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if it's a dream don't wake me

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Shinsou Hitoshi, despite what life liked to throw at him, was not impulsive.

 

He kept to himself, only used his quirk in self-defense, never stayed anywhere long enough to arouse suspicion, and generally did his best to stay out of trouble.

 

After all, the last thing he wanted was to be caught and sent back to that group home. As much as he missed the stability of school, and as close as he’d been to the entrance exams for high school when he’d finally escaped, he did at some point have to return to his so-called ‘foster parents,’ every day. To say the streets were better was an understatement.

 

Therefore, it would have been the wiser thing to just keep walking when he saw her. The little girl was filthy and wearing something that could barely be recognized as clothing, barefoot, and her face was tearstained. More tears were falling through the clear panic as she stumbled and wove her way through the crowd. Everyone else in the weekend shopping crowd was smart. They saw an uncomfortable situation and decided to ignore it. They did the sensible thing and left it for someone else.

 

Hitoshi had always dreamed of being a hero, though.

 

He stepped in front of the girl. Predictably, she ran straight into him. “Do you need to get away from someone?”

 

She nodded, the terror of whatever was behind her outweighing any wariness of strangers. Hitoshi heard a man’s voice sharply calling out, summoning, and the girl flinched. Without hesitating he scooped her up and fled into a nearby alley between two businesses, trying to use his light jacket and bulky backpack to shield any view of her in case a passerby suddenly decided to be ‘helpful.’ He didn’t stop moving, doing an odd zig-zag through the city center and toward the outskirts that any pursuer would be hard-pressed to replicate. He felt a pang of guilt as he nicked a bright red pair of little kid’s shoes that looked roughly the right size from an outdoor display and stuffed them in his jacket pocket— but going barefoot on the streets was practically suicidal, and while he did have a small bit of savings it wasn’t nearly enough for brand new shoes. He’d just come back and pay for them eventually.

 

(He had a list of places to pay back, once he had a steady job. It hadn’t grown in a while, though.)

 

They ended up in one of Hitoshi’s preferred safehouses. Well, ‘safehouse,’ was a strong word— especially for a condemned and abandoned building. This block had been the subject of some hero-villain fight almost a decade prior, and the rubble and damage had never been properly cleaned up. If you were willing to sidestep a lot of debris and lack of electricity, it was alright. He’d even found a broom in one of the old storefronts and managed to sweep the broken glass out of the main abandoned apartment he used. This was one of the few that still (probably accidentally) had running water, even if it sometimes came out a little clouded.

 

“Right,” Hitoshi said briskly, shutting the door behind them and doing up the deadbolt (he’d yet to find any of the spare apartment keys in the rubble, so that would have to do), then going and sitting down on the couch. The little girl was shaking, and had trouble meeting his gaze when he pulled back to look her over. A small horn, of all things, was half-hidden by her long hair. Her arms were entirely covered in bandages,  faintly ragged in a way that indicated they were a few days old. She honestly couldn’t have been older than five, barely out of toddlerhood and straight into what was apparently another messed-up childhood. “They won’t find us here. Who are we avoiding, so I know to go the other way? What do they look like?”

 

“H-he wears a bird mask,” she finally said. Her voice was quiet but with careful annunciation that made him revise his earlier thought— possibly as old as six, but small for her age, then. “A beak. Like a… doctor?”

 

It took a moment for Hitoshi to remember that part of World History. Junior high seemed so long ago, sometimes. “A plague doctor?” Well, no sane doctor of any profession would wear that, so coupled with the girl’s terror it looked pretty safe to say he hadn’t accidentally kidnapped a kid from a happy living situation. Awesome. “What did he want with you?”

 

“It’s… my quirk,” she admitted, a hand reaching up and touching her horn even as her eyes remained downcast. “He wants to do something… bad. It hurts a lot.”

 

Fuck, there were bandages on her legs, too. Hitoshi pulled the shoes out of his jacket pockets and carefully slid them on the girl’s feet, being mindful of the injuries. “Sorry these are a little big— didn’t exactly have time to stop for a sizing, but it’ll work out better that way anyway. Would the police help?”

 

“No!” She shook her head vehemently. “Grownups who try to help die. He has the yakuza helping. Or he says I’m his daughter and— and if I don’t go back people die anyway and it hurts worse next time.”

 

Shoes secured, Hitoshi considered his options. He could drop this little girl off at the police station, probably signing their death warrant if the freaking yakuza were involved. He could try contacting a hero— but really, most heroes didn’t care for the day-to-day of anything lower than upper-middle class. Heroes like his personal idol, Eraserhead, were rare, and underground heroes were always in high demand. There wasn’t a guarantee they’d be able to keep the girl safe, either— from the yakuza, or the plague-doctor guy’s smooth talking. Granted, his own safety wasn’t exactly secure, but it’d be pretty hard to find two particular homeless kids on one of Japan’s biggest islands. It would be tough, and a tag-along didn’t help with staying under the radar, but…

 

Small, red-eyed kid targeted for their quirk and desperate to get away? Hell if it didn’t ring a few bells.

 

“What’s your name, squirt?”

 

“Eri.” Her eyes widened. “Are you taking me to the police?”

 

“I’m Hitoshi. And no. You can hang out with me, alright? I’ll protect you.”

 

“I don’t want to go back,” she whimpered. Hitoshi’s arms tightened around her.

 

“Then we’ll make sure you don’t,” he said firmly. The street was the best solution for his crappy situation— might as well do what he could for Eri, too.

 

——

 

First order of business was to make sure Eri was better physically prepared. Hitoshi led the way to a 100-yen store and carefully picked out a travel-size hairbrush and a set of hair ties, politely requesting the small order be double-bagged. “My sister’s trying to surprise her friend,” he lied, and despite the flimsy excuse the cashier nodded knowingly and sent them on their way with a smile. Eri stayed as close to Hitoshi as possible, but after a couple blocks was clearly wearing down, so he stopped them in a quieter part of the sidewalk, switched his bag to his front, and knelt down.

 

“Hop on,” he instructed.

 

Eri still looked uncertain. It was probably her main state of being. “Um. It’s okay.”

 

Hitoshi snorted. “Nope. You’re tired. I’ve got plenty of energy, so I’ll just carry you the rest of the way. I already carried you once, remember? Just wrap your arms around my neck enough to hold on this time.”

 

Eri hesitated a moment more, but exhaustion won out and she clambered onto Hitoshi’s back. He stood with ease and resumed walking. “See? You practically weigh nothing, anyway—”

 

“Seventeen.”

 

“Hm?”

 

Eri yawned and rested her head on his shoulder. “I was seventeen kilograms yesterday. If I went under that I got in trouble ‘cause I’d get dizzy easier when they did stuff or they’d have to take me apart. It took a while to figure that out.”

 

“Ah.” Hitoshi was no pediatrician, but he was pretty damn sure Eri was way too light for her age group. The ‘stuff’ she referred to was probably whatever horrors resulted in the bandages winding up and down her arms and legs. And that was without even touching the horrifying implications of ‘taking her apart.’ Note to self, Hitoshi: making sure she eats enough is a top priority.

 

The shelter in Musutafu was a bit of a walk, but well worth it. There were always a few underground sidekicks or interns around to keep an eye on the rare assault or theft attempts, it was close to UA and thus not the scene of a ton of street crime, and had frequent donations from the nearby (safe, and thus) wealthy neighborhoods. Hitoshi checked them in (with a false name for Eri as well as one of his rotating aliases) for the night and made a detour to the clothing donation bins. He finally set Eri down and rifled through the bin of young girl clothes, holding them up with a critical eye until he found some that might fit her tiny frame. He grabbed some socks and underwear, too. Finally Hitoshi chivvied her to the bathrooms, seizing a ‘family stall’ and locking it securely.

 

“We’re gonna have to get you a bag too,” he muttered, pulling the store bag from earlier out and setting aside a full outfit for Eri. The rest went in his bag for now. “Okay. Do you know how to work a shower?”

 

“Um.”

 

Hitoshi bit back a sigh. It was hardly her fault. “That’s fine. Get undressed and I can help with your hair.”

 

Eri carefully pulled off the ragged scraps masquerading as a hospital gown, and Hitoshi paused in the middle of removing his own shirt. Turns out the scars covered her torso as well, though what few butterfly bandages were visible hadn’t been applied with nearly as much precision as the ones on her limbs. Eri looked at the bandages uncertainly.

 

“I don’t think anything is bleeding, anymore,” she said, tone a little distant, “but I’m not supposed to get them wet.”

 

“Yeah. We’ll have to change them. That’s fine. We’ll just take them off slowly, alright?”

 

The sheer amount of scars, seemingly endless needle marks, and a few scabbed-over areas where entire strips of skin were missing was heartbreaking at best. While most of it looked older or had the marks of quirk-healing, Hitoshi still went back and pulled out the first aid kit from his bag and set it next to their dry clothes.

 

Another reason this shelter was so very worth the trek was the consistent hot water pressure, tiny bottles of shampoo and body wash, and multiple clean, dry towels provided. Hitoshi stripped down and washed them both quickly and efficiently. Once clean and dry, Hitoshi carefully smeared antibiotic ointment on Eri’s more recent-looking wounds before adding a fresh bandage. Then they got dressed, with Eri watching with wide eyes as Hitoshi layered the plastic store bags between her socks and shoes in case of rain (or water quirk).

 

She was almost unrecognizable, in a purple sweater (the softest he could find, even if it was a little big) and jeans versus a dirty gown. Her long hair was a pure white once clean, and Hitoshi motioned for her to sit down in front of him so he could carefully brush out her hair. Then he tied it up in a neat ponytail to help keep it out of her eyes, brushing some of it to cover the small horn on her forehead— plus, it was another difference from her previous appearance. They might have to dye her hair or something eventually, but this was a good starting point.

 

Hitoshi leaned back and surveyed his work. “Feel better?”

 

Eri considered this a long moment, then nodded.

 

Hitoshi grinned.

 

————

 

Patrol was turning out to be a bust tonight. The most exciting thing to happen was breaking up a bar fight that had spilled out onto the street, and that hadn’t needed more than one instance of Erasure. Even the corner girls had reported a quiet night.

 

On the one hand, this was frustrating. He’d been hoping to make some decent progress on the Trigger case— the supplier was getting bolder, and had started making some strange moves in the past two weeks, evidently searching for a missing victim or accomplice that had escaped. If Shouta could track them down, it was entirely possible that he’d lead them straight to the supplier themselves— a madman calling himself Overhaul. Unfortunately there were zero leads or attacks to go on tonight.

 

On the other hand, maybe this meant he’d get to go home early tonight and have a late dinner with Hizashi.

 

Mrreew !

 

Shouta paused when he heard it. Hizashi still teased him about his ability to locate a cat with the slightest noise, but Shouta hardly saw the problem with that. Cats got in trouble sometimes, too. Usually they’d let him pet them (occasionally with some bribery), and then both would go their separate ways happier. It was a win/win situation that he couldn’t really be faulted for seeking out, right?

 

Of course, if he voiced that rationalization Hizashi would tease him all the more.

 

There .

 

A teenager and a much smaller kid were already huddled around the box. The little girl was kneeling and had an expression of awe and delight, while the boy (her brother? High schooler?) was clearly trying and failing to restrain a similar reaction.

 

“’Toshi-nii, they’re so little!” The girl cooed. Both were too enthralled to hear Shouta walk up, apparently.

 

“Yeah, it happens sometimes, kiddo. We really can’t take them with us, though. Where are we gonna—” Ah. Now the teen noticed Shouta, and his voice cut off abruptly. He stared at Shouta with a strange mixture of excitement and alarm before smoothing it into a decent attempt at a poker face. Hm.

 

Shouta raised his eyebrows. “Shouldn’t you guys be home this late?”

 

The girl looked up, and the teen suddenly remembered his vocal cords worked. “We were! But our parents are at work and forgot to go grocery shopping, so we were just going out to grab something quick from the convenience store for dinner,” he shrugged.

 

Shouta was impressed. The lie had been delivered quickly and cleanly, and was fairly believable. The little girl didn’t argue, just continuing to pet the pair of (very small, too young to be away from their mother) kittens and whispering quietly to them.

 

He knew a couple of homeless kids when he saw them, though.

 

If there was one thing hero work had confirmed for Shouta, it was that people were people. Most were just trying to get by, particularly in areas with a large amount of villain activity.  Bad things happened to good people. Sometimes shit really sucked and you ended up on the streets. They both had on several mismatched layers, beat up full backpacks with no sign of school labels, and he could see the edge of a plastic bag sticking out of the girl’s shoe. The teen was clearly doing his best to care for the younger girl, and while both were predictably thin they weren’t skeletal, so he knew how to get regular meals for both of them. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on them for a bit. While Shouta knew that realistically it wouldn’t happen, part of him couldn’t help hoping maybe he could convince them to go down to the station and get some kind of contact with social services. He knew at least a couple of the good workers would be willing to help.

 

“Hm. What’d you find, then?”

 

People were hard. Cats were easy. The little girl visibly brightened up and moved aside to make room for Shouta. He crouched down and rubbed the top of the loudest kitten’s head gently.

 

“I don’t know where the mommy cat is,” the girl explained sadly. “Hitoshi-nii heard them crying. Do you think they’re hungry?”

 

“Probably. They’re too little to be away from their mother. She may not be coming back,” Shouta said pragmatically. The teen winced, and the girl drooped. Kids were so dramatic. Making a decision, he carefully scooped the two kittens up and tucked them into the front of his capture weapon, securing them despite their indignant squeaking protests. “I can take them. We’ve taken kittens in before— they just need a little time and effort. They’ll be fine. Do you want me to escort you guys home first?”

 

The offer was there, but the teenager shook his head quickly and began hustling his ‘sister’ along. “No, but thank you, sir. You’ve got better stuff to do. We’ll be fine!”

 

Shouta frowned. It was supposed to get near-freezing tonight. “It’s no problem. I have to stop at the store for kitten supplies anyway. Depending on which direction you live in, there might be a pet store on the way.” He was pushing, yes, but another underground hero had been injured just last week breaking up a fight at the closest shelter and they were just kids—

 

The teen met his eyes. “Do you think so?” What the hell, why the sudden spark of terror there--

 

“Y—”

 

And then Shouta was standing on his doorstep, a plastic pet store bag in one hand and their apartment key in the other, kittens loudly demanding freedom from his capture weapon. Hizashi looked up in surprise from where he was curled up on the couch, completely dressed down with loose hair and comfy pajamas.

 

“Shouchan! You’re home early. Boring patrol?”

 

Shouta locked the door behind him and deposited the shopping bag on the kitchen table. “Not exactly.”

 

“What h— Are those kittens? Again ?!”

 

———

 

“Quirk use on another person, especially without a license, is technically illegal.”

 

Hitoshi felt himself tense up, waking abruptly from the comfortable doze when his subconscious realized that the question was directed at him. Eri, curled up next to him on the plush hospital couch, stirred for a moment before settling. Hitoshi slowly dragged his gaze up and had to hold back a cringe when he confirmed that yes, Eraserhead was standing in front of them. Despite the crossed arms, the hero looked more interested than pissed. Hitoshi wasn’t sure how long that would last.

 

After all, he had brainwashed his personal hero last week. Nice going, Hitoshi. Very becoming of someone who wants to be a hero. Not that he’d ever get the chance, according to many, many foster parents and social workers. Not with such a villainous quirk.

 

Eraserhead raised an eyebrow. Crap, he was a teacher at UA, wasn’t he? That look definitely gave off You’d Better Explain Yourself vibes. Hitoshi somehow managed to meet his gaze evenly. “Really? Good to know.”

 

Eraserhead snorted and took a seat in the closest chair. Ah, shit. “Just for future reference. Who are you waiting for?”

 

“Our grandma’s got her weekly chemo up on floor three,” Hitoshi said smoothly. He’d studied the map in the entrance carefully in case of just such a question. “Our mom is already up there but the waiting room’s comfier down here, and my sister needed a nap, so she sent us down for a while.”

 

“I see,” Eraserhead rummaged in his utility belt for a moment before coming up with two granola bars and a protein pouch. “Did you kids get to eat after school?”

 

Hitoshi hesitated, then swallowed his pride. “No. We were running late and didn’t have time to stop.” As he’d suspected would happen, the hero tossed the two bars at him at the admission. “Thanks.”

 

“Don’t worry about it. Have—”

 

“Eraserhead!”

 

A policeman jogged up, barely sparing a glance at the kids before focusing on the hero he’d interrupted. “Sir! Overhaul’s latest victim is awake! You mentioned you wanted to be present for the questioning?”

 

“Yeah,” Eraserhead stood, staring at the protein pouch for a moment before sighing and stuffing it in a pocket. He looked ready to say something to Hitoshi, but the presence of the policeman apparently changed his mind. “See you around, kid.”

 

Well, maybe his hero didn’t hate him after all. Hitoshi waited until they’d boarded the elevator before gently shaking Eri’s shoulder. She blinked up at him sleepily. “Huh? What is it, Hitoshi-nii?”

 

“Time to go, chibi .”

 

———

 

It was early in his patrol, and the villain cornering the kids had a mutation-type quirk. Of course.

 

Shouta paused from his rooftop vantage point, calculating the best way to get them out of this. The teenager— Hitoshi, the young girl had called him?— had shoved the shaking girl behind him protectively. His eyes glanced back and forth, clearly trying and failing to see an easy out or any helpful passerby who might intervene. But in this dilapidated neighborhood, just as the last dregs of sunlight disappeared and left every alleyway shortcut shrouded in shadows? Not bloody likely. The kid clearly knew that, too, but kept his best poker face on nonetheless.

 

“Spent a long time tracking you kids down,” the villain drawled. While the most devious thing Chief Tsuragamae used his beagle appearance for was dog puns of varying quality, this villain’s mutation went quite a bit further. His face was a confusing mishmash of human and German Shepard, canine lips pulled up in what could easily be either a snarl or a smirk and revealing rows of particularly sharp teeth. His hands were elongated paws, and a long black and tan tail kept perfectly still as he stared down at the pair. “I’ll give you credit for giving us the runaround, boy, but you’re no real threat. You’ve got no idea what you’re up against, do you?” He chuckled; a black, ugly sound. The girl whimpered. “I’m willing to let you go if you hand over the girl. Nicely. If we gotta do it the hard way, though…”

 

Shouta carefully shifted the capture scarf in his hands and tensed to pounce. It was illogical to let this drag out, even if there were some very interesting pieces of information there. The mouth was probably the biggest threat, with a dog mutation, then if he got the limbs down…

 

“Let me guess, you prefer it the hard way?” The teen drawled. The villain snorted.

 

“You—”

 

And then he stopped, eyes going blank and mouth suddenly slack. Hitoshi, to his credit, kept a level voice.

 

“Go straight to the nearest police station and turn yourself in. Don’t fight or hurt anyone.”

 

And then the villain started to leave.

 

Shouta watched, half-disbelieving, as the villain turned the corner and headed quietly west, where Shouta knew there was a small local station a few streets over. Okay, that’s enough .

 

The teenager had scooped the still shaking girl up and turned to go in the opposite direction, obviously ready to hightail it out of there before the instructions and brainwashing quirk wore off. Common sense was working, then. He froze when Shouta dropped to the ground and called out casually. “Nice job. It’d look better if you had a provisional license at least, though. But no injuries and a villain in custody, so not bad overall.”

 

“Can I help you?” Hitoshi asked warily. Shouta gave him a pointed look, using what Hizashi called his best Class Parent look. Not falling for that again, kid. Hitoshi’s shoulders slumped a little and he rolled his eyes.

 

“Alright, nevermind. No quirks on pros.”

 

“You think I’m a pro?”

 

Obviously . You’re Eraserhead. Everyone knows who you are,” Hitoshi said reasonably. Okay, considering how many pairs of socks and granola bars he tended to give out to those in need on patrols that wasn’t entirely unexpected-- “You’re the best underground hero.”

 

Shouta raised an eyebrow. Or the kid might be acting his age and pulling a Midoriya. Interesting.

 

“Why are villains after you? Or, well, her?” He nodded to the little girl. Usually a kid that age, upon hearing that villains were after them, would burst into tears. This one just whimpered and curled up closer to the teen holding her. This wasn’t new information, then. That’s not good.

 

“I don’t think there’s much even you could do, Eraserhead,” Hitoshi said with a surprising amount of frankness. He frowned ruefully. “That’s hardly the first villain who’s come after us, but definitely the biggest guns so far, I’d say. If you take us to the police station or social services they’ll all die.” He stated it as a fact, not a threat.

 

“So it’s better to keep drifting and risk everyone around you instead?” Shouta countered, mind racing. Like hell he was gonna let these two scurry off to who-knew-where if they were in trouble and knew it. He crossed his arms and met Hitoshi’s gaze seriously. “What happens when you get attacked at a shelter? In the middle of a crowd? You should know that villains like Shepard back there don’t care about casualties, especially civilians.”

 

Hitoshi gave him a disbelieving look right back. “We don’t exactly have a whole lot of options.”

 

“Come with me, then,” Shouta dared. In the back of his mind, he knew this was gonna be one hell of a talk with Hizashi. Oh well. Hitoshi, for his part, was visibly startled at the plain offer, eyes going wide. “I’m a hero. A good one, even according to you. I can protect you while we figure out this mess. With the help of other pros, as needed. You don’t have to do this alone. Think logically.”

 

Hitoshi hesitated. The girl whispered something to him, and he nodded slowly.

 

“Alright. We’ll give it a shot.”

 

———

 “You said Eraserhead is the best, ‘Toshi-nii. Maybe…?”

 

Eri was so quiet that when she did venture an opinion, it was hard for Hitoshi to reject it simply because at least she’d mustered up the guts to say something. In the end, that’s what decided it, and before long they were following the legendary Eraserhead to… somewhere. He messed with his phone for a moment before leading them on two different trains, fairly deep in the heart of Musutafu. At first Hitoshi wondered if they were just being led to the shelter (which… they’d already pretty recently stayed there, and going back so soon would mess up his rotation of shelters and aliases and the workers might be suspicious at best), or possibly an agency (he was pretty sure Eraserhead worked independently, but he did mention the help of other pros, so), but instead he led them to a quiet, well-to-do street lined with apartment buildings. Nice apartment buildings. They then went up two sets of stairs before stopping in front of one of the doors, Eraserhead slipping a key in before pushing the door open.

 

“Go on in. I’ll get the lights.”

 

Oh. Hitoshi felt a hysterical giggle bubbling up and fought it down. They were going to be in Eraserhead’s home. Okay. Yeah. That was totally not a reason to fanboy. Nope.

 

They had been on their way to the safehouse when the dog guy attacked. Maybe the sleep deprivation was kicking in.

 

——

 

Shouta had already texted another hero to pick up the rest of his patrol, citing an important case development but not wanting to leave those on his route high and dry. He locked the door behind them after the kids shuffled in, kicked off his work shoes, and nodded to the two. “You can leave your shoes here. Don’t worry about house slippers— just sit down anywhere. I’ll be right back.”

 

Satisfied they’d be occupied and not entirely likely to flee for at least five minutes, he made a beeline for the main bedroom and slipped inside. Hizashi was, of course, asleep. His long blond hair was still in the braid Shouta had helped weave before he’d left for patrol, and his hearing aids were on the bedside table. His phone, set to vibrate, was sticking out from under the pillow. Juggling the three main jobs and several side gigs he liked to pick up was far from easy, and Hizashi was almost as much of a sleep-lover as Shouta and didn’t hesitate to use energy drinks the same way Shouta mainlined coffee. He just tended to hide it better and time it differently, so of course he didn’t get all the teasing Shouta had to put up with. Even though the hero course kids were all at internships this week, they were both expected in at UA in the morning— Hizashi to handle overseeing the General and Support English departments (who didn’t share the week of training off-campus— thank god they rotated), and Shouta to work on the literally never-ending paperwork and lesson plans for 1-A’s return. Who knew how much sleep they’d get tonight with their unexpected guests, but while unexpected cats were usually okay to wait until morning people were probably another matter, and Hizashi would want to be awake. Shouta knelt down next to his husband and tapped his arm insistently.

 

“Mm?”

 

Sleepy, entrancing red eyes flickered open, registered Shouta, and then cast a confused glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand. Hizashi quirked an eyebrow and sat up, accepting the hearing aids and putting them back in. “What’s up, babe?”

 

“We’ve got company,” Shouta explained in a low voice, signing it as well while Hizashi adjusted the aids and added his comfortable at-home glasses.

 

“Oh?” Hizashi blinked, then narrowed his eyes. “How many kittens, Shouchan?”

 

Shouta huffed. “It’s humans this time. You know that kid who used his quirk on me a few weeks ago? When I brought in Nori and Mori?”

 

“Oh really,” Hizashi finally sat up and climbed out of the bed. “The one you thought might have a mental quirk, right? But you said company, plural, so who’s the other guy?”

 

“His little sister, I think? I caught them facing down a villain— Shepard, if you can believe it, should be in police custody by now— and the kid said they’ve been targeted a few times. Seemed desperate to avoid the police, and an agency would just shove them into social services before I could get the story out, so I brought them here for the night,” Shouta paused. “If you don’t want them to stick around I can still take them somewhere else, but I figured here would give them a better sense of privacy and safety to give a thorough report—”

 

Hizashi put one hand on the doorknob, then leaned over and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “You can just say you’re soft, Shouchan,” he teased. “But I trust you. I’m sure it’s fine. I’ll let you know otherwise.” With that, he flung open the door with a bright, “Hello, listeners!”

 

Nori and Morinaga were well used to the fluctuating volume in the soundproofed apartment. Their older, permanent cat, Apple, didn’t look up from where she was keeping a watchful eye on her temporary foster kittens. The kids, however, practically jumped. If Hitoshi hadn’t already had the girl perched in his lap, she probably would’ve flown up into it.

 

“Present Mic? Really?” Hitoshi managed after a moment of stunned staring. The girl gasped. Shouta sighed. Hizashi, to his credit, just chuckled.

 

“The one and only! You can call me Yamada, though! Whatever you’re comfortable with! What’re your names, little listeners? You guys look exhausted, but Eraser probably wants to start on a couple questions, so how about some food? Then you can crash out here on the couch or in the guest bedroom— it’s pretty sweet, not gonna lie.”

 

“Food is fine,” Hitoshi said, still looking a little dazed. He hesitated a moment, then reluctantly followed up, “Shinsou Hitoshi and Eri.”