There are things that confuse Hizashi, like there are things that confuse his friends, his classmates, and everyone else. They’re different things; for Hizashi, he doesn’t quite get math, or why Aizawa has bags the size of his fists despite always napping, and he doesn’t get why villains feel the need to do what they do, not when they could just not.
Some things he just accepts. Some he puts away until they come back to the front of his head, and some— some he can actually do something about. It’s why he’s trying to be a hero, after all.
Then there’s some things he just doesn’t get. Doesn’t know how to even start understanding them.
Maybe this is one of them.
“Whatcha listening to?”
Aizawa snorts. “He’s discovered what a radio is.”
Shirakumo beams, pulling out his earbuds. He unplugs it from the small device in his hands, turning up the volume.
“Listen to all this! There’s these programs, and look—” he lays his phone on the ground of the roof, scrolling through his screen for them to see, “—there’s one about everything. People make a living off this! We could be doing that!”
“What happened to being a hero?” Aizawa snorts.
“As a side job, Aizawa, keep up.”
“Dude, I thought that was supposed to be the stripper gig?”
“And now, introducing today’s guest, a rising intern in the world of heroes; Tiger!”
Aizawa subconsciously leans forward. “I know that guy.”
They’ll be interns next year too, and it’s not something Hizashi’s given much thought and time to yet. He wonders which of his classmates will go to which agency; tries to mismatch them in his head like a preschooler’s game. Wonders where his friends will go, and if they’ll see each other often.
They’re silent as they listen to the greetings and introductions, the rooftop quiet save for the tinny voice garbling out of the speaker on Shirakumo’s device. Kayama’s in class, or there’d probably be some background noise as they wrangled for her packets of gum.
It’s new. To Hizashi, at least. Talks about gender, about discovering who you are. He’s never thought of that. Sexuality is a thing he’s known about himself for a while, that he doesn’t quite care about the gender of whom he wants to date, but gender—
“...and I guess— it’s good, really.” Tiger says. “Being open is much easier than it was a century ago, hell, half a century ago even, though there’s still — y’know, there’s always antis, but I prefer to focus on the good. So kids like me know they’re not alone. That if I could become a hero — they can do anything.”
He’s never really thought about it.
“That’s one of my biggest goals, as a hero.”
The words don’t leave him even as Shirakumo changes programs, flipping through them like magazines, or when they head back down to grab snacks before class, or when he goes to bed that night.
“The thing about gender is — a lot of people just don’t realize it. That they are something other than what they believe themselves to be, or something they don’t feel right about, or that they have the choice to explore into it at all. It’s a lot to do with the lack of awareness, and I think, if we had that — a lot of people would be doing better for it.”
The words don’t leave at all.
Weekends, Hizashi thinks in distaste.
They’re not… bad. They’re good to have. Everyone insists on more of them. The day’s good, the birds are chirping, and the house is so, so quiet.
Weekends suck. He just has a personal vendetta against them, Aizawa likes to say. Against days he has nothing to do.
“Introducing today’s guest — someone who’s slowly but surely rising through the ranks of media film; Noriko, from Tales That Blind!”
Hizashi spins slowly in his chair, absently listening. He’d hunted down the program after a day of putting it off, and it’s all he’s been listening to the past week. So far, it hasn’t invoked the same strangeness within him like it had that day on the roof, but—
He doesn’t exactly know what he’s looking for, either.
The program is a lively one — not like the others that have a theme around an event or activity and the like — it’s about people in the queer community. From everywhere, with any kind of job or not, from seniors to teens. They have the option to remain anonymous, too.
“My wife and I have it easy,” Noriko laughs. “I was fortunate enough to grow in a family where I never had a problem expressing myself. We had rules, as every family does, but never on who you should love, and it’s something everyone should have growing up. Just the choice, and knowing you can.”
He spreads his fingers and stares at them silently.
“It’s something everyone should have, growing up.”
Hizashi’s always had that, in a way. Freedom, though more from the absence of a family than the care from one. His parents could probably count on their fingers the number of things they know about their one and only child, and none of his personal interests would fall on the list. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever tell them.
He sighs, spinning the chair to a stop in front of his computer. Wishes he were at school as he slowly types into the search bar. Classes and research give him purpose, keep him busy — unlike weekends, where he finishes all his work in one go before he has to suffer a day and a half doing absolutely nothing, besides looking up this question and feeling ridiculous because—
How do I know if I'm trans, Hizashi types in.
Hizashi’s a pretty clear cut person. He doesn’t see the point in playing games, not when lying will come for you in the form of a couple thrilling consequences anyway. He’s upfront, doesn’t leave room for misunderstandings, and faces confrontations head on.
It doesn’t feel right. Not wrong, but not right, either.
He stares at the words for a bit and shuts the tab without pressing the enter key, and leaves the house.
Ten minutes away, he realizes he’s forgotten to bring anything of use save for his phone.
“Well,” he says to himself, getting a couple strange looks that shake him out of it. He beams. “Guess I’ll just have to see who’s not busy!”
Or, well. Not above bothering Shouta or Oboro, but he’s pretty sure Nemuri would scalp him before she’d risk her beauty regimens being disturbed.
He reaches Shouta’s building and shoots him a text.
-> I got dragged home today, comes Aizawa’s surprisingly speedy reply. I told you this.
“Boo,” Hizashi complains.
He walks inside the building anyway, down into the hallway, takes the stairs instead of the elevators, and keeps his ears opened for any possible signs of a party. Unlikely during exam season, but in a building full of students, there’s always someone who doesn’t quite care to crack open their books yet.
Sure enough, the low thrum of music drifts through the door on stairway number six; not loud enough to be a blowout party, but not quiet enough to be an old people gathering either, so he stalks through, hunting down the room full of potential.
He opens the door to a room full of robed people, faces hidden by masks.
“Mic!” One of them exclaims.
“Nope,” Hizashi denies, raising a hand apologetically, ready to shut the door. He knows a cult when he sees one.
"Hizashi," one of the towel-headed cultists calls drily. "It's us."
Some of them beam around the cucumbers on their faces.
“That’s me!” She pulls him into the room, shoving him into one of the chairs and taking the one next to it. “Whatcha doin’ here?”
He grins. “I heard a party!”
She throws her head back and laughs, and in that moment Hizashi fiercely wishes he was as comfortable with himself as she is. To have her confidence. To not question so much.
“Lemme give you a party then!” Her eyes gleam. The room is full of students he either knows from their school or has never met. Oboro’s passed out in one of the chairs, hair toweled, some goopy green shit on his face, and Hizashi thinks why the hell not?
So it’s only a little menacing when he agrees and lets the group close in on him, makeup brushes and tubes and things he’s only ever seen in store aisles he never sets foot into, in their hands
He kind of likes it.
Though he doesn’t know who’s putting what into his skin, the brushes are soft and the products smell gentle and flowery, just as everyone else does too, so he sits and allows it to wash over him. He feels a pencil of sorts against his eyelids at some point, and wonders if he’ll look as good as Kayama does in eyeliner. Someone tilts his chin up to dab something onto his lips, and he lets that happen too.
“You have excellent face structure,” someone mutters. His face flushes a bit, not expecting it, though the makeup probably hides it. He thinks maybe the fingers at his face feel it anyway. He manages a weak thanks at the resounding hums in agreement.
“All done!” Kayama announces, and shoves a mirror into his hand.
He looks different. Hizashi expected it, but it’s— it’s not in a bad way. He looks good. His skin glows, and he doesn’t look nearly as cool as Kayama does with the liner but he does look it to an extent, his lips a soft red that looks natural.
He feels good.
“Wow.” He reaches a hand up to his face, poking his cheek and inciting garbled protests from everyone and their efforts.
“We just spent half an hour on that!”
“Whoa.” Shirakumo lifts a cucumber off his eye. “Could you guys do that to me, too?”
They learn that makeup brushes can be brandished like weapons, too.
It gets stronger. Not over the span of a week, hell, a couple days even — just overnight. All it takes is letting his guard down for a second, and the whisper in his head becomes a yell.
He stares a little longer at the makeup section in-store. He listens to the radio program whenever he’s not doing anything else, hoping for Tiger to come back on. He conveniently forgets to get his hair cut when he lets it down and it inches past his shoulders.
He buys a skirt.
Doesn’t tell anyone about it. Doesn’t dare. Stuffs it into his closet as soon he’s back from the store, and tries his best not to think of it.
Hizashi pulls himself towards his computer, and types it in again.
He doesn't hesitate over the enter key this time.
It takes steps.
Hizashi’s impatient, and a whole lot more confused, and it feels like he’s stuck in the middle of something. If he separates it — this, whatever it is that his mind yells at him about — he doesn’t know what he gets. He doesn’t mind his body, doesn’t necessarily want it to change, either, but he likes things that make him feel different, and—
He tells his friends.
“Cool,” Oboro says.
“I’m already trans,” Shouta sighs. He scratches his ear, looking awake. “You know this. I could’ve helped.”
“I didn’t know how to say it,” Hizashi blurts. “It’s— I don’t think I am. Trans, or at least, I dunno, maybe somewhat? Does it work like that?”
“...I don’t really know.”
Nemuri snaps her fingers. “I know some people! I think they could help you.”
“Cool.” Hizashi pauses. “You guys are fine with this—”
“Dude, of course!”
Of course they are.
And then everything goes to shit.
Most of them graduate.
The world is so, so much bigger than they are. So much more.
They get internships. They do their best to move on. In the midst of it, Hizashi forgets himself, and for a year and a half, that’s all it is. Work and finding jobs, fishing out better agencies and climbing higher.
Being a hero. So what caused them such a huge fucking loss never happens again.
He gets reckless. They all do. There’s anger, and there’s fear, because in the world of heroes, there are things you can’t escape. And on a random day after landing himself in the hospital, the radio sat on the stand next to his bed lets out a familiar voice.
“And for today’s guest, introducing a hero from the Wild, Wild Pussycats; Tiger!”
Hizashi turns his head towards the radio, eyes wide.
“Welcome back, Tiger! It’s been a while since we’ve had you here. How’s the hero gig been going for you?”
“It’s been well, Koni-san,” Tiger says with a laugh.
His vision gets cloudy, so he closes his eyes, just listening. It feels like years since he’s heard this program. Maybe it has been. He fades in and out for a while, and asks the nurse on rounds to not switch up the program when she checks up on him.
“It’s not just about a fit category,” Tiger explains. “If you take gender as an example - I am a man. My sister is a woman. But it isn’t necessary to fit into those labels. Which isn’t to say you need labels at all, but for some, it helps to have them. And a lot of people don’t fit into either category, but one that is something else entirely, and that has a name too, for if they want it.”
“But at the same time, despite all that — there is never a time limit to figure out who you are. Sometimes all you want is to accept that nothing fits, and that’s okay. Forcing yourself to fit into a role you don’t want is… unrecommended, to say the least. So, to anyone listening; please take your time.”
The nurse shrieks as Hizashi sets out of bed to get to the drawer full of his belongings, scrambling for his phone. His thigh twinges, but he ignores it, ringing up a friend.
“Nemuri!” Hizashi grins. His leg is in a cast , as is his arm, but he feels lighter than he has in ages. “D’you remember you promised to take me to some people to help out on some gender stuff back at Yuuei?”
“I do! ‘Zashi, you sure take your sweet fucking time.”
Hizashi snorts and lapses into cackles as the nurse drags him back to bed.
He goes back to his parents’ house, still oh so empty of them even with him gone, and fishes the skirt out of the back of his closet.
It’s shorter on him than it would have been when he’d bought it, if he’d mustered up the courage to wear it then. It doesn’t quite go down to his ankles, and he looks a little ridiculous in it, wearing an oversized sweater, joggers at his feet, with one of his arms still wrapped in gauze, but—
It feels okay.
It feels good. It swishes this way and that when he moves, and he lets down his hair so it follows the movements before tying it back up, and maybe he can’t bring himself to take off the shorts underneath, but. But. It feels okay.
Nemuri whistles when she rolls up to the curb, slapping her hands to her cheeks in delight.
“You look hot!” Nemuri yells. She’s brought Shouta with her, and he has a small grin on his face as he takes Hizashi in.
They look proud.
“So do you!”
They’re all on leave for another few days — benefits of teaming up with your friends and pulling dumb shit that lands you in the hospital together — and he’s glad to have both of them right now. Doesn’t know if he’d have pulled this off otherwise. There aren’t even as many stares as he expected, and it’s just— he’s okay.
When they enter the room, the abundance of people takes his breath away. Nemuri nudges him, gesturing to a table.
“Which sticker d’you want?”
They have pronouns written on them he realizes, for people to stick somewhere on themselves, for others to see and use. His eyes fall to the one that reads they/them and the one with dunno, and takes one of both along with the he/him one before he can change his mind. The other two take their respective ones as well.
Nemuri’s cheeks pinken. “I’m gonna uh— be over there.” She breaks off from them and towards a pretty girl with red-streaked hair, who smiles and pushes her glasses up at the sight of Nemuri.
“I’m gonna be back in a second too,” Aizawa mutters, and heads to a group of young kids.
Hizashi pouts. “Well.”
“Are you lost?”
Hizashi is tall.
Tiger is taller.
Hizashi bows, short and quick, nearly smacking his head into Tiger’s arm on his way down. “Tiger-san!”
“Ah, that’s not necessary! Please, Yawara is fine.”
“Yawara-san,” Hizashi corrects. It’s weird. He didn’t expect this, though it makes sense when certain communities are on the smaller side. Still. “I’ve heard you on Queercast a couple times!”
I think it might be weird to tell you just how much it helped, Hizashi thinks, so I’m not gonna do that.
“That makes sense,” Yawara says humbly. “Not a lot of people recognize me. Certainly not by voice.”
“I have good ears,” Hizashi says, sheepish. “But your appearances on the show helped me a lot, so thank you!”
Yawara’s eyes dip to the Dunno! sticker stuck to his sweater.
“Not enough though, I take it?” He enquires without too much pressure.
He’s clearly giving Hizashi free give, and Hizashi doesn’t really have anything to lose. Probably the opposite.
So he tells Tiger; not quite everything, because it’s not Hizashi knows shit where he is right now, nor does he begin quite from the beginning — he gives mismatched mashes of what he’s felt over the years, as accurately as he can find and get the words out. It’s difficult when he realizes he’s never actually talked about it, not beyond anything more than a ‘maybe’, but right then— it’s easy. Tiger is easy to talk to. He’s a good listener, doesn’t interrupt once, nods when Hizashi needs him to, and offers him a bottle of water once he’s done.
Hizashi gratefully chugs.
“It helped when you said it isn’t necessary to fit into labels,” Hizashi admits. “And that it’s okay to take time. And I think I’ve done that? It doesn’t feel like I’m rushing, just that I almost know now, and I guess — that’s what I’m trying to get.”
“Non-binary in technical terms just means to not relate to a couple specific matters,” Yawara thinks out loud. “But for us, in our terms, it’s a spectrum; it’s a wide one, and it’s more about accommodating range instead of it being a fit, if that makes sense.”
He leads Hizashi to a rack of flags, pulling one of them off its bar.
“These colours—” he spreads the flag so it’s not scrunched up, “—they represent that as well. The yellow, for what is outside of what is thought as binary; the white, in which is shown the mixture of genders; the purple, for those who go between the binaries, and the black, for those who do not have a gender.”
Hizashi stares at the flag for a bit. “You sure know a lot about this, Yawara-san.”
Yawara flushes lightly. “I’m hoping the people in charge of this place will give me a place one day,” he says, almost apologetic. “I enjoy helping.” He extends his hands. “You can keep the flag if you like.”
Hizashi takes it, slowly repeating the meanings behind each colour under his breath so he doesn’t forget. In an overall sense?
He peeks at the they/them sticker on his chest.
Maybe one day — maybe soon, he’ll get around to it.
“What do you think?”
Hizashi bundles his hands into the soft fabric of the flag.
“I think I’ll keep it!”