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Kid From Nowhere

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Blood dripped into the sink, stark against the white porcelain. Amethyst eyes glared at it, as though it was somehow the sink’s fault that blood was steadily streaming from his nose.

Hitoshi liked to think he had mastered the art of keeping a nosebleed at bay; leaning forward with his head tilted downwards, pinching the bridge of his nose while drawing in deep breaths through his mouth. It was a pretty pathetic art to master, if he was being honest.

Yet there he was, again, standing over a bathroom sink, one hand clutching onto the edge while the other pinched at the scarred bridge of his nose, silently willing the bleeding to stop.

“Are you going to tell Aizawa-Sensei this time?” An infuriatingly mocking voice piped up from somewhere behind Hitoshi.

He snapped his head up perhaps a little too quickly in favour of shooting Monoma Neito a glare through the mirror above the sink. His vision blurred ever so slightly, but with grit teeth & an ever-present resting bitch face, Monoma would hopefully be none the wiser.

While he had half a mind to not even bother gracing him with a response just as he did almost every other time they were together, Hitoshi opted for the more polite option. Well, as polite as it could be given he grunted out his response as though Monoma had personally offended him.

“No.”

“I think you should.” He replied, far too casually & completely unphased by Hitoshi’s standoffish response. He disappeared out of view just for a few seconds, reappearing with a wad of tissues & handed them over.

Hitoshi took them after one more glare for good measure & pressed the tissues just beneath his nose, eyes flickering to his reflection in the mirror, trying to recognise who it was looking back at him.

That seemed to be the running theme recently, to the point where avoiding looking at reflections was oddly satisfying. There was a subtle comfort in purposefully ignoring his slowly growing identity issues.

But looking at himself now, really looking, he wasn’t so sure what to make of it.

To say he looked tired as hell would be an understatement. 

The ever-present bags beneath his eyes worked as a stark reminder of his often nightmare-filled nights. The scars along the bridge of his nose & his jawline sat as cruel little reminders of a past he was desperately trying to outrun.

There was just too much to his reflection. 

It was an ever growing pile of confusing fuckery that he didn’t even know where to begin in trying to decipher. For the most part, that confusion stayed in his head, locked away behind various defensive walls, not quite ready to see the light of day just yet.

Some people saw it, he knew that. He knew Aizawa saw right through him, he always had & probably always would. The same went for Denki, in his own Denki kind of way.

Hitoshi had hoped as time passed, some of his issues would have subsided, like a personal testament to the phrase of ‘if I ignore this for long enough, it’ll eventually go away’. But as it turned out, they hadn’t gone away. Instead, they just seemed to be getting worse.

It had been a month. One month on the dot, to be exact.

One month since there was a raid on the Hassaikai compound. One month since Hitoshi wasn’t saved by the heroes, but by the bad guys who hated Chisaki about as much as he did. One month since Dabi hand delivered him to Aizawa’s doorstep, crumpled & what should have been broken beyond repair.

In a more positive way of looking at it, Hitoshi supposed he could consider it one month since he & Eri escaped Overhaul’s maniacal grasp together, ignoring the little details of who saved who & why.

Except it was those exact little details that were eating Hitoshi up on the inside.

His numerous scars acted as permanent reminders. There were injuries that would never quite heal into something whole, leaving him as a barely held together mess of fear & defence mechanisms.

Three weeks had passed since Hitoshi had been discharged from the hospital & Aizawa handed him a key to his apartment & called it home.

The place was as cosy as an on-campus apartment could be. With Aizawa as both his & Eri’s legal guardian for the time being, Hitoshi had come to find solace in the place. It was where he was safest, where the monsters from outside those fortified U.A walls couldn’t get to him.

He had yet to call it home out loud, or even in his head for that matter, but the sour taste that specific word usually left in his mouth faded each & every time Aizawa or Yamada walked through the door & called out ‘I’m home’.

Two weeks had passed since the news broadcast that a Musutafu police officer had been killed; the body staged just a few roads from the police station with the word ‘GUILTY’ carved into their chest.

Burns that covered the officer’s body left cops & reporters to speculate that none other than Dabi had to be the perpetrator. Hitoshi had tried not to think too much about it.

One week had passed since Aizawa & Yamada brought Hitoshi a new phone, adding their contact numbers to it in case of an emergency. They claimed they should have done it earlier, but given Hitoshi had been housebound with injuries that resulted in barely any mobility in his hands, there wasn’t a particular rush.

He had tried to talk them into returning the phone so they could get their money back. Not only did he feel guilty for them spending it on him, but he didn’t feel as though he needed one. However, the adults were awfully stubborn in their ways & refused on repeat until he gave up trying to reason with them.

Yamada’s argument eventually seemed to win Hitoshi over more than the idea of needing it to call them in case he got into trouble. He pointed out that Hitoshi would now be able to talk to Denki whenever he pleased.

Given that he had been cooped up inside of the apartment while his shattered hands & tired body were healing, the thought of being able to talk to Denki actually sounded pretty good.

His only visitors had been Togata & Recovery Girl, but he couldn’t even really count those as one was only there to fix him, while the other was mostly only there to see Eri.

Seeing as he had only left campus twice since moving in & barely left Heights Alliance at all, the company had been kind of nice.

The only times he really strayed too far on his own was to visit Monoma’s dorm where he could test the limits of his brainwashing with the one person he knew damn well would let him get away with it.

It was why he was with him now.

Ever since the Sports Fest, Monoma had always been freakishly interested in his quirk & awfully pushy in wanting to befriend him. No matter how hard Hitoshi tried to shake him, Monoma always came back. He claimed that Hitoshi should be in 1-B with him, that he understood him & the way the world viewed his quirk.

Hitoshi wasn’t so sure on that one.

He didn’t quite think Monoma would ever understand, not truly, but the thought was there & he was finally learning to appreciate the teenager’s unwavering confidence in him. Not to mention, he could now use it to his advantage.

Given that Hitoshi had been right there alongside Eri in the Yakuza compound & Chisaki needed a test subject to be sure his quirk-killing serum worked… Well, Hitoshi’s quirk was now all kinds of fucked up. Just like the rest of him.

All of the meddling with his plus alpha genes, taking away his quirk only for it to come back again, Hitoshi’s quirk was left unstable at best.

He had yet to return to class, but he at least wanted to know his limits before he did, so seeking out Monoma was the wisest choice. The guy loved his quirk, would never push him to answer uncomfortable questions & he never pried too much into Hitoshi’s business.

He had yet to actually tell Monoma of his past & he wasn’t so sure he ever would. There were never easy ways to say he had been raised by criminals for almost half of his life. But when Hitoshi finally stopped hiding the scars on his face, the other teenager never asked about them.

He never pointed them out. He had simply tilted his head, studied Hitoshi for an extra second, then nodded & carried on his rant.

Hitoshi reluctantly leaned forward to inspect his nose in the mirror after wiping at it a few more times with now bloodied tissues. He sniffed harshly, cringed at the feeling & the metallic taste in his throat, then tossed the tissues into the nearby bin, a little too quick as to look away from his reflection.

“If you’re getting nosebleeds almost every time you use your quirk, Aizawa should know about it… He’s gonna find out sooner or later. You said he’s moved you into 1-A, right? So, what? You just gonna not use your quirk when it comes to heroics?”

Monoma was leaning back against the sink beside him now, arms folded over his chest, one leg crossed over the other. Hitoshi tilted his head to narrow his eyes at him, studying him for a few moments before muttering, “I can use my binding cloth.”

“Can you?” The response was instant. The spark of antagonism was clear in both Monoma’s tone & the way his icy blue eyes flickered down to Hitoshi’s crooked & scarred fingers, then back up to his face.

“Shut up.” Hitoshi spat, defensive despite knowing Monoma had a point.

He hadn’t so much as touched a capture weapon since he got out of the hospital. He could barely type on his phone or fill out mock exam papers without pain sparking through his fingertips.

He had yet to find out for certain if all the progress he & Aizawa had made in their training together before everything went to shit was for nothing, or if there was still hope for him yet.

Little scars ran down the sides of his fingers from where the nurses had initially had to pin his bones back together & take out the shattered bone fragments from his joints.

Being on the receiving end of Chisaki’s quirk had been hell.

Thanks to Recovery Girl’s daily visits, he actually got a recovery, something that wouldn’t have been possible if not for her. However his fingers still sat crooked & tension lingered, leaving his mobility at about seventy-five percent of what it once was. 

That was outstanding for most, but terrifying for him.

Aizawa kept reminding him that it’d take time, that with physiotherapy when he was ready & slow training to get back into the swing of things, he’d be able to get back to where he was. But that all seemed so far away now.

Hitoshi flexed his fingers a few times, a little habit he had picked up over the past month. With limited mobility came limited feeling & the slight twinges of pain that irritated his joints were a small reminder that he was still alive in spite of it all.

“You never did tell me what happened. They were some pretty nasty injuries.”

“I know.” Hitoshi pushed away from the sink after cleaning up the blood & hesitantly checking one last time in the mirror to be sure his nosebleed had actually finally stopped. He headed out of Monoma’s bathroom & his dorm, making his way down the corridor with Monoma himself in tow.

“Will you?"

“Probably not.” He admitted, hands slipping into his sweatpants’ pockets, fingers curling around the apartment key he had sitting in them; a little habit he found he did quite often.

Hitoshi pressed the key against his palm, fingers brushing along the ridges, memorising each curve & sharp edge. It helped keep his head on straight, kept his mind from straying.

He couldn’t exactly tell Monoma he was kept as a test subject, attempted to rescue Eri, got caught & promptly had his bones pried apart with somebody’s quirk as punishment. So his usual, cold & aloof demeanour was all he had to offer in the meantime.

“I always love your honesty, Shinsou. You never sugar coat anything.” Monoma practically sing-songed, skipping a step to catch up to his side. “I like our little meet-ups, how about next time you let me borrow your quirk? That way I can practice with it on you & when I go up against 1-A, I’ll crush them with it.”

A buzz from Hitoshi’s other pocket had him pulling his phone out to check it almost immediately out of habit ever since Togata started looking after Eri on certain days. He had promised to text him if something was wrong.

Thankfully though, all that illuminated the screen was a text from Denki with a photo attached.

Denks  2:14P.M:

Hey Toshi, how much trouble are we gonna be in for this?

The photo attached was of Denki & Ashido crouching either side of a sleeping Aizawa in 1-A’s homeroom, tossing up peace signs with the biggest possible grins on their faces. It was enough to have Hitoshi snort in a silent amused huff.

Still unused to typing quickly given the limited mobility in his hands & fingers, Hitoshi slowly tapped out his reply.

Hitoshi  2:15P.M:

If he ever sees that, ur dead, y’know that, right?

He was a little caught up in texting to really care about Monoma’s disdain towards 1-A & belatedly replied by agreeing to whatever Monoma had said with a mumbled, “Sure.”

The teenager knew immediately that Hitoshi was distracted & peered over at his phone to see what had stolen his attention away. “Kaminari again?”

Hitoshi nodded, turning his phone enough for Monoma to see the photo Denki had taken & was pleasantly surprised to earn an actual laugh from the boy who claimed to hate 1-A more than actual villains.

“I don’t know what you see in him, Shinsou, he’s kind of an idiot. I can’t believe you chose that blond over me when picking which class you’ll be in.”

“Aizawa chose, not me.” Hitoshi reminded him with a half shrug. “Even if I had a choice, I’d still pick 1-A.”

“Ouch. You’re as cold as ice, y’know that?” 

Hitoshi simply nodded. He got lost in thought as they walked, while Monoma ranted about everything from Hitoshi being put into the wrong hero class, to his genius plans to borrow his brainwashing when the time came for their battles. Nothing said he couldn’t steal Hitoshi’s quirk before their team-ups, apparently. Blah, blah, something about having to do unheroic things to become a hero, blah blah.

Yeah, Hitoshi thought about that a lot.

He had done a hell of a lot of unheroic things. All in the name of trying to save Eri.

Huh, maybe Monoma could understand him better than he had initially thought.

They walked side by side, walking right the way up to the teachers’ dorms until they came to a halt outside of Aizawa’s apartment. Hitoshi pulled his key from his pocket to unlock the door, side-eyeing Monoma.

“You didn’t have to walk me to the door.”

“What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t?” Monoma replied as he took a dramatic bow when all Hitoshi replied with was a scoff & an eye roll. “Contrary to popular belief, I care about my friends. I didn’t want you passing out on the way.”

“I’m fine.”

“Somebody should get you a dictionary, Shinsou.” Monoma smirked. “I don’t think you know what that word means. Text me if you feel dizzy & Aizawa isn’t back.”

“I’m fine.” Hitoshi repeated, him being the one who earned the eye-roll this time. 

There was a dramatic sigh, but Monoma didn’t fight him on the topic. Instead, he just turned on his heel to leave, waving a hand & muttering about not wanting to go to his last class of the day.

Hitoshi quietly made his way into the apartment, locking the door behind him. His eyes scanned the living room, everything being right where he had left it, yet he compulsively felt the need to check anyway.

Old exam papers were spread across the coffee table that he had been going through prior to meeting up with Monoma. They helped him to brush up on the school he had missed & gave him something to do while everyone else was out of the apartment.

With Aizawa & Yamada both teaching & Eri hanging out with Togata, it left Hitoshi alone.

He didn’t necessarily get bored, not when he had been trapped in a room with nothing at all to do day-in day-out when with the Hassaikai, but both heroes still seemed to feel guilty at the thought of leaving him alone when they had to get back to work.

They had taken the first week off after he & Eri had first moved in, mostly to keep an eye on things given the severity of Hitoshi’s injuries. He thought perhaps their worry was misplaced, but he was coming to learn that it was simply their nature.

The apartment was eerily quiet without Yamada around, but given it wasn’t exactly like Hitoshi wasn’t used to silence, he tried his best to convince himself that it shouldn’t bother him. Instead, he slipped off his sneakers & shuffled to the kitchen to quietly go about making a cup of coffee & something to eat.

A hand reached for the cupboard that housed the cereal & bread, only to pause mid-way upon seeing a little pink post-it note stuck there.

‘Don’t forget to eat lunch. Yes you can have the last bowl of Lucky Charms - Hizashi’

Hitoshi tilted his head, the tiniest little upturn curling at one corner of his lips.

It was still a strange feeling to be allowed to wander around a household freely, to do as he pleased. In the entirety of the month he & Eri had been there so far, the only rules they had were to make sure they had a decent bed time & to tell either Aizawa or Yamada if something was wrong.

It was weird.

No having to do chores with no regard for his injuries, no having to ‘earn their keep’. They were allowed to just… exist.

Eri seemed to adjust to it better than Hitoshi did, but he supposed the fact she had never grown up in foster care helped somewhat. She only knew the cold depths of the Yakuza compound & while it had been hell for them both, at least Eri didn’t second guess a warm bed or a seat at the breakfast table.

Hitoshi took the note from the cupboard & went to toss it into the trash, but paused at the last second & pocketed it instead. 

As his coffee brewed, he made some toast instead of cereal, deciding that last bowl of those stupid sugary marshmallows could go to Eri instead.

With toast stuck out of his mouth & a coffee mug between two hands so he didn’t drop it, Hitoshi shuffled back to the couch, placing the mug on the coffee table so he could actually eat his way-too-late lunch properly.

His phone buzzed a few more times, but this time he ignored it with the assumption that it was follow-up messages from Denki. He finished his food & before he could actually check if they were, a key jiggling in the front door caught his attention.

With old survival habits kicking in, Hitoshi jolted to his feet as if ready to either flee or fight. It was only Aizawa who tiredly shuffled into the room & due to being used to Hitoshi’s jumpiness, they were only caught in a brief stare off for a second before the hero went about locking the door.

He didn’t make a comment about Hitoshi’s deer-in-headlights fear, nor about the fact he was still standing in the middle of the room in a defensive stance. He simply shoved his sleeping bag aside ready for the next day & made a beeline straight for the coffee machine without even bothering to take his messenger bag off.

“Your boyfriend really wants you in class. He was nagging me all morning trying to find out what day you’ll start.” Aizawa began in lieu of a hello, voice more rugged than usual, making him sound slightly more standoffish. 

Hitoshi had learnt weeks ago that it had less to do with his mood & more to do with dealing with 1-A for half of the day.

It took him a moment to register, then Hitoshi rolled his eyes & made his way over to the kitchenette to rinse up his empty coffee mug. “Denki isn’t my boyfriend.”

“I never said his name.”

Purple eyes slid across to narrow at Aizawa, who had a visible little smirk on his face. Deciding he was intentionally just trying to wind him up for his own amusement, Hitoshi didn’t grace him with a response. Instead, he padded back to the living room to grab the exam papers he had scattered across the coffee table.

After skimming over them to be sure he had every answer box filled out, he made his way back to Aizawa, holding them out without saying a word. 

The hero was now leaning back against the counter, coffee in hand & taking a few sips. He cocked a brow when Hitoshi didn’t offer a single word & took the papers with his free hand.

He skimmed over them, then spoke from behind his mug, “You didn’t cheat?”

Hitoshi frowned ever so slightly, head tilted as he debated whether or not it was worth asking a question or not, still a little hesitant on them, even after a month of living there. Eventually, he caved. “How would I cheat without the answer sheets?"

“You have a phone now.” Aizawa said as if it were obvious. Then, as if only belatedly realising Hitoshi wasn’t following, he elaborated, “It has the internet. You could have looked up the answers.”

The teenager let out a soft ‘oh’, then shook his head. He moved to perch on the edge of one of the breakfast bar stools so he could slip his phone from his pocket to see if it really was that easy to cheat on an exam paper.

Thanks to his impeccable memory, he didn’t have to look at the papers again to recall exactly how each question was worded to put them into Google. Before he could even get his phone unlocked however, three unexpected text messages illuminated his lockscreen.

Shouto 2:25P.M

Do you think it was Touya?

Shouto 2:26P.M

www.musutafu.news/another-body-found-in-

Shouto  2:34P.M

He promised to stop hurting innocent people. If this is him, why?

So much for expecting it to be Denki messaging him on repeat.

Shouto was one of the few people who knew about Hitoshi’s past with villains. Despite their first face-to-face meeting resulting in a physical brawl, Shouto was perhaps the only other teenager besides Denki that he felt as though he could turn to when things got bad.

Dabi being their common interest helped somewhat. 

Finding out if he could cheat on a test simply with his phone was long forgotten when Hitoshi clicked on the link to the news article Shouto had sent to him.

Another body had been found in Musutafu, this time the victim was found in their car & the only reason it even made headlines was because this was the second body to be found with a word carved into their chest.

This time, it was the word ‘CATALYST’.

According to the reports, they had yet to find out the victim’s identity. All they had to offer to the public so far was that they were a woman in her mid-thirties with black hair. Not exactly a lot to go off when that description matched half of the women in Japan.

Yet again there were burns across the body.

Growing up around terrible people, Hitoshi held a certain level of emotional detachment to the more gruesome side of humanity. People were cruel. He had been on the receiving end of malicious quirk users for about six years, so reading the more graphic details in the report, he didn’t particularly feel much of anything.

He thought perhaps most people were supposed to feel nauseous at the thought of a murderer running around the city, perhaps even worried that they could be next, but Hitoshi felt nothing of the sort.

He simply stared at his phone, trying to figure out if this really was the work of Dabi or not with a sinking feeling churning up his stomach & he couldn’t figure out why.

“Toshi? Hello? Hey, kid.”

A hand on his shoulder jolted Hitoshi out of his thoughts & he lurched up so fast the stool he had been perched on very nearly went tumbling back behind him. Wide, amethyst eyes snapped up to the owner of the hand.

Aizawa stood in front of him, instantly pulling his hand away with a concerned look sitting in usually tired features. His mug of coffee had long been finished, test papers in his free hand at his side.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He said in an unusually soft voice. “You were looking a little worried there, was searching test answers really that stressful?”

Hitoshi could hear the way he was trying to lighten the tension simply by the tone of his words, but they were not quite enough to distract him completely. He looked down to his phone again, swiping off Shouto’s text notifications, leaving the news report open so he could show it to Aizawa.

“I was distracted. It’s the second one within a month. Statistics say one more & that makes a serial killer.”

Aizawa’s dark eyes flickered to the screen to skim over the headline & first paragraph, then to Hitoshi’s face with an unreadable look. “Even in a city full of heroes, these things can happen. In broad daylight, though, that’s uncommon, I have to admit.”

Hitoshi lowered his phone, levelling his guardian with a matched unreadable look. 

He slipped his phone back into his pocket & he contemplated whether it was worth speaking his mind or not. After much hesitation, he decided to keep his snarky comments about people blatantly ignoring crimes happening right in front of them because they thought heroes would deal with it to himself.

Just like Touya.

Just like Tenko.

Just like him.

Instead, Hitoshi swallowed around the lump forming in his throat & let out a tired sigh. Despite his silence though, Aizawa seemed to always know what he was thinking.

“I know where your mind is heading. You’re not back there anymore. You’re not going to be ignored when you’re hurting.”

“But those people were.”

“I know.” Aizawa sighed softly. “But we have to trust that the police & heroes will double their efforts to be sure this doesn’t escalate. Given the theatrics catching the headlines, there’s no doubt people will demand better security from heroes for fear they could be next.”

Strange nerves were itching at Hitoshi’s insides in a way that he couldn’t properly explain. He held eye contact only for a moment before using the cat, Sushi, plodding into the kitchen to find her food as the perfect excuse to look away.

“It looks like the killer is only going after specific people, though.” Hitoshi murmured, crouching down so he could gently fuss Sushi’s head with slow, careful movements. Aizawa gave him one last look that he caught out of his peripheral vision before moving to put food down for both of the cats.

It wasn’t long before Pillow was bounding into the kitchen at the sound of the food packet rustling.

“That won’t exactly soothe the public's worry, though. Until more details are divulged, people are going to panic.”

“I guess so.” Hitoshi sighed softly, them both mutually & silently agreeing to leave the conversation at that. Sushi brushed up against Hitoshi’s leg a few more times, quietly purring at the affection she was being given until she decided food was more interesting than he was.

Silently scoffing in feigned offence, Hitoshi stood back up to head to the couch with Aizawa in tow after he made himself a fresh cup of coffee.

The silence lingered between them only for a little while until it was broken by the hero telling him that he got almost every answer right on the exam papers & that perhaps he should have looked for more difficult ones.

From there, the conversations slipped into something that had been brewing for a few days, yet nobody had brought up just yet.

“So… About Denki.” Hitoshi started, then quickly corrected himself. “I mean, about what he said… About me showing up to class. I want to go.”

“I know you want to be in class rather than being cooped up in here, but with your injuries, we have to prioritise your healing.” Aizawa placed the papers down onto the coffee table, replacing them with his steaming coffee mug instead.

“I know. But it’s been a month now & Denki said after the U.S.J, you showed up to class the next day bandaged up like a mummy.”

Aizawa actually smirked at that.

“I was teaching, that’s a bit different to hero practice, no? You haven’t touched a capture weapon the entire time you’ve been here. Think you’re ready for that? Then there’s what the doctors said about your quirk.”

Yeah, Hitoshi knew all too well about what the doctors said.

Cutting the nurses’ fancy phrasing out of the equation, they essentially all but told him that he was broken. He was unstable & that using his quirk too much could have very negative results.

Take away his quirk & all he had was his binding cloth. Add his limited mobility in his hands into the mix & Hitoshi had to resist the urge to laugh to the point of tears. 

In a way, he supposed it was probably a karmic justice, that this was his punishment for not coming clean to the heroes about his past sooner. If he had, then he probably could have avoided the whole Chisaki-torture thing.

But here he was, trying to handle what he had been dealt without sounding as though he were trying to throw himself a pity party. That was the first thing on his very long list of things he did not want.

A soft sigh left Hitoshi as he curled his knees up to his chest, sinking further into the corner of the couch as he flexed his fingers absentmindedly. Now would be the perfect  time to bring up the fact that he had been testing out the limits of his quirk on Monoma.

Now would be the time to mention the nosebleeds that occurred as soon as he pushed even slightly too far.

He knew what his old limits were. He knew how strong his brainwashing could be just as long as he focused with everything he had, but Overhaul had obliterated that. Now he could barely make Monoma do three simple tasks before he was breaking free like it was nothing.

But when he opened his mouth, all he said was, “I’ll never know until I try & if things get too strenuous, then you can pull me out. That’s logical, right?”

He could tell him about the nosebleeds later.

Hitoshi tilted his head enough to flash a tiny smirk at Aizawa for using logic against him. “Please?”

“Well, we were planning on having some joint training battles with 1-B at some point in the near future.” Aizawa said & Hitoshi nodded with a curious head tilt as though he wasn’t already aware of them thanks to Monoma. “But if there’s so much as a nosebleed from you, I’m pulling you out & benching you.”

The teenager knew damn well he had an impeccable poker face, he also knew that there was no blood left on his face to give him away, so he had to assume that Aizawa was merely speculating on what would be the most likely turnout.

It didn’t suck any less that he was 100% accurate, though.

The look Aizawa fixed him with said that there was no room for arguing, but waited patiently to see if Hitoshi would protest anyway. When he said nothing, Aizawa added, “You’re doing this because you want to, not because you think you have to, right?”

His guardian knew all too well about Hitoshi’s desperate need to feel useful, to be useful. His fear that if he was anything less than perfect, then he’d be tossed away just as he had been one too many times in the past.

But Hitoshi wanted this. 

When faced with the choice to stay in U.A for real, or to apply to a different school, the answer was obvious.

He wanted this not just for himself, but for Eri too. To be the hero she deserved to look up to.

“I want to.”

“Alright.” Aizawa accepted with a nod & a half smile. “I’ll let Nedzu know that you’ll be starting classes after this weekend. Speaking of, why don’t you actually use the weekend to socialise with your class properly? A whole month here so far & you’ve only seen Kaminari once.”

The teenager didn’t particularly have an argument in his favour to respond with, so instead he pulled out his phone to text Denki to see if he wanted to hang out over the weekend.

Perhaps Denki wasn’t what Aizawa meant when he said ‘class’, but he was the only person Hitoshi could actively talk to & be around for long periods of time without wanting to crawl out of his own skin.

Hitoshi  3:28P.M

Aizawa is sick of me being an ‘introverted crouch gremlin’ as u called me. Wanna hang out on the weekend?

Denks  3:30P.M

I thought u’d never ask, Toshi! Me & the bakusquad are going out on saturday. Wanna join? Tell the parents we’ll keep u safe;)

Denks  3:30P.M

I’ll even hold ur hand so u don’t get lost

Hitoshi  3:32P.M

They’re not my parents. But fine

A subtle warmth crept up onto Hitoshi’s cheeks at the second text.

Denks  3:34P.M

I should probs clarify that we’ll only b like a 15 minute walk away from U.A at that new local mall

Hitoshi looked up to Aizawa, who’s attention was now on grading actual class papers. By the look on his face, he was probably grading Ashido’s & would welcome the distraction.

“Denki is going out with his friends on Saturday & offered for me to go with them. Is that… okay? They said they were only going to the mall nearby.”

Logically, the chances of something going wrong was minimal & Hitoshi knew he would be safe to leave campus for just a few hours, but he’d never quite doubt his ability to attract trouble no matter where he went. By the look on Aizawa’s face, he was thinking the same thing.

He watched the hero look contemplative until he eventually nodded. “As long as you keep your phone on you & you’re all back on campus by six, then I shouldn’t see why not. If anything happens-”

“Tell you or Yamada. I remember.” Hitoshi finished, then out of habit murmured a soft little apology for interrupting.

Just because the Hassaikai were behind bars didn’t mean there weren’t other people who wanted Hitoshi’s head on a platter. Just because he was hiding behind U.A walls didn’t mean they had backed off for good.

There was Tatsuya Ando - his old foster father - a criminal who was initially responsible for his fucked up upbringing was still out there somewhere. He was the man who forcefully trained Hitoshi to become the perfect accomplice, the man who sold him off to the Hassaikai when he became more trouble than he was worth.

Then there was Trigger, Tatsuya’s contact. She was the woman who created the drug of the same name & had aided in Hitoshi’s ‘training’. 

Not to mention the League & their fascination with him. 

They were all still out there somewhere, even if they had disappeared off of the map, elusive as ever.

Hitoshi had been promised that the police would keep a close eye on tracking them all down. That they’d update Aizawa on anything & in turn, Aizawa would tell him.

Still, the thought of walking around Musutafu with a target painted on his back & Tatsuya thirsty for the bullseye shot made Hitoshi’s skin crawl. But he knew damn well he couldn’t hide behind the walls of U.A & Aizawa forever, simply due to fears that may never turn into a reality.

He knew he’d never survive a rematch with his old foster father should he run into him one day, but he couldn’t let that fear take over everything else.

He was here. In spite of everything. He was alive. For how long? He wasn’t so sure. But he had to make the most of it.

Hitoshi  3:43P.M

Aizawa said it’s cool if I go off campus. Bakugou definitely going too?

Denks 3:44P.M

Yeah, Toshi, the guard dog is coming too. U’ll b ok!:D Meet us at the gates saturday 12P.M? We’ll get lunch while we’re out

Denks  3:44P.M

Wait, I forgot ur food thing

Denks 3:44P.M

I can come over to urs first so me & u can have lunch there, then meet the others

The subtle smile that sat on Hitoshi’s face was tough to scrub off no matter how hard he tried. Knowing that Denki actively remembered the little details about him made something spark in his chest.

“They were gonna go for lunch first, but Denks said he’ll come here for lunch with me then meet them after, if that’s cool with you guys.” Hitoshi paused for a moment, nibbling at his lip, then mumbled in an even quieter voice, “He remembered my food thing so...”

Aizawa looked up at that, an ever so subtle & rarely seen, genuinely soft smile on his lips.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that Hitoshi refused to eat or drink anything if he hadn’t made it himself or watched it be made. It took a little longer for Yamada to catch on, but as soon as Hitoshi started lingering around the kitchen at dinner times, he began to understand.

“It’s fine, ‘Toshi. You’re allowed to have friends over. That’s actually really considerate of him. But you do know if you put those two loud blonds in one room, all hell will break loose.”

“Yamada is Denks’ favourite teacher. He’ll be more excited to see him than me.” Hitoshi smiled subtly at the thought.

Despite Aizawa’s strict streak when it came to his students & his protective streak when it came to Hitoshi, he knew damn well that Denki wouldn’t show an inch of anxiety over the thought of being in the same house as his teachers.

Something about that knowledge made his chest all warm & fuzzy, knowing how Denki’s appreciation for him outweighed any apprehension elsewhere.

Or maybe it was just that Denki seemed ever oblivious to the sheer fear Aizawa’s red eyed, hair floating glare could instil into his students. He supposed it went hand in hand with the sheer lack of self-preservation the teen had when it came to irritating Bakugou.

Hitoshi had to wonder if Denki just didn’t notice that people were scary, or if he just actively refused to care. Given he had cosied up to Hitoshi more than anyone else, he was taking his chances on it being the latter.

There was that warmth in his chest again & if the look he was earning from Aizawa was anything to go by, then the warmth on his cheeks was blatantly obvious too.

Rather than entertaining those thoughts aloud, Hitoshi opted for mumbling about wanting to read & hopped up to scurry off to his room instead.

He didn’t end up reading & instead ended up lying on his bed with his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling as his thoughts began to swirl.

For the first time since… Well, ever, he was going to go out with friends.

Calling them friends was a bit of a stretch, he hadn’t even held a proper, full length conversation with any of them besides Denki. Perhaps he’d consider it a trial run, borrowing Denki’s friend group as a test to see if this was something he could deal with. 

If he couldn’t? No harm done, excluding the electric blond, it wasn’t exactly like he knew any of them well enough for them to be negatively affected by him deciding he was better off alone.

Bakugou & Kirishima were in the small group of people who were in the know of Hitoshi’s past & all of its horrors. He hadn’t faced them since they found out, hadn’t been there to see their reactions, hadn’t had to deal with the fallout just yet. 

Logically, he knew that one day he would have to see them, perhaps even have to talk about it, but as he lay there staring at the ceiling, Hitoshi was beginning to wish he could have put it off for longer.

Impatience to begin a new chapter of his life was at war with overwhelming fear & the crippling grip of never being able to let the past go.

Part of him wanted so badly to be a normal teenager, doing normal teenager things. He wanted to laugh & hang out with friends, he wanted to look over at Denki & see him smiling & get teased for having such blatantly obvious favouritism towards him.

Yet he knew he couldn’t. He knew this was bordering on the line from ‘within reason’ to ‘pipe dream’.

But who was drawing that line? Nobody but his masochistic self, apparently.

Hitoshi would never stop looking over his shoulder. He’d never not flinch at a loud sound or a door unlocking. He’d always be afraid of monsters that only he seemed to be able to see & that clouded every possible route towards being okay. 

This war between what he wanted versus what he felt as though he couldn’t have was as draining as it was infuriating & Hitoshi moved his hands from behind his head to scrub at his face frustratedly.

In an attempt to save himself before he spiralled into a panic attack, the teenager sat up, lanky legs flinging over the edge of his bed to plant his feet firmly on the soft carpet as something to focus on, something to keep him grounded.

His eyes drifted around his room, landing on the small, unopened box on the edge of his desk that housed the earphones that came along with his phone.

Spurred on by the annoyance at the thought of not being able to do a single ‘normal’ thing, Hitoshi reached out to grab the box, taking a little too long to try to peel the sticky tape off. Once he managed though, he wasted no time in getting the wireless earphones paired to his phone & opened up the music streaming app that Yamada had been absolutely adamant on him having.

For a few moments, he just sat there, staring at the blank search bar, realising he didn’t actually know any music. 

He had never really been around it. Same went for movies or video games or other forms of media. It just wasn’t something he got to enjoy.

If not for his sudden spur of spite-filled confidence, the earphones would have stayed sitting there collecting dust as they had been for the past month.

The thought of having something obstructing his hearing absolutely terrified him. The thought of not being aware of his surroundings at all times, not being able to hear when someone was sneaking up on him, it was almost too much to bear.

It didn’t matter if he was in the safe confines of the apartment with a pro hero he trusted more than anything or anyone in the other room, he had just never been able to bring himself to stick his earphones in, play some music & focus on a book or some revision papers.

But considering he had already braved making plans he was already dreading & had looked at his reflection for more than thirty seconds, today was feeling like the sort of day to try to act like a normal fucking person, even if he didn’t feel like one.

Hitoshi moved to situate himself so his back was against the headboard of his bed, making it so the door was in his perfect line of sight. Swallowing down his nerves, he popped the earphones in his ears & drew in a few steadying breaths while trying to convince himself in his mind that this wasn’t a big fucking deal.

Then, after much more contemplation, he pulled up his contacts to text the one person he knew would be able to help with his lack of music knowledge predicament.

Considering he had lived with Yamada for a month now, Hitoshi had barely spoken a sentence to the man. He just… didn’t know how. Sure, he’d said a word or two here & there, nodded or shook his head when Yamada babbled on about anything & everything, but he had never actually held a full conversation with him.

Shit, he really couldn’t do a single thing like a regular person, could he?

His fingers hovered above the letters on his keyboard as he nibbled at his lip, trying to work out what the best way to even begin a conversation was. Did it matter? Would Yamada be offended if he only texted him now that he wanted something?

Deciding he was thinking too much again & ‘fuck it’ was the best option, Hitoshi got to typing before he could chicken out & blatantly asked Yamada to recommend him some music. No hello, no small talk, just a simple question followed up by a brief sentence saying it dawned on him that he could name a whole zero bands or musicians.

He didn’t even have time to second guess what he had written as his phone buzzed almost instantly. The response was so freakishly fast, Hitoshi was curious if the hero was already on his phone, because if he wasn’t, how the fuck did someone type so quickly?

Yamada (ICE)  4:06P.M

Yoshi Toshi! Hey, listener! You’ve come to the right person :D You look like you’d like some post-punk, so why don’t we start there? If that ain’t up your alley, then we can try new-wave or even something completely different, but still groovy.

Attached to the message were multiple links to various playlists, titled as their genres.

Hitoshi wasn’t so sure what Yamada meant by saying he’d look like he’d like post-punk, but given that was the first one he mentioned, he figured he’d start there.

After texting back a thank you & promise he’d tell the hero what he thought of the music, Hitoshi finally clicked on the first link & clicked play. The second the music began to play, soft sparks of colour began to fill his mind. Greys & blues, muted, but something to focus on.

He kept the volume below halfway, being certain that he would still be able to make out heavy footsteps down the hall or voices if someone spoke, but as the sounds of soft guitar riffs & simplistic drum beats paired with melancholic lyrics filled Hitoshi’s ears, the anxiety that was eating him up from the inside out slowly fizzled away. 

Not completely, it’d never go away completely, but it was definitely drowned out by the words filling his ears & the colours filling his brain.

Purple eyes stayed trained on the door, not quite brave enough to let his guard down yet, but as he settled back against the headboard, the tension from his shoulders slowly ebbed away. He listened to a man sing about feeling whole again with someone whom Hitoshi presumed to be their love interest.

The lyrics struck chords inside of Hitoshi that he hadn’t quite been expecting. Images of a smiling blond with golden eyes flooded his mind without his permission & a blanket of calm felt as though it had settled over him.

Once the song was over, Hitoshi momentarily cast his eyes down to his phone to catch the name of the band.

The Cure.

He couldn’t help but scoff at the irony.

Nonetheless, he skipped the song back to the start so he could listen to it all over again, hoping that calm feeling would stay for just a little while longer.

For just a few seconds, Hitoshi thought that perhaps for the first time in a long time, he felt more okay than he ever really had been. It was an odd realisation, really, he wasn’t so sure how to feel about it.

He wasn’t sure how long it’d last, not when there was a strange ticking-clock feeling somewhere in the back of his mind, as if time was running out. He was running from demons he knew damn wanted to catch up to him.

But for now? 

He pushed it aside with every other thought that was plaguing his ever-spiralling mind & focused on those gloomy vocals with a subtle smile on his face.

Chapter Text

“I’m just saying, if anyone deserves to be in the bargain bin, it’s Endeavour, not Jeanist.”

“I thought you hated Jeanist?”

“I do!” Bakugou snapped a little too defensively. “But I hate Endeavour more. Sparky can call my personality flaming garbage, but at least I’m not like that.”

Hitoshi’s tired eyes drifted from Kirishima to Bakugou as they bickered back & forth from where they were standing on opposite sides of an aisle of a hero merch store. For everything Kirishima said, Bakugou had the opposite thing to say & almost every conversation turned into a soft debate.

He labelled it as soft, because if he was being honest, as soon as it came to that smiling redhead, Bakugou seemed to mellow out a lot more than if he was talking to… Well, shouting at anybody else.

He vaguely wondered just how much of Endeavour’s piece of shit personality Bakugou was aware of. Did he know why Shouto acted the way he did? Why he switched off all emotions just as Hitoshi did, just to make it through the day? Did he know about Touya?

“Hey, tall, dark & sleepy.” A chirpy voice snapped Hitoshi out of where his mind was wandering & he turned a little too fast on his heel so that his head felt fuzzy for a few moments. 

He was met with Ashido grinning up at him cheekily, holding up a tight black t-shirt with wavy golden lines along it. 

“Go try this on in the fitting room so I can take a picture to tease Kami with.”

When all Hitoshi did was stare, Ashido let out a dramatic sigh as though he was being intentionally difficult. “Hello? Hawks is Kami’s favourite hero! It’s obvious you’re his favourite person out of all of us, so c’mon, put this on so we can see him turn into a disaster.”

“No.”

“Please?”

“No.” Hitoshi repeated in a quiet voice, trying to keep the defensive edge out of his tone as he turned back towards the shelf, pretending to look as though he was interested in what he was seeing. He wasn’t. 

He really, really did not care for ninety percent of heroes & the one he did care about looking at the merch for wasn’t particularly popular enough to get much memorabilia in the first place.

He did see some knock off, cheaply made yellow goggles, but Hitoshi already had an authentic pair already sitting on his desk back at the apartment. Other than that, there wasn’t a single t-shirt in sight dedicated to the underground hero.

“Oh c’mon! Don’t you want to see Kami get all googly-eyed over you?!”

Half of Hitoshi wanted to say that he didn’t need to wear a replica of Hawks’ shirt to get that sort of reaction from Denki. Not when the blond wasn’t particularly subtle in the way his eyes lingered on Hitoshi now that he was finally seeing him properly again after too much time had passed & too much had happened.

But the other half of him wasn’t in the mood to entertain her. 

When Denki had come over just an hour prior to eat lunch with Hitoshi before meeting with his friends, Hitoshi had caught onto the look those golden eyes were giving him. He saw the way they took in his outfit with a shy, yet appreciative smile on his lips.

Being looked at so closely by anyone else would have made him want to try to crawl out of his skin & hide away, but with Denki? He found he didn’t mind & was instead mildly amused by the way the teenager tripped over a few of his words with a flush sitting on his cheeks.

It belatedly occurred to him that for the first time in a long time, Denki was seeing him… healed. Or, at least as healed as he could be. No casts, no bandages, no grey sweats & oversized shirts that hung off of his frame.

Hitoshi had opted to wear tight black jeans & a long sleeved black v-neck to match, the only colour to his outfit being the little embroidered stars along the sleeves of his black bomber jacket. 

One of the very few instances he had left the apartment was to go clothes shopping with Yamada given the entire time he had been borrowing Aizawa’s clothes. It was surprisingly difficult given Hitoshi had no idea what he liked & mostly just opted for black in everything. 

It earned him a few remarks that he was a little bit too much like Aizawa, but Yamada didn’t seem to mind that Hitoshi was so very clearly out of his element & didn’t share the same love for fashion that the loud blond seemed to have.

Despite that, Hitoshi had actively made an effort to look half decent & it seemed to have worked if the enthusiastic thumbs up from Yamada & the compliments from Denki were anything to go by. Eri had, in her own very Eri way, told him that he looked like he actually belonged in the outside world. As did she, come to think of it, in her long sleeved shirt & dungarees. 

The cold winter weather meant he didn’t need an excuse to hide beneath layers of clothes & long sleeves, but he couldn’t think of an easy explanation for Ashido as to why he was refusing repeatedly to something that should be fun & games.

It wasn’t exactly like he could say he was a mess of scars from head to toe & his arms were no exception, half thanks to Chisaki, half thanks to being thrown into intense combat training from the age of ten.

Sure the ones on his face were visible now, & much like Monoma, nobody made a comment on them. When he had met up with Denki’s friends ready to leave for the mall, he was simply met with smiles & kind words, excluding the grunt of acknowledgement from Bakugou.

Despite being absolutely mortified at the realisation he’d have to face people who knew of his past, Hitoshi was pleasantly surprised that nobody looked at him with glares of disdain or hostility.

He wasn’t so sure where he necessarily stood on the scale of enemy to friend with anyone besides Denki, but he hoped by the end of the day, he’d have at least a slight idea.

Kirishima was all smiles, but there was an almost pitying look in his eye, for a lack of a better word. While it was nice not being looked at like he was something that needed to be broken or something that should be feared, he didn’t particularly like being looked at like he was missing a couple of pieces either. Like he was fragile.

At least the redhead seemed to genuinely want to make conversation with him & asked about Eri almost instantly. 

In the back of his mind, Hitoshi had grouped Kirishima with Midoriya, Denki & Yamada in his various categories of ‘People who know my shit’. They were in the overly caring, but nice about it pile. Hitoshi naturally doubted bright smiles & compliments, but being around Denki helped him see that not everybody who had a smile was hiding an ulterior motive behind it.

Aizawa sat in his own category of knowing too much, of seeing right through him & yet being an unmoving, sturdy force to be reckoned with all the same. Meanwhile Shouto was in a ‘knows everything but doesn’t care’ spot.

Hitoshi wasn’t so sure where that left Bakugou. He was a hard one to read.

The puzzle pieces & expectations he did have of Bakugou didn’t seem to match up to meeting the boy face to face. Everything he did know, everything he had learnt from watching 1-A perform at the Sports Fest & the rumours he had heard all led to one conclusion: Bakugou should be screaming in his face, setting off bright explosions with even more colourful threats.

Yet that wasn’t what he got.

Ruby eyes had studied him, clearly taking in the scars on his face & he didn’t try to be subtle about it. But rather than receiving explodo-hands though, all he got was a grunt in lieu of a hello.

Perhaps that placed him one foot in Shouto’s category & one foot in Aizawa’s, but the verdict was still out on that one.

Another thing he registered & was mildly fascinated by, was that despite all of Denki’s talk of how close his friend group was, Ashido & Sero were still left in the dark about his secrets. Denki promised that nobody else knew, but it still came as a mild surprise.

They were none the wiser & while it could be said that they knew but were hiding it behind brilliant poker faces, Hitoshi could tell easily that they really were oblivious. 

They didn’t know where the scars had come from, how he was close to Eri or why he had just disappeared out of school & left them to pick up the mess that he had likely left Denki in.

They just saw him as Denki’s friend who had been dubbed as ‘mysterious’ by Sero & ‘too Aizawa-like’ by Ashido.

So they didn’t know just how scary it was for Hitoshi to be out of campus & away from Aizawa’s side for more than five minutes to be with them instead. 

They wouldn’t know why he was so… Hitoshi about everything. That included refusing Ashido on repeat without an excuse he could freely give.

“Why not? Pretty ple-”

“Oi!” Bakugou’s loud voice had them both flinching in surprise & Hitoshi snapped his head up, noticing the sympathetic look Kirishima was giving him out of his peripheral vision. Bakugou had his hands propped on one of the bargain bins, leaning right over it to get closer to Ashido.

“Eyebags said no, so stop fucking asking.”

There was a strange edge to his tone. It was different from his usual hostility, but Hitoshi couldn’t quite pinpoint why. He very nearly sounded protective, but just like with what terms they sat on with one another, Hitoshi was unsure about it.

“But-”

“I said fuck off, Bug Eyes!” Bakugou snapped again, looking as though he was all of two seconds away from launching over that bin just to snap right in Ashido’s face. 

Thankfully though, the pink girl seemed to finally get the hint & pouted at Bakugou before marching off, grumbling about making him pay for his own ice-cream later instead.

Purple eyes watched her leave before they drifted towards Bakugou as he absentmindedly tugged his sleeves over his hands. “Tha-”

Before he could even get the ‘thank you’ past his lips, the angry blond was making a quiet ‘tch’ sound, followed up by a rather irritated mutter of, “Whatever, MK Ultra, stand up for yourself next time.”

Hitoshi couldn’t help the scoff that left him. He didn’t even have it in him to be caught off guard by the mildly offensive nickname when Bakugou was just so ballsy to say it to his face without a second thought.

The blond then turned back to Kirishima, who was looking between them with a slight head tilt, clearly trying to follow what was happening. Denki just so happened to come jogging back from where he had vanished off to the other side of the store with a few trinkets in hand.

He looked as though he was about to say something, but paused as he studied everyone’s faces. “What happened now?!” He asked as he threw a Fatgum plushie at Kirishima’s chest with a grin that only stayed for a second before falling away.

“Do you know what MK Ultra is?” Kirishima asked Denki.

When all Denki did was shrug & tilt his head, Hitoshi let out a tired sigh at the same time as Bakugou did, who was now muttering under his breath & snatched the Fatgum plushie from the redhead before marching off towards the counter.

“It was an American thing.” Hitoshi spoke in a quiet voice, looking down at his feet to avoid the two sets of puppy eyes that were now staring at him like he was the most interesting thing in the store. “The CIA did experiments on people, a lot of it involving dosing them up on drugs.”

Kirishima seemed to have everything click into place quicker than Denki given the latter missed half of the conversation & gasped quietly. “Okay, not cool. I’ll go talk to him.”

“It’s fine.” Hitoshi murmured as he looked up to offer Kirishima a crooked, half smile in the hopes of showing it really wasn’t a big deal. It felt strange on his face & left as quickly as it had shown, blank façade fixing back into place. “It’s Bakugou, I think I deserve a little more than a shitty nickname.”

“What? No.” Kirishima looked around a little less than subtly to see if anyone else was near them besides Denki. When he saw that the coast was clear, he leaned in a little to quietly say, “You didn’t have a choice, man. What they did to you was fucked up. Don’t let Kats, or anyone who knows, say shit about what happened. Alright?”

How Kirishima was so kind, he would never understand. Same went for Denki.

Hitoshi had tried to wrap his mind around it a few times. In one way or another, he had either hurt these people or put them in danger & yet they still looked at him as though he was just another person who deserved to be in their inner circle.

He was beginning to think that hero course students confused him about as much as kind adults did.

All he could do was nod for fear of his voice wavering if he tried to use it. A nod seemed to be enough though, as it earned him a bright smile from Kirishima, who then turned on his heel to go find his favourite blond.

That left Denki & Hitoshi alone. After a moment, Denki used that as his chance to offer a sheepish smile to him as he held out his free hand. “I did say I’d hold your hand so you don’t get lost…”

“I think this might be an excuse.” Hitoshi replied, but took the offered hand anyway, finally managing to interlace his fingers with Denki’s on his own now he didn’t have splints & bandages in the way.

It was the first time he was holding Denki’s hand without the bandages acting as a barrier between their skin. The little shocks from the ever-present static surrounding the blond were more noticeable than before & they sent a little shudder down Hitoshi’s spine.

Denki must have felt it, because he squeezed Hitoshi’s hand gently in response, then headed towards the counter to buy the little keychains he had in his other hand. By the time they were done in the merch store, the group all met back up together outside, seemingly having forgotten about Bakugou’s little defensive outburst on Hitoshi’s behalf.

Ashido was the first to notice that Denki was holding his hand & the squeal she let out was so shrill, it left Hitoshi’s ears ringing. Before she could get her teasing in, however, Denki very proudly declared he was making sure Hitoshi didn’t get lost. For if he did, Aizawa would personally throttle him with his binding cloth.

Being left out of the loop & not knowing that Aizawa was now Hitoshi’s legal guardian, both Ashido & Sero looked at each other in confusion in regards to how their teacher came into play. 

Denki easily recovered with a lazy smirk. “Well we all know ‘Toshi is Aizawa’s favourite. Do you want to be responsible for losing him? ‘Cause I sure don’t.”

“Actually,” Hitoshi softly butted in. “Bakugou is Aizawa’s favourite student. He doesn’t even try to hide it.”

That shifted the conversation, finally taking the spotlight off of Hitoshi’s closeness to Aizawa & had everyone instead beginning to bicker over how Bakugou could possibly be his favourite when he caused so many problems.

Hitoshi opted to keep the thought that he caused Aizawa many more headaches than Bakugou ever could to himself. He was beginning to think that perhaps the hero had a soft spot for the ‘problem children’.

As they walked & talked, Bakugou had a smug look on his face the entire time knowing full well that Hitoshi’s words were the truth. Ashido & Denki complained about not being favourites due to their grades, while Sero & Kirishima chatted about not having insanely powerful & flashy quirks like Bakugou’s.

Hitoshi didn’t join in, but he listened intently with the soft warmth sitting in his chest at hearing the teenagers bicker about things so seemingly unimportant.

He wasn’t so sure he’d ever get used to it, but his near-panic attack the night prior felt a little more ridiculous at that moment. He tried to give himself the benefit of the doubt, trying to remember some of Aizawa’s many words of wisdom, but that was easier said than done.

Living most of his life on pure survival instincts, it wasn’t exactly like Hitoshi had ever had friends. He didn’t get to ever speak to people either. 

There were no fond childhood memories or embarrassing teenage stories. No memories of friends or family dinners. 

He didn’t get the childhood most people his age had the luxury of, but listening to the people around him bicker amongst themselves as they all made their way towards a diner didn’t leave him feeling left out like he thought perhaps it would. Instead, it was quite the opposite.

He appreciated their easy conversations & pointless chatter. It let his mind calm down for a little while. He didn’t have to think, he didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. 

Kirishima made an active effort to keep him involved in the conversations, but when he had nothing to share besides shrugs & hums in acknowledgement or agreement, the redhead eventually got the hint that he’d rather just listen than talk.

Once they made it to the diner that was stylised to be American with chequered flooring & red seating, the group got seated at one of the larger booths near the back.

Hitoshi watched as everyone sat in a way that left the seats against the back wall free for both him & Bakugou. 

At first, he thought perhaps it was a coincidence, but when Kirishima sat near the window & Bakugou shuffled in beside him to leave a space for Hitoshi at the end, he realised the set-up was intentional.

Ashido & Sero sat opposite, with Denki beside them on the edge opposite Hitoshi, a soft smile sitting on those ever bright features of his. Kirishima looked content to be boxed in against the window & Bakugou looked relatively calm despite glaring at the rest of the diner, narrowed red eyes tracking every movement.

He was beginning to think Bakugou shared his need to search for every exit & suspicious looking person in each room he entered, back to the wall so nobody could sneak up on him.

Oh how his curiosity grew.

Purple eyes drifted to the menu, studying the writing that was as bold as it was obnoxious, offering only foods that were full of tooth-rotting sugar.

He wondered if people really did eat pancakes for dinner while considering it a decent meal. His stomach churned at the thought & he instead focused on listening to the group argue over what flavoured ice-creams they’d be sharing.

Eventually, they seemed to settle on ordering two large sundaes of different flavours to share & despite Ashido complaining earlier about Bakugou paying for his own ice-cream, once the desserts were on the table, she was the one who pulled out her wallet.

After a few minutes, Ashido was also the first to actually notice Hitoshi wasn’t eating any.

“Aren’t you gonna have some, Mini-Zawa?” She chirped with that same cheeky grin from earlier. Unfortunately the comment brought three other pairs of eyes to look at him. Bakugou just stayed focused on digging through the sundae for the brownie pieces.

“No.”

“I’m starting to think that’s your favourite word.” Ashido pouted. “Do you know what fun is?”

“No.” Hitoshi repeated, deadpan.

While it wasn’t exactly a lie, or supposed to be taken as a joke, Sero snorted in a laugh at his bland response anyway.

This time it was Denki coming to the rescue, looking over at Ashido with that stupid bright smile of his after nudging Hitoshi’s foot under the table. “He ate before we came out. Besides, that means there’s more for us anyways, so don’t complain or else he’ll eat it out of spite.”

They both knew he wouldn’t, but Denki’s answer seemed to be good enough & earned a laugh from the girl who dropped her pushing as quickly as she had started.

While he had endless patience, Hitoshi had a tiny feeling that Ashido was going to drain his social batteries much quicker than anyone else with her constant questions & curiosity.

At least the rest of the group seemed to catch onto Hitoshi’s lack of social skills & took them in stride without making him feel either like the asshole or stupid for his minimalistic responses & uncertainty to this whole ‘hanging out with friends’ thing.

When it came to conversations, Hitoshi was always one of two things. He was either monosyllabic or used carefully crafted responses to get someone to respond in his favour. He had never been taught any other way.

Half of his life had been spent not being allowed to speak, while the other half relied on him finding ways to get armed attackers to respond, just so they wouldn’t hurt him. He didn’t know how to hold normal conversations about ordinary, teenager things. This was all new to him.

So he listened closely to the way everybody spoke, picking up on the lilt to their tones or the way certain sentences were phrased. Everything was so light & airy, easy going without any undertones of fear.

Denki always spoke in a way that seemed almost… flirtatious, for lack of a better word. He poked fun at Bakugou with no sense of self preservation & smiled in the face of every threat thrown back at him. He tilted his head & batted those lashes, making him equal parts endearing & infuriating all at once.

But when he spoke to Hitoshi? He spoke more softly & was more shy. He was more… Gentle. 

Then there was Bakugou, who when he did speak, either sounded extremely pissed off or caustic, keeping everyone at an arm's length. 

Kirishima was just bubbly & kind hearted, paying no mind to Bakugou’s abrasiveness. Ashido was noisy in a nosy sort of way & Sero seemed to be able to adapt to every conversation with an ease that Hitoshi could only dream of having.

As Hitoshi studied their speech patterns, lost in his own head, he thought perhaps he’d like to be more like them. Witty & quick with his replies, a lazy smirk on his face the entire time. Confident.

There was a spark deep down, though. The need to wind people up & out smart them, just to see how they’d react. Hell, he’d done with fucking Chisaki of all people. He did it when he had to blend into the U.A crowd too.

But now he didn’t have to hold up false pretences. Now that he didn’t have to pretend to be somebody, now the lies had been stripped away… He had no idea who the fuck he was.

Fuck. 

It felt less like his quirk was brainwashing & more like he was. The very fabric of his being, every fibre in him was itching to become something that could easily take people’s conversation with a sly smirk & instantly turn it on them. Something coy. Something cunning. Something shrewd.

Something- No. Someone else. 

He wanted to trade his stoic mask for a new one, his mask that he thought had long since shattered thanks to Aizawa, but seemed to creep back up now he was around other people. He almost felt suffocated by it, like the façade was slowly gluing itself back in place & refused to let go without a fight.

Who would have thought existing could feel so complicated?

In spite of it all, Hitoshi found himself grateful that he was dragged into a friend group where two of them never really shut up & one of them responded mostly through either various grunts or hostile yelling. It made him feel as though he was sticking out like a sore thumb just that little bit less.

“Ya know,” Ashido began once again, earning an annoyed sigh from Bakugou before she had even started. If she heard it, she didn’t let it bother her as she carried on, “We’ve sort of got a head start on stealing Shin away from the others.”

At the mention of his name, Hitoshi looked up from where he was absentmindedly studying the streak in Denki’s hair to keep himself from spiralling & tilted his head in curiosity. For a moment, he had to do a quick mental check to be sure that, yes, she was indeed referring to him.

“Oh, you’re right!” Kirishima piped up. “Technically he’s already part of the Bakusq-”

“Stop calling us that.” Bakugou muttered from beside him, nudging Kirishima with his elbow. The blond’s face was pulled into a scowl, eyes narrowed as he yanked one of the half empty sundae glasses towards himself, earning a ‘hey, what the hell?’ look from Sero, who had been mid-trying to get a spoon full.

“You’re welcome, guys.” Denki sing-songed, a grin on his lips. “I single-handedly made friends with Mr. ‘I’m Going To Declare War On 1-A’ & dragged him here. If not for me, when he moves into our class, he’d probably end up in Midoriya’s group.” 

“He’s moving into our class?” Sero asked.

“Oh shit, ‘Toshi, was I not supposed to tell them that?”

“It’s fine.” Hitoshi shrugged, appreciative that Kirishima was at least feigning interest, like he had no clue what was going on just so Ashido & Sero wouldn’t grow suspicious as to why they were continuously out of the loop when it came to all things Hitoshi.

“I mean we all know Midoriya would absolutely lose his shit over the thought of analysing his quirk up close.” Kirishima added, to which Denki reached across the table to gently tap Hitoshi’s temple.

“You already got in his head at the Sports Fest, yeah? Bet he’s itching to figure you out.” His grin widened impossibly larger, slouching back in his seat with an almost reluctance to his movements.

Hitoshi smiled subtly at the touch & ducked his head to hide it for a moment before deciding to focus back on Denki. Talking to him, but loud enough for the rest of the group to hear, was the easiest way to speak when more than one person was around.

Denki was his central point. A grounding force.

“I doubt that.” Hitoshi’s voice was soft, quiet & uncertain, but he seemed to gain everybody’s interest again.

Despite being certain he wasn’t sure how to hold a full conversation with anybody other than Aizawa or Denki, everybody looked at him so expectantly. If everyone kept looking at him like that, like they were just waiting to see what he had to say, Hitoshi thought just maybe he’d be able to get used to finding his voice one day. Hopefully.

“You can’t just say that & not explain.” Denki grinned.

“Well…” Hitoshi rubbed at the back of his neck in a nervous sort of way as purple eyes flickered from face to face, then back to Denki. “I sort of yelled in his face last time I saw him… Then I punched him.”

That earned a gasp from a few members of the group, but was drowned out by a boisterous laugh from the hostile blond beside him. Well, that seemed to wipe the constant frown from Bakugou’s features. 

His eyes flickered to Hitoshi, studying him for a second as if trying to figure something out. “Maybe you’re not as stupid as I initially thought.”

At least he was honest. 

That was another puzzle piece he had that made up the image of Bakugou he had in his head. He might have been a lot of things, a lot of them unpleasant for a lot of people, but Bakugou was nothing but honest.

He was a prick about it, sure, but he was honest. He didn’t hide who he was behind false exteriors in the way that Hitoshi always had. He was hostile, hotheaded & his ego needed a dose of the modest juice, but he was so true to his very being.

Perhaps that was what set Bakugou apart from the other people Hitoshi knew who were just as loud & violent. Those people were anything but honest & Bakugou was true to his nature. Everybody knew what Bakugou wanted because the foundations of who he was were never hidden away.

He was a douchebag, but a different brand of douchebag than Hitoshi. In a way, he almost admired the brutal honesty that came along with the hair-trigger tempered teenager.

It made him want to be the honest version of himself, not this fractured, mish-mash of various personality traits that stemmed solely from survival instincts, pining to be anything other than who he was currently.

“Maybe I am.” Hitoshi replied, staring right at that smug face & piercing eyes. “I mean, my hand was in bandages at the time… Broken fingers & all that. That makes me pretty stupid.”

He belatedly realised that Denki was the only one who knew about the severity of his injuries, but he presumed the blond would have at least mentioned it to Bakugou & Kirishima, given they were in the loop.

“Okay, you can’t just say that & not explain!” Both Ashido & Sero chimed at the same time, looking at each other as they noticed their unison before their attention was back on Hitoshi, wide-eyed & curious, just like the rest of the group.

Hitoshi was already mildly regretting having brought it up.

The punch happened two weeks prior.

Both Midoriya & Togata were coming over to visit Eri, but before Midoriya could even make it past the doorway, Hitoshi was reacting.

“Oh, hey Shinsou!” Midoriya chirped in that tone that was just too fucking cheery for Hitoshi to comfortably gel with. Sure, Denki was cheerful, but he was a different kind of cheerful. His cheer didn’t grate against Hitoshi’s very core.

Something about Midoriya’s did. 

After answering the door, Yamada had danced his way back to the kitchen to carry on with the lunch he was preparing, telling the boys to make themselves at home. Aizawa was busy in Eri’s room, tying her hair into cute little piggy-tails. 

Hitoshi was lingering near the hallway, heart racing from the sound of the door knocking when Midoriya noticed him.

Togata was the first to wander into the apartment, looking around & happily telling Yamada how lovely the place was while Midoriya lingered for a moment upon seeing the look sitting on Hitoshi’s face.

Anger, irritation & behaviour that was a little too reminiscent of the violence Hitoshi grew up around clouded his better judgement for just a few moments.

“I just wanted to say-” 

Hitoshi didn’t let him finish his sentence. Whatever Midoriya was going to say, it never left his mouth.

With his teeth grit together, Hitoshi marched forward to close the gap between them, shoving Midoriya up against the wall opposite the front door. His back collided against it with a dull thud & the force of Hitoshi’s shove clearly knocked the air out of his lungs.

“You! You let Eri go!” Hitoshi’s voice was loud in his head, rattling around his skull in a way that he hadn’t experienced since his genuine hostility at the Sports Festival. He had been angry then. Angry that Midoriya & the other hero kids got things so easy. He never took a second to think that they could have been struggling, just like him.

 It was that same anger he felt now. 

Hitoshi wasn’t thinking straight again, but anger had a tendency to do that. It clouded his mind, hiding all of who he was & only left behind everything he didn’t want to be.

“I-”

“I don’t want your excuses! I- I almost died getting her out & you fucking let her go back! I trusted you! I almost killed people to get her out!” Pain laced Hitoshi’s words, his voice cracking, throat feeling raw & every word felt like a razorblade. 

Saying the truth out loud hurt. Saying he nearly killed people hurt. He didn’t want to. He wanted to be better than that, but scorpions were always scorpions. Violence would always be in their nature. 

He pulled Midoriya back just to slam him back against the wall again as he shouted in his face. He vaguely registered footsteps behind him, but that anger grew. His own voice filling his head with red. So much red. 

No more than a second later & a crack cut sharply through the air between them as the knuckles on Hitoshi’s less injured hand collided with Midoriya’s cheekbone.

It was immediately followed up by a cry of pain that Hitoshi didn’t even realise belonged to himself. The agony that sparked up his hand & rattled his wrist was enough to cause his knees to buckle & caused him to crumple to the floor with ragged breaths. 

Midoriya was left standing against the wall, cradling his cheek with widened eyes.

Hitoshi cradled his hand to his chest protectively, hunched over as he squeezed his eyes shut to keep his tears at bay. 

This was quickly making it onto his list of ‘stupidest fucking decisions’. 

Spitting blood in Chisaki’s face was still the reigning champion of the stupidest choices he had made, but this was also pretty high up there, he decided.

Through the sound of his heart pounding in his ears, he could just about make out that Togata was already at Midoriya’s side talking, likely trying to work out what had happened. Or maybe he was apologising for not jogging over fast enough.

He could vaguely make out Midoriya apologising on repeat, but it faded into background sound when he belatedly registered that there was a familiar presence crouched beside him. Aizawa had his hair tucked behind both ears, a worried look sitting on his face as he held out his hand expectantly.

It clicked somewhere in the back of his mind that Aizawa wasn’t touching him, despite having every right to yank him away from the situation & for that he was grateful. Hitoshi blinked the blurriness from his vision & looked to Aizawa’s hand, then up to those dark eyes that were studying him, waiting patiently.

After swallowing around the lump in his throat, cringing at the way it stung from his shouting, Hitoshi held out his shaking hand to which Aizawa gently took, carefully turning it this way & that.

It wasn’t exactly like he could see any damage, but in a quiet voice, he said, “Can you flex your fingers?”

It took Hitoshi a few moments, but he ever so carefully flexed his fingers, then curled them into a fist. He flexed them again to show he was fine, despite the blatantly obvious shake to his movements & the stiffness in each motion.

“Are we going to have a problem?” Aizawa asked, still in that same quiet voice, sounding progressively more tired with each word said.

“He let Eri go.” Hitoshi whispered, afraid to speak any louder. He was already tense from head to toe, expecting some form of backlash, a punishment for stepping out of line as much as he did.

But Aizawa’s touch was nothing but gentle, his voice was nothing but soft & not a single time did he scold Hitoshi for his actions.

“I know. But he got her back. She’s safe now & so are you. So, are we going to have a problem?”

‘But he got her back.’

Right. Midoriya & Togata single-handedly took down Chisaki when everyone else was down for the count. Aizawa had told him as much. Togata lost his quirk because of it & he didn’t get the luxury of getting his back like Hitoshi did.

What did he do to thank them? Punched Midoriya in the face for it.

“I can’t forgive him.” Hitoshi whispered.

“Nobody is asking you to. But I am asking you to be civil, can you do that?”

It took him longer than it probably should have, but eventually Hitoshi nodded & only then did Aizawa help him stand on wobbly feet. The hero lingered, a hand hovering near his elbow, ready to catch him if he fell.

Despite Hitoshi’s resting bitch face, when he looked to Midoriya, there seemed to be a silent understanding sitting in those wide, bright green eyes of his.

“I’m,” Hitoshi drew in a deep breath, counted backwards from five in his head, then released it, eyes flickering from Aizawa’s face back to Midoriya’s. It was okay to speak. They kept telling him that. “I was angry.”

Not an apology, but it was as close as he was willing to get. He wasn’t sorry. He’d punch Midoriya again if he could.

“I was mad at myself too.” Midoriya surprisingly agreed with ease. “I guess I deserved that.”

The memory played back in Hitoshi’s mind like an old movie scene. It was perfectly clear & he remembered every little detail, right down to the sound of his own rugged breathing. He hadn’t even realised he had momentarily zoned out until a gentle foot nudged against his own.

He absentmindedly flexed his fingers on his right hand as though he could shake away a pain that wasn’t as prominent as it once was. 

Realising he had no clue how to actually word the story, especially considering Ashido & Sero had no clue why he’d be so worked up over Eri’s safety, Hitoshi simply shrugged instead.

“Just a difference in opinions, I suppose.” He settled on. Vague, but it would do. 

Yeah, they had two very different ways of looking at what being a hero meant.

Hitoshi was willing to get his hands dirty to save Eri. He was willing to hurt people for her. Meanwhile Midoriya let her go just to, what? Make a better plan? Save himself in the meantime? It wasn't a good enough excuse in Hitoshi’s books.

“A man of mystery.” Sero said again with a smirk, seeming to understand his vague words were code for ‘don’t push it’. “I like it. We should keep him.”

“Already planned on it.” Denki declared quite proudly as he moved to stand now their sundaes were practically finished. 

“So you guys are perfectly okay with not finding out why he punched Midoriya?!” Ashido practically whined as her & Sero shuffled out of their seats too once Denki was standing.

“He already told us, Pinky, not our fault you don’t like the answer.” Bakugou muttered, back to his usual hostile tone. “Use your imagination, it’s funnier that way.”

The curiosity from Ashido then turned into various conspiracy theories as to what exactly ‘a difference in opinions’ meant & seemed to entertain the group as they readied to leave.

Hitoshi was beginning to realise that besides Ashido’s nosiness, for the most part, the group seemed to have a silent sort of understanding that involved not prying too much & not asking too many questions.

He supposed they were used to it, if they hung around Bakugou all day.

Denki stretched out his arms high above his head with a complaint of old age hurting his back at the age of sixteen, the bottom of his shirt tugging up enough to catch Hitoshi’s attention.

He eyed the subtle lichtenberg scars that crept along Denki’s lower hip & promptly earnt an elbow to the ribs for his less than subtle staring from Bakugou. He played it off as though he was just trying to get Hitoshi to move out of the way so he could stand, but the look in those red eyes told him he wasn’t being subtle.

Hitoshi glared at Bakugou as he stood & earned a glare right back. They would have been stuck in a stalemate if not for Denki getting between them with that stupid smile on his lips. “Keep glaring at each other like that & I might get jealous.”

That seemed to do the trick, because once again, Bakugou responded with an annoyed ‘tch’ & promptly grabbed Kirishima’s wrist to drag him with him towards the exit, the others following suit.

“I don’t get this group.” Hitoshi whispered in Denki’s ear as they walked, the blond gently taking his hand yet again, with the same excuse of making sure he didn’t lose him. That’s all it was, an excuse, they both knew it, but neither boy was complaining.

When he whispered in his ear, Hitoshi felt the way Denki shuddered, but the blond promptly brushed it aside with a soft laugh & a half shrug. 

“Me either. Aren’t we brilliant? I’m telling you, ‘Toshi, they all like you. I know Mina is nosy, but she’s good people. You don’t have to tell her - or any of us - shit if you don’t want to. We like ya all the same. Especially me though, I like you the most.”

A soft blush crept its way up onto Hitoshi’s cheeks at the last comment, a warmth flooding his chest at the same time. “I know.” Was all he answered with, using his free hand to slip his phone from his pocket to check the time.

They still had a few more hours before Aizawa wanted them back on campus.

“You’re killing me, ‘Toshi.” Denki said as he leaned over to peer at his phone screen. “You haven’t even set a background yet. You gonna stick with the default one forever? Please say no.”

“I don’t have any pictures on my phone.” Hitoshi grumbled back with subtle defence in his tone as he tucked his phone into his pocket before Denki could reach over & snatch it.

“No fair! We could have taken a picture together which you could have set as your background. That’s better than the default purple shapes. Admit it, ‘Toshi, you like me more than purple.”

Perhaps Denki was right, that boy knew damn well how much of a weak spot Hitoshi had for him & most definitely enjoyed winding him up because of it. Rather than actually responding like a normal person, all Hitoshi replied moodily with was a soft little, “Shut up.”

It earned him an amused laugh from the blond, who picked up the pace to catch up with the rest of their group, pulling Hitoshi along beside him as they wandered around the mall. Mindless chatter between the group once again filled Hitoshi’s ears & once again, he listened more than he partook, but there were no complaints from him.

The conversation drifted towards current events & Hitoshi shouldn’t have been surprised when the group started asking one another if they had heard about the recent, theatrical murders around Musutafu.

Bakugou proudly declared if he was already a pro & out on the streets, then there was no way he wouldn’t have caught whoever was behind them. Which, of course, spiralled the conversation into who was behind it all.

So far, the common speculation was obviously Dabi. It led the group to bicker back & forth, trying to work out if it was the man solo, or if it was also League activity & why. What message were they trying to send? Why was the cop guilty? Why was the woman a catalyst?

A catalyst for what?

Hitoshi tried to zone out by that point. He didn’t want to think about the League. Just the mention of their group reminded him of the cold bar & even colder people. It reminded him of a cold hand on his throat, one finger away from turning him to dust, only for the very same people to save him from Chisaki during the raid. 

It reminded him of wounds being cauterised by Dabi’s flames with no pain medication.

It reminded him that Shigaraki still wanted more from him. That he wanted him to join them. That he could have been useful to them if not for Dabi fighting to keep Hitoshi out of it, standing up to them on his behalf.

Phantom pain crawled up along his side over the gnarly scar tissue from Dabi sealing wounds he couldn’t go to the hospital for. It prickled at his skin & sent him into a cold sweat. He pressed his free hand against his side without even realising, eyes flickering down to it as he checked his palm for blood he knew wasn’t there.

So why could he feel it? Why could he smell it?

Hitoshi’s mind began to wander, deeper & deeper into territory that should not be entered when he was anywhere other than the safe confines of his bedroom & even then. It seemed to be the running theme today, getting lost in his own head.

Purple eyes flickered from person to person as strangers passed them by, his grip on Denki’s hand tightening without him quite realising it.

Logically, he knew nobody was paying any mind to him. But trying to convince his mind of that was no easy feat.

It felt like all eyes were on him, like people were picking him apart, like they could see through his clothes & see his scars, like they could read the past written all over his face.

His shoulders felt tense, his lower back getting that uncomfortable feeling that came along with someone watching him. His stomach twisted up into knots, chest tightening as though there was no air left to get into his lungs.

It felt as though the next person to look at him would have icy-blue eyes & more scars than he did, as though he was waiting right around the corner to remind Hitoshi that he had saved him when everybody else didn’t.

He felt trapped.

He felt like the walls were closing in, both metaphorically & literally, like his body was being crushed under a ten tonne weight. Like he was slowly suffocating, like he was-

Hitoshi wasn’t so sure when his feet had stopped moving.

When the brain-fog began to clear, he was leaning against a wall that was cold against his back with Denki standing in front of him, golden eyes filled to the brim with worry. No blue eyes, no cold hands, no cruel reminders. Just Denki.

It was almost like time travel, except it was approximately one thousand times less interesting & about one thousand times scarier. Hitoshi hated it. It was like one moment his mind just flicked a switch & shut him down, leaving him to power back up again & try to piece together the time he had lost.

He wondered idly if this was karma for the people he had brainwashed. If this was how they felt under his control. Moving, but not themselves.

It was going to get him killed if he wasn’t careful. 

He couldn’t remember a single time in the past that he had got so lost in his own head that he’d lose time. It seemed to be a recent thing, a very recent thing. He could track it back to starting when he woke up in a hospital bed a month ago with Aizawa at his side, making bold statements about keeping him safe.

It didn’t make sense.

Denki’s hand was still gripping his & he belatedly looked down to their intertwined fingers, blinking his eyes into focus as he registered just how dizzy he was suddenly feeling. The fact his breathing was a little too fast to be considered healthy probably didn’t help.

“How…” Hitoshi began, but the words caught in his throat.

“Breathe first, ‘Toshi. C’mon.” Denki, ever his saving grace, drew in a deep breath, waited for him to mimic it, then slowly exhaled, Hitoshi following suit. 

They repeated the process until Hitoshi’s head felt a little less like it was filled with cotton & he anxiously swept a look across the mall, trying to regain his bearings. 

They were standing near a corner that led towards the public bathrooms. It was just out of the way enough to only have one or two strangers walking by. Okay, they were still in the mall, that was good. A quick check of his phone & some mental math had him working out that he had only lost about ten minutes, tops.

That information didn’t particularly help him relax, though.

“That’s better.” Denki smiled, it audible even in his tone. “Are… Are you okay, ‘Toshi? Did you wanna head back home or something?”

Before he even bothered trying to formulate a response, Hitoshi focused on drawing in a few more calming breaths, focusing on the way the oxygen got into his lungs, the way the wall was cold against his back, the way Denki’s hand was warm in his.

He was here. Not back there.

He was okay.

Perhaps if he told himself that enough, he’d start believing it.

He didn’t know how to explain the dissociation properly & when he did speak, his voice was infuriatingly shaky.

“It’s just a lot.” Hitoshi had to swallow the waver in his words. After another deep breath, he elaborated it into something that hopefully would be enough of an explanation to not have Denki over-worrying. “I haven’t been out in… A while. I just feel like everyone can see right through me.” Now that was the understatement of the century.

“That’d be anxiety for you.” Denki said almost immediately.

Anxiety. Right. That word felt a little too small to describe all consuming fear spurred on by scarily clear memories he didn’t get the luxury of forgetting any time soon.

“Well how do I get rid of it?”

The second the question left his mouth, Hitoshi knew it sounded ridiculous. He had half a mind to just go back to signing now he could move his hands again enough to do so, just so he wouldn’t have to hear how pathetic he sounded.

Something about his response must have been somewhat amusing, because a soft laugh left Denki that was paired with a smile that was even softer, albeit a little sad. “You don’t just get rid of it, ‘Toshi. It takes work. Sometimes medication, sometimes therapy.”

Naturally, he felt his entire body tense at the mention of medication & Denki must have felt it too if the squeeze of his hand was anything to go by. 

“I’m not broken.” The words came tumbling out with far too much bite than what he had initially intended. If Denki took offence to his tone, he didn’t show it. 

His statement was as hypocritical as it was ridiculous coming from him. Shinsou Hitoshi, self proclaimed broken mess without all of his pieces intact, just tried to say he wasn’t exactly that.

But that was different. The way Hitoshi meant it & what Denki was implying were two very different things & Hitoshi couldn’t help but get defensive.

Medication? 

Drugs only ever had scarily dark implications for him. He had to grit his teeth & forcefully restrain himself from rubbing at his inner elbows as memories of Chisaki dosing him up on his quirk-killing drug tried to sneak back up & drag him into that foggy-minded state again.

The blond was quick to try to rectify his previous comment. 

“No, ‘Toshi, I mean- Medication isn’t always bad. What he made you take wasn’t medicine. I didn’t mean you were broken, or that you need fixing- It just… It helps. Ugh, I’m bad at this.” Denki’s free hand came up to rub at the back of his neck as he clearly pondered the best way to word whatever it was he was thinking. “Okay, okay, so… Do you think I’m broken?”

“No.” Hitoshi’s response was instant & the moment his reply earned a little smirk from the blond, he knew he had walked right into whatever trap Denki had laid out.

“Well, I take medication. It doesn’t make me broken. Just means I need help from an outside source.” Denki let go of Hitoshi’s hand so he could rub at his own bicep, something Hitoshi had come to notice as a nervous tick Denki had.

“Because of your ADHD.” He replied, less of a question, more of an observation. It wasn’t exactly like Denki had ever tried to hide it from him in their time knowing one another. 

When Hitoshi had spent a week crashing at the blond’s house prior to him finding out everything Hitoshi had been hiding, he got to see Denki where he was most comfortable. He got to see him in his own element, lost to every little thing that would distract him.

In its own right, it was so very Denki & Hitoshi couldn’t imagine him any other way, but in the same regard he knew damn well just how stressful it could be for him. Denki had expressed his annoyance towards his lack of ability to focus on more than one occasion, how it affected his grades & made trying to be a hero course student that much more difficult.

If medication helped Denki with that, then Hitoshi was grateful for it.

Ah.

That was the cheery blond’s whole point.

But that was ADHD. This was… Hitoshi didn’t know what. The word anxiety just didn’t even begin to scratch the surface & he had no clue where to begin if he had to try to explain what the fuck was wrong.

It seemed like saying ‘everything’ was not only a little too broad, but a little too childish too.

Everything he had ever known had been turned upside down & ripped apart. He’d spent his entire life being thrown from one hell to the next & now he was supposed to be out of there, now he was supposed to be safe, he was more confused & more afraid than ever before. It left him disoriented.

He couldn’t even trust his own head to not turn on him when he needed it screwed on straight the most & he just didn’t understand why.

Wasn’t everything supposed to be better now he was in the hands of heroes? If so, then why was everything so daunting & crippling now?

Maybe he was broken in more ways than one after all.

Chapter Text

Shortly after Hitoshi’s little dissociative episode in the mall, the group headed back to U.A. They could have lingered for another hour, exploring the new stores on the higher floors that they had yet to go to, but it seemed Denki & Bakugou were awfully adamant on heading back.

Bakugou complained about the ‘outside noise’ pissing him off & Denki said he had homework to finish anyway.

Hitoshi knew damn well that wasn’t the whole truth, that it was because of him they were leaving early, but neither boy made a comment on it, so neither did he.

Back on U.A grounds, Hitoshi thought perhaps the weight sitting on his shoulders should have lessened at least a little bit, but it seemed he wasn’t so lucky in that department. 

He declined the offer to hang out in 1-A’s common room, let Denki hug him goodbye with a promise to see him on Monday that had Denki’s whole face lighting up with excitement, then headed straight for the teachers’ dormitories.

It still felt odd climbing the too-many sets of stairs with a key in his hand that belonged to him. 

He didn’t have to sit outside on the step to wait to be let in. He simply slipped the key into the door, made a quiet sound of annoyance finding that it was already unlocked & let himself in. He locked it behind himself while making a mental note to ask Aizawa to tell Yamada to stop forgetting to lock it. 

Hitoshi paused in the doorway as his eyes scanned over the living room, crouching down as Eri came running full speed towards him. She didn’t bother to slow down & collided right into his chest with a thud. One hand came up to cradle the back of her head, other arm loosely wrapping around her tiny frame.

As she hugged him as tightly as her little arms could, Hitoshi’s eyes flickering towards the kitchen area & breakfast bar where a cup of coffee was left waiting in one of the spare mugs.

A faint smell lingered in the air, barely noticeable, but there nonetheless. It smelled like too-expensive cologne & something he couldn’t quite put his finger on just yet.

In lieu of a hello, Hitoshi instead said, “Somebody’s been here.”

Eri pulled back from the embrace to look up at him with those wide, ruby eyes & a curious look tugging her features into a small frown.

This place had been good for her. 

She still wasn’t completely okay, she still frightened easily & did not like Hitoshi leaving to go anywhere, which he could perfectly understand. After all, she grew up watching him, the boy on the other side of the glass. She was the other test subject. The only other person who could possibly understand the horrors of how it felt to be beneath Chisaki’s scalpel wielding hand.

But nonetheless, the difference in her mentality now versus last month was night & day. Not that Hitoshi particularly liked to admit it, but Midoriya most definitely had one of the most positive influences on her. Togata, too. There was less fear in her eyes these days & more curiosity.

Eri seemed to look in deep thought, clearly recounting her day to find the right response. Eventually, she replied, “Quiet One had to go out for a bit, meeting with someone, but nobody was here when me & Loud One got back. Did you hold Denki’s hand?”

Neither Eri or Hitoshi really knew what term to use for Yamada & Aizawa. With Aizawa, it was easier for Hitoshi to just call him that, just like he always had, but there was a subtle difference in dynamics now he lived with them. 

So instead of using parental titles, they opted for ‘Loud One’ & ‘Quiet One’ respectively.

Hitoshi’s cheeks flushed ever so slightly at the mention of Denki & nodded, filing away the rest of the information for later. “Yeah, I did. Now when did you get so nosy?”

“Since you let me get away with it.” Eri poked Hitoshi in the cheek for good measure, showing that his little blush did not go unnoticed. In no time at all, Hitoshi knew damn well Eri was going to have a mischievous streak a mile wide. 

She was still a little quieter around everyone else, as was Hitoshi, but she seemed to have no qualms with getting all up in his business, especially when it came to a certain electricity-filled blond.

“Do you like him?” Eri asked a little too casually. When Hitoshi didn’t respond, she backtracked slightly, visibly gave Hitoshi’s face a once over, then leaned in to whisper, “You look sad.”

Leave it to a six year old to be able to see right through him.

“Outside is just weird. It’s gonna take some getting used to, that’s all. Too noisy.”

Eri seemed to agree with him there, solemnly nodding. “Next time we could go together.”

“I’d like that.” Hitoshi replied in a gentle tone, carefully running his fingers through her hair before standing & slipping off his boots. “I’m gonna go find the Loud One, carry on colouring & I’ll let you pester me later & you can tell me how your day went.”

Eri was satisfied with that idea & went right back to the living room, leaving Hitoshi to stride down the hall to the bedroom at the end. He raised a hand to knock on the door, but hesitated an inch from it. 

The only house rules were decent bed times & tell them if something was wrong.

Did dissociating & having an almost panic attack in the middle of a mall count as something wrong enough to warrant mentioning? What about the memories that kept popping up in flashes, catching him off guard at any given moment? The fear he just couldn’t seem to shake? The nightmares?

Then there were the nosebleeds he’d been avoiding bringing up over fear of not being allowed onto the hero course.

Swallowing down his annoyance at himself, Hitoshi steeled his nerves, knocked once & patiently waited. When there was no response, he tried again, then poked his head around the door.

Yamada had his back to him & was folding laundry, nodding his head to a tune that was entirely in his own head. It only took Hitoshi half a second to spot the lack of hearing aids. Ah.

He seriously needed to ask Aizawa to tell him to lock the front door. It seemed Yamada was a lot more confident in U.A’s security than Hitoshi was. Then again, Hitoshi knew three different ways to bypass it without sounding the alarms.

Perhaps he should bring that up to Nedzu. Use his knowledge for something good. Later. That was later’s problem.

He slipped a hand past the door to feel along the wall for the light switch, flicking it on & off a few times to grab Yamada’s attention. The hero spun around so fast that his hair fell from the loose bun it had been tied in. His whole face lit up when those wild green eyes focused on Hitoshi, a smile so wide that it crinkled the corners of his eyes.

How loud blonds kept looking at him with that fucking look, he’d never know.

Hitoshi’s face, however, stayed utterly blank. It really did seem to be stuck that way around anyone who wasn’t Aizawa, Denki or Eri. He was still trying to work out how Denki had weasled his way beneath his defensive walls to result in there being a subtle up turn at the corners of his lips every so often.

‘May I come in?’ Hitoshi signed, a little less quickly than what he was used to thanks to the strain certain motions caused on his fingers, but he knew it was enough to be understood & Yamada was patient as his eyes followed each motion.

The hero nodded with a smile & perched on the edge of the bed. He didn't reach for his hearing aids, likely assuming Hitoshi was going to leave in three seconds anyway. It wasn’t exactly like they talked much. 

‘Did you have a good day?’

Hitoshi nodded as he made his way inside, leaving the door half open behind him. He lingered for just a moment until he opted to perch against the chest of drawers that was just out of arm’s reach from where Yamada was sitting. There it was, another survival instinct.

Yamada, seemingly unphased by Hitoshi’s simplistic nods or shakes of his head, was just excited he was holding a conversation at all. He continued to sign, asking various questions that could be answered simply. Did he enjoy himself, did he buy anything, was it too busy & so on. Simple, seemingly unimportant things.

Yet the man seemed interested in every answer, leaning forward with his elbows propped on his knees, eyes solely focused on Hitoshi, his smile never wavering.

Hitoshi wasn’t entirely sure how to bring up what was plaguing his mind in a way that didn’t make it sound as bad as it probably was, which, in itself sounded pretty fucking bad too. He was also realising asking after Aizawa to find out who had been in the apartment would probably come across as rude.

Instead, he pulled his phone from his pocket, got it unlocked & onto the music app, handing it over to Yamada on the playlist he had begun to make thanks to his music recommendation. He still hadn’t actually followed through on his promise to tell him if he liked it or not.

He waited for Yamada to scroll through, then look up at him. Only then did he sign, ‘I liked the music. Add some songs to it, please? It helped me switch my brain off.’

Hitoshi wasn’t so certain if his wording, well, signing made all that much sense, but Yamada seemed to understand, his smile widening even more as he looked back to Hitoshi’s phone & he begun to tap away at the screen.

He had half a mind to tell Yamada that the music filled his mind with muted colours in the same way hearing people’s voices did. Every person had a colour, just like each song did. But he thought against it & stayed quiet instead.

He was patient, sitting there & waiting as his eyes travelled along the room he had only been in once. He took in the details, memorising the placement of everything, no matter how small. His eyes drifted to a framed picture that was on the windowsill, the photo clearly of Yamada & Aizawa with somebody else. In their U.A uniforms, smiling. Even Aizawa was smiling.

He wasn’t so sure who the other person was, but they looked so happy. All smiles with a bandage across their nose & crazy, pale blue hair that almost resembled a cloud. It strangely reminded Hitoshi of his own gravity defying look.

A gentle nudge to his leg had him flinching back, attention instantly back on Yamada, who was fast to apologise & held Hitoshi’s phone out to him. He took it, taking a quick glance to the playlist that now had twenty new songs in it, then pocketed it with a quiet thanks. He’d have to give it another listen later. Music could continue be their ice-breaker, perhaps.

He looked back to the photograph again.

Yamada must have seen that he was curious, not wanting to pick it up without asking & got up with slow & careful motions so as to not startle him. He was putting in his hearing aids on the way as he realised that Hitoshi hadn’t run off just yet, meaning they could perhaps have a verbal conversation. He picked up the frame to hold it out for Hitoshi to take, which he did.

Upon closer inspection, Hitoshi could see both Yamada & the mysterious cloud boy had goggles sort of similar to Aizawa’s sitting around their necks. Aizawa looked so happy there, cloud boy’s arm slung around his shoulders, pulling him close with a stupidly wide grin on his lips.

Hitoshi took his time studying the picture, picking up on all of the tiny details, a habit he did with practically everything. Picking everything apart, analysing because he didn’t know how to shut his brain off.

“Who…” He swallowed around the nervous lump in his throat & gently tapped over the cloud boy’s face, looking up to Yamada. “His hair is like mine.” He settled on instead.

Yamada let out a soft laugh. It was nothing like his usual loudness, it was something softer, something more… melancholy, almost. “That it was.” He smiled, a hand coming up to adjust his hearing aid slightly.

“His name was Shirakumo Oboro. Or Loud Cloud.” Yamada carried on, sensing Hitoshi’s underlying curiosity. “He was mine & Sho’s best friend in high school. Sho would try to tell you that we weren’t friends, but we all know he’s just grouchy.”

Was.

The teenager nodded, head tilted as he took in the new pieces of information.

“We had this whole plan to start a hero agency together one day. We figured we’d never fight over money, because we got along so well. Not to mention me & Oboro would be there to help kick Sho’s ass into gear. Shh, don’t tell him I told you, but he wasn’t always the logical, think-fast & rational person he is today.”

“Something happened.” Hitoshi whispered, a memory that for once wasn’t one of the more terrible ones flashing in his mind. Popping up in fragmented bits & pieces due to the medications the hospital was pumping him full of at the time.

While he was healing from the aftermath of Chisaki in the hospital, Aizawa had been there. He had helped him change his clothes & talked to him about how he had scars too in the hopes of making Hitoshi less afraid of his own. 

Aizawa had also told him about how he had been homeless, about how he only wanted to be an underground hero & wanted to focus on anti-villain combat.

How ‘stuff happened’ that had made him almost obsessive in that regard.

Hitoshi never did ask about it, but as he looked back at the photograph & Aizawa’s smiling face, he had a feeling he was getting closer to that story now. Somehow, it didn’t feel right getting it from Yamada, even if he was involved too. It felt like he was prying into a place he didn’t belong, a piece of the past that was for Aizawa to keep to himself.

The picture was in their room, not in the living room. Perhaps they didn’t want people to pry.

Hitoshi let out a breath he had been holding & stood up to carefully place the picture frame back in the exact spot Yamada had picked it up from. “It’s none of my business.” He decided aloud before Yamada could even reply, gravitating towards the door. 

So much for those hopes of a verbal conversation. 

“I’m sorry for bringing it up. Thanks… For the music.” Hitoshi’s tone alone indicated he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, even if he was the one who had brought it up.

“You don’t have to apologise for curiosity, kiddo. It isn’t like you’re not allowed to ask stuff or be curious, okay? You’re alright.”

You’re alright.

Yeah, he wasn’t so sure on that one.

Hitoshi nodded, looking down at his feet as he contemplated all of the things he just couldn’t get out of his mouth. All of the things he probably should say, but just didn’t know how. 

Instead, he just… left.

He walked out without another word, shutting the door quietly behind him without taking a second to consider that he had just possibly trudged up sour memories, only to leave Yamada alone to think about them.

He just couldn’t. It sounded stupid even in his own head, but it was just too… personal.

He couldn’t do personal. Not yet. 

Hitoshi couldn’t sink into talking about family histories or sharing stories. He couldn’t tell them his deepest, darkest fears. He couldn’t get the right fucking words to leave his mouth. Hell, he couldn’t even pull Denki closer & close that gap between them that was crackling with anticipation.

It was too much. 

Personal things were just too much.

He couldn’t even call this house his home.

Hitoshi sighed in frustration, scrubbing his hands over his face, then ran them through his hair as he made his way into his bedroom. He collapsed onto the bed on his back, one lanky leg hanging off the side as purple eyes glared up at the ceiling. It was something he found himself doing a little too much recently.

In all of his ever growing sleepless nights, he had started to stare at one particular spot on his ceiling where the light from his window seeped in through the little gap in his curtains. 

Staring at it for too long had him seeing static, Hitioshi becoming hyper aware of the way his eyes worked. It was disconcerting as hell, but it was a distraction from the constant fighting off of nightmares about a person that he both was & wasn’t.

They were filled with broken images of his old foster father, Tatsuya. Of violent hands & sadistic smiles. Of Chisaki, of scalpels & needles. Of Dabi, of blue flames & a raspy voice whispering in his ear that he’ll be sick of the heroes eventually.

Their voices haunted him, reminding him of all the things he had done, of all the horrible things he could still do if push came to shove, should they force his hand. They taunted him, almost.

It was like they were saying ‘hey, look at this monster’, then just depicted himself inflicting tragedies on other people right before he jolted awake with his heart in his throat.

The sound of his door slowly being pushed open had Hitoshi’s attention snapping towards it, but he didn’t lurch up & panic in the way he did when it knocked. He knew who was coming. Only one person pushed open the door that slowly, such a tiny shadow showing from the little space between the door & the floor.

Eri quietly shuffled in, shutting the door behind her with something in her hand. She clambered up onto Hitoshi’s bed & promptly got comfortable on his chest like a cat.

For a long while, they just lay there. 

Eri somehow seemed to know that Hitoshi needed her comfort. That he needed her presence to ground him, that despite it all, he wanted to be a hero for her. 

Looking back on it, if Hitoshi could have a rerun, a way to begin his life all over again or do the exact same thing, he’d pick the latter. He’d break every bone in his fucking body for that silver-haired girl.

Perhaps that’s what Aizawa saw.

What Denki saw.

They knew people forced his hand. They knew he didn’t have a choice.

So why was it so difficult to see himself the way that they saw him?

“Eri?” Hitoshi rasped.

She raised her head off of his chest enough to peer up at him, a few strands of hair falling across her face in the process that Hitoshi had to tuck behind her ear. The way she looked at him with haunted eyes, with eyes that had seen just a little too much of the real world & not enough of fairy tale magic, Hitoshi felt an ache in his chest all over again.

“I’m scared.” He whispered, even then his throat felt like it was closing up, like someone was stamping down on his windpipe & it was a fight for at least one steadying breath.

“Of the bad people?” Eri asked, her voice just as tiny.

Hitoshi nodded, swallowing as he tilted his head to look at her, then let his eyes drift back up to that one spot on the ceiling that he was sure he was getting to know better than the back of his own goddamn hand.

“Yeah. I don’t know what to do.”

Passively, he thought perhaps unloading on an already traumatised six year old was not one of his finest moments, but Eri was the only who got it. Who truly understood the undiluted fear of being raised by villains, surrounded by evil intent.

She just so happened to be the only one who could understand how it felt to be pulled from that life & thrown into this safe… haven with no idea how to act, how to think or how to feel.

Even if she seemed to be able to adjust better than he could. He wished he knew how she did it.

“Is that why you’re sad?”

Hitoshi found he was nodding again. He wished talking to Yamada would come this naturally.

“We should tell Quiet One ‘cause he’s your favourite. He said to tell them if something’s wrong. Is something wrong?”

There he was with another nod & he had to wonder if speaking to professionals or adults could be this easy if they just diluted things down to the sentence structure of a child.

“I guess so. I just don’t know how to tell him what’s wrong when it’s all in my head.”

“Want me to do it for you?” Eri asked with such generosity in her tone. She moved to get back comfortable on his chest again, but not before reaching to grab his purple blanket from the end of the bed to pull over herself. “That way you don’t have to.”

Hitoshi allowed her to pick up his hand in hers, quiet as she slipped something around his wrist. She then ran her fingers over the little scars on the sides of his fingers, inspecting them up close now there were no bandages in the way.

He thought about how that conversation between Eri & Aizawa might go. Would she just walk up to him while he was cooking dinner & casually say ‘Hey, Niisan is sad’? 

Would it really be that easy? It would be a starting point, that’s for sure. Perhaps Eri made a valid point, that he was overcomplicating things & she was simplifying them into a way that she could wrap her mind around. In a way that he could wrap his mind around too.

He was sad. He should tell someone.

That was it. It should be easy.

Except it wasn’t.

So Hitoshi chose not to say anything.

Not that he couldn’t say anything, he just didn’t know how.


*


Before he knew it, the weekend was over & he was standing outside of 1-A’s classroom in a fresh, brand new school uniform with Aizawa at his side, sleeping bag beneath one arm. Yet again, it felt as though things had passed by in a blur.

Despite his blazer covering his arms, Hitoshi also had a thin, long-sleeved black v-neck beneath his school shirt. He was absentmindedly fiddling with the sleeves, tugging them tightly over his hands, fingers curling against the fabric in anxious trepidation.

The afternoon he had spoken to Eri, she had slipped a beaded bracelet onto his wrist. It was made from little cube shaped beads with purple letters on them that spelt out ‘Niisan’ & had made it together with Togata. He could feel it pressed against the scars on his wrist. It was strange, but he thought perhaps he quite liked having something to focus on.

He had not cried about it that night. Definitely not.

Aizawa gently nudged his shoulder with his knuckles. “Ready, kid?”

‘Not really’ were the words that were bounding around his skull, but he forced them back with grit teeth & opted for a nod instead. Aizawa didn’t look entirely convinced, but he half shrugged & slammed the door open anyway.

The second it opened, Hitoshi watched as half of the class all but tripped over one another just to get into their seats before Aizawa could reprimand them for not being seated & ready for the day, despite him being the one who was mildly late. That was sort of Hitoshi’s fault, though.

“Just because I’m ten minutes late doesn’t mean you can all dick around on your phones.” Aizawa grumbled bluntly as he shuffled into the classroom, dropping his sleeping bag onto the floor near his desk with absolutely no regard for where it landed.

“We’ve got a new student in this class. You’ve already met him once from a training session we did together, so he doesn’t need any introductions.” His voice sounded even more tired & Hitoshi took that as his cue to walk in, lingering near Aizawa’s desk for just a moment. He quietly cursed the hero in his head yet again for not actually telling 1-A prior to his present arrival that he’d be there.

At least the faces of Denki’s friends didn’t look completely shocked like everyone else's did.

Lilac eyes scanned the room, searching for that signature lightning bolt streak in a head of blond hair. Denki’s whole face was perked up, eyes bright with a smile on his lips that crinkled the corners of his eyes.

He looked as though he was physically restraining himself from jumping up & throwing himself on Hitoshi & instead restless hands began to play with the monkey boy’s tail. That was probably rude. Not that he particularly cared, that guy was kind of a douche at the Sports Fest, for warning Midoriya about speaking to him & all that.

Said boy had his eyes on Hitoshi, narrowed with suspicion. Everyone else excluding Denki’s friends were equal parts curious & excited, all their eyes on him. Well, except for the invisible girl. Now that was someone he’d have to keep an eye on, however the fuck that was possible.

God, he hated it, having everyone looking at him. At least Aizawa wasn’t dragging out the introductions.

“Go sit behind Midoriya. Midoriya? Give him your notes from last week’s hero-laws studies, they’ll be important later.”

Hitoshi did as he was told, resisting the urge to give Denki a little wave, but that didn’t stop him from stealing a few glances as he made his way to his desk. 

He sunk into his chair, shoving his bag beneath the table, then leaned over to get closer to Midoriya so he could speak without interrupting where Aizawa was already getting to their lesson catch up. Hitoshi was grateful for it, the way Aizawa instantly got talking, refusing to let any eyes linger on Hitoshi for too long.

Now he just had to behave too.

‘I’m asking you to be civil. Can you do that?’ Aizawa’s words echoed around Hitoshi’s head. Civil. No punching Midoriya. He could do that.

“I’m a fast learner.” Hitoshi whispered, “You’ll have your precious notebooks back in no time.”

“How did you…” Midoriya trailed off, shaking his head when he realised the answer as to why Hitoshi knew so much about everybody, including knowing about Midoriya’s attachment to his notebooks. He instead turned in his seat enough to face Hitoshi as he flipped through one of said notebooks to find the right page. Once it was open, he handed it over.

If he was at all bothered by Hitoshi, he didn’t show it. He just acted as though they had always been in class together, as though he hadn’t decked him right on that freckle-covered cheekbone of his.

“Some of it’s in my shorthand.” Midoriya pointed to some of the more indistinguishable notes, his voice a hushed whisper. “I can teach you it, or I can just rewrite the notes later & give them to you, if- if you wanted.”

Hitoshi took a moment to study some of the notes, flicking through a few pages to see if they were extensive, or if he’d only be missing a few details if he didn’t take Midoriya up on his offer. 

“Are you this welcoming to everybody, or just to people who have punched you?” He asked before he could even stop the words from leaving his mouth.

Midoriya’s already wide eyes widened impossibly more as he scoffed & shook his head. “If you wanted a cold shoulder, you should just get Kacchan to give you his notes instead.”

Hitoshi didn’t bother replying to that, knowing full well how true the statement was & just sat back in his seat so he could begin copying down the notes he had been given. He realised belatedly that he never did give an answer as to whether or not he wanted Midoriya to teach him his shorthand.

Oh well.

For a while, he ignored the discomfort in the fingers of his left hand over holding a pen for too long. When it became more than just a discomfort, he switched hands & began absentmindedly flipping his pen around his fingers as he paused his note-taking to tune into Aizawa’s lecture.

He was just wrapping up reminding the class of what they should have been studying over the weekend from their classes the week prior, most of which being what Hitoshi was writing down.

Not that he felt he particularly needed to make notes, not when he could memorise everything he read with freakish ease, but it gave him an excuse to keep his head down most of the time. Trying to understand Midoriya’s scrawl helped him to tune out the quiet murmurs around him.

By the time Aizawa was done, he looked about ten times as tired as he had been when he had first woken up. “All of that aside, we’ll be having joint training battles with 1-B soon. Next month, most likely. The teams are going to be randomised, use this time before them wisely.”

Hitoshi watched as Aizawa scratched at his chin, leaning back against the chalk board as dark eyes scanned the room. “Pick someone you wouldn’t normally work with. Learn about their quirk. Pros, cons, how it feels to be on the receiving end of it, what type of combat it’d work well for. Write about it. I want Midoriya-sized levels of analysis from everyone.”

Great. That’s just fucking great.

“When you’re out in the field, sometimes you won’t get the luxury of having researched certain heroes’ quirks beforehand, especially if the team-up is sudden due to emergencies. It’s important to know what quirks yours will work well with & which you should be avoiding being paired with to avoid further disaster. Lucky for you, I’m feeling generous & giving you the advanced warning.”

Aizawa’s cheshire cat-like grin didn’t exactly fill Hitoshi with all that much confidence & he had to wonder if he was genuinely enjoying the clear uncertainty that was radiating from the rest of the class.

“Like I said, pick someone who’s quirk you don’t know a lot about. If I see you choosing people you already know everything about, I’ll be picking the pairs myself.” As Aizawa spoke, he was climbing into his sleeping bag, heavy-lidded eyes all of two seconds away from snapping shut right then & there. “Get on with it.”

He slouched down the wall until he was sitting on the floor slightly beside his desk & Hitoshi was suddenly reminded of the photograph Denki had snapped of him & Ashido beside a sleeping Aizawa.

It wasn’t quite enough to completely wipe his anxieties away, but it did amuse him for a few seconds.

Hitoshi stayed sitting as everyone else got up from their seats to decide who they were going to partner up with. He looked back to the notes he was working on, pretending as though he was quickly making sure they all made sense before he put them away.

Everyone in the class knew what his quirk was from the Sports Fest alone, but he doubted any of them really thought he knew much about theirs.

But he did. He knew too much. Perhaps not to the level of detail that Aizawa was asking of them, but he knew each quirk, its downsides & its upsides, or at least at surface value, anyhow.

He didn’t particularly expect anyone to come over given they knew what his quirk could do. Nobody exactly wanted to be brainwashed, but he shouldn’t have been surprised that he wasn’t so lucky to be left alone.

“Can I-” Midoriya started.

“No.” Hitoshi replied, without even looking up from his notes. 

Midoriya was too smart. He would figure out that Hitoshi’s quirk wasn’t as stable as what it was before, that he had more limitations, that he wasn’t strong enough. 

He didn’t need someone that smart looking too closely. He didn’t need anyone looking too closely. He’d been a lab rat for long enough. Not to mention, every time he looked at that sweet, round face, he felt like putting his fist through it.

Keeping his eyes down meant he didn’t get to see the look of hurt he had likely dumped on Midoriya’s puppy-like features. Good. He didn’t need the added guilt.

“You know,” A soft voice spoke from behind him, a little too close & made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. Denki. “Technically we don’t normally work together considering it’s your first day in our class. I also actually don’t know a lot about your quirk.”

Denki moved to prop himself back against Hitoshi’s desk after nudging his book out of the way so Hitoshi couldn’t stay glaring down at it, a smirk on his lips as he looked down at him. “Does that mean I get to choose you?”

“I’m sure Aizawa would disagree with your logic.” Lilac eyes looked up to study Denki, watching the way his smirk never faltered, the way his body never tensed when he spoke to Hitoshi unlike how most people did.

His hands were resting lazily in his lap, blazer over the back of his chair. If Hitoshi were to squint, he’d be able to see the tiny ends to lichtenberg scars peeking out from beneath his short sleeve on his bicep.

“Yeah, but if we linger long enough so that everyone else has already paired up, then he’ll have no choice but to accept it. Besides, you being new to us & all that… I’m sure he won’t mind. Don’t shoot me down like you just did with Midoriya. Pretty please, ‘Toshi?”

Denki, the little shit that he was, batted his lashes at Hitoshi as his smirk fell into the sweetest little pout. “I don’t want to shock anyone else.”

“But you want to shock me?” Hitoshi quirked an eyebrow.

Denki leaned down & cupped a hand around his mouth as if to tell a secret, despite barely lowering his voice at all. “You like it.”

A burning sensation crept up onto Hitoshi’s cheeks & he looked away from Denki just so he wouldn’t have to see that smug little smirk knowing full & well what he was doing. His eyes landed on Shouto instead, who was stepping over towards them both.

“Could I work with you two? Hagakure had to leave for something, leaving us at an odd number. I know most people’s quirks here in detail, except for either of yours.”

Hitoshi tilted his head to gaze around the classroom, eyes flickering from one student to the next, then over to an already-asleep Aizawa. Shouto was right, no floating clothes in sight. 

Yeah, he did not like that. He had a paranoid need to know if he was alone or not, if he was being watched or not. Being in a classroom with an invisible person made him itchy. So much for keeping an eye on her.

Hitoshi tried to shake away his paranoia as Denki replied on his behalf. “Sure thing! Just- No fighting with ‘Toshi again, though. Last time was scary.”

“We get along now.” Both Hitoshi & Shouto said at the exact same time, both quiet, both monotone, earning an amused laugh from Denki.

Deciding the classroom was too loud, the trio moved out into the hall, sitting near the wall opposite 1-A’s huge door. Hitoshi sat with his back to the wall beneath the window, Denki & Shouto sitting cross-legged opposite one another, just in front of him. 

“Hitoshi,” Shouto began, voice quiet & gentle. “Do you mind us asking questions about your quirk? This activity seems like something that would make you uncomfortable. Considering it’s your first ‘official’ day, I’m surprised Aizawa chose it.”

It took Hitoshi a long few moments to actually think of a way to reply, eventually he opted for a shrug as he flipped his notebook to a new page & said, “Aizawa wouldn’t make me do something he didn’t think I was capable of. It’s fine. I think he knew I’d pair with Denks anyway.”

“Duh.” Denki pitched in with a grin. “So where do we start?”

They started with Shouto.

It wasn’t like he could show the full range of his quirk right there in the corridor, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t show them how both of his hands could heat up or drop to freezing temperatures respectively. 

The gentle press of the back of Shouto’s right hand against his cheek sent little shivers through his shoulders, the touch reminding him of the sheer cold that seemed to radiate from Dabi’s very core.

Always cold, despite the flames.

Denki seemed far more excited about this whole ordeal than either Shouto or Hitoshi were, all smiles & excited ‘let me feel!’s when Shouto’s hands were at opposite temperatures. He opted to ask most of the questions too, quite literally every single thing he could possibly think of.

There was that warmth again, sitting in Hitoshi’s chest as his eyes settled on Denki, watching the way excitement sparked in his eyes when he had something new to ask. The only time his features ever crumpled up were when he had to pause to write his notes, frown, then ask Shouto to repeat himself.

Eventually, they came to a pause when Denki ran out of room in his notebook & hopped up, telling them to carry on without him while he jogged off to find a new one.

Hitoshi let out a tired sigh. Writing hurt. Thinking hurt. Everything hurt. He wanted to sleep. Was school always this exhausting? He couldn’t remember.

“Are you okay?” Shouto’s soft voice drifted through the air, filling Hitoshi’s mind with shades of blue again from where he had his head rested back against the wall, eyes trained on the ceiling. 

Hitoshi nodded the best he could given the angle his head was at, absentmindedly flexing his fingers. He couldn’t tell just how good Shouto was at reading people, but he always seemed to be able to see more of Hitoshi than what most did. He ignored the blank mask, probably because he knew all too well what it was like to wear one.

With that in mind, his nod did nothing to convince him.

“This must be strange for you.”

Hitoshi tilted his head from where it was still resting against the wall in favour of peering over at Shouto curiously, who was studying him with that same blank look. “Hm?”

“Being in a hero school for real. It must be strange for you.”

“Oh.”

Yeah, it sure was. Considering he had been pulled out of education when he was ten, only to be shoved into U.A with forged documents & told to do one job: Get onto the hero course, spy on the heroes, relay the information back to Tatsuya so he could sell it for profit.

Actually being there now with no false pretenses was strange. Actually being on the hero course, training to be a real hero? He was still trying to wrap his head around people’s hospitality.

“You’d probably make a better hero than a spy, anyway. Apparently, you didn’t exactly give them any useful information.” Shouto’s voice was closer to him now, lower than before, a barely there whisper as to not be overheard.

Even with nobody around, this still wasn’t a conversation for a school hallway. Especially not when somebody in the class was literally invisible.

Although, Shouto made a half valid point. Not giving away the information he did know was how he ended up back as Chisaki’s lab rat for the last time. He refused to throw Aizawa under the bus, refused to reveal his weaknesses & instead accepted his own fate, sacrificing himself so others wouldn’t get hurt because of him again.

“Not to mention it was most of your information that led to the Hassaikai raid anyway.”

“Your point?” Hitoshi snapped in a harsh whisper, far more standoffish than he had intended. Shouto simply blinked. He didn’t flinch away, he didn’t frown & stayed staring right at him like he was a puzzle to be solved.

“If you’re depressed because you think you don’t belong here, then leave. My point is that you did more good than harm. So get over yourself, if that’s your problem.”

When all Hitoshi did was stare, Shouto took it upon himself to carry on. “There are loads of heroes that play both sides. Sometimes people get caught in the crossfire. You were basically a double agent. That doesn’t make you a bad person. Do you actually want to be a hero?”

Hitoshi nodded. “Like Aizawa.”

“Underground?”

He nodded again.

“Your quirk would be great for that.” Shouto said with ease. “You could go undercover, gain intel, then just round everybody up with your quirk & walk them into the nearest police station. You’re good at being sneaky.”

Hitoshi snorted in an amused huff & half shrugged. Hero course students. They really were a whole other brand of strange.

Shouto looked deep in thought, as though he wanted to say something, but wasn’t entirely sure how to get the words out. Mismatched eyes flickered towards the corridor, checking to be sure the coast was still clear.

Whatever he was going to say, he seemingly shook it away with a shake of his head & a sigh. Instead, he murmured, “You never did reply to my messages.”

Oh.

Hitoshi was beginning to realise he was terrible at actually responding to people. He never told Eri if he wanted her help, or Midoriya if he wanted his notes. He should probably work on that.

“To respond to them now: I don’t know.” Hitoshi replied cryptically. “I’ve been trying not to think about it.”

“Have you spoken to him?"

Smart, avoiding saying ‘Dabi’ out loud.

Hitoshi shook his head & shifted to pull his phone from his pocket, unlocking it to show Shouto his pathetically bare contact list. Aizawa, Yamada, Denki, Monoma, Shouto, Togata & Sansa. That was it. “New phone. They confiscated my old one. He doesn’t have this number, I don’t have his.”

Hitoshi knew damn well that Shouto had Dabi’s number, after all, he was the one who had given it to him in the first place after telling him who Dabi really was. He wondered if they spoke, or whether Shouto had yet to go against the hero moral-code & cosy up to one of Japan’s most notorious villains.

He wondered if their sibling bond was still there after so many years apart. Just from his time around Dabi, he knew damn well the guy had that protective older brother streak in him. He had a soft spot for Hitoshi, he knew that. Trying to save him, in spite of it all.

Shouto took Hitoshi’s phone right out of his hand & began to type something out.

Well, he knew where this was going.

Just as he had suspected, when he got his phone back, there was a new contact labelled ‘T’. He supposed that answered his question. Purple eyes stared down at the string of numbers sitting on his dull screen, his head flooding with memories.

“I can’t talk to him.” Hitoshi said quietly, double tapping the set of numbers to pop up the little ‘delete contact?’ icon. “That’s not who I am anymore.”

Isn’t it? That sneaky little voice in the back of his head said. Who are you, then?

He didn’t have an answer to that one.

Shouto stayed quiet as Hitoshi deleted the contact, then slipped his phone back into his pocket after locking it. While his features stayed neutral & his eyes gave away nothing, the teenager watched every motion with an unspoken judgement.

“I don’t know if it is him.” Hitoshi quietly repeated in regards to the recent murders, deciding to at least attempt to figure out where the hell this conversation was going. “But it isn’t like I can just ask. Or tell him to stop. We aren’t close. I was a convenience to him. That’s all.”

“You know that isn’t true.” Shouto replied, shifting to take Hitoshi’s notebook, flickering his eyes over the notes he had taken. He wasn’t completely convinced that Shouto was doing that to see if he had everything down correctly & instead thought perhaps he was doing it just so he wouldn’t have to look at him.

“It is now.” 

Before the conversation could stray any further into the dangerous territories that it was already gearing towards, Denki was jogging right back towards them from down the hall. He came to a stop right beside them, hands braced on his knees with a fresh notebook in one as he caught his breath.

“Sorry! There were no spares in the stock cupboard. But I found one!” Once his breath was all caught up, Denki plopped down beside him against the wall, so close that their shoulders were brushing against one another. “What’d I miss?!”

“We were just talking about how easy it’d be for Hitoshi to be an undercover agent or something. How he could form all these connections that could get him info on bad guys. Then he could just brainwash everyone to turn themselves in.” Shouto said with ease, only narrowing his eyes at Hitoshi for a moment before looking at Denki.

Hitoshi grit his teeth to stop himself from saying something he’d likely regret, ignoring Shouto & the underlying message in his words in favour of looking at Denki’s smiling face. Said smile faltered, but only to form a soft ‘o’ shape that was present whenever he got lost in deep thought.

After what seemed like an eternity of him looking as though his brain was a loading bar stuck on 99%, Denki gasped, then grinned. “You’re right! ‘Toshi you could take down huge operations from the inside out. Gang infiltration & stuff. That’s so cool. You’re so cool.”

‘Cool’ wasn’t exactly the word he’d use, but when he opened his mouth to argue, no words came out at all.

Shouto’s little ‘get over yourself’ replayed in his mind like a record on a loop. He wished it were so easy. He wished he could just slap on a smile, wash away the past & walk around without a weight crushing down on his shoulders. 

It was a weight that he had placed there all on his own, he knew that, yet he didn’t know how to get out from beneath it. Metaphorical waters rose, inching higher while he was stuck, only watching as the depths rose, ready to become all consuming & drag him under.

He wondered how Denki did it, smiling so brightly with a past so sad. Or how Shouto spoke so softly when all he had known was cruelty.

He needed to figure it out, perhaps one day he’d be able to climb out of the merky pits of self despair that were drowning him & remember how to be kind, how to be gentle, how to love.

Today wasn’t that day, though. 

Knowing he’d have to brainwash his only friend, knowing that there were still a thousand & one things that could scare him away, knowing just how fucking messed up inside his head was; tomorrow’s outlook wasn’t looking all that bright either.

Chapter Text

“So this is the place, huh?” Dabi’s raspy voice managed to echo around the room, despite his quiet tone.

His hands sat lazily in his coat pockets as he slowly made his way into the gym, head tilted as cool, blue eyes darted around & took in his surroundings. The place was about as run down & old as what could be considered on the right side of structurally sound.

The frosted windows had grime built up against them from layers of dust & who knows what else over the years of neglect. 

The mats that sat on the not-so-shiny flooring were dirty & torn at the edges. A few old pieces of equipment & furniture were pushed off to the sides. To those who didn’t know any better, the place had long since been abandoned, left to the elements until the city had enough money to demolish it & turn it into something new.

To those who did, however, this place was a sacred little spot to those with less than moral ideals. It was a place to fight, a place to train, a place to learn just how far somebody could push their quirk when dosed up on enhancers. A place where plans brewed.

Dabi came to a stop in the middle of the room & looked down to one of the mats. He shoved it away with his foot, revealing a large, old stain on the flooring. It had long since turned a dirty shade of brown, but blood was easily distinguishable to a man who had seen far too much.

He crouched, smoothing his hand along the old stain, knowing exactly where it had come from.

“I don’t know anything, I swear!” A shaking voice from behind him spoke out. “I don’t ask questions. People rent the place, I keep my mouth shut. What happens in here ain’t my business!”

Dabi ticked his head to the side, gaze sliding to the man behind him from over his shoulder. For a well built man, he sure did look awfully afraid. Was it his scarred face? Or was it that the League were getting a little too known these days? 

Either way, he liked that look of fear in those mundanely boring pale blue eyes. 

“You know Trigger? The woman, not the drug. She used to come here specifically.”

When all he got was a shake of his head, Dabi rolled his eyes in annoyance & stood with swift motions. He didn’t even have to take a step forward before the man practically started to blubber. 

How fucking embarrassing, he’d seen more spine in a tortured teenager.

“Y-Yeah! Yeah, a-a few years ago. She doesn’t come by anymore. But she used to! Stopped coming a-about two, maybe three years ago now? But she u-used to come in here with a kid. Training him or something.”

No honour among thieves, he supposed.

Perhaps this was going to be easier than he had initially thought. So far, the other two people he had interrogated hadn’t said a damn word, even when he was burning them alive. Somebody was paying an awful lot of money to keep people quiet.

“The kid. Purple hair? Looked like he put a fork in an outlet?” Dabi raised a hand above his head to do a vague gesture to signify hair standing on end. Or something close to it, at least. Still, he was getting more nods.

“Y-Yeah! Yeah, he was tall. Silent, though. Bags under his eyes, couldn’t have been more than ten when they first showed here. I-I told her it was wrong, that he was too young, but she was adamant that he was strong enough. S-some mental quirk that needed training or something. That’s all I know, I swear!”

Dabi rolled his eyes again as his hand slipped back into his pocket, his posture nonchalant, as though he wasn’t imagining all the different ways he could make this man suffer for simply being a bystander.

“Did you ever see the training?”

“No! I-I just know the kid was practising combat some days, his quirk on others.”

“How do you know if you never saw it?” Dabi narrowed his eyes in suspicion, taking a step closer that was mirrored by the man taking a step back, his hands shooting up in a placating manner, as if he thought he could stop Dabi with mere desperate actions alone.

What, was he trying to appeal to Dabi’s conscience?

“I-I heard it.”

“Heard what?”

“The- The k-kid, man. He’d scream & cry, telling her that she was hurting him. He only ever got like that when she used her quirk on him. He’d leave with nosebleeds & shit. Th-the other times he was fine!”

“Fine?” Dabi echoed with a scoff, turning to gesture to the years-old blood staining the floor that was lazily hidden by the mat. He’d bet his life on that being the result of this piece of shit trying to hide the past to relieve himself of some guilt. “You call that being fine?”

“I-I-”

Dabi didn’t miss the way the man refused to look at the floor, just proving his point further. Those fear-filled eyes stayed trained on him, silently pleading like a cornered animal.

“Alright, how about this then. You tell me where I can find Trigger & I let you go.”

He wasn’t going to let him go, but this pathetic excuse of a human didn’t exactly need to know that. Dabi’s hand curled into a fist in his pocket, the staples tugging at his knuckles, he was already anticipating watching this place crumble to the ground surrounded by blue.

“I don’t know!” He cried. Literally cried.  

Tears were slipping down his cheeks as he took another step back, his back thunking against the wall behind him. Was he really that afraid? Maybe it was because he knew damn well that if Dabi didn’t kill him, someone else would. 

People who spilled their guts in these streets didn’t exactly last long.

“I swear I don’t know.” He continued. “The kid, though, i-if you want the kid, a-a bunch of heroes have him. He was sold off to the Hassaikai, or so I heard. G-Guess that’s why he never showed up here anymore. But rumour is that raid was the k-kid’s fault. If you want him, you better act fast, I-I hear others want him for his quirk, whatever the fuck it is.”

Hm. Now that he hadn’t heard just yet.

“Why?”

“Well i-if the Hassaikai wanted it & the heroes want it too, d-don’t you think it must be pretty powerful? Listen, man, I swear that’s all I know. That kid’s fucking cursed & I haven’t seen Trigger in two years.”

Dabi tilted his head, feigning a look of mild interest that didn’t pair well with his usually impassive features. He smirked, leaning in close as a hand came up that was filled with fire & murmured, “And I guess you’ll never see her again.”

* * *

‘If only it were all so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, & it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us & destroy them. But the line dividing good & evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’

Hitoshi stared at the text that was haphazardly highlighted with a neon orange marker & a shaky hand. He read the lines once, twice, three times, over & over, letting them sink in, memorising the structure & the feeling in his chest as they made themselves at home there.

The words nestled their way into his rib cage, sprouting roots in the way the Hemmingway that Denki recited to him did.

For a moment, he thought perhaps he’d lose his footing with how hard text on a page could slam into the very core of his being. Just to be certain he didn’t, he leaned against the wall beside Denki’s desk, where all of his books were stacked on the edge.

While Denki had left for a few minutes to grab his lunch, Hitoshi had taken it upon himself to be a little bit nosy. He picked up each book, flicked through them after reading their blurbs, finding various lines highlighted, certain pages folded at the corner.

Each book he picked up felt so… lived in. As though it had been read hundreds of times, memorised from cover to cover. It was fascinating. Only half of them were even in Japanese. The others were English & this one seemed to have been unofficially translated from Russian.

The books varied from literature to heart wrenching non-fiction. The only similarity being they all had the same font & were printed on a dark, sepia-toned paper.

How anybody could look at Denki & call him stupid was beyond him.

As he heard the door click open, Hitoshi placed the book carefully back down, being sure the yellow overlay film that was over one page didn’t fall. He gazed over his shoulder towards the door as Denki let himself in, bento box in hand, awkwardly holding a bottle in his mouth by the cap.

Hitoshi swiftly crossed the room to gently grab the bottle to help him out a little, handing it back once the door was shut & Denki had his hand free again.

“Thanks! Man, it’s busy in the lunch hall today, glad we got a free pass to hide up here today. I don’t know how you convinced Aizawa.” Denki looked just as cheerful as his voice sounded as he plopped down onto his desk chair, dropping his food onto the desk, smiling up at Hitoshi.

“He thinks I haven’t used my quirk since I woke up in the hospital, so he agreed to let me have some privacy in case I, I don’t know, black out or something. That’s why you,“ Hitoshi gently knocked his knuckles against Denki’s shoulder. “Are my babysitter now.”

After pairing up with Denki & spending the rest of yesterday’s class talking about his quirk with Shouto, they hadn’t had time to get into the details of Hitoshi’s brainwashing. Not that he was complaining.

Thankfully Aizawa was giving them a week to finish their reports, so that gave Hitoshi enough time to both brood & procrastinate. One requirement was to feel what it was like to be on the receiving end of their partner’s quirk.

Hitoshi had requested that he brainwash Shouto & Denki separately. So here he was.

“Lame.” Denki grumbled at the same time as shoveling a heap of rice into his mouth. His cheeks were comically stuffed, looking like a hamster storing food for later. Several seconds later, he added, “Wait! He thinks you haven’t. You have?”

The way the lightbulb visibly went off in his head was always a sight that was both adorable & amusing.

Hitoshi nodded, resting his hip against Denki’s desk, arms folded over his broad chest. “Yeah. With Monoma.”

“Monoma?!”

“I take it the feeling he has towards you guys goes both ways…?”

“Well… Only because he hates us for no reason! I mean, I guess I should have known ‘cause he’s the one who gave me your locker key. But, why do you get a free pass from his hate?” Denki had an adorable pout on his lips that only vanished when he ate, appearing again in between bites.

Honestly, Hitoshi didn’t even have an answer to that himself. Monoma liked his attitude, or something. He liked his quirk ever since seeing it at the Sports Festival. He didn’t seem to fix Hitoshi with the maniacal looks of hatred that he did with 1-A.

He shrugged, unsure on whether or not any of that was really the answer Denki was looking for & when he saw that tiny frown linger, he leaned over just enough to whisper in his ear, “What, jealous of another blond, Denks?”

The squeak he got from his closeness, the blush painting Denki’s cheeks with his wide eyes & even the punch to his shoulder were all worth it. Revenge, Hitoshi thought. For Denki sneaking up on him in class yesterday.

“You’re turning into a little shit.” Denki decided aloud as he shoved his half finished lunch towards the back of his desk so he could drum a little beat on the wood with his hands. He never actually did give an answer, Hitoshi filed that piece of information away for later. “Alright, I’m ready to be mindjacked.”

The term ‘mindjack’ was what Toga had called him during the League’s impromptu Hissaikai rescue. Hitoshi shuddered. “Don’t say it like that.” 

“I’m ready to be mind fucked .”

“Or like that.”

“I’m ready to be-” Before Denki could say something else that was twice as ridiculous, Hitoshi pulled him under his control.

Whenever Hitoshi held conversations with people, he could feel the metaphorical door to their mind unlocking, waiting for him to step right through. He held the keys to everybody, just as long as they spoke back.

Some people were more difficult than others, some people felt as though they were actively trying to shove him out of the door & lock it behind themselves so he couldn’t get back in again. Others, he could feel the door, but it felt guarded, almost. Like they were preparing to have him wriggle his way in. They were tense. Waiting for him to break through the locks.

Denki’s mind didn’t feel like that.

His mind was an open door that didn’t even have a lock on it. Every person’s mind had a colour, just as their voices did in Hitoshi’s brain & Denki was filled to the brim with warm orange. It was a cosy place, no resistance like what he got with most people.

Denki just… let him in.

“Run your hands through your hair.” Hitoshi commanded quietly, teeth grit together as he tried to fight off the guilt that was already sneaking up on him as he watched Denki’s blank face, slack jaw & glazed over eyes. The teenager did as he was told, both hands coming up to run through his messy blond locks, disheveling them in the process.

The second he did, Hitoshi let go & watched the way life jumped right back into Denki again.

He watched the way he blinked a few times, the way he looked down at his hands as though they weren’t his own, then looked back up to Hitoshi again. He watched, silent & waiting to see the fear creep up onto those gentle features.

He always saw fear. The moment people realised it was because of him & what he could do. It was always fear.

So why the fuck was Denki grinning wider than Hitoshi had ever seen him?

“Holy fuck!” The blond eventually blurted, running a hand through his hair which only mussed it up further, grinning so brightly that Hitoshi’s guilt took a momentary back seat in favour of surprise sitting up front instead.

He blinked a few times, trying to wrap his head around the reaction, picking apart Denki’s features for any hint of a lie behind that smile, despite knowing he’d come up short.

He looked so lovely, Hitoshi realised, with all of his hair pushed off of his face. The natural light from the window framed his gentle features & his smile was kind, reaching his eyes in a way smiles rarely did.

The gold in his eyes wasn’t the same as the cruel yellow of Chisaki’s. Denki’s eyes were warm. Golden yellows with flecks of orange surrounding his pupil if he looked close enough. There was a subtle flush sitting on Denki’s cheeks, painting them a soft pink from the moment Hitoshi had left his head. 

It only deepened the longer Hitoshi stared & he knew, he fucking knew he was staring. He just couldn’t help it.

Objectively, Hitoshi had always known boys were aesthetically pleasing, far more than girls were. But with a life like his, that’s about as far as that thought went. He never spent too long looking, never let his mind wander too far because it was just too dangerous. 

Boys were nice, but off limits. He had to keep himself safe, he didn’t have space for distractions.

But now he was standing there, allowing himself to look, to really look, he couldn’t convince himself that this was an objective view anymore. His personal feelings were seeping through & latching on. 

The realisation? Denki was beautiful.

Denki’s eyes widened, round & surprised. His cheeks flushed even darker, from soft pink to practically bright red & Hitoshi snapped out of his own head just enough to realise he had in fact just said that out loud.

For a few long moments, there was a surprised feeling growing between them, both equally shocked at what Hitoshi had said without thinking. He shifted against where he was leaning on the desk, momentarily debating whether he should go & run for his life before he got zapped into next week or to stand still with a subtle smile curling at one side of his lips.

He opted for the latter. Death by a walking lightning storm didn’t sound too bad.

Doing so did end in him getting zapped. Denki shoved at Hitoshi’s bicep with an electricity-filled hand, trying to get him to lose his balance from where he was leaning. “Don’t just say things like that without giving a guy some warning!”

The electricity ran through him, sinking through his shirt sleeve & tickling his arm enough to make his shoulder involuntarily shrug. A shiver ran through him & he tilted his head so hooded eyes could narrow ever so slightly at Denki.

When all he got was a mischievous grin, Hitoshi decided to push his luck. Just a little bit. It helped mask his holy shit I like him realisation. 

“You were right, by the way.” He drawled, rubbing at his bicep as if to try to feel the remnants of static electricity sitting in the fabric of his clothes. “I do like it.”

There it was. That wide eyed look again. 

Hitoshi counted it as another win in his books, solidified by the dramatic groan Denki did that was followed up by him folding his arms on his desk so he could bury his face against them to hide the blush that didn’t seem like it was fading any time soon.

Being around Denki, it felt like mischief came more naturally. They fell into a dynamic that he didn’t have with anybody else. He always felt so filled to the brim with ghosts, but being around Denki made him feel a little less haunted.

It was nice. Comforting, almost. 

Deciding to give him some peace, Hitoshi instead quietly said, “You didn’t tense.”

When Denki just mumbled something incoherently into his arms, Hitoshi gently flicked his shoulder. “You didn’t tense.” He repeated quietly. “Most people I’ve met tense up when they talk to me, even more so when they know I’m about to brainwash them.”

More incoherent mumbles could be heard from the mop of scruffy blond hair until the boy finally peered up at Hitoshi, looking at him through his lashes. “What was it that you said to me after you got out the hospital? ‘I’m not most people.’”

That warmth in his chest that he was beginning to recognise as something that only ever made itself known when he was around Denki snuck up on him again at hearing his own words recited back to him. It made his shoulders lose some of their tension, each breath seeming easier than the last.

All of that fear of scaring Denki away & for what? The boy just sat there smiling at him like he hadn’t just wriggled his way into his brain, like that didn’t even matter.

Hitoshi belatedly realised that his cheeks were hurting, a subtle, dull sort of ache. He brought his hand up to tentatively feel along his cheek. Well, would you look at that?

He was smiling & Denki was smiling back.

“I don’t get it. I mean, I get it- I know your shit, I know what they did & what they made you believe, but ‘Toshi,” Denki stood from his desk chair & moved so he was stood in front of him instead, nudging one of Hitoshi’s feet to the side just enough to slot himself perfectly between his lanky legs. They were standing so close, Hitoshi was certain he could feel the static thrumming in the air between them. “Haven’t I already told you once that you’re not scary?”

“Maybe I need reminding.” Hitoshi murmured quietly, looking down at the blond in front of him, wondering if somebody had hit him with a luck quirk when he had first ran into Denki in the pouring rain what felt like an eternity ago.

“Your quirk’s amazing. I’ve never had my brain shut up like that before, it’s never quiet, y’know? You could probably send me to sleep with it.”

He knew Denki was always thinking a mile a minute, but-

“I just brainwashed you… & you… liked it.” Hitoshi spelled it out slowly, as if that’d help him to wrap his mind around exactly what it was he was hearing. That didn’t seem to help, though, because Denki just grinned further & nodded rather confidently.

His hand came up to rub at the back of his neck, the shy gesture at odds with that confident nod. “Yeah, I guess I did. What’cha gonna do about it, huh? Sue me? You like my quirk too, so you can’t argue with me.”

As Denki spoke, he held up a hand between them, fingers equally spread from one another, little yellow sparks jumping from one finger to the next, crackling ever so quietly. He knew damn well that Hitoshi couldn’t resist bringing his own hand up to delicately press his palm against Denki’s.

His hand span was larger, the tips of his fingers being able to curl over Denki’s with almost no trouble if not for the tension that permanently sat in his ligaments. Something about it made his stomach do a little flip.

The electricity visibly curled around both of their hands where they pressed together, both boys watching with fascination.

“You say I don’t tense,” Denki began, the sparks becoming a little stronger, the tickle turning into a tingle, that then sparked into something a little more dangerous, something a little more noticeable. “But you don’t flinch.”

“Hm?”

“I can’t control it, it’s like I’m always super charged & anyone who touches me gets a little shock. I know you do too, but you don’t flinch like everyone else does. You’ve never flinched. I know I joke that you like it, but- How are you not pulling away? Doesn’t it hurt?”

Huh. Hitoshi had never really thought about it like that. He loved the way Denki’s static thrummed through him when they brushed against one another, it was a grounding force & kept him from straying too far into his own head. 

It reminded him that Denki was real, that he was there beside him.

Lilac eyes were entranced, almost, by the way little yellow sparks curled around his fingertips & the back of his hand. They wrapped around his wrist, but didn’t travel any further.

It didn’t necessarily hurt, but Hitoshi had a high pain tolerance beaten into him over the years. Not that he was going to crush this delicate mood with heavy words like that, though.

He felt the way Denki was upping his output, trying to see if it was just enough to make Hitoshi pull back. He didn’t.

“I like it.” 

“Masochist.” Denki scoffed immediately with a cheeky hint to his tone, but he still didn’t pull his hand away.

Hitoshi’s heavy lidded eyes slowly trailed from their hands to Denki’s face, just a few inches away from his own. Pretty yellow eyes were studying his features the second he noticed Hitoshi looking at him.

“You like it.” That seemed to be their favourite line recently, sprinkled with a hint of mischief that never failed to have a blush creeping up onto their cheeks.

Hitoshi slowly slid his fingers along Denki’s so he could interlace them, not quite ready to let go & lose the warm static that was coursing through him just yet. 

A long time ago, Hitoshi had explained to Eri what a trust fall was. He had explained how he couldn’t do something like that, that there would be nobody there to catch him & yet here Denki was.

In the same regard, there he was, for Denki. The more time they spent together, the more he began to notice that he wasn’t the only one with hang-ups when it came to his quirk. Denki was just as afraid of his electricity as Hitoshi was of his brainwashing.

They were scared of themselves, yet completely unafraid of one another. 

Something told him Aizawa had intentionally chosen this task, trying to get Hitoshi to see more sides to his quirk. To see what Denki seemed to see. Sneaky bastard.

With reluctance in his tone, but needing to push those thoughts aside, Hitoshi murmured, “We should probably actually get back to our reports.” 

“Probably.” Denki nodded, raising his free hand where Hitoshi could see it. He looked as though he was all of two seconds away from touching his face, but paused at the last moment. “Can I-”

Before Denki could even finish his sentence, Hitoshi’s phone began buzzing from his back pocket, vibrating against where he was leaning back against the desk, making him jump. It effectively popped the little bubble they had created & Hitoshi whispered an apology as he pulled his phone out.

He narrowed his eyes at the screen, seeing Monoma’s name attached to too many text messages.

Annoying Blond Parasite  12:49

Hey Shinsouuuuuuuuu

Annoying Blond Parasite  12:49

U know how I’m ur favourite? Not that that's important but

Annoying Blond Parasite  12:50

Call me when ur free - It’s important

Hitoshi rolled his eyes & mumbled, “I’ll be back in a sec,” before slipping past Denki to stand just outside his dorm room as he called Monoma. The other line picked up almost instantly, to which Hitoshi was already grumbling, “This better be important.”

“So moody, Shinsou! What, am I interrupting something?”

“Shouldn’t you be in class?”

“Shouldn’t you?” Monoma retorted through an amused laugh. “I saw you in a school uniform this morning, can’t believe you really did ditch me for 1-A.”

“So you’re stalking me now. Is that all you needed me to call you for?”

“Alright, alright, no, first, you need to tell me what you’re doing that’s so important that you’re mad at me for texting you. But, Vlad told us we’re joining up with your class sometime next month. I told you we were gonna.”

“So?”

“So, have you told Aizawa about the nosebleeds yet?”

“No.”

“If you don’t, I will.”

“Is that a threat?” Hitoshi scoffed as he leaned back against the wall, using his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, bowing his head as he drew in a deep breath. “Look, I already told you, it’s only when I push my limit. I used my quirk earlier on De- Kaminari & I was fine.”

“You’re even cheating on me with quirk practice with him?! But I’m the better blond! Shinsou, I’m hurt.”

“Good.”

“You’re so mean. Promise me you’ll tell Aizawa before our joint training? I’m not kidding, I will tell him if you don’t. Wait! Are you with Kaminari now?”

Hitoshi paused before bothering to reply. He took a moment to pull his phone from his ear, looking at the screen & the little timer ticking up, contemplating whether or not it was worth clicking that little red button. He eventually decided against it, figuring Monoma would only end up blowing up his phone again anyway in retaliation.

Once the phone was back against his ear, Hitoshi made sure to sigh loud enough that it’d be heard on the other end of the line before quietly saying, “I promise I’ll tell Aizawa IF they get too bad. I just need practice, I’ll be fine.”

“New rule: It’s like a swear jar, but every time you say ‘fine’, you owe me eight hundred yen.”

“I don’t know what that even means.”

“What, a swear jar? Shinsou, Hitoshi, Shin, buddy, my guy, do you live under a rock somewhere, cut off from the rest of civilisation? Is this why you lack humour & bully me?”

Hitoshi hadn’t realised he was pinching the bridge of his nose even harder until it hurt, then promptly moved that hand to run through his hair instead, fingers lazily detangling a few knots in the process. It wasn’t exactly like he could say yes, that’s actually almost completely accurate, so instead he let out another long, suffering sigh.

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Wait! You never did answer my question about you being with the considerably worse loud blond.”

“Bye, Monoma.” Hitoshi grumbled as he hung up & was pleasantly surprised that his phone didn’t immediately start ringing with Monoma’s number illuminating the screen. After slipping it back into his pocket, his hands scrubbed over his face, mulling over Monoma’s words for a few extra minutes.

He knew the guy did actually show a lot of compassion towards his friends, that he only wanted to see them succeed, but that still didn’t make Hitoshi feel any less like he was being watched too closely.

With yet another sigh, he pushed up from the wall & slipped back into Denki’s room to see him lying on his front on his bed, papers scattered across his pillow. As soon as he heard the door, he looked over his shoulder & blinded Hitoshi with a ridiculously bright smile.

“Sorry about that.” Hitoshi spoke softly as he moved to crouch near the bed so he could lean over to read what Denki had written so far about his quirk so far. He skimmed over the scruffy handwriting, a subtle smile curling at his lips.

Shit, this boy really did think too highly of him.

He had written about how perfect brainwashing would be for underground work, where nobody knew what his quirk was, so he could always have the advantage. That paragraph then bled into the next, which was where he had begun to write about the cons of Hitoshi’s quirk.

Rather than talking about every single thing Hitoshi had been told his entire life, rather than saying that it was scary, or untrustworthy, that it was cruel or inherently ‘bad’, instead, the fucking softie was talking about how unfair society was.

His handwriting was getting progressively more scruffy, like he was speeding to write it all down in case he forgot because he had so much to say. He wrote about how hero society had already made up its mind about what quirks were considered good & which ones were considered bad for hero work.

How just because brainwashing isn’t flashy, it would be harder for Hitoshi to be recognised by a well known agency. How just because brainwashing was a mental quirk, it already came attached with negative stigma & that people were going to form snap judgements on Hitoshi before he had even shown what he could do.

Fuck, he was not going to cry in front of Denki. 

He drew in a slow, steadying breath, cursing the way it shook just enough to have Denki pausing where he had gone back to writing to look up at Hitoshi with wide, curious eyes. “Huh? Sorry, I was focused. Is everything okay?”

Hitoshi opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it, then closed it. Trying to figure out what words to say, where to start, how to express the sheer adoration he had for this ridiculously kind blond boy who had no right to treat him this sweetly.

After an eternity, he eventually settled on, “Y-Yeah, yeah, I’m okay… It’s just,” Hitoshi tapped a finger over the paragraph he had just read. “You really believe all this stuff, huh? You have no idea how much pre-teen-Hitoshi would have killed to hear somebody say that to him.”

“What about teen-Hitoshi?”

“Hm?”

“Don’t tempt me into ranting about how cool you are. I can & I will. It’ll take so long, we’ll be late back to class.” Denki shifted to sit up, cracking his knuckles, then stretching out his arms to get rid of the stiffness in his joints from lying at a weird angle to write. “Was it Aizawa on the phone wondering if you’re still alive?”

Hitoshi scoffed at that, a tiny up-turn to the corners of his lips. “No, Monoma.”

“Monoma?!”

“Are you going to say that every time I say his name?"

“Yes.”

“Fair enough. But… Actually, he was reminding me about one of the cons of my quirk.” When Denki frowned at him & looked as though he was about to say something, Hitoshi belatedly realised how his sentence sounded & shook his head as he quickly corrected himself. “Not being a douche, don’t worry. But, no, y’know what? Finish your train of thought first. If I distract you, you’ll forget what you were writing.”

He knew he should tell Aizawa, but perhaps telling somebody who was easier to talk to first would be a smaller step. Then, once he’s gauged a reaction & worked out how the fuck to bring up his broken quirk to his mentor, he’ll say something.

*

It took days of procrastinating afterwards before he actually built up the courage to tell Denki about the side effects of his quirk. 

The week was spent catching up on classes & writing one too many notes, just so he wouldn’t have to argue that he didn’t need to write everything down to remember it. Their heroics classes were surprisingly tame & Hitoshi was actually allowed to get involved.

He didn’t use his quirk or his binding cloth, but he didn’t have to. A lot of what they were learning was first-aid & rescue for when victims were trapped in a building. They were split into teams & nobody really seemed to mind that Hitoshi was essentially working as a quirkless helper given they were barely using their quirks at all in the first place.

He knew his good luck with what they were doing in their heroics classes wasn’t going to last, that he’d soon have to pick up his binding cloth & really start training again, but having a week to ease into everything was comforting.

He should probably thank Aizawa for it, knowing full well it was intentional.

Between catching up on lessons & dodging questions as to why he was so good at first-aid, he, Denki & Shouto spent most of the time in the library, working on their reports given that Hagakure was still absent due to family reasons.

Thankfully, Shouto didn’t try to bring up the topic of Dabi again & actually focused on his report, mostly opting to focus on the differences in all of their quirks & how they would or wouldn’t work well together out in the field.

It was Friday when Hitoshi got another chance to be alone with just Denki. Shouto had other homework to work on with some of their other classmates, leaving the duo to have the table to themselves. The library was empty bar for them & the librarian, so Hitoshi saw it as good a time as any to bring up his side effects.

He had been writing about the sheer destructive force that Denki’s quirk could be, utterly in awe at how fucking powerful he really was. 

It was a touchy subject, one that Hitoshi tried to handle with as much care as he could as to not accidentally insinuate that Denki’s quirk was anything but incredible; or trudge up the trauma that Denki had told him about while confiding in him, trusting him with a darkness that nobody else got to see.

As he wrote, the topic strayed towards the downsides & Denki began to talk about how his electricity could hurt his friends & anybody he worked with. How the thought of frying anyone’s brain other than villains or his own terrified him.

“Does frying your own brain not frighten you, though?” Hitoshi asked softly, pausing where he was writing to look at Denki with a curious head tilt.

“Well… Kinda? Yeah, it should, it does, anything could happen to me while I’m all, y’know, short-circuited, but it isn’t like I can help it. But I’d rather not fry my friends. At least my brain is used to it.”

“Yeah,” Hitoshi sniffed in a heavy breath, absentmindedly rubbing at the scar across his nose. “I know what you mean.”

When Denki just narrowed his eyes sceptically at him, Hitoshi realised he had said that aloud & figured then was the time to actually talk about his damn nosebleeds.

Denki opened up about how it felt to be in what he dubbed as his ‘whey-mode’, explaining the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to continue fighting once he had exceeded his output limit.

Then he talked about the headaches. How his brain would still feel fried for days afterwards. How it affected his focus. How it affected his work.

As he spoke, Hitoshi began to feel a little less alone & a little less afraid of his own limitations. So in turn, he told Denki about the nosebleeds when he pushed too far, about the chronic migraines he’d been having for as long as he could remember.

He explained how having something cold against his forehead helped, but it wasn’t like he could just stop & get a cold compress in the middle of a villain battle, so pushing through it seemed to be his only option.

In their low murmurs, surrounded by bookshelves, tucked away in the far corner of the library, they shared their fears, their uncertainties, their weaknesses. Hitoshi had always seen them as opposites. Hitoshi was a nightmare, an accumulation of rain clouds. Denki was a miracle, a sun shining through.

But the more they spoke, the less he saw their stark differences & the more he understood their similarities.

Denki was a little bit messed up too & it was okay.

Denki understood from personal experience what it was like to struggle. He understood that when his head got clouded, when his brain wouldn’t cooperate, when people were touching him, trying to guide him to safety & trying to help, it was nearly impossible to differentiate the hands of an enemy from the hands of a friend.

Denki understood.

Hitoshi just sat there in awe, wondering not for the first time, how he got so lucky in finding somebody who just… got it.

Before he could get more words out, the sound of heavy footsteps gradually growing closer snapped Hitoshi from his obvious staring & he tilted his head towards the direction of the sound.

Bakugou was marching towards them with a frown on his face, hands in his pockets & ruby eyes glaring right at them. If Hitoshi didn’t know any better, he genuinely would have expected there to be a confrontation just by the way Bakugou was holding himself.

“Oi!” The blond grunted as he came to a stop near their table. There wasn’t a single regard for the library signs that told everyone to speak in hushed murmurs, Bakugou’s voice was angry & rough. “Eyebags. Sensei needs to talk to you.”

Hitoshi didn’t have the time to let his anxiety kick in when amusement immediately took over as he saw Denki out of his peripheral vision let out a full body, over dramatic sigh. He leaned back in his chair & everything, throwing his hands in the air, letting them fall back onto the table. It sort of reminded him of Monoma’s theatrical dramatics.

“Guess you can carry on picking my brain apart later.” Hitoshi said softly to Denki with a half smirk as he pushed up from where he was sitting, shoving his notebooks into his bag & quickly slinging it over his shoulder. “Hey, y’know, maybe some shock treatment from you will reset my quirk factor.”

“Too soon, ‘Toshi.” Denki deadpanned, eyes narrowing ever so slightly as he tilted his head back to keep his eyes focused on Hitoshi. “No torture jokes.”

“Not even one?”

“No. That goes for you too.” Denki leaned all the way over the table, just so he could reach over to prod a finger against Bakugou’s chest. Hitoshi was surprised that he didn’t immediately lose a limb from it. “No MK Ultra jokes. No bullying him.”

“Wasn’t planning on it.” Bakugou spat, turning on his heel to swiftly head back out of the library, assuming Hitoshi would follow. 

Denki opted to stay behind to try to focus on finishing up his paragraph before losing himself to doing nothing for the next two days & Hitoshi waved to Denki before catching up to Bakugou with a few easy, long strides.

They stayed silent as they walked, Bakugou’s hands in his pockets with an angry look sitting on his face as he led them down the near-empty corridor. It wasn’t until they were nearing where the faculty office & staff rooms were that Bakugou spoke, every word dripping with hostility.

“Hurt him & I’ll murder you.”

“Very heroic.” Hitoshi scoffed quietly.

“Like you’re one to talk. Let me rephrase it for you, then. If you use your broken quirk on him other than for school shit, I’ll blow your ass to smithereens. They’ll be picking pieces of you out of the courtyard for weeks. Sound good?” 

Hitoshi baulked at that. Not the threat, he had grown up around threats & their consequences, to the point where he knew them well enough to be able to read the differences between a bluff & sincerity.

He knew damn well that Bakugou was nothing but honest, but what had him pausing in his tracks was the fact he actually believed Hitoshi would his quirk on Denki outside of their heroes studies.

His feet were glued to the ground & Bakugou had carried on a few steps before noticing that he wasn’t being followed. He turned enough to glance over his shoulder at Hitoshi with that same angry look tugging at his features.

“I wouldn’t.” Hitoshi’s words came out quieter than he had expected them to.

“Spar- Denki’s nice. He’s real nice & kind of dense sometimes. He’s nice enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. Nice enough to not say no because you’re the one who’s asking. Like I said, hurt him & I’ll fucking kill you.”

Oh… Oh. 

Hitoshi clicked on where the conversation was headed, eyes widening ever so slightly & something twisted up inside of him, something ugly & cruel. The need to both defend himself & laugh at the absurdity of Bakugou’s accusation were at war with one another, tearing him apart from the inside out, yet his face stayed blank.

The urge to curl his hands into a fist & strike right at Bakugou’s crooked nose was tempting, but he swallowed it down with a heavy sigh. He was better than violence. He wasn’t going to prove him right. 

He had to be better than violence. He’d already punched one classmate, he didn’t need to add another to that list.

“Y’know, I get it,” Hitoshi began, thinking over his words carefully as he took a step closer. “If I knew someone with my quirk, I’d probably think the same thing. I’d probably think the worst. I’d be cautious. I wouldn’t get close. They can control people. They could make someone do whatever they wanted. They could have their own personal slaves.”

Another long step closer got him barely thirty centimetres away from Bakugou, to the point where he was looking down at him. Bakugou stood tall, though, with his chest puffed out, shoulders broad & hands curled into fists. 

“They could get away with murder. Or worse.” Hitoshi’s voice was even quieter still.

He could feel Bakugou’s defences were high, not quite in the same way most people were when they spoke to Hitoshi. This was something a little different.

That door to Bakugou’s mind was one of those difficult ones. It didn’t have one lock, it had about twenty. Bolted & guarded with metaphorical wooden planks nailed across it to keep him out. 

Hitoshi didn’t have to get into his head to see that Bakugou, in spite of all his bravado, was somehow afraid.

Of him? Maybe. Likely more so for himself though, for Denki.

He wondered what it was that Bakugou was afraid of, what was it that sparked someone to hide behind so much pride & hostility. Why did he feel the need to be the scariest person in any given room? Was it Kamino? Or something else?

He could question that later. For now, he had more important things to say.

“But I’m not some fucking monster. No matter what you & everyone else might think, I’m not going to hurt people with my quirk.” While his voice stayed low & quiet, making it so nobody outside of Bakugou could catch onto what he was saying, that anger at the world & their judgements was still rising, little by little.

When the blond stayed silent, he carried on, “I’d never lay a hand on Denks. Or anyone. I’m not- Fuck, man, I don’t look at you & see a terrorist, so some mutual respect would be nice. But I guess that’s asking too much of you, huh?”

“Go fuck yourself.” Bakugou spat with about as much mirth intertwined with hostility as one person could possibly force into three little words. Hitoshi was shocked it wasn’t accompanied by the sound of crackling palms filled with nitroglycerin, aiming straight for his face.

Instead, Bakugou laughed. Actually laughed. It was rough & rugged & wasn’t in the slightest bit comforting. Neither was the look in those red eyes as he said, “Right answer. But, I still don’t trust you.”

“I don’t expect you to.” Hitoshi muttered back immediately, then paused as a soft frown began to tug at his otherwise bored-looking features, his mind acting like a slowly working loading bar. When it finally reached one hundred percent & the pieces clicked together, he said, “Wait… What? You were winding me up on purpose.”

“Had to make sure you’re not a complete scumbag.”

“Only fifty percent.” Hitoshi raised his hands to make a small so-so gesture.

“Join the club.” Bakugou smirked at him, that earlier hostility melting back into something more akin to how he acted when around his friends, something more tame. He looked less like a cartoon character, angry enough that they radiate steam, & more like himself.

“I don’t think you’re in the club, I think you’re the reigning champion.” Hitoshi said a little too casually. A smirk was trying to creep up onto his features, a strange feeling considering his face usually stayed scarily blank around anyone other than Denki, Aizawa & Eri.

Bakugou pointed a finger right at him, looking as though he was all of two seconds away from yelling right in his face.

Instead though, the angry teen just made his usual ‘tch’ sound & stomped off, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets. His shoulders were hunched, head ducked to watch his feet as he walked & was back to looking comically angry all over again.

Hitoshi lingered for a few moments, counting back from ten in his head. Once he reached one, he caught up to Bakugou’s side, leaving a fairly large gap between them. Yet again they walked in silence, but this time it was more comfortable than before.

Once they reached the faculty office, Bakugou didn’t even bother to knock before shoving the door open so hard that it banged against the back wall.

“Bakugou.” Aizawa greeted from where he was sitting on the couch with his laptop on his thighs, not even looking up to know it was him. Huh.

“I’m not a babysitter. Fetch him yourself next time.” Was all Aizawa got in response before Bakugou was marching back off down the hall, leaving Hitoshi lingering in the doorway.

Once Hitoshi recovered from the surprise of seeing that it wasn’t just him who got the asshole attitude, he stepped inside & shut the door far more quietly than how it had been opened. He checked the back wall for any dents out of curiosity, then headed towards Aizawa while fiddling with his sleeves.

“How’s your report going?” Aizawa asked, finally dragging dark eyes from the laptop screen. 

Belatedly, Hitoshi registered that nobody else was in the office. He tried his hardest to keep his overactive brain from straying too far, tried to swallow down the fear that came along with being alone in a room with someone so much stronger than he was. Which, that in itself was enough to have him feeling guilt at the thought even crossing his mind that Aizawa would use their strength differences against him.

This was Aizawa, for fuck’s sake.

His eyes swept the room before landing back on the hero, a soft frown trying to knit his brows together as he actively stamped down that pesky fight or flight. He couldn’t even begin to actually hold a normal conversation, when he opened his mouth to speak, all that came out instead was, “Am I in trouble?”

“What? No. I needed to speak with you about something. Come sit down?”

Hitoshi only faltered for an extra second, then headed over to slowly sit down on the couch beside Aizawa, pulling one leg up to hug his knee to his chest, fingers interlacing together to hold his leg in place.

He could trust Aizawa, he knew he could. He just wished it was easier to convince his demons of that.

Aizawa had always been a hard one to read. For the most part, he kept his face blank & most emotions never made their way through that bored expression. Sure, there were the creepy-grins or subtle smirks, but they were few & far between.

So trying to get a read on a situation always had him coming up short on actual facts. It left his mind to get lost in all of the ‘what if’, worst case scenarios his colourful imagination would always come up with.

Not one to beat around the bush, Aizawa said, “There’s a chance you could help me with something seeing as you have a borderline eidetic memory. Do you recall people’s faces as well as you do information that you’ve read?”

Hitoshi took a moment to think, not having heard that term before. He just thought he was a fast learner, a computer with memory banks that never got full. Come to think of it, he had easily taught himself JSL when he was only nine thanks to picture books in the library.

He wondered at which point Aizawa figured it out.

“Probably.” He settled on, thinking back on every face he’d passed, how clearly he could remember them. People just passing in the streets were a blur, but he had a habit of trying to block them out once deciding they weren’t a threat. 

But people he had seen more than once, he could probably map out their features to a sketch artist with insanely vivid details.

Huh.

Aizawa turned his laptop screen towards Hitoshi, pulling up a photograph of a woman that looked like it had been pulled from an I.D card. “Do you recognise this woman?”

The lady’s hair was long & black, tucked neatly behind one ear. Her skin had an ever so subtle blue hue to it & wrinkles were already creasing the corners of her eyes despite looking relatively young outside of that.

Her makeup was minimal, nothing about her features was necessarily distinctive or memorable in a world full of mutant-type quirks that were so much more extreme than her subtle blue skin or the tiny antennae that poked out of her hairline.

But Hitoshi knew those eyes.

They were a gun-metal grey, cold through & through. 

He remembered her stare, cold as ice, her voice just as bone-chilling. He remembered the way her cold hands gripped his shoulder, guiding him through the halls of an orphanage while he hugged his tattered backpack to his chest, scolding him for ruining his chances with another family.

Hitoshi couldn’t help the way he grit his teeth, or the way his whole body tensed, or the way one hand moved to absentmindedly rub at his shoulder to be certain there were no hands on him. He couldn’t help having to swallow the lump forming in his throat as he slowly nodded.

“Y-Yeah. I know who that is.” He forced out, internally cringing at the shake in his voice. He tried to drag his eyes from the laptop screen to look at Aizawa, but found he was transfixed on those icy-greys as they trudged up memories.

Aizawa was quiet & patient, waiting for him to elaborate.

“That’s, uhm, that’s the social worker who handled my case when I was younger. She- She’d set up meetings & visits for potential foster families & stuff.” Hitoshi paused in favour of drawing in deep breaths, albeit shaky ones. “She thought I was doing something to get the families to give me back to the home.”

He didn’t. He never did anything except what he was told. He followed orders, he stayed quiet, he behaved. But nobody ever wanted to keep him.

“She was the one who signed off on letting my old foster father take me in. She said Tatsuya had travelled from a different city, just for me. That I should be good. She said she’d visit every week. She was supposed to visit. She…” Hitoshi trailed off as he got lost in his own head.

That was the woman who started everything. If she had never let him go into Tatsuya’s care, he’d have never been forced into training to become a villain’s accomplice. He’d have never been sold off to Chisaki when he became more trouble than what he was worth.

If she would have just visited like she was supposed to, she would have seen the bruises, the cuts, the scrapes, the scars. She was supposed to keep him safe.

Aizawa’s elbow ever so gently nudged Hitoshi, not enough to hurt, barely enough to make him flinch, just enough to bring him back to the present, to make him look at him. “Stay with me, kid.”

“Why… Why are you asking? She’s not taking me back, right? I can’t go back to that place, I can’t, it’s a city away & I have to stay with Eri. You said I get to stay here-”

“Nobody’s taking you away, Hitoshi.” Aizawa’s voice was as calm as it always was, his hand ever so gently coming to rest on his shoulder, only when he knew Hitoshi could see the touch coming. “You’re safe here, alright?”

As a quickly becoming master of avoiding questions, Hitoshi knew Aizawa was doing just that, even if he hadn’t realised it himself just yet. So Hitoshi waited, eyes flickering to the picture again before going back to Aizawa. 

If she wasn’t taking him back, then why did Aizawa have photographs of her & why the hell did he empty the only room that was relatively sound proof, with only one camera that was turned off, to talk about it?

“A third body was found by the police a few days ago, same M.O as the others. Burns, words carved into their chest. They haven’t released that information just yet. But this woman was the second victim.”

This woman was the catalyst.

The woman who started everything.

Chapter Text

The sound of Hitoshi’s back colliding against the unforgivingly hard gym flooring echoed around the empty room, along with the pained yelp that left him. With nobody around, he was a little less embarrassed over the sound, but still cringed at it nonetheless.

Nobody said recovery was going to be easy. Then again, nobody said he’d actually be able to properly use his capture weapon again either.

But Hitoshi was as stubborn as he was determined to prove people wrong. He had come too far to give up over an ache in his bones. 

He had to show Monoma that he could use his binding cloth. He had to show everyone that he deserved his spot on the hero course. That he wasn’t about to let some beak mask wearing fuck ruin his life, that he was so much stronger than those who tried to tear him down.

He had to show everyone that he wasn’t a waste of time. That the Eraserhead wasn’t spending his time on a hopeless case.

Besides, as fucked up as it probably was given his past, being in a gym helped quiet the noise in his head. Noise that had been getting a little too loud & a little too overwhelming recently.

Ever since learning who the second victim was, Hitoshi’s days had begun to pass by in a blur.

His weekend was spent mostly in his room, only leaving for food, the bathroom, or to braid Eri’s hair. The next week, he just moved from one place to the next, from classrooms to the teachers’ dorms like his body was on autopilot.

His feet were taking him where he needed to go & his hands were writing what needed to be written, but he was locked away somewhere in his head, struggling to breathe.

He was drowning in rooms full of people, but that blank-faced, ever-tired look that never shifted stopped anyone from noticing.

Not even Denki’s sparks & smiles were enough to pull him from the undercurrents.

Hitoshi had to wonder why. Why did Aizawa show him that woman’s photograph? What had connected the dots in Aizawa’s brain, telling him that this had something to do with Hitoshi? 

He was beginning to think he was better off just not knowing.

He recalled the grim look on Aizawa’s face, a look that somehow cut through that usual boredom. He recalled the way he sighed, the way he scratched at his chin, looking as though he was debating whether or not he should talk.

He recalled Aizawa’s rugged voice, first promising him for the seventh time that month that Hitoshi would be safe in U.A, that he was surrounded by heroes who would do anything to keep him safe.

Then he told Hitoshi about the third murder before he could find out for himself through the grapevine. That was the double-edged sword with a hero-filled society; nothing stayed quiet for long.

The previous Tuesday, firefighters had been called out to a back-alley building halfway across the city from U.A, arriving to find blue flames already roaring & engulfing the dilapidated building. Once the fire had been extinguished, they found a body in the middle of the building’s ground floor.

It had been kept out of the news for barely a week, but it was now plastered everywhere.

The victim was a middle aged man, almost burnt to a crisp in the flames, but the writing carved into his chest was still readable. ‘FRAUD’, carved in bold, just like the others.

Police had yet to release the details on who the man actually was to the public, but thanks to Aizawa’s contacts & underground hero status, he was able to gain some information. 

On record, the guy was a stand-up citizen. He co-owned a gym downtown, a legitimate place anybody could go to, without needing to pay a ridiculous amount for a membership. Off the record & only known through a conveniently timed anonymous tip, he owned a back-alley gym that Hitoshi was all too familiar with.

The place Trigger took him for ‘training’.

Knowing that Hitoshi had a strange sort of friendship-out-of-survival thing with Dabi, as well as having a history with gyms & villains, Aizawa had pieced things together. He had yet to tell anybody else, though.

He showed him a photograph that had been pulled from surveillance footage of the victim when he was still alive & asked if Hitoshi knew him.

Of course he did. He remembered the faces of every single fucking person who just stood by. Who let people tear him apart for sport.

That was as far as Aizawa had gone, though. He didn’t let him look through the encrypted files & had shut down his laptop before the realisation could spiral him into a panic attack.

Aizawa told him that they needed more information before they could figure out what direction this was going to go, but he had to wait for the police to make their move first. All he kept reminding Hitoshi of was that he was safe in U.A, that none of this was his fault, that they were there if he needed to talk about it.

From that point on, Hitoshi succumbed to the feeling of being detached from himself.

He said goodbye to the minimal amount of sleep that he had just about been managing to get, accepting the new reality of sleepless nights. With a little more reluctance, he bid farewell to the small social life he’d built & that was truly a bitter pill to swallow.

It was nice while it lasted, Hitoshi thought to himself. 

It had been a nice day at the mall despite his anxiety, it had been a nice first week at school, writing notes & working on his projects with Denki. 

Realising new little pieces of himself had felt good. He got to feel light & airy around Denki, filled with a warmth that lingered like the blond’s static.

It had been a nice little slice of what could have been, but what he couldn’t have.

He was a hazard. He couldn’t put people in harm’s way again, so he withdrew.

He fell back quiet. He barely spoke back when spoken to, he left his texts on read. He glared at the ‘are you okay?’ texts from Shouto & Denki as if they were somehow mocking him, thumbs hovering over the keyboard until he tucked his phone away without bothering to reply.

It hurt. So Hitoshi went to the one place where he could force his mind to shut the fuck up. He stuffed some clothes into his bag, broke into his old locker, grateful his binding cloth was still in there after so long had passed & made his way to gym gamma, it quickly nearing midnight.

Rather than being in a U.A jumpsuit, he was in loose sweatpants & a tank top, both black & outside of his hair, the only colour on him was the spatter of various bruises & friction burns all along his hands & elbows, probably his shoulders too.

The physical pain was a momentary reprise from the emotional ache in his chest & the mental turmoil ripping apart his brain.

From where he was lying on his back, trying to get the air back into his lungs, Hitoshi stared up at the ceiling, blinking back the frustrated tears that were prickling at the corners of his eyes.

The binding cloth was still looped around one of the metal beams in the rafters, swaying like a metronome from where he had just fallen, taunting him.

Lilac eyes watched as it drifted back & forth, over & over as he did a mental check to be sure nothing was dislocated or broken.

To force his tears to stay at bay, Hitoshi focused on slowing his heavy breathing, drawing in a breath so deep that he could feel his collarbones & shoulders click quietly before exhaling slowly. He wasn’t so sure just how long he stayed on the ground for, it was almost like he was forcefully hypnotised into a calm state as he watched the scarf.

He raised his hands up in front of his face, arms outstretched & studied the way his fingers shook, eventually turning his hands over to inspect his palms. They were bright red, raw with fresh friction burns, the old calluses from working so hard with the binding cloth having long since softened out after his hospital stay.

Despite jittery motions & the shakes, Hitoshi flexed his fingers. He couldn’t let that stop him. He couldn’t stop. Each time his crooked fingers curled around his binding cloth, each time he lifted even an ounce of his weight, pain sparked up his wrists. His throat would close up & his eyes stung.

But just as he had always done when trying to prove he was stronger than the hurt that wanted to consume his very being, Hitoshi bit his lip until it hurt & he kept pushing.

He had to keep pushing.

Eventually, he forced his body to sit up.

Once back on his feet, Hitoshi shook out his arms as if that’d somehow shake the pain away. He drew in a few more deep breaths, trying to be certain that his heart rate was definitely steady, that he was definitely still capable of breathing despite knocking the wind out of his lungs one too many times that evening.

Taking slow steps back, one foot perfectly behind the other, utterly soundless, Hitoshi’s eyes stayed trained on the cloth like a cat assessing its prey.

It was only when he deemed he was far enough away that he dashed forward into a jump so he could grab a hold of the scarf, strategically wrapping it around his hands just as Aizawa had taught him so many months ago.

The fabric tugged at the already raw skin on his palms, digging in hard enough to leave slight blood smears along the grey scarf, but Hitoshi gritted his teeth through the pain. He was trying to use the momentum of the jump so he could swing gracefully up onto the rafters.

He reached out with a raw & now bleeding hand, but yet again he missed by barely a foot. He went tumbling back down, earning friction burns atop of friction burns as he scrabbled for the scarf to try & slow his descent.

But there was that familiar sound again. The sound of his back slamming into the ground, echoing around like a taunt as it selfishly ripped the air from his lungs. It was followed up by a particularly pain-filled yell of, “Fuck!”

Prior to knowing Aizawa, Hitoshi thought training was always supposed to hurt because that’s all he had ever known. Then Aizawa showed him an entirely different world, a world where it was okay to call it a day, that it was okay to not push limits if he could barely stand after an hour of capture weapon practice.

Yet even after months of Aizawa telling him when to stop, reminding him to drink water, bringing extra protein pouches to keep his energy levels up, Hitoshi still hadn’t learnt how to stop pushing his own limits into something unhealthy.

He still didn’t know how to break the bad habits. He didn’t know how to accept the pain as being too much & think ‘I shouldn’t be feeling like this’. Instead he accepted the pain as a fact, as a constant & unhealthy reminder that he was alive, as something he had become attached to through sheer familiarity. 

He knew it intimately, unhealthily, almost better than he knew himself. 

The more his bones hurt, the more his skin burned, the more his body felt as though it was on the verge of failing, the less time his mind had to focus on anything else.

He was self-destructing. He knew he was. So why couldn’t he stop?

He wiped the blood from his hands on his shirt, swallowing down the pain as he grit his teeth & launched into a sprint. Over & over.

Each failure sapped more energy out of him, then the need to succeed zapped it right back in again. Like a constant tug-of-war between self pity & stubborn fucking will.

He knew he was pushing too far when he lost his footing, when the distance between his hands & the rafters were getting further & further apart, when the falls were growing more clumsy, giving him less time to brace for it.

He knew he’d fucked up the second he fell from where he had tried to reach the beams, only for his hand to give out completely, losing his grip on his capture weapon. He knew he’d fucked up when he had nothing to grab to slow the fall, nothing to stop his shoulder from colliding with the stupidly hard ground with a sickening pop.

The pain had him choking on a breath & a pained yelp as he rolled from his side onto his knees & pressed his forehead against the cold ground. His shaking hand clutched his arm at his bicep, holding it close to his chest as he tried to breathe through a wave of nausea. 

Pain radiated in pulses from his shoulder & down along his back. It was at odds with the way his arm was going numb, his fingers tingling.

The tears he had so desperately been trying to stop finally broke through their dam, his breathing coming out as ragged intakes of air that barely even made it to his lungs. He felt everything closing in on him as his world collapsed, crumbling around him while he was helpless to stop it.

People were being killed because of him. People always got hurt because of him.

He didn’t know what to do. There was nothing he could do. For fuck’s sake he could barely even hold his ground anymore. How was he going to survive this world if he was already too broken to face it?

“You’re a cursed child!” Chisaki’s words rattled around his head. They were ingrained in him & Eri for an eternity to come. Hitoshi’s pathetic attempt at trying to get his breathing under control only worsened when he scoffed, thinking perhaps the guy was right.

His heartbeat was pounding in his skull with his too-quick breathing filling his ears, so much so that Hitoshi didn’t hear the ever so subtle click of the door being opened quietly. He didn’t hear the quiet footfalls heading towards him.

He didn’t know anyone was watching him break down into thousands of tiny pieces until a quiet, rough voice called out his name. For just a split second, everything stilled, right down to his breathing.

Aizawa.

It took every force on earth to give him the strength to grit his teeth so he could sit up onto his knees, hand still clutching his limp arm at his bicep. Tears tracked down his cheeks & Hitoshi knew damn well he was a fucking mess, but it wasn’t exactly the first time Aizawa had found in a similar state & precariously tried to piece him back together again.

How had he been so lost to the pain, to his own frustrations that his guard was down enough to let someone sneak up on him? He was lucky it was the only person who he’d willingly let see him this way.

He watched as Aizawa crossed the last bit of space between them to kneel in front of him, moving the first-aid kit from beneath his arm to sit it on his thighs instead.

Hitoshi stayed frozen in place. 

The hero had seen his scars more than once, had seen the worst ones that were thankfully hidden away on his torso. But with his arms bare, it still had his need to hide away before anyone saw creeping up to the surface.

The rational side of him knew that they shouldn’t matter, they didn’t matter, that they didn’t change things. Aizawa had seen them before & had still chosen to be his guardian. Aizawa had seen him break down & had still chosen to sign those papers.

But that side of him was shaky at best, crumbling as quickly as the rest of him was.

He was under Aizawa’s care now & in protective custody so to speak. So why couldn’t he look him in the eye & admit he needed help? 

“Quite a mess you’ve made of yourself. Can you show me your hands?”

Tremors ran through his whole body as he shook his head ever so subtly, eyes transfixed on a line of paint on the ground somewhere behind Aizawa’s shoulder.

“Alright… Can I check them for you?”

Hitoshi nodded & once the first-aid kit was opened, Aizawa ever so carefully took Hitoshi’s hand. He pried it gently from his bicep & turned it palm up so he could inspect the damage.

“When I was in my second year here, I used to do the same thing. Some days Hizashi would sit in the corner with his headphones on while I trained. Other days I was alone. Deep breath in.”

Somehow, Hitoshi registered the words & found he was following.

“Now breathe out.”

So he did.

“I threw myself into training almost non-stop after what happened with Oboro. Doing it switched my brain off. I couldn’t think about anything else if I was focused on learning something as complex as the binding cloth. I couldn’t feel anything else if the burns on my hands were always so raw.”

The words slowly sank into Hitoshi’s mind, pulling him out of the treacherous waters he had been fighting against for the past week. From staring blankly at nothing in particular, purple eyes finally looked down to where Aizawa’s attention was being focused.

He wasn’t entirely sure how he wasn’t properly registering the pain he was so certain was there just a few moments ago.

It was like his body was still completely frozen, despite the air now getting into his lungs. It was like he had sort of forgotten that he was a human being, with blood coursing through his veins & nerves that could feel pain with a mind that actually functioned.

Aizawa had the corner of a packaged bandage between his lips which explained why there was a slight muffle to his words as callused hands carefully wiped away the excess blood from Hitoshi’s torn skin with antiseptic wipes.

“But this,” The hero dabbed the wipe against the cut for emphasis. “Won’t take away what’s going on in there.” This time, he moved one hand to gently tap a finger against Hitoshi’s temple.

Deep down, Hitoshi knew that. 

He knew he could only shut his brain off for so long until everything came surging back with a vengeance. But that didn’t mean it didn’t feel nice to just… have a distraction for a little while, even if it was a destructive one.

When Hitoshi had nothing to offer but silence, Aizawa went back to cleaning the mess he had made of his hands. Once his palms were as clean as they were going to get, they were carefully wrapped in soft bandages.

All of Aizawa’s motions were nothing short of caring & gentle. Patient & kind.

“I know you still don’t fully trust us yet & that’s okay, but we’re here to listen. I know it’s scary, but I’m here & don’t plan on going anywhere. Training is fine, I’m not going to stop you from that, but when training crosses over into harming yourself, that’s when I’m going to step in. Alright?”

Hitoshi nodded silently, staring down at his bandage-clad hands. His eyes drifted along the jagged scars on his arms, built up over the years from various injuries, from knives, to wrist clamps rubbing his skin raw.

It was all right there, such ugly reminders on stark display that he desperately tried for so long to hide, not only from others, but from himself too. Yet there Aizawa was, still looking at him in the same way he always did.

Looking at him like he was something important.

“Can I take a look at that shoulder?”

Ever so tired, purple eyes met dark ones, genuinely surprised that Aizawa had picked up on the clear discomfort. The lopsided heights of his shoulders, the limp arm & the refusal to move his hand on his own accord were dead giveaways, but that little kid inside of him was still surprised that he wasn’t being left to tend to his own injuries.

Hitoshi nodded again. 

Aizawa moved slowly as he always did when around Hitoshi. It was against his swift nature, but it was just to be sure he didn’t fill him with fear. He leaned forward so he could carefully press a hand to Hitoshi’s shoulder-blade.

A new wave of pain shot through him & Hitoshi bit down on his lip to stay silent, momentarily squeezing his eyes shut.

“Alright, kiddo, Recovery Girl time.” The hero said quietly as he pulled back after minimal contact. He stood up, then leaned down enough & offered a hand. As soon as Hitoshi took it with his good one, Aizawa helped him up onto his feet in a way with minimal discomfort. “Can you walk okay?”

After a lengthy silence & a nod, Hitoshi finally found his voice, even though he couldn’t get it to be any louder than a barely there murmur. “My binding cloth.”

Priorities, Hitoshi. 

“Will still be here once we’re done. I’ll get it for you once you’re all patched up, maybe wash it too… Sound good?”

Once he nodded, they slowly headed out of the gym & Hitoshi hugged his good arm close to his chest out of habit. As though he thought it would somehow help hide his bare skin, even though nobody was around to look at him.

On their way back to the dormitories, Aizawa got on the phone to Recovery Girl & managed to get her to come by the apartment rather than them heading to her office. For that, Hitoshi was nothing but grateful. 

How she was still awake considering the time & her age, Hitoshi wasn’t so sure. He’d have to remember to thank her for dealing with all of his trouble.

Once they got back to the apartment, Yamada hurried over before Hitoshi could even fully make it through the doorway. He cupped his cheeks, tilting his head this way & that, even when Hitoshi tried to force his head to the side to blatantly refuse eye contact like a moody child.

Yes, he knew he was being childish. No, he wasn’t going to do anything about it.

“I was so worried, are you okay? Are you hurt? Sho, I know I keep saying he’s a mini-you, but this is freakishly reminiscent of our U.A. days.” Yamada sounded not only exasperated, but genuinely worried too. It was strange.

He finally got the hint that Hitoshi wasn’t planning on saying anything or looking at him any time soon & dropped his hands, tucking them into his pockets just so he wouldn’t get all touchy-feely again.

A pang of guilt shot through Hitoshi when he caught on to the little action, but he refused to look up from the floor. He was too… bare. He couldn’t look into the eyes that were looking at him, seeing his scars. He just wasn’t strong enough.

Instead, Hitoshi silently sidestepped to get around Yamada so he could go to the couch instead, slowly sitting down with his hands in his lap & stared off at the coffee table. He heard Aizawa quietly filling Yamada in on what had happened as he went about making some tea.

That was another rule. No coffee after ten P.M. Not that the coffee really changed anything. Caffeine, no caffeine, Hitoshi didn’t sleep, simple as.

He pretended to ignore the fact that Yamada voiced his worries about Hitoshi, trying to speak in a hushed whisper so as to not be overheard. He was asking about what was going on with him recently & what they could try & do to make it better.

Fuck, he was making them sad.

Nice going, Hitoshi.

A thin blanket was ever so gently draped across his shoulders, not thick enough to put pressure on his dislocation, but enough to hide his arms. He should have known it was Aizawa’s doing; some days he could have sworn that hero's quirk was mind reading rather than erasure.

The man then crouched in front of him, herbal tea in one hand, a sachet of painkillers in the other. “If I ask if you’ll take these, are you going to refuse?”

His eyes drifted to study Aizawa’s tired features, already clocking onto the resigned tone of his voice. They both knew what Hitoshi’s answer was going to be. 

When Hitoshi just nodded, Aizawa refused to let the worry or disappointment show on his face. He simply accepted the teenager’s answer & held out the mug of tea after taking a sip.

Hitoshi took it, taking a few sips & sighed at the warmth.

“Recovery Girl will be here in a few minutes to sort out that shoulder.” Aizawa’s voice was as grounding as it always was, tired & quiet, always direct. “She isn’t just here to patch you up physically, y’know. If you need to talk about anything that’s going on in your head to somebody, she’ll listen.”

Resisting the urge to shrink back into the couch, knowing full well how much even just a simple action like that would hurt his shoulder, Hitoshi opted to glare into his mug instead, just so he wouldn’t have to look at Aizawa.

“No.”

“Hitoshi-”

“I don’t need therapy.”

“It doesn’t have to be her, Inui - Hound Dog - is a guidance counsellor. If you want to talk about your past, or what’s going on now, I can prove to you that they can be trusted to not share it with anyone else-”

“I don’t need fucking therapy!” Hitoshi snapped, voice louder than before, almost unrecognisable to himself. He sounded so… angry. Like how he sounded when yelling at Midoriya.

Tired eyes momentarily widened in fear, flickering up to Aizawa’s face as he automatically leaned back slightly as if he was expecting a swing to be taken, directed right at him.

Aizawa just stayed perfectly still, the only motion being his tired blinking as his eyes stayed studying him as though he hadn’t just yelled in his face.

Apologies ran around Hitoshi’s head on repeat. He felt pathetic, like a scared child who had just broken the family’s favourite vase. Yet they were never verbalised, he was too afraid of how his voice would sound if he tried.

Aizawa waited patiently for Hitoshi to calm down, dark eyes never leaving where they were looking right into his fucking soul. 

He hated it. He hated all of this. Being a spectacle, a project for someone to fix. Broken.

He couldn’t talk to a fucking stranger. Spill his guts just for them to scribble down notes, the pen scratching against the page like nails on a chalkboard. He couldn’t. He had to be strong, he had to be better than the mess everyone from his past so desperately wanted him to be.

“Is there anybody you will talk to?”

The corners of Hitoshi’s eyes were stinging again & there was no doubt the tears would be clear to see, so once again he was glaring into his mug, taking a few sips just so he wouldn’t have to speak.

He hated the way that question felt so loaded. The way it felt like everything was riding on what answer he chose.

Aizawa knew his shit, he knew all of his past & yet he was still here. But Hitoshi had an innate fear of becoming too much, a fear that everyone had a threshold for how much they were willing to handle & that he always had been, always would be, too much.

Denki knew too. So did Shouto, Bakugou, Kirishima & even Midoriya. They knew he was seven kinds of messed up, but Hitoshi had to keep them at an arm’s length, especially Denki. He had to, because letting people in was dangerous.

Not just for him, but for them.

He couldn’t just… tell Recovery Girl, or Hound Dog, that a murderer was very likely hunting down people who had known him & was staging their bodies for the whole of Japan to see. He couldn’t just tell them that the League liked him, that other villains either wanted him dead or wanted him on their side.

He couldn’t just admit that he had unfinished business with people who had more blood on their hands than what Hitoshi would see in a lifetime.

He couldn’t just get them involved. What if they became targets too?

If he was going to talk to somebody about the mess that was his head, he needed somebody protected. He needed somebody with NDA’s, somebody with personal bodyguards, somebody untouchable. As selfish as it was, he needed somebody who he’d feel less guilty about pulling into the crosshairs.

He very much doubted that there was a therapist like that out there, just waiting to pick him apart for money that’d outweigh the risk of being close to him.

He had been so lost in his head that a soft knock had him flinching back to the present, eyes snapping up to look over at the doorway. Aizawa moved to get it, Recovery Girl shuffling in while already chastising him for not keeping a closer eye on Hitoshi.

It seemed she had no qualms with telling off any adult, no matter who they were.

“Hello again, trouble.” She said in a more gentle voice when she got to the couch, wasting absolutely no time in taking the mug from Hitoshi’s hands, setting it on the coffee table. “What happened this time?”

Hitoshi silently tracked her every movement, rather than offering a verbal reply, he just moved the blanket with his good hand enough to tug it from his shoulders so she could see the dislocated one. He had already heard Aizawa tell her what had happened, he didn’t need to answer.

Considering they had seen one another so much, Hitoshi had never actually held a conversation with the woman. He had always just sat silently & allowed her to kiss his knuckles while talking to him casually.

She always did that. Held a one-sided conversation without a single care that Hitoshi never actually spoke back. She still smiled at him all the same.

“Oh dear.” She sighed out. “Not even two weeks in school & you’re already as troublesome as the rest of 1-A. Well, I’m going to have to get that back into place manually. Have you taken any painkillers?”

When Hitoshi just shook his head, she was a little less reserved in her reaction & let out a sigh with a disappointed look on her face. “If you don’t take something, it’s going to hurt a lot more to get it back into place. A sedative will relax your muscles enough to…”

She must have seen the fear flash through Hitoshi’s eyes, or maybe it was the way he physically tried to shuffle away from her, tensed & ready to run.

He could put it back into place himself. He’d done it once before, he could do it again, he didn’t need painki-

“Okay. Okay. No medication, but don’t say I didn’t warn you, though. You’re as bad as Shouta.” She tipped her head to level Aizawa with a glare as he moved to perch on the edge of the coffee table. “Alright, tell me if you need me to stop.”

*

Shouta, once again, had to see his- this poor kid suffer through agony with a blank face.

He scooped up Pillow & gently placed the cat on Hitoshi’s lap, then used a toy mouse with a feather for a tail to have Pillow roll upside down lazily & paw at it. It wasn’t much, but Shouta was hoping it was enough to at least be a mild distraction for Hitoshi, something for him to focus on rather than Recovery Girl’s hands on him.

Hizashi had come over to gently hand Hitoshi Shouta’s stress ball that was in the shape of a cat head, but Hitoshi didn’t particularly sit there squeezing it in his free hand. He just sat there. Sat there staring down at Pillow with his jaw clenched so tightly they all knew it was going to be aching in the morning.

Recovery Girl was as careful & gentle as she could be, slowly rotating Hitoshi’s arm, massaging it little by little at his shoulder joint until she was able to press it back into place. 

Shouta could see the pain in those purple eyes, even if the kid refused to properly look at anything other than the cat on his lap. He could see the tension in his jaw, hear the way his breathing hitched every few seconds. But he knew damn well Hitoshi wasn’t going to say anything.

It pained Shouta, watching a child swallow down pain & accept it in silence. It hurt because there wasn’t anything he could do. He couldn’t force Hitoshi to take medication to make things easier, he couldn’t force him to accept sedatives or help that he didn’t want. The kid barely made it through taking the pain medication the hospital had him on for weeks straight.

Hitoshi let out an audible sigh as Recovery Girl said she was done, then placed a kiss on his upper shoulder, which the teen visibly cringed at. She gently pulled the blanket back around his shoulders, then turned her attention to Shouta.

Oh boy.

“I assume you still have a sling in your first-aid kit?” She asked with narrowed eyes.

Shouta nodded. With the amount of times he had dislocated various joints, they always kept a sling on hand. He was half surprised that their bathroom had yet to become an infirmary. Although, with how much medication was in their locked cabinet & just how full their kit bag was, it was well on its way.

“Good. Have him rest his arm in a sling for a few days until the pain settles. No physical training for a week. If I get called up here to patch him up again any time soon, I’m going to have your teaching status questioned, Shouta!”

“Yes, ma’am.” Shouta grumbled, deciding it was better not to argue, whether it was a bluff or not. After apologising with a bow, he walked her to the door, apologising again with another bow for good measure there too.

He only spoke with Recovery Girl for about ten minutes, but by the time he was shutting the door & heading back towards the living room, he had to pause at the sight that met him.

Hizashi was sitting on the couch beside Hitoshi’s non-injured side & the kid was slouched right against his side, head resting on Hizashi’s shoulder with his eyes shut. 

His husband’s arm was carefully resting along the back of the couch so there was no pressure on Hitoshi’s shoulders, his fingers delicately carding through scruffy purple hair. Hitoshi had an earphone in one ear, his phone in Hizashi’s free hand.

He looked as though he were all of two seconds away from crying.

Once he noticed Shouta heading over towards them, Hizashi spoke in a hushed whisper so as to not wake Hitoshi. “Sho, he’s resting on me. Sho, Sho, look. Sho, he didn’t try to hide or yank away. I didn’t even do anything, he just leaned on me optionally. Sho-”

Okay, so much for the two seconds away from crying. He was crying. Or at the very least, there were tears in Hizashi’s bright eyes.

“He has earphones in.” Shouta noted as he moved to perch on the arm of the couch. As far as he knew, those earphones had been collecting dust. The kid was never seen wearing them, even when trying to focus on work.

“Just one.” Hizashi pointed to where the other was on the coffee table. Ah. “He told me not long ago that he wanted some music, then he told me it helped his brain shut off. I figured,” He half shrugged with the shoulder Hitoshi wasn’t against, dropping the phone onto his leg so he could swipe his free hand beneath his eye. “It would help him settle.”

“He hasn’t been sleeping.” Shouta nibbled at his lip for a few moments, dark eyes flickering to Hitoshi’s features, noting the darker-than-usual bags beneath his eyes for a moment & then looked back to Hizashi. “He’s gotta be exhausted. I’m surprised it took until now for him to crash.”

“He’s barely eating too. Have you seen him in class? He’s just… It’s like nobody’s home inside that head of his. Sho, he needs to talk to somebody.”

“I know.” Shouta sighed tiredly, moving a hand to run through his hair. 

He needed to wash it, badly. He needed to take five minutes to actually look after himself, but trying to figure out how to help a traumatised kid that refused to admit he needed help, while juggling murder cases that were tied to said kid… Fuck, he wished there were more hours in a day. That was without even touching on how much work went into teaching a hero course.

“What about that psychiatrist you mentioned last month, the woman from Kyushu? You said she made the effort to swing by the hospital while he was recovering, right?”

“Yeah, but I couldn’t have her talk to him. He couldn’t even admit what had happened had affected him in the slightest. He still can’t. If I would have put him in a room with a psychiatrist back then, it would have done more harm than good.”

“You still think it’d be just as bad now?”

“You heard his outburst.” Shouta stood slowly, stretching out his arms & back. “He’s terrified at the thought of someone picking him apart. He was tested on, ‘Zashi, he still thinks people with ‘doctor’ in their titles are going to hurt him.”

Hizashi didn’t reply to that. He just looked up at Shouta with a grim look on his face, then tilted his head to look at Hitoshi instead, who was still out cold against his shoulder. 

“I’d like to introduce him to her soon, but he has to be the one who realises he needs to speak to someone. I knew it was a bad idea telling him about those murders, I fucking knew it was. But- What if he figured it out on his own? It isn’t exactly like the media can stop plastering them everywhere.”

“I know, Sho.”

“People are being killed & all the outlets care about is how much money they’re going to make from the headlines. Meanwhile Hitoshi is tearing himself apart at the seams because I asked him if he recognised a woman’s face.”

Shouta scrubbed his hands over his face, taking a moment to draw in a few breaths to keep his annoyance-bordering-anger in check. Once he had settled, he carried on.

“I haven’t told Sansa or Tsukauchi that Hitoshi is the connection just yet. I- ‘Zashi, they’re going to rip open old wounds all over again. I can’t, I can’t put him through that again. You weren’t there last time- You didn’t see his face.”

He hated having to allow the police to interrogate Hitoshi while he was still recovering from Chisaki’s cruelty. He hated having to sit there & listen while they made him recite every cruel thing he had been through since he was ten fucking years old. He hated every goddamn second.

He couldn’t put Hitoshi through it again, not when he was barely being held together by threads.

Chapter Text

‘Police chief not yet at liberty to release the connection between victims.’ 

The headline sat in bold at the top of Hitoshi’s screen. The little letters taunting him, laughing at him for not being strong enough to just put his phone down & ignore it. To focus on the now rather than things that were out of his control.

But he couldn’t. Of course he couldn’t. No amount of wise words from Aizawa were going to stop him from clicking on every single link, searching every article for any signs of his name sitting there for the world to see.

He had been in the habit of checking the news every single day since he found out what… Or rather who the connection was. He was pretty sure the habit was mildly neurotic at that point, but he couldn’t stop.

Hitoshi’s phone was promptly snatched from his hand before he could finish reading the article. 

He had only got to the part where it mentioned each victim being corrupt in one way or another, but that was the only vague piece of information the media was being given directly from the chief.

“Oh, so you do use your phone!” An infuriating voice that belonged to an even more infuriating person piped up. It was none other than Monoma who flashed him his signature smug grin. 

He held Hitoshi’s phone as high as he could, head tilted right back so he could read what was on the screen, hoping Hitoshi wouldn’t be able to reach. Despite the fact that he was taller than the blond.

Hitoshi promptly resisted the urge to sucker punch his… friend… Yeah, they were friends, right? Kind of? Monoma seemed to think so. Either way, Hitoshi resisted the urge to sucker punch him right in the stomach & instead schooled his face into a glare that rivaled Bakugou’s.

He held his hand out expectantly. “Give it back.”

“You can’t avoid me forever, Shinsou.” Monoma declared as he scanned through the article, shrugged to himself with an almost bored expression on his features, then swiped off of it to get up Hitoshi’s text messages. 

“I can try.”

Monoma clicked on their messages that held a very one sided text chain, then promptly showed the screen to Hitoshi. “Do you see this? See that little box at the bottom? You’re supposed to click that, type out a message like so-”

Hitoshi snatched his phone back right as Monoma pedantically typed ‘I miss u so much sorry im an asshole love u x’ in the text box & locked the screen before shoving it in his pocket & zipping it up for good measure. “I know how to type a text message, dumbass.”

“Oh? You do?” Monoma tilted his head to the side, taking a second to study Hitoshi with scrutiny sitting in his features. “Because you haven’t replied to any of my messages in a month & you’ve somehow mastered the art of avoiding me around school. More so than usual. What happened to our quirk practice hangouts? Not even that! I’ve found out you’ve been avoiding your preferred blond too. Now, Shinsou… What the fuck?”

Oh. Right. 

A month. It’d been a month.

One month since he’d dislocated his shoulder. One month since his little outburst towards Aizawa.

That meant it had been one month since the man had sat him down & offered him an ultimatum.

He was given four weeks. Four weeks to see how he got on with no intervention from him or Yamada. To see if he could try & get his shit together. He could go to them or someone else to try & talk about his problems, but they wouldn’t pressure him or pry. 

But if Hitoshi carried on the way he was going, if by the time the joint training with 1-B came around & he was still spiralling faster than he could stop, then Aizawa was going to sit him in a room with a psychiatrist whether he liked it or not.

Hitoshi hated it, he really did. But it wasn’t like he could say no. 

He didn’t need therapy. He needed some good fucking sleep. He needed Dabi to stop. He needed everything to stop. 

Despite that, Aizawa could see how badly he wanted to get back into training. He also knew damn well that if he didn’t train with Hitoshi, then Hitoshi was going to go off & train on his own. They had already seen how that turned out.

At least the teen had the decency to look mildly guilty while Aizawa talked to him about it.

The hero finally agreed to train with him again with the binding cloth, just like he used to. The only differences would be that their training time was cut in half & Hitoshi had to see a physiotherapist once a week.

Now that? He hated almost as much as the thought of any other kind of therapy. But it was an olive branch that Aizawa was extending & Hitoshi knew that it’d be stupid to decline.

If his hands didn’t get more mobility back, then he was never going to be able to stay on the hero course. If he wanted to be as good as he used to be, then training with Aizawa again was the only viable option.

So Hitoshi had accepted the ultimatum & the days began to pass.

He had been keeping everybody at an arm’s length. He ignored every time his phone buzzed in his pocket. He barely slept & it was showing on his face a whole lot more than before. It also showed in the way he couldn’t completely focus in class, how time would lapse & he’d miss portions of lessons without even realising it.

Apparently, that meant he’d somehow had four weeks pass without him really noticing.

Everything was just… a blur. A messy void that he had thrown himself into, avoiding all contact & comfort like the masochistic, self-destructive moron that he apparently was.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, the month was gone.

Which was how he found himself now being bombarded by a very persistent Monoma.

“I’ve been tired.” Hitoshi fell back on the default excuse he used to use with Aizawa as they headed towards the direction of the grounds where their joint training would be taking place. He had just come from seeing Hatsume & didn’t bother questioning why the fuck Monoma knew where he was. 

“Y’know, I could probably believe that given your beautifully handsome face is sleepier than usual, but-”

“Are you always in flirt mode or do you have other functions? Maybe an off switch?” Hitoshi bit back with about as much snark as he could possibly fit into his otherwise monotonous tone. 

But karma was not on his side. 

After Monoma had finished defending his own honour, talking about how his innocent flirting was his best attribute, he all but shoved Hitoshi in Aizawa’s direction as soon as they arrived. 

“If you don’t tell him, I will!” He yelled in a sing-song tone, flashing that smug grin again. As Monoma saunted off to meet with the rest of his class, he added over his shoulder, “Don’t say I never do anything for you, Shinsou!”

One hand settled lightly on Hitoshi’s bicep & another on his shoulder steadied his uneven footing as he focused more on flipping Monoma off than actually not tripping over.

When he finally turned around, dark eyes were looking down at him. 

Well, fuck.

Hitoshi got a tiny feeling that this day somehow wasn’t going to go his way. There was no way that Aizawa hadn’t heard Monoma’s words, but it didn’t make him tense any less when the man spoke.

“Tell me what, Hitoshi?”

“That… Uhm…”

Hitoshi used to be a good liar. Or at least, he liked to think he was. He couldn’t have survived the hell he had been through if not for being at least a relatively okay liar. But ever since being under Aizawa’s guardianship came with the promise that he didn’t have to lie anymore, it felt as though his ability to think of a lie on the spot when under the man’s gaze had been stripped away.

“...I… have a girlfriend?” Hitoshi tried, it sounded more like a question than a statement. He smirked, hoping to lighten the subtle tension that was brewing in the air. Tension that he wasn’t even so sure was really there, or just a figurement of his imagination.

Aizawa smirked back, then rolled his eyes. “We both know you have never looked at any of the girls in this class for more than three seconds. If not for your eidetic memory, you wouldn’t even know their names.”

“Boyfriend, then?”

“With the way Kaminari has been looking so glum lately? Highly doubt it.”

Hitoshi couldn’t help the way his eyes flickered towards where 1-A were all grouped together & talking amongst themselves. Denki was talking with Bakugou & Kirishima, smiling, but Hitoshi could see that smile didn’t quite meet his eyes.

Yeah, so maybe the brainwasher had been keeping his distance for too long now, but surely he couldn’t be to blame for the raincloud sitting above Denki’s head, right?

It wasn’t like they didn’t talk at all. They just… didn’t talk much.

“You know if Hizashi were here, he’d be making fun of your pining.” Aizawa said quietly, nudging his elbow against Hitoshi’s.

“Yeah, I know.” He grumbled back, still watching Denki & his dramatic, overly animated gestures as he talked. It was almost an effort to drag his eyes away & look back to his mentor, who was clearly still waiting for an answer to his earlier question.

An actual answer, not a Hitoshi-avoids-his-problems answer.

Hitoshi couldn’t even be angry at Monoma for quite literally shoving him into this position. The guy had been telling him all along that he was going to tell Aizawa about the nosebleeds & other side effects if Hitoshi didn’t. He even gave him a date to do it by. That date just so happened to be today. Funny how everything was working out. 

“Can we talk about it later? After class, maybe? I just… want to focus on this instead.”

Aizawa scrutinised him for a moment, looking as though he had a good few things he wanted to say, but ended up nodding once. “Alright. But don’t think I’m forgetting whatever,” He gestured vaguely between them. “This is.”

Hitoshi nodded. “Wouldn’t expect anything less.”

He knew damn well if he didn’t say something, then Aizawa wasn’t above seeking out Monoma to find out what the fuck was going on. So he would tell him, he would. Just… not right now.

Somehow, he still ended up avoiding his problems. For a few more hours, at least. 

Hitoshi went to turn away, but paused half way when he heard Aizawa clear his throat to catch his attention again.

“Oh, & kid? Remember to actually have a mild amount of fun out there, yeah? They’re your classmates, not your enemies.”

Right. 

Not his enemies.

*

Before he knew it, the teams had been chosen & Hitoshi was standing in the middle of the training grounds, explaining the details of his brainwashing to his team while they looked at him in awe.

He was mildly fascinated by their looks. No fear, no trepidation showed on their faces. There were just three pairs of eyes that looked so genuinely interested & grateful to have him on their team because they thought his quirk was powerful & voiced that happily.

Classmates, not enemies, Aizawa’s voice reminded in his head.

Denki, Kirishima & Tsuyu were his team & part of him had to believe Aizawa had intentionally put him in a group with two people who knew of his past, one of which knew most of the gruesome details. There was no way it was just a coincidence.

Denki was the first to notice the mask hiding in his scarf, so Hitoshi explained what it was & how it worked. It was also much to Denki’s surprise that he had spoken to Hatsume willingly.

Hitoshi opted to leave out the part where he had a month to kill & a whole lot of avoidance issues, so he had actually spent a fair amount of time in the development studio with Hatsume.

He left out his reasoning behind why he wanted it to be a mask & why he hadn’t told anyone about it yet.

In a way, he was almost afraid of what Aizawa might think.

After all, Aizawa had seen the mask Hitoshi was forced to wear. Every day the scars across his face were reminders of where the too-tight mask that held his mouth shut once sat.

Now Hitoshi was optionally choosing to put himself back in one, but this was different.

Everyone had always so badly wanted to shut him up, to render his voice silent.

So as a big fuck you to everybody who tried, Hitoshi decided that he wanted a mask that amplified his quirk rather than nulifying it. He had also specifically requested a design that was a little too similar to what he once was forced to wear, except this final design was a lot more sleek. A lot more… him.

There had been a lot of trial & error, one of the mask designs almost sent him into a panic attack merely due to having a strap that secured it in place.

Three different designs later & they had come up with something perfect.

No straps held the mask to his face, instead it fit perfectly & stayed in place thanks to the sections that covered his ears. The design was made to fit his face & his face alone. Hatsume had sanded down every corner & edge so there was no possible way it’d dig into his scars.

Hitoshi opted to keep out all of those details in his explanation on how the mask worked, but thinking about the sheer amount of care Hatsume put into her work had a faint smile lingering on his face. Even more so when he recalled how she had thanked him for his ideas, saying how good the mask would look on her ‘Hatsume-resume’.

“Oh I get it!” Kirishima grinned, while Denki looked a little bit frazzled at Hitoshi explaining how the mask worked & why it worked when other means of amplifying his quirk didn’t. “The plates are the key, right? Rather than it converting your voice into the electrical signals you mentioned?”

When all Hitoshi did was nod, Tsuyu took that as her cue to speak, “Okay, so-”

Well, so much for their conversation. Before she could get any words out, the sound that indicated the start of the match rang out. So much for making a plan or strategy.

The battle kicked off & Tsuyu spoke as they jogged, working out who was the most likely target out of their group & who they should try to restrain first.

Apparently, Hitoshi was the one with the biggest target on his back.

A smirk began to curl at his lips, so Hitoshi fit the mask into place to hide it & something inside of him flipped as he felt it click into place. When was he not the target? 

He had a big red bullseye on his back & his hands were covered in the paint.

He let out a steadying breath. It felt nice to be able to breathe beneath the mask, but it was something that he had to keep reminding himself that he could do.

Despite being the one who was most likely going to be sought after by the other team, Hitoshi felt surprisingly good.

Denki decided that Shiozaki would be the most trouble & Hitoshi knew damn well that it was a biassed opinion stemming from the Sports Fest, but he opted to keep that little detail to himself. Instead, he nudged Denki with his elbow before speaking.

“Me & you should go after Shiozaki & the scales guy.”

“You mean Rin? ‘Toshi, you don’t forget anything, how did you forget a three letter name?” Denki asked, genuine concern sparkling in eyes hidden by blue glasses.

Blue glasses that suited Denki incredibly well. So did his choker & his jacket &- Hitoshi was getting distracted.

“Whatever. Rin .” Hitoshi rolled his eyes, opting to avoid mentioning the fact he had missed the entirety of the choosing teams process & honestly couldn’t track how they ended up here. Too lost in his own head. “We should split up. Kirishima said he can handle Shishida, so-”

Before he could even clarify if they were okay with his plan, Tsuyu & Kirishima were already agreeing & heading in the direction of the loud footsteps that obviously belonged to the beast guy. That left Hitoshi & Denki to track down Shiozaki.

“Got a plan?” Denki asked as he vaulted over a pipe. “Or are you just gonna go in fists & binding cloth flying? ‘Toshi, please tell me you have a plan.”

“Obviously I have a plan.”

“Tell me the plan!” Denki squawked with growing anxiety the closer they got to the other side of the field. Shiozaki must have really done a number on him.

Strangely, all this strategising & working out the best way to not end up getting his ass handed to him on a platter was a surprisingly solid distraction from the mess that was his head.

He was fine.

He was talking with Denki, he was being a normal hero course student. He was fine.

He didn’t need therapy. He was fine.

“We need to take out Rin without Shiozaki noticing right away. She’s gonna be using her vines to track movement, surely. But if I can sample Rin’s voice before she notices-”

“Then you can use it against her!” Denki finished, flashing Hitoshi with a blinding grin as he was about to round a corner, only to be yanked back by Hitoshi’s hand launching out to grab the back of the collar of his jacket.

Denki tumbled backwards, back thudding against Hitoshi’s chest & he was quick to spin around wide eyed with a flush on his cheeks. “S-sorry… Why are we-?”

Hitoshi placed a finger to his lips, pressing a little too close & while he shouldn’t have been even remotely surprised, the way the flush on the blond’s cheeks darkened definitely caught him a little off guard. He opted to ignore it in favour of pointing upwards with his other hand.

As Denki’s eyes drifted upwards & he noticed the vines trailing out above their heads along the pipes & overhanging beams, Hitoshi dropped his hand in favour of signing. 

‘She might be able to hear us’.

He had no fucking clue just how strong her quirk really was, having only really done his full research on 1-A, so it wasn’t worth taking their chances & being careless.

Hitoshi’s brain was screaming at him, ‘Plan! Strategise! Know your enemy! Learn their techniques! ’ While he stood there trying to fight against the instincts that were forced into him when he was still too young to know any better.

The voice his brain was screaming at him in sounded suspiciously like Trigger’s. 

A hand gently nudging at his shoulder snapped him back to the present & that worry sat in Denki’s eyes again. But just like he had for the past month, he never voiced it. He just smiled sadly & carried on with what was happening.

He pointed in the direction with the least vines & began to trek over, so Hitoshi followed with silent footfalls. It didn’t take long for them to find Shiozaki standing in the middle of a relatively open space with her vines spread everywhere.

Rin was standing nearby, on guard almost, & just like Hitoshi had expected, the other two were nowhere near. Keeping up with Hitoshi’s predictions being correct, Rin was talking in a low murmur to Shiozaki, trying to get her to tell him what she could feel, but his voice gave away that he was anxious & anxious people always made mistakes.

Hitoshi turned back to Denki & after fiddling with the tuning dials on his mask, he signed, ‘Don’t freak out. Just go with it,’ & before Denki could react with anything more than a puzzled look scrunching at his features, Hitoshi spoke aloud. He kept his voice soft, though, to put on the act that they were trying to be stealthy & hadn’t yet found the duo.

Except it was in Tsuyu’s voice.

“Shiozaki is close, I can capture Rin while you use your electricity on Shiozaki, you fought her at the Festival, you know how her vines work better than any of us.”

Fuck, it was really weird. Too weird. Being other people. Anybody other than himself.

Focus, Hitoshi.

Denki’s eyes widened a hilariously large amount & he sort of looked like a cat who had just noticed a bird outside of the window.

About three thousand different emotions flitted across Denki’s face, most of which he looked as though he was very inclined to verbalise, but instead just nodded in silent understanding of Hitoshi’s plan, sticking his thumb up. Dork. “I already told you I don’t like this plan, Tsu. She’s scary.”

“You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. Shinsou will be breaking up their communication, so they’re already at a disadvantage.” 

Denki seemed awfully amused by the mild complement given to himself in someone else’s voice. He wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t hear the end of it.

While they were bickering back & forth, Hitoshi was taking slow steps back, putting as much space as he could between himself & Denki while still being in hearing range. 

After what the blond had told him about how it felt to fry his brain, how it made him feel mentally & physically, Hitoshi wanted a plan that’d avoid that. A plan where Denki could let loose just enough to show what he could do without incapacitating himself.

Hitoshi wasn’t about to let Denki sacrifice himself like that just for a heroics exercise, so staying just within range meant Denki wouldn’t risk a full voltage output.

Right as he heard Rin telling Shiozaki he was going to handle the situation, Hitoshi used his capture weapon to haul himself up onto the pipes with as much caution as possible to avoid any vine-infested pipes & beams.

Only a month with Aizawa’s training again & he was already feeling lighter on his feet as he moved.

His shoulder still felt the strain from his dislocation, but it was nothing he wasn’t used to.

Trusting that Denki would be able to take on Rin solo, Hitoshi watched from his silent perch above as various blows were thrown. Rin & Denki fell into a sort of dance; Denki avoiding the boy’s scales, while Rin refused to let Denki get close enough to shock him.

Denki was lithe & quick on his feet in a way that Hitoshi hadn’t properly taken notice of before. He was fast, judged movements with insane speed & knew exactly how to hold his own in a fight. It was just a shame people rarely got to see that.

Too often, Denki panicked & fried his brain before he had the chance to show just how good his combat skills were. Watching him now made butterflies flutter around Hitoshi’s stomach.

Unfortunately for him, the rest of the hero course students weren’t completely awful in their hand-to-hand, which meant the more Rin tried to get the upper hand, the more he learned Denki’s patterns. So the more they fought, the less Denki was able to hold his own.

A passive thought told Hitoshi maybe he should teach him what he had been trained when it came to combat. 

A little crackle in the air had the hairs on his arms standing on end & told him that Denki was beginning to panic, so Hitoshi put a stop to his thoughts before they could stray. Static rolled off of Denki in a way that’d lead to a bigger outburst of electricity soon enough. 

Maybe Hitoshi being close wasn’t enough to stop that panic after all. Unless he wanted to get fried, he needed to move.

After more fiddling with the dials, Hitoshi decided fuck it & yelled out to Shiozaki to send out her vines as back up before they got fried by Denki’s indiscriminate shock. This time, he used Rin’s voice & thanks to having convinced them that he wasn’t even there by using Tsuyu’s voice earlier, Shiozaki replied before she realised her mistake.

Bingo.

The Persona Chords really were a game changer, holy shit.

The vibrant green door to Shiozaki’s mind opened up & Hitoshi was ready to step inside. He ran along the pipes with practised ease like a dancer on a balance beam until he dropped down right behind her.

A wall of vines shot up between him & Shiozaki, which was exactly what Hitoshi had been banking on. With some easy manoeuvring thanks to his binding cloth, Hitoshi was on the other side of the wall in record speed & yelled in his own voice, “Denki, now!”

Hitoshi had already felt the static in the air, he knew what was coming. In the way one could feel an oncoming thunderstorm & could smell it in the rain or in the heaviness that sat in the air. He had already heard the metaphorical thunder, felt the static, now he was just waiting for the lightning.

A little grin tugged at Hitoshi’s features from beneath the mask without him even realising it as he ducked down beneath Shiozaki’s wall of vines & dragged her with him. He clamped a hand over her mouth right as she was about to speak, likely about his sins or something just as weird & Hitoshi pressed her against the vine wall so he could fit in behind it too.

“Shh. I don’t care.” He said simply as he stepped through that green door & took control. 

The girl’s widened eyes at being caught so off guard, then instantly fell heavy-lidded & he watched, no, felt the way she went limp beneath him. 

His hand dropped from Shiozaki’s mouth the second he had control & he muttered an apology to her knowing that she could hear him & just couldn’t do anything about it. He could feel her fighting against his hold in his head.

No more than a second later & sparks of yellow surrounded them, crackling through the air with such a distinct sound, Hitoshi couldn’t help but stand there in awe.

“I really am sorry.” Hitoshi murmured, feeling as though he were standing in the eye of a thundercloud. If that were even a thing. “I just need this win a little more than you.”

He waited behind the sanctuary of green until the yellow surrounding them died out & all that was left in its wake was a buzz to the air that lingered in every metal pipe close by. 

Keeping Shiozaki under his control, Hitoshi called out, “Denks? You alive?”

A heavy sigh of relief left him when he got a very coherent & very proud response of, “Hell yeah, I am!” 

Pride swelled in Hitoshi’s chest & after poking his head around the wall to be sure it was definitely safe, he ordered Shiozaki to follow him as he headed out & towards the direction of Denki’s voice.

The blond was standing very proudly with a knocked out Rin on his back, ready to carry him to the weirdly cheerful jail cell.

“Did you see that?! I was thinking about what you said before when we were in the library ages ago talking about our quirks! I was thinking about you & how I didn’t wanna fry you, or fry myself & leave you alone & I didn’t!”

Hitoshi was pretty sure the tingling in his cheeks was a blush & he was absolutely certain that if not for the mask, Denki would be able to see it clear as day. That pride in his chest grew, morphing into something entirely its own, trying to hijack Hitoshi’s brain & make him do something stupid like kiss that stupid face in a moment of weakness.

But he couldn’t.

He couldn’t drag Denki into his mess. So he stomped down the pride along with everything else & simply offered a nod, grateful that his mask hid the smile he was struggling to wipe off of his face. “Yeah, I saw. Well done, Denks, you did great. C’mon.”

Hitoshi began making his way out of the area the way that they had got in, Shiozaki a mindless zombie following him. He didn’t miss the way Denki did a double take at the girl, as if surprised to see her under his control as he caught up to Hitoshi’s side.

As they walked, Hitoshi could feel that telltale sign of an oncoming nosebleed as a dull pain began to sneak its way into his head, across his brow-line. He hadn’t even had her under his control for a few minutes, but the way she was struggling to get free was making it all the more difficult to keep control.

“You should go on ahead.” Hitoshi muttered from behind the mask. “I can’t make her run, but you should get him locked up before he wakes up.”

“But-”

“Go, Denks.”

“Are you sure? What about what you told me? Can you keep her under your control the entire way? What if she breaks free? What if she-”

“Go, Denks!” Hitoshi snapped, feeling his control slip ever so slightly in the process & it was an invisible scrabble to grab the metaphorical puppet strings before Shiozaki could pull back completely. He yanked her back under, keeping a tighter grip this time as he stared ahead.

If he kept his eyes trained on the path ahead, then maybe he could fool himself into thinking the look of hurt on Denki’s face out of his peripheral vision was just a figment of his imagination. It wasn’t real. He was fine. This was fine.

He was fine.

Denki didn’t argue, his mouth opened, then snapped shut & he simply jogged on ahead, keeping a tight grip of Rin so he didn’t slip off his back in the process. It didn’t take long for them to get out of sight & Hitoshi glanced back at the girl following him. She was dragging her feet, looking completely slack-jawed & lost.

Yup, still zombified.

Blood began to seep down his face from behind the mask & Hitoshi simply raised a hand to press the mask harder against his face, feeling the way the edges pressed against old scars. He fidgeted with it as he walked, reminding himself over & over again that he was in control. He could take it off if he wanted to. He wasn’t trapped. He could wipe the blood away later. It was fine. He was fine.

That sentence ran over & over in his mind the entire journey to getting Shiozaki locked up with Rin.

He tried to focus on the way he felt beneath the headache. How he felt energised and how he had just done great. He knew he had done good & his mentor had been watching the entire time. He had no clue how Aizawa was going to feel about seeing him running around in a mask, but he hoped he’d see that he could do this.

He had used his brainwashing & it was okay. Sure, he didn’t really feel all that okay, but it was okay. He was allowed. The Persona Chords had worked a damn charm & that in itself felt fucking amazing. Weird as hell, but amazing.

The way he felt the plates move against his face, the way he spoke with other people’s voices, the way people responded without thinking.

It felt like he was infiltrating everybody’s inner workings & turned it all on his head. It broke up communications in a way that left people open. Shouto’s & Denki’s words drifted through his mind, telling him how good he’d be at undercover work. How he could infiltrate big time gangs. How he could dismantle things from the inside out. A hero in the shadows, just like his mentor.

He could do it.

Despite the headache & the nosebleed, he felt good.

He probably shouldn’t have snapped at Denki. He absolutely needed to apologise & was also a little sad that Hatsume wasn’t there to see the Persona Chords in action. Yes, his head was beginning to spin a little more as he jogged back to find his team, but he felt good.

He & Denki had made a great team until he had ruined it, they communicated well despite him putting Denki on the spot. That was good. This was good. 

He was fine.

Until he wasn’t.

The adrenaline rush of doing something right & getting to show what he was capable of didn’t last long.

As things tended to go with Hitoshi, anything good always came very quickly to an end. Half of him thought perhaps it was some kind of karma, while the other half thoroughly believed Chisaki was right when he had called him cursed.

Either way, all that mattered was that everything went down hill at an exceedingly rapid pace.

One of those moments where it felt as though time both slowed & sped up all at once happened right before his eyes.

It felt as though he was barrelling down a hill at full speed, but his legs were moving too quickly to stop despite seeing the oncoming collision ahead. He could see what was going to happen before it did & he was helpless to stop it.

One second he had caught up to Tsuyu & quickly caught a glimpse of Denki, Hitoshi readying to use his capture scarf when he saw Shishida shake off Denki’s volts like it was nothing. 

He wanted to take out that freakishly tall beast guy & prove he could hold his own against someone so much bigger than him. But the next second, Tsuburaba sprang from nowhere & before Hitoshi could act, transparent walls surrounded him. 

He was trapped in a box before he could stop it.

From there, it didn’t exactly take long for Hitoshi’s cleithrophobia to kick in & later, he would pinpoint this as the exact moment where his sense of self slipped a little too much for him to keep a grasp on.

It was the exact moment his ‘I’m fine’ mantra disintegrated into nothing.

All too quickly, his brain replaced the training grounds with the cold concrete of the Hassaikai compound & the air walls became glass ones that were inches thick with no escape.

All of sudden he was trapped in a tiny room with a mask strapped to his face to keep him quiet because his quirk was bad. He was bad. This was all so very, very bad.

The fact that the air-prison made it so he couldn’t hear any outside noise didn’t particularly help & only served to aid Hitoshi’s mind in its swirling panic. Pair that with the stickiness of blood smeared from his nose behind the mask & he was losing his grasp on reality. Fast.

His chest began to rise & fall heavily, brain swimming as adrenaline & fear shot through his veins like a bitter venom.

His panic began to outweigh everything else & Hitoshi couldn’t help but begin to bang on the solid-air walls, hard enough that his knuckles were going to hate him later. When that didn’t work, he tried a few kicks, then opted to slam his shoulder up against it in the hopes of breaking through.

All that served to do was remind his body that he had dislocated his shoulder a month prior & it was still sensitive.

It didn’t matter, though. Nothing mattered. It didn’t matter that there were cameras, two classes of hero course students & four teachers watching his little meltdown.

Nothing mattered except the sheer fear instilled into him, the need to escape as fast as he fucking could was the only thing that mattered. He continued to bang on the transparent walls until his hands were shaking & knuckles were red raw.

The world tilted & turned violently, a reminder that he was barely breathing; his lungs crying at him for the lack of oxygen intake from his near-hyperventilating.

His legs felt weak & his vision was growing so fuzzy that he barely even registered the blond boy outside of the walls, smacking them with a metal pipe to try to break them down too. His mouth was moving, shouting, by the look of things, but Hitoshi couldn’t hear a word.

The little logical voice in the back of his mind that sounded eerily like Aizawa was telling him to focus on Denki. To sign to him that he was panicking, to stay grounded, to remember to breathe… But it didn’t matter. His panic was infinitely louder.

His heart pounded in his ears, his skin prickled with a sheen of fear-induced sweat, his throat tightened like the mask was cutting off his airways. Mouth clamped shut with a nosebleed meant it was nearly impossible to breathe. He had years of barely being able to breathe.

He couldn’t breathe.

Once again Hitoshi rammed his shoulder up against the wall at the same time as Denki slammed the pipe against it. The pressure from both sides was enough to have the wall shattering & disintegrating into nothing at all.

It was almost cruel, vanishing like that. Like it hadn’t just completely crippled Hitoshi simply by existing.

As it shattered, Hitoshi went barrelling through, losing his footing enough to take a nasty tumble forward. It took another trip before he managed to gain back enough control to roll into a low stance, hand braced on the ground to support his body.

He had yet to notice at some point he must have ripped his mask off in his attempts to breathe & it was lost somewhere behind him. Blood had smeared up his face from his nose that every single person but him was paying attention to.

Despite his hearing being back, everything was still muffled. There was yelling, a commotion & he was certain he recognised the yelling to belong to Denki, but he couldn’t make out the words.

All Hitoshi could focus on was the fight or flight coursing through him. The fight. The anger. The hostility. The need to just get out all of that rage that was building up inside of him all because somebody used a quirk that trudged up the past.

If he had been in therapy, perhaps he would have actually acknowledged it as trauma. It was fucking him up in a way that he needed to address because his self destruction was quickly peeking into something he had constantly convinced himself it’d never reach.

But he wasn’t in therapy, he didn’t need therapy. He just needed to find that asshole & make him hurt. That would make him feel better. Not therapy.

A few feet away Hitoshi spotted a head of short brown hair of the boy responsible for his current mess. He was clinging to the back of the beast guy while Tsuyu tried to take them both on alone.

He had no clue where Kirishima was, had he been taken out already? Denki was somewhere behind him, but Hitoshi didn’t stop to actually formulate a plan. 

He wasn’t going to be bested by a teenager with a quirk as stupid as solid fucking air.

He had felt the wrath of Overhaul, the seering agony of Dabi’s flames & the terror of what his old foster father could do.

He wasn’t going to be beat by a teenager.

He dashed toward Shishida despite the pain in his body from his panic, despite the way his legs felt like lead & the way his head spun. Despite how his vision was fuzzy at the edges & the way his chest was still heaving far too fucking quickly to be considered healthy.

Despite that little voice in the back of his head telling him to stop, Hitoshi threw out his binding cloth before either of the enemies noticed him coming. The fabric looped around Tsuburaba’s neck & chest from behind & Hitoshi didn’t think twice before yanking them. Hard.

The boy fell off the back of the beast, tumbling to the ground & Hitoshi wasn’t sure if the pop he heard was just his imagination or not. A shoulder, maybe? Elbow?

He didn’t know. He didn’t care.

He ran forward anyway to drag Tsuburaba up from his place on the ground, face pulled into something angry & deadly. He only knew because the look on Tsuburaba’s face went from mildly concerned to fear-filled in an instant.

Fear. That was what Hitoshi was used to seeing when people looked at him. In too many ways, it was familiar & something he handled with more grace than when people treated him kindly. He knew what to do with fear.

His hand in the front of the boy’s shirt tightened, his other clenching into a fist & Hitoshi wasn’t so sure what he was about to do. Honestly, he wasn’t so sure what he did do.

One second he was pulling Tsuburaba up from the ground, thinking about putting his fist right through his face & the next second there were hands on his shoulders.

They yanked him back so hard he had to release his shaking grip on Tsuburaba’s shirt & spun around with a violence speeding his veins. It was heady, controlling his actions, his words & clouding everything else.

“Don’t fucking touch me!”

Hitoshi knew the voice was his, he knew it was, but it was scratchy. It was desperate & his words cracked in the middle & it sounded so foreign despite coming from his mouth.

His throat hurt just to talk, as if he had been screaming his head off. His knuckles hurt. 

Everything felt wrong.

The person standing opposite him pulled their hands back as though they had been personally burned by Hitoshi’s skin. As though his temper had been burning so hot, it radiated from the very core of his being & surrounded him instead, preventing anyone from getting close.

Eyes widened & a look of fear flitted through those golden irises for just a moment before it was replaced with genuine concern.

A second later & Hitoshi registered that it was Denki standing there. It was Denki pulling him back. It was Denki he had just screamed in the face of.

It was Denki who looked afraid for just a moment.

Afraid of him.

That sobered him up quicker than anything else really did.

Hitoshi looked down to his hands, seeing the way they shook, the way his knuckles were red raw & was that blood?

The pang of panic that shot through his chest made his head spin as he quickly twisted to survey the scene he had just been dragged away from. Beast guy was gone. Tsuyu was gone too. Tsuburaba was still there, though.

He was pressed back against the wall on shaking legs, looking as though he was all of two seconds from collapsing. His nose was bleeding & he was cupping his jaw, wide black eyes were staring at Hitoshi with genuine fear. He was afraid. Genuinely & wholeheartedly afraid.

Denki shouldered past Hitoshi with a lot less softness than what he was accustomed to receiving from him. 

He watched with confusion as Denki checked on Tsuburaba, making sure he was fine, or as fine as he could be before ordering him to go find Shishida & retreat.

Tsuburaba didn’t have to be asked twice. He was running off down the alley to their right without even looking back.

Denki turned back to a quickly paling Hitoshi. He felt the way the blood drained from his face, the way his hands shook more no matter how hard he tried to make it stop.

“What the hell was that?”

“What…” Hitoshi couldn’t even finish his question. He didn’t even know what his question was. Purple eyes stared at Denki for a moment as if he would have all of the answers to what just happened, then they looked back down to his shaking hands.

Fuck.

“Hitoshi.”

Fuck, fuck. Denki never used his full first name.

Hitoshi raised his head to look at those pretty eyes, his face pulling into a confused frown as he opened & closed his mouth a few times, trying to find the right words to say, but only drawing blanks. Lots & lots of blanks.

His eyes were beginning to sting as the panic bounced words around his skull, only furthering the confusion.

Bad. Bad. Bad. Villain. Bad. Bad. You hurt someone again.

“There’s a difference between getting into a fight when battling it out for a win & straight up trying to hurt somebody. ‘Toshi… You looked like how Bakugou used to look when he got pitted against Midoriya.”

He assumed that meant he looked angry. Very, very angry.

“You were trying to hurt him, man. That wasn’t a little scuffle, you wanted to hurt him.”

You wanted to hurt him.

Those words were like salt in a raw wound. Denki’s momentary look of fear had created a hole in Hitoshi’s chest. Right in the centre, it felt like something had been ripped open. Or maybe something had broken out. A monster hiding in a cage & the bars had been finally torn off.

‘You’re a cursed human.’

Villain.

‘If you survive, you’ll be thinking of me.’ 

Bad.

‘All it takes is one bad day…’

No.

He wasn’t them.

“No, I…” Hitoshi’s voice cracked enough for his internal panic to become visibly obvious. “No!”

He didn’t even have a defence. He didn’t even know what the fuck happened. One second he was thinking about hurting Tsuburaba & the next, he apparently had.

But he couldn’t remember actually laying a hand on the teenager. 

He wracked his brain, desperate for any hint on how many punches he threw, for how badly he had just fucked up with everybody watching, but he came up short.

For a boy who remembered everything, Hitoshi had no fucking clue what had just happened.

It was terrifying.

His panic was kicking back in again, harder than before & he could feel it crawling all over him, consuming him. First, it started with pins & needles all over, then came the shortage of breath. His head spun & it felt as though the ground he was standing on was sinking beneath his feet.

“I… I don’t know what happened… I don’t know what happened, I-” The words kept tumbling from Hitoshi’s mouth like he was a record on repeat, like they were the only words his brain could come up with & the only words his mouth was willing to formulate.

Denki stepped closer & looked as though he was about to touch him, but pulled his hands back at the last second. That hurt too.

Everything was wrong.

“Can I touch you now or still no?”

All Hitoshi could do was nod.

“Was that a yes touch or no touch nod?” Denki asked with a nervous laugh, but it did little to take away from the edge that lingered in his tone. “Let’s try that again, can I touch you?”

Hitoshi nodded again & no more than a second later, hands were back on his shoulders beneath his capture weapon & Denki was closer again. Little volts of electricity sank through his clothes & into his skin, just on the right side of sharp enough to keep him aware of his surroundings.

“Breathe, ‘Toshi, c’mon. Follow my breathing, yeah?”

Denki walked Hitoshi through his breathing exercises that actually fucking worked & after an indeterminable amount of time later, Hitoshi was being walked towards the entry way to the training grounds on very wobbly legs. 

An electricity-filled hand was gripping his wrist tightly enough that he couldn’t escape even if he wanted to.

Denki’s other hand was holding Hitoshi’s mask & the small losses of time were racking up with scary speed. One second he was in one place & the next he was somewhere entirely different. At some point, his panic had dialled back from one hundred to ninety nine though, so there was that.

As soon as they made it to the entryway, they were met with the one person Hitoshi really wanted to avoid right now.

Aizawa.

“Thanks, Kaminari, you can go back to your team now.” Aizawa’s rugged & quiet voice drifted through the air.

“But, Sensei-”

“No, I need to speak with Hitoshi alone. I’ll speak with you afterwards, don’t let this interfere with your training exercise, alright?” When Denki looked like he was about to protest again, Aizawa butted in before he could. “You can see him as soon as class is over. Now go.”

That seemed to be enough, because Denki handed Aizawa Hitoshi’s mask, nudged his shoulder gently against Hitoshi’s with a sad smile sent his way before he was jogging off, leaving Hitoshi alone. Alone with someone he really did not want to be alone with & he didn’t even have the energy to feel guilty about thinking that.

“Hitoshi-”

Hitoshi’s hands reached out to grab onto whatever was closest as his world tilted & turned all over again. Closest just so happened to be Aizawa’s jumpsuit & once again, just like every other time he lost his shit, Hitoshi’s hands clutched onto the front of it as though the ground would crumble & swallow him up if he didn’t hold on tight enough.

Just like always, Aizawa was there to catch him.

“Help.”

Yet again his voice felt foreign. His eyes were transfixed on Aizawa’s shoulder, just so he wouldn’t have to look him in the eye. Not that it mattered, his vision was too blurry to really make out whatever emotion was sitting in those dark eyes.

Disappointment, maybe? Most likely. 

Tears stung at his eyes & as he sniffed in a harsh breath, the metallic reminder of his nosebleed hitting him like a ton of bricks & he had to grit his teeth to stop himself from throwing up. Aizawa must have felt it too, because a hand was quick to grip his elbow as though he expected Hitoshi to toppling over.

To be honest, he was surprised he didn’t.

Then came more breathing exercises. At some point, Hitoshi had been made to sit down. When? He didn’t know. They were still in the same spot, though, near the entryway to the training grounds. 

Aizawa was crouched in front of him & when Hitoshi finally registered that he could breathe & see properly again, he saw his mask being held out for him to take.

When all he did was stare at it, Aizawa’s quiet voice drifted through the raging storm that was his head. “You in there, kiddo?”

“I need help.” Hitoshi repeated, a little louder this time just in case it hadn’t been heard the first time around. His voice still shook & the words tasted about as disgusting as the blood at the back of his throat from his nose did.

The admittance didn’t take a weight from his shoulders like he thought it would. Instead, it felt as though the world was falling in on him all over again & he had to physically restrain himself from laughing until he cried.

He ran a shaking hand through his hair, trying to focus on things that kept him grounded. The air in his lungs, Aizawa’s voice, the coldness of the concrete he was sitting on seeping through his clothes.

“I know.” One hand gently came to rest on Hitoshi’s shoulder, the other still holding the mask. “I heard you, we can help you, Hitoshi. You just have to tell us.”

“I’m telling you now.” Hitoshi whispered as he snatched the mask back. He didn’t mean to be so harsh with his actions, but his hands were still shaking far too much.

Taking the mask back had him noticing the blood still on his knuckles all over again & once again his teeth were grit as his stomach did a queasy little flip at the reminder of his violent outburst.

Violent.

Hitoshi had gotten violent.

Violent like how he had seen red with Midoriya.

Violent like the terrible people that he had grown up around.

Violent & he couldn’t even recall what the fuck had happened other than being so fucking afraid & angry. He felt too much all at once that it completely overwhelmed his body & mind.

He could tell he was freaking out all over again & Aizawa must have sensed it too if the stern words he heard next were anything to go by.

“Hitoshi. I need you to stop internally freaking out for a moment & focus on me. Think you can do that?”

No, not really. His little internal war seemed to be an all hands on deck type of situation. But he forced his head up, tucked his mask into his scarf, looked up at that ever-tired face & promptly pretended to stop internally freaking out & focused on Aizawa.

He pretended until he found he just… wasn’t pretending anymore.

At some point, Aizawa had actually managed to pull him from the depths of his own mind. Again.

He thought perhaps he should keep a tally of all the times Aizawa had saved him from himself. There had to be a way to repay him. Maybe a good start would be accepting the help that was being offered to him.

Hitoshi wasn’t entirely sure how much time had passed, but he listened as Aizawa talked to him about how they’d be doing these joint classes again soon so it wasn’t like Hitoshi would be missing out too much. 

He listened as Aizawa fucking apologised, as if any of this was his fault, explaining that he didn’t know Tsuburaba could create the air-prisons & if he would have known, he wouldn’t have allowed his team to go against theirs.

At some point, they started heading back towards the campus together.

Unfortunately for Hitoshi, that meant cutting past where the rest of the classes were spectating the battles. Which meant Hitoshi had to pass by the people who had seen him absolutely lose his shit.

It didn’t matter if he blatantly shied closer to Aizawa, he could still feel the stares & hear the murmurs.

He briefly heard Monoma’s voice call out to him, but he couldn’t make out the words. He just kept his eyes trained on his feet right up until they made it back onto the main campus & only then did he dare to look up.

Aizawa pushed open the door that led into the bathrooms, holding it open for Hitoshi. “Get yourself cleaned up & then we’ll talk in Recovery Girl’s office. I’ll wait here, so don’t think about climbing out of the window.”

“I wouldn’t-” Hitoshi started, then decided against it, because if he was being honest, he didn’t have the right to argue with Aizawa at this point. Not to mention, he had definitely thought on more than one occasion about climbing out of windows just to avoid his problems.

Instead of finishing his sentence, Hitoshi simply nodded & headed into the bathrooms.

He made his way to the nearest sink where he could hunch over & splash his face with the freezing water after scrubbing at his knuckles to get rid of the blood. He scrubbed shaky hands over his face to get rid of the remnants of his nosebleed, then clutched onto the edges of the sink as the weakness in his legs finally caught up with him & they almost gave way.

He just about managed to stay standing, staring down at the sink while berating his mind & body for reacting so intensely all because of one stupid fucking quirk.

He couldn’t even slap on a brave face & act like everything was fine to finish the match. No, instead he got violent. He dissociated & lost his sense of… Well, everything.

It still felt like everything was falling apart around him & no amount of freezing water splashed in his face seemed to help.

That seemed to be his two moods, the ‘Shinsou Hitoshi default settings’. Setting one was utterly blank-faced & setting two was falling apart at the seams. There didn’t seem to be a happy medium except for when he was either training with Aizawa or talking with Denki.

But today had thrown a spanner into the works of the latter.

He wondered if one day he’d figure out how to dial it back, how to balance on the rope that was that happy medium without toppling one way or the other. Today wasn’t that day, though.

Hot tears began to slip down his cheeks as his face scrunched up into an angry snarl at nobody except the person staring back at him in the mirror as he looked up. Even just looking at himself made him angry.

The more he stared, the less he understood the reflection, the less he knew who was staring back.

All he saw was a shell of a person. Someone that was filled with too much anger & too much hurt & too much pain to possibly become somebody that others could rely on. Hell, he could barely be somebody who could be put in a room safely with other people.

He felt like a bomb that had just hit zero & Aizawa & Denki were the bomb squad who got there just a second too late.

All that was left now was the clean up & everybody knew that was always the hardest part.

Chapter Text

 

“I’m fi-”

“If you say that one more time, Shinsou Hitoshi, I am calling your guardian back in here.” Recovery Girl’s stern voice cut him off immediately, as threatening as an old woman could possibly sound. “You did not break your vow of silence when around me just to say those two words on repeat. You are very far from fine.”

Well, he couldn’t argue with that, but the words still felt like a habit by that point.

He was sitting on the edge of one of her beds in the - thankfully empty - infirmary, hands gripping the thin mattress either side of his thighs as Recovery Girl ran a few more tests. He had at least managed to get some fluids in him, got rid of the shakes & changed into comfy clothes delivered by Yamada. 

Apparently, a small mental breakdown meant no school for the rest of the day.

Or the next day.

So he was sat in his stupid hoodie which had cat ears on the hood that Yamada knew was his favourite & baggy grey sweatpants while waiting on the verdict of said tests. He’d briefly explained his nosebleeds as promised & the nurse seemed very adamant on checking there was no further damage. Somehow he knew that was a conversation that wasn’t done, though.

A few hours had passed since he was on the training grounds & the only reason he was able to keep track was thanks to the clock on the wall, as well as the constant presence of a nurse keeping him on his toes.

According to a conversation he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to hear just yet, a dissociative episode had led to a violent outburst & soon enough, the school’s psychiatrist would be here to talk to him. Which was the icing on his very shitty cake.

However, a silver lining to his current mess surprisingly came in the form of Present Mic. 

Aizawa still had a class to evaluate & while he was hesitant to leave Hitoshi’s side, Hitoshi had done a fantastic job, if he did so say himself, of convincing Aizawa that he was alright with Yamada here rather than him.

In turn, Hitoshi knew damn well Yamada couldn’t resist his puppy eyes after months of living together & seeing every single time the guy caved to either Aizawa or Eri. While he had never tried it himself, he was pleased to see that it worked.

So when he all but begged to see the footage of his match, he got what he wanted.

While having everybody watch you have a mental breakdown, no, sorry, a dissociative episode, wasn’t exactly a good fucking feeling, knowing there was footage somehow eased Hitoshi’s mind. Seeing said footage eased it even more.

As it turned out, things could have gone a lot worse. That wasn’t to say shit hadn’t hit the fan, but the violence Hitoshi’s mind had filled the gaps with was a lot more exaggerated than what had actually happened.

What had happened was still bad, though. A meeting with Aizawa & Vlad at some point, a formal apology to Tsuburaba, a psych-eval & possible anger management sessions on top of the therapy he was now going to get, levels of bad.

Fuck if he wasn’t hating every single part of it.

Yet when Yamada saw the footage for the first time while showing Hitoshi, the guy didn’t look at him with any kind of disappointment, disrespect, fear or uncertainty. He didn’t shout or berate him.

He instead just pulled Hitoshi in for a hug, said, ‘Oh, Yoshi Toshi’ in that concerned voice of his & told him that they’d figure it all out together. 

Hitoshi was pretty sure that if he thought about it too much, he was going to break down crying. Again.  

So he slouched against Yamada’s side, let the hero play with his hair & let Recovery Girl run her tests & answered any question being asked rather than shoving everyone away with the refusal to speak or snide remarks.

He was grateful for Recovery Girl’s kindness, despite how much of his shit she continuously put up with. Her patience, too. He knew his luck with kind people was going to run out eventually & he shouldn’t have been surprised that it came in the form of a psychologist.

When it came to said psychiatrist showing up, Hitoshi was left alone.

Yamada told him he’d be right down the hall in an empty classroom, marking some papers while he waited & Recovery Girl left to… He had no idea, he stopped listening.

The psychiatrist pulled up a chair to sit opposite him & Hitoshi tried not to take offence to the blatantly obvious space the guy put between them that left him just out of reach.

He introduced himself by saying he was there to ‘evaluate’ Hitoshi, whatever the fuck that meant. So Hitoshi just sat there. Silently. For an entire hour.

Something about the man just put him off. Yes, he had begged Aizawa for help, but he had been in the middle of losing his goddamn mind a few hours ago. Yes, he had stopped his silence around Recovery Girl, but he knew her well enough now. Now that he could pull together a few coherent thoughts, if he was going to get help, it wasn’t going to be from this guy.

He couldn’t explain it, couldn’t describe it in a way that didn’t sound absolutely batshit crazy & right now, he was pretty sure every fucking thing he said sounded mildly insane.

But the guy just… Irked him.

Like Dr. Ujiko from the hospital.

Hitoshi stared as the guy scribbled down his notes that Hitoshi wasn’t allowed to look at on a clipboard that was tilted away so he couldn’t even get a peek. 

He blatantly didn’t reply to any of the questions being asked.

What happened to cause the breakdown? What made you so angry? Do you want to hurt other students? Do you want to hurt yourself? Are you just doing it for some form of attention? 

Now, Hitoshi wasn’t exactly a mental health professional by any means, hell, it seemed to be apparent that he was the poster child for how to not handle your slowly deteriorating mental health. However, he was sure as hell that those were not the right questions to be asking.

How the fuck did this guy get employed at a hero school?

Hitoshi stood at the last question, not missing the flinch he earned, said a very bland ‘fuck you’ vaguely in the guy’s direction before walking right out of the door.

He didn’t bother looking back to see if he was being followed, he just headed straight down the halls until he wound up right back in Aizawa’s apartment, completely blanking on the fact Yamada was waiting for him somewhere near the nurse’s office.

The apartment door slammed shut harder than it probably should have behind him & frustrated tears were already falling down his cheeks. Wiping his face on his sleeve helped all of nothing & he headed down the hall to the bathroom.

He was becoming awfully familiar with breakdowns over bathroom sinks recently.

One part of Hitoshi’s brain was still intact, however & it wasn’t long before he heard the apartment door. He wiped his face as quickly as he could & headed out of the bathroom, only to bump right into Yamada’s chest.

“Hey, there you are… Yoshi Toshi?” Yamada’s voice was yet again filled with so many levels of concern, Hitoshi couldn’t even begin to wade through them. Instead he just allowed arms to envelop him & rested his head against the sturdy chest he was being pulled against.

Frustrated tears started back up all over again, making him incapable of even beginning to try to formulate an apology for ditching him. His shoulders shook as he tried to draw in slow breaths, trying to get his ever growing inability to calm the fuck down to not get the best of him.

He focused on the gentle hand rubbing soothing circles between his shoulder blades & the subtle way Yamada swayed from side to side whenever he dished out a hug that lasted more than a few seconds.

While Hitoshi still hated people getting physically close, it seemed like living with someone as touchy-feely as Yamada was wearing down his walls. The man’s affections were about as booming as his vocals were. There were grand hugs that lifted him off his feet, dramatic actions & distraught words, as though a scraped knee was the end of the world.

He was just… Loud.

Strangely enough, Hitoshi had actually begun to find a weird comfort in the noise.

“That bad, huh?” Yamada asked as he continued to rub circles on his back & when all Hitoshi did was nod against his shoulder, the hero continued. “Oh, Yoshi, I’m so sorry. Would you rather speak with somebody else?”

Not really. But he didn’t have a fucking choice.

Another nod. 

“Would you be mad to find out Sho has already been looking into psychiatrists that can actually help you?”

Hitoshi snorted in a tiny, silent laugh through his tears as he held up his thumb & forefinger to indicate ‘a little bit’. He didn’t even move from where he was hiding against Yamada’s shoulder.

His reaction earned him a little laugh that was surprisingly soft coming from someone who was usually so loud. “Yeah, but you’re a smart kid. You know damn well he’s only doing it for your benefit.”

Well, Hitoshi couldn’t exactly argue with that either. He knew he was a ‘special case’. He knew he couldn’t just… tell everything to someone as incompetent as that fuckhead they called a psychiatrist at the school.

“There is a woman who helps heroes. She isn’t from Musutafu, but she’s willing to make the journey from Kyushu to come & see you… If you’re willing to see her.” Yamada said.

It was enough to pique Hitoshi’s interest & he pulled back from his shoulder, wiping at his cheeks with his sleeves again.

Glassy purple eyes blinked a few times to get rid of the extra tears before focusing on Yamada.

“Helps heroes?” Hitoshi asked a little dumbly.

“Yeah, she’s a psychologist who specialises in seeing pros, which means she knows how to stay hush hush about the more gruesome things. Sho did a lot of research, kiddo. We know you won’t talk to just anyone about everything that happened.”

Hitoshi tilted his head in favour of staring a spot somewhere just beyond Yamada, one hand coming up to rub at his neck, lost in thought for a moment.

They knew. They knew this entire time that he couldn’t just… Talk about things. About Chisaki or the League or Tatsuya. They knew his paranoia, his fears, everything.

All along they knew, going out of their way to find somebody who would be a good fit for Hitoshi’s level of trauma. 

All along he had been pushing them away.

“But I’m not a hero.” Was the only stupid thing he could get to leave his mouth.

“Yet.” Yamada corrected as he pointed at him. “Not a hero yet. Sho hasn’t told her the details of your past. She doesn’t even know your name yet. All she knows is we have an aspiring young hero who’s struggling with a couple of demons. That was enough for her to make the exception.”

Yeah, Hitoshi knew damn well Yamada was rewording it to sound nice. But his wording was a lot more polite than ‘this woman knows you’re fucked in the head & can probably fix it’.

Well, there was no point in putting off the inevitable, he supposed.

“Okay.” Hitoshi breathed out.

“Yeah?” Yamada’s whole face lit up, but it didn’t quite completely squash the obvious scepticism in his tone. It was obvious he wasn’t expecting Hitoshi to agree just like that, but technically, he hadn’t. He’d spent months fighting them on the topic, but whether he liked to admit it or not, Hitoshi knew damn well he learnt best when shoved into the deep end & was ordered to swim.

“Yeah.” The teenager grumbled, trying to sound more put out than he actually was. Sure, he was terrified of the prospect, but seeing the way Yamada’s face lit up at his agreement put a dampener on the fear.

Yamada looked every part the proud father that Hitoshi had always secretly, or maybe not so secretly, craved.

“Aw hell yeah, Yoshi!” Once again Hitoshi was being pulled into a hug, this time it was about seven times more bone crushing than it was comforting & gentle. “I’m so proud, Sho is gonna be proud, you know that, right?”

Silence was probably not the best response, but the corners of his eyes were stinging again & his throat felt like his capture scarf had tightened around it so no words could possibly come out even if he tried.

Yamada pulled him back with hands on his shoulders, shaking him gently as if to shake the words right into his very being. “Proud of you, kiddo. I really am. How about we start making dinner ready for Sho & Eri, then we can go from there?”

* * *

The only thing keeping Hitoshi from bolting right out of the door of the small office he was sitting in was the way his brain continuously played Yamada’s proud smile & words on a loop.

After agreeing to see the new psychiatrist, Hitoshi had spent the evening with Yamada rather than retreating to his room like he usually did. He was pretty sure he didn’t have much of a choice, but he found he didn’t mind.

They watched crappy cartoon movies with Eri while Aizawa spoke with the psych on the phone, then joined them for their crappy cartoon movie marathon.

A first meeting was arranged for the very next day which gave Hitoshi the minimal amount of time to overthink the entire thing.

So here he was.

The hero-psychiatrist was no more than five feet & had to be younger than both Aizawa & Yamada. She was a plump woman with a god awful fashion sense & that was going by Hitoshi’s standards. Her blouse was just… so ugly.

It weirdly reminded him of the eyesore that was Denki’s dorm room.

Hitoshi had been expecting somebody old like Recovery Girl. Someone aged & weathered by the harsh reality of the world, it showing on their features through tired eyes & early greying.

But that wasn’t what he got.

The woman, Nakahara Tori, was young & smiled softly like how his birth mother probably used to before he developed his quirk.

So far, he had been there for twenty four minutes & counting. All twenty four of those minutes had been spent with him sitting in silence, analysing the short woman in the thin-framed glasses, trying to figure out how the fuck someone so young was assigned to solve heroes’ problems.

Yeah, he knew he shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but everybody did that, even if it was just a little bit. He had to do it. He had to analyse. It was one of those many survival instincts he couldn’t shake.

After she had introduced herself, requesting that Hitoshi call her by her forename, she didn’t even react to the fact he didn’t shake her hand or speak back. The handshake was odd, but he quickly learnt that Tori had spent a lot of her life in America.

She talked a lot.

Like, a lot.

She didn’t poke or prod him about what happened with Tsuburaba. She didn’t prod about whatever she had in those files she kept on her lap that made her frown from time to time as though she couldn’t keep her feelings from her face.

Every so often she’d look up & study Hitoshi for a moment, then go back to looking at the file. But all of that was between her mindlessly talking about seemingly irrelevant things, so Hitoshi thought perhaps she thought she was being subtle.

She wasn’t. Whatever that fuckhead psych guy from before had written on his stupid notes was now on this psych lady’s lap & it bugged her.

In turn, that bugged him.

It made him feel itchy in a way that was hard to explain. It felt like he was a lab rat all over again, but rather than being picked apart physically, it was mentally & emotionally. It wasn’t something tangible, he couldn’t visibly see it the way he could when under Chisaki’s needles & scalpels.

That thought made him shudder & it must have been a visible one too, because Tori looked over from where she had momentarily paused her weird scrutiny to pour some tea. Scrutin-tea, Hitoshi had decided to dub it as.

“I know, it’s quite cold, isn’t it? Are you sure you don’t want any tea, Hitoshi?” Her voice stayed soft & gentle, a stark difference to the psych eval guy’s harsh questions from before.

Hitoshi shook his head again, still trying to figure out why the fuck she hadn’t asked him anything serious yet. Nothing like the other guy. All she did was ask a few simple things, then upon realising she wasn’t getting responses, she spoke about irrelevant, little things.

The weather, food, tea, how her travel went while getting to U.A. Simple things that had nothing to do with the fact Hitoshi could have easily put Tsuburaba in the infirmary if not for Denki’s interference.

Minutes ticked by in silence. Hitoshi just… didn’t understand. He knew he had to talk, but didn’t know where to start, so not saying anything at all seemed easier.

He was just so lost in analysing every little thing, from her to her office, even down to the fact it smelled oddly of fresh air in there, that he hadn’t even realised he had stopped counting the minutes & time had passed so quickly. Before he knew it, Tori was handing him a little card with a time & date on it, talking about seeing him again soon.

She actually wanted to see him again soon.

As if he hadn’t just sat there in total silence.

It turned into a strange routine. To be honest, everything became a strange routine.

School as usual. Avoiding people as usual. Nobody in their class really made a comment on what the fuck they had witnessed, but he saw the wary glances. Or maybe they were concerned. He couldn’t tell just yet. So he stayed secluded, just in case.

Denki refused to back down so easily, though. Despite Hitoshi desperately trying to fade into the background, the blond wouldn’t let him. 

If Hitoshi didn’t show up to the lunch hall, then Denki would hunt him down with Kirishima in tow. Where Kirishima went, it seemed Bakugou wasn’t far behind. That left him with company he couldn’t shake because somehow they were more stubborn than he was.

If for whatever reason Denki was otherwise occupied, the company would rotate out. Ashido of all people would find him & keep him company if he tried to hide in the library, or literally anywhere he thought they wouldn’t bother looking for him. Ashido just so happened to be the one who walked him to Tori’s office on Tuesdays.

She was surprisingly good company despite the fact they couldn’t be more on opposite sides of the personality spectrum. In spite of that, Hitoshi found he liked listening to her talking, it kept him focused on the present. He learnt a lot about her friend group, too.

He still tried to keep everybody at an arm’s length, though; especially Denki, due to how absolutely not okay he was. Denki deserved better than what Hitoshi currently had to offer, even if the blond was acting like everything was completely normal.

Every Tuesday & Friday at the end of the school day, Hitoshi would see Tori. Ashido walked him there on Tuesdays, Aizawa on Fridays.

After school on Wednesdays & Thursdays were reserved for binding cloth training, which ended up with a twist. Out of all the people he expected to have joined them as company, he had not expected it to be Bakugou.

Loud, angry, volatile bomb with only one wire holding him from exploding, Bakugou.

Apparently, that was the point. Nobody knew anger like Bakugou did & the guy had actually given up his Thursday afternoons to spar with Hitoshi of all people before his capture weapon training. 

It was an impeccable anger outlet, being able to punch something that punched back twice as hard. Hitoshi was absolutely willing to take that over anger-management classes.

That left his mondays reserved for Eri. Tea parties, dress up, hair salon time, you name it, if Eri wanted to do it, Hitoshi was her willing victim.

Every Saturday was physiotherapy & Sunday was Hitoshi’s personal ‘sleep all day & ignore the world’ day.

The routine helped. The busy schedule kept him grounded. Aizawa told him back when he was still in the hospital after the raid on the Hassaikai compound that a good routine would do wonders for Hitoshi’s mentality & just like always, he had been right.

Continuously treading water stopped him from being dragged below the surface into the undercurrents.

Each morning he still checked the news to see if there were any of those staged bodies, or any other updates, but still there was nothing but radio silence. For a society full of heroes, they still couldn’t track Dabi down. 

Hitoshi tried not to think about the fact that all it’d take was one phone call from him to have Dabi walking right into the line of enemy fire. Or… friendly fire, given he was sided with the heroes. Whatever, it didn’t matter. That wasn’t who he was. He had deleted his number for a reason.

With there being nothing but silence, eventually, Hitoshi stopped checking.

*

It was his sixth session with Tori when he finally opened his mouth & words actually came out.

He could point out the exact moment when there was a shift in his stubborn silence.

Hitoshi had been showing up to these sessions in varying degrees of ‘relatively okay’ to ‘absolutely not okay’, but his silence always stuck. 

Some days he hid away in his ‘Put Your Hands Up Radio’ hoodie which was over his school shirt, other days he had come right from heroics & buried his chin against his binding cloth, resisting the urge to cry for no apparent reason.

Those days were hard. When it came to classes, when it came to people being put in his immediate vicinity, he could tell the extra caution that his classmates took.

Except for the obvious. Denki still smiled just as brightly & always wanted to be his partner if it called for it. Bakugou beat the shit out of him weekly & actively tried to get a rise out of him. Kirishima was just a wall & punching a wall would only end in him hurting himself, so obviously he wasn’t concerned about Hitoshi losing his shit again.

Today though, to change things up, Kirishima & Denki opted to partner up, thinking Bakugou & Hitoshi hadn’t had the chance to properly work together given neither of them actually mentioned their Aizawa-monitored sparring sessions.

Bakugou didn’t give a single fuck about Hitoshi’s hardships & always gave it his all, demanding the most from Hitoshi too. He’d yell about needing his all, about how he needed to fight like he was trained to.

The rest of the class obviously just thought Bakugou was referring to Hitoshi’s training with Aizawa, but the two of them knew damn well that Bakugou wanted to fight against the Hitoshi that had been trained to use knives & violence. He wanted the Hitoshi that didn’t hold back for fear of hurting his opponent.

That afternoon, Hitoshi’s hands were still shaking from just how much adrenaline had been running through his system to avoid being blasted sky high by a very, very hostile blond.

Bakugou had been relentless. More than usual. He was still sporting the injuries that showed it.

The silence of Tori’s office was strangely welcoming. As was her offering of tea that he declined with a head shake every single time she asked.

She visibly did a double take after not properly having looked at Hitoshi yet due to looking through some files that she had apologised for twice so far. 

Her eyes widened on the second glance & she was quick to say, “Oh, Hitoshi, your hair is scorched! What on earth? Do you need to see Recovery Girl?!”

Hitoshi stared blankly from his usual place on her couch, his only action showing he heard her words was his hand reaching up to feel along his hair. Lo & behold, a few of the tufts were feeling a little singed, so was the hair on the back of his head.

Well, damn.

He didn’t have to guess to know Eri was going to want to try & fix it.

The look of genuine concern sitting in those dark eyes was probably what made Hitoshi finally find his voice.

Or maybe it was the fact she continued to see him despite his silence. Or the fact she seemed to have scrapped the old file the other psych had given her. 

Or maybe it was because he had overheard - more like eavesdropped - Tori raging to Aizawa when he had come to collect him a few sessions ago. They both thought Hitoshi had left to go to the bathroom while she took a moment to speak with his guardian.

He had listened from the other side of the door as Tori exclaimed with some rather colourful expletives how, according to the guy who did Hitoshi’s psych evaluation, Hitoshi was uncooperative, selfish, hostile & ‘possibly dangerous to other students’.

Not just that, but the guy had even had the audacity to tell Nedzu that. The more he listened, the more he sort of wanted to throw up. 

Then Tori defended Hitoshi.

She said he was none of the above, that there was no way he wasn’t cooperative. All he needed was time to adjust to the fact he now had somebody he was allowed to confide in with things he just didn't know how to express before. She called him kind & called him troubled, promising to Aizawa’s face that she wasn’t going to stop seeing him.

Yeah, that was probably what did it.

Come to think of it, Hitoshi hadn’t seen the fuckhead psych around campus ever since.

Nice one, psych lady, nice.

She was sort of fearless. Hitoshi couldn’t think of anyone other than himself & Recovery Girl that had shouted in Aizawa’s face in the way she had while defending Hitoshi like that.

“I know you.”

They were only three tiny words, such a little sentence, spoken in a tiny, quiet voice as if he had been intentionally trying to go unheard. They were mumbled against his slightly scorched capture weapon from where he was trying to hide in the fabric.

Tori looked up almost immediately from her tea. Her brows were raised & her head tilted just a little bit. “Hm?” Then as his words clearly registered in her head, she looked confused for a moment, but covered it with a smile. “How so?”

It took Hitoshi a long while to work out exactly what he was trying to say, but eventually he figured it out. “I’ve seen you before. When I was in the hospital. You were talking to Aizawa.”

He knew he had recognised her. How it took six sessions for it to click, he had no clue. When Yamada said Aizawa had been looking into therapists, he hadn’t realised he had been looking for that long.

“Oh! That I was. But it was best not to speak to you then. You were healing from some rather serious injuries. Speaking of which, you didn’t tell me if you needed to see Recovery Girl or not. Tough day?”

Huh. The woman didn’t even act like he had been giving her the silent treatment this entire time. She spoke just as chirpily as she always did, with that soft smile & her scrutiny-tea between both hands, speaking as though they had always talked.

Hitoshi nodded & moved his hand to feel his hair again. He then dropped his hand back onto his knee where his legs were curled to his chest. He could see she was waiting for some sort of reply, hoping she could get more out of him than just a few words.

Oh, what the hell. Fuck it. She had listened to a whole lot of nothing so far & he was pretty sure Aizawa & Yamada weren’t paying her for nothing.

“Bakugou doesn’t know how to hold back in training.”

“I can’t quite tell if you say that as a good thing or a bad thing.” Tori replied honestly, offering another one of those smiles. “Perhaps both?”

“Perhaps.” Hitoshi echoed. Once again it took him a while to come up with a response, but this time it was because he was actually thinking about what had been said. She couldn’t read him properly yet. She genuinely didn’t know if he thought it was a good thing or a bad thing & perhaps that was because Hitoshi wasn’t so sure either.

Sparring with Bakugou was equal parts great & terrible.

Sparring with Bakugou around others who watched in awe at their combat skills fell a little more on the great side. Especially when he overheard his classmates complimenting him rather than murmuring about something to do with Tsuburaba.

Yet somehow today he left feeling worse than the first few sparring sessions where Bakugou dropped him on his ass in front of his mentor. Repeatedly. Now that was embarrassing.

“I like that Bakugou is a worthy opponent. Not to disregard my class, but half of them are too easy to spar against. There’s really only a few who are genuinely tough to be pitted against.”

Tori must have sensed the oncoming ‘but’, because she tilted her head & leaned forward on her elbows, nodding at him to continue. She kept all scrutiny off of her face for once.

“But… I don’t know. It sounds fucking awful if I say it out loud.” Hitoshi muttered as he deflated somewhat so he could shrink away into his capture scarf. He tipped his head in favour of staring out of the window while still being able to see the psychiatrist out of his peripheral vision.

There were times when fighting against Bakugou made him feel like a little kid dragged off to training in that gym all over again. Being made to fight against big, scary opponents with flashier, deadlier quirks than his. But Hitoshi was attached to it.

He didn’t know why.

Maybe he was attached to the suffering that came along with losing a fight to someone like that. The hurt. The burn of explosive hands scorching his skin or the feeling of Bakugou’s boot-clad foot stomping between his shoulder-blades to keep him pinned until he tapped out.

It was strangely familiar.

Hitoshi would get so lost in the pain that he’d forget he was in U.A at all. He’d forget everything for just a little while in the same way that Aizawa had explained was unhealthy after he found him with the dislocated shoulder because of training alone & pushing his body to its limits.

Saying that sounded like he wanted to hurt himself. But it wasn’t like he ever contemplated hiding in a bathroom with a razorblade to his wrist. He wasn’t like that & knew damn well if he said what he was thinking, Tori was going to draw those conclusions.

He just liked the challenge, that was all. Or at least, that’s what he told himself.

“-say here is going to be judged. Hitoshi? Did you hear me?”

Hitoshi snapped his head in her direction, eyes focusing on her after realising he had just been so lost in his thoughts that he hadn’t even been looking at anything at all. When all he did was look at her, Tori repeated herself without needing to be asked.

“Nothing you say here is going to be judged, Hitoshi. I’m here to listen, to provide support & guidance, to help you make sense of your thoughts that are otherwise tangled up. What were you thinking about just then?”

“Nothing, just…” Hitoshi sighed quietly, going back to staring at the window.

How could he explain any of what he was thinking? Hitoshi was so used to punishments & pain & all of the awful things that the world offering anything normal & healthy just felt wrong.

Today, Denki had seen the pain on Hitoshi’s face when Bakugou’s explosion-filled hand slammed into his side, right over his scars from Dabi. Today, Denki saw the fear in Hitoshi’s eyes, then watched as that fear turned into a cruel smirk & as the pain made him fight harder.

Today, Denki asked him if he was okay & how badly he was hurt. Today, Denki told him that he thought training with Bakugou wasn’t the best idea when Hitoshi seemed to be enjoying the pain a little too much.

Today, Hitoshi had snapped at Denki. Again. He told him that he didn’t need his pity.

“Sometimes, I think I’m picking all of the hardest opponents for all of the wrong reasons.” Hitoshi settled on instead.

“Hm… You like the challenge, yes? I assume there’s more to it than that. Why do you choose to spar with Bakugou rather than say… I’m sorry, I still haven’t learnt everybody’s names just yet. The boy who came second place at the Sports Festival. The one with the dual coloured hair.”

“Shouto.” Hitoshi told her. “I don’t know. Most of the time he’s with Midoriya anyway, they’re sort of attached at the hip, ever since the Sports Fest. But… Bakugou is just… Louder. Angrier.”

“Is it the anger that makes you choose him?”

Yes.

“I don’t know.”

“You said he doesn’t hold back & I’m assuming that you’re sporting more injuries than just being due for a haircut if the way you’re holding yourself is anything to go by. Yet you don’t want to go to Recovery Girl. Is there a reason for that by chance?”

Hitoshi tilted his head to narrow his eyes at her. There it was. The accusation of wanting to hurt himself.

“I’m not some depressed kid wanting to cut themselves to feel something. I just don’t like going to the infirmary for every little injury. Recovery Girl has dealt with my bullshit enough.” Hitoshi snapped defensively.

The result? Tori seemed to back off from that particular subject, perhaps deeming it an issue to prod at a later date. No prying, no scrutiny. She just… backed off immediately.

“I wasn’t assuming anything of the sort, Hitoshi. Merely curious. But we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t feel up to it just yet. We’ve made a lot of progress today, don’t you think?” She asked, likely rhetorically, but it was tough to tell so Hitoshi opted not to answer.

Tori checked the time on her dainty wrist watch, then went about writing a time down on one of those little appointment cards that Hitoshi didn’t actually need to remember the times, but found he liked taking anyway.

It was a weird constant. Something he knew would happen rather than something that might not be & a date on a card in bubbly black writing felt set in stone more so than most things these days

“I’d like to hear more about your training sometime soon, if you’d like to talk about it some more. I know Eraserhead is your mentor, that must be exciting.” She said as she moved from her desk to hand Hitoshi the card. “Thank you for talking today, Hitoshi. See you soon, okay?”

Hitoshi didn’t waste any time analysing her thanks to see if there were any lies in it. He simply took the card & showed himself out with a speed that rivalled the first time he had sat in this office & all but bolted for the door after his hour was up. He was pretty sure he heard a ‘take care’ being thrown at his back.

Right on cue, Aizawa was heading down the corridor that led to the office, ready to pick him up, this time with Eri in tow & holding his hand. 

Aizawa picked him up every single time. Hitoshi never asked him why, nor did he tell him that he didn’t have to do that. So he just followed the man silently up to the apartment with a hand pressed to his side over where Bakugou’s explosions had hit, listening to Eri excitedly talk about her day.

As soon as they were inside, Hitoshi all but collapsed onto the couch on his back, a slight groan escaping his lips at the pain sparking through his side. He didn’t even bother changing out of his heroics clothes or hang his capture scarf up.

He closed his eyes for what felt like five seconds, but must have been a few minutes longer, because when he opened them again, Aizawa was in a change of clothes & was kneeling in front of the couch with the first-aid kit open on his lap. Eri was… somewhere. Hearing Aizawa’s next words, he assumed the hero had told her to play in her room for a while.

“You know the drill, kid. Let me patch up those injuries.”

Hitoshi tilted his head to gaze at Aizawa with a blank look that slowly morphed into that look of guilt he was finding was appearing more & more often. “How did you-”

“I’m not blind. C’mon, if you want to get them covered before Yamada gets back, you better get moving now.”

Hitoshi sighed, but didn’t argue the matter. For heroics, he had scrapped wearing his U.A gym jumpsuit & had started wearing black tactical pants with in-built knee guards along with a long sleeved black shirt with elbow guards until his hero costume was ready. This attire made it a lot easier to just prop himself up on his elbows & peel back his shirt.

He still hated having people see his scars. He still refused to change with the rest of the boys, but he was getting mildly better at allowing Aizawa to take care of him when he was hurt. It was a slow process, but some progress was better than no progress. Or at least, he was certain that’s what Tori would say.

Fuck, he had only had a few weeks with her & all of those little things she’d say despite him having not spoken until today were sticking with him.

Hitoshi flopped back down onto his back after inspecting the latest of his injuries. It felt worse than it actually was, probably because of it being over scar tissue that Bakugou knew damn well was there.

After all, he had been there when Dabi had cauterised the wounds. Even if he didn’t see Hitoshi’s face, he sure as shit had heard the screams & was smart enough to piece together that it was Hitoshi screaming when he came clean as the traitor.

Aizawa made no comment & instead just went about cleaning up the wound with antiseptics before applying gauze & holding it in place with some medical tape to stop the wound from bleeding on his clothes.

Eventually, Hitoshi broke the comfortable silence.

“Bakugou knew what he was doing. He knew that spot was sensitive & went right for it. He hasn’t done it before, but… I don’t know. I swear I saw the look on his face right as the idea popped into his head, but… Maybe I’m making it up. I think I’m going crazy these days.” Hitoshi spoke to the ceiling rather than directly at Aizawa.

“Just a few weeks in therapy & look at you talking to us. It’s like magic.” Aizawa jabbed lightly with a little smirk that the teenager caught out of his peripheral vision.

Hitoshi opted to grumble a feigned-moody ‘shut up’ beneath his breath rather than an actual response.

Once he was all patched up, Aizawa tapped his side to indicate he could pull his shirt back down & moved to sit on a corner of the coffee table once the medical supplies were back away. 

Hitoshi had dubbed the coffee table as ‘Aizawa’s talking spot’.

“I highly doubt you’re making it up, Bakugou has been known to poke at both emotional wounds & physical ones. We’ve all seen what happens when he & Shouto spar & that’s the reason we keep them apart. Do you need me to talk to him?”

“No. I just want to know why… Well, I think I know why, but it seems kinda dumb.” Hitoshi tugged his shirt down as he spoke, shifting a bit to peer over at his mentor with a puzzled look clearly on his features.

“Go on.” Aizawa coaxed.

“I think he wanted me to react.”

“Like how you did with Tsuburaba.” The hero said softly, less like a question & more like a statement, then looked thoughtful for a few moments. Hitoshi watched the contemplation flitter across Aizawa’s otherwise impassive features.

Eventually, he replied, “Bakugou has a strange way of solving problems & I doubt very much he did it out of malicious intent. I think he wanted to get you to react, so you could see how easy it could be to lose yourself to your trauma induced responses again. You had Kaminari with you so if things went south, he knew Kaminari could pull you back like he has done in the past.”

Curse Aizawa & his ever logical & analytical way of viewing things. He made everything always seem so much less complicated.

“Yeah… Well I fucked that up too.” Hitoshi scrubbed his hands over his face, opting to keep them clamped there to hide his whole face & any emotion that might betray him & show on it. “I snapped at Denks. Again.”

“I’m sure he understands. You’ve been handling a lot on your own, that’s going to make anybody short tempered.”

“I hate excuses.”

“They’re not excuses if they’re valid reasons, ‘Toshi."

“I should apologise.”

“Look at that growth.” 

“Shut. Up.” Hitoshi sat up, wincing at the pain sparking up his side, but masked it very poorly by glaring at Aizawa. “Keep picking on me & I’ll tell Yamada.”

“Oh yeah? You think I’m scared of ‘Zashi?” Aizawa’s reply was instant, knowing full well that Hitoshi was very much in need of the topic change to something lighter.

“I’ll tell Eri.”

“You wouldn’t.” Aizawa quipped back with a feigned glare of his own, holding Hitoshi’s line of sight, waiting to see who was going to back down first.

Apparently, it was both of them, because as soon as they heard a tiny voice, they both snapped their heads around towards the hall to see Eri standing there holding Pillow in her arms. 

“Tell Eri what?” She asked as she plodded over to them & held the cat that was in her arms out for Hitoshi to take. Pillow, ever the lazy scrawny little thing, gave absolutely zero fucks in regards to being man-handled by a six year old.

Once Hitoshi had taken the cat & placed her on his lap, Eri climbed up beside him on her knees, shoving her hands into his hair almost instantly to inspect the damage.

Hitoshi & Aizawa exchanged a glance, Aizawa’s eyes narrowing as he waited to see what Hitoshi had to say.

“Just that Bak- Kacchan ruined my hair.” Hitoshi settled on instead; everyone in 1-A was sworn off using the nickname for Bakugou except for Midoriya. But as it turned out, Midoriya had obviously spoken fondly of Bakugou to Eri & in turn, Eri only knew him as Kacchan. 

He supposed it was some good blackmail material to have on Midoriya, but he doubted he’d be using it any time soon.

Hitoshi smirked at Aizawa & signed, ‘You get off lucky this time’. 

Aizawa just rolled his eyes & stood, ruffling Hitoshi's hair on his way towards the kitchen which earned a disgruntled sound from Eri who was still assessing the casualties.

“Can I cut your hair, Niisan?” She asked with such innocence & hope-filled eyes that Hitoshi was very nearly persuaded into agreeing right then & there. Then he actually remembered he had about three percent of his dignity left & didn’t want his hair to look any worse than it already did.

“You said Nejire is good with hair, right? Maybe she can fix it & you can help.” Hitoshi suggested, already dreading the thought of social interactions, but first & foremost, he wasn’t about to see Eri look glum because of him. Second, he knew he needed to stop crawling into his cave & refusing to be anything but reclusive.

People were worried about him & he needed to stop that shit before it got too out of hand. He was already in therapy & physiotherapy. He didn’t need any more worried looks. They were becoming a little sickening. 

The logical side of him told him if he’d stop pulling away, people would stop worrying, but he also had a tendency to completely disregard any logic these days.

“Yes! Can we go right now?!” 

Hitoshi peered around Eri to look over at where Aizawa was preparing dinner to see his response knowing full well he was listening to them talk. When Aizawa caught his gaze, he nodded. “Yeah, no longer than an hour or your food will get cold.”

“You got it, chief.” Hitoshi said as he stood after placing Pillow gently on the couch. 

The twitch in his lip was the only giveaway that he was in pain, but he quickly masked it with a smirk at Aizawa’s disgruntled grumble about Hitoshi spending too much time around Denki & to stop mimicking his phrases.

After taking off his capture weapon & hanging it up near the door, Hitoshi slipped his sneakers back on & took Eri’s hand as they headed out of the apartment to get to the third years’ dorms.

He really did not want to socialise. 

He really, really wanted to climb into his bed, pull his duvet over his head & refuse to leave.

He really, really, really wanted to sleep for about ten years.

But Eri really, really, really, really wanted to spend time with him & well, when has Hitoshi ever been able to say no to her? He took a bullet for this kid, he could handle a fucking haircut.

Jesus Christ, no wonder Aizawa wanted him in therapy when little things like that fell into perspective.

Being a normal fucking teenager would be good for him, anyhow. Maybe it’d stop him thinking definitely not-okay shit like that.

 

Chapter Text

 

Denki wasn’t angry, he didn’t get angry. He was worried.

He was worried because the boy he met in the rain all of those months ago seemed even more distant now than he did back then, which should have been impossible given now he knew all of the secrets Hitoshi was hiding.

Or at least, he knew a lot of them. Which should have counted for something.

Denki was worried, because Hitoshi drifted in & out of varying stages of awareness without even realising it. Denki was worried, because he saw the way Hitoshi got dragged into his own head by demons he wouldn’t talk about.

He was certain nobody else could see it. Hitoshi had an insanely good poker face the majority of the time. But he saw it. He saw the way those eyes looked a little more haunted & how he acted a little more reserved; as though trying to keep people away so they wouldn’t catch his demons. As if they were contagious.

He was worried because Hitoshi had a talent for keeping people at an arm’s length. It didn’t even matter if they were sitting side by side, their shoulders almost touching, Hitoshi could still be holding them twenty feet away.

Hitoshi was drowning in rooms full of people & Denki was worried that much like reality, nobody would notice until it was too late.

But Denki had tried to talk to him. He had. He had mentioned therapy. He had mentioned medication. After Tsuburaba, something shifted, but Hitoshi was still… Something was still wrong.

Which was how Denki found himself pacing the length of Kirishima’s room, tossing a stress ball up & down as he verbalised all of these thoughts in a mass of words with no breaths between them.

By the time he was done, he was certain he was going to pass out from the lack of oxygen, but, wait, no, he wasn’t done. 

But you!” Denki snapped as he turned on his heel, lobbing the stress ball full force at angry blond spikes connected to the angry body hiding beneath Kirishima’s quilt.

Bakugou had been pretending to not exist from the moment Denki barged into Kirishima’s room & most definitely interrupted something he probably shouldn’t have interrupted.

Bakugou forced himself up into a sitting position, grabbing the stress ball to throw it back, surprisingly without using his quirk to kill Denki with it.

“What?!"

“You went for his weak spot & you fucking know it!” Denki threw his arms in the air after standing back up from ducking out of the way of the ball. “Even I know his side’s messed up, for fuck’s sake, Bakugou! He stayed at my house right after it happened! For a week! While pretending nothing was wrong!”

Bakugou’s response?

“So? All of him’s messed up.”

Kirishima moved from where he was perched on the edge of his bed listening to Denki’s little meltdown in favour of nudging Bakugou with his elbow, trying to get them to not launch at each other's throats. “Kats, stop it.”

“Don’t ‘Kats’ me, Eyebags needs to pull his shit together, I was helping.”

“Helping?!” Denki snapped in exasperation. “How would you like it if I intentionally went for your weak spots in training?!”

“Ha?! I don’t have any.”

“Yes you fucking do.” Denki marched towards the bed, reaching around Kirishima to grab Bakugou’s left wrist, much to the boy’s hostile protest & bent it the wrong way. It was barely enough to be painful, but Bakugou’s temper went from moody at best to instantly hostile.

Only he & Kirishima knew that Bakugou’s wrist & in turn his elbow were weaker than they should be. It was something about injuries from when he was a kid paired with him not letting them heal properly by not using his quirk which resulted in permanent damage. He was great at hiding it & Denki knew the second he used it against him that it was a low blow.

But Bakugou shouldn’t have done just that to Hitoshi.

It took Kirishima physically shoving them apart with a hardened arm to stop Bakugou’s small explosions from causing any damage.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Bakugou yelled as he got to his feet in rapid speed, Kirishima once again getting between them, hands on Bakugou’s biceps to hold him from launching at Denki.

“Proving my point!” Denki’s voice was rising to match Bakugou’s & they all knew they were five minutes away from noise complaints from Shoji.

“Both of you stop!” Kirishima’s voice cut through where they were both yelling at the same time, shutting them both up immediately. “What the hell, you two?”

Denki was faster to calm back down than Bakugou was & mumbled his apology almost immediately after scrubbing his hands over his face. Surprisingly, it didn’t take any coaxing from Kirishima for Bakugou to actually voice some sort of twisted version of an apology.

They all knew he didn’t exactly say ‘I’m sorry’ with any sincerity, so Denki would take what he could get.

“Look, Sparky, it isn’t like I did it just to hurt him. After I hit his side, he tried even harder to take me down & that’s the reaction he’s supposed to have. Not some blind anger like how he got with the air quirk guy or fucking Deku.”

“But…”

“You were there.” Bakugou grumbled, a lot quieter than his temper from just two seconds ago. He glared at Kirishima’s wall as he carried on explaining. “You’re the one who pulls him back. Like how Ei is with me… Shut up. Figured if he got too angry, you’d fix it.”

“Aw, Kats!” Kirishima moved from holding Bakugou back to pulling him into a bone crushing hug instead that was not reciprocated. Bakugou just stood there with his hands at his sides, a glare on his face that was fooling nobody. His head was tipped to the side as if to try to put as much distance between his face & Kirishima’s as possible.

“That’s some twisted Bakubro logic.” Denki decided, smirking at the way Kirishima was taking full advantage of the way the angry blond wasn’t pulling away from his embrace. “Sorry for grabbing your wrist.”

“No you’re not,” Bakugou huffed. “Sorry for hurting your boyfriend.”

“No you’re not.” Denki echoed, because the only time Bakugou actually uttered the s-word was when it was the complete opposite of apologetic. He didn’t even bother correcting him on the ‘boyfriend’ comment, he had given up on that weeks ago.

“You’re right, I’m not. I’ll probably do it again until he’s the one to tell me to stop.”

“He won’t.” Denki sighed as he grabbed his stress ball from the floor. “He has a weird pain thing.”

“Ew.”

The electric blond snorted in a laugh at that & decided that was the perfect time to excuse himself, leaving those thoughts to snowball in Bakugou’s head. He deserved it.

After thanking them both for listening to his ranting, he headed out & skipped down the stairs two at a time to get to his dorm room floor. Once he got there, he caught a glimpse of black & purple heading around the corner that led to the fire escape.

Hitoshi?

“‘Toshi?” Denki called, tilting his head from where he was standing at his door, eyes trained on the end of the corridor, waiting to see if he got a response.

No more than a few seconds later, long legs were stepping backwards & a tired, lanky gremlin came into view.

Hitoshi was unsurprisingly dressed head to toe in black, with his hands stuffed into his hoodie pockets. Something looked a little different, though. He stopped as soon as he came into view, tired eyes falling onto Denki almost immediately & he was certain he saw the smallest of smiles curl at the corner of those lips.

He watched those pretty purple eyes flicker from Denki’s door, then back to him, as if trying to silently work out whether Denki had been ignoring his knocks until he left or not. Why the hell else would Hitoshi be on his floor? It wasn’t like he willingly talked to anyone else.

“I was with Kiri.” Denki explained with a small smile & realised he actually had to beckon Hitoshi closer to get him to move from the other side of the hall. It worked, the sleepy teenager dragging himself over as if it was an effort to stay upright & as he got closer, Denki could tell what looked different.

Hitoshi’s hair was a little shorter, not by much, but just a little & was that an undercut?

What was it with emo purple haired people with tired eyes getting undercuts & seeming to intentionally try to send him into a bisexual crisis?

“Wow.” Denki breathed aloud as Hitoshi came to a stop right in front of him, lacking that little barrier of personal space that he kept with everybody else. 

The shorter underside of his hair faded perfectly into the rest & somehow, despite it being shorter, it was messier than before. Weirdly, though, it very much worked in Hitoshi’s favour.

“You look… Really nice.”

Hitoshi’s cheeks tinted an adorable shade of pink as he pointed to his own hair in question, so Denki nodded, then realised he had yet to actually say a word.

“‘Toshi… Are we playing the silent game again? C’mon, just ‘cause you snapped once doesn’t mean I don’t wanna hear you talk anymore, you adorable weirdo.” He knew it wasn’t Hitoshi’s fault, his weirdness & habits came from somewhere dark & scary that Denki could never fathom a full understanding of.

But he found the easiest way to get Hitoshi to be a little more Hitoshi & a little less survival instincts dressed up in a Hitoshi suit was to just go with it. Finding a perfect balance between not quite pointing it out as a problem & not quite ignoring it either.

“Three times.” That raspy voice he loved so much finally piped up.

“Huh?”

“Snapped three times.”

“Stop keeping track.” Denki said as he moved to get his door unlocked & shoved it open with a grand arm gesture to indicate he wanted Hitoshi to get his fine self in there. Which he did, with only a second of hesitation, which Denki counted as a win.

As soon as they were both inside, Denki shut the door behind him & rested back against it with a sigh. Golden eyes watched the way Hitoshi went right to his desk to start looking at all the clutter he had on there as if he didn’t know all of it & its place from memory. He threw his stress ball onto his bed where it wouldn’t get lost.

“I’m sorry that I snapped at you.” Hitoshi began as his hands gravitated towards the pencil pot to pinch the pencil that had a cat head eraser sitting on the end of it. 

Predictable as ever, ‘Toshi.

Denki stayed quiet for once in his life, sensing there was more Hitoshi wanted to say, he just had to find all of his words first.

“I’ve been all messed up lately which isn’t an excuse, but… I shouldn’t have yelled or snapped. I know it wasn’t pity you were giving to me. I was just being stupid & angry & I was even more angry ‘cause Bakugou knew how to push my buttons. Then I took it out on you… I should probably tell my therapist all of this, but she’s weird & I haven’t quite figured out how to say certain stuff yet.”

“You… Are actually seeing a psych?” Denki said with genuine surprise in his tone that Hitoshi picked up on immediately. He tilted his head to look at Denki, giving him that look that said he was picking him apart.

Holy shit, he shouldn’t like being scrutinised as much as he did when Hitoshi was the one doing it.

“I… didn’t tell you? Ashido didn’t tell you? She seems like the type to say stuff & she knows… She tells me stuff about your group all the time.” Hitoshi murmured softly, then frowned a little bit at his realisation. “Oh… Well yeah, I thought I- My head’s frazzled.”

“Hey, that’s alright, you don’t have to tell me shit, I told you that already. I’m just glad you’re seeing someone. They can help! Wow… So you have dirt on all of us now, huh?” Denki grinned as his eyes followed the motions of where Hitoshi was spinning the pencil around his fingers with freakish speed despite it being top heavy.

He knew damn well it was a little habit that helped with mobility, perhaps it helped Hitoshi’s muscles from seizing, but Denki couldn’t stop his mind from straying. He wondered if Hitoshi had been taught to do it with a knife rather than a pencil. Huh.

Hitoshi looked to him, then down to his hand as if he hadn’t even realised what he was doing & promptly placed the pencil back in the pot where he found it. “Oh yeah, I know everything now. Like how Bakugou & Kirishima share dorm rooms all the time & how you never put milk in your cereal. Real serious blackmail material.”

The smirk on Hitoshi’s face paired with the utter boredom of his tone had a laugh being pulled from Denki before he could even stop it. “You are ridiculous. Oh hey, how’re your injuries doing? How’s your side?”

“Fine.”

Yeah, Denki could have bet money on that being the world Hitoshi was going to respond with. Jesus Christ, he was in deep.

“‘Toshi.”

Those purple eyes were trained on him again & Denki couldn’t help but stare back, watching as Hitoshi clearly calculated something in his head. Some days he wished he could read him better than he already could, to really figure out what it was that Hitoshi was thinking.

Whatever he was deciding, he seemed to come to a decision when he started talking again. A lot. All in one go. Like how Denki had just done to Kirishima & Bakugou. As someone who dished out the silent treatment like it was his favourite thing to do, Hitoshi sure didn’t know how to shut up once he got started.

“I’ve been keeping you at a distance ‘cause I’m scared I’ll hurt you & then those murders happened & I was even more freaked out ‘cause I knew those people that were killed, which I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be telling you, but-”

What?

“‘Toshi…”

“You know everything else so you might as well know that too. Then I kept getting angry & scared all at once & dissociating? I’m scared all the time & that isn’t fair on you. Even though I have a therapist now, I’m still scared & I even spar with Bakugou to get out my anger which I didn’t tell you about & I don’t even know why, I just don’t know how to talk about stuff like you or Ashido or Kirishima or-”

Oh my god.

“‘Toshi…”

“Every time I look at you, I think about when you let me touch your scars in the gym before… Before, y’know, Chisaki did what he did. I don’t know, I keep thinking about it so every time I look at you, I want to stop running away & I remember how you wanted me to kiss you, but I didn’t & I keep not kissing you & I know-”

How is this boy so stupid?

“‘Toshi.”

“‘I’m keeping you at a distance, but I really do hate it ‘cause I wanna get close, but that’s scary as fuck & talking is really weird ‘cause sometimes it feels like once I start, I can’t stop & I’m pretty sure later me is gonna feel real dumb for current me just-”

Okay, he really needs to shut up.

Denki couldn’t take it anymore.

He marched over to where Hitoshi was still near his desk & if trying to speak to him wasn’t working, then he knew what would. He reached a hand out to grab the front of Hitoshi’s hoodie & yanked the teenager down, because fucking hell he was too tall for his own good.

Being so close seemed to have Hitoshi almost shutting up. Somehow he was still mumbling, but now it was apologies. What the fuck, Hitoshi? 

God, this boy was so weird.

Before he could chicken out of it, Denki leaned up & pressed his lips to Hitoshi’s to really, really shut him up for real this time.

The kiss very clearly took Hitoshi off guard despite him being the one talking about it, because Denki felt the way Hitoshi’s entire body tensed up & his lips were frozen against his. But one second later, a very long second after which Denki was planning on pulling back & apologising, the tension ebbed away.

One of Hitoshi’s hands moved to grip Denki’s wrist where he had his hand fisted in his hoodie, the other resting gently on his waist & finally, those surprisingly soft lips kissed back.

It was uncertain as hell & fully on the ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ side of things, but that didn’t stop the way Denki’s mind started to fill with static in the way that it did when he went into his ‘whey-mode’.

He was short circuiting, but this felt much, much better.

Soft lips moved against his lead, a warm body pressing closer.

Unfortunately for him, Denki’s mind was always working a mile a minute when it wasn’t actually fried, so despite feeling as though pulling away meant he’d never get to experience this moment ever again, he had to.

He pulled back just enough to give Hitoshi that moment to breathe. He watched as lilac eyes widened just a little as they registered what had just happened.

A scarred hand came up so Hitoshi could run his fingers along his own bottom lip as if trying to feel any remnants of the kiss.

It was fucking adorable.

But more importantly, “‘Toshi… If you don’t want to- I know you don’t really like the whole touch thing & yeah I know, everyone knows, that I’m sorta the exception to that rule, but this is different so if you don’t want to then tell me to stop ‘cause-”

Apparently, he was rambling & apparently, it was his turn to be shut up with a kiss.

The only warning he got was the little smirk gracing that flushed face before Hitoshi was leaning back in to steal another kiss, seeming a little more aware of what the fuck he was doing this time around.

Both of Hitoshi’s hands came up to cup his cheeks, tilting his head & holding him in place as he kissed him, stepping closer in a way that had Denki being boxed in against the nearest wall & oh boy, he was not complaining one bit.

Hitoshi kissed in a way that made it seem like the rest of the world was ending. He kissed like it was the last thing he was going to do, so he had to make it worth it, while still being so very gentle.

Denki took that as the okay he needed to lean into the touches, to get lost in the mouth that was on his. Not too lost, though. Each time he wanted to touch somewhere, he tapped that spot in question & waited for Hitoshi’s subtle nod to say it was okay.

His hands stayed only in the places he knew were safe. Arms, shoulders, hands & face.

They broke apart for a breather, where Hitoshi rested his forehead against Denki’s & amethyst eyes fluttered back open, almost cross-eyed just so they could focus on his. “If you wanted me to shut up… You could have just asked.”

Denki let out a breathy laugh at that. “Where’s the fun in that?”

“You kissed me.” Hitoshi stated the obvious, as though it was news to the both of them.

“I did.”

“Even though I’m all messed up.”

“Yup.”

“I punched Midoriya.”

“Yup.”

“I could have put Tsuburaba in the hospital.”

“Yup.”

“I grew up around villains.”

“Yup.”

“I told Shouto his brother was a villain that I kind of sort of know quite well & got Bakugou kidnapped & someone is hunting down people I used to know who hurt me & is staging their bodies around the city.”

“Yup.”

“But you kissed me anyway.”

“Yup.”

“Do you have any self preservation?”

“Yu-... Probably not.” 

They both broke apart in favour of laughing at that one. Hitoshi’s laugh was something precious, something silent considering what a laugh usually was, but something sacred. It was like he didn’t quite know how to laugh, so all that left him were soft, breathy sounds that were paired with an adorable little smile.

Denki treasured every single one he got to witness & found he was smiling so brightly that his eyes were crinkling at the corners as he looked at the beautiful broken mess before him.

“You are so weird.” Denki decided aloud. “Next time you kiss me, you probably shouldn’t bring up Midoriya.”

Hitoshi snorted in another one of those silent laughs & shrugged with one shoulder, as if it were too much effort to bother doing it with both.

“Next time,” He belatedly clicked. “You want there to be a next time?”

“Well… Yeah.” Denki rolled his eyes at how utterly oblivious this stupid boy could be for somebody who was supposed to be so smart. “That’s kind of how these things usually go. Unless you don’t want to…”

“I want to.” Hitoshi replied a little too quickly & stepped closer to Denki, so much so that the blond’s back bumped against the wall beside his desk again. He had to tilt his head back against it to look up at the sleepy teenager boxing him in all over again.

“On one condition,” Denki countered, snatching Hitoshi’s hand before it could cup his face again & smirked at his win as he interlaced their fingers. “You gotta stop icing me out. I don’t expect you to tell me anything you don’t wanna, just… Stop pushing me away, ‘Toshi.”

He watched as Hitoshi looked contemplative, watched the way the words circulated around his head a few times before he found his own words to say back, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I won’t.”

“You don’t know that.”

“‘Toshi… I know you’re scared of… Everyone who messed you up, but- What are you-”

Denki’s confusion stemmed from the way Hitoshi pulled his hand free from his in favour of taking his wrist instead so he could drag Denki’s hand beneath his hoodie. Confusion was quickly replaced with understanding when he realised Hitoshi was mimicking the actions that Denki had done with him what felt like so long ago.

When they had been sitting together alone in the locker rooms, when Denki pulled Hitoshi’s hand beneath his shirt to feel the lichtenberg scars that covered his shoulder & side in a desperate act to show the boy before him that he wasn’t alone. To show him that he had scars & a gruesome past too, that not everybody was put together in the ways Hitoshi thought they were.

Denki’s hand was pliant, allowing Hitoshi to press his palm flat against his stomach & without even moving his fingers, he could already feel the bumps & raised lines of nasty scars hiding under too many layers of clothes.

He could feel the way Hitoshi’s hand was shaking as he gripped Denki’s wrist in a way that was borderline painful, but he knew damn well he didn’t mean to make it hurt. He was just afraid. 

Quiet & very afraid of things he didn’t let other people see.

“I’m all messed up.” Hitoshi whispered as he dragged Denki’s hand along the scar on his stomach, then pulled his hand up so fingers that were surely zapping Hitsoshi with every drag of skin to skin contact could rest on his chest. There, Hitoshi’s grip loosened on Denki’s wrist enough to let him move his hand on his own.

The words echoed around the blond’s mind as he watched Hitoshi’s chest, as if he could see through the thick black fabric of his hoodie to see just how severe the scars he was touching were. Not that he needed to see it to visualise it when he could feel it.

Tentative fingers brushed along various lines of raised skin along Hitoshi’s chest, slashes as if someone had come at him with a knife. Repeatedly. Then again, they probably did.

Denki couldn’t tell if he was horrified or not. Honestly, he was struggling to understand any of his emotions right about now when he could feel those eyes staring right at him.

“Say something.” The taller boy demanded in such a quiet voice.

“I know you keep saying you’re all messed up, but who isn’t?” Denki rested his head back against the wall again so he could look up at Hitoshi’s blank face. It was so at odds with the way he could feel his heart thudding so hard in his chest, he was surprised it didn’t break free against his hand.

How the fuck Hitoshi was so good at hiding so much obvious fear behind a blank face, he’d never understand. It was scary. When he pressed his palm flat against the centre of Hitoshi’s chest, he could feel how fast he was breathing, how that rapid heart rate didn’t plan on slowing any time soon while Denki was touching him.

“If this is your way of trying to scare me away when the other things didn’t work, you’re gonna have to find something better. ‘Cause this?” Denki used his free hand to gesture to where he was touching him with a smile. “Is only making me wanna get closer.”

“You say I’m weird.” Hitoshi muttered, seemingly torn between being mad at him & wanting to let him in. Denki could work with that, that was good enough for him.

“I gotta ask, it’s been bugging me… What makes you think a few scars are gonna be the thing that scares me away?”

Denki half expected something self-deprecating to fall from that mouth of his. The more he got to know Hitoshi, the more he learnt self-deprecation & morose-sleepy were half of his personality. Not that he minded.

Instead, it seemed like his question had left Hitoshi stumped. He just stared at him with a puzzled look, opening & closing his mouth as if doing that enough would get some words out.

Amused, Denki pulled his hand from Hitoshi’s hoodie, deciding perhaps the boy needed to actually have blood pumping properly around his system & oxygen filling his lungs at a normal pace to get any answers.

When that didn’t work, he took Hitoshi’s hand & dragged him over to the bed.

Denki flopped down onto his back & tugged at Hitoshi’s wrist once, then let go to pat the spot beside him. Obediently, Hitoshi flopped down beside him on his back with a little wince that Denki didn’t let go unnoticed. 

Hitoshi rested both of his hands on his chest, one lanky leg hanging off the edge of the bed & tilted his head to look at Denki, so Denki tilted his head too, to look back rather than stare off at the ceiling. “Well?”

“I got nothing. Everything I come up with… It’d just insult you because you have scars too.”

“Exactly. So stop using them as an excuse, ‘cause it ain’t working.” Denki grinned. “You wanna talk about it?”

“Talk about what?”

“I don’t know, any of it. Your injuries from Bakugou, the whole ‘someone is murdering people I know’ thing, hell, even your haircut. I don’t know. Just… Talking. Talking’s good.”

“Oh.” Hitoshi breathed out softly, then did that half shrug again as he turned back to staring at the ceiling. Denki thought he had pushed his luck too far this time, that the tired teenager was going to lock back up again, cement his walls into place & refuse to let anyone in.

When he shifted, he expected Hitoshi to be getting up to run out the door. Instead, he just moved his hands to interlace his fingers behind his head, still watching the ceiling when he finally spoke, his voice was quiet, like other people were around & he didn’t want to be overheard.

“I wanna be a hero so bad.”

Okay, not really what he was expecting, but-

“But then I keep just doing the wrong things. I think I could stop those murders, Denks, but I don’t know if I want to.”

“How so? ‘Cause you knew the victims?” Denki rolled onto his side, propping his head on his hand with his elbow against the pillow so he could look at Hitoshi, even if Hitoshi refused to look at him.

Fuck, he was pretty. How he got the tired look to work in his favour, he didn’t know.

“Yeah.” 

Rain began to pitter-patter against the window, the sun shining into the room quickly being covered by a dark storm cloud, causing Denki to tip his head back to peer over at the window curiously, then looked back to Hitoshi. 

Mood lighting, he thought.

“Shouto tried to give me Da- Touya’s number. I deleted it months ago, but,” Amethyst eyes flickered to Denki for just a moment to read his face, then back to the ceiling.  “I know it. I remember it. All it took was reading over it twice & it’s burned into my brain like my own name. I could, Denks. I could phone him, I could arrange a meet up & I know he’d come. I could have Sansa on speed dial & boom, one of Japan’s most notorious villains would be behind bars, just like that.”

“I’m sensing a ‘but’.”

“But I can’t. How could I? He saved my life, more than once. I couldn’t betray him like that & he knows it. I couldn’t betray Shouto like that either,” Hitoshi paused in favour of moving his arms again. This time, he pressed large hands to his face, hiding behind them as he scrubbed at his face. “But by not betraying them, am I betraying the heroes around us?”

“No.” Denki said with ease. In return, all he got were slender & scarred fingers splitting enough for lilac eyes to peer at him through them. It was such a tiny action, but it had a tiny smile curling at Denki’s lips anyway.

“Not everything is so black & white like everyone makes it out to be. So you don’t want to betray the trust of someone who saved your life, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s not like you’re sneakily talking to him or whatever.”

“Yeah, I know,” Hitoshi sighed, hands moving to his hair this time, mussing it up even more. “But he’s killing people.”

“Killing bad people.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“Since when are you on the moral high ground track?” Denki joked as he poked Hitoshi’s cheek at the same time as flashing him a bright grin. “You don’t control his actions, ‘Toshi, c’mon, you know that already. I bet Aizawa has told you that more than once, hasn’t he? You know he has. Don’t give me that look just ‘cause you know I’m right.”

“Shut up.” Hitoshi muttered as Denki very proudly pulled away his ammunition before he could keep using it as a means to tear himself apart. 

“Why don’t you make me again?”

That seemed to get Hitoshi’s head out of wherever it was getting lost & he tilted his head to look at Denki with narrowed eyes filled with suspicion. “You do realise you’re kissing the person who is literally responsible for people being killed.”

“I don’t remember you signing up for torture school.” Denki bit back, cringing a little at the way it sounded a whole lot more harsh aloud than it did in his head. Thankfully, it seemed Hitoshi found the remark more amusing than offensive if the little smile on his face was anything to go by.

He was so weird.

When Hitoshi had nothing to offer in return, Denki added, “But seriously, if I was in your shoes, I’d be thinking all the same stuff. But, ‘Toshi…” 

Tentatively, he reached out his free hand to rest it on Hitoshi’s cheek. When the teen just tilted his head into his hand, the blond counted it as another win & carried on soothing over the open wounds Hitoshi was presenting to him.

“Nobody is asking you to be a martyr. Nobody is expecting you to go out there & double cross everyone anymore. We’re students, ‘Toshi. We’re still teenagers. Leave the scary shit to the pros. You’ve had more than your share of trouble. Don’t you think you deserve a break?”

The look on Hitoshi’s face was telling Denki that yet again he was absolutely torn between arguing & agreeing. It was like he wanted to agree, but something just wouldn’t let him. 

He sighed softly, leaned in & planted a kiss right on Hitoshi’s nose.

Yeah, Denki knew he couldn’t solve Hitoshi’s problems. He wasn’t equipped with the means for that, that’s what the psychiatrist was for, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t keep him company & try his best to show him just what he’d been missing out on.

He wasn’t going to let Hitoshi suffer in silence, no matter how hard he tried to keep everyone away.

“You know, ‘Toshi, it’s alright if the only person you save is yourself.”

There those eyes were again, staring at Denki in that ‘I’m picking you apart’ way, roaming along his features, studying him.

“You think so?” Hitoshi asked, seemingly genuinely curious.

“I know so. You’ve got a whole hero career to save everyone else. You’re allowed to just focus on you right now. You gotta get all healed before you can help other people or whatever.”

Hitoshi seemed content with the response, because there was a little smile on his face as he rolled onto his side with another tiny wince as he looked at Denki.

The blond offered a smile back & gestured to Hitoshi’s torso. “You know… I could totally kiss that better for you.”

The blush he was rewarded with made his smile grow even wider, so Denki leaned in & left another kiss on Hitoshi's nose, then gently on the scar on his jawline. When he didn’t so much as flinch, Denki took that as a good sign & peppered more chaste kisses over every visible scar on Hitoshi’s face.

Maybe he couldn’t kiss him better really, but he’d sure as hell try.

 

Chapter Text

Two arms slinked around Hitoshi’s waist from behind, a warm body pressing up against his back as he stood in front of the windows in the common room, a steaming mug of coffee between his hands.

He was watching the stormy weather that didn’t seem to let up & had heard the soft footfalls of Denki coming towards him so he hadn’t flinched at the contact.

Hitoshi felt oddly… floaty. He had no clue what the right word for what he was feeling even was, all he knew was that he felt relatively okay & in a strangely good mood.

He had spent the rest of yesterday afternoon with Denki in his dorm, letting him litter kisses all over his face & his hands & along his chest, but through his hoodie. Despite it being the weekend, because of which Hitoshi could have very easily decided to hole up in his room, he actually decided to stray to the common room.

Some Saturday mornings, he would do some basic training with Aizawa if his mentor was up early rather than sleeping through the only morning he ever really got free from some kind of work. But given the weather & Hitoshi’s strangely good mood, Aizawa decided to let him skip out on joining him in the gym. That didn’t mean he would be getting out of physiotherapy later, though.

Htoshi did not miss the blinding grin Yamada had given him, nor the sly way he nudged his elbow against Aizawa’s side as if to get him to notice when Hitoshi said he was going to hang out with Denki.

Speaking of, a face pressed between his shoulder-blades & the arms around his waist tightened somewhat as a very groggy ‘it’s too early’ was mumbled against his back.

Hitoshi huffed in amusement, sipped on his coffee, then pointed out that it was nearly lunch time.

“Doesn’t matter.” Denki decided as he slid around so he was in front of Hitoshi instead. It was very strategic in a way as it made it so he didn’t have to let go of where he was clinging to him.

He was still wearing his pikachu pyjamas, obviously, & his hair was all messy as he rested his chin right in the centre of Hitoshi’s chest, peering up at him with those pretty golden eyes.

“How are you so awake? It’s a weekend. Weekends are made for sleeping, ‘Toshi.”

“Coffee.” Hitoshi grunted as he attempted to take another sip from around Denki, moving one arm to lazily wrap around him where he saw a slight pout turn into a sheepish smile instead. “Oh & Aizawa sometimes drags me out of bed on Saturday mornings to bully me.”

“Training?”

“Yup.”

“If anyone can keep up with him, though, it’d be you.” Denki murmured as he snuggled himself right up against Hitoshi’s chest as though trying to get comfortable to go right back to sleep again. “You’re so comfy, ‘Toshi. Like an oversized radiator… G’night.”

Hitoshi was pretty sure he couldn’t adore this idiot anymore than he already did, but then he went & said stupidly cute things like that.

He smiled to himself, then wiped it away with an overly-dramatic sigh. “Nope. No more sleeping for Denki. Here, drink this.” 

He pulled back just enough to offer his coffee mug to the blond, who very reluctantly pulled away from his clinging in favour of snatching it. He wrapped both hands around it & instead opted to prop his shoulder against Hitoshi’s chest as he sipped on the half finished coffee.

Minutes of quiet-calm ticked by just like that. With Denki leaning against him, with the sound of rain hammering against the windows, the odd crackle of thunder rumbling in the distance. It was peaceful.

Hitoshi was beginning to think he could get used to it.

“I like this weather.” Hitoshi whispered as he ducked his head enough to plant a kiss atop Denki’s head.

“Dark & gloomy, just like you. Why am I not surprised? You & Tokoyami would get along.”

“Yeah, well dark & gloomy is my whole thing. You like it. You told Ashido that it makes me all mysterious & well, she tells me everything now. We’re like best-gossip-buddies recently. You should be jealous.”

“Oh I am.” Denki joked back, only pulling away so he could drag himself with lazy shuffled footfalls towards the kitchen area to rinse up the coffee mug, clicking the kettle back on in the process. Then he shuffled right back to Hitoshi’s chest again.

Like a clingy kitten, Hitoshi thought to himself.

“Hey, ‘Toshi?”

“Hm?”

“Remember when we met in the rain?”

“I do.”

“I’m so sorry for not, I don’t know, you were really hurt & I knew you were, but I didn’t do anything, y’know?”

Hitoshi’s thoughts sort of fell short at that. He heard the guilt lacing that tired tone & he knew damn well that Denki had been storing up that guilt the entire time. Hitoshi just so happened to be a master at just that & could hear Aizawa’s voice in his head telling him to try not to feel guilt over something he couldn’t control.

Denki needed a mental-Aizawa too to keep his thoughts in check.

“Denks… You let me borrow your clothes, eat your food, stay in your house for a week & showed me a bunch of movies. That was more than enough. You were everything I needed.”

“You probably needed a hospital.” Denki grumbled through a weak laugh. Then looked up at Hitoshi, moving his hands to cup his cheeks. “No more almost dying in the rain, got it?”

“No promises.” Hitoshi murmured, leaning down a little to nudge his nose against Denki’s. “The rain is perfect ‘almost dying’ weather.”

“Shut up, that isn’t funny. I’m serious.”

“Alright.” Hitoshi sighed & stared back into those pretty pools of honey that were narrowed with scrutiny, sparks running through the hands that were on his cheeks. “I promise I’ll try not to almost die in the rain.”

The look on Denki’s face told him that he wasn’t exactly convinced, but he rolled his eyes with a nod & planted a kiss to the corner of Hitoshi’s mouth anyway. He then dragged himself back to the kitchen to go about making another coffee.

Hitoshi stayed near the window, eyeing Denki out of his peripheral until their moment of calm was finally interrupted as the common room door banged open.

Both teenagers whipped their heads around to see Ashido barging inside. She dropped her umbrella loudly in the doorway along with the bag she was carrying so her hands could run through her drenched hair.

“I HATE the rain!” She snapped at nobody in particular, then seemed to belatedly notice the pair & skipped over towards Hitoshi with a smile on her face. She moved a hand to immediately reach up to touch Hitoshi’s undercut. Obviously. “Hey, babes! Fancy seeing you out of your cave! Is it ‘cause of Sparky? It is, isn’t it? Nice hair, suits you.”

Ashido’s mile-a-minute talking was something Hitoshi would probably never get used to, no matter how often they walked & talked, well it was more like she talked & he listened, but he definitely found comfort in it. 

It was grounding, having others talk directly to him. It was both incredible & frightening. 

There was a sort of terrifying ordeal to being… known. To be sought out & thought about. To be somebody. Somebody that people wanted to talk to, to be friends with.

But then there was the rapture. The intense joy of being wanted.

“Hey.” Hitoshi said for once not feeling as though he was struggling to force the words out. “Me & Denks were just talking about dying in the rain… Which you look like you’ve just done.”

“I’m not even going to pretend I’m surprised you were talking about weird shit.” Ashido laughed out, moving her hand from Hitoshi’s hair to pat him gently on the arm with a soft smile that said ‘it’s nice to see you’ without the words having to be spoken. 

She went back to her bag, grabbed something, then skipped over to Denki. After ruffling up his hair, she stuck a charger wire in his mouth to which the blond didn’t even protest. He just nodded in thanks & sleepily shuffled back over to Hitoshi with a new mug of coffee between his hands. Once he was close enough, Denki wasted no time in trying to use Hitoshi’s chest as his bed again.

There was a sort of lingering moment where Ashido studied Hitoshi while Hitoshi studied Denki with amusement as he tried to figure out how to sip coffee when he had a charger hanging out of his mouth.

Hitoshi pretended not to notice the scrutiny they were under & instead took the charger cable from Denki so the boy could sip on the coffee then offer the mug to Hitoshi. He took it, trading it for the cable with a soft ‘thank you’.

“You guys are adorable. But how’d you drag sleepyhead out of bed before lunch?” Ashido settled on asking instead. Her lack of squealing over them or asking hundreds of questions about whether they were finally ‘a thing’ or not was much appreciated.

“It’s my charm.” Hitoshi smirked from behind the coffee he had been sipping on. “He can’t resist my morose attitude. It’s addicting.”

“Sure, whatever you say, honey. Once you’re done with your coffee, how’s about you come help me sort out my hair? Yes? Great! You clearly have things to spill!” 

Well, so much for the lack of questions.

With that, Ashido skipped off towards the dorm rooms without even waiting for an answer, leaving Hitoshi to finish his coffee & set aside his mug before beginning the task of trying to pry a very clingy Denki from his chest.

“C’mon, Denks… Don’t think I won’t carry you if I have to.”

That had the opposite effect he had been anticipating & Denki’s whole face lit up at the idea. 

Sighing in defeat, Hitoshi knew there was no arguing now the idea was in his head & pulled away to crouch down a little. No more than a second later & Denki was on his back, legs hooked around his waist, arms lazily draped around his neck with the charger now in his hand rather than sticking out of his mouth.

Denki’s head rested against his arm, lips pressed suspiciously close to Hitoshi’s neck & he had to make an active effort to not focus on the warmth of soft breathing against his skin.

As Hitoshi began to walk towards the stairs, Denki grumbled, “Elevator’s right there.”

“Stairs are healthier.” He retorted; it sounded better than ‘I don’t want to be trapped in a small box again’.

“Weirdo. You weren’t kidding about being close to Mina, huh?”

“Nope.”

“That’s so cool. ‘Toshi has friends… I’m so proud. So pro-”

“Stop talking.”

“-ud. Like a proud mama.”

“I said stop talking.” Hitoshi muttered in feigned annoyance as he made it up the stairs to Ashido’s floor, blatantly ignoring the seven other variations of ‘I’m proud’ that Denki mumbled against his neck. “Or I’ll drop you.”

“You would never drop me. You like me too much.”

“I’m starting to regret it.”

“No you’re not.” Denki laughed softly, breathy & much too sleepy.

“You’re right, I’m not, but I’ll still think about dropping you if you keep saying the p-word.”

“Proud. So proud.”

Once at Ashido’s door, Hitoshi knocked once before letting himself in & promptly dropped Denki onto her bed as revenge for the fact the idiot had left a stupid blush on Hitoshi’s cheeks that he couldn’t make go away.

Denki squeaked, but didn’t seem to otherwise care.

Ashido just laughed at them both, now in a dry set of cosy clothes. Her hair dryer & various hair-care products were all set out on her vanity desk & Hitoshi didn’t even have to be asked before moving towards them. On one of their walks to therapy, Ashido had ranted about how long upkeep with her hair takes & Hitoshi had every damn thing memorised without a choice.

At least it was useful now.

The girl sat down in her chair & sighed dramatically. “You know now he’s lying down, he’s going to fall back to sleep. The only other weekend Sparky has actually got up was when we went to the mall. School wears him out.”

“Yeah, I know.” Hitoshi replied as he moved to behind her chair so he could gently run some of the product through her hair, being careful to avoid her horns. “Not even the coffee did anything. I feel kinda bad for dragging him up for basically no reason.”

“Don’t. ‘Cause it’s really nice to actually see you hanging out near us. We don’t need reasons to hang out, idiot. Whatever your pretty therapist is doing to you, she better keep it up.”

“It’s called talking.” Hitoshi laughed quietly, rolling his eyes. He moved to the adjoining bathroom to rinse his hands, then returned to grab the hair dryer. “I’m going to use this now just to avoid doing just that with you.”

That earned him another laugh paired with an eye roll & after one glance back to make sure he didn’t make Denki jump when he switched on the blow dryer, he began to dry Ashido’s hair for her.

Passively, the thought occurred to him that she must have remembered him saying he loved doing Eri’s hair & how it was therapeutic in its own way.

Kindness. To be wanted.

It really was a strange yet incredible feeling.

So much so that the entire time he was doing Ashido’s hair, a small smile curled at the corner of his lips.

He was very much lost in his own head, but for once it wasn’t complete dissociation or lack of awareness of his surroundings, or drowning in one too many thoughts. Instead, he was just… content. Happy to be able to help, to be considered company that Ashido liked to have around.

Ashido had been on her phone the entire time he had been doing her hair, tapping away replies to text messages, pretty pink nails clicking against the screen. Every so often she’d giggle at something, then sigh as though simply typing out a text was tiring. Then again, in Hitoshi’s mind it was.

His twenty unopened messages from Monoma could attest to that.

A soft ‘oh wow’ left the girl & piqued Hitoshi’s curiosity just slightly, even more so when she twisted in her seat a little to show Hitoshi her phone over her shoulder.

He was basically done with her hair anyway, so he set aside the hair dryer, using his fingers to fix a few loose strands into their proper place, then peered over Ashido’s shoulder as she tilted her phone for him to see.

“Check this out, Shin. Apparently those creepy murders are gaining the attention of other pro heroes… Edgeshot, Endeavour, Hawks… Kinda cool that they’ve been seen around our city. Less cool with context for why, though.”

Hitoshi leaned over Ashido’s shoulder a little more so he could scan over the news article she was reading. Huh. 

“They all agree that it’s League activity since seeing the blue flames. Still, though, people are claiming it’s All Might’s retirement as to why the League are getting so ballsy.”

“It isn’t All Might’s fault.” Hitoshi thought aloud without even really realising it until he got a response. Those murders weren’t anyone else’s fault but his.

Well, Dabi’s. But Dabi wouldn’t be doing it if not for him.

“The League have always been hella elusive, so I don’t get why everyone keeps blaming heroes for not tracking Dabi down when they don’t even know where to start. It’s not exactly like he leaves a trail or whatever. Y’know?” Ashido carried on.

Hitoshi could feel that oh-so-familiar guilt sneaking up on him again. Like rising waters he had no way to stop.

He knew where to start. He knew he could stop Dabi. He could stop hiding & he could do something. He should do something.

Yeah, Denki told him he didn’t have to be a martyr. Aizawa told him he wasn’t to blame for somebody else’s actions.

But then there was Shouto. Who believed if anybody could talk to Dabi & make him stop, make him listen, it’d be Hitoshi.

Fuck.

If the other pros were to get involved, that’d only lead to an even bigger mess that Hitoshi had been desperately trying to avoid. His overly-active imagination began to cook up all kinds of horribly graphic scenarios.

Huge fights between blue flames & red feathers. Or worse, blue flames & the enormous hellfire Endeavour would fight back with, not knowing he was trying to kill his own son.

Collateral damage. People dying. Heroes dying. Dabi dying.

He needed to call Sansa.

He needed to go to the police. To at least tell them he knew the victims. To give them something.

He had to.

Even if his very existence was the reason for so much hurt in the world.

He didn’t want to be stuck in the middle anymore. He just wanted everything to stop.

“Fuck.” Hitoshi muttered to himself quietly, which earned him a very curious look from those wide black & golden eyes. Having spent so many years forcing his face into a blank mask until it wasn’t a mask anymore, Hitoshi quickly schooled his features into something impassive.

He pulled his phone from his pocket & waved it in Ashido’s line of sight. “Sorry, just remembered I’ve been ignoring my texts for weeks.” He quickly lied. Well, it wasn’t really a lie, but it wasn’t the truth to why he was grumbling expletives for no apparent reason either.

Ashido just laughed at him & nodded. “Oh I know, I never hear the end of it from Sparky.”

Hitoshi internally winced, making a little promise to himself to stop pretending his phone didn’t exist as soon as it vibrated with a text message & pulled away from Ashido. “Hey, uh, I gotta get going. Can you tell Denks when he wakes up that I promise I’ll text him later & I’m sorry for dragging him up just for some coffee?”

He moved towards Denki, who was sleeping soundly in Ashido’s bed, holding his charger tightly as though protecting it. It had a little smile gracing Hitoshi’s features, his brain shutting up just for a second as he leaned down to delicately place a kiss to Denki’s forehead.

“Okay listen,” Ashido piped up, the swivel sound of her chair indicating she was watching him be a smushy idiot. “I’m feeling super generous so I’m not gonna scare you away from the thought of hanging out with us by bombarding you with questions. But, are you two finally together now? Like… together-together?”

After tucking a stray lock of blond hair behind Denki’s ear, earning a static shock in the process, Hitoshi pulled back & half shrugged.

“I don’t know. I think so? I’m not sure if he even really wants to stick a label on it, I figured it was up to him… I probably should have asked that after I kissed him the first time.”

“You really are an oblivious idiot, Shin.” Ashido laughed, but made an effort to keep her tone as quiet as his.

Hitoshi headed towards the door, deciding to not grace Ashido with a response as he switched his phone on with every intention of scrolling to Sansa’s contact, but froze halfway. All of the messages that hadn’t been delivered all morning came through all at once, most of which being from Shouto, but the notifications came through too quickly for him to skim read them from the notification bar.

Yeah, he should probably stop switching his phone off. He should also probably unmute all of his notifications.

He ignored the daily morning messages from Monoma & went straight to Shouto’s instead.

Shouto  10:07A.M

Touya says he needs to talk to you

Shouto  10:09A.M

He said just once then he won’t bother you again. Please, Hitoshi, I think there’s something wrong but he won’t talk to me

Shouto  10:29A.M

Hitoshi

Shouto  10:30A.M

He said he has something from your old house that you might want. He’s being cryptic & weird. He said he’d leave it where you first met so you can pick it up. 

Shouto  10:35A.M

Sorry, I know this isn’t fair for you, I just want to talk to my brother again, but he’s been stranger than usual.

Shouto  11:22A.M

Just saying, you’re worse than me when it comes to replying to messages.

Hitoshi’s brows knit together as he stared down at the illuminated screen, trying to process, trying to understand, trying to find the hidden meanings.

When Dabi was involved, there were always hidden meanings to things.

Something from his old house?

There was nothing of his in there to begin with. Then again, there was no mention of it being something that belonged to him in the texts. Just something from his old house.

Just something. Something that was important enough for Dabi to try to contact him through Shouto, which was a relatively risky & a sort of desperate play in Hitoshi’s eyes.

Sure, Hitoshi knew Shouto talked with Touya, but there was a slight disconnect, in a strange way. Shouto was talking to the side of Dabi that was his brother, not the side of Dabi that was running around killing people. Hitoshi knew from the moment he had given Shouto his number, Shouto was going to be texting him, Hitoshi had just liked to set that thought aside as unimportant & none of his business.

Shouto wasn’t hurting anybody, so it didn’t matter. He was just talking to his brother.

Until now. Where his brother was actively trying to drag Hitoshi back through Shouto & somehow it was working.

Frustrated, Hitoshi didn’t even bother to utter a goodbye to Ashido before he was marching out of her room, jogging down multiple flights of stairs to get out of Heights Alliance.

Before he really fully registered it, his feet had dragged him off of campus & onto the main street without anyone noticing, his phone to his ear dialling a certain psychiatrist’s number.

This was stupid.

It was a Saturday. Tori didn’t need him trying to bug her outside of their sessions all because he was having a little internal war.

He could either go to Sansa, or go to Dabi.

Good. Or bad.

Black or white.

But it wasn’t that simple. It never fucking was.

Would Tori even answer her phone on a Saturday? Unlikely.

Hitoshi rolled his eyes to himself & was all of two seconds away from pulling his phone from his ear to hang up, only to have the other line click as the phone was picked up.

“Hitoshi?” Tori’s voice sounded out of breath & most definitely worried. He could just picture her worried face, hand over her chest as though he had startled her. “I’m so sorry, I was in the kitchen. Are you alright? Do you need me to come to my office?”

Her voice got progressively softer the more she talked & Hitoshi got a feeling that she didn’t even need to see his face to know when something wasn’t quite right, even though he thought he was doing a good job of schooling his features & tone into something blank. Then again, Tori had a bad, or probably brilliant, habit of seeing straight through everything; he knew that & he hadn’t even known her for long.

Hitoshi sort of wished they were in her office. He wished he could curl up in the corner of her couch like he usually did, because that way he knew he wouldn’t get up again, not when moving meant shoving himself between a rock & a hard place.

“You’ve sworn to help people, right?” Hitoshi blurted before his mind could tell him to shut the fuck up & hang up the phone. He tugged his hood up as the rain worsened. “If you had the chance to go against that in the name of something more selfish, would you do it?”

For just a few moments, the other line was quiet.

“Well…” She finally began. “I suppose it depends, really. In my opinion, it would depend a lot on just how selfish this thing I was going to do was. I’d ask myself a lot of questions, I think. Is it hurting the people I’m supposed to be helping? What sort of butterfly effect could my actions cause?”

Even though he couldn’t see her, he could just tell that she seemed completely unphased by the fact she was being metaphorically barged in on without an appointment or warning. Nor did she seem bothered by the fact he was spewing cryptic questions with nerves in his voice that were the equivalent of his leg bouncing nervously should he have been sitting down. Her tone was soft & quiet. Grounding.

“Butterfly effect…” Hitoshi echoed softly.

“Yes. Have you heard of it?”

“Yeah, smaller actions having bigger consequences in the future.” Yeah, Hitoshi’s whole mess of a life seemed to be one big essay on chaos theory.

“Exactly. Sometimes we might think something is a good idea in the moment, but the fallout in the long run can prove to be somewhat difficult to handle. You know you can talk to me, Hitoshi. If something is bothering you, I’m here to listen, to protect your wellbeing. What spurred on this train of thought, may I ask?"

“It was more of a hypothetical, I guess? I was just talking with a few friends…” He half-lied, rubbing at the back of his neck with his free hand out of habit as he took long strides down the rain-slick sidewalk. His shoulders were hunched, eyes trained on his feet as the rain hammered against his hoodie, sinking through the fabrics & settling a familiar cold into his bones.

“Figured you were the best person to ask considering you’re kind of a professional smart person.”

“That I am.” She laughed softly & it crackled a little through the phone line, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hear the edge to it. It was like she wanted to pry further, to really, really look into him & figure out what the hell it was that Hitoshi was feeling, but didn’t want him running for the hills the second she did.

Even through the phone line, her voice filled his brain with purples, blues & pinks, matching the sweet pea perfume that usually accompanied her. It was almost odd talking to her without her perfume gently attacking his senses; instead he just had the smell of the rain & a brewing storm sitting in his nose.

It made him think of Denki, of how he always smelled as though he was carrying a thunderstorm around with him wherever he went.

“Are you in trouble, Hitoshi?”

“What? No.”

“Somehow, I don’t think I believe that.” He could hear the smile in her tone. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fi-”

“That word is banned coming from you, mister.” Hitoshi knew damn well if he were there in person, she’d be poking a finger at his chest while narrowing her eyes at him. Yeah, at this point everybody in his life was banning him from saying ‘I’m fine’ because everyone knew damn well it usually meant the opposite. 

Well, fuck. The fear of being known was a sneaky little thing.

It was quiet, lying dormant & unmoving until he noticed that those surrounding him were noticing little things about him too. Then it’d crackle to life like a volcano of nerves springing to life in his chest.

He must have been quiet for too long, because Tori’s voice broke him from his own head.

“I won’t push, but if something is going on, I need you to speak with either me or your guardian, okay? Would you come & see me later so we can talk some? I know it isn’t your usual session time, but I’d like it if we had a little impromptu extra session. Perhaps we can talk more about chaos theory in my newly decorated office?”

Hitoshi couldn’t exactly argue. To be honest, it was probably a good thing. Having meetings to get to meant he had places to be that were anywhere other than the places he intended to go.

“I have physio later.”

“How about after?”

“Alright.”

“Great! Oh, & Hitoshi? It’s okay to be a little bit selfish sometimes, just as long as we remember to be kind too. Just as long as your hypothetical-selfishness isn’t hurting other people & you don’t let your hypothetical-selfishness take over your rational thinking.”

This was stupid. He shouldn’t have called her. He shouldn’t have opened his mouth, because it only raised suspicion. Then again, that treacherous little part of his brain that liked to argue with him had him wondering if he wanted her to be suspicious. If he wanted her to be concerned, to go to Aizawa & set out to find him.

Just so he wouldn’t have to deal with the mess he was very likely walking into alone. 

“Thanks. I gotta go.”

“Hitoshi, are you sure you’re alright? Where are you at the moment? I can hear the wind, please don’t tell me you’re outside in this storm.”

“You worry too much.” Hitoshi decided to say yet another non-answer, but added a slight laugh for good measure. “I gotta get back, thanks again.”

“Hito-”

Hitoshi hung up before she could finish.

He should probably add hanging up on his therapist to his ever growing list of questionable life choices. It could go right alongside the fact that his feet were taking him all the way towards his old house rather than the police station.

He had only been half paying attention to his directions & it seemed as though his body & mind had already subconsciously made the choice as to where he was going.

He pulled his hood further over his head, his paranoid, overactive thoughts making him pause to look in a car window at his reflection to be sure all of his hair was tucked beneath the hood to hide it as if that’d somehow help him be less recognisable.

His heart was already thudding in his chest the closer he got towards the house he never wanted to even look at again. He doubted very much Tatsuya would be anywhere near these streets with the cops supposedly keeping tabs on him, but that didn’t stop the nerves, the panic, the sheer fear of being caught by him.

He couldn’t survive seeing him again, he knew that. 

Rather than heading any closer to his old house than he had to, Hitoshi took a few back roads until he was on track to where he & Dabi had first met.

The night Hitoshi tried to flee from Tatsuya. The night he met Dabi in an alley. The night that changed everything.

The closer he got, the heavier the unease sitting in his stomach felt.

It didn’t take long before Hitoshi was rounding a corner & coming face to face with the mouth of the alley where he had stood at thirteen years old, surrounded by blue flames that protected him from the people who were supposed to take care of him.

The sight before him stopped Hitoshi in his tracks.

The alley itself was about as secluded as a place could possibly get, boxed in with little to no purpose in an area of the city that rarely saw patrols from heroes. A corner left to rot, quiet & alone. Hitoshi knew that. He had always known that.

Yet that somehow wasn’t enough to soothe over the sheer shock that jolted through him at seeing a dead body strung up in the middle of the alley like a fucked up art exhibit made just for him.

Instinctively, Hitoshi’s arm flew to his face so he could shield his nose with his inner elbow before the smell of a rotting corpse could hit his senses. Amethyst eyes widened as his head tipped back a little to take in the disgusting view properly.

He knew who the victim was. He never forgot a face. Especially not one he had seen so much.

Trigger. 

The woman who single-handedly concocted the drug of the same name & created an empire for herself.

Oh how the mighty fall, Hitoshi thought bitterly to himself.

Ropes wrapped around Trigger’s wrists were connected to old pipes running along either side of the alley, suspending her a few feet from the ground. Blood pooled in the puddles beneath her, but most noticeably was the word carved in her chest.

Just like the others. The top few buttons of her shirt were undone so the word ‘GREED’ could be seen burnt into her skin.

Jesus Christ.

This was the woman who had made a name for herself in the criminal underworld, making money off of others’ suffering like it didn’t mean a thing to her. Then again, it probably didn’t.

This was the woman who tried to brute force his quirk to be stronger, using hers to force his to stay active, no matter the side effects. The woman who filled his nightmares since he was ten years old, the woman who was third on his list of people he considered untouchable.

Yet there she was. Dead & gone. No more curating her drug, no more torturing people with her quirk.

Hitoshi wasn’t quite so sure what he felt.

She was gone. Second on his list was Chisaki. He was gone. First was Tatsuya.

There was that strange element of being numb to all things morbid that still stood even in the face of a staged dead body, yet he couldn’t quite work through the emotions that her death was trudging up. 

They fell perfectly into place beside the box labelled ‘Open this for a meltdown’ in his head where all his thoughts regarding Chisaki sat.

Hitoshi took a shaky step back, using his free hand to pat down his pockets in an attempt to find which one he had put his phone into after speaking with Tori. He had to call Sansa. He could worry about everything else later. He couldn’t just-

He couldn’t just leave her like that.

It didn’t matter who she was. He couldn’t just leave her.

No, he had to call Aizawa. Fuck everyone else, Aizawa could fix his mess. Aizawa always fixed his mess.

With his hand in his pocket, Hitoshi froze right before pulling it out to make the call.

“Like what you see?” A raspy voice piped up from somewhere behind him & the second he felt a body near his back, the short war with deciding who to call was forgotten in favour of ramming his elbow back.

Dabi.

Hitoshi had every intention of ramming his elbow right into Dabi’s ribs as hard as he possibly could, but the villain must have expected the move, because a hand gripped his elbow so tightly that it hurt.

He yanked his arm free with so much force that he stumbled a few steps forward & whether he spun on his heel a little too quickly was to face Dabi or to look away from Trigger, he wasn’t so sure. He moved so quickly, his hood fell down in the process.

Dabi’s usual trench coat was ditched for a jacket with a hood & a high collar, hiding almost all of his scars bar the ones beneath his eyes. 

“Huh. Looks like that mask left a few scars.”

“Go fuck yourself.” Hitoshi spat defensively, resisting the full body urge to duck his head & hide his face against the neckline of his hoodie, just so those bright blue eyes would stop staring right at all the parts that still hurt.

With his teeth grit so tightly, Hitoshi could feel a familiar pain spark along his jaw, causing his hands to curl into fists, nails digging into his palms. He kept his chin up, though, eyes narrowed as he stared at the man opposite & wondered, not for the first time, how the hell he ended up here.

“Such a foul mouth, did they teach you that at hero school?” Dabi asked, raising a hand to tug down the high collar of his jacket so he could flash a little smirk that tugged at the staples in his cheek. “I knew you couldn’t resist showing up.”

“You forced me to be here!” Hitoshi snapped as he marched over to close the gap between them that Dabi hadn’t dared to touch just yet. He poked a finger at Dabi’s chest, both of them looking down to it, then up to one another’s faces.

When Dabi didn’t so much as budge, Hitoshi shoved at his chest once, twice, three times.

“This is all your fault! You! You forced me to be here, you killed these people, you killed my foster mom! Everything is all because of you! You fucking asshole!” The more Hitoshi spoke, the louder his voice got, yet the more broken he sounded.

He shoved at Dabi’s chest again & when the villain took a slight stumbled step back, Hitoshi followed with another weak shove & a choked laugh that sounded more like a sob. Maybe it was. It took him a little too long to realise that his eyes were stinging at the corners, vision ever so slightly blurred.

“He left me with Chisaki because of you!”

Shoves turned to weak punches, if they could even be called that. Silent laughs definitely turned to tears & Hitoshi wasn’t so sure at which point his knees felt weak, his hands hurt & his body felt heavy. Soon he was stumbling forward, hitting against that sturdy chest that had taken all of his built up hurt like it was nothing.

Two arms came up after a short hesitation & wrapped around him, holding him up when he felt as though he was one step from falling to the ground.

“I know.” Dabi murmured. His voice lacked… anything. If he felt remorse, he didn’t show it.

“They cut me, drugged me, broke me & it’s all because of you.”

“I know.”

“I should have never run away that day. You ruined everything.”

“I know.”

“I hate you so much.”

“I know.”

Hitoshi just… stood there. Leaning against Dabi’s chest as he focused on the way the pain sparked through his hands, so he had to flex his fingers to try to shake it. He focused on trying to remember how to breathe, how to not lose himself to every demon plaguing his mind.

He focused on the arms around him, securely holding him up, but with a slight looseness to them, so he could break free whenever he was ready.

He wondered in what twisted parallel universe he seemingly lived in; how the hands that hurt so many were the hands that actively comforted him. How a man so cruel showed less fear of his quirk than aspiring pros did.

With a forced calm sitting on his face, Hitoshi yanked away from Dabi & used the back of his hand to wipe at his cheeks to get rid of any tears that had fallen. Then, he gestured vaguely to somewhere behind him.

The part of him that craved kindness & attention that didn’t end in him bleeding, the selfish part of him that always wanted siblings so he was less alone, died just a little bit as he pulled away.

Dabi was & always would be, too far gone.

Hitoshi knew it. He knew there was no coming back from this. That the embrace they just had was likely the last time he’d ever get to be so close to the person who saved him just as much as he damned him.

“You did this. Everyone knows the other murders were you too. They were people I knew, Dabi. Or is it Touya? Please, enlighten me, because I’m not even sure who you are anymore.”

“You’ve always known exactly who I am, kid, don’t act stupid.” Dabi said simply, looking as bored as he always did. “You know better than anyone that they deserved to die. They hurt you. Now they’re gone. You can move forward.”

Dabi stepped closer & put his hands on Hitoshi’s shoulders, turning him around so he was facing Trigger once again. An ice-cold hand slinked around to grab his jaw, holding Hitoshi’s head in place, forcing him to look at the scene before him.

“You want to know the best bit, Hitoshi?”

“There is no best bit. You’re going to end up in prison because of me, because you think I needed this.”

“Don’t be stupid, you did need this. But no, no, the best bit of this story, the final act is still to come. Wanna hear it?”

Dabi didn’t wait for a response.

“Your dear old foster dad got a front row seat to my show as I hurt her just as much as she hurt you.”

Dabi’s voice was close to his ear, low & raspy, cold emanating from his body as though Hitoshi was standing in a snowstorm. But that was nothing in comparison to the ice that shot through his veins at the mention of Tatsuya.

“He’s…” The world tilted & turned, Hitoshi’s throat feeling as though he had swallowed razor blades. The words were almost impossible to get out in a tone that was barely any louder than a whisper. But he had to know.

“He’s here?”

Hitoshi needed to know, even if the prospect terrified him.

Dabi laughed. It was hollow & callous, his grip just as cruel as it tightened around Hitoshi as though he knew damn well if he were to let go, the teenager would run for his fucking life.

“Why don’t we pay him a little visit?”