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Shout & Mute

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Another day, another villain. 

Well, another potential villain, Shouta amends, leaping from rooftop to rooftop as he trails his target through the streets. So far he’s done nothing more than look unpleasantly familiar when Shouta spotted him loitering in a bad part of town. But after a few long years of Hero work, Shouta’s learned when to trust his instincts, and right now they’re telling him that this guy is up to no good. 

They make their way across the city, and Shouta is about to call the whole thing off and head home when he finds himself in a familiar neighborhood, next to an even more familiar building. This is Hizashi’s place. And the guy he’s following isn’t alone any longer; three more men, also vaguely-familiar in a way Shouta suspects is from criminal watchlists, are lurking in the alley, just out of sight of the street. 

They start talking in low voices, too far away for Shouta to overhear, and he doesn’t like it. It doesn’t feel like a coincidence, this gathering outside Hizashi’s apartment. Then one of them pulls back his jacket, revealing the dark shadow of a gun, and Shouta really doesn’t like it. He hesitates as he debates his next move. He knows all the bigger villains in this part of town, and these guys barely ping his radar. They’re not very physically imposing, and none of them carry themselves with the confidence that a powerful quirk always seems to bestow. He could probably deal with the four of them with relatively little trouble. 

Still. It would be a bit foolish to take that risk when another option has presented itself so neatly. He pulls out his phone, finger hovering over the screen before he finally decides to go ahead with a quick text. And no sooner has he pressed send than the crew in the alley starts moving, heading for the building’s security door.

That won’t do. 

Without looking, Shouta lets fly his capture weapon, sending it to cling to the railing of the balcony below him, trusting it to hold his weight as he swings towards the villains. He aims carefully, colliding into the biggest of the four with a kick to the chest that sends the man flying down the alley. One down, three to go. 

Shouta drops to the ground, pulling his scarf back into position as the remaining villains just stand there, processing what happened. Before they can react, Shouta is already reaching for his next opponent, pulling him forward to connect the bridge of his nose with Shouta’s knee, then throwing him to the ground with a thud. 

Two to go. 

In probably the smartest move Shouta has seen so far this evening, one of the villains turns and runs for the street. The one that remains widens his stance, squaring up as he looks at Shouta with contempt. “We’re not here for you,” he growls. “We have a score to settle with Present Mic.”

Shouta can’t help the laugh that bursts out of him. “Mic? You’re here for Mic? He could take all four of you out with one sneeze.” It’s true. Shouta saw him do it once, one hilarious allergy season. 

The villain is not as amused. He brings his fists up, ready to fight, and as Shouta watches they turn to stone. He snorts, not even bothering to erase the guy’s quirk, just throwing his scarf out to pull him off his feet. He swings wildly as he goes down, but Shouta sidesteps neatly, tugging on his binding cloth and sending the guy flying into the wall. 

Three down. Shouta looks up, ready to send his scarf after the final, fleeing villain. But before he can-

Hey Eraser!!” The sound echoes off the walls of the building, loud enough that Shouta staggers. “I think you lost something!!” And there’s Hizashi, standing at the mouth of the alley, grinning wide and easy, like he was just out for a stroll. He’s dressed for one, his directional speaker the only piece of his uniform he’d bothered to grab when he’d gotten Shouta’s message, apparently. 

The last villain, closer to the source of the noise, falls backwards onto his ass. Though it’s a little unprofessional, Shouta can’t help the small smile that crosses his face at Hizashi’s dramatic arrival. “Thanks Mic,” Shouta says, striding forward and grabbing the villain firmly by the wrist and pulling him to his feet. He stays alert, capture weapon ready - they have no idea what the guy’s quirk is, so it’s only logical to be careful. Still, the man is small, not physically intimidating, and he looks scared. It’s likely this fight is over. 

Hizashi grins wider, stretching out an arm for a fist-bump. Shouta rolls his eyes, but knows he’ll go along with it. Hizashi will wait forever if he’s left hanging.

Quick as a snake, the villain pulls hard against Shouta’s hold, reaching out with his free arm, towards Hizashi’s outstretched fist. Shouta tightens his grip on the guy’s wrist, pivoting instinctively, pulling him backwards as hard as he can. 

Villains were not allowed to touch Hizashi. No one was allowed to touch Hizashi.

Shouta is almost fast enough. But neither he nor Hizashi were expecting the attack, and the villain’s fingers brush, light as a feather, against the exposed skin of Hizashi’s hand, and the world goes dark. 

 

———

 

“Eraserhead! Eraser! Is… is that you? Wake up!” Through the blackness, which feels murky and thick, like too much humidity, Shouta hears someone calling him. The voice is familiar, but he can’t place it. He answers as he struggles to open his eyes.

WHAT?” The word explodes out of him, shaking the air. Shouta hears glass breaking nearby. 

“Ah, god!” The voice curses. “Don’t talk, all right? Just be quiet for a minute!” 

Stunned and confused, Shouta couldn’t speak again if he wanted to. His ears hurt. His head hurts. And he recognizes the voice now. He forces his eyes open, blinking quickly against the light, and stares at his own face, creased in worry. 

“Yeah.” The voice - Shouta - tries to smile. “We fucked up.”

Shouta throws himself backwards, putting as much space between himself and his double as he can. “Wait!” yells the other Shouta, but he’s already pushing himself to his feet. Something is off; there’s a heavy weight on his shoulders that throws his balance off and he stumbles, catching himself against the rough bricks of the alley wall. 

It’s wrong. Everything’s all wrong. He reaches for his scarf but it’s not there; cold metal presses against his throat instead. In a panic, he reaches for his quirk, trying to summon the power from behind his eyes, but he can’t feel it. There’s nothing there. 

“Eraser, please,” the other Shouta holds his hands up. “It’s okay, I swear, it’s okay! It’s Mic! I’m Mic!”

Mic?” The word slips out before he can think about it, so loud he feels it reverberates all the way down to his bones. In front of him, the other Shouta drops to his knees.

Stop!” he yells, covering his ears. “You’re going to hurt… yourself? Or me? You’re going to hurt someone!”

Shouta slaps a hand over his mouth. That’s wrong too, the fingers are longer than they should be, the skin softer and less calloused. And though his mind is screaming at him that it can’t be, that it’s impossible, he knows what has to have happened. The worried expression on the man before him is as familiar as the face he wears. He’s telling the truth, he’s Hizashi. And that must mean-

He looks down at himself, and yes, those are Hizashi’s clothes. This is Hizashi’s body. A low groan fights to escape at the realization of just how badly they’ve fumbled this, and he slaps his other hand over his mouth to try and muffle it, with limited success. The air doesn’t vibrate again, but he sees Hizashi grimace at the sound. 

But he doesn’t reprimand Shouta, just sighs like they’re in agreement. “Yeah, I know. C’mon, let’s call this in.”

The police arrive in minutes, taking the three villains Shouta subdued into custody and writing down his and Hizashi’s statements impassively. Detective Tsukauchi arrives shortly thereafter, already briefed. “We’ve seen this kind of thing before,” he tells them as he jots something down in his notebook. “It sounds like you crossed paths with Seiho Oshima, a villain with a body-swapping quirk. He just finished a short stint in prison - not Tartarus, he’s too small-time for that. I’ve been keeping an eye on him, but I never thought he’d go after a Pro.”

“How long will this last?” Hizashi asks. In Shouta’s voice, it comes out low and soft, barely a whisper.

There’s a pause before Tsukauchi looks away. “Only Oshima can switch you back. But we will recapture him, have no doubt of that! Until then,” the detective says, “I think it’s better if we don’t make this public. If villains are still after Present Mic, it’s better if they don’t know how vulnerable he is right now. Stay at each other’s apartments, and don’t let anyone know what happened.”

“But the guy that got away must know,” Hizashi says, a bit louder but still barely audible. “Aren’t we safer if we stick together?”

Tsukauchi taps his pen against the edge of his notebook. “Maybe, but that would just confirm his story if he tells anyone. Could you fight like this, in the event of an attack?”

Before Shouta can respond, Hizashi is already shaking his head. “No. I’m not trained to use Eraser’s binding cloth, and he shouldn’t be using my quirk at all.” Shouta’s protest must be evident on his face, because Hizashi turns to face him directly. “Listen, promise me you won’t try to use it. Unless it’s a matter of life or death, don’t.” Hizashi looks unusually solemn, though that may just be because he looks like Shouta. 

The request piques Shouta’s curiosity. “Why not? I’ve seen you do it often enough.” The words come out too loud, practically a shout, and Hizashi makes a face like Shouta’s answered his own question. “Fair point,” Shouta sighs, still too-loudly. 

“I don’t like it,” Hizashi says, when Tsukauchi steps away to confer with one of the other officers. “We should stay together until this is sorted out. And neither of us should hang around my apartment.”

Shouta shrugs. “I trust Tsukauchi.” And, he thinks, I want you safe. However he looks at it, splitting up is the best way to keep Hizashi out of danger. If anyone goes looking for Eraserhead, they won’t find him. Shouta is meticulous in his precautions, his apartment untraceable. And if someone comes back here to try for Present Mic again, Shouta will be ready for them. He can’t use Hizashi’s quirk, and he’s lost some muscle, but Hizashi is hardly out of shape. He can take down a few low-caliber villains like this, no problem. “We should split up.”

Hizashi scowls. It’s a little more intimidating than usual. “I still don’t like it. Promise me you’ll call me and Tsukauchi at the first sign of trouble.”

Shouta promises, and they swap phones. Tsukauchi offers Hizashi a ride to Shouta’s neighborhood, which he accepts at Shouta’s nod, leaving Shouta alone in front of the building. It’s a nice place in a good part of town, much nicer than Shouta’s own apartment. He feels a flash of guilt as he makes his way inside, thinking of Hizashi stuck at his place, which he hasn’t bothered to furnish with unnecessary things like beds, or chairs. 

When he gets to Hizashi’s, the first thing he does is take off the directional speaker. It takes him a moment; he’s pulled it off Hizashi a few times when he was injured, but the angle is different like this, and his fingers fumble as they search for the hidden clasps. When he finally manages it, he puts it gently on the table in the entryway, along with Hizashi’s ridiculous sunglasses, which he replaces with the sturdy black frames that Hizashi only wears at home. Shouta likes to tease Hizashi about them, but now the sight of them soothes his nerves. No one else gets to see Hizashi in his ugly glasses, only Shouta, and it makes him feel trusted. Special. 

He’s been alone in Hizashi’s apartment before; he has a key and sometimes crashes there while he waits for Hizashi to get home from one of his many obligations. But this is different. Hizashi isn’t here and he isn’t going to be, not anytime soon. It’s a lonesome feeling. Shouta moves through the apartment slowly, looking around carefully, like he’s seeing everything for the first time. There are dishes by the sink, clean and dry, ready to be put away. Shouta almost walks past them - it seems irrational to him, putting the dishes up on a shelf when he’ll just be taking them back down in a few hours anyway - but the thought of Hizashi’s disappointment stops him. This is Hizashi’s home, Hizashi’s dishes. He would want them put away. It only takes a minute. Shouta knows where everything goes. 

He moves into the living room. Hizashi must have been here when he got Shouta’s message - the blanket that usually sits neatly on the back of the couch is rumpled, pulled across the cushions, and one of Hizashi’s books lies on the floor, pages askew. Shouta straightens the blanket, picks up the book and puts it on the side table. 

He moves into the bathroom, not quite sure what he’s looking for, until he finds himself drawn to the mirror like the pull of a magnet. He stares at the face looking back at him, Hizashi’s face. There’s something unsettling about it, like a drawing that’s too good, too realistic. It’s Hizashi’s face but it’s not Hizashi. It’s Shouta’s reflection but it’s not Shouta. He can’t look at it for too long before he has to avert his eyes. 

He flees back into the living room, but the welling panic follows. In the quiet of the apartment, with no distractions, the differences between this body and his own are easier to focus on. Hizashi is lighter than him, his frame narrower. Even sitting on the couch feels different, the cushions giving slightly less than usual, his gaze a centimeter or two too high. The clothes he’s wearing are too tight, too restrictive, and his bare arms keep bumping uncomfortably into the cold metal studs on his belt.

Shouta brings a hand to the back of his neck, but the familiar heaviness of his hair is missing, and suddenly he feels exposed, raw and open to the world. He reaches up to undo Hizashi’s loose bun, deeply grateful his friend hadn’t had time for his usual Present Mic style. The hair falls, a golden curtain around his face, and it’s wrong, it’s wrong, his hair should be dark, warm and rough and comfortable like everything else about Shouta. Not smooth and cool and shining. When Shouta buries his hand in it, the familiar, comforting gesture becomes something else, something that amps his anxiety even higher. 

His phone rings, startlingly loud in the silent apartment, lighting up with Hizashi’s contact photo. It’s a joke image, taken the day Hizashi fell asleep in the teachers’ lounge, where someone had written ‘mute’ on a sticky note and left it stuck to the front of his shirt. Hizashi is always trying to delete it, but it’s Shouta’s favorite photo of him, with his face soft and relaxed in sleep, smiling just slightly. He sighs as he accepts the call, his heart slowing back down to somewhere near its regular rhythm. 

“What?” he whispers into the phone, as quietly as he can make himself. In his own body, he would be nearly inaudible, but Hizashi’s voice rings out of him at nearly normal volume, bright and clear.

There’s no response, but Shouta can hear rustling on the other end, and what might be a quiet murmur. “Hizashi? Are you there?” He cringes at his own words, how loud and abrupt they are. 

On the other end of the phone, he hears a sigh. “Shouta? Can you hear me?” comes through barely loud enough to hear. 

“Yes, now,” Shouta replies, trying to drop his voice even lower. It doesn’t help much. “Why are you calling?” 

“You need to take care of my plants,” Hizashi says. It throws Shouta, in more ways than one. He understands, intellectually, that it’s Hizashi talking to him. But they’ve been friends for ten years. He knows how those words should sound, coming from Hizashi. His demands are bright and cheerful and just this side of nagging. In Shouta’s voice, they’re rough and tired, unfriendly. It’s deeply disquieting. 

“Plants?” he repeats, because that’s the obvious thing to say. 

“In my bedroom? You’ve seen them before,” Hizashi says. That explains his confusion then. On the rare occasions Shouta’s been in Hizashi’s bedroom, he’s had no attention to spare for any plants. Generally he’s shoving his friend into bed after a night of drinking or a rough patrol, and the only thing he cares to look at in those moments is Hizashi, with his hair spread over the pillows and his eyes soft with tiredness. He can’t say that though.

“Right, yes,” he agrees, anxious to be done with this. “I’ll water them.”

“No, Shouta! That’s why I called,” Hizashi sounds irritated, and Shouta doesn’t know if it’s because that’s how he feels, or just Shouta’s voice. “You need to mist the orchids every day - twice if you can. The bottle is next to them. Just three sprays each, on the leaves. Don’t wet the flowers. The violet needs water every day, but not too much. Don’t get any water on the leaves, just the dirt. And-”

“Hizashi,” Shouta interrupts, pressing the heel of his palm against his forehead. “I don’t know what any of those are.”

There’s a beat of silence on the other end of the line. “Of course,” his voice says, stiffly. “I’m sorry. I’ll email you the instructions, and some photos. I know it’s a lot, but will you please try? I’ve had some of those plants a long time.”

“I’ll try,” Shouta says, because yes, it’s a lot, but there’s not much he wouldn’t do for Hizashi. A few household chores are the least of it. Still- “How do you have time to do all of this?”

“When something is important, you make the time.” Hizashi’s said those words before, when Shouta’s asked him about other hobbies, his guitar or his radio show. They’re comforting in their familiarity, and even his own rough voice 

After they say a quick goodbye, Shouta makes his way to the bedroom, curious. There’s a large window there, with a line of plants in front of it, more than he expected. To Shouta’s uneducated eye, they look healthy, loved, not a dead flower or wilted leaf in sight. 

There’s a chair in front of the window, and Shouta drops himself into it. It’s peaceful here, with the sun low in the sky and the plants around him. He pictures Hizashi in this spot, his long legs thrown over the arm of the chair and his computer in his lap. It’s a nice image. 

It’s easy to be fooled by Hizashi, to fall into the trap of thinking he’s no more than he appears: loud, flashy, a little foolish. Even Shouta forgets, sometimes, how Hizashi can be with the things he truly cares for. How quietly he tends them. He ought to have remembered. It’s one of the reasons Shouta fell in love with him, after all. 

 

———

 

When Shouta wakes up late the next day, it takes him a bleary moment to remember where he is. There’s an instant, before he remembers what happened but after he realizes that he’s in Hizashi’s bed, when hope flares and burns so bright inside him that it aches as it fades away. Hizashi didn’t invite him there. Shouta’s presence in this place is a matter of necessity, and nothing more. 

He almost trips as he stumbles to his feet - his legs are longer than they ought to be, his center of gravity somewhere he didn’t expect. Hizashi’s hair is snarled and knotted and hanging in his eyes, and he can’t comb the tangles out with his fingers. He keeps his head down as he cleans himself up, but it’s difficult not to keep glancing back at the mirror and startling himself with Hizashi’s green eyes.

It sets the tone for the rest of the day. He can’t go out like this, so he resigns himself to watching TV on Hizashi’s couch. He doesn’t expect it to be a problem - he’s spent hours there before, doing paperwork or just talking with Hizashi as a movie plays in the background. But there’s not much in the kitchen he can eat, mostly raw ingredients Shouta has no idea how to prepare. He doesn’t even own a frying pan, let alone know how to use one. And it feels different, being there without Hizashi’s warm presence, like something crucial is missing. 

It sets Shouta’s teeth on edge. Usually he has no trouble sitting quietly - besides punching villains, being still is his greatest talent. But as the day drags on, a furious energy builds and builds inside him, shoving him to his feet and sending him pacing from room to room looking for something to do. But there’s nothing. Hizashi’s apartment is tidy already, his hero uniform in perfect repair. 

Being in the wrong body doesn’t make it any easier; every time he catches sight of a too-slender hand, or a swing of blond hair, his anxiety spikes and his heart beats faster. Moving around helps, and he considers going out for a walk, but he’s not sure he’s safe on the streets right now. It feels as if the slightest sound he makes is going to explode outwards, loud enough to level buildings. 

-Something’s wrong- he texts Hizashi as the sun starts to set, when he feels like he might break apart if he has to stay still for a moment longer. -I can’t control your quirk.- 

A reply dings almost immediately. -Go up to the roof. I’ll meet you there.- 

Shouta scowls at the lack of helpful instruction, but obeys. What else can he do? There’s something building inside him, he can feel his bones almost vibrating with it, and he doesn’t know how to make it stop. 

He doesn’t have to wait long. It’s a warm night, and the breeze on the roof calms him, just a little. Enough so that, when he hears footsteps behind him, he can turn around and greet his friend. “Hizashi.”

“Shouta,” Hizashi says, smiling just a little. Shouta’s not sure he’s ever seen that expression on his own face before. It’s nice. Hizashi looks nice, even under Shouta’s grumpy exterior. It soothes Shouta a bit more. 

“What’s wrong with me?” Shouta says, trying hard to keep his voice level. It rises despite his best efforts. “What am I doing wrong?”

Hizashi’s smile drops. “Nothing. This is just… how it is. For me. I didn’t know it would happen so fast for you, or I would have said something. I’m sorry.”

Shouta raises his brows, not trusting himself to speak in reply. Hizashi just shrugs. 

“I know you’ve been trying to control my quirk. You’re doing really well - it took me a long time to stop breaking windows.”

“You were a child,” Shouta interrupts, too loudly. Hizashi smiles again, just a little. 

“I know. That helped. Children love to talk, and the more I talk, the louder I am, the slower it builds up - the energy. The sound. Whatever it is. You have to let it out, a little at a time. Or it gets like this. Like it’s buzzing inside of you.”

Shouta can only stare. This explains so much about Hizashi, and he never knew. He never even suspected. Hizashi’s smile widens. “It’s been peaceful, today. Being you. Thank you for that.”

“What do I do?” Shouta asks, bewildered. 

Hizashi steps forward, takes Shouta gently by the shoulders and turns him around towards the edge of the roof, facing the city, bright and busy at this time of night. His eyes - Shouta’s eyes - glow red, and his hair stands on end. “Scream,” he orders. “Loud as you can.”

Shouta screams. He puts all of his frustration into it, all of his anxiety and restlessness and longing. He screams and screams, no louder than any other person, no hint of the quirk that could level the buildings in front of him. And when he finally stops, his throat sore and his lungs aching, the frantic energy inside him is quiet. Everything is still. 

Beside him, Hizashi blinks. He slumps forward, brings a hand up to rub at his eyes, which Shouta knows must burn. “You need eye drops,” Shouta murmurs. 

“I know,” Hizashi says. “I know, just give me a second.” He straightens, reaching into his pocket for the bottle. He came prepared for this. “Did it help?” he asks, as he tips his head back.

“Yes,” says Shouta, watching the way Hizashi’s shoulders relax as the drops do their work. 

“Good.” Hizashi smiles. “I always thought it might.”

Shouta would like to see that smile on Hizashi’s real face. Hizashi is standing next to him right now, but nothing is the same. He misses Hizashi’s expressions, his voice, the easy way he moves in his own body. “You’ve never asked me to do that for you though.”

“No,” Hizashi agrees. His smile wilts a little at the edges. “It was too hard to explain. I never wanted you to think I couldn’t control my quirk.”

“I wouldn’t think that,” Shouta protests. He’s pretty sure it’s true. “Even if I didn’t understand, I still would have helped you.”

Hizashi puts a hand on his arm, squeezing just a bit too hard - he’s not used to Shouta’s grip. “Of course you would. I never doubted that. I just - my quirk is too destructive. You’ve seen what it can do, Shouta. If people think it’s not under control, even a little, they’ll be afraid. I don’t want anyone to be afraid of me.”

Shouta reaches up, loosening Hizashi’s fingers just a little. He doesn’t mind the pressure, but he doesn’t want to bruise Hizashi’s body. It seems like the least he can do. 

Hizashi flinches and starts to pull away, but Shouta holds his hand in place, still wrapped loosely around his arm, and he thinks, for a moment, about Hizashi. About how much he likes people to smile. How silly he makes himself seem, how approachable. How hard he works to make himself safe for others. 

“I’d be glad to help you,” is what he can bring himself to say. It sounds lame, insufficient, but it’s all he has. “Any time.” 

Hizashi looks at him warmly, an expression Shouta has seen countless times on his real face, and for a moment, it’s like he can see the true Hizashi beneath the Shouta-mask. It’s a comfort. 

 

———

 

Falling in love ought to be slow, Shouta knows, and it’s possible that for him, it was. He isn’t sure. It’s likely that what he feels for Hizashi grew slowly, a seed planted the first time Hizashi smiled at him, the kind you don’t notice until its roots are too deep to pull out clean. 

But that’s not how it felt. 

There was a moment, after a fight in the middle of the city with the potential for a lot of civilian casualties. They were new heroes then, fresh out of school, and Shouta had been doing his best to contain the destruction while Hizashi had taken point on the evacuation, guiding people out of the combat zone. He was already starting to be well-known by then, as a hero and rising radio star, and people trusted him, following his booming instructions and clearing the area in record time. 

After the battle, when Shouta had finished handing the villains over to the police, he’d gone looking for Hizashi and found him surrounded by people, the same ones who had been screaming and frightened only a quarter-hour before. They were smiling now, laughing at Hizashi’s antics as he joked with them and made faces at the children, and Shouta had simply stood and watched, though they both needed to go to the station and make reports.

This man could level cities, Shouta had reminded himself, as Hizashi reached forward to give a baby the gentlest high-five in history. 

As if he heard the thought, Hizashi had turned slightly, pointing at Shouta and giving him an exaggerated wave, encouraging the child to mimic him. She had, grinning happily, and Hizashi mirrored her expression, his smile so bright Shouta nearly staggered beneath it. 

That was the end of it, or maybe the beginning. His heart had thrummed too fast, too loud, and he heard the echo of it still, years later. He may have been in love all along, but that was the moment he tripped and fell into it headfirst.

And it’s not difficult, being in love with Hizashi. 

For as loud and boisterous as he is, Hizashi knows when Shouta needs quiet, and better than that, he knows when Shouta needs noise. When he desperately needs distraction from the grim monotony of his mind, Hizashi is there with a smile, to suggest they get a meal or go out for a drink, and he’s never put off by Shouta’s automatic refusals. He’s always there at Shouta’s darkest, the one person never driven to anger by Shouta’s occasional black moods and cutting remarks. 

Hizashi doesn’t ask for much in return. Sometimes he needs a quiet audience to talk at as he works his way through a problem. Sometimes he doesn’t. Hizashi had told him once that he appreciated not having to be on in Shouta’s presence, that it was nice to be able to sit quietly and not worry that he was boring or disappointing anyone, though Shouta hadn’t understood what he meant. Those moments are his favorite: Hizashi, casual and rumpled in his oversized sweaters and ugly glasses, eating takeout as he complains about some of his less-helpful colleagues and imitating them so accurately Shouta can’t control his laughter. It’s difficult to imagine anyone not loving Hizashi that way. 

Not that Hizashi has ever asked for Shouta’s love. 

Still, Hizashi does so much for him, when Shouta finds ways to make his life a little easier, he takes them gladly. So on the third night of their transformation, when he hears the chime of an incoming text from Hizashi, he reaches for his phone without hesitation. 

-You need to call the radio station and tell them I won’t be in. If they ask which episode to re-air, tell them the one from this week last year.- It’s followed by a phone number. 

-I’ll take care of it- Shouta replies. He goes to make the call, but hesitates, his thumb hovering over the number. Hizashi almost never misses his weekly broadcast. It’s a point of pride for him to never disappoint his listeners - he’s gone in injured, raced into the station straight from the end of a fight, and made his way through in the worst weather. It must be killing him to cancel today, when he’s perfectly able to be there, just… Shouta. 

Shouta has a crazy idea.

Shouta has heard every episode of Hizashi’s show. If he’s at home when it airs, he curls up in his sleeping bag and lets Hizashi’s voice blare through the speakers of his old laptop. If he’s on patrol, he takes a break and listens on his phone. Put Your Hands Up Radio is the reason he has a data plan. 

Hizashi’s set list is already made - he finished it a week ago. Shouta was there, he brought over take-out and finished some reports while Hizashi worked. It would be a shame to waste it.

Shouta is cleaned up and through the door before he can talk himself out of it. He should talk himself out of it - he can barely speak to one person at a time, let alone however many thousand are going to be listening to Hizashi’s show tonight. But the thought of Hizashi, stuck in Shouta’s terrible apartment, missing his nice home and his plants and his radio show, propels him down to the street and into a cab.

Shouta’s been to the radio station plenty of times to meet Hizashi, and was even on the air once, when Hizashi convinced him to do an interview and give his thoughts on underground heroes. So he makes his way to the right area of the building with no trouble, just a few minutes past the time Hizashi usually arrives. 

“Mic! You’re here!” A young woman in a headset waves a clipboard at him. Shouta recognizes her as Hizashi’s assistant, and at the same time realizes that he couldn’t guess her name if his life depended on it. For a moment, he panics. This was a mistake. He’s about to embarrass Hizashi in front of his colleagues. He’s about to ruin something Hizashi loves and-

Shouta takes a breath, trying to rein in his anxiety. He can do this. He can do this. He can play Present Mic. The voice is seventy percent of it already. Shouta can fake the rest. He can do this for Hizashi. 

“There’s my favorite assistant!” Shouta grins widely, playing it up as much as he can. He’s not much of an actor, but he’s been friends with Hizashi for almost ten years, he can imitate him in a pinch. For a moment, he worries that he’s gone too far, overplayed his hand, but the girl just smiles. 

“Hey Boss-man! Running a little late today?” 

Of course, Shouta thinks. This is Present Mic. There’s no way Shouta can overdo it. He brings the back of his hand to his forehead, leaning back dramatically. “Tragically, I’m feeling a little under the weather today!” He says, squeezing his eyes shut, both for effect and so he doesn’t lose his nerve. 

“Oh!” The girl’s eyes go wide. “Well, don’t worry about a thing! I’ll take care of all the details, if you’re feeling up for going on air? The set list is already queued.”

Shouta straightens, following her into the booth. “Of course I am! You know I would never disappoint my beloved listeners!”

She smiles at him as she flips a few of the switches and adjusts the microphone. “I know!” She leaves a slight wave, and then it’s just Shouta, alone with the microphone and the blinking red light that indicates he’s about to be live to an audience of thousands. 

He takes a deep breath. The light stops blinking. This is it. “Aaaaaaaaalllll right listeners! Are you ready to put your hands up?!” It comes out a little louder than Shouta intends - his control over his voice isn’t quite perfect - but it’s not deafening. With luck it just sounds like Hizashi’s usual high energy. 

“I want to hear your stories today, listeners! Call in and tell me about your favorite heroes! Double points if you’ve met them in person! Triple points if they did something embarrassing! The best story wins a Hands Up t-shirt, so call in quick!” He points at his assistant, who cuts to some music while the phones light up. He knows there’s an army of interns somewhere that will screen these calls and send him the highlights, so he just waits until the red light comes on again. 

Welcome Back! Hope you’re enjoying tonight’s musical selection - the song list is available on our station’s website, so check that out ASAP! And now, we have a caller!” A green light flares to life, indicating the caller is on-air. “What’s your story, Listener?”

“Hey Mic,” says the caller, and Shouta does a double-take. That’s his voice - Shouta’s voice. He doesn’t usually sound like that though, he thinks. Like he’s smiling. “You probably don’t know me. I’m a pro-hero myself, though I work underground.”

“Wow! Always good to hear from a fellow pro,” Shouta grins into the microphone. He hadn’t expected Hizashi to call, but at least he sounds amused, not angry. “And an underground pro! You know, I have a lot of respect for you underground heroes. Doing all of the work for none of the credit! I could never do it - I love the spotlight too much for that!”

“Well, I’m glad,” says Hizashi. “Because that’s why I’m calling. You’re my favorite hero.” Shouta can hear his smirk over the airwaves. “In fact, you saved my life once. You probably don’t remember - you save people every day. But it was around two years ago-”

Shouta groans internally. He knows this story. It isn’t flattering. 

“-two years ago. I was on patrol in my neighborhood when I interrupted a bank robbery. I chased the villain up to the roof and restrained him, but he turned into a cat. The same cat I’d been feeding behind my apartment for a week before the crime. I was so shocked that I tripped on my own weapon and fell backwards off the roof. But it was my lucky day, because you happened to be in front of the bank, and you caught me in your arms, like a real hero.”

Shouta cringes. That had not been his finest moment. But it wasn’t quite as bad as Hizashi is describing it, either. “I remember you, Listener! How could I forget such a handsome hero? But I think you’re giving me a little too much credit. It was barely a two story drop - you would have been fine! You have reminded me that I need to start working out more, though. My shoulders hurt for two weeks after that little stunt! And didn’t you catch the villain, in the end?”

“Of course I did. I never forget a cat.” 

Shouta’s shoulders shake with the effort it takes not to laugh. He motions to his assistant to disconnect the call. “Thank you listener! Your story has inspired me to talk about MY favorite hero - the underground hero, Eraserhead!” He leans back a bit in his chair. “My most dedicated listeners will remember that I had him on my show some time ago! His thoughts on the underground hero scene were, if I may say so, deeply insightful! I think we all learned a lot that day! But I also have a more personal connection with Eraserhead! We occasionally do our daytime patrols together! He’s saved me from villains over fourteen times!!” That number is a little generous, Shouta admits to himself - most of those villains were just trying to get the drop on Hizashi, who probably would have heard them coming and been fine. But that detail would make for boring radio. He smirks. 

“But Eraserhead doesn’t just save me from villains! Once, during one of our patrols, I lost consciousness! He carried me three blocks towards a hospital before I woke up, and I had to admit that nothing had happened to me - I just saw a spider on my speaker and passed out!! And then I saw that it was still there and fainted again! He bravely removed it for me and released it into the wild. That’s a real hero, Listeners!”

There will be a reckoning for this, Shouta knows. In fact, as he feels his phone buzzing angrily in his pocket, he thinks it may come sooner than later. But he’d heard Hizashi laugh on the call, for the first time in days, and everything else is worth it, just for that. 

 

———

 

After the show ends, Shouta heads back to Hizashi’s apartment, falling fully-clothed into bed just as the sun starts creeping over the horizon. It feels like barely moments later when he wakes to an insistent pounding at the front door, and his phone vibrating nonstop against the nightstand. 

He ignores the phone, pushing himself to his feet, his first few steps wobbly and tired. “What?” he calls as he heads toward the door, the unexpected volume making his head start to ache. He’s not sure who he expects to see; Hizashi probably. But it’s too early, he’s too exhausted, and when the door swings wide and reveals himself, it still takes him by surprise, if only for a moment. 

“Good morning!” Hizashi grins at him, pushing a take-out cup of coffee in his direction. Shouta takes it and brings it to his lips by reflex, and the first sip soothes him immediately. Black with five sugars, just the way he likes it, which normally makes Hizashi look at him with horror. “Thanks,” he mutters, draining a third of the cup in one swallow. “Why are you here?”

“Nice to see you too,” Hizashi rolls his eyes. “Get your shoes on, we’ve got to get down to the police station - they finally caught the guy who did this!”

That news wakes Shouta up better than the coffee, and they’re out the door without another word. It’s a quiet trip - Shouta steals the occasional glance at Hizashi out of the corner of his eye, but it’s too disorienting to look at him for long. The expression on his face is tense, frustrated, and Shouta wonders if he always looks so unapproachable, or if Hizashi’s having just as much trouble dealing with this as he is. 

When they get to the station, they’re immediately hustled into an interrogation room. Detective Tsukauchi is there already, standing in a corner, well out of reach of the man sitting at the table in the center of the room. Shouta recognizes him immediately as Oshima, their villain. “Why were you after Mic,” he growls, walking over and dropping into the chair across from him. Hizashi stays near the doorway, quietly observing. 

“I swear, I wasn’t!” Oshima’s eyes are wide, panicked, and he looks frantically between Shouta and Tsukauchi. “I was only there ‘cause I owed one of the other guys a favor, that’s it! I was just supposed to keep an eye out for trouble while they roughed him up a little.”

“And how exactly were they going to do that? None of you had what it takes to go up against a Pro,” Shouta snorts derisively. 

Oshima shrugs. “I don’t know, that wasn’t my job! They said he’d be an easy target without his stupid whatever it is,” he gestures to his neck. “That’s why they were gonna get him at home!”

“And the gun?” Shouta growls, leaning in close. He doubts it’s as intimidating as he’d like while he’s wearing Hizashi’s face, but the guy still leans back in his chair, looking nervous. 

“They told me it was just for backup! I’m not dumb enough to help kill a pro hero! I was just there to watch the goddamn door!”

Shouta glances Tsukauchi, who nods. “I believe you,” he says. “Now, whatever you did to us, undo it.” 

“Yeah yeah, of course,” Oshima nods. “This counts as good behavior, right? Seeing as how I’m being cooperative?”

“Fix us, then try to talk your way into a lesser sentence,” Hizashi growls, slamming the side of his fist against the doorframe. His tone is low and threatening, and it sends Shouta’s eyebrows flying up towards his hairline. Hizashi sounds furious. There’s a scowl across his face, and Shouta makes a mental note of precisely how scary he looks when he’s mad. But after a moment, the grim expression melts into an amused smile. “Sorry, sorry,” Hizashi says, laughing a little. “It was just my last chance to try it. Eraser’s much more threatening than I am!”

“Shit man, no kidding!” Oshima says, gripping the edge of the table. He turns back to Shouta, apparently judging him the less volatile option. “You should both sit down for this.”

Shouta glances at Tsukauchi again. “I’ve got my eye on him, don’t worry,” the detective says. “He’s not going to try anything.”

So Hizashi drops gingerly into the seat beside Shouta. Their eyes meet, and Shouta can see the silent question in Hizashi’s expression, asking if he’s comfortable with this. Shouta nods minutely. He trusts Tsukauchi to keep Oshima in line. 

Hizashi relaxes; Shouta’s assessment of the situation is good enough for him. They extend their hands towards the criminal, who reaches out to brush his fingers over their palms. 

The world goes black, but Shouta is ready for it this time. He’s able to blink his eyes open almost immediately, and the first thing he does as the world comes into focus is activate his quirk. He feels his hair try to rise out of the loose knot Hizashi pulled it into that morning, and unlike last time, the power behind his eyes surges forward in an instant, tinting his vision red before he lets his quirk drop. 

At the same time, the air around Shouta seems to vibrate ever so slightly, and he looks over at Hizashi, who has one hand over his throat. He’s testing his own quirk inaudibly, and Shouta is grateful he’d had the presence of mind to spare their hearing. 

Without needing to discuss it, they make their way out of the station as quickly as possible. Shouta leaves silently, and Hizashi offers no more than a few friendly pleasantries to the officers they pass. Once they’re clear of the building, Shouta takes point, leading them halfway down the block and into a mostly-hidden alley.

“So,” he begins, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, not quite sure what to say. Before he can make any more of a fool of himself, Hizashi reaches forward and pulls him into a hug. Shouta’s heart thuds in his chest, and by the time he realizes he ought to say something, Hizashi has already pulled back, still holding Shouta by the shoulders. 

“You did my radio show.” Hizashi smiles at him, more gently than usual. Almost sweet.

“Put your hands up!” Shouta says, trying out his Present Mic impression in his own voice. It sounds ridiculous, he feels ridiculous, but Hizashi laughs so hard he has to step back and wipe tears from his eyes, so Shouta doesn’t mind. He’s smiling, too.

While Hizashi laughs, Shouta reacquaints himself with his own body. He stretches his arms behind him, tries bending forward at the knees. “I feel… different,” he says, bouncing on the balls of his feet. It’s strange. He’s not as bone-tired as usual, and for once nothing aches. Hizashi rolls his eyes. 

“It’s called eight hours of sleep, decent meals, and drinking water.” He taps Shouta on the nose with one of his long fingers. “I also saw the joint specialist at Hosu General and had him fix your bad knee. And I took you to the dentist. You got two fillings and have another appointment in six months. I put it in my calendar so you’re definitely going.”

“What am I wearing?” Shouta asks, looking down at his clothes. They’re not that different from what he usually wears - the pants are gray instead of black - but they’re a lot more comfortable. The fabric is soft, less tight around his calves and shoulders. 

Hizashi rolls his eyes. “Decent clothes. You need to try things on when you shop, I’ve told you a hundred times.”

“Too much work.” Shouta grimaces. It makes Hizashi laugh. 

“I know. These should last you another ten years at least,” he teases. It’s a joke, but they both know Shouta owns clothes older than that and wears them without shame. 

“Thank you, Hizashi.”

Hizashi smiles at him, warm and soft. Shouta has missed that look so much. “Of course, Shouta.” 

They part ways shortly after that, with a brief goodbye and tentative plans to meet up later in the week. It’s hard for Shouta to walk away. Though he hadn’t exactly felt comfortable in Hizashi’s apartment, he’s not looking forward to seeing his own as much as he would have expected. Hizashi’s place had been lonely and awkward without him, but there were reminders of him everywhere, from the books on the shelves to the hair products cluttering the bathroom. Shouta’s own apartment will have none of these things, doesn’t even have furniture, and though it’s not something he’d given much consideration before, the thought of going back to his empty rooms is a grim one.

When he arrives, his first thought as he steps through the door is that he’s come to the wrong place. But a second glance around reveals that yes, this is his apartment, though it’s changed a lot in just a few days. It’s clean, for one thing, freshly mopped and dusted. Shouta’s not a messy person, but he has too much to do to bother much with fussy things like that. He ought to have realized Hizashi wouldn’t have wasted the time he’d been trapped here. Apparently, he’d kept himself busy. 

Shouta’s sleeping bag has been replaced by a new futon, folded up with a warm-looking comforter and pillow on top, ready to go. He finds the sleeping bag in the closet, with the rest of the clothes Hizashi bought for him. Shouta reaches out to touch them - they’re soft and comfortable-looking, things he won’t mind wearing. His old clothes are still there, hanging off to the side, clean and ready, but Shouta makes up his mind to get rid of them. The new things are nicer and more comfortable, and Hizashi chose them. That feels important, though he puts the thought out of his mind as he continues to look around.

For once, the refrigerator has food in it, pre-portioned meals that Hizashi made and packed and labeled with instructions for reheating. Curious, Shouta opens one of them. Rice and vegetables, some meat. Nothing too fussy. The carrots are cut into star shapes. It looks good. Better than jelly packets, and almost as easy, since all Shouta has to do is heat it up. He could even eat it cold, if he wanted to.

Back in the main room, there’s a spiky plant on the windowsill, next to a note. “Just give me water when you remember! You can’t kill me!” It’s signed with a smiley face. And that’s not the only new addition.

Shouta’s laptop has been moved to a small table, and next to that is a beanbag chair. It’s big and squishy-looking, the same bright yellow of Shouta’s sleeping bag. Hizashi would hate it - his apartment is all clean lines and dark colors - but Shouta drops himself into it and falls in love immediately. He already knows he’ll be sleeping there more than the new futon, probably, but it’s hard to mind when he’s so comfortable. 

He can’t sleep now though, which is a strange sensation. He’s used to being able to drop into a nap anytime, and almost anywhere, but at the moment he’s wide awake, and his mind is restless. So he sits in the apartment Hizashi cleaned and furnished, in the body Hizashi repaired and maintained for him while he had the chance, and he thinks about Hizashi, about the plants that clutter his windowsill, and the meticulous way he tends them. How diligently he cares for the things he loves.

 

———

 

“Shouta? Is everything okay?” Hizashi answers his door, eyes narrow with concern. His gaze drops to the shopping bag Shouta is carrying, then back up like he’s waiting for an explanation.

“I like my apartment,” Shouta says as he walks past him into the entryway and kicks off his shoes, not bothering with a greeting. “Thank you.”

Hizashi lights up, surprised and clearly pleased. “Really? No lecture about how possessions are impractical and a needless expense?” He follows Shouta into the kitchen, just a step behind.

“No lecture.” Shouta can’t stop his mouth from quirking up at the corners. He turns back and leans against the counter. “I like the chair.”

“Of course you do,” Hizashi rolls his eyes. “I saw that eyesore at the store and knew it was perfect for you. I bet you took a nap in it first thing.”

“Not first thing,” Shouta denies. “I couldn’t, anyway. You’ve been getting me too much sleep, I wasn’t tired.”

“I wish I’d been recording that. I’m sure I’ll never hear you say those words again. And since you’re back behind the wheel now, try not to undo all my good work, okay?” Hizashi smiles. “Hey, thanks for taking care of my plants so well! I should have sent you such clear instructions about how to take care of my hair.”

“Don’t push it. You’re a lot to maintain as it is.” Shouta fidgets, running a hand through his own hair. It feels both strange and familiar, after spending a few days with Hizashi’s smoother strands. 

“Did you miss being in your own body?” Hizashi grins, like he can sense Shouta’s disconcertion. 

Shouta shrugs. “Sometimes. Mostly I just missed you.”

Hizashi blinks, the grin falling off his face. “I missed you too,” he says, almost dumbly. 

“You had a busy few days, it looked like,” Shouta says. He has to smile a little. “When did you have time to miss me?”

“You make the time.” Hizashi pauses. Swallows. “For important things.”

The brief lull that follows is Shouta’s moment, he knows, but it still takes him a few heartbeats to work up his courage. “I brought you something,” he says, when he can force himself to speak. He reaches into the bag at his side and removes the plant he bought on his way over. It’s a pretty thing, with glossy leaves and vivid flowers. “For your collection.”

“A camellia?” Hizashi asks, taking the pot carefully. There’s a hesitance to his movements, like he’s trying to stop himself from moving too fast as he pulls it in and holds it close to his chest. 

Shouta nods. “The woman at the flower shop said they were difficult. I told her you were good with difficult things.” 

Hizashi laughs. “I suppose that’s true.” He gazes at the plant for a moment, eyes lingering on its red petals. “Flowers have meanings, did you know that?” At Shouta’s nod, he continues. “Did she tell you what it means?”

“No.” The light in Hizashi’s eyes dims a little at Shouta’s reply. “I looked it up before I got there.”

Hizashi’s head snaps up, and he stares at Shouta with wide eyes. “What?” 

There’s a brief war inside of Shouta, between the fear of rejection fights to close his throat, and the foolish, unkillable hope that wants to force the words out, to shout them, to be heard. “Red camellia,” Shouta says, unwilling to be silenced. “Adoration, perfection, love. Is that right?”

“Yes.” Hizashi is very still. He blinks once. Twice. “You knew that and you still bought it?” 

“That’s why I bought it.” Shouta reaches out to take the plant back and move it gently to the counter. Hizashi clings tightly for a moment before letting go, never looking away from Shouta’s face. “I’m not great with… emotions. I can’t to put into words everything I feel. Everything you are to me. It’s like your quirk, almost, the way it builds and builds and I just-”

Shouta reaches out, takes Hizashi’s hands and squeezes them. He looks from the plant to Hizashi, hoping his expression mirrors everything those flowers represent. “That’s the best I can do.” 

He falls silent, waiting for Hizashi’s judgement. Even if he’s wrong, if Hizashi doesn’t feel the same, he’s glad he confessed. He feels at peace now, the way he did after Hizashi helped him settle his quirk, the restlessness inside him muted like calm waters after a storm. 

Hizashi just stares, his eyes wide and filling with tears. “I thought - I didn’t think you would ever-” He surges forward, kissing Shouta again and again, on his forehead, his jaw, his cheek. Everywhere but the place Shouta wants most. 

“I do.” Shouta brings a hand up to hold Hizashi still as he presses their lips together, finally. Finally. 

“I do too.” Hizashi pulls away just for a moment, just long enough to answer. 

“I know,” Shouta whispers. “I know.”

 

— — — 

 

“I wish I’d never bought this hideous thing,” Hizashi complains, as he shoves the yellow beanbag through the front door of his apartment. “If I’d known I’d have to live with it I would have left it at the store.”

“You wouldn’t,” Shouta smirks, pulling from the other end. Once it’s inside, he has to laugh at the way Hizashi glares at it hatefully, as if he’s trying to develop a pyrokinesis quirk. “Your face will stick that way,” he warns.

That makes Hizashi turn to him, lips twisting up into a smirk of his own, just smug enough to make Shouta’s heart beat a bit louder. “You’ll still like me.”

“Yes.” They both know it’s true. With a quick movement, Shouta reaches forward to tumble Hizashi off his feet and neatly into the chair he loathes so much. He drops down beside him, pulling him close and pressing a kiss into his hair. It quiets something inside of Shouta, being able to touch Hizashi like this, to reach out and run his fingers over Hizashi’s bare wrist. To remind himself that it’s allowed now, that Hizashi wants him to.

Hizashi sighs and leans his head against Shouta, closing his eyes contentedly. “You win,” he mumbles, lips turning up at the corners. He’s wearing his clunky, too-thick glasses, and his hair is half out of its bun, falling in strings around his face. Shouta loves him with all of his heart.

Without opening his eyes, Hizashi reaches up to skim his fingers over Shouta’s face, gently tracing his eyebrows, the bridge of his nose, the curve of his cheek, his touch so light that Shouta barely feels it. It stills Shouta completely, pins him in place in a way no villain ever could. 

“If you finish bringing the boxes in, I’ll make us dinner,” Hizashi promises, low like a secret, running his thumb across Shouta’s jaw. Shouta has no interest in the boxes, or in anything besides this moment with Hizashi, but he hums in agreement, happy to please.

Later, Shouta drags his chair in front of the bedroom window, where the plants are. He likes it best there, among all the things Hizashi quietly loves.