No one is looking. No one is staring, Hizashi tells himself as he hurries through the quick walk between the bus stop and his apartment. It’s probably true - enough people have mutation quirks now that no one would bat an eye at his current appearance, but he can’t help feeling self-conscious anyway, or pulling the hat one of the nurses had generously given him down low to cover his face.
He’s tempted to try to get in through the fire escape - Shouta makes it look so easy, and he doesn’t want to chance running into any of his neighbors in the hallway. But with the way his day is going, he’d fall and bash his head on a dumpster and draw a crowd, so he settles for rushing to his apartment as quickly as possible.
The door swings open at his approach, as if Shouta had been listening for his footsteps, which, knowing Shouta, he probably had. He always worries too much when Hizashi gets injured, looming over him like he can glare Hizashi back to health. It’s endearing, almost sweet in a way, but absolutely the last thing Hizashi needs right now.
“What happened?” Shouta demands, before Hizashi can so much as walk through the door.
Hizashi sighs, stepping inside and stripping off his shoes, sunglasses, and speaker as best he can without taking off his jacket. “It was nothing. Some asshole thought they were a comedian. It’ll wear off in a few days.”
“What will?” Shouta growls, clearly frustrated, and Hizashi knows it’s over, that he’s gotta give it up.
“This,” he rolls his eyes, pulling off the hat and dropping it on the side table with his speaker. Shouta’s eyes widen comically, and he seems pulled forward and shocked back at the same time. His jaw drops, like he’s trying to speak, but no words come out. “Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh, get it out of your system.
But Shouta isn’t laughing. He gapes for a few more seconds, then turns a bright, warm-looking pink. “You - uh - those are-”
Hizashi sighs in exasperation, equally done with this conversation and this day. “Yes, Shouta, they’re cat ears! I have cat ears! Believe me, I am well aware!” Hizashi knows he’s being unfair, that none of this is Shouta’s fault, but he can’t help it. He looks ridiculous, with fuzzy, tufted ears perched on top of his head like one of the Wild, Wild Pussycats. And even worse, the ears move, twitching back and forth, betraying his agitation.
Shouta’s eyes are locked on the ears, mouth still hanging half-open. Hizashi pauses, giving him the chance to say something, but nothing comes. After a moment, his eyes drop back to Hizashi’s face, and if anything, his blush intensifies. It occurs to Hizashi that he must be trying very hard not to laugh, and Hizashi is absolutely not in the right state of mind to deal with any of this. “I’m going to bed,” he growls, brushing past Shouta and heading towards his room.
Just when he thinks he’s made it, he hears a choked gasp from behind him. “Do you have a tail?”
Hizashi lets the slam of the door answer for him.
Hizashi wakes up well past his usual time, blinking and covering his eyes against the bright, late-morning light. Falling asleep had been a struggle, the sensation of his new features against the sheets keeping him anxious and distracted, before he finally passed out, exhausted. He doesn’t feel any better this morning, pulling himself to his feet with a soft groan and feeling a lot older than his twenty-two years. The first thing he does once he gets his bearings is reach up to check if the ears are still there. They are, and so is the tail, which wiggles back and forth, mocking him.
He’s still glaring at the offending appendage when he hears a soft knock at his door. “Hizashi?” It’s Shouta, his voice soft, tentative. “Are you awake?”
“Yeah,” Hizashi sighs. He’s not mad anymore; he can’t blame Shouta for being amused. If their roles were reversed, he would have taken fifty pictures before Shouta could have said a word. “I woke up late.”
“I made breakfast,” Shouta offers, and for a moment Hizashi wonders if the cat ears are messing with him. Usually it’s a struggle to get Shouta to eat breakfast. The idea of him preparing a morning meal is so unlikely it defies belief. But when he opens the door, Shouta is standing there, one hand on the back of his neck and an awkward look on his face. Beyond him, the table is set with two plates and the coffee is already made. Either Hizashi wasn’t the only one hit with a quirk, or Shouta still feels bad about last night.
“Hey, thanks.” He doesn’t have to force himself to smile, it spreads naturally across his face at the sight of Shouta’s sweet gesture. The eggs look a little burned around the edges, sure, but it’s the thought that counts.
They sit down to eat, and Shouta makes a valiant effort to keep his eyes locked on his plate, but Hizashi catches them flicking up now and then, glancing at the ears he hadn’t bothered to hide. What was the point, when Shouta had already seen them? “Go ahead,” he sighs, pouring ketchup over his rice to blunt the taste. “I know you wanna say something.”
“They move,” Shouta says, immediately. The thought had clearly been at the front of his mind, judging by the way he blushes, but Hizashi supposes he can’t be blamed for that. It must be an interesting sight.
“Yeah,” Hizashi nods. “I’m not sure how to control it. They twitch when I’m mad though.”
“Do they move if you touch them?” Shouta asks, then snaps his mouth shut like he wishes he hadn’t.
It’s a good question though. “Huh, I hadn’t thought about it,” he says, reaching up to run a finger along the edge of one ear, where the fur tufts out. Nothing happens. “Maybe it’s like being tickled, where you can’t do it to yourself.”
“I could-” Shouta’s eyes widen, like he can’t believe he just said that, and to be honest, neither can Hizashi. Shouta’s not a very tactile person; Hizashi can still count the number of times that Shouta has reached out to him outside of combat.
But. If Shouta is offering, Hizashi’s not going to say no.
He shrugs, trying to look casual. “If you’re curious, then-” Shouta is out of his chair before he can finish, moving to stand beside Hizashi and hovering a hand in the air next to his head, not quite close enough to touch. “Just go ahead,” he sighs, keeping his face as close to neutral as he can manage while Shouta closes the last inches between them, light stroking from the base of Hizashi’s ear to the tip.
Hizashi thinks the ear twitches wildly. He isn’t quite sure, because he’s too mortified by the way his tail swings around to press Shouta’s hand more firmly against his head. “Guess that answers that,” he chokes, trying to make a joke of it.
Shouta doesn’t answer, too busy staring. Hizashi opens his mouth to apologize, hoping he doesn’t find it too disturbing to be touched like that, but closes it again as Shouta slides his hand upwards, against the tail’s soft fur, apparently unbothered. Hizashi, however, is quite a bit bothered by the warm press of Shouta’s hand, and even more so by the tiny smile on Shouta’s face. He really, really ought to put a stop to this before Shouta figures out something he shouldn’t from Hizashi’s reactions, but Shouta’s little smiles are so rare. If laughing at his temporary cat ears makes Shouta happy, who is Hizashi to begrudge him?
They stay like that for another few moments, Shouta gently running his fingers along Hizashi’s fur, and Hizashi doesn’t know how he keeps his eyes from closing blissfully, but he manages. But eventually the smile falls of Shouta’s face. “I have to go,” he mutters, pulling his hand away slowly. “I’m supposed to go down to the station and make a statement about my last arrest.”
“Oh,” Hizashi blinks, not surprised at the regret in Shouta’s tone. He hates going down to the precinct. “Don’t worry, I’ll get the dishes done. Thanks for making breakfast!”
“Yeah,” Shouta backs towards the door gingerly, like he really doesn’t want go, and Hizashi wonders if there’s a reason he’s moving more slowly than usual. Probably something happened during his last case that’s going to be a pain to deal with. Hizashi can sympathize.
“Hey, when you get back, let’s watch a movie!” he says, hoping Shouta will feel better with something to look forward to. It seems to work - Shouta brightens a bit, as much as Shouta ever does, and heads out the door with just one last, longing look.
Hizashi wonders what that was about.
It’s past dark by the time Shouta gets home, looking tired and a bit out of breath, like he’d hurried. He probably had, eager to get home and relax after a long day of paperwork. The only surprise is that he’d come in through the front door, instead of the balcony. But as soon as Shouta steps into the living room, that mystery solves itself.
“Here,” Shouta says, shoving an iced latte into Hizashi’s hands. The label on the cup says it’s from his favorite coffee shop, the expensive one that’s nowhere close to their apartment.
“What’s this for?” Hizashi asks, even as he’s bringing the straw to his lips. It’s perfect. “Did you break the washing machine again? Am I dying?”
He expects a friendly insult in response, or at the very least a sharp reply, but Shouta doesn’t answer. When Hizashi glances over at him, he sees that Shouta’s attention is elsewhere. On Hizashi’s tail, to be specific.
His evil, treacherous, flicking-back-and-forth-happily tail.
“See something you like?” He asks coolly, to disguise his embarrassment. He can’t blame him for staring, he only hopes Shouta won’t think too deeply about the way Hizashi is literally wagging his tail at the sight of him. It’s on the tip of his tongue to say something like you know, if you wanted to pet me some more, you only have to ask, but that strays a little too close to the truth for comfort.
Shouta doesn’t answer, just shifts from one foot to the other, looking guilty. Hizashi sighs. “C’mon, let’s watch the movie,” he says, reaching for the remote. “You want to pick?”
“What’s that one you were talking about with Kayama?” Shouta asks, dropping down beside Hizashi on the couch. “Let’s watch that one.”
“The musical? With the singing and dancing?” Hizashi asks, confused. He can’t remember discussing any other movies recently, but usually Shouta would rather swap hero costumes with Midnight than subject himself to that kind of thing.
Shouta just shrugs. “You wanted to see it, right? Put it on.”
This is definitely suspicious, so suspicious that Hizashi can feel his cat ears flatten. This has gone far enough, and he’s determined not to let it go any further. He’s getting to the bottom of Shouta’s strange behavior now.
But his train of thought is broken by the gentle brush of Shouta’s fingers at the base of his ears, and the slight, pleased smile on his face.
Well. Hizashi supposes he can leave the investigating for a little longer. Until after the movie, at least.
The next few hours are a trial. About halfway through the movie, during the most dramatic dance number, Shouta falls asleep, his body slumping over to press Hizashi against the arm of the couch. Not that Hizashi minds at all - Shouta is warm and solid against his side, and it’s hardly the first time this has happened. But some parts of Hizashi’s body apparently can’t hide how pleased they are.
Of course, he’s talking about his tail. No matter how hard he concentrates, he doesn’t seem to have any control over it. It has a mind of its own, dedicated to embarrassing Hizashi by wrapping itself tight around Shouta’s shoulders, the tip of his tail barely brushing his cheek. He expects Shouta to swat at it, or at the very least complain when he picks his head up blearily, but he doesn’t. He smiles a little before closing his eyes and burying his face against Hizashi’s shoulder, apparently back to sleep.
He’s never done that before. He’s fallen asleep on Hizashi plenty of times, sure but always just like that - falling. He’s never pressed up against Hizashi of his own free will to nap. And now Hizashi’s heart is beating too hard, his limbs trembling with unspent energy. The urge to get up and pace is almost overwhelming, barely losing out to the desire to stay still and savor the moment with Shouta forever.
But of course, forever never comes. The credits are barely rolling across the screen before Shouta stirs, moving just a bit but not pulling away. “Hey,” Hizashi whispers, trying to get out ahead of this, to make it seem like he hadn’t just been enjoying cuddling his best friend for hours. “C’mon, you gotta go sleep on your futon.”
“Nnnnn,” Shouta groans into Hizashi’s shoulder. A noise of sleeping confusion, no doubt, not the protest it almost sounded like. And then he presses closer - he must be really tired.
“You’ll be more comfortable if you lay down,” Hizashi coaxes, a little desperate now.
“Doubtful,” Shouta sighs, but he gets up this time and pushes himself unsteadily to his feet.
Hizashi frowns. “If you’re futon’s that bad, you have only yourself to blame. I told you to get a mattress.”
Shouta rolls his eyes as he turns and reaches out a hand to Hizashi. “My futon’s fine. Come on, you go to bed too. It’s late.”
Hizashi doesn’t particularly feel like sleeping, but by the time he realizes what’s happening, he’s already grabbed Shouta’s hand and let himself be pulled off the couch. It would be weird to sit back down now, but that’s fine. He can go read in his bedroom. “Goodnight Shouta,” he says, as he waits for Shouta to step back, out of Hizashi’s space.
Shouta doesn’t though, nor does he return the words. Instead, he stares at Hizashi’s ears again, reaching up a tentative finger to stroke them softly. “How much longer are these supposed to last?” he asks, and there’s a wistful note in his voice.
Oh. Oh. Hizashi’s eyes widen, and it’s all he can do to keep from gasping out loud. Shouta is into the cat ears. Shouta is into the cat ears. It’s simultaneously the best and worst news Hizashi has ever heard. Best, because it means Shouta must also be into Hizashi, at least a little. Enough that he’s not repulsed, anyway. Worst because - well, for a lot of reasons. Hizashi would prefer to be liked for himself, not because he’s sporting some feature Shouta finds irresistible. And also because, as Shouta just said, they’re not going to last much longer, anyway. It almost feels like the universe is playing a cruel prank, offering Hizashi something he’s wanted for so long, only to snatch it away before he can have it.
And even worse, he still has to answer Shouta. “Not much longer,” he says, hoping his voice sounds steady. Disinterested. “Another day at the most.”
“Ah,” Shouta keeps petting him, watching the ears twitch this way and that. “You’ll be relieved to have them gone, I’m sure.”
“And you won’t be?” Hizashi says, just to make absolutely sure this is what he thinks. Based on the blush that spreads across the bridge of Shouta’s nose, it’s exactly what Hizashi thinks. “I know you want a cat, Shouta, but come on. I don’t think I’d look very good in a collar, do you?”
Shouta makes a strange, choked noise, and Hizashi is suddenly certain that he’d look very good in a collar. To one person anyway. “I could get one with a bell,” Hizashi muses, just to savor the flustered expression on Shouta’s face a little longer. It’s a bit mean, but if these memories are all he’s ever getting out of this, he’s taking them. “Though I guess it won’t matter much after tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Shouta says, calmer now, his expression neutral again. “I guess not.”
“Goodnight Shouta,” Hizashi repeats. Overcome by a sudden fit of boldness, he reaches out to tuck a loose strand of Shouta’s hair behind his ear.
Shouta’s jaw drops. The blush is back. “Goodnight Hizashi,” he says at last, before turning and fleeing into his room.
It takes a long time for sleep to find Hizashi that night. He spends hours tossing and turning, thinking about the soft look on Shouta’s face when he was playing with Hizashi’s cat ears, and also browsing a number of unsavory websites, looking at skimpy cat costumes and wondering if they’d have the same impact as the real thing. Probably not, but maybe Shouta would be willing to settle, considering how few and far between people with cat-mutation quirks were.
When he eventually wakes up after a scant few hours of sleep, the first thing he does is reach up to see if the ears are still in place. They are, and so is the tail. It’s annoying, because having a tail is annoying. It makes it hard to sit and his pants don’t fit right and when the fur rubs the wrong way on something it feels the same way nails sound on a chalkboard. But it’s also a relief, because it means Shouta might look at him just a little longer, and Hizashi has been waiting for Shouta to look at him for years. The dichotomy of feelings is frustrating, and he heads to the door of his bedroom with an irritated sigh.
When he opens it, Shouta is standing there, one hand cradling a cup of coffee, the other poised to knock. “Ah,” he says, seemingly thrown off his rhythm by Hizashi’s unexpected appearance. “It’s - you usually - I brought you this.” He shoves the mug towards Hizashi, who grabs it on instinct, not sure what to say besides thank you.
Shouta doesn’t say anything about the fact that Hizashi’s ears and tail are still in place, but he’s not as subtle as he thinks he is when he glances at them out of the corner of his eye. “Here,” Hizashi says, handing the cup back to him. “Take this to the couch for me, okay? I’ll be right there.”
“Sure,” Shouta nods, turning away. Behind him, Hizashi heads to the bathroom, as quickly as he can without obviously rushing. When he gets there, he takes a minute to lean his forehead against the cool tile, debating his next move. Things can’t go on like this. He simply can’t deal with Shouta being so nice to him, not when he knows it’s going to end any second and return to Shouta’s usual friendly indifference.
He cleans himself up hastily, running a final hand through his hair as he heads to the living room, to take the seat on the couch beside Shouta. “Listen,” he says, almost before he’s even fully sitting down. “I want to talk to you.”
“Why,” Shouta asks, looking shifty. Like he knows what’s coming.
Hizashi takes a deep, fortifying breath. This is it. Time to Plus Ultra. “I just want you to know that I know. And it’s all right.”
“You… know,” Shouta repeats, hesitantly. He glances at Hizashi, then quickly away again.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s been pretty obvious the last couple of days,” Hizashi says, but as gentle and reassuring as he tries to keep his tone, Shouta still curls in on himself. “But you don’t have to feel bad about it! That’s what I’m trying to say!”
It makes Shouta relax a little. He looks up. “I don’t?”
Hizashi shakes his head. “No way! I mean, it’s probably a really common thing! I’m sure a lot of people are into cat stuff!” He smiles, waiting for some sign of relief from Shouta, now that his secret is out in the open.
But Shouta just blinks at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Hizashi slumps. It looks like they’re doing this the hard way. “Look, Shouta, whatever it is, I figured it out okay? I get it. You like the cat ears. You really like the cat ears. And that’s fine!! Totally!! I mean, they’re not gonna last forever, probably not even the rest of the day, but I could maybe buy something-”
“Stop,” Shouta holds a hand up, like he’s trying to shove the words back. “It’s not - I’m not into cats, Hizashi, what the hell?”
“I’m just saying,” Hizashi forges ahead. “If you have a - a fetish or something-”
“I don’t have a fetish,” Shouta growls, face flaming red. He turns away, mumbling something unintelligible.
“What was that?” Hizashi says, not sure where he lost control of this conversation. Shouta looks back at him, resigned.
“I said,” he sighs, squaring his shoulders like he’s about to face a firing squad. “That…I always want to… you’re just… it’s harder to hide it when you’re like this. You’re… it was… you’re cute.”
Hizashi’s jaw drops. Of all the ways he’d imagined getting together with Shouta, (and there were very, very many) Shouta confessing, calling him cute, had never crossed his mind. He’s not sure how to answer, what words could express how happy he is, how excited, exactly how much he returns Shouta’s feelings. But whatever those words might have been, what falls out of his stupid, unhelpful mouth is: “I think that still counts as a fetish.”
Shouta pulls back a bit, scowling. “It would only be a fetish if I wanted you because of the cat stuff, which I don’t. I want you just as much now as I did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. I just - like you, okay? I like you. You can stop making fun of me now.”
“No, no, wait, listen-” Hizashi reaches out to take Shouta’s hands in his own, desperate for him to realize exactly how sincere he is. “Shouta, I was literally willing to buy cat ears just to keep your attention.”
Shouta blinks, startled. “What does that mean?” he asks eventually, calmer, but still wary. He glances at their joined hands, some of the tension fading from the set of his jaw.
“It means that I’m not making fun of you. Whatever you’re putting down, I’m picking up. I’m - kinda-super-into-you. And if you’re hot for sexy kitty, well…” Hizashi shrugs, smiling a little. “Meow.”
At Hizashi’s confession, the rainbow of expressions that cross Shouta’s face defies description. Shock, confusion, pleasure, embarrassment, each comes and goes before Hizashi can react to any of it. “I told you,” Shouta says, still looking down at their hands. “It’s not the cat thing. It’s just you.”
The words pull Hizashi’s breath out of him, he slumps in relief as the tension he didn’t realize he was holding bleeds away. “I’m really glad you said that. ‘Cause I like you, I really really like you. I want us to be together. Would - would you like that?”
Finally, finally, Shouta looks up, meeting Hizashi’s eyes at last. Slowly, so slowly, his closed-off expression cracks, the corners of his mouth turning up, and up, and up into a wide, happy grin that Hizashi knows he’s mirroring. He can’t help himself, it’s all he can do not to leap into the air, to shout, to revel in this feeling of unexpected victory. Shouta likes him. Shouta likes him.
“Yeah,” Shouta says, squeezing Hizashi’s hands. His words sound like laughter. “I would.”
Hizashi can’t wait another minute, another second. He shoots forward, pressing their mouths together, pulling back at the very last moment to keep the kiss soft. He expects Shouta to be startled, maybe even pull back a bit but he doesn’t. Shouta leans into it, pulling his hands free to bury them in Hizashi’s hair, pulling him closer.
They kiss for a long time, so long that when they finally pull apart Hizashi has no idea what time it is, and only a vague idea of the date. “So,” he gasps, trying to steady his breathing. He hopes Shouta feels as wrecked as he does. “Should I still buy the cat ears?”
Shouta breaks into another grin, leaning back against the arm of the sofa and pulling Hizashi down with him. Hizashi ends up laying on Shouta’s chest, their faces barely far enough apart to count as not kissing. But Shouta doesn’t seem to mind.
“I mean, I wouldn’t say no.”