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A Stomach Full of Terrible Stars

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“Does the world ever seem too loud to you?”

Aizawa looked up from his half-graded stack of papers in surprise. His usually tired face betrayed mild shock and a bit of worry. Other than that, he didn’t respond to Hitoshi’s odd question.

“L-like, like you were born with more ears than anybody else? More nerve endings? More eyes?”

Hitoshi was struggling a bit, but it was the kind of struggling that you get very good at after a while. He’d been struggling a bit harder than normal for most of today, however. Today had been difficult. Between training, classwork, and socializing, everything was … heavy .

Breathing was a chore, but it was made of two easy steps; inhalation and exhalation. He did those things while ignoring the way his hands shook. They were just silly leaves carried on the current of the water, that’s all - but the water, for however much he turned and swam, would always be a lake. He told himself that. He was safe. He would not be carried away.

Never before had the calm orange light filtering through those big, wide, classroom windows felt so dangerous.

Why does a sunset feel so cruel? Nothing about the light or the room or Hitoshi was wrong, so why was he so close to panicking?

The room was silent, save for the soft scratching of Aizawa’s pen on the essays that today had been due, though that scratching stopped quickly.

“No,” Aizawa admitted carefully. “But Hizash-” He faltered. “ Present Mic occasionally feels that way. Do you… need anything, to help?”

Hitoshi wasn’t sure. Typically he’d find some kind of game or something to occupy his time, something to do while he calmed his breathing, but he had no interest in anything like that; and anyways, his phone was dead. He’d killed the battery with hours of Neko Atsume, trying to distract himself from the cruel thoughts throughout the day.

He would settle for a real cat now (something to do, something to do ), but the world was so big and so loud and his hands were now rocks, shaking, sinking rocks at the never-ending bottom of the lake, and he worried distantly that his hands would be too rough. He didn’t want to hurt the cat. The hypothetical cat.

Movement jostled him, a flash of black startling him into jumping backwards out of his seat. The chair fell with a clatter. His eyes adjusted and he sighed, “ Mr. Aizawa ” in relief, as if he hadn’t been sitting by the man’s desk for what must have been hours now.

Aizawa stood in front of him, eyebrows drawn and hand still in the air. He’d waved it in front of Hitoshi’s face, but for some reason those familiar five digits had felt like a stranger’s face in the dark. He struggled to focus his eyesight. It all seemed too clear when he tried. None of it felt real.

Hitoshi had been waiting in Class 1-A since the end of school as Mr. Aizawa finished grading essays. Aizawa had said that, while he would just do it at home, his husband was a loud, energetic man that easily distracted him from his work. Hitoshi understood that. Mr. Yamada and Mr. Aizawa had been best friends since high school; Hitoshi had made some good friends himself since transferring to Class 1-A… He and Uraraka worked well together, he and Shouto too, but if Hitoshi was paired with Mina then they’d get no work done at all, they’d just pee themselves laughing over memes -

“Shinsou!”

Hitoshi blinked back to reality again. “Yes, Sensei?”

Eyebrows pulled together, Aizawa looked more concerned than Hitoshi had ever seen him. “Have you heard a single word I’ve said?” Typically, he looked so apathetic. Even his voice in monotones, like a black and white photograph. Attire nothing but formless dark shapes. “Shinsou?”

“I’m sorry, Sir.” Hitoshi rubbed his eyes. This room was too big, too small . He wanted to move. What had he been saying before, about eyes? His eyes felt intrusive, like they were invading his skull.

Aizawa put a careful hand on Hitoshi’s shoulder. “I know I said I’d drive you home after I finished this, but…” He sighed. “Recovery Girl might still be here if you need a nurse. Or I can take you to your home now--”

“No!” Hitoshi shook his head. “I’m fine. I’m fine.”

The idea of going back to that empty room was somehow so much worse than anything else that had happened today.

“I don’t want to be alone right now.” He blurted.

Seemingly emotionless again, Aizawa regarded his pupil with calm eyes. “Okay,” he said quietly, voice tired. “Why don’t you sleep on Hizashi and I’s couch?”

Hitoshi blinked. “Mr. Yamada? And you? Your house?”

Aizawa nodded, his dark waves of hair shifting on his shoulders ever so slightly.

Lavender eyes blinking in surprise, Hitoshi answered, “Okay.”

Aizawa looked down at his papers, then at Hitoshi. Something about his eyes seemed critical, even though his face had not changed. Hitoshi’s hands had evolved, had floated -- those sunken rocks were now air bubbles floating up up up and he touched his hair as something semi-hysterical rose in his chest. Please, he prayed. He didn’t want to float away.

Without thinking, he asked, “Do you have sleep medicine at your house?” Hitoshi often had trouble sleeping. Maybe a good night’s rest would help him. Maybe then he wouldn’t float away.

The look on Aizawa’s face implied he had been interrupted. Oops. “I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable giving you anything. You are a minor, after all.” Hitoshi nodded a bit too quickly, his hair bouncing. “If it weren’t for your current living arrangement, I’d feel uncomfortable inviting you to my home.”

Hitoshi understood that, too. He’d be dorming at Yuuei right now, except his parents hadn’t signed the necessary forms, so he was stuck in his own apartment -- a cheap, crappy, empty, lonely apartment. He didn’t want to go there tonight. Or ever.

“Plus,” Aizawa added. “You’ve seemed a bit off today, especially now. I want to make sure you’re okay. If I were to send you home like this and something happened…” He made a face, like a nasty memory had wormed itself into the space behind his eyes. He did not continue.

“Okay,” said Hitoshi easily, or what he thought was easily. “I don’t want to be alone.” Then, quickly, “It’s getting very dark!”

“It’s okay,” said Aizawa. He shouldered his bag and began to lead Hitoshi out. “It’s just the night. Nothing but more stars and more moonlight.”

Hitoshi nodded. More stars and more moonlight. Maybe he’d be able to sleep soundly in Aizawa’s home. Maybe he could breathe.

The trip to Mr. Aizawa’s car was, blessedly, uneventful.

~

Shinsou was very embarrassed. The next morning had come slowly, almost lethargically, and to Shinsou, cruelly. As soon as they’d arrived to Aizawa’s home last night, and Aizawa had tried to leave him in the living room to get rest of his own, Shinsou had gone and…. Ugh .

He was embarrassed just thinking about it. Red hot shame stained his face. His hands, white-knuckled, were steady, balled into fists on his lap as he sat with his back straight as a board. Dignity could not be forced but… he had to try.

Early morning sunlight lit the Aizawa-Yamada household, making the homey space feel even more comfortable. If only Shinsou could enjoy it.

On this same couch that he now sat, Hitoshi had broken down into tears. Less than 12 hours had passed.

Aizawa handed him a mug of what smelled like tea and sadly, not coffee. Shinsou looked at it to avoid meeting his mentor’s eyes.

“Thank you, Sir.” He said politely.

Silence settled over the room for a bit, the only sounds drifting in from the kitchen. A room away, Yamada prepared breakfast with clinks and clanks of pots and pans as Aizawa carefully regarded the student in their sitting room. A television against the far wall flashed a colorful news story, but the sound was muted.

Finally, Aizawa put down his own mug ( of coffee , Shinsou regarded jealously) and said more than he asked, “Do you want to talk about last night?”

Thick snot runs over his mouth like a hand trying to silence him; monsters in the dark clawing at his face with his own hands as he cried and cried. “Please!” He tries to come up for air. Hitoshi is drowning. The lake is pulling on his legs. There are monsters there, monsters everywhere. “Don’t leave me alone!”

Shinsou did not want to talk about last night. He took another drink of the hot tea, which he did not like.

“I would,” said Aizawa. “I’ll tell you what I’m thinking and you don’t have to respond. If what I say upsets you, you can leave to the kitchen to help Hizashi, or to the bathroom to take some alone time.”

Shinsou drank more tea.

Aizawa waited for a response, but when none came, he reached again for his own mug and took a long drink. When he set it down, he sighed, shifting to face Shinsou more completely.

He seemed to struggle for words. Shinsou hoped dearly that this meant he would not do anything at all. He would shake his head and instead lead Shinsou to assist with breakfast. They’d make pancakes and forget his lapse of control had happened at all.

No such luck.

“I’m glad I brought you here last night.” Shinsou wanted to die. “I apologize--” Shinsou opened his mouth, but Aizawa’s hair threatened to stand and his eyes grew intense. “I apologize for not realizing sooner that you were struggling. Between the sudden change of schedule and workload, the isolation from ‘family’ and friends, the dysphoria,” Shinsou really wanted to die. He had not been allowed to sleep in his binder last night. After his… panic attack (if that’s what that was), Aizawa had found a comfortable bed shirt and some cat-themed pajama pants that were a bit too big for Shinsou to change into. His binder was currently drying after a much-needed wash, if what Aizawa had said still rung true. It made this conversation that much worse. “Between all of these external forces weighing and weighing on your… let’s say, mental immune system, which is weakened by your quirk, of course you’d be feeling bad.” Aizawa sighed heavily. “I’m sorry it took me that long to realize.”

Shinsou didn’t know what to say. He was uncomfortable and embarrassed and yet soaring (as he always was when Mr. Aizawa gave him attention). He hated it.

“Anyways,” Aizawa picked his coffee back up, drinking again. “I’d like you to bring your stuff here to move in until you can dorm at Yuuei. I’ll call your quote-on-quote parents and explain the situation, sans the intimate details.”

Shinsou almost dropped the tea. “What?”

Aizawa ignored him and gracefully stood up. “Breakfast will be ready soon. Help me set the table, would you?”

Still shocked, Shinsou assisted him. He didn’t argue -- he couldn’t find the will to. He’d been so lonely and miserable in that place, falling to the floor and crying and having his little… things like last night all alone. Aizawa rubbing his back last night as he’d cried, hushing him and letting him cry… Not getting angry at him for his disgusting display… It had been good.

Shinsou needed someone. And he looked up to Mr. Aizawa, trusted him. There were only so many other constantly-tired, cat-loving, transgender superheroes for Shinsou to look up to, after all.

Living here could be good! And the lovely breakfast they shared (pancakes!) only proved it. Hitoshi was going to be okay.