from me’?”
Kayama pauses, like she’s trying to phrase her response just so. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but except when it comes to your job, you’re a bare-minimum kind of guy, Aizawa.”
That’s definitely an insult. “I am not!”
“Please.” She rolls her eyes. “What was the last date you planned?”
“We went for ramen after work last week,” he says immediately. He plans dates.
She doesn’t look impressed. “And the one before that?”
“…Ramen after work,” he admits.
“Do I need to ask again?” she says, with a knowing head-tilt.
Shouta brings a hand up to cover his face. “Please don’t.”
“So you see, the bar is pretty low.” She rolls back to her computer, turning her attention to the screen.
While she works, Shouta thinks about what she said. He knows there are areas where he doesn’t spend a lot of effort. He doesn’t care at all about his appearance, he’ll wear anything as long as it’s comfortable and clean, and it’s too much trouble to shave every single week. But he’s never considered himself a bare-minimum kind of guy. Not when it comes to Hizashi, at least. “I want to do better.”
Kayama’s fingers freeze over the keys. “Wow. So this is what love looks like.” She taps at her lower lip as she considers. “Okay… well, take him somewhere he likes. Or somewhere meaningful to both of you. Show him you know him and that he’s important to you.”
That sounds reasonable, doable. “Then what?”
She swings out her arm and smacks the heel of her hand against his forehead. “Then you ask, idiot! You tell him you love him, or maybe even why you love him if you want to go all out, and you give him the ring. He’ll say yes. And probably cry all over you, so be ready for that.”
“I should have asked Tensei,” he mutters, rubbing his face where she’d struck. It stings.
Kayama smirks wickedly. “Tensei thinks a proposal doesn’t count unless it includes fireworks.” Shouta shudders. “Mhm,” she says, looking at her computer again. “You owe me a present when Yamada says yes. I like chocolate, dark as my soul.”
“If he says yes,” Shouta says, wishing he were as certain as Kayama. Three rejections have shaken his confidence, even if they weren’t technically proposals, according to her.
“Shut up,” she says, done with him and this conversation forever. “Leave now. Go get engaged or something.”
“I can see why I rely on you for advice,” Shouta says, but he does as she demands anyway.
It takes Shouta three days to make his plans, and then another six before he can put them into action. There aren’t many days Hizashi has off from school and the radio station, so his timing is limited, unless he’s willing to wait another few weeks. He’d never make it that long - all this waiting is like standing on a knife’s edge, and if he puts it off any further, he’ll end up chucking the ring at Hizashi’s head, or into a river. It could go either way.
He barely sleeps the night before. He tries not to disturb Hizashi as he tosses and turns and thinks about all the ways he could botch things tomorrow. When he finally does drift off, it’s fitful, and he wakes up too early the next day, still exhausted but unable to think about anything except for the momentous task ahead. So he does what he always does when he needs to calm down and gets up to find Hizashi, who’s making coffee in the kitchen.
“Good morning, early bird!” He smiles at Shouta over his shoulder. He’s wearing his pink sweatpants and holding his favorite mug, just like he was the first time Shouta ever brought up marriage. Shouta is glad he doesn’t believe in signs, because this would surely be one, and he has no idea if it’s good or bad.
He doesn’t say anything, just walks over to lean against Hizashi’s side. “Hmm, maybe you’re not quite awake yet,” Hizashi teases, turning to press a kiss to the top of Shouta’s head and hand him a cup of his own. It calms Shouta enough that he can talk again.
“Are you available this afternoon?”
“I’m sorry, but I have a boyfriend. He’s very handsome.” Hizashi grins; it’s an old joke he never tires of. Shouta just looks at him until he gives in. “I can be. What do you need me for?”
It’s a question with many answers. Shouta chooses the simplest. “I have some errands to run later, if you’re free.”
“Of course!” Hizashi nods, like there’s nothing he’d enjoy more. “Give me a couple hours to finish some grading, and we can do whatever you want.”
Shouta shrugs, as if it doesn’t matter. “Take your time.”
They move into the living room to drink their coffee, which turns into a debate over the merits of making breakfast. It’s late enough to be brunch by the time they actually motivate themselves to do anything, but in the end they agree that Shouta will run down to the convenience store for food while Hizashi gets himself ready for the day. Hizashi hums as he walks towards the shower. That would be a good sign, Shouta thinks, if he believed in irrational things like that.
Shouta lingers over the errand, and then over the meal afterwards. There’s a lot of time to kill until this afternoon, when he wants to set his plan in motion. He spends some of it getting ready, taking a long shower and running a trimmer over his stubble afterwards. He doesn’t bother really shaving. Maybe for their wedding, if Hizashi finally says yes.
For what may be the first time ever, Shouta struggles to choose his clothes. He doesn’t own many nice items, and what he does have Hizashi bought, so it’s not like he can make a bad decision. But he can’t tell which of them are suitable for the occasion, yet not so good they’ll raise suspicion. Eventually, he settles on a blue button-down and his most comfortable slacks that aren’t sweatpants. Once he’s dressed, he pulls his hair back into a loose knot, and looks at himself in the mirror. He’s not as polished as Hizashi, but it’s not bad. Before he steps into the hall, he grabs the ring from its hiding place and slips it deep into his pocket.
In the living room, Hizashi raises an eyebrow at his efforts. “Should I change?”
“You’re fine.” Hizashi looks skeptical, like he isn’t sure Shouta would know. But he lets it go, which is a relief. Shouta likes him like this, casual in his dark jeans and soft green pullover. Most people don’t get to see him this way, and it makes Shouta feel trustworthy, important. This is a Hizashi he can propose to, if he can propose to anyone at all.
Shouta flips through a magazine while Hizashi finishes his work. He has his own papers to grade, but his focus is so poor he can’t even tell what article he’s reading, let alone concentrate on his students’ essays. It’s a relief when Hizashi starts putting his things back in his work bag and asks Shouta if he’s ready to leave.
It’s late enough now, so Shouta says that he is, and they head to the entryway to get their shoes on. “Wear this,” Hizashi orders, tossing him one of his jackets. “You’ll get cold.” Shouta shrugs into it - it’s a little tight at the shoulders, but not enough to mind, and today seems like the right day to wear something of Hizashi’s.
“You look good,” Hizashi smiles, kissing him on the cheek as they walk out the door. “Where are we going?”
“I have a few stops to make,” Shouta says as he locks up behind them. When they get to the street, Hizashi turns towards the subway, but Shouta stops him with a hand on his arm. “Let’s take a cab.”
Hizashi rolls his eyes a little, but nods good-naturedly, no doubt assuming Shouta doesn’t feel like dealing with train changes and other passengers. That’s true, but usually Shouta would put up with it. Not today though. He summons a cab with his phone, angling the screen so Hizashi won’t see their destination.
The expression on Hizashi’s face when they arrive is worth the expense and the trouble. “No way,” he gasps, mouth dropping open and glasses falling down to the tip of his nose.
Shouta can’t help but smile as he reaches over to push them back into place. “Way.”
“Shouta! You’re the best!” Hizashi wraps him up in a quick hug before grabbing at his wrist, towing Shouta along behind him as he sprints into the arcade, the same one they used to visit almost every day after school when they were teenagers. Walking through the doors after so many years has a desaturated, almost dreamy quality to it, like stepping into a memory.
“It looks just like when we were kids!” Hizashi yells, just on the edge of too-loud. It doesn’t, not exactly, but it’s close. Most of the games are different, but a few remain from back in their UA days. “Look!” Hizashi gasps, and Shouta turns to see what’s caught his eye. “It’s still here!”
It is. Hizashi’s beloved Dance Dance Revolution, still taking pride of place against the back wall. Shouta smiles. “Let’s go then.”
Hizashi’s eyes widen, he almost stumbles in his eagerness. “Really? You will?”
“If you want,” Shouta shrugs. The place is mostly empty, there are newer, flashier arcades around to draw the crowds. And it’s not like he cares who sees, anyway. “We’re both pretty out of practice.”
“Sure,” Hizashi says absently as they make their way over to the machine. “So we should go easy on each other. Yeah?”
“Of course. No need to make a big deal out of it or anything.” Shouta takes a few coins out of his wallet to start the game. He leans back on his heels, trying to stretch a little.
“Absolutely. We’re not kids anymore. It’s just a game,” Hizashi nods, setting the difficulty to Heavy.
“Right, right.” They step onto the platform. Neither of them grabs the safety bar.
The music begins, and Shouta locks eyes with the screen, conversation forgotten. He’s going to win. Hizashi had been unstoppable at this during their years at UA, but that was a long time ago and Shouta has kept up better with their training. His reflexes are sharper, he’s faster and more agile. He’s going to beat Hizashi for the first time ever. In the back of his mind, the thought occurs to him that crushing the object of your affection during your attempt to propose is not best idea, but he dismisses it. The battlefield is no place for romance.
When the song ends, Shouta looks up eagerly to compare their scores. “No.” His jaw drops. “How is that possible?”
Hizashi, the winner by a significant margin, throws his fist in the air. “You amateur,” he grins as he rolls his shoulders. “Do you think this is the only arcade in the city? Did you think you could dethrone the KING??”
“I wondered about all those late nights at the radio station,” Shouta drawls, charmed in spite of himself. “I’d rather you were having an affair.”
Hizashi smiles even wider, the way he always does when Shouta plays along with his silliness. “Come on, you can destroy me at Street Fighter. That always makes you feel better.”
Shouta feels pretty good already, relaxed and buzzing with affection, but he goes along with it, crushing Hizashi at Street Fighter three times, until he finally admits permanent defeat. “The reigning champion keeps his title,” Hizashi laughs as he drags him by the arm to another game.
They drift around for a while, trying some of the new games, which are more fun to complain about than they are to play, and comparing them to some of their old favorites. Shouta is still terrible at racing games, and Hizashi is still convinced that’s the reason he won’t get a driver’s license.
Shouta closes his eyes, and with just the sound of Hizashi’s friendly teasing over the background noise of the arcade, it’s almost like they’re students again, spending time together in the days before they’d figured out what they were to each other. Shouta had loved Hizashi even then, though he couldn’t have said so, had been drawn to the warmth and brightness inside him. That hasn’t changed and never will. He’s smiling when he opens his eyes and tugs at the hem of Hizashi’s shirt. “Let’s get ice cream.”
“Sure!” Hizashi grins, abandoning whatever he was looking at to follow Shouta. “Oh, but our usual place closed a few years after we graduated.”
“There’s another a few blocks away.” He hopes Hizashi won’t ask how he knows. He doesn’t want to lie, but if he admits that he’d looked up every ice cream shop within walking distance before settling on one that was music-themed, Hizashi is going to know this is more than a casual outing. But Hizashi just smiles and wraps an arm around Shouta as they walk.
Shouta likes the place more than he expected - it’s loud and colorful, but the music isn’t so deafening that he can’t hear Hizashi, and it’s fun to watch Hizashi’s delight. There’s a line of customers when they arrive, but it moves quickly as they look over the extensive menu.
“What flavor should we try today? You pick,” Shouta offers, as they reach the counter.
Hizashi shakes his head. “I picked last time, remember? It’s your turn.”
“Fine.” Shouta turns to the attendant. “Blueberry.”
“Shouta,” Hizashi sounds like he’s trying to be stern, but the turned-up corners of his mouth give him away. “You’re not supposed to choose my favorite.”
“You wanted me to decide, I decided,” Shouta says, ordering two cones. They sit down to eat, legs tangled together under the table. Hizashi does the talking, about their students and his radio show, and Shouta is happy just to listen. To watch him as he gestures with his ice cream, wildly enough that the other customers are in danger of being splattered.
“What?” Hizashi asks mid-sentence, when he finally notices Shouta’s amused expression.
“You’re blue.” Shouta gestures towards his mouth. Hizashi grins at him, teeth tinged the same blue as his lips.
“Oh am I? Well so are you!” He leans over, beckoning like he wants to whisper into Shouta’s ear. Shouta meets him in the middle, but instead of saying anything, Hizashi turns at the last moment to plant a quick kiss against Shouta’s mouth. “Delicious,” he says as he pulls away, too pleased with himself.
Shouta glances around, but no one is looking in their direction. As usual, Hizashi will get away with his mischief. “Troublemaker,” he accuses, knocking their feet together.
Hizashi leans back in his seat and winks. “Your kind of trouble.”
Shouta can’t deny it. The ring, heavy in his pocket, says as much.
They linger at the table after they’ve finished. Hizashi seems too content to be in any hurry, and Shouta is starting to feel his nerves creep up. There’s just one more stop to make after this, the big one.
But he can’t hide in an ice cream shop forever. During the next lull in the conversation he stands, and Hizashi follows immediately, gathering up their extra napkins and pushing the chairs in behind them. Outside, the sun has almost set, and the chill in the air seeps through the front of Shouta’s shirt. He starts to cross his arms in front of his chest, but before he can, Hizashi steps in close to zip his jacket for him. “Ready to go home?” he asks, tugging the collar straight.
It takes Shouta a moment to recover from the intimacy of the gesture. He’s not cold anymore. “I have something to do at the school first. It will only take a few minutes.”
“Sure!” Hizashi agrees, bouncing on the balls of his feet. He’s still smiling. Whatever happens next, Shouta made him happy today. That gives him courage.
It’s not a long walk to the UA campus, long-deserted this late in the evening. He’s expecting Hizashi to ask questions as they pass by the classrooms and out through the rear doors of the main building. Hizashi doesn’t say anything though, just walks beside Shouta like there’s nowhere he’d rather be.
Shouta takes them along the path to the stadium, where he uses his ID card to unlock the smaller, side entrance. It leads them down a long corridor to the arena. When they step into the open air, he takes Hizashi by the hand, pulling him forward onto the grass. “The most important moment of my life happened on this field.”
“Yeah,” Hizashi squeezes his fingers. “When you won the Sports Festival, and got into the Heroics course. I was there.”
Shouta hums in acknowledgement, neither agreeing nor denying. “Do you remember before that? The cavalry battle? I was standing right here-” He moves a few steps further onto the field. “Trying to figure out what to do. I hadn’t planned on teams. And everyone was looking right past me, until you. You ran over to me and stood there,” Shouta gestures to the spot just in front of him. “And you said-”
“‘Hey, we should team up. With your quirk, you’re the perfect rider,’” Hizashi quotes, stepping into place. The first time he’d said those words, he’d been grinning, wide and eager. His smile is softer now, sweeter with the memory. “And I was right.”
“You’re always right.” Shouta closes his eyes. This is the hard part. He’s tried to do this three times, and three times his words have failed him. But Hizashi deserves his best effort. For him, Shouta can be brave. “If I had to choose between those two moments, between winning the tournament and meeting you, I’d pick you, Hizashi. There’s nothing I’d choose over you.”
Shouta forces his eyes open, makes himself meet Hizashi’s stunned gaze. “If I live a hundred years and die an old man in my bed, the last thought I’ll ever have will be of you, standing right there, smiling at me with the sun in your hair and telling me I’m perfect.”
He pauses, takes a moment to steady himself. “And that’s why I hope you’ll take this,” he grabs the ring from his pocket, hand shaking so badly he worries he might fumble it. He manages, barely, to flick open the box, but can’t quite bring himself to extend his arm. Instead, he holds it close to his chest, in front of his heart. “Because you’re perfect, too. To me, you’re perfect.”
There it is. The best he can do.
Hizashi just stares at Shouta’s face. He’s not smiling anymore. He’s not crying either, like Kayama said he would. Shouta isn’t sure he’s ever seen him quite so serious or still. Slowly, like it takes real effort, Hizashi drops his eyes to the ring. His expression is inscrutable; Shouta can’t tell if he likes it or not, if he finds it too gaudy, too plain, too cheap or too expensive. The box trembles in his hand.
Hizashi’s eyes meet his again. “Give me the ring, Shouta.”
He starts to extend the box, but Hizashi sticks his left hand out, expectant. Still shaking slightly, Shouta takes the ring and, as gently as he can, slides it onto the proper finger. Once it’s in place, Hizashi clenches his fist, like someone might try to take it off him, but only for a moment. Then he opens his hand and spreads his fingers, eyes locked on the ring and oh. There are the tears, making his eyes shine like the peridots Shouta chose for him.
The sight of it, of his ring on Hizashi’s hand, hits Shouta like a strike to the solar plexus. He’d had no idea what it would mean to him to see this, physical proof that yes, Hizashi does want him forever. It knocks the wind out of him, he feels himself sway as his knees start to give.
“Hey!” Hizashi catches him around the shoulders, and lowers them both carefully to the grass. “Second thoughts already?” He pulls Shouta against his chest, presses a kiss to his temple.
“No!” Shouta gasps, as quickly as he can, in case Hizashi isn’t kidding. Then, in a slightly steadier tone: “No. Just… It looks good there. It suits you.”
“It really does.” At last, Hizashi’s lips quirk into a smile. “I didn’t need all this, you know. I would have said yes any time. Anywhere. If I knew you really meant it.”
“I meant it. Every time, I meant it.” It seems important that Hizashi know that, that Shouta has never asked carelessly.
“This is the best day of my life,” Hizashi whispers into Shouta’s hair, holding him even closer. “It was perfect. You’re perfect.”
Shouta knows that’s far from true, far enough to be laughable. But just now, with Hizashi’s arms around him, and the ring glimmering in the low light, he feels it, feels the tide of Hizashi’s love shoring him up, filling in all the cracks and broken places inside of him, making him more than he was.
The evening air is cold, and the damp from the grass is seeping through his clothes to his skin, but Shouta doesn’t notice any of it. He’s warm all the way through, just like he was years and years ago in this spot, under the bright sun and Hizashi’s smile.