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Too Good To Let Go

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One little question was all it took for Aizawa Shouta to reevaluate about half his life. Shinsou didn't mean to cause that kind of chaos but well, he assumed some things. You know. Like...

"So, where do you hide the wedding ring?" Blinking owlishly at Shinsou, he scrambled mentally to understand the question. This was far from the typical absurd questions he dealt with in class every other day.

Really the question should've been erased from his mind almost immediately because he didn't have one. Shinsou had probably assumed that since he was over 30 he'd been in a relationship with somebody and that he'd be secretive about it. Not quite sure where the married part came from though-

"I know it must be hard for you to keep Mic-Sensei from showing his off too." Excuse him? "I'm not exactly planning on marrying anyone yet but I thought... Maybe someday it would come in handy." Some part of his brain stalls and the backup stutters to life.

"How long have you been dating-" Tenya his years of babysitting whispered annoyingly in the back of his head even as he scrambles for the words, "-Iida exactly for you to have thought of this?" The satisfaction he feels when he sees Shinsou flush and look around guiltily almost distracts him from the real question.

"Not that long... Three months next Tuesday. It's not really because of him so much as it is. Being this happy." Shinsou does look happy. Tired from all the training sessions he'd taken on but... Satisfied by them too. Or maybe a more gratuitous part of that was Iida. "Seriously though Sensei, I'd like to know where I can keep it safe. If it happens."

"Anklet chain on your right side. Unless you lose your leg which, please don't do that, you'll keep it on you and people don't tend to look there and most attacks will go for your left leg." Which admittedly had been his plan had he ever had a wedding ring to hide, but he'd been single all his life. Right? Right.

Shinsou walked away with quiet thanks and promises to say nothing of a relationship that Aizawa was pretty sure didn't exist. Relationships by nature meant everyone involved had to know or at least he was pretty sure they had back in high-school. Never being involved in one might have given him a few wrong impressions. He didn't think something that obvious could be one.

Him? And Hizashi? Dating? When would that have happened... Aizawa sinks into his sleeping bag as he drifts under his desk for comfort in this haze of uncertainty. Hizashi had dated plenty of people over the years- more the dumper than the dumpee but Aizawa had seen it happen both ways. Seen it, not been part of it.

(He knows dating each other would just be absurd with all the risks involved.)

Maybe they'd shared a bed more than a few times. A month. And had clothes for each other at both of their apartments. Aizawa did tend to cook Dinner for two if he was going to bother at all. Those were all out of convenience more than anything though. They'd never had to share a word about it happening because it just... Had? Settled in like footprints into a well worn sole. Comfortable and yet so old that upon inspection perhaps falling apart.

You know, there was a chance he just wasn't dating anyone because he was so attached to Hizashi. Even the thought of giving someone else a chance to pull him away from the pattern Hizashi had let him create was... Unthinkable. It would be one thing if someone caught Hizashi's eye and earned his heart. Or would it? Aizawa swallowed around the rock of distress forming in his throat.

A huge one, this giant revelation that comes out of left field that really shouldn't have. Aizawa looks back on years of affection, tolerance, and communication to find himself having wanted something he never dared find the words to. A hero lived life knowing they put that same life on the line every day. He'd excused his disinterest in dating other people as a desire to keep others from being hurt. But here he was. 30 and already hurting because he there was no way he would tell Hizashi what he'd just figured out.

He just couldn't. And if he couldn't have this he didn't know how he was going to stand pretending he hadn't realized he was in love. How could he face him today...? Turning away from the light of the room, a long quiet sigh pushed out of his nose.

Thinking about how it would complicate... Everything. All the little steps between confession and marriage. Never mind how so many of the middle steps had been accomplished accidentally. How with each step forward for his heart, Present Mic would be taking a step back from things he loves.

Hiding things was never easy for Present Mic, and Hizashi isn't much better unless it's important. And love? Certainly he'd understand but he'd never like hiding it. Especially since Aizawa is a hero in his own right. And if they broke up, or he was refused out right... It's just not worth it. The friendship they've had is already close and sweet and reliable. Reliable. 

Sure, avoiding Hizashi isn't exactly going to make him happy either but if he doesn't create some sort of distance he knows he's gonna keep hoping after the never never. Unzipping his sleeping bag with that thought he makes up his mind. Time would heal a wounded heart if he could just... Let go. Take some time to grow apart where they could.

The first step was avoiding him at lunch which was both easier and harder than expected. Eating together was a habit easy enough to start breaking. Hizashi seeking him out anyway? Not so much. Every day seemed to find Hizashi nearly catching him off guard by finding every single hiding place.

"If I didn't know better I'd think you were avoiding me!" Yamada grins at him in a way that brings the word 'strained' to Aizawa's flinching heart. He mumbles something noncommittal. It hasn't even been three days and he misses listening so much.

The next step he figures is stopping himself from texting back immediately but in a way that won't make Yamada freak out that he's been knocked out on patrol or worse. Which doesn't really cure his automatic responses so much as it changes them from conversations into stilted 'Busy' or 'Later'. Never accepting the invitations. Feeling like they were back in school for how far he'd regressed.

What he doesn't know is how Nemuri gets an earful of Yamada's worrying about having done something wrong. Questions he doesn't wait for an answer to and rambles about petty matters than would Aizawa would never turn a hair for. It's almost sweet how distressed he is over less than a week of being treated differently.

"Why don't you just ask him?" Nemuri groans into her palms on day eight of this carousel of a conversation.

"That was one of the first things I did and he just ran away from me! And he plain ignored my texts for the night when I tried doing that." His usually meticulous desk is a mess of pens, stickynotes, and papers. Most of the sticky notes are in some way related to the possible ways he'd offended Aizawa so bad he'd decided to avoid him. They ranged from 'damaged his hearing through years of exposure' to 'made him eat the heel of the bread this time'. So.

"Have you tried calling him instead of texting?" Chin propped in a palm, Nemuri scrunched her nose thoughtfully. "The few times you do he never fails to pick up."

"Of course not this isn't an emergency or anything."

"It seems like on to me."

Three whole weeks pass in this manner. There's an undercurrent of unease in all their classes. The students and most of the teachers brush it off as tension from all the incidence occurring as of late including the new move to dorms Aizawa has had a hand in. Yamada is a little better at hiding it under the noise but you can't unsee dark circles covered by foundation that melts as the day ends.

Aizawa's out walking through the insomnia he can't distract with papers he's already graded and lesson plans he's made months in advance. He's not wearing his uniform because really? He doesn't feel up to fighting crime, feeling like a Hero. What kind of hero is he today. Falling apart piece by piece because he can't get over a bit of onesided love.

The long blond hair he spots chatting with people under an awning is familiar under the neon lights. Yamada Hizashi, Present Mic, his best friend and unrequited love. His hair is loose- he's obviously just finished his shift and dressed down to walk home in peace. Aizawa can't help but look as he wonders what he's doing out so late. His heart still aches. Turns on his heel and decides to walk back home, the opposite direction Hizashi's going.

(They live so close it's pretty pointless but...)

But of course Hizashi notices him the moment he turns away. Always had to notice when he was trying his hardest to be invisible.

("That's when you need me most!")

"Wait!" Aizawa doesn't stutter or walk faster just in case maybe this time Hizashi's calling after someone else. Steps slapping against the sidewalk get faster as they chase after him anyway. "I said wait, Shouta!"

Aizawa thinks for a moment that maybe if he wishes hard enough he'll get Tensei's quirk via wishful thinking. Just another night without having to face how this wasn't working at all. No though. No, Hizashi catches up to him easily. Aizawa can't look at him right now. If he does-

"Shouta, you jerk, why didn't you stop?" Stomach tying itself in knots of shame at the frustration and anger that hadn't been directed at him since- since...? "If I've done something to offend you usually you'd have just told me by now instead of running away."

Humming a non committal noise he turns his head left, opposite of Hizashi's voice. A hand grabs his shoulder and digs in as if to keep him rooted.

"Why can't you just tell me what's wrong?"

That's it, the last fraying string of Aizawa's self control snaps with a terrible twang. His voice would never be enough to express everything that rattled around in his head the past few weeks. No idea really when he'd turned around fast enough to startle Hizashi into a step back. Pulls him in with speed that feels like time is dripping honey so slow and with barely enough strength to actually pull.

Tilts his head right, because Hizashi has always done that when saying goodbye to his dates, and for a moment he's happy. Closes his eyes and pretends for a moment the lips under his aren't slack, that it's not just his eyes closed. Is careful about his stubble and doesn't give a damn about how the mustache tickles.

Then he lets it go. Smooths the shirt back in place with one hand, gentle in a way no one else sees from him. Lets a flat hand linger on Hizashi's chest for a heartbeat just to remember that he took this chance he shouldn't have and in this little eternity it had been worth all the pain sure to come.

Then he really lets go and turns away as if nothing just happened. Throws a glance over his shoulder, meeting Hizashi's eyes like a deer in the headlights. Has to say something at the end anyway.

"...Did that answer your question well enough?" To anyone else's ears it would be dry and flippant.

He turns his head forward again and prepares to walk back unhindered. Hizashi will let him go after that. Yamada will never look him in the eye again, or smile without a care, or sling an arm over his shoulder and press close.

Aizawa doesn't even take a single step (slow as he was, not eager to put distance between them when he didn't think he'd ever get it back and muddled by his self pity) before two arms snatch his waist and lift him off the ground with a very loud "NO YOU CAN'T LEAVE!" Exceptionally loud, really they're lucky people are used to Present Mic patrolling at this hour recently.

"Well I can't stay after that," Aizawa hisses as if that'd make Hizashi set him down. He's too tired to struggle. He doesn't want to force him to let go when this is at least another touch he never thought he'd get. All in all, he stays stiff as he can even thought he wants to melt backwards and hope for the best. "You won't want to date me so I have to leave or you'll-"

"What? What will I do Shouta?" Hizashi's already turned them around and started walking back to his apartment with very little struggle. Goddamn hero work. Somehow his tone is soft enough to be asking a genuine question.

"Just think about it for even a second and you'd know." Is it just him or is he getting closer to Hizashi's body? It sure is cold out. Maybe Hizashi's cold? Or adjusting! He's probably adjusting and needs the extra heat. Yeah. It's all subconcious.

"But I don't." The arms around him are... Hugging. Him. Aizawa thinks for a moment that this is some sort of terrible trap and he's not even going to resist it. "I've had my fair share of confessions before. Over the years I've been great at letting people down easy and not complicating work relationships or friendships. So why?"

"Think about how it would complicate... Everything." He swallows when he feels Hizashi hum a question into his ribs. "A-all that could happen if we got together is unhappiness. I'm private about my life and you're... not. You'd hate not being able to tell anyone."

"I've done it before!"

"And are you still together with Hondo?" Little bit more acid there than he probably should have let through but he had had a particular distaste for Hondo. Which he'd been very careful about not saying during the relationship really because Hondo technically hadn't known Aizawa had figured it out.

"Just because it didn't end in a marriage with a family apartment doesn't mean I wasn't happy." 

"But you weren't. You were miserable trying to hide it from people." Aizawa would know, he'd seen the fallout from that relationship personally.

"But I didn't tell anyone!" Not even Aizawa, though he'd made some key slipups that made it a little too obvious only when around Aizawa. "We managed well enough. That was far from the only reason we didn't work out too. You're not Hondo in disguise anyway, are you? Because this would be a weird way to try and get back together."

"I feel you'd have a bit more trouble carrying me if I was. That's not the point though- you don't want me anyway." Miserable Aizawa who spent as much time as he could working for one dangerous job or another, looked like a hobo every day by choice, and didn't eat well unless forced. It was considered a miracle they were friends at all to most people.

When had Hizashi let him down, anyway? He doesn't remember when he started walking on his own. Too wrapped up in the dead ends and Hizashi's arms still around him... Oh my god, why hadn't he let go. This was going to be weird.

"If I didn't think you were worth my attention I wouldn't have done... Well, half the things I did back in high school. Remember when you were in Gen Ed the first semester and you lost your English notes?" Aizawa narrowed his eyes in thought. Or maybe because it was starting to snow it was so cold. Either one really.

"...Yeah, I think Eri stole them from me and never gave them back. But the next day I opened my shoe locker and there were replacement noted even better than the ones I had. I thought maybe Tamari had taken pity on-" He felt Hizashi grin into his hair. "Tamari didn't take pity on me. Did she."

"No, that was me!"

"Hizashi we hadn't even spoken yet. Why did you- Oh." Arms wrapped tighter around him until there was no space between them.

"Back then they let the classes mix a little more than they do now for fight training. I saw you take down Tensei without breaking a sweat and... Well, you know."

"But I don't." Echoing Hizashi from earlier as something warm poked his guts like a cat that couldn't settle.

"No, I suppose you don't yet." It's so easy out of his mouth. "But I saw you straddling him, pinning his arms to his side while glaring down at him and I'll be honest, I was more than a little turned on. Hair trigger back then so I was pretty prepared to brush it off. Then your whole expression turned around the moment the match was called off and you actually helped him up with an apology. You didn't even know who he was except for being in the heroics course that you hadn't been let it. That was when I knew I had to know who you were."

"You never..."

"No. No, see, I knew that a high school relationship wasn't going to last for me. You were too good to let go. So I thought, if I still like him when I graduate I'll know it's more than a crush. Started carrying it around in my back pocket and pushing your limits every day just to see. It felt special when you let me put your hair back before training or throw an arm around your shoulders. This," Hizashi squeezes their ribs together, "Was only mine."

"We graduated a decade ago though." 

"Yeah well... Over time I came to a different conclusion." Warm breath sighing into his hair. "When you like people you get surprisingly passive about anything they want for how you usually present yourself. You let Nedzu hide in your scarf anytime he asked, Nemuri put you to sleep when she thought your eyebags were too big even though you knew she was coming, and Tensei push you around in a shopping cart even though you both got banned from 7/11 for five years for that."

"That ban was nothing to me, you bought me anything I wanted anyway." It may have cost him a few more bills than otherwise but he did get to sit outside to play with the cats. And Hizashi would walk out grinning like a loon every single time.

"I did, didn't I?" The chuckle is dry without his usual mirth. "So I thought that even though it was only me who you let actually man handle you around, maybe it was because no one else tried. Well no one else you liked to be around anyway. So the years went on and... You didn't seem interested in anyone. Man, woman, neither, feathered, scaled, vined, transparent, flirty, stoic, loud, quiet, easy going, no one ever got a date with you. There was nothing to go on. So I kind of assumed... You weren't interested in anyone. Least of all me."

"You did have me though." Maybe Aizawa hadn't been smart enough to realize it for more than a decade, but Hizashi didn't necessarily need to know that. If there'd been a confession in there somewhere he'd have figured it out! Probably. "Which was why no one else could."

"That's my question." Hizashi sighs warm air against Aizawa's ear. "Why start acting weird... now? I'm not even dating anyone. Really it's odd you didn't show more agitation with me when I was dating other people before."
It actually takes him a minute to think about it. What had made him realize that he either had to avoid it all or profess his 'undying love' for Hizashi the moment the opportunity came up? Avoiding the whole why Hizashi dating people hadn't made him outwardly upset.

"...Shinsou came up to me and asked where I kept my wedding ring." The shriek that came out of Hizashi's mouth was right next to Aizawa's ear. He turned his head just enough to see blond hair and the shriek quieted enough he wasn't going to go deaf quite yet. Though whether that was his quirk working of Hizashi's common sense was debatable. "Right. He was very discreet about it really but I was... confused. He just kept talking though about how he 'understood' that I'd have to keep it quiet since I'm an underground hero and you're Present Mic. But he wanted to know since it was obviously a great hiding spot and he might need it someday."

"Wait, wait, is little Shinsou dating someone?" The growing grin in his voice was unmistakable. He'd been absolutely thrilled when Aizawa had taken an interest in a student as kind of a protoge. He kept poking fun about how they had 'the family eyebags' long after they'd met Shinsou's parents.

"Yeah, Tenya."

"TENYA?!"

"If you keep yelling in my ear like that you will face the consequences."

"Shutting up! Shutting up now I'm not losing you cooking dinner tomorrow!" At least Hizashi had a very well laid out list of priorities. Odd as they were. And that things would be back to normal tomorrow... Well, as normal as they could be.

"...You done? Yes Shinsou and Tenya are dating, and good enough at hiding it if you didn't notice anything." To say nothing of how Aizawa had to have it shoved in his face. Kind of didn't need to be said though- the less he had to think about the students having physical forms outside of sparring, the better. "It's new and if you ruin it for them just because Tenya still slips up and calls us his uncles, Tensei will rip your ears off and I think we need those. You know. Since we're talking about our feelings now."

"Y-yeah, feelings! Right. Uhm, where were we exactly?"

"I told you that why I started avoiding you was because Shinsou asked where I hid my wedding ring that I don't have. And then promptly realized we're in our 30's and I uhm, love. You. And you've dated other people so."

"Speaking of me dating other people, have you noticed anything... Similar. About these people."

"Uhm, none of them wear makeup for some reason. Black hair but lots of people have black hair. Muscular...? Though not always obvious. Sometimes I worry that you're dating villains without knowing it."

"Uh-huh." Hizashi was obviously waiting for some sort of realization. What, so maybe there was a few similarities between all of them. What did it ma-

"...They all looked like me somehow. What the fuck." His hair is rising as his quirk activates and Hizashi is nervously laughing behind him but he still won't let go which is too endearing. Not cute enough to stop him from attempting to step on Hizashi's toes with every step.

"Hey, hey, hey! Don't step on my toes just because I have a type!"

"You asshole, what would you have done if I figured it out myself? Huh?"

"Probably attempted to kiss you until you let me make some grand romantic speech about how I only ever really wanted you."

"Yeah and how did you really think it would go?"

"Well there was always the chance you'd let it go but mostly I thought you'd look at me like I hadn't fed Penny when it was my turn and tell me that you just weren't interested. Then the guilt would kick back in."

At this point they've made it back to Hizashi's apartment. Aizawa still has no idea how his feet are working on autopilot so well even when he was trying to dig his heel into Hizashi's toes. Only when the door is unlocked do the arms completely let him go.

This is a choice now. Hizashi's still giving him the chance to decide that after all that, he doesn't want this. It's sweet. Almost as sugary as it is stupid. He steps inside and leaves the door open.

The next few minutes pass them by in a blur. For the first time in weeks their exhaustion overwhelms them because finally the stress is almost all gone and they can sleep in the same bed again.  Brains chugging, there are only a few things they remember between toothbrushes and sleep shirts.

"Wait, so you only figured out you love me because little Shinsou assumed we were married?"

"Basically?" Aizawa mumbles around a mouth full of toothpaste and spit.

"Exactly how many people think we're married then?" Mmm, Hizashi's skinny abs. Not too much to look at really but something made Aizawa really want to poke it.

"Too many."

"Shouta, come on man!"

"Did you just expect me to go around asking people if they thought we were married when I was brooding-"

"Angsty emo teen, Tokoyami would be so proud-"

"BROODING, Over how we weren't even dating yet." His quirk itched at his eyes. Instead of activating it, Aizawa finished brushing his teeth and dragged himself towards the bed.

"I've gotta know though!" Hizashi nearly flattened him to the mattress with his dramatics.

"You can figure it out when, I don't know... If we get married, I guess."

After that, they both kind of fall asleep even though they'd intended to stay awake. Exhausting is killer.

The next morning Hizashi wakes up first and stares at Shouta like he's an announcement that Christmas is every day. Japanese Christmas AND American Christmas. Both. Then he thinks about the wedding ring comment...

About how many couple things they've already done. Lived together, slept in the same bed, worked together, pined after each other, held hands, kissed, planned to spend the rest of their lives together, gave permission for each other to have control of medical decisions when they were otherwise unable to... Really he's surprised only Shinsou asked about where they hid the wedding ring.

He'd kind of really like to give Shouta a wedding ring to hide.

But, it's really only day one. So he'll be a patient a little longer. Just a bit.