For time beyond memory, Hitoshi had been beaten down by the harsh drag of society. He was a misfit toy, a broken thing— destined only for the villain’s path. For days and hours and years beyond count, he’d had these words strike his skin.
Villain. Scary. Unnatural quirk.
Each word had hit hard, until he had no skin left to bruise, until he was left a bitter child with slumped shoulders.
No one had seen it, but he could be so much more.
This battle— the Sports Festival, with a world audience and a place only skill mattered— this had been his chance, his time to prove to the world that he had a hero’s conviction.
His chance to say, I AM HERE.
But that was lost now, thrown back in his face like everything else. Instead of victory, instead of a chance, all Hitoshi had were the endless echo of words—
“What did you say?”
The roar of the crowd washed over him, louder than the beat of Hitoshi’s heart, louder than the screams of his inner demons.
He knew those words.
He had been thrown down, breathless and beaten and broken on the arena. As his body ached, as the wind rushed back into his lungs, Hitoshi stared up at the sky. It was cloudless as a summer’s day, blue as the depths of the ocean, shimmering with the light of the noon-day sun.
It was a beautiful sky, for a beautiful day— but all Hitoshi knew was the sting of his bruises.
He had whispered those words like a mantra in the lonely times— quiet as a mouse, just loud enough for him to know their sound. Now they echoed through with the torn shreds of his dream.
Those words had been his hope, his one thread, his—
What had he first said? Midoriya Izuku. That you?
God, it was so unimportant, unmemorable— Midoriya had probably heard them a thousand times, in a thousand places. Hitoshi had asked a simple question without thought, steely quirk at the ready to catch an unwary opponent.
Oh, how he’d been burned.
A bitter tide welled up in Hitoshi’s throat, made his eyes sting with a feeling he’d long since abandoned.
He should have expected this.
Defeated— shoulders slumped, dreams crushed, how could he be a hero now?— Hitoshi dragged himself from the arena. The shock had faded, leaving only poison in its wake.
The waves of the general students— of his classmates, they had noticed him— awoke some brief happiness. At least they had seen what he wanted to do, the change he wanted to bring to society. Maybe, someday, he’d shape the world.
But now, he stung with the loss of his first match. Now, he had—
Hitoshi stopped that thought cold, with the iron control of his own quirk. He would keep reaching for his goals, use this new spite as his fuel, move up, always up.
Hitoshi was nothing and had achieved nothing, but that was no new feeling— all his life, Hitoshi had experienced the heavy press of disappointment, of disapproval.
For time beyond memory, he had been a too clever child with a villain’s quirk.
He would take another bitter step forward or burn out trying.
This was so much to bear. If only— he clenched a hand, knuckles going bone-white and frustrated. Beneath a sheen of sweat, his eyes stung, the shadows under them ever-dark. Hitoshi would not cry, not now.
If only his soulmate had recognized his words.
The weight of the capture weapon around his neck was comforting, newly familiar. Hitoshi breathed into the steel-soft fabric, let his lips rest against the cords.
It felt safe.
But really, it was a beginning, the cords that tied him to his hope and future.
He’d won a place in the hero course, with this weapon. He’d win more, win a chance at his dream and a place on the podium.
His quirk was still his, still villainous but now— now it was potent.
A rustling caught his attention, had him raising a tired gaze. Slow blinks had Aizawa-sensei coming into focus, disheveled hair a swirl of wild night against the sunset. The man slid down beside Hitoshi, strong arms brushing against his side in a careless gesture of home.
Hitoshi pushed down the quirk of his lips, but he couldn’t stop the happy slump of his shoulders.
“Good work, Shinsou.” The words were understated, flat in a way Hitoshi had grown used to. But there was a smile lurking in the corners of tired eyes, a satisfied gleam in black-to-red-to-black eyes.
Sensei was pleased.
Hitoshi tucked his chin into the fabric around his neck, hiding his mouth from view. He didn’t trust himself to stop the smile, now, not with the happiness bubbling up in his stomach.
They had trained together for three long months, in the cracks of early evening and the time before dawn. Hitoshi had worked himself to the bone for the chance to join the hero course, for the opportunity to train with an underground hero of Aizawa’s caliber. And he had done it.
He had made Sensei proud.
“You should clean up.” The words were nonchalant, but they signaled the end of training for the day. Hitoshi moved to stand, arms weary but soul light with an unbelievable happiness.
He had made Sensei proud.
He didn’t expect what was said next.
“Shinsou. Why are you avoiding Midoriya?”
The words echoed between them, echoed into the warmth of Hitoshi’s chest and left him cold. Like a fell breeze on a summer’s day, everything went dark, the smile slipping from his lips to land at his feet, in the dust beside his heart.
He had hoped Sensei wouldn’t notice— he should have known.
“Please—” He stopped, took a breath, looked away and down. The whorls of the wood beneath his feet gripped his gaze, made his chest a little lighter. “Please don’t ask.”
Aizawa fixed him with a bland stare, eyes unblinking and uncanny. For two beats of his heart, for long enough Hitoshi’s mind went heavy with whirling thoughts, Sensei was quiet. Then he nodded, a shallow thing, and looked away.
The tension drained out of Hitoshi, left him weak and limp and tired. He wasn’t pinned by Sensei’s thunderous gaze anymore but—
But he had seen it gentle into something like understanding, something thoughtful.
Sympathy had never stung so much.
“Talk to him, soon Shinsou,” he said, the words echoing between them and into the cavity in Hitoshi’s chest.
They took root there, sent out fresh-green shoots and grew to entangle his lungs and mind. He felt absorbed into them, left to be nothing but a place for them to resonate, an echo chamber made of bones and bitter dreams.
He’d spoken his Words, but Izuku hadn’t recognized them. Nothing he said now could change that, no words would make the golden boy believe him.
Hitoshi had a villain’s quirk, after all.
It was a routine day at UA, with pleasant bickering filling the space between classes and a thoughtful silence swimming beneath the murmur of conversation.
It was a routine day, with Hitoshi caught in the stream of chaos that was 1A, with Midoriya— no, Izuku, the boy had insisted a few weeks ago, and there was only so long Hitoshi could resist— across from him and Uraraka to one side. Uraraka kept up a pleasant stream of commentary, and Hitoshi nodded along, hmming at the appropriate moments.
He had not come here to make friends, he’d once said, before the whole of Class 1A.
They’d taken that as a challenge.
It was a routine day, until Hitoshi looked up to catch Izuku’s eyes and saw only an ocean of emerald. His world was caught in the spread of freckles, in the strength of growing shoulders.
Izuku smiled, and Hitoshi was lost.
And suddenly, with an insidious certainty, Hitoshi knew he’d have to tell Izuku someday.
No matter the dread creeping under tired eyes, carving a deeper sadness into the shadows there, no matter the rejection lurking just around the corner, waiting for Hitoshi to have that one moment of fragile hope—
No matter all this, he had to tell Izuku— Hitoshi may be burdened with a villain’s quirk and a bone-deep bitterness, but Izuku was good to the core, righteous and kind and gifted with a keen mind.
(And beautiful, god was Izuku beautiful.)
Izuku was a hero, and Hitoshi couldn’t be responsible for keeping his Words from him, no matter the cost.
1 YEAR, TWO MINUTES, FORTY-THREE SECONDS
Hitoshi stood tall as a statue, with an earned confidence making his muscles loose and his smirk easy. The roar of the crowd around him pounded into his blood, shaking his bones— but not his conviction.
Hitoshi was ready for this.
It was a beautiful day, bright as the spotlight fixed on this match, on the battle between fated enemies and close friends.
Izuku looked resolute, alive with conviction and a frightening intelligence, the beginnings of green lightning crawling over his skin like the furies of a god. A smile lit up the very air, welcoming and enthusiastic and edging on bloodthirsty.
He looked terrifying. He looked breath-takingly handsome. He looked like everything Hitoshi had ever wanted, condensed into a single form of corded muscle and curly hair.
Hitoshi took a rueful breath, let the air creep into his lungs. It was a nervous thing, a wry thing— Hitoshi was calm, but shaken like a leaf in the storm.
It had been a year, three minutes since Hitoshi had spoken his words to Izuku. They had stood on this very spot, across from each other as they were now.
But Hitoshi had more bitterness, then, and fewer friends.
As the crowd roared its welcome, as the match officially began, as Izuku’s smile grew all the more determined, Hitoshi opened his mouth to speak.
His fragile confidence would only allow him once chance at saying this. It had to be now. He felt his voice press out, out into the air between them, out as hope and friendship—
Out as more.
“I have your words, Izuku.”
They should have echoed between them, resonant with the weight they carried. They should have frozen Izuku on the spot as they did Hitoshi.
But the roar of the crowd was louder, furious as a thunderstorm and echoing through the fragile space between them.
Izuku hadn’t heard him.
Izuku never heard this.
With a fist raised strong and proud, green lightning began to dance across Izuku’s body from toe to clenched fingers.
Hitoshi— Hitoshi couldn’t bring himself to try to speak again.
A cacophony of shattering glass echoed over Hitoshi, sending a shockwave careening into his ears and over his face. The lethal tide drew cuts from his hands, pierced his skin and left the sting of failure aching across his bones. He didn’t shake from the pain, long practice keeping him on his feet and hands steady.
But god, it was close.
She was still chasing him, he couldn’t stop now, couldn’t allow himself any weakness. Hitoshi leapt forward, the sting of fresh cuts making him ache. The ground beneath his feet was littered with the corpses of a thousand mirrors, littered with the bodies of the dealers he’d caught.
He didn’t stop. Slipping feet took him deeper into the warehouse, let him dodge behind pillars and keep out of sight. There was a whoosh of wind, ending in the clash of a thousand fracturing shards of glass, like the chime of a thousand bells.
Hitoshi rolled out of the way, felt new cuts carve themselves into his arms, felt the ground itself rip into him.
He didn’t stop.
“You don’t understand, I can’t I can’t see, not without them, you ruined it hero, you’ve ruined it.” The voice was clear as a cloudless day, high and bright as the peerless moon that so often guided Hitoshi home from patrols.
It was a beautiful voice, but Hitoshi couldn’t focus on it, not with sting of cuts over his face, not with the threat lacing the glass at his feet.
He was bleeding now, blood dripping down across his modulator— once his trusted tool, now useless. Before this villain, it only slowed him down. He’d tried to trap her once, while the fight was still young and this had been a routine patrol.
He had never failed so quickly before.
He hadn’t tried again— Shota hadn’t taught a fool, and Hitoshi would be damned if he didn’t do his old teacher proud.
A lethal clatter was his only warning— Hitoshi ducked behind a pillar quick as his feet would take him, watched the glass stream past and shatter across the floor.
Another close call. It seemed like there was no end to the attacks, shimmering wave after shimmering wave rushing towards him like a great tide. His feet were struggling to get purchase on the ground, slipping over the sea of glass.
God, Hitoshi should have called for backup.
Desperate, he swung the edge of his capture weapon up, let his weight send it snapping forward like a striking cobra. Droplets of blood traced the movement, an arc of crimson scattering across the warehouse floor.
Hitoshi’s body moved with it, and he swung himself up into the rafters. A few wayward shards of glass caught his leg, burrowed into his hero costume like living things, stopping at the bone and making him quake.
He grit his teeth against a fresh tremor of pain, against the sensations running up his body. He didn’t stop, he couldn’t, Izuku would be so sad, he couldn’t stop—
Not here, not alone like this. Hitoshi had worked too hard to die alone.
With all the weariness he kept in his tired heart and proud shoulders, Hitoshi jumped across the high beams, balancing on the metal like a jungle cat. His legs shook with each impact, shook with the glass buried in his flesh.
Droplets of crimson fell ever down, decorating the warehouse floor.
“No, no, not more, no, hero I can’t see—” The voice chimed with madness, sent chills running down Hitoshi’s spine and across the torn skin of his back.
Mirror-bright, this villain was called, and god, if Hitoshi had known her quirk beforehand he’d never have come alone.
Against a quirk like this, his power could do nothing, reflected harmlessly away from a broken mind. From his perch, he scanned the warehouse, desperation making him quick. There—
At the end of the room, near the ceiling was a window opening into the light of day. He moved towards it, muscles screaming against every motion. Outside, Hitoshi could turn the environment to his advantage, use the better cover of the urban jungle he’d trained on. He wouldn’t be surrounded by a hundred thousand weapons, tiny slivers of danger digging into his every step.
Outside, he could call for help, call Izuku.
Another leap had him balancing before the window, toes caught on the edge of the metallic sill, his capture weapon keeping his weight forward and hands free.
It would be okay.
“No, no you can’t leave, no hero you’ve done this you can’t just leave.” With a threatening crack, a flaw appeared in the window before him, spreading across the thick pane like a disease.
Dread was all he had time for, perched before his enemy’s weapon. She’d controlled the thousand mirrors decorating the floor— he should have known she’d control this glass too.
He’d never told Izuku.
5 YEARS AND 2 DAYS
Hitoshi had woken in enough hospitals to know the feel of stiff sheets beneath his fingers, know the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor with a casual intimacy.
He blinked slow eyes awake, felt the heavy drag of drugged eyelids. He blinked again.
He tried to shift his hand, test the movement in his limbs, but something was weighing down his fingers. Another blink, again, and now his eyes stayed open, the off-white room coming into focus like a dull mirage. He felt the quiet tick of the machines, heard the beat of his own heart deep in his ears. But all he could feel was a groggy surprise.
He— he hadn’t expected to wake up. Not after that villain, not after the rush of glass from the window. Not after he’d screamed with the pain of a thousand new cuts.
Exhaustion resonating deep in his bones— he was always tired, how could he feel so tired just after mustering the strength to open his eyes?— he turned his head, looking towards his hand.
Laid across bandaged fingers was a familiar hand, calloused with a hero’s training and strong enough to crush steel. But now— now it was so gentle.
Izuku always looked so peaceful, in sleep. The steely conviction that lined his face faded away, leaving behind a constellation of freckles and disheveled hair.
In five years, Izuku had never changed that hair.
He twitched his fingers again, the motion weak as a new born kitten. It woke Izuku anyway, and he sat upright in a heartbeat, face alert and ready.
No hero could afford to wake up slowly.
For a moment, they shared a brief silence, Hitoshi blinking slow eyes into Izuku’s stare. Hair askew from sleeping against a hospital bed, the mark of sheets pressed into a freckled cheek, he should have looked ridiculous.
Instead, he looked broken.
“Hitoshi, I was—” Izuku stopped, took a breath that seemed to sting his lips. Hitoshi wanted to kiss them better, but this was no new impulse, and he controlled it with the ease of long practice.
That was not his place.
“I thought.” A breath, timed to the endless beat of the heart monitor. “I found you, lying there. God, Hitoshi, there was so much blood—”
“You thought I was dead.” The words slipped out, deadpan and emotionless, carving into the air between them like a broken shard of glass. His words had always been his best weapon— that had not changed.
Hitoshi watched— felt horror dawn behind the fog of drugs— as Izuku’s face crumpled, tears welling over brilliant green eyes.
He had seen Izuku cry a thousand times, but never like this, not with this terror. Thoughtless, he twitched his fingers, forced what little strength he had into squeezing Izuku’s hand.
Callouses fingers clenched back, trembling with a thoughtless panic.
“It’s fine, I—” Hitoshi’s breath felt hard to catch, his eyelids heavy with a forced drowsiness, but it didn’t matter— he hate seeing that expression on Izuku’s face.
“No, Hitoshi. It is not fine.” Izuku’s voice grew steadier with each word, the hero’s conviction that lined his very bones making his tone ring through the room.
“You almost died, alone with a madwoman.” The beep of the heart monitor filled the breath between words, a low note to Izuku’s tearful gaze. “You almost died, and I wasn’t there.”
“I didn’t tell you, Hitoshi. I never told you I loved you.”
If Hitoshi had the strength, the will, the ability to do anything but stare at Izuku with disbelief, he would have torn off that damned heart monitor.
Love. He must have misheard, must have let the drugs spin a fanciful delusion. It had been five years since Izuku hadn’t recognized his words.
Love wouldn’t come now.
Or maybe Hitoshi was bleeding out on that warehouse floor, victim to the villainy of Mirror-bright, of an addict with a broken mind.
Maybe his own mind was broken, but it didn’t need to be cruel.
“I didn’t need this. I didn’t need to have my silence rubbed in again.” The words spilled from him, falling into the space between them with the edge of cut glass.
Izuku— or the dream of him, Hitoshi wasn’t sure anymore— reeled back, hurt flashing over a freckled face, driving an echo of pain into Hitoshi’s stomach.
It didn’t matter, this wasn’t real. “I didn’t say anything for five years for a reason— he never heard them. He never loved me, not like that.”
“Don’t do this to me now.”
But the mirage didn’t vanish, the cold of death didn’t creep in on him—
“I’d punch you, Hitoshi, if you weren’t injured.” A strong hand reached for his, touched calloused fingers to the skin of his cheek. Izuku was staring at him, expression hurt and hopeful and so damn understanding. “Are you saying what I think you are?”
Hitoshi couldn’t look away, not with the hint of Izuku’s touch pressing into his face, not with unfathomable green eyes pinning him in place.
Would death have given him this? Would drugs have felt so real? Hitoshi didn’t know anymore, emotions swamping out what little control injury had left him.
He’d decided once, many years ago, that’d he’d tell Izuku the truth someday. What did it matter if this was real or not?
“Yes.” His voice scrapped out of his chest, trembled into the air between them. Stripped of modulator and confidence, it sounded so weak, but god it was a truth that hurt more than his wounds. “I had your words.”
Hitoshi stopped, took a breath. What if this is real?
“I have your words.”
Izuku let out a breathless laugh, punched out with the smile growing on his face. Warm air brushed over Hitoshi’s lips, across the bridge of his nose, leaving him too-hot under the gentle touch of Izuku’s hands.
Bandaged skin prickled against a sudden shiver.
“I am going to kiss you. That alright?” Izuku’s voice was low, intimate in the space between them.
Hitoshi couldn’t do anything but nod, struck dumb by shock.
He’d had imagined the press of Izuku’s lips a thousand times, in the dark of night, in the sunny halls of UA, and in the lonely corners of his apartment. He’d never thought of the burn of scruff, of the insistent press of lips, of the fingers running over his cheek, again and again and again.
Oh god, this was real.
Izuku pulled away just enough for Hitoshi to catch his breath, just enough for him to realize he’d stopped breathing.
This was real.
A bitter fear had him snapping out, words tumbling into the air between them. “I didn’t tell you for five years. Don’t you care?” He tried for angry, tried to feed venom into his tone, but it came out soft and breathless.
Words had ever been Hitoshi’s weapon, but before Izuku he was left bare.
“It’s never been about the words, Hitoshi.” A calloused thumb brushed across his cheekbone, pressing hard enough to leave a line of tingling sensation. Hitoshi trembled against it. “You might not believe me now, and that’s fine—”
For once, Izuku wasn’t smiling, mouth set with a deadly severity. But, oh, did his green eyes glimmer.
“I will show you that I am here, for you, always.”
For time beyond memory, Hitoshi had been ignored by the society he strove to protect. With a clever quirk and quick fingers, he was the perfect back-alley hero.
No one knew his name, and that was good.
But Izuku— Izuku had seen him. The hero had stretched out his hand, had pulled Hitoshi close and kept him there, becoming a friend and rival and confidante.
He had become Hitoshi’s world. The words etched into his wrist was not meaningless— how could they be, when they were gilded with green, how could they, when they were Izuku’s— but god, Hitoshi could care less about the inked letters.
Izuku loved him.