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Fundamental Theorem of Heroics

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Fundamental Theorem of Heroics cover art. Starry night, bright moon with the text fundamental theorem of heroics by nightowlRobin, illuminated in the sky

 

His agent needed help managing him, that much was obvious even without her outright admitting it. His time spent in foster houses was becoming shorter and shorter. The vow of silence he had taken helped for a while and when that didn’t work anymore, the muzzle proved to be even more effective. Now though, there wasn’t much else that he could do to ease people's fears. Either he was too much of a risk to keep around or he was more trouble than he was worth, no matter how hard he tried to be worth the trouble. 

 

He knew he was destined to be a villain, he didn’t necessarily understand why. He knew it had something to do with his quirk. The people who forced him to wear the muzzle, who pushed him down at recess, who stole his homework and his pencils and even his shoes, made it very clear. He was nothing more than a villain. Never was and never will be.

 

He didn’t feel like one. He didn’t like hurting people like the people who hurt him seemed to. They seemed to revel in it. He supposed though that if he was truly meant to be a villain then they were right to put him in his place. 

 

His foster agent seemed a little too thrilled when she had found a place that, in her words, was “more suitable for kids like him”.

 

It was overwhelming at first. All Shinsou had to bring was a small suitcase with very few clothes, his keychain with a cat plushie on it that could easily fit in his small hands, and the muzzle that was almost always strapped to his face. His foster parents had woken him up early that morning, shoved the suitcase in his hands and, before he could even fully wake up and process what was happening, he was in the car with his foster agent, driving away from one of the nicest houses he had ever lived in. When they arrived, he was greeted by a lady with long brown hair, who seemed nice enough, but by the time his agent drove away, it seemed she had completely forgotten he was even there, rushing off to take care of someone else whose quirk couldn’t be so easily contained. 

 

Shinsou shifted on his feet, eyes darting around the room. He was trying to decide if he should get someone's attention, remind them that he is here, that he exists. It was something he was fairly used to. He was a quiet kid, not just because he couldn’t didn’t talk, but because he knew how to shrink in on himself and hold so still that he’d be practically invisible.

 

He looked to his left and considered peeking in one of the rooms or grabbing the attention of one of the few people who shuffled around the room he was in before quickly deciding against it. This was new territory, new people. He would have to wait and learn the rules.

 

He stood there for a few more minutes, standing straighter anytime someone stepped out and wandered past him, before a tall tan man squatted in front of him holding a folder open asking “You Shinsou Hitoshi?” Shinsou hesitated before nodding and the man looked at the folder a moment again before directing him to follow. Shinsou shuffled behind him, following the man into an elevator and pressing himself into the corner. The man didn’t look at Shinsou the whole way up, instead, he just watched as the number above the door slowly climbed until it stopped at 7. The man glanced down at the boy as the doors opened and tilted his head towards the opening motioning for him to follow.

 

Kids, all of whom looked bigger than himself, bustled around the space and, luckily, hardly anyone paid Shinsou any mind. Still, he pulled into himself, hoping to pass by unnoticed. Chatter filled the hall and he found it hard to follow any one conversation.

 

“Takashi!” The man called out, causing Shinsou to jump slightly behind him, so much for being unnoticed. A young boy with wild white hair and pale skin pressed his way through the crowd and stopped in front of the two. He looked exhausted, like he might pass out the second he held still for more than a second.

 

His gaze dropped to Shinsou before it rose back up to the man. “Yeah? What do you want?”

 

The man grabbed Shinsou's shoulder, pulled him out from behind him, and pushed him towards the boy. “This is Shinsou. He’ll be staying in your room.” The kid's gaze dropped to Shinsou again. “Show him around and make sure he’s on time to breakfast.” At that, Shinsou could feel the man leave and he turned and watched as he walked back into the elevator without another word.

 

Shinsou slowly turned back to the boy and he pointed to the room where most kids seemed to be flocking around. “That's the bathroom. It’s pretty popular in the morning”. He motioned for Shinsou to follow him and he followed the best he could, stopping suddenly when another kid ran in front of him, before picking up the pace to catch up. 

 

He was led around a corner and he attempted to peek into the door they passed before they stopped in front of the last door on the right.

 

“This is your room,” The boy said as he pushed the door open. The two headed into the room and Shinsou stopped when he noticed a girl’s eyes on him. She looked him up and down then turned to Takashi, eyebrows raised questioningly. He only shrugged in response and the girl pushed past the two, darting out of the room.

 

Takashi’s eyes scanned the room and he pointed to the last bed in the left corner. “That’s the only bed left so, I guess that’s yours.” His green eyes scanned Shinsou again before stopping at his muzzle. “I’m guessing you don’t talk much.” He coughed out an awkward laugh and grabbed Shinsou's suitcase. Shinsou staggered a bit further into the room and watched the boy carefully as he threw the suitcase onto the bed. 

 

He gestured to the bed to the left of his. “That’s where I sleep. My quirk’s called Projection. Basically I can push images into peoples minds. I can control it fairly well but sometimes it slips out while I'm sleeping so, sorry in advance if you see some of my nightmares.” He looked down to Shinsou with tired eyes and added, “There's a reason that's the only bed left.” 

 

Takashi made his way around the beds and opened a drawer of the dresser that sat there. “This’ll be yours. Don’t go through other people's drawers.” He deadpanned before kicking the drawer closed and turning to Shinsou. His forehead wrinkled for a second before he asked, “How old are you anyway?”

 

He pushed the small plushie into his pocket, held up nine fingers and the boy's eyebrows rose.

 

“Damn. You might be the youngest here. Kimiko is also 9 but I think her birthday is soon.” 

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck with one hand and squeezed his plushie in his pocket with the other. He had so many questions. Too many. Instead, he just climbed and sat on his bed, staring at his hand and fiddling with his fingers, waiting for the boy to either leave or penetrate the heavy silence.

 

“I, uh…” the kid started, moving to sit on his bed across from him, “I usually would ask how much you know already but seeing as…” He gestured to the muzzle and swallowed. “So um…” He stared out of the window clearly in thought. 

 

A scream echoed down the hall moments later and the boy snapped out of his thoughts, swearing under his breath. 

 

“Did… do you know what this place is?” Shinsou shook his head quickly. “Okay well. Basically, it's like a school for kids who have annoying quirks.” The boy sighed heavily before continuing, “But all the kids you’ve seen running around so far, we all stay here permanently. I’m assuming you’re in the foster system?” Shinsou nodded softly. “Yeah, so basically, most of us couldn’t get into houses because of our quirks. They say it's because our quirks are dangerous but mostly, at least in my case, it's just because they hate it.” 

 

At that, he finally glanced up at the boy again. His tired eyes stared at the floor and he was silent for a long moment, either gathering his thoughts or lost in them. 

 

Finally, he met Shinsou’s gaze and continued. “Anyway, In about an hour a lot more kids are going to show up. They’re the ones that come just for classes. Some of them actually have dangerous quirks, but mostly they’re under control, the ones that can seriously hurt someone are managed so you don’t need to worry about that.”

 

The boy's eyes left Shinsou’s and he sighed. “I think that's most of it. Breakfast is in like,” he glanced at the clock on the wall behind him, “10 minutes so.” The boy stood up and went to leave but stopped. “Do… you know how to read a clock?” A thumb jabbed over his shoulder at the clock. Shinsou shook his head and the boy inhaled deeply. “Alright, I gotta finish getting ready but I’ll send someone to come get you when it's time.” He paused and Shinsou nodded slightly. “I’ll take you to grab some sheets and other shit after classes.”

 

At that, the boy walked out of the room and Shinsou found himself alone. He gripped the plushie in his pocket tightly and examined the barren room. The room was actually rather large but the six mattresses and two dressers filled most of the space. The side of the room across from him had four beds lined up next to each other with only a small amount of room between them. On his side, there were only two beds, but beyond the beds, there were two identical dressers with three drawers each. He distantly wondered if he was supposed to unpack or if he should be doing something to get ready for breakfast.

 

He leaned back collapsing onto his bed and stared at the ceiling. He wondered if the boy knew his quirk. Probably not considering he was introduced to him only minutes ago. Usually, people turned their backs the second they learned what his quirk was, and if they didn’t avoid him like the plague they sought him out as their own personal punching bag. 

 

He was an easy target. Skinny, and with the muzzle on, quirkless. Even if someone cared enough to question the bruises, he couldn’t tell them who did it if he wanted to. An easy target who’s unable to do anything about it. 

 

He sat up and pushed the memories away. He doesn’t know about your quirk yet, enjoy the kindness while you can. 

 

He turned towards his suitcase and pulled it off his bed towards what Takashi said was his drawer. He unpacked quickly, not bothering to keep his clothes organized, and dragged the open suitcase back to his bed, tucking it safely under the frame. Looking around, he saw that other kids had similar thoughts. Small shoe boxes and bags stayed hidden under thin bed frames, probably shoved with extra clothes or personal items. 

 

He stood up and fell back onto his bed again, stomach rumbling loudly. As if he was summoned, an older, much bigger kid, with buzzed hair opened the creaky door and told him it was time for breakfast. He quickly slid the cat plushie under the pillow and followed the kid from a safe distance. 

 

The boy led him back out into the thin hallway with a total of four doors and through the little slits in the slightly open doors, he could tell that the rooms were exactly the same as the one he had just been in. 

 

He followed the boy around the corner and crammed into the elevator with three other kids. When the elevator doors closed Shinsou pressed himself against them, trying to keep as much personal space as possible.

 

The elevator stopped at the fourth floor and he was dragged along with the crowd as they pushed their way out. The room was lined with four long tables but he noticed that only one table had food on it. Kids were talking, laughing, and shouting, the noise being only slightly more manageable than earlier thanks to the open space. 

 

Other than the tables, there wasn’t anything else in the room and it was a rather bland area, just like most of this place he had seen so far. Straight ahead of him in the corner, there was another door that swung in both directions as people with aprons rushed in and out with plates of food. Across from that in the other corner was another room but no one seemed to have any need to be there.

 

He cautiously followed the loud crowd and quickly tried to spot an open seat.

 

He squeezed his way behind the table and sat in the only open chair, squished between a large red-skinned man and a small blue-haired girl. The plate in front of him already had food on it but he was unable to eat. Not because he wasn’t hungry, he was actually very very hungry, but the muzzle was stopping even the thought of eating.

 

So he just sat there. Carefully eyeing the other kids, trying to gauge any potential threats or friends. He counted 17 kids. Some of their quirks were obvious, either because they had some kind of mutation or because they also had restrictions. The red-skinned man next to him seemed to have some sort of mutant quirk. His skin was blood red and he had dark black horns sticking out his forehead. The other kid on his left seemed to have a quirk that was activated by sight because she was blindfolded by a dark cloth.

 

One kid, with short black hair, whose quirk he assumed had something to do with his nails, was laughing as his fork kept falling from his hand because of the metal cages that covered the top of each finger. Shinsou thought he seemed friendly enough. Another kid had what looked like a hood, but it was secured snug around his face. He seemed to get angry at anyone who even looked his way. Stay away from that one, he noted.

 

Another kid with eyes that reminded him of a snake, was eating so fast that Shinsou briefly wondered if he even had time to breathe in between swallows. The snake eyes met his and Shinsou quickly looked away, terrified of getting on someone's bad side. He looked over the other half of the table, desperately avoiding the snake-eyed kid, and noticed that the only person at the table besides him that hadn’t even touched their food was an older girl with long brown hair, who was also wearing some kind of mask over the bottom half of her face.

 

Her mask looked different than Shinsou's though. While his was hard, a mixture of plastic and metal that made any movement of his jaw impossible, the girls' was made of some kind of fabric. It took up about as much as her face as Shinsou's did his, but that’s where the similarities ended.

 

The fabric wrapped under her chin, climbed up her face in front of her ears, and rested at the bridge of her nose. Instead of a thick leather strap, hers seemed to be held on by a string that snaked its way over her ear and behind her head. She could clearly still talk, as she was chatting with the people around her, and he wondered if she had a pointed tongue or sharp teeth that needed covering up.

 

But when a woman came behind her and unlocked her mask, he didn’t see a pointed tongue or sharp teeth. Instead, he saw a light puff of smoke escape her mouth as she laughed before she quickly sucked the air back in.

 

A hand on his shoulder startled him back to his own surroundings. He glanced up at the woman above him. Her hair was cut to her ears and black, her eyes a twinkling blue. It was the same woman who had just removed the other girl's mask. She smiled lightly and he felt a slight tug as she grabbed the lock on the back of his muzzle

 

“Your name is Shinsou right?” He nodded. “My name is Shingi. I’m going to take this off so you can eat but don’t talk okay? We don’t want any accidents on your first day.” He nodded again and turned his head away so she could see the lock clearer. He was used to not talking, with or without the muzzle. He heard the familiar click and felt the weight fall away. He opened his jaw, stretching it as far as he could, and when he turned to look at the woman again she was gone. His attention shifted back to the food and he was about to take a bite when Shingi clapped her hands and cleared her throat, now at the head of the table. Surprisingly, everyone calmed down rather quickly and Shingi gestured to Shinsou.

 

“Some of you may have noticed that we have a new child here now. His quirk requires him to talk to you so please, if he isn’t wearing his mask, don’t attempt to talk to him. He can control you and make you do bad things, so for your safety, avoid talking to him.” He sank a little in his seat as all eyes glanced his way. He smiled lightly, hoping the kids would realize he was uncomfortable. Luckily a girl spoke up, pulling most eyes towards her.

 

“What kinds of bad things?” 

 

“Anything.” Shingi answered. “He can control your mind and make you do anything”. Shinsou's stomach dropped. He didn’t miss the nervous glances that were still shot towards him and suddenly he didn’t feel too hungry.

 

Part of him was angry. Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe he could make them do good things? That maybe he wasn’t this terrible kid that wanted to go around collecting slaves to do his bidding?

 

Mostly though, he was upset that he didn’t even get two seconds with these kids before a familiar target was put on his back.

 

Luckily, that seemed to be the only question Shingi was willing to answer because after she quickly rushed off and the table erupted in noise again.

 

He didn’t miss how some of the conversations seemed to be about him though.

 

He silently ate the food in front of him and attempted to keep his eyes on his plate. He couldn’t stop himself from glancing over to Takashi though, hoping that the one person he knew here wouldn’t hate him. He couldn’t see any noticeable difference in the boy's demeanor. He still looked absolutely exhausted and only grunted in response to the conversation around him. Takashi himself never turned to acknowledge Shinsou but the yellow-haired kid to the right of him was shamelessly staring at Shinsou. 

 

Shinsou didn’t try glancing in their direction again.

 

When everyone was finally finished, Shingi appeared behind Shinsou again, securing the muzzle to his face. A few kids sat and watched but mostly kids started rising from their chairs, throwing their plates in the bin by the end of the table, and making their way to the elevator and stairs.

 

As soon as he heard the lock click into place, he quickly followed suit letting himself be guided by the crowd. He had no idea where he was supposed to be heading but he knew he didn’t want to get left behind.

 

A hand grabbed his shoulder and he stiffened at the touch. Wearily, he turned his head to see Takashi and the spiky blond-haired kid who was staring at him earlier. 

 

“You’re 9 right?” Takashi questioned. Shinsou hesitated but nodded, slightly shocked that Takashi was even willing to talk to him still. He only feels safe because the muzzles on again.  

 

He let the tension in his shoulders fade and he turned to fully face the duo.

 

“So, are you in…” Takashi paused, thought for a second, and then shook his head. “What grade are you in?” He held up three fingers and the white-haired boy sighed. “That makes things slightly more difficult.”

 

Cold fear wash over his body and he looked away from the pair, confusion and dread whirling in his stomach. Being difficult was bad, he knew that from experience. What did he do though? He followed along without question, didn’t ask for anything more (not that he could), and did what he was told. Silently as usual.

 

Takashi glanced at the yellow-haired boy beside him. “You’re definitely the youngest. The girl I mentioned earlier, Kimiko, she’s in fourth.” Shinsou's stomach fell a little. Did this mean he would be the only student in the classroom? As much as he hated the noise and the whispering he still preferred to sink into a crowd. Being the only student a teacher had to focus on seemed like an actual nightmare.

 

“Doesn’t mean you get out of learning” The blond boy piped up. “They teach your grade here. Other kids come in to learn too. Just none of us permies are that young.” Shinsou scrunched his nose.

 

“He means the ones who stay here. Permies is short for permanent residents in his hollow head,” Takashi clarified.

 

“Hollow?” The boy gasped.

 

Takashi ignored him and continued. “1st through 3rd are on the same floor but 4th through 6th are three floors above it. Literally all of the ‘permies,’” he glared at the other boy, “go to class on the 5th floor.” He paused before adding, “well except you now.”

 

Shinsou's heart picked up pace. He’d be left alone to navigate the building? Did he even mention what floor his class was on? What room? Shinsou glanced around the cafeteria. It was entirely too loud. He could barely even think. Sure, he was used to noisy foster homes but this was crazy. There were too many kids, too many eyes on him.

 

Takashi's hand grabbed his shoulder and Shinsou's gaze snapped back to him. “I’ll go down with you, show you what room you’re going to be in. We’ve got to hurry though or I’m going to be late.”

 

“Seriously?” The blonde argued, “You’ll definitely be late. You can’t take the elevator, everyone's already taking it to 5.”

 

“Grumps told me to show him around. Besides, it's not like I’m trying to ditch, I have a legit reason.” Takashi started pushing through the crowd, hand still secured on his shoulder.

 

The blonde followed closely behind them, “Saburo-sensei won’t see it that way.”

 

Takashi reached out for Shinsou's hand and he carefully took it. “Kenzo calm down, I’ll be fast, worry about yourself.” He pulled Shinsou through the crowd and pulled open a door next to the elevator, revealing a concrete staircase.

 

It took everything in Shinsou’s power not to fall on his face as his feet slipped under him as Takashi raced down the steps. 

 

“Pay.. attention.” Takashi huffed as he pulled Shinsou around a bend and raced down more stairs. “I’ll only huff I’ll only do this today. Can’t… can’t be late everyday.” They reached the third floor and another door but the two turned and continued down the stairs. Halfway down the next flight, Shinsou did stumble and if it wasn’t for Takashi pulling him along, he would’ve fallen on his face.

 

They finally stopped at the 2nd floor and the white-haired boy pushed the door open and pointed to a room straight across from them. Kids that looked about his age, made their way into the room, some even chatting outside. “That’s your class.” The boy said, wheezing, struggling to breathe. “2nd floor, straight across. Easy.” The boy huffed again, giving Shinsou a thumbs up as he turned back to the stairs. “Gotta go.” 

 

Shinsou vaguely heard the boy mumble something about being ridiculously out of shape and watched as the door slammed shut behind him. Shinsou stopped for a moment, catching his breath, struggling to breathe through the muzzle. He closed his eyes and attempted to take three deep breaths.

 

As Shinsou’s eyes flitted open and he moved to enter the room Takashi had pointed out a bell sound chimed behind him causing him to jump. He spun around, searching for where the sound came from, and just as the sound stopped, he spotted the source. It was a simple black clock hanging from the wall above the elevator. He panicked and turned back to head into his class. I cannot be late on my first day.

 

He pushed into the classroom with the few remaining students and stopped. Where should he sit? He definitely didn’t want to take someone else's seat, that could cause trouble. He could just wait until everyone else sat down and pick one, but what if the seats were assigned? At his last school, the seats were assigned and the teacher would get furious if any of the kids tried to switch seats. 

 

First days of school were bad enough, but first days in the middle of the year?

 

He eased his way to the back and waited for everyone else to be seated before deciding to sit in an empty chair in the last row. Before he could sit down though, the soft voice of his teacher called his name and told him to come to the front.

 

Cold panic washed over Shinsou as his body tensed. All eyes were now on him. Any remaining chatter was mere whispers now and he found himself surprisingly wishing for the roar of conversation again. 

 

Before he could fully process what he was doing, one foot was in front of the other and he was standing numbly facing the crowd of students. The teacher ruffled his hair and introduced him.

 

“This is Shinsou Hitoshi. This,” She gripped the muzzle and pulled his face up softly “is to protect you guys from his quirk.” Please don’t say it please don’t say it please don't say it ple- “His quirk is brainwashing.” Damn. “If he talks to you he can make you do anything he wants.” She let go of the muzzle, his neck fell and he let his shoulders droop. I wouldn’t use it though. I haven’t used it in over a year. Thanks to this damn thing.

 

Familiar pain blossomed from behind his eyes and he pushed the tears down. I will NOT cry while everyone is staring at me. For once, he found himself glad he was wearing the muzzle. Glad he had an excuse not to talk. “Does anyone have any questions?”

 

A few hands shot up and a small girl with pointy teeth asked “Can he make me fly?” Shinsou scoffed under the muzzle and the teacher chuckled. 

 

“No, he can’t make you fly. It has to be something you can already do. Like if he wanted you to he could make you do all his homework whether you wanted to or not.” What a terrible example. 

 

“Could he make me do my homework?” Another boy in the back asked. The teacher laughed again.

 

“Of course.”

 

Another hand shot up and another girl asked “Since he doesn’t speak does he know sign language?”

 

Shinsou waited for the teacher to answer again but instead, he got a soft nudge. He glanced up at the teacher and then, for the first time, looked at the sea of students in front of him. 

 

He shrugged slightly. He knew a little. One of the teachers in his 1st-grade class had a deaf kid or something and was more than willing to teach Shinsou. He only was able to learn the alphabet, numbers, and a few words and phrases before he was moved to a different family and subsequently to a different school. He really missed that teacher. Even if she only talked to him because he couldn’t brainwash her with sign language. 

 

“Sign language is talking with your hands” The teacher clarified to him. He rolled his eyes. I know what sign language is.

 

Instead, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and signed 'My name' and fingerspelled 'S-H-I-N-S-O-U H-I-T-O-S-H-I'

 

“Woah!” The girl cheered. “That’s so cool! What did he say?” The teacher looked down at Shinsou again as if he could tell her. Instead, he turned towards the blackboard behind them and grabbed a stick of chalk. He rolled it between his fingers before giving a questioning glance to his teacher. She smiled and nodded.

 

He hesitated a moment more before writing “I said my name is Shinsou Hitoshi.” He set the chalk back in its place and stepped away from the board, gaze returning to the floor, hands once again taking shelter in his pockets. 

 

“Wow! That’s so cool! Do it again! I want to see!” Shinsou's shoulders dropped but he was about to comply when his teacher interrupted. “No, I think that's enough questions, we need to get started with class now.” He let out a relieved breath and glanced back up to the teacher. She was shuffling in a drawer and Shinsou was about to walk back to the desk he had chosen before she stopped him again.

 

“Here,” She said, handing him a notebook and a pencil, “I don’t know what point you got to in your previous schooling but hopefully you’re not too far behind.” He took the items and looked at her again. “You can sit in any open seat you find.” Thank god.

 

He turned and walked to the back of the class, hairs on his neck rising as the stares followed him. He slumped down into the chair and didn’t look up when the teacher started talking again.

 

The class went by smoothly enough. Luckily, it seemed that not only was Shinsou’s previous class not behind this one, but they were actually quite a bit ahead. The only time he really found himself needing to pay attention was when they started science, it was not stuff he had been taught yet. 

 

By the time lunch rolled around the nervous glances from his class seemed to have died down, but when they shuffled out of his class and squished his way into the elevator, he realized that the whispers definitely hadn’t.

 

The whispers only got worse when, after trying to sit down at the same table as the rest of his class, the teacher came over and told him he had to sit at a separate table for lunch.

 

He followed her to the last table in the cafeteria, the same one he had sat at for breakfast, and his stomach dropped when he saw that he would be the only one sitting at the table. Perfectly standing out and on display, far enough for them to feel confident in their whispers and staring.

 

“The foster kids have to sit separately.” She had said as she led him to the table. “It’s for safety reasons. I tried to convince them to let you sit with the others since you’re the only one young enough to be here during this hour but….” She trailed off as he sat in the chair and stared at the food. She eyed him for a minute longer, swallowing hard. “I’ll be back.”

 

Shinsou panicked for a moment. Did she forget that he couldn’t eat with this damn thing on his face? Or did she simply not care? It wouldn't be the first time.

 

He wasn’t particularly hungry. The breakfast was enough to keep him going for the day. He probably even ate a bit too much for his small stomach, but he never really knew how soon his next meal would be. But still, eating was one of the only times he’d ever been free of this goddamn mask strapped to his face. He was pressed to remember a day he didn’t wear it, ever since one of his foster parents brought it home and attached it to his face as punishment.

 

He buried the thoughts down and pushed the food around the bowl with the chopsticks. The food smelt good, and the scent must’ve been strong if he could smell it even through the muzzle. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before pushing the food away and resting his head on the table.

 

It wasn’t comfortable by any means. It pushed the jagged muzzle ends into his skin by his cheek and at the bridge of his nose but he was tired. Not physically, more emotionally. Today had already been a long day and they weren’t even halfway through it yet. First days at new schools and foster homes were always exhausting. Shrinking under glares and pretending like he couldn’t hear the whispers was harder than it should be. Especially when he should be used to it by now.

 

Shinsou turned his head, glancing at the other tables, packed with wild noisy kids. A few heads spun away from his direction and he sighed.

 

Would he even rather be over there? He wasn’t great with people, in fact, he was the opposite of great. He’d just be closer to the whispers and the stares, and being near the students would make it much easier for them to let him know exactly what they think of him. Neither situation was ideal, but at least over there he could blend in, have some semblance of privacy among the crowds. Over here, all alone, he had nowhere to hide.

 

He turned his head back to his table and watched from the corner of his eye as his teacher strode over to him, shiny silver key in hand.

 

“Sorry Shinsou!” she started, “We haven’t been able to make copies of this little thing yet and I forgot to be sure I had it for lunch.” She paused in front of him, face twisted into some expression he didn’t recognize. 

 

He picked his head up off the table as she reached for his lock. “They told you the rules this morning, right?” He nodded carefully. It’s not like they ever change.

 

He felt the familiar click of the lock but the woman paused a moment before pulling the lock away.

 

“You’ve got like 20 minutes left to eat. Sorry it took so long. I’ll be sure to have it ready by tomorrow.”

 

At that, she pulled the lock off and the muzzle slid away. Shinsou glanced up at her, and she smiled a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. She shuffled around the table and sat down a few seats away from him.

 

He pulled his food closer to him and stretched his jaw out again. His teacher glanced up at him nervously but quickly glared back down at her food and he realized, with a twinge of disappointment, that she was afraid of him too.

 

He shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, he should probably be thankful she wasn’t angry. Fear is the best response he’s going to get. 

 

He ate his food rather quickly and, despite there still being a few more minutes of lunch, as soon as he finished eating, the muzzle was fastened back in its place around his face. His shoulders drooped as he felt the muzzle lock around his jaw again and watched with tired eyes as his teacher made her way back around him, visibly more relaxed now that his quirk was shut down.

 

Shinsou sighed, leaned forward, crossed his arms on the table, and rested his face on them. He wanted to sleep but the noise from the tables, and the fact that his skin crawled as if someone was constantly watching him, discouraged the action. 

 

A few minutes later he heard chairs sliding on tile and his head snapped up. Kids were being ushered by their teachers and took turns entering the stairwell as other, older kids pushed their way out of the elevator. He joined the crowd and let himself be pushed along by the group of kids his age into the staircase and down a flight of stairs. When he finally saw he was getting led through another doorway, he instinctively pulled himself away from the herd of kids and stood to the side, examining the new area. 

 

This was one of the only rooms that seemed cared for enough to be decorated. The room was colorful and kids immediately rushed to the shelves on the right, scrambling to grab the game they wanted to play. Some settled at the few round tables that scattered the room, but most sat on the floor, dragging their desired friends with them.

 

Few students went straight and pushed open the large glass doors into what looked like a library. Every wall, except the glass wall that separated the main room from the library, was covered by tall shelves that were packed with books. In the center, there were three tables, two empty besides the students starting to occupy them, and one that held four computers.

 

Shinsou shuffled past the others and pushed his way into the library. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that most of the books were heavily used, some even losing their binding and cover. He wandered around the room, familiarizing himself with the organization of the books and looking for anything that caught his eye. He was reaching out for a book about cats when a familiar voice startled him.

 

“Shinsou right?” He tensed and turned slowly, hand stuck to the spine of the book he was about to read. He eyed the girl nervously and recognized her as the girl who had been a little too excited about his knowing sign language.

 

He didn’t answer her question but she didn’t seem to mind.

 

“Sorry to bother you but I just wanted to say, I think it’s really cool that you know sign language!” She beamed, bouncing up and down on her toes. “My brother dated some deaf girl for awhile and learned a bit but he broke up with her so I didn’t get to learn any, but I always thought it was really cool!” Shinsou sighed, pulling out the book and making his way to an empty armchair near the corner. To his dismay, she followed. 

 

“I only got to meet her once, otherwise I would totally ask her, but I don’t think her and my brother are friends anymore. He called her a whore and mom says that's not a nice word so I guess she’s not actually that nice.” 

 

He dropped into the chair reading the back of the book and then turned to start reading the inside. He tuned her out, figuring she wouldn’t be expecting him to contribute to the conversation anyway. He was clearly wrong because a few moments later he heard her say, “but I was wondering if you could?”

 

Shit. If I could what?

 

Shinsou looked back up at her again. She was no longer bouncing, instead, she twisted her hair around her fingers and stared into the floor. He just stared at her, trying to catch up to the conversation but apparently, he had done a really good job at ignoring her rambles.

 

When she glanced back up at him again she let out a shaky “Shinsou?”

 

She was obviously wanting an answer, but she must be stupid if she thought he could give one even if he had paid attention to the question. She was talking about her brother's whore girlfriend, well ex-girlfriend, and then… and then.

 

And then what?

 

“Are you just going to keep staring at me?” She clearly did not get that he had no idea what she was talking about.

 

After another moment she huffed, expression twisting into anger. “If you didn’t want to, you could’ve just said so.”

 

She twisted on her heels and stormed out of the library, sitting down next to a group of girls on the floor. He watched as the group glanced his way, clearly not trying to hide the fact they were talking about him.

 

Great. Already managed to piss someone off.

 

It wasn’t even his fault. Well, he could’ve paid attention to what she was saying and maybe found a pen and paper and written his answer but she had strolled up to him and started talking without even questioning if he wanted some company.

 

He turned his attention back to his book and tried to focus on the words. The stupid voice in the back of his head wouldn’t shut up though.

 

She seemed nice. She actually walked up to you and talked to you and you managed to fuck it up.

 

He lied and told himself he didn’t want friends anyway. That eventually she’d learn to fear or hate him and his quirk and turn her back away like they always did. 

 

Another chime of the clock and the other students cleaned up their activities and lined up in front of the elevator. Shinsou slid the book back into its place and stood waiting at the back of the line for the elevator doors to open. 

 

He pretended not to notice how the other kids inched away to put more distance between them.

Chapter Text

All things considered, his first month at this place wasn’t that bad.

 

His first week there was fairly uneventful. He got along with the kids there well enough, they seemed to be more okay with the fact that he had a villain's quirk. Snake eyes, who introduced himself as Ayumu, was actually really nice, as long as you didn’t mess with his friend. He helped Shinsou get settled in, going as far as helping him with his bed sheets when he couldn’t figure it out. Riko, a boy with a mutation quirk that made him look like a devil, was particularly helpful when Shinsou failed to wake up on time for school, something he did quite often thanks to his poor sleep patterns. He’d go around each room and make sure everyone was up and ready, assisting any who were running particularly late.

 

Some kids weren’t quite as friendly though, and because of this, his second week was much more eventful than the first. 

 

He learned very quickly that he should avoid Nao and Kenji at all costs. They never left each other’s side and they loved ‘pranking’ anyone they could get to, though their idea of a prank was twisted. 

 

Nao could make things explode just by touching them, and recently, to everyone's terror, he even learned how to delay the reactions. It wasn’t uncommon for his class to be in the middle of a lesson when suddenly a student's pencil, chair, or even shirt, would explode only to be followed by Nao’s roaring laughter and Kenji’s soft chuckles.

 

Luckily though, the duo was easy to avoid. They were loud, always announcing their presence and Kenji stood out easily amongst the crowd. His skin and hair were solid white except for a few thin black bands that scattered about his arms and legs. And Nao's spiky red hair made up for his short stature. 

 

The problems came when they decided to escalate from pranks to straight-up bullying, especially when their target was Kiyoko.

 

Kiyoko was quiet and reserved, not unlike Shinsou. She had friends, or at least people she followed around and sat with at lunch, but she hardly ever talked. Her long black hair often shielded her face so well that even after a few weeks there he hadn’t managed to see her eyes. She kept to herself mostly and on her own she wouldn’t be terrifying, but she was Nao and Kenji’s favorite target.

 

Shinsou discovered firsthand that she was extremely powerful. He was just relaxing in the library when he watched as Nao pushed her around and Kenji used his quirk. Somehow, his quirk could make you silent just by looking at you and, unlike most of the kids here, he wasn’t afraid to use it.

 

She let them have their fun for the most part until Kenji leaned down and whispered something in her ear and a pulse of darkness shot out of her body. Everything in the room shook and slid away from her and everyone slid back a few feet, the few standing, being forced to the floor with furniture and books scattering around the room. 

 

Instantly, the staff was by her side, dragging her into the elevator, and hauling her to wherever they dished out the punishments to kids who used their quirk. The headache that Shinsou got from that incident didn’t go away for days, and according to Takashi, it happened fairly often.

 

“We try to help her. Sometimes.” Takashi had said late that night when neither of them could sleep. “But anyone who tries ends up with something of theirs blown up or they become victims themselves and they end up tormenting Kiyoko anyway. The only person willing and able to stand up to those two anymore is Tobe. I think they’re kind of afraid of her.” He could practically hear Takashi smirk, “She doesn’t hesitate to kick their ass.”

 

Tobe, Shinsou learned, was the girl with long brown hair and a mask that matched his. She was one of the girls who hung around Kiyoko a lot and was the second oldest behind Takashi himself. She didn’t seem very friendly though. In his, albeit short, time there, Shinsou hadn’t seen her in anything other than a dark hoodie that she often wore hood up. 

 

An image of fire and smoke flashed behind his eyelids and pulled him out of his racing thoughts. Violet eyes flew open and Shinsou rolled over, glancing at the sleeping white-haired boy next to him. Takashi had made it sound like he would only see his dreams every once and a while, but in reality, it happened almost every night. It wasn’t always nightmares, Takashi had the occasional dream, though they also tended to end up twisting into some sort of nightmare.

 

Despite his nightmares though, Takashi definitely got a lot more sleep than Shinsou. The beds weren’t particularly comfortable and the blanket was hardly enough to keep warm, but he had dealt with worse before, so it wasn’t necessarily that. After about a year of sleeping with the muzzle on, he had gotten used to that too. It’s just that falling asleep was hard enough, and even when he did, he couldn't seem to stay asleep for long.

 

Usually, he could feel the tiredness in his bones, and he would close his eyes and just lay there, not thinking of anything in particular, and getting as close to sleeping as you can get without actually passing out. Tonight though, for some reason, his thoughts were absolutely roaring.

 

He considered for a moment what would happen if he snuck out and tried to go to the library, if just for a few minutes. Upsettingly, books weren’t allowed to be taken out of the library because of one too many incidents with Nao. Shinsou wasn’t necessarily surprised, it wasn’t even that disappointing most of the time. Other kids rarely hung out in the library so he was more than happy to stay in his corner minding his business. On nights like these, however, he wished he had a book that he could stare at until his eyes got too tired to make out any words.

 

He squeezed his cat plushie under his pillow and pulled it to his chest as he rolled over again. From what he learned about this place, the punishments didn’t seem too bad. Shinsou himself hadn’t been punished for anything but he’d seen Nao and Kenji shake them off like they were nothing. Then again, they didn’t get punished for sneaking around at night. Maybe the punishments were different for different things. Though, between getting into fights and sneaking down to the library, surely getting into fights was worse.

 

Shinsou laid on his back, eyes wide staring at the dull grey ceiling above him. He shouldn’t do it. He really shouldn’t. He was doing so good at this place, he didn’t want to upset the balance he’d worked hard to create. No one targeted him and the staff hardly even glanced at him. It was good. Well, maybe not good per se, but it definitely could be worse.

 

He sighed and sat up. Carefully glancing at the other five in the room. Takashi was asleep, otherwise, Shinsou wouldn’t be seeing flashes of a fiery room and a screaming girl. The other four slept well enough, at least as far as he knew. Ayumu was snoring across from him so it was safe to assume he was out, and Yamato was a very heavy sleeper. The only two he really needed to worry about were Chie and Shiro.

 

He thought Chie was nice enough that even if she did wake up and catch him, she wouldn’t say anything, but he’d been wrong before about things like that. She was friendly but timid. Chie was another one of the girls who hung around Kiyoko and Tobe, but unlike Tobe anytime Kenji and Nao pushed Kiyoko around, Chie just waited and comforted her after. 

 

Shiro was a problem for an entirely different reason. His quirk was Surveillance. He could see the surroundings of the last object he touched. He was also required to wear gloves, people didn’t like the idea of being spied on without knowing it, but, as Nao proved, gloves could be removed. If he was going to sneak out he’d have to hope he didn’t get spotted by Shiro’s surveillance.

 

Was he really going to do it? It really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. He walked from his room to the library all the time. He knew that taking the stairs would probably be best. The elevator was too loud, possibly even deactivated during the night. The library was four floors down from his floor, the walk there and back alone would tire him out enough to hopefully get some sleep. 

 

Carefully, he turned, swung his feet off the side, and rolled his body forward. The mattress creaked softly at the change in weight, and he tensed before relaxing when he saw no shifting from the others. All in one motion he pushed off the bed and stood, wincing slightly at the small creak and whine of the mattress and floor. Shinsou watched his roommates again, ready to bail at any sign that he’s woken them.

 

Moments later, when he’s sure that they are still asleep, he edged forward. He knows how to be silent, how to make his steps so quiet that almost even he can’t hear them. Though over the pounding of his heart, it’s hard to tell how quiet he really is.

 

His breathing was deep and slow, and as he passed each bed, he carefully watched them, not stopping his push forward but looking for any sign that he needed to bail.

 

He was almost shocked that he had made it to the door. Slowly, very very carefully, he pulled the handle down, not daring to actually open the door until the handle was completely down.

 

He inhaled deeply and pulled the door open as much as he was willing to dare, which seemed to be very little because as soon as it was enough for him to peek out the crack, the door creaked.

 

Immediately, he stopped and squeezed his eyes shut. He listened closely for any shuffling from the hall or the sleeping kids behind him. When he didn’t hear anything he slowly opened his eyes and turned to look behind him. 

 

No one had moved. He was still in the clear. Still, he had half a mind to just stop. Abort mission now before he ran into any actual problems.

 

It’s stupid. It really is. There’s no reason to do this.

 

And yet, against his better judgment, he pushes on, peeking through the small crack of the door.

 

He saw nothing and took a deep breath. He pushed the handle upward and swung the door open towards him only an inch more. The door creaked again but significantly quieter than the first time. He slowly let out the breath and steeled himself, pulling the door open enough for him to slip through. His anxiety relaxed for a moment as he glanced back into the room and saw no disturbances.

 

Shinsou tip-toed forward being sure to be extra quiet as he passed the doors to the other rooms. Once he got to the stairs door, he once again pushed the handle down slowly and pulled the door open smirking under the muzzle when it made no noise. He pulled the door shut quietly and made his way down the flights of stairs. He pushed the door open as softly as he could and peered inside.

 

With no lights and an absence of childish energy, the feel of the room changed entirely. He slowly stepped into the room, pulling the door shut, and took in the room for a moment. 

 

It was the same room he had been in over a dozen times now, the chairs that usually sat around the tables were turned upside down and placed on top, but other than that no visible changes had been made. Yet, the room felt completely different.

 

Maybe it wasn’t just the room but the idea of having something that usually belonged to so many others to himself. Growing up in foster care meant he rarely had anything to himself, certainly not alone time. It was nice. Really nice.

 

Shinsou finally made his way to the glass doors of the library, practically giddy. Being able to relax into a book completely alone suddenly seemed like one of the best ideas he had ever had.

 

Except that the glass doors were locked.

 

Disappointment rushed over him as he stared helplessly at the books. It was almost cruel to be so close, to be able to see the exact book he wanted and yet not being able to do anything about it.

 

He sighed heavily and leaned his forehead against the glass. He could feel the exhaustion in his bones and behind his eyes. For a moment he thought about just heading back and waiting restlessly until his mind finally silenced enough for sleep to take over. He knew that would be obnoxious though. He wanted to escape it for a reason.

 

Instead, he shuffled to the shelf along the wall and for the first time, looked at the games. Very few looked familiar to him, and he had played even fewer. He pulled some out of their spot, reading the backs or the descriptions before putting them carefully back where he got them, and eventually sat down, leaning against the wall.

 

Instead of the roaring thoughts of his past few weeks, his brain seemed much more content to think about the books he had read and the interesting things he learned in class.

 

The hard floor and cold wall shouldn’t have been more comfortable than his bed. And in most ways, it wasn’t. To his mind, however, somehow, the position eased his racing thoughts and he found himself the closest to drifting off he had been all night.

 

He probably could’ve fallen asleep if he hadn’t been jerking himself awake every time he remembered that he couldn’t stay here, that he’d have to make the trek back up to his room and bed. He couldn’t get caught. Eventually, he sighed and forced himself to stand up again. At some point, he had fallen to the floor, 

 

The journey back to his room was a lot more difficult. He was finally sleepy, not just exhausted, but sleepy, and it was hard to find the care to make sure doors slid shut quietly instead of slamming or making sure his footsteps were heard by only him. He didn’t get caught though, and Shinsou was even more impressed with himself that he managed to keep a hold on the sleepiness that the dirty tile floor had built up for him.

 

It was extremely rare for him to pass out the second he laid in bed. It usually only happened when he had to force himself to stay awake for nights on end, or when his sleeping patterns had gotten particularly bad and God decided to grant him a day of mercy. 

 

Tonight though, the second he settled under the scratchy, thin blanket he fell asleep.

 

Waking up that next morning was especially difficult. Usually, throughout the night he’d wake up, often struggling to fall asleep again. This time though, when he woke up it was Takashi shaking him telling him he only had a few more minutes till breakfast. Despite having fallen asleep significantly later than normal, he felt more awake and well-rested than he had in a long time.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

Nine times. Since his first adventure down to the library, he had gone again nine more times. He always checked to see if the library was open, it never was, but still, he found himself wanting to go down there just to be alone. Some nights it didn’t even necessarily help him sleep better, just being completely alone and not having to worry about the people around him was enough to make him miss the place on sleepless nights.

 

No one had ever seen him yet while he was out so his secret was safe. At least that's what he thought until, just when he started letting his guard down, he saw the window across from him slide open.

 

His whole body went numb and his breath caught in his throat. His brain practically blue screened except for the non-stop echoing of Shit Shit Shit Shit.

 

A girl with long hair and sandy skin poked her head through the opening and she let out a heavy breath, blue eyes immediately latching onto him. His brain jolted alive and he shot up ready to run when needed. 

 

“Oooh so this is where you always go off too!” She exclaimed, pulling the rest of her body through the window. Violet eyes widened and he took a small step toward the stairwell preparing to run back to his bed and deny everything.

 

“Wait! You don’t have to worry. I’m not going to snitch. That would be dumb.”  He paused his escape, glancing at the stairwell door.

 

She clearly knew something about Shinsou, or she thought she did, or she was pretending to. Either way, she didn't seem to be an immediate threat. If she was trying to get him when his guard was down, well he just wouldn't let his guard down.

 

She stepped forward, closer to the single emergency light and Shinsou felt himself relax ever so slightly. He recognized her now, the infamous Tobe. The only person that seemed to be able to scare off Nao and Kenji.

 

Shinsou wondered if he should be scared of her. He definitely was scared. Scared of getting caught, scared of what she would do with this information, scared of never being able to come down here again. She was older than him, which meant that adults would probably be more likely to believe her over him.

 

The more he thought about it the more paranoid he became. He was starting to regret not just returning to his bed.

 

She patted further into the room and dropped to the floor, tossing something to the side. Upon closer inspection, he realized that it was the mask that was usually locked to her face. Slightly to the right was a little silver lock, open and unattached from the mask.

 

What the hell? How’d she get it unlocked?

 

“I usually try to avoid this room as much as possible.” She said finally. She broke eye contact and examined the room. A small puff of blue smoke escaped her lips as she sighed, “It’s just so… boring.”

 

She leaned forward and pulled her knee up to her chest, staring at Shinsou like he was the most interesting thing in the world. Considering what she had just said about the room, at the time he probably was.

 

He took a step back, leaning heavily against the wall, and eyed Tobe again. Her eyebrow rose and Shinsou took a deep breath before sliding down the wall and sitting down. 

 

“Do you know sign language?” He sighed and rolled his eyes. Not this again. Hesitantly he once again signed ‘My name Shinsou Hitoshi .’

 

The girl smiled and to his surprise signed back, ‘My name Tobe Rai .’

 

Shinsou stared at her, dumbfounded. She started signing something else, words he didn’t know and before he could stop himself, he was waving his hands wildly in front of him. She stopped what she was doing, her head tilted in question. He stared at the ceiling a moment before signing ‘Little’.

 

“What?”

 

‘I know little.’

 

Her eyes widened in realization. “Ohhh, I see. You only know a little bit.” He nodded. “Sorry, guess I got carried away a bit.” Shinsou pulled his knees to his chest and rested his chin on his knees, closing his eyes and sighing softly.

 

“I was asking where you learned it.” His eyes flew open and he stared at her again. She didn’t seem to be making any move to get closer to him. Maybe she thought he would go closer to her if she was nice enough. Nope, not going to happen. Distance is best, especially with a quirk like hers. 

 

He lifted his hand tiredly and signed ‘Old school.’

 

“Oh that was nice of them I guess.” She coughed lightly, watching as the baby blue smoke dissipated into the air. “I used to wear a muzzle like yours too. My quirk doesn’t work through my nose so they thought keeping my mouth shut was the best option.” Her face twisted into something ugly before she eyed his muzzle sadly. “That's why I know it. I taught myself. If they wanted to shut me up they were going to have to try harder.”

 

“My quirk paralyzes people, if you didn’t know.” She sighed leaning her head back against the glass. She breathed in deeply before breathing out heavy and slow. Thick blue smoke filled the air and dissipated slowly. Shinsou tensed, subconsciously holding his breath and biting the inside of his lip. She seemed to notice his tension because the corner of her mouth faltered a bit. “I’m not going to paralyze you. You’re too far away anyway.”

 

It wasn't until after the blue smoke fully disappeared that he finally took in a slow shaky breath. He looked away from the girl and stared at the wall.

 

If she wasn’t going to do anything then why was she even here? He doubted she just wanted a friendly chat. Shinsou was hardly the best candidate anyway. Even if he did know JSL, which was a gamble in the first place, his general appearance usually scared people off. 

 

He nervously glanced over to her. She had ended up laying down and was currently struggling to make shapes out of the smoke. Shinsou watched in awe for a bit. She’d breathe out and the smoke would hold the form of a circle for a bit until either Tobe broke it apart by waving it away or it naturally broke apart and disappeared.

 

Eventually, she noticed that he was watching her and sat up quickly. “What?”

 

Shinsou startled at the tone. It was harsh and defensive, the exact opposite of how she had previously spoken to him. He reached behind his head, fiddling with the lock, and turned away, returning to his task of staring at the wall.

 

Tobe huffed and leaned back up against the wall. “If you have a question you can ask. I’m not going to bite your head off. If you don’t know the words, just finger spell. You do know the alphabet at least, right?”

 

He stared at her from the corner of his eyes before nodding but made no move to ask anything. She sighed again and stared at the clock cracking her knuckles mindlessly. She looked bored. Not content and thoughtful like Shinsou usually did in this room. It made him even more confused.

 

Eventually, his curiosity won over and when she glanced over at him again he signed ‘Why you here?’

 

Her nose scrunched in confusion. “You mean at this school? Same as everyone else, no one wanted to keep me.” 

 

Shinsou shook his head and swallowed. ‘No with me.’

 

Her face smoothed out in understanding and she rested her cheek in her hand. “I sneak out almost every night. Sometimes I go visit my uncle but mostly I go to the roof and just like chill, maybe practice with my quirk a bit.” She turned to stare out the window, “I saw your bedroom door open a few weeks ago and saw you were gone. Thought you ran away but nope.” She popped the p and turned to look at Shinsou again. “You need to shut your door when you leave, and if you're extra paranoid like me shove some clothes under your covers so if they decide to randomly come check on you they see something.”

 

She sighed heavily, thick smoke billowing out as she did, before standing up and stretching. “I’m here because I wanted to tell you that. If you get caught it makes my life more difficult.” She paused and the corner of her lips fell slightly, “If you’re going to keep wandering around the building be careful, they do checks sometimes. Mostly of the cafeteria because kids try and steal food but still, be careful.” 

 

She grabbed her mask and its lock and key, sliding it back over her face and around her ears before locking it back in place. “I’ll just go.”

 

Instead of heading towards the staircase as he expected, she walked towards him and stopped at the window a few feet away from him, pulling it up. He tensed at the change in distance and kept a close eye on her movements but didn't move otherwise. She ducked through the open window and stood outside pulling the window closed. Shinsou shot up and stared at her through the window. The wind blew her brown hair wildly around her until she pulled her hoodie up and shoved her hair inside. She glanced back into the room and gave him what he assumed was a smile. She pulled the hoodie sleeves down and jumped, pulling down what looked like a ladder from somewhere above and climbed up it.

 

Shinsou watched as the ladder got pulled up and considered following her for a moment. He pulled the window open before quickly shutting it again when the cold wind blew in. 

 

He stared out the window in thought. The city looked rather peaceful at night. It wasn't busy by any means, but the few lights that were softly twinkling were beautiful and looked very calming. 

 

He headed back to his room completely lost in thought. He barely registered making it to his bed at all. He decided that for the time being it would be best to avoid sneaking out if he can. He can’t risk anything with Tobe. 

 

He didn’t get much sleep that night. He couldn’t help but think of different excuses and arguments in case Tobe did end up telling someone. Other kids finding out he was sneaking around isn’t the worst thing, as long as they kept their mouths shut. What was really worrying was the caretakers finding out. He knows from experience that it's a lot easier for adults to blame you for other bad things after you mess up once. The punishment couldn’t be that bad, what would be worse is the fact that they would know he’s more trouble than he’s worth.

 

The next morning he was insanely paranoid. He couldn’t stop the nervous glances he made to Tobe during breakfast. He was constantly waiting for the shoe to drop, for someone to pull him out of class to punish him, or for no one to come to unlock his muzzle during meal times.

 

Nothing happened though. He got through the day, and no one even looked at him twice, not even Tobe.

 

Still, he didn’t allow himself to finally accept that his secret was probably safe with Tobe for another week.

 

But life knows best how to hit you when your guards down.

 

“Oi, grapes!” Kenzo greeted, collapsing into the chair next to him. Grapes really? That’s the best he could come up with? Shinsou eyed him carefully, slowly putting his book down. “I need to ask you a favor. ”

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows furrowed and he glanced up at Takashi who was standing next to Kenzo, hands shoved deep into his pockets and eyes unfocused.

 

“Just to be clear your quirk is brainwashing right?” He stared at Kenzo again before nodding slightly. What the hell kind of favor could he offer? And why was Kenzo asking him? The two of them hadn’t talked in nearly two months, and it wasn’t like he was particularly friendly with Takashi. After school around this time, the two of them seemed to just hang out in one of their rooms. The fact that they were even here was shocking to Shinsou.

 

Kenzo’s face lit up and he shared a look with Takashi. The other boy sighed and rolled his eyes staring out the glass of the library, watching the few other kids that were scattered around the room. 

 

“Sooo, I need you to brainwash one of the caretakers while Takashi steals the other's wallet.”

 

His heart picked up its pace, attention shifting to Takashi,  who was still looking everywhere but at Shinsou. This definitely wouldn’t be good news for him. He just avoided one stressful situation, no way was he getting in another one. And it wasn’t like he was able to use his quirk anyways, even if he wanted to.

 

Shinsou shook his head carefully and turned his attention back to his book, hoping they’d just drop it and leave him alone. He wasn’t so lucky.

 

“What! C’mon man. You won’t even be doing the actual stealing. Just need a little distraction is all, and yours is perfect!” 

 

Finally, Takashi spoke up. “If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to.” Kenzo rolled his eyes at that.

 

“It’s not that big of a deal. If you’re not going to be helpful then go get into position while I come up with a distraction.”

 

Takashi glanced between Kenzo and Shinsou before taking his advice and taking his position next to one of the more aggressive caretakers. Kenzo’s attention turned back to Shinsou. 

 

“You sure you won’t help?”

 

The sentence was simple enough but the tone sounded somehow threatening. It was a tone he had never heard from Kenzo before but he recognized it. Of course he did, he heard it plenty when he got called a villain.

 

He was afraid of shaking his head so instead, he did nothing and just kept his eyes locked on his book. His knuckles whitened and no words were getting read, his heart was pounding too quickly for that.

 

Luckily, Kenzo backed off. “Fine, we’ll just need a new plan then.”

 

If he was paying attention to what Kenzo was doing he probably would’ve been aware of what was about to happen. Instead, he was in complete shock as a fist hit him right in between his eyes. He flew back, sliding off the chair he was lounging in, and instinctively reached up to protect his face from another attack. 

 

The shield of skinny arms did its trick because the next strike was a kick to his stomach, followed by one to his chest, knocking the wind out of him. He struggled to open his watering eyes and curled in on himself. Luckily, it seemed Kenzo had stopped his assault for the time being.

 

He finally blinked away the tears enough to see that Kenzo hadn’t stopped willingly. Instead, he was being punched in the nose and pushed against the table, Shinsou rubbed his eyes and blinked again to see Tobe being pulled back from Kenzo and watched through foggy vision as she elbowed a new assailant with distinct snowy skin in the stomach and whirled around to kick the same spot.

 

Shinsou wheezed and coughed, and he flinched as he heard an explosion behind him, instinctually curling into himself to protect himself from the debris. Tobe fell to the ground and Shinsou winced as she took a kick directly to the face. 

 

Blue smoke leaked into the air and Shinsou held his breath. Tobe quickly sucked the smoke back in and rolled away from the next attack. Familiar fiery red hair caught his eye and Shinsou realized that Tobe was no longer defending Shinsou, she was fighting Nao and Kenji. Tobe lifted herself onto her knee and blocked Nao’s next swing, taking the opportunity to punch him in the nose and force him to stagger back.

 

Then, instead of retaliating like Nao moved to do, he was yanked back by a small woman with puffy eyes. The caretakers had arrived.

 

Tobe was the first one to be hauled away, Shinsou watched with guilt twisting in his stomach as the biggest of the three that arrived put a hand over Tobe’s mouth and directed her into the elevator. Her eyes locked with his and he tried his best to non-verbally convey his thanks. He doubted his message had been received, she didn’t seem to be focused on him.

 

Instead, a small puff of blue smoke escaped between the man's fingers and blue eyes narrowed before the elevator doors closed between them.

Chapter Text

It had been a week and he still hadn’t seen Tobe. She wasn’t at breakfast or dinner, she wasn’t with Chie or Kiyoko like she often was, and yesterday he searched the whole building after class and still couldn’t find her.

 

There was still one more place he had yet to look. He knew the chances were slim, but he still tried.

 

Sneaking up to the roof was harder than Shinsou anticipated. At first, he thought it was as easy as sneaking up the staircase, but the door to the roof was locked. His second thought was, somehow, Tobe uses the platforms outside the windows to go up to the roof. 

 

When he went out to the platforms to test the theory he realized immediately that he was way over his head. It was obvious by the temperature alone that winter was coming soon and he had to repress shivers as he stepped fully outside. He wasn’t tall enough to reach the ladder that she had pulled down, even jumping he came up short. He had to climb onto the railing and take a leap of faith from there. He wrapped his arms around the bottom rung and he stumbled as the ladder barreled down and his feet made a booming impact with the metal floor.

 

He shakily made his way up the ladder, only to find the roof completely barren.

 

It was really starting to worry him. Kenzo, Nao, and Kenji didn’t seem to have any punishment that Shinsou noticed and Takashi obviously got the money he was looking for. Takashi even apologized that night before they fell asleep but Shinsou just ignored him. He regretted it a bit, but at the time he was nursing two partial black eyes, a raging headache, and stomach pains, so he couldn’t be bothered to make the other boy feel better.

 

Takashi did give him 1000 yen though. For a kid who had never had his own cash, it meant quite a lot so, in Shinsou’s mind, Takashi was forgiven. Takashi didn’t need to know that though. At least not for now. It’s not like there was an easy way for Shinsou to let him know. Besides, he was still followed by Kenzo everywhere, and there was no way Shinsou was going near him.

 

Nao and Kenji got annoyingly cocky about their avoided punishment. It was a stupid thing to be cocky about. They only got away with it because they got their asses handed to them and Shinsou couldn’t say anything to defend what actually happened. Luckily though, they still didn’t seem to pay Shinsou much mind. Instead, they took Tobe’s absence as an opportunity to torment Kiyoko with no interruptions.

 

Shinsou felt particularly bad for that. Tobe had stepped in for him and now not only was she paying for it in some way but so were her friends. 

 

Luckily though, she did show her face again. Exactly a week after the incident, she finally showed up to breakfast. Nao and Kenji seemed annoyed but, other than her friends, no one else seemed to notice.

 

She wasn’t untouched though. Instead of her usual fabric mask, a new mask hid the bottom half of her face, this one much closer in design to Shinsou’s. It seemed it was made of the same materials as his and it very clearly did not allow talking like her last one did. Instead, it seemed to have the same effect that Shinsou’s had; restricting any movement of the jaw.

 

A pang struck Shinsou’s chest at the sight of her and Shinsou watched her carefully that first breakfast. 

 

She seemed…. fine. While they were sitting there, waiting for the caretaker to come with the keys, she seemed a little out of it, but once the muzzles were removed she seemed normal.

 

From what Shinsou had seen she didn’t talk much in general, so the fact that she wasn’t being the most talkative didn’t faze him. She was even expertly avoiding Shinsous gaze like she always had. It wasn’t until she shakily tried to use her chopsticks that Shinsou noticed something worth worrying about. Her hands were mostly covered by her jacket, pulled up past the knuckles but from what he could see her hands were red and swollen. 

 

Suddenly Shinsou seemed to lose his appetite.

 

He spent the entirety of breakfast silently begging for Tobe to glance in his direction. And when she never did his anxiety was off the charts through class and lunch.

 

It's pretty obvious she blames me. Someone clearly did something to her, whatever the punishment was obviously wasn’t worth protecting my sorry ass.

 

She gets in fights all the time. I’m sure this is just nothing to her, an event that didn’t even stand out.

 

This time she was protecting the villain kid though.

 

He was able to calm down a bit after lunch, but when class was out and he didn’t see her until dinner, his guilt and worry came rushing back.

 

He didn’t want to go looking for her, especially if she was pissed at him. All he wanted to do was apologize and back off. If she was pissed at him then she had the perfect ammunition. She knows that he sneaks out and where he sneaks off to.

 

During dinner, her eyes finally wandered in his direction, but one glance was all he needed. The second her eyes landed on him he signed ‘Sorry’.  

 

Her head tilted and she glanced at the people around her before signing ‘Why’?

 

He didn’t know how to sign exactly what he was sorry for so instead he asked ‘You okay?’. Her gaze dropped back to the bowl in front of her and she nodded slightly, not looking back up at him again.

 

The hour of free time after dinner he spent in the library on the computer looking up and practicing exactly how to sign what he was sorry for. It wasn’t nearly enough time and he was shooed off to bed before he was even halfway done looking up what he wanted to say, let alone committing it to memory.

 

The next morning Tobe avoided him even more than she had the day before, refusing to even glance in his direction. He spent all of his free time after class learning the signs needed for the apology and felt especially confident when he went back the next day after class and nailed all the signs.

 

All he had to do now was get her to look at him.

 

Two days later, as Shinsou was on his 5th night of practically no sleep, he decided sneaking out and seeing if she was on the roof might be worth it. She hadn’t seemed to snitch on him yet. Maybe she couldn’t with the situation she was in, or maybe she already tried and he had avoided punishment. Either way, it seemed safe enough to sneak out for the time being.

 

He luckily had done this once before and remembered to put on a jacket before crawling out the window. Grabbing the ladder wasn’t necessarily easier, but he was more prepared this time around and the climb to the roof went fairly smooth.

 

The roof was nothing much, there was a doorway in the corner that Shinsou assumed led to the stairs and a few oddly shaped medal things that stuck out and did who knows what. What wasn’t up there, however, was a certain brown-haired blue-eyed girl.

 

At least that's what he thought until she jumped out from behind the concrete box of the stairwell wielding a pipe of some kind.

 

He stumbled back, falling on his ass before Tobe sighed, ran her hands through her hair, and dropped the pipe. “Shit it's just you, I thought someone was trying to rob the place or something. Have you tried being quieter when you break curfew?”

 

Shinsou just stared up at her dumbfounded as she pushed her hair behind her ears. She huffed and scratched her face, peering over the edge where Shinsou had just come from. She wasn't wearing the muzzle, and he wasn't really surprised that she had found a way to get it off already. He pushed down the stab of jealousy and waited, watching for any sign of anger from the girl. Other than the sneak attack she seemed generally unfazed about Shinsou being there.



Eventually, Shinsou made his way back on his feet and once again signed ‘Sorry.’



Tobe huffed out a laugh. “Yeah you said that before.” She picked up the pipe and rolled it in her hand casually. “What are you sorry for?”



Shinsou gulped and tried to calm his racing heart, suddenly seeming to realize that if she took the apology badly there was nothing he could do up here alone on a roof with no way to get help and nowhere to run.



‘I sorry you got in a fight, in trouble for me. You’re muzzled now, injured because of me.  Sorry.’



Shinsou was shaking, whether from the cold or fear he didn’t know. Eventually, he chanced a glance from his shoes to the girl only to see her dazed. Shinsou’s movement seemed to snap her out of it though because suddenly she spoke again.



“Holy shit you have nothing to apologize for. The muzzle sucks ass yeah but I already got the key for it so I’ll be fine, besides it’s not like you started the fight right?” She paused before asking, “You didn’t start the fight right?” Shinsou was quick to shake his head. “Then we’re all good, no reason for me to be mad at you. I was going to get in trouble again eventually.”



Shinsou was quick to argue. ‘You hands. You gone a week!’



Tobe waved him off. “Director Daisuke is just like that, you know how she gets.” Shinsou stared at her dumbly before Tobe seemed to catch up. “Oh, guess you wouldn’t.”



Tobe walked towards the edge of the building and stared out to the street. “Well, she’s kinda old fashioned, and she doesn’t like me very much anyways. Add that with the fact that I paralysed her husband in the elevator and, well, she definitely wasn’t very happy.” She turned back towards Shinsou with a gleeful smirk. “It wasn’t anything I’m not used to”



Shinsou bit his lip and hugged himself, desperately trying to keep warm against the frigid air. ‘Not mad?’ Tobe snorted but shook her head. ‘Why…’ he paused a moment before fingerspelling ‘a-v-o-i-d me’



Her smirk faltered and she walked past him back to the concrete staircase and grabbed an article of clothing from behind it. “I guess… It’s…” She huffed out in annoyance before starting again. “I’m not exactly liked, you know. I get in fights A LOT, especially with those two assholes who don’t know how to mind their goddamn business. Plus I think Daisuke has started giving Kiyoko a hard time because she knows we’re friendly.” She trailed off. He had no time to wrap his head around what she had said and how that even answered his question before she threw the chunk of fabric at his chest. “Put it on. You’re freezing.”



Upon further inspection, Shinsou realized that this ‘chunk of fabric’ was quite a large and thick hoodie. He glanced up at Tobe for confirmation before quickly sliding it on and absorbing the little warmth it had started to exude.



“Besides, we had one interaction. Did you want to braid each other's hair or something?”



Shinsou supposed he had sort of jumped to conclusions. He wasn’t sure how social interactions worked that well. 



They sat in a comfortable silence (or maybe it was supposed to be uncomfortable Shinsou had a hard time telling) for a few minutes before Shinsou started the conversation up again.



‘How you learn fight?’ 



Tobe scoffed and rolled her eyes. “You all act like I’m a professional street fighter or something, I just know how to throw a decent punch.” Tobe glanced over at Shinsou and continued. “I only really fight with Nao and Kenji around here and for how much they get in trouble for it, they are shit at fighting. I guess compared to them I do have skills.”



Tobe sat against the staircase and stared up at the stars. “My uncle teaches me. I sneak off to his house every now and then and he teaches me something cool. It’s usually something with fighting. He doesn’t like that I get in fights, he thinks it means I’m going to follow in my mom's footsteps but,” She shrugged, “My mom was a villain. Or is a villain I guess. My uncle just ended up getting dragged along. He was only really useful as muscle so he learned to fight in case my mom couldn’t get in and do what she needed to do.”



Tobe paused and turned her attention back to Shinsou. “Is that going to be a problem?” 



Shinsou’s face scrunched up. ‘What?’



“The fact that my mom, and probably dad, are villains.” Shinsou shrugged and sat down against a random metal square.



Tobe huffed out a laugh, causing blue smoke to appear before it got blown away by the wind. “My uncles all clean now. Trying to get his shit together or something. I stayed with him a bit after my mom got arrested but he doesn’t exactly scream good with kids so…” Tobe grumbled the last part in annoyance. 



‘Teach me?’ Shinsou asked hesitantly.



Tobe laughed and Shinsou curled in on himself. “What. How to fight?” 



Slowly, he nodded. Tobe laughed again.



“I guess so. If that's what you want. Like I said, all I really know how to do is throw a punch. And maybe a bit about dodging and blocking and shit but I’m not going to be a good teacher.” 



They sat in silence again, relaxing in the soft roar of the occasional car zooming by. 



“Gotta be honest, I didn’t expect that question from you at all.” Shinsou glanced over at her, offense clear on his face. 



“I didn’t mean it like that!” Tobe laughed, “I just meant. You don’t really seem like the kinda person who wants to fight is all. I thought you’d ask to be taught sign language or some shit. Maybe even ask for the key to that glorified gag strapped to your face.”



Shinsou looked away, playing with the lock at the base of his skull instead of asking for both of those things. Both would be great, especially the key. Not to talk but to just rest. Have a moment of peace outside of eating or brushing his teeth. But he had already asked way too much from Tobe, he didn’t even know her that well. Not to mention that all of their interactions ended with her running or being dragged away.



And he supposed she was right. He didn’t seem like the one to fight, but that was the problem wasn’t it. Everyone always thought he could be pushed around. He was tired of it. At least if he knew how to protect himself he wouldn't need others swooping in to save him.



“I did look.” She said after a beat of silence. “For the key to your mask.” She looked at him with sadness. “I know where mine is because, well it’s mine.” 



Shinsou stared at her in shock. “You looked?’



She stared at him back with the same expression. “Of course I looked. I know what it's like. Even with the fabric mask I had a week ago, breaks were a god-send and I could actually move my jaw." She rubbed her jaw mindlessly and glanced over to the discarded muzzle against the wall. "These rigid ones are actual hell.”



His shock didn’t disappear, “ You know my quirk?”



“Yeah?” Tobe answered. “You can make people do shit or something. Somehow the muzzle stops it.”



Shinsou hesitated, not wanting to lose whatever it was he had with Tobe. It’s better sooner rather than later though, rip the band-aid off and all that.



“V-i-l-l-a-i-n-s quirk’



Tobe’s face twisted from confusion to sadness. “Oh. Shit. You actually believe that?” Shinsou didn’t meet her eyes.



“Look, Shinsou right?” He didn’t nod but she continued anyway, “Nothing makes you a villain except committing a crime and actually doing villain stuff. People are assholes, and you’re as much of a villain because of your quirk as I am because of my parents. You didn’t seem to give a shit when I mentioned my mom was arrested," she paused and he shrugged, "well I don’t give a shit about your quirk. You can control it right?” At that, he nodded. “Then you’re already doing better than I am.” She laughed weakly. 



What she said confused Shinsou greatly. It made sense that her mom being a villain doesn't make her one, and connecting that to his quirk made sort of sense. But Tobe obviously wasn't her mom. Brainwashing was Shinsou's quirk and everyone he had ever met agreed that his quirk was villainous. It's one of the main reasons people torment him so much. They were putting the future villain kid in his place.



“As long as you don’t use your quirk for evil, then you’re not a villain. It's literally that simple.”



Had he used it for ‘evil’? Not intentionally, that's for sure. Even the accidental brainwashings he can remember weren't enough to be a crime. Occasionally asking people to do something without realizing they had no say in the matter because he activated his quirk unwillingly, and those days were far behind him. He learned how to control his quirk very fast, and he learned how to recognize the effects and release his victims faster. He didn't feel like a villain. He always had dreaded the day he would ultimately turn to ‘the dark side’. He didn't like hurting people, but he'd always figured that as a villain he'd get used to it eventually. 

 

So, maybe he wasn't technically a villain yet. He always kind of knew that. He hadn't done anything 'evil' yet. 

 

Shinsou rested his head on his knees and stared at Tobe from the corner of his eyes. He was tired, and cold, though incredibly less so with the new jacket, and the anxiety from earlier had dissolved into paranoia about being caught on the roof. He should want to head back, eager  even. But for some reason he wanted to stay on this rooftop with the first person who seemed to believe (even if stupidly), he wasn’t destined to be a villain.



They sat in silence again until eventually, Tobe stood up and stretched, yawning as she did so. “I’m going to head back and try and get at least a few hours of sleep. Keep the hoodie. I have a shit ton. Or a shit ton in rejected kids' standards.” She chuckled softly. “I, uh, guess we’ll meet up here next week? That’ll give my hands a bit more time to sort their shit out and you can start doing push ups or something if you want until then. I don’t know.” 



Tobe strode over to the platform before running back to the staircase and picking up the muzzle and the lock from behind it. “Almost forgot.” She chuckled brokenly. Tobe hesitated a moment, running her free hand through her hair, before sliding the muzzle on her face and locking it up behind her.



She made her way back over to the platform and started to climb down the ladder. Before she could get too far though, Shinsou snapped his fingers and got her attention.



'Teach me sign-language?'



Tobe smiled, or at least Shinsou assumed she smiled. 



'Okay.'

Chapter Text

Shinsou shuffled back and huffed. He was getting tired, this was one of the longest sparring sessions that they had ever had before. He knew it was good exercise and training to try longer fights but god he wanted to sit down.

 

Tobe cocked an eyebrow and threw a punch at his shoulder that he easily dodged. 

 

He didn’t think it would happen, but for once, he found himself not entirely hating life. Tobe had been training him for almost a year now and he actually found it fun. It took a while before they actually started sparring. First Tobe just taught him techniques, then they had to wait for winter to pass, so for a few months they’d just stay inside the game room and work out or Tobe would teach Shinsou sign or, on rare occasions, they’d play one of the games. 

 

Honestly, it was good they had been forced to mostly focus on sign language first, it made communication so much easier. Shinsou took to sign language like a person with a fish quirk to water. Only being able to speak with sign language helped a lot, and Tobe wasn’t a terrible teacher. 

 

Then their training had to be stopped when Tobe left because she was being transferred to a foster home. Tobe said it was because she was going into middle school and this place wasn’t technically supposed to house anyone over the age of 12.  Even Takashi, Kenji, and Itsuki got transferred out.

 

The absence of Takashi was confusing for Shinsou. Takashi was nice enough and as long as Kenzo wasn’t with him, he found he actually could enjoy his company. After the fight though, Shinsou knew that Takashi didn’t care about Shinsou, at least not in any way that mattered. Sleeping also became significantly easier. He was no longer plagued by someone else’s nightmares, only his own. Still, on nights he felt particularly lonely he found himself missing the flashes of Takashi’s dreams.

 

Shinsou was honestly shocked when Tobe moved back in. From what the other kids were saying, most kids left this place after grade 6. He was happy of course. They’d been hanging out enough that Shinsou considered her a friend. He never asked if they were though, it would probably be too awkward and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer. 

 

In the four months she had been gone, he had started working to train himself. Looking up self-defense videos and other things to practice on the roof was much slower progress, but still, it was progress.

 

Once she got back, they easily fell back into their old pattern. Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays they would head up to the roof to train, occasionally sneaking in one on Wednesdays if their homework load was light.

 

“Remember hands up.” Shit right . Shinsou’s hands immediately rose significantly. They were growing exhausted and it felt like they weighed a hundred pounds but he focused on keeping his hands in sight.

 

Tobe pushed forward and swung at Shinsou. He was able to easily dodge it but Tobe knew he would and ended up pulling his left foot out from under him. He fell back and the back of his head hit the ground hard.

 

“Shit you good?” Tobe asked leaning over him, “You fell pretty hard, can you see?” Shinsou could see. The more annoying issue was the now pounding headache. ‘Good, water break’

 

Tobe sighed. “Alright water break. You sure you alright, your face says otherwise.” Shinsou sat up and glared at her. Tobe barked out a laugh. “Hiding injuries doesn’t make you tough, you know” 

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck as he walked toward his water. ‘I always lose because my legs.’ He picked up his water and turned around.

 

Tobe reached up behind her head and unlocked her mask, pulling it off her face. One good thing about Tobe’s transfer was the Director actually put money into getting her a new mask that she could actually talk in. She didn’t usually take it off when they sparred though. She didn’t have great control over her quirk yet and Shinsou could admit he felt better when she fought with the mask on.

 

“Yeah sorry, it's not necessarily your fault though, you know that. Once you get that muzzle off it’ll be so much easier to dodge kicks and shit.” Tobe picked up her water and smirked ‘Besides, I know to use that against you, most people won’t. At least not at first.”

 

‘Still annoying.’

 

Shinsou tilted his head back and slowly dipped water into an air slot of his mask. He drank the water as fast as he dared, appreciating the cold water down his throat and even enjoying the water that missed his mouth and refreshed the area under the mask.

 

His enjoyment was cut short when he felt his arm being pulled down to the ground. His first instinct was to pull away but when he saw Tobe crouching next to him with a single finger up in front of her mask he complied.

 

Hero ’ She signed and pointed out towards the street. Shinsou gulped and chanced a shuffle peering over the edge.

 

Shinsou’s first thought was, they look kind of ridiculous . The hero was dressed in all black with a dark leather jacket with spikes on his shoulders and elbows with big black boots. He had a big clunky grey thing around his neck, odd yellow glasses, black fingerless gloves, and dark headphones but those weren’t the weirdest things.

 

Nope, what was weird was his yellow hair was practically straight up defying gravity. He looked more like a punk or a DJ than a hero.

 

Shinsou eased away from the edge, out of sight from the street, and glanced at Tobe.

 

‘Present Mic.’ She signed.

 

Who?’

 

Tobe eyed Shinsou up and down before answering. ‘Voice hero, Present Mic.’

 

‘Am I supposed to know who that is?’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and shifted so she was no longer crouching but sitting. ‘He’s like the most popular hero outside of the top ten. Probably because his radio show.’

 

Shinsou’s face scrunched in confusion. ‘ I didn’t know hero’s had radio shows’

 

Tobe shook her head and rolled her eyes again. ‘ Not all heroes. Just Present Mic. God, you’re helpless .’ He huffed softly in mock offense.

 

'You sure that's a hero? Doesn't look much like one.'

 

Tobe stifled a snort into her hand. 'Yes, I'm sure.'

 

Shinsou looked her up and down trying to visibly portray his disbelief before he eased back to the edge and watched as Present Mic disappeared from view.

 

He’s gone’ He signed.

 

“Good.” Tobe said standing up. “My back was starting to hurt.” She set her water down on the ground and stretched. “You know, to most people, heroes are like the most talked about thing and you know nothing about them.”

 

‘I know things,’ He argued. He moved his hand to continue but Tobe interrupted.

 

“Oh yeah you know things all right. You know All Might enough to know he’s got some yellow in his costume, you know Endeavor enough to know he’s got a flaming mustache and you know Best Jeanist enough to know his style is worse than yours.” She paused and stared at Shinsou with her arms crossed. “Did I miss anything?”

 

‘I know Midnight,’ Tobe scoffed.

 

Tobe pointed an accusing finger. “You only know Midnight because she’s my favorite. Is there anything else you know about heroes that's not about the top three most popular?” She stopped before adding “Midnight doesn’t count”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and scoffed, ‘There’s that weird one in all black that's around here sometimes,’

 

Tobe scoffed again. “He doesn’t count either.”

 

‘Why not?’

 

“Because” she started. “What’s his name? Can you tell me his name?” 

 

Shinsou faltered before recovering. ‘ Not fair. You don’t know his name either.’

 

“You’re right,” Tobe shrugged, “I don’t. Which is why he doesn’t count. I’m not convinced he’s real.”

 

‘He’s definitely real.’ Shinsou countered. 

 

“Prove it then. Tell me something about him.”

 

‘He likes cats.’

 

Tobe scoffed again. “You’re just saying that because you like cats.”

 

‘Not true!’ He objected, ‘He stopped in the alley when you were with your uncle and took care of the stray cat.’

 

“Sure, sure,” Tobe nodded. “I believe you. Very convenient that this happened while I was gone. Are we going to fight again or?”

 

‘Need another minute for headache.’ Tobe’s face scrunched up but she looked away. 

 

After a moment Shinsou waved for Tobe’s attention and asked ‘ Is it really that weird that I don’t know about heroes?’ 

 

Tobe stared at him a moment before sitting down again, far enough away so that any accidental gas wouldn’t paralyze him. “I didn’t mean anything by it, it’s just odd how little you know. I mean at my school kids are constantly talking about heroes.”

 

‘Why?’ 

 

Tobe shrugged. “Practically everyone wants to be a hero. Even kids that don’t really have the quirk for heroics or quirkless kids. Everyone wants to be a hero.”

 

‘Why?’ He asked again.

 

Tobe huffed out a laugh. “I guess it's because heroes save people. At least for me. I guess for some people, maybe even most, it's about the money and power they get. For me though it’s about helping people who grow up the same way I am. Like you are. I want to be able to help them since they can’t help themselves.”

 

‘You want to be a hero?’

 

Tobe smiled sadly and looked away. “Like I said. Everyone wants to be a hero.”

 

Shinsou considered the idea for a while. She was right he really didn’t know much about heroes. All Might and Best Jeanist seemed alright. Saving people for work was definitely honorable. Endeavor was alright too, he guessed. Kind of an asshole but did that really matter if he got the job done?

 

What Shinsou didn’t understand was why they got more praise than the police. They did essentially the same thing, the heroes just did it with a flashy costume and a dorky name. Sure saving people was honorable but why weren’t people buying merch for the top-rated police officer or something.

 

“I’m assuming you don’t want to be a hero then.” Tobe broke the silence, “So what do you want to do?” Shinsou shrugged and after a long beat of silence, Tobe added, “If you did want to be a hero I think you’d at least be decent. Kiyoko told me you helped her when I was gone, so. Thanks I guess.”

 

Shinsou stared at her like she had grown two heads. ‘What?’

 

“You protected Kiyo while I was gone.” Tobe stated again, much more confused this time.

 

‘No,’ Shinsou clarified, ‘I meant, you think I would be a good hero?’

 

Tobe shrugged. “Yeah, I mean no one else in this dump helped Kiyo and you did. That’s pretty heroic.”

 

Something warm filled Shinsou’s chest and he felt a smile creep its way onto his face. Nobody saw him as anything other than a future villain, let alone a hero.

 

‘You protected me.’ Shinsou reminded her.

 

“Yeah, and?”

 

‘You’re already a hero then. To me at least.’

 

Tobe blushed a moment before turning her face away. “Stop with all that sappy shit and let's fight again already.”

 

Shinsou happily obliged.

 

The next morning was thankfully Saturday so Shinsou got to sleep in a bit after their training went on longer than usual. Once he did get up though, he went straight to the library and looked for any books they had on heroes. They didn’t really have much. Most of the books are old and donated. The few books they did have were mostly fiction and fantasy, and only three were non-fiction. The first one was a biography of All Might, about what the public knows about his life, with a few of All Might's old friends discussing his life. Shinsou originally meant to just skim through it but he ended up reading roughly a quarter of it before he realized he read far more than he had intended.

 

The book was obviously written by someone who was his fan. Whoever wrote it showed All Might in a very positive light. Because of this, it did very little to answer the questions Shinsou had about heroes. He could understand people who were personally rescued by heroes holding admiration for them, and perhaps that was partly why the top heroes were the top heroes. They definitely had to save a lot of people to get where they were so it made sense that they’d have big fan bases based on that alone, but Shinsou couldn’t understand what the people who hadn’t been directly invested saw.

 

The other book was more of a history book, ‘ Evolution of Heroes’. It talked briefly about the origin of quirks and how they changed how the world handled crime. It touched heavily on the origin of vigilantes and how that idea evolved into what modern-day heroism was. This book was probably the most helpful. Hero’s were a much newer idea than police officers were in the grand scheme of things, and humans always like new things. Plus police officers couldn’t necessarily use their quirks and to most people, using quirks was fun. It made sense that people would want to be a hero rather than a police officer based on the difference in quirk usage alone. What confused Shinsou was why vigilantes weren’t praised in the same way.

 

Vigilantes were only a slight bit older than heroes and in Shinsou’s mind, keeping your identity a secret and saving people without looking for any money or power, was far more honorable. Vigilantes were obviously still around, a quick web search answered that, but the opinion on them was much more mixed. 

 

The internet answered a lot of questions though, especially about vigilantes. It seemed that vigilantes typically seemed more willing to kill villains or eventually turn to crime themselves. That made sense in some way. They were already walking the line of legality, it made sense that a lot of the people walking that line weren’t the best morally speaking. The vigilantes who did seem to be consistently helpful though still were hunted by the police and not praised the same way.

 

The last book was almost no help at all. It was a book that talked about quirk theory and was only loosely related to heroes. Shinsou was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt until it started talking about quirks being taken and given and the ridiculousness became too much.

 

So Shinsou decided the internet would probably be the best place to look. Probably should’ve just looked there in the first place.

 

His first search was ‘most loved heroes’. This one was fairly insightful; it aligned mostly with the labeled top 10.  When he tried to look into why they were loved so much it seemed it mostly had to do with how many wins they had mixed with their ability to charm reporters.

 

His second search was more specific: ‘Why do people like heroes’. There were a few articles about how heroes helped spread hope and deterred villains. Still, Shinsou didn’t quite get it.

 

“Wow you’re taking this hero stuff really seriously”

 

Shinsou jumped and nearly fell out of his seat. He heard a familiar laugh and spun around to piercing blue eyes. Tobe leaned over his shoulder and read the screen, “Why people need to love heroes. A psychoanalyse by…” Tobe scrunched her nose and squinted. “What even is that name? That's not a real person that's an alien name.”

 

Shinsou had to blink a few times before he realized what was going on. Tobe rarely talked to him outside of the rooftop meetups and usually, it was only little signs after Shinsou took a particularly hard hit to make sure he was okay, or when she wanted to go to the roof on days they wouldn’t usually train. Her straight-up speaking to him hardly ever happened.

 

‘What do you want?’ Shinsou signed, leaning away from her shoulder.

 

Tobe leaned back, “Well, I was going to ask if you wanted to sneak out tonight, not to the roof, I have a bit of a surprise.” Suddenly, Shinsou was very anxious. Tobe snuck away from this place all the time. Sometimes running off to her uncles or just roaming around the city, Shinsou however, never left sight of the building. They had gone down into the alleyway between the buildings before, and he even chased a cat down the street one night but he never wandered far.

 

‘Sneak out, like away from here?’ 

 

Tobe shook her head, “No we’d stay in the building,” A wave of relief flooded over him. “Won’t say much more than that, otherwise it’ll ruin the surprise, but are you down?”

 

A surprise? What could they do that would be a surprise? They had been to every floor during their sneak-outs, even the floor where the caretakers sleep, (though that was technically only Tobe because she’s INSANE) there wasn’t much else to see around here. 

 

Instead, Shinsou nodded and turned back to the computer. Tobe eyed the librarian and leaned in close to Shinsous ear, “You know I’m going to bully you about how nerdy you got about this hero shit right?” Tobe leaned back and Shinsou rolled his eyes.

 

‘Fuck off.’ Tobe mock gasped and covered her mask with her hand. 

 

‘We’re going to have a chat about your cussing problem.’

 

Shinsou raised his eyebrows and smirked, My cussing problem? You swear more than me.’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and turned to walk off. “See you in a few hours? Meet on this floor.”

 

Shinsou would’ve given a snarky reply except she was pointedly not looking in his direction. It wasn’t until she mentioned the time that he realized exactly how much time he had put into trying to understand this. In 10 minutes it would be 19:00 and he would be kicked out of the library and rushed off to dinner.  

 

Shinsou stood up and started putting the books back where he found them. He closed the tabs and cleared the search history, not out of necessity this time around but at this point, it was just a habit. 

 

On cue, his stomach growled and he was suddenly very aware of the fact that he had accidentally skipped lunch. He made his way to the cafeteria and waited along the walls while caretakers put the food out on the table. He shouldn’t have to wait too long, there was only about three minutes left until dinner time.

 

“Oi, brain freak how ya doing.” 

 

Fuck

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and glared at Nao from the corner of his eyes. His smile seemed genuine but his eyes screamed mischief. He wasn’t wearing his gloves, another tell-tale sign that he was up to something. Nao reached out to grab his shoulder like they were friends but Shinsou moved out of the way.

 

“Aww come on man, why you gotta be like that. What’re you scared?” Shinsou scoffed and rolled his eyes again. 

 

Nao wasn’t exactly scary. His quirk was troublesome but it didn’t work on organic things. As long as you avoided getting touched you’d be fine. He wasn’t the brightest but he wasn’t stupid either, he wouldn’t start a fight right here, not with all the adults around and not so close to dinner.

 

Besides, Kenji was nowhere in sight and if Nao did decide to fight, Shinsou would definitely win.

 

He smirked at that thought.

 

“C’mon man I just wanna make a deal.” Nao leaned against the wall next to Shinsou, out of grabbing distance but still close enough to make Shinsou uncomfortable. “Trust me you’ll want to hear this.”

Shinsou made it a point to not look at Nao, unfortunately, he didn’t take the hint, and instead, he leaned closer. Shinsou was about to make a move away from Nao and to the table but Nao stopped him.

 

“I know you sneak out at night.”

 

If he was better at hiding things, he wouldn’t have frozen at the words, and he’ll kick himself later for reacting at all but Nao was the worst possible person to know.

 

A million thoughts ran through Shinsous’s head. Of course he would use that as some kind of leverage. Did he have some way to prove it? What evidence would that even be? Nao is a notorious troublemaker, surely they wouldn’t believe just his word. Plus, Shinsou has only gotten in trouble twice in his whole year here, if it came down to a ‘he said she said,’ surely Shinsou would win.

 

History didn’t support his theory though.

 

Shinsou slowly turned around finally giving Nao a real acknowledgment. His smile had turned into a smirk and Shinsou glared at him.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell anyone. Not yet at least. I just wanted to let you know.” Nao took a step towards Shinsou and whispered, “Maybe next time you’ll think twice before getting in my way, yeah?”

 

At that Nao walked off to the table, smiling and joking as if nothing had happened. Shinsou on the other hand felt sick. 

 

Shinsou didn’t know much about Nao. He could be vindictive and just tell the caretakers for no reason. If that was the case what would happen? There’s no way to prove it, right? Which means as long as he doesn’t get caught in the act he’s safe. If he really just wanted Shinsou to get caught though, the smart idea would be to just tell someone without telling Shinsou he knew, which probably meant he was definitely just planning on using this as blackmail.

 

If that's the case then until Shinsou pisses Nao off, he should be fine. That’s assuming that Nao doesn’t get trigger happy and snitch just because he wants to. Shinsou wouldn’t put it past him. 

 

The safe option would be to not go out tonight. Or ever again. This was never meant to become a permanent thing. Yet to Shinsou, that wasn’t an option. The actual best, and possibly most reliable idea, would be to get information about Nao or even Kenji that would ensure agreement in silence or mutual destruction.

 

A plate being sat in front of him pulled Shinsou out of his thoughts. He couldn’t even remember sitting at the table. He glanced over at Nao. The other boy wasn’t acknowledging his existence at all. Instead, he turned his attention to Tobe and watched as the caretaker removed her mask. He should tell Tobe that there was more of a risk going forward. She had been pretty adamant about not getting caught sneaking out.

 

His muzzle was removed and Shinsou numbly ate the food, not even being able to taste it. He tossed glances over to Tobe desperately trying to urge her to look at him. Eventually, when she did he quickly signed “Nao knows.’

 

Tobe tensed and glanced from Shinsou to Nao to one of the caretakers nearby. She took a small bite of her food and then signed, ‘About tonight?’

 

Shinsou glanced around the table before signing, ‘About me sneaking out.’ Tobe nodded ever so slightly and took another bite, seemingly lost in thought.

 

Shinsou kept glancing at her but she didn’t look at him again. He didn’t even see her again until after he had brushed his teeth and the caretaker was leaving his room after replacing the muzzle on his face.

 

Tobe bumped into the caretaker as she entered the room and quickly bowed and apologized. She watched the woman carefully as she left before turning back to Shinsou and signing, ‘We still on for tonight?’

 

Shinsou paused a moment before nodding. ‘If you are.’

 

It’s hard to tell with her mask but Shinsou was pretty sure she smiled. Tobe nodded and turned to leave. She stopped in the doorway and added, ‘ We’ll just be extra careful.’ Shinsou nodded and Tobe left. 

 

“What was that?” Shiro asked. Shinsou shrugged and started signing random words before Shiro rolled his eyes and mumbled “Never mind,” and collapsed into his bed.

Chapter Text

It had been a while since Shinsou snuck down to the game room at night. He was a bit conflicted about whether he should take the stairs or the fire escape. He ended up going down the fire escape, only because if Nao did decide to act on his threat, the fire escape was least likely to get him caught.

 

The climb down was fairly easy, going down was usually easier than going up simply because he could release the ladders the way they were meant to without having to balance precariously on the bars and jump. 

 

Practically right as he slipped through the window, Tobe whisper shouted, “Happy Late Birthday!” causing Shinsou to almost fall back out the window. She grabbed his shirt though, quickly pulling him upright and laughed. 

 

‘Was that your genius surprise? A heart attack!’ Tobe laughed again.

 

“Nah, but my grand ol’ one surprise was upgraded to two because I got this!” Tobe pulled her hand out of her pocket and proudly brandished a small silver key. Shinsou’s eyebrows rose in mock surprise but before he could comment She added, “It’s the key to your muzzle.”

 

Shinsou’s hands stopped mid-air and he stopped breathing as he stared at the key dazed, frozen as if under Tobe’s quirk. If he wasn’t restricted by the mask his jaw would’ve dropped.

 

“I didn’t have time to wrap it. Or any wrapping paper really. The best you would’ve gotten would’ve been tissue.”

 

Finally, he got control of his limbs again and his gaze shifted from the key to Tobe and her stupid smile. ‘Seriously?’  

  

Tobe laughed and nodded. “Turn around and I’ll unlock it.” Shinsou huffed softly, finally breathing again, before spinning around. He felt her fumble with the lock before he heard the painfully familiar click and watched practically numbly as the black mask left his vision. Slowly, he turned back to her, mechanically stretching out his jaw before a full genuine smile spread across his face.

 

“Wow, that’s the first time I’ve actually seen your smile.”

 

Shinsou blushed and licked his lips, reaching up to his chin and rubbing the warm skin in disbelief. His face tingled at the foreign feeling as his fingers explored up his cheeks. He wasn’t actually shocked when his fingers didn’t hit hard plastic, he knew the muzzle wasn’t on anymore, but somehow feeling the skin-on-skin contact finally made it click.

 

His muzzle was off.

 

He felt ridiculous standing there, practically stroking his own face. Sure, he wore the mask more often than he didn’t, but it wasn’t like it was never taken off. It got removed for every meal and every night before lights out for showering and brushing his teeth.  

 

But this felt completely different, for reasons he didn’t really understand.

 

He locked eyes with Tobe again and he finally noticed the small frown stuck to her face. He tilted his head and he raised a questioning eyebrow.

 

“You just,” Tobe’s voice cracked and she cleared her throat, “You have some marks on your cheek, right about here.” She touched just below her left cheekbone and Shinsou reached up to feel the spot on his face. He felt rough skin and immediately nodded knowingly.

 

‘Yeah, Nao punched the mask and it scraped me a bit.’

 

Her frown deepened and her eyes narrowed as she looked Shinsou up and down before looking away.

 

She shuffled back, setting Shinsou’s muzzle next to her mask on the table before turning back to him. “Right, anyway, I do have another surprise.”

 

Shinsou looked up at Tobe expectantly but she just smirked and cleared her throat. She wandered over to the window and stepped outside. She stuck her head back in, a mischievous smirk plastered on her face, “Just give me a minute I’ll be right back.” 

 

She then pulled her head back outside and instead of climbing the ladder like he had expected her to, she climbed over the railing and clung onto the outside.

 

He ran to the window and stuck his head out the window. ‘What the hell are you doing!’

 

Tobe grunted and glanced behind her, “I said give me a minute, damn.” She let go of the bar and hung from the railing with only her right hand and foot. She stretched out her left leg, planting it on the corner of the base of the window over, and clung onto the edge with her hand. She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath before pushing off the railing and pulling herself over to the other window. 

 

For the moment that she was in-between windows, nearly in free fall, Shinsou’s heart stopped, air caught in his throat. His body flinched, instinctually wanting to reach out and catch her.

 

Her right foot planted itself down just past her left foot and her right hand desperately clawed for a thing to grab along the edge of the window. She teetered for a small moment, Shinsou held his breath, before gaining her balance and shifting so she was squatting comfortably on the windowsill.

 

Her face swung in Shinsou’s direction and she flashed a smile before she reached down and pulled the window up and open, sliding into it.

 

It wasn’t until Shinsou pulled his head back inside that he realized where that window opened to. He turned and from the other side of the glass of the library, Tobe waved at him before rushing to unlock the doors.

 

Shinsou’s jaw dropped as he stepped through the glass doorway, a smile once again slowly making its way onto his face.

 

Tobe thankfully stayed quiet as Shinsou explored the space as if he hadn’t been there a million times already, let alone just a few hours ago. He treaded forward steadily, looking over the books carefully, gaze occasionally landing on books he read already. He caught sight of the All Might biography and snorted, touching the spine to assure himself it was real.

 

He glanced around the room again before turning to Tobe and smirking. ‘You’re insane.’

 

Tobe beamed and finally moved. “The one room we haven’t gone to at night.” Shinsou ran a hand through his hair as he pulled out the book he had been reading. “And also, for some weird ass reason,” She teased, “you’re favorite room in this place.” Shinsou rolled his eyes but held back a smirk as he flipped through the familiar pages.

 

“Good surprise?” Tobe asked, appearing behind him.

 

Shinsou took another glance around the room, ‘I still standby my earlier comment about you giving me a heart attack.’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes but the smile never left her face. “Oh please I had everything under control.” She wandered over to one of the bookshelves and grabbed a random book, examining it briefly “I don’t understand why you like this place so much.” She put the book back and turned to Shinsou, eyes raised. He shrugged.

 

‘Not like there’s much else to do here.” Tobe snorted but nodded slightly. ‘Plus, people don’t usually bother me here, and books can be interesting.’ 

 

Tobe snorted harder at that. “The only fun thing in here are the computers and you didn’t even mention those.”

 

‘All you do all day is sleep.’ he retorted.

 

“Yeah but I’m all party at night. Actually out doing fun shit.” Tobe flipped Shinsou off before plopping down into the armchair and swinging her leg over the arm.

 

Shinsou stared at her in mock disbelief as he slid to the floor, leaning against the bookshelf.

 

The two sat in silence for a long while, Tobe once again playing around with her quirk and struggling to make shapes and Shinsou reading peacefully. Shinsou sat legs crossed and hunched over, squinting at the words that were barely illuminated by the emergency light. The whole time he read, his mouth rested always at least slightly open, refusing to fully close his mouth if he could help it.

 

Eventually, Tobe chased away the silence.

 

“Shinsou? This is going to sound rude but, can you talk?”

 

Shinsou blinked up at her and nodded.

 

“Then,” Tobe hesitated, running her hands through her hair before blurting, “Then why aren’t you?”

 

Shinsou’s shoulders sagged and he sighed. He didn’t know how to answer that question.

 

If he was being honest, he wasn’t quite sure if Tobe was okay with him speaking, and sign language was familiar to him now so there was no reason for him to talk. It had been so long since he’d spoken, he doubted that, even if he could remember what his voice sounded like, he’d sound the same. So, if he was being honest, he was a bit worried about how he’d sound if he ever did talk again. 

 

But yeah, in theory, he knew how to talk. He was a pretty chatty kid until his quirk manifested, and he didn’t become fully mute until he was 7. He didn’t remember deciding to not speak, it just happened over time after he realized that people felt safer around him when he didn’t talk. Even before then, he learned to only speak when spoken to. 

 

So in theory, he knew how to talk, but it had been a while since he actually stretched the muscles required to form words. So, without really thinking he had defaulted to sign language. 

 

He didn’t know how to explain all that to Tobe though, so instead, he just offered a small shrug as an answer.

 

“Okay, whatever is fine. You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to,” She looked up and stared at him intensely. “But if you don’t want to talk because you think I’m scared of it, you’re wrong. I know what your quirk is and how it works and I don’t care. I’m not afraid of you Shinsou.” 

 

She offered a weak smile and Shinsou smiled softly, before turning away and blinking away the tears forming in his eyes.

 

‘Why aren't you scared?’ He asked hesitantly.

 

Tobe shrugged and leaned back. “Even if you did use your quirk on me accidentally, you definitely wouldn’t make me do something weird or anything.”

 

Shinsou’s small smile grew and he bit the inside of his lip, something warm growing in his chest. It felt weird, but good, to hear someone admit they didn’t think he’d just take control of them for the fun of it.

 

“Are you afraid of me?”

 

Tobe’s voice was so quiet that Shinsou almost missed it.

 

‘No,’ he signed with confidence. ‘Not anymore.’

 

Tobe smiled a bit before it fell. “You used to be though?”

 

Shinsou hesitated but nodded, looking back down to his book as he signed, ‘I’m scared of everyone I meet.’

 

It felt weird to admit that to her, he’d never told anyone that. Then again, there was a lot of stuff he never told anyone that Tobe knew, simply because she was willing to ask. Actually, it was more because she was actually willing to listen.

 

They settled into silence again, this time, Tobe had made her way behind the librarians’ desk and she was shuffling through it. Apparently, she had found nothing interesting because eventually, she wandered back to the chair and flipped through a random book she picked up.

 

“Oi, Shinny.” She said eventually, tossing the book aside.

 

Shinsou’s head raised slowly and he stared at Tobe in exasperation. ‘What did you just call me?’

 

Tobe ignored his question and continued, “You ever just wish you were quirkless?”

 

The question took him off guard, ‘What do you mean?’

 

Tobe sighed and leaned back, swinging her legs over the arm of the chair. “Well, you know how Yamato is like, weirdly secretive about what his quirk is?” Shinsou nodded, taking note of what page he was on before closing his book. “Well, a few days ago he and Koharu were talking about it, and he said that he was much happier being quirkless.”

 

Blue eyes finally met purple and she continued, “And obviously he’s not actually quirkless, they just constantly shave his head or whatever but like, he is basically quirkless and he actually likes it. Prefers it even. And that didn’t make any sense to me because being quirkless would totally suck right? Like having nothing special about yourself, would really suck.”

 

She looked away, opting to stare out the window behind him instead. “But then I thought about what would’ve happened if I was born quirkless. I would never be muzzled, I wouldn’t have this quirk that I can barely control, I wouldn’t even be here. Maybe they even would’ve let me stay with my uncle because I wasn’t a threat at all.”

 

Tobe sighed and ran her hands through her hair, “And people probably wouldn’t worry about who my mom is because it doesn’t matter what she was because a quirkless kid doesn’t have any potential to do anything.” She sighed again and looked at him again, determination alight in her eyes. “But I do think that having this quirk is worth it all. I mean, no matter what quirk I have I’m pretty sure people would worry about me because of my mom.”

 

She paused for a long while before continuing, voice much quieter. “But then I thought about you.”

 

Shinsou straightened at the mention of him. Instinctively he reached back to fiddle with the lock but instead settled for rubbing his neck. Tobe looked out the window again, face twisted into something he didn’t recognize.

 

“Because you don’t have any weird history, at least not that I know, you’re here because, well, I hate to say it but, you’re here because people are scared of you.”

 

Shinsou swallowed and dropped his gaze to the closed book in his lap.

 

“Well, not you really,” Tobe backtracked quickly, “just, you’re quirk. So, I was wondering if you’d rather be quirkless. Which I realize is a really weird question to ask, and you definitely don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but I’m pretty sure if you were quirkless, your life would be totally different. Right? Way more different than mine would be. You can probably understand Yamato better than I can.”

 

Shinsou traced the shape of the images on the cover of his book mindlessly, as Tobe talked. He’d never really thought about it. Not even close. He used to think about it when he was younger. Not about what his life would be like if he was quirkless, but how it would be if he had a better quirk. A non-villainous one.

 

When he was really little, before he even developed his quirk, he remembered imagining he had some kind of water manipulation quirk. Anytime he was near any type of water, at the pool, or lake, or even the damn bath, he would pretend he could control and manipulate the water. He had so much fun with that stupid fake quirk, pretending he was pulling in the waves to help people who were drowning, or being chased by massive sea monsters.

 

And then when his quirk did manifest, he was a little disappointed that it had nothing to do with water, or that it didn’t look cool and flashy like any of his friends’ quirks, but he didn’t hate it.

 

At least not until the bullying started.





Not until his mom abandoned him.





Not until he was forced into silence.





Not until he was muzzled every day of his goddamn life.





Not until he found out that his quirk was a villainous one, and that he’d be destined to become something he dreaded.

 

Shinsou bit the inside of his lip and swallowed hard, finally turning to face Tobe again.

 

She was right. If he was born quirkless, he’d never have to be a villain. He’d never have to become the one thing he’d grown to hate.

 

‘I’m basically already quirkless.’ He ended up saying instead.

 

Tobe nodded in agreement, “Yeah, a lot of people here are. But that’s only because of what they do to us. With my mask on, I’m quirkless, with your muzzle on, you’re quirkless. We still have to deal with how people treat us because of it.”

 

Shinsou huffed and looked back at his book. ‘I think you have a pretty cool quirk.’ From the corner of his vision, he could see Tobe smiling at him.

 

“I think so too, most of the time, I really like my quirk.” She scowled and added, “I just wish I could control the damn thing.”

 

The two settled back into a comfortable silence again, Shinsou’s attention returning to his book and Tobe once again messing around with her quirk.

 

“Shinsou?” Tobe piped up again minutes later.

 

He hummed in reply and glanced over to where she was staring at him upside down from the chair. “You really don’t get all the hero stuff do you?” Shinsou sighed and put his book down, shaking his head in frustration and Tobe spun around so she was sitting upright in the chair. 

 

‘No, not really.’

 

“What's so confusing about them?”

 

‘I just don’t get why people praise and cheer for heroes but don’t for police officers or firefighters or others like that,’ Tobe snorted and pulled her knee to her chest.

 

“That’s easy. Hero’s have a funner job.” 

 

Shinsou shook his head, ‘That explains why more people want to be heroes but not why they have more fans.’ Shinsou glanced up at Tobe and when he saw her twisted expression he decided he needed to clarify. ‘They both save people, both get paid for it, both work hard for it so what makes heroes have fans?’

 

“Wow, you’ve thought about this a lot.” Tobe stared at the ceiling in thought. After a minute of silence, she finally answered. “I mean, there are a lot of people that don’t like the police, and hero’s are usually the ones out on the streets actually helping people, running in and saving the day. People feel safer with heroes around.” Tobe paused and let Shinsou process that information.

 

“Plus, they can actually use their quirks and they are trained specifically in saving people. Just seeing a hero around makes people feel safe. They like heroes because it takes the stress of living in this shit world and lightens it because they’re is actually someone around who will help if something goes wrong. Besides, they’re colorful costumes and hero names help a lot.” 

 

Shinsou leaned forward and considered it a moment. That made sense, sort of. Shinsou would definitely feel safer with a hero than with a police officer, even if he didn’t understand why. 

 

“The idea of hero’s is just something that people have been interested in for forever. You got all those old superhero movies about using quirk-like powers to save people and there’s still conventions for that. People went crazy over that shit.”

 

That Shinsou could understand, he read books like that all the time. Rooting for the hero there was only natural. They always stand up and face the evil and, against all odds, win. That was fantasy though, a story designed to be entertaining and heroic. Real-life wasn’t actually like that, was it?

 

‘Why are v-i-g-i-l-a-n-t-e-s different then?’

 

“Vigilante.” Tobe said and signed at the same time. Shinsou copied the sign once and Tobe nodded, turning to stare out the window.

 

“There aren't any rules that vigilantes follow, if they mess up there is no consequences, they can do whatever they want.”

 

‘But why don’t they have fans?’

 

Tobe shrugged. “A lot do. Maybe fans isn’t the right word, but they definitely have supporters. It's just not as popular for them to have some because usually vigilantes try to avoid the public so they don’t get caught. Plus being a vigilante is illegal so people try to avoid outright saying they like them.”

 

Shinsou nodded and hummed. That made sense too. From a purely legal standpoint, it made sense that heroes would be more popular than both officers and vigilantes. Plus, if the vigilante could fight and protect people, but didn’t become a hero, it would make sense that people would be unsure about their true intentions. 

 

Tobe puffed out a thick cloud of smoke before continuing. “It kinda just comes down to this.” She looked at him and shrugged, “People like heroes because they do. If you don’t get why, that’s fine. It’s nothing to stress about. People like different things.”

 

Shinsou leaned back again and closed his eyes. They were both silent for a long moment before Tobe broke it. “You did an entire day of research just to try and figure out why people liked heroes?” Shinsou chuckled and tiredly rolled his attention to Tobe before nodding.

 

Tobe shook her head and sighed, smiling softly. “Nerd,”

 

‘Asshole.’ Shinsou signed back.

 

Shinsou closed his eyes again. He decided that tomorrow, despite Tobe thinking it was nerdy, Shinsou would watch videos of heroes in action. If so many people adored them, not all the people could be idiots, right? There had to be some reason that people loved heroes so much, maybe actually seeing it for himself, well through a video, would help him understand.

 

Shinsou didn’t realize he had drifted off until Tobe shook him awake. He lifted his head and rubbed his neck when he realized how stiff it was. Somehow he had managed to stay in a sitting position while asleep. Shinsou blinked the grogginess away and met Tobe’s eyes. 

 

“We should probably go. I… I have,” Tobe sighed, and rubbed her eyes. “You don’t get to keep the key. Sorry if I made it seem like that. I just...” Tobe looked away from him and frowned. “This is the main copy they use so I have to put it back.” Shinsou smiled lightly and stood up.

 

‘It’s fine, the time I got without it on was great.’ Tobe nodded, swallowing hard, and shuffled out the glass doors, grabbing both of their masks while Shinsou returned his book.

 

Shinsou followed her out of the room and watched as she locked her mask back on. Anxiety and dread whirled in his stomach as it hit him that he’d have to put the muzzle on again.

 

He pushed the feeling down, he’d dealt with it all his life, he could handle it fine.

 

Tobe smiled softly before she leaned forward and handed him the muzzle. “Hold it where it's most comfortable and I’ll lock it up again.” He turned around slowly and hesitantly, held the mask up to his face, willing his hands to stop their slight tremor. 

 

He felt the pull of the leather behind his head and his heart rate spiked again. Impulsively, he pulled the mask away from his face before she could lock it on, spun around, and grabbed her hand. Tobe flinched and blinked in shock before her face twisted with worry. Shinsou quickly released her wrist and stepped back.

 

‘Sorry, I just.’

 

“You don’t need to apologize.” Tobe assured in the softest voice Shinsou ever heard from her. Shinsou took a few deep breaths to calm his heart and closed his eyes. When he felt the panic ease a bit he opened his eyes again and smiled softly at her.

 

‘Tobe?’

 

“Yeah? You good?”

 

Shinsou licked his lips, swallowed, and without looking up from the floor, for the first time in nearly three years, he spoke.

 

“Thank you.”

 

His voice was hard and scratchy, foreign even to him. The words felt wrong on his tongue and it didn’t come out sounding the way he thought it should but still, he smiled. He finally glanced up at Tobe. A big wide smile that you could make out even with the mask stretched across her face and her eyes were wide and glossy.

 

After a beat, Tobe cleared her throat and laughed, loud and cheerful. “It’s no problem Shinsou, you deserved a good birthday. Even if it is a month late.”

 

Shinsou’s smile faltered and he stared at Tobe in disbelief. Despite how many times she assured him she wouldn’t mind it didn’t hit him until then.

 

He had spoken, and she, without hesitation, replied.



Chapter Text

Shinsou fell asleep surprisingly easily that night. And the next day, he did as he planned, he woke up and went straight to the library and watched popular hero videos.

 

He figured a good starting place would be the ones with the most views. If people liked these videos so much, maybe watching it would help him understand. Unsurprisingly, they seemed to be mostly All Might videos.

 

The most popular one by far seemed to be All Might's debut. Shinsou couldn’t tell exactly what had happened, there was too much smoke and debris to know. All the terror and destruction made Shinsou’s stomach twist. He almost clicked off the video instantly, he didn’t like the pit in his stomach that was growing. Before he could fully leave the video though, a towering figure emerged from the smoke carrying at least a dozen civilians out from the rubble, standing tall with a victorious smile plastered across his face. Despite it being nothing more than a video, Shinsou felt the dread in his chest lighten and he let out a small relieved sigh. 

 

The second most popular video was another All Might video, this one, at first glance, just seemed to be a random villain fight, but the longer it went on, it was clear that this guy was actually giving the number one hero a decent run for his money.

 

For only about a minute.

 

Looking closer at other All Might clips, it seemed that, other than the debut, that video was the longest, most fights ending in mere seconds. It was impressive really, how that small-fry villain had managed to evade capture for as long as he did.

 

I bet he got himself a good rep in jail for that.

 

Shinsou shook the thought from his brain. He didn’t want or need those thoughts right now. Right now was about heroes, not villains.

 

He watched a few more All Might videos before he had to switch to a different hero. One video of him jumping into a river to save a drowning kid, one of him jumping from a burning building with civilians in his arms, multiple of him punching random villains, and each time, without fail, he had that smile. Wide and bright and yet, staring at his smile for too long made Shinsou nauseated.

 

He decided to search up Midnight next. 

 

He almost fell out of his chair from what popped up on the screen. He acted purely on instinct, quickly covering the screen with his small hands before coming to his senses and swiftly closing the tab.

 

He stared at the default background of the computer screen trying to process what the hell he had just seen while simultaneously trying to push everything about those last few seconds out of his mind.

 

That's Tobe’s favorite hero? What the actual fuck.

 

Shinsou snapped out of his trance and glanced around nervously.  Hopefully, nobody saw that. His cheeks burned with embarrassment but, luckily, it seemed that no one had noticed his panic or what had caused it.

 

He took a deep breath and, with much more caution than necessary, looked up the next hero that came to mind. The number 2 hero, Endeavor.

 

His videos were... interesting, to say the least. He was obviously a competent hero, he could take down villains practically as fast as All Might, most videos Shinsou found of him though, Shinsou flinched more than he was in awe. Obviously, he was a rough guy, and fire must be pretty hard to contain, so it made sense that he fought the way he did. Even ignoring all of that though, all Shinsou saw in him was the same thing he saw in his bullies. He watched even less of Endeavor than he did All Might. 

 

The next hero he searched up was the hero they saw a few nights ago, Present Mic. Shinsou stood by his original assessment of his ridiculousness but out of all the heroes so far, he spent most of his time watching his videos. 

 

Present Mic wasn’t too different from All might. Their quirks were kind of similar, both very powerful and flashy, but it was their personalities, or at least their personas, that really matched up. They were both very commanding presences, people who demand attention when they walk into the room, or in the hero’s cases, the battle. All Might because of his status and height and Present Mic because of his ridiculous hair and loud persona. They both smiled wide and often, putting scared citizens to ease with their charm, and they both handled the attention from citizens and press with ease. No matter where they were all eyes were always on them.

 

There was one distinct difference though, a small one, maybe even only existent for Shinsou. For whatever reason, Shinsou didn’t find Present Mic’s smile off-putting, in fact, he felt the opposite. It seemed much more genuine, like he was smiling because he loved his job. Because he genuinely loved saving people. 

 

He was snapped out of his thoughts by a soft snort behind his shoulder. He jumped and spun around to see Tobe leaning over his shoulder and watching the video of Present Mic literally screaming villains into cooperation. 

 

“Seriously? I thought you were going to be done with this.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and turned back to the screen. The video was almost over, Present Mic had just wiped out over a dozen men with just one scream and was now working with the police to handcuff and get them set in police cars. He glanced at the time and closed the tab when he realized it was almost time for lunch.

 

‘Why are you bothering me two days in a row?’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and leaned against the table, arms crossed. “There’s going to be a slight change in plans.” Shinsou tilted his head. “My uncle is going out of town in two weeks so next Friday I’m going to go see him instead of training.” 

 

Shinsou shrugged and leaned back in the chair. “Plus, you missed lunch yesterday. I’m here to make sure you don’t get lost in your head again and starve yourself.”

 

Shinsou raised his eyebrows and smirked, ‘How’d you know I skipped lunch? Stalking me?’

 

Tobe scoffed, “Please, no one wants to stalk you, all you do is sit in here all day.”

 

‘Only a stalker would know things like that.’ Tobe rolled her eyes and kicked the leg of his chair. 

 

“Fine, don't eat, see if I care.” Tobe stood up and moved to head off before Shinsou grabbed her sleeve.

 

‘Why the hell is Midnight your favorite hero?’   At that Tobe let out a loud bark of laughter. 

 

“Shit did you look her up? Please tell me you deleted the search history, I’m pretty sure that counts as porn.” She pushed Shinsou away from the computer and opened the search history, deleting everything Shinsou had been going through. Shinsou recovered and pushed her back.

 

‘I can delete the history myself. That didn’t answer my question.’ Tobe chuckled again and shrugged.

 

“I don’t know, you can’t choose who your favorite is. Our quirks are kinda similar, that's how I found out about her, I think it's kinda badass how she uses everything she has to her advantage.” At that Tobe wiggled her eyebrows, Shinsou just rolled his eyes.

 

‘I’ve been scarred for life.’ Tobe laughed again.

 

“Please, you’ll be fine. Her costume used to be a lot worse, you know.”

 

‘IT GETS WORSE!’ Tobe huffed and shook her head before leaning in.

 

“You don’t even know.”

 

Tobe stood there a moment, one hand planted firmly against the table the other hand in her hoodie pocket. She leaned back, giving Shinsou his space again, before clearing her throat and crossing her arms. “You could come with me if you wanted. To my uncles.”

 

Shinsou wrinkled his nose. ‘Why would I visit your uncle.’

 

Tobe scoffed, “It was just a suggestion, you don’t have to. He is the one who taught me to fight. Thought maybe you’d want to meet him.” She shrugged, “Clearly I was wrong.”

 

‘I’ve barely even left the building.’ 

 

Tobe shrugged again and opened her mouth before she glanced at the librarian and switched to sign. “I have plenty of times. I could get to his apartment with my eyes closed.”

 

‘What’s your uncle like? Didn’t he used to be a criminal?’

 

Tobe’s face twisted and she leaned in. “Used to being the key phrase there. He’s clean now, at least mostly. In the ways that matter.” She seemed to pick up on Shinsou’s hesitation because she shoved her arms in her pockets and added, “He’s never killed anyone, if that helps.” If Shinsou was being honest, it did a bit.

 

Shinsou huffed and again asked, ‘What’s he like?’

 

“He’s really chill. I’d live with him in a heartbeat if the government would let me. He’s the only family I have left. That I know about at least.” Tobe turned and stared at Shinsou. “I wouldn’t invite you if I didn’t trust him, or you.” She muttered the last part.

 

She pushed off the table and cracked her neck. “It was just a suggestion. You don’t have to come if you’re uncomfortable. Just let me know before Friday if you decide you want to come.” At that Tobe walked off into the elevator and Shinsou stood up, following her. 

 

“Hell no, you’re not riding the elevator with me,” Tobe joked, blocking his path into the metal box.

 

‘What? Why not?’

 

“You insulted Midnight. I cannot stand to be in your presence.” Shinsou rolled his eyes but complied and moved to the stairs. The second the stairwell door closed behind him he ran up the stairs as fast as he could, pulling himself up with the railing. He burst through the next floor doorway right as the elevator dinged and Shinsou shuffled to stand in front of the elevator, arms crossed as the doors slid open.

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and Shinsou smirked under the mask. “You’re such an idiot.”

 

‘I beat you.’ Tobe shook her head and pushed past him into the cafeteria.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

“You need to calm down.”

 

Shinsou’s hand immediately froze, stuck to the lock he had just been fiddling with. ‘Sorry.’

 

Tobe shook her head. “We can turn back if you want.” 

 

‘No!’ Shinsou signed quickly. ‘I just…’ He huffed. ‘New people make me nervous.’  

 

Tobe sighed, before quickly sucking in a cloud of blue smoke that had slipped out. “It’ll be fine. He’s not going to treat you weird because you have a so-called ‘villain's quirk’. He has literally been a villain.”

 

Shinsou sighed. ‘It’s not just that.’

 

“Then what else is it?”

 

Shinsou didn’t answer, instead, he shoved his hands in his jacket pocket. Tobe sighed but didn’t press. Shinsou was glad, he didn’t know how he was feeling. His heart was beating too fast and his mind was racing.

 

He honestly didn’t know why he agreed to do this. He had been kind of wanting to leave the school, he was getting kind of stir crazy. The same old walls were starting to make him feel a little sick, a sickness that was no longer being balanced out by his nighttime adventures. Being able to do so with Tobe, who had done it so many times, was an opportunity he felt he couldn’t pass up. Whether he would admit it or not, he trusted Tobe.

 

Her uncle was a different story. He could count on one hand the things he knew about her uncle. He didn’t even know what his quirk was.

 

  1. He’s Tobe’s uncle
  2. He used to be a criminal, specifically as ‘muscle’ (which absolutely terrified Shinsou)
  3. He is deemed unfit to raise Tobe
  4. He taught her how to fight

 

He considered adding ‘doesn’t like Tobe’s mom’ but he wasn’t sure that was true. All he knew was he didn’t like her mom’s life choices.

 

  1. He doesn’t like Tobe’s mom’s life choices

 

There, five things. Counting things are supposed to help ease panic right? It wasn’t working.

 

“Almost there.” Tobe said as they rounded a corner. 

 

Shinsou gulped and sighed deeply. It would be fine. Tobe isn’t stupid. He glanced around at the street. You never hear good stories about kids who wander around alone at night. 

 

Maybe officially sneaking out for the first time to visit his friend's criminal ex-criminal uncle after the biggest bully in the school had threatened to tattle on him was a bit too much stress for one night.

 

They walked for a few more minutes before Tobe stopped and grabbed his sleeve.

 

“Look if at any point you wanna leave, just give me the sign. He hardly knows any sign, you probably knew more when we met than he does now. Sound good?” Shinsou took a deep breath before nodding. “I know me saying it over and over again doesn’t help but it really will be fine.” He bit his lip and nodded again but she was right, her assurances really weren’t doing anything to help ease his panic. 

 

Tobe took a few more steps forward before pulling a building door open. Shinsou followed closely behind as she marched straight for the elevator and punched floor 5 with her thumb. He expertly avoided eye contact with the only other person in the lobby, pulling his hoodie further over his face and shoving his nose into the collar in a weak attempt to hide the muzzle. Tobe nudged Shinsou with her elbow as the elevator ascended. “Any last minute questions?” Shinsou stared at his feet and shook his head.

 

When the elevator doors opened revealing the bland hallway, Shinsou choked. He told his legs to move forward but they stayed rooted to the ground. Tobe, on the other hand, stepped forward confidently, charging onward before realizing Shinsou wasn’t on her tail anymore. She ran back, shoving her arm between the elevator doors just before they closed, and grabbed his hand, pulling him out before the doors could close again.

 

“Hey man, you alright?” Shinsou numbly shook his head. He felt Tobe lead him out of the elevator before gently pushing him against the wall. “Do you want to go back?” He quickly shook his head. “You wanna wait out here?” He shook his head again.

 

“Those are kinda your only options if you don’t want to come in.” 

 

Shinsou shook his head again. He lifted shaky hands and signed, ‘I do want to go in, I just… I don’t know what's wrong.’

 

Tobe sighed and stared sadly into his eyes before muttering, “I’m sorry I don’t know how to help you.” 

 

Shinsou smiled lamely, pointless as it was still hidden under the mask, and blinked the tears away. 

 

‘Just give me a second.’  

 

Shinsou felt Tobe’s body pull away a bit as he inhaled deeply. 

 

Calm the fuck down. It’ll be fine. If anything happens Tobe can paralyze him right? If she’s willing to do that to her uncle. You’re good at running. You’ll be fine

 

He was being ridiculous, completely over-reacting. He was just meeting someone. He met new people all the time, though admittedly it had been a while since he really actually met someone.

 

You’ll be fine. It’s not like he’ll expect you to talk, not with the muzzle on.

 

You’ll be fine.

 

Everything’s fine.

 

He took another deep breath, and looked Tobe in the eyes, nodding firmly. She nodded back and carefully grabbed his wrist, pulling him to a door only a few feet away. She glanced at Shinsou again, arm raised and ready to knock and he nodded again, feigning confidence. 

 

Practically immediately after Tobe knocked the door swung open and a tall skinny man with long blue hair, fair skin, and beautiful translucent wings stepped into vision.

 

“Rai! You made it! I was starting to wonder if you were going to be able to make it!”

 

Shinsou was frozen in shock. He had expected a tower of muscle, a bulky tall man who looked like they could knock anyone out with a single punch. That wasn’t to say that the man was scrawny, actually, he definitely looked fit but not at all in the way Shinsou expected.

 

He was wearing baggy clothes, the collar hanging just low enough that Shinsou could see the corner of a tattoo peeking out. He had two piercings on his bottom lip and one just above the center of his upper lip, and as he turned and looked down at Shinsou, he saw another piercing through his right eyebrow. 

 

Shinsou tensed when the man's gaze fell over him. His face twisted into a mixture of confusion and … anger? Suddenly Shinsou felt the intense urge to run.

 

“Ahh yeah, was running a bit late,” Tobe glanced between her uncle and Shinsou before awkwardly introducing them. “This is Shinsou, Shinsou this is my uncle.”

 

Tobe’s uncle smiled awkwardly. “Why is he wearing a mask?” Shinsou gulped.

 

“They uh, make him wear that. He’s the kid I mentioned that I spar with sometimes.” Shinsou blinked dumbly, stunned that Tobe had mentioned him in past conversations, but her uncle nodded as if it made perfect sense and swung the door open wider. Tobe pushed her way into the apartment and Shinsou followed closely behind her, making sure to keep Tobe between him and her uncle as a buffer. 

 

The apartment was organized but very old. There was little clutter on the floor but the couch and chairs looked old and rutty as if they could collapse at any minute. There was a slightly less rutty bed in the far corner, put together nicely with a simple black suitcase on top. In front, was the rutty old orange couch, and across from that were two very thin armchairs. The only area that looked lived in was the kitchen. A few dishes were poking out of the sink and different papers, pens and strange objects littered the countertops.

 

Shinsou’s eyes landed on the window. It was unlocked.

 

Good.

 

Tobe walked straight for the couch and Shinsou stuck to her side like glue, hyper-aware of every word the man said.

 

“Why don’t you take it off?” 

 

“It’s locked.” 

 

“Why’d you bring him?”

 

“I wanted to.”

 

“Does he know?”

 

“Yeah, he’s cool with it.”

 

Her uncle raised an eyebrow, “How cool.”

 

“Don’t you trust me?” Tobe plopped onto the couch but Shinsou stayed standing, stiff beside her. “Pick the lock and ask him yourself.”

 

At that Shinsou got impossibly stiffer. He nudged Tobe and shakily signed, ‘If he’s going to talk to me you have to tell him about my quirk first.’  

 

Tobe’s face fell and she let out a long tired sigh. ‘You have control over your quirk. It’s not a requirement for people to know.’

 

Shinsou shook his head and hastily argued, ‘I’d rather him know now then get mad later.’

 

‘He won’t get mad ever Shinsou, I promise.’  

 

Shinsou shook his head again and signed a shaky, ‘Please.’

 

Tobe’s uncle glanced between the two of them. “What’re you talking about? What’s he saying?” Tobe stared at Shinsou sadly, hesitating, before clearing her throat. 

 

“He wants you to know that, his quirk: It’s activated by you talking to him.” Tobe’s uncle’s face scrunched.

 

“Okay? What can it do?”

 

Shinsou gulped, balling his hands into fists in his pocket, nails digging into his palms. For the first time in a while, he wished that he had his small cat plushie to bring him at least a bit of familiar comfort.

 

“I’ve never actually seen him use it, but I think it’s basically mind control.” Shinsou’s breath caught in his throat.

 

“Ahh, I see.” A hesitation. “Can he control it?”

 

Tobe nodded, “He can.”

 

“Alright then. I don’t see a problem.” He stayed there, eyes blank for a moment. Was it really that simple? Tobe had said her uncle wouldn’t care, she didn’t know though. She couldn’t understand that this reaction was very out of the norm for him. Shinsou let out the breath he had been holding and relaxed his shoulders.

 

She lifted her chin and smirked at him as if to say ‘I told you so’. In any other circumstances, Shinsou would’ve rolled his eyes, maybe make a snarky remark, but his brain was too busy worrying about other things.

 

Shinsou watched carefully as the uncle shuffled through a drawer in the kitchen before pulling out a small black bag, lifting it victoriously. Tobe turned back to Shinsou.

 

‘Are you even going to verbally talk?’ Shinsou swallowed and shrugged weakly, finally sitting down as close to Tobe as he dared. ‘It’s alright if you don't, I was just wondering.’ Shinsou looked away, sighing heavily as he attempted to relax into the cushions.

 

“Alright,” Her uncle sat in the chair across from Tobe and leaned back, showing off the thin black bag. “Here’s my lock picking stuff. I can get that thing off, no problem.” Tobe turned to stare at Shinsou and he nodded, a bit too eagerly.

 

Tobe smiled wide and turned to her uncle. “Can I watch? I wanna learn how to pick locks!” Her uncle laughed at that. 

 

“I’m NOT going to teach an 11 year old how to pick locks that sounds like a disaster.”

 

Tobe crossed her arms and grumbled, “I’m 12, almost 13.”

 

“C’mere kid. Let me get a good look at this thing.” 

 

Shinsou glanced at Tobe before shakily standing up and turning his back to him. A wave of anxiety shot through him as the fairy-man tugged at the lock and he squeezed his eyes shut. 

 

“You’re alright Shinsou. If he tries anything I’ll break his nose.” Her uncle chuckled at that, low and breathy and warm. Shinsou repressed a shiver as it tickled the back of his neck.

 

“I’m the one who taught you how to break noses.”

 

“And you’ll regret it one day.” Tobe quipped.

 

Shinsou jumped as he heard the lock click, and almost failed to catch the mask as it slipped off his face. He smiled softly, turning and bowing before shuffling back to the couch next to Tobe.

 

“He, uhh, doesn’t talk much.” Tobe clarified at her uncle's confusion.

 

“Really?” He tilted his head. “You’d think he’d talk as much as he can when he can.”

 

Tobe snorted. “He’s not like me.” She turned and looked at Shinsou. He was significantly more relaxed but still tense. His heart rate seemed to finally be calming down and he could actually think clearly, though he was still very wary of the man. If he trained Tobe, hell even if he didn’t know how to fight, he could still hurt Shinsou.

 

“He’s only said two words in like three years.” The man’s jaw dropped and he stared at Shinsou in amazement. Shinsou smiled weakly. “He does talk though, just not verbally.” Tobe finished, ignoring the man's bewilderment.

 

“You’re just going to glaze over the fact that he’s only said two words in THREE years!” The man ran his hand through his hair before seemingly remembering staring was impolite. “How old is he?’

 

“10.” Tobe said confidently, before turning to Shinsou and confirming, “You are 10 right?” Shinsou nodded and so did Tobe. “Yeah. 10.”

 

Shinsou smirked softly, still staring at the floor. ‘You should see if he can guess what the words were.’ Tobe giggled.

 

‘Wanna bet on whether he’ll get it or not?’

 

Shinsou shook his head. ‘No, I don’t have anything to bet, plus you know him better.’

 

“What’re you guys laughing about?”

 

Tobe ignored him, leaning forward. ‘I know you still have that 1000 yen from Takashi.’

 

Shinsou scowled, ‘I forgot I told you about that. Still not betting.’

 

“Hello!” Tobe’s uncle waved his hands wildly until Tobe turned her attention to him, “Don’t you know it’s rude to talk in a language someone can’t understand in front of them.

 

“Don’t you know it’s rude to talk about someone in front of them and not include them in the conversation?” Tobe gestured to Shinsou with her head.

 

“Right, sorry. Hey Shinsou, I’m Tobe Senjo. You can call me Tobe or Senjo, whichever is less confusing.” The man smiled down at him, a lazy smirk that reminded him of Tobe. 

 

“Shinsou was asking if you could guess what the two words were. I wanted to bet on it but he didn’t.”

 

‘Just for the record.’ Shinsou stated, ‘I don’t think he’ll guess it.’

 

Tobe chuckled. “He doesn’t think you’ll guess it.” she smirked, “and I don’t either.”

 

Tobe’s uncle, or Senjo, looked offended at that. “Oh come on. I bet I can get at least kinda close.” Tobe and Shinsou shared a doubtful glance. “Why are you looking at each other like that! Did he say something absolutely ridiculous?” 

 

‘I mean I definitely don’t say it often.’ Tobe snorted.

 

“Do I get any hints?” Tobe glanced at Shinsou mischievously. 

 

‘Give him two questions?’ Shinsou offered.

 

“You get one question.” Tobe asserted 

 

“One!” Senjo yelped, “That’s it?”

 

Tobe shrugged and Shinsou giggled. “I dunno, I didn’t set the rules. And are you really going to argue with the mute kid?” 

 

Senjo stared between the two before seeming to accept the excuse. He leaned back and placed his hand on his chin in thought.

 

‘I’m not technically mute’ Shinsou corrected, Tobe shook her head.

 

‘You’re not technically a whole asshole either and yet...’ Shinsou rolled his eyes.

 

“Okay, okay. I think the best thing to ask would be, “What’s the situation leading up to it? Like what happened before he talked?”

 

Tobe smirked and turned to Shinsou. Shinsou shrugged. ‘Tell him whatever you want.’

 

‘Can I lie?’

 

Shinsou huffed out a laugh, “Sure if you want.’

 

Tobe turned back to her uncle and leaned back into the couch, grinning wickedly. “He fell down nearly a whole flight of stairs.”

 

Senjo’s eyebrows shot up before furrowing. “I feel like you have to be lying.” He glanced over to Shinsou, “You wouldn’t let her lie to me right?”

 

Shinsou tensed but luckily Tobe swooped in. “I’m not lying,” She chuckled, “He fell down the stairs at the school and his old mask shattered.” 

 

“How long ago was this? Are you alright?” 

 

“Ah ah,” Tobe waggled a finger comically, “you only get one question.” 

 

“Alright fine, were his words… I’m torn between something like ‘Oh shit’ or ‘Help me’.”

 

Shinsou smirked and looked away. “Okay, okay. Based on that reaction. I’m gonna go with ‘Oh shit.’ Final answer.”

 

Tobe grinned even wider. “Nope.”

 

Senjo’s smile fell, “What! What did he say then? Was it help me? I’m going to kick myself if it was help me.”

 

‘You should tell him you lied and give him an actual chance.’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, ‘That's no fun.’

 

‘You had your fun already I want to see if he can actually guess it.’

 

Tobe held her hands up and rolled her eyes. “Alright, Alright I lied. He never fell down stairs.” 

 

Senjo gasped and pointed accusingly. “I knew you lied. What actually happened.”

 

Tobe bit back a smirk again. “It wasn’t anything huge, we were just at lunch.”

 

The conversation continued like that for a while. Tobe would lie about the situation and Senjo would give a good guess. They never did tell him what Shinsou really said, or what really happened and it pissed Senjo off to no end. Slowly, Shinsou found himself actually relaxing into the normality of it all. He was still very aware of his surroundings, and he kept a close eye and safe distance from Senjo, but the knot that was left in his chest from earlier had almost untangled itself.

 

Until Tobe went and knotted it up again.

 

“Uncle, can we spar a bit?” Tobe asked eventually, “I’ve been training Shinsou and I wanna see what you have to say about it.” 

 

Senjo looked up at her from behind his tea. He set the tea down and leaned back into the chair. “She a good trainer?”

 

It took Shinsou a moment to realize he was talking to him before he shrugged. Tobe nudged him in the stomach, “Ass, I’m training you and you’re not even grateful.”

 

Shinsou was quick to retort, ‘You literally said you’d be a terrible teacher.’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and scoffed, “That was before I knew how great I was.”

 

Senjo chuckled and stood up. “Sure we can go a few rounds if you want but no going for the face, and don’t touch the wings. And don’t break anything, I’m leaving tomorrow and I’d rather not deal with that stuff right now.”

 

Tobe sighed, shaking her head, and throwing her hands up in exasperation. “Well what’s even the point then.” She stood up and motioned for Shinsou to do the same. He did and she crouched down pushing the couch back towards the bed. “Don’t just stand there, help me move this thing.”

 

Shinsou jumped into action, pushing the other side along with her until the back of the couch met the bed’s metal frame. The distance between the couch and the bed hadn’t been too long and the couch wasn’t particularly heavy, still though, when they finished moving it Shinsou collapsed on the floor dramatically.

 

“If you can’t handle that,” Senjo said as he pushed his armchair back into the corner. “You'll have a rough time fighting me.”

 

Shinsou shot up and swallowed dryly. No one had said anything about him fighting.

 

“Shinsou’s just being dramatic.” Tobe said, softly kicking his arm. “He works out a lot actually. Especially when they send me off to different houses.” Tobe added the last part sourly. Tobe and Senjo were silent, both faces matching expressions.

 

It was Shinsou who broke the tension. ‘Does he want me to fight too?’

 

Tobe shrugged. ‘You can if you want, don’t have to if you don’t want.’ She cracked her neck. ‘It’s good to fight with different people though. You’ll get too used to my style. Need to learn to read other people.’

 

Shinsou took a deep breath, hoping the others couldn’t hear the pounding in his chest. He pushed himself to his feet and stood as far away as he could from the two, watching as they readied themselves. Tobe was in her typical fighting stance, knees bent and arms up, ready for anything. Senjo though, just stood there casually, waiting for Tobe to make the first move.

 

She did, and Shinsou jumped a bit as she let out a low growl. Shinsou was expecting her to go for a punch but instead, she planted her foot and kicked. Senjo took a small step back and pushed her leg down before it could make contact. Tobe seemed to expect this and used the momentum to throw a punch at his shoulder. Senjo though just ducked down, grabbed her shoulder, and pressed her against the wall. Tobe groaned but elbowed the man in the throat as she slammed her foot down on top of his toes. 

 

Senjo stumbled back and coughed. “I thought I said to avoid the face.” 

 

Tobe just smirked and Shinsou noticed that he was doing the same. “Neck isn’t face.”

 

They went back and forth for a while, Tobe attempting and failing to land attacks while Senjo only dodged and attempted to pin Tobe down.

 

For Tobe’s part, she was pretty good at avoiding getting fully pinned down. Anytime he almost had her she’d wiggle free, roll just the right way, or hit Senjo in an opening. She didn’t last super long though, eventually, he had her arm held firmly to her back and she was held to the floor, his knee pinning her lower back.

 

“You’ve gotten a lot faster. I’ll give you that.” Senjo said as he released Tobe. Tobe huffed and rolled over, chest rising and lowering rapidly.

 

“You’re so annoying.” She panted. “You never even try to hit me, just pin me down.”

 

“You know I've been trying to clean up my act,” Senjo joked, picking up his tea from the kitchen. “and I’m pretty sure hitting a kid is illegal.”

 

Both Shinsou and Tobe tensed at that.

 

Illegal?

 

Senjo seemed to pick up on the tension and opened his mouth to say something but Tobe cut him off.

 

“It’s fine, you know I can handle it.” She pushed herself up and stumbled over to lean against the wall.

 

“Rai.” Senjo said, relaxing his shoulders. “I don’t WANT to hit you.”

 

“Yeah well.” Tobe sulked, “I only started getting really good at dodging when I started sparring with Shinsou, you're not helping me, you're just holding me back.” Shinsou got the impression they’ve had this argument before.

 

Senjo shook his head. “We’re doing this for fun, and so you can protect yourself in emergencies. You don’t need to be an expert.” Tobe scoffed but didn’t respond. Shinsou picked at his nails as he tried to ignore the heavy silence that replaced the bickering.

 

“Kid, you wanna go?”

 

Shinsou tensed and Tobe stood up, trudging over to the couch. “I don’t think he wants to.”

 

“How do you know? Can you read his mind?” Senjo asked between sips of tea, “He fights you all the time.”

 

Tobe crossed her arms and collapsed onto the couch. “It’s different. I’m only a little older than him. You’re ancient.” Senjo hastily pressed his hand to his mouth to avoid spitting tea everywhere, but he was a bit too slow. Drops of tea shot out of his mouth and dripped down his chin. He choked the tea down and coughed, wiping his chin as he glared at Tobe.

 

“Ancient?” He wheezed, still reeling from forcing the tea down. “Wha- Since when am I ancient. At what age does someone become ancient?”

 

Tobe ignored him, biting her cheek to stifle her laughter, and instead, Senjo turned to Shinsou, who just shrugged. Senjo huffed and stomped off to the kitchen, grabbing a towel and attempting to clean himself up.

 

Shinsou shakily drank some of his tea before making his way to sit next to Tobe.

 

‘I kinda do want to fight him.’

 

Tobe’s face scrunched up. “Really, you were just saying-”

 

Her whispers were interrupted by Shinsou. ‘I know. I DO want to fight him but I’m scared.’

 

‘Of what? You saw him fight me. Didn’t even try to hit me.’  

 

Shinsou nodded and swallowed. ‘I know. It’s just. If I start to panic and need to stop, or don’t feel safe, or if I actually get hurt somehow and he doesn’t realize, or-’ 

 

Tobe grabbed his shaking hands and whispered, “You don’t have to fight then.”

 

Shinsou groaned, frustrated. ‘I WANT to I just-’ He paused. ‘You’re right about fighting other people and I think I could handle fighting the way you did. I'm just worried.’

 

‘He will stop if you want him to. If he doesn’t I can paralyze him, or you could do your thing.’

 

Shinsou shook his head. ‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell him to stop if I need to.’ Tobe’s face straightened in understanding and she cleared her throat.

 

“Hey uncle? If Shinsou does fight you, you’ll stop if he holds up two fingers.” It wasn’t a question, it was a command.

 

“Sure,” He shouted back from the kitchen. “He’s really dedicated to the not talking thing huh?”

 

Shinsou fidgeted and rubbed the back of his head. “I don’t think dedication is the right word,” Tobe clarified as Senjo stepped back into the room. 

 

“Well, we got time for a quick fight if you want. But you two really should be heading back soon.” 

 

Shinsou glanced at the clock at the end of the kitchen and saw that he was probably right. He turned back to Tobe who shrugged and gave him a look that said, Up to you. Shinsou glanced up at Senjo and nodded, attempting and failing to push the spiders in his chest away.

 

Senjo smiled wide and Shinsou stood. “Alright then. Let’s see how good of a teacher you really are Rai.”

 

The two stood there for a long moment, both waiting for the other to make the first move, Shinsou trying to ignore his racing heart and control his breathing.

 

“God, someone do something please,” Tobe groaned from behind Shinsou.

 

It was Senjo who listened. He reached out to grab Shinsou’s shoulder and Shinsou immediately tensed and tripped back. He closed his eyes and braced for impact but instead, he felt hands behind him holding him up and stopping his fall. He opened his eyes and glanced behind him to see Tobe’s concerned face staring at him.

 

“You alright?” Senjo asked, cautiously taking a few steps back. Shinsou nodded and shifted away from Tobe.

 

“Are you lying?” Tobe accused. “You don’t have-” Shinsou shook his head and glanced at Tobe.

 

‘I’m good, just let me make the first move.’  

 

Tobe hesitated a long moment before stepping back and crossing her arms. “He says to let him make the first move.”

 

Senjo nodded confidently and Shinsou got ready again. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath for a moment before throwing them open and charging for Senjos legs. 

 

He heard Senjo shriek a bit before the leg he was charging at shifted back. Shinsou attempted to adjust his trajectory but when that failed he threw a punch out blindly where he knew Senjo’s midriff was. His fist made contact, but he felt a hand wrap around his upper arm. Shinsou tried to pull his arm free but it wasn’t released until Senjo pushed him away. He went stumbling back, one foot getting caught on the other before he saved himself from falling by grabbing onto the counter nearby.

 

“Shinsou, you’re stiff. Relax.” Tobe called from the couch.

 

Shinsou glared at her and took a deep breath. ‘Stop backseat fighting.’ Tobe rolled her eyes but she was right. Shinsou was tense, he had to force himself to relax. Sparring isn’t a new thing to him. He just had to fall into a rhythm.

 

Shinsou straightened up and took a deep breath before charging at the man. He did what Tobe attempted early, planting his foot and feigning a kick at the man's knees. As expected the man pushed Shinsou’s foot down. With his left hand, Shinsou swung at Senjos shoulder, balling his right hand into a fist. Once Senjo dodged Shinsou’s left hand, Shinsou drove his other fist into his throat. Senjo stumbled back, hand instinctively reaching up to protect his neck. 

 

He clearly expected Shinsou to hesitate because as he stumbled back he opened his mouth to say something. Shinsou didn’t stop though. Instead, Shinsou hooked his leg around Senjos and pulled, causing Senjo to fall on his ass. Senjo rolled, clearly learning his lesson, and hopped back up to a fighting stance.

 

“Whoa! You actually knocked him down!” Tobe exclaimed, Shinsou turned to face her and beamed. Tobe smiled back, wide and excited.

 

“I underestimated him. Won’t happen again.” Senjo said, clearing his throat.

 

Tobe’s smile fell to a smirk. “I told you I was a good teacher.”

 

Senjo watched Shinsou carefully for any sign of movement and rubbed his throat. “What’s up with you two and the throat?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, ‘It’s the most vulnerable spot.’

 

Tobe snorted. “I dunno, I can think of a more vulnerable spot.”

 

“Alright,” Senjo announced, holding his arms up in mock surrender. “I think it’s time for you two to go, before I actually get seriously hurt by you maniacs.” Shinsou chuckled and Tobe jumped out of her seat, running up and slugging her uncle in the arm.

 

“Alright but don’t die while you’re gone, okay?” 

 

Senjo laughed. “Careful, keep saying things like that and people will actually think you care.” 

 

She rolled her eyes and grabbed Shinsou’s mask off the couch and Shinsou tensed. “Where’d you put the lock?” She asked, shaking the mask.

 

Senjo grimaced and stared at the muzzle apprehensively. “You’re going to put it back on him?”

 

Tobe shrugged and spotted the lock sitting on the kitchen counter. “We have to. They can’t know we take it off.”

 

“But you said he can control it! It’s not like he even talks.” Senjo sputtered.

 

Tobe grabbed the lock a bit aggressively and grit out, “Trust me, I know.”

 

The group sat in awkward silence, Tobe squeezing his mask intensely. Shinsou fumbled over to her and softly pulled the mask from her grip. ‘It’s alright.’

 

“No,” Tobe snapped, causing Shinsou to flinch back. Her eyes widened and the anger eased a bit. “Sorry, it’s just. It’s not okay.”

 

“Rai.” Senjo started, stepping forward.

 

“No, I know what you’re going to say.”

 

“There’s got to be a better option than this.” Senjo pleaded. “I know you say it’s better but look at him, you can’t tell me he’s having a good time there.”

 

“I don’t want to talk about this right now. Not in front of Shinsou.” Tobe grabbed his arm and darted towards the door, dragging a stumbling Shinsou along behind her

 

“Alright, alright. Calm down.” Senjo begged. “I’m sorry. I just worry about you.”

 

Tobe paused, hand on the door handle. “I know, but you know what you can do to fix that.” She turned and smiled slightly, letting go of Shinsou and pulling the door open.

 

“Bye uncle. I’ll come by sometime when you’re back, alright?”

 

Senjo nodded and smiled sadly. “Bye Rai. And you too Shinsou, you’re invited over anytime. You knocked me on my ass,” He laughed, “You definitely earned it.”

 

Shinsou smiled too and bowed before waving goodbye and slipping through the now open door, Tobe following him slowly behind.

 

As soon as they stepped into the elevator Tobe nudged him. “You alright?” Shinsou fiddled with his mask and nodded slightly. The elevator dinged before the doors slid open and the two started forward.

 

“I’m sorry about what happened at the end.”

 

The brisk air hit Shinsou the second they stepped outside and he shivered. The faint light from the sun could be seen easing its way over the buildings and early morning joggers and dog walkers could be seen roaming the area.

 

“It’s fine.” Shinsou mumbled. Tobe glanced at him quickly and Shinsou smiled shyly. ‘I don’t really understand what happened anyway.’

 

Tobe grinned. “Now I’ll have to tell Uncle it’s four words. He’ll freak.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, kicking at a rock as they walked.  

 

“I can’t believe you actually knocked him down. Practically your first time too. I’ve only actually knocked him down like three times.” 

 

Shinsou smiled slightly, ‘He hesitated because he didn’t want to hurt me.’

 

“Still,” Tobe pushed, “Impressive.”

 

Again, they walked in silence, both lost in their heads. The tip of the sun was starting to become visible and panic was rising in Shinsou’s chest at the sight of it. He hoped they made it back in time. He couldn't get caught his first real time sneaking out. 

 

They both stopped in their tracks as they heard glass shatter ahead of them followed by low growling. Another crash and Tobe jolted, running ahead with Shinsou hesitantly following. They rounded the corner and he ran into Tobe’s back. Before he could orientate himself, Tobe grabbed his collar and pulled him into the nearby alley.

 

Shinsou yelped and tripped over his foot, tumbling into the wall. “What?” He croaked weakly.

 

“That was a fucking villain attack,” Tobe whispered.

 

Shinsou froze, breath catching in his throat and gripping the mask so hard his knuckles turned white. Tobe peered around the corner and let out a relieved breath.

 

“Oh thank God. There’s a hero.” Shinsou’s interest piqued and he peeked around the corner behind her.

 

There were five villains total. Two of them were holding briefcases and making a break for it while the other three, who were significantly larger and far more terrifying, were engaging in a losing battle against a hero dressed in all black. 

 

Shinsou’s eyes widened in recognition. It was the same hero he saw a few months ago, helping that stray cat in the alleyway. Here, with the sun practically up and out in the open, Shinsou could get a much better look at him. He was wearing some kind of black jumpsuit and had a grey scarf-looking thing as a weapon. The only splash of color he had on him was a set of bright yellow goggles, even his oddly floating hair was black.

 

Shinsou thought he looked kinda badass, the way he was flipping and jumping around so effortlessly. His movements were so fluid and he dodged every attack with ease, and yet, he looked almost... bored.

 

Shinsou’s face broke into a smile. He knew he was real.

 

The mysterious hero was absolutely destroying the three villains. He obviously had great control over the scarf, even if it was an odd choice of weapon because he would effortlessly throw it out and wrap it around the villain with extreme accuracy while also dodging an attack from another. It couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds before the hero had the two of the attackers knocked out and the other tied up and, with no hesitation, he took off after the two that had run off with briefcases.

 

“That’s the hero I saw in the alley!” Shinsou exclaimed, shaking Tobe a bit from his spot behind her. Tobe looked at Shinsou like he was crazy before pulling him out of the alley, back around the corner, and down the street.

 

“We need to go.” Tobe declared as she picked up speed, “We are really cutting this close and we don’t need more people finding out. I know a different route.” 

 

Shinsou nodded, pulling his arm free and picking up pace with her. His thoughts were swirling. He just saw a real-life villain attack and a real-life hero! It was so much different than in the videos. So much more, well, real. It was so cool. That guy took out the villains like it was barely an inconvenience. And what the hell was that grey scarf thing?

 

Tobe stopped in front of an unfamiliar building, staring up at it before darting into the alley next to it.

 

“We need to climb this building then…” She stopped and turned to look Shinsou up and down. “Then jump across the roof.”

 

Shinsou went pale. They have to do WHAT?

 

“It’ll be fine,” Tobe assured, though she didn’t sound too confident. “I’ve done it before.”

 

“I haven’t!” Shinsou argued, voice cracking. 

 

“Well,” Tobe started weakly, “Everything you have to do you have to do a first time, right?”

 

Shinsou stared at her a moment, visibly trying to process what the hell she just said. ‘What?’

 

“Nevermind just, come on.” She ran over to the ladder, jumped, and pulled it down. “Come on!” She said again more urgently.

 

She moved to climb the ladder but Shinsou moved forward and grabbed her sleeve, she spun around and Shinsou realized he had never seen her so frazzled before.

 

“You have to put my mask on.” Shinsou admitted reluctantly, “I can’t climb otherwise.”

 

Tobe hopped off the bottom rung and pulled the lock out of her pocket. Despite the swirling dread in his stomach, Shinsou whirled around and pressed the mask to his face. He felt a tug on each side of his face and he squeezed his eyes shut.

 

“Alright let's go,” Tobe said before bolting up the ladder.

 

Shinsou took a deep breath and let it out in a shutter before forcing himself to move. He spun back around and darted up the ladder behind Tobe. 

 

Shinsou didn’t bother to pull the ladders up behind them, instead, he focused on heading up the ladders as fast as he could and didn’t think about what would be happening once they reached the top. 

 

It wasn’t long before he was forced to face that reality though.

 

“Alright, do you want me to go first or do you want to go first?”

 

I don’t want to at all.

 

Shinsou shuffled forward to look down over the edge but Tobe quickly pulled him back. “You don’t want to do that, that’ll make it worse.”

 

‘That’s not helping.’

 

Tobe sighed, “We gotta hurry, this is kinda your only option.”

 

Shinsou took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves. “Look I’ll go first to show you what to do okay. The distance really isn’t that far, you just gotta do it with confidence alright?”

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck and fiddled with the lock. Suddenly he felt very light-headed, and very not confident as he stumbled away from the ledge.

 

Tobe grabbed his hands and forced him to look her in the eyes. “Shinsou, you just knocked my uncle on his ass, you can do this.”

 

Shinsou nodded and forced himself to focus.

 

Tobe stepped back and turned toward the ledge. “Look, basically you run as fucking hard as you can, and when you get to the ledge you jump onto it and use it to propel yourself forward, then you roll when you land so you don’t get hurt that much.” Shinsou nodded as if he followed any of that.

 

Tobe gave him a thumbs up before running forward and jumping off the ledge. Shinsou froze, holding his breath as Tobe was in mid-air. The second Tobe’s feet hit solid ground, she dropped and rolled onto her back.

 

Shinsou ran to the ledge in a panic. ‘I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT!” He signed frantically.

 

“Shinsou, I’m not trying to be insensitive, but we literally have no time! Just do it. Turn your brain off for two seconds and just do it.” 

 

He stumbled back away from the ledge and swallowed heavily. He could do that. Turn his brain off. Just don’t think. Just stop thinking. He took a deep breath. Just start running, start running. 

 

Move your fucking legs.

 

“Shinsou!”

 

Tobe’s cry was like an electric shock that shot down his spine and into his feet. His legs finally moved and he ran, adrenaline pumping through his system. He had to resist the urge to close his eyes as he leapt up and pushed off the ledge as hard as he could, leaning forward, heart pounding harder than he thought possible and ears ringing uncomfortably. He brought his arms up to protect his face as he saw the building become closer and closer, as if in slow motion, and was no longer able to resist closing his eyes.

 

When he finally made contact the world seemed to speed up. His arms hit the ground and he suddenly remembered Tobe saying something about rolling. He attempted to curl in on himself more but instead, his forearms scraped against the ground and he twisted, rolling on his side.

 

His momentum suddenly stopped and he groaned, only just starting to register the pain in his arms and his side.

 

“Dumbass,” He heard someone say through ringing ears. “You were supposed to land on your feet, not your face.”

 

Shinsou opened his eyes and saw Tobe spinning above him. He tilted his head in confusion and attempted to blink away the black dots that spotted his vision. He felt himself be pulled up and despite everything he felt himself smile.

 

“Don’t worry, we’ll work on it.” Shinsou leaned onto Tobe like a lifeline, not confident in his ability to stand by himself, whether from the pain or adrenaline, he didn’t know.

 

He lifted an arm to sign before wincing. He finally looked down at his arms and cringed. Both his forearms had a long nasty scrape, not enough to draw blood, but close. On his palms though, a small pool of blood had started to form, small pieces of gravel still clinging to his new wounds.

 

“Shit,” Tobe said, grabbing one of his arms, ignoring his winces. She pressed her lips together, seemingly deep in thought. She moved away from Shinsou, who teetered a bit before steadying himself. When she stumbled back into his view, she was locking her mask onto her face hastily.

 

“Come on, we gotta get that cleaned up before anyone sees.” She grabbed his shoulder and pain shot through it. He jerked away, panting. 

 

Tobe looked him over, concern evident over her face. He shook her off and shakily started down the ladder. He carefully climbed through the window, glancing around the hallway, looking for a sign of any students.

 

Tobe landed behind him and he heard the window shut. She carefully pushed him forward and he distantly realized that she was taking him to the bathroom.

 

She pushed him into the farthest stall in the back and forced him to sit down on the toilet.

 

‘I’ll be back.’ She signed. ‘Don’t move.’

 

She left the stall and Shinsou leaned back, trying (and failing) to ignore the pulsating coming from his arms and hands. Then it hit him.

 

Holy shit I just did that. I actually just jumped a fucking building. His head started spinning again. That was so scary! Why did I do that? How did I do that? How am I alive?

 

Tobe’s familiar brown hair filled his vision and he felt her tugging at his arms. Something cold grazed his arm and he winced.

 

“You’re going to have to wear a jacket for a few weeks. It’ll have to be long enough to hide your palms.” Shinsou finally looked down at what she was doing. Somehow she managed to get a first-aid kit and was currently dabbing at the wound with a soaked cotton ball. Shinsou winced again as she dabbed at a particularly painful spot.

 

“I have some if you need one that’s longer.” Finally, she dropped the cotton ball and turned back to the kit, shuffling through it a bit before seemingly finding what she wanted. She carefully grabbed his arms and started wrapping gauze around it carefully.

 

When she finished she leaned back examining her handy work. “It might hurt to sign for a bit.” A single eyebrow rose, “Good thing you don’t have any other friends to keep appearances for.”

 

Shinsou huffed and pulled his arms towards himself. Carefully he flexed his hands, rubbing his fingers over the bandages. Tobe slapped his hand away. “Don’t touch. You should probably change them every night. Take this and hide it in your room.”

 

Numbly Shinsou reached forward and grabbed the first aid kit. Tobe’s face creased in worry. ‘You alright? Other than, your arms.'

 

Shinsou stared at the dirty bathroom ground before signing, ‘I can’t believe we actually did that.’ Tobe chuckled and stood up. 

 

“Yeah, you’re like, legally a badass now.” Shinsou smiled and shook his head.

 

‘I get it now. I think.’ Shinsou informed.

 

“Get what? How to actually jump off a building?” She teased.

 

Shinsou shook his head and stared at his scraped-up palms. The first thing he thought after actually landing on the building was I’m never doing that again, but thinking back to it. He kinda did want to. It was fun, the freest he had ever felt.

 

And that hero! He had seen a hero, IN ACTION! Why people loved heroes so much suddenly made so much sense. Just like that everything he had been trying to understand just clicked into place. They had both been so scared. The second Tobe said there were villains, Shinsou felt sick, he was terrified. But when she said there was a hero ... 

 

‘I think I want to be a hero.’

Chapter Text

When Shinsou had first arrived at this weird mixture of a house and a school, he doubted he ever would’ve been sad to leave it, but as he was packing the few belongings he had, he felt a twinge of… something, something akin to sadness. It could’ve been anxiety, there was definitely some of that mixed in there, but it felt more than that. The word home didn’t mean anything, not really, not to Shinsou, and yet this place was the closest thing he ever had to the definition. 

 

He pressed the first-aid kit into one corner and placed his cat plushie in the other, carefully placing his clothes on top. Even after all his belongings were stuffed in, there was still a sad amount of space left in the suitcase.

 

He zipped it up and sat at his bed, glancing behind him at Chie, who was still in the process of packing. The two of them were being transferred to live at an actual house, his agent had found someone to foster them. At least for the time being.

 

Tobe warned Shinsou that this might start happening soon. The older they got, the more they wanted to get them into actual housing to make room for younger kids. Her theory seemed to ring true, it felt like Tobe was spending more time at different foster houses than here.

 

It had been almost five months since Shinsou last saw Tobe. She got sent off to another house a month after the two of them visited her uncle's house. Tobe had promised him she’d be back, no matter how great the parents were. After all, she had to teach him how to not wreck his arms while jumping across buildings.

 

Shinsou at least would still be coming back here for school. Tobe was in middle school, he never got to see her anymore.

 

He hoped that by the time he returned Tobe would be back.

 

He would return. He had decided that as soon as they told him he’d be transferred. Unless these were the nicest people he had ever met, he was going to work to make sure they sent him back. If someone asked why he wanted to stay in this place, he wouldn’t be able to tell them. The thought of leaving forever just made him feel sick in the stomach. 

 

He heard a heavy sigh from a few beds down and turned again to see Chie collapsing back onto her bed, bouncing the stuffed suitcase that was only a few feet away from her. She rolled over, pressing her face into the pillows, and pulled her long black hair into her typical bun before turning to Shinsou.

 

“You ready to go?” Shinsou nodded and stood up. He stumbled around his bed and pulled his suitcase off the bed, and headed towards the door. 

 

They took the elevator to the bottom floor together, sitting in silence. Shinsou wondered if the silence was awkward for her but he didn’t dwell on it. Wasn’t like he could do anything about it. Finally, the elevator dinged and the two shuffled out to be greeted by their new foster parents.

 

The woman with long black hair and curled bangs beamed at them. “Aww! Hello, my name's Tokoya Airi, and this is my husband Tokoya Reo.” She grabbed the man next to her by his shoulder for a moment before dropping it quickly, her bangs bouncing at her animated movement. The man’s hair looked like a brown mop on his head, and his shirt was half-tucked and greasy. He barely moved, and Shinsou briefly wondered if he fell asleep standing up.

 

Shinsou and Chie bowed and Tokoya Reo grunted in acknowledgment.

 

So he is awake then.

 

“Take your bags and follow me.” The man said, leading them out towards their car. The woman shuffled closed behind him but chattered to the kids about pointless things that Shinsou tuned out. Out of his peripheral, he could see some of the caretakers quickly waving them goodbye, before shuffling off to their more important tasks.

 

God, he already hates this.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

Shinsou was hoping that he could at least survive a week without any incidents at this place, but Fate clearly had different plans. He didn’t even make it one day.

 

Shinsou and Chie got settled in rather quickly, they were apparently sharing a room, and while Chie unpacked rather quickly, Shinsou didn’t even bother. This place was a dump. It was small as hell and the woman smelt like an old lady while the man smelled like alcohol and cigarettes. Shinsou would be leaving this place as soon as possible.

 

He decided to at least try and have a calm first night though. He knew how to get adults to chase him off. Talking when the muzzle is removed, not doing the chores given to them, running off at night, basically breaking the rules in any way. Shinsou was prepared. He was . He was ready to accept whatever the consequences would be for as long as it took before they sent him back. You can’t blame him for wanting to at least wait a day before fully enacting his plan though. He had plenty of time, there was no reason to rush into anything.

 

It happened after both Chie and Shinsou laid down to sleep. He had to admit that these beds were a lot more comfortable and that sleeping with only one other person in the room was nicer. Especially Chie, she was pretty calm, even if she didn’t know how to interact with him. He couldn’t blame her, most people didn’t. He didn’t mind though, she kept to herself and he kept to himself. That was just fine.

 

He doesn’t know if he was asleep or if he was in that place of bliss that was in between real life and dreamland, but he shot up when he heard the crash down the hall.

 

Shinsou locked eyes with Chie who had practically jumped fully out of the bed. They didn’t have any other kids staying at the place so whatever happened was one of the adults. Or someone breaking in his mind supplied.

 

Chie slipped out from under her covers and darted straight towards the door. Shinsou jumped up, purely on instinct, and grabbed her arm, pulling her back and shaking his head. He knew how this went. You hear a noise? You stay where you are, hide under your covers, and hope whatever it is, isn’t coming for you. 

 

Chie screwed her face with determination and ripped her arm out of his grip. Before he could stop her, she darted out the bedroom door leaving Shinsou alone, frozen in the room. With the door open he could hear the rumble of a man’s voice, a low and scratchy sound. He took a few deep breaths before forcing himself to move forward, peering around the corner.

 

The first thing he noticed was that Chie hadn’t gotten very far. She was just standing there, right outside the doorway, unmoving and staring into the living room. Shinsou eyed her up and down before forcing himself to peer around her.

 

The woman, (Airi? How had he already forgotten?) was hunched over the floor, shakily picking up small pieces of something from the floor while the man towered over her, gripping her hair and mumbling things Shinsou couldn’t quite understand. After a moment, the man stumbled back and without thinking, Shinsou grabbed Chie and pulled her back into the room.

 

As carefully and quietly as possible, he shut the door and closed his eyes, allowing himself to breathe easier.

 

“He- he just.”

 

Right. Chie’s totally freaking out.

 

Shinsou spun around and grabbed her wrists. Pushing her softly onto her bed before shuffling in his suitcase for his notebook. Quickly and carelessly, he pulled it out scribbling What did you see?’

 

He turned the notebook to her and Chie read it quickly before shaking her head. “He pushed her against the wall and then to the ground. It- He.” She swallowed hard. “We should tell someone.”

 

Shinsou furrowed his eyebrows and tilted his head, scribbling Why? What would we say?

 

Chie looked at him like he was insane. “He just hurt her! I saw it!” Chie jumped off the bed and peered over Shinsou’s shoulder as he wrote, ‘So?’

 

“So? What do you mean so?” Shinsou tensed and hastily put a finger to his muzzle, urging her to quiet down. Her volume level had been rising. She seemed to realize her mistake and also tensed. They both waited there a moment, ears strained to hear any disturbance, before eventually, she continued, volume considerably lower.

 

“He hurt her. That’s against the law.” 

 

Shinsou frowned, ‘It is?

 

“Yes,” She hissed. “We need to find a police officer or a hero or something.”

 

Shinsou thought for a moment. If what Chie was saying was true then that man would probably be sent to jail and the two of them would be sent back to the school. If Chie was right, then he could be back at the school by next week. 

 

Was it really illegal though? He could vaguely remember Senjo saying something similar but what part of it was illegal? Throwing her around? Hurting her? That never stopped people before.

 

Shinsou shook himself out of his thoughts. He’d trust Chie. Even if she was wrong about it being illegal, the fact that this could potentially piss off the man was good, at least for him. Shinsou shoved his notebook into his waistline and rushed over to the window, unlocking it and pulling it up. 

 

He turned to Chie and gestured for her to follow him. 

 

He stepped out the window and onto the sidewalk and examined the area. It was dark, the moon high in the sky but only showing a sliver. The street was empty except for the man fumbling with his keys further down the road.

 

 He turned back to Chie and saw her standing at the window, fidgeting nervously. “Where are you going?”

 

Shinsou rustled through pages of his notebook and quickly wrote ‘police’. Chie’s eyes widened. “You’re actually going to get a police officer.” Shinsou shook his head. 

 

‘You’re going to get a police officer.'

 

Chie squeaked, “Why me?”

 

‘You can talk.’ Shinsou stated as if it was obvious.

 

It wasn’t a bad excuse, though he had to admit there were other reasons he didn’t want to go. He’d never been out without Tobe, not that Chie necessarily had more experience than him, but she was older.

 

And maybe if she went they’d actually believe her.

 

Chie gulped before stepping out the window as well. She followed closely behind as Shinsou wandered around the corner and scribbled the address down. He ripped the paper out and pressed it into Chie’s hand.

 

She gulped again before glancing up and down the street. “I don’t know where to go.”

 

Shinsou shrugged and Chie bit her lip. 

 

‘This was your idea.’ Shinsou reminded her. Chie nodded as she read it, but still glanced around nervously. ‘You got this.’

 

That seemed to do the trick because Chie nodded much more confidently before taking off down the street.

 

It wasn’t until she was out of view that Shinsou finally let his shoulders sag as he shakily jumped back inside the room. He carefully pulled the window closed, leaving it a smidge open and unlocked just in case. He stood there stupidly for entirely too long trying to decide what to do now. He could just lay down and wait for Chie to do her thing but he felt like he should at least peek out to make sure that the woman was alright. 

 

He marched towards the door, feigning confidence. He reached out for the handle but didn’t grab it. Instead, his hand stopped above it, shivering, as if there was an invisible force blocking him from touching it.

 

Just a peek. Just open it a bit to check on her.

 

He tapped the cool metal with his pointer finger before relaxing the weight of his hand onto it, wrapping his heavy fingers around the handle. His heart raced and his hand shook.

 

Open it.

 

He squeezed the handle as hard as he could, though it seemed weaker than it typically would be, and squeezed his eyes shut, taking a deep breath.

 

Just open it.

 

He sighed out, long and heavy as his grip loosened and slid off the handle.

 

I can’t.

 

Shame bellowed in his chest, building up behind his eyes and in his throat. He took a step back, shoving his hand in his pocket with head hung and heart heavy. He stared at the door long and hard through fuzzy vision before he collapsed on the bed, pressing his face into the pillow. 

 

Coward

 

He just wanted one day to get settled in. One goddamn day. 

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

He heard a booming knock and he shot up, heart dropping into his stomach. How he had managed to fall asleep with everything going on he didn’t know, but when life is all sunshine and rainbows he lays in bed for hours on end. How convenient.

 

He squeezed his eyes shut and felt a brief wave of relief when he heard the pounding again. It wasn’t on his door, it was one much further into the house.

 

He immediately tensed again. 

 

The front door .

 

He slid off his bed and jumped to the door, pressing his ear against it. The knocks echoed through the house once more and he gulped. Shinsou’s breathing was loud and heavy, making it hard to hear anything other than the distant grumbling of the man, complaining about whoever was waking him up. Shinsou’s head swiveled towards the window and he realized that the sun hadn’t risen yet, but sunrise would soon be on its way, the streets already more visible from the rays leaking over the horizon.

 

He heard the front door creak as it swung open and he pressed his ear back to the door. He tried to quiet his breathing so he could hear more than mumbling but even when he held his breath, he couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Soft thumps grew louder and louder and his heartbeat picked up pace when he realized they were footsteps heading in his direction. He leaped towards the bed attempting to cower under the covers and pretend to be asleep before they potentially got to his room.

 

He failed to get under the covers in time but it didn’t matter much, the footsteps belonged to Chie. 

 

She looked exhausted and sad, but otherwise no different than when she had left. She wouldn’t meet Shinsou’s eyes, instead, she sat on the edge of her bed, sighing as she pressed her palms into her eyes.

 

Shinsou gulped, unsure of what to do. He sat there awkwardly for a long moment, half on his bed, half standing, before getting up carefully and pressing his ear back to the door just in time to hear the front door slam. There was a minute of silence, the calm before the storm, before he jumped back, panic rising when he once again heard footsteps, much heavier and angrier than the first pair, stomping towards his room.

 

The door swung open and the man glared at Chie. He looked groggy and disheveled, with one side of his hair pressed flat against his head. He didn’t even have pants on, just a pair of grey boxers and a stained white shirt half-tucked into them. Still, the look in his eyes drowned out the ridiculousness of his look. 

 

Chie stiffened and squeaked, attempting to dodge the arm reaching out for her. The back of his hand struck her across the face and her hand reached up to cup it. The man grabbed her forearm and pulled her off her bed, slamming her against the opposite wall.

 

Shinsou stumbled back, pressing himself against the wall in between the window and the desk, attempting to make himself as small as possible. The man didn’t seem to notice him yet, he would like to keep it that way. 

 

“Your first fucking night here and you run off to the cops! Who do you think you are?” Chie winced as spit landed on her face.

 

Tears welled up in her eyes as she fumbled over her words. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I-I”

“No!” He lifted his arm threateningly and Chie flinched back, banging her head against the wall. “We are gracious enough to open our home to you,” He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her close to his face and through gritted teeth growled, “and THIS is how you repay us?”

 

The man swung a fist at her and Chie tensed, bracing for impact. The fist made contact with the wall next to her head, the drywall breaking easily. Shinsou let out an accidental breath of relief when his fist didn’t make contact with Chie. “Don’t you DARE pull something like that again.” He pulled his fist out of the wall and let go of her and she collapsed to the floor. 

 

“Did you know about this?”

 

Shinsou tensed as the man’s eyes landed on him, and he swallowed dryly, leaning back further into the corner, desperate to disappear. Shinsou tried to hide his shaking, but it seemed like the man towering over him could peer into his soul. Should he lie? Let Chie take all the blame. Which would be better? If it was both of their doing or just hers? She was already clearly involved, he couldn’t pretend she wasn’t. Surely pretending he didn’t know anything couldn’t make this worse.

 

Except he was supposed to be pissing the man off. He was supposed to be causing trouble, working to get on his bad side. He did know about it, even helped encourage Chie to go on with it, if the man knew that, Shinsou would be a bit closer to packing up his things and heading back to that foster school.

 

“DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS!”

 

Shinsou flinched at the rise in volume and hastily shook his head. The man looked him up and down, eyes squinted, searching, before he grunted and looked back at Chie.

 

“Did you involve him in this?”

 

His voice was unsettlingly quiet but stern and Shinsou was so glad that the focus was no longer on him.

 

“No.” Chie practically whispered, “No, I snuck out while he was asleep.”

 

Shinsou held his breath as the man stood over them, unmoving, making no noise except the sound of huffing from his anger. Then, with no warning, he slapped Chie again, hard, across the face. They all stayed where they were for a moment, allowing the slap to echo through the room before the man moved again, lifting Chie by the wrist and pulling her up so she was inches from his face.

 

“Consider this a warning. Try something like that again, anything even remotely similar, and I won’t be so forgiving.”

 

He tossed her aside, dropping her at Shinsou’s feet. He spun around muttering something about goddamn kids, but Shinsou didn’t catch any of it, the ringing in his ears was significantly louder than he was. The whole room shook when the door slammed and the two stayed there, Chie shaking at Shinsou’s feet. Shinsou watched the door carefully, listening to the retreating steps, unsure of what to do now, before he remembered that he could move and crouched over her, pulling her up.

 

He led her to her bed and sat her down, careful not to make too much noise and disturb the beast again. Chie was shivering, rubbing her wrist, and Shinsou sat frozen, unable to take his eyes away from the door. After what seemed like an eternity, Chie finally found her voice.

 

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered. “I was wrong they-” A sob interrupted her. Shinsou mindlessly rubbed her arm, hoping it was at least a bit comforting. His eyes never left the door.

 

“They didn’t… They-” A loud sob escaped her and she pressed her face in Shinsou’s shirt to muffle it.

 

Finally, Shinsou looked down at her, expression blank, eyes glossy.

 

“They didn’t believe me. They thought… I heard them, they thought I was lying. I- I told them but-” Her voice was muffled by his shirt but Shinsou understood. This is what he was afraid of.

 

He mentally kicked himself for being disappointed. He shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up. He knew this was how it went. He knew this already. You tell anyone about the bullies, about the insults, about the cuts and bruises, and the responses were always the same. Either you’re a liar or you deserve it.

 

Shinsou swallowed and pulled Chie into a hug. He didn’t like physical contact that much, especially with people he didn’t know well, but at this moment he guessed she needed it more than he needed his space. He learned this lesson a long time ago, back when he first developed his quirk, and yet he could still remember how helpless he felt when he found out. How helpless and hopeless the world seemed.

 

He learned this a long time ago. But apparently, the world had been kinder to Chie. Or perhaps it was kindness that he had learned it so young, had grown up knowing it, not getting used to anything else.

 

He reached up and dusted the small flakes of drywall that still clung to her shoulder as her breathing calmed and her crying stuttered. She pulled away from him, cheeks and eyes blotchy and red and she pushed back, away from Shinsou, dusting off her shoulder herself.

 

“I’m sorry Shinsou. You were right. I shouldn’t have done anything.”

 

Chapter Text

Shinsou had decided to let things cool down for a week before he did his thing.

 

He told himself it was because he wanted to get a feel for what these people were like, then he said it was for Chie’s sake, then he had to wait for school to start up again. Then, the next thing he knew, he had been putting it off for four months. He knew he had to make a decision eventually. It was acting out or staying here forever.

 

Overall, this house wasn’t that bad. There were very strict rules, but they stayed consistent. Do your chores the way they want by the time they want and he’d leave you alone. Don’t speak unless spoken to -or ever in Shinsou’s case- and he’d leave you alone. Don’t bother him when he’s drinking, or when he’s just woken up, or when he’s getting ready for work, or when he’s just gotten home from work and he’d leave you alone. Don’t complain, don’t cry, don’t touch anything you aren’t supposed to, and he’d leave you alone.

 

So yeah, maybe the rules were strict, but they were consistent, and for that Shinsou was grateful. 

 

So he started small. Really small. Slowly he started taking longer and longer to come when he was called. He was rarely called, only for dinner and chores. The worst reaction he got from that was a bit of manhandling, getting pulled along or pushed into his seat.

 

There were some nights that he was startled awake to different sounds of violence, neither he nor Chie ever opened the door though, or the window. They usually just laid there, either staring at each other or squeezing their eyes shut trying to drown out the noise.

 

He started sneaking out at night, mostly just wandering the streets, getting a feel for the area, just in case. Sneaking out wasn’t intended as a way to get him in trouble, it was actually the opposite. The familiarity of the little too warm night air, of the mostly empty streets beside the night owls like him, of the solitude and freedom of it all- it made everything somewhat manageable.

 

He never got caught sneaking out though, to both his relief and dismay. He needed to escalate what he was doing, but every bone in his body was screaming at him not to. To just shrink into a ball and pretend he didn’t exist so they wouldn’t try anything. 

 

So today he was forcing himself. He was supposed to be washing the dishes and putting them away, but instead, he was laying in his bed, stiff limbed with a mixture of dread and anticipation pooling in his gut. It would be the first time he outright disobeyed them and to say he was terrified would be putting it lightly. His ears were fine-tuned to everything going on around him. Anytime footsteps came a little too close to his room for his liking he would squeeze his eyes shut and clench his jaw. He’d never thrown up with the muzzle on and he didn’t want to find out what it was like.

 

It’ll be worth it. They’ll send you back. Whatever happens, it’ll be worth it.

 

He had a hard time remembering that when a plate shattered next to his head.

 

He jumped, immediately attempting to roll in on himself. A hand wrapped itself around his arm and Shinsou’s body went into survival mode: immediately going limp and allowing himself to be dragged down the hallway and pushed up against the sink.

 

Shinsou struggled to catch his breath as the man pulled him close to his face by his collar. “Do. The Goddamn. Dishes” He spat. His breath smelled like cigarettes and coffee and Shinsou winced, struggling to hold his breath. He threw Shinsou at the counter and Shinsou vaguely registered pain shooting through his head.

 

That wasn’t too bad. Shinsou thought as he pushed himself up, attempting to blink the spots in his vision, and gripping the counter attempting to steady himself.

 

“Shinsou?” Someone whispered behind him. “Are… are you alright?”

 

Shinsou bobbed his head, wincing as pain pulsed through his brain at the motion. Chie grabbed his arm and he leaned on her, attempting to reach out for a plate.

 

“Why didn’t you just do the dishes when he asked you?”

 

Shinsou shook his head, ignoring the pain again. Maybe he should tell her his plan. It’d probably help ease her panic in the future when things like this happened. But if she told the adults, the whole plan would be a bust, and if he invited her to try similar tactics he would be the cause of someone getting hurt.

 

Numbly, as if he wasn’t the one in control of his own limbs, he ran the plate under the water and dried it off with a towel before setting it aside.

 

“Shinsou,” Chie whimpered, “You’re bleeding.” 

 

Oh.

 

He glanced down at his arm and blinked a few times. Blood slid down his arm and dripped off his pinkie, hitting the metal sink with soft plinks. He tilted his head, watching, hypnotized. 

 

When did that happen?

 

He turned on the sink and ran the wound under cold water before grabbing another plate and cleaning it too.

 

“That’s all you’re going to do?” she asked, perplexed. Shinsou just shrugged before grabbing another plate.

 

Chie just sat there, watching, occasionally glancing over her shoulder. She helped Shinsou lift the pile of plates into the cabinet before he stumbled to his room, Chie wearily following close behind him.

 

He squeezed the wound on his arm and fumbled with his suitcase, struggling and failing to not get blood anywhere. He hastily pulled the first-aid kit out and threw it on the floor, collapsing over it and shuffling through it for the gauze.

 

“Why do you have that?” Chie blurted, startling Shinsou as she sat across from him. 

 

He ignored her as he messily wrapped the cut and taped it down. He didn’t know if it needed to be cleaned or anything but his heart was racing and he was too exhausted from the stress to care.

 

He leaned back against the bed once he finished, staring dazed at Chie.

 

“Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look alright.” 

 

Shinsou closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before leaning forward to pack all the supplies he’d thrown out in his haste. He tucked the kit back into the bottom of his suitcase again and stood to collapse on his bed but before he could, Chie pulled him back.

 

“Don’t there’s glass all over your bed.” 

 

Ah, right. Damn.

 

Chie softly pushed him back onto her bed before she picked up his blanket, carefully gathering as many of the glass pieces as she could before rushing out of the room. He leaned back onto her bed and closed his eyes, willing his heart to calm.

 

He grabbed his hair with his good hand and tugged, suddenly very aware of what just happened. He sat up and squeezed the cut on his arm, trying to pull himself back to reality. Chie shuffled back into the room and removed the bed sheet before running out of the room again. 

 

Shinsou glanced around the spinning room before reaching under his bed and pulling out a water bottle he had stashed there with the food he started hoarding. If the punishments were to follow similar tracks of other houses, the first thing to go would be his time without the muzzle. He wouldn’t be able to eat with it still on but keeping backup food was a good habit to get into anyway, just in case.

 

He unscrewed the cap and slid it over one of the holes in his mask and tilted his head back, downing nearly the whole bottle in one go.

 

When he finally finished, he screwed the cap back on and threw the empty bottle across the room, panting as well as he could with the restriction on his face. Chie shuffled back in with the sheet and blanket balled up in her arms, dropping them on the bed and carefully working to put the bed back together. 

 

Shinsou stood up and grabbed her shoulder, pulling her back. She looked at him in confusion as he slowly pulled the sheets out of her hand and moved to start making the bed himself. She complied, slowly backing away and letting Shinsou do it himself, watching as Shinsou smoothed out the bed, checking for any spare pieces of glass before carefully relaxing into the bed.

 

She looked him up and down and followed suit, sitting on her bed across from him, far stiffer than he was. He reached for the notebook that was sitting on the dresser beside him and scribbled a quick- ‘Sorry.’

 

“What’re you sorry for?” she asked softly.

 

‘Scaring you’. 

She didn’t say anything, instead, she just stared at her hands, awkwardly wringing her hands in her lap. Shinsou wished- like he had a million times before- that he wasn’t restricted by the muzzle and that he had actual good people skills. He had absolutely no experience being comforting and he didn’t know where to even start.

 

‘I’m going to get in trouble more.’ He wrote after a long awkward moment. Maybe he shouldn’t tell her everything, but he could at least warn her. She was clearly taking this much harder than he was.

 

“Well yeah,” She croaked. “Everyone gets in trouble once in a while.” Shinsou nodded, not bothering to correct her.

 

“He made you bleed this time.” Chie pointed out, though it seemed like she was talking to herself more than she was to Shinsou. “He’s never done that before.”

 

‘I’ll be fine.’ He quickly scribbled.

 

“That’s not the point.”

 

Shinsou sighed, throwing his notebook back onto the dresser before leaning back into his bed and curling up towards the wall. He squeezed his bandages mindlessly, using the flash of pain that shot up his arm as a distraction from his heavy thoughts. The door creaked open, and he tensed a moment, before realizing it was just Chie leaving the room.

 

I’m sorry . Whether the message was for Chie or for himself he didn’t know. It’s only going to get worse from here.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

After his first real act of defiance, ignoring that voice in the back of his head that told him to cooperate got easier and easier. It helped that his plan was obviously working. The man was getting more and more frustrated with him each time. It was rare for him not to need some kind of bandage on his body. There was quite a simple way to keep track of his progress; if he didn’t have any injuries it meant that he had gone too long without acting out.

 

He knew what he had to do next, to really push them over the edge. He had to talk. During dinner when he has his mask off. If Shinsou said something they’d have to get rid of him. If not now then soon. They’d finally realize he’s more to handle than he was worth. He finally wouldn’t be worth the trouble. 

 

He had it all planned out. It would be best if he had finished eating before starting something. It was almost a guarantee that he’d be forced in the muzzle, especially since he was threatening them with his quirk. If the man got physical, as he often did, and left injuries then he’d have the whole weekend to heal from it. He was ready. Tonight would be the best night to do it. Otherwise, he’d have to wait another whole week.

 

It was significantly easier said than done though. 

 

He almost called it off when he noticed the man would be drinking alcohol with his meal, and then he almost called it off again when the man started monologuing louder and louder, volume control thrown out the window by his third can of beer. He had it all planned out for tonight though, he was ready. He couldn’t abandon this because of a few small road bumps making him jittery.

 

In hindsight, he probably should’ve waited.

 

Shinsou’s hands were shaking through the whole meal. It was hard to force himself to eat with his stomach was doing somersaults. The food tasted bland and every bite made him more and more nauseous, but he somehow managed, albeit much slower than usual. The man was rambling on about something a new asshole co-worker at his work did but Shinsou wasn’t paying attention, he only had a few more bites left, his time would be coming soon. He swallowed the noodles and resisted the urge to throw them right back up. Talking was hard enough in his best moments, but to do it here, when he had a rough idea of what could happen...

 

If you can’t do this then you’re not cut out to be a hero .

 

No! If you do this then you’re more like a villain than anything.

 

Maybe he’s not cut out to be a hero. He couldn’t even talk half the time without absolutely freaking out. 

 

He opened his mouth to speak but nothing but a sad squeak came out. His jaw slammed shut and he shot a nervous glance at the man who, luckily, didn’t seem to notice. Shinsou let out a slow steady breath and took a drink of water. Hero or villain. It didn’t matter. He had to be sent back to the school one way or the other.

 

“That sucks.”

 

The world froze as the words finally left his mouth. He didn’t even know if they applied to whatever the man was rambling about anymore. Originally they were meant to be a comment about his coworker, but Shinsou had long tuned him out.

 

All three people at the table stared at him, all with vastly different expressions painted on their faces. Chie was utterly shocked- like she didn’t even know he could speak. The woman looked terrified, frozen to her spot in her chair, nervously glancing between him and her husband.

 

And the man’s expression seemed like a mix of Chie’s and the woman’s before it quickly twisted into anger.

 

He shot up out of his chair. The whole table shook and Shinsou’s heart raced impossibly faster. He choked as the man grabbed his neck and pushed him against the wall. Someone shrieked and suddenly his body caught up with his mind. He grabbed the hand and clawed at it wheezing for air. Another hand covered his mouth mercilessly and Shinsou panicked, attempting to claw at that one instead.

 

“Airi,” The man hissed, “Get the fucking mask.” The hand around Shinsou’s neck tightened and his vision went spotty.

 

Fuck why’s everything going dark.

 

“Reo, baby please he’s just a kid. He didn’t-”

 

“NOW!” Shinsou felt himself get thrown to the floor and heard an echoing slap. Shinsou coughed and attempted to crawl away. To get to the safety of his room and hide under his covers. To fall asleep and never wake up.

 

He didn’t get very far though. Strong arms pulled him back and he yelped. He felt the familiar cold plastic press against his face and he stopped fighting. Maybe if he was muzzled the man would stop. Maybe if he was quirkless the man wouldn’t be so mad.

 

He was wrong.

 

When the muzzle was strapped tightly- too tightly -to his face the man kicked Shinsou onto the floor. He tried to get control of his breathing but between his panic and the muzzle, filling his lungs was impossible.

 

“Get me a belt.”

 

“Reo, please” A woman pleaded.

 

“GET THE MOTHER FUCKING BELT WOMAN!” 

 

Water gathered in purple eyes and he weakly looked up. He spotted Chie out of the corner of his eye as he got ripped up off the floor. She was cowering in a corner, unmoving, terror frozen on her face. A twinge of guilt shot through him. 

 

His chest met the hard counter surface and he wheezed. He felt his shirt lift and he almost collapsed as the man ripped it off over his head. The cold air hit his bare back and he gripped the counter with shaky hands, watching out of the corner of his eye as his shirt got tossed aside. 

 

The man pulled away for a second, just a second, but Shinsou took his opportunity. He pushed his shaky legs forward and bolted straight for the door. An arm wrapped around his wrist and his shoulder popped as he got yanked back and shoved against the counter even harder.

 

“Don’t you dare.” A deep voice growled behind him. 

 

Fiery pain shot through his back and Shinsou couldn’t hold back the strangled groan. He nearly collapsed, his only support being the strong hand that was pushing his injured shoulder into the counter. A crack, and another shot of pain but Shinsou stayed quiet this time, a goal that was quite easy with the muzzle. Silence was always the best option. Silence was what they wanted. Silence would help. 

 

He couldn’t stop the tears though. His whole body shook as the belt made searing contact with his back, his shoulders, his legs. Even sometimes coiling around his side and meeting his stomach. He stayed silent though, determined not to let out a whisper of a sound.

 

Silent. Silent. Silent.

 

Stay. Silent.

 

Finally, finally, the man stepped back and released Shinsou. He immediately crumpled to the ground, not being able to spare the energy to keep himself upright. 

 

“Gotta deal with bullshit at work, gotta deal with bullshit here. I’m fucking tired of it.”

 

Shinsou stayed still, face pressed into the musty carpet, purple hair blocking most of his view. His entire back was on fire and his body ached. He didn’t want to move, didn’t want to anger the man any more than he already had but for some reason, he did move. He unsteadily pushed himself to his knees, slowly letting his body adjust to the motion, but froze as a strong hand gripped his throbbing shoulder. 

 

“You know what you did wrong?” Shinsou squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. “Don’t you pull anything like that ever again.” Shinsou whimpered and the man pushed him back down. “Go to bed.” The man ordered. Shinsou nodded and pushed himself up slowly using the counter.

 

Pain like lightning shot down his back as he used his muscles to pull himself up. He finally got to his feet and pushed himself off the counter, willing himself forward to his room with momentum alone.

 

He gripped onto the door handle like a lifeline and swung it open, collapsing into the room. Someone ran to his side and he tensed, ready for another attack. A breathy, “Holy Shit,” and Shinsou immediately relaxed. It was only Chie.

 

He patted around under his bed and let out a whine when his hand landed on the water bottle. He spilled some water in his haste to unscrew the cap and spilled more on his bare chest as he struggled to down it.

 

He dropped the bottle and attempted to calm his breathing. Pain shot through his back and he winced, shooting forward and away from whatever had just touched him. He spun around, groaning at his aching muscles. Chie was there, hand still up with a cotton ball in hand, tears streaming down her face. 

 

“Shinsou, we have to clean it.” He shook his head and pushed himself up with the help of the desk. “No, Shinsou, you should really lay down. O- on your stomach probably. Please, just calm down, let me help you.” He shook his head again, grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair and wincing as he wriggled it over his body.

 

Chie grabbed his arm before he ripped it free and shoved his arms through the sleeves. “This is the exact opposite of what you need to be doing.

 

What I need to do is get out of here.  

 

He leaned against the desk for a moment more before leaning over his notebook and scribbling, ‘I’m leaving.’ 

 

He stumbled towards the window and unlocked it, pulling it up with a hiss.

 

“Shinsou, no!” Chie cried by his side. “You can’t! Where will you even go?”

 

He shook his head and pushed her back. Her words caught in her throat and she stared at him, eyebrows creased and chest rapidly rising and falling. He swung one leg out the window and then the other before collapsing to the concrete the second he was outside.

 

“Shinsou!” She ran to the window and looked down to him, “You can’t even walk! You need to get cleaned up” He pushed himself up, wiping the newly forming tears away, and stumbled down the street as fast as his feet allowed.

 

‘What I need,’ Shinsou thought as he rounded the corner, ‘ is to get the fuck out of here.’

 

Chapter Text

His eyes darted around the street, violet irises barely visible through the matte of similarly violet hair. It was far earlier than it usually was when he’d sneak out. The sun was down, but only barely. The sun itself wasn’t visible but the pure yellow streaks it cast across the sky made the streets more than visible. The roads were still filled with far too many people around for his liking, it made it that much harder to hide from the world. He’d pulled his hood far over his face and yanked the drawstrings tight, pushing his hair down over his face. It didn’t hide the muzzle completely, but it did well enough if he kept his head down. 

 

He stuck close to the buildings, not-so-subtly turning his face away any time he passed a still open business. If people were concerned about a kid walking around alone at this time of day they didn’t show it. No-one stopped him and asked where his parents were, or if he needed assistance getting home.

 

He was both grateful and disappointed at the same time.

 

He had yet to get his breathing under control. It was still shallow and erratic and his heart was making a good effort at pounding its way through his chest. He was trying to calm down. He really was. He hadn’t thought about what he’d do once he’d left, he just left and hoped he’d figure something out.

 

You’re a fucking dumbass. You did that to yourself and now you’re freaking out about it.

 

What happens if this doesn’t actually work? If they happen to be the one couple that is actually able to put up with him? What if they keep him there forever, no matter what he does? All this would be for nothing. The unnecessary amount of stress he felt any time he even thought about doing something he knew would piss them off, the scratches and bruises, the look Chie gives him each time he has to wrap himself up again. Hell, if he doesn’t get out before summer he might take things into his own hands.

 

It had to work, it HAD to. 

 

You’re going to leave Chie? Wow, some hero.

 

Shut up . She can handle herself.

 

Clearly not .

 

She’s not my problem.

 

Some. Hero.

 

He clenched his fist and blinked away the forming tears. This shit was a lot easier before he saw that damn hero on the street. Before Tobe put the idea in his head that he could be something other than a villain. Before he believed her.

 

He wiped his face. It’s fine. Honestly, not everyone is made to be a hero. Deep down he knew he couldn’t cut it.

 

A familiar yellow banner caught his eye and he stopped in his tracks. He knew where he was? That bakery looked exactly like… He turned, and across the street was the school. Relief flooded through him before a rouge tear slipped past his defenses and rolled down his cheek.

 

He couldn’t even go there. There was no reason to. It wasn’t like he could just show back up and claim his old bed.

 

He missed that dingy ass school. He missed spending more than 20 measly minutes in the library and all its books. He missed sitting at the table with the other foster kids. When he got moved to a foster house he was officially allowed to sit with his classmates at lunch. He hated it. They were loud and didn’t understand personal space, they still occasionally stared and whispered about him and he hated it. They told dumb stories about their happy families and laughed and laughed like there was nothing wrong ever.

 

The foster kids, well at least to some extent they understood each other. No one wanted them. That was the base requirement for living there. The whispers with them stopped fast, they were used to weird kids with freak quirks. He wouldn’t say he liked any of them. Hell, he’d even say he couldn’t stand any of them most of the time.

 

And yet- subconsciously he wandered back here.

 

Shinsou ducked into the familiar alleyway and collapsed against the wall. He winced at the shooting pain in his back as his jacket brushed over his wounds. His jaw ached a lot more than it usually did, moving his arm hurt like hell, his head felt like it was going to explode any minute and his entire body was exhausted.

 

For the first time in a long time, he missed home. He missed a place that didn’t even exist.

 

He pulled his knees up to his chest, ignoring the fiery pain that was his back, and, for the first time in a long time, he let it all out.

 

Silent tears rolled down his cheeks, he didn’t bother wiping them, they’d just get wet again. He wanted his mom- a woman who hadn’t even wanted him. He wanted an actual home, but he didn’t even know what that would look like anymore. He wanted a break, to be done with it all. 

 

He wanted a goddamn hug.

 

Shinsou pressed his face into his knees, wrapping his arms around his legs. It was the closest thing to an embrace he’d get right now.

 

He doesn't know how long he sat there, sobbing impossibly quiet. His mom didn’t come, no one came to take him home, and certainly, no one gave him a hug.

 

He did eventually calm down though. Half because he had no more tears and half because eventually, he became numb. He liked the numbness; it was better than the aching pain in his chest. So he sat there, face still pressed against his now drenched knees, not bothering to acknowledge the world around him. It wasn’t until the stinging in his back got too painful to ignore that he lifted his head and rested it carefully back against the brick wall. Pain echoed through his back before it dulled to a manageable throb. 

 

Shinsou finally wiped his cheeks, which had already been mostly dry by this point. Closing his eyes, Shinsou sighed, long and heavy. He couldn’t go back. Not right now, not after that. He really didn’t have anywhere to go, but he knew he couldn’t stay in that alley. Hanging in an alley, muzzled and weak was asking to get beat.

 

Slowly, with the assistance of the wall, Shinsou pushed himself up. His legs tingled at the rapid change in position and for a moment he felt light-headed. The sun had long gone down, the alley was finally engulfed in darkness. From the looks of it, the street was significantly less lively, the local businesses long closed. Maybe he could find his way back to that one park he’d started frequenting, or maybe he could hang out on the roof like he used to.

 

Maybe Tobe would be there.

 

He shook the thought away. Even if she had been kicked out of her other house, he wasn’t sure he wanted her to see him like this. 

 

He took a step forward and immediately became aware of the bone-deep aching in his body. He leaned back against the wall. Apparently, he’d cried out any energy and adrenaline that had kept him going this far. 

 

So wandering was out of the question. He bet he could make his way back, without passing out preferably. Still, he wasn’t ready. He wanted to live in his faux-freedom for a little longer. Without fully processing where he was going he stumbled out the alley and down the street. Occasionally he would lean against a building or pole when a particularly grueling dizzy spell hit him but all things considered, he made it to his destination with ease.

 

He stumbled into the building, pausing for only a moment to adjust to the artificial light, before pressing on and calling the elevator. Waiting for the elevator seemed to be the hardest part yet. The world started tilting and his stomach did a flip. It seemed if he held still for too long his brain would catch up and realize he wasn’t fully okay.

 

The elevator did arrive before he passed out and without thinking about it he pressed the glowing 5.

 

He leaned heavily against the railing, practically holding himself up, almost falling when the elevator lurched to a stop. He stumbled out and forward, gripping the door frame as hard as he could. Wearily, he knocked on the door, and when it didn’t open after a moment, panic ripped through his chest.

 

He knocked again, more frantically this time and the door flung open to a very tired, very confused Senjo.

 

“Shinsou? What’re you?” Shinsou leaned forward, not bothering with pleasantries, it wasn’t like he could participate in them anyway. He dove straight for the couch and collapsed onto it face first, letting out a sigh of relief. The couch still smelt musty and it didn’t feel particularly nice against his skin, but it was much more welcoming than that alley.

 

“Erm, Shinsou?” The man said, shutting the door carefully. “Is everything alright? Is Rai okay?”

 

Shinsou shrugged and his shoulder throbbed. 

 

“Shinsou,” Senjo started cautiously, “I know I said you were welcome anytime, but can I ask why you’re here?” Shinsou visibly tensed. Had he not meant it when he said he could come over? Shit, he really should’ve thought this through more. People lied about that stuff all the time didn’t they? Say shit they don’t actually mean just because it’s the nice thing to say.

 

Shinsou swallowed and carefully pushed himself up, groaning and wincing when his back protested the movement. Immediately, Senjo was by his side.

 

“Shit. Are you hurt?” Shinsou took a deep breath and pushed himself to his feet, only managing to take one step before he fell to the floor. He really had pushed himself too much.

 

“Hold on let me…” Senjo left his side and Shinsou attempted to push himself back up. He blinked and strained his eyes, trying to will the room to stop rocking. The room was spinning too fast, he was going to be sick.

 

Senjo’s familiar blue hair swirled into view; he was waving... something black and thin in Shinsou’s view. “I’m going to pick the lock again.”

 

Like a shot went off Shinsou was alert and tense. He quickly shook his head and stumbled away from the man.

 

No. No. The muzzle protects you from me. You can’t. You shouldn’t .

 

Tears leaked from his eyes and Shinsou pressed the sleeves of his jacket to his face. 

 

“Shinsou, I don’t care if you talk or not but I’m not leaving that muzzle on you. You’re a kid. You don’t deserve that.” 

 

Shinsou shook his head harder. His hands flew through the air, shakily signing arguments and pleads. Without warning, Senjo grabbed his hands and Shinsou froze. Senjo quickly released the hands, holding his own clear in view.

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand sign language. Do…” He hesitated, eyes darting around the room. “Can I get you a notepad?” 

 

Shinsou swallowed, sitting up slowly before nodding. Senjo jumped up and flew, literally flew, across the room, grabbing something before landing in front of Shinsou with a soft huff. He pressed the yellow notepad and pen into Shinsou’s trembling hands before stepping back.

 

Shinsou kept his eyes on him for a moment before shakily scribbling, ‘My quirk’.

 

“What about it?’ Senjo asked, tone suddenly very quiet and warm.

 

‘Dangerous.’

 

Senjo shook his head sadly. “Is it really, or have people just told you that?” More tears escaped his eyes and he dug his nails into his arms. “Shinsou, can I touch you?”

 

His heart raced and he shook his head. “Okay, okay, I won’t.” Shinsou relaxed a bit and Senjo took a small step back. “You said you have control of your quirk, didn't you?” Shinsou squeezed his arms harder but nodded. “If you don’t want to talk, that's fine. I won’t make you. But I do want to take the muzzle off. Honestly, it makes me more uncomfortable to see you with it on than I would be with you able to use your quirk.” 

 

Shinsou stared at the man. He’d feel- more comfortable with the mask off? That made no sense at all. People were always walking around him like he was a bomb that could go off at any minute. 

 

‘Not safe.’ He wrote.

 

“Right,” Senjo said as if he didn’t believe him. “Not safe… for me, right?” Shinsou nodded. “Then I'm willing to take the risk.”

 

Shinsou stared at him, wide-eyed. This guy had to be insane. Still, he nodded.

 

“I can take the mask off?” He clarified and Shinsou nodded, more confidently this time. 

 

The man flew up and over Shinsou’s head. The boy watched him cautiously, his breath hitching the moment the man was directly above his head. He inhaled again, sharply, when there was a tug from the back of his muzzle. He squeezed his eyes shut and didn’t even bother to try and catch the thing as it tumbled off his face and onto the floor.

 

A cold breeze caused him to shiver and he opened his eyes to Senjo staring at him, face twisted in concern.

 

“Shinsou, you’re bleeding.”

 

He tensed and reached up to his face, sure enough, he touched something warm and wet and when he pulled his hand back, his fingertips were red.

 

He scoffed. I thought that was just from me crying so damn much .

 

“Can I?” Senjo reached out and Shinsou flinched. He immediately pulled away. “I have a few medical supplies here, I could get you cleaned up, if you’ll let me.” 

 

Shinsou reached up to his face again and nodded. Senjo shot up again and darted around the house. It wasn’t long before Senjo was positioned in front of him again, drenching cotton balls in some kind of clear liquid.

 

“Just a warning, I’m no doctor, and uh, this might sting a bit” He slowly pressed the cotton ball to Shinsou's face and he instinctively flinched back from the cold. Senjo started pulling back before Shinsou leaned forward again and gave him the okay sign.

 

He wasn’t lying about it stinging, and occasionally Shinsou would flinch back, but Senjo seemed to understand that it was because of the injuries and not him. 

 

Once he finished dabbing at the wounds with a cotton ball he dabbed the cuts with some kind of cream before handing the tube to Shinsou.

 

“Just in case,” He said with a small smile. Shinsou nodded and shoved it into the jacket pocket.

 

“Are…” Senjo exhaled deeply, “Are you hurt anywhere else?” Shinsou shook his head and bit his lip. 

 

“Shinsou,” He began softly, “I saw you flinch earlier, you practically fell onto my couch. I know the signs when I see them. I can help, and I won’t judge you.”

 

Shinsou inhaled deeply before letting out a shaky breath. He picked up the notepad and wrote, ‘You can’t tell anyone.’ 

 

His eyebrows furrowed and his strained smile fell. “If it’s bad I can’t…” Shinsou shook his head and underlined the words aggressively. Senjo stared at the boy for a long while before letting out a heavy sigh. “Fine. I won’t tell anyone. I promise.” Shinsou held out his pinkie finger and Senjo chuckled, looping his pinkie with Shinsou’s.

 

Shinsou unhooked their pinkies and pulled his arms out of his sleeves slowly, wincing when he had to do his hurt arm, before tugging at the collar. The cloth clung to his back and his breath hitched as pain shot through his back again.

 

Senjo jumped forward, grabbing the sides of the jacket. “Here, let me.” Carefully, he pulled the jacket up and over his head, watching Shinsou’s expressions closely for any sign to stop. Senjo carefully set the sweater aside still watching the kid closely. Shinsou took a second to catch his breath, letting the pain ease before he carefully shifted around showing his mutilated back to the fairy man.

 

“Shit! Shinsou!” The man hissed, scrambling through his medical supplies. “Holy shit what happened?” 

 

Shinsou shook his head and he heard Senjo swear again behind him. “Okay, you don’t have to tell me what happened but I need to know: Did the school do this?” Shinsou shook his head again and Senjo let out a relieved sigh.

 

“What the hell happened then.” Shinsou stiffened as a cold cloth was pressed to his back. Stinging pain rang through his back and Shinsou bit into his lip, trying to hold as still as possible. “Sorry, you don’t have to tell me. I just, you’re obviously not safe.”

 

Luckily, Senjo stayed quiet the rest of the time that he took care of his back, minus his occasional muttered apologies when Shinsou writhed in pain. Fixing his back hurt a lot more than his face, and it took a lot longer. Shinsou didn’t even realize he had shoved his knuckles in his mouth until he felt a sharp twinge of pain from biting so hard.

 

“Okay, I cleaned it, I gotta put the stuff on though, can I have the tube?” 

 

Shinsou let out a heavy sigh as he dropped his hand and pointed at his discarded sweater. Senjo pulled the tube out and dabbed carefully along his back. The cold cream felt nice and he found himself relaxing, finally realizing how tired he was. He leaned against the side of the couch and closed his eyes. If it had taken a little bit longer he probably could’ve fallen asleep there.

 

“Alright, it’s probably best if I wrap this so the cream can actually do its job. And so it doesn’t get all over your sweater.” Shinsou grunted in approval. Soft fabric wrapped around his chest and over his back. He relaxed more and more as the stinging in his back subsided to manageable tingling.

 

Senjo clapped his hands together and Shinsou jumped. “Alright, that’s the best I can do.” Drearily Shinsou turned to face Senjo again. The man was smiling weakly, blue eyes searching Shinsou’s face. 

 

Shinsou reached out for the notepad and scribbled, ‘How bad?’ Senjo’s lips curled down and he grabbed the sweater tossing it to Shinsou. The sweater was inside out, small streaks of blood spotted the back. Not much, but enough for Shinsou’s stomach to tie itself into a knot.

 

“It definitely could be worse. There wasn’t much blood, it just kinda shocked me.” Senjo grabbed different medical things before shoving them into a big black bag and pushing it away. “Look, whatever happened, whoever did that to you, you need to tell someone.” Shinsou shook his head and pulled the sweater over his head. 

 

“Shinsou, you’re a kid, you shouldn’t have to deal with whatever’s going on.” He sighed, “Look, I don’t like the police alright, they’re assholes and they don’t mind their business but you should tell someone, show them what happened. You have to know I’m serious when I say you should go to the police.” 

 

“We tried.” Shinsou muttered barely above a whisper. 

 

Senjo blinked at him, whether in shock from hearing him actually speak or from the confession. “What… What do you mean? Who’d you tell?” He finally managed to stutter.

 

“Police.” Shinsou croaked after a beat of hesitation. He picked at his fingers, “Did nothing.”

 

Senjo clenched his jaw and stood up quickly. Shinsou jumped back and curled in on himself.

 

“Shit. Of course they didn’t. Useless shit bags.” Shinsou smirked at that, forcing himself to relax. “Well, you can stay here tonight. We’ll figure something out in the morning.”

 

Shinsou pulled himself up to the couch and grabbed the notebook.

 

‘I have to go back.’

 

“Like hell you do!” Shinsou flinched at the volume. “Sorry, I just. I can’t send you back there after what I just saw.”

 

‘They’ll take it out on the other girl.’

 

Senjo ran his fingers through his hair. “Shit, there’s someone else with you?” Shinsou nodded. Senjo paced the room before pausing suddenly, “It’s… It’s not Rai right?” Shinsou shook his head. “Thank god,”

 

He paced more and Shinsou fell sideways, leaning carefully against the arm of the couch. The chaos of the day had taken a toll on him. He was exhausted.

 

“Alright, alright.” Senjo crouched in front of him and Shinsou blinked up at him. He was frowning and his eyes looked tired. “I’m going to be honest. I don’t know what to do. The government says I’m not good enough to have kids so legally, you can’t be here. Not that that matters, it's just.” He paused and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, “If you really are going to go back then at least let me teach you how to break someone's nose. It’s really useful if you need a quick get away. It makes their eyes water and it hurts like shit. You break their nose and run like hell.” Shinsou weakly smiled up at him and the man smiled too.

 

“And, if you ever are in trouble again, any kind of trouble doesn’t matter what it is, my door is always open. You don’t even have to knock. Although the chances of it being locked are kinda high because I don’t trust anyone.”

 

Shinsou swallowed and nodded, dozing off into the couch. He wondered if he’d even remember this conversation when he woke up. 

 

“I’ll let you sleep. When you wake up, then we get to the fun part.” Senjo smirked. Shinsou nodded again and smiled too. Something warm and heavy ruffled his hair before he finally passed out.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

When Shinsou woke up the first thing he noticed was how stiff his neck was, then he noticed how much his back hurt, then he noticed that he wasn’t wearing the muzzle.

 

His eyes shot open and it took him a moment to remember where he was and what happened. 

 

Shit, I fucked up .

 

Then he remembered where he was supposed to be. He shot up off the couch and blinked through the darkness, ignoring his back’s protest at the sudden movement. The fact that it was still night was a good sign but that didn’t mean…

 

The clock glowed a bright 2:23 and Shinsou exhaled. Good, that’s enough time to get back.

 

If he remembers how.

 

A light flicked on and he jumped, shielding his eyes.

 

“Oop, sorry. I made sandwiches and tea, though the tea’s cold. Didn’t wanna wake you up when I made it. I can make more if you want though.” Shinsou shook his head but reached out for the sandwich on the plate. He nibbled the corner and stared stupidly at Senjo, shifting awkwardly on his feet.

 

“Right, um.” The man declared, “If you still want to learn how to break someone's nose I’ll teach you, you were kinda out of it when I asked you the first time.” Shinsou nodded quickly. “Great! After that, I think we should talk about something.” Shinsou tensed, jaw snapping shut with a clack.

 

“It’s nothing you did!” He corrected, waving his arms in the air, “Just you know, we should talk about what just happened. I won’t make you talk about it if you don’t want, but there is other stuff we need to discuss.”

 

Shinsou swallowed the sandwich and nodded. 

 

“Alright so basically, you make kinda a half fist, like this, and if your goal is to break their nose you wanna aim right here and push upwards as hard as you can.”

 

Shinsou watched intently as Senjo described, quite eagerly, how to break someone's nose. Shinsou quickly finished the sandwich and shuffled over to Senjo and soaked up everything the man said.

 

It was surprisingly simple, he was sure he’d find some way to mess it up though. 

 

They went through the motions together a few times before Senjo deemed him good enough to call it.

 

“Nice! Now you do that and you fucking hit the ground running.” He grabbed his tea and sipped it mindlessly before his face scrunched. “Should I not be cussing in front of you? Rai swears all the time so I just… You’re not supposed to swear in front of kids are you?”

 

Shinsou shrugged before saying, with far more confidence than he had said anything in a while, “Fuck.”

 

Senjo chuckled and shook his head. “Damn, better watch that mouth of yours.” Shinsou smiled softly but the smile twisted into a frown when he caught sight of the muzzle. He should really get going.

 

“Ah right,” Senjo cleared his throat and set his tea down. “About that.” He stared at the muzzle too. “I know what I said earlier but I really don’t think you should go back. I can’t in good conscience send a kid back to an abusive house.” Shinsou tensed and shook his head.

 

He had to go back. He could handle it. He didn’t want to imagine what would happen if the house woke up with him gone. He darted towards the muzzle but Senjo stepped between them. 

 

“Shinsou, listen to me. I know you’re worried about the girl, but if you go back you’re just giving them another kid to hurt.”

 

Shinsou shook his head again and moved to snake around him. The man wasn’t having it. He grabbed Shinsou’s injured shoulder and Shinsou hissed, darting back.

 

“Shit! I barely touched you? Did something happen to your arm?” Shinsou gripped his shoulder and pushed past Senjo, picking up the muzzle and charging for the door. Senjo once again jumped in between Shinsou and his goal.

 

“Let me look at your shoulder. Please? We can talk about you leaving in a second but you’re clearly still injured.” Shinsou paused, staring him down. 

 

The man looked a bit ridiculous. His hair was pulled back into a very messy bun, and his shirt was huge on him, baggy enough that Shinsou could almost see the entire tattoo that sat there. His hands were up in surrender and his eyes were wide, pleading.

 

This man was a villain, or an ex-villain as Tobe would say, but still, at some point in his life, this man had been a villain. And yet, Shinsou couldn’t find anything except genuine care in the ex-villains demeanor, so, slowly, he nodded, allowing the man to lean forward and pull the sweater collar down past his shoulder.

 

“Shit that’s definitely dislocated. How did I not see that earlier?” He glanced up at Shinsou and grimaced. “I should put it back, but it’ll hurt.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes but nodded. The man slowly lifted Shinsou’s arm and yanked forward. Pain shot through his shoulder and down his arm and Shinsou grunted, squeezing his eyes shut.

 

“Damn. You took that unsettlingly well.” Shinsou stared up at him again before tugging his arm away and darting for the door again. Shinsou got his hand around the doorknob before a hand stretched over his head pinning the door closed.

 

“Let me leave.” The words were meant to be a demand, but his voice cracked and shook. 

 

Behind him, Senjo let out a heavy sigh. “I can’t technically keep you here against your will. That’s kidnapping and I’m trying to clean my act up, not get arrested again but…” He paused and moved so he was squatting in front of Shinsou, “I don’t approve of this at all.” 

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes again. Did he think he wanted to go back? The whole reason he got hurt in the first place was because he was trying to get sent away.

 

“That being said, you’re Rai’s friend so even if I try and keep you here you’ll find a way to get away, so at least let me give you something.” He stood up and flew to the counter and back, black bag in hand. “This is my lockpicking kit. There's a small lock in there for you to practice with.” Shinsou looked up at him, the shock clear on his face, “and, don’t go yet!” He flew over to the couch and shuffled through his medical bag before pulling a few things out. “Take these too. Just in case. I can always get more of this stuff.” 

 

Shinsou shoved the black bag in his pocket and grabbed the medical supplies. He recognized most of it from the small kit he had. There was a lot of gauze and some kind of white tape along with a few small square packages and a few different types of creams. He shoved them in his pockets too, barely able to fit it all in. 

 

“And another thing.” He said, placing his hand on the handle before Shinsou could grab it again, “Just because your quirk has to do with talking, doesn't mean you should feel bad about it. The people who do this shit to you, muzzle and- and” He let out a shaky breath, “And beat you, there’s a special place in hell for them alright? You are not the bad guy. They are.”

 

He stared up at the man wide-eyed and unsure. He was smiling softly but there was sadness in his eyes. Whether he was right or wrong, Shinsou could tell that Senjo believed he was telling the truth. “Sorry. I just. I’ve wanted to say that since you were last here.” 

 

Shinsou scanned the man before nodding his thanks. Senjo took a deep breath looking Shinsou over again before he, reluctantly, swung the door open for him.

 

“You stay safe alright. Don’t do anything stupid. And don’t forget my door is always open.” Shinsou nodded again pushing his way through the door before Senjo could change his mind. He padded down the hall and pressed the down button, glancing over his shoulder to see Senjo still standing in the doorway, a sad smile on his face. 

 

 Shinsou pulled his hood up, hiding his violet hair beneath the fabric. The elevator dinged and the door slid open. Shinsou swallowed and let out a deep sigh as he stepped into the metal box. His grip tightened around the muzzle as he turned around to face Senjo. The man let out another long sigh before he waved at Shinsou. Shinsou smiled shyly and waved back, falling into a bow just before the elevator doors closed.

Chapter Text

As luck would have it, he did remember the way back. He had to regroup at the school first before he could retrace his steps back but he did make it back. The window was closed and for a second, he panicked, worried it was locked. It slid open easily though and he stepped inside with much more grace than he had left. Immediately he was tackled by the black-haired girl and he winced as his back made contact with the wall.

 

“Sorry! Sorry.” She pulled away and turned to shut the window behind him. “You just, you left and I didn’t follow you. I should’ve followed you and made sure you were okay but I just, I panicked and- “

 

She froze, finally actually getting a good look at Shinsou. He stood there rubbing the back of his neck stupidly, unsure of what to do. Her face looked paler than usual, and her usual well kept bun was half fallen out. Her gaze dropped to the item dangling in his hand and he tensed.

 

“How’d you get the mask off?”

 

Shakily he reached into his pocket and pulled out the small black bag handing it to her. She unraveled it and gasped softly. “What?” She pulled out one of the long thin sticks and examined it. “Where did you get this?”

 

He snatched it out of her hand and rolled it back up. He set the muzzle on his bed, pulled out his suitcase, and out of that pulled out the first aid kit. He shoved the new medical supplies into the small box before squeezing it closed and pushing it back into the suitcase. 

 

“Did you steal those?” She squeaked. He stared at her, eyebrows furrowed in offense, and shook his head a bit too aggressively. “Well, sorry. You come back here with a bunch of random stuff. What am I supposed to think happened?”

 

Of course she would think he stole it. Nobody sees him as anything but a villain.

 

He grabbed the lockpick bag and folded it into a random shirt before shoving that into the case too. He gave his plushie a quick squeeze before pushing the suitcase away and collapsed onto his bed, wincing as his back hit the mattress. 

 

“So are you going to tell me what really happened?” 

 

He rolled towards the wall and closed his eyes. Not right now he wasn’t. He was exhausted and he just wanted to sleep until he was 30. It would be the first time in, well since he could remember, that he’d be sleeping without the mask on.

 

Mindlessly he reached up and ran his fingers over the thin cuts on his cheeks. The feeling was odd. His fingers fully expected to hit hard plastic and metal while his cheek just wasn’t used to touch at all.

 

He heard a frustrated grunt followed by the squeaking of a mattress. “You know. I didn’t get any sleep. I was just sitting here waiting to find out if you were alive or not.”

 

“I’m alive.” Was all he offered. Another groan and then nothing.

 

He did feel kind of bad, but he was exhausted, and dealing with people was hard on a good day. If it wasn’t for her being here, he could’ve stayed out. Stayed safe with Senjo. 

 

Or as safe as you can be at an ex-criminals house.

 

He shouldn’t take it out on her. It wasn’t her fault; she didn’t seem to want to be here anymore than he did. He couldn’t help but hold a little resentment though. He was the one who took all the hits, and she just stood there, watching, and she was trying to make it all about her.

 

She was worried about you. What could she have done to stop it?

 

Nothing. The answer was nothing. She would’ve just made things worse.

 

He curled into himself more and pressed his face into the cold pillow, especially savoring the feeling against the bottom half of his face.

 

Stop blaming her. You’re the one who spoke at dinner. You knew this would happen. Hell, you practically begged for it. 

 

He considered rolling over and apologizing to her but decided against it. That would be a problem for morning Shinsou. Besides he’d probably be better at apologizing with a pen and paper than he would be with actual words. 

 

Suddenly he tensed. He had spoken to her. Shit. Shit. She was the only one around here who was half decent to him and he just treated her like shit and talked to her.

 

His heart picked up pace for the millionth time that day. He could apologize for that too. With a pen and paper, not actual words. Surely it’d be okay. Besides, he didn’t use his quirk on her. Maybe she wouldn’t even realize.

 

‘Just because your quirk has to do with talking, doesn't mean you should feel bad about it.’

 

He didn’t know if taking advice from an ex-villain was the best idea. Villains are notorious for not caring about other people and their feelings. If his talking made someone uncomfortable, that’s not their fault. He has a villain’s quirk. That’s not their fault.

 

It’s not your fault either. You didn’t ask for this.

 

Yeah, he thought bitterly, but it is my problem.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

Shinsou winced against the sun streaming in through the window and buried his face into his pillow. He was not ready to start the day.

 

Despite not wanting to get up, he was more afraid of what would happen if he got caught with the muzzle off, especially after what he pulled last night. He forced himself up with a groan and swung his legs off the side of his bed. He leaned forward, back aching in protest, and rubbed his eyes. Chie was curled up in her bed still asleep. The guilt from last night swirled through his chest again. He reached over towards the desk and grabbed his notebook, scribbling a quick, ‘Sorry about last night’ before tossing it aside and picking up the muzzle.

 

He stared at the mask. It was disgusting. Dried blood clung to the ends and there was something slimy clinging to the inside. He scrunched his nose and set it on the desk. He had to put that disgusting thing back on.

 

“I filled up your water if you want to clean it.”

 

Shinsou jumped back, knocking into the desk chair, barely managing to catch it before it hit the ground. He carefully set it upright and turned to face the girl.

 

Her hair was down and messy and her eyebags rivaled his own. She was still wearing the same clothes she had all day yesterday; she hadn’t bothered to change into her pajamas. The knot in his stomach tightened.

 

He smiled weakly at her and nodded. She grabbed the water and held her hand out. Hesitantly, Shinsou placed the item in her hand. She wrinkled her nose, marching over to the window and pulling it up, before dumping small bits of water in and out of the muzzle. She repeated this process, Shinsou awkwardly shuffling around behind her, until, after about a minute, she handed it back.

 

The blood was gone, mostly, and there was no trace of the slimy substance. Shinsou smiled up at her and shook it a few times to get as much water off as possible.

 

“Best I could do. There wasn’t enough water in here. We’ll have to fill it up again.” She smiled shyly at him. He tapped on the notebook, directing her attention to the apology. She quickly read it over before glancing up at him.

 

“Uh, it’s okay. Yesterday was rough for you.” She tugged at the hem of her shirt as Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck. “Just don’t do it again. You scared me. I thought I’d have to be the one to tell them you ran off.”

 

Shinsou pressed his lips together but didn’t say, or write, anything. He refused to make a promise he couldn’t keep. He lowered himself into the chair, carefully turning the mask over, examining it closely. Nothing was holding him back from putting it on now. It was all shiny and clean and honestly delaying it was just playing with fire. Depending on how drunk he got last night, the man could be up anytime and barge in here, demanding them to clean or yell at Shinsou again for trying to use his quirk. Part of him worried it would never come off again. These few hours without it, while stressful as hell, had been relieving. He even got to sleep without it on! That never happened. He had forgotten what it felt like to nuzzle into a pillow. Hell, he even vaguely remembered his chin feeling cold last night.

 

Sure, he had that lock pick stuff but he had no idea what he was doing. What if he never figured out how to get the lock open himself and the man decided that feeding Shinsou wasn’t worth the risk? What if he decided the punishment wasn’t severe enough? 

 

There’s always school. He can’t stop you from going to school.

 

He reached up and traced the cuts on his face again. The mask had never drawn blood before. He had put it on as tight as it would go in his anger. Or maybe he did it on purpose. 

 

“Those cuts from that thing?” Chie asked, leaning against the edge of the desk.

 

He watched as she twisted her hair around and pulled it into a bun before nodding. She pulled his face towards her with his chin and eyed the marks. Shinsou gulped, very aware of how close their faces were. He couldn’t remember being this close to anyone other than maybe Tobe if they were to fall while training.

 

She dropped his chin and he hastily pulled away. “Want me to use my quirk to destroy it?” Shinsou’s eyes widened and Chie chuckled softly. She pulled off the half gloves that covered her ring and pinky fingers and picked a pen from the pen holder. She glanced back at Shinsou before touching it with her other hand. He watched amazed as the pen dissolved in her hands, slowly collapsing down on itself and disappearing altogether. All that remained was a small pile of ash on the floor. She carefully grabbed her gloves and slid them back on.

 

He gaped up at her and she rubbed her hands together nervously. “Yeah, I could uh. I could do that to it if you want.”

 

Shinsou still stared at her in shock. She was actually willing to destroy this thing? He smiled at the thought, at the imagery of the mask being disintegrated. Turned to ash. No more.

 

Still, he shook his head. The mask was necessary. It calmed people down when they were angry at him, it made people feel safe.

 

He pulled the mask to his face. It was still fairly wet and uncomfortably familiar. The cuts twinged in protest but he held back the winces. He pressed it to his face and looped the lock around its last setting, and, ignoring the panic rising in his chest, he clicked the lock closed.

 

Even with it being as loose as possible it still squeezed his cheeks uncomfortably, pressed his jaw down far more than was necessary, pulled at the bridge of his nose uncomfortably. His stomach churned at the familiar pains that came with wearing this thing.

 

He turned and looked at Chie again. She seemed sad. No. That wasn’t sadness that was… something else.

 

Pity.

 

Shinsou hung his head, neck aching at the return of the weight on his face. This day was either going to be long as hell, or he would be stressing over absolutely nothing.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

For the most part, he was stressing over nothing. The couple had been gone for most of the day, and when they got back, the worst that happened was he got slapped when he tried to set four plates at the table; he was only supposed to set three.

 

After dinner, the woman came into his room, muttering soft greetings and apologies. She bought him a toy truck, one that could drive itself if you wound it up. Shinsou accepted the gift, not even bothering to play with it after she left. He just went back drawing and ignoring the emptiness in his stomach.

 

He was right to expect not to get any food until school on Monday. He had expected it, but still waiting for Monday lunch was harder than he anticipated. It had been a while since he wasn’t guaranteed food. He’d gotten comfortable. Stupid.

 

On the bright side though, no one mentioned the cuts on his face.

 

Still, the school lunches alone were barely enough to keep him going. He was more than thankful when the man allowed him to set four plates at the table that Thursday, though not without threatening him with what would happen if he tried to speak.

 

He’d been so worried about the man lashing out that he almost forgot about his plan, and the fear of never eating again kept him silent through that dinner.

 

And the next one.

 

And the next one.

 

He knew he’d have to push it again; the sooner the better honestly, but he was so relieved to actually be eating three whole meals each day that he didn’t want to push it. More than a few times had the thought of stopping crossed his mind.

 

He’d made it this far. Everything else he’d done would just be a waste. It would be worth it. He could handle this. He’d been practicing picking locks every now and then but he was barely able to open the small practice one while looking at it, opening the one behind his head was damn near impossible. He’d hoped to learn how to pick his lock before attempting to talk again but he was starting to think he’d just have to power through it with the muzzle on. 

 

He really hoped this would be the one to do it. 

 

Ever since he started eating with them again the man would keep a close eye on Shinsou. Honestly, it was a good call considering what he was planning to do. 

 

He’d settled on doing it on a Sunday night this time. He knew what to expect punishment-wise, and he was much more concerned about being able to eat. If his punishment lasted the same length, or even longer, then at least most days he would be at least guaranteed a lunch.

 

The table was uncomfortably silent. That hadn’t been unusual since they allowed Shinsou to join them again, the man seemed a lot more hesitant to speak. It made the bitter parts of Shinsou happy, and the other parts terrified. He hadn’t even done anything, not really, and yet, the man was constantly on high alert around him.

 

Imagine what you could do if you tried.

 

Shinsou ate slowly, once again delaying the inevitable. He was surprisingly less terrified than last time. He knew what would happen, he was ready. 

 

That didn’t stop his heart from racing as he took his last bite.

 

“Food’s good.”

 

There was no hesitation this time. The man shot up and punched Shinsou right in the nose. His chair flew back with him in it and he hit the ground.

 

Okay well, I didn’t expect that.

 

The world was spinning and his lungs stopped working. The man yanked him up, out of the fallen chair, and pulled him along down the hall. “I knew you were planning something you freak!” 

 

When his lungs finally remembered how to work he took a desperate breath. Warm clammy fingers wrapped themselves around his mouth, inhibiting his ability to inhale. He clawed at the hand, desperate for air, but the grip only tightened.

 

For a moment, he thought they were going to his room, but instead they turned left and Shinsou was thrown down onto a tiled floor. He gasped for air, attempting to blink away the dizziness and prepare for whatever was coming next.

 

The man pulled him up by his throat and brought him up to his knees. His chest pressed against something hard and he barely had time to process that it was the toilet bowl before long fingers were shoved down his throat. He gagged immediately and tried to pull his head away. A hand gripped his hair and pushed down, further onto the fingers and over the center of the bowl. His stomach lurched as the man tightened his grip and shook his head. “Throw up dammit.” The man pulled his hand out for a brief moment of relief before shoving his fingers back in. His body obeyed the command; his stomach heaved and Shinsou closed his eyes. The fingers were gone, replaced by his dinner.

 

He coughed desperately trying to get the vile taste out of his mouth and the man threw him to the ground. Shinsou took the opportunity to wipe his mouth with his sleeve and sat up, spitting into the toilet.  

 

Without warning his head was yanked back and the familiar plastic slid onto his face, skin breaking as it was pulled tight and locked behind him. 

 

“You think I’m an idiot?” The man pulled him up again and pushed him out of the bathroom and into the hallway. Shinsou let himself fall, not even attempting to brace himself, he was too focused on trying to catch his breath and stop the world from spinning.

 

Pain like lightning shot through his shoulder and Shinsou gasped. Another strike and he writhed on the floor, not bothering to hold back his whine. A hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled him up. In a fit of panic, Shinsou yanked his arm down and kicked his legs wildly, not aiming for anything in particular, just hoping for something.

 

He grinned as his foot make contact with something but that smirk was quickly wiped off as he watched the man grow impossibly angrier. He lifted his hand with the belt and Shinsou brought his arm up to protect his face. The belt came down, curling around his forearm before snapping away.

 

Shinsou let out a muffled cry and gasped as the man grabbed his arm right on the fresh wound and pulled him out of the hall.

 

The man pushed him into the table and Shinsou wheezed at the pain in his abdomen. His shirt was once again ripped over his head and he only had a moment to catch his breath before the man's gruff voice ordered through gritted teeth. “You’re going to stand there and take this punishment. You know what you did and apparently,” the man brought the belt down and Shinsou wheezed, “no one taught you your actions have consequences.”

 

The belt made piercing contact again, this time hitting a spot still sore from last time. He tried and failed to hold back the whimper. He gripped the table desperately begging for the man to tire himself out or for Shinsou himself to pass out.

 

“You know the rules don’t you?” Shinsou didn’t move and the belt came down again, “DON’T YOU?” He nodded quickly, whimpering as more pain shot down his back. “You don’t fucking act like it.”

 

Spit landed on Shinsou’s cheek as the man gripped his neck and pulled his head back. His whole body trembled despite his desperation to remain still. “You think this is funny?” Shinsou squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “Look at me!” Slowly, he opened his eyes, staring into the rage-fueled gaze of the man.  “Do you think it’s funny to threaten me and my wife?” The words came out slow, distinctive, not loud and brash.

 

He almost preferred the yelling.

 

Shinsou gulped and shook his head. The man pulled his head further back, squeezing his grip tighter. “Liar.”

 

The hand fell away and Shinsou took a sharp breath, reveling in his brief moment of reprieve before he was pushed back against the table again.

 

Another strike came down, this one harder and more intense. It wasn’t until the second hit that Shinsou realized why this pain was different. 

 

Metal met skin for the third time and Shinsou whimpered. Strike after strike met his back, far more strikes than last time. He was no longer able to hold the tears back, instead letting them flow freely down his face, trying to focus on the rhythmic drops of warmth landing on his hands. 

 

After what felt like an eternity, the man stopped, the only sound being his panting and Shinsou’s shaky breaths. He didn’t dare move, he hardly even let himself breathe, terrified of aggravating the man more. 

 

He dropped the belt with a huff, Shinsou’s whole body flinched at the sound. The man cleared his throat and took a few deep breaths. Shinsou stayed there, hands planted on the table, tears streaking his trembling face, body tense. “Clean off the table.”

 

Shinsou nodded his head numbly, shakily reaching out to grab the nearest bowl. He listened closely to the footsteps and didn’t let himself relax until he heard the bedroom door slam. 

 

Like a puppet whose strings were cut, Shinsou fell to the ground, landing harshly on his knees. His back groaned in protest but his legs couldn’t hold him up on their own. He groaned, rocking softly, begging for the pain to knock him out.

 

Chie’s soft pattering feet caused his breath to hitch but when her arms carefully wrapped around him, he sobbed harder, burying his head into her shoulder.

 

She didn’t say anything, just sat there as he drenched her sleeve.

 

Are you happy now? You got what you wanted. This is what you wanted, isn’t it?

 

It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it at all.

 

A crash sounded from the bedroom and they both tensed. Shinsou quickly quieted his sobs, listening intently. His mind raced, running through scenarios of what he would do if the man came back, if there was anything he could do. When the door didn’t move they relaxed and Shinsou pulled away. 

 

Chie had been crying too, her eyes red and puffy, whether they were old or new tears, he didn’t know. She met his eyes and opened her mouth to say something but no words came out.

 

Shakily, Shinsou pulled himself off Chie and gripped the edge of the table. With all the strength he had left, he pulled himself up and, when he almost fell anyway, leaned heavily on Chie, who was apparently now standing next to him.

 

“Let’s get you to the room.” She whispered, voice shaking. Shinsou shook his head and pointed at the dinner table. He had to clean it. 

 

“I’ll take care of the table. You need to lay down, drink some water.”

 

Shinsou shook his head again but didn’t fight as she pulled him carefully back towards the hallway. They both made sure to be extra quiet as they passed his bedroom, though, over his yelling, he probably wouldn’t have heard anything anyway.

 

“I’m done. We tried. I don’t want that thing in my house anymore. Can’t even follow one simple rule.”

 

Chie pulled him into their room, dropping him on his bed before shutting the door as quietly as she could. He gripped his sheets, pulling his blankets to his face and sinking into the sensation.

 

He swallowed hard. He should feel happy, ecstatic even. From the sound of it, his plan worked, he’d be going back, maybe even seeing Tobe again. He wouldn’t have to see the man’s ugly face or feel that belt ever again. 

 

And yet, he wasn’t ecstatic, wasn’t even close to happy. He’d gotten what he wanted. He’d won.

 

Great.

Chapter Text

Despite how absolutely worn out his body was, how badly he wanted to slip off into dreamland until everything was okay, he didn’t sleep at all that night. 

 

And the days following that were only barely better.

 

School on Monday was exhausting. Mostly, he just held so still as to not upset any of his injuries. No matter how he would move, something would sting. He hardly remembered what happened that day at all, really, he was just going through the motions.

 

He did appreciate lunch more than usual. He was finally able to get the lingering vile taste out of his mouth for good, and the food tasted better than usual. Chie wouldn’t stop glancing over at him all day, as if ready to swoop in if he collapsed. Part of him appreciated it, part of him despised her pity. 

 

It got easier through the week. The woman ‘broke’ the news to him Wednesday night, she was very apologetic and definitely more upset about it than he was, so much so that she got him another small toy car. She told him to be packed by Friday, and it took a lot of willpower to not tell her that he had been ready this whole time, that she could take him right then and there. Instead, he nodded his head and shuffled off into his room to ‘pack’.

 

He felt sort of bad for leaving Chie. She had been so nice to him, and he had done literally nothing to repay her. All he had done for her in his time there was stress her out and put her in bad situations.

 

Honestly, he couldn’t decide if it was good for her that he was leaving or not.

 

They were going to the school early on Friday, Shinsou was supposed to unpack and they’d eat with the foster kids before school. Before they even left though, Shinsou gave Chie the first aid kit, he was sure he could get another one from Tobe or Senjo if he needed it. She’d probably need it more than he would.

 

She didn’t ask why he was giving it to her. They both understood.

 

Chie went with him up to his room at the school. He didn’t bother unpacking. He’d do it later, maybe it would make him feel better. Maybe then it would actually hit him that he’s away from there for good. He’d done his job, chased away another family.

 

Chie wouldn’t stop staring at her bed. Her old bed. A few people, likely her friends, came up and greeted her. That at least seemed to cheer her up a bit. 

 

That was chased away when she had to explain that she wasn’t actually the one coming back.

 

They walked down to breakfast, Chie surrounded by her friends and Shinsou lagging behind, as usual. The familiar path from the bedroom to the cafeteria was oddly comforting. This he knew, maybe he was even growing to appreciate it.

 

He tried not to think about it, he didn’t want to be let down after all, but he couldn’t help the wave of relief that flooded him at the sight of Tobe sitting at her usual spot at the table. 

 

Thank god. It wasn’t for nothing.

 

What really threw him off was she wasn’t wearing her mask. It was far too early for them to take it off, kids were still shuffling in, plates not even placed in front of everyone yet. Had it broken again? If that was the case, why wasn’t she muzzled too?

 

It took a laughingly long time for Tobe to notice that Shinsou was there. He wandered over to his seat and, unintentionally, stared at her. Her hair had been cut short, it was to her shoulders now, and two dyed blue streaks framed her face. 

 

She did finally notice him when the caretaker (who he never thought he’d be happy to see) came to take his mask off. She was shocked at first but eventually, a smile grew across her face. Not the mischievous one that she usually wore, this one seemed more… real, and Shinsou couldn’t help but give a small smile back.

 

She stopped him after breakfast, pulling him aside during the chaos of kids shuffling to class. ‘Welcome back,’

 

He nodded up at her. ‘Good to be back.’ They stared awkwardly at each other for a beat before he added, ‘You changed your hair’

 

She huffed a laugh and tugged at the blue highlight. “Yeah I did. Do you like it?”

 

He rolled his eyes. ‘Still got your ugly face attached to it so-’ he was interrupted by Tobe pushing him and scoffing. Pain shot through his back but he suppressed the wince.

 

“Asshole, well you look exactly like your same old exhausted self. You didn’t change a bit.” He shrugged, staring at his feet. “I gotta go, I’m going to miss the train. I totally didn’t miss your dumb hair though.”

 

Shinsou’s lip curled up and he glanced at her. ‘I didn’t miss you either. Actually, you being here is really inconvient.’ Tobe rolled her eyes and walked off, but not before swearing at him in JSL.

 

Class was significantly easier that day, he wasn’t particularly invested in the class but the usual anxiety buzzing in his chest was mysteriously dulled. Knowing he wouldn’t be going back definitely helped him focus. Knowing Chie would though…

 

He tried not to make it obvious, but he stared at her from the foster table during lunch. She seemed normal despite the fact she refused to look his way. Maybe she was mad at him for leaving her, maybe, he just wasn’t her problem anymore.

 

He tried not to dwell on it, she technically wasn’t his problem either.

 

Shinsou practically ran to the library when the day was finally over. It was weird to say he missed it, he got to go after lunch after all, but he did miss it. Missed staying here for hours, missed being able to get lost in a book for an unreasonable amount of time., missed looking up random shit on the computer anytime he wanted.

 

He was thrilled to find that no one else wanted the library. That was typical for a Friday, usually, the kids were off shitting around, smoking, or playing video games, not worrying about homework until Sunday night or Monday morning.

 

He grabbed the book he had been reading and carefully leaned back into the armchair, slowly leaning back so his back could adjust before finally relaxing. He was beyond upset when he couldn’t actually get lost in the book. His mind kept steering back to Chie, and that house, and the inconvenient aching that was his back, no matter what angle he sat in the chair. 

 

The man would probably ignore her if she kept to herself, didn’t push his buttons, as Shinsou had. She’d probably be fine.

 

The thought did little to ease his worries. 

 

She clearly didn’t want to talk to him anyway, if her attitude at lunch was any sign. 

 

If he had been able to actually get absorbed in the book he might not have noticed when the elevator opened and out stepped Tobe, looking as exhausted as ever.

 

“God I hate school so much,” She whined as she dropped her bag onto the floor next to Shinsou. He didn’t acknowledge her, instead, he kept his eyes on the book, still struggling to read more than two paragraphs without having his mind wander. Still, she leaned in and whispered, “Roof tonight?”

 

His stomach churned at the mention. He had also definitely missed their roof meetups. His body had gotten so used to the schedule they created that he found it hard to sleep the way he used to. Forcing his body to exhaustion, or hardly getting any sleep the day before seemed to be the only way he could fall asleep without too much trouble.

 

Still, his back ached at the thought. Tobe would undoubtedly want to spar, or worse, finally teach him how to jump buildings. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to come up with a reasonable excuse for why he didn’t want to do that.

 

“Shinsou?” He put his book down and glanced at Tobe. He was used to seeing her without her mask on, she took it off whenever she could, but during the day, around other people, it was... odd.

 

‘What happened to your mask?’ He asked, avoiding her question.

 

She smirked and leaned against his chair. “Finally managed to convince those fucks that I don’t need it.”

 

Shinsou’s eyes widened but he quickly shot down the hope that whirled through his chest. ‘How’d you manage that?’  

 

She crossed her arms and shrugged. “I forced them to see that I could control it.” She smirked bigger and leaned in, “There’s this girl at my school with a duplication quirk, so all I had to do was get her to duplicate the key I had. They couldn’t prove I had a key after I put the original back. After that it was just a matter of constantly taking it off until they realized there was no reason for me to wear it.”

 

She paused, her face twisting in anger before she grumbled, “They even tried it with that damn muzzle. I don’t know why they can’t just admit I don’t need that shit anymore. Seems like it’d be less work for them.”

 

Shinsou didn’t dare ask the question. He knew what Tobe had achieved was impossible for him. What happened in that house proved it. If anything they were probably right to muzzle him. He had threatened someone with his quirk intentionally after all. Twice.

 

As if reading his mind, Tobe added, “We could maybe try something like that with you. They can’t actually punish you unless you use your quirk, so as long as you show them you can talk without-”

 

She was cut off by Shinsou’s immediate head shaking. That wouldn’t be happening anytime soon. 

 

“Shinsou,” She started, sounding desperate, “I’m serious. I kind of understood why I had to wear a mask, I couldn’t control it, but now I can! You’ve been able to control it for a while. There is no reason-”

 

Shinsou shook his head again, gaze dropping to his book. ‘Drop it Tobe. I don’t want that.’

 

She scoffed at that. “Yeah right. I’m not an idiot Shinsou, and I’m around you all the time. I know you hate that thing. You’d be crazy not to. I don’t know how you haven’t shattered the thing yet.”

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw but didn’t say anything. She wasn’t wrong, he did hate it, but this wasn’t about him.

 

Tobe huffed and straightened. “Roof or not tonight?”

 

Shinsou was relieved she dropped the topic of his mask, but now they were back to the original avoided topic. 

 

He shook his head and Tobe looked away, nodding softly. “Sunday then?” Shinsou shrugged. “Fine,” She said, picking her bag off the floor, “I’ll still be going up if you change your mind.”

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

He didn’t change his mind. Instead, he laid awake all night and stirred in his own… hatred? Sadness? Guilt? All three? He avoided thinking about the house, which helped. It didn’t stop the knot in his stomach but it helped him not cry all the damn time like he wanted to.

 

He didn’t go to the roof Sunday night either, or that Tuesday, even though his back actually felt a lot better by that point. There was something right about laying in his own darkness all night long. Made him feel better in a weird way. It was good he was feeling this way. He should. 

 

So much for being a hero.

 

When Friday rolled around again, he didn’t lay in bed all night like he had planned to. His thoughts were still entirely too loud and the stupid ache in his chest wouldn’t go away. He even pulled out his small cat plushie hoping it would bring him some sort of comfort, something he hadn’t done in a long time. It didn’t work though. So instead of stewing in his despair, despite the voice in his head that said he still deserved it, he made his way down to the library. 

 

He didn’t know if he’d be able to sneak in the way Tobe did but it couldn’t hurt to try. 

He ignored the fact that even despite the injuries he already had, it could actually hurt a lot.

 

He took the stairs, something he hadn’t done in a long time. Practically ever since Tobe showed up he’d gotten around using the emergency escapes. He didn’t want to risk her hearing him climb down though, assuming she still went to the roof. She probably did, she went to the roof long before Shinsou bombarded her with his desperate need to not feel weak all the goddamn time.

 

The reality of having to jump from one window to the next didn’t hit him until he was actually staring between the two windows. From the inside, they didn’t seem that far, but outside, when he was mentally calculating what he would have to do to actually reach the window, it hit him. He couldn’t do what Tobe did almost a year ago, he wasn’t as tall as her and she could barely reach.

 

He made the mistake of looking down and his heart pounded harder in his chest. A very loud voice in his head reminded him that all of this was very unnecessary, that there was no reason for this, not when he could just stew in his misery from the safety of his bed. 

 

Apparently, not a loud enough voice.

 

Determined, Shinsou stepped over the railing and clung to the outside, his back twingeing at the movement. He glanced over his shoulder at the window and, after taking a deep breath, leaned towards it the same way Tobe had. His right hand and leg stayed secure to the railing but his left side let go. He reached for the edge of the other window with his arm but came up short, his foot, however, scraped against the edge. He shifted his right foot so his toes were the only part of his foot holding onto the railing and reached out again, this time his foot landed along the windowsill. He balanced against the wall with his hand and gulped.

 

Don’t look down, don’t look down. DON’T LOOK DOWN

 

He looked down.

 

It was only for a second, he immediately snapped his eyes back up, panic shooting through his chest as he swayed a bit at the sudden movement. He took a moment to just breathe before the ache in his legs told him he’d have to do something soon, whether that be giving up or going for it.

 

Slowly and carefully, he let go of the railing with his right hand and balanced on just his legs. He twisted his torso and wrapped his left hand along the edge of the window and before he could think, he pulled hard.

 

His right foot fell and his body swung toward the window. He twisted his torso and planted his right foot down past his left and gripped the ledge desperately. When his body finally steadied he turned to the window, not daring to let his grip off the edge go, and shakily pulled the window up, stumbling in.  

 

He stood there in the library for a moment, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly letting the adrenaline seep from his body. He rubbed his wrist and marched over to the book he’d been struggling to finish, flipping it around in his hand as he sunk into his favorite spot.

 

To his surprise and relief, for the first time in a week, the book worked as a good distraction. His mind didn’t wander off, he didn’t have to think about anything else other than this imaginary world.

 

Because of that, he wouldn’t be able to tell you when it happened, but when he zoned back into reality, Tobe was there just staring at him from across the table, head in hand, looking bored.

 

“Why’d you sit there when there’s a perfectly good, much more comfortable arm chair right there,” She gestured to the corner with her head and Shinsou turned back to his book.

 

They sat in silence for a little while longer before Tobe broke the silence again.

 

“Okay, what did I do?”

 

Shinsou didn’t look up, desperately trying to ignore her. He didn’t want to talk about it. Didn’t want to talk about anything with anyone.

 

“I’ll leave you alone if you tell me.”

 

Nothing.

 

“I’m serious. If you’re mad or annoyed at me just tell me and I’ll fuck off but this shit that you’re doing is pissing me off.”

 

Still nothing.

 

“I know you went to visit my uncle.” Shinsou tensed at that, grip tightening on his book. “If you’re mad because of something he did then don’t take it out on me. He can be an idiot sometimes, especially with kids.”

 

Finally, Shinsou glanced up at her. ‘What did he tell you?’

 

She scoffed and leaned back in the chair, throwing her feet up on the table. “Nothing. He wanted to know if you were alright. I said I didn’t know because you hadn’t come back yet. Seemed really concerned about you though so If he did offend you or some shit he didn’t mean it.”

 

‘He didn’t offend me,’ Shinsou corrected quickly, turning back to his book. He didn’t know why that was important, but he couldn’t let Tobe keep believing that.

 

Tobe scoffed and crossed her arms, “Then what the hell is going on. You’ve been avoiding me.”

 

Had he? They didn’t usually talk much outside of their nighttime meetups, and if they did it was Tobe who approached him. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to talk to her, if he wanted to talk she was the only one he could talk to, Tobe was just much better at starting conversations than he ever was. They’d occasionally sign small things to each other during lunch, usually, Tobe making a joke about someone's outfit or the food, once again though, Tobe initiated those.

 

Maybe she thought he wasn’t sneaking out to the roof because of her? It wouldn’t be entirely wrong. He mostly just didn't want to anymore. No, that wasn’t right, he did want to, but when it actually came time to sneak out and go to the roof he just couldn't. The idea of training hurt his heart a little bit.

 

The truth is that, even if it hadn’t started as training to be a hero, these last few months, that's what Shinsou saw it as. If he was going to be a hero then surely getting so much training so early would only be beneficial, especially if he never got over the nausea he gets whenever he even thinks of using his quirk.

 

But now, he doesn't feel much like a hero. He knew he had to threaten the man with his quirk if he wanted to get out of there. He had to.

 

But did he? Or had he just turned to it because it was the easiest solution? He could’ve just kept acting out in normal ways, getting caught sneaking out, not doing chores, being an overall nuisance, instead he had to fucking talk.

 

Just because your quirk has to do with talking, doesn't mean you should feel bad about it.

 

Shouldn’t he though? He intentionally threatened someone. 

 

Tobe huffed and stood up. Shit, he had ignored her. He hadn’t meant to, his brain was just… off lately. Not that he had a response that would satisfy her, if he was avoiding her, even unintentionally, he didn’t know why. What was he supposed to tell her?

 

She was angry, that much Shinsou could tell, but there was something else there too. Something Shinsou didn’t understand. “Look, you don’t even have to tell me what I did. If you don’t want to talk about it I get it. Whatever, see if I care. But you could’ve at least had the decency to tell me you were done with the training. Could’ve found something else to do other than sit up there like a goddamn loser.”

 

She waited a moment, before scoffing and shoving her hands in her hoodie pocket. She could’ve been rational and just left through the goddamn doors. Instead, she slipped through the window, and jumped across to the platform, not even glancing back at Shinsou.

 

A twinge of guilt sparked in his chest. He could’ve apologized. He was kind of sorry. sorry that he had made her angry. He didn’t plan on skipping all the training, it just kind of happened. 

 

Looks like training won’t be something that’s happening anymore. 

 

He didn’t care, he didn’t need it anymore. He wasn’t a hero, he could defend himself just fine against his bullies now. He was basically fluent in JSL, anything he needed to know about that he could just lookup. He didn’t need Tobe anymore, and she definitely didn’t need him leeching off her all the goddamn time.

 

Didn’t matter anyway. He was already feeling shitty, what was one more thing to feel shitty about?

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

It didn’t really hit him until Sunday night when he realized that sneaking up to the roof for training, even if he had no reason to actually go, wasn’t even an option anymore. He didn’t even want to go. If he wanted to, he would’ve gone last Friday, or Tuesday, or Sunday. Not going was more natural than going at this point.

 

Still, the thought of never going to the roof anymore, not training, not bullying Tobe, not getting bullied by Tobe, not making fun of random drunk or high or general trashed people wandering down the street, not learning random shit about heroes that for some reason Tobe knew; it hurt. A lot.

 

It hurt a lot more when after classes on Monday Tobe showed up in the library and marched over to him, looking even more pissed than she had last time Shinsou saw her.

 

“Stand up.” She demanded. Her tone caught him off guard. Everything about her screamed pissed, except her voice. Her voice shook.

 

He didn’t listen, opting to just stare at her, not bothering to try and hide the confusion on his face.

 

“Stand up!” She ordered again. Okay, that time she sounded angry.

 

When he didn’t listen again, she opted to pull him out of his seat by his collar. He fumbled out of the seat, book discarded and forgotten, and she let go, sizing him up before glancing at the librarian behind him.

 

“Sorry about this.” 

 

Shinsou didn’t even have time to process the words because the next thing he knew, her fist was connecting with his cheek and he fell back onto his ass, then his head hit the floor. There was a crack and panic shot through him as his mind raced, wondering what the hell he could’ve broken to make that sound. He brought his hands up preparing for another attack as he tried to blink away the dizziness. No attack came though, instead, Tobe stepped back, smirk not even hidden from her face. 

 

That smirk was quickly covered by big hands and Shinsou watched in a daze as she got dragged away; she didn’t even attempt to fight. Another pang shot through his chest as he watched Tobe get dragged into the elevator. A pang he was getting awfully tired of feeling all the time. He hadn’t realized how much he pissed her off.

 

He pushed himself up groaning. His head ached and his back was sore but he didn’t think anything was broken. Had he landed on something and broken it? He tried to shake the confusion away and focus on what the hell just happened.

 

It wasn’t until someone behind him pulled him up and wrapped a hand around his lips that he realized something was missing. 

 

Frantically his eyes fell to the floor searching. It took a moment before his eyes landed on it. It was almost completely shattered, split open where Tobe had punched it, pieces crushed and bent, overall completely destroyed. Something warm swirled in his chest and he smiled at the sight. 

 

At his muzzle, crushed and destroyed, completely split in two.

 

Chapter Text

The caretakers were freaking the fuck out. 

 

They were chatting among themselves out of earshot but it was pretty obvious. The nervous glances in Shinsou’s direction, the way one of them would run off randomly and come back moments later looking worse than they had when they’d left. They were panicking, all because Shinsou didn’t have a muzzle anymore.

 

And surprisingly Shinsou found that he didn’t really give a fuck.

 

He’d never done anything to these people, and they were terrified of him, a fucking 150cm scrawny eleven-year-old. He’d never done anything to them and they still saw him as a threat. He’s never been anything but cooperative, rarely broke any rules (not that they know of at least), never stepped out of line, and they still saw him as a threat.

 

There was a small part of him, the part of him that reveled in the power he so effortlessly held, that wanted to talk. The sane part of him demanded he feel bad, shrink under their gazes and be as small and invisible as he usually was. He was terrifying these people, he should care.

 

He didn’t care about them at that moment though. The image of his broken muzzle on the floor was plastered to the back of his eyelids and every time he closed his eyes he saw it again.

 

It was the best fucking thing ever.

 

Until one of them rushed in brandishing a new muzzle like it was their fucking saving grace.

 

He didn’t even remember them putting it on him. One second they’re approaching him, their relief already disgustingly evident, and the next thing he knew it was already strapped to his face and there were significantly fewer people in the room. 

 

It was much bigger than his old one, Shinsou took that as a small win. It didn’t squeeze his jaw till it ached, didn’t pinch his cheeks at awkward angles, didn’t pull on his nose in the way the old one used to.

 

The disgusting emptiness in his chest that came with it was still there, the weird numbness he felt through his whole body was still there, the strain on his neck was still there, the inability to talk was still fucking there. 

 

Different masks, same results.

 

He didn’t remember going to his room either. He vaguely recalled following behind someone down the hall but he didn’t remember actually arriving, or fishing his cat plushie out of his suitcase and holding it close, or putting on the hoodie that Tobe gave him all those months ago. He probably looked crazy to anyone else in the room but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Everyone moped around here every now and then. Shinsou damn well earned his turn.

 

His thoughts were eerily quiet that night, and he still couldn’t sleep. He just laid there staring at the ceiling wishing for sleep to take him. This mask was different, not uncomfortable but not familiar. He’d gotten used to sleeping with the other mask. He knew just the right angle to tilt his head against his pillow so the pressure would ease and sleeping a bit more possible. This mask was bulky, digging into him no matter how he laid.

 

He must’ve fallen asleep at some point. It definitely wasn’t for long, and he was still exhausted, but Shinsou knew the difference between pulling an all-nighter exhaustion and hardly any sleep exhaustion.

 

The ‘hardly any sleep’ exhaustion was always a bit worse.

 

He was on some sort of roll lately. Threatening to use his quirk, abandoning Chie, fucking things up with Tobe, it made sense that his moments of freedom would be instantly stripped away.

 

Tobe must’ve been really pissed at him to not only go out looking for a fight but to also break his fucking mask. 

 

Good. She’s right to be mad at you. You deserve it.

 

He didn’t see Tobe at breakfast or dinner that day. Or the day after that. Or the day after that.

 

It didn’t surprise him. She instigated a fight (even if Shinsou was technically the cause of the disagreement). She was probably being forced to trail around the director for who knows how long. She definitely got the ruler to her hands, they might’ve even put a muzzle on her. 

 

He didn’t care. He didn’t. She punched him, why should he feel bad about the fact that she’s probably being punished in the way she hates most.

 

But he did care. Fucking way too much. He knew better than anyone what the muzzle was like. On the surface, it may not seem so bad. So what? He couldn’t talk. That’s fine he could deal with that. What fucking sucked, what actually caused the disgust in his chest every time he was forced to put the thing back on, was the ache in his jaw after sleeping at an odd angle, how fucking itchy it could get with no way to scratch it, how fast his neck got sore and tense, how sometimes he found it harder to breathe than normal. 

 

And the silence was fucking killer. It wasn’t the inability to talk, it was not being able to even communicate with people without difficulty. He’d gotten used to it, sure. He learned to mind his own business, didn’t need friends, didn’t need to communicate. Didn’t mean he liked being forced to. 

 

He knew the same was true for Tobe. She wasn’t exactly social, but she liked to open her mouth when she wanted to. Usually to insult someone or make a sarcastic comment but still, she liked to have the option. 

 

He wasn’t like that. Sure talking was nice, but even with the muzzle off, he hardly did it anyway. He’s barely said two words to Tobe and she is… was the closest thing he had to a friend.

 

And she’s probably fucking muzzled because of him.

 

He was overreacting. He had no way to know if they even were muzzling her. She said they didn’t do that anymore, that she had proven herself.

 

Still, he was worried ( for no reason we aren't friends never were) that she was wrong. That they were waiting for her to slip up, waiting for a reason to restrict her again. He didn’t know why, but the twist in his gut wouldn’t go away.

 

What he couldn’t understand though was why he was so angry about having to wear this thing all the time. He’s been wearing it for 4 years now, he should be used to it. Sure it hurt sometimes and it wasn’t fun by any means but he should’ve at least warmed up to it by now.

 

He’d certainly dealt with worse.

 

He didn’t understand a lot of things about himself lately. Like why the knot was still there even after he’d been back here for two weeks now, why his brain was so fucking insistent about being a goddamn hero, why the thought of Tobe being punished because of something he had driven her to do made him sick.

 

And why was it so fucking hard to just get out of bed lately? Why was going to class so much harder than he remembered? Why was reading and drawing and looking up random shit not as entertaining as he thought it’d be?

 

The sick feeling in his chest eased a bit when he saw Tobe at breakfast that Monday, mask-free and muzzleless. She looked fine, the same as she always did, like nothing was going on between them. Like she didn’t even care. Like she’d gotten her anger out and was over it.

 

His gaze fell to her hands and he looked away. Her sleeves were pulled far over them but he could guess what her hands looked like. Probably red and a bit bruised, depending on how angry they were at her.

 

She didn’t look at him. Not that he was paying attention to her.

 

He had this overwhelming desperation to apologize, like he always seemed to. She punched him. Why should he apologize?

 

You pissed her off that’s why. A shit ton apparently. She was the closest thing you had to a friend and you fucked it up. Like always.

 

Easier if you don’t have friends to disappoint.

 

At least that’s what he told himself when he watched her storm off after breakfast. It’s what he told himself when she wouldn’t glance in his direction during dinner. It’s what he told himself when he had to repeat the process the next day and the next day.

 

He was trying not to let it get to him. She made her feelings very  clear. Tobe wasn’t one to start fights for no reason, especially not ones that had the potential to get her muzzled. If she was that desperate to punch him, she clearly didn’t want anything to do with him anymore, and he shouldn’t want anything to do with her.

 

She punched him. He shouldn’t be the one feeling bad.

 

It wasn’t until he sat down to read after lunch on Thursday that he realized how much he actually fucked up. 

 

He wasn’t paying any attention, he was too busy trying to tune out the chaos around him. His usual spot was taken by a pair of chatty girls from a few grades down so he had to settle for an uncomfortable chair at the table closer to people. He pulled the chair as far away as he dared but it was still too close for his comfort.

 

He was glad he did too, if he hadn’t the kid next to him might’ve seen. 

 

He opened his book, trying to subtly find a comfortable position in the hard chair when something small and shiny slid out and landed softly onto his lap, along with a small piece of paper.

 

‘Happy fucking Birthday. Consider this my payment.’

 

He set the paper aside, eyes slowly widening as he pulled the object out from between his legs.

 

A fucking key.

 

Shiny and silver and familiar.

 

He sat there staring at the key dumbly. He was pretty sure he knew what that key would unlock, but he refused to believe it. There was no fucking way.

 

Suddenly, he became hyper-aware of his surroundings. He glanced around at the people near him, slowly concealing the small object in his palm. Luckily, no one seemed to notice the small crisis Shinsou was having.

 

He had 20 minutes until he was supposed to go back to class, plenty of time to go to the bathroom and check if it was actually what he thought it was.

 

Carefully he pulled the key off his lap and shoved it into his pocket. He folded the paper nicely and stood up, returning the book to its place before shoving his hands into his pockets and shuffling into the bathroom.

 

He managed to keep his composure all the way into the stall, whether it be because he wasn’t quite sure what was actually happening or because he was just that great of an actor, he didn’t know. It wasn’t until he locked the stall door and was staring at the key in his hand that his heart picked up pace.

 

Somewhat shakily he reached behind his head and grabbed the lock firmly. He ran his thumb along the bottom of the lock and over where the key would go and, with only a beat of hesitation, shoved the key into the hole.

 

His breath caught in his throat as it slid in.

 

And he straight up flatlined as it fucking turned.

 

He heard the oh-so-familiar click of the lock unfastening and slowly pulled the lock out of its hooks, dully pulling the mask away from his face. He stood there, staring at it for a moment, unable to fully process this new development.

 

This muzzle was still somewhat foreign to him. It seemed to be made entirely of plastic, it was far more grey than black and it was much sleeker with softer edges. It was much bigger than his old one, a bit heavier too. 

 

And he had its key.

 

And fuck did he make one hell of a mistake.

Chapter Text

The key was a really good birthday present, but shit if it didn’t make him feel more guilty.

 

He’d been an ass. First on accident, then on purpose. He made her want to punch him, and she still got him the key. Just like she always said she would.

 

The events of the last month had him very confused. Tobe definitely had a right to be upset with him, but punching him seemed a little dramatic, even for her. Sure, he could’ve told her he hadn’t been feeling up to training, but that hardly seems like a thing to get violent over.

 

And if she was pissed at him then why did she still give him the key? Just because she always had said she would? To make up for punching him? It didn’t make sense.

 

He had only used the key a few times in the week he’s had it. When was he supposed to use it? He couldn’t take it off to sleep, he didn’t know if he could trust his roommates. (Though considering how often he gets away with sneaking out he’d probably be fine, there's no way that not a single one of them found out.) Either way though, it was too much of a risk to have to wake up every morning and put it on before the caretakers found him. He had a hard enough time waking up already.

 

He couldn’t take it off at night really, he rarely snuck out anymore, the risk of running into a still pissed Tobe was too high. He just got this key, and if the fact that it took 2 years for someone else to get it for him was any evidence, this was a tricky thing to get a hold of. He couldn't risk getting caught with it already. Especially with where things were currently standing with Tobe. Whatever she did to get the key the way she did, well Shinsou was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to do it himself.

 

And he definitely didn’t know what to do about Tobe. Part of him wanted to apologize and ask her to be friends again? Is that what they were? He never really had friends before, he didn’t actually know what they were like. He saw other people have friends. They’d eat together at lunch and play games together and go over to each other's houses and celebrate birthdays together and talk about their lives and…

 

Fuck, maybe they had been friends.

 

And Shinsou messed it all up. All because he got a little sad for literally no fucking reason.

 

The other part of him wanted to just leave it be. He fucked it up? So what? Even if they weren’t completely friends she was definitely the closest thing to a friend he’d ever had. Clearly, there was a reason he didn’t have any friends. Leave it at that.

 

The last option would certainly be the easiest, it’s what he had planned on doing all along anyway.

 

And yet, any time he considered never talking to Tobe again, just leaving it be and letting it die, the knot in his stomach tightened.

 

He put his book down and huffed. He didn’t like not being able to read because of his loud-ass mind. When did his thoughts get so loud? Everything about him was quiet, why couldn’t his mind get the memo.

 

A crash pulled him out of his mental spiral and familiar laughter rang from the opposite side of the room. Looking up he recognized the all too common sight of Nao and Kenji harassing Kiyoko.

 

They're going to knock all the books off the shelf again.

 

Someone’s getting bullied and you’re worried about the fucking books?

 

Rolling his eyes he stood up. Tobe was nowhere to be found, he’d have to handle this one himself.

 

The bullying was starting to escalate, Nao was pushing Kiyoko against the wall and Kenji was snarling at anyone who’d get close. Kiyoko was doing what she usually did: staying there and taking the abuse. 

 

The room cleared out fairly quickly. One of the runners might be off to get a caretaker, but it wasn’t likely. Some stayed, focusing on their homework, or game, pretending not to notice what was going on. 

 

Everyone was used to this, this was just another Tuesday.

 

Kenji caught sight of Shinsou, who was fearlessly (definitely not fearlessly but damn if he let them know that) walking towards them, hands balled into fists in his pockets. 

 

“Back off,” Was all Kenji said as he tried to approach the two. Shinsou swerved around him and he got yanked back by his shirt. Shinsou whirled around to meet his pure black eyes, “Mind your own business.” He pushed Shinsou away but gave him a challenging glare. 

 

Shinsou glanced from Kenji back to Nao who had temporarily stopped tormenting Kiyoko to throw a challenging look at Shinsou.

 

“Wouldn’t want anyone to find out about your nightly activities would you?”

 

Shinsou tensed. He’d forgotten about that completely. Nao smirked at him and raised an eyebrow. Shinsou glanced at Kiyoko. She looked like she wasn’t bothered by this at all. Like she was completely fine with them pushing her around. She was just staring at the floor, her face showing no expression except a small frown and wrinkle in her brow.

 

But then her eyes met Shinsou’s and he saw her sunken eyes and pleading look. A silent cry for help he knows he’s made before.

 

Shinsou made his decision then. It wasn’t like he’d been out lately anyway.

 

He swallowed and glared back at Nao, raising both arms and stepping back in a sign of surrender. This, of course, only made Nao smirk wider. 

 

Nao turned his attention back to Kiyoko and Shinsou took the opportunity to reach out and grab the boy by his collar and yank him back. Kenji punched Shinsou in the stomach and Shinsou reeled back, Nao’s collar slipping from his grip. Nao took the opportunity to spin around and push Shinsou back as hard as he could.

 

Somehow Shinsou managed to not fall over and he readied for another attack.

 

The next thing he knew his torso was exploding in pain and he was doubling over. Groaning, he glanced down to process what hit him.

 

He saw nothing except his bare skin and a starburst shape burn stretching out just below his collar bone. Shinsou reached up to touch the mark but he pulled his hand away at the slightest bit of contact. It fucking burned. A few more seconds of confusion and staring at the mark dumbly until Shinsou looked up at Nao’s gleeful smile.

 

He used his fucking quirk on my shirt.

 

Shinsou wondered for a moment that if his quirk worked on organic things, would Nao have just exploded him? He shivered and shook away the thought, pushing himself up to his hands and knees. He had to focus.

 

Kenji threw a kick at Shinsou’s chest and he tumbled back, gasping for air the best he could with his muzzle. Another kick came at him but this time Shinsou shifted out of the way and grabbed the leg, pushing it past him causing Kenji’s footing to falter. 

 

A wave of darkness shot out and everyone went tumbling back. For a few moments, it seemed like gravity had turned off. Tables and chairs skidded as the black sphere made contact and the ground beneath them shook. Shinsou landed on his back and wheezed. It took him a second to process that he was now on the floor but once he did he sat up and scanned the room.

 

Shit, Nao works fast.

 

Shinsou pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the pain in his chest and back. He charged immediately at Nao and tackled him. Another pulse shot out while the two were mid-air and they flew into the wall, Nao taking the brunt of the attack. Shinsou smirked under the mask and wheezed as he pushed himself away from the boy. 

 

“Didn’t anyone teach you,” Nao groaned as he pushed himself up panting, “to mind your business.” Another wave shot out and Shinsou braced himself against the wall. He watched as the window next to him shattered, flinching away when glass flew everywhere.

 

This can’t be good. Kiyoko never let out more than one blast, and she had just let out three.

 

Scratch that… four.

 

The building shook and Shinsou pushed his way to Kiyoko before the next pulse could hit.

 

She was on her knees, hunched over herself and trembling. Shinsou kneeled next to her and reached out to comfort her but as his hand made contact with her shoulder another pulse shot out and Shinsou went skidding back.

 

He crashed into the wall and pain shot through his shoulder. He rolled away from the wall clutching his shoulder and wheezing. He didn’t know what to do. His key was all the way up in his room, tucked deep into his pillowcase. There wasn’t anything he could do if she couldn’t control her quirk. He was useless.

 

She finally glanced up at Shinsou, eyes lost and pleading silently, begging for help. She wailed and squeezed her watery eyes shut as another black spear shot out of her, causing the building to shake. The glass doors of the library shattered, computers slipped off tables and onto the floor, and books shook off their place from the shelves.

 

“What the fuck did you give me!” She wailed attention turned to Nao.

 

Nao, for his part, looked terrified too, eyes wide in fear and mouth agape, like he hadn’t expected this reaction at all. He shook his head dumbly and sputtered out, “I- I It’s just I-”

 

Another pulse and Shinsou shielded his face against the wall. 

 

Fucking spit it out damn it.

 

“It was just supposed to amp you up a bit.” The fuck that’s supposed to mean. “I-I didn’t-”

 

Shinsou stood up and ran for the door to the staircase. They needed help. She was out of control. Nao did something to her to make her quirk go crazy, and she clearly couldn’t stop it herself.

 

Another pulse shot out. How many was that 7? 8? Shinsou balanced against the wall and pulled open the door only to be barreled down by another person charging through.

 

He cushioned their fall and wheezed, recognizing the blue streaks of hair. 

 

Tobe.

 

She shot up off of him and charged for Kiyoko. Shinsou shakily pushed himself to his knees again, the aching in his body dulled by the adrenaline. Another wave and Shinsou fumbled back before pushing himself to his feet and sprinting over to where Tobe was hovering over Kiyoko, desperately trying to calm her down.

 

“Ko you need to breathe, match my breathing okay? In, out. Good, Good, again, in.” Shinsou collapsed next to Tobe and tugged at her shirt. Another pulse shot out and the two of them went flying back.

 

“The fuck you want I’m trying to calm her down.” Tobe scolded, already working to push herself back up.

 

‘You need to use your quirk!’ Shinsou signed frantically while he had her attention.

 

She hesitated a moment, expression shifting to something else before anger took its place again.

 

“How on earth would that help?”

 

‘Nao did something to her. Her quirk is out of her control. If you paralyze her…”

 

Tobe huffed, standing up and charging at Kiyoko. “That’s not how my quirk works.” 

 

Another pulse pushed them back further and the building shook again.

 

Tobe looked up at Shinsou, anger temporarily replaced by something akin to fear.

 

‘Are you sure?’

 

Tobe swallowed hard and stared at Shinsou. Another pulse pushed them back and Shinsou hit the wall with a groan. He looked up at Tobe again only to see her already up and once again charging at Kiyoko, blue smoke already leaking out her lungs.

 

It took everyone a moment to see if it worked. They sat in silence, just staring at each other waiting for another pulse. Seconds passed and when one didn’t come, they all relaxed.

 

Except for Tobe of course. Her gaze zeroed in on Nao.

 

“The fuck did you do to her you little,” Tobe charged at him and Nao squealed in his attempt to get away from her. It brought a smile to both her and Shinsou’s faces.

 

He scrambled back and she brought her foot down on his wrist and squinted at him, daring him to try something.

 

“I- it was. Just something to a-amp her up you know. Make it-” 

 

He went quiet, not from lack of trying. His mouth still moved but his voice didn’t work. Nao’s face paled and his gaze slowly turned to Kenji. His eyes were no longer pure black, instead, they were a swirl of grey and milky white, his quirk active and keeping Nao silent. 

 

“Don’t make me paralyze you too you fucking-” Tobe’s insult died out as he glanced over at her too. She reeled for a moment before charging at Kenji and punching him straight in the nose.

 

Kenji stumbled back and released his quirk. “Fucking zebra don’t interrupt me. What the fuck did you do to her.” Kenji said nothing, settling with staring up at her and smirking.

 

Police sirens could be heard faintly in the distance and Tobe looked up and out of the shattered window. 

 

“You hear that? You’re fucked now.”

 

Kenji scoffed. “It’s our word against yours, and she’s the one all hopped up on drugs.”

 

Tobe snarled and punched him again. 

 

“And who looks like they took a beating?” Kenji said, pink-stained teeth flashing at her.

 

The police cars were closer now, Shinsou could see the tell-tale red and blue flashing in the distance.

 

Tobe huffed and kicked him in the chest before charging over to Shinsou and grabbing him by his arm, practically throwing him into the stairwell.

 

“Go put a fucking shirt on.” Shinsou’s face twisted with confusion as he glanced down at his bare chest again. Tobe leaned in and whispered, “You’re back looks fucked up. If you don’t want them asking questions go put a fucking shirt on.”

 

Shinsou’s face paled and he swallowed hard, nodding numbly. She stepped back to let the door swing shut before stopping it with her foot and muttering through the crack, “And if anyone asks you weren’t involved. Got it?”

 

Shinsou scrunched his nose and he hesitated before eventually nodding slightly and turning to dash up the stairs to put a shirt on.

 

~  ~  ~ 

 

When the police arrived, along with a few pro’s Shinsou didn’t recognize, all the kids were promptly evacuated and checked for concussions. Shinsou was terrified that they were going to do a more thorough search but they ended up just asking him if he felt any pain, so when he shook his head he was promptly shuffled out of the ambulance and he let himself relax.

 

They had cleared the whole area actually, from what Shinsou overheard they were still concerned about the building collapsing. Apparently, almost everyone who lived on that street was evacuated until further notice.

 

He didn’t know what to do with himself so he ended up just sitting on the curb by himself. Tobe, Nao, and Kenji had been separated from the group and Kiyoko had immediately been rushed off to a hospital. The other kids were being questioned by multiple different officers but Shinsou had to wait for an interpreter to come so he could actually answer their damn questions.

 

He was kind of glad though. Gave him time to get the panic out, and get his story straight and realize how much his chest fucking burned.

 

He should’ve told the doctor about it but he didn’t want to risk them seeing his back.

 

But damn was he regretting it now.

 

He wondered how bad his back actually looked. He's never gotten a good look at it. It’s hard to get the alone time to do so with 15 other kids running around. Tobe said it was ‘fucked’ but she can be a little dramatic sometimes. Fucked could mean purple and blue or it could mean there was a mark or two that would be hard to explain.

 

It felt mostly healed. If he laid down too fast it was still sore but there was hardly any lingering pain. 

 

Okay, one of the most powerful kids in this place just lost control of their quirk. Shinsou should not be worrying about himself.

 

Saying she lost control wasn’t quite right. Nao did something to her, while Shinsou’s back was turned, and he didn’t stop it.

 

What didn’t make sense was why they did it. Nao looked like he didn’t know what he was doing, if his reaction to her quirk was anything to go off, Kenji though… Shinsou didn’t pay much attention to him during the actual incident, he had backed off pretty fast. Still, he didn’t seem very phased after it. 

 

Shinsou glanced nervously to his left, peering around the ambulance as best he could without catching the attention of any of the growing crowd behind the police barriers. Flashing lights and cameras told Shinsou the press was there, probably trying to get as much information as they could about what happened here. Other people without cameras gathered around, probably for a similar reason as the press, but they annoyed Shinsou less. He’d be intrigued too if he saw police taking over the whole street on his way home.

 

Someone in the crowd caught sight of Shinsou’s small head poking out from behind the ambulance and Shinsou quickly pulled his head out of view. He did not want his face plastered all over the internet.

 

Only then did he notice a young police officer kneeling in front of him. Shinsou wondered, somewhat embarrassed, how long the man had been there without him realizing.

 

He smiled at Shinsou warmly but he looked tired. “Have you been talked to yet?” Shinsou shook his head. “You’re the one who needed the interpreter right?”

 

No, actually I can talk, let me just phase through this muzzle.

 

He nodded.

 

“Alright, just checking.” He glanced over Shinsou’s shoulder and gestured for someone to come over. A young woman with short black hair entered Shinsou’s view. She was smiling from ear to ear, just the sight of it made his cheeks hurt. She crouched down in front of him, not even bothering to respect his space, and introduced herself.

 

‘Hello, my name’s Shinama Kiku. What's your name?’

 

She was bubbly, her body practically bounced every new word she signed. It made him very uncomfortable

 

‘Shinsou Hitoshi’ He deadpanned. 

 

‘Nice to meet you! Can I call you Hitoshi?’

 

He tensed at the name. No one had called him Hitoshi since, well probably his mom, and he could barely remember that.

 

He shook his head. Her smile faltered but it quickly returned. ‘That’s fine. You can call me Kiku if you want.’ She glanced from Shinsou to the officer and then back to Shinsou. ‘Would you mind answering questions for this officer?’

 

‘Do I actually have a choice?’ He asked. He would cooperate either way, but he wanted to know if he even had a say in the matter.

 

‘Yes you do. You don’t have to tell us anything you don’t want to.’

 

Shinsou pretended to be considering it for a moment before he nodded. The woman beamed up at the officer and gave a thumbs up. At that, the detective crouched down too (he was much better at not invading personal space) and started his questions.

 

“Okay, were you in the building when everything started?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Where were you?” 

 

He was ready for that question. Fine, if Tobe wanted to pretend he wasn’t there, he wasn’t there. Probably would mean fewer questions for him. She probably knew more about this stuff than he could anyway, being related to ex-villains and all. He had to trust that she knew what she was doing.

 

And hope that the other two idiots and Kiyoko wouldn’t say anything damning.

 

‘Stairwell.’

 

“Stairwell,”

 

“Do you know in between which floors?”

 

‘Not sure, somewhere between 3 and 6.’

 

“Somewhere between 3 and 6.”

 

“Did you hear anything?”

 

He wasn’t necessarily expecting this question but that was fine.

 

‘I don’t think so.’

 

“He doesn’t think so.”

 

“He doesn’t know?”

 

‘Scared,’

 

“He was scared.”

 

The man sighed.

 

“Do you know ”Kiyoko Kotan,Tobe Rai, Kenji Boku or Nao Bakuji?”

 

He nodded.

 

“How?”

 

I live with them.’

 

“He lives with them.”

 

“Right. How well do you know them?”

 

Shinsou shrugged. ‘I don’t exactly talk to people.’ The woman’s smile fell at that. 

 

“What?” The officer asked, glancing between Shinsou and the woman.

 

“Sorry, nothing. He said he doesn’t talk to them.”

 

Well, that’s not what I said but alright.

 

“Anything you can tell me about them anyway?”

 

Shinsou paused at that. Tobe said to say he wasn’t involved in the incident, and if he really hadn’t been involved, then he would definitely tell them about Nao and Kenji.

 

‘The four of them are always fighting because Nao and Kenji like to pick on Kiyoko.’

 

Now he just had to hope that didn’t interfere with whatever was going on with Tobe.

 

“Nao and Kenji like to pick on Kiyoko.”

 

Luckily that didn’t seem to be a surprise to the officer. 

 

“What do you think happened?”

 

‘Kiyoko obviously lost control of her quirk.’ Also not a lie.

 

“Kiyoko lost control of her quirk,”

 

“You’ve already been checked over by the doctors?” Shinsou nodded and the man stood up. “Alright I don’t think he really has anything useful,” 

 

Thank god that was over. 

 

“Your guardians are over there gathering the students.” He pointed to an area on the opposite side of the police blocks. “If you remember anything that you think might be useful, be sure to let them know and they’ll contact us.”

 

Shinsou nodded but the officer had already turned and walked off. Shinsou stood up too and moved to head over before Shinama grabbed his shoulder.

 

He held back a wince and turned to her. She stared at him a moment, lips parted slightly as she searched his face for something. 

 

Shinsou was the one who had to snap her out of it.

 

‘What?’

 

Her hand fell from his shoulder and she looked away. Shinsou took the opportunity to take a step back, shoulders relaxing at the small distance. 

 

“I-uh- I’m sorry, but does no one else in your group know sign language?”

 

Shinsou stared up at her in confusion but shook his head.

 

Her smile returned a bit and she seemed to find the confidence she lacked in the first question. “Oh, okay that’s good. Do your guardians know? Or at least one of them?”

 

Shinsou’s confusion only grew and his eyes never left her face. What was the point of these questions?

 

When he didn’t answer her smile faltered again. Before she could ask more questions Shinsou spun on his heels and walked off, not wanting to participate in their conversation anymore. He shoved his hands in his jacket pocket and shuffled off to where his caretakers were herding most of the kids together. Most of them were off to the side, taking or making phone calls, occasionally glancing back at the children. There were only 2 of them that were actually watching over the kids. 

 

He stayed to the back of the pack, trying to stay as far away as he could while still being considered a part of the group. A quick scan of the group told him that Tobe and the other two were still with the police.

 

Or taken to the police station.

 

Shinsou chewed on the inside of his lip and glanced around. There's no way they’d arrest her right? 

 

Actually, if it was Nao and Kenji against her it was more than likely she’d be arrested. Kiyoko might still be paralyzed or otherwise unable to say what happened and Shinsou was staying silent.

 

Maybe he should’ve told the truth.

 

He huffed bitterly, they wouldn’t have believed him anyway. Maybe that’s why Tobe told him to keep his mouth shut ( Don’t you always). No one would’ve believed him anyway so there would’ve been no reason to drag this out for him.

 

The sky was a soft mix of orange and red by the time they were allowed to head back into the building, luckily the crowd had mostly dispersed to return home before dark. They were supposed to pack up their things and return outside as fast as they could, they’d be staying somewhere else for the next few weeks until the building was fully checked and repaired.

 

Shinsou was one of the last to leave the building, if not the last. He’d packed up his stuff fast but he had spent the rest of his time waiting outside Tobe’s room and when she didn’t come, he threw her things in her suitcase and left it ready for her under her bed.

 

It’s the least I can do after everything.

 

When he finally did make it downstairs his foster agent (who he hadn’t seen in almost 2 years now) was waiting for him next to her car.

 

“Ready to go, Shinsou?”

 

Her smile was foreign, he didn’t remember her being this happy all the time. He wondered for a brief moment if she was so happy precisely because she hadn’t seen him in 2 years. He pushed the thought away. 

 

That’s stupid you weren’t the center of her world. You probably barely even stood out to her.

 

The idea still lingered though.

 

He climbed in the back of her car without question. Not because he didn’t have any questions but because he simply had no means to ask them.

 

Where are we going? How long are we going there? Do you know what happened to the three who were involved in the attack? Is Kiyoko okay? Is Tobe? Will we ever be coming back here? Are they shutting it down because of what happened? Why are you here after all this time? How long will the ride be? Did Nao and Kenji get arrested? Did Tobe?

 

He unwillingly stayed silent though, watching out the window as lights, white, red, and blue, blurred together. He’d just have to wait and find the answers for himself. 

 

Chapter Text

It had been a month since he left that foster school behind and not even half of his long list of questions had been answered.

 

Turned out that even though the building was deemed safe enough to go in, there was still damage that needed to be repaired. Damage that apparently, was taking over a month to repair.

 

The timing of the whole situation really couldn't have been better. There was only one week left until summer break when the whole thing went down, it was only a matter of finding a place to meet up to finish school.

 

In the meantime, all the kids, at least he assumed all the kids, had been sent off to temporary foster homes. Houses that were promised that the stay would be temporary and that they just needed people to look after the kids while their home was being repaired.

 

It made sense. It was probably easier to convince people to take difficult kids in for a temporary amount of time. Still, he was impressed at how fast his foster agent had found this house for him.

 

Especially because they were quite literally the nicest foster parents he’d ever had.

 

They bought him things, and not just the necessities. They bought him a nice big book, one that he’s read through quite a few times already, and, when they saw him sketching in the back of his school notes, they got a notebook made specifically for sketching. They got him clothes, despite him already having some that fit him fine, and they even bought him a hoodie that he hadn’t even needed simply because he was staring at it for a little longer than he had meant to.

 

And the real kicker; they didn't force him to wear the mask. After his first lunch there they just never put it back on. They never threatened to do so if he talked, he never even noticed it in random places around the house as a subtle warning of what would happen if he acted out. Even more shocking, when he got in a small disagreement with another kid there, they didn't muzzle or hit him, they just sent him to his room to ‘cool down’ for an hour.

 

Talking was different, he didn’t talk until the end of the second week there and he was very hesitant to do it. He didn’t want the freedom they gave him to go away because he misinterpreted their intentions. They had asked him a direct question though, one that couldn’t be answered with yes or no. So he answered.

 

He was terrified when he spoke, the parents looked nervous at first too, but when he hadn’t mind-control them, they seemed to relax, and so did he.

 

He still didn’t talk that much, not to the adults at least. Only when spoken to, and only when needed. With the kids though, Shinsou assumed that they weren’t told what his quirk was because they’d talk very freely with him.

 

There were three other kids there, all of them younger than him, but he got along with them well enough. One of them was constantly asking Shinsou questions, rarely giving room for him to answer, the other two though, once they realized that Shinsou could actually talk, they seemed genuinely interested in getting to know him.

 

Then after a month of staying with them, they got the news that the school was fully repaired.

 

He had mixed feelings about moving back into the school. He didn’t have a choice about it obviously, they had made it clear that they wouldn’t be keeping him for any longer than necessary, but it still hurt. He hadn’t necessarily tried to be a great kid but he wasn’t trying to be a bad one.

 

It hurt to admit that some part of him wanted these people to want him. There wasn’t much reason for him to stay at the school anymore. He was getting older, soon he wouldn’t be welcome there.

 

He decided, though, that if he was going to go back, he had to talk to Tobe at least once. If not to reconcile, then to properly apologize and figure out why the hell he needed to lie to the police. The unanswered questions were bugging the hell out of him. Every time he heard a knock on the door he would get so paranoid that it was the police, coming to arrest him for lying or for encouraging Tobe to use her quirk.

 

Of course, that was all assuming that Tobe wasn’t arrested and would actually be there.

 

He was one of the first kids to arrive that morning. His foster parents were nice enough to go with him all the way up to his room and make sure he got settled in. Any other time he would’ve appreciated it, but this time around it just made his heart hurt. A painful reminder that he wasn’t good enough for them.

 

He got unpacked quick enough. The fact that his drawer was slightly fuller made him feel weirdly warm and sick at the same time.

 

After he got settled in and their goodbyes were exchanged, he grabbed his book and settled in against the wall next to the elevator. He’d read this book multiple times already, but there was something different about that fact that it was his, his to take out and read any time he wanted. He wasn’t focused on it though, he was trying his best to subtly keep a lookout for Tobe. He wouldn’t try and talk to her, not in front of everyone. He didn’t want an argument to break out, even if they did it in JSL and no one would know what they were saying. He just needed to see her, know if she was here or not.  

 

He almost missed her. He had gotten to his favorite part in his book and forgot he was supposed to be paying attention to what was going on around him. He did catch sight of her though, shuffling into the elevator with another kid.

 

Relief flowed through him at the simple knowledge that she wasn’t in jail. 

 

And something akin to pride filled his chest when he realized he hadn’t seen Nao or Kenji at all.

 

When lunch rolled around Shinsou avoided looking over at Tobe. The table felt empty, especially Tobe’s side of the table. The two seats next to her, which used to belong to Kiyoko and Chie, were empty. Shinsou had hardly known the other two, and yet he couldn’t help but feel a bit responsible for what happened to all three of them.

 

That night his heart was pounding. He had decided a while ago that he’d talk to Tobe as soon as he could, but now that the moment was getting closer and closer he was doubting himself. What if she didn’t even want an apology, what if she just didn’t want to see him again? He’d be annoying her in some vain attempt to ease his guilt.

 

Still, on the off chance that there was something salvageable in their relationship, he’d have to try. He’d do it though, even if he was being a bit selfish, he wouldn’t let his cowardice win.

 

He never had any problems staying awake but he was pretty sure that even if he didn’t have sleeping problems, he’d still be wide awake. His chest was buzzing with anxiety and no matter how many times he tossed and turned, his body wasn’t satisfied with the position.

 

He ended up sneaking out earlier than he usually would. He wanted to get this over with so all the questions and nervousness about what would happen could die down. 

 

He pushed himself up and over the ledge landing softly with practiced ease and immediately fished through his pocket for the key. He craned his neck down, unlocking the mask, and slowly pulled it off his face, savoring the sensation as the cold wind hit his cheeks.

 

His stomach twisted at the sight of the empty roof. He knew it was a possibility that she wouldn’t be up here, but the thought of having to wait a whole other day, maybe two, constantly being within reach of her but being too nervous to reach out made him feel sick. 

 

He set his mask down carefully to the side and shoved his key in his pocket, taking in the state of the roof. It didn’t look much different. The design and everything were the same but it was definitely different. A little less dirty.

 

“Jesus, Shinsou!”

 

Shinsou tensed and glanced to his left where the familiar voice had come from. There Tobe was, just a few feet away, eyes wide and arms raised gripping a pipe high above her head ready to strike. He took a cautious step back and Tobe relaxed, slowly letting her arms down.

 

“Shit, wasn’t expecting to see you here.” She tossed the pipe off to the side and added quieter, “Thought we were getting robbed or some shit.”

 

She looked him up and down for a moment before marching over to the stair house and leaning against it, sliding down into a sitting position, eyes never leaving Shinsou. 

 

They stayed like that, Shinsou standing awkwardly by the emergency escape and Tobe just staring at him, daring him to do something.

 

“I see you still like to curse.” He added awkwardly after the long pause. She scoffed and rolled her eyes, finally looking away from Shinsou.

 

“Why are you here?” Tobe demanded. 

 

“Didn’t realize you claimed the roof for yourself.” Shinsou joked. It was a feeble attempt to break the suffocating tension between them, one that failed spectacularly. 

 

“Actually,” Shinsou added after a gulp. ”I wanted to say thank you.” She glared at him. “A-and I’m sorry”

 

She rolled her eyes again. “What’re you sorry about? Upset I didn’t get arrested.”

 

Shinsou bit the inside of his lip. “So you weren’t arrested?” He guessed.

 

She pressed her fingers into her eyes and sighed. “I actually was, cuffs and everything, but they let me off with a warning.”

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck, “What did they arrest you for?”

 

“Vigilantism.” She responded flatly.

 

Shinsou choked. “Wh-What?”

 

Tobe smirked a bit and raised her eyebrows. “Technically illegal quirk use, but they’re basically one in the same.”

 

“Oh,” Was all Shinsou could think to say. “Why’d they let you off?” Tobe crossed her arms and shrugged.

 

Shinsou’s hand fell from the back of his neck and after a moment of tense silence, he shuffled over to the side and sat against a metal box.

 

They sat in silence again for a while, Shinsou trying to gather his courage and Tobe… well apparently ignoring his existence.

 

“I’m sorry.” Shinsou blurted eventually. Tobe jumped at the sudden noise and she whipped her head back to look at him. Her eyes narrowed and her shoulders tensed but she didn’t say anything. He considered continuing the apology in JSL for a moment before deciding the least he could do was say the apology out loud. “For avoiding you. I was doing it by accident at first, then it was kind of on purpose. Then, you gave me the key, thanks for that by the way, and by then I didn’t know where we stood. I mean you punched me! Which I’m not saying I didn’t deserve but…”

 

“Let me stop you right there.” She interrupted, sitting up straighter. “I have 3 things to say and 1 snarky comment so let me talk for a second.” She waited a beat for a response and Shinsou just nodded, face returning to his usual tired expressionlessness. 

 

“1,” She started holding up her pointer finger, “I do believe people need a good punch once and a while but you didn’t. I’m not saying it didn’t feel good, just that you, of all people, didn’t deserve it.” She sighed and pulled her knee up to her chest, “2,” another finger went up, “You’re welcome for the key, I guess. And 3,” A third finger joined the other two, “What the fuck do you mean you were avoiding me by accident I thought you were pissed or annoyed or some shit.”

 

Shinsou opened his mouth to answer but Tobe held up a hand. “Snarky comment, remember. When the hell did you get so talkative. You’ve said more words to me in that little rant than I think I've ever heard you say.”

 

Shinsou scoffed, “That’s definitely one of the least snarky comments you’ve ever said.” He smirked but her expression was serious. Shinsou’s lips fell and his hand reached to play with the hair at the base of his neck.

 

“That’s…” Shinsou’s voice cracked. “you asked a lot of question’s there.”

 

“Start with why you avoided me then.” She demanded.

 

“Well, when I came back from that foster house, the first one, I needed some time to… readjust I guess. And then when night time came around it was just really hard to get out of bed for some reason. And then it got hard to get out of bed for school, and…” Shinsou trailed off, not being able to meet Tobe’s eyes. He probably sounded crazy, and lazy or something. Like he was making dumb excuses.

 

“I get that.” She said, staring off into the distance. “Sometimes, for school, I get it, I think. Like you don’t want to do nothing but you’d rather do nothing than literally anything for like, no reason at all.” She turned to stare at Shinsou, who swallowed heavily and nodded.

 

“Yeah…” He answered weakly. “Yeah, kinda exactly like that actually.”

 

“Yeah,” She agreed, staring off again. “I get that sometimes. Should’ve just told me.”

 

Shinsou scoffed. “How was I supposed to tell you? I didn’t even know what was going on.”

 

Tobe shrugged, “I think everyone deals with that. Sometimes you gotta just ignore that and do it anyway. No good moping around.”

 

“Well,” Shinsou admitted, “I didn’t want to drag you down with me.”

 

Tobe turned to him again, expression twisted and confused. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“I-” Shinsou faltered. Shit, he’d said too much. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

 

“Does it have to do with what happened at that foster house?”

 

Shinsou tensed but nodded slightly. “What.. what do you know?”

 

Tobe shrugged. “I went and visited my uncle the day after I caught you in the library. He was willing to give me a bit more information. Not much. Apparently you made him promise not to tell and he wasn’t going to break that promise, but mixing what he told me with what I saw on your back.” She stared at her feet, “I can put two and two together.”

 

Shinsou nodded, lips pressed tightly together. 

 

“It’s not your fault you know?” She added after a beat of silence. Shinsou’s eyebrows furrowed and he stared at her. “Tch, come on. You blame yourself for everything. Oh you got in a fight for me, that’s on me. Oh, you punched me, sorry for making you take it so far. Oh you fell down 3 flights of stairs all on your own because you wouldn’t tie your shoes, my bad I should’ve known and caught you beforehand. ” She mocked rolling her eyes.

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, “I don’t sound like that at all.”

 

“Well give me time,” She scoffed, “Only now just getting used to hearing your actual voice.”

 

“I figured if I was… going to do whatever it is we’re doing right now, I’d do it with my actual voice.” 

 

Tobe’s face twisted for a moment, “You don’t have to talk Shinsou.”

 

Shinsou shrugged and swallowed hard, pulling his knee to his chest. “They let me talk, at the house I just got back from. It’s not a big deal anymore.” 

 

Tobe looked him up and down before tilting her head. “And you didn’t stay?”

 

“They didn’t want me to” He corrected somewhat bitterly.

 

“Oh,”

 

Another long silence, this time though, Tobe interrupted it.

 

“Will you tell me what happened at that house? The first one, not the one that you were just at.”

 

Shinsou’s stomach twisted in a knot and he took a deep shaky breath. “I-I uh,” His voice cracked and faltered and when he opened his mouth to continue, he found himself unable to speak.

 

“You don’t have to, obviously.” Tobe corrected after he didn’t continue, “I just- my uncle won’t tell me and I know they hurt you, and when you came back you were different, you still are different, and I’d like to understand why. If you don’t want to talk about it that’s fine, but if you do, that’s fine too.”

 

They sat in silence again, Tobe’s words still heavy on Shinsou’s mind. He did kind of want to talk about it, Tobe had understood what was going on when he got back, the sadness and overall laziness that loomed over him. Maybe she could help sort out the other stuff he was feeling.

 

Another part, a much bigger part of him was worried she’d call him stupid for pressing their buttons and getting the belt. He was worried she’d call him weak for leaving Chie behind and not helping her out, barely even communicating with her.

 

He was worried that she’d confirm what he basically knew was true at this point. That after everything, he wasn’t cut out to be a hero. That he didn’t have what it took. Tobe had been his biggest, and only, supporter so far. She always talked about how they were going to grow up and both be heroes, in their own ways. After what she did with Kiyoko, Shinsou knew she’d be a great hero.

 

“You know I didn’t punch you because I was mad at you right?”

 

Shinsou was snapped out of his thoughts and his head spun Tobe’s direction. 

 

“I mean I was mad. I was mad because if you didn’t want to do stuff with me anymore, or you found me annoying, then you should’ve just told me. And the punch definitely felt therapeutic at the time, but that’s not why I actually punched you.”

 

Shinsou stared at her waiting for her to continue and when she didn’t he found himself signing, 'Then why?'

 

Tobe smirked. “I wanted to punch the muzzle right off your face.”

 

Shinsou’s face broke into a smile and he laughed, low and breathy and Tobe’s smirk grew to a genuine grin. “Well your plan kind of backfired.” Shinsou teased.

 

“I broke the muzzle didn’t I?”

 

Shinsou shrugged. “Sure, but now I have this one,” he tapped the muzzle with his toe.

 

“Yeah, I figured they’d give you another one.” She informed.

 

Shinsou’s smile fell and his nose scrunched “Then why even break the first one and risk getting in trouble for fighting.”

 

“Because I was like 90 percent sure that was the only other one they had, and I had the key.”

 

Shinsou’s face slowly morphed from confusion to understanding to shock. 

 

“Oh my god! This is your mask?” He shook the muzzle and Tobe scoffed.

 

“You didn’t realize? I thought you’d remember it.”

 

Shinsou snapped his jaw shut and huffed out a laugh. “You’re insane.”

 

“I think you mean genius.” She corrected, “Besides, you needed a new muzzle anyway, the other one didn’t even fit you.”

 

“What do you mean? My last one fit fine.”

 

It was Tobe’s turn to be confused. “What? No it didn't. It got made when you were like… 6 or 7 right? You’re not that small anymore. Uncle said it was so tight on your face that you got cut by it.” Tobe stood up and marched over to his muzzle, picking it up and examining it. “Does this one not feel looser?” 

 

Shinsou shrugged, “I guess it does. My nose and jaw don’t hurt as much when I wear it. I just never really noticed.”

 

Tobe stared at him. “You couldn’t tell the difference between one that literally cut up your face and one that didn’t?”

 

“I could tell the difference,” Shinsou defended sharply, “I just didn’t realize why it felt different.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and chuckled, tossing the mask back onto the floor. She shoved her hands in her pocket and slid down the side of the metal box near Shinsou. 

 

“Besides, the last one only cut my face because it was tightened as tight as it could go.” He added bitterly.

 

“Still, never should’ve cut you.” she murmured.

 

They sat in silence once again, this time though it seemed less strained.

 

“Are we good then?” Shinsou finally asked after a lot of hesitation.

 

Tobe huffed out a laugh, “Yeah, I guess so. ”

 

“Good,” Shinsou sighed, “Because I have a question that’s been annoying me for months.”

 

“Oh yeah? And what would that be?”

 

“Why’d you tell me to pretend I wasn’t there? On the day everything went down with Kiyoko.”

 

Tobe sighed and looked off into the horizon. “I told you they arrested me for illegal quirk use.”

 

“Yeah,”

 

“Didn’t want you getting dragged into it all. Didn’t need them asking question and arresting you too,”

 

Shinsou sighed, “But what about Nao and Kenji?”

 

“I don’t know. Last I saw they actually did get fully arrested.”

 

“I mean, how did the police not find out about me from them?” He clarified.

 

Tobe hummed thoughtfully and turned to Shinsou, “I didn’t think Nao would say anything, and Kenji was too busy trying to push the blame onto me.” Tobe shrugged and stared at her hands. “Mostly I was just hoping they’d believe me and you over the two of them even if they did try and place you there.”

 

Shinsou licked his lips and hugged his knee. “Sounds like we got lucky.”

 

Tobe scoffed, “That’s not the word I’d use.”

 

“Oh?” Shinsou prodded.

 

Tobe pressed her fingers into her eyes, “I don’t think I’d describe what we went through as lucky. More like…” She trailed off, only groaning as an end to the sentence.

 

“Sure,” Shinsou agreed, “But still, overall, you and I got lucky in the end.”

 

Tobe huffed and laid back, arms crossed behind her head as she stared at the sky.

 

“I’m getting sent to another foster home.”

 

“Didn’t we just all get back from one?”

 

She shrugged, “I told you, the older you get the more they want to get rid of you.”

 

“You actually going to try and stay?” Shinsou asked tentatively

 

She shrugged again, “I don’t know we’ll see. Most likely not though.”

 

Shinsou’s shoulders relaxed, only then did he even realize they had been tense.

“How do you do it?” He asked after a brief hesitation. “Convince them to send you back here?”

 

Tobe shrugged, “It depends on the house but usually I just break rules a little, like if they tell me to be back home by 8, I show up at 8:30, if they tell me they want chores done, I’ll wait until the last possible minute or only do like half before ‘getting tired.” She looked at Shinsou, “It usually works pretty well, especially when you get in fights with the other kids there. Not like fist fights, but arguments about stupid things, it makes them think I don’t get along with others and since they were there first, they’re more likely to want to get rid of me.”

 

Shinsou nodded and hugged his knee tighter. “I sort of tried that.” He admitted, “And It worked, but not as well as I hoped.”

 

“Your back?” She asked cautiously. He nodded and she turned to him. “Shinsou, if it gets that bad then it isn’t worth it.”

“And staying there forever is?” He asked sharply.

 

Tobe sighed and pressed her fingers in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” She said eventually.

 

He scoffed, “It’s not your fault,”

 

“No,” She agreed, “but I meant I’m sorry you had to go through that. No one deserves to go through that, especially not you.”

 

Shinsou looked away, biting the inside of his lip. He had though. He had deserved it. He practically asked for it.

 

“I talked to them.” He admitted, hoping that would clear things up. “They got pissed.” He swallowed and realized his heart was racing.

 

Tobe said nothing and Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck.

 

After a pregnant silence, Shinsou added, “I left Chie there alone.”

 

“I didn’t realize you went to the same house,”

 

“She helped me a few times,” He confessed. When had he decided to just tell Tobe everything? And why was he still doing it?

 

“I’m glad at least someone was there for you,”

 

Shinsou scoffed, “Yeah well, I did a shit job at returning the favor.”

 

Shinsou heard Tobe shuffling to his left and turned to catch her full attention on him. Her face was blank, except for a slight frown, but her eyes looked sad.

 

“Shinsou, you can’t save everyone. You did the best you could. You got yourself out.”

 

He scoffed and crossed his arms, “Not without getting the shit beat out of me first,”

 

Tobe shrugged, “But you got out. You were right. Staying there wouldn't be worth it. You got yourself out and now you don’t have to ever go back.”

 

Shinsou leaned back and closed his eyes, struggling to fight off the forming headache. “But what about Chie? They could be doing something to her right now and I’m just here, perfectly safe away from it all.”

 

“You’re not wrong,” Tobe admitted, “But that’s not your fault, it’s theirs,”

 

“Doesn’t feel like that,” Shinsou mumbled.

 

Tobe paused, obviously thinking about what to say. “If it was the other way around, would you blame her?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“If she managed to get out and left you back there, would you blame her for leaving?”

 

Shinsou let out a shaky breath, “It’s not the same,”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I talked to them, I knew the consequences and I still talked to them. I got them all pissed and then left, just like that, with hardly a goodbye.” His voice cracked and he looked down to the street, before mumbling, “Wasn’t very heroic.”

 

The back of his eyes burned and his throat was aching. He took a deep breath, bit the inside of his lip, and attempted to swallow away his tears.

 

“I don’t know what to say Shinsou.” Tobe admitted. She leaned back against the metal box and sighed, “I still don’t think it’s your fault though, and I know Chie, she wouldn’t blame you either.”

 

Shinsou nodded thoughtlessly. It didn’t really matter whether she blamed him or not.

 

He pushed himself off the floor and pressed his arms to the sky, stretching out his back.

 

“You leaving?”

 

Shinsou closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m bored, so unless you have something else to do.” That, and he didn't like where the conversation was heading.

 

Tobe turned to Shinsou with her trademark smirk and sat up straighter, “Actually, I think I remember promising to teach you some parkour,”

 

Shinsou’s nose crinkled, “I don’t remember that.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and stood up, “Jumping from building to building. That’s parkour.”

 

“You want to jump buildings again?” Shinsou crossed his arms and groaned, “I don’t think that’s a great idea considering last time.”

 

“No, God you’re hopeless.” Tobe rolled her eyes and grabbed his shoulders and shook him softly, “I’m going to teach you how to roll properly so that doesn’t happen again. Clearly you’re not ready to jump.”

 

Shinsou scoffed and shook her off, “I tried to tell you that the first time. Why would I need to know how to do this? I don’t see myself attempting to jump across another building any time soon.”

 

Tobe just smirked and shrugged. “You never know, could be useful. If you knew how to do it before, you wouldn’t have fucked up your arms.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, “Who the hell made you the expert on this anyway?”

 

Tobe grinned and dove forward, rolled along the ground, and jumped up. “I’m not an expert but parkour is so fun.”

 

“What, so your uncle just happens to know how to fight, how to do parkour, how to patch up wounds and how to pick locks?”

 

“Who said my uncle knows parkour?”

 

“Who else would’ve taught you?”

 

“I taught myself!” She boasted.

 

Shinsou snorted, “Sure,”

 

Tobe frowned, “I did, you can learn anything from the internet,”

 

“Fine,” Shinsou rolled his eyes and dropped his arms, “How do I do, whatever it was you just did.”

 

Tobe unsuccessfully bit back a smirk.

 

Shinsou went back to bed that night, scattered in new bruises and an uncharacteristically wide smile.

Chapter Text

With Tobe away at her foster house, and Nao and Kenji who knows where (hopefully prison) life was exceptionally boring.

 

He felt bad when he thought about it, but things were definitely more interesting with those three around. 

 

He settled back into his rhythm. Class started up again pretty soon and he was relieved to see Chie again, unharmed from what he could tell. They still didn't talk, didn't even acknowledge the situation that they were in but honestly, Shinsou was okay with that. 

 

With Tobe gone he decided to try and teach himself parkour as she had. It was alright at first, he'd look up tutorials and memorize them the best he could and practice at night, but eventually, he'd either get bored of the moves he had memorized or he'd forgotten how the move was done. Honestly, parkour wasn't as fun as Tobe made it seem. It mostly hurt. He’d go back to bed with more bruises and aches than he would when he sparred.

 

He’d also been sneaking out a bit more than usual. It was a lot more preferable than laying in bed and letting the ache in his chest build up the more he reflected on his mistakes. On days like this, instead of heading down to the library like he would've done in the past, he climbed down to the street. 

 

The first week or so he just wandered around town, trying to familiarize himself with the area in case he needed to run off (or get back). Then, he started jogging, then straight up running. It felt good, running, refreshing. The wind in his hair and the exercise helped tire his body out before he'd return to bed. 

 

He'd run into people occasionally, but mostly they let him be. If they seemed particularly shady, he'd cross the street, or run straight past them without turning back. If anyone was concerned about a child being out this late, they didn't show it. 

 

He had to avoid cops and heroes occasionally, but with all the wandering he had done, even if they tried to stop him, he'd just run off, weaving between the streets until he was sure they'd lost him. 

 

Running also gave him a lot of time to think, not that he didn't have plenty of time to do that at school, but running helped him keep a clear head, and keep his thoughts on track. He didn't worry as much about how terrible of a hero he'd be, or how much of a failure he was, or about how he kept letting his villainous quirk drag him down, or question why Tobe even started training him, or worry about what Chie was probably going through right at this moment. 

 

He shook his mind free of the thoughts and picked up the pace of his running. He was running to get rid of those thoughts, not to dwell on them. 

 

He pushed himself to round the corner and collapsed against the brick wall. He knew from experience that he was about halfway back to the school, only about 20 minutes away. 

 

He swallowed hard and took a moment to catch his breath. He closed his eyes and welcomed the cold breeze as he swiped at the sweat on his forehead. He might've pushed himself a bit too hard. For some reason though, the thoughts he hated were very insistent today. 

 

Shinsou took a deep breath, held it, and let it out before straightening up and continuing his run, this time significantly slower than he had been a minute ago. 

 

He had a math test tomorrow, he almost forgot about that. Luckily they usually do math after lunch, he could look over his notes while he's in the library, that'd probably be good enough preparation. 

 

He was running through equations in his head when he heard the scream. His running stopped abruptly and he spun around, searching for the source when it rang out again, clear as day. 

 

Against his better judgment, he ran in the direction of the screaming. It hadn't sounded too far away, it came from somewhere on the other side of the street. He ran across the street, not bothering with a crosswalk, there weren't any cars out at this time anyways. 

 

The screaming was replaced by sobbing. Shinsou ignored his cramping stomach and stumbled to a stop when he reached the origin of the noise. 

 

They were deep in an alley because of course they were. The scream had obviously come from the lady pressed against the wall. She was struggling against the man's weight, scratching and kicking as much as she could, but it didn't seem to do anything. The man growled and pushed the woman to the ground, pulling her back by her leg when she tried to crawl away. 

 

Shinsou stood there, frozen by indecision. He had to help, he had to, but what could he do? He doubted he could actually fight this guy. He was still just a kid and that is a grown-ass adult. Maybe he could fight him long enough for the girl to get away. If she was smart and had a phone she could call the cops and get help. Hopefully, Shinsou could get out of there before the cops came and he got caught sneaking out. 

 

Or maybe it was best to distract the man and get him to chase Shinsou somehow, let the girl get away like that. He was pretty sure that with his new rush of adrenaline he'd be able to run faster than the other. But if the man didn't follow him, he'd just be wasting a perfect opportunity for a sneak attack. 

 

His mind raced as he watched, terrified to move, unsure of what to do or how to help. 

 

He wasn't a hero. He knew that. He wasn't built for this, but he was the only person, and he was failing again. Standing by as someone gets hurt. 

 

Shinsou flinched as the man pushed the woman against the dumpster and his stomach twisted as the woman's eyes met his. 

 

He couldn't make out much of her face in the darkness but he could tell that he wasn't exactly the person she wanted to see. She wanted a hero, but she got stuck with him. 

 

In a moment of clarity, Shinsou's feet moved without his command, running deeper into the alley, straight for the man. 

 

He knew how to be silent, the man never heard him coming. 

 

He tackled the man and pushed him away from the woman. They skidded along the gravel and Shinsou winced as pain shot through his forearm. He pushed himself up off the man and stumbled away. As the man rolled over and tried to regain his balance, Shinsou darted towards the woman, planting himself as a shield between them. 

 

He clenched his jaw with fierce determination and, as the man's gaze finally reached him, Shinsou smirked. 

 

Because he wasn't wearing his muzzle. His voice and his quirk were free. 

 

"Fuck off dumbass, go get a life." 

 

Despite the harsh tone, the words tasted sweet in his mouth, as sweet and sticky as honey. 

 

His quirk lingered in the air, waiting patiently for something to latch onto, for the unsuspecting victim to fall right into the trap. 

 

"G-" 

 

Shinsou tugged on his quirk and the man's free will was gone. His eyes glossed over and he went slack, unable to finish whatever vile thing he had planned to say, waiting for Shinsou’s orders. 

 

His mouth went dry and numb, and his tongue grew heavy as it prickled in excitement, eager to give a command. 

 

It felt weird to have control over someone else. It was almost empowering. Shinsou had total control and this man was at his mercy. This man, who was significantly older, larger, buffer, and overall better, at the mercy of small, weak, no-good Shinsou. 

 

Of course it was empowering. 

 

And it scared the ever-living shit out of Shinsou. 

 

The world tilted and spun and Shinsou's stomach fell as the reality of the last few seconds caught up with him. 

 

Fuck







Fuck fuck fuck fuck.







He used his mother fucking quirk like a goddamn fucking idiot.



He stood there a moment, just staring at the mindless man in front of him, breath caught in his throat and mouth agape. 

 

He just did that, he actually just did that. What the fuck was he thinking? He used his quirk

 

Intentionally. 

 

Against a criminal. 

 

Does it matter? It's illegal. That technically makes him a criminal too.  

 

It's ironic really, that his first villainous act would happen when he was trying to be a hero. 

 

There was something even more ironic about the fact that it was his villainous quirk that had just saved someone.

 

His heart hammered in his chest and the back of his throat burned. Numbly, he glanced around the dark, musty alley. No one else was there, even the girl was gone.

 

His breathing picked up and he snapped out of his trance and slid right into a full-blown panic attack. 

 

He had no idea what to do now. The tingling in his tongue was making him nauseous and the world spinning around him wasn't helping. He didn't know enough about his quirk to even know where to start. If he gave the man control of his own mind back, would he remember what happened during the time he was brainwashed? How long could he even hold this for? He could feel a headache coming on but whether that was from his quirk or the weight of the situation, he didn't know. This is why people muzzle him and beat the shit out of him. He stopped wearing the muzzle for two fucking seconds and he couldn’t stop himself from fucking using his goddamn cursed quirk. 

 

He has to get out of there. He has to leave before someone else came asking questions. 

 

Without a second thought Shinsou turned and ran. He didn't care much about what would happen if he left the guy there under his control, he was too worried about the mistake he had already made. 

 

He needed to get as far away from there as possible. He needed to get back to the school and put the muzzle back on and never take it off. He needed to tell Tobe she was wrong. The second he had the opportunity, he grabbed it, unconcerned about who he was affecting, and became exactly what everyone said he was. He needed to... He needed to... 

 

He needed to throw up. 

 

Shinsou rounded the corner and collapsed into an alleyway, vile bubbling up his throat. He heaved and closed his eyes. 

 

Coughing, he put a hand against the wall to balance himself while attempting to straighten his shaky legs. He took a few deep breaths and tried to spit the vile taste out of his mouth. He needed to calm the fuck down. 

 

Shinsou wiped his mouth with his sleeve as he stumbled out of the alley and ran again, ignoring the growing pain in his side. 

 

He ran and he ran, past the school, past the park he sometimes practiced at, past the alleyway that was always full of cats, and up many flights of creaky old stairs before finally stopping and pounding on the door. 

 

The lack of an instant reply made Shinsou's heart rate spike. And when a minute of his near-constant rapping passed and still no one opened the door, he was worried he would pass out from stress right then and there. 

 

And when the door did open he nearly fell into the room, having been leaning heavily against the door to balance himself. 

 

"Shinsou?" The voice was groggy, he'd obviously woken them up. 

 

Shinsou looked up at the man and sighed. His long blue hair was pulled back and his wings were droopy. His eyes were wide and searching, probably expecting to find Shinsou injured again. 

 

He opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out. His tongue was heavy, his mouth tasted like shit, and his jaw was sore, but the words weren't even making it past his throat. 

 

Instead, he gave the sign for water and hoped that Senjo understood enough sign to at least get that. 

 

Senjo nodded and pushed the door open more, and Shinsou shuffled in, trying, and probably failing, to hide that he had once again ran to his apartment because he was panicking his brains out. 

 

The door slammed shut behind him and Shinsou tensed as he heard the lock click. 

 

It's fine, it's okay. This is Senjo. You can trust him. He helped you last time. 

 

He'll hate you for what you did. 

 

He was a criminal once too, he'll understand. 

 

Are you sure? 

 

"Here." 

 

Shinsou jumped and spun around to see Senjo holding a glass of water out to him, along with a notepad and a pen. He looked much more alert now, like the simple task of getting water had fully pulled him from dreamland. 

 

Shinsou smiled shyly and grabbed the water, downing it eagerly, desperate to flush out the disgusting taste. When he finished, Senjo grabbed the glass and pushed the notepad into his hands before flying off to get more water. 

 

"Are you alright?" He heard Senjo ask cautiously from the kitchen. "Are you hurt?" 

 

Shinsou huffed softly. Senjo was worried about the wrong person. He should be worried about the man Shinsou used his quirk on. On... 

 

On the man Shinsou had left alone in the alley. 

 

Fuck. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He'd just fucking left him there, hadn't he? He was so worried about using his quirk in the first place that he didn't even release the man. 

 

Fuck. 

 

The tingling in his tongue was gone. That's a good sign, right? Maybe... maybe there's a distance restriction to his quirk, or a time restriction. Hopefully, that meant that Shinsou was far enough that the man was snapped out of his trance and not sitting there mindless, too far from Shinsou to be given a command. 

 

With Shinsous luck, he either was stuck there, in that alley, a mindless robot, or he'd snapped out of it and remembered everything. Or even worse, followed Shinsou to Senjo’s apartment.

 

Shinsou rushed to the window and pulled the curtains back. He didn't see the man anywhere, but it was dark, and he was probably already in the building if he was fast. Hell, he'd probably be at Senjo’s door any minute now. 

 

"Whoa whoa. Shinsou, you need to breathe. Deep breaths, you’re breathing too fast. Slow and deep breaths okay?" 

 

He felt himself get pulled back away from the window and he drove his elbow back but the hit didn't land. Instead, he was set down on something soft and padded. 

 

"Shinsou seriously, deep breaths." 

 

He was trying, he really was but for some reason, he couldn't fucking talk and he led a man straight to the only adult who ever actually pretended to care for him. 

 

"Shinsou breathe in and hold for 4, okay?" 

 

Strong hands gripped his shoulders and Shinsou wiggled away, pushing himself up from his position and towards the door. 

 

"Fuck, Shinsou wait!" 

 

A hand slammed the door shut and Shinsou winced. He dove under the arm and shot towards the window. He needed air, he couldn't breathe in this small ass apartment. 

 

But the man grabbed Shinsou before he could make it, pulling Shinsou back by the arm and pushing him to the ground. 

 

"I'm sorry Shinsou, but you're not leaving until you at least calm down. You're clearly not okay." 

 

Senjo pressed his knee to Shinsou's chest and he held Shinsou's hands above his head. Shinsou struggled against the weight on him but it was no use. The hands pinning him down by the wrists were too strong and there was nothing for him to kick. 

 

He had the fleeting idea to use his quirk but he immediately pushed the thought away. 

 

He was gagged and the muzzle was tight, too tight. His mouth tasted vile and his back ached. He'd pissed him off. It was his fault. It'll be over quicker if he cooperates. Don't move. Don't talk. 

 

Stay. Silent.

 

The panic in his chest exploded and he went stiff, unmoving. He opened his eyes (when had he even closed them?) and stared at the man on top of him. It wasn't the man he'd expected, he had long luminescent wings that shimmered from the moonlight streaming through the window. His baby blue hair flowed down each shoulder, and his blue eyes were wide, concerned, with eyebrows pressed together. 

 

"Shinsou?" 

 

Shinsou didn't respond. He couldn't. He just laid there, unable to move even if he were to try. His eyes were glossy as if he was under the influence of his own quirk. His breathing quieted from gasping to silent small jerks of air. 

 

Slowly, the man pulled his knee away, and the pressure on Shinsou’s chest lifted. 

 

The next thing Shinsou knew he was on the couch and Senjo was crouched in front of him, holding out a cup of tea. 

 

"Shinsou, you seriously need to go soon. It's almost 5." 

 

He blinked slowly, taking in his surroundings. The seat below him was old and ratty but familiar, as was the ring-stained table in front of him. Numbly he reached out and grabbed the cup, absorbing its warmth. 

 

"I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely before taking a sip. 

 

Senjo fumbled back, grabbing the discarded notepad from the floor and setting it on Shinsous lap next to the cup. 

 

"You don't need to apologize. How are you feeling?" Shinsou didn't answer, opting to take another sip instead. 

 

The two sat in silence, Shinsou stiff as a statue and Senjo nervously shifting every few seconds. Shinsou stared into the tea, hypnotized by the swirling of the liquid. Why did he come here? This was a disaster. What was he thinking? 

 

He wasn't thinking. That was the problem. He'd done the one thing he told himself he'd never do, without even considering otherwise. 

 

“What happened?”

 

Finally, he moved, numbly grabbing the pencil and scribbling, 'I used my quirk.'  

 

He held onto the notepad a second, reading it over and guarding the words from Senjos line of sight before sighing and handing it over to him. He chewed the inside of his lip as the man read over the words and glanced back up at Shinsou. 

 

"I'm guessing it's been awhile since you did that." 

 

Of course it had been a while, his quirk was villainous. He never used it except unintentionally. Well, until today. 

 

He grabbed the notepad again and added 'On purpose.' 

 

"Okay..." Senjo replied carefully. "Why?" 

 

He shrugged. He knew why but he also didn't. He had to save that woman, but he didn't remember deciding that using his quirk would be the best way to do it. 

 

Maybe that's what they meant when they said he was destined to be a villain. That when the time came, he wouldn't be able to help himself. That his quirk would win over in the end. 

 

"Did anyone get hurt?" Senjo asked instead. 

 

Shinsou hesitated before shaking his head. Physically, no, no one was hurt. 

 

"What about you? Are you hurt?" 

 

Shinsou shook his head again. Of course he wasn't hurt. His quirk made sure of that. 

 

"Well that's good then." A pregnant silence, before "I'm sorry Shinsou, I don't understand what the problem is." 

 

Shinsou swallowed hard and took a deep breath before tapping the notepad again. 

 

"Yeah, you used your quirk. People do that all the time." 

 

Shinsou huffed. Of course an ex-criminal wouldn't see the problem.  

 

‘How’d you become a villain?’

 

Senjo stared at the words on the paper, for a long moment before he shifted back into the seat behind him.

 

“What do you mean? I just kinda did things that were more and more illegal, till I couldn’t turn back anymore.”

 

‘Like what?’

 

Senjo scoffed, “Well, I mostly just followed my sister wherever she went, and she would get into a lot of trouble. Then it just escalated.” He sighed and stared out the window at the twinkling lights. “I started to join her in things that were bad, but couldn’t be that much worse than things I already did. I set boundaries for myself and then didn’t follow them and eventually…” He paused, “Eventually I found myself doing things I never even imagined.”

 

Shinsou stared at the floor, guilt and anxiety and so many other emotions twisting around in his gut. 

 

‘Why aren’t you anymore?’

 

Senjo sighed again, heavy and sad. Shinsou felt a bit bad, this was clearly a touchy subject for him, but at the same time, he needed to know.

 

“Honestly, when my sister had Rai, I… Rai looks so much like her mom, and her mom was already training her to do things at such a young age… I don’t know, one night I just couldn’t live with who I had become.”

 

They sat in tense silence for a long while, only the sound of early morning birds and the ticking of the clock filling the room.

 

“I’m the reason Rai’s mom’s in jail. I’m the reason she doesn’t have an actual home to live in.”

 

‘You’re probably the reason she wants to be a hero. Not a villain.’  

 

Senjo stared at the words, frowning slightly. “I don’t know how much of an improvement that is.”

 

Shinsou’s head snapped up. ‘You don’t like heroes?’

 

Senjo huffed out a mock laugh and grimaced. “I’m probably a bit biased, but I’ve met villains that are far better people than the heroes I’ve encountered.”

 

‘You were a villain.’

 

“Which is why I said I’m probably biased.” Senjo shifted in his chair, obviously uncomfortable. “Look, I just wanted her to be as far away from this stuff as possible. Heroes and villains, they’re just two sides of the same coin, I didn’t even want her to be in the same wallet.”

 

Shinsou moved to scribble another question but Senjo carefully set his hand on his wrist. “Shinsou, why are you asking me these questions?”

 

Shinsou stared at his hands, picking at his nails. 

 

I want to be a hero.

 

The words hung on the tip of his tongue, restricted by his tight throat. It was a stupid thing to say, not only because Senjo had just said he didn’t like heroes but because he just proved to himself that it was nothing more than a stupid dream.

 

I want to be a hero, but I can’t.

 

He'd used his villain's quirk illegally. Without even thinking. He'd taken away someone's free will without a second thought, and the worse part- he'd liked it. He felt like a hero for a full two seconds and it was addicting. 

 

But he wasn't a hero, he wasn't even close. In fact he was the exact opposite. He was what everyone said he would be. 

 

He was nothing more than a villain kid. Always was, and always will be.

 

Chapter Text

He left Senjo’s house in a rush. 

 

Once he was able to actually process what time it was and how close he'd be cutting it by waiting longer, he'd ran out the door and ran straight for his bed. Unlike the rest of his night, he hit a stroke of luck by not running into a villain attack like he had last time he was in a rush. 

 

He didn’t even really try to sleep, he doubted he would've gotten any sleep even if he did try. His brain wouldn't stop reminding him about how much he'd fucked up. 

 

He knew he couldn't be a hero. He learned that with Chie. He had failed so epically with her, it was obvious. But still, some small stubborn part of him believed it still, believed that if he was good enough, if he was careful and vigilant, he'd be able to be a hero. Be able to make up for all the damage he'd caused otherwise. 

 

But he'd fucked up again. Used his quirk after he'd promised himself he wouldn't. After he swore up and down that he wouldn't let his villain quirk dictate his life. After he vowed to never let his quirk corrupt him. 

 

He'd used his quirk with the vain attempt to save someone. 

 

And that was the bitter part; his attempt wasn't necessarily vain. The measures had been a little extreme but he'd saved that girl. Not a hero, not a cop, not even a non-villainous concerned citizen, him. Shinsou. Villainous quirk and all. He'd done it, he'd saved her.

 

And that was the part that stung the most. 

 

No matter what he tried to do, how helpful he tried to be, how useful he was, he would always be a villain. 

 

It was foolish really, to think that he of all people would be able to be trusted with such a villainous quirk. 

 

School that day absolutely sucked. All he wanted to do was lay in bed and stew in his own misery until eventually, he passed out. He wanted to crawl into a corner of the room and just die. He wanted to run away from this place and never come back. 

 

It didn't help that it seemed like everyone was looking at him like they knew what he did. Like they knew they were right, that he had been wrong. Like they were silently judging him for even thinking he could be something else. 

 

He knew he was paranoid, he had to be. Even if they found out about him sneaking out there was no way for them to know what happened, if they did, he wouldn’t be walking around free as a bird. Still, the idea that they knew made him sick. 

 

When the weekend rolled around, he got what he wished for; time to lay around and mope. It didn't feel good though, not that it was supposed to. He wished he wanted to actually do something, rereading his book wasn't as comforting as it usually was, and walking all the way to the library to have a change in scenery seemed like far too much work to even be worth it. 

 

Finally, Tuesday afternoon, he decided that moping around wasn't the best course of action, whether he deserved to dwell on the hole in his chest or not. 

 

He figured that if he could find a new dream, one that wasn't as unrealistic, he'd feel better. 

 

And if he couldn't find one, then at least it would serve as a distraction for the evening. 

 

So he headed straight for the library computers after classes, determined to find a more realistic plan. He would sit there until he found what he was really supposed to do or until he’d exhausted all his options.

 

He wasn't entirely successful. 

 

It was just, for some reason, nothing felt as important as being a hero was. 

 

It took him some mindless scrolling before he even decided that maybe something along the lines of art or reading might be good for him. He enjoyed both of those well enough, and he easily got lost in his art or stories. Other than just being a full-time artist or editor though, all the jobs along those lines seemed boring as hell. 

 

He then decided that if his quirk was the thing holding him back from being a hero, maybe he could be a police officer or something along the lines. They weren't allowed to use their quirks the way heroes were, and they still helped bring change to the world. Plus, he could do it right, help people the way they never helped him. Bring in villains and criminals after the heroes did all the dirty work.

 

And, even better, if he did want to pursue art in some way, he could be a sketch artist or something along those lines. Work alongside the police without being directly involved in the cases. 

 

The plan was perfect. 

 

And he hated it. 

 

Because he didn't want to be a police officer, he wanted to be a hero. 

 

It was stupid really. It made no sense. As an officer, he wouldn't have to deal with reporters and the media, both of which he didn't want to have to deal with, and he'd be able to work alongside heroes in taking down criminals and villains. He wouldn’t have to worry as much about people seeing him as a villain because they didn’t need to know what his quirk was. He could just be another officer you see, nameless and practically faceless. Unrecognizable in the sea of white and blue.

 

But his mind kept flashing back to that night that he and Tobe saw that hero in action. 

 

He had actually been thinking about that night a lot lately. Both he and Tobe tried to figure out who that hero was, but they found nothing. They didn’t have much to go off of to begin with, but with how long they searched, you’d think they would’ve found something. They even tried to search known vigilantes in case he wasn't technically a hero, but they still came up empty. If it wasn't for Tobe seeing him too, Shinsou would've been convinced that he'd made the whole situation up. 

 

But, whatever the man was, hero or vigilante, he had looked so badass. 

 

Despite trying to avoid the topic, in a moment of weakness, Shinsou looked up the definition of a hero.

 

He wasn't surprised to find that he didn't fit the mold. 

 

The technical definition was "Heroes are people who are licensed to use their Quirks to uphold the law and protect civilians from anything that may threaten it, including, but not limited to, Villains and natural disasters." It wasn’t inaccurate but it felt really bland to Shinsou. Being a hero was more than having a fancy card that let you use your quirk legally. 

 

It was a different definition that Shinsou agreed with most. 

 

"A hero is selfless, a genuinely good person, and someone who gets the job done and causes change. Someone who is willing to risk their own life to save another." 

 

It was from a hero blogs chat room. The fact that Shinsou found it in the first place was evidence that he had spent far longer than he should have looking into the topic. He could almost hear Tobe’s mocking voice, 'Researching heroes again Nerd?" 

 

He knew he didn't fit that mold, even if he wanted to try, he couldn't. His quirk made sure of that. 

 

He shook his head and leaned back in the chair. He was supposed to be dropping this dream. He wasn't a hero. He can't be. 

 

He closed the browser and hid his head in his hands. Being a police officer was the next best option if he could avoid the whole- becoming a villain thing.

 

In a moment of desperation, to prove himself wrong or right he didn’t really know, Shinsou leaned forward and searched for the definition of villain.

 

“People who use their Quirks illegally to commit crimes, cause destruction, and potentially put innocent lives at stake.”

 

The definition itself didn’t surprise him, he knew well, too well, what a villain was. What really shocked him was what the definition didn’t say.

 

It didn’t mention villainous quirks anywhere.

 

Even looking deeper into the more in-depth definition nothing even alluded to what happened to people with villainous quirks. Not a single article that he could find talked about people like him anywhere.

 

Part of him was relieved, part of him was angry, and part of him, well the majority of him, was just straight-up confused.

 

Because according to those standards what he did was more heroic than villainous.

 

Sure, what he had done was use his quirk illegally, but that was as villainous as he had gone. The rest of it was… well he was afraid to say it, afraid to even think it... but, by those definitions, it could be seen as kind of heroic. He protected a civilian from the man that was threatening her. 

 

His mind couldn’t process what had really happened. He was grasping at straws, he knew that, but the straws were the only thing left holding up his dream. He was probably lying to himself, he was meant to be a villain, he’d done a villainous thing. He wasn’t a hero.

 

But why wasn’t he?

 

Because he’d failed Chie already, he was destined to be a villain, he’d already committed a crime, he was well on his path to villainy.

 

But Tobe had said he hadn’t failed Chie, that he wasn’t meant to be a villain, that he’d be a great hero. He’d helped that woman in the alley, even if it was illegal, he ignored the consequences and helped her. He’d saved her, even if he hadn’t really meant to.

 

But he’d used his quirk to do it. Not only had he done it illegally, but his quirk was wrong, villainous.

 

So which was it? Was he a hero or a villain?

 

His thoughts were pulled away from his internal debate by the shuffling around him, the tell-tale sign that it was time for dinner. He was sort of relieved, his thoughts were making his head spin and he was starting to feel genuinely nauseous. The chaos of dinner would surely serve as a good distraction.

 

And he was right, it did.

 

But after dinner, after his voice had been locked back up again and around the time that everyone would be usually breaking off to do their own thing, Shingi stood, demanding they calm down so she could make an announcement. The fact that she was doing this at all was strange enough. Announcements were only ever made if a new kid was moving in, which after a quick check he affirmed that wasn’t the case, or if there was a change in rules (or a reminder of them if kids kept acting up), and they were almost always made at breakfast, not dinner.

 

But it wasn’t the strangeness that made Shinsou feel uneasy, it was the twisted expression on Shingi’s face.

 

Shingi was pretty much all business. She was nice enough to the kids, but it was obvious she was more concerned about keeping everything in order. If you had a problem, she always treated it like it was the smallest problem in the world and handled everything with ease.

 

So to see her standing there- eyes slowly panning to each of the kids as if she was memorizing every last detail of each of them, not saying a single word as to what her announcement was, face uncharacteristically solemn- that’s what made Shinsou uneasy.

 

Her scanning of the students stopped at the three empty seats where Chie, Kiyoko, and Tobe used to sit. Shinsou’s heart thudded in his chest as he watched her closely, willing her to hurry up. She stayed there a moment, eyes glassy, and unmoving. The rest of the kids looked confused, some shifting in their seats glancing between her and the chairs. The fact that other people had picked up on the weight of the room made Shinsou even more anxious.

 

After what seemed like an eternity, but what was probably only a few seconds, Shingi finally shook herself out of her trance and shifted her stance, face hardening and hands clasped behind her back.

 

She almost looked like her usual self.

 

But her head was held lower than usual and her shoulders were less confident, and when she spoke, her voice didn’t demand attention, yet everyone listened.

 

“I know a lot of you have questions about what happened that day we were forced to evacuate the building, and for the most part, we have been avoiding answering them. Not just for your safety and for the safety of those involved, but because there is still an active investigation.”

 

She paused here for a deep breath, steeling herself before she continued.

 

“But, recent events have forced our hand. Kiyoko got in another fight with Nao and Kenji, and, as can happen with quirks as powerful as hers, she lost control of her quirk. Tobe used her quirk to stop Kiyoko from leveling the building.” Anger flushed through Shinsou. That was barely an accurate story, Nao did something to her. Kiyoko had fine control of her quirk, enough to not lose control at a single inconvenience. 

 

“I’d like to make it clear that what Tobe did, while perhaps helpful, was still very illegal.”

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw and took a deep breath. If Tobe hadn’t acted, people could’ve died, the whole building could’ve collapsed and Kiyoko would’ve still been out of control.

 

“Nao, Kenji, and Tobe were arrested, while Kiyoko was taken to a hospital. 

 

She paused again. Shinsou’s insides were buzzing, screaming at him to get up, to move, screaming at her to hurry the fuck up and stop dragging whatever was going on out. On the outside though, he was perfectly still, not daring to tear his eyes away from her out of fear of missing something important.

 

“Unfortunately, yesterday morning Kiyoko Kotan was found dead at the hospital she was staying at, and around about an hour ago, after much investigation, it was ruled a death by suicide.”



The words floated heavy in the air, it was as if a thick chain had wrapped around his lungs. An icy chill ran down his spine and he finally dropped his gaze, staring instead at the familiar wooden patterns of the table.




Kiyoko is gone.




Kiyoko is dead.




After all that.




A suicide.




“If anyone needs or wants to talk to someone about it, Aki-Sensei is licensed to handle this sort of thing, but you can reach out to any of us.”




She was alive two days ago.




He stared at the empty seat.




“Don’t be afraid to reach out.”




Where was this kind of offer when she was alive? Pretty sure she could’ve used it.




Not that she would’ve, but at least the option would’ve been there. Maybe then she wouldn’t be…




Gone.




Permanently.




Dead.




He didn’t hear the rest of the speech, he hoped there wasn’t anything important said.

 

Most of the other kids just slid out of their chairs, talking quietly to each other, not bothering to approach Shingi to take up her offer. He knew he wouldn’t be.

 

Maybe Tobe should though.

 

If she ever came back.

 

Shinsou stood up as if he was on autopilot. He barely even registered the metal walls of the elevator as they ascended to his floor.

 

The place was loud, too loud considering the news they just learned. It was definitely quieter than usual, but only barely. It felt wrong.

 

He pushed past the chaos and went straight to his room. With no hesitation, he grabbed his notebook from under his bed and spun back around, heading straight back into the elevator. He pressed for the first floor and immediately pushed for the doors to close. He didn’t want anyone joining if he could help it. He flipped his notebook open to the last page, scribbling down his question as he descended. 

 

The elevator dinged and he pushed forward. He hoped that she went down here, he wasn’t stupid or desperate enough to approach her on the caretakers’ housing floor. He stopped in front of the third office door, staring up at the golden words hung on the door.

 

Shingi Yasu

 

He hesitated a moment, steeling himself before he knocked. There was quiet shuffling for a moment before the door swung open to a slightly disheveled Shingi.

 

“Oh! Shinsou. Can I help you?”

 

He nodded firmly and flipped the notebook towards her, clearly displaying his messy scrawl.

 

‘Does Tobe Rai know? They were friends.’

 

Shingi read it over quickly before letting out a heavy sigh. “I doubt anyone’s told her, and I doubt anyone will. Technically she’s not under our care anymore.”

 

Shinsou pulled the notebook down and scribbled again.

 

‘Can’t you tell her guardians then?’

 

The corners of her lip faltered, “It’s not our job to inform them, that privilege belongs to the police or her foster agent.”

 

Shinsou huffed softly, ‘Are they going to tell her?’

 

“I really don’t know Shinsou.” 

 

He shut the notebook and pulled it close to him. Honestly, it was on him for thinking anyone would actually care to help him.

 

He turned back towards the elevator, not even bothering to bow as a goodbye.

 

“Shinsou!” He paused his exit but didn’t bother turning around. “I’ll see what I can do alright?”

 

He nodded, or at least he thinks he did, before he continued on. He knew what ‘I’ll see what I can do’ meant. It meant nothing would get done. It meant they could do the bare minimum and still feel like they actually did something to help.

 

It meant that if he actually wanted something to get done, he’d have to do it himself.

Chapter Text

He formed a plan fairly quickly, at least the first part of it. The rest he could worry about later.

 

He got ready for lights out as slow as he could without raising suspicion. He figured if anyone noticed him acting strange they’d just chalk it up to grief anyways. He wanted to be sure he was the last one in bed, or at least close to it.

 

He could tell the caretaker was getting impatient, waiting for him to finish brushing his teeth. He did finish up eventually, darting off into his room once the muzzle clicked in place. He did a pretty good job at taking forever to get ready, most of the other kids were already tucked underneath their covers, some even settled in enough and actually trying to sleep.

 

Shinsou quickly changed into his darkest hoodie, the dark purple one he’d gotten from his last foster house. The lights shut off and he crouched down next to his bed, quickly unzipping the corner of his suitcase and sliding his arm in the small hole. He patted around for a bit, trying to find it as quickly and quietly as he could before eventually, in one swift motion, he pulled out the small black bag and shoved it into his hoodie pocket. He pushed the suitcase further under the bed, not bothering to rezip it, and crawled underneath the covers, pulling the blanket up to his neck. 

 

He didn’t even bother closing his eyes. He wouldn't be getting any sleep, even if he thought he could, he wouldn’t. He needed to stay up; if no one else was going to tell Tobe, he would. 

 

Would she even want to know? Learning someone died, especially a close friend, maybe she was better off not knowing. Shinsou didn’t even know Kiyoko that well, and he…

 

He swallowed hard and did his best to push away his doubts. He should tell her, she deserves to know. If Tobe died, he’d want someone to tell him.

 

His stomach did a somersault at the notion. If Tobe died…

 

He shouldn’t think about it, she’s alive. He should appreciate the fact that she was alive.

 

Except they clearly wouldn’t tell him if she had, she wasn’t their problem anymore, and he barely even existed to these people.

 

Against his will, his mind kindly provided him with a graphic image of Tobe, lifeless with dull eyes; eyes that looked eerily similar to someone under his quirk.

 

He shot up out of his bed at the thought. She was alive, it was ridiculous to think otherwise, just because someone else died didn’t mean she did too. She was alive, probably doing something unnecessarily rebellious right now so they’d send her back here. She was probably sneaking out wandering the streets like he liked to and, if she was nearby, probably headed to her uncle's house.

 

Shinsou’s thoughts froze. Her uncle. God, last time he went to her uncles...

 

He physically winced at the memory. He’d freaked out and… blacked out? He was still fuzzy on what had truly happened. Either way, the night hadn’t exactly ended on a positive note.

 

Shinsou shoved his face in his hands and pressed against his eyes until kaleidoscopic colors filled his vision. What if she went and talked to him? What if he told her what happened. 

 

Shinsou slid his hands up, pressing instead against his temples. Shinsou glanced over to the ticking clock above the door. He couldn’t make out the time, not unless he stood directly in front of it. He knew he couldn’t have been lying there for a long time, he really should just lay back down and wait a long while longer.

 

But he never was that great at just laying there alone with his thoughts.

 

Especially not with how dangerously close they were getting to certain topics he’d rather avoid.

 

He rolled out of bed with practiced ease, not even hesitating when his bed groaned softly at the change in weight. He pressed forward, stepping with his toes then his heels, lifting the door up so that its hinges wouldn’t creak. He shut the door behind him without making a sound and he was out the window in seconds. 

 

His hoodie and hair were both immediately blown back from the strong wind. The air was wet and the smell of dirt lingered, like a storm had just passed or one was on its way.

 

Shinsou was more careful when he lowered the ladder down to the next level. Usually when they snuck down they’d wait and go out later so they could be sure that the caretakers were asleep or at least settled in their room. He’d just have to be extra quiet. 

 

After he passed the caretaker's floor he picked up the pace, dropping down onto the next level when there were still a few rungs left. He stopped at the third floor, pulling the window open and stepping inside. He knew from experience that the first and second-floor windows would be locked. He left the window open. He'd be back in a few minutes anyway, he wasn’t planning on staying out long.

 

He rushed down the stairs, being a bit more mindful about how loud he was being. Typically, no one was on these floors but with his luck, someone would be up working late. He stopped in front of the door to the first floor, pressing his ear against it. He squeezed the bag in his pocket and took a deep breath, pushing the door open slowly and peering in.

 

He’d only ever been to this floor a few times and only one other time at night. He didn’t want to get caught because he was being reckless and overly confident. The view from the stairwell was actually pretty clear, he could make out almost the whole lobby, and he didn’t see or hear a single person.

 

He pressed the door open more, sliding through the door and making sure it shut quietly behind him. The fact that none of the offices had light spilling out from under the door was a good sign that no one was up, but still, he tiptoed forward, planting himself in front of the directors’ door.

 

Director Daisuke Hina

 

Shakily he pulled the black bag out of his pocket and rolled it open. The metal sticks shimmered off the moonlight that seeped through the window.

 

He’d done this plenty of times, on his little practice lock. He even practiced with the lock to his muzzle since he got the key. It was a lot easier to pick a lock when you could see what you were doing, and opening locks that weren’t transparent was a lot harder.

 

He took a deep breath and grabbed two sticks before rolling the bag up again and shoving it in his pocket. Exhaling, he shoved the longer one in the base of the lock and pressed the smaller one in on top of it.

 

Wait. Stop. What is he doing? This is very illegal. Breaking into the director's office, picking the lock, what on earth was he thinking? 

 

He numbly pulled the two picks out of the lock and dropped his arms.

 

If he did this, there would be no going back. He knows what he’s doing. He’s perfectly aware that this is illegal, he knows what’ll happen if he gets caught. Even more, he knows all too well that he’ll hate himself for doing it. For going too far, for giving in to his villainous side. 

 

He stepped back, swallowing hard as he stared at the door. He’d gotten this far. All that was between him and what he wanted was this door.

 

He knocked softly, before knocking a bit louder. He heard nothing, no one moving around inside. Unless they stuck an alarm on the door, which seemed unlikely, Shinsou would be perfectly fine, able to get away with it so easily.

 

What would a hero do?

 

If he was being honest, a hero wouldn’t even be in this situation. They would’ve planned ahead, been ready for anything. A hero would know how to do this without corrupting themself the way Shinsou did. They’d probably turn around and trust the adults to do what needed to be done. They’d turn around, go back to bed and wait until it was their time to be a hero, or they’d find a way to get the information legally, work and buy a phone and contact people that way. A hero would’ve been able to convince Sengi to help him with a flashy smile and an inspiring speech. A hero would’ve stopped Nao and Kenji before it could’ve gotten this bad. A hero would’ve saved Kiyoko.

 

A hero wouldn’t be stuck at a goddamn school for dangerous kids.

 

But Shinsou didn’t have the time or privilege to do it the hero way.

 

Good thing he wasn’t a hero.

 

He made his decision. Tobe had done so much for him. Things he could never repay her for. If he was going to sell his soul to villainy eventually anyway, well, at least he’d do it on his terms, helping the people he cared about.

 

He pushed the picks back into the lock and directed them further into the hole like he had practiced. The lock turned and with barely any hesitation Shinsou pushed the door open. 

 

His adrenaline kicked up at the sight of the dark room. He only really had a vague idea of what he was looking for, and he was praying that there would be a physical copy of it somewhere, there was no way he’d be able to find it on the computer.

He did a quick scan of the room before immediately darting for the filing cabinet in the corner of the room. He’d been in this room before when he was forced to shadow the director around for a day as a punishment. They just basically sat in that room all day, he wasn’t even able to go to meals. It was boring as hell, but as a punishment, it wasn’t that bad.

 

He pulled open the bottom drawer and immediately sighed at the sight. How much information could they possibly need to keep track of?

 

Turns out, they keep track of not only every foster kid that stayed there, but they also kept track of every student, teacher, and caretaker that ever worked or studied there. Shinsou was overwhelmed by the insane amount of plain manila folders.

 

That was until he noticed that Daisuke was really organized, and that the second drawer was filled with only the foster kids’ files, in alphabetical order.

 

Shinsou smirked under the mask and quickly flipped through each folder. It was even alphabetized.

 

He jumped to the middle of the stack, flipping past all the P’s and R’s before stopping abruptly at his own name.

 

Shinsou Hitoshi

 

Obviously he would have a file, he felt a bit ridiculous for not realizing it sooner. 

 

He should leave it be. He was pretty sure he didn’t want to know what was in there. He knew his life better than anyone, there wasn’t anything in there that would do any good or be helpful in any way. He was here for Tobe’s file, not his. He should stay focused, flip past it, and...

 

And he was already pulling it out.

 

He flipped it open and blinked at the picture of himself pinned inside the front cover. He had no memories of that picture being taken. He was young, really young. He couldn’t have been older than five. His eyes were puffy and red, and his smile was smaller than his already small smile usually was. His familiar purple hair was dirty and ruffled but significantly lighter than the hair he knew. He reached up and grabbed a pinch of his hair, pulling it forward and examining it cross-eyed. He couldn’t really tell in the darkness but had his hair gotten darker? He hadn’t ever noticed.

 

The front page was just his basic information, his quirk, his height, which was very outdated, his birthday, where he was from, his…

 

His mom's name.

 

Shinsou Tomomi

 

Shinsou Tomomi

 

And the father’s name was blank.

 

He stared at the ink on the paper, 2 words, 13 letters. He never really noticed how little he really knew about his mom. He barely had a vague idea of her face, he hadn’t even realized he’d forgotten her name, or maybe he never knew it to begin with.

 

He avoided thinking about his parents. He had no memory of his father, and the ones of his mother were getting fuzzier and fuzzier as the days went on.

 

Tomomi is a nice name.

 

He flipped the page but his eyes didn’t move from that spot. He knew he got his hair from his father, the one thing he could remember about his mother was her long silver hair that always shimmered in the moonlight. Maybe even his mother didn’t know who his father was, or maybe since he was out of the picture they didn’t bother to include his name.

 

He shook his head and forced himself to focus on the new words in front of him. He didn’t have parents, there’s no reason to worry about two random people that forced him into this hellish world.

 

The next page seemed to be some kind of analysis from his foster agent, written before he was sent to the school. In the beginning, it was simple stuff, anti-social, quiet, weak descriptions of how he acted at different houses but then it shifted.

 

‘We don’t know if he is unable to control his quirk or if he uses it intentionally. Either way, with his history, a device restricting his voice in some way is highly recommended. Previous fosters agree that he’s much less of a threat with these precautions in place, and there have been no incidences since the test trial was implimented.’

 

Shinsou ran his fingers along the edge of his mask as he read the words. A threat? When had he ever been a threat?

 

I mean sure, he’s done some questionable things, especially lately, but not when he was little, not when he barely even understood what being villainous meant.

 

‘From what we understand, the quirk is response based. As long as no one responds to his words, the quirk won’t be able to latch on. In situations where such a device is unavailable, simply not verbally acknowledging him will prevent the quirk from corrupting your mind.’

 

Corrupting your mind?

 

That’s not at all how it works.

 

He’d know. He just used it a few days ago.

 

Fuck .

 

He slammed the folder closed and stood up, shoving it back into its place in the line.

 

As far as he remembered he basically had full control of his quirk by the time he was six, and he only had a few memories of brainwashing people accidentally. Surely he couldn’t have been that much of a problem.

 

Not enough of a problem to be highly recommended a fucking muzzle .

 

He pressed his palms into his eyes and rested his head on the cabinet. No wonder they were so cautious with him and his quirk, they made it sound like he used his quirk whenever possible. When he was little he barely even talked because he was terrified of accidentally activating his quirk and after all of that, they still saw him as nothing more than a goddamn threat.

 

He needed to get out of this fucking muzzle right now. He couldn’t breathe, his lungs weren’t working the way they were supposed to. His chest was aching from a mixture of his heart trying to hammer its way out of his chest and his lungs collapsing in on themselves. He needed some air, some real air, without a fucking muzzle restricting it.

 

Shinsou stumbled backward, crashing with the desk behind him and collapsing onto the floor. He didn’t have his key, he didn’t have the fucking key. Shit. Shit. He wanted out, just for a second, just to be able to take a fucking breather. He needed to get it off, the muzzle was shrinking, searing itself to his skin. 

 

He needed to get it off before it fused with his skin and he wasn’t able to talk ever again.

 

He clawed at his face, desperately grabbing at the edge of the mask and attempting to rip it off. He was unsuccessful, obviously. They made these things strong, they couldn't take any chances with a villain kid who uses his quirk whenever he damn well pleases.

 

Fuck it wasn’t working. Okay, Fuck .

 

Breathe. Just fucking breathe.

 

I can’t that’s the fucking problem.

 

Shinsou shuffled through his pockets pulling out the lockpicks he’d used earlier. He grabbed the lock with his other hand and pulled it as far to the side as he could. The muzzle tugged and ripped at his skin at the motion but Shinsou kept pulling. 

 

He shoved the sticks in the lock, swinging them around wildly, with none of the finesse he had before. A choked sob bubbled out of his throat as a stick fumbled out of his hand and clattered onto the floor.

 

He patted around looking for the fallen stick, grabbing onto it like a lifeline when his fingertips made contact. He wasn’t going to get anywhere like this. He needed to calm the fuck down, he needed to focus. He forced himself to ignore the spiders crawling under his skin as he lifted his trembling hand to the lock again.

 

Focus. Focus. Slow and precise. Just focus.

 

He let out a deep shaky breath and pushed the stick in again. He fumbled with the pins for a few seconds more before the stick turned and the lock twisted. Shinsou let out a shaky breath as he pulled the lock away and gasped for breath as the mask finally slid off his face. 

 

He kicked the object away and pressed his hands to his face. His face was wet and hot, and his wounds stung as his hands brushed against sensitive skin. He rested his elbows on his knees and took deep breaths.

 

He stayed there for a while, just staring at the floor, focusing on his breathing and not allowing his mind to wander.

 

Fuck, that was dramatic.

 

He dropped his hands and leaned back against the desk, wiping his eyes on his arm. His face was weirdly fuzzy but his mind seemed clearer, more able to actually focus on his task.

 

Which was…

 

Right. He was here for Tobe, and he’d gotten stupidly distracted.

 

Shinsou took a shaky breath and pushed himself up onto unsteady legs. He shuffled through the still open cabinet, starting from the back this time to avoid any thoughts of what his file held.

 

Tobe Rai

 

He pulled her file out and flipped it open the instant he laid eyes on it.

 

He didn’t intend to invade privacy, and he didn’t know if this really counted as an invasion, but staring at the photo of a young Tobe, younger than he had been in his photo, it seemed like he might be stepping over some sort of line.

 

Shinsou would guess she couldn’t have been older than 4, maybe even young enough that her quirk hadn’t developed yet. Her eyes were a dull grey instead of the sparkly blue he knew, and her brown hair was cut short to her chin. She was smiling in the photo, wide enough that the corners of her eyes were scrunched and you could practically count all her baby teeth. Unlike Shinsou’s smile, it actually looked genuine, but not quite like the smile he’d become familiar with.

 

He flipped to the back of the file, if they kept records of where they had moved her, it would probably be towards the back. He scanned the last page, not wanting to catch any unnecessary info (or anything that would make him freak out again).

 

422-1016, Tokyo, Fujiya

 

That was where she was staying. 

 

422-1016, Tokyo, Fujiya

 

A pulse of joy shot through him. He was successful! He did it, he actually managed to find where Tobe was currently living and he did it all by himself. Now all he had to do was…

 

Actually go there and talk to Tobe and tell her that her friend is gone… For good.

 

Well, first, he needed to figure out where this was. He didn’t need to worry about the end yet.

 

He stared at the address, burning into his memory. He didn’t have a paper or anything to write it down on and he didn’t want to leave any evidence that someone had been here behind, so repeating the address until he could say it in his sleep would be his only option.

 

Shinsou shoved the file back in its place and quietly slid the door shut. He grabbed the scattered lock picks and the discarded muzzle, attempting (and failing) to not think about when he’d have to put that thing back on again, and shuffled out the office and into the stairwell.

 

He considered attempting to lock up the office again, but without a key, he wasn’t sure if it was possible, and if it was, he certainly didn’t know how to do it. So he just hoped that the Director would think locking up had slipped her mind, or maybe she wouldn’t even notice.

 

He repeated the address over and over in his head as he marched up the stairs to the 3rd floor. He wished he brought a paper or something to write on. His memory wasn’t exactly the best, and he really didn’t want to try and sneak into the directors’ office again.

 

Shinsou pushed the door open to the game room and stared through the familiar glass doors at the powered-down computers. He didn’t even know if they’d turn on at night but he had to try, there was no way he’d be able to find this address without searching it up first. He tossed his muzzle and the lock pick set onto a nearby table and charged straight towards the window, pulling it up and slipping out. 

 

The fresh, slightly humid air felt nice against his face, especially his free cheeks and chin. He closed his eyes and took in a slow deep breath, both to appreciate the metallic smell that still lingered in the air and to prepare himself for the cross to the window. 

 

He let out a sigh and glanced at the window to his right. He pressed forward, carefully climbing over the railing and clinging to the edge.

 

Like an idiot, he looked down. An icy chill ran down his spine and made him curl his toes. From this height, he probably wouldn’t die, just be gravely injured. Maybe he’d die from being left there so long, but death on impact was unlikely. That made everything worse. He’d rather have a quick death than a slow one where he was in pain the whole time. 

 

How’d Kiyoko do it?

 

Shinsou’s eyes snapped up and he pushed the question down. Nope. No, he would not think about that. Right now it was about Tobe. About getting to her and…

 

He didn’t finish the thought, instead, he forced himself to move, dropping his left foot and hand and clinging onto the edge the best he could.

 

He’d barely grown since the last time he did it, but the change was noticeable. He could actually curl the tips of his fingers around the edge of the frame. His foot planted on the ledge and, without hesitation, Shinsou let go, kicking off with his remaining leg and pulling himself over to the window. He steadied himself and forced himself to keep his eyes up as he carefully spun around, till he was facing the building. 

 

He pressed his hand to the glass and pushed up attempting to slide the window open, but it didn’t budge. His heart rate spiked as he pressed against it harder, more desperate and determined, but it still didn’t move.

 

Please don’t tell me it's locked. Please.

 

Shinsou reached down and ran his fingers along the bottom, hoping to find something to get a better grip but he came up empty. His hand scrambled against the window, desperately trying to push it open while still managing his balancing act.

 

He shifted his stance and clawed along the bottom again, hoping to use the small indent to pull it open. He failed.

 

Shit. 

 

His legs were getting cold and cramped from the half squat he was doing and his back was strained. He really couldn’t stay in this position for much longer, he either had to get this window open or abort mission. 

 

But the window wasn’t opening and he didn’t know how to even begin making his way back to the emergency escape. There was nowhere to grab onto the window, so he couldn’t just do the same thing but reverse. He could probably try and jump for it, he was pretty confident he could close the distance, it wasn’t that far.   

 

He leaned forward, resting some of his weight against the window hoping to relieve some of the strain on his legs and back. The window clearly wasn’t getting open and he’d have to move soon.

 

Shinsou shifted his stance again, shuffling as close to the edge as he could. He gripped the corner of the window and took a steadying breath, closing his eyes and exhaling slowly. His eyes snapped open, and he set his sights on the balcony. He’d have to jump over the railing. He was pretty sure he could grab the railing and pull himself over, but he didn’t want to test that theory right this minute.

 

He launched himself forward, pushing off as hard as he could with both legs. He reached out, attempting to pull his legs forward like Tobe had taught him, so he could land on his feet. He misjudged the jump a bit though and the tip of his toes caught on the top of the railing and his chest rocketed forward, leaving his feet hooked around the rail.

 

He moved to pull his arms in front of his face when he felt his feet catch, but before he could, his face made contact with the cold metal and pain shot through his head and nose.

 

Shinsou sputtered and reached up to grab his nose, cupping it as he rolled over and wheezed. Something warm spread across his hand, and when he pulled it away, blood pooled at the base of his palm.

 

Shinsou tilted his head and pulled his hand closer to his face. There weren't any cuts he could find, which meant the blood was from his face.

 

Which also explained the pounding behind the bridge of his nose.

 

Shinsou rolled back over, positioning himself on his hands and knees and watching as drops of blood dripped off his nose and through the grates. He’d just have to wait out the blood. There was no way he could go in there with a bloody nose, he’d leave evidence of his sneaking out everywhere, he did not know how to clean up blood.

 

Shit, please tell me I didn’t break my nose.

 

Shinsou stayed there awhile, hypnotized by the rhythmic clang of the blood as it dripped slower and slower until it finally stopped. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, and sniffled, reaching up to the bridge of his nose, and squeezing lightly. He flinched back at his own touch, squeezing his eyes shut and then immediately relaxing them when more pain shot through his skull.

 

That’s not a good sign.

 

Shinsou carefully wiped the base of his nose a few times more before the dried blood flaked off and he stood up, stretching out his back and legs. He crawled back through the window and closed it quietly, staring into it and wiping off the extra specks of dried blood, wincing when he touched his nose wrong.

 

He paused, staring at the boy blinking back at him through the window. There were still a few rogue specks of dried blood clinging to his face, his eyes still a bit puffy from his freak out, and his cheeks had dull pink claw marks. His eye bags looked deeper than normal, probably because he’d been getting even less sleep than usual. If he was being honest with himself, he looked like shit.

 

He got why people called him zombie, he really did. Honestly, it was one of the more mild insults they used. 

 

He reached up to touch the jagged marks. It didn’t look like he drew blood, but he probably got pretty close. His cheek stung at the contact and he pulled his hand away.

 

Hmm. Maybe my hair is darker.

 

Shinsou broke eye contact with himself and moved to peer through the glass doors. He didn’t see any visible lock on the window, though it was quite dark and the emergency light was hardly working to illuminate the room. 

 

Shinsou sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He could always look it up tomorrow after class, as long as he was vigilant with people looking over his shoulder. Wednesday wasn’t usually too busy, there would probably be an opportunity to search the address.

 

He sighed again but pulled away from the glass. He doubted he’d be able to get any sleep tonight, not after practically (if not literally) breaking his nose and… and that dumbass freak out.

 

And everything with Kiyoko.

 

And his confusing internal argument he had put on pause.

 

God, it’s been a long day.

 

Shinsou stumbled backward, dragging his feet towards the tables, mentally preparing himself to head back up and lie in bed for 5 hours. His stomach clenched as he spotted the muzzle. He’d have to put that back on soon.

 

He picked up the muzzle and turned it over in his hands. This stupid fucking thing caused all that chaos? Really.

 

Maybe it's working, maybe Shinsou really was going crazy from the stress of it all. Maybe he could just stay here for a bit before heading back up, for old times sake,

 

God, old times sake. I sound like an idiot.

 

He threw the muzzle back on the table and sighed, reaching out to grab his…

 

Lock pick set.

 

Holy shit. I really am an idiot.

 

Shinsou snatched the black bag off the table and planted himself in front of the metal handles, kneeling so he was eye level with the lock.

 

Broke my fucking nose for no reason.  

 

He slid the stick into the hole and eased the pick deeper and deeper into the lock until it turned. Shinsou smiled as he pushed the door open, sliding into the chair in front of the computer. 

 

He never had to turn these on himself, they were usually ready for him, already powered on, and logged in. He tapped one of the keys a few times and moved on to searching for a power button when that did nothing. He pressed a random button and the screen flashed on, bright light blinding Shinsou in the dim room. It faded from bright white to the familiar default background and slowly, small icons decorated the screen.

 

The second the search icon popped up Shinsou looked up the address. He didn’t recognize the area, which made sense considering it was almost an hour away, by train.

 

Shit.

 

He hadn’t really accounted for that. He was hoping she was close enough that he could walk there in one night, but if he was going to be walking, it'd be…

 

13 hours!?

 

Train it is.

 

Shinsou grabbed a piece of paper from the librarian's desk and wrote down as much information as he could. How to get to the station, how to find his train, how to find where Tobe was staying, how to get back. He noted that the last train stopped running at 1:00 and the first train started at 5:00, which meant he’d have plenty of time to make it back to the school before they even noticed he was gone. And, thanks to Takashi’s 1000 yen, he had just enough money to make it there and back.

 

His bad habit of drawing during class actually came in useful as he was drawing out the streets and the routes to the stations and back. He might’ve gotten a bit carried away with it, what was meant to be a simple map with the main street names and location markers he needed, turned into a fairly elaborate route, marking businesses and the streets nearby. At least he’d have the info if he got lost.

 

He leaned back, cracked his back, and rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe it, he actually couldn’t believe it. This plan might actually work. He might actually be able to do this. Shinsou picked up the paper, folding it up as small as he could, and shoved it deep into his pocket. He cleared the search history before shutting the computer off and sneaking back out the glass doors. 

 

Shinsou yawned and rubbed his eyes as he picked up his muzzle. If he was really going to do this tomorrow, then he really should probably try to get some sleep. He stared at the muzzle in his hands and sighed, long and heavy. 

 

He’d worn that thing for a while now, he should be used to it. To the harsh jagged edges, to the way it was hot all the time, to the way his jaw ached before dinner and after waking up. It shouldn’t bother him as much anymore.

 

And yet… he hated that thing more and more each day.

 

He swallowed hard and dry, if he was careful, he could probably get away with sleeping without it on. It had been so long since he was able to do that, actually fall asleep in a bed with nothing restricting his mouth.

 

Shinsou shuffled up the stairs, tip-toeing more and more as he got closer to the top levels. He could’ve gone up the emergency escape and avoided worrying about doors waking people up, but climbing ladders with a muzzle in his hand was difficult, and going up was already hard enough for him.

 

Besides, he was pretty much an expert at sneaking around by now.

 

He made it back to his bed safely, pulling the blanket all the way up to his nose and placing his mask directly in front of him. He didn’t typically move much in his sleep, so hopefully, even if he didn’t wake up before everyone else, he’d still be able to sneak it on before anyone noticed.

 

Shinsou nuzzled into his cold pillow and sighed. He pushed all thoughts about villains and… other things away. He could stress about all that stuff later, after he made sure this Tobe thing was dealt with. After his little self-proclaimed mission was successful. After he rests a little. 

 

Chapter Text

He woke up in a slight panic, jolted up by the slamming of the door. Almost instantly, he was very alert, aware and tuned in to everything and anything he could hear. There was definitely someone in the room with him, the light footsteps meant it was probably a kid. He peeked his eye open only to be greeted by fuzzy light streaming through the thin fabric. Good, so he was under his blanket, that made this whole thing a lot easier.

 

Shinsou slowly rolled his shoulder forward, carefully patting around for where his muzzle could’ve shifted off to as he slept. His wrist hit something hard and he slowly pushed the muzzle up to his chin, slowly tilting his head so it aligned with the mask. He strained his ears, still listening for any sign of a caretaker as he pressed the contraption onto his face and pulled the straps over his ears. He bit back a hiss as metal slid over his nose and blinked away the tears as he threaded the strap.

 

He shuffled for the lock in his pocket and pulled the strap tight, wincing as he slid the lock through the loops and pushed down on the shackle. The click was quiet but it still seemed like the loudest thing in the room. He stayed there for a few seconds more, letting his racing heart slow, before sitting up and actually getting ready.

 

He rummaged through his drawer, shoving his jacket with the lock pick set still in the pocket, deep into the corner, pulling out one of his newer cat shirts that he had gotten from his last foster house. It was a simple design, a plain black shirt with yellow cat eyes and whiskers, but it quickly became his favorite.

 

He dressed fast, he didn’t have much time before breakfast and he still needed to brush his teeth, and squeeze in a bit of last-minute math homework if he could. 

 

He rushed out of the room and into the bathroom. His caretaker was waiting there for him, watching the only other kid in this place that needed a constant babysitter. She quickly unlocked his mask and Shinsou brushed his teeth faster than he ever had before (seriously, he usually took his time, cherishing his small moments without the mask), speeding back to his room as soon as the mask was locked back on. 

 

He finished up the last few problems he had in math just as the last few kids were trickling out for breakfast. 

 

Guilt swelled in his stomach as his eyes fell on the three empty seats next to each other. He had almost forgotten all about Kiyoko.

 

Don’t get him wrong. He knew, and he remembered. He had his whole plan for tonight because of her, because he knew that Tobe deserved to know, that Kiyoko deserved to have at least one person mourn her. But in the craziness of his morning, and the bizarreness of his night, he had to admit, he almost forgot.

 

And, well, that was kind of the goal. Focus on his mission and push any stray thoughts away.

 

He ate his food numbly, appetite suddenly lost. What was he doing? Sneaking around at night, breaking and entering into the directors’ office, using his quirk on people.

 

Villainous people.

 

Still. People.

 

Shinsou dropped his chopsticks and clenched his jaw, trying to ignore his nauseous stomach. He did it. He really did it. He picked the lock and broke into her office. He’d known he’d regret it. Why did he do it? What was he thinking?

 

‘I set boundaries for myself and then didn’t follow them.’

 

Shit.

 

That’s exactly what Senjo said would happen.

 

Shinsou’s heart fell as he felt the muzzle latch itself onto his face again.

 

Everyone was right. Everyone was fucking right. The bullies, the people who muzzled him, beat him for talking. He wasn’t stronger than this quirk, he was slipping. 1 step forward and 2 steps back, closer to becoming what everyone said he was.

 

No, this was different, it had to be. It was different because he wasn’t doing this for himself. He’d do this and then he’d stop. He’d tune out that little villain in the back of his head and he’d move on, not a hero, not a villain. He’d draw the line, no more villainy, and no more acts even remotely close. This meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. No one got hurt, and no one has to know. If this was as far as his villainous side took him, he’d be okay with that.

 

And maybe, just maybe, if he was good enough, the thoughts would go away too.

 

Fuck.

 

This is exactly what he was trying to avoid. Don’t think about it. Push it down, ignore it. Focus on getting to Tobe, pretend everything’s fine.

 

He told himself that it would sort itself out. That everything would be fine.

 

He lied.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Sneaking out was becoming too easy. He was out of the window and at the bottom of the alley in no time at all. 

 

That’ll be useful when you descend to villainy.

 

Shinsou reached up, unlocked his mask, wincing as pain shot through his nose, and set it underneath a cardboard box that hid in the corner of the alley. His face was still a bit scratched up from last night, but at least he wouldn’t have to deal with people staring at him because of his muzzle. He tugged his hood up over his wild lavender hair and pulled it as far over his head as it would allow. 

 

Pulling out his makeshift map, Shinsou made his way out the mouth of the alley. He had mentally walked this route in his head a thousand times through the day, so much so that he doubted he would actually need the map. Still though, he paid close attention to every street sign and turn he made, making sure he was where he actually needed to be.

 

The first half of the walk was familiar. It was part of the route he used to run before he changed to a longer, less dangerous route. The second half though was an area he’d never been to before, at least not that he remembered. There were more people wandering the streets at night than Shinsou was used to, not a lot, but enough to make him jumpy and on guard.

 

He made it to the station no problem, luckily, the station itself was pretty empty. There was one man, who looked homeless, sprawled out on the bench, and a few others about, trotting off to wherever they needed to be this late at night, most not even giving Shinsou a second glance. The station didn’t need to be bustling with people to be intimidating though. The rows of machines along the walls, the confusing colorful maps, and tv screens that had too many different colors and lines of information were intimidating in themselves. 

 

People who shuffled in behind him either made their way straight for the atm-looking machines stuck in the wall or bypassed everyone and made their way straight to the small green door contraptions. He observed them a while more, scooting off to the side to try and decipher the puzzle that was the station. Eventually, he settled on shuffling forward, and following the few that inserted coins into machines.

 

Shinsou wasn’t unfamiliar with computers, he spent half of his free time after school on one, but whatever it was that this machine wanted him to do, he could not figure it out. He glanced around nervously, purple hair falling in his eyes as he did. He tucked the wild strands back into his hood as his eyes landed on a help desk to his right, one that had a person and not a machine.

 

He bit his lip, turning back to the machine and rubbing the back of his neck. He’d much rather avoid any human interaction if he could. He stayed there a few more moments, tapping the screen, desperately trying to get it to do something useful before he decided to just suck it up. Shinsou marched forward, trying his best to feign confidence and pretending like he knew exactly what he was doing. He stopped behind a man who smelled a lot like alcohol and stood awkwardly in line, watching as the huge clock ticked closer and closer to midnight.

 

The man in front of him stumbled off and Shinsou shot forward, smiling sheepishly up at the lady behind the glass.

 

“How can I help you?”

 

“Uhh… I need a ticket.”

 

The woman raised her eyebrows and huffed. “Yeah, most people do. Where are you going?”

 

“Fujiya Station.”

 

“You just need one?”

 

He nodded hard and the woman to let out a soft chuckle. “How old are you kid?”

 

Shinsou swallowed and shifted his feet. Should he lie? He hadn’t thought to check if there was an age restriction for solo riders. 

 

“E-Eleven.” He squeaked out. The woman smiled softly and reached to her right.

 

“That’ll be 200 yen.”

 

Shinsou tilted his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “Uhh, I thought it was 400?”

 

“It is. For people 12 and up. You get a discount.” 

 

You could use your quirk and get it for free.

 

“Oh,” Shinsou mumbled, pulling out his two 500-yen coins. “I only have this.”

 

“That’s fine.” 

 

He set the coin on the metal slab in front of him and the girl slid him his change and the small yellow ticket.

 

“Do you know where you're going?”

 

His heart thumped hard against his ribcage and Shinsou shrugged.

 

“Head straight out there and put your ticket in the little slit, it’ll eat it, spit it back out and those little door things will swing open. Then follow the signs to wherever it is you’re trying to get to. Pay attention to the stop number. Don’t want to get off at the wrong place.”

 

Shinsou smiled a small smile at her and bowed, he already knew which stop would be his, but he still appreciated the help. “Thank you.”

 

“My pleasure.” She smiled down at him and he bowed again stiffly, before shuffling off in the direction she had pointed.

 

He followed the instructions she gave him, giving the machine his ticket and walking through the small doors. The wait for his ride wasn’t long, he’d timed it well enough, but standing there awkwardly with nothing to do while everyone else was either on their phone or reading made him really wish he had brought his book. 

 

When the train did come, his first instinct was to shuffle to the back of the train car and hide away from everyone. He didn’t do that though, instead, sitting as close to the exit as he could while still keeping his distance from the people around him. Luckily, the others had the same idea, opting to sit somewhere away from each other and keep their distance.

 

Going into this Shinsou, had no idea what to expect from the ride. He’d never ridden a train before, not that he could remember at least. He was left alone which he was very grateful for, he really expected a lot more human interaction.

 

The ride went by fast enough. He watched very closely to be sure he didn’t miss the stop he needed. When they did arrive at his stop, he was one of the last people still on the train. He shuffled off quickly, eager to get to Tobe as soon as possible. He stuck his little ticket stub into the slit again and the doors swung open, he pressed forward, shuffling out of the station and pulling the directions out his pocket, eyeing looking them over one more time before marching off in the direction he was supposed to go.

 

The walk from the station to where Tobe was staying wasn’t that long of a walk but it was confusing. Shinsou had never been to an area like this before. He was used to cities or city-like areas, but this area had actual houses and not just apartment buildings everywhere. The streets were wider and longer than he was used to, and the walk was longer than he had anticipated but eventually, he was standing in front of the baby blue house that apparently belonged to whoever Tobe was staying with.

 

He pulled his hood up further over his face and cautiously pressed his face to the window. The room was very graciously decorated, with fancy large furniture and a bunch of odd trinkets scattered around. He rounded the house, pressing his face against the other window and the next until there were no more windows left for him in the front. He’d have to climb over their gate to get to the other windows.

 

Shinsou took a quick glance up and down the street, before he jumped onto the hinge of the fence-gate and as quietly as he could, pushed himself up. He stayed there a second, struggling to pull himself fully over, before he pushed off the wall of the house and swung his other leg over the gate, landing semi-gracefully on the other side.

 

He only had to look in 2 more windows before he found Tobe’s room, but it looked like she was sharing it with someone, which definitely wasn’t ideal. He tried to open the window, but no movement came. 

 

God he really hoped Tobe was a light sleeper.

 

He knocked on the window quietly, and when she didn’t move, he knocked slightly louder. His third time knocking she finally stirred in her bed and turned over, glancing at the window. Shinsou huffed out a laugh as she did a double-take, eyes widening as their gazelocked. She glanced over to the bed on the other side of the room before carefully sliding out of her bed and over to the window, unlocking it and quietly pulling it up.

 

“Shinsou! What the hell?” She kept her voice low, whispering.

 

Shinsou tried to hold back his smile, but the corners of his lips still crept up. “Hello Tobe.”

 

‘The fuck you doing here?’

 

‘I was in town, thought I'd stop by.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, pushing his shoulder back and stepping out the window, carefully shutting it behind her.

 

“How’d you even know where I was?”

 

Shinsou’s smirk fell, “I, uh, checked your file. I hope that's okay.”

 

Tobe’s eyebrows shot up, "The file in the director's office?" Shinsou gave a small mod and a smile slowly grew on her face until she huffed out a laugh, “I’m rubbing off on you.” Shinsou rolled his eyes. “How’d you get here?”

 

“Took the train.”

 

Tobe’s eyes grew wide. “Seriously? You stole information and then hopped on the first train here?”

 

“I mean…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah. I guess that sums it up.”

 

“Did you really miss me that much?” Tobe smirked but Shinsou frowned.

 

“I came to tell you something.”

 

Tobe’s smile fell too and she pulled him away from her window and deeper into the yard. “What is it?”

 

Shinsou dropped his gaze and curled the hairs on the back of his head around his finger. “It’s about Kiyoko.”

 

Tobe coughed and popped her knuckles, “Uhh, yeah I think I already know.”

 

His head snapped up, “You do?” Tobe nodded and Shinsou rubbed his neck again, “Oh, they told me you didn’t.”

 

The two of them sat in silence for a moment. “You came all the way here to tell me that?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, “I figured you deserved to know, I thought they wouldn’t tell you.”

 

“Yeah I got the call this morning.”

 

“How are you?”

 

Tobe snorted, “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet.”

 

Shinsou nodded, “Same.”

 

“When did you find out?”

 

“Yesterday.”

 

“And how are you doing?”

 

He shrugged, “I didn’t really know her.”

 

“You hear anything about Nao or Kenji?” Shinsou shook his head, “Damn, I should’ve punched them harder when I had the chance.”

 

“I should’ve too.”

 

Tobe sat down in the grass, laying back to stare at the stars. “This is really awkward.”

 

Shinsou huffed and sat beside her, crossing his legs and resting his chin in his hand. “How’s everything been here?”

 

Tobe shrugged, “It’s been alright. These people are kinda rich so they keep buying me shit. It's going to be hard to convince them to get rid of me.”

 

“Then why don’t you stay?”

 

“Why would I?”

 

“Got no reason to come back. Chie and Kiyoko are both gone, you’re too old to go to the school, there's not really a reason for you to come back.” 

 

Tobe sighed, “You know, I didn’t just come back because of them. We weren’t even really friends at first. I just kinda stuck around Kiyoko because of those assholes, and because I didn’t really have anyone else to hang around.” 

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows furrowed. He’d always assumed that Tobe was so insistent on returning to the school because of them, because they were her friends.

 

“I don’t really know how Chie and Ko became friends, they are honestly polar opposites. Probably same reason I ended up in their group...” Tobe turned to stare at Shinsou and shrugged, “Limited options.”

 

“Then why come back in the first place?”

 

Tobe shrugged again. “At first it’s cause I was pissed. I wanted to stay with my uncle, not some sorry excuse for a ‘quirk specialized school’.” Tobe mocked. “If I stayed too long at a certain house, they could get attached, ‘cause we both know how charming I am.” Shinsou chuckled at that. “Then I actually kinda liked that dumbass school, at least how much I could get away with.”

 

“You’re going to be 14 soon.” Shinsou pointed out.

 

“And?”

 

“You said they’ll kick you out when you’re 16.”

 

Tobe snorted, “That’s two whole years away.”

 

“If these people like you and want you, you should stay.”

 

“But I don’t want to stay.” Tobe argued.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Are you seriously this dense?”

 

Shinsou glanced over to her. She was sitting up now, holding herself up with her hands planted behind her. “What?”

 

“It’s because we’re friends, you idiot.”

 

Shinsou pressed his lips together, picking at his fingers as he digested the confession. “I don’t want to be the reason you leave a good house.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and leaned back. “Fuck off, this house is too far away. Maybe if I get someone closer I’d consider it.”

 

Shinsou had gotten into plenty of arguments with Tobe to know no matter what he said, her mind had been made up. 

 

Still, he tried. “It’s not that far.”

 

“It’s not close. It’s far from both you and my uncle, it’s a bullshit area, I’m not staying here Shinsou.”

 

He sighed heavily but dropped the topic.

 

“I swear, sometimes, you’re like really smart and you notice things I never would’ve, and sometimes, you miss the shit that’s right in your face.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes. “I don’t see how this is my fault, you don’t tell the truth about anything. It’s all jokes or insults.”

 

Tobe snorted, rolling onto her stomach to face Shinsou. “I can’t believe you actually broke into the director's office.” The corner of his mouth twitched. “How’d you do it? Her window is usually locked.”

 

“Yeah, I didn’t go through the window, I picked the lock.”

 

Tobe shot up again. “You picked the lock!”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“I have so many questions! Where did you learn to do that?”

 

“I kinda taught myself, your uncle gave me his lock pick set.”

 

Tobe’s jaw dropped, “He did what! I’ve been begging him for years and he gives it to you!” 

 

Shinsou smirked and shrugged, “Guess he knew I'd be more responsible.”

 

“Shut the fuck up before I make you, that’s not fair at all.”

 

“Oh come on,” Shinsou argued, “He taught you so much shit and he gives me one thing and you’re seriously this jealous.”

 

“He’s my uncle.”

 

“Not for long.”

 

Tobe pushed him over and Shinsou’s cheek crashed into the grass. He rolled over, spitting out remnants of dirt and grass, wiping his face before adding, “You know I would’ve been willing to share but now I don’t think I will.”

 

“How long have you had it?”

 

“Since I was at that one house with Chie.”

 

“And you’re just now telling me.”

 

Shinsou shrugged again, biting back a smirk, “You never asked.”

 

“How am I…” Tobe sighed and ran her hands through her hair. “Whatever, did he give you anything else?” 

 

Shinsou shrugged, “He gave me more first-aid stuff, but I left that with Chie.”

 

Tobe pressed her lips together and nodded, “I’ll get you a new one.”

 

“Where do you get them from?”

 

“Well the one I gave you I got from my uncle, the one I have right now I stole from the last house I stayed at. I could probably find one in this house, or borrow a few yen from them and buy a new one.”

 

Shinsou sighed, “I thought you were trying to avoid doing illegal stuff.”

 

Tobe shrugged, “You broke into someone's office and you’re lecturing me?”

 

“Not lecturing,” Shinsou clarified, “I just.” He paused, sitting up and gathering his thoughts, “You do this stuff a lot, but you still want to be a hero, I don’t get it.”

 

Tobe sighed, “If I’m going to be a hero, I have to survive. These people aren't going to miss the few yen I need. I know when to stop.”

 

“But what if you don’t?”

 

Shinsou’s heart was racing, he didn’t quite understand why. “Don’t what?”

 

“What if you don’t stop when you’re supposed to?”

 

Tobe looked him over carefully. “I do though… I can control myself, I won’t go crazy. I know what lines to cross and what lines I shouldn’t.”

 

He swallowed hard, pulling his knee up and resting his chin on it, avoiding Tobe’s gaze. She was probably right. She did always know where the line was, at least for herself. She knew how to fight, and yet she only ever fought off people’s bullies; she was pretty good at stealing, and, as far as Shinsou knew, she only did it a few times, if she felt she really needed to. For as long as Shinsou had known her, he’d only ever seen her actually use her quirk 3 times. Once to paralyze the caretaker in the elevator, once accidentally on Shinsou when they were training, and that day on Kiyoko. She always talked big but she kept herself under control.

 

Shinsou on the other hand…

 

He was walking a thinner line than her, sure, and maybe most of those were restrictions he put on himself, but he still failed more often than he succeeded. He’d promised himself he’d never threaten someone with his quirk, then he did, told himself he would never use his quirk, then he did.

 

“How long can you stay?”

 

Shinsou sighed, running a hand down his face before glancing over at Tobe. “The train I need to be on arrives around 5.”

 

“Oh wow, that’s a decent amount of time.”

 

“Yeah, got a watch or something? I have no way to keep time.”

 

Tobe laughed before standing up and running back to her window, pulling it up and reaching into the room. Shinsou slowly followed her, taking his time to push himself up before trailing behind her. She shut the window softly, throwing a small black watch at him.

 

“Don’t break it, it's not mine.”

 

Shinsou turned the small thing over in his hand before wrapping it around his wrist. “You’re the one throwing it around without a care in the world.”

 

“Yeah well, I don’t care if it breaks, it's not mine.” Shinsou stared at her disapprovingly, softly shaking his head.

 

“C’mon,” Tobe added before he could say anything, “there's a skate park not too far from here I wanna show you.” 

 

“Rai what are you doing?”

 

It was a high-pitched voice that spoke up, not sounding anything close to the one person Shinsou had ever heard call Tobe by her given name.

 

Shinsou watched as Tobe tensed, spinning around and narrowing her eyes. “I told you not to call me that.”

 

“Who is that?”

 

Shinsou slowly turned around, awkwardly shoving his hands in his pocket, and finally coming face to face with the girl. She was standing inside, the window barely cracked open enough so that two of them could hear her. Her arms were crossed and her face was twisted. Her long black hair was pushed up awkwardly on one side, obviously from sleeping on it at a bad angle, and Shinsou had to repress a laugh at the sight.

 

“None of your business.”

 

The girl huffed, “You’re sneaking off with boys now? Come on, that’s low.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, “Don’t say it like that, he’s 10 I have standards.”

 

The girl's eyebrows shot up, “You’re 10?”

 

“Eleven, actually.” He corrected, somewhat bitterly.

 

“Doesn’t matter,” Tobe jumped in, “Shinsou’s basically my brother, so whatever it is that you think we’re doing, we’re not.” Shinsou glanced at Tobe from the corner of his vision. 

 

“I think you’re sneaking off to do whatever it is you usually do at night.” They all sat in awkward silence for a moment before the girl added, “I’ll tell.”

 

Tobe sighed, dropping her arms and rubbing her eyes. “I don’t give a shit what you do, just wait until morning.”

 

“Why should I?”

 

“Because I’m asking nicely.”

 

“No, you’re really not.”

 

Tobe sighed again and glanced over to Shinsou for help, who just shrugged. “Fine, you can tell right now for all I care, we’ll be long gone.”

 

Tobe turned and marched away and Shinsou glanced at the girl on the other side of the glass before rushing after her.

 

“Rai! Wait.”

 

Tobe extended her arm behind her, lifting only one finger in response causing the girl to gasp and Shinsou to chuckle. Shinsou reached Tobe’s side and she nudged him with her shoulder. “God I hate her.”

 

“If you hate her then why does she call you Rai?”

 

“Cause she knows it pisses me off. Because we’re ‘ family ’ or some bullshit.” 

 

Shinsou hummed in understanding and rubbed the back of his neck. “We going to the skate park then?”

 

Tobe smiled, “Yeah, there's this kid that just lives there, he has a bike, he’ll let you use it if you pay him with food.”

 

“We don’t have any food.”

 

Tobe shrugged, “He trusts me, I’m sure he’ll let us use it as long as I promise extra in the future.”

 

“I don’t know how to ride a bike.” Shinsou admitted sheepishly.

 

“I’ll teach you, don’t worry, it’s not that difficult.”

 

They talk about random things the rest of the walk there, Tobe mostly telling him about cool things she’d discovered in this area and Shinsou mostly listening. He really didn’t have any stories to tell, he’d been stuck at the school, and he didn’t want to bring the mood down with the crisis he’d been having lately.

 

The skate park wasn’t that far away, and it was more populated than Shinsou was expecting. It wasn’t even close to being packed, but it wasn’t empty either. Small groups of people sat around, very few actually skating, most just sitting around, inhaling something before exhaling smoke in a very similar fashion to Tobe’s quirk.

 

Shinsou dropped his step, taking place slightly behind Tobe. She walked up, not stopping or bothering any of the other groups. She stopped in front of a much older kid with pure white hair who was passed out on the furthest bench from the road. She kicked his foot and he jumped awake. There was a flash of blue, and Shinsou shielded his eyes before the light quickly disappeared.

 

“Fuck you scared me. Where are you always here so fucking late?” The teen threw his arm over his eyes and he groaned.

 

“Can I use your bike?”

 

“No. Fuck you.”

 

“I’ll bring you food, and a bit of cash next time.”

 

He dropped his arm and caught sight of Tobe’s raised eyebrow and sideways smirk. “The fuck you want it for anyways?”

 

Tobe stepped to the side, giving the teen full view of Shinsou. The teen looked tired, obviously, he had just been woken up, but tired in a different way. Icy blue eyes scanned Shinsou before they turned back to Tobe. 

 

“Kid’s never ridden a bike before.”

 

The teen huffed and threw his arm over his eyes again. Something dark peeked out from under his shirt, something that Shinsou assumed was a tattoo. “Fine do whatever you want, but fucking leave me alone about it.”

 

Tobe smirked again and patted the teen on the arm. “Don’t worry, if he breaks it he buys it.”

 

“Just don’t fucking break it.”

 

Tobe stepped around the bench and Shinsou followed behind her, not before catching the teen staring at him again. He picked up his pace a bit, following Tobe as she crouched under the bench, pulled out a bike, and guided it over to a clearing.

 

“He cusses more than you do.” 

 

Tobe laughed, throwing her leg over the bike and mounting it. “Oh you don’t even know. He’s given me some creative ideas.”

 

“Yeah like what?”

 

“Well once he said he’d rip out my intestines and feed them to my mother.”

 

Shinsou’s eyes widened and he held back a laugh. “What did you say?”

 

Tobe flashed her smirk, “I told him he’d have a hard time getting past prison security.” Shinsou actually did laugh at that. “Look, you push these things to make it go, and these,” Tobe squeezed the metal on the handles, “are the breaks, don’t push them too hard though or you’ll face plant again.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes as she stepped off the bike and handed it over to him. “I’m not going to face plant.”

 

He didn’t end up face planting, but he did get fairly close: balancing was really hard for him at first. It took a long time for him to even be able to get it going without Tobe’s steadying hand, but when he did manage to stay up, when he did finally manage to get going, riding a bike felt even better than running.

 

Biking took less work than running, and he could go so much faster. The wind forced his hair and clothes back. They whipped around behind him, and he had to resist the urge to close his eyes. The cool air felt nice against his skin, especially his cheeks and nose. 

 

Tobe took back control of the bike for a little, showing off some of the ‘tricks’ she was working on. Most of them ended with her pinned under the bike and in a fit of giggles. There was even a moment there where they thought they broke the bike, but to their relief, and tremendous luck, Tobe got it working again.

 

Shinsou glanced down at his watch, slightly disappointed when he saw it was almost time for him to head back to the station.

 

“I should probably get going,” he said as he pulled up next to Tobe and dismounted the bike. She grabbed his wrist, turning the watch towards her and frowning. “Damn, yeah…”

 

Shinsou rubbed his neck and glanced down at the bike. “I basically took up all the time riding… I didn’t mean to. You hardly got a chance.” 

 

Tobe waved him off, grabbing the handles of the bike and twisting them around, back towards the bench. “I literally come here all the time. You looked like you were having fun.”

 

Shinsou smiled, staring at his feet as they walked. “Yeah, it was nice. I liked it.”

 

Tobe grinned and nudged him with her shoulder. “See, you’re more than just a nerd.”

 

He rolled his eyes and flicked her arm. “You’re the one who thinks I’m a nerd when I’m literally not.” She stared at him awhile, and Shinsou bit his lip squirming awkwardly under the gaze. “What’re you looking at me like that for?”

 

Tobe quickly glanced away, clearing her throat. “I’m just- still not really used to seeing you without the muzzle. And you know… you hardly smile anyways, so I don’t really…”

 

Shinsou coughed awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets and moving his attention back to his feet.

 

“I like it.” Tobe added after a moment. “Your smile. Makes you look less dead.” 

 

Shinsou huffed, holding back the growing smile. “That’s good to know. I’ll never smile again.”

 

“What? You want to look like a purple people eater?”

 

Shinsou narrowed his eyes and stared at her incredulously. “A what?”

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow and smirked. “You know. Purple.” She motioned to his hair, “And the whole zombie look you got going on constantly. Purple people eater!” He rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to reply but he was interrupted by Tobe’s shouting. “Eyy, sleepy-head. We’re done with your bike.”

 

A groan and a pair of icy blue eyes peaked up at them from the bench.

 

“Then put it back, no reason to bother me about it.” Tobe snorted and slid the bike back in its place underneath the bench. “If you don’t bring me something next time, I swear I’ll skin you alive.”

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows shot up and he glanced at Tobe.

 

‘He’s joking right?’

 

Tobe shrugged and patted the teen on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’ll try not to wake you up next time.”

 

He groaned again, shrugging her hand away. “You’re this close to getting fucking murdered.”

 

Tobe just smirked and grabbed Shinsou’s arm, pulling him away. “See you around,”

 

Shinsou glanced back at the teen, watching as he shifted on the bench. They turned a corner, and he eyed Tobe. “Isn’t he cold?” 

 

Tobe shrugged and shoved her hands in her hoodie pocket. “Maybe, if he is, he doesn’t act like it.”

 

“I honestly couldn’t tell if he was joking about murdering you.”

 

She scoffed, “I’m like 85 percent sure he was joking.”

 

He raised an eyebrow, “Only 85?”

 

“Well, you can never really know if someones joking, unless you have a truth quirk or something I guess.”

 

Shinsou nodded, glancing back behind them again before pulling his hood up. They walked in silence for a bit, Tobe occasionally piping up, making a comment or joke about their surroundings or something random that popped into her head.

 

It took Shinsou an embarrassingly long amount of time to notice they were going a different way than their original route. He had mostly zoned out and really didn’t process where they were heading before he saw the station in the distance.

 

“I thought we were going back to where you’re staying?”

 

Tobe huffed, resting an elbow on his shoulder and leaning over him. “You think I’m going to let you walk to the train alone? Don’t you know it’s dangerous at night. There’s crazy freak kids always wandering around.” Shinsou rolled his eyes and dipped his shoulder so she slid off. 

 

“You didn’t need to walk me to the station.”

 

“Pshh. Shut up and take the walking buddy. You’re the one who broke into someone’s office and hopped on a train because you missed me so much.”

 

He huffed, before yawning and rubbing his eyes. “I did no such thing. I didn’t know you knew about Kiyoko.”

 

“Mhm sure, whatever.”

 

They took a step inside the station, Shinsou following Tobe closely. She walked to the machines, watching as he cautiously approached it, and sheepishly pressed the buttons he struggled with earlier.

 

“You don’t know what you’re doing do you?”

 

Shinsou sighed, glaring at her before begrudgingly admitting defeat.

 

“What the hell am I supposed to do?”

 

Tobe snorted, pushing past him and standing in front of the machine.

 

“Okay, so here, you say where you’re going. You’re going back to the school so you’ll want,” She clicked through the options, “that one. Then you say you want only one ticket, then you just slide in your coins.”

 

Shinsou stared at the screen, tilting his head. “It was only 200 last time.”

 

She scrunched her nose. “Why?”

 

“Because I’m under 12.”

 

“What for real? How’d you do that?”

 

“I talked to the person and they said it was cheaper.”

 

“You talked to someone!”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes as she dragged him over to the counter. “He needs one ticket to Shokinu station, and he’s 11.”

 

The man squinted at them, before pushing some buttons off to the side, grumbling something Shinsou couldn’t quite make out. Tobe nudged him and gestured to the counter and Shinsou jolted, pulling out his coins and pressing them onto the counter. A ticket was slid towards him and he grabbed it, shoving it into his pocket, grinning awkwardly at the man.

 

Tobe pulled him away again, directing him towards the ticket eater. “You know what you’re doing right?”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and pulled his arm from her grasp, “I got here didn’t I?” 

 

She snorted but nodded, “Don’t go breaking into any more offices without me alright?” He clenched his jaw but nodded, dropping his gaze to the floor. “And don’t get sent off before I get back.”

 

He shifted his stance and stared at his shoes, “I’d be surprised if they had more houses to send me to.” A weight landed on his shoulder and he turned his head to see Tobe’s hand.

 

“You good? You’ve been kinda… off today.”

 

He shrugged, stepping back so her hand slid from its resting place. “It’s probably just a lack of sleep.”

 

Tobe huffed, “No, it’s not that, you never sleep. You’d be acting strange if you did get sleep.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes but finally looked up, meeting Tobe’s gaze. “You’re going to call me an idiot.”

 

“Only if you’re being one.”

 

He dropped his gaze again, biting the inside of his lip and rubbing his neck. “I just… Do you think I crossed a line?”

 

Tobe frowned, “By sneaking off to see me?”

 

He shook his head and gulped, “By breaking into that office.”

 

She huffed again, “No, you didn’t actually take anything did you?” He shook his head, “Then you’re stressing over nothing. Trust me, I’ve done worse things in that office.” He glanced up at her questioningly but she just shook her head. “You’re not worried about this whole villain thing again are you.” Shinsou dropped his gaze. “We’ve talked about this. Your quirk has nothing to do with villainy, I don’t care what anyone else says.”

 

“I mean, when you think about it, it is better suited for villainy.”

 

“Shinsou-”

 

“It is. I’d just need a word, and I could get away with anything.”

 

“That doesn’t-”

 

“And look at all the biggest heroes. None of them have a quirk that’s even close to mine, you have to go looking. Nobody wants to see people like me become a hero.”

 

“Shinsou. You’re not a villain.”

 

He sighed, burying his face into his jacket the best he could. “I know. I know that, sometimes. But then, I do things… and it feels like they’re right. Like my life is headed directly towards a life of villainy. And I want to prove them wrong, but what if, instead, I prove them right.”

 

Tobe was quiet for a long time, and it took a while for Shinsou to gather the courage to look up at her again. She was clearly conflicted, shuffling on her feet and tugging the edge of her sleeves. She scared him a bit when she jumped forward, wrapping one of her arms around his shoulder and pulling him in. Shinsou tensed as his face was pressed into her shoulder. The familiar scent of Tobe filled his nostrils and he relaxed into it for just a moment before she pulled away, stepping back awkwardly and shoving her hands in her pockets.

 

“Erm, sorry.” Shinsou smiled awkwardly and shivered at the absence of warmth. “I just-”

 

Tobe sighed and rubbed her eyes. “I’d say I know you pretty well, probably more than anyone else.” Shinsou nodded at that, “Then trust me when I say- you won’t become a villain Shinsou. Anyone who would bother to talk to you for more than a minute would see that. It’s just not in you. Breaking into an office is not the same as a life of villainy.”

 

“But what if I used my quirk.”

 

He hadn’t meant to say it, he hoped she hadn’t heard it. He’d mumbled it after all, maybe she didn’t hear.

 

“Have you?”

 

Shinsou bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut. “No-” He lied, “But if I did, if I wanted to-”

 

“You gotta trust yourself more man.” He snorted, “I’m serious. If you were to use your quirk, for whatever reason, I’m sure it would be the right one. Do you think I’m a villain?” Shinsou’s face scrunched up and he shook his head quickly. “Even though I've used my quirk on multiple people, sometimes just because I wanted to?”

 

Shinsou hesitated, but still shook his head. 

 

“Then stop holding yourself to these impossible standards. Everyone slips up, you probably will too. That doesn’t make you a villain, it makes you human.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes but his heart beat a bit stronger, less erratic, and more steady.

 

“The day you become a villain, is the day pigs fly.”

 

Shinsou snorted, looking Tobe in the eye again. Her previous demeanor had shifted: she wasn’t unsure about herself anymore, there was a new fire in her eye and her chest puffed out more.

 

“I’m sure there is a pig with some kind of flight quirk out there somewhere.”

 

Tobe punched him in the arm and Shinsou held back his smirk. “It’s an expression dumbass. Did it work?”

 

“What?”

“Did I cheer you up?”

 

“You punched me.” He deadpanned.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“How’s that supposed to cheer me up?”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, “I’m going to take that as a yes.”

 

Shinsou shook his head and punched her back, “You’re an idiot.”

 

“Nooo.” She started, “ You’re the idiot. If you think you’re going to become anything other than a great hero, you’re an idiot.”

 

Shinsou’s stomach dropped again but still, he smiled awkwardly, unhooking the watch and holding it out in front of him. “I should go, my train will be here soon.”

 

Tobe pushed the watch back towards him, “Keep it.”

 

“It’s not yours to give away.”

 

She shrugged, “Sure, but fuck those guys.”

 

Shinsou snorted, shoving the watch into his pocket and pulling out the ticket. He spun around, sticking the ticket in the hole before walking through the gates and pulling it out again. 

 

He turned back to Tobe who was giving him a thumbs up and a soft smile.

“Don’t get murdered by weird park people alright.” She rolled her eyes and waved him off.

 

“Please, like I’d let some homeless guy be the reason I die.”

 

Shinsou nodded, pausing for a moment too long before turning and leaving. He tried not to turn around, but he couldn’t help it, he glanced behind him and locked eyes with Tobe again. She smiled at him, and he turned away, rounding a corner and eventually, boarding his train.

 

Chapter Text

Shinsou yawned and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t plan or expect to get any sleep tonight, though if he was lucky, there was a chance he could make it back in time to get a solid 30 minutes. He’d be exhausted today, hopefully tomorrow he’d have an easier time sleeping; pulling all-nighters usually made that the case.

 

He was running a bit later than he thought he would, so he took the shortcut, through the questionable part of town. He’d only been there once before, he knew it would be better to avoid it, but he’d rather run through a dangerous area than be late for breakfast and get caught sneaking around. Plus, that solid 30 minutes of sleep sounded like a damn good idea right now.

 

Besides, the sun would be rising soon, surely most of the trouble would be long gone.

 

He was mostly right, most of the lurkers had left. There were only a few left hanging around, minding their business, huddled together with their small groups. They all seemed mostly harmless, but that didn’t stop him from carefully watching each person he passed from the corner of his eyes.

 

Without any warning, something slimy slithered its way around his arm and yanked him into an alley. He yelped and stumbled, face crashing into the littered concrete, something heavy settled itself on his back, pressing the air out of his lungs before he could process what happened.

 

He was trying to shake away his confusion when his view changed. Instead of the dingy alley ground, he was staring at a short dark-haired man, a knee firmly placed on his chest, and a hand holding his wrists above his head. Shinsou’s heart pounded in his chest and he bucked his hips, thrashing under the hold. He kicked wildly, desperate to hit something, anything that could give him an opening.

 

The man grunted, pressing his knee into his chest harder. Shinsou winced but didn’t stop his thrashing. The man half grunted half growled, leaning in closer to his prisoner and baring his teeth.

 

“The less you struggle the fast-”

 

Shinsou rammed his head into his face, and the man’s focus faltered. He stumbled back, slipping away from Shinsou, and he rolled away, jumping up to his feet. He darted straight for the road but got yanked back by fat black tentacles wrapping themselves around his torso.

 

He got thrown back, deeper into the alleyway, and rolled until he crashed into a wire fence. Shinsou slowly pushed himself up, shaking his head to chase the dizziness away. Something shuffled through his pockets and he pulled away, only to be pressed against a brick wall. He tried to kick but the same tentacles wrapped around his legs and arms. Shinsou’s stomach dropped. He flexed and flailed, trying to wiggle free of the binds.

 

“Damn, this all you got?”

 

Another man, a different man, the one who had thick black tentacles protruding out his back, brandished the coins he pulled out of Shinsou’s pocket and scowled at them. Shinsou slowed his movement, staring at the coins.

 

That was literally all the money he owned.

 

The man’s face twisted as he counted the coins, throwing a disappointed glare at Shinsou. “This kids a bust.”

 

Shinsou glanced between this man and the other one, the one who was still rubbing his nose. Pride swelled in his chest for a brief moment before it was chased away by the man charging at him. A long tentacle wove itself between the man and Shinsou, and the man stopped in his tracks.

 

“He headbutted me.”

 

“I saw.”

 

“Let me teach him a lesson.”

 

The slim man raised an eyebrow, squeezing the tentacles tighter around his ribs. “He could be useful in otherways.”

 

His stomach dropped and he resumed his thrashing. Something soft and slimy wormed its way up his chest and wrapped itself around his neck, slowly closing his airway. He took a deep breath, eventually gasping for bits of air, unable to fill and empty his lungs enough to chase away the forming spots.

 

The slender man stepped forward, closing the already small distance between them. “How old would you say he is?”

 

A hand patted his cheek and fingertips trailed down his chin. He tried to pull away, but between the restraints and his quickly weakening muscles, the attempt failed. Terrified violet eyes met twisted brown and the man smirked. Shinsou squirmed uncomfortably as his lungs started burning, desperate to find any way to get air.

 

“I’d say he can’t be older than fourteen,” The tentacle around his neck fell away and Shinsou gasped, filling his lungs while he could. “And out so late all alone,” The tone was mocking, childish.

 

The other man stopped in his tracks, staring at his partner with caution. “I thought we agreed we wouldn't do that.”

 

The man stepped away from Shinsou and turned to the other. “You talked, I never agreed. Besides, this is too perfect.” The short man tsked and crossed his arms. “If you don’t want to be involved, I’ll gladly take the full payment for myself.” The man turned back to Shinsou.

 

“How old are you, kid?”

 

Shinsou stopped moving, staring at the man with wide eyes. There was no way answering that question truthfully would be good news, there was no way answering that question at all was the correct decision, right? He should just stay silent. Silence was always the answer.

 

The man huffed and tightened the binds. Shinsou squeezed his eyes shut, squirming against the movement but not fighting it. The man was too strong, he’d have to wait for him to release him before he could do anything.

 

You could make him release you.

 

Shinsou’s eyes shot open and he stared at the tall man. He was chatty enough, he’d already asked a question. All he’d have to do was answer, prompt more conversation. It’d be easy.

 

So easy.

 

“I asked you a question.”

 

Too easy.

 

Shinsou gulped and shivered at the mocking tentacle scratching the back of his neck. “E-Eleven.”

 

The man’s grin grew, moving forward again to squat in front of him. “And what’re you doing out here all alone at this time?”

 

Shinsou’s heart pounded in his chest. He could feel it: the connection the man unwillingly made between the two of them; a tingling in the back of his mind. All Shinsou had to do was accept it now, pull on their connection, like a game of tug-o-war that the other didn’t even know they were playing. All he really had to do was take his consciousness hostage and play with his free will. Simple. He had everything he needed.

 

And he hesitated.

 

The man sighed deep and heavy before turning to his partner. “Are you in or out?”

 

Shinsou squeezed his eyes shut and forced himself to take steady breaths as one tentacle eased its way down the side of his neck and under his collar, while another slithered along the side of his face. Something slimy and cold made contact with Shinsou’s back and he jerked, his eyes shooting open. Shinsou’s gaze met the partners, begging him to do something, anything that could stop Shinsou from doing something he really didn’t want to do.

 

The shorter man glanced between the man and Shinsou, weighing his options. He dropped his arms, shoving them into his pocket before shuffling forward.

 

“Might as well. Already did most of the work.”

 

Shinsou closed his eyes and bit his lip.

 

They started it.

 

He didn’t want to, he had to.

 

It was them or him. His quirk could save him now. The stupid villainous quirk that cursed him his whole life, the quirk he promised to never use again.

 

They started it.

 

And he pulled.

 

The tingling dropped from his mind into his tongue and Shinsou bit back the instant nausea. He didn’t open his eyes, he didn’t need to, he could tell he was in control, could sense the man’s mind next to his own.

 

“Let me go.”

 

The tentacles slid away and Shinsou relaxed his tingling muscles, taking in a deep relieved breath. The tingling on his tongue didn't go away, instead, it seemed to amplify, buzzing so violently he could barely contain it.

 

Another command. He needed to give another command.

 

He finally opened his eyes, staring at the mindless man in front of him. His tentacles lay there, long useless heaps at his side. Carefully, slowly, Shinsou sat up, desperately trying not to break the connection. It wasn't difficult to keep hold of someone else's free will per se, he just couldn't afford to lose it.

 

He wasn't out of the woods yet.

 

"Use your quirk to restrain him."

 

Shinsou pointed to the other man, the shorter one who somehow didn't seem to catch on to what was happening. The response was instant. The tentacles sprang to life, shooting towards the other and wrapping around him as mercilessly as they had Shinsou. The man didn't even try to avoid them, not until they already had a solid grip.

 

"Whoa, wait!" He squirmed a little, testing the strength of the restraints, "What the hell is this?"

 

Shinsou sat there for a moment, letting his brain catch up with his body before he pushed himself to his feet. He slid cautiously behind his victim, carefully watching the bound man for any sudden movements. The man stopped his squirming and narrowed his eyes.

 

“What the fuck are you?”

 

Something sick and hot burned in his chest at the words. He turned his attention to the brainwashed and held a (not so) subtly shaking hand out.

 

"Give me the money you took from me."

 

The man obeyed, shuffling through his pocket and dropping the coins in Shinsou’s open palm. Shinsou pretended to not notice the extra few coins that mixed themselves in.

 

“You remember what I said right? I didn’t want to take you, it was his idea.” Shinsou glanced at the man out of the corner of his vision, forcing his face to show no emotion. “What was I supposed to do? Fight him? Over you?”

 

The back of Shinsou’s throat burned as he turned his back to the man.

 

“Go to the police and confess all your crimes.” Shinsou glanced over to the partner. “Take him with you.” He turned to walk away before stopping in his tracks, throwing out one last command. “And don’t mention me. Forget this ever happened.”

 

His tongue was absolutely quaking now, quivering in anticipation. He pushed it down. He’d done what he needed to, there was no reason to ask anything else of them.

 

“Wait! I’m serious. I don’t even like this guy, I was just assigned to him. I don’t give two shits what happens to him, just don’t drag me down with him.” Without even looking at him, Shinsou could tell he was back to struggling, desperately trying to free himself. “We’re both victims here, don’t do this.”

 

Shinsou watched as the man walked out of the alley, dragging his begging hostage along with him. He didn’t allow himself to truly breathe until he watched the two make their way down the street and around the corner. No one tried to stop them, not even when the bound man screamed and squirmed in his restraints. He bet someone would, the two of them were not subtle. Some part of him hoped someone would, not because he wanted them to get away, but because he hoped there were people out there who would jump in when a man was being dragged screaming down the road.

 

He ran the rest of the way to the school. He didn’t want to risk them coming back and finding him, or the cops coming to look for him, or getting jumped again. Plus, if he slowed down, he’d be forced to face the reality of what he just did. What he just intentionally did.

 

He had to. It was self-defense. He had to.

 

He ran harder.

 

Overall, he escaped the interaction fairly unscathed, physically at least. He had a few scrapes from being thrown back, but otherwise, he was fine. Really, he should consider himself lucky.

 

He arrived back at the school too soon. It was good to be back, he was out of danger, but being back gave him time to think, time to stress about his decisions, time to remember just how much he’s fucked up lately.

 

He grabbed his mask from its hiding spot and immediately slid it over his face. He wrapped the straps around his head, sliding the lock into its spot but didn’t press it closed. He crouched down against the wall, pressing his hands against his face and forcing the mask more onto his face. His cheek and nose twinged and protested the aggression, but, despite his run, his panic was slowly winning control over his emotions.

 

He used his quirk, again.

 

He pressed his hands against his eyes and leaned into them. His vision went spotty and distorted, but he pushed harder anyway, enough to ache.

 

It was a bit different this time, he could’ve died if he hadn’t, it made sense to use it. Looking back, he couldn’t say he’d make a different decision. He was literally backed against a wall, restrained and powerless, no other way out.

 

So why did he still feel like he was going to throw up?

 

Shinsou swallowed the disgust and pushed himself up. He really didn’t have time for this right now. He needed to get into his bed and pretend everything was fine, just like he always did.

 

His heart still raced as he made his way up the emergency escape, but somehow he managed to control his mind and body enough to slip through the window with relative ease and settle back into his bed.

 

And then his panic came crashing back in full.

 

He pressed a useless hand against his muzzle, pushing it deeper into his skin.

 

It was pointless, the muzzle was already strapped to his face, it was already doing its job perfectly fine. All this was doing was causing him more pain, and one hell of a headache. Still, he felt like it needed to be tighter, like it wasn’t enough.

 

He shoved his face into his pillow and squeezed his eyes shut.

 

He shouldn’t have done that, whether he was a risk or not. He had rules, boundaries he set for himself, he needed to follow them. No matter what.

 

So my options are to die or become a villain?

 

Shinsou forced himself to take deeper breaths, and then he forced himself to pull away from the pillow so he could breathe.

 

Okay, maybe using his quirk to get free was okay…

 

but sending them off to the station might’ve been a bit too far.

 

Using his quirk to get free, to not get kidnapped, surely anyone, any non-future-villains, would do that if they had the means. It was self-defense, literally a matter of life or death. The fact that he just so happened to have a villain's quirk didn’t change that.

 

But then he took it too far. Forced them to do something. Actively used his quirk when he was already safe, when the situation was over.

 

You turned them in… got criminals off the street.

 

Like a hero.

 

No, not like a hero. He can’t be a hero. He needed to get that through his head.

 

Besides they probably didn’t even make it to the station, they probably got too far away, or his quirk could’ve worn off, or maybe the other guy got away. Who knows. The bottom line is, they probably didn’t make it anyway, the chances weren’t in his favor. It was a stupid attempt that probably definitely didn’t even work.

 

Shinsou pulled the blanket up to his nose, taking a deep breath and letting it out shakily. He’d be fine. He would. That would be the last time. It was a tense situation, his life was at risk, he had no other choice. He’d draw the line, set his rules, and actually stick to them. He’d handle it, control himself better and not let himself slip.

 

He’d handle it and do better. He’d be better.

 

He wouldn’t let himself become a villain, he wouldn’t let them be right about him. They couldn’t be. He had more control over his future than anyone else, and that’s exactly what he’d do: control it.

 

That thought eventually calmed him down, the weak structure of the plan helping clear his head and his determination slowing his racing heart.

 

He won’t become a villain.

Chapter Text

“Shinsou Hitoshi!”

 

Shinsou shot up, heart rate spiking, stomach doing a flip. He blinked up at the teacher, chasing away the remnants of the short dream. She didn’t look pleased: her hands were planted firmly on her hips and she was staring him down from over her glasses. Soft giggles penetrated the stickly silence and Shinsou’s face burned red. He instinctively sunk back in his chair, picking up his fallen pencil as he did.

 

“Can you tell me what the answer is to this problem?”

 

The ruler crashed into the blackboard, clearly pointing to a problem on the board they had been going over. Shinsou was lucky it was math. He held up a 2 and then a 4 and the teachers' scowl deepened.

 

“Speak with me after class.”

 

Shinsou’s heart fell but still, he nodded. Most eyes turned away from him as he pretended to scribble something of importance in his notebook. He let out a slow deep breath, straightening his back and forcing himself to stay awake and not drift off again.

 

He didn’t get called out again, but his heart never stopped thumping, especially as the end of class drew closer and closer.

 

Then the bell was ringing, and kids were shuffling out, and Shinsou was the only one left staying in his seat. Saburo-sensei, for her part, took her time getting over to him. She knew he had nowhere to be so she drew it out, letting him stir in his own boredom. Any other time he would’ve put his head down and tried to sleep, but he figured given why he was already here, that might not be the best idea. So instead, he pulled out his homework- science, his least favorite- and started working on it.  

 

Of course, when he actually started being productive, she decided now was the time to talk.

 

A paper slid into view, his last math test, with a 20/20 in vibrant red ink plastered on the top. He only felt proud for a moment, before the scraping of a chair against the hard floor reminded him his Sensei had something to say about it.

 

“Do you recognize this?”

 

Shinsou met her gaze, heavily resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He nodded and she narrowed her eyes.

 

“It’s your math test correct?” He nodded again. “Would you like to explain to me how you got a hundred percent?”

 

God, not this again.

 

He flipped his science homework over, and wrote, ‘I didn’t cheat.’

 

The woman raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “You’re constantly falling asleep in my class, you barely pay attention when you are awake, and you don’t participate in group activities. How do you expect me to believe you?”

 

Teach them sign language then I can participate.

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw as she dropped another paper in front of him. His essay, 11/20.

 

“This is more what I expect from someone who participates as much as you do.”

 

He sighed, biting his lip, pulling the essay towards him. It was littered in red marks, corrections and notes scattered along the page. He hadn’t tried very hard on this assignment, he rushed through it the night before it was due, writing some bullshit and just about anything he could remember about his topic. He really couldn’t have cared less about how he did on that assignment. Still, it kinda hurt to have it being used against him.

 

Just say I’m shit at writing and move on.

 

“Conveniently, Akane also got a hundred on the last test.” She slid yet another paper in front of him: Akane’s test. “Does this one look familiar?”

 

He shook his head, and she sighed. “Shinsou.”

 

He wanted to scream, shout at her, to be able to defend himself in some way. It wouldn’t help, but he wanted to. He underlined the words again, emphasizing his truth. He didn’t cheat. That math test was easy and the paper wasn’t, that’s all it was.

 

“I’m giving this a zero.” Shinsou bit his lip harder, “and I’ll have to talk to the director about this.” His stomach dropped. “This is the third time I’ve caught you cheating.” He poked at the words again more desperately. “I’m not an idiot. I was a kid once too you know. If you’re going to cheat I suggest you do a better job at it.” Shinsou dropped his hands into his lap and clenched his jaw. “And the sleeping in class needs to stop. I’ve let it go on for far too long. I don’t know what your other teachers let you do in their class, and I don’t care. If I catch you sleeping in my class again you’re getting a zero for that day.” 

 

Shinsou let out a slow controlled breath, balling his hands into fists, before nodding.  

 

“And a homework assignment; write ‘I will not cheat’ one hundred times, I will count.” Nails dug into flesh. “Due tomorrow, first thing.”

 

It was taking everything in his willpower to contain himself, to not roll his eyes or start something. 

 

I didn’t even fucking cheat.

 

She stood up, sliding the chair she borrowed back to its place and grabbed the papers off his desk. “Do better Shinsou. They won’t tolerate this kind of behavior in middle school. I suggest you figure it out. You’re dismissed.”

 

He couldn't have shot up out of the chair faster if he tried. In one motion he grabbed his notebooks and his paper, darting straight for the door. He didn’t bother with the elevator, the stairs would help him burn off some steam. 

 

He pulled the door open much more aggressively than needed and ran up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time, clutching his books close to his chest. He harshly pushed the door open with his shoulder and stomped straight to his bed, ignoring the chatter of the girls in the corner. 

 

He threw his books on his bed and sat on the floor facing the wall. He wanted to scream, wanted to punch something, someone . He tugged on his hair, trying desperately to contain himself. He couldn’t lose his shit, not with so many people around, and there was nowhere he could be alone, there were too many goddamn people in this place.

 

He took deep breaths, controlled, desperately trying to keep himself under control. One breath. Two. Three. In and Out. It was working, he was calming down.

 

If you’re going to cheat I suggest you do a better job at it.

 

And just like that, he was pissed again.

 

He didn’t cheat. He didn’t need to. Sure he fell asleep in class, but this stuff was easily researchable. He rarely fell asleep during Japanese, he was just shit at it. And if she wanted him to participate, she could take the fucking muzzle off so he could. 

 

And now he had to write fucking lines for something he didn’t even do.

 

Shinsou pressed his face into his hands and sighed long and heavy. He took a deep breath, gathering himself before standing up and grabbing his homework, shoving the books he wouldn’t need under his bed. He glanced over briefly to the girls gathering in the corner, before shuffling his way out of the room. 

 

He walked into the game room with more grace than he had entered his room earlier. He threw his books on the desk with less care than usual and a few heads spun his direction. He didn’t pay them any attention though, instead, sliding into his chair and pulling out his half-finished science work. He would write the words later when he wasn’t as prone to breaking his pencil.

 

He bitterly erased the words on the back of the paper, not quite being able to remove all traces of it. He got through his science fast enough, and the math; which he tried (and failed) to not be resentful about, was easy. He got hung up on Japanese, half because it made him bitter too, half because, well, he felt a little insecure about it if he was being honest.

 

He didn’t think he’d done that bad on the essay.

 

To his disappointment and (ironically) frustration, the anger was still lingering by the end of it. All he had left now were the stupid lines. He never thought he’d find himself wishing for more homework, but it didn’t take nearly as long as he would’ve liked.

 

For a long, very tempting moment, he considered just not doing it. He hadn’t done anything wrong and, even though the smart decision would be to just do what they want him to, he desperately wanted to stand up somehow. 

 

And yet, he begrudgingly flipped his notebook open to the last page, and then back a few, trying to find a page that wasn’t littered with random doodles and drawings. 

 

Despite what Shinsou really wanted, what was done was done. All he could really do for himself right now was not make his life worse in the future.

 

I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. 

 

I didn’t even fucking cheat.

 

I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat.

 

Fuck his hand was already starting to hurt. His death grip on the pencil might explain that…

 

I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat.

 

Shinsou dropped his pencil, inhaling deeply and massaging his palm. What was the point of this anyway? Did she think if he wrote it enough time’s he’d absorb it and magically change? That he’d have an epiphany while writing the same dumb sentence over and over and realize that cheating was actually ‘counterproductive to his learning.’ He doubted that even if he had cheated, this would’ve changed anything. Sighing, he picked up his pencil again, forcing himself to hold it looser.

 

I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat.

 

Shinsou mocked the words in his head. I did not cheat. I did not cheat. I did not cheat. 

 

I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat. I will not cheat.

 

He dropped the pencil and massaged his hand again, not out of necessity, but out of the need to do something else, anything else for two seconds before he lost his cool.

 

If his teacher had any brains she could’ve made him retake the test after school when no one was around, or she could have moved him, made him switch seats, or believed him when he says he didn’t cheat.

 

The part that stung the most was the fact that she was right . He hadn’t really given her a reason to believe him. His grades weren’t the greatest, he didn’t try that hard in school, and she wasn’t wrong about his sleeping habits. He does sleep in class, a lot, and when he’s not asleep he’s usually drawing or thinking about other things. 

 

But it wasn’t like he could participate a lot. He wasn’t super chatty even with the muzzle off, mix that with loud obnoxious kids and his disinterest in the work anyway, and well… you don’t exactly get a model student.

 

Shinsou dropped his head on the table in front of him. This was stupid. He was being stupid. 

 

He was so close to being done by the time dinner rolled around. If he wrote fast enough he could probably get it done before bed after dinner, otherwise, he’d have to wake up early or stay up late to finish. The best idea was probably to write as many words as he could before bed, maybe even finish. Waking up early, at least willingly, was never something he was adept at.

 

Dinner was bland, dulled by his lingering anger and exhaustion. He wanted to sleep, he couldn’t remember the last time he got a proper night's rest. It was mostly his own fault, he’s been either busy sneaking or freaking out any time he was supposed to be sleeping, but that didn’t mean he appreciated his sensei commandeering his one night free in a while.

 

They latched his muzzle back on, and Shinsou stood up ready to push his way to the front of the group so he could get as many lines done before lights out as he could. A hand on his shoulder stopped him, a wave of calm washing over him, his anger being temporarily subdued. He knew who it was before he even turned to face them, only one person in this place had a quirk like that, and if Shingi was stopping him, nothing good was going to come of it.

 

“The director wants to see you.”

 

Shinsou gulped, but nodded, determined not to let his poker face slide. His heart pounded in his chest a bit harder, but other than that, none of the usual panic flooded over him. He followed Shingi down the stairs, staying a safe distance behind, panic building as he inched further and further away. 

 

They walked in silence, well, Shingi did; Shinsou didn’t have a choice in the matter. He wrung his hands and gulped, easing his way closer to Shingi for the slightest bit of comfort. He’d only ever really interacted with the director twice, both times after he had gotten pulled away from a fight. She didn’t really talk to him then, she made her disappointment clear, reiterated their stance on fighting, punished him with the ruler, and they sat in silence the rest of the day, barely even acknowledging each other's existence.

 

Tobe was a lot more familiar with her than he was. She was prone to getting into trouble, and she had been around longer than he had. If Tobe’s descriptions were accurate (and while she could get colorful, she had been right so far) he needed to prepare himself for a bunch of bullshit.

 

Shingi pushed the door open and let Shinsou take the lead. He made his way to the director's office, the same one he had illegally been in only a few nights ago, and glanced back at Shingi before steeling himself and knocking. The two stood there in tense silence, before a lazy, ‘You may enter,’ rang out behind the door. Shinsou gulped, forced himself to relax, and pushed his way into the room.

 

Long greying black hair swayed as her gaze brushed over Shinsou’s frame. She sighed deeply, turning her attention back to the papers in front of her, continuing whatever work Shinsou obviously so inconveniently interrupted.

 

The door shut with a loud bang behind him and Shinsou’s anger and anxiety flooded him again. It was a bit nauseating, to have his emotions constantly fluctuate like that, especially the particularly strong ones he was feeling now. Still though, part of him wished Shingi would’ve joined them. He was more familiar with her, he understood her ticks and pet peeves. Plus he had to admit, her quirk could’ve been useful for making this meeting tolerable.

 

He didn’t make a move to sit, he’d rather wait and stand than risk getting off on the wrong foot. It was clearly the wrong decision though because minutes later she let out a heavy huff before dropping her pen and meeting his eyes.

 

“For heaven's sake, sit down why don’t you.”

 

He easily slid into the chair, not willing to show any sign of weakness or guilt, he met her icy gaze. They stayed there a second, in a standstill, both staring neither blinking nor looking away until the director tilted her head and raised an eyebrow, spinning around and opening the filing cabinet that Shinsou knew contained the residence files.

 

A wave of fresh panic washed over him. There was no way she knew about his trip here right? Even if he messed up somehow and left something out of place, there was no way it could trace back to him. There were so many kids in this place, surely he wasn’t the only one who had the thought to shuffle through some files for some reason.

 

“Shinsou. You’ve been coming here more and more. I hope this isn’t the beginning of a pattern.” Shinsou jolted at the voice, tensely waiting for the hammer to drop but instead, she flicked casually through manilla folders before elegantly pulling one out and flipping it open. She turned back to him carefully reading over the contents of the file, before picking up her pen and setting the folder on the table.

 

“Getting into fights, falling asleep in class, cheating on tests. You used to be one of the good ones.” She finally met his gaze again and this time Shinsou lost, eyes immediately falling to his lap. He squeezed the fabric of his pants, grinding his teeth the best he could. “You realize it’s harder to get adopted when you do stuff like this. People want good, smart kids who have bright futures.” Shinsou swallowed and clenched his jaw so hard it ached. “I know it probably seems impossible to you now, but adoption is still an option for you. But that won’t be the case for much longer if you keep up like this.”

 

Shinsou’s chest tightened and he kept his head down, desperately trying to not take her words seriously. 

 

“Stick out your hands, palms down.”

 

He begrudgingly obliged, lifting his hands from their location on his lap and letting them hover over her desk. He forced his hands not to shake, he could handle this. This was nothing.

 

“Last time you were here, you got 15 correct?” Shinsou barely nodded but she hummed anyway. “I think given the circumstances, 30 makes the most sense, don’t you think?”

 

The first time he got the ruler he closed his eyes. He learned quickly not to do that. It was far better to see when the blow was coming. He could prepare, brace his hands and his mind.

 

He also learned that the first hit was nothing in comparison to the ones that followed.

 

He didn’t flinch when the first blow came, or the second, or the third. It was the fourth that broke through his stoic facade, his hand twitched at the blow and he winced. He didn’t let his arms fall though, he just sat there, switching his focus from the stinging in hands to the ache in his arms.

 

He didn’t dare let his hands fall. Even when the ruler crashed into the table and the director sat back in her seat, he sat there, ignoring the tremble in his hands as he stared at the director waiting for her okay.

 

“I’ve told Saburo to inform me if she has any more difficulties with you.” She stared at him a moment, letting him stir uncomfortably in the silence. “I don’t like meeting you like this. I’d much rather you be in my office because you’re top of your class, not because you’re failing it. I hate these meetings and punishments just as much as you.” 

 

Shinsou tried, and failed, to hold back a scoff. The director’s eyebrows furrowed and Shinsou flinched as the ruler swiftly came crashing down on his hands again. 

 

“It’s my understanding that Saburo already gave you her own punishment.” The director slowly set the ruler back down on the desk, and Shinsou let out a shaky breath, biting the inside of his lip but nodding. “For the next month, you’ll be staying after lunch to help wash dishes and clean the kitchen.” His eyes widened a fraction as she continued. “Your 20 minute break from class is a privilege, one you have not earned.” Shinsou clenched his jaw so hard he wouldn’t be surprised if his teeth shattered. “You start tomorrow, I’ll inform Shingi of the change. You may leave.”

 

Shinsou didn’t hesitate, standing up and shoving his hands in his pockets in one swift motion. He reached out to open the door, finding small relief in the cold metal before the director caught his attention one more time.

 

“Shinsou. I don’t want to see you in this office again unless you’re getting adopted.”

 

He tilted his head, not bothering to glance back at her.

 

The feeling was mutual.

Chapter Text

Somehow, in a great display of will, Shinsou made it back to his room without losing his shit. He gripped his toothbrush harder than necessary and carelessly pushed past people to get to his room, but he didn't lose his shit.

 

He didn't bother finishing his lines like he had planned. He wanted this day to be over, and he wanted some goddamn sleep. 

 

What he really wanted was to punch something. God, why couldn't Tobe be here? She'd gladly take him to the roof and spar with him until he had no anger or adrenaline left to spare. Hell, she’d fight everyone in this school for just looking at Shinsou wrong.

 

But Tobe wasn't here, and his only option was to clench his throbbing fists and collapse into his bed until sleep took him. 

 

Except it didn't. 

 

It had been how long? Almost a week since he'd gotten a proper night's sleep. Any other day he'd be able to pass out instantly. Exhaustion, physical or mental, always guaranteed that he wouldn't have an insane amount of trouble sleeping. 

 

Well, at least it usually did. 

 

Shinsou tossed and turned, determined to not give in to his urge to go running. He should be exhausted, he should be sleeping. Falling asleep in class was how he got into this situation in the first place. He just couldn’t find a comfortable position.

 

The punishment could've been worse, it really could've. He didn't have to shadow the director for a week, hell his hands didn't even hurt that bad, they definitely didn't look as bad as Tobe sometimes got. He knew he was lucky. 

 

But he (basically) did nothing wrong. It wasn't entirely his fault that he couldn't sleep at night, he did his best to manage it. He definitely didn't cheat and he had been trying to be an easy kid. 

 

He'd done his best, and here he was, losing his 20 minutes of free time after lunch. 

 

He shot up out of his bed and made his way over to the door. He'd been quieter before, he'd also definitely been louder. He didn't really care about that right now though, he needed air, needed to move. He'd try to catch up on his sleep tomorrow and deal with the consequences. What he needed right now, was to fucking move. 

 

He made his way down the ladders and before he knew it, he was in the alley, pulling his muzzle off and tucking it in its hiding spot. 

 

He didn't even hesitate, not worrying about the fact that a sweater and sweats were terrible jogging clothes. He picked a random direction and took off, desperate to do something to burn away the anger and hatred swirling in his chest. 

 

He didn't last long. His petty anger could only take his exhausted limbs so far. He leaned against the wall,  huffing for breath, focusing on the burn in his lungs instead of the stinging in his hands. 

 

He didn't even really process where he had ran off to until he let himself take a moment to take in his surroundings. 

 

He recognized the area. He'd run through here a few times, it was one of the more active areas at night. Not because it was a hotspot for criminal activity, but because it was near a high school. He tried to avoid it purely because he hated interaction with other people and teenage kids were more likely to call out to him for one reason or another. 

 

There was something a little odd today though, it was usually just kids nearby drinking on a roof or hiding in an alleyway, he didn't usually catch a group of teens harassing some homeless dude down the street.

 

Shinsou was going to leave it alone, it really wasn’t his business, jumping in without thinking was what was causing his spiral down to villainy. If he was really planning to delay that as long as possible, he’d have to control himself. 

 

He promised himself he would control himself.

 

Then one of them threw a punch.

 

Shinsou froze. He didn’t run away from them, but he definitely didn’t run towards them. Instead, he just... froze, unsure of what he should do. 

 

Which would be worse? Sitting here and watching this happen without interfering or crossing lines he really didn’t want to cross?

 

Shinsou took a step forward and put his head down, balling his hands into fists and trying to tune them out. Three against one weren’t great odds, especially with the state his body was in. He was in no state to get into unnecessary fights. Besides, he had already fucked up enough this week.

 

He turned his head away, forcing himself to become familiar with the walls as he walked by them. He almost made it away, he probably would’ve been successful at ignoring them too, if he didn’t glance up at them again.

 

Shinsou had been in that situation before, pulled away after school to be a punching bag for his ‘friends.’ When he was younger he could’ve sworn it was normal, so he didn’t blame the people who walked on by with no issue. They were all friends, and everyone knew boys could get rough, Shinsou was just the weird one for not enjoying it.

 

He knew better now.

 

Even then, before he knew, he wished someone would’ve called it off, would’ve stepped in and distracted them enough for him to find some lame excuse to leave. He would’ve taken anyone really, hell, even if they got their ass kicked too, he would’ve appreciated it.

 

He made his decision again, more thoughtful this time, more intentional. He knew he was crossing his lines, maybe he’d just need more rigid ones, ones he couldn’t rationalize his way around. He couldn’t just walk on by and ignore someone.

 

No matter how much he wished he could.

 

“Hey idiots!”

 

He pulled his hood further over his head and kept his head down. His purple hair stood out a lot, especially at the worst of times, the last thing he needed was someone recognizing him. 

 

“Oh ho ho, what do we have here?”

 

Shinsou looked up, but only slightly, enough to just barely watch the three teens out of the top of his vision. It wasn’t hard to find the one who was clearly an alpha, the one with blond hair was the only one actually doing any beating, the other two just stood behind for moral support.

 

“Leave him alone.”

 

The words sounded about as confident as he felt, which was not at all. All three of them laughed, one mocking his voice while the blonde tilted his head and smirked. “Aww, we got ourselves a little hero. What will we do?”

 

They all laughed again, the tallest one of them stepping forward and punching Shinsou in the stomach.

 

Shinsou saw it coming, he did try to dodge, but he was a bit too slow. He stumbled back, doubling over his stomach and groaning. Wicked laughter echoed through them followed by the sickening sound of a high-five. 

 

Something snapped inside him then. Bent by the cruelty of the world and pushed over the edge by his anger and exhaustion. 

 

“I said,” Shinsou huffed between breaths, “Leave him alone.”

 

His words hung in the air this time, ready and waiting.

 

“Or what?”

 

He didn’t tighten his grip on his quirk, but he could feel it, the connection between him and the one who had responded.

 

“Move along, you’re about to be late for pre-school.”

 

The insult was low-hanging fruit, one that didn’t really bother Shinsou, but he still frowned. He didn’t feel the connection this time.

 

“At least I’m actually smart enough to go to school.”

 

It was a weak jab and a lame response, he chalked it up to nerves. He really didn’t know much about his quirk, but he had hoped he could at least control more than one person.

 

Another punch, this time to his face. He stumbled back, reaching up to cup his nose. “The fuck is that supposed to mean?”

 

Shinsou’s stomach dropped as he straightened, glancing up at the teen. It wasn’t there. No connection was made.

 

Fuck.

 

He pulled on his quirk, and the red-haired boy went slack, his eyes glossing over, turning misty and white.

 

“Punch your friend.”

 

There was a moment of confusion from the other two before the third complied, throwing a left hook at the blonde. Shinsou jumped forward, towards the one closest to him and punched, just like Senjo had taught him, going right for the nose.

 

His fist burned as it made contact and he heard a crunch and a wail. He didn’t let up, didn’t ‘hit the ground running’ like he had promised he would, instead he went for a kick to the knee. The boy stumbled back, falling on his ass and Shinsou turned his attention back to the one under his control. 

 

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been so specific, because after just one punch the boy went slack again, back to standing still emotionless.

 

“Punch him again.”

 

Shinsou was relieved to find that he could give more than one command.

 

The teen swung, but the other was more prepared this time. He stepped back, dodging the brunt of the swing. He needed a less specific command, one that would make it so he wouldn’t have to keep a constant eye on him.

 

“Knock him out.” 

 

“Wait. Taka what the hell!”

 

Shinsou was a bit worried that the command was too aggressive but he didn’t get to dwell on it much: the first boy had recovered and swung at Shinsou. Shinsou’s head flew back and he stumbled back with it. 

 

“Whatever you did to him, stop it right now!”

 

Shinsou blinked, raising his arms, ready for another attack. He wouldn’t be doing that. There was no way he’d win this fight three on one.

 

The teen growled and charged at him. Shinsou jumped to the side, driving his knee up into his gut. He shuffled back wheezing. Blue eyes met purple and the teen huffed, standing up straighter before crossing his arms and uncrossing them instantly.

 

It was pure instinct that saved Shinsou right then. His body reacted before his mind even processed what had happened. He jumped to the side, rolling away from the heat. He was forced to look away, the flash of white light too bright. His hood flew off his head as he forced himself to his feet, readying himself for another attack. The teen’s face twisted, dropping his arms and revealing a circular burn in the center of his shirt. 

 

Something heavy hit his side and he plummeted to the floor, his cheek hitting cold pavement. A blow to his stomach made him wheeze and he tried to roll away but another kick to his side stopped him. Two strong arms pulled him up, and weakly he glanced up still reeling from the other attacks. The redhead teen walked up to him, a wicked grin plastered to his face. He pulled his arm back, and Shinsou flinched, moving to dodge but their grip stayed strong. Pain shot through his chest, the impact having him wheezing. Another blow, this one to his face, and he fell back, the arms holding him up letting him slip away.

 

An ugly bloody smirk filled his vision. The tangy taste of iron filled his mouth and when Shinsou coughed, blood splattered on their face.

 

“That’ll teach you to mess with us.”

 

Shinsou wheezed as pain shot through his side. He curled in on himself; arms to his face, legs to his chest, as mocking laughter rang in his ears.

 

Another kick, this time to his back, and Shinsou whimpered. “That’s for making me punch my friend.” Another kick, “Twice.” Shinsou coughed again and braced himself for another attack, one that didn’t come.

 

He was an idiot for thinking he could win that fight. Three versus one? No way. The fuck was he going to do? Scare them off? Send them running? He had nothing, no way to stop them, no way to disarm them, nothing.

 

He laid there a moment before he deemed it safe to relax and get off the cement. He rolled over, groaning as quietly as he could, holding back the winces as he pushed himself up shakily to his feet. 

 

He bit his lip as he swayed, pain shooting through his head and his chest. He should just walk away. Head back to the school and hope that there isn’t any obvious evidence of his fight. If he didn’t get back soon, he wouldn’t get any sleep tonight, something he desperately needed.

 

Apparently, he wasn't enough for them though, and the homeless dude either didn’t have the means or the mind to run off while Shinsou distracted them. All Shinsou had really done was gotten his own ass kicked, let them leave him in the middle of the road as they went right back to their business.

 

Fuck.

 

“Wait!”

 

FUCK!

 

He threw his hands over his mouth and held his breath. The three of them stopped, turning back around and snorting at him.

 

“What? You didn’t think you’d actually win that did you? Grow up freak.”

 

The trio laughed and he coughed again, swallowing the blood that gathered in his mouth. He needed the taller one, the one with a circular burn in the center of his shirt. The one whose quirk he knew. 

 

He swallowed hard again, slowly dropping his hands. “You ruined your shirt.”

 

You idiot, they were letting you leave. Walk away.

 

“What do you care?”

 

“Use your quirk on Taka.”

 

There was no hesitation, and barely any time for Taka to react. A flash of white lit up the street and Shinsou ran forward, tackling the third teen, throwing him to the ground. The blond threw Shinsou off of him with ease and they scrambled to their feet. 

 

He knew there was no way he’d win this fight. They’d easily stopped him the first time, this time would be no different. His only hope was to outlast the three of them, and that wasn’t looking likely. Why couldn’t he have a flashy quirk that actually did some damage? Something that actually took them out of commission, something like All Mights? Like Tobe’s.

 

“Punch him! That’s what I did!” 

 

“Wait!”

 

He felt it this time, he felt the connection break, the power slip away from him. He chanced a glance over to the teen, his most recent victim. He was reeling from an attack, hand clutching his cheek and blinking away the fog. His gaze landed on Shinsou, eyes once again blue and mind once again his own.

 

“You little freak.”

 

Shinsou’s heart jumped to his throat and he stepped back raising his arms in surrender.

 

He’d lose. He’d lose again.

 

He glanced at the man out of the corner of his eye, the one who’d dragged him into this mess. He still hadn’t left, he’d hardly even moved. Maybe he couldn’t, maybe he wouldn’t, maybe Shinsou was doing this for nothing, for no reason. If he didn’t care about what was going on, why should Shinsou?

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

The teens stopped in their tracks, eyeing Shinsou, tense and waiting. They glanced nervously at each other, cautiously keeping their distance from one another, waiting for one of them to charge the others again. 

 

It was the blonde who finally spoke up. “Fuck off, go bother someone else.”

 

The connection was there, he felt it. He shouldn’t use it. He should take the out they’re giving him.

 

But of course he didn’t. Because these guys were without a doubt bullies. He hated bullies.

 

And he had one last thing he needed to try.

 

“Go to sleep.”

 

The blonde's eyes rolled back and he collapsed, crashing with the ground below him. A growl from his left and Shinsou swung around just in time to see a very angry redhead charging towards him. Shinsou jumped to the side, groaning at the sudden movement. 

 

“The hell did you do to him! Wake him up!”

 

Another growl and Shinsou barrelled to the ground. Pain shot through the back of his skull and he groaned, attempting to roll over before hands were on his throat, squeezing away his air.

 

“WAKE HIM UP. WAKE HIM UP!”

 

Shinsou thrashed and kicked, clawing at the hands but it was no use. The teen had an iron grip around his throat. His lungs were burning and his already blurry vision was getting spottier, darker. He couldn’t breathe.

 

It was barely a whisper, hoarse and scratchy and strained against the crushing weight on his throat but he got the words out.

 

“I- can’t.”

 

And the other responded.

 

“W-”

 

Shinsou tugged on his quirk immediately, gasping for air as the hands went limp. He coughed, pulling the hands away from his throat, filling his lungs as much as he could as fast as he could. 

 

Sleep.

 

The teen went limp, falling over onto Shinsou, his cheek crashing into the kid's chest. He hadn’t meant for the command to actually work, he was just too busy coughing to be able to get it out. Shinsou pushed the body off of him, scrambling to his feet and swallowing hard, trying to shake the fuzziness in his head away.

 

He locked eyes with the third, the last. He didn’t make any move to attack Shinsou, instead, he had dropped to his ally’s side, checking the blonde's pulse.

 

“Are they alive?”

 

He didn’t know to be honest, he probably knew better than Shinsou did, but they had to be, Shinsou wasn’t a murderer. If he was...

 

“Yes.”

 

The teen dropped his gaze back to his friend, before picking him up and dragging him off the street. Shinsou watched the boy carefully, taking careful steps away from him. 

 

“What’re you doing?”

 

If he was being honest, Shinsou didn’t really care what he was doing, he’d figure out one way or another, but he needed a response. He needed to be ready.

 

“Taking them on a vacation.” He deadpanned. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m getting them out of the road.”

 

Shinsou took a few more cautious steps back as the teen marched towards his other friend, pulling him up by his armpits and dragging him off next to the other one. He slowly relaxed his shoulders, willing his heart to stop racing. “You’re not going to attack me?”

 

The teen snorted and shook his head. “Fuck that. I was under your voodoo shit once, not risking it.”

 

A pang of guilt shot through Shinsou but he swallowed it down for later, biting back the instinctive apology. He glanced over his shoulder, then back to the teen, then he turned, shoving his hands in his pocket and making his way over to the man.

 

He couldn’t have been that old, no older than 40, he looked perfectly able to move and walk, perfectly able to run away from, or even fight three asshole teenagers. He rocked back and forth, so small and slow that Shinsou almost didn’t notice it, twisting and prodding at the old knitted blanket wrapped around him. Shinsou glanced over his shoulder again, watching as the teen struggled to pull his friends along down the street before he crouched in front of the man.

 

“Erm, are you alright?”

 

The man responded quickly, not looking up at the boy, “Yes thank you.”

 

Shinsou looked the man up and down, eyeing the bruises on his arms. “Are… you sure?”

 

“Yep, quite alright. Quite alright.”

 

Shinsou pulled his hood up and glanced over his shoulder. Shinsou sat there a moment, unsure of what to say, balancing on the balls of his feet before standing up, ignoring the aches of his abused body. “Maybe next time walk away if you see them around?”

 

“No thank you.”

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows furrowed and he gulped. “Okay, well. Maybe think about it?” The man said nothing, instead reaching for a small pebble by his foot. “Alright well, stay safe.”

 

Shinsou turned to walk away but a hand grabbing his ankle made him stop. He stopped himself from immediately trying to kick it away and instead glanced down at the man again.

 

He was smiling, small and weak, but it was without a doubt a smile. He glanced up at Shinsou, for just a second before quickly letting go and dropping his gaze. “Thank you boy. Thank you.”

 

Something warm gathered in Shinsou’s chest as he looked down at the man. He took a step back muttering a quick, “No problem,” before spinning on his heel and walking away. He wished he could’ve done more, but he didn’t have anything on him, he’d learned that lesson already. 

 

He reached up and touched the throbbing pain under his eye and picked up his pace. He’d probably need to clean himself up after that. Shinsou could only imagine how terrible he looked right now.

 

How terrible he looked because he got in a fight. Again.

 

Shinsou shoved his hands in his pocket and put his head down, forcing himself not to glance back at the homeless man or the teens. Why the hell did he do that? Get into another fight, use his quirk again. He could’ve died! Not that those guys looked like murderers but he could’ve. He should be disappointed.


He made it back to the school faster than he expected, he was practically running by the end of the trip. Not out of fear of being late, he still had a while before he needed to worry about that, but out of pure desperation to move. The fight was over, long over, he was away from the scene, and still, his heart was pounding and his legs were shaky. If he ever stopped moving he might’ve collapsed.

 

Shinsou only slowed down when he was back in the alley, stopping to retrieve his muzzle from its hiding spot. He wasn’t surprised it was still there, but he was relieved. There would be no way he’d be able to explain how his muzzle went missing without admitting that he had somehow gotten a key.

 

He put the strap in his mouth, gripping onto the muzzle with his teeth as he climbed up the building. His back and chest ached as he climbed but it was easy to ignore the pain. Especially when his thoughts were so fixated on something else.

 

Holy shit.

 

He just fought three teenagers and won. Three teenagers! Three! Just him. He had to use his quirk to do it, he knew if he hadn’t he would’ve lost, and yet, part of him was disappointed that he had to use it again.

 

And the other part was still trying to process the fact that he had won. Against three people.

 

Shinsou climbed into the hallway, pulling his hood further over his head and darting straight for the bathroom. He could hear chatter coming from one of the rooms, but he didn’t pay it much mind. He had walked in on some of these kids doing much worse things than coming home beaten and bloodied. 

 

He pressed the bathroom door open and dropped his mask to the floor by the first sink. He delayed it as long as possible, but eventually, he looked up to the mirror, examining the disaster that was his face. Other than the dirt and dried blood, he didn’t look that bad. A long scrape decorated his cheek, and it was obvious his nose had been bleeding at some point, but, luckily, he could see no damage that couldn’t be hidden by his muzzle or a hoodie.

 

He pulled his hood off and his hair came free. His usually violet hair was practically brown, and it stuck up at odd angles. He turned on the sink, washing his hair and face the best he could. He wasn’t going to be able to shower until after dinner tomorrow, he’d have to make do with hand soap and sink water.

 

It didn’t take too long to clear his face of the blood and grime, but he did wish he had his old first aid kit, only so he wouldn’t have to deal with his muzzle rubbing against his already scraped cheek all day. He’d deal with it though, he’d brought this on himself, he could deal with the consequences. 

 

He lifted up his hoodie, pulling it up and over his head. He gingerly pressed against the forming bruise on his side, groaning when he hit a particularly sensitive spot. He hoped nothing was broken, he wouldn’t know how to tell or fix it if there was.

 

He twisted his body and peered at his back through the mirror. There didn’t seem to be any new damage, his sweater did a pretty decent job at absorbing the brunt of the attacks. 

 

Shinsou reached back, carefully tracing one of the small, thick pinkish lines that never really seemed to go away. They felt like skin, if only a little rougher, he could hardly tell the difference between the untouched skin and the scar tissue. Looking back, it really could’ve been worse. There were only 5 or 6 scars that decorated his back, most of them short and, if not unnoticeable, then easy to hide. 

 

He dropped his hand, and twisted his back away from the mirror, carefully sliding his hoodie back over his head. He leaned down, hissing at the motion as he pulled the muzzle off the ground and pressed it back up to his face. With only a slight bit of hesitation, he locked it back onto his face. He stared at himself, slightly less dirty and disheveled than earlier.

 

He really should try to head back and get some sleep, if he even could after that. 

 

He pushed his way out of the bathroom and into his room, keeping his head down the whole way. He stopped and pulled an older hoodie out of his dresser, taking the purple hoodie off and sliding on the clean grey one. The change from dirty to clean clothes instantly made him feel so much better.

 

He collapsed onto his bed, closing his eyes and letting out a heavy sigh.

 

Holy shit.

 

He had used his quirk. A lot. And yet he didn’t feel guilty. He should feel guilty, but right now, he was almost… thrilled. Thrilled that he had actually managed to make a difference in someone’s life, a positive difference.

 

Maybe he was destined to be a villain, maybe this was only the start of his spiral. He should draw his lines in the sand, set his standards and stick to them. But if he had done that, those kids would’ve kept up their assault. Who knows what they would’ve done to that man if Shinsou hadn’t gotten involved.

 

He rolled over and pressed his face into his pillow, sighing heavily. This was all too much, way too overwhelming. This didn’t make any sense.

 

He didn’t want to be a villain. He really didn’t want to. Tobe didn’t seem to think he had to, according to her, everyone who thought he was going to be a villain were ‘Dumbshits who needed to fuck off and eat shit.’ But Tobe also believed he could be a hero, she liked to imagine the two of them fighting their way to the top of the hero charts and saying fuck you to everyone who thought they couldn’t do it. To everyone who tried to knock them down.

 

But that just wasn’t him, and even if it was, he didn’t think he could be a hero. With the amount of times he messed up, used his quirk when he wasn’t supposed to, he didn’t feel like a hero. 

 

Except when he saw that man: surely a villain would’ve walked on by, maybe even joined in. Sure, he used his quirk illegally, but no matter how he thought about it, he was having a hard time imagining what he did had been villainous.

 

And maybe that’s how it starts. The lines become blurry and the difference between hero and villain becomes hard to discern. But when he was out there, fighting those boys-

 

Well, that was the first time in a long time that he felt more like a hero than a villain. 

 

Chapter Text

If Shinsou was going to do this, he was going to do it right. He would slow down and completely think this through, make sure that this was really what he wanted.

 

It was a ridiculous idea, not to mention completely stupid and idiotic. 

 

He was honestly shocked he hadn’t thought of it sooner. 

 

He couldn’t be a hero, he’d more or less made his peace with that. Even if he wasn’t destined to be a villain, he couldn’t be a hero. Even if he was qualified (which he definitely wasn’t), people wouldn’t let him. No one wanted to see a hero like him. He wasn’t even close to fitting the mold, and not just because of his quirk.

 

Heroes have big presences with loud personalities and powerful flashy quirks that look good on tv. Most of the top-10 were charismatic and good with people, always grinning and talking with different interviewers, setting people at ease just by being seen. The only real exception was Endeavor, who, you guessed it, had a nice flashy quirk that was perfect for taking down the worst of the worst.

 

Shinsou was none of those things. He was an anti-social introvert who could barely hold his own in most conversations, and him smiling was rarer than him talking.

 

So even if he didn’t have an inherently villainous quirk, he would be screwed.

 

But a vigilante .

 

Shinsous' stomach twisted in a mixture of excitement and fear that made him light-headed at the mere thought. Being a vigilante wasn’t completely off the table for him. He didn’t have to worry about the whole public aspect of being a hero, and people wouldn’t know what his quirk was unless he really messed up somehow. He could get more comfortable using his quirk on criminals, people who, maybe didn’t deserve it, but deserved it more than others. He could get out there, actually save people and stop criminals like he’s always wanted.

 

Except it was technically illegal. 

 

It was a small problem, one that didn’t bother Shinsou as much as it probably should. He finally found a way he could be something like a hero. He was itching to be back out there, on the streets, helping in any way he can. Vigilantes were illegal because they were flight risks. Uncontrolled, undocumented, and unpredictable. It wasn’t uncommon for vigilantes to kill, or to go rogue in some other way.

 

Shinsou could do it right. He would do it right.

 

But he needed to be careful, thoughtful. He’s been a crazy loose cannon these last few days, he needed to slow down. Do this right.

 

And maybe, hopefully , if he did become a villain, if he failed and he became what everyone seemed to believe he would, he could do enough good to balance out the bad he’d do.

 

Which led to his first major problem he needed to sort; this can’t lead to villany.

 

He had already spent entirely too long running through fictitious scenarios, trying to decide what he would do if he was put in difficult situations. He had a pretty active imagination, and he’s read more than enough books, he could figure out where to draw the lines.

 

Using his quirk was okay, but only on criminals, the only exception being if he needed to use it to stop a civilian from getting hurt. Same with fighting. No killing obviously . That should go without saying but… better safe than sorry. No stealing… no doing anything he didn’t absolutely need to do. 

 

He was doing this because he couldn’t be a hero, he would not let it be his downfall.

 

His second issue was he really did not know how his quirk worked.

 

It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t the worst thing. He knew how to fight without his quirk, he could probably hold his own without it. He’d actually prefer if he didn’t have to use his quirk for everything. Sure he’d been getting more familiar with his quirk lately, but that didn’t mean he had to use it all the time. It was a good fallback to have, something to make the playing grounds even, but not something he wanted to rely on. 

 

Apparently, he could only control one person, which was kind of bullshit, and apparently, he didn’t have to verbally give them commands, or maybe it depended on the complexity. Knowing he could just put people to sleep was actually really useful, especially because he could only control one person at a time. The best thing to do in a pinch would be to drop in, get a response, put them to sleep, and get out.

 

Then came his outfit.

 

There was no way he was going to get access to any weapons or actual good costume. If he was desperate and feeling risky, he could ‘borrow’ a knife from the kitchen. If he ever got comfortable with his quirk, he wouldn’t be getting too close to them anyway. It would probably be best to focus on keeping his identity a secret. He had plenty of hoodies, specifically a dark purple one that was already covered slightly in blood. That would probably be the best option, it was the darkest one and he really didn’t want to ruin his others.

 

He had this dark pair of cargo pants that somehow got thrown into his suitcase from another house. That should be a dark enough outfit to blend in at night. Plus it had quite a few pockets. Lots of pockets were always something that the great heroes in stories had.

 

He had everything planned out, technically, he was ready.

 

Except this time seemed different. He was going out deliberately, with the intention to get into fights, he was perfectly prepared and ready to use his quirk. Hell, he was even expecting it.  

 

And that’s what really terrified him about this whole thing, it was the reason he decided to wait a week to think this through before he jumped right into it. It simultaneously seemed almost too good to be true and like the worst idea he’s ever had. Using his quirk was bad, usually, except maybe not always. He’d saved 2 people with it now, once by accident and once on purpose. But this- this was different. Those were spur of the moment, barely any time to think beforehand. This time, he was plotting, going out there with a plan, intending to use his quirk and fight people off. 

 

There was no denying this, no mental gymnastics that he could do to convince himself that this wasn’t entirely his fault. Here he was, safe and sane and still not only choosing, but actively going out of his way to do this.

 

It wasn’t villainous, it couldn’t be, he was saving people after all, but it wasn’t necessarily heroic either. Everything about what he was about to do was ‘wrong’ according to everything he’d been told. Getting into fights; bad . Sneaking out; bad . Using his quirk; worst thing in the world .

 

And he didn’t care as much as he probably should.

 

The little voice in his head that tried its hardest to turn him to villainy was eerily silent.

 

But so was the one that wanted nothing more than to be a hero.

 

Shinsou grabbed the clothes from the bottom of his drawer and slipped out the window. He didn’t even really bother with the ladders, instead, he just hopped down each hole, eager to get anywhere other than here. He paused in the alleyway, glancing around, before quickly slipping off his pants and sliding on the cargo ones he brought. He slipped the hoodie over his head and unlocked the muzzle, tucking his pants and the muzzle in the small box as usual. He’d have to figure out something better to do with those, he couldn’t risk someone snooping around and finding his shit.

 

He didn’t care about that tonight though. He wanted to get back out there, find someone who needed saving, and do what he could.

 

He was a bit reckless in his rush. He knew he shouldn’t head straight to the bad part of town, but it was the area most guaranteed to run into criminals. And that’s what he was here for right?

 

He was no longer some weird freak kid. He was a brave vigilante, someone who wasn’t afraid to charge straight at the villains.

 

Okay, he was getting ahead of himself. Technically, he hadn’t done anything as a vigilante yet.

 

He ran harder than he ever remembered running. Forcing his legs to push him forward faster than he ever had. He was going to burn himself out, and the small voice in the back was trying to convince him to slow down, but for once in his life, the voice wasn’t very compelling. 

 

He was a bit disappointed to find the area was actually very empty.

 

It wasn't like the area was teeming with criminal activity regularly, it could've just been a coincidence, but the last 3 times he had passed this place, there were a lot of sketchy people around.

 

It wasn't like there weren't people around. There were a few stray people tucked into odd corners taking shelter where they could. Most of them were either homeless or high, some probably both.

 

He really shouldn't have been disappointed, no crime was good, but he couldn't help but curse his luck.

 

Sure, when he was wandering around trying to mind his own business, he ran into all sorts of crime, but when he actually wants to find it?

 

Nada.

 

Shinsou kept his head down and his hands in his pockets. Forcing himself to slow his pace and take deep breaths. He could just wander the area for the night, patrol the streets a bit.

 

Or he could turn back, it wasn't too late for that.

 

He didn't have the opportunity to dwell on that thought. He shielded his eyes from the flash of light that exploded from the alley down the street before breaking into a run directly towards it.

 

Shouting erupted from the alley before a heavy silence or talking that Shinsou wasn't close enough to make out. He pressed his back against the wall and pulled his hood further over his head. There were small bits of conversation he caught, something about a payment, about failing, and a lot of groans and whimpers. 

 

He stayed there, listening and thinking, waiting for the perfect opportunity to jump in.

 

And then when it came, he choked.

 

Shinsou took a cautious step back, away from the alley. Someone was in there, someone needed help, and here Shinsou was, too terrified to do a damn thing.

 

He took a deep breath and bit his lip. He was a fucking coward, he knew it, he always had been. He talked big and dreamed bigger but he was nothing more than a stupid kid who was in way over his head. He tried to pretend like he was something, anything more than that, but he knew deep down that wasn’t true.

 

Shinsou stepped forward, forcing himself to get closer to the edge. His heart pounded in his chest as he clenched his jaw and his fists.

 

He didn't have to fight, but he couldn't just let them do this. He wouldn't.

 

Shinsou took another step, forcing himself to face them. The second his foot hit the ground and he turned to see the scene, an icy chill went down his spine and his body went numb.

 

He jumped back away from the entrance, cowering behind the wall again. He did a mental rundown of his body, trying to understand what happened.

 

It had to be a quirk… right? The tingling in his fingers and toes, the shakiness in his legs, and the sick feeling in his stomach. The way his throat went dry the instant he saw them couldn’t be a coincidence. It had to be a quirk, one of theirs, one that activated when he stepped out.

 

Except he was no longer in their view and he still felt light-headed, and he was pretty sure none of them noticed him there. If they had, they did a shit job at catching him. Unless there was some passive quirk that activated around a certain area…

 

No, that didn’t make sense either, it would be affecting the others too, and it would've affected him earlier.

 

So if it wasn't a quirk, then this was all him.

 

Shinsou closed his eyes and took in a slow breath, leaning his head back against the wall.

 

Fuck.

 

He couldn't be a fucking hero if he couldn't even face the villains.

 

Shinsou opened his eyes and peaked around the corner. There were 3 of them and only one of their quirks was obvious. The far one, the one who seemed to be contributing the least, had some kind of sharp bars that continued straight beyond his elbows. Shinsou couldn’t quite make out what his quirk was, but it was probably something close-ranged. All he’d have to do was keep his distance, which meant, if he was going to try and knock someone out, he should probably go for one of the other two first.

 

The biggest man reached out and pulled the victim off the floor. He pulled him in close, whispering something Shinsou couldn’t make out before shoving him back down. Quirks aside, he was probably the biggest threat. Taking him out first would most likely be his best bet.

 

Assuming he ever convinced himself to move away from the wall.

 

The third was a woman with long shiny silver hair. She seemed to be dressed for a night out downtown, not for participating in whatever it is they were doing in that alley. She was also keeping her distance, letting the bigger guy do most of the work but watching closely.

 

“That’s enough,” Shinsou tensed at the voice. So far, he’d only heard the man spit insults and threats. The woman marched forward, heels clicking as she did so, and pulled the man away slowly. “I think he’s got the message, don’t you?”

 

Shinsou couldn’t see the last man anymore but based on their reactions he assumed he agreed in some way. Shinsou’s window was closing. He either had to step forward and face them or turn and run before they ever realized he was there.

 

Shinsou swallowed and let out a slow breath.

 

If it was between this and becoming a villain, then he knew what he had to do.

 

He stepped forward again, this time more prepared for the wave of nausea to hit him again. It didn’t hit him as hard as it did before, and Shinsou took the small personal victory.

 

“Hey! Have you thought about not beating up people in alleys? It’s honestly so cliche.”

All three heads spun Shinsou's direction. 

 

Shinsou tensed as he met the woman's eyes. They were icy and made him shiver. He dropped his head, working to hide as much of his face as he could while still keeping his eyes on the three of them.

 

"And who might you be?"

 

Shinsou stuttered but recovered quickly. He could put the woman to sleep now, he should honestly, but he was hoping for the bigger man to respond. He wanted to take him out first before engaging 

 

"Nobody."

 

"Well, nobody , why don't you buzz off."

 

Shinsou dropped his connection with the woman and grabbed the man's, tugging on it instantly. The man went slack and at Shinsou's whispered 'sleep' he collapsed.

 

Shinsou thrived in confusion. He didn't have to be doing this for long to figure that out. The time between Shinsou using his quirk and people trying to figure out what happened was Shinsou’s sweet spot. 

 

So when arrows were shot at him before the man had even hit the floor, Shinsou had no other choice but to dive once again behind the wall.

 

He couldn’t have been more wrong about the 2nd man's quirk. 

 

"Woah, we can talk about this!"

 

Please talk about it.

 

"Wait," A high-pitched voice rang out, "we don't know how his quirk works." Shinsou clenched his jaw. Maybe he should've taken down the woman first. She was being cautious, unintentionally sidestepping Shinsou's quirk without even realizing it.

 

"Stop trying to shoot me and I'll tell you."

 

A scoff followed by, "Yeah, not gonna happen,"

 

Shinsou forced his racing heart to slow. He waited, not taking over the man's mind yet. He had a plan, a risky one, but, if it worked, he'd avoid any unnecessary risks.

 

But first, he needed the woman's response.

 

“What about you lady? Wouldn’t you like to know what my quirk is?”

 

A heavy tense silence came over them before a flash of light filled his vision and an unknown weight hit his chest lifting his feet off the ground.

 

Shinsou reached out, instinctively trying to block or attack or do anything to his invisible assailant. He made contact with nothing, groaning at the odd pressure against his chest. 

 

“He’s just a child.” The woman said as she rounded the corner and met purple eyes. “A small child playing hero.” The second man came around, the crossbows on his elbows aimed directly at Shinsou.

 

“I’m not playing hero,” He corrected. He wiggled against the force, but he hardly moved, despite there being no visible constraints holding him back.

 

“Oh? What would you call it?”

 

Shinsou activated his quirk, trying to put the man to sleep as he wrapped his quirk around the woman’s mind. The man fell slack next to the woman, crashing into the ground so hard Shinsou winced. Whether it be because it was too much for his quirk to handle or he wasn’t as quick as he should’ve been, he didn’t really know. All that mattered was he failed.

 

The woman watched as her partner hit the ground, glancing at Shinsou from the corner of her eye. He tried to hide his panic, dropping his head and letting his hood fall further over his head. The absence of the tingling in the back of his mind made him feel sick and exposed.

 

Whatever the woman's quirk was, telepathy of some kind he assumed, it could throw him really far. His body jerked to the side and he crashed into the concrete, skidding along the road. His jacket took the brute of the injury but his arms and legs still burned as he tried to force himself up.

 

Another force, this time a pull. His body was yanked forward and his hood flew off. His cheek made contact with his arm as he crashed into the ground again. He tried to roll to his feet, but another force pushed him up and his back slammed against a wall. He let out an oof as he hit the ground again and forced his lungs to fill with air.

 

He wasn’t going to dodge these attacks. Even if it was possible to dodge them, he couldn’t see where they were coming from. He needed to get her under his quirk.

 

It was easier said than done. Another pull and he crashed into the opposite wall. She wouldn’t stop and he couldn’t focus. Even if he could get a word in, he didn’t know what to say that would get a response.

 

She lifted him into the air and he fell to the ground. He wheezed as the wind flew out his lungs and Shinsou tried to roll to his feet but instead, he was pushed back again. His arm hit something hard and he groaned, gasping as his lungs finally took in air.

 

“SORRY!” He shouted desperately, “I’m sorry, I can wake them up.”

 

There was no response and Shinsou winced, fully expecting to be thrown around some more. He wasn’t necessarily wrong, he did get pulled back again, but this time, he flew past the woman and rolled to a stop next to the man with the crossbow elbows. 

 

“Do it.”

 

Shinsou winced, pulling on his quirk and sighing as his mouth tingled in anticipation. He wrapped an arm around his stomach grimacing as he pushed himself to his feet and glanced back at the woman.

 

She looked a lot different under his control. She didn’t stand tall and confident, her body slouched and her face was blank, void of any of the previous hatred that had decorated it.

 

Thinking back, his plan was stupid, risky, and unnecessary. He should’ve just made the guy shoot her, hit her in the arm or something. 

 

It was a good plan, probably would’ve ended with Shinsou less beaten and bruised, and yet, his stomach still twinged at the thought.

 

Maybe he should add unnecessarily shooting people to his list of don’ts.

 

A flurry of movement to his side caused Shinsou to jumped and he spun around, ready for another attack. None came though, instead, the man in the alley who’d been kicked and beaten more than Shinsou had, ran out, darting down the street without giving Shinsou another glance.

 

Shinsou quickly pulled his hood over his head, rubbing his wrist as he glanced around at the scene. It was a ridiculous sight; 3 bodies, 2 passed out and one mindless, and the victor? An eleven-year-old villain kid. 

 

The last one standing.

 

Shinsou dusted himself off and took slow deep breaths, attempting to slow his breathing. For all his imaginary scenarios, he never did settle on what to do when he got this far.

 

He could leave them here, call the police and leave an anonymous tip that they had been committing a crime. He had to hope that they were wanted for other crimes, or that somehow, the cops would actually arrest them and get them fully off the street.

 

It wasn't likely though. It would probably end with the cops getting information about the person who had taken them down and letting them go anyways.

 

He could try what he did with the others, send them off to the police station with the command 'confess all your crimes'. The only problem with that was Shinsou didn't actually know if that worked. There was no guarantee that the people who had attacked Shinsou had even made it to the station, let alone confessed ‘all their crimes’.

 

He turned around, facing the one villain that was still awake. 

 

"Tell me every crime you've committed."

 

The woman stuttered, mouth opening then closing again before she did nothing at all.

 

"Tell me why you were attacking that guy."

 

This time there was no movement, she simply stood there, mindless and thoughtless.

 

Well, so much for that plan.

 

"Repeat after me, 'I've committed a crime.'"

 

This time there was no hesitation.

 

"I've committed a crime."

 

Shinsous' eyebrows shot up and he stepped closer.

 

"Say that again."

 

"I've committed a crime."

 

Okay, okay. This he could use.

 

"Repeat after me, 'These other two men and I assaulted a man in this alleyway."

 

"These other two men and I assaulted a man in this alleyway."

 

"Repeat that three times."

 

"These other two men and I assaulted a man in this alley way. These other two men and I assaulted a man in this alleyway. These other two men and I assaulted a man in this alleyway."

 

Shinsou huffed in disbelief.

 

"When you see…"

 

Shinsou paused, carefully pondering the best way to word this.

 

There was a possibility that if the cops found out that these people were under the influence of a quirk, they'd ignore what was being said.

 

And, even if he did have her confess to the cops, his brainwashing had to wear off eventually, meaning she'd be able to tell them everything she could about him.

 

And she'd seen his face.

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck, glancing back at the other two criminals. They hadn't seen his face, they'd barely seen him at all. All he had to worry about was the woman.

 

God. Shinsou did not know enough about his quirk to handle this.

 

He needed to find a way to keep his hood on better. This was the second time in the same amount of fights that it had fallen off.

 

"Don't tell anyone anything about me. Ever."

 

Shinsou’s gut twisted in a way that told him the command wouldn't work, but he didn't really have any other choice. He'd just have to hope he was wrong.

 

Hope never really went his way if he was being honest.

 

"Repeat back the sentence I gave you."

 

"These other two men and I assaulted a man in this alleyway."

 

Good. She still remembered the right words.

 

Shinsou let out a heavy breath and knelt over the crossbowman. He pulled his sleeve over his hands and carefully shuffled through his pockets. It took a second before he found what he wanted, but eventually, he pulled out a small thin cell phone.

 

He pushed 1-1-0, hovering over the call button, and held the phone out awkwardly. 

 

"Repeat after me. 'There's been an attack on...'". Shinsou paused, glancing around before continuing "Ellison and Ridgeview."

 

"There's been an attack on Ellison and Ridgeview."

 

"Okay good, good." Shinsou took a deep breath, before pressing call and putting it on speaker. The ringing was loud in the silence of the practically empty street. 

 

"In 5 seconds repeat what I said again." 

 

The phone rang for another second before a feminine voice answered from the other side.

 

"110, what's your emergency?"

 

There were a few seconds of awkward silence before the silver-haired woman recited "There's been an attack on Ellison and Ridgeview."

 

"What kind of attack?"

 

Shinsou stared at the phone numbly. He wasn't prepared for further questioning.

 

"Hello? Ma'am? Is everything alright?"

 

What kind of attack… it was… just an attack.

 

People beating up someone in an alley.

 

'Ma'am? Are you safe?"

 

Shinsou's throat went dry and he stared back up at the woman, focusing hard on his command.

 

'Repeat after me, 'Someone was getting beaten in an alley.'

 

She stood there, not moving, and definitely not repeating what he hoped she would.

 

Fuck.

 

"Ma'am, can you hea-?"

 

Shinsou panicked and pressed end call before he could really think about it.

 

That could’ve gone better.

 

Shinsou glanced back up at the woman, shoving the phone into her hand taking a step back.

 

"Repeat after me, 'The three of us assaulted a man in this alleyway."

 

“The three of us assaulted a man in this alleyway.”

 

“Okay. When you see a police officer, repeat that again.” Shinsou paused, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, “and then snap out of … of my brainwashing.”

 

He carefully opened one eye, peeking out at her. Part of him was expecting her to snap out of it right then and there and attack him.

 

He let out a heavy sigh of relief before glancing awkwardly around him. Now, all that was left was for him to leave. Leave things in the hands of the police and get out of here. 

 

He took an awkward step back taking in the scene before him one last time before turning and running. He couldn’t be around when the cops showed up. Especially not if the criminals woke up and told them what happened. He needed to get away, leave them be, and hope for the best.

 

Instead, he jumped into an alleyway about a block away and climbed up the emergency escape, perching on the roof and keeping an eye from a distance. They were only small lines, dots on the horizon, he probably wouldn’t even be able to make them out as people if he didn’t already know. 

 

He stayed there, ignoring the eventual ache and tingling in his legs. He was ready to run if needed. He had the escape planned. Still, he didn’t want to be spotted, he’d have to either leave or deal with the ache.

 

Flashing lights and familiar sirens showed eventually. Three cars came, jumping out of the vehicle and ready for a fight. No fight came though, obviously, the villains were already subdued. 

 

They circled the lone woman, guns up and ready. Shinsou felt his control slip away and watched as yet another flash of light erupted and officers went flying back.

 

Shinsou jumped up, running closer to the edge of the building and watching closely. Another officer went flying and Shinsou stepped back, running towards the exit before he watched the woman spasm, before collapsing.

 

He paused, holding his breath as he waited for the woman to stir. Stray cops pushed their way back to their feet and Shinsou darted back down, taking cover again. 

 

The tingling in his legs returned tenfold as he sat there, sitting and waiting. He only stayed long enough to watch ambulances show up and drag away the limp bodies.

 

He made his way down the ladder, and darted out into the street, rounding the corner almost immediately and running down the road. He didn’t let himself slow down, not until he was sure no cops saw him. It was a risk, a very unnecessary one. One that, if he was going to continue doing this, shouldn’t become a regular thing.

 

And against what he considered his better judgment, he did want to keep doing this.

 

The thing was, he wasn’t very brave, or strong, or smart. He was barely making it through life as it was. He couldn’t protect the people around him, hell he couldn’t even protect himself really. There was no way someone like him could become a hero.

 

He couldn’t be a hero, but this… this he could do.



Chapter Text

Shinsou raced up the ladder, practically jumping up the rungs. He grunted as he rolled over the edge, rushing to peer over the streets the best he could. He couldn’t really see much, but that wasn’t surprising. Even when he could see pretty far out, most criminals were good at hiding in the shadows.

 

There was a crash followed by a blaring alarm and Shinsou darted off towards the sound. He climbed down the ladder, dropping into a run the second his feet hit the ground. He was there within the minute, climbing over the gate dividing the alleys. He peeked around the corner barely catching sight of broken glass and a lone man, standing guard. The vaguest of plans formed in the back of his mind and he retreated into the alley.

 

He pulled his hood further over his head and cleared his throat, taking a second to prepare himself. Shinsou stepped out of the alley, hands already up in a sign of surrender.

 

He pitched his voice down and peered at the man from under the edge of his hood. “Whoa, what’re you guys up to? I hope it’s not anything illegal.”

 

Shinsou jumped back into the alleyway as something sharp shot in his direction.

 

"Guys we got company."

 

"Don't freak out, I'm not the cops or anything, just wanted to see what all the commotion was about."

 

Despite Shinsou not peeking his head out, there was another sharp object shot towards him.

 

"Get lost."

 

Shinsou smirked and jumped onto the ladders, climbing the opposite building. 

 

"Fight the others."

 

From the top of the building, Shinsou could see the man jump through the broken window followed by a crash and confused shouting. He stepped back, bracing himself for his jump. The gap between this building and the next wasn't anything special, but the drop was significant. He peered over the edge and swallowed, quickly climbing down a few rungs. Just as he felt his connection to the man start to slip, Shinsou told him to sleep. He stopped at the middle of the ladder, carefully spinning around and launching himself forward, landing roughly onto the building.

 

Shinsou rolled to a stop and pushed himself to his feet, peering over the edge. A different shot came in his direction and he ducked.

 

"Whoa, okay. That was a bit uncalled for."

 

Another shot and the edge of the building crumbled. Shinsou scrambled to the side, shielding his eyes from the flying debris. A third shot and hard concrete crashed into Shinsou knocking him back. His back hit the ground and he groaned, pushing the slab off him and rolling over. He crawled forward, rocks digging into his skin, and pelting his back.

 

"Let's talk about this."

 

No reply came but the shots didn't stop. Shinsou grabbed a chunk of the building and pushed himself to his forearms, throwing it over the edge as best he could.

 

There was a scoff and another shot. "Your aim is shit." 

 

Shinsou pulled on his quirk immediately, forcing the man to sleep. He pushed himself up running to the edge, quickly trying to get an assessment before more attacks came.

 

There were three people outside now, a few staring up at Shinsou and a third staring at the two asleep, all wearing some plain white mask.

 

"Starting to rethink your decision to rob this place?"

 

The first man stepped forward and crossed his arms, long swords shooting out of the back of his hand.

 

"How about you come down here and-"

 

He didn't get a chance to finish, Shinsou tugged on his quirk and, at his whispered command, the guy fell back, collapsing into the person behind him.

 

"Wow, you guys are dropping like flies."

 

The other two watched the man fall, glanced back up at Shinsou, and turned to leave, grabbing the discarded bags and running down the street. Shinsou shouted at them, and when they didn't respond he scrambled to an undestroyed edge of the building and climbed over it. He dangled over the edge, bracing himself for the fall and when he let go of the wall he crashed so hard into the ground his knees collapsed from under him. He stumbled for a second before pushing himself to his feet and dashing after them.

 

Catching up to them was fairly easy, they were trying to carry five people’s worth of bags between just the two of them and Shinsou was clearly more used to running than they were.

 

He jumped forward tackling one of the robbers, rogue pieces of jewelry flying out of their bag as they fell. There was a kick to his side and he rolled off. He moved to push himself to his feet but pain exploded in his cheek and his chin met concrete.

 

The two scampered away, leaving a discarded bag behind. Shinsou forced himself up again and he pressed forward, ignoring the pulsing in his head.

 

"Wait!" Shinsou huffed as he wiped his chin, "You- you left a bag behind."

 

Right as Shinsou caught up to them, the one he tackled earlier stopped and slammed a heavier than normal fist into Shinsou's chest. He stumbled back, gasping for air that, for some reason, refused to fill his chest. It was only for a moment, but it was long enough to give them another head start.

 

He chased after them again, desperately trying to ignore his burning lungs and aching side. He caught up to them again, and this time, when they stopped to swing at him again, he was ready. He easily ducked below it, kicking as hard as he could at the man’s gut. He stepped back, avoiding another swing from the other, and blocked the next one.

 

“I’m starting to think you guys don’t work there.”

 

The first man huffed and charged at him, Shinsou jumped to the side, narrowly avoiding the steel-lined fists. He jumped to the side again, unable to make any sort of counterattack, and not willing to even try and block the assault.

 

Knuckles skimmed his bicep and he stumbled back, clutching his arm as pain shot through it. Shinsou dropped and rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding a fist to the face.

 

"Don't touch the face," he huffed as he shot back up, "It's harder to hide those bruises."

 

The man’s eyes narrowed and he swung at Shinsou again, aiming right for his nose.

 

He dropped and ran back. "I said not the face. Are you an idiot?"

 

"I'm going to pound your tiny body into the ground so hard your momma won't even be able to recognize you."

 

Shinsou raised an eyebrow and tugged on his quirk, motioning towards the last robber remaining.

 

“Punch him.”

 

Without hesitation, the man swung around and hit him right in the gut. His friend flew back, slamming into the building behind him and collapsing to the floor.

 

“Wait!” The man protested, raising a hand and pushing himself up with the wall, “I’m innocent.”

 

"People who are innocent don't run." Shinsou pointed out as he swiped their legs out from under them.

 

"I didn't technically do anything wrong."

 

Shinsou narrowed his eyes, "You just robbed that place."

 

"Sure, but even if they do arrest me,” the man paused as the man under Shinsou’s control collapsed, glancing over at his limp body, “they'll have to let me go eventually."

 

Shinsou could feel the tingling connection in the back of his mind, but he held it.

 

“You’re a villain they don’t just-”

 

“Can’t be a villain if you don’t have a quirk.”

 

Shinsou’s eyes met the man. He was smirking at the reaction, hands lazily shown in surrender. Shinsou really didn’t know much about the law and how it worked, but he was pretty sure that couldn’t be true. Even if he didn’t have a quirk, he still hurt people, he still committed a crime, he was still guilty.

 

“You still committed a crime.”

 

The man shrugged and dropped his hands. “Trust me bud, I’ve been doing this a while. I know what I’m allowed to do. This is all just routine for me at this point.” 

 

Shinsou looked him up and down, trying to discern if he was being truthful. They stayed there a moment, the man’s smirk slowly growing as Shinsou processed the information. 

 

Distant sirens snapped him out of his thoughts. "Whether or not they arrest you isn't my problem."

 

The smirk faltered a bit but the man shrugged, slowly pushing himself up and sighing.

 

"Damn, and here I was hoping I could make it back for breakfast."

 

Without warning the man charged at him. Shinsou's heart jumped and he pulled on his quirk. The man went limp, his momentum carrying him forward. He landed heavily against Shinsou's shoulder, and he stepped back, carefully lowering him to the ground. 

 

Red and blue lights lit up the dark street and Shinsou darted off in the opposite direction, away from the crime scene and away from the bodies.

 

He wanted to stick around for this one, he really wanted to, but he forced himself not to. It wasn't worth potentially getting arrested just to see if what that man was saying was true. It was likely he was just trying to get Shinsou’s guard down or trying to confuse him into letting him go. 

 

He ended up cowering in an alley for a while, letting himself wind down and catch his breath before he made his way back to the school. He carefully lifted his jacket doing his best to get a look at his still aching chest. Cold air hit his stomach and he sighed. There were no visible marks, at least not yet. 

 

He pushed the hoodie down and leaned against the wall, taking in slow deep breaths, testing how deep he could breathe before the ache became too much. It was better than he thought, probably good enough that he could stay out a bit longer and keep an eye out, as long as he made his way towards the school, he'd be fine.

 

He'd stay out only about an hour more, maybe stop another villain and make it back in time to get a solid hour or two of sleep

 

~ ~ ~

 

Shinsou’s leg bounced as he stared at the clock on the wall. His eyes were having a hard time staying open and his cheek was heavily propped up on his palm, and yet, this was probably more alert than he ever had been in class. He wasn't paying attention to the lesson, well he kinda was, just not as much as he probably should. His main focus was the infuriatingly slow ticking clock. He just wanted class to be over, then he wanted dinner to be over, then he wanted everyone to go to sleep.

 

And maybe, if he was really lucky and he got his work done fast, he'd be able to catch up on some sleep before dinner.

 

Staring at the clock wouldn't make any of that come sooner, in fact, it was making it take longer, he was all too aware of how slowly the seconds were ticking by, how long a minute really was.

 

God, how does a day ever end?

 

He forced himself to scribble some vague notes on what she was saying. Watching the clock like a hawk was only making him aware of how long it would be before he'd be able to head out again. And, if he was going to be able to get through this class without passing out, he’d have to move at least a little.

 

And yet, he glanced at the clock again. Not even a minute had passed.

 

His teacher didn't seem to notice his nervous energy or his split attention. If she noticed anything at all, it was that his head was off his desk and he seemed actually alert. It was something he had forced himself to learn. He frankly didn’t give a shit what happened to his grades in this class anymore, everything was already messed up beyond repair and there was no way he’d be asking her for help. 

 

He could, however, control his future punishments. No more falling asleep and no more seeming dazed during class. Follow the teacher as she writes and scribble something down when everyone else does. Nod every now and then and when she meets his gaze, he meets hers with confidence.

 

Now if only he could learn how to sleep with his eyes open.

 

The second hand passed twelve and the minute hand lurched forward.

 

He pushed himself back in his chair, deciding to change positions before he was lulled to sleep by her droning.

 

He really needed to figure out a better and more consistent way to get people to respond to him. It’d probably be a lot easier of a task if he hadn’t spent literally his whole life up till this point trying to avoid contact with people at all costs. Just trying to make random chatter and comments wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped, most people weren’t exactly talkative when they were getting chased by a vigilante.

 

Insulting them seemed to work the most often, or just taunting them in general worked. He was getting pretty fucking tired of villains taunting him the moment he spoke, purely because of how young he sounded. It worked out, they had to talk to be able to point out his age, but it was getting annoying, so annoying that he had started trying to sound older.

 

They were the ones who should feel stupid. They were getting their asses handed to them by an eleven-year-old with a villain’s quirk.

 

Then again, his quirk was perfectly suited for this. To some extent, it wasn’t really fair.

 

Another second ticked by.

 

When she kept them a minute over so she could pass out their last sheet of homework, Shinsou almost left the classroom anyway. It wouldn't have helped. Time wouldn't have passed any faster, and he would've just ended up in more trouble than he already was, so obviously he stayed where he was. He was the first one out though, shooting up and slinging his bag over his shoulder the second she dismissed them. He had nowhere to be, not until tonight, but he still wanted to move, do something to relieve the anxiousness he had. But the only other place he could really go was his bed or the library, and neither of those would help his buzzing nerves.

 

He settled for the library, if only because it would be quieter. He also needed to get his homework at least started before he could get some sleep anyways. The quiet backfired a bit, especially as he tried to focus on the dull homework in front of him. It was too welcoming, inviting him to catch up on days of lost sleep.

 

As much as Shinsou hated to admit it, more often than not, when he and sleep were stuck butting heads in a war, sleep won far more often than he did. If sleep didn’t want to grant him rest during the night, then sleep would very well be getting what it desired.

 

And if sleep wanted him to pass out on top of his homework in the library… then well, sleep got that too.

 

“Hey, wake up.” Shinsou groaned and peeked an eye open. Bright yellow hair and a wide shiny smile filled his view. He groaned again, carefully pulling his arms off his papers, and slowly he sat up. “It’s almost dinner time.”

 

Shinsou blinked a few times, slowly taking in his surroundings before nodding. 

 

“Your name’s Shinsou right?” He nodded again, reaching forward to pull the somewhat wrinkled papers into a pile. “Nice! I’m reeaaallly bad with names, but yours is really close to my old friends so it was actually pretty easy to remember.” 

 

Shinsou glanced at the boy from the corner of his eye before sliding his seat back and standing up. He easily recognized him. He’d been transferred here a few days ago. His quirk had something to do with … something, probably his hands if the thick wool gloves were related. Shinsou hadn’t paid that much attention when he was introduced, he really couldn’t have cared less about another person to constantly have to avoid.

 

He gave the sign for thank you before sighing at the boy’s obvious confusion. He didn’t know why he still tried things like that around here. Nobody ever really knew what he was trying to say.

 

He turned to leave, grabbing his discarded pencil and weaving his way around the desk behind the boy.

 

“You wouldn’t happen to know where Yamato is, would you?” Shinsou shrugged. “I uhh... I can’t find him and he was supposed to help me get stuff for my assignment.” 

 

Shinsou rubbed his eyes and glanced at the other, before sighing and flipping open his notebook. 

 

“What stuff do you need?”

 

The boy tugged on the edge of his sleeve. “Just some art supplies, like colored pencils or crayons… and scissors would be good but I could do it without those.”

 

Shinsou sighed, shoved his pencil into his pocket, and motioned for the boy to follow him. He pressed the call button for the elevator, tiredly scanning over his homework as they waited. 

 

“Why do you wear that thing?”

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows narrowed and he glanced down at the boy. He pointed to his muzzle as a question and the boy nodded. Shinsou pointed to the boys’ gloves and he looked down in confusion. 

 

“My gloves?” Shinsou nodded, “What about my gloves?” Shinsou tapped his muzzle again and pointed back to the gloves, before eventually shoveling his pencil out of his pocket when the confused look didn’t leave his face.

 

‘It’s for my quirk.’ 

 

“Ohhhh… like my gloves. Ohh, is your quirk dangerous too?”

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw and let out a slow breath. ‘Depends who you ask.’

 

The elevator doors opened and they shuffled inside. Shinsou pressed the button for the second floor, both sitting in silence as they descended. The doors opened and he pressed forward, awkwardly knocking on the already open door.

 

He was a bit surprised she was still around this late, so close to dinner time. Even with how often she stayed back late, he’d never thought to check this late. Come to think of it, Shinsou didn’t know when she actually left.

 

“Oh Shinsou!” The familiar soft voice exclaimed, “I haven’t seen you in a while. What brings you back here?”

 

Shinsou stepped forward, actually making his way into the classroom. He jabbed a thumb behind him and stepped to the side. The boy shuffled in, awkwardly offering a little wave.

 

“Oh, hey! How can I help the two of you.” The boy glanced up at Shinsou, and Shinsou pointed at the teacher.

 

“Um… Do you have like, crayons, or colored pencils or something I could borrow?”

 

Her face lit up and she stood, trodding over to a bookshelf in the back of the room, pulling out a few boxes. “Yes, I do actually. I have quite the collection. All I ask is that none of this stuff leaves this room. This place is so big and it would be hard to keep track otherwise.”

 

The boy’s face lit up and he ran to the back, “Nice! Thank You! Uhh- would it be okay if I came by later? It’s almost time for dinner and-”

 

“You can come by anytime you want.” She laughed, “but I probably will be gone by the time you guys are done with dinner. You can come by tomorrow after your classes if you’d like.”

 

“Awesome! Thank you so much!” The boy ran back towards Shinsou, stopping in front of him and holding out a fist. “And thanks Shinsou.” Shinsou eyed the boy skeptically before bumping his fist into the boys. The boy pulled his hand back, making an explosion with his mouth before rushing off. “See you at dinner!” 

 

Shinsou watched the boy, fist still in the air, as he ran into the stairwell. He shoved his hand in his pocket and turned back to the teacher, nodding before turning to leave.

 

“Wait!” Shinsou turned back. She made her way closer, leaning back onto a desk towards the center of the room. “How’ve you been?” He shrugged, scanning the room and leaning against the wall. “I heard you got caught cheating.”

 

Shinsou’s heart fell, and he dropped his head. Of course she would’ve heard about it, he was probably the top gossip among the teachers. Even teachers needed to rant about stupid kids who can’t follow simple instructions. “You know, if you ever need help understanding something, I’m more than willing to help. I may be a third-grade teacher, but I do know higher-level subjects.” He hesitantly met her eyes. “You seemed to do alright when you were in my class. Some teachers and students just match up better.”

 

Shinsou watched her carefully for a second, trying to decipher her intentions, before nodding.

 

“And you know, if you ever just need some peace and quiet, to draw, or read, or just get away from people, that’s fine too.” Shinsou nodded again, before glancing up at the clock. “Yeah, you probably should go, don’t want to be late.” Shinsou pushed himself off the wall. “Hey, maybe stop by more often? I like catching up with my old students.” 

 

Shinsou met her eyes, keeping the gaze for a moment before shuffling off into the hallway and making his way to dinner.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Shinsou pulled his hood further over his head again, pulling the drawstring tighter. Tonight had been a fairly uneventful night, and yet, his hood was still finding ways to slip back. It was starting to become a big problem honestly. He could try out one of his other hoodies, see if they worked better for the job, it was just that, this one was already dirtied and torn just from the almost two months he’d been doing this. He really didn’t want to ruin one of his other ones, especially when he had so few to begin with. Plus, this was easily the thickest jacket he had, and Shinsou didn’t need to be doing this for long to find every little layer helped cushion blows.

 

But if this thing escalated anymore, he’d have to either find a way to get this hood to work with him, or he’d have to try a different one. The literal last thing he needed right now was to get caught.

 

He stepped back to the edge, glancing down at the empty city around him. It was a really stupid thing to be wishing for crime to happen, but it was downright idiotic to hope for crime to happen near him. Obviously, he had his reasons, if there was no one to save, then there was really no reason to be doing this, and if there was no reason to be doing this, then he’d be back to square one.

 

Clearly waiting for crime to come to him was not the way to be doing it, but he had gotten a bit annoyed with the few night owls like him giving him strange looks as he wandered around. 

 

He made his way down to the alley, climbing over the fence that separated this street from the next. He was starting to lose hope for any activity tonight.

 

It was a good thing, it really was, Shinsou knew that. Honestly, it was a good thing for everyone but him.

 

He shoved his hands in his pockets and slowly made his way back, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to head back now. He could probably get some sleep, maybe finish the few scraps of homework he didn’t care to finish.

 

Or, he could try and move to an area he didn’t go to very often.

 

He took a hard right at the next intersection, picking up his speed as he made his way towards the edge of the city. As long as he kept track of which directions he took, this would be a fine plan. As long as he didn’t get lost and ended a bit earlier than he usually did, heading further out would be fine.

 

Wandering the streets looking for crime, you’d think Shinsou would try to be a bit more focused on his surroundings. To some extent he did, he was listening for any cries for help and looking out for any suspicious activity, but when nights went by as slow as this, it was hard to stay one hundred percent focused on everything around him. 

 

He could’ve spotted him sooner, if his thoughts hadn’t been elsewhere, he was honestly lucky he saw him before he was spotted. It was the odd color of yellow at this time of day that caught his attention first, then it was the recognition of tall golden hair that triggered a shot of panic. 

 

He hadn’t run into any heroes yet, and he certainly wasn’t going to get caught because he spaced out a little while patrolling the area.

 

He jumped into the closest alleyway, positioning himself behind a stack of crates, carefully listening for the hero to pass. 

 

Loud clicking footsteps grew closer and closer, occasionally stopping and backtracking or speeding up. If he had thought this through or had a bit more time to think, he would’ve climbed the fence, or jumped into an alley that had access to the emergency escape from the ground. God, why hadn’t he thought this through?

 

Shinsou pressed himself against the wall, making himself as small as possible, squeezing his eyes shut as the footsteps passed by the mouth of his alley. His heart stopped as the clicking paused for a moment, before continuing on.

 

He let out a slow breath, one he hadn’t realized he had been holding. He was not ready to fight a hero, if he was lucky, he’d get away with never fighting one. Villains fight heroes, and he was not a villain.

 

Maybe this was a sign, to turn around and slip back under his covers for the night. This was much more stressful than any villain fight he had been in.

 

Except Present Mic was heading the direction Shinsou needed to to get home.

 

Shit .

 

It wasn’t that big of a deal, he could probably walk around and find another route. If he kept his guard up, kept a lookout for any more heroes, specifically a particular radio host, he’d be fine. He peeked around the crates, before stepping out and peeking out the alley. As far as he could see, there was no sign of the hero still around. 

 

He stepped out of the alley and immediately crossed the street, walking faster than necessary. 

 

It felt like a bit of a waste to wander this far out just to turn back. Getting spooked by some hero who hadn’t even noticed he was there was a ridiculous reason to quit now. It wasn’t like he was doing anything currently that was worthy of suspicion, other than wandering the streets at night.

 

And yet, for the first time in a while, Shinsou wanted to just back off and regroup himself back at the school. This night escalated in a way he had not been prepared for, and he was ready to cool off for a bit.

 

He made his way in the general direction of the school, weaving between streets until he hit one that he could vaguely recognize. He still had a small bit of lingering hope that he’d run into some criminals on the way back, but, to his disappointment, by the time the school was in view he hadn’t run into any activity. He supposed a hero wandering around might have something to do with that.

 

He dug his muzzle out from under the boxes and looped it through his arm, making his way up the ladder. He slipped through the window, slowly and carefully shutting it behind him. He slid the mask off his arm, shuffled into the bathroom, and pulled down his hood. In comparison to how he usually came back looking, he seemed fine. With no action other than a hero scare, he hadn’t had any reason to get dirty, and subsequently, there was nothing he had to clean up.

 

He pulled the hood up over his head, carefully setting it down beside him. He pulled up his shirt, getting a good look at the healing bruises. It was a disappointing night, obviously he wouldn’t be able to find a crime to stop every night, if he did, the villains wouldn’t be very good villains, but he had been really excited to try something new with his quirk. He never had been excited about anything related to his quirk before.

 

Maybe it was a bad thing he was learning how to use his quirk, maybe it was a bad thing that he was pretending he didn’t have a terrible quirk, maybe it was a bad thing that, for once in his life, he was actually excited to use his quirk.

 

But for once, Shinsou found that he didn’t care all that much about what would happen with him and his quirk. All he knew was that he and his villain quirk were helping people. 

 

And if he had to break a few rules to be able to do it, then that was alright with him.

Chapter Text

Shinsou winced as he poked the bruise on his abdomen. It was big and black, and it was making stupid ordinary things like sitting more uncomfortable than necessary. It was easy to hide, that much he was grateful for, but even sitting down in class would get painful after a while.

 

He supposed this was going to be something he would have to get used to. Especially if he kept on taking on bigger groups of people. It was annoying. Crimes, as far as he could tell, rarely were just one person out there on a whim. It was almost always a group or at the very least a pair.

 

How people like that met, Shinsou couldn’t understand.

 

It was stupid really. If he hadn’t been so focused on trying to get them to respond, he could’ve avoided the bruise altogether. People were usually more than willing to respond to his taunts, no matter how terrible or how low of a blow they were. Humans were naturally chatty. But these two were not the same. He didn’t even plan on fighting them at first. He watched them sneak out of a building and just assumed they were sneaking out for harmless reasons.

 

Hindsights 20-20, and he wouldn’t be making that mistake again.

 

It wasn’t until alarms started blaring and the criminals started running that he caught on to what was happening.

 

He reacted almost instantly, jumping down from his perch and running after them. He tried hard to gain on them, hell he would’ve settled for being able to keep up with them. It was disappointing. Even after all his training, all his running, and all his sparring, they still managed to lose him.

 

At least that’s what he thought before something tackled him.

 

He slid back, groaning as he forced himself to roll onto his knees. Glancing behind him he watched as his assailant charged straight into the wall and disappeared. He pushed himself to his feet, eyes scanning the area he had seen the person last.

 

“Coward. You won’t even fight me face to face?”

 

He heard a scuffling behind him and he spun around just in time to catch the pipe welding arm. He pushed the arm to the side and jumped back.

 

“Wow. You resorted to sneak attacks and you still missed. I-”

 

Sweaty arms wrapped around his head and neck and Shinsou tensed, immediately driving his elbow back. The person groaned but their grip didn’t weaken. The other stepped forward, driving the pipe down hard into Shinsou’s side. Shinsou’s eyes shut instinctively and he squirmed, letting out a small groan.

 

Gripping the arms around his neck, Shinsou tried to take a deep breath in. Pain erupted in his side again and he forced his eyes open, failing to hold back his whimper this time. The man brought the pipe back again, but before he could make contact, Shinsou pulled his legs up and kicked him as hard as he could.

Both the man attacking him and the person holding him stumbled back, the latter falling back. Shinsou took the opportunity and rolled away, determined to push himself to his feet before the other.  

 

He lifted himself to his knees. “Whoa, whoa. We can talk about this.”

 

A fist swung towards him and he shielded himself with his forearm. He fell back, going for an awkward kick to the abdomen, struggling to push himself up. Something hard hit his shoulder and he yelped, falling back to the ground.

 

He lifted his arm and the pipe crashed into his forearm, Shinsou kicked up at the man, making hard contact with his gut. He finally got to his feet, rubbing his sore arm. The man with the pipe charged him again and Shinsou stepped forward, wincing as he grabbed the pipe before it could hit him. He kicked at the man, ripping the pipe from his hand as he stumbled back.

 

"Ha, got your weapon."

 

They growled deep and annoyed before the man charged at Shinsou. A fist made contact with his cheek and he stumbled back bringing his arms up and willing his eyes to stay open. 

 

They weren't responding. It was beyond annoying, and it was stressing Shinsou out the longer this fight was going on. He didn't know how to beat them unless he could put them to sleep. He didn't want to even try knocking them out, that seemed like a step too far. A step that would lead him to spiral deeper down the rabbit hole.

 

What if he messed up and killed them? What if he hit them too hard or did it wrong somehow? He’d never knocked someone out before, he didn’t even know if he could.

 

There was a blow to his gut and Shinsou stumbled back. He caught sight of a fist aimed at his face and he ducked, charging at the body. He tackled the man to the ground and punched him in the nose twice before being pulled off.

 

Shinsou kicked back and something cracked followed by a cry of pain before he was unceremoniously dropped to the ground. He stumbled to his feet and ran forward, spinning around, lifting the pipe, ready for another attack. 

 

Instead, he saw the person grasping his knee, struggling to push himself up and gasping for breath. Shinsou faltered at the sight of them. Their knee looked misaligned, and they were very clearly struggling to stand on it.

 

Shinsou swallowed and dropped his arms, eyes widening at the sight. He'd done that. 

 

A kick to his leg forced him to his knee, and another kick made him face plant with the ground. He rolled over, making eye contact with the man as he kicked him on his already abused side.

 

"You might wanna check on your friend." Shinsou wheezed between attacks. "He looks like he could use the help."

 

The man glanced up at his friend before kicking Shinsou in the nose. "You good man?"

 

Shinsou groaned, cupping his nose and attempting to roll over while his attention was off of him. He didn't go far, only making it half on his knees before another kick forced him down again.

 

"My knees messed up."

 

"Yeah that's what happens when you get into fights you're not ready for." Shinsou quipped.

 

He snorted and threw another kick to his side. "Who wasn't ready for this fight?"

 

Shinsou sighed and sat up, taking control of the other's mind. "Take whatever you stole back and wait for the police to show up." He didn't hesitate, grabbing the bag hidden in the alley and immediately making his way back to the shop.

 

Shinsou winced as he made his way over to the other, who had seemed to give up on trying to stand. 

 

"What did you do to him?"

 

"Like I'd tell you."

 

The person pushed themself away from Shinsou, kicking at him with their good leg. He dodged easily, stepping to the side and holding his hands up.

 

"The cops will be here soon, I'm trying to make sure you don't get run over."

 

They sneered, "I'd rather get run over than go to that shithole."

 

"Too bad."

 

To their credit, they really tried to struggle against Shinsou, there wasn’t much they could do except make the process slower and more difficult. Shinsou dropped them off to the side against the brick wall, and jumped back, huffing and pulling his hoodie up.

 

“What the hell was that for?”

 

“Sorry about your leg.”

 

He didn't stick around to see what happened. He was really trying not to make it a habit. The villains he stopped weren’t the only ones trying to avoid police and heroes.

 

Shinsou wiped away the remaining dry blood that still clung to his face and stood up, pushing his shirt down and sighing.

 

He jumped at the loud knocking on the bathroom door. "Hurry up idiot. Other people need to shit too."

 

Shinsou swallowed and stood there a moment, staring at the door and trying to calm his racing heart. He slowly pushed the muzzle to his face and clicked the lock shut flushing and stepping out, keeping his head down even as he got pushed further out of the way.

 

He pretended to wash his hands, letting the cool water ease his sore fingers.

 

He buried his hands in his pockets, not bothering to dry them, and pushed his way through the thick crowd. He wiped his hands on his pant leg before shuffling through his papers and pulling out what was left of his homework. If he was going to keep going out at night like this, he was going to have to be better about finishing his homework after school. 

 

He didn't know when he became the type of person he used to roll his eyes at; rushing to do his homework minutes before it was due and cramming in last-minute work before breakfast. It was partly out of necessity, school hasn't exactly been the center of his world lately, but it was partly out of spite. There was no reason to do his homework and actually try to learn if he was just going to be punished anyway.

 

If he had any hope of passing though, he would have to do his homework. His test grades certainly wouldn't be doing it for him.

 

He only managed to finish one problem before they were being rushed out for breakfast. He could probably finish it in class if he worked carefully and pretended he was taking notes.

 

He certainly wouldn't be able to do it after lunch. Not with his new punishment. 

 

Shinsou shoved his papers in his bag and slung it over his shoulder, pushing his way along with the sea of kids. 

 

Maybe he should just turn it in half-finished. That couldn't be the worst thing in the world. The worst thing they could do was take away more of his free time. 

 

Actually, that would be pretty bad. Shinsou hated not being able to have a break from class, and if they really wanted to, they could take away any free time he wanted. 

 

They kinda controlled everything about his life. 

 

Everything except for his trips at night. 

 

Shinsou smirked at the thought as he slid into his seat. There wasn't much they could do to stop him from that. As long as they never found out about it, they would never even know to take it away from him.

 

The chair next to him skidded along the ground and Shinsou held back a groan. It had been a while since anyone actually sat there. After Riko left, no one had bothered to fill that seat.

 

That was unless someone decided they wanted to torment him all breakfast.

 

He peered at them from the corner of his eye, trying to judge just how unbearable his meal would be. He did a double-take, not bothering to hold back his staring.

 

“Did ya miss me?”

 

The corner of Shinsou’s mouth peaked and he huffed.

 

‘Nope.’

 

‘Oh come on. Don’t be like that. You missed me so much you hopped on a whole ass train in the middle of the night to see me.’

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and leaned back, pretending to contemplate what she had said. 

 

‘No… I don’t remember that.’

 

Tobe opened her mouth to say something, but she held her tongue when the caretaker came to unlock his mask. She watched Shingi carefully as she slid away, placing the mask on the table behind them and rushing off to do something new.

 

“I’m going to hold that over you for a long long time you know.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes. ‘Sorry, I was trying to be a good friend.’

 

Tobe huffed, grabbing her chopsticks and shoveling food in her mouth. ‘You could’ve just waited until I came back.

 

‘I wasn’t sure you would.’

 

She rolled her eyes. “We talked about this.”

 

‘Yeah, yeah. Now, I realize you would, but I didn’t know that before I got on the train.’

 

“Ha! You admit it happened.”

 

‘Hypothetical train.’

 

Tobe snorted nudging Shinsou with her elbow. He failed to hold back the wince. Tobe’s smile fell and she tilted her head before dropping her chopsticks and signing, ‘ You alright?’

 

Shinsou smiled weakly and nodded, giving the okay sign. Tobe stared at him for a moment longer before picking her chopsticks up again and continuing her meal.

 

‘You’re back sooner than usual.’

 

Tobe snorted and smirked. ‘Yeah, that little snitch was actually really useful.’

 

‘Did you get in trouble after I came?’

 

Tobe hesitated a moment before shaking her head and shoving more food in her mouth. ‘She ended up just going back to sleep. Wasn’t as big of an issue as I thought it would be.’

 

' So you weren't murdered by that weird bike kid."

 

Tobe huffed. "Nah, he wouldn't, I was one of the few people who actually gave him shit." 

 

Shinsou nodded and poked at his food, glancing up at the side of the table where Tobe used to sit.

 

' Why didn't you sit there?'

 

Tobe clenched her jaw and stared back down at her food. The corner of her mouth twitched and she raised a mischievous eyebrow, "What, sick of me already?"

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and shook his head softly. ' That's not what I meant.'

 

"Do anything interesting while I was gone?"

 

An icy chill ran down his spine but he kept his face blank. Instead, he shrugged, and stared at Tobe from the corner of his eye, trying to ignore his now racing heart. ' Practiced parkour a bit more.'

 

Tobe smirked. 'Didn't break into any more offices did you?'

 

Shinsou shook his head, his food was starting to taste bland. 'No, nothing like that.'

 

He decided way back when this started that he wouldn't tell anyone, not even Tobe. He wouldn't bring anyone down with him if he could help it. He knew how stuff like this worked, if he told Tobe and she kept his secret, she could get in trouble if he was caught, which, if he was being honest, was very likely. His quirk had a lot of weaknesses, and it was only a matter of time before the police caught on.

 

Plus, it wasn’t like he really knew what he was doing. He was just some random kid trying to avoid becoming a villain the best he could.

 

Vigilantism definitely wasn't a long-term solution.

 

They filled the rest of breakfast with idle chatter, catching up on the basics of what the other had been up to since they last met. Shinsou was careful to not say anything about his new nightly adventures.

 

Tobe glared daggers at Sengi as she strapped the muzzle back to his face, and kept the glare until Sengi shuffled out of sight. "Are you sure you don't want to try what I did? If your scared to talk to them you could talk to me and prove to them you can control it."

 

He shook his head, not because he didn't want that, but because he doubted that it would work. Not when he was being highly recommended a muzzle.

 

Unless something similar was in Tobe’s file. Maybe he should have looked, or maybe that would've been too far. Still, if she was recommended a muzzle too, maybe there could a chance for him.

 

But as much as he hated the muzzle, and trust him he hated it, with the way things are now, at least he had some control over what happened. He had a key, and he had his time at night without it on. If he was wrong, and they were more stubborn than him about this, he could lose all of that.

 

"Shinsou,"

 

'I have to go to class,' he interrupted. He grabbed his discarded bag, swung it over his shoulder, sighing. 'We can talk about this later.'

 

Tobe didn't look happy, but she dropped the issue anyway. "Fine. See you after school."

 

***

 

"Alright, spill."

 

Shinsou jumped at the voice, glancing up to watch Tobe sliding into the seat next to him. 

 

' What?'

 

"It's later, I want to talk about this."

 

Shinsou snorted and turned back to his homework, feigning ignorance.

 

'I don't know what you're talking about .'

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and sighed, ' Why can't we do the thing I did? You have the key, just take it off.'

 

Shinsou shook his head and swallowed his racing heart. ' It's not the same.'

 

' Why not?'

 

' Can we talk about this tonight, when I can actually talk?'

 

'We're talking right now.'

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes. ' You know what I mean .' 

 

' I want to talk about this,' Tobe pressed , 'and you'll find an excuse to keep putting it off. It worked for me, it can work for you.'

 

He shook his head again. ' I don't want to risk it.'

 

' It's not that much of a risk.'

 

'How many times did they punish you?'

 

Tobe hesitated, clenching her jaw. ' It wasn't that bad.'

 

' I'm already in trouble. I don't want to make it worse.'

 

It was partly true. He didn't want to push his luck, didn't want to miss another month of his free time, but he also just didn't think it would work.

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow. 'Did they catch you sneaking into the office? '

 

He shook his head. ' Cheating.'

 

' Cheating? You got caught cheating? Amateur, everyone knows you’re supposed to miss a few questions on purpose.'

 

Shinsou huffed an incredulous laugh, ' They think they caught me cheating. I didn't actually do it .'

 

'Wait, you're in trouble for cheating, but you didn't actually cheat?'

 

Shinsou nodded, ' And sleeping in class, but I do that a lot.'

 

"Jesus," Tobe muttered under her breath. "Did you tell them you didn't?"

 

Shinsou scoffed, ' Obviously. This isn't the first time she accused me of it either, just the first time she told the director.'

 

"For fucks sake." Tobe leaned forward. "Why does she think you cheated?

 

'Does it matter?'

 

"No, I guess not, it's just-."

 

' I've already been punished for it, and I'm already on thin ice. I'm not like you. I don't want to take punishment after punishment.'

 

Tobe’s face twisted. ' I don't like the punishments Shinsou, I just think the reward is greater.'

 

'Well I don't. I'm fine with the way things are now.'

 

Tobe huffed and Shinsou rolled his eyes. ' I don't believe you.'

 

'I've dealt with this thing for almost 6 years, I can do a few more.'

 

'Jesus, do you not hear how insane that sounds. You shouldn't have to deal with it at all.'

 

'Says you.'

 

'Yeah, says me, and my uncle.'

 

Shinsou scoffed, 'Yeah and look around you. How many people are here that say I do deserve it. Way more than you and your ex criminal uncle.'

 

Tobe clenched her jaw and narrowed her eyes. 'There's no reason for you to wear it.'

 

'Isn't there?'

 

"What the fuck does that mean?'

 

' They don't know me. I could be this crazy kid who doesn't give a shit who he uses his quirk on.'

 

'But you're not.'

 

'But I could be.'

 

'But you're NOT.'

 

Violet eyes met baby blue ones, each set trying to pierce through the others.

 

"You shouldn't be punished for something you haven't done, Shinsou. Whether it be for supposedly cheating on a test or using your quirk."

 

' I've used my quirk.'

 

"Yeah when you were little, doesn't count."

 

Shinsou's chest tightened and he glanced back down at his homework.

 

I used my quirk last night.

 

' Whether I should be punished or not has nothing to do with this.'

 

"Yes it does and you shouldn't."

 

' It doesn't matter because I am. I'm already being punished, I've already been punished, and I don't want to fight them about it. What I deserve doesn't matter.. this is what I'm getting.'

 

Tobe leaned in, voice barely above a whisper now. "Shinsou-"

 

' Tobe, it's going to be a no.'

 

Shinsou picked up his pencil he dropped sometime during their argument and forced himself to focus on the paper in front of him and not the person to his side. She was silent for a long time, so much so that Shinsou almost forgot she was there until eventually she leaned forward and added. 

 

"Fine. It's your life and your decision but Shinsou," she pulled his shoulder back and forced his eyes to meet hers. "If you ever change your mind, and I mean ever, I'm here, I'll help you. You know that right?"

 

Shinsou smiled softly, staring at her hand still stuck on his shoulder. He did know that, after everything, he would be a blind idiot not to. Tobe was on his side, sometimes annoyingly so.

 

' Yeah, I know.'

 

Tobe smiled her real smile, and sat back, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

' Same to you too.' Shinsou added, ' You know, if you ever end up needing my help.'

 

Tobe’s smile grew. ' You know, actually I do need something from you.' Shinsou rose an eyebrow and her smile morphed into a smirk, ' A little birdie told me you know how to pick locks.'

 

***

 

"It's really not that difficult once you get a hang of it."

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and shifted her arms, pulling the lock up from its spot between her legs. "You can say that about literally anything."

 

Shinsou peered over her arm, watching as she wildly pushed the sticks around the lock. "Well, you're going to get nowhere doing it like that.

 

Tobe groaned and threw the lock and picks back into Shinsou’s lap. "Do it again."

 

Shinsou snorted but picked up the sticks. "You watching me more isn't going to help. You have to slow down and feel the little sliders inside."

 

"You keep saying that but I still don't feel the goddamn sliders."

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes. "See this is why you should've let me bring the beginners lock. You can actually see what you're doing."

 

"I don't need the beginners lock."

 

"You don't? Shinsou teased, dangling the now unlocked lock in front of her. "Then unlock this one." He pressed the shackle down, locked it again, and threw it back into her lap.

 

"You're an asshole." She growled as she snatched it up, "an absolute menace to society."

 

"That may be true." He agreed, "but I'm a menace who can actually open that lock."

 

"Shut up, I bet you couldn't open this lock either first time you tried."

 

"I didn't even try to open that lock until I could open the beginners one."

 

"Well, I'm gonna skip the beginners one, and open this one first."

 

"Riiight… and when were you planning on actually opening that one?"

 

Tobe groaned as the stick slid out of her grip again and tossed the lock to the side, jumping to her feet.

 

"Let's fight."

 

"What happened to opening…"

 

"Shut up, I swear to God I'll break your elbow."

 

Shinsou put his hands up in a sign of surrender and stood up, tossing the black bag to the side.

 

"So does this mean you're giving up?"

 

"Taking a break." She corrected. "Gotta burn off some energy."

 

Shinsou smirked and stepped forward. She didn't give him a second for hesitation, dashing towards him and aiming for his stomach. He jumped to the side, and ducked below her next swing, and jumped to the side again. She was angry, very obviously so, not giving him a second to respond offensively.

 

The next swing he blocked and went for a kick. Tobe stumbled back but caught her balance quickly and went on the offensive again. Shinsou grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him, pulling her off balance. He kicked at her leg and she fell, face crashing with the ground.

 

"Fuck you." She mumbled as she rolled back up.

 

"Don't be a sore loser."

 

Tobe charged at him again, and Shinsou ducked under her arm. Tobe pulled his shoulder back and he drove his elbow towards her. She stepped to the side and planted her foot behind his, wrapping an arm around his neck. Shinsou went to duck but her arm and leg pulled back and he lost his balance.

 

Shinsou rolled over and pushed himself back up almost immediately, arms up and ready for Tobes next move.

 

"Not a sore loser." She quipped.

 

"You were lucky."

 

Shinsou made the first move this time, rushing forward and aiming for her stomach. Tobe grabbed his arm and easily spun him around. Shinsou ducked down, rolling forward and pulling his arm free before spinning around and charging at her again.

 

Tobe ducked under his swing and elbowed him in the already bruised side. Pain shot through his torso and Shinsou stumbled back, his body instinctively leaning over to protect the injury.

 

"Whoa, you good?"

 

Shinsou’s eyes widened a fraction before he forced himself to straighten up, pulling his arms close to him.

 

"'m fine. It was a good move."

 

Tobe dropped her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Really."

 

Shinsou didn't answer her, instead, charging at her again. He went for a kick this time, forcing Tobe to stumble back. She leaned to the side again, grabbing his arm and pulling it towards her. Shinsou kept his feet under him and forced himself to spin around.

 

"So if I hit you there again, you'd be fine."

 

Shinsou tensed at the thought but didn't back down. A punch landed on her shoulder as pain shot through his side again. He squeezed his eyes shut and stumbled back.

 

"Okay what the hell. I know I didn't hit you that hard that time."

 

Shinsou forced his eyes open and bit his lip, swallowing the pain. He rushed Tobe again, but she easily sidestepped it.

 

"Stop. I'm done."

 

Shinsou move to elbow her in the gut but she pushed him away.

 

"Shinsou. I'm done."

 

Shinsou huffed and stepped back, resisting the urge to protect his side.

 

"Let me see it."

 

"There's nothing to see." Shinsou bit back.

 

"Prove it."

 

Shinsou stared at her a while before sighing and lifting up his jacket.

 

"Holy shit!" Tobe stepped forward, pulling the hoodie up further. "What the fuck do you mean theres nothing to see. What the hell happened?”

 

“Nothing. I- slipped.”

 

“You slipped?”

 

“I told you I’ve been practicing parkour.”

 

“And you’re this bad at it?”

 

Shinsou stepped back and pulled the fabric down. “Accidents happen.”

 

“Shinsou.”

 

“Tobe.”

 

“How do you fuck up parkour so bad you get a bruise that looks like that.”

 

Shinou rolled his eyes, “It looks worse than it is.” Tobe gave him a disbelieving look before jabbing him in the side again. Shinsou grimaced, slapping her hand away. “Hey!”

 

“Did someone here do that to you?”

 

“No! I told you it was parkour.”

 

“Then what the hell kind of parkour are you trying to do?”

 

Shinsou rubbed his neck. “I don’t know, just parkour.”

 

“You’re not still getting bullied are you?”

 

“Of course I’m getting bullied, I’m a freak mute kid who can’t defend himself without getting sent to the director.”

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow and lowered her voice. “Did they do this to you?”

 

“No! I’m telling you, I did it to myself! They don’t actually touch me, not with all the adults around.”

 

Tobe huffed and threw her arms in the air. “Well I don’t know what I am supposed to think. I come back and you are scattered in bruises.”

 

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration.” he argued.

 

“The one on your side isn’t the only one. I’m not blind.”

 

“Yeah, well as shit as you are at picking locks, I’m shit at parkour.”

 

“Shinsou.”

 

“Why don’t you trust me? Isn’t that what you told me to do? To trust myself.”

 

“What does trust have to do with it?”

 

“Trust me when I say that I did this to myself. It was an accident. No one here is hurting me, and even if they were, I could defend myself.”

 

Tobe sighed and squeezed her eyes shut. “I know you can protect yourself, and I do trust you.”

 

“Then drop it.”

 

“Shinsou-”

 

“Please.”

 

"Fine, I’ll drop it, but only if you promise me something."

 

"What?"

 

"If anything ever does happen, you tell me. "

 

Shinsou’s stomach churned and he bit the inside of his cheek. "Tobe-"

 

"I'm not going to judge you or any of that shit, I won't even step in if you say you don't want me to, I just -” She ran a hand through her hair, “I don’t know, I want to know what's going on with you."

 

Shinsous gaze fell. "Why do I have to promise you?"

 

Tobe stepped back and shrugged. "I just- I don't know Shinsou, it makes me feel better about all this shit."

 

The confession lingered on his tongue. The perfect opportunity. Someone to confide in, bounce ideas off of, to get a second opinion from. Someone he trusted and who knew him better than anyone.

 

I'm a vigilante now.

 

But he didn't even know where he'd begin.

 

It wasn't even that big of a thing yet, he couldn't really even be considered a vigilante yet. Hell, he didn't even know if this was a permanent thing he'd be doing or if it was just a way to pass the time and spend the sleepless nights. He wouldn't drop this bomb on her until it became something big, until it became an actual thing, until he couldn't deny something was going on, if it ever even got that far.

 

No reason to worry her now.

 

"Okay," he lied. "I promise."

 

Chapter Text

As much as Shinsou appreciated having Tobe around again, she definitely made it difficult to keep the whole vigilante thing a secret, especially with her sudden desire to be within his vicinity for most hours of the day. He certainly liked the company, but it didn’t make it easy to keep up the pattern he’d gotten used to lately.

 

And it was really starting to affect his sleep.

 

He used to catch up on sleep sometime after class, usually in the library after doing about half of his homework. Occasionally though, on days when he was particularly tired, he would just head straight to bed and sleep until dinner, not even bothering with his assignments.

 

He was probably going to fail that class anyway, might as well do something productive with his time.

 

But ever since Tobe had been back, she’d wake him up or just prevent him from getting sleep in the first place. She wasn’t necessarily doing it on purpose, she didn’t know he wasn’t sleeping at night, but still, the only times he could really get some rest without her around was if she also decided to take a nap.

 

Which usually only happened the days after they snuck out together.

 

He’d gotten away with a few lame excuses of not having slept well, but he could tell she was starting to get worried about his sleeping patterns.

 

And it wasn’t like he was going out every single night. Mixing his nightly meet-ups with Tobe and the days he’s had to take off to actually get some sleep, he only got to actually go out like 2 or 3 days of the week.

 

If he was being honest with himself, that number probably should’ve been bumped down, especially considering the fact that he had nearly just fallen asleep by holding too still for a second too long.

 

He’d gotten a bit of sleep before he decided to head out, accidentally. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, he only meant to lay there for an hour before he left. He supposed it was probably for the best, he even considered just staying in bed all night and actually getting some rest.

 

He was regretting his decision not to now. Nothing was going on tonight, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of criminal activity, and he was just tiring himself out for no reason.

 

To be fair, he really hadn’t made it very far from the school, he really could just head back and slip into bed and call the rest of the night off.

 

Of course, right when he was just deciding to call it a night, something caught his attention a few streets over.

 

Shinsou pressed his exhausted legs forward, forcing himself to move toward the noise as fast as possible. It wasn’t anything too strange, just the all too familiar sight of a man and a woman in an alleyway.

 

He dropped in on them from the back, climbing over the brick wall and perching on it.

 

He cleared his throat, pitching his voice down as low as it’d go. “Come on man, seriously? Are you that desperate?”

 

The pair startled, the man pushing the woman away from him and stumbling back. He pointed a wild finger in his direction, leaning against the wall behind him for support. “This doesn’t concern you.”

 

Shinsou snorted at the slurred words, dropping off the wall and walking towards them. “Maybe if you did it inside your house.” Shinsou faced the woman. “You okay?” She pulled her fallen tank top strap back up her shoulder and nodded, glancing between Shinsou and the man. “Do you have a phone?” She nodded again, leaning down and grabbing her discarded purse. “Call the police,”

 

The man charged at Shinsou, slow and sloppy, and Shinsou easily stepped to the side. The man stumbled to the ground, rolling over and groaning, mumbling something Shinsou couldn’t understand. “I’ll handle him.” The woman nodded frantically, eyes widening slightly.

 

“Who are you? You don’t look like any heroes I recognize.”

 

Shinsou shrugged, “I’m not.”

 

The woman stepped back cautiously, pulling her phone from her purse. “Are you part of that… group?” Shinsou tilted his head. The girl leaned in a bit, whispering even though there was no one besides the stumbling man around, “You know, that vigilante group.” Shinsou’s eyebrows shot up, staring at the woman in disbelief.

 

The man groaned loudly behind him. Shinsou glanced back, watching as the idiot pushed himself back to his feet. Shinsou finally tugged on his quirk and the man went stiff.

 

“Seriously,” Shinsou continued, stepping away from the woman and back towards the wall, “call the police, tell them what happened.” Shinsou paused at the wall, “Actually, if you could not say anything about me, that’d be great.”

 

He pushed himself up onto the trash can nearby, and jumped onto the wall, swinging his leg over and landing on the other side. He landed gracefully on the other side, rubbing his eyes and making his way out the alley. He really should get a move on before the police came around.

 

That thought did little to encourage his legs to move faster.

 

A wave of pain shot through his head as he felt the connection snap. He rubbed his eyes again, taking a deep breath. 

 

God, he was exhausted.

 

He’d stay out five more minutes before he started heading back. That way he wouldn’t pass out while still out, but he could also feel like he did a good amount of work. 

 

He didn’t walk that far, nor did he walk that fast. He wouldn’t admit it, but he was really trying to hit that 5-minute mark before anything crazy happened. He was literally about to turn back, make his way to bed and actually get a solid night of sleep. 

 

But before he could even turn around, a loud crash caught his attention. 

 

He ran toward the sound, climbing up a ladder as fast as he could. There was another crash, and Shinsou spun around trying to spot the commotion. A flash of yellow caught his eye and he scrambled down the ladder, his brain suddenly more alert than it had been all day.

 

He rushed around the corner, eyes widening at the sight. Despite being practically right around the corner, Shinsou was already a bit late. There were four people, all aggressively attacking each other, going all out with their quirks, seemingly uncaring about their target.

 

And there was one person off to the side, still moving, barely, covered in more blood than Shinsou had ever seen.

 

One of the criminals caught sight of him and Shinsou gulped, taking a cautious step back. The man’s eyes narrowed and he broke into a sprint, straight towards Shinsou. 

 

Shinsou scrambled off to the side, rushing into the nearest alleyway and clammering over the fence gate. He jumped up the ladder, pulling it up as he hit the lowest level.

 

The man rounded the corner, glancing around for a second before his gaze landed on Shinsou.

 

“Looks like you’re on the wrong side of the fence.” Shinsou taunted.

 

Red eyes narrowed and the man ran straight at the fence. Shinsou’s eyes widened in horror as the man stuck his arms out behind him, setting off his quirk, propelling himself up and over the fence. He scrambled up the next ladder, forcing himself to not look down as he heard the terrifying groan and scraping of metal. 

 

A strong wind shook him and he clung onto the ladder. The wind calmed and he continued his ascent. His heart lurched in his chest as the ladder fell from under him. He jumped up, grabbing onto the edge of the next level and pulling himself up to his elbows. He finally glanced down only to find the entire emergency escape below him had been ripped down. 

 

He gulped, kicking off the wall and pulling himself up. Another strong wind and the metal shook and creaked, and suddenly, he was in free fall.

 

He reached out to grab something, anything, but his fingertips only scraped the bottom of the metal above him. Crushing pain shot through his back as he made impact and he wheezed. For a moment, his vision went white and spotty, and his lungs were oddly empty. He pulled his arms over his head as debris crashed down around him and scratched his arms. He gasped for breath and miraculously his lungs filled and he rolled over, shakily trying to push himself to his feet as the dust settled. There was a strong wind and Shinsou flew back, crashing into something sharp. He hissed, his leg burned and something warm and wet pooled in his pant leg. He tried to focus, to push himself up, but he had fallen into something odd and he was weirdly dizzy, he couldn’t quite get his footing. 

 

The man jumped towards Shinsou, launching himself forward with his quirk again. Shinsou scrambled forward, scuttering under the man while he was in the air. He pulled himself up, pushing himself forward as hard as he could, desperately trying to ignore the pain in his leg.

 

Another gust of wind pushed him forward and he slammed into the wall. Pain shot through his head, but somehow he managed to keep his footing. A strong arm pulled him back, and Shinsou yelped, throwing out a blind punch. 

 

His head erupted in pain and he squeezed his eyes shut, kicking wildly. His foot made contact with something and suddenly he was falling. His arm stung as it met hard gravel and he forced his eyes open. 

 

Talk idiot. Say something, take control of him.

 

Shinsou opened his mouth but no sound came out. His voice caught in his throat and he couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

 

Red eyes met violet and Shinsou scrambled to his feet, charging for the opening of the alley. He managed to dart around the corner just as another gust shot past him. He limped forward, running away as fast as he could. Another gust threw him forward. He rolled for a moment, before immediately pushing himself back up to his feet.

 

Fuck, he should’ve gone back when he had the chance.  

 

He rounded another corner, wincing as pain made itself apparent in his side.

 

A strong wind threw Shinsou against the nearest building and he fell to the ground. He stumbled, trying to get to his feet again. The man appeared over him and Shinsou brought his arms up, blocking the first blow. Pain exploded in his gut and he wheezed, trying to push himself up. Another kick and Shinsou crumbled against the wall.

 

Say something!

 

Pain shot through his shoulder and Shinsou gasped, instinctively reaching to grab it. Something hard hit his face and he fell over, shoulder crashing into the ground. He took a deep breath, his chest aching at the motion, and closed his eyes.

 

I’m going to die.

 

He felt himself be lifted off the ground, followed by another blow to his chest, only to make hard contact with the ground again.

 

SAY SOMETHING IDIOT! ANYTHING. FOR ONCE IN YOUR SHITTY LIFE TALK .

 

“Stop.” He wheezed, pain shot through his face again, “Stop, please.”

 

He pulled his arms up to his face, bracing himself for another attack. He coughed at yet another kick to his gut, pulling his knees up to his chest.

 

There was a moment of nothing, no attacks, no new pain. Still, he kept his guard up, curled up and tense, back to the old tactic that never let him down before.

 

“You feel better yet?” He croaked just above a whisper. “After beating the shit out of someone who was minding their business.”

 

There was a snort, another kick, and a reply.

 

“Hell yeah actually.”

 

Shinsou had never been more relieved to feel the tingling in his tongue. He stayed in that position a little while longer, slowly letting himself relax. Eventually, he let his arms drop, and he slowly pushed himself up, groaning. With every movement he made, another shot of pain echoed through his body.  He licked his lips, unsurprised at the metallic taste that filled his mouth.

 

He leaned his head against the wall, closing his eyes and taking slow breaths, willing his heart to slow. Familiar sirens rang out in the distance and he sighed. He’d never been so thrilled to hear that sound before, but if the police were on their way, then he needed to move, get out of here and pretend this never happened.

 

He wiped his nose, smearing the back of his hand with blood. He slowly turned, planting his cut-up hand against the wall, slowly and painfully pushing himself to his feet. He leaned heavily against the wall as he took his first few steps, clutching his stomach and taking weak shallow breaths.

 

He somehow made it to the end of the street, but only with the assistance of the buildings. He took a deep breath, pushing himself forward. He stumbled across the intersection, crashing into the wall, the second he was in range. 

 

Thank GOD he hadn’t wandered far.

 

Shinsou was almost positive he was going to pass out before he got back to the school. He had to stop every now and then, letting himself catch his breath and swallowing the nausea that bubbled in the back of his throat, but for once, his body worked with him, keeping him conscious long enough to make it back

 

But there was no fucking way he was going to be climbing that ladder.

 

He grabbed his muzzle, slipping it around his arm and sliding its key into his pocket, staggering his way over to the emergency escape. 

 

If he was lucky the second-floor window would be open and he’d be able to take the stairs the rest of the way. 

 

God, he hoped the window was open.

 

Just make it one level, just one. Easy.

 

He grabbed a rung, already wincing at the movement. He took a hesitant breath, pulling himself up to the first rung. His body groaned, protesting the movement.

 

Just one level, it’s not that hard.

 

He grabbed the next rung, pulling himself up, trying to avoid wincing at every little movement. Without letting himself stop, he grabbed the next one, taking a sharp inhale at the pain shooting through his shoulder. He made it to the top fairly easy given the state of his body. He stepped forward, wiping his bloody hands on his pants before wrapping his fingers around the edge of the window and pulling up.

 

The window didn’t budge and Shinsou sighed. He stepped back, clenching his jaw, dropping his muzzle to the ground, and pressed his hands to his eyes. He sat on the medal, leaning back, taking quick shallow breaths. He pulled his hoodie down, running his fingers through his hair. 

 

Fuck .

 

This was way too fucking much. He should’ve turned back, shouldn’t have even left his bed. Hell, he never should’ve snuck out to do this in the first place.

 

Great, he’d gotten away from the cops, but how the fuck was he supposed to explain this? How was he going to be able to even go to school tomorrow?

 

He was such an idiot for thinking this was an option for him. He couldn’t even manage to keep himself alive, how was he supposed to protect other people. He was going to show up tomorrow and he’d be caught, everyone would know. No one just goes to sleep and wakes up looking the way he probably looks right now. They’d find out he’d been sneaking out and they’d find some way to make his life all that more miserable.

 

Shinsou wiped away a rogue tear. 

 

Don’t cry dumbass. These are the consequences. Deal with it.

 

He was lucky he was alive.

 

Carefully, he leaned forward, slowly tugging at the edge of his sleeve and pulling his arm out. His shoulder protested the movement but he pushed on, slipping the bottom of his hood over his shoulder.

 

Frigid air hit his chest and he sighed. He strained his eyes, trying to make sense of the mess in the dim lighting. He could barely see it through the sea of red, but there was a long gash on the outside of his arm, stretching from just below his armpit to his elbow. He pressed down on the cut on his arm, hissing. He had no idea how he was supposed to deal with this. He was out of any medical supplies, he had no way to tell how bad it was. 

 

He slipped his arm back into the sleeve, carefully pulling the fabric up as it rubbed against the cut. He pulled his leg up, peeking through the damp hole in his pants. He couldn’t see much, but the constant pulsating ache wasn’t promising, nor was the amount of blood gathering in the fabric. 

 

He leaned back, resting his head against the railing and closing his eye. It was very uncomfortable, but he was exhausted and his whole body ached. He just wanted to rest, to worry about all of this some other day. 

 

He needed to move eventually. He wasn’t going to let himself die here, not after all this time. He just wanted to rest for a few minutes before he had to worry about what all this meant. His limbs were growing heavy and his thoughts were starting to get fuzzy. He just needed a minute, just a second.

 

And honestly, if he were to die here, he would’ve deserved it. There was no one else he could possibly blame for this. He was the one who decided to sneak out at night with no backup plan, he was the one who thought he could do something good with this fucked quirk.

 

He had no plan for this. What the hell was he supposed to do? He was caked in blood and in no state to take care of it himself. 

 

He let himself rest there stewing in his own pity for probably a little too long before he forced himself to move. He pulled himself up, balancing against the rails. A sharp pain shot through his head at the sudden movement and the world spun. He groaned, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

It’s just one more level.

 

He needed to focus, needed to ignore all the other shit and worry about himself right now. 

 

He looped his muzzle through his arm again and grabbed the rungs of the latter, steadying himself before biting his cheek and pulling himself up. Climbing the ladder this time around was a lot harder. The small rest he took dulled his adrenaline, his arms felt heavier than usual and his head was growing oddly fuzzy. The world lurched and spun for a moment and he pulled himself close, hugging the rung and squeezing his eyes shut. It took a moment for the dizziness to subside, and it took even longer for Shinsou to open his eyes and continue his climb. 

 

He pulled himself up the last rung, laying back and catching his breath, clutching his abdomen. 

 

Fuck.

 

He pushed himself up and took a deep breath, grabbing the rung again and pulling himself up. He wiped his hand again, pulling the window up. He let out a relieved sigh as it slid upwards. He sat on the window, swinging his uninjured leg around, and pulling himself in. He bit his lip as his leg slid through, holding back his hiss. He examined the frame for any traces of blood before lowering the window and pressing forward. 

 

He was going to have to risk using the elevator if it even worked. He’d have to hope it wasn’t too loud, or even turned off. 

 

He was trying to be careful not to get blood anywhere, but with everything else on his mind, he wouldn’t have been surprised if he failed.

 

He called the elevator, letting out a relieved sigh when the button actually lit up. He stumbled in, jamming the button multiple times before the doors shut and the elevator ascended. He leaned heavily against the wall, resting his good arm on the rail. The elevator lurched, and stopped, opening to his floor. He stepped forward immediately taking a hard left and pushing his way into the bathroom. 

 

He caught sight of his reflection and sighed. By the one flickering light of the bathroom, he could just about make out the state of himself. His usually purple hair was now a dark dirty magenta, a mixture of dirt and blood hiding its true color. A dark bruise was already slowly forming under his eye, and dried blood clung to odd spots all over his face and spilled from his nose to the base of his neck.

 

He dropped his muzzle to the floor and pulled his arm through the sleeve, squeezing his eyes shut and biting his lip as he did. Slowly, as painlessly as he could, he lifted the rest of the jacket over his head, tugging his other arm out. Other than the blood dripping down his arm and the dirt still clinging to his collarbone, his torso didn’t look nearly as bad as his face. Sure, there were a few scrapes here and there, but nothing Shinsou thought he had to be too worried about.

 

He ran his arm under cold water, getting a handful of wet paper towels and a small bit of soap and pressing them against the wound. He pressed his knuckle into his mouth and let out a shaky breath. Carefully, he removed the towels, throwing them into the trash nearby and fishing out more. He squeezed more soap on a towel, carefully patting around the cut, pulling away as much grime as he could. Grabbing a dry towel, he pressed it against his arm, wrapping it around his arm the best he could, he grabbed another one, pressing it over top. He shuffled into a stall, unraveling toilet paper and wrapping his arm like a mummy. 

 

The toilet paper ripped a lot and it was a very shitty solution, but for now, it worked.

 

He sat down, shutting the stall door, and pulled his pants down, finally getting his first good look at the cut on his leg. 

 

It was very high up on his leg, almost reaching his hip. It was a much shorter cut than the one on his arm, but it was a lot wider and it was definitely bleeding a lot more.

 

Quickly, he wrapped toilet paper around his hand, wincing as he pressed it against the wound. The paper quickly bled through and before long, Shinsou was forced to apply new makeshift gauze.

 

He was going to need a different solution, this wasn’t working. 

 

He kicked his pants all the way off and pressed a fresh wrap against it. He pushed out of the stall, awkwardly limping his way over to the sink, and sitting on the floor, stretching his leg out to the side. He pulled open the cupboards, straining his eyes to see all the way to the back. He shuffled through the various items with one hand, looking for anything that could be useful. 

 

The first one was a bust, all it had were the small baskets that held each person’s bathroom supplies like toothpaste and shampoo, with some spare unused ones in the back. 

 

In the second one though, were the pile of towels and rags they use and shoved behind those, were some old tattered ones that had yet to be thrown out. He pulled a few out, grabbing the darkest ones and setting them aside. He pulled out an old black rag, running it under warm water and wringing it out before folding it tightly.  He carefully pulled away the bloody goop of toilet paper, replacing it with the towel. He grabbed an already ripped-up towel, tearing it up more, and wrapped it around his leg, grimacing as he tied it tightly. 

 

He stretched off to the side, grabbing more paper towels and getting them wet, scrubbing away at the blood stuck to his leg. The majority of it came away in the first or second wipe but there were stubborn bits that wouldn’t leave. He pulled himself up, leaning against the sink, wetting the paper towel and wiping away the dirt and blood clinging to his face until his skin felt raw. The warm water felt comforting and with all the dirt and the grime off, and with his major injuries mostly treated, all he wanted to do was lay down and take a goddamn nap for a year or two.

 

He dropped the dirtied towel in the trash, fishing out a new one and getting rid of the last traces of blood. He looked over his clean-up job one last time before grabbing his jacket and pants, carefully folding them and tucking them under his arm. He’d have to worry about what to do about these clothes later. That was something for future Shinsou to worry about.

 

Right now, he was done. Ready to go to bed and never have another interesting day ever. 

 

He slid out the door, carefully, making his way back to his bed. He snuck his way into the room, immediately heading to his bookshelf for new clothes. He slipped on the first things he saw, basking in the comfort of warm clean clothes before limping over to his bed. He crouched down the best he could, pulling out his suitcase from under his bed, pushing his cat and the lockpick set to the side and pressing the clothes into the corner.

 

He stared at it all for a moment, the only three items he actually attempts to hide away. He gave his plushie a long squeeze, hoping for once in his life that this thing would bring him good luck the next day.

 

He pulled the keychain out, staring at the reflective yellow eyes for a long while, before crashing his forehead with the cats’.

 

Please don’t fail me now.

 

He shoved the cat in his pocket, pulling the key out of his pants pocket before zipping the suitcase up quietly and pushing it back under his bed. He picked up his discarded muzzle, sighing as he turned it over in his hand. He closed his eyes, pulling the leather over his ears, and sliding the lock through its hole. He took a deep breath, pushing down on the lock until it clicked.

 

He slid under his covers, immediately melting into the cushion, and letting out a deep sigh.

 

His leg was still tingling, his shoulder was still throbbing and he could still feel his heartbeat in his arm. He could barely even sit up without his abdomen absolutely ripping itself to shreds and his pounding headache was only getting worse by the passing minute.

 

He would be absolutely fucked tomorrow when he had to explain all this. Totally, absolutely and epically fucked.

 

And still, he didn’t care about all those tiny details. 

 

Honestly, right now, he was just happy he made it out alive.

Chapter Text

Sunlight hit his face, and he groaned, pulling his blanket over his head. His head fucking hurt, why did his head hurt so much.

 

He rolled over, hissing as pain shot through his leg. He stopped his movement, wincing at the now pulsating pain. He forced his body to relax, settling into his pillow and taking deep breaths. His chest ached at the movement, so much so that he was forced to take shallow breaths. Softly he rubbed his chest, slowly pulling down his blanket and peeking out at the room. There was only one kid up, shuffling around and from what he could tell, doing homework. He was probably up long before he needed to, he was usually the last one awake, waking up and immediately stumbling off to breakfast with hardly any time to actually wake up.

 

He pulled his blanket back up, letting himself relax a bit longer before carefully shifting onto his side and pulling his jacket down his shoulder. He picked up his collar, trying his best to get a look at his arm. He really couldn’t see much, but he was pretty sure there wasn’t any more blood trickling down his arm. He reached down to his leg, patting around for any sign of blood but all he felt was dry fabric. 

 

He let out a slow breath and closed his eyes, relaxing into his pillow. He was alive, and, with everything considered, he was doing kinda alright.

 

He wanted to get a bit more sleep, he was still exhausted and definitely not ready for dealing with the consequences of his actions. He pressed his face into his pillow, sighing and letting his aching body relax. 

 

Maybe if he didn’t move, didn’t wake up when they came to get him, and claimed he was sick they’d leave him there, let him sleep the week away until his body was well enough to cooperate.

 

He knew it wouldn’t happen. They’d want proof he was sick and that’d just bring more attention than he could handle. What he needed right now, was for people to not look too closely at him, which meant pretending everything was fine.

 

He pressed his face into the pillow, groaning as the muzzle dug into his skin and amplified the headache. Why couldn’t sleep last longer, why didn’t he sleep longer? He was exhausted, mentally and physically, he should easily be able to pass out until he absolutely needed to be awake. 

 

The smart thing to do though would be to get up and do his best to pretend everything was normal, to take a shower, and get any evidence of his mistake scrubbed off. 

 

Actually, a shower sounded really damn good right now.

 

But that required getting up and moving, and Shinsou still wasn’t quite sure that was something he could do.

 

He supposed though, that if he was going to test the severity of his injuries, doing it before everyone was awake would be the simpler option.

 

With a lot of hesitation, he pushed himself up, resting his hand on his sore abdomen as he sat up. Pain shot through his back and shoulder, and Shinsou took a deep breath. He stopped for a moment, letting his pain ease before pulling his hood up over his head, carefully sliding his legs off the side. His bed creaked and the head turned his direction, Shinsou reached up to his face, faking a yawn until the boy lost interest. He slid further off the edge, slowly leaning more and more weight onto his bad leg. A sharp pain shot through his leg and he bit his tongue to hold back the hiss. He let up the pressure, switching to his other leg and pushing himself up, using the mattress as support.

 

He stood there a moment, letting himself balance, leaning most of his weight on his good leg. He took a deep breath, slowly leaning more and more on his injured leg before it became too much and he leaned fully on the good one again. He took a deep breath, stepping forward with his injured leg. Pain shot up his leg and he stepped forward, grabbing onto the edge of his bed for balance. 

 

Biting his lip, stepped forward again, barely hesitating between steps, grabbing heavily to various objects around him to support him. He forced himself to ignore the pain, to push forward, and pretend like everything was fine.

 

Eventually, he made it to his dresser, fishing through his clothes, picking out the darkest and baggiest things he could before hobbling to the door and into the bathroom. He pushed past the few early risers, keeping his head down. He reached down, grabbed a towel and his soap, and made his way to the showers.

 

Shinsou was rarely up this early, the only times he ever really ran into the early birds were when he hadn’t ended up actually getting any sleep the night before when he had just snuck back into the school an hour or two before and never ended winning his battle with sleep.

 

He slipped into the small room, locking the door and setting his supplies and his muzzle into the corner. He sat down in the opposite corner, letting his leg rest as he pulled off his jacket, carefully pulling it over his makeshift bandage on his arm. 

 

His chest and stomach were scattered in bruises, all different sizes and colors. He examined the bandage for any blood, and, when he saw some had leaked through, he checked his jacket. He couldn’t find where it would’ve stained and quickly gave up on the fabric, tossing it aside.

 

He sighed, carefully unwrapping the already fallen apart wrap. He balled up the trash, throwing it into a corner and straining his neck to get a look at the cut. Now that it wasn’t completely covered in blood, he could make out the jagged shape of the cut. It didn’t seem that deep, just long. Carefully, he ran his fingers over it, or more next to it, pressing carefully against the tender skin. 

 

He ran through the events of the fight last night, racking his brain for when and what could’ve caused a cut like this. There were too many moments it could’ve been but that didn’t change the fact that he just didn’t remember what happened.

 

He pushed the thought to the back of his mind and wiggled his pants off, hissing sharply as the waistband made contact with the wound. He, with much difficulty, untied the ripped towel and slowly unwrapped the wound. He took a sharp inhale as he pulled the towel away from the cut. It clung to the edges of the cut and stung anytime he tried to remove it.

 

He leaned his head back against the wall, taking a deep breath as he slowly pulled the towel away from the wound. He bit into his lip, closing his eyes and grimacing, He let out a heavy sigh as the towel finally fell away. He tossed it to the side, breathing heavily as he pulled his leg up examining it. He couldn’t see this one as well, it was at such an odd angle, but it didn’t seem to be bleeding anymore, other than a small, particularly painful bit at the bottom that had some skin pulled off by the towel. 

 

He pushed himself up, leaning on the wall, and grabbed his soap. He stepped under the showerhead, pulling the curtain closed and letting the warm water seep into his skin. He almost immediately sat down and washed himself from the shower floor, scrubbing at the dried blood that was far more cooperative this time around.

 

He stayed in there, reveling in the warmth and almost falling back to sleep until someone started banging on the door, demanding he get out. He twisted the water off, carefully patted his wounds dry, and slid into new clothes, being sure to be extra careful to not accidentally touch them. 

 

He locked his muzzle back on and tucked the used towels and trash in with the pile of his clothes. He stepped out, keeping his head down, not making eye contact with anyone. He pushed past everyone, sliding his supplies back into their spot before slowly making his way back to his bed.

 

He was still up far earlier than he usually would be. He dried his still-damp hair with the towel, before lying back on his bed, sighing.

 

He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, it was probably a good thing he did though, considering how little he’d been sleeping lately. He was woken again to loud scuttering and slamming doors. He rolled over, groggily pushing himself up. He pulled his bag out from under his bed, slipped on his shoes, and walking much slower and rockier than usual, he made his way to the elevator.

 

He was one of the first few to breakfast, he pulled his hood down, instead opting to cover his face by resting his hand over his eye, easily pretending like he was falling asleep. The rest of the kids shuffled in, taking their seats and catering excitedly among themselves. The rise in volume did little to help his pulsating headache.

 

Tobe slid into her seat next to him, yawning loudly.

 

“Is it weird that I kinda want them to serve leftovers from yesterday?”

 

Shinsou shrugged and Tobe sat back, yawning again. It wasn’t long until breakfast came and Shinsou’s muzzle was slid off. By some miracle, he managed to not catch the attention of Sengi, but she wouldn’t be the real challenge.

 

The real challenge would be Tobe.

 

He grabbed his chopsticks with his injured left hand, not daring to drop his other hand from his face. 

 

"I had the weirdest fucking dream last night." Shinsou tilted his head, shoveling more food in his mouth. "I woke up at the beginning but like I was still in the dream." Tobe paused a moment to shove food in her mouth. "So I was convinced I was already awake, but this place looked completely different. Like I would basically teleport to each floor, and there were a bunch of plants and stuff all over the place for some reason, but I never questioned that I apparently all of a sudden had a teleporting quirk."

 

Shinsou dropped his chopsticks. 'That doesn't seem too weird.'

 

"Oh trust me, that's just the beginning. So I was just going about my day right, like I thought I was awake so I was getting ready for school and everything, and then for breakfast they served us nothing, like the plates were completely empty, but everyone was pretending they weren't for some reason. Even you were like, no, this is real food and then took a bite of nothing. Also, you looked really weird in my dream, I'm just realizing…"

 

'What did I look like?' He asked. If he could get Tobe to keep talking, have her worrying about her own things and not him, then he might actually make it through this breakfast without any issue.

 

"You were really tall, and older? Like even older than me, and you didn't have your muzzle on, even before we ate."

 

'And you still didn't realize it was a dream?'

 

Tobe snorted and shrugged, "I was more concerned about the imaginary food, I was starving. Anyway, then some random guy just broke through the wall, like just walked straight in even though we're not on the bottom floor, and like, started beating the shit out of the chefs for serving us nothing."

 

'Sounds like you summoned him.'

 

"Yeah maybe," she shrugged "but you got pissed at him for some reason. Like really pissed, I couldn't hear what you were saying, but you were telling him off." Shinsou snorted. "Yeah I know, that's probably the weirdest part."

 

Did I win?’

 

Tobe shrugged, shoving more food in her mouth. “I don’t know,” She answered between chews, “I couldn’t hear what you were saying.”

 

Shinsou poked at his food, pushing it around his plate mindlessly.

 

“How’d you sleep?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, ‘Alright I guess.’

 

“You look exhausted.”

 

‘Just haven’t fully woken up yet.’

 

Tobe nodded, staring at him from the corner of her eye.

 

Fuck.

 

‘What the hell happened to your face!” Shinsous heart jumped into his throat and he ducked his head down further. Tobe glanced around, before leaning in closer, “Let me see,”

 

Shinsou hesitated but slowly rotated his hand so Tobe could get a better look. She leaned in closer, pulling his head towards her. He glanced up, finally meeting her eyes. Her eyebrows were drawn together, and her lips were pursed. He clenched his jaw and pulled his chin away, pressing his hand back to his face.

 

‘You went out last night didn’t you?’ Shinsou bit his lip and nodded. ‘What happened.’ Shinsou shoveled some more food into his mouth, not bothering to answer the question.

 

Tobe sighed, pressing her palms into her eyes. ‘Pull your hair forward.’ Shinsou’s face twisted and Tobe rolled her eyes, running her hand through his hair, pushing his hair in front of his face. Hairs tickled his nose, and he cringed. ‘It’s more than long enough to hide your face.’

 

Shinsou pulled away, pulling his hair back. ‘I can barely see anything like that .’ 

 

Tobe rolled her eyes and slapped his hand away. ‘Well it’s either this or getting caught.’ She pulled his hair forward again, and he retreated, dropping his hand into his lap.

 

‘They’re going to notice I changed my hair.’

 

Tobe snorted, ‘You think people care that much about your hair. People wear it differently all the time, just because you don’t do anything new with it.’

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, instinctively reaching up to push his hair back again. He stopped his hand, instead itching his nose. ‘This is already annoying the hell out of me.

 

Tobe ran her hands through his hair again pulling more hair forward. ‘I’ll try to see if I can borrow someone's makeup for tomorrow but for today you’re going to have to deal with it.’

 

‘You want to put makeup on my face?’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes. “Yes, seriously Shinsou, you don’t have a lot of options, you’ll have to deal with what you get. Were you just going to keep your hand on your face all day?”

 

‘Isn’t makeup for girls though?’

 

“Lots of guys wear makeup.” ‘Besides, it’s just so you don’t get in trouble, it’ll be fine.’ She leaned back to her seat, picking up her chopsticks and continuing her meal. ‘If someone does find out, you can tell them it was me.’ Tobe added shoveling food into her mouth, ‘Better than them finding out about the sneaking out.’ Shinsou glanced over at her, watching as she finished her food.

 

‘I’m not going to do that.’

 

Tobe shrugged, “Just saying, it’s an option.”

 

They finished breakfast in awkward silence, neither knowing where to go from here.

 

Shinsou grabbed his bag immediately, after his muzzle latched onto his face, sliding out of his seat and heading straight for the staircase. A hand wrapped around his arm and he bit his tongue, holding back a hiss.

 

He spun around to face Tobe, meeting her baby blue eyes. ‘It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me now.’ Something sick and hot burned in his gut ‘But will you tell me eventually?’ 

 

Shinsou stared at his feet, rubbing the back of his neck. He could, he really should. It wasn’t like he’d be heading out again, she wouldn’t have to worry herself about anything.

 

What would she say when she found out that he had failed, that even when he was trying to do something good, he failed. He knew he couldn’t be a hero, he’d discovered that long ago but Tobe-

 

Tobe always believed in him.

 

She stepped back, face falling. “That’s fine. You don’t have to obviously.” She grabbed her bag off the floor swinging it over her shoulder. “I’ll uh- I’ll see ya after class.” She turned around, weaving her way through the crowd and pushing open the staircase, not looking back or leaving him with a witty remark.

 

He ran his fingers through his hair, pulling it forward again, forcing it to stay in its place. He dropped his head and pressed forward, making his way to class, forcing himself to focus on hiding the pain and not Tobe’s disappointed face.

 

~ ~ ~

 

For once, he was grateful for how unnecessarily long class could get. It gave him time away from Tobe to worry about what to tell her. He could lie, that was definitely an option, not an option he liked but an option. If he did lie, he’d have to come up with a good one, none of this parkour bullshit he pulled last time.

 

He could tell the truth, he honestly probably should tell the truth. Tobe really did deserve to know. 

 

But he could practically already hear her concern, her anger and insults. He knew she’d want to know everything, to see everything, and he knew she’d have something to say about this whole vigilante thing.

 

And he really didn’t need someone yelling at him right now.

 

He dropped his bag next to his bed, collapsing onto the mattress, and rolling his neck. He leaned forward, softly squeezing his leg and sighing. He didn’t have to do much standing around or walking, in fact, he had to do almost none of it, and yet his leg was absolutely burning, begging for a break.

 

“Oy Shinsou!” He rolled his eyes but turned, tiredly glancing over to the boy. He recognized that voice. Mitsuo: younger than Shinsou, and yet he thought he could push him around. He hadn’t been here for long but he’d made sure to be a pain in Shinsou’s ass enough to make up for lost time. “Did ya lose something?”

 

His heart fell into his stomach as he caught sight of the familiar black keychain dangling from the boys’ hands. His little cat, that he had dumbly left out. He clenched his jaw, taking a deep breath and stepping forward, holding out his hand. 

 

He scoffed, “What’re you four? You still need a little buddy to sleep with?” He turned the plushie towards him, examining it. “It’s kinda gross.”

 

Fuck off .

 

He took another step forward, steeling his face and holding his hand out further. The boy laughed, tossing the cat in the air mockingly. “Did you name it?” Shinsou rolled his eyes and sighed, dropping his arm. The boy dangled it out in front of him, holding it out for Shinsou to take. Shinsou eyed him suspiciously, cautiously making his way forward, glancing between the boy and the stuffie. Shinsou jumped forward, reaching out to snatch the cat. His fingertips brushed up against its little feet before it was yanked out of his reach.

 

“Ohhh, sorry,” he mocked, “to slow,” 

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, shoving his hands in his pockets. He knew how this worked, let them do their thing, have their fun and they’d tire themselves out and move on.

 

The boy marched to the door, shouting down the hall. “Eyy Kimi, check this out!” 

 

Two girls poked their heads in, one with short brown hair and one with messy black, Kiminko and Shoma. Mitsuo proudly displayed his find to the two girls and Kiminko scrunched her nose.

 

“What is that?”

 

Mitsuo smirked, cocking his head towards Shinsou. “It’s Shinsou’s friend.”

 

He tossed it up in the air, and the girl snatched it, turning it over in her hand. Shoma stood on the tip of her toes, peering over the other’s shoulders, “What’s so cool about it?”

 

Mitsuo’s smile fell into a frown. “Nothing, It’s really stupid actually. He still sleeps with that thing. I found it on his bed.”

 

“So?”

 

Kiminko scoffed. “It’s weird, he’s sleeping with toys.”

 

“Oh,” There was an awkward silence, “Can I see it?”

 

“No,” Mitsuo and Kiminko said at the same time. 

 

Shoma, stepped back, “Why not?”

 

“You’ll give it back to him.”

 

Shoma crossed her arms, “No I won’t.”

 

Mitsuo held out his hand and Kiminko set the cat back in his hand, leaning back and looking Shinsou up and down.

 

“C’mon I just wanna see it, like two seconds!”

 

The boy hooked the metal around his finger, dangling it in front of her face. “You can see it perfectly fine from there.”

 

Shoma huffed and made a swipe for the cat. Mitsuo yanked it back again, but she had already gotten a strong grip. 

 

“Let go!”

 

“You’ve had it for the longest, I just want to see it.”

 

“I found it.”

 

It’s not even yours.

 

Without meaning to, Shinsou stepped forward, watching the dilemma closely. His heart pounded in his chest, his hands balling into fists in his pockets. 

 

“Why can’t you just let me see it for a second!”

 

Kiminko rolled her eyes, “Just let her see it,”

 

“No!” Mitsuo pulled back again. “I had it first.”

 

Neither of you had it first.

 

“What is wrong with you! Just let me see it!”

 

Shoma yanked the toy back, and there was a deafening rip. The two glanced down, each examining the bits left in their hands.

 

Blood rushed to Shinsou’s face and his ears rang, eyes widening at the sight.

 

“Look what you did.”

 

“Look what I did? You wouldn’t let go of it!”

 

“I had it first! It’s a dumb toy why did you even want it?”

 

“If it’s such a dumb toy then why wouldn’t you let me see it.”

 

“I already had -”

 

Shinsou’s fist met the boys’ face and Mitsuo stumbled back. His eyes widened and all heads turned towards Shinsou, the girls stumbling back away from him. Mitsuo glared at him before he charged at Shinsou, tackling him to the ground.

 

Shinsou groaned, his already sore back screaming at the impact. He rolled over, pinning the boy to the ground, pulling his arm back for another punch. Someone grabbed his wounded arm and pulled him off. He yelped and spun around, pushing them back as hard as he could. Pain shot through his skull and his head was yanked down by his hair. 

 

Shinsou pushed forward, knocking down the body holding his hair, his eyes growing watery as their grip tightened. He swung out, not particularly aiming for anything, but his fist made contact anyway. Pain shot up his arm but he swung again, and again.

 

Someone grabbed his arm and pulled him back, he yanked his arm away, bracing himself on the carpet below him. He swallowed hard as the world spun around him for a moment, trying to get an understanding of his surroundings before everything went black.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Shinsou.”

 

Shinsou’s head snapped up, the knot in this chest easing as he met familiar blue eyes. 

 

Tobe.

 

He blinked a few times, shaking his head to chase away the odd fuzziness in his head. He pressed a hand to his head, groaning at the growing headache. His hand felt numb, oddly tingly, but it wasn’t in pain like it had been moments before.

 

He pulled his hand off his head, pulling down his sleeve and squinting at his arm. He could hardly make it out, it was far too dark, really weirdly dark, and cold. 

 

“Let him go.”

 

Shinsou tilted his head, staring at Tobe again. Her eyes shifted from him to something beside him and Shinsou followed her eyes. Shinsou stepped back, startled by the man standing next to him. He was older, probably old enough to be considered elderly. He was stood there, just staring at Shinsou, eyes misty and limbs stiff, awaiting a command.

 

Shinsou’s quirk hit him like a truck, twisting a knot in his stomach and waiting impatiently on his tongue. His eyes widened as something cold twisted inside him. Once again he was reminded just how much power he truly held in just the tip of his tongue. 

 

Do it.

 

“Shinsou.” Shinsou snapped back to Tobe, watching as her arms slowly raised in a sign of surrender. She looked odd, not only because she was the only other thing he could make out in the room other than the man, but because she seemed… different. Maybe, taller? Older?

 

“Please, let him go.”

 

No.

 

Why?

 

He opened his mouth and turned his head, staring at the man again.

 

What’s going on?

 

He tried to speak, to ask what happened, but his voice didn’t listen. 

 

Tobe stepped forward, slowly, too slowly. “You can be done, I’ll help you.” She took another step forward, her eyes piercing into him. “Like I always used to.” She paused and Shinsou stared at her from the corner of his eye.  

 

He didn’t want to be done, he was just getting started.

 

“I want to help you but- but this has to stop.” 

 

No.

 

“No.” His voice rang out loud and clear, weirdly distorted and vile. Tobe froze, face twisting down. “Why should I?”

 

She clenched her jaw, staring at him, but not giving him an answer. Shinsou stepped back, eyes widening.

 

Even you?

 

“Even you stop responding eventually.”

 

Tobe’s hands slowly lowered, and Shinsou’s heart picked up speed. ‘Please don’t do this.’

 

The back of his throat burned and he clenched his jaw. 

 

She didn’t respond.

 

He swallowed the growing lump in his throat. Another part of him, a part that felt distant but more in control than he was, smiled. 

 

“I knew it.”

 

Just like everyone else.

 

Against his will Shinous turned back to the man and stepped closer, his heart racing in anticipation.

 

He could see her out of the corner of his eye, dropping her arms and sprinting towards him. He didn’t care much, she wasn’t faster than him.

 

Die.

 

Something hard hit his side and he flew back, crashing into the ground. His arm was yanked back and pressed against the base of his back. A hand pressed his head to the ground and he groaned, squirming against the bonds, cheek squeezed uncomfortably against asphalt.

 

Thick heavy chains replaced the arms and he got yanked up. He winced, blinking against the blinding sunlight as he was pushed forward, past crowds of people, into a dark looming building.

 

He glanced to the side, eyes widening at the sight of Tobe, staring at him with her arms crossed and her face disturbingly blank. He dug his feet into the ground trying his best to slow the ascent. 

 

Shinsou .

 

Tobe turned away, pushing her way through the forming crowd away from him. He wanted to call out to her, to demand answers, but he wasn’t in control anymore.

 

“We tried our best.” His head whipped around, catching sight of the director with her back to him, facing a horde of cameras. “We really did. The odds were stacked against us. There was nothing we could do. No matter what we did, he only got worse.” Lights flashed and a wave of silence rushed over the reporters. “Some people are just incapable of change.”

 

Something dark and evil twisted in his chest, and he realized he was smirking at the crowd.

 

Shinsou .

 

“He was doomed from the start.”

 

Shinsou shot up, fighting against the hands pressing against his chest. 

 

“Oh shit!” 

 

“Shut up.”

 

Shinsou forced his eyes open, eyes darting around, desperate to make sense of his surroundings. He recognized Tobe’s jacket and his heart impossibly picked up pace. Arms pushed him down, sending a ripple of pain through his chest, and his head hit something soft. He turned his head, recognizing the room he was in.

 

“It wasn’t real. Whatever you saw, it was a dream.”

 

“A nightmare,” Tobe corrected through gritted teeth.

 

The other voice huffed, “There’s hardly a difference.”

 

“You do understand your own quirk right? It’s ten times worse than a dream.”

 

“I know how my quirk works.”

 

“Shinsou?” Tobe tilted her head into his vision and Shinsou sighed, pressing his hands against his eyes, trapping the tears behind them.

 

“Can we not tell the director about this?”

 

“Can you shut the fuck up for five seconds.”

 

“I just-”

 

“If you say another word before he gets his shit together I swear to god I will rip your tongue out with my bare hands.”

 

There was a huff but the voice didn’t speak up again. Someone on the bed shifted, sliding closer to Shinsou’s chest.

 

“Shinsou? Are you okay?”

 

He took a few deep breaths but didn’t remove his hands, instead offering a single nod. 

 

“It was just a nightmare, it wasn't real.”

 

Fuck .

 

He slowed his breathing.

 

It wasn’t real.

 

He doesn’t even know what it is.

 

He dragged his hands down his face, finally opening his eyes again to Tobe’s wide eyes. His stomach churned and he pushed himself upwards, his body groaning at the movement.

 

‘What happened.’

 

Tobe glanced over to the person across from her. “I don’t really know.”

 

“What’s he saying?”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

Shinsou craned his neck, Shoma was standing there, leaning awkwardly against the wall, tugging at her hair.

 

Slowly everything came back to him, the interaction, the argument, even the fight. His eyes widened slightly, and Shoma’s head dropped.

 

‘I got in a fight.’ Tobe nodded. ‘And she used her quirk?’

 

Tobe took a deep breath. “I can make her leave if you want. Just needed her to wake you up.”

 

Shinsou looked her up and down before shrugging and finally looking away.

 

‘Are you okay?’ Shinsou swallowed hard, anxiously twisting his hand.

 

“What did you see?”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, “I told you to shut up.”

 

“He seems fine now!”

 

Tobe scoffed, “Are you blind? Even if he was fine you don’t ask that question.”

 

Shoma crossed her arms mumbling, “I was just wondering.”

 

‘Do you need anything? Water or something?’

 

Shinsou shook his head. It wasn’t like he’d be able to easily drink it anyway.

 

‘Was I supposed to see something?’

 

Tobe took a deep breath. “Not really. She’s just nosy. ” 

 

“Are you talking about me?”

 

“Obviously.”

 

“Can we all agree not to tell the director about this? We’d all just get in trouble. No reason-”

 

Tobe shot up, grabbing Shoma by the arm. “Okay, that’s it. Time for you to go.”

 

“What? I’m just asking a question.”

 

“No one’s going to tell the director anything,” Tobe shoved her towards the door. “Now get out.”

 

Shoma’s face twisted but she complied, walking out the door and leaving them alone.

 

“Jesus. Sorry. I didn’t realize she was going to be that annoying.”

 

‘What’d she do to me?’

 

Tobe’s face twisted. “She used her quirk.”

 

He rolled his eyes, ‘Obviously, what does her quirk do?’

 

Tobe’s eyes went wide and she paled, “You don’t know?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, sliding back and leaning his back against the wall. ‘There’s so many people around here, they’re lucky I remember their names.’

 

Tobe snorted, the corner of her mouth twitching up. “Fair enough.” She settled on his bed again, crossing her feet. “From what she told me, you got in a fight and she was worried about what would happen to her friend.” She smiled again. “Which probably means you were winning.”

 

‘Yeah I remember that much.’

 

“Yeah, well, because she was nervous, she stopped it the ‘ only way she knew how’ .”

 

‘Tobe just tell me her quirk.’

 

Tobe sighed, “She puts you to sleep, and basically, she makes you have a nightmare. A really bad one.”

 

Shinsou sighed, letting out a breath he hadn’t meant to hold, running his fingers through his hair.

 

He remembered it now, her introduction, she could put anyone to sleep and trap them in their worst nightmare as long as she wanted. 

 

It wasn’t something he was particularly concerned about at first, despite the chaos of the building, quirks were rarely used here, not since Nao.

 

His gut twisted and he leaned forward, pressing his face into his hands. That… dream… wasn’t even that bad. That was nothing, really he was lucky, it could’ve been worse.

 

Could he even do that? Kill someone with just a thought?

 

A hesitant hand rested itself on his shoulder and Shinsou glanced up, meeting Tobe’s eyes.

 

‘That makes a lot of sense.’

 

“That’s not at all how I thought you’d react.”

 

Shinsou huffed, ‘Honestly just glad it wasn’t like a prophecy or something.’

 

Tobe shifted on the bed, pulling her hand away and awkwardly cracking her knuckles. Shinsou leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes.

 

It wasn’t real. It won’t be real.

 

“Why’d you fight him?” Shinsou peeked an eye open, glancing at Tobe. “I mean, I was told you started it, but, unless I’m rubbing off on you… that doesn’t really seem like you.”

 

Shinsou snorted, ‘I started it.’

 

“Oh.” Tobe nodded, “Why?”

 

Shinsou glanced off to the side, catching sight of small bits of fluff that had fallen from his cat.

 

‘They broke one of my things, so I punched them.’

 

Tobe nodded again, “Good, then they deserved it.”

 

‘Where is everyone?’

 

“I kicked them out. Probably won’t last long, especially if they see Shoma and realize you’re awake.” 

 

Shinsou sighed, dropping his gaze to his hands in his lap. 

 

“You good?” 

 

‘I don’t get dreams very often. I’m just… adjusting.’

 

“That weird feeling you have will go away eventually.”

 

Shinsou’s stomach churned as he looked Tobe in the eye and he dropped his gaze again.

 

She wasn’t giving him that look, the one she’d had before she walked away, but still, he’d never expected to have to see Tobe looking at him like that.

 

‘Yeah I hope so.’

 

Chapter Text

Shinsou mindlessly traced the scar on his arm, bright-eyed and wide awake, staring dumbly at the ceiling. 

 

It had been nearly a month since he last went out as a vigilante. Even if he had the desire to (which he definitely didn’t ) , all that would’ve happened was him getting his ass beat more. He could barely walk properly without his leg aching until about a week ago, and even after that, if he stood on it too long he’d have to sit down and let himself rest.

 

But despite all that, it was really fucking hard to not just leave this place every night.

 

He knew he probably wouldn’t do very well out there. Hell, he nearly died when he wasn’t injured. He’d hardly be able to do anything.

 

And yet, he didn’t really care much that he’d almost died. He took the villain down. He did end up winning. Technically, even though he looked worse than the other guy, in the end, he was the winner.

 

He rolled over in his bed, shaking his head and pulling the blanket up further. Sure he’d won but that was luck. The whole vigilante thing was a stupid idea anyway, not to mention illegal and insane. He had his fun, got his moments of glory he’d been so desperate for lately. He was done. He should be done.

 

Still being a vigilante would be useful right about now.

 

He shifted again, relaxing deeper into his mattress and closing his eyes. This was fine, he was used to this, or at least he used to be. He could get used to it again, he’d find something to think about or question every other night when he couldn’t sleep instead of sneaking out and pretending to be something he wasn’t.

 

He could get up and see what Tobe was up to. She’d asked him to hang out with him in the library tonight, but he’d declined. Tobe had questions, questions he didn’t know how to answer. He could tell she was getting impatient, and he couldn’t blame her, if she showed up randomly with a black eye he’d want answers.

 

He shifted out of the bed, moving swiftly towards the door, guilt pooling in his gut.

 

He’s been avoiding her, again, this time he was aware of it though. It wasn’t a complete cut off though, they still talked at breakfast and dinner, and they’d hang out after class sometimes, just, for some reason, Shinsou didn’t love the idea of sneaking out to hang out with her.

 

Part of it was he wasn’t able to fight. Long after the black eye healed he was still having problems, problems Tobe wasn’t aware of. It was easier to avoid a fight if he avoided hanging out. Plus, it was a lot easier for her to be blunt and ask questions at night when no one else was around. 

 

He made his way slowly down the stairs, unlocking and sliding his muzzle off. He pulled the door open, silently stepping forward. Tobe was there, sitting legs crossed with some random game plastered in front of her.  

 

“Well that’s kinda sad.”

 

He regretted the words as soon as he said them. He was already being enough of an asshole.

 

Tobe jumped, spinning around and raising an eyebrow. “Yeah well, you keep blowing me off.”

 

Shinsou sighed, taking a careful step forward. “I thought you’d want to spar.”

 

Tobe huffed, turning back to her game rolling some dice. “We don’t have to fight every time you know.”

 

“Yeah well, we haven’t fought in a while and…” 

 

“And you couldn’t think of any more excuses?”

 

Not exactly.

 

Shinsou bit his lip, making his way forward and awkwardly standing next to the wall. “I’m bad with this kind of stuff.”

 

She snorted, “You can say that again.”

 

Shinsou crossed his arms, “Yeah, well if I don’t want to sneak out, I shouldn’t have to just because you get all bored by yourself.”

 

Tobe turned, eyebrows drawn and mouth agape. “Obviously.”

 

“Obviously.”    

 

“I’m not mad because you don’t want to sneak out, I’m mad because you’re lying to me about your reasoning.” Shinsou bit his lip. “We talked about this, I thought we were over this already. You even promised.”

 

Shinsou gulped and took an awkward step backward.

 

“I wanted to tell you it’s just-.” Shinsou’s voice cracked and faltered and he stared at his feet.

 

Tobe dropped her head and her hair fell. “Yeah,” 

 

They sat there in silence, Tobe occasionally rolling a die or tapping a piece along the board.

 

“You don’t have to tell me.” She added after a long moment, “Just don’t lie to me.”

 

“I want to tell you.” Shinsou clarified, “I’m just worried about how you’ll react.” 

 

“You realise that stresses me out ten times more.”

 

Shinsou took a deep breath, stepping forward and holding the confession on the tip of his tongue.

 

I’m a vigilante .

 

Except that wasn’t completely true now was it. Technically he was a vigilante, as in past tense. He was done. He had to be done.

 

Shinsou sighed and sat down in front of her, crossing his legs and leaning forward. “I’ll tell you one day.”

 

Tobe groaned but handed him the dice. “You take the player that’s losing.”

 

“What! How’s that fair? Why don’t we just restart”

 

“It’s not supposed to be fair. You lied. This is your punishment.” Shinsou snorted, setting his muzzle aside and rolling the dice, immediately getting a six. Tobe rolled her eyes and scoffed, smiling softly. “Well fine then,”

 

They played in silence for a bit both struggling to pick up the conversation from the awkward place it had been left. Tobe was the one to pick it up though, she was always better at changing the topic.

 

“You feeling better?”

 

Although, that wasn’t necessarily a topic he’d love to talk about.

 

Shinsou shrugged, “I guess.”

 

Tobe nodded awkwardly. “If I need to pick a fight with Shoma just let me know.”

 

Shinsou smiled a bit but shook his head. “No, it’s fine. I’m over it.”

 

“What’d they break anyway?”

 

He sighed and leaned forward, resting his chin in his hand. “Some stupid old cat toy of mine.” Shinsou chewed at his cheek for a moment before adding, “I should’ve have started a fight over it. It was dumb anyways.”

 

Especially because he was already injured, and if the director had found out, he would’ve been done for.

 

She leaned forward. “Nah, even if it’s stupid, it was yours. They shouldn’t have touched it.” She glanced up at him, “If it was ‘so dumb’ why’d you still have it?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, leaning back. “It’s the only thing I managed to keep from my mom.”

 

Tobe’s eyes went wide, “That’s from your mom?”.

 

Shinsou’s face went red and he rubbed his neck, “Yeah, kinda. I mean, I think she bought it because I don’t know who else would’ve. I guess a better way to put it would be it’s the only real thing I have left from before I was in foster care.”

 

“Damn.” Tobe added after a moment of silence, “No wonder you punched them.”

 

Shinsou blushed and dropped his gaze.  “Yeah, well. I try not to pull it out much for that exact reason.”

 

“What?” Tobe joked, “You were worried you’d get all territorial?”

 

Shinsou snorted, “No, I knew people would think it’s weird. Didn’t want to deal with that.”

 

“Oh, yeah…” Tobe agreed, rolling the die, “I guess that’s fair.”

 

“You don’t have anything from your mom?”

 

Tobe clenched her jaw and shook her head stiffly. “Why would I?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, “I dunno. She is still your mom.”

 

“If we didn’t have the same DNA she would just be some asshole stranger.”

 

Shinsou bit his lip and rolled the dice, desperately trying to find a way to steer the conversation away from this current disaster.

 

“What about from Senjo?”

 

Tobe huffed softly but smiled. “Yeah, he doesn’t make a lot of money but he always manages to get me something for my birthday. Got some pretty cool shit from him.”

 

Shinsou nodded, Senjo was always a safe topic. 

 

“What do you think is your favorite thing you’ve gotten from him?”

 

Tobe shrugged, “I don’t know, but I just won.” 

 

Shinsou dropped his gaze to the board, eyes wide. “What?”

 

Tobe smirked, sliding her piece into the winning square. “Should’ve placed some bets.”

 

“You started in the lead.”

 

“You just joined late.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, tossing the die at Tobe. “That was not fair and you know it.”

 

Tobe grabbed Shinsou’s piece, tossing it directly at his head. “Don’t be a sore loser.”

 

Shinsou raised an eyebrow, grabbing the edge of the board in flipping it towards Tobe, stray pieces flew up, clattering around the two of them. The two of them held still, waiting for all the pieces to settle before a smirk spread across Shinsou’s face. “I didn’t lose.” The corner of her mouth twitched and she stared intensely at him. “You can’t prove I did.”

 

Tobe leaped forward, tackling Shinsou and pinning him by the waist, pressing him against the floor. “You lost and you know it.”

 

Shinsou swept his arms out and Tobe’s grip loosened. He grabbed her wrists, pushing them over her head, and dug his heels into the ground, thrusting his hips and forcing her over his head. He rolled over, forcing her down before she could regain her senses. 

 

“The game was rigged and you know it.”

 

Tobe swung a leg under Shinsou’s knee and forced him over, grabbing his arms and pressing them against his chest. He pulled up a knee wedging it between their bodies.

 

“You good with this? You said you didn’t want to fight.”

 

Shinsou took advantage of her hesitance, pressing his leg up pushing against Tobe and throwing her back. “I’m good. I’ll tap out if I need.” 

 

They both pushed themselves to their feet and Shinsou cracking his neck. “You sure? You said-” 

 

He ran forward, feigning a tackle but stopping last minute and sweeping her legs out from under her. Tobe jumped to the side but his leg still caught hers. She stumbled back, forcing distance between the two of them.

 

“I said I’ll tap if I want.”

 

Tobe smirked, rushing forward. Shinsou threw out a punch, and Tobe slid under it, his eyes widened and he spun around, but it was already too late, he was being forced forward and colliding with the ground.

 

Shinsou rolled to his feet, keeping his eyes on her. “Where the hell did that come from?”

 

Tobe smirked, raising her eyebrows with pride. “It’s not something that I can do up on the roof very often, doesn’t really work as well. I’ve been waiting to do that.” She charged at him again and this time he dodged, stepping to the side and driving an elbow down to her stomach. 

 

He, surprisingly, didn’t end up tapping like he thought he would. He hadn’t actually been in a fight, even one as regulated as his spars with Tobe, since that night. He had hoped he’d be back to his full potential soon, but he didn’t really expect it to happen so soon.

 

And that was a bit of an overstatement. He definitely wasn’t back to his full self, his leg still ached once and a while, and his arm was still sensitive to touch, but all of that was barely noticeable in his fight with Tobe.

 

He did end up being the one to call it though, not because he felt like he couldn’t fight anymore, but because he started to like it a little too much. The sweat dripping down his face, the outsmarting or being outsmarted, the familiar sound of clashing fists and huffs of breath, it was familiar.

 

And it made him miss his patrols.

 

Fighting with Tobe was great, he knew her and her moves and she knew his. They surprised each other every now and then, but they were comfortable with each other. They pushed each other to be better and get stronger without having to worry about life or death or serious injuries. It was comforting and it was safe, something that was in very short supply lately.

 

But out there, on the streets, that was real, win or loss was the difference between life and death. Out there, he was actually doing something, helping innocent people or stopping guilty ones. Out there, he could be anyone, hero or villain, but it didn’t matter because what he was doing at that moment was good and useful. Out there, no one knew him or how he thought, no one knew his secrets or his desires or his true intentions.

 

And frankly, that was better, because neither did he.

 

They made their way back to their beds sooner than they probably usually would, and even though Shinsou had already stayed up more than he’d planned he was still incredibly restless.

 

He couldn’t shake that feeling he’d gotten again when sparing with Tobe, he’d missed that feeling more than he even realized.

 

It was something he could probably manage by just sparring with Tobe. She certainly wasn’t a terrible partner to have, if anything he was the one who was being a huge dick lately. He’d done well enough today, he was a bit slower than usual, but he was fine, he even managed to pin Tobe a few times.

 

He didn’t need to go out at night. That idea was ridiculous. This all started out because he wanted to. Now the reward just wasn’t worth the risk.

 

But the knowledge that he could, that he was well enough to fight, well enough to get back out there wouldn’t leave the back of his mind. 

 

There were so many reasons why he shouldn’t continue his little nighttime adventures. He wasn’t built for that life, he almost died, he was playing with fire. If he didn’t stop now he didn’t know what could come from this, but most of the endings he saw weren’t good. He could die, he could get so injured he couldn’t function properly, he could get arrested-

 

He could turn to villainy.

 

It wasn’t a secret that a lot of vigilantes were more villains than heroes, some even going as far as actually turning to the villains’ side.

Shinsou may not be a villain yet but he certainly was on the path of becoming one.

 

And besides, he told Tobe he was done. He couldn’t lie to her, not again. If he couldn’t tell even her the truth then maybe that was a sign.

 

And yet, despite all the reasons not to, for some reason his legs itched to move, his fists longed for a target, and his quirk-

 

Well, his quirk was absolutely hungry.

 

And if he was being honest, for once in his miserable life, he missed using it.

 

Part of him hated it. Hated that he’d gotten so comfortable with his quirk, hated that he missed the subtle vibrations of control on his tongue, hated that the most interesting thing in his life now, was the fact that his stupid toy cat was ripped apart by a few assholes. 

 

And sure, he said he was done with life being interesting, but he didn’t think it would be this goddamn boring.

 

He closed his eyes and sighed, pressing his face into his pillow. He should go, he shouldn’t, there were plenty of heroes out there already, taking care of the civilians, patrolling the streets. He’d even run into one before, they didn’t need him.

 

If that was true then why do you ever find villains?

 

Shinsou buried his face deeper into the pillow and groaned.

 

Fuck.

 

He sighed, throwing his covers to the side, and rolled out of bed.

 

He’d have a really hard time explaining this to Tobe.

 

He pulled his suitcase out, pulling out the stained clothes, rolling them up, and holding them close to his chest. He made his way out of the room, pushing his way into the bathroom, and flicking the light on. He wasn’t too worried about his black pants, red wasn’t visible on black. He could probably clean them once and then be fine.

 

The hoodie on the other hand…

 

It was dark too, but the blood was definitely visible. The good news was, it was mostly on the inside and he would only be wearing it when it was dark.

 

Perhaps knowing how to get blood out of clothing would be a good thing to know.

 

Actually, if he was going to keep doing this there was a lot he’d have to learn and be better about. Learning how to properly treat wounds could come in handy, actually having a first aid kit was definitely needed.

 

He also desperately needed to improve his setup. Running out there with no weapons was sloppy and idiotic, not to mention suicidal. And if he was going to continue, he needed to do something about his hood constantly falling off. If this really was going to get serious, he needed to act the part. 

 

He filled up the sink, mixing a few squirts of hand soap in with the warm water and setting the jacket inside. He stirred it around mindlessly for a few minutes, before kneading the fabric, massaging and rubbing away the dried blood. It clung to the fabric and was a disaster to remove but by the end, he could at least see a noticeable difference. 

 

He pulled the hoodie out, draining the brownish water and wringing out the fabric as best he could, eventually pressing paper towels to the particularly wet spots. 

 

He did the same with his pants, not spending nearly as long but getting all the surface bits off, and patting them dry.

 

He made his way back to his room, setting his clothes carefully on top of his suitcase, laying them out to dry.

 

He pushed the suitcase back under, knocking something that lodged itself between the wall and the leg of the bed. He pushed the suitcase aside, pulling the box towards him. He squinted at it a moment before huffing softly, pushing it back under his bed and holding back a fond smile.

 

Another first-aid kit.

 

He bet if he opened it, there would be some sort of note, like ‘Since you fucking lost the last one.’ or ‘Since you’re so shit at parkour’. Without a doubt it would have a swear in there somewhere.

 

He settled back into his bed, yawning as he did. If he still felt all weird about it tomorrow, this weird desperation to get back out there, and he still wasn’t able to talk himself out of it, then at least he’d be ready, or at least close to it. 

 

Maybe that was bad, maybe it wasn’t great that he’d have nothing other than his will holding him back, but that’s how things were now. 

 

~ ~ ~

 

Guilt and anxiety pooled in his chest and Shinsou rolled over. He knew this was a terrible idea, he knew this would inevitably end badly, he knew this would make things worse for him in the long run. He knew all that, and yet, for some stupid reason he didn’t care. 

 

It was a worse idea than he initially thought. All the skills he was learning were the skills that’d be useful for villainy. The activity that was supposed to help him learn to control himself and help him manage his emotions was the same activity that was causing him to lose control.

 

Maybe he was overthinking this because he hadn’t been out there for a month. He was probably glamorizing it or building it up to be more than it was.

 

Yeah, that was definitely it. He almost died and he still wanted to go out there and fight villains. No sane person does that.

 

He closed his eyes and pressed his face into his pillow.

 

If he was going to try again, this week would be a good week. Winter break just started, he’d be able to 100% focus on doing this right, and if he did get hurt again, he wouldn’t have to worry too much about keeping up appearances. 

 

He pressed his hands into his eyes, and sighed, rolling out of his bed and pulling his clothes out. 

 

It had been a while since he’d put these clothes on, it had been even longer since they were somewhat clean. 

 

It felt nice to be back in these clothes.

 

He made his way out of the building, with only slight trepidation and guilt, making his way down the street. His hoodie did very little against the brisk air. He hit the ground hard, rubbing his arm to pack in more warmth.

 

He was either going to have to wait for the temperature to warm up before continuing or wear more layers when he went out.

 

If he kept going out. This was just a trial run of sorts. To see if he could really get back into this.

 

He wasn’t expecting much to happen tonight, honestly, he was kind of hoping that it would be a chill night. A calm night to get back into everything and take some time to really think this through.

 

He climbed up a ladder of one of the tallest buildings near him, taking a break at the top and getting a nice view of the city.

 

It was a really nice view, that far up. The mixture of blurry lights and subtle signs of life, being able to see it, even be a part of it in a small way, in a way that almost no one could see, blending in with the sea of life, it was - something else.

 

Something shiny caught his eye and he turned down into the alley, wobbling a bit before he landed. He stepped forward kicking aside a rogue bag of trash and leaning down picking up the object. It was an old thick pocket knife, one of those multi-tools that had a mixture of things like a corkscrew and pliers. 

 

He turned it over in his hand a couple times, pulling random parts out and examining them, before shoving it into his pocket. 

 

A soft meow peeped out from behind him and he spun around, immediately dropping to his knees. He eased his way forward, craning his head and straining his eyes. He caught sight of some movement in the corner of his eye, and he turned towards it. Another meow and his eyes landed on the small tabby cat, trapped underneath a milk crate. Shinsou smiled, and slowly stuck out his hands, tapping his fingers on the ground. 

 

“Hello,” Shinsou whispered, moving his fingers slowly towards the cat.

 

He slowly sat down, crossing his legs and leaning forward, watching as glowing eyes crawled forward. A small paw slid out, swiping at his fingers. Shinsou let out a soft chuckle, slowly sliding forward. He reached out with his other hand, slowly pulling the box up.

 

The cat crept back, sliding out of the side and jumping onto a pile of boxes. He slowly lowered the box, tapping his fingers on the ground again. The cat poked their head out, sniffing his fingers before rubbing its head against the fingers. Shinsou ran his fingers back, scratching behind the ears and sliding his hand down to below the chin.

 

The cat stuck its head out more, stepping forward and he let his hand run along the side of its stomach. The cat’s head jerked and it jumped to the side, darting behind various boxes and skittering off. 

 

Shinsou sighed, dropping his hand and watching the cat leave. He stayed there a moment before pushing himself up and dusting himself off. 

 

There was a scuffle, and a cut-off yelp, and Shinsou spun around, darting out the alley and scanning the area. He ran towards where he thought the noise came from, running down the street, glancing down every nook and cranny he passed.

 

There was a scream and Shinsou spun around, rounding the corner and charging down the next street over. A tall lanky man was running towards him, eyes wide, hastily shoving something into his pocket.

 

Shinsou charged forward, darting straight towards the man. His eyes got impossibly wider as he tried to shuffle back, desperate to avoid Shinsou. He was too slow, his shoes sliding on the concrete. Shinsou tackled him, pulling him down and forcing him to the ground.  

 

“Where do you think you’re going?”

 

The man squirmed, stumbling to his feet and sliding away from Shinsou. Shinsou jumped forward, sliding the man's legs out from under him and pushing him back.

 

“You seem really stressed out? You doing alright?”

 

The man gulped, crawling backward and trembling. “I promise i’m-”

 

Shinsou activated his quirk and the man went slack, his limbs going limp letting him fall awkwardly to the ground. Shinsou stepped over him, briskly walking forward, glancing around for any sign of what he could’ve been so panicked about.

 

His eyes widened and his heart dropped as he saw the man in the alley, gasping for breath and pressing against a spot that was quickly growing redder and redder. Shinsou jumped forward, examining the man from a distance before awkwardly crouching in front of him.

 

“What happened?”

 

The man took a deep shaky breath, closing his eyes and leaning his head back. “Some punk jumped me, stabbed me when I wouldn’t give him m’wallet.”

 

Shinsou nodded numbly, looking the man over carefully, hands hovering uselessly over the wound.

 

“You have to press a bit harder on that, you’re losing a lot of blood.” Shinsou pressed his hand down on top of the man’s and he inhaled sharply, tensing up as he adjusted to the pressure. “Do you have a phone?”

 

The man swallowed hard and nodded slightly. He brought a shaky hand to his stained jacket, reaching inside and pulling out the device. Shinsou carefully took it from his hand, dialing the emergency number.

 

He hesitated for a moment, looking the man over again before clearing his throat and pressing call.

 

“110, what’s your emergency?”

 

“There’s a man who was stabbed, in an alleyway on Melford. Across from the - tattoo shop.” Shinsou’s voice cracked at the pressure he was putting on it to pitch it lower, but he shook it off, glancing back at the man.

 

“Can you give me the name of the tattoo shop?”

 

Shinsou gulped, “The- uh Queen’s heart.”

 

There was rushed typing in the background before they spoke again. 

 

“There should be an ambulance arriving in 2 minutes. Are you with the man now?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Is he conscious?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“If you can, I need you to elevate the wound and apply pressure.”

 

“It’s on his stomach I- I don’t think.”

 

“That’s fine, just lay him down and apply pressure.”

 

Shinsou swallowed, “A- alright hold on.” He set the phone down carefully to the side, wrapping a trembling arm around the man's back and carefully pulling him forward.

 

“You need to lay down. A- and don’t fall asleep, if you can.”

 

The man mumbled something Shinsou couldn’t understand but didn’t protest the movement.

 

Shinsou grabbed the phone again, pressing it to speaker. “Okay, I- I moved him. He’s starting to fall asleep though.”

 

“Keep him awake the best you can. Can you tell me more about what happened?”

 

Shinsou shook the man's chest a few times, shaking the man awake. “I- I don’t really know I just found him like this.”

 

Sirens echoed in the distance and Shinsou’s heart raced impossibly faster. 

 

He couldn’t leave, if he did, this man could die, but at the same time, he had to if he didn’t want to be caught. Even if they didn’t suspect that he was the reason for the brainwashed man down the street, he was not supposed to be out of bed at all.

 

“Does the wound seem self-inflicted?”

 

“No.”

“Okay. They should be there any second now. What’s your name?”

 

Shinsou froze, staring dumbly at the phone. Why would they need to know that? It didn’t matter what his name was, he wasn’t the one bleeding out in an alleyway.

 

“Hello?”

 

“I don’t have a name.” He blurted in a panic.

 

“You don’t- you-”

 

“I mean, I’d prefer to be anonymous.”

 

The line was quiet for a second. Shinsou’s gut twisted as the sirens grew louder.

 

“That’s fine. How’s he doing?”

 

Shinsou let out a shaky breath. “Still awake, but barely. He looks… really pale.”

 

“Okay, just keep calm. You’re doing a great job, make sure you keep pressure on that wound.”

 

Shinsou glanced behind him, panic shooting through him as the streets lit up red and blue. He pressed the phone off speaker, leaning forward closer to the man and softly shaking his face.

 

“I don’t know if you’ll remember this, or if you can even understand what I’m saying right now, but if you can, please don’t tell them about me. I’m not supposed to be here.”

 

The man groaned softly, and Shinsou closed his eyes letting out a shaky breath. The sound of tires skidding and jumbled shouting filled his ears and he slowly released his hand from the wound.

 

He glanced over his shoulder, watching as men dressed in blue rushed towards him. He jumped to his feet, rocketing towards the nearest emergency escape and scattering up it. His blood-soaked hand slipped on the rungs but he pushed on, forcing himself not to hesitate and he jumped from this building to the next. He raced down the ladders on that one, emerging out the alley into a different street. 

 

He didn’t waste time darting down the road, determined to get away before they could even realize what had happened. He hoped they would be too preoccupied with the victim to worry about him

 

He didn't stop running until he physically couldn't anymore. He was too paranoid to run straight to the school, too stressed that he was being followed by an invisible assailant. Eventually though, he did have to stop to catch his breath and inevitably process what just happened.

 

He crashed against an alley wall, gasping for breath, struggling to swallow with his dry throat. He leaned over himself, bracing his hands on his knees, staring blankly at the dull ground.

 

He just did that.

 

Back at it again for 2 hours and he already had one of the closest calls he’s ever had. That guy could’ve died if Shinsou hadn’t stayed, hell, he was pretty sure those two seconds that Shinsou wasn’t putting pressure on the wound was what could’ve signed his death warrant.

 

But if Shinsou would’ve stayed, he would’ve been the dead one.

 

He probably could’ve handled the whole situation better, he was insanely unprepared for everything that had happened there. Sure, he was sort of familiar with treating wounds, but that was insane.

 

He pushed himself up, slowly gaining control of his breathing. He stared at his blood-stained hands, glancing down at where the blood had soaked his jacket. He sighed, resting his head back against the brick wall.

 

I just washed this jacket.

 

A cold wind sent a soothing but confusing chill down his spine. His body was oddly hot and sweaty, but the brisk air still felt too chilly. Shinsou pushed himself off the wall again, letting out one final heavy sigh as he ran a hand through his hair before pulling it away disgusted.

 

He should really get himself cleaned up.

 

Chapter Text

The streets had been quiet this week, quieter than usual. It made Shinsou uneasy. It should be a good thing. Either Shinsou couldn’t find any crime, or there was no crime to find, and both options only meant one thing.

 

Attacks were going down.

 

He was sure some of his worry was purely selfish. If no one needed help, Shinsou would have to ‘hang up’ the hoodie and find a new hobby. As much as crime wasn’t great, Shinsou also needed it.

 

But there was another part of him that was so sure that there was something else going on, something that kept the looters and the rapists cowering in their homes.

 

He tried to convince himself it was just because of the looming winter, hell even he was considering calling it himself. Lately, it seemed he was spending more time cowering near strangely warm metal boxes than he was actually stopping crime or even patrolling. If the villains weren’t going to be freezing their asses off, why should Shinsou?

 

He picked up his pace, shoving his hands deep into his pocket and burying his nose into his collar. Some kind of goggles or mask would come in very useful right now, just to protect him a bit more from the frigid winds. He’d already started wearing his only long sleeve shirt under his jacket but it was quickly becoming not enough.

 

He kept his head down as he walked into the more active part of the city. He avoided this area as much as possible, but with how cold he was getting, cowering inside the 24-hour convenience store was really his only option.

 

He’d stop by every now and then, lingering until he could feel his fingertips before darting out into the cold again. It was the same tired worker every night, and luckily, he didn’t seem to ask questions, hell, half the time Shinsou wasn’t sure he was aware of his presence. 

 

He wasn’t shocked to see the area emptier than he was used to, usually, the area was crowded and active because of the bar a few streets down. It made weekends more interesting though, drunk people were insanely stupid and endlessly entertaining.

 

And sometimes they were assholes who decided to do illegal shit without a second thought.

 

He pushed his way into the store, shivering as he stepped into the warm room. He dropped his head, immediately moving towards the back corner. He grabbed a magazine, one of the hero ones, not the weird ones with half-naked girls on the front, and settled into a corner, catching up with the most recent news.

 

He could usually recognize the hero on the front cover, or at least one of them, this time though, it was some blonde hero he’d never seen before. It honestly wasn’t a much better cover than the other ones, the hero was also half-naked, straddling a backwards chair, peering over his odd yellow sunglasses and smirking, grand red wings spread out behind him. 

 

Shinsou flipped over the cover, shifting his gaze away from the model. The magazine usually only had boring stuff about the top heroes, interviews and fluff pieces about their love lives or how they deal with the pressure of being a hero. Shinsou didn’t care much about that kind of stuff, but it was far more interesting than whatever he would find in those other magazines.

 

There were some interesting interviews, ones that talked about great battles and advice for ‘future heroes’. He tried not to linger on those, but they usually had advice that was decent for solo vigilantes, advice that could still be useful to him.

 

He did make sure to pay close attention for any signs of the mysterious hero who had been eluding his and Tobe’s research. It was a small hope, if they couldn’t find him on the internet, it was unlikely he’d be found in some random magazine.

 

Still though, Shinsou made sure to check every page for even the briefest mention of him.

 

The bell over the door rang and Shinsou glanced up, peering over the magazine before shifting his gaze back to the article.

 

He tried to focus on the words, something about a hero rising faster than ever before, but he couldn’t focus over the random spike in his heart rate. He took a few deep breaths, gripping the magazine harder and swallowing, trying to push this odd feeling away. This happened sometimes, usually when he stayed in a stressful situation too long, but sometimes, it acted up randomly, for no rhyme or reason.

 

Those were the worst. 

 

There was a bang and Shinsou jumped, glancing around the mostly empty shop. Something probably fell, startling Shinsou while he was already paranoid. 

 

A harsh voice pierced the tense silence and Shinsou peered around the shelf, catching sight of the man who entered earlier wildly swinging something sharp at the cashier. Panic shot through Shinsou and he slithered down, holding his breath. He swallowed hard, sliding further into the corner, hiding from the man behind a shelf. 

 

Fuck, maybe he could make a break for the door before the man ever noticed. 

 

Wait, what was he saying, he was literally in his vigilante gear right now, all he was doing in here was taking a break from patrolling to get warm. 

 

Of course, when he stops looking for criminals they come to him.

 

Shinsou steeled his face and pushed himself up to his feet, crouching and balancing on the balls of his feet. 

 

From what he could see, the weapon was some part of his quirk. It seemed like the shiny metal weapon replaced his arm. That was good, that meant he was probably only a close-range fighter.

 

Shinsou stepped forward, letting his sneakers squeak so he could get the attention on him. The last thing he needed right now was to startle him into murdering someone.

 

The man spun around and Shinsou darted behind the last shelf.

 

“You know threatening someone with your quirk is illegal right?” Shinsou physically cringed at how stupid the sentence was, he really should think more about what he’s saying to bait people into responding.

 

“It’s not a threat unless he doesn’t give me what I want.”

 

Shinsou stood up, stepping around the shelf, keeping his head low.

 

So much for hanging around here, now he’d have to find a new place to relax. The cashier stepped back, eyeing the mindless man, glancing between him and Shinsou.

 

“Is-” He hesitated, stepping back again. “Did you do that?” Shinsou hesitantly nodded. “Damn.” A beat of silence, before a more firm, “DAMN, thanks.”

 

Shinsou glanced up at the man, peering at him from under his hood. “It- was nothing. No problem.”

 

The cashier stared at the criminal, moving a bit closer and examining him, eyes narrowing and jaw clenching. “This motherfucker tried to rob me.” 

 

Shinsou stepped back, eyes widening as the man curled his hand into a fist. 

 

“I - I wouldn’t do-”

 

The cashiers’ fist made contact with the criminals’ jaw and he felt the connection snap. Shinsou jumped forward, tackling the man before he could gain his senses. He drove a fist down before he was thrown off, slamming into a shelf. The shelf fell back and Shinsou groaned as it crashed into the ground. 

 

A sharpened arm came down towards his chest and he pulled himself away, rolling over and kicking the man's gut.

 

“You missed.”

 

The attacker's eyes narrowed and he swung his arm towards Shinsous head. Shinsou jumped back, swinging his body over the shelf as the man sliced right through the metal. The attacker pressed his arm deeper into the shelf and Shinsou stepped back, sliding around the other shelf barely avoiding the blade.

 

“No need to get violent.” Another swipe caught his sleeve and Shinsou charged at the shelf, pushing it down on top of the man. “You like that?”

 

The man groaned struggling to push the shelf off. 

 

“I’ll help you out if you promise not to attack me.”

 

The man’s eyes narrowed again, and he groaned, shifting under the mess of snacks and metal.

The sword transformed back into his hand and he shifted, transforming his other hand into a sword and slicing the metal. “I don’t need your help.”

 

Shinsou wrapped his quirk around his mind and immediately put the man to sleep. He huffed, swallowing hard and glancing back up at the cashier who had returned to cowering behind the register.

 

The all too familiar siren sound filled his ears and he glanced out the window, eyes widening as the realization sunk in.

 

“Is- will he attack again.”

 

Shinsou glanced at the man from the corner of his vision. “He wouldn’t have attacked again if you didn’t punch him.”

 

The man gulped and held up a shaky hand, showing off his phone. “I called the police.”

 

I gathered that much.

 

“Does this shop have cameras anywhere?”

 

The man nodded harshly, “Yeah, outside.”

 

Shinsou let out a relieved sigh, staring down at the criminal, before glancing out the window again. “I have to go.”

 

He stepped forward, carefully placing his foot between each shelf. “You have to stick around and give your statement.”

 

Shinsou stopped his movement, staring at the man with a mixture of disbelief and confusion. “I just broke the law.” The man clenched his jaw, scanning the destroyed shop. “I can’t stick around.”

 

He made his way over the mess, pressing a hand against the door and peering down the street. “Thank you.” He glanced over his shoulder, “I uh- didn’t really want to die today.”

 

Shinsou snorted, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell them anything about me.”

 

The man smiled, “About who?”

 

Shinsou nodded, sliding out the door and darting across the street, slipping into the alley and jumping the wire fence.

 

He was just planning to stop there to catch his breath, but in barely anytime at all, a police car was skidding to a stop outside of the shop and Shinsou had to press himself against the wall, willing himself to sink into the brick.

 

The whole situation escalated too quickly. Before Shinsou found the time to slip away, two more cop cars pulled in and a hero, an actual hero dropped off from the roof next to the store and Shinsou held his breath, slowly sinking to the floor and looping around the dumpster.

 

Shinsou let himself breathe for a second, swallowing hard and willing the pounding in his ears to go away. This was way too close for comfort, he did not appreciate the close calls he’s been having lately.

 

Shinsou peeked over the top of the dumper, catching sight of familiar black and grey before dropping down instantly, not being able to quite process what he just saw.

 

No fucking way.

 

He hesitated a few moments before peering around the garbage can again, eyes wide and breath caught in his throat. It was actually him, up close, the impossible-to-find hero with an odd scarf. There was no doubt about it, the yellow goggles confirmed it. Shinsou watched him intensely, following his every movement and action. He looked irritated, or maybe he was just tired, either way, he didn’t seem to be enjoying his job that much. 

 

He stopped to talk to one of the officers, rubbing his face at something the woman said and followed one of the officers inside. Shinsou felt himself relax, and finally pull back, suddenly becoming very aware of how dangerous his position was.

 

He should not be this close to the crime scene, especially not with the outfit he was wearing. He was a vigilante, what he should be doing right now was carefully sneaking away and getting as far from this incident as he could. 

 

He peered around the corner again, only peeking one eye out. That hero was in there, investigating something that Shinsou had been a part of. He was in there, probably trying to figure out what the criminal that Shinsou had stopped had been up to.

 

He was probably trying to find more information about the vigilante that had stopped them.

 

Shinsou pulled his head back, resting it carefully against the dirty metal, suddenly feeling very sick. If they looked too closely at the man they’d find out about his quirk. Even if the cashier didn’t say anything, a mindless man was not something people saw every day. 

 

He took a deep breath and broke the connection, sighing as pain shot through his head. Something crashed and suddenly everyone was shouting. He should leave, get a head start while he could. This was no longer just the police, that was a pro-hero.

 

A pro-hero who was not only able but trained in professionally using his quirk to catch criminals.

 

And suddenly Shinsou was aware of just how out of his comfort zone he was, trapped a couple feet away from this pro, pressed against a literal garbage can in a dingy alley.

 

“Eraserhead!”

 

Shinsou’s eyes went wide and he peered around the corner, catching the end of the hero exiting the building, passing the bound criminal off to another hero Shinsou vaguely recognized. 

 

They were dressed in all white, some kind of shiny armor that looked sort of futuristic. He couldn’t quite remember their name, it was a word Shinsou hadn’t heard before hearing the name itself, but he knew their name wasn’t Eraserhead.

 

The corner of Shinsou’s mouth itched up and he bit back a smile, struggling to stop his feet from bouncing.

 

Eraserhead.

 

Was that his name? They were the only two heroes Shinsou had seen here and Eraserhead hardly seemed like a name that fit the bulky white knight.

 

But then again, what would a hero named Eraserhead even look like?

 

A head flashed his direction and he pulled his head back, holding his breath and listening out for any movement. He balanced on the balls of his feet, ignoring the ache, ready to dart at any moment's notice. No one came in his direction though, and when he finally risked peering at them again, no one was even facing his little alley.

 

He slid forward, pressing himself up against the wall, drawing out the protection he got from the garbage. He hesitated at the edge of their line of sight before darting forward, sliding around the corner, and running down the street.

 

He didn’t bother sticking out for a while longer like he usually would, instead, he opted to head straight back to the school. He didn’t even acknowledge the fact that he should be more aware of people following him.

 

He had a potential name, and he needed to know if it would yield any results.

 

He grabbed his muzzle and climbed up the ladder, sneaking into his room and grabbing his lockpick before sliding into the library and making his way into the locked room. Waiting for the computers to boot up was an excruciating wait, but eventually, the light of the screen flashed on and the search engine launched.

 

The word Eraserhead itself came up with weird results. All that popped up was some really old American movie that had the same name. Shinsou’s heart faltered for a moment as he scrolled down, looking for anything other than reviews or summaries of this insanely old movie.

 

But when he added pro-hero in front of it…

 

He clicked straight to images first, desperate to verify that this ‘Eraserhead’ and the hero that had alluded his and Tobe’s searches were in fact the same hero. Almost all of the photos were blurry or dark. A mixture of people trying to catch him mid-fight or jumping across rooftops at night. There was one though, an obviously older one from when he was younger, that was fairly clear, one where you could actually make out his dark messy hair and odd grey scarf.

 

Pride shot through Shinsou’s chest and he clicked the image, getting redirected to an article nearly 10 years old.

 

Shinsou’s jaw dropped as he read more and more of it. It was an article about his big ‘debut’, about how he single-handedly took down a villain that no pro-hero at the time could, all while only in his second year of high school.

 

Eraserhead.

 

There wasn’t much else he could find about the hero after that. There were a few passing mentions of him in other things, but nowhere else had he gotten the spotlight quite like he did at first.

 

He went to UA apparently, which was impressive in itself, but other than those two things, finding information about this hero was becoming more and more difficult.

 

He’d tried to find something, anything, he could about the man's quirk, but the best he could do was conclude that surprisingly, the magic grey scarf had nothing to do with it.

 

The lack of information, though slightly disappointing, didn’t quell his excitement. If anything, it did quite the opposite.

 

Almost no one knew anything about this hero, and here Shinsou was, seeing him three times now.

 

He had to rub this in Tobe’s face.

 

He shot up from the computer, not bothering to hide the evidence of his sneaking around, darting straight up to Tobe’s room.

 

He’d never actually snuck into Tobe’s room at night before. Sure, every now and then they’d hang out in there, typically when the library was unusually crowded or they just wanted a change in scenery, but he never had any reason to sneak in at night.

 

He pushed his way into the room, being more careful and alert than he had been in a while, keeping an ear out for any sign of stirring or shifting. He left the door open a smidge, sliding into the room and planting himself next to the nearest bed. 

 

He knew this was Tobe’s bed, they’d lounged around enough for him to remember that. If he hadn’t known that prior, he might not have been able to find where she was sleeping. She was sprawled out in the most ridiculous position, blanket bunched up by her head practically suffocating her. 

 

He shook her arm, bracing himself to quickly calm her down if she woke up loudly. She didn’t budge though, and he shook her arm again. Eventually, he yanked the blanket down away from her face and squeezed her nose. Tobe’s eyes shot open and she pushed Shinsou back, brows raised and eyes wide.

 

He held a finger to his lips and motioned for her to follow. Tobe rolled her eyes but followed, sliding out of bed and out the door.

 

‘What the hell.’

 

‘You weren’t waking up.”

 

‘So you tried to murder me?’

 

It was Shinsou’s turn to roll his eyes. ‘You’re so dramatic. I have something to show you.’

 

‘What could you possibly have to show me that couldn’t have waited until morning.’

 

Shinsou smirked, heart pounding in his chest. ‘I figured out who the hero was.’

 

Tobe’s nose scrunched before her face flattened, eyes widening. ‘ The crazy cat one?’

 

Shinsou smiled bigger and nodded, motioning for Tobe to follow him up the stairs.

 

“How’d you figure it out?”

 

Shinsou’s eyes went wide before he steeled his face. “I uh- just got lucky.”

 

Shinsou rubbed his neck and Tobe glanced down at him. “How?”

 

He bit his lip. “I was just, uh- I found this article, and I recognized him.”

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow, as they pushed their way into the library.

 

They planted themselves in front of the only light in the dark room, Tobe clicking through each tab Shinsou had open, skimming a few of them before turning to Shinsou.

 

“His name’s Eraserhead?” Shinsou nodded, watching the screen over her shoulder. “That’s one of the weirdest names I’ve heard.”

 

Shinsou’s smile fell and he stared at Tobe. “What’s wrong with it?”

 

Tobe shrugged, “There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just… kinda lame. After all this time the name we were looking for was just two random nouns squished together. Like imagine a hero named deleteface, that’s so dumb.”

 

“It’s gotta mean something important. I haven’t been able to quite figure out what his quirk is, but whatever it is, it’s probably really powerful.” Shinsou leaned forward, stealing the mouse and clicking on the tab with the first article. “This says that one of the first villains he defeated was one that a team of pro-heroes couldn’t take down, and he did it by himself!”

 

Tobe’s eyebrows shot up and she leaned forward, squinting at the words. “Well if he’s so powerful, why haven’t we heard of him before?”

 

 Shinsou shrugged, “It seems like he only really does work at night. He isn’t usually seen during the day time. Most of the pictures I found of him were taken at night.”

 

Tobe huffed, “So? That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have heard of him.”

 

“What are you trying to say then?”

 

“I don’t know.” Tobe admitted, clicking off to another tab, “It’s just really weird. If this was his debut, then you’d think he’d only get more popular from here.”

 

“Unless he didn’t want to.”

 

Tobe spun around and met Shinsou’s eyes. “What?”

 

“If he didn’t want to be popular.”

 

Her eyes narrowed again and she stared at the screen. “Who wouldn’t want to be popular? That's like one of the main reasons for becoming a hero.”

 

Shinsou snorted, “I wouldn’t want to be popular.”

 

Tobe spun around again. “You wouldn’t?”

 

He shrugged, slightly sinking into himself. “I mean… I’m not the biggest fan of people in general, plus that feels like a lot of pressure, and I’m terrible with people so it’d only be a matter of time before I say something stupid and get cancled by every person ever.” Tobe snorted. “And besides, I know I’d constantly have to deal with the same bullshit questions about my quirk that I get now. I’d rather just avoid it all.”

 

Tobe stared at him for a while and Shinsou squirmed a bit under her gaze.

 

“That- actually makes a lot of sense.” 

 

Shinsou’s eyebrow rose, “Really?”

 

She shrugged, “Yeah, I mean, I’m fine dealing with asshole people. I’d just tell them to fuck off and mind their own buisness, but I guess it makes sense that you wouldn’t love that.” 

 

He rolled his eyes, “I can tell people to fuck off. That’s not the problem.”

 

“Then what is?”

 

He shrugged, “I’ve been telling people to fuck off my whole life, or at least giving them a death glare until they got the idea, it gets tiring. Why can’t everyone just fuck off and mind their business.”

 

Tobe smirked, “You say that and yet here you are, finding out everything you can about this hero that’s basically impossible to find.” She spun back around, clicking back to the article, “That explains why you got all obsessed about this hero though.”

 

Shinsou crossed his arms, “I’m not obsessed.”

 

Tobe huffed, “Yeah, sure. I’m sure you ‘stumbled’ upon this article and didn’t sit here googling him for hours.” Shinsou clenched his jaw and Tobe laughed, “It’s fine. I mean, he’s cool, and he’s kinda like the kind of hero you’d want to be. It’s fine to have interests. It actually makes sense. That’s why I like midnight.”

 

His face twisted. “Are you telling me that if you become a hero, you’d dress like Midnight?”

 

Tobe snorted then laughed, pressing her hand against her mouth to muffle the sound. “Don’t sound so disgusted, God. I could pull off a look like that if I wanted to.” Shinsou scrunched his nose and Tobe laughed again. “But no, I wouldn’t dress like her, at least I don’t think I would. There’s a lot more to her than her tit’s. You realize that right?” Tobe leveled a look and Shinsou bit his lip avoiding her eyes. “I swear to god Shinsou, she is a hero for a reason.”

 

“Well obviously, but it’s hard to worry about all that other stuff when she walks around like that.”

 

“That’s the point . She’s using the people's perception of her to her advantage, making them think she’s nothing more than whatever they see her as. Plus, ” Tobe added with a smirk, “it’s probably really hard to fight with a boner.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and pushed himself away from Tobe. “You’re disgusting.”

 

She shrugged, “I’m just saying.”

 

“So what, you want to be a hero that tricks people into thinking you’re some idiot.”

 

“No, I want to be a hero that doesn’t give a shit what other people think and do whatever the hell I want.” Shinsou raised an eyebrow. “Within reason obviously . You’re not wrong when you say people are a pain, but I never really thought about it that way because, I just figured I wouldn’t let them determine how I would be a hero. I’d be the kind of hero that doesn’t let that kind of stuff affect me.”

 

“Like how Midnight doesn’t care that people think she’s a whore.”

 

Tobe laughed again, loud and sudden, pressing her mouth into her jacket. “Yeah…” She eventually agreed between giggles, “I guess you could put it like that.”

 

Shinsou shrugged, turning back to the screen. “Well, I could be wrong about this Eraserhead. I really don’t know much about him.”

 

Tobe nodded, “Well you found out a name, and his big debut, that’s better than we had.”

 

“Is that you admitting defeat?”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes. “What defeat? I wasn’t aware this was a competition.”

 

Shinsou smiled, “Sure you were, you were bragging about your ‘ability to find anyone’ too much for this to not be a competition.”

 

Tobe grinned and raised an eyebrow, “Fine. If you want it to be a competition, then fine, but the first one to figure out his quirk is the real winner.”



Chapter Text

Shinsou stumbled back, pulling his arms up in front of his chest, huffing for breath. He stepped to his left, dodging the fist that was headed straight for his stomach. He shook his head, forcing his aching limbs to push him to the side again. He sighed, bringing his arms up to block the next block, and taking another bracing step back. He forced his shoulders back, rolling his neck as he ducked under a swing. 

 

Shinsou slid to the side, throwing a weak kick to her gut. She stepped to the side, grabbing his leg and pulling him forward. He stumbled forward crashing into the ground, rolling around and pushing himself to his feet.

 

He used the table next to him to balance before a swing came to his left and he was forced to jump right, a leg swept his legs out from below him and he collapsed, falling hard on his ass. 

 

“Are you gonna tap?”

 

Shinsou tilted his head, staring at the hand held out above him, before quickly pushing himself to his feet, declining the hand. “Why would I tap?” 

 

Tobe rolled her eyes. “Fine, sure be like that.”

 

Shinsou’s eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”

 

She crossed her arms. “You’re slow, tired, something’s clearly up with your leg, and you’re playing hard defense. You’ve hardly made any moves against me.”

 

“It’s so late, I’m going to be tired, and maybe I just want to practice my defense.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Shinsou.”

 

“Tobe.”

 

“You look literally dead.”

 

He rolled his eyes. “And the dead can’t fight?”

 

“What’s up with your leg?”

 

Shinsou narrowed his eyes, shaking his head. “My leg’s fine. I don’t know what you mean.”

 

Tobe huffed, “You’re favoring your left.”

 

He glanced down, shifting his weight to his center, staring back up at Tobe. He hadn’t noticed he was doing it, his leg was honestly fully healed now, he thought he was back to normal. 

 

“I didn’t realize.”

 

“Sure.”

 

“I can still fight.”

 

“What’s wrong with your leg?”

 

Shinsou dropped his arms. “Nothing. Honestly, it’s fine now, it was just-”

 

“Now? What do you mean now? When was it not fine”

 

Shit.

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw and stared at his feet, rubbing the back of his neck. “Just, you know, after my fight- it hurt for a bit, but now it doesn’t.”

 

Tobe huffed, “Is that why you didn’t want to fight for a while? Your leg was hurting?” He nodded. “Why didn’t you just tell me that?” He shrugged, and Tobe sighed. “I’m calling it quits. You clearly need sleep,”

 

Something sick twisted in his chest, and he took a step forward. “No, I'm fine, I promise.”

 

Tobe in turn took a step back, shuffling towards the door. “No, Shinsou. I need a break too. I know you struggle but actually try to get some sleep tonight, your bags are worse than usual.”

 

She pushed her way out the door, marching up the stairs without another word. Shinsou stared at the closed door, mouth slightly agape before he slammed his jaw closed. 

 

That was fine honestly, could’ve gone worse. Things had definitely been more and more tense with her lately, especially on the days after he had bad injuries. She knew something was up, that much was glaringly obvious, how much she actually knew was up for debate.

 

He wanted to tell her, he wished he could convince himself to do it, but there were just too many reasons not to. 

 

He really wanted to be able to talk to someone about all this, Tobe specifically would have a lot to say about it. The thing was, he was pretty sure most of it would be negative. He didn’t need someone trying to talk him out of it. Well, maybe he did, but he certainly didn’t want someone to talk him out of it. 

 

Though, he had to admit, Tobe would be helpful if she did approve. But even then, if she did approve, she’d probably get really into it, and, as much as he liked Tobe, that seemed like a lot too.

 

And then there was the fact that he really didn’t know what he was doing, no matter how much he liked to pretend he did. If he got caught, or more when, if Tobe knew, she could get dragged down with him, and that was the last thing he wanted.

 

But fuck was keeping this secret worth this?

 

There was a simpler solution, if he just stopped literally all these problems would go away. He could focus on school and sleep at night and actually be a decent friend to Tobe. 

 

He sighed, pressing his hands to his face.

 

God, that would make everything so much simpler.

 

Too bad that plan failed epically.

 

He took a deep breath, grabbing his muzzle off the table and sliding it back on his face. She wasn’t wrong when she said he needed sleep. She wasn’t wrong about anything actually. He was favoring his left, he was slower today, he was exhausted, and he was hiding shit from her.

 

It was hard to be mad at someone who was right all the fucking time .

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Shinsou!”

 

Shinsou lifted his head off the table, blinking up at the figure. Shoma smiled awkwardly before sliding into the chair across from him, setting her bag on the table, and folding her arms over it. Shinsou sat up, dragging his arms off the table and tucking them into his lap, eyeing the girl up and down. She glanced over her shoulder before leaning forward as if she had a secret just for Shinsou to know.

 

“I uh- wanted to apologize. I feel really bad about what happened.” Shinsou just blinked at her and crossed his arms. “You don’t… you don’t have to forgive me, I know my quirk, it’s not fun, so… I just wanted to apologize.”

 

Shinsou still didn’t move, the only acknowledgment that he was hearing her words was the steady eye contact.

 

He understood her though, maybe a little too well. He’s been in that position before, apologizing for using his quirk. It had been a long time, but he still remembered the feeling, and, if he wasn’t muzzled all the goddamn time, he probably would’ve been in a similar spot as her at least once.

 

But still, he didn’t move to accept the apology. 

 

She reached forward, unlatching her bag and pulling something out, setting it down behind her bag, on display for Shinsou.

 

His eyes went wide and he stared at it a moment. It was his cat keychain, somehow miraculously put back together, its head lopsided and messily reattached, but intact. 

 

He snatched it, staring at it in his hand for a moment before shoving it in his pocket and glancing up at Shoma.

 

She shrugged and pulled her bag off the table, setting it next to her.

 

“That’s obviously important to you, you know, since you punched Mitsou for it.” Shinsou snorted and leaned back, crossing his arms. Shoma rapidly tapped her fingers on the table, “I tried to fix it, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

 

Shinsou narrowed his eyes, before turning away and staring out the window.

 

He could say it was fine, let her think she was forgiven and move on, drop the whole situation. 

 

That was honestly the easier option, he’d tell her it's okay and she’d leave and the whole situation would be over.

 

But the more bitter part of him, the part that still remembered how much he’d hated himself after that dream, wanted to let her stir in the choices she’d made.

 

He recognized that bitter part of him, it was the same part of him that he’d felt in the dream. The part that had taken control.

 

Plus, she had gone through all the effort to fix it for him.

 

That’s probably the reason he gave her a little nod and signed thank you. She offered a small smile and leaned back, dropping her hands.

 

“I really am sorry.” She glanced down at her hands, “I’ve been told my quirk can be disorienting… and terrifying.” He didn’t really give a shit about her apology at this point, he just wanted to move on. “And don’t worry, Mitsuo doesn’t know about this, maybe… keep it hidden better?”

 

Shinsou huffed and rolled his eyes, glancing out the window again.

 

“And uh… if you could tell Tobe I’m sorry, that’d be great. She keeps just glaring at me when I’m trying to sleep. It's very unsettling.” Shinsou snorted and smiled under the mask and nodded. “Thanks. I’d tell her myself but…”

 

Shinsou nodded again. Tobe was by far the oldest here, mix that with her reputation, and she wasn’t exactly the most approachable one here.

 

“Yeah… you get it.” Shoma pushed herself back, standing up and swinging her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll uh- see you around, I guess?”

 

He shrugged and leaned forward watching as she stepped backward awkwardly. 

 

“I really am sorry.” She added one last time. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, mouth open like she was planning on saying more, before marching off and slipping into the stairwell.

 

Shinsou stared dumbly at the door, not completely being able to process the conversation he just had, or someone had with him. He never really participated in conversations, people just kinda talked at him and interpreted his shrugs and blank face to mean whatever they wanted it to.

 

He pulled his bag between his legs, slid the cat out of his pocket, and dropped it into his bag, staring at it a moment before zipping up his bag and tucking it between the table and his leg.  

 

That was honestly the last thing he expected to happen today. 

 

~ ~ ~

 

Shinsou stepped down, rubbing his hands together to chase away the lingering frost that clung to the ladder. He unlocked his mask, sliding it off his face and crouching down to place it in its hiding place.

 

“So you are sneaking out.”

 

Shinsou startled, jumping back and spinning around to meet a very distressed Tobe.

 

“If this is the big secret you didn’t want to tell me it’s kinda lame. I don’t care if you sneak out without me.”

 

Shinsou swallowed, taking a deep breath as his racing heart slowed. 

 

“I thought you were mad at me.”

 

Tobe crossed her arms, “I am…” she stared off to the side, “and… I’m not.”

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows furrowed, “What-?”

 

“Look, I don’t understand it either.”

 

“Did you come here just to catch me in the act?”

 

Tobe stared at him, “No- I was just hanging out on the roof.”

 

“It’s freezing.”

 

“I could say the same to you.”

 

“The running will keep me warm.”

 

“Yeah well, I needed to think, and that’s where I do my thinking. I wasn’t expecting to see you slipping out the window. Let me tell you, this is the third time I’ve thought you were robbing the place.”

 

“Well, you got me-” Shinsou lied, throwing his hands up, “I go running sometimes.”

 

Tobe groaned and pressed her fingers into her eyes. “Don’t mock me.”

 

“I’m not-”

 

“Shinsou, I’m not some idiot, and I’m not blind. Running does not explain all the shit you’ve been doing lately.” Shinsou clenched his jaw. “Great I’m glad you go ‘running’ I couldn’t give a shit.”

 

He shrugged, “I didn’t want you to worry.”

 

“Stop!”

 

Shinsou stepped back, startled at the harsh tone. “What?”

 

“Stop fucking lying to me.”

 

Shinsou bit his lip, slowly relaxing, staring down at his hands, “That one wasn’t a lie-”

 

He peaked up at her, watching as her shoulders slowly lost tension. 

 

Tobe huffed, “I came down here to apologize, not to ‘catch you in the act’ or accuse you of anything, I just wanted to fucking apologize, but you’re being an ass.”

 

“What could you possibly have to apologize for?”

 

Tobe sighed, running a hand down her face. “Because I’ve also been an ass,”

 

Shinsou bit his lip, glancing awkwardly between her and the ground. She took a hesitant step back, running her hand through her hair, and squeezing her eyes shut. She let out a slow shaky breath, slowly opening her eyes and staring at her twisting hands. 

 

“I lied.”

 

Shinsou stuttered, heart dropping in his chest at the words. 

 

“What do you mean you lied? About what?”

 

“I’ve kinda lied a lot, not anything serious, little things, things that I told myself you didn’t need to know because, well, I didn’t want you to know. I didn’t want you to worry or blame yourself for things that really weren’t your fault.”

 

Finally, she looked up. “And I know you lied to me,” Shinsou bit his lip, dropping his gaze, “or at least aren’t telling me the whole truth.”

 

“I don’t-”

 

“I bribed Nao.” Shinsou’s eyes shot up. “I convinced him to lie to the cops so you wouldn’t be involved. I don’t actually know if he listened, but I had to at least try.”

 

Shinsou stood there in stunned silence, trying to wrap his mind around her words.

 

“I lied when I said I wasn’t punished that night you hopped on the train to see me. I mean, it wasn’t a bad thing, cause obviously I did something right to get sent back here, but I lied still. I didn’t want you to think it was your fault because It’s not and I don’t regret a single thing about that night.”

 

Tobe crossed her arms and stepped back, dropping her gaze to her feet.

 

“I lied when I said I was fine about Kiyoko and Chie. I really fucking miss them. I miss Kiyoko’s dumb jokes and weirdly absurd knowledge on frogs, and Chie’s stupid little excited voice and how annoyingly good she was at rock paper scissors. I really fucking miss them, and not knowing what’s going on with Chie, especially with what you went through, is literally making me lose my fucking mind.”

 

Tobe went silent and Shinsou swallowed hard. They were both silent, the weight of her words heavy on them both.

 

Eventually, Shinsou was the one to break the silence. “Is that everything?” Tobe shook her head, her hair falling in front of her face. “Why are you telling me this now?”

 

She took a breath, “Because I also lied when I said it was fine if you weren’t ready to tell me.” She squeezed her hand. “It should be, I should be okay with it and trust that if you needed me, you’d come but-” she took a shaky breath. “There’s something going on with you, and you don’t have to tell me everything, and I mean that when I say it, but you have to give me something. You’re stressing me the fuck out, you show up with these injuries and shit excuses and I don’t know what to think.” Shinsou dropped his gaze. “If I’m being completely honest, I thought if I told you these things, you’d feel better about telling me your things.”

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck, nibbling at the inside of his lip. 

 

“I don’t know why you won’t tell me, but I promise you, whatever it is, I’ll be cool about it.”

 

In all the time he’d known Tobe, she’d never been a particularly honest person. She hid behind her true intentions with jokes and insults, almost expertly avoiding the mere mention that she could actually feel things. And yet here she was, spilling her soul because he couldn’t be honest with the one person he should’ve told. 

 

I’m a vigilante.

 

The words hung on the tip of his tongue, desperate to be released, but something was holding him back. Something dark and disgusting and suffocating, something that stole his voice and locked it up any time he even thought about admitting the truth.

 

He closed his eyes and hung his head, a warm tear sliding down his nose and splattering with the ground. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, his voice cracking and shaking. “The last thing I wanted was for you to be hurt by this.”

 

“What does that even mean?”

 

Shinsou took a deep breath.

 

I’m a vigilante.

 

“I got attacked by villains.”


Fuck that was not what he was supposed to say.

 

Both his and Tobes’ eyes went wide and Tobe stepped forward. “What!”

 

Multiple times actually, basically willingly.

 

Shinsou stepped back. Okay, fuck. Recover. Just, say what really happened. “That day I showed up with a black eye, and it was technically only one vilain.”

 

Okay, good-ish start. Now admit there were more.

 

Tobe jumped forward. “YOU WERE ATTACKED!”

 

Most of the time he instigated it. 

 

Shinsou’s heart lurched and he bit his lip. “I mean yeah, but obviously I’m fine now, it all turned out fine.”

 

Maybe this was good, a little test to see how she’d react.

 

“Holy shit! What happened?”

 

Shinsou rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I was just kinda wandering around,” True , “And they were going all crazy so obviously I tried to run.” true again, “and I didn’t get very far.”

 

“What happened, how'd you get away?”

 

  Shinsou shrugged, rubbing his arm nervously. “I uh- I used my quirk.”

 

Tobe’s jaw dropped. “You used your quirk! Like actually?” Shinsou nodded, teeth digging into his cheek. “Damn! I never thought I’d see the day.”

 

Shinsous’ eyebrows shot up. “What?”

 

Tobe shrugged, “It’s pretty obvious you don’t like your quirk, I thought you’d just ignore it and never use it.” Her face fell and she stepped back, “though I guess a villain attack isn’t the best place to try it out for the first time.”

 

Right. Definitely my first time.

 

“Yeah…” Shinsou mumbled awkwardly.

 

“Well are you okay? Did they get arrested or anything?”

 

“Yeah I’m fine, got some nasty scars now, but nothing too serious, and I don’t actually know if he got arrested. I fucking hope so.”

 

“You have scars?” Shinsou’s stomach fell and he nodded. “Can I see?”

 

Shinsou thought about it for a moment before nodding, “Yeah I guess, but not right now. It’s freezing out here.”

 

Tobe nodded mindlessly, glancing from his hidden muzzle to him. “Why didn’t you want to tell me?”

 

He shrugged, biting his lip. Cause I didn’t think of a good lie until now.

 

“I don’t know… it’s kinda embarrassing, and I had it handled.”

 

Tobe raised her eyes. “It’s embarrassing? What the fuck?”

 

Shinsou shrugged again, rubbing his arm. “Well I mean. I got the shit beat out of me, clearly me learning to fight wasn’t very useful.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes. “The fighting is just for fun, it’s not real, and it’s certainly not going to help you much in situations like that.”

 

Well, that wasn’t exactly true, but neither was his reason for not telling her.

 

Shinsou dropped his gaze, trying to suppress his shivering. He could tell her now, she already knew he was attacked, knew he used his quirk, all that was left were the small pieces that gave her the whole story.

 

She was honest with him, he should tell her the truth.

 

He glanced back up at her, chewing at his lip. Now was literally the perfect moment.

 

“You know, if you wanted- I could take you to Chie.”

 

Maybe he had been hanging out with Tobe too much. Deflection was getting easier to do than actually telling the truth.

 

Tobe’s gaze snapped to him and she stepped forward. “You could?”

 

Shinsou shrugged, “Yeah- I know how to get there, it’s not super far.” Tobe’s eyes widened. “And they were on the first floor, and I know what window connects to her room. They probably lock it now, but I could at least show you.”

 

Tobe was quiet for a long moment, staring at Shinsou, face morphed into something unfamiliar.

 

“I could see Chie again?” Tobe whispered.

 

“If you want to.”

 

“Do you think it’s a good idea?”

 

Shinsou tilted his head, “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean- you were there, do you think it would be a good idea?”

 

“The guardians probably won’t notice, I used to sneak out the time and didn’t get caught.”

 

Tobe huffed and clenched her jaw. “Could- Can we go right now?”

 

Shinsou nodded, sliding the box over his muzzle and pulling up his hood. “Yeah, we can go, are you warm enough?”

 

Tobe nodded, stepping forward and following him out of the alley. 

 

They walked in silence for a while, both too concerned about each other’s confessions to make any conversation. Eventually though, Shinsou did pipe up, but not until they were nearly halfway there.

 

“How’d they punish you?”

 

Tobe startled, glancing down at Shinsou, “Who?”

 

“The people at your last house.”

 

“Oh, they uh- mostly just sent me to hang out in my room for the day. It was nothing bad, unless their kid decided to be in there too, but that’s just because she was annoying as hell.”

 

Shinsou nodded, rubbing his arm in an attempt to create heat. That wasn’t so bad, better than the punishments they were used to.

 

“You said those weren’t all your lies…”

 

“Don’t push it. I’m not quite ready for that.”

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw, letting out a deep breath. He watched Tobe’s head drop from out the corner of his eye.

 

“So you explained your black eye and the leg, but what about those other injuries?”

 

He tensed and coughed, heat rising to his cheeks. “Uh… Don’t push it?”

 

Tobe snorted. “Well, if thats how it’s going to be, maybe be a bit more careful when you go out. Maybe turn and run before the villains can spot you.”

 

Shinsou nodded, holding back a small smile. It wasn’t bad advice, he was trying to get his quirk activated before people could see him, it just rarely worked out that way. 

 

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

He did feel a little guilty about not telling her the full story, but it felt good, to tell Tobe even just a piece of his nighttime life. Even if she didn’t know the full story, even if she didn’t really know the whole truth, it felt oddly better, less like the end of the world. The weird suffocating feeling he got every time any conversation even neared the topic of his vigilantism felt oddly muted: still there but not as disastrous.

 

“So, how’d it feel to actually use your quirk?”

 

Shinsou smiled softly. “It was, nice, makes my mouth feel weird, but I actually liked it.”

 

Tobe grinned, “Fucking told you.” 

 

He rolled his eyes, “Yeah yeah. You’re always right about everything.”

 

“Why are you saying that like I’m actually not? I am always right.”

 

Shinsou rounded the corner, eyes widening at the state of the street.

 

“Oh shit-” Shinsou’s jaw dropped and his breath caught in his throat.

 

“Holy shit, the whole streets almost destroyed”

 

Shinsou numbly stepped forward, eyes glazing over charred buildings and settling on what was Chies room.

 

The building was barely standing, sunken and black and barely recognizable or distinguishable from the other ash-ridden buildings around it. Shinsou stepped forward, stopping in front of the caution tape where the window used to be.

 

“That’s supposed to be it.”

 

Tobe’s stepped forward, planting herself next to Shinsou, peering into the window. Her face twisted and fell, before eventually, she dropped her head, shoving her hands in her pockets and turning around, heading back the way they came.

 

Shinsou chased after, “I’m sorry- I- it was.”

 

“It’s fine.” She mumbled, “You couldn’t have known.”

 

“Maybe we could check her file. They might know-”

 

“Shinsou it’s fine. I don’t think I want to know anymore.”

 

Shinsou grabbed her sleeve, willing her to slow down. “You don’t even want to try?”

 

“I did. Now I feel worse.”

 

“You’re just gonna give up?”

 

“I’m tired, physically and mentally, I don’t want to deal with this tonight.”

 

“Okay, but what about-”

 

Tobe stopped abruptly, spun around, and Shinsou jumped, stoping just as Tobe ripped her arm from his grasp. “Drop it Shinsou.” Shinsou stared her in the eyes, begging her to be open with him for once, before she dropped her gaze, turning around and marching back to the school.

Chapter Text

The ground was wet, lingering piles of unmelted snow popping up along the edges of alleys and buildings. Shinsou’s feet hit the ground and he stepped forward cautiously, careful not to step on any leftover snow or packed ice.  The frigid air froze his fingers and he buried them inside his jacket. He was really considering calling these nights off, waiting until at least the end of the month to get back into it.

 

It wasn’t likely but it might end up happening, especially if he doesn’t get clothes that were warmer. Even the combination of his long sleeve and thick jacket was becoming not enough, not to mention how sore his hands would get when he would occasionally find a fight.

 

He wrapped his arms around himself, doing his best to keep any warmth. A strong wind sent a shiver down his spine, and he hugged himself tighter, hiding his arms inside his sleeves. The cold was annoying but manageable, but the cold wind blowing him around was absolutely horrendous.

 

If he hadn’t already started walking, he probably would’ve called it quits and turned around. It was fucking cold, why couldn’t the world just heat up already?

 

He made his way back to the active part of town, a place he’d been sort of unintentionally patrolling a lot lately. It was easily the most active place on the weekends, at least that he could find, and It made going out in the cold at least a little worth it.

 

He never did end up going to the convenience store again, it was too risky, he refused to even go down that street. Hell, staying in the area was probably not the best idea, but it was the only place he seemed to be able to find crimes.

 

He made his way towards the nightclub, settling himself on his preferred building some ways down the street, huddling next to a metal box that produced some kind of heat. It wasn’t much, but it kept him able to sit and watch.

 

It was actually a really good spot. It was one of the taller buildings in the area, close to the corner of the street. He could see a lot from his position, and has seen a lot, a lot of fumbling drunks trying to pull something in an alley, or people trying to get away with selling illegal shit.

 

He kept an eye on the nightclub, keeping a careful watch on different drunks stumbling out. 

 

He hated this kind of patrolling, even if it was yielding results. It felt less like he was actually doing something, more like he was just lounging around. Still, this is what he’d have to do until it warmed up.

 

He hadn’t thought much about it at first, he’d been too lost in his thoughts, but he realized that he hadn’t actually seen anyone leave the nightclub in a little while. That itself didn’t necessarily mean anything, but combining that with the fact that the lights seemed to have shut down made Shinsou a little suspicious. 

 

He stepped towards the edge, narrowing his eyes, examining the building better. He couldn’t see much, except for the fact that the bouncer that usually stood outside was oddly absent. 

 

He dropped down from the roof,  immediately shivering, longing for the warmth again. He made his way down the side of the building, peering around the corner. He made his way across the street, hands tucked into his hoodie pocket and his head pointed down. He made his way down the street, alternating between slipping through back alleys and climbing buildings, jumping across the gaps of buildings that didn’t have alleys behind them.

 

If something was going on, then the enemy seeing him coming would spoil his surprise.

 

And if something wasn’t going on, then a kid walking up to a nightclub might be an even bigger issue.

 

He stopped on the building next to it, peering over the edge as little as he could. The area was suspiciously quiet, no music blasting, no pounding of anything. He dropped silently into the alleyway, peering around the corner, listening for any sign of trouble.

 

The street was oddly empty too, not only was no one leaving the building, no one was even attempting to enter it.

 

He slid around the corner, peering into the window. Almost everyone was on their knees, stiff as a statue and unmoving, the only people who weren’t were three people standing above everyone and one guy behind the bar. His eyes went wide and he pulled his head back, pressing himself against the wall. His heart pounded in his chest and he held his breath. He knew that kind of glassy-eyed look, that kind of stiff behavior. 

 

Of course he’d run into a villain with a mind control quirk, the universe just had to remind him what his quirk was meant for.

 

He slid back around the corner, cowering in the alley. Someone in that ground clearly had some sort of mind control quirk that was more powerful than his own. Being able to subdue that many people… he needed to think this through.

 

He knew mind control quirks, or at least he knew one. He needed to figure out the activation requirement or even just figure out which one they were. If he could take them out first, he wouldn’t have any issues.

 

He wandered around the building, searching for an alternative entrance where they might not find him. He didn’t quite see anything, and there was no direct access to the roof that he could see. He wrapped his way back around to his starting point, peering into the window again. 

 

No one seemed to notice him, they all seemed to be distracted by whatever it was they were doing. There was one person standing in the center of them all, a man with some kind of lizard mutation quirk. He seemed to be talking to the bartender, occasionally turning or making threatening moves towards the hostages.

 

The other two were seemingly uninterested in the commotion, one wandering from person to person, raiding their pockets and purses, shoving random things into their bag. The third was standing off to the side, arms crossed and eyes closed, leaning heavily against the wall.

 

He pulled his head away from the window, slipping back into the alley. He was pretty sure the man in the corner was the one keeping all these people subdued. Even if his quirk was strong enough, keeping that many consciousnesses under your control had to be painful, or require a lot of focus, or both. 

 

He scoured the ground for anything long and hard like a pipe, or something he could use to break the window. He needed to get in there, and going through the front door was obviously not the right choice. He shuffled up and down the alley, reluctantly pushing aside overflowing trash bags and other stray items. He caught sight of a flashlight that had rolled under the dumpster. He pulled it out rolling it in his hand a few times before gripping it in hand, ready to smash.

 

He shuffled around the building again, planting himself right outside the window the man was closest to. He took a deep breath, preparing himself, before lifting the light as high as he could and smashing it into the window.

 

Glass shattered and 4 heads spun his direction. 

 

“This doesn’t look much like a party.”

 

“What the-”

 

Shinsou activated his quirk, telling the man to use his quirk on the brainwasher. Disks of lights shot towards the alleged brainwasher and the man’s eyes went wide, stepping back and letting the disks hit the wall. Shinsou felt his connection slip, and the man went from slack to stiff.

 

He slid the flashlight into his pocket and planted his foot on the cleanest part of the frame, jumping through the broken window and tackling the man to the ground. He jostled some people on the way down, aiming a punch right for the man's nose. People around him shot up, some scrambling for the door and others for the window he’d destroyed. 

 

Sticky heat exploded to his left and he rolled to the side. He glanced up, watching as the fire died, revealing the mouth of the man with the lizard mutation, or apparently, dragon mutation. 

 

Shinsou jumped towards him next, darting to the side and cowering behind a table when more flames shot out of his mouth. 

 

Shinsou glanced around at the people still in the room. Apparently, his assault of the man he assumed was the one controlling them wasn’t enough to completely free everyone, it didn’t even seem enough to free half of them. 

 

“Is it just me or is it getting hot in here?”

 

Another wave of flames shot at him and the corners of the table caught on fire, he jumped forward, rolling to the side and taking cover behind a bigger table. This was incredibly dangerous, not just for him, but for the other mindless hostages that couldn’t run.

 

Okay, new problem. He needed to stop the dragon.

 

“Honestly, I think this is preferable to the cold outside.”

 

Suddenly, he was crashing into the ground, cheek hitting the floor hard. Something heavy pressed against the base of his back and he groaned.

 

“What the hell?”

 

“Mits, get him under control.”

 

“I’m trying, it's not working.” 

 

Panic shot through his heart, “Trying what? What’re you trying to do?”

 

“Shut up,”

 

“Mitsuo!”

 

Shinsou’s eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. He couldn’t feel it, his quirk- there was no connection.

 

There was a crash and more people rushed out, someone jostled the man on top of him and Shinsou slipped out from under him, jumping up and pushing him down. 

 

“You’re the one making the people like this aren't you?”

 

The man narrowed his eyes and kicked up at Shinsou. He stumbled back, crashing hard into a hostage, rolling over when the man attempted to tackle him again. He pushed himself to his feet, kicking the man in the side and punching him in the face. 

 

More people scattered away, and more heat prickled his skin. He jumped to the side, pulling someone down away from the fire.

 

Right, the fire, the dragon.

 

He slid to the side, cowering behind the bar.

 

“Hey scales, I’d appreciate it if you stopped trying to burn this place down.”

 

“Mitsuo, why is he still conscious?”

 

Shinsou huffed, “Built different I guess-”

 

Respond to ME .

 

He peeked over the bar before ducking down immediately when more fire came his way. Smoke slowly filled the room, and the bar around him slowly grew warmer. 

 

“Look at what you’ve done. You’re burning the place down.”

 

One of them let out a wheezy cough, “We should go.”

 

“No! We don’t have what we came here for.”

 

Another cough, “You lit this place up, if we stay we’ll die.”

 

“If we leave without it we’ll die.”

 

“I have a solution.” Shinsou pitched in, jumping over the bar and tackling the dragon man. “How about you let everyone go?”

 

Shinsou was tossed off far too easily, crashing into a wall and knocking it down. He groaned, pushing himself up, struggling to get some air.

 

“Why are you not dead yet?”

 

Shinsou sighed, immediately pulling on his quirk and putting him to sleep.

 

One to go.

 

He pushed himself to his feet, eyes catching the other brainwasher.

 

“Let the people go.”

 

He smirked, orange fire flashing behind him, “Why would I do that?”

 

Shinsou frowned, charging at the man, the man stepped to the side and Shinsou planted a leg and pivoted, twisting and throwing a kick.

 

He was going to have to stop this man without his quirk, something he had never really done before. Hitting him seemed to be working a little, after every kick or punch that landed, a few more people regained their minds and rushed out the building.

 

The man pushed him back and he crashed through the wall, tumbling out into the cold. He gasped for breath, letting his lungs fill with cleaner air before he pushed himself up.

 

Something hit his chest and he wheezed, pushing against the weight. He needed to think, he needed a moment to think this through. Time wasn’t on his side.

 

He didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

 

How did heroes stop villains?

 

His cheek hit the ground and he pushed himself up again. He ducked and he weaved, going on the defensive until he could figure this out.

 

Heroes usually had some way to restrain them, or police officers behind them that could. All Might typically punched the daylights out of them, but then again, he did usually fight bigger villains. 

 

Shinsou didn’t have anything to restrain him with, maybe he should’ve thought about this beforehand and brought something with him.

 

He climbed to his feet, pulling the flashlight out of his pocket and swinging it as hard as he could. It made contact and the man stumbled back, clutching his face. He jumped forward, tackling him down and throwing a hard punch to his nose. 

 

The man went limp and Shinsou panicked, pressing his hand to his neck, checking desperately for a pulse. His pulse was easy to find, it was pounding hard and fast. Shinsou sighed, glancing back up at the flaming building. 

 

People were filtering out much faster now, slipping their way through the window, the hole he’d made and the now open door. A blow hit him from behind and he rolled forward, clutching his arm. He shot up just in time to see a bright disk flying towards him and he ducked, rolling to the side when two more came. 

 

“Seriously? Can I have a break for two seconds?”

 

More disks flew towards him, and he jumped to the side, not being able to avoid a hit to the side. He groaned, stumbling back, taking two more disks to the chest.

 

He glanced up, finally meeting his assailant's eyes. It was the criminal who'd been digging through people's pockets, the one who was knocked down by his buddy, who he had nearly completely forgotten about.

 

He rolled to the side, dodging another disk before jumping forward, moving to tackle the man.

 

A strong frigid wind sent a shiver down his spine and he pressed the man to the ground, his hood flying back. The man’s eyes went wide and Shinsou threw a punch at his face, letting himself be easily thrown back and hastily pulling his hood back up.

 

"You're a kid?"

 

No, no… he was doing so well. No one had seen his face in so long.

 

The only other person who had seen his face was that woman, the one he’d taken down his first night. He’d almost forgotten about her, he honestly didn’t care about that too much when it happened with her. He was so stressed about so many other things back then, someone recognizing him wasn't as big of a deal to him as it should’ve been.

 

But now- he’d done so much, he’d spent so much time doing this now. In hindsight, it wasn’t even that long, barely even 3 months, but he was trying to make this last, not end it before it even started.

 

Shinsou stood there dumbly, mind racing through his options. 

 

There was nothing he could do, not really. He saw his face, he knew what he looked like, up close. He knew he was some stupid kid who was way in over his head.

 

His biggest secret, one he hadn’t even been able to tell his best friend, the only person who had ever been there for him, was lying in the hands of some criminal who probably hated him.

 

He could let him go…

 

No.

 

No, he couldn’t. That was hardly any better. He’d still know, he’d still be able to tell people, and he’d just be loose on the streets, not to mention it wasn’t a very heroic thing to do.

 

Three disks shot in his direction and he rolled to the side ducking below them all. 

 

“I guess I can’t convince you to keep whatever you saw a secret?”

 

A disk hit him straight in the gut and he stumbled back groaning. 

 

“What the fuck do you think you’re getting into?”

 

Shinsou stared at the man for a moment, tugging on his quirk and glancing out at the sea of people, darting out of the burning building.

 

He pushed away his concerns for now, darting back towards the flaming building and smashing the other window, knocking out the small pieces of glass clinging to the frame.

 

He slid into the building, pulling his arm over his face, shielding his eyes from the smoke and heat. He tried to scan the building for anyone that hadn't been freed or had been too injured to leave but his watery eyes and thick smoke made it impossible to see more than five inches in front of his face.

 

He staggered forward, blinking rapidly and coughing. He fell forward, tripping over a lump on the ground. He groaned, coughing and slowly pushing himself up. He flipped around, making sense of what he could’ve tripped over, to see a man who was badly burned passed out.

 

Shinsou immediately got to work, pushing all bits of wood and debris off of him, sliding his arms under the man's armpits, lifting him up as far as he could, and sliding him towards the exit.

 

He slid him out the door and across the street, setting him carefully down and collapsing next to him, gasping for clean, cold, pure air.

 

He wanted to take his hood off so much now, let the cold hit him at full force. He blinked the spinning world steady and caught sight of the villain he had under his control still, stiff, unmoving, and still patiently waiting for a command.

 

Shinsou swallowed hard, stinging his burning throat a bit. He pulled himself to his feet leaning against the wall for support and stepped forward till he was face to face with the man again.

 

"How do I make you keep my secret?"

 

He used his quirk for the question, it was stupid and ineffective and so obviously brought on by desperation. He didn't know what else to do. The more he became familiar with the in and outs of his quirk, the more frustrated he became with its limitations.

 

There was no response obviously, his quirk didn't work like that.

 

"Don't tell anyone the things you know about me."

 

Another stupid thing about his quirk: he couldn't tell if a command worked or not. A success and a failure felt the same on his tongue.

 

"Forget you ever saw me."

 

Maybe if he threw out enough commands, one would stick.

 

"Pretend this never happened."

 

"Keep this a secret."

 

Sirens echoed in the distance, the all too familiar sickening sound that meant it was time for him to leave. His gut twisted and lurched, and he bit his lip.

 

He took a step back, eyes not leaving the man who held his future in his hands.

 

"Please, please , don't tell the police about me."

 

Teeth dug unto flesh and he swallowed hard, glancing back at the destroyed building before turning around and running.

 

"Sleep."

 

~ ~ ~

 

Despite the fact that he made it back earlier than usual, cleaned himself up faster than normal, and was in bed at, what was for him, a reasonable time, he didn't end up getting a wink of sleep.

 

He simply couldn't, didn't really want to either. He needed to stop, take a breather from the intense fight he'd just had, but he wanted to move, to do something the handle this stupid situation he'd gotten himself into.

 

He knew logically he'd done all he could do already, going back would only cause more issues and be riskier than was worth. Really, he should trust that some part of his quirk managed to latch on and do something.

 

But that meant he was relying on his quirk. His evil, untrustworthy, villain’s quirk.

 

And that was fucking stressful.

 

Despite his sleep deprivation, he was jittery all day, unable to keep still or stay focused on anything for more than 5 seconds. He found himself unnecessarily glancing out the windows fully expecting to see red and blue lights settling outside, ready and waiting to corner him. Class itched by slower than it ever had before, and it was over before he knew it. 

 

He rushed down to the library as soon as class got dismissed, sliding in front of the computer and activating incognito mode. 

 

He knew police investigations were often insanely secret and even if they were able to find out anything, the public wouldn't find out about it, but with a semi-public nightclub burned down after a villain attack, he hoped for some kind of news. 

 

He wasn't necessarily wrong, a few news reports and articles had already popped up, talking about the fire. Only a few of them talked about it being a villain attack, and from what he could find, not one mentioned him. The focus seemed to be on the villains, the cause of the fire, and the victims, nothing about some young purple-haired vigilante with a quirk eerily similar to one of the villains.

 

It was a decent start, one that did little to ease his nerves.

 

He wasn't worried about the public knowing, he was worried about the police, about what they knew, about how it’d affect him.

 

He did try to focus a bit on his homework, but he couldn’t stop himself from refreshing the page at least once an hour, desperately checking in on the progress. Only two new things popped up, and once again, it was nothing about him. One was about how one of the burn victims would end up more or less fully recovering, and one was focused on the villains, talking about each of them and their quirks.

 

Safe to say nothing great was said about the mind controller.

 

He’d calmed down a bit by dinner, not necessarily because he felt more at ease, but because he’d nearly accepted it at that point. People knew what was happening, it was public knowledge, it was inevitable that the criminal would tell them what he knew.

 

He’d just have to make his peace with that.

 

He’d run, without a doubt he’d run. If given the chance, he’d rather live on the streets than ever find out what happened to kids like him in jail. He would probably be able to figure it out, he was resourceful. Maybe, if they didn’t come by today, he could sneak into the kitchen tonight and store some food. Tobe probably knew where the non-perishables were.

 

Oh God, Tobe. 

 

He should probably tell her, warn her. She was smart, and Senjo taught her a lot. She might have solid advice about this whole thing.

 

What if running was the wrong choice though? If they caught him, maybe he should go to prison. Going on the run was something criminals and villains did. If Shinsou wanted to truly believe he wasn’t a villain, then he shouldn’t have to run.

 

God, if only he’d fixed his hoodie when he had the chance.

 

The thing was, he’d been sort of thinking about it passively for the last month. He knew it was an issue, he just didn’t expect it to escalate to this bad this quickly. Other than finding a way to tie his hood around the front of his face, there wasn’t much of a way to make it stay up, which meant his only options were wearing something underneath that also hid his identity. With that being the case, his only three options were some sort of glasses or goggles, some kind of mask, or tying his drawstrings around his head in some way.

 

Goggles were his preferred option, but he had no idea where he would even get a pair. He had been keeping his eyes out for discarded or lost items when he went out, but even then, he wasn’t finding anything.

 

The mask wasn’t a bad idea. It would be easier for him to get a hold of that, or even make one of his own. To anyone else, this would probably be the ideal option for the situation he was in.

 

But he’d rather duct tape the edge of his hood to his face before he willingly strapped a mask to his face.

 

He actually did try the drawstring idea once. It was windy and he was desperate. Not only was it extremely uncomfortable, but it also annoyed him to no end. 

 

And other than those, he really couldn’t think of any other option. Hoods just weren’t reliable. 

 

In a better situation, he could prepare and build his outfit the way he wanted. He’d probably stick with a hood, but a deeper one that hid his face better and wouldn’t fly off. If he had access to it, he thinks he’d really like goggles or glasses of some kind, not ones that actually darkened the world, but just to shield his eyes and in general, look cooler. He’d probably keep his long sleeves, maybe pull them in a bit tighter, and add some actual padding. Something decked out with lots of pockets or a belt that had little hidden weapons or supplies that would come in useful for any situation. Some proper running shoes would be great, and combat boots would be even better. God, what he wouldn’t do for a decent pair of shoes.

 

Fantasizing about his ideal outfit wouldn’t help him now though. What he needed right now was to get things that worked and kept him going.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Shinsou lounged back in the chair, propping up his feet on the windowsill, watching as small white flakes floated past the window. It didn’t snow often or very much, and Shinsou wasn’t that big of a fan of it, but he had to admit, it was quite relaxing, swaddled in Tobes’ old oversized hoodie, staring out at a sleeping world slowly becoming muted by snow.

 

He glanced at the computers from the corner of his eye, willing himself not to move, not to freak out more. There wouldn’t be any new information that he hadn’t found this afternoon.

 

He turned his attention back to the window. He wasn’t a fan of the cold, something about the way it seeped into your bones and impaired every function made him sick to the stomach, but he had to admit it was fascinating.

 

Hopefully, he’d be able to find somewhere to survive the winter.

 

Or maybe he’d be able to still watch the snow from his cell.

 

His heart raced in his chest. He’d be fine- even if the man did tell them what he looked like, it couldn’t be enough to find him right? Sure purple-haired kids aren't that common and he hasn’t been wandering that far to find crimes, but he had to at least have a little bit of time.

 

He knew getting caught was not only a possibility but almost a guarantee. He was fine with whatever would change about the way he lived now because of the choices he made. He really was fine with it… He just kinda hoped that it wouldn’t have happened within 3 months of him starting.

 

Kinda sucked, he felt like he was finally getting good at this thing.

 

Serves him right honestly. He was an idiot for thinking he was any better than this.  

 

Tobe sighed, tapping the leg of the seat from her position under it.

 

“Is this all you want to do?” Shinsou snorted, glancing down at her. Her head was resting in the crook of her elbow, her hair a mess around her. “I mean staring out into space is fun and all, I just thought we’d be done by now.

 

He could honestly deal with all the fallout from this, but without a doubt, the thing he’d miss most about everything would be Tobe, not that the bar was super high.

 

“It’s relaxing.”

 

She sarcastically rolled her eyes, “Oh sure, I’m feelin real relaxed right now.”

 

“What do you want to do?”

 

“Tobe shrugged. Play a game, or… well I mean that’s really our only option, unless you’re feeling up to fight.”

 

He shook his head, turning back to stare out the window. “What game?”

 

Tobe pushed herself out from under the chair, rolling onto her stomach. “I’m grabbing some cards, we’re gonna play war.”

 

Shinsou snorted, “Of course you’d pick a luck game.”

 

Tobe spun around shaking a deck of cards at him, “Are you implying I’d fail at a skill game?”

 

“Not implying.”

 

Tobe glared at him, tossing the cards at his head. “Just for that, you’re dealing.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes but slid out of his seat, propping himself up against the wall and distributing the cards between them.

 

“If you lose you can’t blame my dealing skills.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, sitting down across from him. “But that’d be the only explanation for why I lost.”

 

“Maybe you’re simply bad.”

 

Tobe swiped her stack, “Or… you’re an idiot who doesn’t know how to properly deal.”

 

“Sure, but if you win, then that’s all you, right?”

 

Tobe smirked, “Obviously.”

 

He probably wouldn't do too bad on the streets though. If he'd learned anything, it was that his quirk would be more than useful. 

 

The troublesome mind control villain he'd ran into proved that much.

 

"I thought we were done staring into space."

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows shot up and he glanced down to the card Tobe had placed, setting his own down. He sighed, sliding the stack of cards she'd won towards her. 

 

"See my dealings not shit."

 

"You good?" Shinsou glanced at her. "You've been really weird lately, and I know you being weird has kinda become the norm but, it's, I don't know, different somehow."

 

"Yeah, I don't know. My brain's just been weird lately."

 

That and the universe is determined to remind him what role he’s really meant to play. 

 

"Weird how?"

 

He shrugged, placing another card down, "It's doing stuff it hasn't done in a while."

 

"Like?"

 

"You know, the 'I'm a terrible person destined to fail' thing."

 

Tobe narrowed her eyes. “You still on this whole villain thing?” Shinsou bit his lip but otherwise didn’t move, “How many times do I have to tell you, you’re not going to be a villain. How many times do I have to say it before it sinks in.”

 

Shinsou snorted, placing a card down, “A few thousand more.”

 

“For fucks sake Shinsou. You just gotta ignore what all the idiots in the world say. I’ll yell out all the voices that say otherwise.”

 

He nodded in agreement, “You are definitely louder than them.”

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow, “Then why hasn’t it sunk in yet.”

 

Shinsou shrugged, “It’s not as simple as that. You’re a lot louder than them, but there’s a lot more of them, constantly whispering in my ear, telling me I’m going to fail.”

 

“You don’t trust my word more than theirs?”

 

“I do.” Shinsou confirmed, “It’s just somewhere along the line, my voice joined them. And I know exactly how to hit myself where it hurts.”

 

Tobe’s eyebrows shot up, “What does that mean?”

 

He shrugged, “It’s like, I know everything I do, and I’m hyper aware of how the things I do will lead to it.”

 

She shook her head. “That didn’t clear it up at all.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and sighed. “It doesn’t matter really, just that I’m better at insulting myself than anyone else.”Tobe stared at him for a long moment before nodding awkwardly. “And I've been thinking a lot lately, more than usual, about how perfect my quirk is for villainy. It’s just…” Shinsou sighed, glancing up at Tobe, “a lot of people like me do become villains, it’s a little worrying.”

 

Tobe sighed, tilting her head. “But you’re not them. If you- ”

 

“Trust me,” He interrupted, “It’s been getting better, your loud ass has been working, today’s just an off day.”

 

Tobe nodded, eyeing him for a moment before setting down a card, “Well if you ever need a reminder, I’m here.” 

 

Shinsou bit the corner of his mouth and nodded, suppressing a laugh. “I’ll be sure to remember that,”

 

Tobe smiled softly, laying down another card, “What?”

 

“Nothing,” Shinsou shrugged, “It’s just weird, you go from insulting me as much as possible to saying shit like that.”

 

“Ehh,” She shrugged, “they mean the same thing.”

 

“In what world-”

 

Tobe flipped a card down, "Oops. Looks like those troops are mine."

 

Chapter Text

Shinsou kept his head down as he dropped the half-finished assignment onto the pile, not willing to challenge her reaction. He pushed his way out of the classroom, making his way straight for the second floor.

 

Kids much younger than him filtered through the hallway, He pressed himself against the wall, letting them shuffle by him.

 

“Shinsou?”

 

His gaze snapped up, and he offered an awkward wave, stepping forward as he was beckoned into the room.

 

“Thinking about retaking one 3rd grade?”

 

Shinsou snorted. He wished, 3rd grade was so much better than the bullshit he was dealing with now.

 

He flipped his notebook over, revealing his writing. ‘I was wondering if you had some scissors I could borrow.’

 

Her eyebrows shot up and she flashed a broad smile. “You know I do. Do you have what you need to cut?” Shinsou nodded, flipping his book towards him and scribbling in it again.

 

‘It’s not for school.’

 

She waved her hand dismissively, “Oh that’s fine. I don’t care.” She shuffled towards her desk, pulling out a nice pair of scissors. “Here, you can sit at any desk you want.”

 

He nodded, carefully grabbing the scissors before bowing and shuffling to the back corner. He heard her chuckle a bit, and Shinsou glanced up at her worried.

 

“Oh, trust me, I’m not laughing at you. I just noticed that students tend to sit in the same seat even years after I haven’t had them, and you did it without hesitation. Just interested me.”

 

Shinsou peered down at the desk he’d chosen, suddenly self-conscious of the simple decision. 

 

He moved slowly, pulling his bag to his chest and sliding into the seat. He watched out of the corner of his vision as she slid behind her desk, picking up her pen and returning to work. He slowly pulled out an old black shirt of his, laying it awkwardly on his lap, trying to not raise any suspicion. He shifted the shirt around, twisting the sleeve and, after peeking at her again, making a cut just under the armpit.

 

It didn’t take too long to cut. It definitely got frustrating at certain places, specifically when the scissors refused to do their only job, but he got it done, cutting a line down the back and flattening it into a rectangle. He turned the shirt around, carefully and precisely snipping off the bottom hem and snipping it nearly in half.

 

He shoved the shirt and the cut fabric back into his bag, zipping it up carefully and shuffling to the front, handing back the scissors.

 

“Oh! Thank you, did the scissors work okay?” Shinsou nodded and she smiled. “I would’ve offered you fabric scissors, but I don’t have any of those around here, but the shirt looked thin enough for these to do the job.”

 

Shinsou tensed, awkwardly waiting for the acceptable time to leave.

 

He nodded awkwardly, falling into a shallow bow before taking a step back. He’d stupidly placed his notebook in his bag. You’d think after all this time, he’d be used to carrying that thing around just to communicate.

 

“Well, you have fun finishing whatever that is. Let me know if you need anything else, okay?”

 

Shinsou nodded firmly, taking another awkward step back before turning to the door. He made his way back up the stairs, setting his bag down, slightly sliding it under his bed, before turning back around, making his way straight to the library.

 

He slid into the seat across from Tobe, dropping his bag and glancing down at her worksheet of complicated math. He took a deep breath, willing his hands to stop shaking so he could ask his question.

 

‘Can I ask you a big favor?’

 

Tobe lifted her head, cheek glued to her fist, easily accepting the distraction from her homework. “Sure?”

 

‘You don’t have to accept, if you’re not 100% sure you’re okay with it.”

 

“You haven’t even told me what the favor is yet.”

 

Shinsou sighed, clenching his jaw, swallowing the hot anxiety gathering in his chest. ‘I was wondering if you could help me test something.’

 

“Yeah?” Tobe asked, “Test what?”

 

‘Something with my quirk.’

 

Tobe’s head shot up and her hand fell, crashing into the table with a loud bang. “You want-” His eyes went wide and he shook his head, glancing over at the librarian. Tobe noticed his panic and she quieted down, settling back into her seat.

 

‘You want help with your quirk?’ Shinsou nodded slightly and Tobe’s smile went wide. ‘Of course I’ll help you! What-’

 

Shinsou interrupted her, ‘You might want to wait to hear what it is.’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, ‘I’m like 90% sure I’ll be down, but what is it?’

 

Shinsou fiddled with the lock behind his neck, ‘I want to know If I can affect people even after my brainwashing is off.’

 

Tobe’s eyes and smile went impossibly wider. ‘Of course I’ll help, that sounds so cool. Imagine if you can! You’d be like, really powerful!’ Shinsou tilted his head, ‘That’s actually really smart. What made you wanna try this out?’

 

Shinsou shrugged, ‘You said I shouldn’t be afraid of my quirk, I was thinking about it and I realized, I don’t know much about how it works so…’

 

‘Is there anything else you wanted to test? I’m 100% down to help with anything.’

 

Shinsou’s eyes went wide. That had to be a joke right? It didn’t seem like it. Shinsou was very familiar with Tobe’s jokes and this did not seem like something she’d joke about.

 

‘Are you being serious?’

 

‘Yeah of course. Whatever you need.’

 

Shinsou nodded, something sick still pooling in his chest. ‘We’ll meet up tonight then? In the library?’

 

Tobe nodded, ‘Yeah! We can talk about all the details there.’

 

‘If you change your mind-’

 

‘I won’t, but if I was going to, I’d tell you.’

 

Shinsou nodded, numbly pushing himself up and tucking the chair back in. ‘I’ll stop distracting you from your homework.’

 

“Nooooo,” She groaned, glancing down at her homework, ‘Please keep distracting, this is unbearable. I don’t even know what it wants from me.’

 

Shinsou huffed, ‘I’m sure you’ll figure it out somehow.’

 

Tobe rolled her eyes. “I doubt that.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

This would be the third night in a row that Shinsou would be getting less sleep than he probably should and it was really starting to affect him. 

 

These were things that needed to be done though, things that were much more important than sleep.

 

He had decided that since he was in a bit of a difficult situation, he could at least try to make a mask even despite his earlier complaints. He’d be in full control of it obviously, and he could take it off when he wanted, and it would be fabric, not anything like the muzzle he’s used to. 

 

He snuck down to the library much earlier than he usually would, determined to get this thing done before Tobe came down. He picked the door to the library open with ease, pushing the door open and settling next to the librarians’ desk. He laid out the fabric, pressing it against his face, settling it just over his nose. It fit fairly well, if not a little big. He picked up the hem he cut off, pinching one end of it on the fabric and wrapping it over his ears and around his head.

 

He made sure to hold it so it was loose enough to not make him claustrophobic but tight enough that it wouldn’t be its own issue. He pulled the stapler off the librarian's desk, letting the fabric fall off his face. He slipped the stapler over the pinch point, stapling the two pieces together and wrapping it back around his head, and stapling the other point. 

 

He set the stapler down, letting the fabric hang on his face by itself for a moment.

 

It wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be, the fact that the bottom hung loose so that he could move his jaw with no resistance was a big help. The fabric was thin and breathable, he didn’t feel like he was being suffocated but it.

 

He could at the very least try this out for a bit.

 

It wasn’t perfect, his hood could, and likely would, still fall off occasionally revealing his wild hair, but at least the mask might hide the fact that he was a kid. He could linger on the idea of what to do with his hood for a bit while longer, hopefully, something would come to him.

 

He pulled the mask off his head, slipping it over his hair, shoving it into his pocket, and sat in front of the computer, loading it up again. He’d been so busy working to recover from everything, that he never had the opportunity to check the articles from today.

 

There were a few more reports about the fire and the damage it caused, but other than that, there was really nothing worth stressing about.

 

Interestingly, he stumbled upon an article that theorized the nightclub fire was connected somehow to a recent rise in building fires in the area. It was sort of an interesting read, but it had a conclusion Shinsou heavily disagreed with. To be fair, he had a bit of insider knowledge, knowledge that contradicted some of the points. 

 

Tobe slid in the room and Shinsou hastily minimized the tab, gut suddenly twisting at the sight of her. 

 

“Wow, you got here early,”

 

Shinsou nodded, slipping out of the seat and standing up to greet Tobe. “Yeah, I really couldn’t sleep.”

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow, “Your eyebags say otherwise.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, “I never said I wasn’t exhausted.”

 

Tobe frowned a bit before leaning against the wall. “So, how’re we going to do this?”

 

Shinsou took a deep breath, taking a careful step forward. “You’re absolutely sure about this right? You know what’ll really happen right?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “I mean, I have an idea, but if it makes you feel better, you can tell me more.”

 

Shinsou nodded, “Okay, well, my quirk is response based, and once I activate it, I’ll be in charge of your actions.”

 

“Alright…”

 

Shinsou stared at Tobe, “ Alright ? Is that all you have to say about this?”

 

She shrugged, “What’re you gonna do?”

 

Shinsou bit his lip, “Well- I wanted to test a few different things, if you were okay with that. We could work our way up, or just, start with what I think might work first and do the other stuff last.”

 

“Whatever you want, Shinsou.”

 

He sighed, “You’re way too calm about this.”

 

“I trust you, is that so crazy for you to wrap your mind around? I trust you and I know if there was any real risk, this wouldn’t be a thing you even asked of me.” Shinsou stared at his feet, “Plus, you’ve had more control of your quirk than I’ve ever had with mine.”

 

“But this is experimenting. I could do things that can’t be undone, I could mess up something. This is your mind we’re talking about.”

 

Tobe shrugged, “So start small, mess up small things and make sure you can fix them.”

 

Shinsou thought about it for a second, before nodding firmly. “Alright, fine.”

 

“So what’re we doing then?”

 

“What’s a word you don’t use often, or ever?”

 

Tobe’s face twisted in confusion before she stared away thoughtfully, “If you want a word I’ll never say then we should look up a really rare complicated word, or a really old one that no one ever uses before.”

 

“Okay… and what word would that be?”

 

Tobe stepped forward, pushing past Shinsou into the library. “I don’t know, I’ll look one up.”

 

The two of them stayed there a moment before Tobe shouted, “I got it.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Xertz.”

 

Shinsou’s face twisted, “Huh?”

 

“It means ‘to gulp something down quickly and/or in a greedy fashion’.”

 

He snorted, “Yeah, I guess that’ll work…”

She stood up, walking around the table and leaning against the desk, crossing her arms. “What’re you going to do?”

 

“I’m going to see if I can make you not say it.”

 

Tobe raised an eyebrow, the corner of her mouth perking up. “Alright, sounds good.”

 

Shinsou took a deep breath, ready to activate his quirk. “Okay, so are you ready?” Tobe nodded, standing up a bit straighter, “You uh- need to respond.”

 

“Oh right,” She chuckled awkwardly, “Sorry, I thought since we’d been talking, you already were good.”

 

Something sick twisted in his chest, the connection suddenly very apparent. He gave Tobe one last glance before tugging on his quirk. She straightened up, eyes glossing over and crossed arms falling to her side.

 

He let go of it almost immediately for both his sake and hers. It was sickening to make Tobe like that, limp and mindless, like he’d seen so many other criminals before. 

 

Tobe shook her head and straightened up, “Alright, what now.”

 

Shinsou stared up at her, face twisted in a mixture of confusion and disgust. “Are you okay?”

 

She shrugged, “Felt kinda weird, but it was alright, did you do it?”

 

He was quiet for a moment, before shaking his head. “I got… nervous.”

 

“Oh… alright.” They sat in an awkward silence before Tobe broke it. “So what now then?”

 

Shinsou sighed, “You’re really okay with this still, even after being under my quirk?”

 

She nodded firmly, “Yeah, it really wasn’t that bad, I mean I don’t actually remember anything happening. The coming back is a little disorienting, but it’s not that bad.”

 

“Alright fine, I'll actually do it this time, I just wanted to make sure.”

 

Tobe nodded again giving an okay sign with her hand. “It’s all good.”

 

Shinsou tugged on his quirk and she went limp again. 

 

He didn’t like Tobe with white eyes, her blue eyes were usually so vibrant and full of life.

 

“No matter what happens, don’t say the word xertz.”

 

Nothing happened, Tobe made no movement of confirmation or approval, nothing to suggest that it had succeeded or failed.

 

He dropped his hold and her blue eyes faded back. She stared at him awkwardly for a moment, glancing down at her feet before glancing back at him. 

 

"Did you do it?"

 

He nodded, "Can you say the word?"

 

Tobe stood there a moment, mouth slightly parted, before her face twisted. "Wait- what was it again?"

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows shot up, "You forgot it?"

 

She waved her arms out in front of her, "No. I mean yes but I think it's just because I'm an idiot, not your quirk."

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, "If I say it, I might ruin the command, overwrite it or something."

 

Tobe held out a hand, staring at the floor. "Okay, hold on, hold on. It's on the tip of my tongue. I know it starts with a z."

 

"X."

 

"X." She agreed, pointing at him, "It ends in a z."

 

She eyed him and he nodded slightly, crossing his arms. Tobe groaned, gripping the front of her hair, pressing her fists against her temples before dropping them and sighing. 

 

"Just tell me what it is and do the command again."

 

"Xertz."

 

Tobe dramatically smacked herself in the head. “Right! Damn. I told you it was a word I didn’t know.”

 

Shinsou nodded mindlessly, “Sure, but can you say it or not?”

 

She stared at him for a moment, “Xertz.” Shinsou tried not to let the disappointment show, “Well, that could be because of my forgetfulness. I’ll remember it this time, try again.”

 

Shinsou sighed but complied, “Fine, you’re still up for this?”

 

“Yep,” Tobe replied, popping the p, “All good.”

 

Shinsou took control of her again, “No matter what happens, don’t say the word xertz.”

 

He released her, let her catch herself before he asked, “Can you say the word now?”

 

Tobe took a breath, “Xertz.” Shinsou frowned slightly, letting out a sigh. “Okay, so that clearly didn’t work. Maybe it’s in the way you said it? What command did you give me?”

 

“I told you, no matter what happens, not to say the word xertz.”

 

Tobe’s face scrunched up. “Well that sounds good enough…” 

 

Shinsou shrugged, “It’s fine, I really wasn’t expecting it to work anyway. I’m not really that surprised.”

 

“Oh come on Shinsou. We’re here to test your quirk, obviously it’s not going to work the first time. Maybe try wording it differently.”

 

“I don’t think that really matters all that much.”

 

“You don’t think , but you don’t know .”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, taking a deep breath, “Uh- I guess we could try to make it more specific?”

 

Tobe’s smile spread, “Yeah! Sure, whenever you’re ready.”

 

He stayed there a second, lost in thought staring at the floor before glancing back at her. “Okay, I have an idea.”

 

“Great!”

 

Once again she went slack, and Shinsou gulped. “You’re unable to say the word xertz to me.”

 

“Alright, what do I do?”

 

“Same thing,” Shinsou shrugged, “Can you say the word?”

 

“Xertz.” Shinsou sighed, “Okay well, so that didn’t work.”

 

“Tobe,”

 

“Maybe try being more broad?”

 

“I don’t want to be more broad, that makes it hard to undo.”

 

“How? Just say the same thing but reversed.”

 

He sighed again, pressing a hand to his face, “But if I can’t reverse it then you’re stuck like that with more damage.”

 

Tobe went quiet for a moment, rubbing her arm and staring at the ground in thought. “We can try something else. You said you had a few other ideas right?” 

 

Shinsou crossed his arms, shrugging again, “Yeah, I did.”

 

“So let's try something different then, something less dangerous, less risky.”

 

He turned his head, staring out the window for a moment before finally folding. “Fine,”

 

Tobe grinned, “Alright, what did you want to do next?” 

 

~ ~ ~

 

Shinsou groaned, pressing his hands against his temples and resting his elbow on his knees. Even with the whole vigilante thing, he had never used his quirk this much in one night. Even if literally every single command he was giving her failed, taking and releasing control of her again and again was enough to give him the biggest headache.

 

“You okay?”

 

Shinsou let out a tense sigh. “I think I’m going to call it soon, my head feels like it's going to split in two.”

 

Tobe tilted her head, sliding next to him and leaning against the wall. “Do you think it’s because you’ve been using it a lot, or because you haven’t actually used a command on me that’s worked.”

 

He shrugged, leaning his head against the wall and dropping his arms. “I don’t know. Both?”

 

“Was there anything else you really wanted to try tonight?”

 

Shinsou tensed up a bit, holding his breath for just a moment before letting it shakily out. “No.”

 

Tobe sat up giving him her full attention, “That was a lie!”

 

Shinsou groaned and flinched, her booming voice sending shockwaves through his pounding head. “No, stop, it’s fine.”

 

“You just lied, there is something.”

 

“Tobe, it’s too dangerous, I know this was my idea but I don’t want to use you as a guinea pig anymore.”

She rolled her eyes and sat back. “For the record, I 100% agreed to it.”

 

They sat there in silence, Shinsou willing his pulsating headache to subside while Tobe sulked.

 

“At least tell me what the idea was.”

 

“What?”

 

“The test that was ‘too dangerous’ tell me what it is at least.”

 

Shinsou pinched his nose. “I was just to make you forget the word completely.” Tobe went a bit stiff, “I thought of it when you forgot it by yourself the first time. Can’t say the word if you don’t even remember it.”

 

There was an awkward silence for a second before Tobe shifted beside him. “And why is that dangerous?”

 

Shinsou lazily opened his eyes, staring at Tobe from the corner of them. “Seriously?”

 

“Well okay,” Tobe caved, rolling her eyes, “How is it any more dangerous than what we have been doing.”

 

Shinsou closed his eyes again, pushing himself up. “Assuming it does work, what if I mess up and make you forget too much, or make you forget the wrong thing, and what if I can’t undo it, what if it’s permanent.”

 

“All I’m hearing are the same risks for the other ones.”

 

Shinsou sighed, letting his shoulders sag, “Sure, but this is with your memory, it feels wrong.”

 

“So did using your quirk until- whenever the hell it is you seem to have gotten over it. It’s just a stupid word I didn’t even know going into this. Wouldn’t lose anything important.”

 

Shinsou stared at her again, raising a tired eyebrow. “You want me to try and make you forget something?”

 

Tobe shrugged, “I don’t want you to do anything other than stop being afraid of your quirk. A ton of people have dangerous quirks that are easily managed, you’re not special for having one that can do something a little risky.”

 

He rolled his eyes, “Maybe not, but it’s different when you’re the one risking something and not me.”

 

“You’re making this sound a lot more dramatic than it really is.”

 

“Why do you care about this so much?”

 

“I’m telling you it’s fine and not that dangerous, if you really want to know. Come on, one last test and then we’ll call it. You never know if the answer is just around the corner, and if you quit now.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes waving at Tobe dismissively “Yeah yeah, fine whatever. This really will be my last one though, I’m tired and in pain and tired.”

 

Tobe snorted, “Alright fair, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want.”

 

He stared at her in disbelief. “Are you serious? After all this convincing…”

 

“I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to but I just wanted you to not hold back if those were your only reasons.”

 

He sighed again, “Fine, whatever. You remember the word right now right?”

 

“Yep,”

 

“And what would that be?”

 

“Oh, it’s uh- xertz.”

 

“Great okay.” He took a deep breath, “Alright, last one.”

 

He pulled on his quirk for the last time that night, wincing as her consciousness joined his headache. “Forget the word xertz.”

 

He let her connection slip away and he rested his head against the wall pressing his hand against his temple.

 

“Okay, I’m serious, that’s the last one.”

 

“Well did it work?”

 

“I don’t know, you tell me? Do you remember the word?”

 

Tobe went quiet for a long moment, long enough for Shinsou to consider it a confirmation that she did actually remember the word and that it had once again failed.

 

“Shinsou…”

 

“Mmh?”

 

“I can’t- I don’t remember what the word was… like at all. I’m really trying, I feel like I should know it because I’ve been saying it all night but I-”

 

Shinsou opened his eyes, staring at her again. “Seriously?” She turned towards him and nodded. “You’re not lying to me because you feel bad about how much we failed tonight right?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “No! I’m not lying. I genuinely can’t remember the word.” He narrowed his eyes at her and she huffed. “I swear to god, what can I say to convince you?”

 

He raised an eyebrow, “Swear on Midnight.”

 

She didn’t hesitate, “I swear on Midnight, I think your command worked.” Shinsou’s eyes widened, “What’s the point of this if you’re not even going to believe me when I say it worked.”

 

Shinsou sat up, glancing Tobe up and down. “Wait. Wait. It really worked? That worked?”

 

She rolled her eyes, “ Yes. It worked. Unless I’m a complete idiot, which I don’t think I am this time, it worked.”

 

He stared at her for a moment, something similar to hope gathering in his chest.

 

If that really worked, then that means that maybe, just maybe, that man forgot what Shinsou looked like. He might be safe from his mistake.

 

“What was the word, it’s annoying the hell out of me.”

 

“Hold on, I want to see if I can make you remember it with my quirk.”

Tobe’s eyebrows shot up, “I thought you had a headache?”

 

He waved her off, “If it’s permanent that changes how-” he cut himself off. He was going to say how he uses it, but technically Shinsou didn’t use his quirk, not unless he was out being a vigilante, he wouldn’t ever actually use his quirk outside of vigilante work, and other than the weird villain lie he told Tobe, she knows he doesn’t use it.

 

“How what?”

 

He cleared his throat, glancing up at her, “How… I feel about it.” He smiled awkwardly, “You know, like if I can erase memories permanently then- I don’t know, it just feels really dangerous and irresponsible. But if I can bring the memories back then…”

 

“It’s still dangerous and irresponsible.”

 

“Whose side are you one? Five minutes ago you were saying it wasn’t.”

 

“I’m saying, if you think being able to take away people's memories of things is ‘dangerous and irresponsible’, than being able to give them back hardly makes a difference.”

 

“It wouldn’t be permanent.” 

 

“Yeah but that’s your decision, no one else’s. Why on earth would you ever need to give memories back except in this very specific instant?”

 

He shrugged, “When I regret taking away the memories.”

 

Tobe rolled her eyes, “Fine, either way I’m going to let you test this obviously.”

 

Shinsou shook his head, “You’re all over the place today.”

 

She shrugged, “Sorry, I just-”

 

He pulled on his quirk for the actual last time for the night, “Remember the word xertz.”

 

He let her free, letting her recover again. She shook her head, taking a breath before smiling at him. “Xertz.”

 

Shinsou bit back a smile, huffing in disbelief. “Wow, I really thought that wouldn’t work.”

 

“See this is why we try things before just giving up.” 

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, leaning his head against the wall again, “Shut the fuck up. You’re so cocky for no reason.”

 

Tobe snorted, “I have a very good reason actually.” Shinsou snorted softly,  “You know, that was actually kinda fun.”

 

Shinsou rolled his head towards Tobe, raising an eyebrow before shaking his head, “You're insane.”

 

“Maybe,” She shrugged, “But I still had fun. Playing around with quirks, seeing how it works, it was cool.”

 

Shinsou closed his eyes again. “You’re the only person on this planet who would say that about my quirk.”

 

“Maybe, but I don’t think so.”

 

“What does it feel like?”

 

Tobe’s eyebrow shot up, “Your quirk?”

 

He nodded firmly, wincing as pain shot through his head. “Yeah… and please, don’t lie because you think it’ll make me feel better… I actually want to know.”

 

Tobe sighed, pulled her knee to her chest. “Uh- well, I don’t really remember things that happened during it, like when you wake up from a dream and you know you had a dream but you can only really remember the feeling you felt during it or one very specific part of it?” Shinsous nodded again, “Yeah, it’s exactly like that, except it doesn’t really feel the same as a dream. It’s like…” She paused for a while, staring at the ground in thought. “It feels way more real than a dream, way more real than real life, like… I don’t know it’s really hard to explain.”

 

Shinsou nodded, “I figured it would feel scary,”

 

“It might for some people. It really does feel weird. It’s like- I’m in my body but it’s not really mine anymore right? Because at that point you’re the one controlling it, so when I try to move my arm, it won’t move, so in the moment, it’s probably scary, but I barely remember anything afterward so the aftereffect wasn’t bad. Plus, I knew it would happen and was expecting that- so.”

 

“You really don’t remember what happens during it?”

 

She shrugged, “Like I said, kinda but not really, depends I guess. Sometimes I can remember better, but you also didn’t control me for that long, so I don’t know.”

 

Shinsou nodded. He guessed that made sense. He’d always thought of his quirk as sort of stealing their mind for a while, but maybe that wasn’t really the right way to think about it. He was more taking their control for a little, changing who was in charge of their mind. It would explain why he couldn’t give any commands that affected them after the fact, they were the one in control now, but why he could make people forget things. He was in control when he took the memories, and even when they’re in control, it’s hard to remember something you’ve forgotten.

 

But that didn’t explain why he could give the memories back, or why the people couldn’t answer him when he asked a question. If he was in control, complete control, and he definitely could access their memories, at least in some way, then there was no reason they shouldn’t be able to tell him what resides in those memories.

 

The more he learned about his quirk, the more confusing it was.

 

“You know, just for the record, if you ever wanted help with your quirk, I'd be okay with that too.”

 

Tobe snorted, “No, you wouldn't.”

 

He rolled his eyes and met hers, “See now you know why I reacted so weird. I'd totally be down, maybe I'd actually be able to get some sleep with your quirk.”

 

“Yeah… it doesn't work like that.”

 

“You know, last time you said that to me about your quirk, it did end up actually working like that.”

 

Tobe stared at him from the corner of her eyes, “I don’t put people to sleep, I paralyse them, there’s an obvious difference.”

 

“I’ve been paralysed by your quirk before,”

 

“I did that by accident, and I apologized for it.”

 

“I’m not mad about it.” He clarified, “Just saying, you helped me out today and you really didn’t have to. If you wanted to, I’m extending the offer.”

 

Tobe shrugged, “Thanks but I can’t really think of what I would test. My quirk paralyses people, it's pretty straightforward.”

 

“Maybe,” Shinsou agreed, “I just wanted to let you know.”

 

Tobe nodded, “Alright. I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

Shinsou sighed, slowly pushing himself up using the wall. “I’m going to try and get some sleep.”

 

Tobe hummed, “I’m going to stay up for a bit, still not that tired.”

 

“Make sure you turn off the computer then,” 

 

Tobe smiled and nodded, “I will. Sleep well, Shinsou.”

 

“Sleep well Tobe.”

 

Chapter Text

Shinsou pressed his back against the brick, pulling his mask down and gasping for air. He pulled the mask back up, and ducked, jumping away from the wall as bricks exploded and pelted his skin. He darted behind a stack of crates, pulling his hood further down his head as wood pieces flew everywhere.

 

He rolled to the side, scrambling over the wire fence. A blast hit his back and he groaned but slid over, landing roughly on the other side. Another shot and the fence came crashing down.

 

He sighed and pushed himself up. He took a deep breath, practically shouting, “What the hell? You can’t just destroy everything in your path!”

 

Shinsou tried to dodge, but a blast nicked his arm and he stumbled back. “Yes actually… I can.”

 

He snorted and activated his quirk, rubbing his sore arm and carefully stepping over the destroyed fence. 

 

“Follow me.”

 

The man trailed behind Shinsou as he made his way back to the crime scene. He’d run pretty far in his attempt to dodge the man’s quirk. He’d found it was harder for the police to mess shit up if he didn’t leave the villains' streets down, even if there was a very obvious path of destruction along the way.

 

Besides, after all the damage that was caused, the least he could do was clean up after himself.

 

He stopped at the end of the street, sending the man off on his own to walk himself right into the hands of the police. Now all he had to do was get to higher ground quickly and make sure to drop his quirk before the police could catch on to anything.

 

He turned around, ready to break into a run down the street. His eyes went wide, air caught in his lungs, and he froze.

 

There was an officer a few buildings down, locking eyes with him, and breaking into a run.

 

Shinsou dashed down the street, forcing his legs to go faster and his lungs to ignore the burn. He pulled the mask down, letting the air fill his lungs, and swerved into an alley, quickly climbing a ladder and running across the building. He hesitated, looking down at the drop and the distance between the two. 

 

“Freeze.”

 

Shinsou did, more out of habit than a desire to listen. He slowly raised his hands, pulling up his mask again as he did. 

 

He could make the jump, that wasn’t the question. The question was would he be able to walk afterward.

 

“What did I do?”

 

There was a long deep crunch of a shoe on gravel and Shinsou tensed. “You’re under arrest for suspected police interference and vigilantism.”

 

He had the response, it was almost too easy, the officer wasn’t only willing, but obligated to answer his questions.

 

Could he really use his quirk on the officer?

 

Should he?

 

His heart pounded in his chest as he heard the crunch of the officer walking closer.

 

He could make the jump.

 

He broke into a run, planting his foot on the edge of the building and pushing himself off as hard as he could. He pulled his legs in front of him like he and Tobe had practiced and when he landed, he pulled his legs in and forced his body to roll forward. He tumbled for longer than he had meant to but eventually, he pushed himself up and stumbled forward, immediately making his way down the other ladder. 

 

He stumbled out onto the opposite street, racing away from the building, desperate to put as much distance between him and the officer as he could.

 

Holy fuck.

 

He just did that, he really, just did that. 

 

Well, he wasn’t completely out of the woods yet. He still needed to make it back without being followed.

 

He didn’t slow down until he physically couldn’t run anymore. He hadn’t been able to see the officer for a while, but with his luck, he would’ve missed him. Eventually though, he was forced to slow down and pull down his fucking mask so he could actually breathe.

 

This mask was turning out to be a terrible idea.

 

The slight ick in his stomach he got every time he felt it awkwardly rub against his skin or it slid around on his nose, he could deal with. Honestly, in comparison to the muzzle, it was nothing. But when he was running or fighting, talking and breathing suddenly became stupidly difficult.

 

It worked quite well for its original purpose, when his hood fell, he didn’t feel as paranoid about his world ending, but still, it was almost worth dealing with the hood than dealing with the mask.

 

He ripped it off his face and shoved it into his pocket, glancing over his shoulder. He still couldn’t see an officer, and the one chasing him never really got that great of a look, he didn’t even get to see his face other than those first few seconds Shinsou had seen him. He was probably safe to go home.

 

He thought that, but still he wandered the area for almost 20 minutes, keeping an eye out for any sign of blue and white outfits. He did end up making it back safe, even managed to get a little bit of sleep, but that was likely because what he did, didn’t hit him until that morning 

 

It hit him when he was brushing his teeth, the first time he really had to stop and think about what the fuck happened last night.

 

He’d never been that close to being arrested before. He was literally meters away from an officer, and he somehow managed to get out of there a free man.

 

And he did it without his quirk.

 

But that did mean he had a decision he needed to make.

 

If he gets in a situation like that again, would using his quirk be alright?

 

They weren’t heroes, but they were still police officers. They had the same enemies and goals as heroes did. They definitely didn’t fall into the category that he’d originally decided on. He’d sworn he’d only use his quirks on villains and civilians only if he had to, to save their life. Police officers were neither of those things.

 

So really, it just came down to what he was afraid of more. Being arrested and outed as a vigilante, or modifying one of his rules so that if there was a way out for him, he could take it.

 

Obviously, ideally, he simply wouldn’t be in that situation ever again. But, as much as he hated to admit it, he was probably leaning towards changing up his rules.

 

It couldn’t be that bad, rules change all the time. People grow and learn what works and what doesn’t and they make modifications based on that.

 

He’d sit on it a bit longer though, think it through, and make sure that this was actually okay.

He knew he’d have to take risks when he first started this whole thing. Toying with his future seemed to be a bit riskier than the decisions he was used to.

 

Shinsou slid into his chair beside Tobe and glanced up at her. 

 

“Soooo, how was your run?” Shinsou’s eyes went wide and he glared at Tobe before glancing around at the others at the table. She huffed, “Oh relax, no one gives a shit.”

 

‘What the fuck?’

 

“What?”

 

Shinsou narrowed his eyes, ‘Why would you just say that?’

 

She rolled her eyes. ‘Oh come on, relax. That by itself doesn’t mean anything.’

 

‘Implies something though?’

 

“Oh?” Tobe raised an eyebrow. “What does it imply?”

 

Shinsou clenched his jaw. ‘What is up with you today?’

 

“What’s up with me? What’s up with you?”

 

He scanned Tobe’s face for a while before slightly shaking his head. ‘What is going on.’

 

Tobe shifted in her seat, leaning forward and picking up her chopsticks. ‘Completely unrelated. I was thinking about it and, what do you think happened to Chie’s building?’

 

Shinsou shook his head again, staring at the plate in front of him, his face permanently twisted in confusion and shock. ‘What?’

 

Tobe shrugged, ‘You know, like do you think they were the ones who caused it, or was it something else entirely?’

 

Shinsou stared at her again, before numbly reaching forward and picking up his own chopsticks. ‘I think, it probably wasn’t them.’

 

“Really? Why not?”

 

‘Are you okay?’

 

“Yeah, I’m great, maybe a little tired, but what else is new?” Shinsou stared her up and down again, obviously not believing her. She rolled her eyes, smirking a bit and leaning forward, “Okay listen,” ‘I may have gotten very little sleep last night, and I may have stolen some coffee when I realized how late I accidentally stayed up.

 

Shinsou’s eyes went wide, ‘How was it?’

 

Tobe scrunched up her nose, ‘Fucking disgusting, but it worked.”

 

Shinsou snorted, ‘I didn’t know coffee made you crazy.’

 

Tobe shrugged, ‘You didn’t answer my question.’

 

‘What was the question again?’

 

‘Why don’t you think they were the one to cause it?’

 

Shinsou shrugged, ‘Just seems unlikely I guess. Like, what are the chances it was their fault?’

 

Tobe stared off at the wall behind him before nodding, “Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Why’s that guy staring at you?”

 

Shinsou’s eyes went wide and he turned to follow where she was looking. He met brown eyes and their gaze fell, falling to their food. Their yellow hair fell in front of their face and Shinsou sighed. ‘I don’t know. I’ve barely even talked to him.’

 

“What’s his name?”

 

He shrugged again, ‘Honestly, I was hoping you knew, I wasn’t paying attention when he was introduced.’

 

“All I remember is his quirk had something to do with touching him, his name was odd, couldn’t remember it.”

 

Shinsou’s mask was removed and Tobe leaned in. ‘So how was your run?’

 

He bit his lip, ‘Fine, it’s a run. Nothing really to talk about.’

 

Tobe nodded thoughtfully, “God, I’m going to die at school.”

 

‘Don’t do that.’ Shinsou rolled his eyes, ‘That’d be so inconvenient.’

 

Tobe slumped down into her chair. “I feel so gross.”

 

Shinsou scrunched his nose. ‘How much did you drink?’

 

Tobe groaned. “Too much, I think.”

 

‘Why were you up so late anyway?’

 

“Just lost track of time.”

 

‘You seem to be doing that a lot.’

 

She shrugged, “You know how it is, sometimes sleep is an ass.” Shinsou snorted. “You don’t seem to be doing any better.”

 

‘Okay?’

 

She shrugged, “You fall asleep in the library all the time.”

 

‘Yeah well, beds are for losers.’

 

“You know, you could just sleep in your bed during the day?”

 

‘Not with how many people hang out on that floor.’

 

“I do it all the time.”

 

‘Yeah I know. It’s kinda impressive actually.’

 

“I mean, people hardly are ever in my room. If you wanted, you could sleep in there.”

 

Shinsou raised an eyebrow and snorted, ‘Yeah right, like someone else would let me sleep in their bed.’

 

“I meant in mine.”

 

Shinsou’s heart rate picked up, ‘What?’

 

Tobe shrugged, glancing down at her plate. “You know, obviously when I’m not using it. If you wanted to.”

 

A police siren echoed down the street and Shinsou tensed up, glancing out the window and biting his lip.

 

Tobe leaned in close, pulling his attention away from the window. “You have to try some of that coffee.”

 

‘You said it tasted like shit.’

 

“Yeah, at first, but I also didn’t add anything, I think you’re supposed to add stuff.”

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes, letting himself relax as the sirens faded out of earshot.

 

They weren’t coming for him. There was no way they could’ve known.

 

“Plus, you get used to it after the first few sips.”

 

Shinsou glanced out the window again, shoveling more food into his mouth. No matter how much Tobe tried to convince him that her original reaction had been an overreaction, he would not be trying any of that coffee.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Shinsou let out a deep sigh, watching as the cold turned his breath into a small puff of smoke. He stared at the mask he made, turning it over in his hand. It would be idiotic to not wear it tonight, he made it for a reason, it protected him, hid his identity when the hood failed him.

 

So why did he want to destroy it and never wear it again?

 

It didn’t make sense. He made it himself, and he could still talk and move his jaw, it didn’t make sense to want to rip it off his face every time he put it on. It wasn’t the muzzle, he knew that. The muzzle was hard and restricting, constantly locked on his face with no decision otherwise. The mask couldn’t be more different. It was thin and the fabric didn’t even wrap around his chin. He could take it off and move it anytime he wanted, he had complete control. 

 

And yet, he was standing in the alley, trying to convince himself it was worth it to put it on.

 

The only problem really was he hated the way it felt. Even though it wasn’t the muzzle and he knew it wasn’t the muzzle, sometimes, it was hard to remember that he wasn't restricted and he was actually free to talk. 

 

And, this was a really stupid complaint, he knew that, but he just could not handle the way it felt on his face.

 

He slid the mask over his face, cringing as he did, and stayed there a moment, letting the fabric rest against his chin before ripping it off and dropping it next to his muzzle. It was stupid, utterly ridiculous, he knew that. He was being irrational, the mask was important, i