Shouta glares at the black fluffy mass wriggling in his lap. A soft hairbrush lies long discarded on the floor, alongside two pairs of blunted scissors, and Shouta is very ready to run into the forest and begin his new life as a woodsman.
Instead, he carefully runs his hands through the shivering fur on his legs, all attached to a massive and very upset rabbit. The rabbit, Charlie, which came into Shouta's care two days ago, is friendly enough. Hasn't bitten him once and enjoys the company of others. She's also amazingly overweight, needs her claws clipped, and her long fur is the stuff of eldritch nightmares.
"You have to let me brush this shit out." he sighs, his tone gentle. "Literally. Your fur is full of poop. This is ridiculous."
The sun is setting over the towering rabbit hutches, the last rays beaming through the open doors and onto Shouta’s back. The smell of hay and earth is thick in the air. Shouta is sat in the centre of a large rabbit run. He's let a few of the older rabbits out to stretch their legs as he works, the calm quiet of the hutch letting the more skittish rabbits relax. Some of the more curious ones sniff at the discarded scissors. Grunting, Shouta softly bats them away as a warm breeze ruffles his hair.
Charlie has calmed considerably after a few more minutes of Shouta stroking her fur, and doesn't fret as much when he reaches back for the brush. He internally lets out a sigh of relief, it's looking less likely that she will need to be sedated.
He's careful and methodical, brushing the gargantuan rabbits fur. He doesn't worry about the older rabbits hopping around them - the run is safe, the air is still warm, and the younger rabbits have already tired themselves out from visitors playing with them earlier in the day. As the sun continues it's descent, Shouta is glad he finally afforded to deck the hutches out with proper lighting. The generator hums in the background, safely away from interfering bunnies.
His task takes a long time. Shouta makes sure not to pull, using scissors for the worst tats, and each time Charlie wiggles and begins to stress, Shouta carefully sets down his brush and strokes Charlie's fur. He's thankful he's wearing an old button down shirt, his sleeves rolled up, along with his cosy plain sweatpants, as Charlie's fur sticks to it all with ease. He's also tied his hair out of his face, concentrating fully on the task at hand.
Just as the last of the sun dips behind his farm, Shouta finishes his task. Charlie's fur is soft and tat-free, and Shouta wipes his forehead with the back of his hand.
"You. Young lady. You are a task," he says, setting Charlie down. He takes a moment to sit back as Charlie hops up, surprisingly confident and spritely, to two of the grumpier bunnies, Boar and Chalk. Boar looks uninterested, but Chalk takes a sniff of Charlie. Charlie bounds, wanting to play, but neither bunny takes much an interest.
"Grouchy old sods," Shouta chuckles. He feels a weight on his hand, and sees Bean trying to wiggle under his digits. Shouta can't help his smile, Bean often uses this tactic to get fuss, and he'd be lying if he claimed it didn't work. Shouta would never admit he has a favourite bunny, but the three-legged tiny and elderly rabbit has wormed his way into Shouta's heart.
"Fine, okay, give me a moment," Shouta says, picking him up gently, and he realizes his mistake as soon as he does so. The other rabbits, realizing he's no longer working, all begin to bound over and demand attention. Even Chalk and Boar slowly hop over, snuggling down by his feet for a nap. Shouta knows he's grinning like a loon, but it's okay, he's alone...
The bunnies skitter around the pen as Shouta jolts to a stand. He knows the sound of a camera phone when he hears one, having to ask the ruder visitors to put their phones away when near the more skittish animals. He turns to see a man at the entrance of the hut, eyes wide and cheeks red, flogged by two children by his side.
Yamada Hizashi. Shouta remembers him briefly as the man who had put Charlie in Shouta’s care.
"What the hell are you doing? The farm is closed," Shouta snaps, voice low and annoyed.
"Oh! Um! Hey," Yamada says, grinning wide, and Shouta really hates how attractive this man is. "We wanted to see how Charlie is doing!"
Frowning, Shouta looks down to see a very young and punky girl glaring back at him. A boy with rock-like skin about her own age hides behind Yamada's legs, lip trembling.
"Yeah! Let us see Charlie you jerk!" the girl demands.
"Jiro!" Yamada shouts, cheeks red. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry Mr Aizawa, Jiro, say sorry!"
Jiro pouts and offers the most insincere apology Aizawa has ever heard. He's used to kids saying what's on their mind, so he accepts it with a grunt before beginning to herd the rabbits back into their cages.
"Well, Mr Yamada, I suggest you come back when the farm is open," Shouta sighs. “Leave.” He doesn't have time for pushy customers, even cute ones. He’s already put Charlie away, along with most of the other rabbits. Shouta is fast when he needs to be. Yamada has said nothing, and Shouta pauses reaching for Boar, looking up. The blond man is crouched down, dabbing at the boy's cheek with his sleeve. The child is crying quietly, and Yamada looks distraught.
"No no no don't cry Koda, this is my fault, we can come back first thing tomorrow, okay?" Yamada says softly. Jiro, smart for her age, makes sure to glare extra hard at Shouta, quite obviously putting him completely at fault.
Not that he doesn't immediately feel guilty. Shouta is pretty sure he's just won the world's biggest asshole award. Yamada chooses that moment to look up pleadingly, a big bubble of snot coming from Koda's nose, and Shouta is defeated.
"Five minutes," he relents, opening Charlie's hutch once Boar is safely away. "If you stress her out she's going right back."
Both children cheer and begin to run forward, but Shouta stops them quickly.
"You'll scare her. The petting seats are just over there," Shouta says, nodding towards a set of colourful seats adorned with stickers just behind the rabbit run. Yamada steps forward, offering Shouta a blinding and grateful smile as he takes Koda's hand and leads him to the seats. Jiro has already bolted there, happily swinging her legs off one of the taller chairs.
"What do you say, guys?' Yamada asks, chuckling as Koda climbs on his lap.
"Thanks!' Jiro cheers.
" Th... Thankyou Mr A'zawa," Koda mumbles.
Shouta fights the smile tugging at his lips. It's rare he's offered manners, and Yamada is poking his sons cheeks playfully in an attempt to make him smile. It works as Koda giggles, making Yamada's smile even brighter.
"Okay. Who is holding Charlie first?"
Both children were equally loud, causing Shouta to pause and pull the rabbit to his chest. He frowns hard, twisting his already 'scary' face, and Koda buries his head in Yamada's shirt. Shouta quickly reins in his expression to a neutral glare. Yamada only chuckles warmly. It makes Shouta's cheeks heat up.
"You'll have to be quieter," he warns, keeping his voice low. "Charlie has had a long day." Shouta then carefully lowers himself to Koda's height. Koda unbunches his fists from Yamada's shirt and stares widely at Charlie. Shouta makes a mental note to grab a tissue as a glob of snot trickles down Koda's face.
"Can she sit on my knee?" Koda whispers. Shouta nods.
"Be still and don't make sudden movements," he says, gently placing the fat rabbit on Koda's knee. The kid immediately laughs, loudly, and Shouta frowns again. Charlie doesn't seem bothered though, seeking out Koda's hand for a fuss.
"Charlie's so fat!" he shouts. Jiro is suddenly standing next to Shouta - he didn't even see her move, and she happily plonks her hand on Charlie's head.
"Fat fluffy Charlie! Fat fluffy Charlie!" Jiro chants, a grin splitting her face. Hizashi is laughing too as he hushes his children.
"Mr Aizawa said to be quiet," he chides, though there's no force in it. Shouta sighs and stands up, headache already incoming.
"Just Aizawa is fine," he says. Hizashi hums as Koda hugs Charlie.
"Then call me Yamada! And thank you so much for letting the kids see Charlie. I am forever in your debt!"
Shouta feels himself flush again as Yamada offers a big cheesy wink. Koda and Jiro are too occupied with Charlie to notice, and Shouta quickly looks away. Is he flirting? With Shouta? Is he not taken? There isn't a ring on Yamada's finger...
Shouta shoos those thoughts quickly. He knows he isn't the type that pretty men find attractive.
"Yes. Well. It's still after closing hours so only five minutes."
Thirty minutes later and Koda and Jiro are happily sat in the rabbit run taking turns cuddling Charlie. Charlie herself seems very content, bouncing between the two children despite her gargantuan size. It's becoming apparent that Charlie loves attention.
Shouta finds himself sitting next to Yamada on the visitor's chairs. At some point he had grabbed two juice boxes, one of which Yamada had taken easily, claiming he hadn't had time to grab a drink on the way over. Shouta found he was happy enough to sit in the man's company, the hutches illuminated by warm artificial light as the dark sky filtered in. Yamada is animated and lively despite bruising circles under his eyes. He's so full of energy and spark. Shouta admires it.
In just those thirty minutes, Shouta has learned that Yamada has three full time jobs, one as a hero, another as a radio DJ, and of course one as a dad. He also learned that every single penny Yamada makes is spent on his children, giving them the best possible life. Hizashi quite obviously dotes on his children, and it only draws Shouta in more.
"And of course, there was no way we could take Charlie after Mrs Akagi passed! I felt terrible about it, she was our neighbor for over ten years y'know, but I just have my hands so full already!" Hizashi sighs, slouching down in his chair. "Koda and Jiro were getting real upset about it all, so I promised I would take them to see Charlie after work today, but, I ended up forced to pull overtime..."
"Hence your decision to break into my farm?"
Yamada ducked his head sheepishly. "I - It was just to see Charlie I swear! I thought we could just, dip and out," he mumbles. He then looks up, a glint in his eye. "Take pity on me, I am but a humble father."
Shouta hitches an eyebrow. "You're a menace."
Hizashi frowns harder, eyebrows furrowed, and Shouta can't help himself as he cracks a grin. Charming, hardworking and most certainly hot. Shouta cannot believe someone like this even exists. For a moment, Shouta is sure he sees Yamada's cheeks flush - it wasn't that warm, was it? Shouta clears his throat.
"Your partner must be very lucky, to have such a hardworking partner," Shouta finds himself saying. He mentally slaps himself - that's a probing statement if he ever heard one. Yamada ducks his head a little, smiling sheepishly as he rubs at the back of his scalp.
"Um, no partner." he chuckles. "The kids, Koda and Jiro - they actually are my sisters' children. I adopted them both a couple years back as she wasn't in the best health to take care of them. At first, I had no clue what I was doing - heck, sometimes I still don't! But I love them both with all my heart."
Shouta feels his own heart speed up as he watches the way Yamada looks at his children - with so much warmth and affection. Shouta is in awe, just to see someone so utterly hardworking and selfless. It only serves to deepen Shouta's crush. He bites his lip, straightening his expression.
"Well. You seem like a pretty damn good dad to me," Shouta says. "Not many idiots will barge into my farm past closing time. Though, emphasis on idiot."
Yamada grins, though the expression looks a little nervous. His next words come out quiet and unsure.
"I don't know, not only did the kids get to see Charlie, but... I got to hang out with a really handsome man."
Shouta frowns. There's no other men here besides-
"Wait, are you hitting on me?" Shouta asks, eyebrows raised, before he can think better of it. Yamada barks out a laugh before remembering the bunnies and quickly clamps a hand over his mouth.
"I wasn't sure if the more subtle flirts weren't working, or if you were avoiding them," the man says, eyes crinkled. He still looks nervous, but he keeps battling through. "I'll totally stop if you have someone or if you're uncomfortable, I've um, been out the dating scene for a long time."
Shouta is quiet a moment, his cheeks burning red. No way. No way is this guy actually flirting with him. He can feel his brain cranking into overload.
"... You're an idiot," he finally grumbles, wishing he had something to duck his face in. Yamada laughs again.
"Well that isn't a -"
Yamada is cut off abruptly by a loud cry. Before Aizawa can even blink, Yamada is up and out of his chair, leaping over the small enclosure barrier before crouching down in front of a sobbing Jiro. Koda is hugging her tightly, and Charlie has hopped to the other side of the run.
"She bit me, daddy! She bit me!" Shouta hears through her sobs, and as if on autopilot he darts into the run and scoops up Charlie, gently putting her in her hutch, before rushing to the First Aid box. Yamada is shushing Jiro and asking to see what hurts, his voice calm yet stern.
Shouta steps back into the run quickly, First Aid box in hand, and crouches down next to Yamada. Jiro is crying still as Yamada holds her hand up, a small dollop of blood pooling at the tip of her index finger.
"May I?" Shouta asks Yamada, nodding towards Jiro. "I have first aid training."
Yamada smiles, grateful, and looks to Jiro.
"Mr Aizawa -"
"Ah! Yes - Aizawa here is going to make your finger better," Yamada says to his daughter, using his free hand to dab at Jiro's puffy cheeks with his sleeve. Shouta is opening the kit as Jiro cries a little louder.
"He's mean! He'll make it worse!" she cries, and there's no malice in her tone - just hurt and fear. Yamada gets ready to chide her, but Shouta is already turning back towards her.
"Jiro. That's your name, isn't it?" Aizawa says, tone light. Jiro makes a face and nods, small. "I need you to pay attention to me, because this next question is very important. Can you do that?"
Jiro looks confused, but stares at Aizawa with wide eyes, curiously watching him rummage around in the first aid box. It's bigger than most and filled with compartments. Koda, his arms wrapped around his sister, watches too. Aizawa finds the boxes he needs with practiced ease, making his expression as neutral as possible.
"Ok," he says, attention back on Jiro. "The question is... What's your favourite animal?"
Both children look confused, Jiro sniffling. He hears a quiet snort from Yamada.
"D... Dinosaurs." Jiro says. Shouta nods, expression serious.
"Dinosaurs are a rational choice," he hums. "Big and powerful and their skin can be really thick."
"I know that!" Jiro huffs, her cheeks still wet with tears. She doesn't notice Aizawa dabbing at her finger with a cotton pad. "Br - Brach - Brachiosaurus! That's the coolest one!"
Shouta grins. Jiro's pronunciation of the name was near perfect, and her eyes light up now, fully invested in the conversation.
"They're the ones with the tiny arms, right?" he hums, dabbing antiseptic on the small wound. Jiro looks horrified.
"No! That's a T - Tyran - Tyrannosaurus Rex!" she shouts, indignant. Shouta reigns his expression in, nodding attentively.
"Oh, yes I remember now, thank you Jiro. What does a Brachiosaurus look like?" Shouta makes sure to look interested - it's not too hard, he genuinely enjoys listening to anyone talking about their interests and passions, but he knows he sometimes forgets to show it on his face.
"Th-they got a big long neck!" Koda says, loosening his hug around Jiro. Jiro nods fiercely.
"Yeah! Like a giraffe but one thousand million times cooler! And it's got a tiny little head and it's so awesome! It's even got a blasteroid named after it!"
"A... Blasteroid?" Shouta blinks. Yamada chuckles gently.
Jiro just nods again, a massive grin splitting her face. "Dinosaurs are awesome!"
The wound fully cleaned, Shouta had already found what he needed as Jiro spoke. He pulls out a small box of plasters, of which the box has many. Each set is dedicated to a different animal. Shouta always makes sure to have as many different animal plasters as possible for cases such as these. The front of the box he has just chosen is covered in dinosaurs and each individual plaster is covered in a selection of beasts. Shouta sighs with relief as he spots a tiny Brachiosaurus amongst the fray. He holds it up for Jiro to see.
"A dinosaur plaster!" she shrieks loudly, eyes wide, and Shouta can't help his grin. She holds out her hand expectantly, trying her hardest to keep still despite buzzing with excitement.
One the plaster is safely on, Jiro cheers and snatches her hand back to inspect it.
"Koda look! They're gunna eat you!" she laughs, jamming her finger in Koda's face. Koda looks unphased, grinning just as wildly.
"Nu-uh! Ch-Charlie will eat y-you back!
Yamada laughs loudly, turning to Shouta, and the man's face is definitely red this time. Shouta wonders if the hutches conserve more heat than he thought. Either way, his cheeks tinged pink, Yamada looks absolutely gorgeous, his long golden hair lazily draped over one shoulder, his body strong under jeans and a plain grey t-shirt. Shouta tries not to stare, but doesn't want to seem impolite by looking away.
It's totally unfair for anyone to be so gorgeous.
"I think I should start getting these dorks home," Yamada chuckles. "Their teacher is gunna be real mad at me if they come into school tired and cranky. Thank you so much for patching up Jiro, though I don’t blame Charlie for freaking out!"
"She's a tough kid," Shouta says easily. "And smart too. As is Koda. You should be proud."
Hizashi looks towards his kids, who are both laughing as Jiro waves her plastered finger around and makes dinosaur noises. "I am," he says quietly. Sincerely. "I really, really am."
It doesn't take too long for Hizashi to ready his children to leave, and Shouta walks them to the entrance of his farm. Hizashi buckles Jiro and Koda into the back seats of his car, before quickly making his way back over to Shouta. He has some yen clutched in his hands, and Shouta immediately understands his intention.
"No. Don't worry about it," Shouta says. Hizashi frowns.
"Please, I feel awful we took so much of your time," he says, offering the money again. Shouta shakes his head, and Yamada frowns, before nodding and pocketing the money. He stands there a moment longer, as if torn.
"It... Was nice to meet you," Yamada says lamely, and Shouta can feel himself blush.
"Y - yeah, you too," Shouta says.
"Maybe I can bring the kids back to see Charlie next week?"
Another moment passes, before Yamada smiles weakly and turns back towards his car. Shouta panics, something isn't right, he's missed some sort of cue, he can't just let this amazing person walk away. Let Yamada walk away. Shouta hasn’t really given any hints that he is interested too, that he would like sometime more. More of that smile. More of that voice.
"Yamada!" he calls. The man snaps his head around, eyes wide.
"I - shit. Do you? Wanna go for coffee sometime? Maybe? With... With me?" Shouta's cheeks burn as he feels his voice break lamely at the end of his question. He coughs in hopes the sound covers it up.
Yamada is grinning brighter than the sun, darting both his hands into a double thumbs up.
"Yes! Next week! It's a date! Yes!" and as if worried Shouta would change his mind, Yamada dashes back to his car and hops into the driver's seat. As Yamada drives by, he and his children yell out of the window;
Aizawa watches the car drive away, and then stands there a moment longer.
He has a date?
With someone who actually likes him?
Shouta shakes his head, heading back to the hutches to clean up, and it's only as he packs away the First Aid kit that he sees a tiny white piece of torn paper with a mobile number on it, underneath are the words 'Call me!' and a small heart that has been badly scribbled next to it.
Blushing, Shouta quickly pockets the number. He then peaks in Charlie's cage, frowning.
"You think I should text him tonight, or, is that too soon?'
Charlie's head tilts to the left.
"Amazing. Thank you, I shall do that then," he chuckles. "Sorry for overstressing you. We can give you a good rest and see how you are in the morning.
It's not until he's in bed that night that he thinks of the number again, and he pulls out his mobile. Is it too soon? Maybe Yamada already regrets asking. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe...
Shouta swallows, and opens a new message box.
Maybe he should give it a go anyway.