The tests were an everyday occurrence for them. Yousetsu and Yui were always paired together for those – they told Hitoshi that they heard some of the grown-ups talk about it, how it was likely they would always be assigned the same job when they were older. Hitoshi could understand it, their quirks were nicely balanced, like two pieces of a puzzle – they could fight and support each other in combat. It was a plus that they were friends. Not that it mattered to the adults around them. It wasn’t much of a choice given to them but rather a happy coincidence they were allowed to keep. Yousetsu and Yui could remain together for the tests. Hitoshi and Izuku weren’t fortunate enough to remain for the tests together.
Izuku was always under supervision, always in the labs – hidden underground where neither the sun nor the stars could be glimpsed, only inside white walls and cold hallways and empty rooms void of life. His tests were made to evaluate his quirk and not his overall fighting abilities – at least until he was able to master it, and then when he was older he would learn how to fight, he guessed. Hitoshi on the other hand was supposed to master both aspects of himself to the letter. He knew his quirk was powerful, but he also knew it wasn’t infallible. He had to learn that early on. It wasn’t meant to be used in the front lines like Yousetsu or Yui’s. He was meant to be in the background. In the shadows. People shouldn’t know he existed. He was meant to be a ghost. His role was of intelligence gathering ideally or of support in the direst of cases. Hitoshi needed to use his quirk to get into people’s mind. Therefore, he needed to understand people. The adults around him knew this and prepared him for it.
How can you make someone speak when they don’t want to speak?
Hitoshi learned the answers to the question by watching or by doing. He watched adults talk sweet poisonous words to their captives. Sometimes they promised things so people talked – chirping birds in a cage. Sometimes they threatened with violence and despair – breaking their spirits with words. Sometimes they didn’t need to talk at all, they just beat them up until their captives could barely utter a word back. Hitoshi watched it all since before he could understand what was happening around him. He saw adults wept like children – but there were also children crying like children. Those were easier to handle, Hitoshi noted when he was six.
One time he was tasked with taking control of an enemy – because that’s what they told him they were, enemies and bad people who were sniffing around and wanted to hurt them – Hitoshi acted like he didn’t know what he was doing. He was thrown in the prison cell next to the bleeding man (enemy). Hitoshi cried and acted like a child, even if he didn’t quite know how a normal child was supposed to act – he acted like he didn’t know what he was doing and wept with feeling.
He answered the bleeding man’s questions between sobs, the bleeding man tried to be supportive and told him that everything was going to be fine ( enemy , he was an enemy, he reminded himself during a tight hug) that his employer was going to save them. The bleeding man had green eyes – a bit lighter than Izuku’s, his voice was deep and reassuring. Hitoshi asked him how was he sure that they were going to be saved, the bleeding man (enemy, enemy, enemy ) answered and fell into Hitoshi’s control.
Hitoshi ordered the man to answer his questions. Was he a spy? Yes. Who was he working for? Midoriya . When Hitoshi asked him to tell him his employer’s full name the bleeding man remained silent.
It was a bit of information the man didn’t know. Undeterred, Hitoshi continued with his questioning. Had he contacted people outside? No. Did he infiltrate the facility alone? Yes. How did he breach the security? With my quirk. Was this the first attempt? The man remained silent.
The questioning continued.
The answers spilled easily and readily – Hitoshi’s throat was burning. At some point, his handlers deemed the test a success an allowed Hitoshi out of the prison cell. The bleeding man was still under his power – at the time, Hitoshi didn’t understand why he spoke – he asked one last question, are you my enemy? The bleeding man answered with the same dull and soulless tone: no.
Hitoshi left without looking back. He walked through the white hallways of the facility, aimless. He didn’t question the bleeding man’s (enemy…?) fate. He didn’t think about the gaping hole he felt at the pit of his stomach. He tried not to think about why he was thinking about the man’s last words. In the future, when Hitoshi and the others were far away from the facility that watched them grow, he would ponder and conclude that what he felt at the time was called guilt.
But Hitoshi was currently walking through the facility feeling hollow inside. His mind was eating itself – he still felt the lingering touch of the man’s hug and compared it to the absence of contact from his handlers; he knew that they restricted his interaction with the others because they consider him dangerous and wanted to have him in a tight leash so the best option was to isolate him and minimize his contact with anyone. His mind went on tangents, recalling how adults barely tried to talk to him – how they ignored him. He was only wanted when he didn’t speak or when he followed orders to the letter.
The pain in his gut reached a dizzying crescendo and –
He heard a pitter-patter of bare feet getting closer to his position. Hitoshi stopped and turned around in time for a green blur to tackle him to the floor. Hitoshi blinked awake from his haze, Izuku was in his medical robes, his thin arms were covered with bandages – they were tainted with specks of blood. Droplets of tears clung to his eyelashes and he looked ready to cry at any second.
“What’s wrong?” Izuku asked, his voice quivering and Hitoshi was thrown for a loop – that was his line, he wasn’t the one looking like the world was about to end.
“Where are you hurt?” Izuku looked for wounds that weren’t there. “ Hi-chan, talk to me.”
Izuku began to cry in earnest then. Hitoshi wasn’t sure what was happening but he knew he needed to comfort him. The only instances were Izuku cried was when one of them got badly hurt. Hitoshi tried to assure him that he was fine, that he wasn’t injured, that everything was alright – even if deep down he knew he was lying. Izuku clung to him, soft cries fading gradually until his breathing evened out.
“I-I felt like there was something wrong with you.” Izuku said at length, after they were huddled together against one of the walls. They both knew it was only a matter of time before someone would come to collect them but they ignored that reality in order to remain close before they were separated again. “I had to see you.”
They were messing with Izuku’s quirk again – Hitoshi thought to himself. They were doing more tests. They were experimenting, prodding around to see what it could and couldn’t do. They would probably try to recreate what caused Izuku to act this way in the upcoming days. They would probably question why Izuku could feel Hitoshi’s distress. They were going to hurt them in order to know how it happened.
Izuku hiccupped, his voice quivering, full of remorse. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Hi-chan.”
Hitoshi patted his friend’s curly head carefully.
Whatever they did, it still lingered with Izuku, which meant he was feeling what Hitoshi felt. He breathed in, gathering his tiny friend in his arms – trying to feel anything else but the helplessness currently plaguing his chest. He tried to think on positive things – thinking how Izuku didn’t shy away from Hitoshi’s voice or touch, he never truly did. Thinking how Yousetsu and Yui weren’t scared of him in the slightest. The three of them were his friends despite what they knew Hitoshi did when adults ordered him around. Thinking how Izuku always looked for him whenever he could and tried to smile for Hitoshi – thinking how he was his tiny sun in that hellish white prison.
“It’s fine.” Hitoshi said, hugging him tighter, resolute to confront the next day and win. And the next. And the next.
And the next.
“We’re gonna be fine.”