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Forward to Sunrise

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Shouta had expected to be more composed as the end of his time at school neared.

When he'd faced graduation day at U.A., it had been with measured ambivalence. Surprised he'd even passed his university entrance exam, he had been grimly determined to at least have a piece of paper at the end of it all. His aim had been for mediocrity, and from that point of view, he had succeeded thoroughly, finishing a very practical degree in hero business administration. His grades were nothing to celebrate.

But this time, with the semester almost over, he felt only dread as the final weeks approached like a slow creeping doom. There had always been a timeline, and he'd always known exactly what it was, but now that he was staring down his future, he realized he didn't want to leave. He wasn't ready, not at all.

It was the reason he hadn't slept soundly in months, spending most of his time in bed staring at the ceiling as an invisible weight pressed down on his chest. He could barely stay awake during his classes. Not that out of the ordinary, if he was being honest with himself, except this exhaustion felt different.

For one thing, it led him to do unpalatable things like watch the sunrise.

Shouta drew his knees closer to his chest, arms wrapped around his shins. It was a chilly morning, far colder than he'd expected, but he was too stubborn to admit he was uncomfortable, even to himself. I'm hungry, too, he thought miserably as he ignored the gnawing emptiness in his belly.

He wished he could snap out of this mood he was in. He wished he could actually sleep again.

But at least it was kind of peaceful this early. Quiet. Like he was the only person left in the world.

If he hadn't been so cold, he thought maybe he could have napped right there on the damp grass.

Instead, he fixed his gaze on the horizon, goggles over his eyes so he wouldn't have to blink. The sky was a rich mosaic of reds and oranges and purples. A little ominous to be sure, probably a sign of impending disaster, but Shouta had learned very quickly that was just how life worked as a Pro Hero.

He sighed deeply.

Shouta had been sitting outside for almost thirty minutes by the time Hizashi found him, ambling up to him in a weirdly loud way, though he hadn't said anything yet. Shouta looked over as Hizashi plopped down beside him, a large cloth bag hanging from his hand. He looked surprisingly awake for the hour.

"Wow," Hizashi said on an exhale, "what a beautiful sight. It's like a painting!"

"It means the weather's going to be shitty today," Shouta replied.

Hizashi considered that briefly then shrugged. "Whatever. It's fine right now. We'll worry about that later." He started rooting around in his bag. "Why didn't you wear a coat? It's cold! I saw you from my window, and I thought you looked like you might be freezing, so here, I brought you a blanket."

Shouta had known that would be a risk. Like him – and to the surprise of everyone who had ever met Hizashi, who had huge ambitions – Hizashi had chosen to live at home and attend the local university for his hero media studies degree. They lived close enough to each other that they used the same outdoor spaces, and Shouta was aware of the fact Hizashi's house faced onto the park. What he hadn't considered was the possibility that Hizashi might be awake at this hour to witness his public moping.

He eyed the mass of fabric Hizashi was shoving at him. "That's a sleeping bag," he said flatly.

"Same difference," Hizashi replied, ignoring him and wrapping the sleeping bag around Shouta's shoulders. He started dumping the remaining contents of the bag onto the grass. "I also thought you might be hungry, so I got us breakfast, but I didn't know what you wanted, so I grabbed a variety."

Shouta's stomach picked that moment to rumble loudly, saving him the effort of denying it.

"And then I made coffee," Hizashi told him as he poured the steaming liquid into two cups from a silver canister. He handed one of the cups to Shouta. "It's very early, dude."

"I know that," Shouta grumbled, bringing the coffee to his mouth and sipping at it carefully. He didn't need the obvious pointed out to him. He was aware of the time, and if he could have slept in, cocooned in his blankets and blissfully unconscious, he would have done that. But he didn't do that. Not anymore.

"You're so grumpy in the mornings," Hizashi said. He paused dramatically before adding, "and the rest of the time." Which was exactly what Shouta expected him to say. Hizashi loved a good punchline.

Shouta rolled his eyes anyway.

Hizashi continued on, unfazed. "So I've been looking at apartments," he said as he began to dole out breakfast, setting down two plates and filling them with a truly bizarre array of food. Shouta kept his focus on Hizashi's hands, the warm coffee cup pressed to his lips. "And I've set up a couple viewings."

"Okay," Shouta said when Hizashi paused, clearly wanting a response.

"The first two are this afternoon, after your last class. It might require running to the subway station."

"Okay," Shouta said again, drawing the word out. He still didn't know where Hizashi was going with this.

Hizashi exhaled sharply as if he'd come to the same conclusion. "You're coming with me because we're living together after all of this" – Hizashi gestured around them, pointing at nothing and everything, and Shouta took his point immediately – "aren't we?" He stared at Shouta, waiting for an answer.

"I guess?"

"We are," Hizashi informed him, like it hadn't actually been a question, and pushed a plate towards him. "We definitely are. I don't know if you've looked at rents recently, but they're really high. It may take us a while to get set up as professional heroes, so I think it's only smart to share expenses."

Shouta put his cup down and grabbed the plate instead. He was starving. "I already said okay."

"Right, so," Hizashi said, forging ahead and dragging Shouta along with him. He started going through all the places he'd found on his phone while Shouta continued to eat, silent but paying attention. Other than knowing that he didn't want to join an agency, he hadn't really made any plans beyond that.

Hizashi had evidently made plans for both of them.

"This one is my favourite," Hizashi said after Shouta had finished eating. He handed his phone over, and Shouta took it, immediately starting to thumb through the photos. It did look like a nice space. "It's small, and it's only one bedroom, but the kitchen is big enough for a table, and I could do my radio show from there, like, just until I've built a following and get a real radio host job. We'd have to share."

Shouta looked up from the screen. "The kitchen table?"

"The bedroom," Hizashi replied.

"That's fine," Shouta heard himself say, though his voice sounded very far away.

Finally eating his own breakfast, Hizashi kept talking – about all the things they would need, the things they would have to buy – but Shouta was only half-listening. He pulled the sleeping bag more firmly around his body, sinking into its warmth, all nice and toasty. It smelled like Hizashi somehow.

It was good that one of them was looking forward, he decided eventually as Hizashi continued to talk.

Someone had to.

They ended up renting the apartment that Hizashi had liked, though they went through the effort of looking at three others. The first one was nice but completely lacked character and the acoustics were bad. The second one they both agreed to never speak of again. The third one had two bedrooms that were barely bigger than closets and average acoustics, but Hizashi just didn't seem to like it for whatever reason.

Hizashi ultimately left it up to him. He even stayed quiet while Shouta thought it through.

Shouta found himself in the awkward position of making a decision about something he didn't particularly care about. Except for the one apartment they were never speaking of again, they'd been fine by him. Within their budget, reasonably clean, close to public transit. They were all just... fine.

"The one bedroom," he said finally, watching as Hizashi exhaled the breath he had been holding.

"Are you sure?"

Shouta nodded. "Yeah."

"Awesome!" Hizashi said with enough enthusiasm that Shouta's ears rang a little afterwards. "Sorry," he added hastily, patting at Shouta's shoulder while he looked up the number for the rental agent with his other hand. "This is going to be so great," he said as the phone rang. "It's gonna be the best!"

"Sure," Shouta agreed easily. He was glad one of them thought so. He mostly remained indifferent.

Hizashi put his phone to his ear and started talking. Shouta could see the effort he was putting into speaking normally, his volume measured and professional. It was still available, but Hizashi thrummed with nervous energy while they walked to the rental agent's office. Shouta sighed deeply. They should have just signed yesterday if Hizashi had been so worried about someone else taking their apartment.

"Last chance," Hizashi said ominously, handing him the lease.

Shouta sighed again and stamped his name with his hanko.

They waited for their copies then went their separate ways, Hizashi waving until he was out of sight. I'm sure it'll be fine, Shouta told himself, watching him go. He felt a little uneasy about the situation, but he was just relieved this was all Hizashi had asked of him. It could have been so much worse.

Hizashi could have asked to be Pro Heroes together. That was the stuff of nightmares.

As the final days of classes ran down and the graduation ceremony loomed, Shouta just focussed on getting there. He packed up the things he planned to take with him to his and Hizashi's new apartment, but he otherwise didn't think about it. He still wasn't sleeping well, and he was low-key stressed all the time.

On the last day, Nemuri found him while he was eating lunch. He didn't know why she was there instead of working, but there she was all the same. She plopped down next to him and helped herself to his last onigiri, which he hadn't wanted anyway. "So I hear you and Yamada are moving in together."

"Yeah," he replied warily.

"That's cute," she told him, taking a bite then chewing thoughtfully. "I also hear it's a one bedroom."

"It is," he confirmed, trying to ignore the tone in her voice. He really wasn't in the mood for this.

"I just think it's really interesting," she said, taking another big bite. Now that he saw how much she was enjoying it, he kind of regretted not eating it himself. "Though I see the point about rent being high. It's amazing how expensive it is when you're just getting set up. Very wise of you to be so frugal."

Shouta sighed. "You're reading too much into it. It's a nice apartment."

"I'm sure you two will be very happy together," Nemuri said, patting his knee. "Anyway," she added as she jumped up and brushed the dust off the seat of her costume, "I have a previous engagement. I just came by to share your lunch. Make sure to invite me to your housewarming party. I'll come even if you don't, but we both know that wouldn't be polite, so I'll expect my invitation promptly. Tell Yamada."

"Tell him yourself," Shouta grumbled, but it was pointless. Nemuri was already gone.

Shouta sat there a while longer, glowering. He was still a little hungry after all.

He and Hizashi moved in the Saturday after university ended. Shouta already had his key and waited until he'd eaten breakfast with his family before leaving, though he'd been awake well before sunrise. His father drove him and his boxes over to his new home, and together they carried them into the apartment.

Before his father left, he handed him a large gift bag. "For you and Yamada, from your mother and I."

"Okay, thank you," Shouta said, taking it. Inside was a blue electric kettle, four hand-painted mugs, two coffee filter pots, a box of paper filters and several bags of ground coffee. "Really. Thanks, dad."

His father smiled and ruffled his hair like he was still a child. Shouta watched as he drove off.

Once he was gone, he turned around and brought the gift inside. He paused in the doorway, letting the sight in front of him sink in. The apartment was smaller than he remembered but bright and reasonably clean. It was a really nice place, he thought. Not fancy but... homey. Hizashi had very good taste.

He allowed himself to take a moment before he stepped inside and locked the door behind him.

He quickly got to work opening up all his boxes. It wasn't like he had that many of them.

There was a closet in the bedroom, so he hung up his clothes on one side. Everything he owned was black except for a small number of brightly coloured pyjama pants that he would only explain if Hizashi ever asked and not a moment sooner. He kept the things he couldn't hang up in his suitcase.

His mother had given him a few kitchen items that she had duplicates of, so he put those away, too.

Once everything was unpacked, he sat on the floor by the sliding glass door with his arms crossed.

They were on the ground floor, so they had a small fenced-in patio instead of a balcony. There was a washing machine that looked like it had seen better days tucked into the corner. Through the window, sunlight cast over the apartment in rays of shining gold. He'd probably still have a view of the sunrise.

Head tipped against the glass, he stared outside as he tried to get used to the new noises. It was a more lively neighbourhood than the one his family lived in. He supposed that wasn't entirely a bad thing.

He sighed.

Shouta was dozing lightly when Hizashi finally showed up with his parents in tow. All three of them were so loud that he could hear their impending approach in the hallway. When they finally burst into the apartment, it took them a moment to notice him sitting there. He scrambled to his feet so he could greet them properly. He did so, and then it was complete chaos. Shouta should have expected that.

"We got a couch," Hizashi announced, dragging him outside by the elbow. "And it was free!"

It was bright yellow, barely big enough for two people to sit on comfortably. "It's nice," he said, not quite sure he was telling the truth, but free was free, and the cushions looked deep and cushy.

"Fuck yeah it is," Hizashi said with a fist pump.

Hizashi started dragging it off the back of the truck, and Shouta recognized a bad idea when he saw one, quickly getting underneath it as well. Between the two of them, they managed to get it inside without breaking anything or each other. It fit perfectly in the space by the sliding glass door.

With help from Hizashi's parents, Shouta brought the rest of the boxes in while Hizashi focussed on the radio equipment that he didn't trust anyone else to touch. All in all, it wasn't a lot of stuff, but it was more than Shouta had contributed. And they were still lacking most of what he considered essential furniture, including beds. Hizashi's parents gave them a rice cooker as a housewarming gift.

It was a nice one, too. Between his parents and Hizashi's, they were basically set for kitchen appliances.

Shouta stood around uncomfortably as Hizashi's parents noisily said goodbye, and then they were gone. Despite having known Hizashi for years, Shouta suddenly felt a little awkward, though he didn't know why. He looked over at him, watching him fling himself onto the couch and sprawl dramatically.

"This is awesome," Hizashi said blissfully, sinking into the cushions. "Our first place together."

Shouta made a noise of agreement in his throat, sitting down when Hizashi shuffled over.

Hizashi tilted his head to the side, his smile wide and open and doing weird things to Shouta's belly. His blond hair looked wilder than usual, like maybe he was growing it out. He sighed contentedly.

For one brief moment, Shouta allowed himself to feel envious of how relaxed and excited Hizashi seemed to be about everything that was happening, all the changes in their lives, the future. Then he tamped down that feeling, burying it deep in his gut. It was Hizashi who was having the normal reaction, he reminded himself. Whatever was going on Shouta's head was entirely his own problem.

"So I was thinking..." Hizashi said, pausing to let the tension build.

Shouta waited until the mood was set and then added dryly, "It was bound to happen eventually."

Hizashi's smile stretched into a grin. "Funny," he said, giving him a look, and Shouta forced his face to remain blank. "Anyway, I was thinking we should probably buy some more furniture. A table, two chairs, something to sleep on, that sort of thing. Unless you want to sleep on the floor like you were."

"I wasn't sleeping," Shouta protested weakly. "I was resting my eyes."

Hizashi sat up suddenly, leaning over to stare him directly in the face. Shouta refused to wither under his examination, but Hizashi was practically on his lap. "Do you find this place dry? We could get a humidifier. Ugh, I thought I checked that before signing anything. Maybe my hygrometer is busted."

"You own a hygrometer? Why do you even know what that is?"

"I don't know. Reasons," Hizashi said defensively, pulling back. "It's good information to have."

They stared at each other.

Shouta decided to let it drop before things got any more awkward. They had to live together now, and things already felt weird enough with this mood he was in. No point making everything worse. With that in mind, Shouta forced himself to lighten his tone. "Okay," he said, "then let's go buy more furniture. We can have lunch, too."

Hizashi perked up, instantly interested. "Ramen?"

"Sure," Shouta said easily, pushing off the couch. When Hizashi looked up at him imploringly, he offered his hand and pulled him to a stand. Hizashi slid an arm over his shoulders, smiling again.

"This is gonna be great," he said for the hundredth time, giving Shouta a light squeeze.

Shouta nodded, trying to smile and to reinforce his feelings. He wanted to make sure Hizashi understood that this wasn't about him at all. Seeing his expression, Hizashi just poked him in the cheek and laughed when he scowled. Leaning on Shouta's shoulder, Hizashi continued to laugh as they walked outside. Shouta pretended he didn't like it, but, as usual, that just spurred him on more.

They took lunch as an excuse to explore the neighbourhood, walking along the streets and taking note of all the interesting places. Hizashi seemed much more familiar with the area than he was. He feigned surprise when one of the first places they happened upon was a cat cafe. Shouta narrowed his eyes.

"What were the chances?" Hizashi asked, crouching down and pressing his fingers to the glass.

Knowing the odds had nothing to do with it, Shouta gave him a look, but he couldn't resist setting down beside Hizashi. He watch a pair of fluffy grey kittens tumble over each other. They stayed there until the cats scattered, summoned by a call to food. Shouta watched them all run off before standing up.

"Still hungry?" he asked.

Hizashi pointed over his shoulder without looking. "There's a ramen shop over there that's supposed to be good." Then he added loftily, "or so I've heard anyway. This area is totally new to me, I swear."

Shouta did not believe for one moment that it was entirely hearsay, but he followed Hizashi to the shop in question without comment. They stood at the machine, hemming and hawing over the menu, before finally making their selections. Tickets in hand, they sat down at their seats and waited for their food.

The air smelled delicious.

"Hey," Hizashi said suddenly, leaning conspiratorially into Shouta's space, "I think that's Ectoplasm."

Shouta tried not to look. "He'd be hard to mistake for anybody else," he murmured.

"Okay, it's definitely Ectoplasm," Hizashi said, giving him a pointed glare. "Do you think someday people are gonna recognize us? They'll know my voice. Obviously," he added like it was a forgone conclusion. "But when walking in the street. I bet they will. Especially you. The Erasure Hero!"

"Maybe someday," Shouta agreed, though he still had his doubts. He wasn't exactly a flashy guy.

"I'm sure you'll be popular," Hizashi said, patting his arm. "You'll always be my favourite."

Shouta didn't say anything, just stared down at Hizashi's hand, the warmth of his touch permeating the sleeve of his jacket. Hizashi didn't move it until the food came, and even then, Shouta could still feel it.

Shouta waited around patiently as Hizashi tried every chair in the store, moving from one to the other and then back again, stretching in them, hunching over, squirming his hips and seeing how good his ass felt after. Shouta tried not to watch, pretending to be engrossed in his phone, but it was hard to ignore.

Eventually, Hizashi stood up and pointed to one of them. "We have a winner! And it's on sale!"

"Great," Shouta replied, taking mental note that it was the second one he had tried over an hour ago.

But what was actually great was the price. It turned out furniture was expensive. Ridiculously, shockingly expensive. So expensive that Shouta was a bit nervous about his savings, but he was determined to pay his share. He was grateful that Hizashi seemed equally aware of the limits on his own bank account.

"We can cheap out on the table," Hizashi said. "Unless you have strong opinions."

"Not about tables," Shouta assured him.

They picked out a basic one, black to match the grey chairs, before heading towards the mattress area of the store. Shouta almost choked when he saw how many zeros there were on the price tags. Hizashi's expression was unreadable. He stared at the options in front of them for a long time before speaking.

"We could share," he said in a voice so soft that Shouta almost didn't realize it was coming from him.

"I'm a bad sleeper," Shouta said, looking over and trying to read his face, but it was still impossible.

"Yeah, I know. I can sleep through anything. I'm not worried about that." Hizashi pressed his lips together, and Shouta watched how they thinned out, wondering what it meant. "We'd save a lot of money by sharing. And we're have more room to, like, actually move around. And, well, we could make rules. Like... if someone needed the bed for whatever reason, the other could just... go away. "

Shouta flushed a little at that, the implication clear. "I doubt I would ever need it," he muttered.

"I might," Hizashi replied, colour sitting high on his cheeks. "If that's okay with you."

"It's fine. Of course. You don't need to ask me," Shouta mumbled, feeling his own face go even hotter.

He really didn't. Neither of them had dated anyone while at U.A. or in university. Hizashi hadn't had the time between all of his classes and extracurriculars, and Shouta hadn't ever felt the need to, though his schedule had been much more forgiving. But he always assumed Hizashi would eventually. Hizashi was the type of guy people flocked to. Outgoing, charming, funny. Shouta was none of those things.

"I probably snuggle," Hizashi warned.

"I'd be surprised if you didn't," Shouta said with a shrug. "I would rather save my money."

Realizing what Shouta meant, Hizashi clapped his hands together. "Great!" he said, voice too loud for the room. Shouta's ears rang. The sudden change in pitch had been enough to draw a few curious looks in their direction, but they quickly went back to minding their own business. "This is really great."

"You've said that a few times," Shouta pointed out, unable to resist smiling, just a little bit.

Hizashi grinned, cheeks still a bit pink. "I just want you to know how I feel," he said, elbowing him.

Shouta nodded and resisted the urge to elbow him back.

After that, it only took another half an hour to grab everything else – pillows for the couch, a flat-screen television and something for it to sit on, a dresser for their socks, underwear and tee-shirts – and then they paid, forking out the extra money for same-day delivery. Someone would be by after dinner.

"I guess that's it then," Hizashi said after he handed over the yen.

"I guess it is," Shouta agreed, and together, they headed home.

Shouta didn't think about the bed for the rest of the day. There was a grocery store a block from the apartment, and they picked up some things, enough to get them through the next few days. Shouta carried the giant bag of rice while Hizashi strolled beside him, holding the rest of the groceries.

They cleaned the apartment again, taking advantage of it being so empty, then hung out on the couch, thumbing through their phones and showing each other videos of Pro Heroes at work. Inspired, they tossed their costumes in the washing machine then hung them up to dry side-by-side in the bathroom.

Shouta made curry for dinner. They were just finishing when the furniture arrived, carried by a single woman with scaly green skin and arms as thick as Shouta's thighs. She put things where Hizashi asked her to like they weighed nothing, polite but not especially talkative, until Hizashi was signing off.

"Are you guys heroes?" she asked, squinting at them. "You two look kinda familiar."

Hizashi, who had been chatting at her the entire time she was there, brightened even more. "Yep, we are! We just finished school. I'm the Voice Hero, Present Mic, and that's the Erasure Hero, Eraserhead."

Shouta lifted his hand in a half-wave, immediately regretting how uncool it looked.

"Neat," she said, taking the invoice back. "Well, good luck with everything. You'll do great."

"Thanks," Hizashi replied, grabbing his backpack and fishing out a business card. Shouta had no idea that Hizashi was that prepared and tried not to stare as she accepted it. "If you ever need anything to listen to while you're doing deliveries, I'm gonna be hosting a radio show, and it's totally gonna rock."

She left with a promise to tune in. They spent the rest of the night assembling the tables and chairs and getting the TV plugged in and set up. They watched television for a while after, completely worn out. Shouta was already dreading the next day, knowing he was going to wake up even more exhausted.

Eventually, they got ready for bed. Shouta went first. While Hizashi was in the bathroom, he went into Hizashi's backpack and grabbed one of his business cards. They weren't fancy, but they had his Pro Hero name on it and the title of his radio show and various ways to reach him. Shouta swept his thumb over the glossy, embossed ink, feeling the texture of the letters and the high quality of the paper used.

When he heard Hizashi moving around, he stuffed it back in his bag and went into the bedroom.

Suddenly the bed he hadn't been thinking about all day was the only thing he could think about.

"My mom gave me some bedding," Hizashi said, coming into the room and smelling like mint toothpaste. He had shorts on but no shirt. He didn't seem at all fazed about the prospect of sleeping half-naked in bed with his male best friend. Shouta, on the other hand, was keenly aware of the fact.

He felt a little overdressed wearing a long-sleeved shirt and one of his pairs of pyjama pants, the fabric a soft purple with sleeping grey cats all over it, but it was better than both of them being half-naked.

"And hey," Hizashi said suddenly, breaking through Shouta's worry, "I brought your blanket!"

Shouta glanced at it. "That's still a sleeping bag," he said.

"Same difference," Hizashi said, shaking it out. "Do you want the right side or the left side?"

"I don't care."

"I'll take the right, so I'm the one against the wall. Then you can do your thing in the morning. Okay?"

"That's fine," Shouta said, watching as Hizashi made the bed, trepidation growing in his belly.

Once he was done, Hizashi flopped onto the mattress and sighed, eyes half-closed. "I don't make any noise when I sleep," he murmured, snuggling into his pillow. Shouta turned off the overhead light and climbed into bed. "It was the first thing my mom trained me out of. But if I do, you can erase me."

"Okay," Shouta replied, pulling the sleeping bag up to his neck, staring at the ceiling. He expected Hizashi to say something else, but when Shouta looked over at him, he was already fast asleep. Unbelievable, Shouta thought, scowling into the dark, just like that. He knew he had hours ahead of him still.

It also turned out that Hizashi had been right about one thing: he did snuggle.

Shouta, with a long-suffering sigh, let him.

The first few days living with Hizashi were uncomfortable but not unbearably so.

Shouta blamed his feelings on his exhaustion and his persistent anxiety about the future. Every morning, he gingerly extricated himself from Hizashi's arms and crept into the living room, sitting by the window until he heard Hizashi moving around. On one occasion, he went for a walk, the streets practically empty, businesses all closed up for the night. He was getting sick of watching the sunrise.

He just wanted to sleep through the night, a full eight hours, and feel rested in the morning.

It was such a little thing to ask.

But he wanted a lot of things and got none of them. He guessed this was just how life worked now.

Being an adult kind of sucked, he decided. He wondered when things would get better. If they would.

Eventually, he turned around and walked home. He tried not to worry about it.

On the fourth day, after waking up far too early, he bathed before dressing in his costume, deciding this was the day he would go out on patrol and see what happened. He may have had his doubts about the rest of his life, but he was confident in his ability as a Pro Hero. He wasn't the kid he used to be.

He was making breakfast for both of them when Hizashi appeared, hair a wild tangle around his head.

"Coffee?" Hizashi asked pitifully, and Shouta pushed a steaming mug in his direction.

While he finished up cooking, Shouta watched Hizashi out of the corner of his eyes. The shorts he wore to bed were rumpled, hanging low on his hips. The dark blond hair on his lower belly peeked out above his waistband. He had a good body, lean and fit. Whoever ended up dating him would be very happy.

Shouta scooped the rice into two bowls, cracking an egg into each one. He took the fish off the frying pan and put them onto plates then poured out two servings of miso soup, careful not to spill. Hizashi made a sound of pleasure from deep in his throat as Shouta brought all the food over to the table.

"You are the best," Hizashi told him.

Shouta sat down. "I won't be home until the evening," he said, stirring his egg into his rice. "Probably."

"Your first day as a Pro Hero," Hizashi said, brightening immediately. "Remind me to take pictures!"

"I've already done plenty of Work-Studies," Shouta protested, shaking his head. "This doesn't count."

"It totally does. This is the beginning of your new life. It's important. I'm taking pictures!"

Shouta shrugged. "If you say so," he said.

Despite his protests, he let Hizashi take photos of him in his costume, but he absolutely refused to smile. Nothing new, and from Hizashi's teasing, entirely expected, but even if he was feeling excited, that emotion was muted by a mix of nerves, exhaustion, and disappointment. This wasn't how he had expected his life as a Pro Hero to go. He'd had different dreams once upon a time. Better dreams.

This was what was left.

It could have been the three of them – they'd talked about it, they'd planned for it, they'd been looking forward to it – and instead, it was just him, alone, pretending he knew exactly what he was doing.

Shouta settled into his new life. He stopped a lot of small-time criminals and participated in one large-scale battle, fighting alongside All Might, who was just as intimidating as Shouta expected him to be. But he held his own and that was all that mattered, even earning a clap on the back for his heroics.

He ran into Nemuri afterwards. He couldn't help but scowl as she approached. She just grinned at him.

"So when's the housewarming?" she asked. "I'm free on Saturday night. What time should I show up?"

"Let me check with Yamada," he said morosely, unlocking his phone and sending a text message, hoping Hizashi was busy. He got an instant reply: seven!! say hello!!! He looked back up at Nemuri, who was watching him with an amused expression on her face. "He says seven. He also says hello."

"I say hello back," she replied. "See, that wasn't so hard, was it? I really want to see this love-nest of yours." Laughing, she punched him lightly in the fleshy part of his upper arm as his scowl deepened.

Shouta thought about protesting, but then he remembered the mattress they shared and decided he would let Hizashi talk her out of her delusions. She had always read too much into their relationship. They were friends, something Shouta had precious few of. Anything else was just her imagination.

By Thursday night, Shouta was beyond exhaustion. He spent all evening on the couch, hardly able to think, with Hizashi beside him, laughing at the game show they were watching. He'd felt like this before, and the one good thing about it meant that it would be one of those rare nights where his body overrode his mind and he actually slept. It would give him enough energy to keep going.

He barely remembered falling into bed. He hadn't even put a shirt on. It'd felt like too much effort.

He woke up to Hizashi meowing.

"Stop," he muttered, shoving at him, angry. He'd been having a good sleep, and he could tell by the slow creep of light that it was still too early. Hizashi didn't wake up, just snuggled closer, head tucked under Shouta's chin. The meowing continued. "Stop," he said again, now closer to awake than not.

"You stop," Hizashi muttered, rubbing his face against Shouta's neck. "Why are you meowing?"

"It isn't me," Shouta said, keenly aware of how much bare skin they had pressed together and the noticeable length of heat pressing into his hip. Shouta's face went red. He shouldn't have been surprised – he knew how he usually woke up, with this morning being no exception – but he was still a little dazed from sleep.

Hizashi sat up suddenly, pulling away. "Did you sneak a cat in?" he asked, peering at him blearily.

"Why would I sneak a cat in?" Shouta asked, reaching for a tee-shirt and frantically tugging it on.

"Because you love cats," Hizashi replied. "Because whenever you see a cat you..."

"I what?" Shouta asked when Hizashi paused.

"I don't know. You... soften. It's like you're happy for a moment. It's okay if you snuck a cat in."

"I did not sneak a cat in."

Hizashi stared at him for a moment, but he relented as the cacophony increased. It was loud enough to wake the neighbours, and it was likely that thought occurred had also occurred to Hizashi because all of a sudden they were both scrambling out of bed and racing into the living room in search of the noise.

A large orange cat sat on the other side of the sliding glass door, yowling its head off. Hizashi fumbled with the lock, sliding it open, and the giant cat peered up at him, distracted into silence. But the moment he closed the door, the cat returned to making a racket. Hizashi yanked on the handle again.

"Get in here before you get us evicted," Hizashi hissed at it.

The cat sauntered in, immediately rubbing up against Hizashi's legs. Hizashi quickly closed the door.

Shouta crouched down. "It's not wearing a collar," he said. "Maybe it's been micro-chipped."

"I can take it to the vet after my radio show," Hizashi said, filling a dish with water and placing it on the floor. The cat took a few measured licks before walking over to Shouta, weaving between his ankles. Hizashi smirked. "Then you don't have to cry if it turns out it has an owner and we can't keep it."

"I wouldn't cry," Shouta protested as the cat plopped down on top of his feet and started to purr loudly.

By Friday night, they had a cat.

They spent Saturday buying supplies for the housewarming party – which was hardly a party with just the three of them – and their new cat, who they hadn't named yet. They went through the effort of putting up Found posters in case someone was looking for him, but Shouta hadn't seen any Lost posters, and he hadn't been micro-chipped either.

Shouta tried not to get too attached, but the cat had other ideas. When they took a break for lunch, the cat jumped into his lap and started rumbling like a jet engine, so Shouta ate with one hand and petted the cat with the other. And despite the fact the cat was loud, he quieted immediately whenever Hizashi used what he called his radio voice. "He slept through my entire show," Hizashi said, marvelling.

Between the bed and the cat and the cozy apartment, he didn't know what Nemuri would think.

Nothing good, he thought grimly. Nothing right.

Hizashi was putting the final touches on the playlist when there was a knock on the door. Shouta moved the cat off his lap and went to answer it even though Nemuri was unfashionably early.

"Guess who I ran into?" Nemuri said, pushing into the apartment and kicking off her boots. She gestured impatiently at a sheepish Iida Tensei standing in the hallway. "He lives around the corner," she said, yanking him inside. "I had a suspicion I was the only one invited, so I've at least made it a party."

"I'm sorry," Tensei said. "She was very insistent."

"It's okay," Shouta insisted, sympathizing. "You're welcome to join us. I hope you've been well."

Tensei toed off his shoes and stepping into the living area. "It's been an adjustment. I saw you on the news fighting alongside All Might. And Yamada, I listened to your first show. It was highly enjoyable."

"Thanks," Hizashi said, turning the music on and adjusting the volume on his computer until it was just right. "Come in, come in," he added, waving Nemuri and Tensei over. "I'll give you the grand tour."

Shouta busied himself with preparing drinks while Hizashi showed them around. There wasn't much to see except that bed, which was definitely going to give people ideas. Wrong ideas. About him and Hizashi. He didn't particularly care about any other ideas people might get, but he cared about that one.

"And this is our cat," Hizashi said once his tour was over. "At least temporarily."

Tensei knelt down and started petting him. The purring was obscenely loud. "Does he have a name?"

"Not yet," Shouta said. "He might still have an owner. We can't put him outside. He's too noisy."

"Just like one of his fathers," Nemuri murmured, giving Shouta a pointed look.

Shouta rolled his eyes and shoved a drink into her hand. She made a face as she tasted it – he hadn't actually mixed drinks before, so he suspected he had made them a little strong – but she just shrugged and continued to drink it. Shouta took a sniff of his own and immediately regretted it. He definitely needed a better recipe, but he brought the other two glasses over to Tensei and Hizashi anyway.

He hoped they would forgive him.

Despite his apprehension, it turned out to be a pleasant evening. Tensei had attended U.A. with them, but they had never moved in the same friend group, so it was nice to get to know him a little better. And like the rest of them, he had gone the university route after high school, giving himself more options. He spoke about running his own agency, which at the moment consisted of him and two mostly unknown sidekicks working out of a temporary storefront with a pest problem while he looked for better options.

"Not too busy yet," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "But we'll get there."

Hizashi grabbed his backpack. "We should exchange cards. I'll advertise for you on my show!"

"I'll play your show in my waiting room!" Tensei replied, already holding out his card.

They listened to Hizashi's playlist and gossiped about Pro Heroes and ate through the package of mochi they'd bought while grocery shopping. They opened the housewarming gift from Nemuri – a set of delicately painted bowls with wooden chopsticks, far more tasteful than he expected from her – and then Tensei, who had clearly grabbed a random handful of onigiri from the J Store around the corner.

They ate those, too.

At the end of the night, Hizashi and Nemuri went outside to spy on the neighbours. They were also having a party, one that was much louder than their own. Shouta stayed inside with Tensei and the cat.

"I didn't know you and Yamada were together," Tensei said conversationally, the cat draped over his thighs as Tensei petted him, fingers combing through the bright orange fur. The cat purred in delight.

"We're not," Shouta replied, reaching out to poke the tip of the cat's tail. It flicked away at his touch.

"Ah," Tensei said, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly, "my apologies."

But he didn't sound apologetic at all. Tensei's smile softened, and Shouta glanced away, keenly aware of the heat on his own face. The cat climbed into his lap and curled into a warm, rumbling ball. Shouta stared down at it. How embarrassing, he thought, to make such a mistake. But Tensei didn't look embarrassed.

Shouta honestly didn't know what else to say, so he didn't say anything at all. It just felt easier that way.

Three days later, Hizashi went on a date.

That same morning, Hizashi sat down at the kitchen table and said, "we have to talk."

Shouta looked up from his natto. "Okay," he said warily. He hated discussions that started like this.

"I matched with somebody on this" – Hizashi waved his phone around, an app open that Shouta didn't recognize, but then again, Hizashi was waving it so frantically that the screen was mostly a blur – "and now I'm going on a date. Tonight. I am going on a date tonight. With somebody else. Tonight."

"Do you need the bed?" Shouta asked.

"No," Hizashi said, shaking his head, taken aback by the question. "I just wanted you to know."

"Well, congratulations then."

"It's this guy," Hizashi said, putting the screen in his face. The smiling face of a man grinned back, handsome and affable and clean-shaven. A salaryman of some sort, Shouta thought, judging from the way he was dressed. The fact it was a guy was not the part that surprised him, though he suspected it should have been. He was more surprised that Hizashi had gone for a guy in a grey suit with a regular job.

"Did you know?" Hizashi asked, laying the phone on the table then staring at it. "That I'm bi?"

"No," Shouta said honestly. He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. "Did you know that I'm gay?"

Hizashi looked at him, visibly startled. He laughed a little. "No, I didn't. That's cool, though."

"Yeah," Shouta agreed, his heart beating hard in his chest, completely unexpectedly. He had always told himself, if the topic ever came up with Hizashi, he'd be able to say it, no problem. But now that he had finally come out to him, he realized it'd been harder than he thought it would be. What Nemuri thought about him didn't matter, but what Hizashi thought definitely did. "I hope your date goes well."

"Oh, yeah, thanks." Hizashi looked down at his phone. "Are you interested in anyone?"

"I don't have time right now," Shouta replied, which wasn't really an answer, but Hizashi accepted it with a brief nod, eyes still fixed on the top of the table and the open dating profile. Shouta wondered what it said, what had attracted Hizashi to this salaryman. He hoped the guy would be nice to him.

Over the next few weeks, Shouta focussed on work. Hizashi started going on dates more often, leaving Shouta alone in the apartment with the cat. He used to appreciate having extended periods of time to himself, but even though he and Hizashi barely had any breaks from each other except when they were working, he never felt smothered by his presence. Shouta liked coming home to him after a hard day.

And it was hard work being a Pro Hero. Harder than he ever expected it would be. He got beat up regularly by people with physical quirks, people he couldn't erase, and that definitely sucked, but the worst was dealing with the public, who didn't always treat him like he was a person instead of a thing.

To them, he was just another Pro Hero, another tool. He took a lot of shit for things he couldn't control.

It could be thankless work.

Nobody ever asked for autographs or photos either, which was completely fine. He hadn't made a name for himself yet, not really. He had attended some of the best hero schools, and that counted for something, but it was still just a start. He wasn't sure the alternative would be any better, but maybe he wouldn't get yelled at so much.

Sometimes, when he was out on patrol, he saw Hizashi, dressed in costume and surrounded by a crowd. Hizashi never approached him, never suggested they work together, but he always waved when he caught sight of Shouta, regardless of what he was in the middle of. He always looked happy to see him.

But for the most part, Shouta was alone. He only teamed up when it was absolutely necessary. And while he and Hizashi met up with Nemuri and Tensei when their schedules allowed, that wasn't often.

He told himself that was the way he wanted it. He told himself a lot of things.

At least he had the cat for company.

Nobody had ever called about the Found posters, and Shouta still hadn't seen any Lost posters looking for a giant orange tomcat, so he supposed the cat really was theirs now. He still didn't have a name, but he didn't seem to mind. He slept with them every night, usually perched on the fan of Hizashi's hair.

"It's fine," Hizashi assured him, already half asleep. "Maybe I'll grow it out so he has more to sit on."

"You really shouldn't encourage him," Shouta replied.

"He probably won't even notice that's what I'm doing," Hizashi murmured, eyes closing, drifting off, and if it didn't bother Hizashi then it didn't bother him either. It became just another part of their routine, like their breakfasts in the morning before work or their visits to the ramen shop on Saturday.

It became just another part of their life together.

At almost the month mark, Shouta woke to a loud beeping sound. He moaned pitifully, pulling the pillow over his head and pressing it to his ears. "What is that?" he groaned. "It's so obnoxious."

"It's my alarm," Hizashi told him, reaching over to turn it off. His bare chest slid over Shouta's. It'd been too hot the night before to wear anything more than shorts to bed, and even those had felt like too much. "You finally slept through the entire night. I knew you were getting close. Haven't you noticed?"

"No," Shouta admitted. He hadn't. He'd had too many other things on his mind.

"Present Mic's magic snuggles at your service," Hizashi said, beaming down at him.

Shouta felt heat spread throughout his body. His breath heightened, and the thump of his heart sounded louder than the purring of their cat, which was, as usual, deafening. He looked at Hizashi's mouth and the slice of his smile, and he allowed himself to feel that thing he had been denying himself for long. Just for a moment, he thought. That was all he needed to take the edge off.

And then he let it go. He wouldn't let himself be jealous of Hizashi and his never-ending dates. He wanted Hizashi to be happy, to be loved, and he would support him in that. Of course he would.

"Do you feel better?" Hizashi asked, eyes fixed on Shouta's face. "More rested?"

"A little," Shouta said, but he realized he was telling the truth. He hadn't noticed, it had happened so gradually, but while he was still tired, it was no longer overwhelming, no longer controlling his life. It was the sort of tired a person felt after a hard day's work. Maybe it meant he could start napping again.

That would be great. Shouta had always loved his naps. If he could have those back, he would be happy, too. It would be close enough, anyway.

Shouta became a master at pretending Hizashi's love life didn't bother him.

He threw himself into his work. He worked with Tensei on a big case, the type that made a name for a Hero. Tensei gave him his card but didn't ask him to join Team Idaten, which Shouta had been worried about. Maybe he'd been warned by someone. That was the ideal. That was what Shouta wanted.

Other days weren't so productive. He got the crap beaten out of him on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

Feeling utterly deflated, he limped home. Best Jeanist had had to show up to save him. Embarrassing.

While Shouta was struggling to get the key in the lock, Hizashi arrived looking equally rough. His speaker was broken, and he was missing a boot and his right sleeve. They took one look at each other then dissolved into hysterical laughter, wincing with each exuberant breath. Stumbling into the apartment, they collapsed onto the couch together, sprawling as they laughed. The cat jumped up between them and immediately started purring.

They laughed for a good five minutes. Shouta's sides hurt, either from the laughter or the bruised ribs.

"That was such a shitty day," Hizashi said, causing them to break into laughter again. "Just terrible."

"I had to be rescued by Best Jeanist," Shouta admitted ruefully, rubbing the tears from his eyes. Even with the pain, the laughter had felt good. He couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed like that.

"I think mine might be worse." Hizashi lolled his head towards Shouta. "Endeavor. I got a stern talking to."

They started laughing again.

Too sore to attempt anything fancier, they ate instant ramen for dinner. Shouta felt like a giant walking bruise, so when Hizashi turned to him and asked, "Sento?" he immediately agreed. The ancient bathroom was his only real complaint about their apartment. The tub sucked and needed to be replaced.

Gingerly, they walked to the bathhouse, occasionally stumbling into each other. Shouta could already feel his muscles stiffening. They paid their entrance fee then went inside to put away their clothes and shoes. Shouta was happily surprised to find the bathing area empty. He was not in the mood for people tonight.

Hizashi sat down on the stool next to him and started fiddling with the taps until he was happy with the temperature.

"I feel like an old man," Hizashi confessed. He filled his own bucket then did Shouta's as well.

"I'm taking tomorrow off," Shouta replied, reaching for the soap. Exhaling sharply, he started washing, knowing the quicker he got it over with, the sooner he could soak. He was nauseous from the pain by the time he got to his toes. Quickly sitting up, he glanced over at Hizashi, who was gritting his teeth.

"Can you do my back?" Hizashi asked, forehead slick with sweat.

Shouta nodded, watching as Hizashi twisted around on the stool. A dark purple bruise was already blooming at the base of his spine, and Shouta could see the shadow of a similar mark under his arm. Carefully, he started washing him, trying not to worsen his pain. Hizashi sighed softly and relaxed.

"Is that okay?" Shouta asked after a few minutes.

"It feels good," Hizashi assured him. Somehow, Shouta knew his eyes were closed. "I'll do you now."

Shouta nodded, too slow to realize that Hizashi had already turned to face him. Shouta's eyes automatically flickered over Hizashi's bruised body, sweeping over every inch of glistening skin. Flushing slightly, he looked up, fixing his gaze on Hizashi's bare throat and the hypnotic lift of his chest as he breathed. He'd seen Hizashi naked countless times over the years, but that had been before.

Things were different now, but Hizashi didn't seem uncomfortable, so Shouta tried not to be either.

Especially since Hizashi was looking back at him.

"I'm glad Best Jeanist was there to save you," Hizashi said softly, smudging his thumb over a bruise on Shouta's ribs. Embarrassingly, Shouta hardened a bit at the gentle touch, but at least Hizashi was in a similar state. Adrenaline and pain was a strange combination. Their bodies were just reacting to it.

Without saying anything else, Shouta turned around and let Hizashi soap his back. They rinsed off then walked gingerly to the baths, which were also empty. Shouta picked the hottest one and slid in, sighing at the instant relief of the heat. Beside him, Hizashi sunk down to his chin and sighed with pleasure.

"Oh, that's nice," he breathed, tilting his head back. "We should just live here now. The cat will hate it."

Shouta snorted. "I'm not moving again," he said. "Once was enough."

Hizashi laughed. "We might want a bigger place someday. You never know what the future holds."

"Yeah," Shouta murmured, trying to imagine it. It was getting easier to look forward. A little, anyway.

"If this Pro Hero gig doesn't work out, we could always be teachers. We have university degrees now!"

"Never," Shouta replied, huffing a small laugh of his own. "Stop me if I ever seriously consider it."

"Whatever you want," Hizashi said, smiling at him, and Shouta smiled back, even though it hurt.

It was almost enough, the life he and Hizashi had made together. Hizashi still went out on his dates, but he never brought anybody home and he never introduced anyone to Shouta. He mentally prepared for the day that would happen. He would be happy for him, of course. That was what best friends did.

So it was almost enough, but not entirely. He at least could admit that much to himself now.

It might have gone on forever if Nemuri hadn't invited herself and Tensei over without any warning.

"I'm hungry and bored," she announced, plopping down the couch. "Entertain me." The cat jumped onto her lap, demanding to be petted, and Nemuri started stroking his back, his purrs as loud as a race car. "So when's Yamada coming inside? We tried getting his attention, but he had his headphones on."

"He's on a date," Shouta said. "He won't be back until later."

Tensei and Nemuri exchanged glances. "Uh," Tensei said, "Yamada is sitting by himself in the park."

Shouta stared at them.

"The park down the road?" Nemuri prompted. "Where he spends half his time? I see him there constantly when I'm trying to drag Iida out to have some fun. Which I don't invite you two homebodies to because you're both incredibly dull. Too domestic, like you've been married for years. It's shameful."

"It's also about to rain," Tensei added, peering out the window. "He's going to get soaked."

Shouta glanced outside, seeing the ominous clouds forming. "I'll be right back," he said.

"Take your time," Nemuri assured him. "And if you two haven't worked out whatever this" – she waved her hand in the air, gesturing around the apartment, but he knew she probably meant the bed and how they'd been sleeping together, tangled up, for months – "is by the time you get back, I'm gonna have to intervene, and you know how descriptive I can be about relationships and all the fun stuff that comes with them."

Shouta, already half out the door, ignored her.

He found Hizashi sitting on the grass in the park, eating cold soba noodles and bouncing his head in time to the music he was listening to. Shouta watched him from a distance for a bit, in case he wasn't alone, but nobody joined him after five minutes of waiting. The sky looked perilously close to a downpour.

Shouta approached him cautiously then sat down beside him. Hizashi jumped when he finally noticed Shouta there, dumping his soba noodles all over the grass. He pulled the headphones off his ears.

"Shit, you scared me," he said.

"What happened to your date?" Shouta asked.

"Oh, that." Hizashi put his headphones on the ground beside the spilled noodles. "Well. You know."

"No, I don't know."

"There haven't been many dates," Hizashi confessed, scratching a hand sheepishly through his hair. "I just... you like your alone time, and I don't want to be in your space all the time, like, suffocating you. And a couple hours here does me good, too. Helps me sort out my head. Like... fresh air, you know?"

"How many dates?" Shouta pressed. "Were there ever any dates?"

"There was one date," Hizashi confirmed, "the salaryman, but, uh, well..." He shrugged lightly.

But that wasn't good enough.

Suddenly, Shouta needed to know. He thought he'd understood everything, and now he was wondering if he understood anything at all. He was both angry and relieved. And it was the relief that terrified him.

"But well what?"

Hizashi shrugged again.

"Hizashi," Shouta said.

That earned a small, crooked smile. "He wasn't you," he said softly.

Shouta felt the knot that had been in his chest for weeks, months, years loosen. He stared down at his hands.

"It's okay if you don't feel the same," Hizashi assured him, patting his back. "I'll get over it."

Shouta tightened his fists, fingernails digging into his palms. "I feel the same," he whispered, even though it cost him everything he'd been trying to bury inside him since Oboro had died. Hizashi reached over and took his hands, unfolding his fingers. He gently pressed them to his mouth.

"Then why do you look so miserable?"

"Because it wasn't supposed to be like this," Shouta admitted, the words bursting out of him. "Because it was supposed to be better."

"I miss him, too," Hizashi said softly, still holding onto Shouta's hands. "And I understand that none of this is how we imagined it would be. I've tried to give you space. To give you time. To be your best friend. I don't know if I've been any good at it or just made things worse, but I want you to be happy."

"I'm not unhappy," Shouta said, surprised to find that it was true. "And you haven't made anything worse. Weird, yes, but not worse."

"I'm just a weird guy, I guess," Hizashi replied, squeezing Shouta's hands. "You don't seem to mind."

"Clearly not."

Hizashi tilted his head and smiled, his expression as bright as sunshine, and Shouta smiled back at him. His vision was embarrassingly blurry. Not now, he thought, but all the emotion he'd been suppressing for ages was finally bubbling to the surface. The disappointment, the grief, the love. It was the last one that he wanted to hold onto and bring to the future. The others could stay where they were.

"So what does this mean?" Shouta asked once he'd found his voice again, however wobbly it sounded.

"Well, as good a kisser as I am, I don't think one kiss from me will solve all of your problems. But it might help."

Shouta snorted wetly. "You have a very high opinion of yourself," he said.

Hizashi kissed his knuckles again. "I think, if you let yourself have this one thing, the other things might start to come easier. I mean, I could be wrong, and I think you should seriously consider talking to someone, but... we're already there. Dating. Caring for each other. Loving each other. We have been for a while. We share a bed, Shouta. We have a cat, and a home, and did I mention the bed?"

"You were the one who suggested it," Shouta muttered, flushing.

"You were the one who agreed to it," Hizashi pointed out.

"Kayama thinks we're idiots. Iida probably does, too, but he's too polite to say it to our faces."

"We were just working at our own pace. We have decades ahead of us to prove them both wrong."

They smiled at each other again, hands still joined, and Shouta realized Hizashi was waiting for him. Shouta had always been the type of guy who, once he put his mind to something, followed through, even if it was hard. He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Hizashi's smiling lips, kissing him.

Hizashi kissed him back.

It started to rain eventually, soaking them to the bone, but they kept on kissing.

There was no longer any reason to stop. If there ever had been. In that moment, his vision suddenly clear, Shouta started looking forward to the future and whatever it held. To going back to their apartment. To telling their friends what they already knew. To sleeping through the sunrise tomorrow.

And, of course, to whatever they named the cat. He had waited long enough.