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you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

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He's on the balcony, like he always is when she appears.

Hitoshi barely looks up from his cigarette as she climbs spryly down from the floor above to sit on the railing he's leaning against. Himiko brings one knee up to her chin, rests her head on it while the other leg swings free before her. Not for the first time he wonders how she can possibly be comfortable on bare metal in that skirt, looking like she's about to fall the five floors to the ground from here - but she seems to be, which he supposes is enough.

"Shouto's inside," he reports automatically. She glances over her shoulder at the door as if considering leaving. She normally likes for them to be alone. It's dangerous enough just being out here together, where people might look up and see them, but somehow over time it just became the only place they meet. Right where his parents or his brother might appear and catch her at any moment.

She doesn't say anything in the end. Neither does she move, settling back into her position, having apparently decided to stay. Hitoshi tilts his chin up to direct his smoke-drenched exhale away from her, and has the absurd thought that they might be angrier with him for the smoking than for continuing a friendship with a known villain. Still, at least there's no laundry drying out here for the smell to cling to.

He looks down. Idly watches a bright red leaf tumble across the street in the thin wind. The air feels heavier with another person in it.

"They'd take you too, you know." The words are supposed to be casual, like tossing a can of juice to a friend, but in the end they fall like bricks. Corners crumbling a little on the impact - because for all he wants to convince her that they'd take her in just as they'd taken him, taken Shouto... he doesn't know it for sure himself. There isn't exactly a safe way to broach a conversation like that. Aizawa and Yamada might have taken it upon themselves to scoop up the unwanted, the mistreated - but they're heroes, still. For them, the line between good and evil is bold and black and once you cross it there's no going back.

When you've grown up being treated as a villain in the making, it's easier to see how thin that line really is. How easy it could be to trip over. How any number of things could push you there, no matter how good your intentions.

Himiko laughs under her breath, almost lazily. It's a soft sound completely divorced from that manic giggle she has, and Hitoshi wonders how many people even get to hear it anymore. How many people ever did and didn't appreciate it.

"No they wouldn't." She doesn't even sound disappointed. It's worse, somehow, than if she had. "I'm not just misunderstood like you, Tocchan. I kill people. I like killing people."

He winces slightly, the same way he always does when she talks so casually about what she's done. What she does.

"You're sick, 'Miko," he reminds her, and finally those big eyes of hers peer across at him. He wants to think that she's thinking about it. He's told her this before, he knows she's aware of it, but apparently convincing someone to take a chance on a cure they're not sure even exists is every bit as difficult as it sounds. Because what could cure her? What could finally slake her bloodlust, soothe her anger that twists and bubbles up into mania? And after that, would there even be a way for her to move past the consequences of the destruction her illness wrought? It almost sounds kinder to leave her with the comfort of her dreamworld, if leading her out of it is just going to leave her defenceless against retribution that will come either way.

He could use his quirk on her. Make her stay. Make her tell him how to help.

But he won't.

"Maybe," she sing-songs, and her laughter this time is starting to sharpen at the edges. She climbs up to her feet, school loafers on the railing, perched with such confidence he could almost believe she weighed nothing at all. "But y'know, Tocchan, you sure do seem sure they're wrong about me 'cause they only see me when I'm a villain."

He looks up to watch her, dropping the dead end of his forgotten cigarette in the same plant pot Yamada is always scolding Aizawa for using. She's playing with her knife now, turning it over and over between her fingers - to anyone else that would look like a threat. It's not. It's a nervous habit, one he's seen a hundred times before. And doesn't that say everything, when her comfort item is her weapon.

"Maybe you're the one who's wrong," she starts up again, "'cause you only see me when I'm pretending to be a person."

There isn't much he can say to that. But it turns out he doesn't have to, because there's barely a moment before she jumps.

His stomach lurches just like it always does. He can't resist the compulsion to press himself against the railing, look frantically over the side to make sure she's okay - make sure that this time isn't the time she's miscalculated and landed hard on the concrete below, or that maybe she hasn't miscalculated at all and simply decided to end her rampage the only way she can. It sounds terrifyingly like her, to just be finished on a whim, to be gone just like that.

No - not this time. His eyes are stinging from being awake so long, but in this moment they're wild and searching and just about catch the last glimpse of her climbing into the balcony she's caught herself on directly below him. And then, because she knows he's looking, she sticks her hand out and waves upward.

That's why, he wants to say. That's how I know you're still human.

"Bye, 'Miko," he mutters under his breath instead, exhaling his momentary panic and standing back from the railing.

Time to wash his hands. Take his turn for dinner. Turn around and leave her behind, walk right back into the waiting arms of this life that's finally accepted him.

And maybe that's what she's doing, too.