Chapter 1: repent and repeat
Hitoshi’s heart thuds in his chest, hammering in time with his feet on the sidewalk. God, he shouldn’t have come, he should’ve gone somewhere else for help, now he’s only made things worse, he’s put more people in danger and-
“Take one more step and I snap her pretty little neck.” Hitoshi skids to a stop at the entrance to the alley, his breaths the only sound in the sudden silence following Denki’s words. For several painful seconds, all Hitoshi can think about is how cruel he sounds, how the bright voice he’d heard a thousand times has suddenly turned so cold and sinister. Denki shouldn’t sound like this, shouldn’t be standing in the back of an alley, some poor passersby caught in his grip.
He just needs a response, that’s all he needs and he can fix this mess, he can get this woman to safety and- and then what? The thought of forcing Denki to do his bidding, no matter who he’s become, it feels wrong. They’d been friends, once.
No, no he’d been lied to. He’d been the victim of Denki’s betrayal just like everyone else. He’d been used. And now he’s going to use Denki.
“I need your help.” Hitoshi does his best to relax his posture, even going as far as to lift his hands in mock surrender. All he needs is a response, and he’s begging the universe to let this be the time Denki slips up, where he lets his guard down, where his curiosity gets the better of him.
Light reflects in Denki’s eyes as they narrow, but his grip on the woman’s throat loosens enough that she’s now sucking in heavy breaths in the silence. If Denki notices he’s no longer holding her as tightly, he doesn’t seem to care.
Hitoshi’s jaw clenches - one word, that’s all he needs, can’t Denki just say one goddamn word? It’s all Hitoshi’s fault to begin with, he has to fix this, he has to. If he hadn’t been out here so late, if he hadn’t been putting himself at risk to search for Denki, everyone would be okay. This woman wouldn’t be in any danger. Kirishima wouldn’t be in danger.
“It’s Kirishima, please…” Hitoshi hates how his voice cracks, but it’s worth it for the way Denki’s eyes widen. His lips stay resolutely pressed together, though, and Hitoshi drops his head. This was a mistake, this was the biggest fucking mistake he’s ever made.
He got what he wanted, though, didn’t he? Here he is, face to face with Denki again, after everything they’ve been through. After everything Denki did to them. And somehow, Hitoshi thought he could bring Denki back into the light, he thought he could be a hero.
With a heavy sigh, he leans against the cold brick of the building beside him. No, he doesn’t deserve to play hero. He doesn’t deserve the license, the applause, the mentor, the support, not when he couldn’t save the one goddamn person that mattered.
“It’s my fault,” he admits aloud - he’s not sure if he’s talking about Kirishima or Denki now. But the more he talks, the more likely he’ll be to get a response, and it’s all he can do. He can’t stop trying, Kirishima’s depending on him. “I came after you, I thought-” No, he can’t say that part aloud. “And my friends- our friends, they came after me, but some thug attacked and-”
And now, Kirishima’s been captured and all his friends are too injured to fight and dammit if Hitoshi had been better, if he’d worked harder and gotten stronger and if his quirk weren’t so fucking useless, maybe his friends wouldn’t be hurt, maybe he wouldn’t have lost Kirishima, maybe-
Maybe he wouldn’t have lost Denki.
But that doesn’t matter now.
“I have to get him back.” Histoshi slams his fist against the wall. “Please, if you ever cared about him, about us, about any of us, I need your help.” The words burn his tongue, threatening to drag up every memory, every moment he’d looked at Denki and seen a friend. Maybe even something more. But he can’t think about that, not right now, not with people’s lives on the line.
When the silence threatens to melt his ears, he finally dares to glance back up.
Denki’s just staring, though Hitoshi could swear his head has dropped a bit. After a moment, his hand falls to his side, and the woman he’d been holding hostage collapses to her knees on the pavement. Her eyes glance up to Hitoshi, and all he can manage is a weak jerk of his head - she should leave.
And Hitoshi should go with her, he should get her to safety, it’s what a hero would do, he thinks. But he’s not a hero, he doesn’t deserve to call himself that.
“Where’s Kirishima.” Denki’s voice hasn’t lost the icy tone, but Hitoshi exhales a breath of relief - if Denki comes willingly, he won’t have to use his quirk on him. He hates how much he wants to avoid that, how much he still wants to protect him. How much he wants to save someone so obviously lost.
But maybe that’s the point of being a hero, to prove to people that they aren’t beyond saving.
Chapter 2: what are we good for? (i think you know)
so uh hitoshi tricks denki (plot twizzle)
“You asshole!” Denki screams, and the wooden chair creaks as he struggles against the bindings. Hitoshi dips his head.
“We need to know what you know,” Aizawa says again. Denki coughs out a bitter laugh.
“I don’t know anything, I’ve never known anything, and there’s nothing you could do to me that would matter anyway.” His words cut like ice - he’d said that once before, before all this had happened.
“I swear I don’t know anything, can you tutor me, Shinsou?” And god, Hitoshi had fallen for it. Fallen for everything Denki said.
Fallen for Denki.
“I thought we were saving Kirishima!” Denki shouts again, and Hitoshi is grateful for the soundproofed room they’re in. Aizawa has some weird resources, but he supposes they’re useful.
“We did,” Hitoshi argues.
“And then you brainwashed me.” He’s never heard Denki like this, his tone so acidic it rivals Mina’s quirk. Hitoshi’s head hurts as it tries to reconcile everything - Denki’s betrayal with his prior kindness, Hitoshi’s own promises to never do something like that to a friend with the question of whether Denki ever was a friend.
Friends don’t betray friends.
“We need information,” Aizawa butts in, straightforward as ever. “There are lives on the line.”
“There are always lives on the line, why does it suddenly matter so damn much?” Hitoshi turns away - the Denki he knows would care, at least a little. He wanted to be a hero, what the hell happened?
“Man, I swear I have to get way better with my quirk or I’ll never be a real hero!” Hitoshi had laughed at that, at the idea that Denki would be anything other than exactly who he wanted to be. Hitoshi always found himself laughing around Denki.
“Why- why does it matter?” Aizawa’s clearly losing his patience. Hitoshi inhales a few deep breaths, trying to keep himself calm. But how the hell is he supposed to be calm when his best friend turned on him? On the entire school?
How was he so easily fooled?
“Shinsou, please, keep an eye on him,” Aizawa grumbles, brushing past Hitoshi and out the door. “I need a minute.”
Hitoshi doesn’t want to turn around. He doesn’t want to see those bright yellow eyes turned hard and brutal against him. He would rather remember the way his mouth opened a little too wide when he laughed, the way he hung around Hitoshi even when he didn’t think he wanted the company, the way he could quote Shakespeare word for word then turn around and ask Hitoshi if birds could see the same colors as people.
“You’re no better than I am,” Denki hisses at Hitoshi’s back, and the words creep up Hitoshi’s spine and worm their way into his ears. He wishes he could pull them out, throw them to the ground and squish them under his feet.
“You betrayed me, and I betrayed you, so we’re even now,” Hitoshi says to the wall. Denki coughs out a laugh.
“Perfect, you can let me out of here, then.”
“Not until you tell us who you’re working for, who your contacts are.” Maybe Hitoshi’s been spending too much time with Aizawa, but his mentor is right, there are lives at stake, and Denki might have the intel that could help save them.
“I don’t know,” Denki says again, “what the hell do I have to say to get you to believe me?”
“I did believe you,” Hitoshi says, though he wishes he hadn’t. His tongue refuses to stop now that it’s started, though, and all the damn emotions he’s been holding back come spilling from his lips.
“I believed you wanted to be a hero, I believed you wanted to help. I believed you were my friend.” He does turn around now, and he almost regrets it - Denki’s staring back, eyes wide and lips parted like he might be about to argue that point. Hitoshi wishes he would, wishes he would say something and make Hitoshi believe it.
But nothing comes out, only an aching silence that makes Hitoshi want to scream, but he doesn’t. He won’t lose himself in front of Denki, not when he’s taken everything else. No, Hitoshi can hold onto his anger. That’d been a gift from Denki, after all.
“I believed you loved classic literature and didn’t understand geometry and liked pranking the other students and wanted to control your quirk and I believed you cared.” Hitoshi’s out of breath now, but the lack of oxygen only fuels him. He lifts his voice modulator.
“I like you, Shinsou,” he says in Denki’s voice, and Denki’s eyes drop to the ground. Hitoshi lowers the modulator. “I believed it when you said that, too. And look where that got me.” His hand clenches in a fist at his side and tears prick at the back of his eyes.
“I could kill you right now,” Denki says, his voice so low that Hitoshi almost doesn’t hear him. As soon as he does, though, he wishes he hadn’t. “Electrocute you and Aizawa and find a way to get free once you’re dead.”
“Do it, then. What’s stopping you?” Hitoshi grits his teeth to keep his lip from trembling. Denki would kill them. Kill him.
“I don’t...want to.” He sounds so resigned, and Hitoshi blows out a shaky breath.
“That’s reassuring,” he says, hoping the dark humor will help dispel some of the ache in his chest. It doesn’t, but Denki laughs, a real laugh, and Hitoshi’s breath comes in a little easier this time.
Maybe, somewhere in the depths of his imagination, he can pretend Denki’s going to break down and tell them it was all a ruse, just a clever manipulation and he’s really one of the good guys, he really is a hero. And maybe there’s absolutely no reason Hitoshi could even begin to justify that hope inside his head, but it refuses to leave him alone.
“This was never...it was never about UA, or class 1A or Aizawa or any of them,” Denki says, and Hitoshi looks up to find him staring at his shoes. “It wasn’t even about you, not at first.” Hitoshi stops himself from interrupting - information, that’s what they need. That’s what he did this for, to save people. He can still be a hero, even if he couldn’t save-
No, he won’t give up on Denki yet. He can’t, it would break something inside him to do that.
“Why, then? Why all of this?” He waves a hand in Denki’s direction. Were we not enough to change you? Was I not enough? He can’t ask that, though. He can’t even begin to consider hearing Denki say that he wasn’t.
“I had to keep myself safe, keep my family safe,” Denki says to the floor. The chair creaks as he leans forward, his hair falling to block his face. “I thought…I thought I wouldn’t care.”
Hitoshi stills at the words. Did he care, then?
“I thought...it’d be easy to do whatever was asked of me - and no, I don’t know who it was, the whole thing was anonymous.” Denki’s staring hard at him now, but Hitoshi can’t come up with any words. “I didn’t think-” he pauses, then his gaze softens. “I wasn’t there to make friends.”
Hitoshi blows out a breath - the same thing he’d said to Denki from day one.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have.” He means it as a joke, almost. Almost, except for the gaping hole left in his chest after Denki’s betrayal. Almost, except for the memory of raucous laughter turning soft as Denki leaned closer to Hitoshi. Almost, except that Hitoshi had been willing to hand his heart over. Almost, except Denki had run away and left it broken.
“I thought I could protect you too,” Denki says, and he sounds almost as shattered as Hitoshi feels. “They said they’d keep you safe, and I believed them.” Hitoshi squeezes his eyes shut, desperately fighting back the wave of tears that threaten to overwhelm him.
It takes several moments too long, but he manages to shove them back down, and he takes a deep breath as he opens his eyes. Denki’s still staring at his feet, and Hitoshi wants nothing more than to lift his chin, to tell him things will turn out okay in the end. That he doesn’t need to worry, Hitoshi is a hero and he’ll keep Denki safe now.
But it’s Denki’s fault they’re in this mess. A real hero would see that, wouldn’t they?
“You put the entire world at risk to keep me safe?” He hopes his tone comes off angry - hell, he should’ve just switched on his modulator and flipped to Bakugou’s voice. That’d have done better than letting his own words betray how hurt he is right now.
Denki just blows out a breath of bitter laughter.
“I know this might sound selfish,” he shakes his head and lifts it just enough to catch Hitoshi’s eye, “unheroic, even, but I don’t care about the world.” Hitoshi clenches his jaw. “I only care about you, Hitoshi, I just wanted to keep you safe.” He shakes his head, leaning back in the chair. “You have no idea what’s coming.”
Hitoshi does his best to ignore everything Denki’s saying, everything that isn’t useful. Emotions aren’t useful, not right now.
“What’s coming, then? What do we need to protect ourselves from?” He takes a few steps closer, hoping it comes across as intimidating.
“I don’t know, they won’t tell me, but it’s big, Hitoshi…” He exhales a slow breath, and Hitoshi watches the line of his throat as he swallows. “I don’t know if we’ll make it.”
Hitoshi startles at the tears pooling in Denki’s eyes - he’s never been one to cry, as far as Hitoshi’s ever known, but that alone is enough to set his heart racing. Something big, something Denki’s not sure they’ll survive…
“We just gotta stick together and we’ll be fine!” Hitoshi says into his modulator, and it comes out as Denki’s voice - sure, they had just been training, it was just practice, there wasn’t a real threat like there is now, but those words had helped him then and maybe they can help Denki now.
Maybe he can still figure this out, maybe he can still bring Denki back to the right side. Maybe it’s not that Denki doesn’t care, but that he cared far too much. And maybe Hitoshi cares far too much, too.