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a thousand miles of empty space

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Hitoshi didn’t know a lot of things. He knew why the kids at his school bullied him, but he didn't know why they bothered. He knew why he was in foster care, he didn’t know why he got shuffled around so often. Well, that was a lie. He did know why, he just didn’t understand it. Like how he most certainly didn’t understand why he was walking on an empty highway from a party that could have been much, much worse. When he looked above him, at the sky devoid of clouds that would obscure his view of the stars, he didn’t know why tears slipped out of his eyes.

Maybe it was because he was just so overwhelmed that day that pushed him over the edge, or it could be the fact that he had some drugs in his system and they were messing with his brain. Probably both, if he knew his body as well as he thought he did.

It felt like the sky and stars and everything around him had suddenly gone into focus, and that feeling left him absolutely breathless. Everything that had been holding him together from crying his eyes out was now gone, instead replaced with the signs of a thousand miles of empty space full of stars and bright lights that he couldn’t touch but longed to grasp.

Hitoshi didn’t want to be here. He didn’t know whether the “someplace else” he wanted to be was dead or somewhere miles away from here, but he did know that he didn’t want to be lying beside the highway on the verge of tears in front of two other people.

He wanted to peel himself out of his own body and leave behind the pain. He’d quite like to keep the happy, though.

“Shinsou?” Ashido said. She and Jirou had been so absorbed in their conversation that they hadn’t realized Hitoshi wasn’t with them anymore. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you crying?” Jirou asked, even though the tears were probably so illuminated by the stars and streetlights that her question had an obvious answer. Ashido was the first back over to Hitoshi, her girlfriend walking at a slower pace behind her. Hitoshi didn’t look down. The stars were so captivating.

For someone whose quirk relied on questions, he was uncomfortable around them. Both asking and answering, questions made Hitoshi cringe on the inside. Hitoshi was generally not allowed to ask questions, until this week, at least. A pink skinned, pink-haired girl had approached him with a girl wearing a green day shirt and asked- no, stated- that they were friends. Apparently, Ashido heard from a friend in Gen Ed that there was a kid with a brainwashing quirk, and she thought it was “the coolest thing ever!”

“I don’t want to move anymore.” Hitoshi couldn’t really put into words what he was feeling. It was like everything was moving but still at once. Probably the drugs. Ashido, high and smiley and forever down for anything and everything sat down on the concrete sidewalk. She was a talkative one, so she kept talking while her girlfriend listened. It was easy to tune out. Hitoshi had been tuning things out his entire life- it was easier to be lonely when he didn’t have to hear the people around him talking and making him feel even more isolated.

“What do you think Hitoshi?” It took a while before Hitoshi even registered that he was being spoken to. His knees were pointing to the sky and eyes trained on the stars. “You don’t talk much, do you? That’s ok. I have a friend who doesn’t talk much unless it’s screaming, but you don’t talk much at all. If I can understand him, I can understand you.”

Hitoshi let his eyes flicker towards Mina. Her girlfriend was staring at him too, and he didn’t like it. He didn’t want to admit it incase he managed to fuck up this friendship or acquaintanceship or whatever, but he was starting to enjoy their company. But that didn’t mean it wasn't absolutely jarring that there were people who actually wanted to talk to him, let alone spend time with him. He was so used to hearing his foster father and his heated, angry words that he could perfectly recall what the sound of his voice and the smell of the older man's booze-ridden breath.

“Fuck.” Hitoshi cursed. He brought the sleeve of his sweater up to his cheeks and started rubbing, but the salt water wouldn't stop coming. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck..” His voice cracked with every curse. Pathetic. Hitoshi couldn't tell if the mean voice was his father's or his own.

Other people lamented on how unfair life was all the time. How it wasn't fair that the hero-course kids got the better materials. That it wasn't fair that the upper class got certain tax breaks. This or that not being fair would, at some point, cause everyone to cry out every once in a while. But not Hitoshi. He kept it on the inside, where feelings were supposed to be. Because, no matter how much he wanted to change it, life would never change for him.

He didn't get the happy family other kids got, where they wake up and go down stairs to the smell of pancakes their parents made and the worst thing that happened that morning was their sibling taking the shower before them. Hitoshi got the belt for talking back. Hitoshi got screamed at. Hitoshi had things thrown at him.

It just never occurred how bad it was before. How bad it was that he was too scared to walk home and would rather lie here than show up there.

And it had never occurred before that it was alright to cry sometimes.

-

Shouta pressed his foot on the breaks with a tired groan, and the car came to a stop beside a group of teenagers. Why his student, Ashido, messaged him in the middle of the night saying they had taken drugs and needed help was absolutely beyond him. The answer to the question of why he had immediately gotten into the car and drive to them held the same amount of clarity as the first did.

The car door slammed when Shouta closed it, and he rounded the car to look at the students. Ashido and Jirou were next to each other, both looking various degrees of delirious.

“Ashido-san,” Shouta said, and Ashido sat up fully.

“Haaah?” She said. Her black eyes glinted from the streetlights. She didn't wait for an answer before she stood up and skipped- literally skipped- past Jirou. When Shouta followed her trail, he was met with the sight of a sleeping young man.

They didn't mention a friend, Shouta thought. Or was it the culprit? Unlikely, since he wasn't bound in any way. He was simply lying there, on the pavement, using his backpack as a pillow.

“Shinsou-kun!” Ashido's voice was loud and lively, as it always was, but it held a slight slurring that told Shouta enough. They had consumed something. According to what Ashido told him over text, it was just recreational weed. He’s have to punish them for that at some later date. Walking around in public- on the open road, of all places, where people could drive by- while high? Did they want to ruin their careers before they even started?

Shouta’s calculating red gaze watched the interaction unfold. Ashido kept saying her companion's name, and he didn't budge despite the noise. Shouta walked forward.

The boy didn't seem injured. No blood, and when Shouta put a hand on his forehead it wasn't warm and moist with sweat, just cool and matching the temperature of the night breeze.

He was just asleep. No harm done.

“Ashido-san, how much did he eat and drink?” From the girls’ behavior, he didn't expect an immediate response, or a response at all. So, he was a little surprised when she said:

“I saw him drink some spiked punch. He didn't like the food so he didn't eat.” Shouta’s suspicions were correct. The boy was just asleep. Gently, Shouta picked him up. He would have to come back for his bag. The boy was tall, so Shouta definitely was surprised when he wasn’t nearly as heavy as a boy his age and height should be.

Shouta quickly put him in the car. His lilac hair swayed slightly at the movement, but that was the full extent of how much Shinsou stirred.

Shouta unlocked the back doors of his car. Ashido slid in without hesitation, and Jirou, who had just woken up and was rubbing the sleep away from her eyes with her hand, slid in moments after. Shouta didn't see her wake up, but he was glad he didn't have to pick her up like he did Shinsou.

He got in his car and turned on the engine. It's rumble seemed to be the only sound in the world when he began driving back to his own home- something he may or may not come to regret. Only time would tell. Every so often as he drove, his eyes would flicker towards the lilac-haired youth next to him.

The boy looked docile and peaceful enough, but it was the eyebags that set off warning signals in Shouta’s head. Shouta could relate to the plague of having eyebags- he himself had a genetic predisposition to them. But paired with that below average weight, there was something about this kid that made Shouta a bit concerned.

There was a story behind those tired eyes. Those dark circles under his eyes were caused by more than just genetics.

Shouta kept driving.

-

When Shouta arrived to his and Hizashi's house, all three teenagers were asleep, something he was grateful for. The last thing him and his husband needed was three teenagers knowing where they lived and asking questions about why they lived together. He pulled the car into the driveway and turned off the engine, and the world turned to silence again.

Silence.

Something Shouta loved that would undoubtedly be taken away in a few hours when the same teenagers who were quiet now woke up. Now he had to tackle the problem of getting three teenagers into his home without knocking one of their heads in on the doorframe.

Jirou, the lightest, was first. Ever stubborn, he refused to call wake up his husband for some help. Instead, he placed her temporarily on the pillowed bench of the porch, digging into his sweatpant’s pocket for his house key. While he turned it, he glanced back to see if the other two teenagers were alright.

Once he opened the door, the familiar sights of home- albeit dark- greeted him. He stepped a few paces in to turn on the light, squinting when the contrast shocked him. Then he got to business.

One by one, three teenagers were transported from the porch and car respectively onto the pullout couch. He tossed two blankets and a few pillows over them for good measure. Shouta stared.

A good host would prepare some water incase they woke up. Some painkiller, for the-

Ah.

This was not just a case of “we’re lost, come help us.” These teenagers had just come from a party where some boys tried to date rape girls, and they had all consumed something, but he didn’t know quite what. He knew they had the weed consensually, Ashido had the sense to admit to that. But what of the rest? Was it wine, or hard liquor? Was it edibles, smoking, or something potentially worse? And how much? A shot wouldn’t kill anybody, but a few glasses would have these inexperienced kids knocked out for the rest of the day.

He really, really hoped they were inexperienced drinkers and smokers.

A yawn clawed its way up from Shouta’s lungs through his mouth. Before he knew it, he was stretching his arms high above his head. Glancing one last time at the kids, he walked to the kitchen. How did they even get there? Did they walk? If it took fifteen minutes to get to that highway using his car, and they had come from the opposite direction judging from their positions, how the hell did they manage to get that far out?

He brought his hand up to rub his eyes. God, I’m not paid nearly enough for this.

Three water bottles, six painkillers. And a hell of a lot of explaining to do in the morning.