“You were going easy on me today.”
He felt a bit bad saying it, and he said it almost under his breath, looking away, hoping that his words didn’t come off as disrespectful.
“You weren’t feeling well a couple days ago and I assumed that you aren’t completely over being sick.”
Aizawa didn’t seem very fazed by Hitoshi’s words, and when he looked back up at his teacher, Aizawa only gave him his usual yawn and tired look. He’d met back up with Aizawa at the front of the training center after their session and though Hitoshi never really allowed himself to expect or hope for anything, this wasn’t usually where their activities ended. He shifted on his feet, a distinct tickle in his lungs reminding him of Aizawa’s words, and he fought down a cough.
“I’m feeling better,” He told him, and despite the urge to cough, it was true. He’d been a mess at the start of the week, hardly able to function, let alone train with Aizawa. The school had threatened to send him home multiple times, but he’d stayed, and then had insisted to Aizawa that he would be fine to train after school. He was realizing now that Aizawa had been right to refuse him that day.
He finally gave a small, hoarse cough, and Aizawa stared at him with dark eyes.
“Did you go to that appointment?”
Hitoshi had to look away again out of pure embarrassment, “Yeah. It’s fine. Just some sort of stupid infection. They gave me medication and everything there, and said to get more sleep. Whatever, it’s gotten better.”
There was a pause, and Hitoshi rubbed the back of his neck in the silence. Aizawa had a way of not saying much a lot of the time, and Hitoshi felt the need to fill the silence with his own words. He’d learned over these past couple months that Aizawa’s silence didn’t necessarily mean he was angry with him. He just didn’t talk a lot. That was fine; Hitoshi just wasn’t used to silence not meaning bad things.
“Uh, thanks for that, by the way,” He’d already said it before, but he didn’t really think he’d properly gotten his point across the first time.
“Don’t worry about it. You were in no state to make the appointment yourself,” As usual, Aizawa was completely nonchalant. Nothing really seemed to surprise him. He was typically pretty stoic, never really showing much emotion and at first, that had been admittedly difficult for Hitoshi to deal with, despite being the same way himself. He’d always idolized and looked up to Aizawa, and it’d taken a while for him to realize that Aizawa’s stoicism was just the way he was, and it didn’t mean that he was irritated by Hitoshi or anything.
Aizawa was a weird guy, but Hitoshi looked up to him more than anyone else in his life.
“Have you eaten?” Aizawa’s voice drew Hitoshi out of his thoughts, and he simply shook his head as an answer. It was the weekend and there hadn’t been school, so he’d just taken the train straight here from home. It was fine. No one would miss him unless he wasn’t home by his curfew. Aizawa wasn’t surprised by the answer, instead pulling a pair of winter gloves on, “Let’s go, then. I want food.”
Hitoshi only nodded, having already pulled on the wool hat and scarf he had, his hands wrapped in a pair of gloves Aizawa had lent him a few weeks ago after discovering that Hitoshi didn’t own a proper pair. They were a bit big for him, but he didn’t care in the least. He followed behind Aizawa as he left the training center, walking at his side as they headed into the cold air of the city, not questioning where Aizawa was taking him. He felt content to just walk by his side in the silence of the softly buzzing city.
Shinsou Hitoshi had a bit of a problem, and he was well aware of that.
He’d told himself for most of his life that he didn’t really care if he was pushed from foster home to foster home. He had his goals and had set himself to working solely on them, not really caring how the adults in his life treated him. He’d heard the same thing his entire life—he wasn’t fit to be a hero, his quirk was more villainous than anything, he’d be nothing but a joke if he got into hero school. People were uncreative and he’d heard the same things said to him for over a decade. By now, it was nothing new, nor was it anything new to be shoved into a new foster family who only took him in because there was nowhere else for him to go and they wanted another kid to add to the paycheck they already got.
Hitoshi knew that the system he was in wasn’t all bad, but for someone like him, it was. He had a scary quirk. The normal, caring foster parents didn’t want someone who could literally brainwash them into doing whatever he wanted. He was too much of a liability, and those types of parents wanted someone they didn’t have to live in fear of, someone they could fix. His quirk was a permanent thing. He’d remain a threat the entire time he was in their care. So the only people who agreed to take him in were the ones who didn’t care that he was a liability, and those people also didn’t care about him as a person. Which, he’d resolved, was fine.
He’d always told himself that he’d show everyone around him by becoming a hero and then people would start liking him for who he actually was, because they’d see that his quirk wasn’t a villainous thing. That was when he could start making friends and relationships.
But then he’d actually gotten into UA and his classmates had been the exact opposite of almost every kid he’d grown up around, and that had threw him off.
To make matters worse, he’d found out that the underground hero he’d idolized since elementary school taught the hero course—the very same course he was trying to get into. And then, to make things even worse, Aizawa had approached him after the sports festival with the proposition of personally training him. Hitoshi had almost thought he’d died right there, because he’d never imagined anything like this.
Hitoshi remembered the day he’d first heard of Eraserhead, the pro hero. He’d been five and he knew now that Aizawa must have been just starting out his career and hadn’t properly avoided cameras during a solo-takedown of a group of criminals. He’d been all over the news and Hitoshi had caught him on television while living in a group home. He remembered being blown away that there was hero with a quirk like that, someone who had no physical superhuman advantages, someone who’d trained to become so strong and powerful.
And Hitoshi had never forgotten about him.
He couldn’t do much at first, being five years old, but he’d printed out a photo of Eraser and stuck it above his bed in the group home. He’d researched as much as he could and when he got older, he’d wandered onto forums that focused on underground heroes and had found out more than before. It’d been incredible to learn that there was a hero like him, someone with a non-physical quirk, a quirk that some said was better fit for a villain, and it had given him hope. Hitoshi had idolized Aizawa in the same way that people idolized All Might. It was just a little harder to find things about him.
When he’d actually met Aizawa after the sports festival, he’d partially tried to convince himself that he’d held the underground hero to an impossible standard and there was no way he could actually be that great. He’d stayed up at night before the training had started, trying to get himself to stop looking up to him so much, trying to convince himself that Eraser might actually be some total asshole who was only doing this because he was pressured to and that Eraser would work him hard and be just like every other adult in his life.
That had all been crushed on the first day, when Aizawa had told him that he’d been in general studies fifteen years ago and thought the entrance exam was unfair. He had been his usual dry, mostly stoic self, but that didn’t mean that he was mean. Hitoshi had found out in that first session that Aizawa was, oddly enough, nice. That green-haired kid from the heroics course had told him sometime afterwards that Aizawa was actually a softie, and Hitoshi had seen that that day.
Training turned out to be fine, too. Hitoshi was learning a lot from it. The most notable thing was that, unlike every other adult in his life, Aizawa wasn’t at all afraid of Hitoshi’s quirk. He had no objections to Hitoshi speaking freely and when they did sessions to strengthen Hitoshi’s control over it, Aizawa never seemed to even hesitate in letting him use it against him.
It was a new experience to be trusted. Aizawa was careful with him, and was always aware of his strength advantage over Hitoshi. They sparred, and while Hitoshi had permission to go at Aizawa with all his strength, he could tell that Aizawa held back to level the playing field between them. He never left any marks on Hitoshi, and ‘defeat’ always just consisted of Aizawa pinning Hitoshi, rather than actually hurting him.
But now, Shinsou Hitoshi had a bit of a problem, and that problem was that he’d gotten attached to Aizawa Shouta. And somewhere along the line had started seeing him as a parental figure, a replacement for all the foster home parents who’d passed him along and never quite done their job.
“How are things at home?”
Hitoshi glanced up at Aizawa, finding the teacher looking down at him again. Aizawa was only a bit taller than him, enough so that Hitoshi still had to look up at him a bit, but Hitoshi was far lankier than he was. Aizawa had forgone his usual hero uniform today, and Hitoshi suspected that it was due to him being off duty right now, bringing his thoughts back to how Aizawa had taken time out of his days off to train him and now, to spend a few mundane hours with him.
He didn’t really know why Aizawa bothered with him, but it wasn’t something he was going to complain about. He knew not to take things he had for granted.
“They’re… okay,” He glanced off to the side, still not used to actually talking about his home life with anyone, much less an adult or his teacher. Still, Aizawa already knew. One of the things Hitoshi had quickly learned about him was that he didn’t typically hide things. He’d made it clear that he’d read Hitoshi’s thick joint foster care and school file during one of their first training sessions and to his shock, Aizawa hadn’t seemed off-put by it in the least. He rubbed a gloved hand at the back of his neck again, feeling obligated to explain more, “I, uh, got into a little argument with one of my… parents. He said he was going to put it in my record, so if you see that show up…”
He glanced at Aizawa to see him raise an eyebrow at him, “Was it about the dorm situation again?”
Hitoshi let out a sigh and nodded, “He really doesn’t like the idea of giving up custody of me, even partially. I guess he’s just scared, or something.”
Aizawa continued to fix him with his hard stare, “Scared of losing a paycheck, maybe.”
“You can be really blunt sometimes, you know,” Hitoshi was well aware that he had a bit of a tongue on him sometimes, but he’d learned to only let it slip occasionally. He still got in trouble for it at home, but here, he was never reprimanded. Hitoshi had come to the conclusion that he never actually did it enough for Aizawa to consider it disrespectful.
“I just want you to be aware of the actual problem here, and that that problem isn’t you,” Somehow, though, despite his dryness and tendency to be blunt and overt with everything, Aizawa’s words did reassure him a little. “Do your best not to deal with it. Focus on your studies and training. The problem is between your foster father and me and for him to take it out on you is irrational. Ignore it the best you can.”
“I’ll try,” Hitoshi assured him, daring to meet Aizawa’s gaze for a moment. The world around them was beginning to get dark, despite it still being early in the afternoon. The sky was a grey color, and the lights lining the streets were beginning to turn on as they walked together. The air was cold, but Hitoshi felt pretty warm, given that he was now properly prepared for the winter.
Aizawa had done a lot of things for him in these past few months, things that were completely unnecessary and went beyond his role of a teacher. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but Hitoshi thought that maybe it was evidence that Aizawa realized that he had some sort of parental role with Hitoshi. He’d never talked to Aizawa about it, mostly because he hadn’t wanted to be disappointed, but objectively, he thought he had a lot of evidence pointing at that.
Hitoshi gave a hoarse cough into his gloves, drawing Aizawa’s attention again.
“Make sure you keep up with your medication, too, otherwise that infection will just come back,” His voice was a little softer this time, and Hitoshi nodded at him.
Even this last week, when he’d refused to train with Hitoshi due to Hitoshi’s coughing, fever, and the fact that he could barely stand up, Aizawa hadn’t sent him home. Hitoshi had wound up in the school’s infirmary, having been taken there by Aizawa, and he’d gone as far as to set up an appointment for Hitoshi at a medical clinic for the next day, something Hitoshi never would’ve done himself. Aizawa had hardly said anything about it, only telling him to go to the appointment, follow the doctor’s orders, and try to get rest. Sometimes, actions spoke louder than words, and he was quickly learning that.
This was stupid, he thought, this letting himself get attached to the first adult who’d actually given him the time of day. It was pathetic, really.
By now, Hitoshi knew where they were going. Aizawa seemed to like two things a lot: routine and cats, and this hit both those points. Aizawa taking him out for lunch or dinner was something that happened almost every time they trained, ever since Aizawa had commented on the fact that Hitoshi was lanky. He was well aware that he was underweight and that his lack of eating proper meals was making him physically weaker than he should’ve been, but at the time, there hadn’t been much he could’ve done about it.
Aizawa had told him that it wasn’t a problem to take him along, since he was going anyways. It was logical, he’d said. Hitoshi hadn’t argued, but he refused to allow himself to come to expect to spend time with him after training, even though it happened almost every time. In his life, he’d learned that expecting anything from the adults around him was a mistake, and he was trying his hardest to keep that policy with Aizawa.
The fact that Aizawa had never actually let him down stuck around in his head, though. It was a hard thought to shake when he was the first adult to ever keep promises to Hitoshi and actually attempt to help him.
The place they frequented was a cat cafe not far from the school. Aizawa usually took him there and he’d spend a few hours working on homework or whatever else while Aizawa graded. It was nice. Quiet. Almost a little homely. Hitoshi had even fallen asleep there a couple times, just because it felt safe to him. Aizawa would make occasional conversation with him, sometimes about important things and other times about mundane things, and Hitoshi made sure not to take him or their routine for granted.
It didn’t take much longer for them to get there, and Aizawa didn’t say anything more to him before they arrived. Hitoshi respectfully stood back as the hostesses greeted them and Aizawa presented his usual membership card.
The cat cafe was usually pretty quiet and even now, they were the only patrons. Hitoshi almost wondered if Aizawa single-handedly kept this place running. The hostesses seemed to know him pretty well, despite the fact that Aizawa only rarely made conversation with them, and were friendly with him.
They were let in the back, into the actual cafe area, and Hitoshi wasn’t surprised one bit when Aizawa took their usual spot at a table in the corner. He followed, sitting down next to Aizawa on the cushions on the floor, and leaned his back against the wall.
“How’s the paperwork going…?”
He honestly still felt a little weird asking questions. He forgot when the rule had come into place, but since he was a child, most of his foster homes and group homes hadn’t allowed him to ask questions, given that it was what his quirk needed to activate and take control. Like every other toddler, Hitoshi hadn’t been able to control his quirk until a while after it’d developed. He’d never done anything bad with it, but back when he’d been small, he’d brainwashed a few of his caregivers by accident, subsequently leading to the panic that had thrown him into the bad side of the system.
Hitoshi was so used to working around not asking people questions that when he realized Aizawa didn’t care if he did, it was still difficult to get himself to do so.
“Fine,” Aizawa said without hesitation and a small sigh as he pulled his work from the bag he’d been carrying. “I should be able to get you into the dorms by the holiday break. If I hit too much red tape, I’ll make something up to tell your foster father and move you into the dorms myself.”
Hitoshi looked down at the table. It was weird how nonchalant Aizawa could be about this stuff. Like it was nothing.
“Wouldn’t you get in trouble?” He asked him after a moment.
He heard the sound of pages flipping and Aizawa pausing to give him a response, “He already signed the paperwork giving me partial guardianship. It’s a little different, since you’re in foster care. I have a little more jurisdiction over you than I do the others. I can defend my actions in the case that it comes up.”
He glanced up, seeing Aizawa already leaning over his work. A quick look at the papers told him it was some worksheet he was looking over, presumably one that he’d given out to his classes. He had his gradebook beside him and was switching between the two.
“In any case, you’ll be in my class by the start of the next semester,” Aizawa continued, hardly even waiting for a response from Hitoshi.
This wasn’t the first time he’d heard it. Aizawa had made it clear for the last few weeks that he was trying to get everything cleared up by the end of this semester. But it still made him feel. There was a warmth in his chest at his words, something that crept into his spine. This had been his goal since getting into UA, but he’d never thought…
He’d never really thought it’d be like this. He’d imagined putting a lot more work in. He’d imagined pushing himself to his limits and having to wait until winning the festival next year. He’d never imagined he’d have help.
The training he did with Aizawa—it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t painfully hard, either. Hitoshi would be sore sometimes, but that was the extent of it. Aizawa seemed to move along at whatever pace Hitoshi had, and he’d never worked him to a point where Hitoshi wanted to give up and never come back.
“Thanks,” He murmured, keeping his eyes down. He said it to Aizawa a lot, and he felt like it didn’t say enough. What Aizawa was doing for him meant the world to him, and he had no idea how to express that to him. There didn’t seem to be enough words to say.
Hitoshi was usually pretty good with words, but Aizawa was a quiet guy. He didn’t talk a lot, leaving Hitoshi to interpret his actions only.
“Don’t worry about it,” Aizawa said. Pages rustled. Hitoshi couldn’t bring himself to look up.
“I mean it.”
“I know you do.”
He had no idea how Aizawa could be so casual about this. He was expelling another student and moving Hitoshi into their place. That was huge. And besides that, Aizawa took time out of his week, multiple times a week, to spend with Hitoshi. He still wasn’t completely sure why.
Finally, Hitoshi spoke the words that had been on his mind for the past couple of weeks, “After the new semester, are you going to keep training me…?”
He left his question of whether or not this was going to continue unsaid. He liked this. It made him feel like he had an actual adult in his life. For a couple hours a few times a week, Hitoshi could act like he had some sort of parental figure in his life. While he wanted to be in the heroics course, he couldn’t deny that he was going to be upset if it meant losing this.
“That’s the plan,” His response drew Hitoshi’s eyes up, and he found Aizawa looking at him, a grading pen in hand, posed over one of the worksheets he’d been marking. Hitoshi didn’t let himself breathe, trying to force himself not to be relieved. Aizawa kept his gaze, voice unafflicted, “Nothing’s going to change.”
With that, Aizawa brushed his long bangs out of his face and hunched over again, marking the paper he had in front of him. Hitoshi sat back against the wall, watching as Aizawa looked over the papers in front of him. His teacher said nothing, though Hitoshi was sure Aizawa knew he was watching him.
Nothing was going to change.
Of course, things were going to change. Hitoshi’s time with his foster ‘family’ was coming to an end, and he was absolutely relieved at that. He’d still have to go back for breaks and whatnot, probably, but he wouldn’t have to go back there every night. He still wasn’t fond of Aizawa’s class, some of his jealousy still lingering, but living with them would be far better than his foster home.
He’d already been informed that Aizawa-sensei was the primary dorm parent, anyways, and that made his jealousy lessen a little. He wondered what it’d be like—would the other kids find out that Aizawa had taken some sort of weird personal interest in him? He told himself that he didn’t care. They didn’t matter, even if they made fun of him for it. It’d be better than getting called a villain. Part of him hoped that he’d still be able to see his general education classmates. While he hadn’t really gotten close to anyone in specific, they’d honestly treated him with nothing but kindness, and Hitoshi wasn’t going to easily forget that.
He couldn’t deny that he was excited to move out of the home he’d lived in for the past few years.
Aizawa had already asked if he would need help getting things out of there, but Hitoshi didn’t have a lot of possessions. He’d been in the foster care system his entire life, being passed from foster family to foster family and then to some group homes. It wasn’t practical to have a lot of possessions when he moved around so much, though admittedly, he’d been at this home for longer than he had the others.
Hitoshi let the conversation drop, watching Aizawa grade for a few minutes before he dug his own homework from his bag, sighing with content as he did so. He liked it here. He usually worked on homework or other things he had to do, made occasional conversation with Aizawa, and pet the cats that came up to them for attention.
Things were quiet for awhile. Hitoshi leaned over his math homework, a hand knotted in his hair, listening to the quiet noise of the cafe, patting the cats that sometimes rubbed against his side. It didn’t take long for him to get involved in the worksheet in front of him, everything else fading out as he tried to work out the problems and remember the processes that had been taught to him over the last week. It was hard—he had never really had a hard time with math, but he hadn’t been feeling well for the majority of the week and it was a little hard to remember what he’d been taught—
“You look frustrated.”
Hitoshi whipped his head up at the sound of Aizawa’s voice, startled out of his concentrating trance by him. He found Aizawa staring at him with dark eyes, seeming to have taken a break from grading.
“I don’t remember how to do this—” He tried explaining, tapping his pencil on the table they sat at. He was a little frustrated, mostly because he was stuck on this one problem. He kept double-checking his work, but it never worked out correctly, and Hitoshi had no idea what he was doing wrong.
“Let me see.”
Another thing Hitoshi had learned about Aizawa was that he didn’t have a lot of manners. Or, at least, if he had them, he didn’t use them a lot. He didn’t wait for an answer, instead just taking the worksheet from Hitoshi and staring at it for a long moment as Hitoshi sunk back, a little embarrassed that he couldn’t figure out a math problem on his own. It only took a few moments, and Hitoshi held his breath when Aizawa reached for Hitoshi’s pencil and pushed the worksheet back to him.
“You forgot to carry a number,” Aizawa told him, Hitoshi leaning over to see where he’d written down what he’d forgotten to do on the problem. He stared at it, at Aizawa’s neat handwriting next to his, finally letting out the breath he’d been holding in. “You did the problem right otherwise. Remember to carry next time and you’ll be fine.”
And then, like it was no big deal, Aizawa returned to his grading, marking something down in his gradebook with a glance at his stack of papers. Hitoshi didn’t do anything, looking from Aizawa to his worksheet again.
“...Thanks,” Still, he didn’t pick up his pencil and get back to work. He just sat, staring at his worksheet, at Aizawa’s handwriting right on it. He felt warm, and he couldn’t place why.
“If you need help,” Aizawa said, not even looking up from his work. “Just ask.”
Hitoshi stayed quiet, his hand shaking slightly as he picked up his pencil again and started working through the rest of the problems. He took Aizawa’s advice, and things went faster. Eventually, one of the waitresses came over and brought him the tea he usually ordered, and he was more than happy to finally get something in his stomach after not eating before leaving home.
He checked over his work, everything working out correctly, and then shoved the worksheet back into his bag. He hesitated for an instant, and then swallowed hard, grabbing the folder he’d nearly forgotten was there and turning back to Aizawa.
“I could use help on something,” Hitoshi told him quietly, watching Aizawa closely. He set down his grading pen, and Hitoshi searched for any signs of him being annoyed in his facial expression, finding nothing but his teacher’s usual flat look.
“Homework?” He asked, raising an eyebrow as he leaned forward, resting his scruffy cheek on his hand, giving Hitoshi his full attention.
“No,” Hitoshi set the folder down on the table. “Uh, job applications. I… don’t really know how to fill this stuff out… If you can’t help me, that’s fine, but I thought—”
“Job applications?” He couldn’t read Aizawa’s expression as he repeated his words, but it got Hitoshi to shut up. “You want a job?”
Hitoshi dragged his bottom lip between his teeth, letting out a breath and forcing himself to keep eye contact with Aizawa, “I thought it might be best. For when I move into the dorms. I don’t have anywhere to go after I graduate, so wouldn’t it be best to start working now?”
Aizawa didn’t respond immediately, staring at him with dark, perpetually tired eyes. Like Hitoshi, Aizawa never looked like he got enough sleep, and Hitoshi had always felt like Aizawa understood his constant exhaustion. After months of spending time with him like this, Hitoshi knew pretty well that Aizawa had some type of disorder that made him prone to falling asleep whenever during the day, and there’d been a few instances where he’d had to wake him up when he’d dozed off grading. Aizawa looked similarly tired today, and Hitoshi wondered if he’d been out patrolling the previous night.
“You’re not without some place to go after graduation, but your thinking is rational,” Aizawa gave him a small sigh, and leaned over slightly to look at the applications in the folder Hitoshi had opened. “I personally wouldn’t let the school just leave you alone like that. However, if you’re serious about this, I can help you with these.”
“Really?” Hitoshi’s voice came out a little squeakier than he’d meant it to, and he let out a breath, regathering himself. It was a relief to know that he just wouldn’t be kicked out and left alone. He kind of wondered if Aizawa was somehow implying that he’d stay in contact after graduation, and Hitoshi had to remind himself not to expect anything of anyone, especially the adults in his life.
But goddamn, Aizawa made it hard when he’d never broken a promise to Hitoshi.
“I had a job when I was your age for similar reasons.”
Hitoshi hung onto every word. It was rare—really rare—for Aizawa to talk about anything that had happened in the past. Hitoshi didn’t know why. He’d always assumed that Aizawa just didn’t want to. Maybe he didn’t think it was practical, and Aizawa always just seemed to do what he thought was practical. Hitoshi would be lying if he said he wasn’t curious, but he didn’t want to pry or do anything that could possibly annoy Aizawa.
But this time, he did ask the question that came to mind, and it was out of his mouth before he could stop it, “Where—?”
“Here,” There was no hesitation in Aizawa’s answer, as if he’d expected to be asked that. “The owner felt sorry for me since I always hung around here. I could probably talk to her and see if she needs any more staff.”
Well, that explained the weird familiarity that Aizawa-sensei had with the staff here.
“That sounds like a lot of trouble,” His first reaction was usually to reject any sort of help offered to him, but working here sounded attractive. It was near the school and place he liked, and like Aizawa, Hitoshi had a big soft spot for cats.
“It’s not. I’ll talk to her. What are you having trouble with on your applications?”
Hitoshi swallowed hard again, forcing himself not to argue with Aizawa’s offer. He looked down at the folder of blank applications, neatly printed and unmarked by him so far. He’d collected a bunch of them over the week before this one and had planned to fill them out by himself at home, but there were a lot of questions he didn’t quite know how to answer and a lot of information that he didn’t know. He’d hoped, at least, that Aizawa would be somewhat willing to help him figure out some of the questions.
After all, Aizawa did have a tendency to help him with his homework whenever Hitoshi did it here. He’d slowly gotten more comfortable asking him to check over his work or proofread things for him and had turned in work with far less mistakes as a result. Aizawa helped him with math quite a bit, though he was little to no help with English, despite being close to the head of the English department.
“Some of these questions,” Hitoshi flipped through the first few pages, not having to search long before he found an application that had stumped him. “I mean, there’s some information I don’t have, either, like my identification number and emergency contacts, but I can figure those out on my own. It’s really just the written questions that I don’t know how to answer—”
He stopped talking, looking at Aizawa’s still-stoic face. He was hard to read, and Hitoshi had learned to stop trying for the most part, but it was in times like these where he asked him to do things like this that his initial nervousness still remained and he found himself trying to figure out whether or not he’d annoyed Aizawa.
“I have your identification number in my files,” Aizawa told him after a moment, reaching into his own bag without hesitation and pulling out Hitoshi’s file, a thick folder that he knew contained all his records from foster care and all his previous schools. He ducked his head, his face heating up at the sight of it. Aizawa seemed to have it on him a lot of the time, because this wasn’t the first time that he’d showed Hitoshi something in it and pulled it from his bag without even a pause. He was always embarrassed at the size of it, though, and when he saw it, he was always forced to face the fact that Aizawa had read every infraction ever recorded on him since he was put into the system as a toddler.
Aizawa turned the pages of his file, giving Hitoshi little time to see the contents of the pages. He didn’t want to snoop, but he was curious, and the pages Aizawa was going through seemed to be his UA records and whatever paperwork he was working on to move Hitoshi into his class. It didn’t take him long before he came to a stop, and Hitoshi leaned over to see that Aizawa had his student profile in front of him.
“Here, write this down and don’t forget it,” Aizawa pointed to a number printed at the top of his file, and Hitoshi did what he said, immediately moving to scribble down the number he’d pointed out onto the job application, exhaling a breath of relief. That solved one massive problem. He knew he couldn’t get a job without having that number, and his foster parents had always locked important documents away from him.
“As for an emergency contact,” Aizawa folded up Hitoshi’s file again, and put it off to the side of his gradebook. “You can put me down.”
Hitoshi fixed Aizawa with a stare, his eyes slightly wide, and he fought to keep his expression neutral.
“I can…?” And it was in moments like these that Hitoshi wanted to believe that Aizawa was being more than just a teacher with personal interest in him. Right now, he wanted to pretend that Aizawa was the parent that he’d never had in foster care, the adult that had never been there for him when he was younger. If he could just act like Aizawa knew he was more than just a teacher to him, even just for a moment or two, he’d be happy.
“It’s logical. I have partial custody over you and you’ll be living under my care. I’d prefer to be called if something was to happen to you at whatever job you end up with.”
Aizawa made it hard for Hitoshi to break the illusion of pretending he was his actual parent.
“Alright,” His voice came out shaky, and he started writing out Aizawa’s contact information with a trembling hand. He didn’t look back up at him, face burning with the fact that he knew Aizawa’s personal phone number by heart now. “I still need help on the questions.”
To his surprise, Aizawa didn’t comment on Hitoshi knowing his contact information by heart. Instead, he listened as Hitoshi read off the questions to him, making short, albeit helpful comments every now and then. By the take the waitress came back to take their orders, Hitoshi had finished a few applications with Aizawa’s help, and Aizawa looked to be almost all the way through his stack of papers and seeming more and more tired by the second. It was almost amusing to see the notoriously strict teacher, the man Hitoshi had looked up to most of his life, fighting off dozing at the table.
Sometimes, he just watched Aizawa.
After he put away the job applications, a cat decided to prod him for attention, kneading him with her paws until Hitoshi patted his lap and she climbed up on him to be pet. Hitoshi stroked her fur gently, and found his gaze drifting up to Aizawa. He was still involved in his work, dark hair hanging over his face, his dark eyes moving as he read over whatever answer he was grading. He had bags under his eyes, and Hitoshi often found himself looking at the scar just below his eye, the one he’d gotten from nearly dying trying to protect his class.
Despite getting to know him and learning a little about Aizawa’s personal life and personality, and despite the fact that he’d desperately tried to convince himself that Aizawa wouldn’t be the great hero he’d held him to when he’d been a kid—
Aizawa was now, more than ever, Shinsou Hitoshi’s role model and personal hero.
Everything he found out about Aizawa just solidified that, from the initial realization that Aizawa wasn’t some asshole to the news, that he’d nearly died during a selfless attempt to save twenty kids, to even now. Today was just like any other day, any other day that Hitoshi trained with Aizawa. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Aizawa took him along with him afterwards, made conversation with him, asked him questions about his life, and helped him with the things Hitoshi couldn’t do on his own. Nothing was different. It was so…. Normal, and yet, this everyday routine meant absolutely everything to Hitoshi.
Somehow, he looked up to Aizawa even more now than he had as a kid.
He didn’t know quite what it was about him. There was the obvious answer that Aizawa had taken on some sort of parental role with him, but that was more something Hitoshi had labelled him with. He supposed it could’ve been the fact that he’d been so willing to sacrifice himself to save the kids he’d only been teaching for a few days. Maybe it was the fact that he’d taken Hitoshi under his wing without any hesitation or questions asked. Maybe it was that he actually seemed to care. Hitoshi had learned enough about interpreting Aizawa’s actions to say that the teacher most likely did care about him. There was too much evidence pointing that way, and not even Hitoshi could convince himself that Aizawa didn’t care.
Aizawa had been his hero since he was five and while he’d admired him and wanted to be like him, it was different when he knew Aizawa personally. That was nothing compared to now. He’d never really had an actual role model until now, and it terrified him how much he looked up to Aizawa.
He was a good hero, a good teacher, a good guy, and to Hitoshi, he was a good parent. He wanted to be everything Aizawa was after he graduated.
The waitress brought their orders, and the cat on Hitoshi’s lap immediately took interest in his food, standing up to sniff at it.
“Hey,” Hitoshi scolded gently, finally looking away from Aizawa to block the cat from his food. Beside him, he heard a small snort.
“You ordered fish. She does like tuna a lot,” Before he knew it, Aizawa reached out and pet the squirming cat in his lap.
Hitoshi raised an eyebrow at him, figuring it was alright to be his usual dry self as long as he wasn’t disrespectful, “How do you know that she likes tuna?”
He watched Aizawa’s lips pull up into the small smirk that he rarely saw on his face, and Hitoshi had to fight not to look away out of embarrassment. Aizawa smiled a little strangely, and Hitoshi had come to the realization that he usually smirked like this when he was feeling strangely mischievous. His rare break in stoicism was entertaining, and Hitoshi just gave him a stare.
“...You didn’t feed the cats tuna, did you?”
Aizawa didn’t answer him, instead scratching the cat behind the ears, and Hitoshi suppressed a small, almost uncharacteristic laugh. The silence was all the answer he needed.
After fending off the cat, Hitoshi was quick to eat. He’d probably get dinner back at home, too, though that was a little up in the air right now, given that his foster father had had an… intense argument with him the night before. Hitoshi was a bit of a scapegoat in the household, and he assumed it was mostly due to his dangerous quirk. Rules that applied to his ‘siblings’ didn’t necessarily apply to him, and he more often than not wound up with harsher punishments and rules.
He finished his meal and realized that Aizawa didn’t seem to have any inclination to leave anytime soon, something that Hitoshi wasn’t going to complain about. He seemed to have a lot of work to do, and Hitoshi would much rather spend time sitting in the cat cafe with him than anywhere else. He was used to it, content, and he didn’t say anything as he sat back and buried himself in the handheld game he’d brought along, involving himself in it as Aizawa worked beside him and as the sun finally set outside the picture windows of the cafe.
Hitoshi didn’t look up much beyond that, only glancing up a couple times to look at Aizawa or when the waitress tried to make polite conversation. He checked the time a couple times, but it was nowhere near his curfew. The sun had set, but it was late in the year and it was still early evening when he finally heard Aizawa starting to close up his work.
“That looks a little more beat up than it was before,” Aizawa’s voice drew him out, and Hitoshi closed up his game to find him packing up his work, watching him from under dark bangs.
“Oh,” Hitoshi tucked the game system back into his coat, trying to hide the new scuff marks on it. “I guess one of my… siblings got mad at me. She, uh, kind of threw it down the stairs at the house.”
Part of the reason foster kids like him didn’t have a lot of possessions was due to the fact that there were often foster siblings around to break, steal, or mock his possessions. Hitoshi had a locked box with a journal and a few photos from when his family had been alive, but besides that, his only real possessions were the things he took with him in his school bag, including his phone and the game system he’d gotten as a gift at a group home nearly half a decade before. The things he did have were admittedly pretty beat up, but it came with the living arrangements.
Aizawa narrowed his eyes at him and didn’t speak for a long moment, Hitoshi growing more and more nervous with every second of silence. Finally, he filed the rest of his papers away, closing his eyes and looking away from Hitoshi, “I’ve been considering doing a home visit.”
That was new. That was the first new thing that had happened all day. This was a normal day after training with Aizawa, and Aizawa hadn’t really told him anything he hadn’t known all day. It made Hitoshi’s mind stop, and he froze up completely, unable to even breathe. As far as he knew, Aizawa had only spoken to his foster father over the phone and had never actually seen the place Hitoshi lived.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” His voice was a near-whisper, and he couldn’t stop his nerves from sinking into it. He cleared his throat, coughing as his lungs ached, and tried to regain his voice. “You—you don’t do stuff like that, do you?”
Aizawa didn’t even hesitate.
“I do if it’s necessary,” He watched with huge eyes as Aizawa braced himself and stood from their place at the back of the cafe, leaving Hitoshi still sitting on the ground as Aizawa stared down at him with his tired eyes. “I need to pick something up and then I can take you to the train station.”
Getting the hint, Hitoshi rushed to his feet, slinging his bag over his body and following at Aizawa’s heels. Against his better judgement, he didn’t stay quiet, even as he was led outside the cafe and back into the cold air. It was dark now, the street illuminated by streetlamps shining down on them as they walked, Aizawa with his mouth tucked into his oversized scarf and Hitoshi with anxiety written into his voice.
“It’s not necessary, though,” He tried, already feeling a little breathless as he tried to measure out his words.
“That’s for me to decide, isn’t it?” Aizawa’s voice was the same as always, flat and quiet, soft in the cold air surrounding them.
“It wouldn’t help,” His words came out a little harsher than he meant to and—
—And he knew he made a mistake the second Aizawa whirled on him.
He felt like the breath had just been knocked from him. The street was empty, and Hitoshi immediately took a shaking, stumbling step back as soon as Aizawa faced him. Hitoshi was a tall kid, but the little height advantage Aizawa had on him felt like it was so much more and he felt much closer than he was. Hitoshi’s first reaction was to put his hands up in a signal of conceding, and his body screamed for him to breathe, but he couldn’t.
He knew it would happen. He’d finally pissed Aizawa off. He’d finally made him mad enough to snap. He’d finally done it. He’d argued enough to be rude and disrespectful and Aizawa was finally going to break him and scold him for it, and Hitoshi couldn’t even breathe as his childhood idol stared him down, Aizawa’s eyes narrowed and his lips in a distinct angry frown.
“Hitoshi,” Aizawa’s voice was louder than Hitoshi had ever heard it before, and he wasn’t even yelling. Hitoshi’s first name seemed to echo off of the empty street, and he shrunk back even further. Nobody called him that, not his teachers or his foster parents or any of his foster siblings or even his classmates. “I decide what’s necessary in these situations, and a home visit is long overdue. Your foster parents deserve to have their licenses revoked. How many kids are there—seven?”
There was a beat of quiet between them, and Hitoshi could do nothing but stare up at his teacher. He’d never seen Aizawa lose his composure, and—it was odd, seeing him actually express emotions for once.
“Eight,” Hitoshi breathed, wanting nothing more than to look away from Aizawa. “Nine, including me.”
There were a million things he wanted to say, but not one of them would come out, so he just stood there, fully expecting to get yelled at, to be punished, to be forced to realize that he’d been nothing but a nuisance following Aizawa around for these past few months. But he didn’t get any of that.
“Do you think I can ignore the things you say about your family?” Aizawa’s voice dropped slightly in volume, and it didn’t echo on the street anymore. “Do you think I don’t notice the bruises when I train you? Do you think I can ignore any of that? You don’t need to be living there, and neither do any of your siblings. Focus on your studies. Let me do what I need to do.”
Hitoshi breathed in, and immediately exploded into a fit of coughing.
It wracked his entire body, and Hitoshi coughed into the gloves that Aizawa had lent him, feeling like his body was trying to force his actual lungs up his windpipe. His chest itched and burned, and he gasped for air, and his entire body felt like it was on fire as he tried to subdue his fit. He tried forcing himself to stop, but it didn’t work, and he was made to wait it out, feeling like he was going to die having a coughing fit on the street.
What got him to finally start to relax was when he felt Aizawa’s hand on his back, warm and solid. Hitoshi wheezed, his eyes squeezed shut, and his body started to loosen around him as he did so and slowly, he caught his breath, his coughing growing weaker until it died out, leaving Hitoshi still wheezing and aching.
He opened his eyes to find that Aizawa had reached out to put his hand on his back, and Hitoshi stayed quiet, rasping as he breathed, eyes wide. It’d be so easy—
He’d thought about it before. He’d always shoved that thought down, though, telling himself that Aizawa-sensei didn’t seem like the type to like or want physical affection. Outside of sparring, Hitoshi hadn’t ever tried to touch him, though this wasn’t the first time he’d been tempted to wrap his arms around Aizawa and pull himself into Aizawa’s chest. He wanted to and now, with Aizawa’s hand on his back, it felt so possible.
He wouldn’t, though. He’d told himself that he’d never get attached to anyone before he finished school and proved himself. He promised himself that he’d never expect anything of the adults in his life. Because if he didn’t expect anything, then he couldn’t be disappointed by them. And he’d promised himself that he’d never try to reach out to an authority figure for any bullshit reason like wanting comfort or affection. It was stupid and pathetic, and Shinsou Hitoshi hated himself right now, more than ever, for getting so attached to a teacher who’d taken some kind of unfounded interest in him.
He was stupid. So stupid.
“I’ll let you do your job,” Hitoshi dropped his gaze to the concrete of the sidewalk at his feet, forcing his breathing to even out. Aizawa stepped back, and the warm hand at his back was gone, and Hitoshi hated that he missed the touch.
The world was silent. The air was still. It was cold and dark, but there was no other noise. Just silence. And then Aizawa’s usual quiet voice, though there was something in it that Hitoshi couldn’t quite place.
“Kid, if you think this is just me ‘doing my job’, then I obviously need to teach you some kind of common sense.”
Hitoshi couldn’t stop himself from looking up at him again. He pursed his lips, wanting, more than anything, to say something, for the thousands of words he had in his head to come out. Instead, he was just speechless.
Hitoshi liked to think of himself as a well spoken person who was good with words. Improving his quirk had required it. So it was rare that he was struck completely speechless.
Aizawa wasn’t looking for an answer, though.
Hitoshi hung onto his every word, listening as Aizawa sighed, turning away from him again, “Let’s go. I have to pick something up at the bakery.”
Hitoshi was silent the entire way down the street. He followed Aizawa, walking slightly behind him, his gloved hands shoved into the pockets of his coat. He stayed quiet, his mind going over Aizawa’s words again and again. He was a quiet man, but when he did talk, Hitoshi always made sure to listen and—there was no doubt in his mind, now, that Aizawa was going beyond what was expected of him because of his personal interest in him. He knew well enough, from years of being in school, that teachers could easily ignore things.
But—and he hadn’t experienced it until now—adults who cared and had assumed some sort of parental responsibility couldn’t. Which meant Aizawa realized that Hitoshi looked up to him in the way he did, and he was welcoming it instead of rejecting it.
He thought about going home, about going back to the house he shared with eight other kids and two adults. And he thought about the dorms at UA.
Hitoshi had known his entire life that his home life, wherever he was at the time, wasn’t good. It had always just been something he’d had to accept, because the other option was throwing a fit about a situation that wouldn’t change regardless. The past two years, he’d lived in the foster home he did now. It was a long train ride away, and the actual house was crowded, messy, and dirty, and the last thing Hitoshi wanted was for Aizawa to actually see where he lived and the way the people he lived with treated him.
He’d be lying if he said that he hadn’t thought about Aizawa being his actual parent, and he’d come to the conclusion that living in the dorms would be the closest thing he’d get to him being his real parent.
He’d have his own room. Where he lived now, he shared a room without a door with six other kids, and he was intentionally excluded from the rest of his foster ‘family’ with the excuse that keeping him away from everyone else was safer, since it gave Hitoshi less chances to use his quirk. He ate alone, did his homework alone, and usually had to go to bed either before or after the other kids . All because of his quirk. He hadn’t used it in his foster families since he’d been little and unable to control it, and he never had any intentions or urges to, but those few times as a child had been enough to scare everyone forever.
He supposed he could understand to some extent. He could, technically, make anyone do anything. But Hitoshi had never wanted to use it for anything bad. As a kid, he’d lost control of it a couple times and used it to get an extra serving of food maybe once or twice, but he’d never used it for anything nefarious. He’d rather try to actually convince people of things he wanted instead of just forcing them to do what he told them to. The only thing he actually wanted to use his quirk for was to help people, and no one in the system he’d been in since he was a child seemed to believe that.
He knew mentions of his dangerous quirk were on every page of that enormous file Aizawa had. He knew that he’d gotten into a lot of fights as a kid, since he’d been scapegoated a lot, and even though he’d never used his quirk in them aside from using it to get the other person to stop hurting him so he could leave the situation, every one of those fights was detailed in there and had earned him the label of a problem, defiant child who didn’t like or listen to authority.
He actually liked to think that he listened to authority pretty well. He just didn’t like it when his foster parents excluded him from everything and flung unfair, uncreative insults at him. And he didn’t like being hurt.
He’d learned from this, though, that if authority treated him like a person and gave him at least some respect, he did perfectly fine.
“You listen to me better than most of my class,” Aizawa had told him after a training session months ago. Hitoshi remembered being shocked at the praise and trying to figure out if Aizawa was being sarcastic or not, since he’d been told he was defiant and an issue his entire life.
Aizawa didn’t actually seem to care about what was in that file, though. His middle school teachers had read it, too, and he assumed that was what initially made them so wary of him. Still, he’d tried to listen to what they said and done what they’d told him, but their initial reaction to him was already tainted by the many infractions and notes in the file, and the damage was done. He’d expected it to happen in high school, too.
Truthfully, his homeroom teacher hadn’t left much of an impression on him. She hadn’t treated him badly, and she hadn’t treated him any different than the rest of the class. Hitoshi had respected that a lot, so when he’d first gotten in UA, he’d done everything he could to stay out of her way, relieved that he had a teacher who didn’t treat him like some kind of monster. He didn’t go out of his way to talk to her, either, though, deciding that he had his own goals to focus on and would do his best to excel in her class to make himself look better. He figured if he wasn’t a problem for his general education teachers, they’d treat him the same as everyone else, and he’d been right. He’d blended in as much as possible to his teachers. And he’d been pretty happy with that.
Then there was Aizawa, who made it no secret that he’d read through Hitoshi’s entire file, and who really seemed to just not care about all the things written about him in there. Aizawa, who hadn’t treated him like everyone else, because he’d picked Hitoshi out and decided to focus on him and train him and do… whatever this weird, parental thing was with him. Hitoshi had never experienced what it was like to be liked by an authority figure, but he guessed it was something like this.
Hitoshi’s plan had been to not make trouble for his teachers, train himself, excel in his studies, and then win the sports festival by his second year. After that, he’d thought it would be impossible to not move him into the hero course.
Things hadn’t worked out like that at all, though, and Hitoshi was set to go into the hero course by the start of his second semester of his first year, all because his childhood hero had, for some reason, decided he was interested in him and for some even weirder reason, decided to ignore all the horrible things written about him in his file.
It wasn’t until Aizawa stopped at the bakery ushered Hitoshi through the door that he finally worked up the courage to ask him one of the many questions on his mind.
Aizawa told the man at the counter that he had a pick up, giving his name, and then, Hitoshi saw his opening as the man ducked into the back to search out whatever they were here for.
“Sensei—” Hitoshi started, forcing himself to look at Aizawa. Aizawa gave him his attention without hesitation, and Hitoshi rubbed at the back of his neck as he tried to find the right words to say. “You’ve read through my file, right? Why did you—It doesn’t seem rational to train me after reading everything in there.”
There was that smirk again, the same one Hitoshi had seen back in the cat cafe. It took him off-guard, and Hitoshi studied Aizawa closely as he spoke to him, “It’s irrational to judge someone before you meet them. Now that I know you, I assume most of the problems outlined in your file were provoked by someone, since you’ve never shown the same behavior with me.”
He wasn’t wrong, but that hadn’t been the answer he’d been expecting to hear. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting. He almost found it a little funny.
“I wish my middle school teachers thought that way,” Hitoshi told him dryly, remembering the way he’d been secluded, especially during school. He’d always wondered what it took to be a teacher at UA, and he’d assumed that the qualifications were wildly different than for normal teachers. He doubted that anyone at UA had a lot of formal education on being a teacher, and he found himself even doubting that they were required to have teaching licenses. Still, though, Aizawa and the rest of the teachers he’d met at UA were better than the rest of the teachers Hitoshi had experienced in his life.
He’d honestly disliked school until this year. It’d been hard to like it when his teachers had treated him the same as everyone else—like he was a villain just waiting to strike. He didn’t mind it now and had even started using his studies as a way to ground himself and escape from the loneliness that was the home he lived in.
Aizawa would probably be good at teaching normal high school, too, though Hitoshi didn’t think he’d ever want to. He was well aware that UA let him get away with more than a normal school would, and he suspected that most of the things Aizawa did for him wouldn’t be tolerated in a normal setting. But, he was good at his job, and Hitoshi had never thought that his childhood hero, the elusive underground hero Eraserhead, would be good at teaching.
“Some people shouldn’t be teachers,” Aizawa could be so blunt that it was amusing, most of the time, and Hitoshi found himself snorting at his words.
Hitoshi let the conversation drop and he glanced around at the bakery. He had no idea what Aizawa possibly needed from here, and he was curious as to what he was picking up, but he didn’t say anything just yet. They were the only two here besides the man Aizawa had spoken to, and the quiet of the shop was almost comforting, enough so that Hitoshi felt fine asking another question.
“Are you really going to do a home visit…?”
“It’s for the best,” He wasn’t all that surprised to find out that Aizawa had already made up his mind. He’d assumed that his mind had been made up when he’d mentioned it in the first place. He didn’t know Aizawa to be someone who looked for input on decisions, and his initial mention of the topic had given Hitoshi the feeling that he’d already decided on what he was going to do. “Don’t worry too much about it. It’ll be sometime next week. I’ll let you know when, as long as you don’t share the information with either of your foster parents.”
“A surprise visit?” Hitoshi narrowed his eyes at him in curiosity and concern. “They could just say no, couldn’t they?”
“They could, but they should know better. It wouldn’t look good.”
He’d known for awhile that Aizawa had opinions on his home life, from the comments he made and the questions he asked, but he’d never realized until now that Aizawa actually had intentions to go along with his opinions. It was one thing to say that Hitoshi’s home life was bad. It was another thing entirely to actually do something about it. And Hitoshi didn’t really know what to think.
He didn’t care much for his foster siblings, but he knew how the system worked. Those kids would get passed along to somewhere else. Maybe it’d be good. Maybe it’d be bad. Once they were out of the current foster family, it was easy to lose track of them. Hitoshi had seen it happen more than once—a shitty foster home got shut down and all the kids in that home lost track of each other.
On the other hand, there was a voice in his head saying that this was the first time someone actually cared enough to even remotely do something. Everyone else just passed it off as something that inevitably happened in the system. It couldn’t be helped, and people always assumed someone else would do something about it if it got really bad.
“I don’t know where the other kids would go if my foster parents lost their licenses.”
“It’s not your job to worry about that.”
Hitoshi only nodded, and let out a slow breath, “I won’t say anything about the home visit, but the home isn’t exactly… nice.”
“I’ve gathered that much.”
Hitoshi frowned. Over the past few months of being trained by Aizawa, Hitoshi had told the truth and answered any questions asked with honesty. Maybe that’d been a mistake, but he wasn’t necessarily regretting it, even with the knowledge that Aizawa was planning a home visit. He tried to think about it, about Aizawa coming to his messy, dirty home, and he just couldn’t see him having anything but a negative reaction to it. He couldn’t even picture him coming over. He wondered if his foster parents would try to act differently and not exclude Hitoshi as much as usual, or if he’d be thrown into his usual scapegoat role even with his teacher around.
At least Aizawa-sensei didn’t seem to think he was exaggerating or being dramatic about his home life. Hitoshi knew it was bad, but he was well aware it could be a lot worse, and he’d stopped being upset about his situation a long time ago.
Hitoshi was drawn out of his thoughts by the other man in the shop finally coming back to them, a clear bag with a bunch of pastries in his hands. His thoughts faded back to his curiosity about why they were here, and he watched Aizawa pay as the other man tried to awkwardly make conversation with him.
His curiosity got the best of him quickly, “I didn’t think you liked that kind of stuff.”
Aizawa gave him a look, ignoring the cashier’s comments, instead answering Hitoshi, “I don’t. They’re for Hizashi. He’d been working himself to death.”
Hitoshi had to bite his tongue to keep himself from making a comment about how Aizawa was doing something undeniably nice for someone else. It wasn’t a rare thing, and he did occasionally get to hear about small things in Aizawa’s personal life. Yamada Hizashi was the loud head of the English department, someone Hitoshi would have as his English teacher come next semester. He was aware that the two of them were close and lived together, though Hitoshi had been trying to figure out for over a month now whether they were just roommates or actually together. It was a little odd to think about Aizawa having a boyfriend, since he seemed married to his work, but maybe they’d work good together.
“I’m sure he’ll like them,” Hitoshi commented instead.
“He better. I’m not going through the trouble of ordering more,” Aizawa took his receipt from the cashier, taking a moment to check his watch before looking back at Hitoshi. “We should go if you want to take the next train.”
He didn’t, but he still nodded, “Okay.”
The train station wasn’t far at all. Hitoshi had noticed that Aizawa didn’t tend to take him very far away from the school, and there was a station a few blocks from the campus. It was the same station Hitoshi took the train to and from almost every day. He didn’t mind the long commute to the school anymore, since it gave him time away from his home. Aizawa usually walked him here after he was done for the day, and Hitoshi appreciated the company. Waiting alone could get lonely, and Aizawa usually stayed until Hitoshi got on the train. He assumed he went back to wherever he lived afterwards, and Hitoshi would start the long ride back to his prefecture and then the walk back to the house.
This was one of the later trains, and Hitoshi guessed that it was probably the second or third to the last one of the day, given that it was a weekend. It was getting into the middle of the evening, bordering on nighttime, and it was as cold as ever. Hitoshi was glad he finally had actual winter clothes, since for a couple years, he’d been wearing too small second hand clothes, until he’d saved up and bought himself a winter coat. He’d knitted the scarf and hat and the gloves were from Aizawa, and he was more than grateful to be warm in the cold winter.
They stood on the train platform, only a few other people scattered on it, huddled in small groups or under the weak heaters. Hitoshi dug in his bag for his ticket, dreading finding it since he knew he was out of punches on it and would have to buy a new one. He just hoped he was remembering wrong and still had a chance of having a ride or two left. It was wishful thinking, though, since when he found the flimsy paper ticket, all ten rides were punched out and he would definitely have to buy a new one.
He had enough money for it, but he was always a little mad when he had to spend it on tickets. His foster parents were supposed to provide transportation for him, given that he used the train to get to and from school, but they either forgot or flat out refused most of the time. To make matters more frustrating, the train conductors often forgot to take tickets, but Hitoshi could never guess when, and the only truly nefarious thing he’d ever done was riding the train without a valid ticket.
“I’m going to go get a new ticket,” He said, trying to keep the irritation he was feeling at himself out of his voice. He should’ve noticed it was about time to buy a new one and tried asking his foster parents, but he’d been too focused on everything else.
“No, you’re trying to save your money. Stay here.”
Aizawa always said things so nonchalantly, like they were no big deal. Hitoshi did as he was told, realizing it was useless to put up a fight, instead choosing to show his confusion and displeasure with a frown and averted eyes. Even that was nothing, because before he knew it, Aizawa was pushing a blank ten ride ticket into his hands.
“You didn’t have to—” Hitoshi held the thin paper between his fingers, staring at it, refusing to look back up at Aizawa out of sheer embarrassment.
“I know that. I don’t do things because I have to,” He could feel Aizawa’s eyes on him, and he was almost tempted to shrink back at his gaze.
“Thanks,” He sheepishly met his gaze, feeling a lot smaller than his teacher despite their small height difference. He was grateful, and he tried to show that, even if Aizawa’s show of kindness was unnecessary. “I really—thanks.”
“If you need help with things, just ask.”
It was the same thing Aizawa had said earlier about Hitoshi’s homework, and Hitoshi had to bite back a reply of the fact that he couldn’t. He’d been trained his entire life to not ask when he needed help. He’d been told to keep his mouth shut and stay quiet.
He didn’t respond, instead just standing by Aizawa’s side on the train platform, the cold air biting at his exposed face. He pushed his face further into his scarf, leaning forward to peer down the train tracks, finding them empty. The next train was nowhere in sight and despite the way the cold was settling into him, he was relieved.
He didn’t want to say anything to Aizawa, but he really didn’t want to get on that train home. Even if he’d gotten used to the commute itself, he still dreaded going home every time he waited here. It wasn’t because of the length of time it took to get back home—it was the fact that he was going home in itself. There was nothing he could do about it, though. Even if he dared to not go home, there was nowhere for him to stay, and at least it was a house with a bed, no matter the other people living in it.
Still, it was hard to keep his mind from wandering.
He’d fantasized a lot as a kid and he’d thought he’d been able to drop the habit about daydreaming about things that could be. It didn’t seem practical to him, though maybe that was just Aizawa’s thinking rubbing off on him. There was no use thinking about things that didn’t pertain to his goals, and he’d found as a child, daydreaming had just brought more pain than good. He’d done his best to stop, but now—he couldn’t keep himself from doing it.
He forced himself to actually think about a real scenario, instead of some fantasy where the guy standing beside him was more than just some strange teacher-parent amalgamation. In a few weeks, he’d be moving into the dorms, where he’d have his own room for the first time in years. He’d be living with nineteen other kids that he’d been increasingly jealous of for months, but in reality, Hitoshi didn’t actually have to interact with them if he really didn’t want to.
He imagined it’d be better. A lot better than what he went home to now.
He found himself looking at Aizawa again, instead of watching for the train. His mind went back, to not even an hour before, when he’d been tempted more than ever before to push himself forward and wrap his arms around him. He hadn’t wanted affection in years since meeting Aizawa and now he felt pathetic. He didn’t need affection. He didn’t need anything, and yet, here he was, unable to stop himself from thinking about Aizawa as the parent none of his caregivers had ever bothered to be, unable to stop himself from expecting and wanting things from him, even though he’d told himself that he’d never let himself fall into this trap.
He had this horrible, irrational attachment to the teacher who’d been training him for the past few months, and as pathetic and weak as Hitoshi felt because of it, he wouldn’t give it up for the world.
He didn’t really know why he decided to do it. Maybe it was the fact that he was trying to be honest with himself. Maybe it was just that for some reason, on the train station platform in the bitter cold, it just felt more possible than it had before.
Before he could stop himself, Hitoshi was moving forward, wrapping his thin arms around Aizawa’s middle, nearly resulting in shoving his face into his back. He heard Aizawa’s sharp inhale, only barely catching how he raised his arm to his scarf, as if he was going to grab at his capture weapon, and then he just stopped. Hitoshi fully expected to be pushed off and yelled at, and honestly, he kind of wanted to be just so he could stop himself from looking up to Aizawa so much, but the harsh words never came, and neither did a shove or an attack.
Hitoshi closed his eyes, and a hand settled into his unruly hair, followed by a soft voice, “Warn me next time.”
Hitoshi pressed his chances and buried his face in Aizawa’s wool jacket, letting out a shaky sigh into the material of it. He held onto him tightly, and Aizawa was warm against him, and Hitoshi had to force himself to let go, stepping back and staring at the train tracks, too embarrassed of himself to say anything.
Down the tracks, he could see the unmistakable light of a train approaching.
The dread was sinking into his stomach and as the seconds passed, the sound of the train moving towards them met his ears, rattling on the tracks as it began slowing to a stop at the station. He stood still, his body rigid, filled with nothing but foreboding as he counted the moments until it would screech to a stop.
“I don’t want to go home,” He barely heard his own voice, and he hoped that Aizawa hadn’t, because the words had slipped out without his permission.
He would never be that lucky, though.
The noise of the train was growing louder, the horn cutting through the air, an announcement starting over the speakers of the city station announcing the arrival and soon to be departure. Aizawa raised his voice over all of it, and Hitoshi heard him clearly, even with everything else.
Hitoshi cast him a side glance, “You know I don’t have anywhere to go.”
Aizawa had his dark eyes narrowed at him, his voice the same unaffected tone it usually was, “It wouldn’t be a problem if you stayed with me.”
“In the dorms?”
“I live in an actual house, you know,” Aizawa closed his eyes for a long moment. “There’s a second bedroom that you can stay in.”
Hitoshi hesitated. Everything told him to say yes, that this was what he’d wanted since he’d first started realizing how attached he was to Aizawa, that Aizawa was offering so much more than his literal words—but he hesitated, because he wasn’t supposed to expect anything, because the last thing he wanted to do was be a nuisance and ruin what he had with the one good authority figure in his life.
“I’m not sure that’d be okay,” Hitoshi watched the train screeching to a halt in front of the platforms, another announcement playing denoting that boarding had begun.
“If I say it’s okay, then it’s alright.”
Hitoshi made no move to board the train when the sliding doors opened. The others at the station got on quickly, filing onto the train, no doubt to get into its heated compartments. Hitoshi knew he should be doing the same. But he stood still.
“I’d get in trouble. You probably would, too,” He normally tried to hold his tongue, but there was no point in it now, when he was trying to talk himself out of this and convince himself that it was a bad idea.
“I won’t let you get in any trouble. I’m an adult who can deal with any consequences that come my way.”
It was hard to argue with Aizawa. He always bluntly made his points, and there was never a lot of room to contest them. Even now, Hitoshi couldn’t say anything as a rebuttal. He was right. Aizawa was an adult, and he didn’t hesitate in dealing with consequences to things that happened, and Hitoshi couldn’t help but to trust him when he said that he wouldn’t let Hitoshi get into trouble. Aizawa had a way of doing things and keeping promises that made it incredibly hard for Hitoshi to keep the same distance he tried to keep from everyone else.
The doors on the train closed with a final warning. There was a pause, and then the train started off again, leaving Hitoshi with Aizawa on the train platform.
“You already bought me a ticket,” He said, talking half to himself now. It was all he had left. It almost felt too good to be true, and Hitoshi had no idea what he needed to do. God, he wanted this, but—
—But he was so used to doing things and coming at things on his own that when help shoved itself into his face, he didn’t know how to accept it.
“Doesn’t matter,” Aizawa told him simply, and Hitoshi couldn’t stop himself from believing him. He hung onto every word from him, and let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.
He looked up at his teacher, finding Aizawa staring at him with his tired eyes, nothing in his face betraying any sort of hesitance or indication that he didn’t actually mean the words he was saying. He knew he had a choice now—he could either wait for that last train, or he could take Aizawa-sensei’s offer and leave with him.
He didn’t know how he’d gotten so horribly attached, but his mind had already been made up the second Aizawa had told him that not going home even was an option.
“Okay,” He breathed.
“Good, I’m tired. The house isn’t far from here,” Aizawa didn’t wait for an answer, starting off in the opposite direction they’d came. Hitoshi followed at his heels, the same as he’d been doing for the last few months.
“Alright,” His own voice was flat and almost automatic. He had to walk fast to keep up with him, and it wasn’t until now that he noticed that he was tired, as well. He coughed into his hand, wondering if he’d actually be able to sleep in Aizawa-sensei’s house. It was surreal, surreal that he’d offered to take him home, surreal that he’d said that he wasn’t doing this because it was his job, surreal that he wasn’t going back to his foster home.
“There’s cats at the house. And Hizashi. He’ll like you.”
Hitoshi didn’t say anything as Aizawa led him down the street in the direction of the school. For awhile, it was just silence between them, Hitoshi walking quickly to keep up with Aizawa, still bewildered and shell-shocked by what had happened at the train station.
He found his words again, though, and he knew that somehow, he needed to say something.
There weren’t enough words to express himself. There were never enough words. Nothing sounded right. Nothing sounded good enough.
“Thank you,” Was all he could get out, and the words sounded softer than usual in the freezing air as they entered into a residential neighborhood. “This—No one’s ever cared enough to help me like this.”
He wanted to say more, but nothing else would come out. It felt flat. Minor. Not enough. But he didn’t have any more words.
Aizawa didn’t care, though. He never seemed to care about Hitoshi’s lack of ability to properly express his gratitude or how much Aizawa’s presence in his life actually meant to him. Aizawa gave him a glance, putting his hand on Hitoshi’s shoulder, yawning before he spoke.
“Don’t worry about it.”
And for once, as they approached the house Hitoshi assumed Aizawa lived in, a brightly lit, quiet one stuck between two other similar ones, Hitoshi did what Aizawa told him to, and forced himself not to worry. He’d tried never to take things for granted, but he’d never gotten a chance to really enjoy certain soft moments in his life, and for once, Hitoshi let his weary eyes fall shut, and he took everything about the moment in, committing it to his memory to keep in a safe place forever.
This was everything he’d ever wanted. There were a lot of uncertainties. He had no idea if this was a permanent thing, though Aizawa was usually up front with things, and he had a feeling that he would’ve said something had it been temporary. He didn’t know if Aizawa was going to try to get the foster care licenses of his foster parents revoked. He didn’t even know if Aizawa was going to try to increase his partial custody over him into a more complete thing. But for once, he was kind of alright with not knowing. There was a bed and room for him, and Aizawa didn’t sound like he had any second thoughts or hesitations. Hitoshi was wanted, and that was more than enough. That was everything he’d ever wanted.
So he didn’t worry about it, and for the first time in his life, Shinsou Hitoshi let himself put all the trust in his heart in an adult, and he let this happen to him, not fighting or vying for control so he wouldn’t get hurt. He was safe with Aizawa, and he finally, finally let his guard down, and he didn’t worry about it, and it was the single most freeing thing he’d ever experienced. He decided, right then, in that moment, that he was going to hold onto this, and he was going to do everything in the world to never let it go.