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Sugar Sweet Stress Relief

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Aizawa Shōta has never been overly fond of relying on other people.

That being said, he’s a rationalist, first and foremost.

“Oh my god, Shōta, you will not believe what happened to me today!”

Shōta looks up from his gin and tonic as Hizashi throws himself down into the seat across the table from him, green eyes glittering in the dim bar lighting and his entire body practically vibrating with excitement.

“You’re going to tell me anyway, aren’t you?” Shōta says dryly, propping his elbow up on the table and resting his cheek against his hand.

“I just got paid to do a commercial,” Hizashi announces, smiling giddily. “A hair gel commercial.”

“Your hair is supposed to make people want to buy hair gel?” Shōta snorts, eyeing the way the pointed tip of Hizashi’s hair swings around haphazardly with the movements of his head.

“Hey!” Hizashi sputters, reaching up to smooth back his hair defensively. “Lots of people like my hair, okay? It’s my trademark!”

Shōta replies with a skeptical noise.

“But anyway, that’s not the point,” Hizashi huffs. “The point is that I actually got paid for it.” Hizashi pauses, as if to incite anticipation. “¥5,000,000.”

Shōta promptly chokes on his drink.

“I know, right?” Hizashi exclaims as Shōta tries to remember how to breathe again, wiping off his mouth with his sleeve. “For one commercial! And they’ve already said they want me to do more advertisements in the future!”

“I’m not treating you to dinner ever again,” Shōta finally manages, once he’s caught his breath again. “You can pay for your own meals now.”

“Actually, I was thinking I could treat you tonight,” Hizashi replies, a grin spreading across his face. “You know, to celebrate the fact that I’m officially rich.”

“You know, this is the reason people complain about hero product sponsorships and the growing income gap in Japan,” Shōta says dryly. He can’t help the way his voice softens a little, though, as he remembers high school age Hizashi, a try-hard kid who used flashy sunglasses and hair gel to distract from the fact that his backpack was on the verge of falling apart and his cellphone looked like something out of a low budget 70’s sci-fi show.

“You know, maybe you should wait to complain until after I’ve bought you dinner,” Hizashi huffs, but there’s no real annoyance in his tone.

“I’m saying you can reduce the income gap by paying for me,” Shōta replies, taking another sip of his gin and tonic.

“So you’re just using me for my money,” Hizashi sighs overdramatically, but he can’t quite hide the smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

“It’s the only reason I went to UA,” Shōta says dryly. “To marry rich.”

“You should have gone after Tensei, then,” Hizashi snorts. “His family is loaded.”

“I figured you’d be an easier catch,” Shōta replies, picking up the menu to take another look at some of the items he’d originally dismissed due to their price. It takes Hizashi a moment to respond, though, and when Shōta glances back over at him, he sees a strange look flicker across Hizashi’s face, before Hizashi smooths his mouth into a picture-perfect smile.

Shōta frowns and wonders if his eyes are playing tricks on him. Maybe it’s the dry-eye.

“I have very high standards, actually,” Hizashi says primly as he opens his own menu.

“Is that why you hardly ever date?” Shōta asks, trying to keep the interest out of his voice. Normally he tries to avoid talking about things like romance and dating with Hizashi, because the last thing he wants is to hear Hizashi gush about how perfect his newest significant other is.

It’s not good for Shōta’s cowardly, pining heart.

“I date more than you do,” Hizashi huffs, glaring at Shōta from over the top of his menu.

“I don’t have time to date,” Shōta grumbles, although he can feel his cheeks heat ever so slightly.

“And you think I do?” Hizashi replies, arching an eyebrow at Shōta. “I have hero work, a radio show, and now I’m doing modeling and stuff too.”

“You don’t have to put any effort into finding people, though,” Shōta says. “They come to you.”

“I don’t want to date some creepy fan,” Hizashi huffs, his lower lip pushed out into something dangerously close to a pout. “It’s weird when I start talking to someone and they know everything about me but I don’t even know their name.”

“You’re a pro hero,” Shōta snorts, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look. “What did you expect?”

“I don’t know, I just – ” Hizashi mumbles, face hidden behind his menu. “I guess I want someone who I can have a natural connection with, you know?”

“You sound like you’re quoting some romance drama,” Shōta replies dryly, trying to resist the urge to say something stupid like, Then you should date me.

“Yeah, I guess,” Hizashi sighs. He forces a smile and then says, “But I just became a rich pro hero with three different modeling requests, so who knows what could happen?”

“You should order us the pepper steak to celebrate,” Shōta replies solemnly. “Also the octopus and another round of drinks.”

“You’re lucky I’m feeling generous tonight,” Hizashi huffs, but he can’t quite hide the smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “Let’s make it two pepper steaks.”

As Hizashi waves over a waiter, Shōta feels a little guilty about taking advantage of Hizashi’s newfound wealth, but it’s not as if he’s never treated Hizashi before. Practically speaking, he’s probably bought Hizashi more than enough beer over the past few years to easily cover the cost of a couple pricier dishes.

And it’s not like he’s going to make a habit out of it, so it’s fine.

---

Somehow, without Shōta noticing, it becomes a habit.

Not him forcing Hizashi to buy food for him, but Hizashi paying for their meals before Shōta can even think to protest. It seems like somehow, he always seems to snatch up the receipt before Shōta can, and once, they’d almost been kicked out of a restaurant when their argument about who got to pay became a little too loud.

(They’d settled the dispute with rock-paper-scissors. Shōta’s still half-convinced Hizashi found a way to cheat.)

Lately, Shōta’s been settling for picking the cheapest thing on the menu whenever he and Hizashi go out together. Unfortunately, he and Hizashi have known each other long enough that half the time Hizashi picks out what Shōta had really been eyeing and then forces them to share when the food arrives, making transparent excuses about how he “really wanted some of Shōta’s unseasoned mackerel.”

Shōta’s not a quitter, but Hizashi’s one of the most stubborn people he’s ever met. He knows a losing game when he sees one.

“Is it really that hot outside?” Hizashi asks from where he’s sitting on the couch.

“Hn,” Shōta replies as he sprawls directly under the air conditioner, only barely resisting the urge to stand up and press himself up against it.

“Honestly, you look like you’re a minute away from proposing to my air conditioner,” Hizashi says, eyeing Shōta warily. “Please don’t tell me you’re that desperate.”

For a moment, Shōta doesn’t reply, but finally he mutters, “The air conditioner in my apartment broke.”

“Is that why you replied so quickly when I asked if you wanted to come over?” Hizashi asks, arching an eyebrow at Shōta. “Because normally it takes you like half an hour at least.”

Shōta doesn’t dignify that with a reply.

“When is your landlord coming to fix it?” Hizashi asks, shifting his position on the couch a little, propping up his feet and slumping deeper into the cushions. “You’re welcome to stay over if you don’t want to risk overheating in your sleep.”

“My landlord claims I was the one who broke it, so he’s not paying for repairs,” Shōta grumbles, eyeing Hizashi’s fancy looking air conditioner as he mentally calculates how much it must have cost. A lot more than Shōta’s, at the very least.

“What? That’s bullshit!” Hizashi huffs, and there’s a glint in his eye that suggests he wants to march over and confront Shōta’s landlord right now.

“He doesn’t like the fact that I climb up the building and come in through my balcony at night sometimes,” Shōta replies. The breeze from the air conditioner makes his hair flutter around and he wrinkles his nose a little as it hits him in the face. “There’s also a suspicious dent in it which I didn’t notice when I first moved in. I’m pretty sure it was already there, though.”

For a moment, Hizashi’s quiet, and Shōta almost thinks that he’s going to let the subject drop, but then Hizashi announces, “Let’s go buy you a new air conditioner, then.”

Shōta tears his gaze away from Hizashi’s heavenly air conditioner to blink at Hizashi blankly.

“There should still be a few shops open,” Hizashi says, dragging himself up from the couch and heading over to grab his keys off the kitchen table. “We probably only have a couple of hours, though, so – ”

“Hizashi, I’m fine,” Shōta interrupts, clenching his jaw slightly.

“You’re practically hugging my air conditioner,” Hizashi snorts, giving Shōta an unimpressed look. “Stop playing the tough guy.”

“I – ” Shōta starts, but then hesitates.

“See? There’s no reason for you to protest,” Hizashi announces. “Now let’s – ”

“Hizashi,” Shōta says, sharply this time. He falters again, but then mutters, “I can’t afford it right now.”

Hizashi blinks at him, clearly caught off guard.

“I’m still trying to pay off the damages from the incident at that office building last week,” Shōta explains, avoiding Hizashi’s eyes. Finances have never been something he’s overly fond of discussing, especially when it’s related to damages accrued during hero work.

“What, when that idiot tried to kill his boss?” Hizashi asks, his frown deepening. “It’s not like that was your fault!”

“Apparently the inspectors at the insurance company decided that I could have resolved the situation with fewer broken windows,” Shōta snorts, trying not to think about how much it had hurt to get slammed into the thick panes of glass. “They’re only paying for half.”

“That’s bullshit!” Hizashi exclaims, and now he looks like he’s preparing to go fight Shōta’s insurance company in addition to his landlord. “That’s such bullshit! People would have died, if you hadn’t – ”

“It is what it is,” Shōta sighs, staring up at the air conditioner. “Until it’s paid off, I’ll be using your air conditioner.”

“Nope,” Hizashi announces, catching Shōta off guard. Shōta shoots him a confused look. “I’m buying you a new air conditioner.”

“Hizashi – ” Shōta starts to protest.

“Twenty-eight people have been hospitalized in the last week due to this heat wave,” Hizashi interrupts, pointing a finger firmly at Shōta. “I’m not letting you be the twenty-ninth.”

“I have cold packs and ice in my freezer,” Shōta replies, narrowing his eyes at Hizashi. “I’m not going to get heat stroke.”

“Uh-huh, and what about when you sleep?” Hizashi asks, looking back at Shōta just as stubbornly.  “Your ice will melt in a couple hours and then you’ll spend the rest of the night overheating and die. I’ll cry so much at your funeral it’ll be embarrassing for both of us.”

“I’ll be dead,” Shōta snorts. “I won’t be embarrassed.”

“Your ghost will be,” Hizashi says primly.

For a moment, the two of them are locked in a stalemate, glaring at each other.

But, well, Shōta has always been logical. Although he doubts he’d actually die in his sleep from heat stroke, sitting around in his apartment with no air conditioning while the outside temperature creeps closer and closer to forty degrees certainly isn’t doing anything for his health.

Hizashi’s a friend. Friends help each other out, and it’s not as if Hizashi’s struggling financially.

So, Shōta finally sighs and says, “Fine. I’ll pay you back when I can.”

There’s a glint in Hizashi’s eye that suggests he wants to protest further, but in the end he just grins and says, “Then let’s go!”

Shōta resolves to pick out the cheapest air conditioner he can find.

---

Shōta doesn’t pay Hizashi back.

The guilt prickles at the back of his mind, but there’s always something else to pay off, like hero licensure insurance and hospital bills, and whenever he tries to put aside money for Hizashi, Hizashi insists he use it for something else.

(It also doesn’t help that Hizashi had somehow talked him into buying a flashy, high-tech air conditioner instead of the junky one Shōta had originally been looking at.

“It’ll break in like a week! I can practically see it wheezing already!” Hizashi had protested. “Then you’ll have to replace it and overall it’ll cost as much as one of the high-end ones.”

Unfortunately, judging by the way even the high-tech model struggles with Shōta’s overheated apartment sometimes, Hizashi was probably right.)

As much as the guilt had nagged on Shōta for the first few months, though, eventually it slips back out of his mind.

Until November, that is.

“Happy birthday, Shōta!”

“Ah,” Shōta replies, looking up from his menu to blink at Hizashi.

“What do you mean, ‘ah’?” Hizashi asks.

“I forgot,” Shōta says simply. At least this explains why Hizashi had been so insistent on going for yakiniku, at one of the more expensive places in town.

“How do you forget your own birthday?” Hizashi sputters.

“I’ve been busy,” Shōta replies, shrugging slightly.

“I have two jobs instead of one and I still have time to remember my own birthday,” Hizashi protests, apparently unsatisfied with Shōta’s excuse.

“Your birthday is Tanabata,” Shōta snorts, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look over the top of his menu. “It’s easy to remember.”

“And your birthday is your birthday!” Hizashi replies, gesturing wildly.

“It’s not like I forgot when my birthday is,” Shōta huffs, scowling slightly. “I just wasn’t paying attention to the date.”

“I should have bought you a calendar then,” Hizashi says, his cheeks puffed up in a bit of a pout. “You know what, maybe after this we should go calendar shopping, so you don’t forget next year. Or maybe I could print a custom one with a countdown to – ”

“Hizashi,” Shōta interrupts, pinning Hizashi with a firm look. “My birthday is not that important.”

“Agree to disagree?” Hizashi offers.

“It’s my birthday,” Shōta snorts, looking back down at his menu. “I can decide whether I want to forget it or not.”

“Yeah, well,” Hizashi huffs. “Your birthday is important to me, so I’m gonna celebrate it whether you like it or not.”

“I thought my birthday was supposed to be about me?” Shōta says dryly, although he’s only half-paying attention to the conversation as he tries to decide it it’s worth it to splurge on the wagyu set.

“You’re never honest about what you actually want, so you’ve forfeited the right to make decisions about your birthday,” Hizashi replies primly. “Which is why I’m ordering the wagyu set even if you claim you just want the pork belly.”

If I was honest about what I actually want from you, I would have scared you off a long time ago, Shōta thinks as he studies the way the dim restaurant lighting makes Hizashi’s hair glitter golden. He hesitates for a moment, but then averts his eyes and mutters, “I like pork belly.”

“Then we can order both,” Hizashi says, a familiar stubborn set to his jaw.

Shōta narrows his eyes, but doesn’t try to protest further.

Half because he really does want some of that wagyu.

Hizashi calls over the waiter and orders enough food that Shōta would be worried about the price, if he hadn’t seen Hizashi’s face plastered all over around Shinjuku station just a couple of days ago. Sometimes it feels a little disconcerting to spend a twenty minute train ride trying not to stare at a new poster of Present Mic, selling cologne or designer boots or whatever else is in fashion this season, when he still remembers high school Hizashi with his awkwardly skinny frame and pimply forehead.

Shōta almost wishes Hizashi had stayed unattractive. Not that it would have given him any more of a chance with Hizashi, of course.

Although he supposes he still gets to monopolize Hizashi in some ways, if tonight’s yakiniku splurge is any indication.

“Thanks,” Shōta mutters as he snags a piece of meat off the grill, trying to ignore the way his mouth waters instinctively at the scent of it.

“Thank you for letting me treat you,” Hizashi replies, shooting Shōta a smile that does uncomfortable things to Shōta’s insides.

“It’s not like you were going to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Shōta snorts, but he’s already eyeing another piece of perfectly grilled wagyu.

“You are required by law to let me spoil you on your birthday,” Hizashi says solemnly, although his voice is a little muffled around a mouthful of daikon salad.

“You always spoil me,” Shōta grumbles, trying not to think about the fancy air conditioner cooling his apartment, along with the two other times this week Hizashi’s bought him dinner.

“What else am I supposed to use my money for?” Hizashi huffs, looking at Shōta with those bright green eyes of his.

“I don’t know,” Shōta replies, waving his hand vaguely in Hizashi’s direction. “Charities? A private island?”

“My cut of that new cologne line already goes to charity,” Hizashi says, propping his elbow up on the table and resting his hand against his palm as he gazes across the table at Shōta. “And it’s not like I’d have time to hang around a private island even if I did have one. Do you want a private island?”

“No,” Shōta snorts, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look. “Private islands are an extravagant waste of money.” He pauses, frowning slightly, and then asks, “Do you actually have enough money for a private island?”

Hizashi looks decidedly shifty.

“I’m morally opposed to millionaires,” Shōta says, taking a sip of his gin and tonic.

“I’m not really – ” Hizashi sputters, but then cuts himself off. “Look, I still have the same 1DK apartment I’ve had since graduating high school, so rent and utilities don’t exactly take much out of my paycheck. I don’t have time for travel either, and in a big city like this, a fancy car isn’t worthwhile. So,” Hizashi says, holding steady eye contact with Shōta, “what’s wrong with me spending some of my extra income on you?”

Shōta blinks at Hizashi for a moment, caught off guard.

For a moment, Shōta hesitates, but then he says, “So, if I said I wanted a private island, you’d buy me one?”

“Would you settle for a private beach?” Hizashi asks, arching an eyebrow at Shōta.

“Stingy,” Shōta replies, but he has to fight to keep a smile off his face.

“If you’re going to be like that, I’ll return your birthday present,” Hizashi huffs, his tone just as playful as Shōta’s.

“Birthday present?” Shōta repeats, the smile sliding off his face.

“Are birthday presents not a thing on your planet?” Hizashi teases.

“I thought yakiniku was my present,” Shōta replies, watching warily as Hizashi reaches down to retrieve something from under the table.

“Yakiniku is your birthday dinner,” Hizashi says, handing a neatly wrapped box across to Shōta. “This is your birthday present. They’re different.”

Part of Shōta wants to argue with that logic, but at the same time, he can’t help but be curious about what Hizashi had bought him.

“I’m just opening it,” Shōta warns as he picks at the tape holding the wrapping paper together. “This doesn’t mean I’m accepting it.”

“I forgot to get a gift receipt,” Hizashi replies innocently. Shōta narrows his eyes at Hizashi, but continues to peel away the wrapping paper, trying to ignore the uncomfortably large size of the box. Then again, sometimes cheap things are large and expensive things are small, so maybe this won’t be something Shōta will feel obligated to return or pay Hizashi back for.

When Shōta lays eyes on the box’s contents, though, he freezes.

“Hizashi…” Shōta starts, but then trails off, unsure of what else to say.

After all, Hizashi’s just given him the top-of-the-line, heat-conserving, extra-padded sleeping bag he’s been pining over for the past year. Shōta had thought he’d done a good job of concealing his interest – after all, considering the price, it’s not like he’d ever be able to buy it – but apparently not, if Hizashi is giving it to him as a present.

“It’s not a private island, but…” Hizashi says, and although his tone is joking, there’s something a little tentative underneath it.

“This is too expensive,” Shōta replies, jaw clenched tight.

“Shōta,” Hizashi sighs, pinning Shōta with those bright green eyes of his. “I have the money and I’m not using it for anything else. You wanted this sleeping bag, right?”

Shōta purses his lips, but he doesn’t try to deny it.

“I mean, all things considered, it’s not like it made much of a dent in my savings,” Hizashi continues, which somehow doesn’t make Shōta feel any better. “Also, before you say I should use my money for other things, we just went over this and it is my duty as your best friend to spoil you.”

“I never agreed to that,” Shōta replies, narrowing his eyes.

“Yeah, well, if you wanna, like, break into my apartment in the dead of night to return the sleeping bag, you can, but I’m not going to accept it otherwise,” Hizashi announces, picking another piece of wagyu off the grill. He pauses for a second and then adds, “And I’m just going to give it back to you the next day anyway.”

For a moment, Shōta hesitates, glancing down at the sleeping bag, heavenly soft under his fingertips. He clenches his jaw, trying to ignore the voice in the back of his head reminding him that he’s been wanting this sleeping bag for quite a while now, and it’s not like Hizashi’s going to suffer financially from this one purchase, considering his income.

Also, a small, selfish part of him really likes the thought of Hizashi spoiling him, even though he knows Hizashi doesn’t mean anything by it, beyond friendship.

“Fine,” Shōta finally sighs. “Only on my birthday.”

Hizashi grins, and Shōta wonders what he’s just gotten himself into.

---

“Hello, darling!”

Shōta lets out a soft, derisive snort as his cat all but leaps up into Hizashi’s arms, already starting to purr.

“You spoil Aya too much,” Shōta says as his cat rubs herself up against Hizashi’s chest, and he tries not to feel jealous. “She’s going to start expecting me to buy her fancy food when you’re not here.”

“You say that like I’m going to abandon you two,” Hizashi huffs, reaching over to fish around in his bag. Aya’s ears prick up as soon as Hizashi’s hand reemerges with a can of high end cat food, and her nose twitches, as if she can already smell it. “I wouldn’t do that to my daughter.”

“When did she become your daughter?” Shōta asks, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look.

“… since I started feeding her?” Hizashi suggests, a little more tentatively than before.

“She was perfectly happy with the food I was giving her before,” Shōta replies, but when Aya turns to look at him, she twitches her tail, as if in irritation. Shōta narrows his eyes at her.

“Well, she doesn’t have to eat generic dry food anymore,” Hizashi announces, leaning down to press a kiss between Aya’s ears.

To be entirely honest, Shōta doesn’t really mind Hizashi spoiling Aya. He’d do the same thing if he had that sort of leeway in his budget, and if Hizashi wants to spend money on expensive cat food instead of a private island, that’s his choice.

That doesn’t mean Shōta’s about to give up guardianship of his cat, though.

“If you’re going to claim to be Aya’s father, then you’re going to have to start cleaning out her litterbox occasionally,” Shōta snorts, reaching out to take Aya back from Hizashi. She goes with him easily, settling into his arms and purring as she rubs her face up against his neck, long, thick fur tickling Shōta’s skin.

Hizashi wrinkles his nose at the mention of the litterbox and Shōta feels vindicated.

“She knows she’s my girl,” Hizashi finally says, leaning in to scratch Aya’s chin.

“I refuse to accept you as a co-parent,” Shōta replies, forcing an annoyed tone and trying to ignore how close Hizashi is to him, invading his personal space.

“Hey!” Hizashi sputters, shooting Shōta an offended look with those big green eyes of his. “I’d make an excellent husband, thank you very much!”

“Which is why none of your relationships have lasted longer than six months,” Shōta says dryly, but it comes out a little harsher than he’d intended. He bites back a wince as he sees Hizashi’s face go a little blank for a moment, and he has to resist the urge to backtrack and assure Hizashi that he’s sure Hizashi would make an excellent husband.

“I’m not – ” Hizashi starts, but then cuts himself off again. He hesitates and then says, “I guess I just haven’t really clicked with anyone I’ve dated. But if I found the right person…”

He trails off, maintaining eye contact with Shōta, and for a moment, Shōta desperately wants to close the short distance between them and kiss Hizashi.

Before he loses himself to that urge, though, Aya meows loudly.

“She wants dinner,” Shōta says, although he doubts Hizashi needs the translation.

“Right, yeah, I have – ” Hizashi replies, fumbling for the can of cat food he’d brought with him.

“Her bowl is in the kitchen,” Shōta continues, adding more information that Hizashi probably already knows.

With that, Shōta turns on his heel and heads over to the small corner of his apartment which serves as a kitchen, Hizashi following behind him. He lets Aya down, watching as she pads over to her food bowl and then sits down next to it expectantly, meowing when Hizashi crouches down next to her and opens the food can with a soft metallic sound.

Shōta busies himself with digging cups out of the cupboard, setting them down on the counter and then opening the fridge to search for a bottle of barley tea.

“What’s this?”

Shōta pulls his head back out of the fridge and looks over to find that Hizashi’s finished spooning food into Aya’s bowl and is now inspecting the notice lying on Shōta’s kitchen counter.

For a moment, Shōta hesitates, but then he says, “The building’s being torn down. Apparently they’re putting a new road through here.”

“Torn down?” Hizashi sputters, his eyes widening a little. “Is that even legal?”

“As long as they give tenants a six month warning,” Shōta replies, shrugging slightly and trying not to show that he’d stayed up until four in the morning looking through new apartment advertisements.

“Damn,” Hizashi mutters as she scans the fine print on the notice. “I guess an apartment this cheap in such a nice part of town really was too good to be true.” He pauses and then asks, “Know what you’re doing next?”

“I’m starting to look around,” Shōta says. He doesn’t make eye contact with Hizashi, instead focusing on pouring tea into the two cups on the counter. “I have time.”

Silence stretches between them for a beat too long.

“So I’m not trying to, like, offend you, or anything,” Hizashi finally says, and Shōta can feel himself stiffen up a little, “but can you afford to move right now?”

Shōta clenches his jaw.

“Just because there are a lot of fees involved, you know?” Hizashi adds quickly. “There’s the deposit, reikin, agency fee, property insurance, maintenance – ”

“Hizashi,” Shōta interrupts, a little too sharply. “It’s not like I have a choice.”

He glances down at Aya, happily eating Hizashi’s expensive cat food, and tries not to think about how slim his chances of finding a cat friendly apartment in the right price range are going to be.

“What if you did have a choice?” Hizashi says abruptly, dragging Shōta back out of his thoughts.

Shōta frowns at him.

“I’ve been thinking about upgrading to a nicer apartment,” Hizashi continues, and although his tone is casual, the way he shoves his hands in his pockets betrays his awkwardness. “A bigger one.”

“Are you asking me to move in with you?” Shōta asks flatly.

“I’m just saying you could crash with me until you have enough saved up to get your own place,” Hizashi answers, shrugging slightly, like he’s just suggested letting Shōta stay for a weekend, and not an undetermined number of months. “I mean, it’s not like you can’t afford your rent now. It’s just the move-in fees. So if you didn’t have to pay rent for a while, I’m sure you’d be able to save up enough.”

“I can find a cheaper place farther out of the city,” Shōta replies, narrowing his eyes at Hizashi.

“And then let the commute eat up your time and money?” Hizashi counters, arching an eyebrow at Shōta. “Plus, it’ll make you slower to react to major emergencies, which is another dent to your income.”

“I can take care of myself,” Shōta snaps, abandoning the tea to move closer to Hizashi, poking Hizashi in the chest with an accusatory finger.

“I know you can,” Hizashi replies, exasperation leaking into his voice. “I’m just saying I can make it easier for you. Isn’t letting me help the logical thing to do?”

Hizashi reaches down to grab Shōta’s hand, clasping it tightly so that Shōta’s no longer poking him in the chest. The warmth of Hizashi’s palm against his makes Shōta’s heartrate increase, and for a moment, Shōta wonders what it would be like to live with Hizashi, to wake up to him in the morning and say goodnight to him every evening.

“I need to think about it,” Shōta finally says. He curses the fact that Hizashi’s pretty green eyes always make him weak.

“Alright,” Hizashi replies softly. His lips quirk up slightly and he adds, “If you end up in a rundown hovel filled with roaches, though, I’m taking Aya to live with me.”

“She’s not your daughter,” Shōta huffs.

As soon as the words have left his mouth, though, he hears a soft meow, and looks down to find that Aya has finished her food and is now rubbing herself up against Hizashi’s legs contentedly.

Traitor.

---

Living with Hizashi is somehow both better and worse than Shōta had been expecting.

The new apartment that Hizashi had chosen is frankly too big for a single person, and Shōta tries not to think about how Hizashi clearly chose it with him in mind. Shōta can’t say he dislikes the spacious bedroom Hizashi had given him, though, and the fact that there’s actually room for more than a small table in the living/dining room area is also a plus.

Of course, there’s also the fact that he falls asleep every night with only a thin wall between him and Hizashi. Sometimes it’s comforting, and other nights it keeps him up, makes him wonder how Hizashi would react if he walked the short distance to the other room and slipped into bed with him.

Aya gets to sleep with Hizashi whenever she wants. It’s hard to be mad at her, but that doesn’t stop Shōta from being a little jealous.

There’s also the fact that Hizashi refuses to accept any sort of monetary payment. Of course, it doesn’t help that Shōta’s income would only barely allow him to cover half the rent as things are, and Hizashi knows that as well as he does.

So Shōta’s taken to trying to repay Hizashi in other ways.

Shōta’s arranging lettuce in bowls when he hears the soft click of the apartment door opening, and a moment later, a familiar voice announces, “I’m home!”

“I’m in the kitchen,” Shōta replies. It’s been over a month since he moved in with Hizashi and he still hasn’t been able to get himself to reply to Hizashi with, “Welcome home.”

He doesn’t need to let himself fantasize more than he already has.

“You’re cooking?” Hizashi asks, poking his head around the corner and peering into the kitchen excitedly.

“Sort of,” Shōta mutters, glaring through the tiny window of Hizashi’s fish grill for what must be the fifth time in as many minutes. “If the fish burns, we still have salads.”

“I believe in you,” Hizashi replies, plopping himself down at the dining table. “You’ve gotten pretty good recently.”

Shōta grimaces as he remembers his first attempt at cooking for Hizashi. The curry had come out rock hard and uncomfortably gray-tinged, and they’d had to walk down the street to buy convenience store chicken and onigiri to avoid possible (probable) food poisoning.

“You can compliment me after you’ve tasted it,” Shōta finally replies, grabbing an oven mitt off the counter and carefully opening the fish grill.

“At this rate you’ll make a good househusband in another few months,” Hizashi teases, a grin spreading across his face.

Shōta shoots him a glare.

Although, to be entirely honest, sometimes Shōta does feel like a househusband. He has hero work, of course, but he’s mostly out at night, which leaves him alone in the apartment for most of the day. The majority of his time is spent sleeping, but other times he occupies himself with cooking and even cleaning, on occasion, mostly borne out of a sense of guilt about Hizashi letting him share the apartment for free.

“God,” Hizashi groans around a mouthful of salad as Shōta plates the mackerel and sets it down on the table. “I’m so glad I don’t have to try to scrape together dinner after work anymore.”

“The convenience store employees probably miss you,” Shōta says dryly as he sits down across from Hizashi.

“Probably,” Hizashi agrees, grinning as he starts to dig into the fish. “I guess I’ll be back eventually, though.”

Shōta pokes at his fish and tries not to think about his rapidly decreasing desire to move out and into his own place again.

“Or you could marry me and become my permeant househusband,” Hizashi continues.

“I’m not a househusband. I have a job,” Shōta huffs, shooting Hizashi a glare and trying not to let his mind stray anywhere inappropriate, like what it would be like to lounge in Hizashi’s bed, waiting for him to come home from the radio station late at night.

“Trophy husband?” Hizashi suggests, and Shōta’s glare intensifies.

“I’m not shaving for you,” Shōta replies, picking off a piece of fish and popping it into his mouth.

“You’re handsome enough as you are now,” Hizashi says, his tone dangerously close to real flirtation.

Something occurs to Shōta.

“If you ever want to bring someone home, I can find somewhere else to be,” Shōta says, the abruptness of his proclamation making Hizashi blink at him in confusion.

“Bring someone home?” Hizashi repeats, his forehead creasing in confusion.

“You don’t have to go celibate,” Shōta snorts. He looks down at his salad as he speaks, picking at it and trying not to think about Hizashi in bed with some stranger, in the room just down the hall.

“Um. Yeah,” Hizashi finally replies. When Shōta sneaks a glance at him, he finds a tense, uncomfortable look on Hizashi’s face. “You too.”

The chances of Shōta bringing someone over when he’s completely hung up on Hizashi are exactly zero, but he doesn’t say that aloud.

For a few moments, they sit in awkward silence, but eventually Hizashi restarts the conversation with a story about one of the other heroes at his agency, and the uncomfortable atmosphere is smoothed out into something more familiar. They manage to make it through the rest of dinner without incident, and Shōta even manages to elbow Hizashi out of the way when Hizashi tries to sneak around him to wash the dishes.

Washing the dishes doesn’t take long, and soon Shōta heads back into the living room, intent on checking the news before he goes out for his nightly hero work. However, when he comes into the room, he pauses.

“That tired?” Shōta asks, watching the rise and fall of Hizashi’s chest as he sprawls out on the couch, Aya curled up comfortably on his stomach.

Hizashi mutters something unintelligible in reply.

Briefly, Shōta hesitates, but then he walks over to the couch.

“Sit up,” Shōta orders, nudging Hizashi with his knee.

“Do I have to?” Hizashi groans, but he pushes himself up into a sitting position anyway.

Shōta uses the freed-up space to settle in behind Hizashi and then pulls Hizashi back towards him. Hizashi’s sleep deprived brain finally catches up with what’s happening and he eagerly presses himself closer to Shōta.

Then Shōta digs his fingers into the tense muscles of Hizashi’s neck.

Hizashi melts under Shōta’s fingers, letting out a soft, contented sound. Sometimes it’s hard for Shōta to focus when he gives Hizashi massages, trying to concentrate on working the stress out of Hizashi’s shoulders instead of the feeling of Hizashi’s warm skin under his hands. If he’s distracted, though, thankfully Hizashi doesn’t seem to notice, too happy to let Shōta help him relax in a small form of payment for all that Hizashi’s done for him recently.

“Fuck,” Hizashi groans as Shōta works a particularly tough knot out of his left shoulder. “Are you sure you won’t consider marrying me and becoming my househusband?”

“Just hire a housekeeper or something,” Shōta huffs, although he feels his heart skip a beat at Hizashi’s proclamation.

“But I’d have to break in someone new,” Hizashi complains, leaning further back into Shōta’s touch. “You already know my favorite foods and how to get the tension out of my shoulders and stuff.”

“Now I know the true reason you wanted me to come live with you,” Shōta says dryly, digging his thumbs into the base of Hizashi’s neck.

“You know it’s not like that,” Hizashi protests, but he sounds distracted, too absorbed in the massage. He pauses and then adds, “I just didn’t want Aya to end up on the street.”

Aya flicks her tail from where she’s still curled up in Hizashi’s lap.

“Even if we were married, I wouldn’t give you custody,” Shōta snorts.

“So you’re open to the possibility of marrying me?” Hizashi asks, craning his neck around to look at Shōta with those bright green eyes of his.

Shōta rolls his eyes and doesn’t respond.

If Hizashi notices that it’s not an outright denial, he doesn’t comment on it.

---

It’s not that Shōta forgets about his living situation – not really. But slowly, over the course of a few months, he gets used to it.

“And that’s the last of the paperwork!” Nemuri announces, shuffling the stack of official looking documents into a neat pile. “All you have left is the interview and then you’re in!”

“I have to actually pass the interview,” Shōta snorts, eyeing the UA logo printed across the top of the application papers.

“Oh, stop being a downer,” Nemuri huffs, waving off Shōta’s concerns. “I wouldn’t have recommended you for the job if I didn’t think you could get the position.”

Shōta eyes her dubiously.

“Come on, at least part of you must want to do this, if you actually went to the trouble of filling out all this paperwork,” Nemuri continues, propping up her elbow on the table and resting her cheek against her hand.

“I need the money,” Shōta huffs, slumping further down into his seat. “Hero salaries are determined on the assumption that everyone’s making extra from sponsorship and advertising deals.”

Nemuri blinks at him for a moment, clearly caught off guard, and her forehead creases in concern as she says, “Shōta, do you need help? Because I could – ”

“Hizashi already beat you to it,” Shōta snorts, and for a moment, he finds himself imagining Hizashi and Nemuri fighting over who gets to pay his hero licensure fees. He doesn’t know weather the thought is more amusing or frightening.

“Alright, but if you need anything – ” Nemuri starts, concern still firmly imbedded in her expression.

“Hizashi bought me a new iPhone yesterday because the screen on my old one was cracked,” Shōta says flatly. “I don’t need more people wasting their money on me.”

For a moment, Nemuri doesn’t say anything her eyes a little wide as she stares at Shōta. Shōta occupies himself with inspecting the bottom of his coffee mug, half wishing he’d made up another excuse for why he wants to join the UA staff and teach a bunch of hormonal kids.

“Shōta,” Nemuri says slowly, “when you say Yamada’s helping you out, what do you mean by that?”

“He buys me dinner,” Shōta replies, shrugging slightly. “He paid for a new air conditioner when mine broke, and I moved in with him a few months ago when I was informed my old building was going to be torn down.”

“You’re living with him?” Nemuri asks, studying Shōta in a way that makes his skin crawl.

“Temporarily,” Shōta mutters, unable to help the way his shoulders tense. “He insisted.”

“He’s not expecting you to pay him back, is he?” Nemuri presses, sounding more and more alarmed.

“He won’t accept money,” Shōta answers, reaching a hand back to rub at the nape of his neck, an uncomfortable gesture. “I pay him back in other ways.”

“Shōta,” Nemuri says, her voice serious and impressively steady. “I absolutely support safe, sane, and consensual sex work, but if Yamada is using your financial situation to pressure you into – ”

“Sex work?” Shōta repeats, the words spilling out of his mouth before he can stop them.

“If you receive compensation in money or other goods, even indirectly, it is considered sex work,” Nemuri says slowly, still utterly serious.

Shōta stares at her for a moment.

“Hizashi and I are not having sex,” he finally manages.

Nemuri blinks at him.

“Then what did you mean when you said you were paying him back with something other than money?” she asks.

“I cook, clean, and give him massages,” Shōta answers, scowling and hoping that his face hasn’t turned bright red at the thought of paying Hizashi back with blowjobs.

“Wow,” Nemuri replies, looking a little dazed. “I didn’t think you were capable of any of those things.”

“I’m learning,” Shōta mutters, glaring at Nemuri.

“So you’re like a platonic sugar baby,” Nemuri muses, tapping her chin with her index finger.

“Sugar baby?” Shōta says, repeating the unfamiliar term.

“Someone who dates rich people and is compensated in expensive gifts and other forms of indirect payment,” Nemuri clarifies. She smirks and adds, “Except for the fact that you’re not having sex with a gross sixty-something banker.”

Shōta doesn’t know what sort of expression of disgust he makes, but it’s enough to make Nemuri laugh.

“Hizashi and I are not like that,” Shōta says firmly.

“You know, it’s kind of a pity, actually,” Nemuri replies, leaning her cheek against her hand, smirk wide across her face. “Yamada wouldn’t be a bad daddy to sugar for. Although he probably already has enough attractive people who are willing to do him for free.”

Shōta valiantly tries not to imagine what it would be like to have Hizashi crawl into his bed at night and whisper, You can pay me back with your body.

He adjusts his sitting position awkwardly and Nemuri gives him a knowing look. He glares back at her.

“You know,” Nemuri says slowly, something in her expression that puts Shōta on edge, “I bet if you offered to give Yamada a little compensation, he’d have a hard time saying no.”

“Hizashi’s not interested in me like that,” Shōta snorts. He’s all too aware of the type of people who hit on Hizashi at bars, pretty and well groomed smooth talkers who flirt like it’s nothing, even if their eyes betray just how desperate they truly are to get Hizashi to come home with them.

“Shōta, sweetheart,” Nemuri sighs, rubbing her temples. “I love you, but I would not have brought up the possibility of Yamada extorting you for sex if I didn’t see how he looks at you.”

“How he looks at me,” Shōta repeats flatly.

“Like he’s torn between giving you a sweet kiss on the cheek and dragging you off to the nearest broom closet to ravish you,” Nemuri replies.

Shōta stares at her.

“I think you need to get your eyes checked,” Shōta finally snorts.

“Go home and do something cute and I swear you’ll be able to see him pining,” Nemuri says, arching an eyebrow at Shōta.

“Of course,” Shōta says dryly.

After all, he doubts Hizashi’s ever pined in his life – not with his combination of good looks and hefty income.

Shōta’s the only one who’s pined.

---

Shōta can’t stop thinking about this whole… sugar baby thing.

It creeps up on him every time he’s not focusing hard enough on something else, making a rush of desire flood him when he’s sitting next to Hizashi on the couch or across the table from him at dinner.

Of course, it also doesn’t help that Nemuri keeps pestering him about it.

From Nemuri: A good pick-up line is all you need. How about “Massages are nice, but I can think of a better stress reliever”?

Shōta glares down at his phone and tires not to think about how many times he’s fantasized about his massage sessions with Hizashi getting a little too intimate. It doesn’t help that Hizashi’s always so vocal about what he likes, telling Shōta to push harder or moaning out contented praise, to the point where it’s starting to invade Shōta’s more R-rated dreams.

“Who’s texting you?” Hizashi asks, breaking Shōta out of his thoughts.

“No one important,” Shōta replies, locking his phone quickly so Hizashi doesn’t see the texts.

“If it’s not important, then why are you hiding it from me?” Hizashi asks, his lower lip pushed out in a pout as he leans closer to Shōta across the couch.

“You don’t need to see it because it’s not important,” Shōta huffs, shoving his phone back into his pocket, so that it’s out of sight in case Nemuri decides to text him more inappropriate pick-up lines.

For a moment, Hizashi hesitates, something close to hurt flickering across his face. Finally, he says, “Is everything alright with you? You’ve been acting kind of weird lately.”

“I haven’t been acting weird,” Shōta retorts, narrowing his eyes at Hizashi and trying to ignore the rapid thump of his heart in his chest.

“Yes, you have,” Hizashi protests. “You keep zoning out at weird moments and then you’re all jumpy. You didn’t take out a shady loan, did you? Are you in debt with the Yakuza now, because – ”

“I’m not jumpy,” Shōta huffs. He tries to edge away from Hizashi subtly, to put more space between them, but judging by the way Hizashi’s jaw tenses, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

“So that’s a yes to the loan sharks?” Hizashi asks, arching an eyebrow at Shōta.

“No, I’m not in bed with the Yakuza,” Shōta says dryly, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look.

Hizashi hesitates, but then says, “Are you in bed with someone else?”

Shōta blinks at him, caught off guard.

“You don’t have to sneak around, you know,” Hizashi continues, but although his tone is casual, there’s something strained underneath it. “You’re free to bring people back to the apartment and I’ll make myself scarce. I mean, as long as you don’t sexile me too often, because – ”

“Hizashi,” Shōta interrupts, trying to ignore the tight feeling in his chest. “I’m not seeing anyone.”

“Really?” Hizashi asks, giving Shōta a skeptical look. “Because you never text people, but lately you keep checking you phone.”

“Nemuri keeps giving me shit about something,” Shōta grumbles.

“You’re dating Kayama?” Hizashi asks, blinking at Shōta in surprise.

“I’m not – ” Shōta huffs, trying to figure out how to reply. He hesitates, but then says, “Do you know what a sugar baby is?”

“Oh my god, you’re sugaring?” Hizashi yelps, big green eyes going wide. “Shōta, if you need money that bad, you should have told me instead of – ”

“I’m not prostituting myself,” Shōta snaps, finally letting his exasperation leak into his voice. “Nemuri thought you were my – ” He grimaces. “ – sugar daddy.”

Hizashi gapes at him.

“Because I live with you for free and you buy me expensive things,” Shōta mutters, unable to quite meet Hizashi’s eyes.

“She thought I was a sugar daddy,” Hizashi says slowly, eyes still wide. “And you were my sugar baby.”

“Don’t worry, I corrected her,” Shōta snorts. “But I – she keeps bringing it up and it’s difficult to… not think about it.”

“Oh,” Hizashi says weakly.

For a moment, the two of them sit together in uncomfortable silence. Shōta tries not to notice the tense set of Hizashi’s shoulders and wonders if Hizashi will beg off from massages from now on, too intimate for their current relationship.

“You know, I would never – ” Hizashi starts haltingly. “I wouldn’t do that to you. Pressure you into something like that.”

“I know you wouldn’t,” Shōta replies, his tone going soft. “But after what Nemuri said, it’s still uncomfortable.”

Silence stretches between them again.

“You don’t owe me,” Hizashi finally says, hands clenched against his thighs. “I’ve never thought of it like that and it never even occurred to me that other people would see it like that.”

“Other people?” Shōta repeats, frowning slightly as he puzzles over what Hizashi just said.

“That’s what you’re uncomfortable with, right?” Hizashi replies. “Other people thinking you’re fucking me for my money?”

To be entirely honest, that was the farthest thing from Shōta’s mind.

Apparently he hesitates for a moment too long, though, because Hizashi frowns and says, “There’s something else? I can’t think of – ” Hizashi cuts himself off, face going a little pale, and then murmurs, “Oh.”

Shōta’s stomach sinks as he realizes what conclusion Hizashi must have finally hit on.

“Hizashi – ” Shōta starts.

“I wouldn’t do that to you,” Hizashi says again, cutting Shōta off, and Shōta wants to reassure Hizashi that he knows that, but Hizashi continues before he can. “I’d never do anything to you. I understand if you’re uncomfortable with my feelings for you, but – ”

“Your feelings?” Shōta asks, caught off guard.

“That’s why you can’t stop thinking about it, right?” Hizashi replies, frowning slightly. “Because you realized I’m in love with you.”

Shōta stares at him.

“Or not,” Hizashi says slowly. “Do you think you can forget that last part?”

Instead of replying, Shōta surges forward to press their mouths together. Hizashi flails for a moment, clearly caught off guard, but then he melts into the kiss, making a soft, happy sound as Shōta’s mouth moves against his.

It barely lasts for a second, though, before Shōta pulls away again.

“I’m in love with you,” Shōta announces, looking Hizashi dead in the eye.

“Oh,” Hizashi replies, a little dazed.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole sugar baby thing because I wanted – ” Shōta cuts himself off, his face heating.

“You wanted me to ask for your body as payment?” Hizashi asks, a smirk spreading over his lips and a predatory glint in his eyes.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Shōta huffs, but he lets Hizashi pull him into another kiss.

This one’s deeper, more heated, and Shōta finds himself pressing back against Hizashi’s lips a little too hard, hungry for more. Apparently Hizashi takes that as an invitation to go further, and he slides his tongue between Shōta’s parted lips, kissing him hot and wet. Shōta’s not sure how long they kiss for, too absorbed in the texture of Hizashi’s mouth and the pent-up feelings evident in the way Hizashi presses against him, almost the wrong side of desperate.

Eventually, though, Shōta breaks the kiss to say, “If we date, you have to let me pay rent.”

“What?” Hizashi pants, blinking down at Shōta dumbly.

“I need us to be equal,” Shōta replies. He grimaces and corrects himself. “More equal.”

“But your salary – ” Hizashi starts.

“I’m looking for a second job,” Shōta interrupts. "I just applied for a teaching position at UA and if that falls through I have a few other options.”

“UA?” Hizashi blurts out. “Why am I only just hearing about this now?”

“I don’t know if I’ll get the job,” Shōta huffs.

“Well, they’d be idiots not to take you,” Hizashi replies, his tone firm. At some point during the kiss, he'd tangled his fingers in Shōta's hair, and Shōta shivers slightly as Hizashi tightens his grip.

“We’ll see,” Shōta replies carefully.

“You’re not paying rent until you have two paychecks, though, okay?” Hizashi warns, familiar stubbornness in his voice.

Shōta narrows his eyes, studying Hizashi for a moment, but then says, “Fine.”

Hizashi beams at him.

“So, are you going to pay me back in blowjobs now?” Hizashi asks, still grinning.

Shōta kicks him off the couch.