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Shadows of Society

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“You know, you’re really impressive,” Hitoshi said dryly , flipping through the folder. Out of the corner of his eye, he couldn’t help but notice how Izuku went pink at the compliment. He felt an odd twinge of satisfaction at that, an odd complement to that pang of guilt that went with him. It was too easy to make Izuku blush- and he took way too much satisfaction in it.

Not enough to stop but still, the guilt was there.

In the past few weeks, he’d learned a lot about Izuku, even if he hadn’t learned everything. He was Quirkless, but not helpless. He was generally wicked talented with a crowbar, his pocket knife, and whatever other makeshift weapons he managed to get his hands on . He was smart and fascinated by how Quirks worked - and he’d spent a week peppering Hitoshi with questions on how his Brainwash worked . When he wasn’t asking questions about Hitoshi’s quirk he was babbling about Quirk’s he’d seen Pro-Hero’s use over the years. He seemed to be especially interested in All Might’s Quirk. Though he was not by fair, the only object of Izuku's interest. He idolized at least a half dozen heroes and adored another three or four.

Hitoshi had heard of some of them - like All Might of course. Thirteen and Present Mic were some of the other names he was most familiar with. He was also one of the only people he’d ever met, who was familiar was a variety of underground Heroes. It wasn’t quite an obsession - but it was clearly a passion project of Izuku’s. It also made Izuku much more effective at his job as a vigilante.

Well, it wasn’t a job, being as nobody paid Izuku - and Izuku kept insisting he wasn’t technically a vigilante.

But, the fact was, they stopped villains illegally . And sometimes villains and petty criminals had money in their wallets. It wasn’t a ton of money, but it occasionally bought them a nice hot meal, and or some of the items that were a bit more difficult to shoplift . Like the little battery-operated fairy lights that adorned their hideout for reading in the evenings . Or the five-gallon cooler of water Hitoshi had insisted they get. For those days when neither of them felt like going down to a coffee shop or gas station to refill their water bottle .

Their safe house had become quite comfortable in the past few weeks. Hitoshi thought if they managed to find another couch, and a battery-operated radio, the place might be downright cozy . It was already better than most places he’d lived in his life and though he still jumped at loud noises, it was the safest he’d ever felt too . If he had to share the couch with Izuku at night as a make-shift bed that was fine - and if the wind blew sharp and cruel late at night, that was fine too .

Izuku shifted from foot to foot, “It’s not that big a deal…I mean, it’s just some drawings.”

“They’re good drawings,” Hitoshi corrected. They weren’t perfect, but the effort he’d put into it was more than Hitoshi would have had the patience for - and he’d watched Izuku make the maps, and sketches . He’d seen first hand how painstaking Izuku was in his work to get the details just so.

 

 

The result was a near-perfect rendition of the man who’d sewn Hitoshi’s mouth shut. On the back, Izuku had listed useful bits of information and had underlined bits of information that he thought Hitoshi should know, or would otherwise find interesting . Four other faces to the file - men Izuku had been able to find had been working with Hitoshi’s captor. There were two other pieces of paper included in the folder. They didn’t have the same intricate drawings, but there was a detailed list of crimes they’d stopped in the past month, where the crimes had occurred, and where Izuku thought they should center their patrols for the week .

And a very tiny little sketch of Hitoshi at the bottom corner of the paper, that made his chest feel a bit tight.

“How you learned to draw like this anyway?” Hitoshi asked, rolling up the paper as they walked through the busy street. It was a Saturday, so no one took much notice of two teenagers wandering about.

Izuku chewed his bottom lip, and Hitoshi immediately wished he hadn’t asked. “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he told Izuku.

The two of them had struck up a silent accord over the last few weeks. They didn’t ask about the past. It was like something out of a bad book - and yet, it worked for them. Or maybe , it worked for Hitoshi. Because then he didn’t need to remember anything.

For all he knew, Izuku wanted to talk about it - and he was just too much of a coward to ask.

“I…had a lot of time alone, you know?” Izuku muttered, his face red.

He’s so damn honest, Hitoshi sighed, and then glanced back at Izuku as his stomach growled. “You could have said if you were hungry,” he told the other boy.

It was then that Hitoshi’s stomach gave a large growl.

Immediately, Izuku started laughing - a bright sound that made Hitoshi smile. “…Guess we’re both a little hungry,” he said, reaching into his back pocket. He saw Izuku doing the same.

The results were depressing, to say the least. Hitoshi had three 100 yen coins, and Izuku a 500 yen piece. Hitoshi scrunched up his nose. “Do we have anything back home?” he asked Izuku.

“Um… we have some nori and a couple of boxes of pocky,” Izuku suggested.

Not exactly a feast fit for kings then. Hitoshi considered it for a moment, his eyes scanning the various little shops and stands settled along the streets, before settling on a small stall that held a variety of fried foods . He considered it for several minutes, tilting his head to the side. His mouth filled with saliva as he eyed the food - and a quick glance at Izuku told him he wasn't alone. “Give me a moment,” he muttered. “I’ll grab us something to eat.” He thought he heard Izuku protest, but he ignored the other boy, moving surreptitiously through the crowds . He spent a moment, pretending to eye a nearby window display.

There wasn't a huge variety of food that was already cooked. A couple of baked potatoes wrapped in paper bags, and sticks of seasoned and salted chicken skewers, and his stomach growled again, louder than before. He glanced around as inconspicuously as possible, before reaching for a skewer - 

- only to have a hand take his wrist in an iron-clad grip.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

The man who spoke was a tall man, standing a half foot taller than Hitoshi. In their world of Quirks, Hitoshi would have called him fairly unremarkable - pale, with long black hair, and runner’s build . Dressed for the weather, in a long black coat , and a white scarf wrapped around his neck. The only thing that would have made him stand out to Hitoshi, was the sheer exhaustion in those bloodshot eyes . Like he hadn’t slept in weeks.

Well, that and the unrelenting aura of authority that surrounded him.

Hitoshi continued to pull at his wrist, though the man’s grip didn’t budge. A feeling of panic settled roughly in his chest, and he hoped that Izuku had the sense to run or at least hideaway. Crap. He’d been caught . They were going to call the cops. Have him arrested maybe? Thrown him back into foster care for sure

And God knew what sort of hell he’d go through if he ended up there again. He could almost feel the thread pulling through his lips again.

“I’m not doing anything,” he said and was proud that his voice didn’t crack. “Let go of me,” he added harshly. "Who are you anyway?"

The man looked unimpressed. He didn’t answer, instead of running his eyes over Hitoshi’s form in a way that made his stomach squirm. Come on, answer the question old man, he thought, a feeling of desperation settling around him.

“Uh, excuse me?”

Hitoshi’s head whipped around, and he saw Izuku, standing awkwardly to the side, bouncing on the balls of his feet anxiously . “Uh…you look super familiar,” he said. “Are you…The Pro Hero Eraserhead?” There was no insincerity in Izuku’s voice, just the pure excitement that came whenever Izuku talked about a Pro Hero .

Hitoshi stared - was this really the time?

If Hitoshi was confused , the man - Eraserhead - looked downright dumbfounded at being recognized . “…how did you,” he started, disarmed by Izuku’s wide and innocent eyes.

He was completely taken aback when Izuku kneed him in the groin.

Eraserhead went down, a torrent of curses steaming from his lips. “Toshi!” Izuku’s hand gripped him roughly, “Let’s go!” He shouted, dragging Hitoshi over the prone body of the Hero. He looked back, for a moment, before they were running down the street, pushing people out of the way. They ran until both were out of breath, and Hitoshi pulled Izuku into a side alleyway. They leaned against the exposed brick, trying to catch their breaths.

Hitoshi started to laugh, wheezing between breaths of air. That had been so close. Next to him, he could hear Izuku making a similar wheezing sound, and he turned to smile at the other boy - only to find him crying . The adrenaline left him in a rush. “Izuku,” he said, reaching over and placing his hand on his shoulder. “Izuku, what’s the matter? Are you hurt?”

“I hit…a Pro Hero,” Izuku gasped, pressing his hands against his chest. “I…I…” Hitoshi hesitated, reaching over and wrapping his arms around Izuku. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m just …I’m just a stupid worthless loser. What right do I have?” He trailed off into muttering and Hitoshi stared at him.

Gingerly , he reached over, placing a hand on Izuku’s shoulder. “Who told you that?” He asked, but Izuku only shook his head, still muttering. Worthless. Quirkless. Idiot. They weren’t so dissimilar to the words Hitoshi whispered to himself in his darkest moments.

Monster.

Villain.

Worthless.

He rubbed a soothing circle into Izuku’s back and leaned his head against his shoulder. “…Thanks for saving me,” he whispered. It was the only thing he could think to do, as Izuku broke down into tears.

And Hitoshi knew that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Izuku never had to hurt another person - Hero or otherwise - ever again . He pulled Izuku a little closer to him, wrapping his arms tightly around his shaking frame. “Thank you,” he repeated softly .


 

By the time Izuku and Hitoshi had made it back to the hideout, Izuku had finally stopped crying and felt mostly ashamed of himself . He did try not to cry. His mom had said it was silly for a grown boy to cry. His father had even less patience and had often chosen to silence Izuku with a fist to the face. He was too old to cry anyway - but there were times when he couldn’t help it. When everything was so much, the very walls of reality seemed to creep closer around him. And it was in those moments, Izuku could hear every single thing that was wrong with him, spoken in the voice of everyone he’d ever loved .

Kacchan, shoving him, Quirkless Loser.

Worthless, his dad backhanded when he asked about dinner.

Burden -

- Stupid.

Childish.

Trash.

And so many other words that had cut him - not because they’d been said , but because they were true. Crying about it only made it worse.

He was embarrassed to have broken down in front of Hitoshi - who had seemed to like him so far, even if he was Quirkless. At least, Hitoshi hadn’t seemed to mind staying together - and Izuku cherished having someone around who didn’t hate him . He liked having someone to talk to - and he liked it even more that Hitoshi seemed to like listening to him talk.

He’d panicked seeing Eraserhead looking at Hitoshi - and even more than that, he’d hated seeing Hitoshi scared . And he had been scared - so Izuku had just . Moved. He’d been like that all his life - never able to stop himself if he saw someone in need because standing still was utterly inconceivable .

A hero. He’d moved to hit a Hero in the balls. The shame washed over him all over again, and he wanted to bury his head in his hands - because good people, worthwhile people did not go around assaulting heroes . They helped people - it was why Izuku liked to go for his walks around the neighborhood. To make sure that everyone who needed help got it - and if he had to pick a fight to do that, it was alright.

But he’d never wanted to hurt someone else whose job was to help people. Except that he’d panicked - because he was going to take Hitoshi away. Izuku knew of course, logically , that Hitoshi would be better off if some Heroes took him in. Took him to a nice home, with heating, and running water, and food. But nobody was going to take him in. Because he was a loser. A deku.

Quirkless.

And he hated to be alone.

Hitoshi would leave him eventually of course - and Izuku couldn’t help but think that his departure would only be hastened along by Izuku’s behavior . Because even though he’d tried to do the right thing - he’d also behaved selfishly .

 

Izuku forced himself to sit with that knowledge. Because there wasn’t anything he could do about it - people left sometimes, and he couldn’t do anything about it. Because he drove them away.

“Hey. Eat this,” Hitoshi said, plopping down on the couch next to him, and shoving a box of pocky at him. “You still look kinda pale.”

“Um…thanks,” Izuku said fiddling with the box, refusing to make eye contact. He fiddled with the box. But he didn’t open the box - his earlier hunger had disappeared in the face of his shame and embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” he added.

Hitoshi glanced at him and picked up the box of pocky. “Why are you sorry?” He asked, sounding bemused as he opened the box. He handed it back to Izuku and made a ‘go on and eat,’ sort of gesture. “For saving my life? That’s stupid.”

“…Didn’t save your life,” Izuku muttered. That Pro wouldn’t have killed Hitoshi - at worst, he would have taken him down to the police station for questioning.

Hitoshi eyed him for a moment, leaning back on the couch, “…You did. You save a lot of people’s lives, and just don’t take credit for it.”

“That Hero wouldn’t have hurt you!” Izuku said, rocking slightly in his seat. It was just a small movement, that immediately offered him some relief from the anxiety. “He probably just would have -”

“Taken me to the police station, and put me right back in foster care,” Hitoshi said. “Which would have been as good as killing me.” His eyes unfocused, just for a moment and his lips pressed together, as if remembering something unpleasant . He breathed out shortly and then leaned his head against Izuku’s shoulder. It was such a small gesture - and yet, Izuku found himself blushing furiously . “…If they ever put me back in foster care, it would only be a couple of days before they gave me away again,” he said softly . “To the same people, or to someone worse. So yeah. You saved my life.”

Izuku hesitated and tentatively wrapped his arm around Hitoshi’s shoulder. He breathed in sharply and wanted to say something - anything. That Hitoshi was saving his life too. And yet, somehow, the silence said it all.

 


 

“So…Do you want to talk about it?” Hizashi asked, his face poker straight.

Shouta sprawled on the couch, an ice pack still pressed against his crotch. He cast his husband a cool look, mouth tightening to a thin line. It had been only a few hours since the incident. “I do not,” he said.

For a brief, beautiful moment, there was silence, and he was left to wallow in his own embarrassment. It had been years since he’d been caught so completely off guard - and he did not find it funny that the person to catch him off guard had been a child . I doubt he was older than my students, Shouta thought sourly .

“I mean. I could take you to the hospital - just in case,” Hizashi suggested.

Shouta closed his eyes. “’Zashi.

“Don’t Zashi me! You are my husband and I love you, and I’m allowed to be worried about you! And besides, those are some of my favorite parts!”

Groaning, Shouta leaned his head back. He picked up a pillow, and stuck it over his face - maybe, just maybe he’d suffocate. His husband had never been one to take a hint though, no matter how obvious Shouta was with his hints.

“Why weren’t you wearing a cup anyway? You can’t go fighting villains without protection!” Hizashi continued to fret.

Well. it didn’t matter if Shouta didn’t want to talk about it. Reluctantly , he took the pillow away from his face and raised his voice a little, so that Hizashi could hear him. “I wasn’t out fighting villains. I was getting cat litter. And a villain didn’t attack me.” He glanced out from under the pillow and sighed seeing Hizashi’s baffled expression. “There was a boy, who was stealing from a street vendor. He was homeless. I was going to buy him a real meal.”

“And he kicked you in the balls?” Hizashi asked, aghast. When Shouta shot him a glare, he raised both hands in a placating gesture. “Sorry, sorry, I’ll stop interrupting.”

“Before I got a chance, his little friend came over. He recognized me,” he ground his teeth. “I was…surprised, and didn’t react in time to stop him.” In Shouta’s entire life, he could count on one hand how many people recognized him as a Pro Hero - especially when he wasn’t wearing his goggles . “It was a rookie mistake.”

Shouta felt the couch dip next to him, and his husband's arms wrapped around him. He sighed, leaning into Hizashi’s shoulder. “You’re still worried about them, huh babe?”

“They’re street gremlins,” Shouta scoffed, but he couldn’t help but think of how thin each boy was. And there had been so many scars on the one boy’s mouth. He shifted uncomfortably , “…I wish they’d let me buy them food.” He’d wished they’d let him talk. Because he couldn’t help but wonder if they had a warm place to sleep for the night, or if they managed to get get a decent meal. It made him think of himself as a teenager.

It frustrated him that the world was cruel. It frustrated him that even as a Hero, he couldn’t save everyone. It was a hard truth, that he’d known since he was seventeen - since the day that Oboro had died.

The world did not provide all men the same opportunities. For as many men as it elevated, it crushed at least double.

He sighed feeling Hizashi’s fingers in his hair. “I know babe. I know.” He paused for a moment. “Would…a little bit of good news help, do you think?” He asked mischievously .

Shouta grimaced, “It had better be pretty goddamn fantastic news,” he said.

“I mean, I think it is.” Hizashi kissed him on the cheek. “The social worker called. The agency approved us.”

 

Shouta blinked, and then looked at his husband, his stomach twisting a bit."They did?”

They did,” Hizashi confirmed, gently brushing back Shouta’s hair from his face. “They said we’ll make great foster parents.” And Hizashi let out a laugh. “Can you believe it?”

Thinking back to the look of terror, in that young man’s eyes, Shouta couldn’t believe it. But he smiled at his husband. “Yes,” he said softly