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growing pains like "i miss you"

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Being a hero was always what Shouta wanted for himself -- long before the days of understanding what being a hero meant, there was a strong image in his mind that he clung to, compelling him, inspiring him. He felt the calling, and he knew that even if he didn’t understand all the nuances of what it truly meant, what it took , to be a hero, he wanted it. And, even more importantly, as he learned what a hero does, what it meant to him personally, it only evoked a stronger urge to follow this dream. He would be a hero, and he would make it happen no matter what.

 

That was what he set out to do, all those years ago as a kid starting off at U.A, and he did it.

 

And truth be told, it’s not a hard job – maybe it’s physically demanding, and Shouta has to find ways to make his schedule include naps, but in the end, it’s not difficult. He can take down villains as easily as he could make a cup of coffee, or cook a microwave meal, or take a nap. It came natural .

 

UA had trained him well, taught him how to take on villains and use his skills and his weakness to his advantages – taught him how to turn himself into the best hero he could be without compromising who he is in his heart. He’d learned to be the hero he wanted to be, and he has the graduation cap to prove it.

 

 

The one thing U.A neglected in their courses, in the numerous moments of well-earned lectures about what being a hero meant – was that it was nothing like what he thought it was going to be. U.A told him he’d be great, but failed to tell him…

 

This isn’t right.

 

They’d failed to tell him that life as a hero was harsh, and felt cold.

 

The life he was only starting to lead just wasn’t what he thought it would be – sure, it was easy and all, with taking down villains and his agency quickly recognizing his potential. He was good on his feet, had good instincts, and the name he was quickly making for himself was one to be proud of...  

 

It was almost like a dream, how well he slipped into his role. Still, he didn’t know it would feel like…

 

This .

 

He’d missed more about high school than he thought he would, too – and laying in his apartment, the first place of his own since graduation six months ago, was lonelier than even he’d anticipated. Lonelier than even he was prepared to handle.

 

No, he didn’t miss high school – but it sounded better than waiting out the clock, alone, wondering where he was supposed to be, and wondering if he was the fool who thought  this life was going to feel any different. High school sucked in a lot of ways, but it never left him empty and yearning so uselessly...

 

He’d expected satisfaction from his dream profession, and he missed his friends – and he’d been a fool to think he’d find either

 

He’d liked his privacy, his solitude – but something about a small place like this with no warmth in it, and the aching feeling in his heart left over from the times he’d used to spend on rooftops with his friends

 

Shouta was laying down on the floor next to his couch, staring up at the ceiling fan in it’s endless cycling and thinking about how little he had to do.

 

No, UA didn’t prepare him for the times off the clock, either – and he’d almost wished he was on patrol, if only to feel like he was doing something. Going somewhere, besides climbing the ranks. That quickly became a sad measuring stick, and he’d thrown it away as soon as he realized what it was...

 

He was wearing a pullover with a big front pocket, and in there he fished around until his hand landed on his phone. It was at 100%, and there were some messages from his agency – texts from Nemuri, from Tensei, well wishes from a subscription he didn’t know how to get rid of –

 

At the top, there was Hizashi’s name, just like always. It was sent over an hour ago, though he hadn’t heard it in his sleep. The two of them had seen little of each other in the past six months, but they’d at least kept up through texts. It wasn’t the same, and it definitely wasn’t the best, or ideal –but it also wasn’t the worst. It kept Hizashi in his life in the best way either of them could manage, and that was all that really mattered.

 

Shouta hated calls, it was too much energy and usually unnecessary and it made him nervous no matter who was on the other end– but they’d done those too, and hearing his grainy voice on the other side of his bad service was worth the extra sleepiness and the adrenaline rushing to his heart.

 

Hearing from his best friend when nothing else feels right – the world just an inch to the left, and Hizashi right in the middle of it to help make it easier to navigate…

 

[9:40 PM] Hey! Buddy! Mr ERASERHEAD! I’m overrun with work from the agency but tomorrow, lets go to the cat cafe! This week?

 

It felt nice, even if it left him wanting things he’d never have.

 

[9:40 pm] My patrols have been killer, Eraser! you’re gonna laugh when you hear my voice!

 

[9:40 pm] I’m serious! My voice is more fried than from our senior midterms!

 

Shouta smiled at it, because he’d cringed hearing how much he’d hurt his voice and how painful and raw it was back then – it hurt, but it never stopped him from running his mouth.

 

Maybe that’s another reason why everything wasn’t right – not just the saddening reality of what hero life was turning out to be, but the absence of…

 

Don’t say it.

 

He clenched his hand around his phone, thumbs hovering over the cold plastic buttons and wondering what he was supposed to do about this .

 

Feelings were supposed to go away after long enough. Time was meant to smooth over all aches and pains, and eventually they were supposed to disappear. He wasn’t supposed to feel his pulse spike at the idea of seeing Hizashi, not any more.

 

It’d been six months, his hero work was supposed to take precedence, it was supposed to be his life now. He’d trained for this, wanted nothing more than this – hell, it’s what he’d entered U.A’s hero course with, a single-track mind set on a goal, and it was the only thing that mattered, then and now

 

At least, that’s what it should be. He’s here, now – a hero . He made it, and he was making his way up, and it was all very grand but it also didn’t matter at all. Not even a little.

 

He pulled in a deep breath and typed out a quick message.

 

[10:46 pm] Sounds good… did you really hurt your voice that bad?

 

It shouldn’t have been surprising that he got a text back almost immediately as he’d sent it, but it was. It made the annoying and nervous stutter of his heart beat loudly in his chest, and his ears warmed to the idea that Hizashi was at the other end of his phone, waiting for him, too.

 

[10:47 pm] I did!!! Just promise not to yell at me about being reckless;-;

 

Shouta couldn’t promise that, and he couldn’t promise himself that he wouldn’t fuss over Hizashi if he kept on this train of thought, so he didn’t.

 

[10:50 pm]   No. 

 

And a second later, bringing a smile to Shouta’s lips:

 

[10:50 pm] No?!?! Shouta… please…

 

[10:50 pm]   I won’t come if you make fun of me or lecture me… ;-;

 

Shouta smiled at the screen, and he was going to send something back, something about knowing better, but that wasn’t an option Hizashi left him with. Thumbs about to type out an astonishingly short message, his screen flashed with a calling screen and made a godawful sound, the most obnoxious tone on his phone that he’d set up to let him know Hizashi was calling…

 

He didn’t pay attention to the kick-start thump in his chest – it would be too distracting, so he answered with as little thought as possible.

 

“Hizashi,” and his voice was a little gruff – he’d used it so little today, it was dry, and a flush crawled up his neck from under his pullover as he cleared his throat. 

 

“Shouta!”

 

And Hizashi – he really wasn’t joking, his voice was awful . Like brittle paint on a bike, peeled away from weeks under the sun. Cracked, hurt – 

 

And before Shouta could properly say anything, Hizashi was already there to beat him to it. “Don’t you dare yell at me! I swear, Shouta , I’ve been careful!”

 

“Hmmph. Sure…”

 

“No, I mean it!” His voice sounded like he was smiling. Maybe he was in his bedroom – he hadn’t moved out yet, having the good sense to save his money and wait out his first year of professional hero life in the comfort of his familiar house.

 

Shouta could imagine him, tucked under the blankets, resting – idly wishing he could be there, instead of in this cold apartment. They’d spent so much time in that room, the image clear and vivid in his mind.

 

 “I don’t believe you.”

 

“It’s just work – you know this!” A cough, rough like he had gone to a concert and screamed his throat raw, cut Hizashi off. “It’s not like you’re not getting hurt, right?”

 

“I’m… no? No I’m not, actually…”

 

“Well, fine, whatever Mr. Showoff Aizawa! Brag a little, why don’t you! While I’m over here sipping on honey tea, you’re doing well...

 

Shouta’s lips pulled up, and he turned onto his left side, tucked into the side of his second-hand couch. The carpet was colder in this new spot, and he curled, just enough to get warm again. “That’s not what I mean… you have a physical quirk, it’s easier to hurt… I just get dry eye,” and he chuckled a little.

 

“I know, I know. But, anyway, it’s not a big deal, but you know what is? Getting lunch at the cafe! This week, maybe tomorrow, ya dig?”

 

Shouta scoffed at the words – sure, he was exuberant, but Present Mic was so fucking annoying when his voice slipped into daily conversations. “Don’t pull that with me, Hizashi,” like he had to remind him who he was.

 

The grainy call made Hizashi’s laugh distant, too far away – as far away as he actually was from his best friend . “So… you don’t dig?”

 

It felt good – Hizashi teasing him, the way if he closed his eyes, it felt like he was somewhere else. He kept his eyes closed, kept himself into a carefully curated darkness that felt like home, and just sighed. “Shut up, I hate that.”

 

“Awww, why you gotta rag on Present Mic?”

 

“Because I hate him.”

 

“No you don’t! ” A fake gasp, all raggedy and raw. “You can’t hate him!”

 

“We talk about this all the time, yes I do, and I’ll never like him.”

 

“Shouta… trying to break my heart.”

 

Shouta pulled himself a little closer, closed his eyes a bit tighter, trying not to feel like one of them is really feeling their heart break. He’s so much colder all of a sudden, even with the warmth of Hizashi’s words and, after a month of not seeing each other and emptiness, the promise to finally fix that. “Never said I didn’t like Hizashi…”

 

The hum on the other side of the line made that aching feeling in his chest so much more profound – wider, like it could swallow him, and suddenly his pullover and sweats weren’t enough to keep him warm.

 

“Well, since you don’t like Mic, he doesn’t have to come tomorrow…”

 

“Wow,” he said flatly. “All for me.”

 

“Anything for you.”

 

Shouta buried his face into the carpet, grasping too strongly at the phone in hand. “Tomorrow, right?”

 

Hizashi didn’t seem to notice or care about the way he glossed over that part of the conversation, just hummed. “How about at 3? The place will be dead, you know!”

 

Just us, huh…

 

“Sounds good to me… “

 

“Okay, see ya then Eraser!”

 

Shouta hummed, and closed his phone first. The room felt like a cold blizzard, and he knew it wasn’t getting any better on the floor – not that he was going to move, or felt compelled unless he was somehow going to get frost bite – but he’d rather use his time off in the most productive way he could, and that meant sitting and wallowing and wondering, sadly, what he was going to do with his time.

 

No, hero life was not what he’d imagined. He didn’t even think it would be grand, but he was at least sure it wouldn’t have left him feeling like he was sitting on a little glacier out at sea. He’d never thought he’d feel so restless.

 

He didn’t think he’d still ache for his best friend, either.

 

He closed his eyes and drifted off. 

 

~

 

Hero life sort of sucked – he dreamed of long skies and feeling content, and when he wakes up, it’s always with the dull feeling of knowing that the best is, probably, behind him.

 

~

 

“Shouta!”

 

He’d anticipated this – wanted it, despite not wanting to say he wanted it – still, he’d never really been prepared to handle Hizashi. He’d tried his best in school, and did well enough – but his defenses were down now that they went weeks in between seeing each other, and that made every moment shared a bit too intense.

 

Like the one they were having, when Hizashi spotted him on the corner. It was raining and Shouta had an umbrella while Hizashi didn’t, and when he spotted him he started running.

 

The others in the street, how few there were, watched him because he was always a spectacle, and now was no exception.

 

Shouta’s heart beat heavy, and Hizashi threw his entire weight against him like a car to a brick wall. He was wet and his hair was caught in Shouta’s mouth by consequence of their hug, but he was home…

 

“Shouta! And with an umbrella!” He’s still hugging him, face tucked into the warmth of Shouta’s rapidly wetting scarff. 

 

“Are you trying to get sick?”

 

“Of course not!” And his voice was better, now that Shouta was paying attention – but the rough around the edges tone was still very much there. “I just forgot mine!”

 

Shouta forced himself to pull away from the other, because Hizashi is like an overgrown puppy with too big limbs and too big a smile. He had enthusiasm that knew no ends, and he’d hug Shouta for hours if he asked.

 

He wanted to ask, but never did, and when they pulled away, that fire, the hearth of warmth buried in his core, started to fade.

 

Hizashi still held him by the elbow, though – and his hair was down now, in the stupid mullet he’d been growing out, yet he still remained ridiculously pretty and made Shouta want to constantly look. He smelled like chamomile, with rain and shampoo and the fresh warm scent of cotton straight from the drier...

 

Shouta wanted to ask him to stop staring, too, but he’d rarely get the chance to feel his attention like this, so he let him, no matter how hot his ears felt. He looked down, adjusting his hands against Hizashi’s forearms. He squeezed the handle of the umbrella, light rain tapping on it above.

 

“Well then act like it,” he said plainly – flat, trying to hide the staccato step his heart was walking at the way Hizashi looked .

 

Tall, hair down, pretty eyes – in his personal space because space never meant a thing to him, not then in U.A, and not now on the corner of a rainy street.

 

“I’ll try!”

 

“So…”

 

“So. Let’s go, Shou!” He hummed, and by the arm he had that wasn’t holding an umbrella, escorted Shouta with a light tug. Shouta wore a dark sweater, thick and heavy against the cold, and Hizashi wore a similar one in the color yellow, his fingers sporting a few more rings than he’d last seen over a month ago. 

 

He’d pulled him forward, and he knew it was toward the little cafe they’d always gone to as a tradition at U.A. 

 

“So! Shouta! Fill me in, Mr. Eraser!” He giggled, and he knew because he always did it that it was funny to call him Mister.

 

Hizashi opened the glass door for them, and a wave of warmth and the scent of a heater overcame them when they stepped in.

 

“About what? I tell you everything…”

 

“That’s impossible, you can’t have told me everything in our text messages!” 

 

Maybe not everything...

 

Shouta didn’t wait to look around – the room split into two sides, both of which were empty of other humans. Beside the scarce staff, the only other inhabitants were cats. Several black cats roamed about, ignoring them as the door shut behind them with the sound of the bell. 

 

The two of them walked quickly to their booth in the back, catching the eyes of several cats.

 

Shouta sat on his normal side, and Hizashi sat across from him. The woman from behind the counter gave them waters and told them their regular coffees and snacks were coming.

 

They were there too often, and it was warming, feeling like time stopped for a bit. Hizashi was half-wet, his smile broad but more reserved now that they were inside where everything they said and did felt so much louder.

 

Shouta shuffled, setting aside the rolled umbrella, and looked at his hands as they folded over themselves on the counter.

 

“I’m serious, nothing much has happened that I haven’t already told you.”

 

He’d neglected to say he felt aimless and floating and didn’t know what he was doing – that was too much for a conversation that happens only once a month.

 

Hizashi’s smile was gentle now, like light through the trees. Shouta didn’t realise how much he’d loved it until he’d grown so far away. Not that it felt like they were far away once they finally saw each other– the connection between them, the way every hug and physical affection felt natural…

 

“Hmmm… well I still wanna hear, because I just can’t get enough of your life, so you’re just gonna have to tell me again.”

 

He looked so dopey, leaning on his elbows and fussing with his half-damp hair. 

 

“I’ll read my text messages back, then.”

 

Hizashi rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll start since you wanna harsh the vibes like this!” He leaned back, shoulders relaxing against the softness of the blue booth. He took a visible breath, and something about it reminded Shouta of how he felt – a heaviness, unburdened in the moment.

 

Maybe – Shouta didn’t dwell, didn’t even try to go further with the thought – but maybe they’d both needed each other like this, and maybe Hizashi missed him in the same way Shouta did…

 

“It’s fine with me…”

 

I could hear you talk for ages, anyway .

 

Hizashi opened his eyes, tilting his head forward with a full grin. “I finally finished up my mock script!”

 

Shouta tried not to smile, but the light in Hizashi’s green eyes was too much not to bend his will. “Hmm, yeah?”

 

“Yeah! It’s just a draft, but my friend at the radio station said he’d look at it and give me feedback! It’s not realistic, he said, about, you know… getting it done any time soon, but it’s still a step!”

 

Hizashi’s cheeks glowed, warm and dusted pink – he looked away, and it was such a nice look on his face, a quiet pride that was embarrassing. He’d always worked hard, and he never acted like it was enough.

 

“That’s amazing.”

 

Hizashi looked toward the door, off to the side of Shouta. Shouta smiled a bit more, liking the way such an open, extroverted person could look so embarrassed. “I mean it, Hizashi – I’m happy for you, and it’s a step in the right direction…”

 

Shouta didn’t know how to say nice things and not feel a bit embarrassed himself, so he left it at that and looked back to his cold, gloved hands. Thankfully, he didn’t have to acknowledge it for long, because the woman who always took their order with a smile dropped off their coffees and a big pork bao to split.

 

“Thank you… it’s giving me hope for my future!”

 

The words stuck in Shouta’s brain like gravel to a wound – coldness climbed into his thoughts, feeling all too familiar…

 

“... hope?”

 

Hizashi took the white mug in front of him, and decided purposefully on staring into it’s milky contents instead of anywhere else. The heat seemed to soak into him, and Shouta was relieved to see him gain strength and warmth by the second. “Yeah, hope! Being a hero is fun, but… well, it’s gonna be different when I finally get my show!”

 

Ah, so that was what it was. He was happy with where he was, but there was work to be done. Shouta was bitter and happy all at once, relieved his friend was not in the same boat but saddened he didn’t have a partner for the other oar of his. “You’ll get your show. Even if it’s not now.”

 

He meant it – the world was missing out on Hizashi and the energy he could bring to any situation, anyone could see he was meant to follow his dream. His dream was so distinctly Hizashi to the bone, that it just made sense.

 

Shouta didn’t know what it meant to feel scared about that fact, so he pushed the thought aside and took a drink of his macchiato – too much sugar, extra caramel, entirely too sweet for most of the population of Japan. 

 

Hizashi shrugged. “Thank you! I know it, it’s just frustrating… waiting is the worst part!”

 

Shouta wanted to tell him to be patient, but it was no use, and he’d rather see his enthusiasm rather than his quiet, patient waiting. He just hummed instead, and hugged the warm cup to his chest.

 

They were quieter now – their drinks stealing away their attention, the quiet ambience of soft music lulling them into a comfort. Shouta never felt like this with anyone, and though he felt like he should be saying something, he’d also never felt the need to fill the quiet. 

 

It was comfort, in the oddest of places – again, the words home and Hizashi were the same, and he was done trying to separate them.

 

“You know… it’s weird, not seeing you.”

 

Shouta almost didn’t recognize the pensive tone in Hizashi. He looked up, and he was smiling, but his eyes were a little sad. “Man, we didn’t really talk about it, did we, but man – we’re heroes!”

 

The bitter feeling in Shouta’s stomach painfully reminded him that he was a hero, just like every morning reminded him of this fact. A hero, and maybe nothing more.

 

“Yeah…”

 

Hizashi’s eyes rolled over from the door to him, and something in them was too sharp. “Yeah?”

 

Shouta nodded.

 

“It’s weird,” he laughed a bit. “Yesterday I was a student and now? I’m a hero .”

 

Shouta snorted. The goofy kid who was loud and obnoxious and loveable was a hero. 

 

“And you’re Eraserhead .”

 

Shouta grimaced, groaning and leaning back in the same way Hizashi was. “Don’t remind me.”

 

“It’s your fault, no one told you to listen to me.”

 

Gladly, his focus was the name and not the profession. He’d not have to say “I might hate this.”

 

“It is only my own fault…”

 

And Hizashi laughed a bit, but it didn’t reach his eyes. He was staring now, in a way where it wasn’t supposed to be obvious, in a way like he didn’t know how to do it without feeling uncomfortable… 

 

“Hizashi…?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“What’s up?

 

Hizashi snorted. The question was dumb sounding, and Shouta knew it. “Just… lets do this more?”

 

Shouta’s limbs started to warm. “Yeah?”

 

Hizashi’s smile was so grossly sweet, it hurt. “Yeah.”

 

And from there, they talked and caught up and it felt like a time machine, like a portal to a moment where everything was good and Shouta didn’t have the fear of growing far away from his friends, his best friend. It was not like reliving the past, or indulging in nostalgia –

 

It felt like the moment in time it was supposed to be, where everything that was skewed was finally sitting right.

 

~

 

It’s a week that passes before Shouta really feels it. He’d been able to sleep away or text away the nagging emptiness, the feeling like he was a dead fish in a drying pond.

 

He got home from patrol at 4:30 in the morning – the sun was cold and hidden, and the air could ice his nerves through his costume and sweaters. He’d been successful, another night of outstanding arrests and saving people, but for the first time someone almost slipped by – he’d tossed a knife, and it caught Shouta. In the end he’d needed stitches on his arm, but ultimately he was well.

 

Something felt broken, though, and he couldn’t explain it.

 

His lights were off because no one was ever home, and he saves money that way, so when he steps through his door and locks the deadbolt, it’s pitch black. Just like outside.

 

He navigated through the dark from familiarity, and he stripped from his clothes with rushed motions, wishing to be in bed already. He forced himself to shower before falling asleep at 5, rolled in blankets like a makeshift cocoon. When he opened his eyes at 12, with a little bit of light breaking through the edges of his bedroom blinds, he felt so incapable and empty...

 

It’d been a while since he felt panicked, and he felt dumb for panicking over nothing – 

 

He held his phone out in front of him, and his hair was a mess in his vision as he rolled over to his side, but he could see well enough. 

 

His screen was bright.

 

He felt dumb. He didn’t know if it was enough of a reason to text Hizashi.

 

Should I?

 

It was always okay to text Hizashi, though – he knew it, and he never usually hesitated with that fact…

 

This, however, just felt different. Not that he couldn’t text Hizashi, but that he felt too ashamed to even try.

 

He shut his phone, and the bright light of the screen stopped hurting his dry, aching eyes.

 

~

 

Hizashi called on Shouta’s day off – they’d both lined up a time that worked for them a few days before, and the plan was to call, catch up and maybe see if they had the energy to get food and see a movie. But the day came, just a few days later, and Shouta still didn’t feel…

 

Like doing, whatever it was they were going to do. The normal wear and exhaustion doubled down, and he’d been waiting it out as best as he could. Patrols were the only way he’d spend his energy, and when Hizashi called him, he was sitting on his couch with ramen and a blanket.

 

He’d watched the screen go dead, and the following text came seconds later.

 

[10:12 AM] Shouta!! You better not be sleeping… 

 

[10:12 AM] I mean, you should sleep, but you should call me too

 

[10:12 AM] Or ELSE

 

[10:13 AM] Do you still want to go out?

 

Shouta closed his phone for a minute, the thud in his chest forcing him to close his eyes.

 

[10:13 AM] Let me know…!

 

Shouta thought about texting back, but he didn’t know if he’d be able to say things that didn’t trigger Hizashi’s empathy and coddling. He knew what he’d say if he sounded low, knew what he’d do and that it all would make him talk and express when he was content with waiting it out.

 

It was a part of life, waiting out the low parts – he’s done it before, he can do it again, and it wasn’t something Hizashi should worry himself over.

 

Shouta just ignored the texts – and not just Hizashi’s, but Nemuri’s and Tensei’s, who texted him almost as often as Hizashi did. 

 

He ignored them all, feeling guilty, but knowing it was the better choice of the few he had.

 

~

 

It’s 8 at night and Shouta had fallen asleep on his couch, the TV running in the background so his walls felt a bit more lived in. He’d radiated enough heat into his blanket and the shape of the couch that he didn’t want to move, even when he blinked away the light from his eyes, trying to fall back asleep –

 

Three heavy knocks came from the door to his left wall, and his instincts sprung him from his makeshift bed in a heartbeat.

 

Who…?

 

But then he realized what time it was from the clock on the wall, and then another knock came, quiet and in an annoying pattern – he knew immediately who it was.

 

Slowly, like if he took his time Hizashi would disappear – slowly , kicking free his blanket and standing, he walked to the door and opened it. 

 

Shouta flushed when he saw Hizashi -- he knew he looked like shit and that the lights were off in the living room, and Hizashi saw it. Hizashi grinned at him from over a brown bag stuffed full of…

 

Shouta quirked an eyebrow, speaking before Hizashi had the time to. “... food?”

 

Hizashi’s eyes surveyed the darkness, lit by the glow of the T.V. He grinned, but his eyes weren’t thrilled. “Yep! Bought out my corner store!”

 

Shouta looked down. He’d ignored Hizashi and his calls, and he returned the disservice with a fucking feast in wait. “I’ve already eaten…”

 

“You mean you made a microwave dinner and ignored three of my calls, right?”

 

Shouta flushed deeper. “When you put it like that…”

 

Hizashi smiled, just to show he was being genuine. “I’m not mad! But I figured you were either sick or like…” and he peered in. Shouta moved to let him in, stepping aside slowly like that might make Hizashi reconsider. It didn’t, and Hizashi’s free hand went to the switch beside the door, turning on the standing lamp in the corner. “Well, either sick or sleeping. Guess I know which now.”

 

Shouta thanked him silently that he didn’t point out the table space and the microwave dinners from the past three nights, or the blanket, or the way he looked more like a rat than usual. He just walked in, and went to the counter that joined the kitchen and the living room. He turned back around to Shouta with a soft smile.

 

Shouta shut the door, leaning against it, feeling more grateful and less deserving. Hizashi didn’t come over to rub anything in his face – not to be mad about missed calls, or plans that fell through when they didn’t need to.

 

Shouta knew he’d hate the answer, and didn’t know why he couldn’t stop his lips from moving. “Why are you here?”

 

Hizashi’s eyes softened, and he looked away as he walked to the couch. He picked up the blanket and put it back on the couch, somewhat presentably. “Just cause!”

 

“Hizashi…”

 

Hizashi gathered the styrofoam containers from the little wooden table in front of the couch. “You just seemed sad, and…”

 

He pulled together the disposable spoons and chopsticks, balancing them altogether against his chest. He laughed, but it was the laugh he used when someone in class had said something rude to him, or when he’d gotten a bad grade and laughed when he saw the red marking. “I just wanted to check in.”

 

Shouta’s eyes were always dry, but they felt a little wet now. Not enough, nothing was really reaching deep enough into him to pull real tears, but the thought of Hizashi worried

 

“You don’t miss calls without a reason, Shou.”

 

Watching him clear up space in his living room, dumping trash on his way to the kitchenette – he walked comfortably across his space and cared about what happened to him in it. It was too loving.

 

“Anyway, I brought vegetables,” Hizashi said, in the kitchen with his back to him. He was unloading vegetables under the odd yellow glow of the stove vent lamp. A spring was in his step, nodding his head to the faint music from the T.V show, never fully capable of sitting still. “I figured, you know, so we both get our nutrients , I’d balance out some junk with some veggies – say hello to these carrots! And onions, and a few other things.”

 

Hizashi was still talking, and Shouta’s heart pulled him forward. His home felt alive right now, and he took steps toward the heart of this temporary home –

 

“And,” Hizashi continued, setting aside some broth boxes. “I figured some hot soup would be nice, I have ramen and Pho, and veggies –”

 

The bag crinkled as he shoved it off to the side, against the tiles of the counter wall. 

 

“– And I figured you haven’t been eating well enough, which, hey , I was right –”

 

Shouta had little control when it came to Hizashi, and he padded into the kitchen, feeling warm and at home and embarrassed at once.

 

“– But, it doesn’t matter, because this probably works out better and I’ll get to test my culinary skills on you, which, you know, is –”

 

Shouta’s hands first started on his hips, but felt too intimate that he quickly let them rise up to his sides, and he slipped them around Hizashi’s lean stomach before he’d have time to retreat. To stop hugging him, like the thought never occurred to him every day for years.

 

Hizashi went stiff for a moment, and Shouta’s eyes shut against the thought that he was being too much…

 

Why did you do this?

 

But it was not a worry he was able to have for long, not when Hizashi relaxed into it. He hummed, and Shouta thought he might pass out from embarrassment.

 

“Thank you,” he said softly, cheeks pressed delicately against his sweater, the warmth of Hizashi seeping through the fabric like blankets out of the drier. He couldn’t elaborate any more, so he let himself return to the silence and quiet companionship he loved and treasured.

 

Hizashi brought his arms up to lay over Shouta’s, hands clasped around Shouta’s own. Warm, certain, solid. It was infectious, and he felt himself still at the contact.

 

“Yeah, Shouta, any time.”

 

Shouta squeezed – he’d never been super wordy, and he was fine with that, but moments like this made him wish he knew better ways to say thank you.

 

Thankfully, Hizashi always understood. He rubbed his thumbs over Shouta’s knuckles. “Always.”

 

~

 

Shouta got his first real injury in a fight on a rooftop – he’d taken the guy with a mutation quirk down, but he’d broken a rib in the process. The hospital mended it quickly, sent him home with pain killers and doctors orders to stay off of work for three days for rest. Surprisingly, it felt…

 

Good. Not physically, not in the way that made him feel like seeking it out – but the challenge, the thought of change coming while routine got thrown out the window – it felt refreshing in ways he didn’t realize were possible.

 

But it hurt to lay down once he got home, and once the adrenaline finally washed away in his walk from the hospital, that feeling of refreshment also fell away – he took a bath and tied back his hair and resigned himself to the boredom of the next few days. The only true positive of this situation was that he’d be able to sleep in as late as possible.

 

He texted Hizashi about what had happened, and he came over to check on him and make him food for the next three days.

 

Watching him in his house, fussing and singing and dancing poorly to music that would probably get him noise complaints – he may have felt like shit, but in the hours Hizashi spent in his space, with his tied up hair and stupid little mustache…

 

He’d never felt as nice, or more in love.

 

~

 

“Shouta?”

 

Shouta felt dumb for calling. Anything that meant he’d have to go out of his way to express soft or intimate things made him feel stupid, but the fact that it was Hizashi who got to see it…

 

He was dumb, but he pulled in a breath and decided that if anyone could hear it, he’d want it to be Hizashi. “Hey.”

 

“It’s… it’s 3am, right?”

 

Shouta was sitting on a rooftop, and the night was cold and calm. His free hand toyed with the visor around his neck, and he trained his eyes to the nearby glow of residential streetlights. He was a little too close to Hizashi’s neighborhood, just off the trail of his normal patrols, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel bad for straying.

 

“I’m sorry, I forgo–”

 

“No, no!” He could imagine Hizashi’s raised hand at the accusation. “I was awake, just writing – I was surprised, that’s all.”

 

Shouta’s shoulder’s un-tensed, and he sighed. “Oh…”

 

A pause, and Shouta didn’t know how to follow it up.

 

“You good?”

 

Shouta hummed.

 

“You’re Eraser right now, huh?”

 

Shouta snorted. “For the next ten minutes, yeah.”

 

“So you’re just chillin’ on a roof somewhere and thought of me? I’m so honored!”

 

Shouta felt really dumb, and he was glad no one was around to see his face warm up. “Don’t let it get to your head.”

 

“Too late.”

 

“Wow.”

 

Without a hesitation, “Are you okay?”

 

Shouta waited. “I guess…”

 

This is dumb .

 

“Hmmm. Aizawa Shouta called me out of the blue because he guesses he’s okay.” He laughed, not as it was funny, but because it was a comically untrue statement. “Come on, Eraser! What’s on your mind my ridiculously named friend?”

 

Shouta smiled. “I’m sorry we can’t all find great names like Present Mic .”

 

“You wish you had a name so dazzling.”

 

And then, once the soft giggling went away, and Shouta officially was at the end of his patrol, Hizashi sighed. His voice was like he remembered from their sleep overs, back when studying was their priority and the world felt so much bigger than it did now. “Come on, tell me what’s up.”

 

And a second later, “I promise I don’t bite.”

 

Shouta smiled, despite the dumb feeling in his heart that told him he was weak and an embarrassment. “Sure you don’t….”

 

What did he really call him for? What did he have to say that made sense ? And, how much of it was possible to say without also saying, I miss you so much it hurts ?

 

He had no idea, so he closed his eyes. “I’m not sure…”

 

“You sure about that?”

 

“I –”

 

“What if we hung out right now?”

 

“Now?”

 

“Yeah! The night is young and I’m bored as shit and besides, I want to see ya!”

 

How could he say no? He knew, logically, it was just a ruse to talk in person – to forgo the phone and replace it with words that couldn’t be avoided with the click of a button. Hizashi was like that, too personal and too involved for mere technology to be enough...

 

Shouta knew that he missed him, and knew that they’d been seeing less and less of each other despite trying to go to movies and out with friends more than once a month – he’d say yes before he lets his fears get rid of his opportunities to see his friend.

 

His heart beat faster – he’d be a hero with nerves of steel and yet his crush of four years was the domino to topple his composure, his ability to see past his heart more often than not. He found himself nodding. “I’m on the roof…”

 

“... which roof?”

 

Shouta ignored the laughter and incredulity. “Um… the school building in your neighborhood…”

 

Hizashi broke out in a laugh, loud enough he was certain his quirk was activated, just a bit. “This was planned? Sneaky underground hero!”

 

“It wasn’t pl–”

 

“I’ll be right there! Lemme just grab something warm!”

 

He hung up before he could feel indignant for being so drawn to him – he’d ended up in his neighborhood by accident, mind wandering before realizing where it was he led himself. The same went for the phone call he’d made on instinct, instead of actual thought –

 

The same gravity made him say yes to Hizashi’s request, and he sat in quiet contemplation – he had no idea how he’d come to thoughts like this, of the meaning of dreams and what life was really about… 

 

Like a business man in his forties…

 

He’d had no business being so finicky or restless – no business scoffing at the life he’d fought so hard for, only to discard at the first sign of it being different

 

“YO SHOU! WHAT IT DO, MY DUDE?”

 

It wasn’t the loudest he could go – but the sound scaling over the edge of the school roof to his left was so startling, he almost jumped.

 

Being a hero, having training, was the only thing that kept him rooted to his seat on the air vent.

 

“What the fuck?”

 

Hizashi was laughing, and his quirk was quietened. “Come down here! I’m not scaling a building at 4 in the morning!”

 

Shouta’s down turned lips turned into a half smile. He already was walking to the ledge, staring down the three stories. Hizashi grinned up at him, swaddled in a big grey jacket, arms crossed in front of him.

 

“Come up here.”

 

“Never! If I’m not on patrol, then I’m not scaling a building!”

 

Shouta sighed into a smile, shoulders slumping a bit. He pulled his visors on, and used his capture weapon as a lasso on the cold metal of the service ladder. The wind was cold on his descent, and when he pulled the scarf slack, his weapon gathered itself back into a lasso around his neck and shoulders. 

 

Hizashi was staring at him, like he hadn’t seen Shouta using his weapon like that a thousand times over. “Woah.”

 

The cool air was enough of an explanation for the redness of his cheeks – Shouta shrugged, looking down. 

 

“Why are you so cool?”

 

Shouta bristled at the comment, at the way his eyes followed him as he started walking. He set his eyes on the swing set near them. “Shut up.”

 

“I mean it!”

 

“Shut up,” but he was smiling, and Hizashi heard it because he giggled as he caught up. 

 

Hizashi fell into pace beside Shouta, and bumped their shoulders into each other as they approached the empty swings. “What a charmer.”

 

Shouta sat down on the wooden seat, hands raised low on the chains as he settled in.  “Whatever.”

 

Hizashi just hummed, taking a seat himself. They both stared off into the vacant area of the school grounds. Soon enough, this place would be filled with teenagers, no longer the tranquil empty nightscape lit by tall streetposts.

 

“So what’s gotcha?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s not every day you have a crisis on a rooftop, so I’m just wondering how I had the lovely honor of being the friend you called.”

 

It was an embarrassing way of saying it – and the word friend was like a lump in Shouta’s throat, one that he was fine to accept but couldn’t help yearning after. “Who says I’m having a crisis?” He said, dull and disinterested with a stupid heat in his chest like love.

 

He felt Hizashi shift to look at him, could almost see the curious pout he was staring at him with. “You really calling me dumb, aren’t you!?” And then a little grunt, like an exclamation. “Yo, take these off –”

 

Shouta tilted his head to his left for just a moment, but Hizashi’s fingers came into frame and –

 

Hey!

 

Hizashi wormed his visors off his head, grinning while Shouta took his turn to pout.

 

He reached his hand out, “ Give it back!”

 

“Nah, I hate Eraserhead.”

 

“No –”

 

“I like Shouta, though.”

 

The echoes of their months-old conversation returned to Shouta’s mind, and he flushed at Hizashi’s lopsided smile, at the way he remembered things like that…

 

Shouta leaned against the wobbly chain and let his eyes and hand drop. “Oh.”

 

Hizashi handed back his visor, and Shouta took it, only to lay it over his lap. “So, I’m for real , for real…” Hizashi’s voice was rounded, corners run smooth with soft intent and affection that flowed so freely. He looked over to Shouta, leaning forward, grabbing his attention. “You okay…?”

 

Shouta’s eyes flattened, looking down, into the mound of sand surrounding his foot as he dug into it. He just shook his head.

 

“Hmm.”

 

“I…”

 

Hizashi started swinging lightly.

 

Shouta hated the feeling in him – the band of resistance tightening around his lungs like it was saving him from something catastrophic. It was wildly dramatic, and only furthered the dumb feeling that convinced Shouta he was just overreacting to everything in his life. “This hero stuff…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“It sucks.”

 

Hizashi snorted, swinging with just a bit more momentum. “Oh, yeah, it sucks real bad.”

 

Shouta looked up, watching Hizashi in his little half swing. “Huh?”

 

“Yeah, it’s trash.”

 

“I –”

 

Hizashi laughed. “You’re surprised?”

 

Shouta didn’t know how to answer that – he didn’t think his experience was unique, but he also didn’t think Hizashi was on the same side of the coin flip as him . He’d never said anything, and sure, that doesn’t mean anything – but he always looked and sounded and acted so fucking content

 

Shouta nodded, abashed. “You just never said anything.”

 

Hizashi shrugged. “Neither did you.”

 

Shouta sighed. “I guess… why are you unhappy, then?”

 

It felt like a secret for the both of them – speaking about the realities of the glamorous, fulfilling life of heroes and the way it affects the life they lead outside of the costume. 

 

“For me? Man, I don’t know where to start. You know no one takes me seriously, right?”

 

Shouta hummed. Maybe at first glance, Hizashi was a bit goofy – he had the costume and theatrics of someone with a personality that doesn’t usually find its way into the hero field, but knowing him…

 

He was determined and strong and empathetic and knew how to care for those in need – he was the definition of a hero…

 

“And,” Hizashi went on, slowing to a halt. “No one really takes me seriously, which is fine because I’m still doing well, but it’s stealing so much of my time, and it makes me doubt if I’ll ever get into radio, and… man, who knows…”

 

Shouta hummed. “It’s revealing... once you step into the costume for real.”

 

Hizashi hummed. “So, what about you, Shou?”

 

Shouta’s stomach knotted. “I’m…”

 

“I promised ya, I don’t bite.”

 

Shouta laughed, but the bubbling feeling died when Hizashi turned in his seat, facing him. He looped one long leg around the seat, a foot on either side of the cold chain. He hung onto it with both hands, head and shoulders propped up against it. 

 

Shouta liked the attention, and hated that he liked the attention. “I’ve reached the most I’ll ever be.”

 

Shouta could practically hear the frown from his friend. 

 

“I’ve become the hero I wanted to be, and now… I patrol, and I take people in, and I come home…”

 

My empty, hollow home…

 

Hizashi hummed, prompting him. Shouta spared a look out of the corner of his eyes, meeting Hizashi’s gaze and feeling raw in their light. “It’s so…”

 

Hizashi was still waiting, but he didn’t want to say it.

 

“Empty.”

 

Hizashi still waited – he knew so well that there was more, knew that he’d have to wait before prying out the embarrassingly trivial problem.

 

“Empty and lonely.”

 

And that was it for a while. Shouta knew it was a purposefully created silence, made for Shouta’s comfort and his alone. He’d been given space to speak, the type Hizashi had learned to work with years and years ago. And he was still given space to put words to thoughts and feelings, time to gather those thoughts and put them together, but it felt like…

 

Discomfort. Like he’d said something ridiculous, and the only choice left to the both of them was to ignore it and move on.

 

Hizashi hummed before Shouta could find a way to explain the silence between them. “I feel that too. Sucks, man.”

 

“That’s what you have to say about it?”

 

“Yeah, pretty much. What else should I say?”

 

Shouta shrugged, reluctantly agreeing. It wasn’t anything better than what he had to say. “I don’t know…”

 

“All I can do is get through it.”

 

“I don’t know how , Hizashi –” A note of panic rose in the back of his throat, barely maintained, tucked away. His hair fell into his face, and he stared at his fingers through the slot of his goggles. “I’m… I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I’ve done it all. I’m fucking – I’m lonely , and my house is my least favorite place to be, and I want…”

 

He’d never admitted it to himself – he had words on the edge of his mind, the outskirts of every sad thought, and he’d never dared to look for it to see if it was what he thought it was. But now, on the tip of his tongue, he could taste it, and hated that it was there.

 

He laughed. “I want to give up. Quit.”

 

Hizashi laughed back. “You’re like, an all or nothing person.”

 

Shouta couldn’t argue. “Don’t act so surprised.”

 

And that was the quiet conversation they had, the one that Shouta wondered why he hated it so much. He’d despised the idea of it, yet felt nothing but relief, and some embarrassment, now that it was said.

 

Hizashi listened and heard and Shouta felt the pressure leave his chest, pressure that he didn’t even know was there…

 

Sure, he could feel Hizashi’s eyes – trained and concentrated on him, intense in the way only Hizashi can be. Sure, it made his pulse jump, and Shouta briefly wondered what it meant that he was still there, staring at him…

 

He looked over to Hizashi, and was surprised to see the sad downturn to his eyes, the little frown he wore like he tried not to look too sad but was failing. It was his eyes, always readable, always giving away his inner thoughts. 

 

“I wish you told me you were lonely…”

 

Their eye contact was deadly – he felt his face warm immediately. “I –”

 

“I wanted to see you and I would have tried more if I knew…”

 

Shouta loved his privacy, and Hizashi knew how to respect it – Hizashi couldn’t be blamed for the boundaries he respected .

 

Maybe they could have been lonely together, if he’d said something...

 

“It’s been… so bad,” Shouta whispered, thinking of the cold hands of his bed and couch and shower. His voice shook. “I –”

 

“Yo, I wish I had a cape…”

 

Shouta’s head snapped up. Hizashi was flush, too. “Excuse me?

 

“Yeah, to comfort you… you know, like, the classic hero stuff.”

 

Oh, that dumb schtick…

 

It warmed Shouta’s heart in an instant, still, thawing out the cold just a bit. “Hizashi…”

 

“Hey – how about –” Hizashi’s eyes lit up, alongside a blooming blush. He smiled, and all of a sudden, like a curtain drop, the easy going confidence that lived so deeply in his actions was gone. Suddenly, he wasn’t sure.

 

He reached out a hand toward Shouta, leaning forward in his swing seat.

 

Shouta blushed too, realizing Hizashi was gesturing toward his hand.

 

It was all too easy to take it, to let Hizashi lace their fingers together, like it was natural. And, he had to admit, it felt natural. 

 

It felt like they should always be like this.

 

Hizashi grinned. “I’m feeling pretty lonely… wanna sleepover, like old times?”

 

Shouta smiled. “Yes… just promise there won’t be textbooks to study.”

 

“As a matter of fact, there will be five, and we have a quiz tomorrow, and we still have to study for our provisionals…”

 

God, those words, like more portals opening up to moments in time they didn’t know they would miss. “On second thought, I’ll just go home.”

 

Hizashi shook their hands, swinging it between them with too much force. “I will drag you home with me, you enormous idiot!”

 

His laughter, it made sparks light up under Shouta’s skin – made his skin buzz so much he was sure Hizashi could feel it in their entwined fingers. 

 

“You’re so dumb.”

 

Quickly, Hizashi stood, and tugged their linked hands. “Come on, Eraser! Before the cold freezes our asses off!”

 

Shouta let Hizashi tug him forward. He couldn’t say no, even if he tried. “What ass?”

 

Out of all the heavy things they talked about, that was the comment that brought a true frown to Hizashi’s face. “Okay, uncalled for.”

 

He let go of his hand too fast for Shouta to tighten his hold. Shouta was laughing, and it felt so visceral he knew it was going to hurt – it’d been so long since he felt it, he was sure his body wasn’t used to it. “Hiz–”

 

He was already ahead of him – leading them back to his house, the place Shouta knew the directions to by heart. “Too late, Eraser, too fucking late!”

 

Oh, it was stupid. His legs moved, and he was way faster than Hizashi.

 

“You –”

 

Shouta ran into Hizashi, knocking him forward into a stumble. Hizashi turned around, startled but not really surprised, and let Shouta wrap himself up in him. He giggled, and Shouta felt it against his chest like a rumbling earthquake – so close, he felt at home.

 

“You don’t need a cape,” he whispered into his sweater, into his neck – it felt like a boundary he was breaking, but it would seem like they were both okay with it. “If you.. wanted to comfort… um…”

 

Hizashi didn’t let him feel embarrassed, arms encircling Shouta – his lips were too close to his ear, sent shivers down his spine, breaking another boundary that neither of them wanted anymore. “I’ll comfort you all night – woah, woah, I swear –” his quirk shook his chest, Shouta could feel the embarrassment rising. “ – I didn’t mean – “

 

Shouta started laughing – more aching laughs he was sure he’d feel later. “I know what you mean.”

 

Hizashi calmed around him – arms settling back into place, loose but steady around his shoulders. He laughed nervously. “I’m – uhhhh –”

 

Shouta shook his head. “It’s okay.”

 

Hizashi hummed a reply, tucking his head into the space between his arm and Shouta. He just nodded, but Shouta could feel his smile.

 

They stood there for a moment longer before walking home, peeling away only to rest their hands in the protection of the others. With a little shake, a squeeze to their entwined fingers, Shouta was certain this was what was missing all along.