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When He Thinks She's Not Looking

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When he thinks she's not looking; he cracks.



Eri counts the breaths that Izuku takes. 

At first, she only counted them because she was scared. Terrified at the thought that he might disappear or get up in the middle of the night and never come back. But then it became a habit. The type of habit that kept her steady and reminds her that yes- he was there. He wasn't going to disappear like Overhaul said he would. 

Izuku is always there. He's always there by her side and keeping her company whenever he can. He keeps the spot next to her warm as he tells her about the world she had only seen through the glass of her window, and maybe sometimes he'll take her out and let her feel the grass tickle her bare feet. Somedays they'll go outside together and walk down the street and he'll point to all the storefronts to show her what they sell. There's a bakery next to them that sells the loaves of fresh bread- a smell she often wakes up to in their little warehouse. Once they had gone down a little bit further than they usually did and gone inside an antique shop. 

The front glass had looked worn covered in handprints and the paint was peeling off the walls- but it was the best thing Eri had ever seen. Despite all the dust that covered everything and the grumpy look the clerk had given at them Eri had loved it. She loved picking up all the knick-knacks and feeling the ridges in between her fingers and showing them to Izuku who would answer all her questions. There were things she never heard of like grandfather clocks or cuckoo-clocks and even glass figurines! That day they spent there was her absolute favorite day, she had never seen Izuku look so soft before! His eyes had twinkled like he's remembering something he had forgotten. How relaxed his shoulders were as he held her close while they played pretend with the horse figurines. 

Each time she sat next to him she drew comfort from every crevice of him, from the way he holds her hands as they were exploring the city, from the little crinkle at the corner of his eye when he gives her a soft smile, from the way the tip of his fingers feel as he brushes away a stray strand of her dirty hair. Eri loved keeping track of all the small things Izuku did because nobody at the Yakuza had been this kind, or open to her.

It makes her feel warm and fuzzy like her insides are all filled with goo. 

But now... When they're lying on the ground staring at the dark sky above of them, she counts his breaths for a different reason. Not because hearing him steadies her or because it helps her sleep- but because sometimes when they lie there in this place they could call home; Izuku trembles. The body that was always so steady next to her shakes, and the breaths he takes go quick and fast. Every time he jerks it'll jostle her and she'll fight the urge to turn around to look at him because she was supposed to be asleep. Even though every night now she fights to stay awake against Izuku's wishes.

If she stays awake sometimes she'll catch him. His body shaking as weakly as the bird from the cuckoo clock and his eyes as unseeing as the glass horse. And then maybe sometimes she'll turn around and find his eyes screwed shut and his nails digging into the palm of his hands hard enough to bleed. 

The first time she saw that happened she had cried. Wet hot tears because he hurt himself and someone so kind, and nice, and warm shouldn't hurt themselves like that! Somebody who had shown her the sunrise and told her what it was called, or carried her on his back to the park whenever he could- just to show her the pink sky while she was still sleepy because she told her she loved watching the sun. 

This person who she wanted to give the whole world to- wasn't okay. And it hurts her- it hurts her to see him like this with trembling fingers and limbs as unsteady as she is.

Eri wants to help, she wants to be the one to hold him tight like he does and tell him it's okay.  

But she doesn't know how to help him. How does she help him when his whole body goes still and she doesn't know how to reach out. Would he welcome her touch? Does he draw as much comfort from her touch as she does? Would he reject her? The thoughts run rampant through her mind as her brain refuses to move her legs. If only she could just get herself to stand up and cross the distance. He's only a couple feet away, just an arm's length away is all it takes. But she never does. Instead, her limbs lock in place and keeps her huddled away with only the biting cement as the only thing for company when Izuku leaves with a gaze that haunts her dreams. It's always so cold when he's away but she's unsure if it's okay to approach him. So instead, she just waits. And waits. Keeping her eyes on him and never moving away- and maybe sometimes he'll sit next to her with a quiet look that she never really understood and he'll disappear for a while.

His eyes going far away to some land he hasn't taken her to yet.  

But it's okay. She'll wait right here for him to come back- he always comes back. 

He promised her after all. 

So she sits there in their corner of the world rocking back and forth as she counts the seconds it takes for him to leave, and the minutes it takes for him to come back. Separate, cold, and alone; wishing to reach out like she does every night when her small hand reaches for the stars above.


When he thinks she's not looking; he cracks.


Eri cries a lot.

She cries over all the small things, and the big things but Izuku doesn't seem to mind. He just gives her a wobbly kind of smile and wipes the tears away and tells her it's okay. It's okay to cry the loud, ugly sobs that Overhaul always punished her for. It's okay if she wants to cry over the small things and every gesture of kindness Izuku gives her.

It's okay, really. He doesn't mind but every time he says that it only makes her cry harder. Despite him telling her it's okay- she thinks it's not okay. It's not okay for her to cry so much because what if he finally gets annoyed? What if the next time she cries he'll tell her to stop like Overhaul did? What if he'll scream and shout that she doesn't have any reason to cry? She doesn't want him to be mad at her like Overhaul was all the time because she could never do anything right, and was always selfishly thinking about herself.

So she tries to stop. She really does- but it's hard.

It's so hard when she sees him without his jacket for the first time. 

The warehouse had been dark at the time and her body was burning up. But she was worried her mind twisting itself into circles because Izuku wasn't next to her like he was supposed to be and she really needed to know where he was if only because she wanted to know he was still there. Eri had pushed herself up on shaking arms eyes shut as she tried to concentrate on this one task. When she had finally managed to push herself up and turn around to look she saw them. For the first time, she had seen them. They were angry marks like someone had taken a knife and slashed it across his skin because they wanted to hurt him. There were so many of them too. Each scar was at least ten times the size of the ones she had!

How much did they hurt? How much pain did he go through to earn each one? And she can't help it when her throat goes dry. She tries to stifle it- to stop! Crying doesn't do any good! But when he pulls her in towards him with his steady warmth surrounding her on all sides it all comes tumbling down. All the tears falling from her eyes and soaking into her hands as she tries to push them back. She's only reminded of how cruel the world is when he keeps her warm and safe. 

It's cruel and bitter because it took Izuku between its teeth and spat him out like a piece of trash. It treated him like he wasn't the nicest person Eri has ever met, like he wasn't the sun of Eri's world, as if he didn't light the dark hallway of her life. 

Encompassed in his steady arms she's only reminded of how much Izuku has given her; the look of the city painted in gold, the taste of a fresh loaf of bread still warm from the oven, the smell of the air right after it rains, the bright blue sky she's only ever seen through the window of her cramped room. He's given her so much even though he never needed to. Even though Eri would have fought for him regardless. He didn't need to go through all that extra effort to show her the side of the world she would never have gotten to see without him. 

Izuku had wanted her to see how beautiful life could be.

He hadn't wanted her to be angry at it no matter how deserved it was.

Everything about the world hurts. 

The world had hurt him. This person who picked her up and told her it was okay, this person who refused to let her go alone, this person who wiped away her tears and said he didn't mind. 

It hurts her.

Seeing him dig his nails so hard until he bled, skin as cold as the wind, shaking so badly Eri doubted he could stand. 

It makes her want to scream and slam her fist into the ground- to beat everything back with her own two fists.

But she can't do that. No matter how much she wishes she could, she can't and that's what makes her chest hurt. There's nothing she can do to help him. She's not strong enough to help him like he helps her. The thought tears away at her, it eats her alive and makes her chest feel like ice.

So she cries, and cries, and cries because that's all she can do. She can only mourn for the tired look in his eyes, the sickly shade of his skin, and the pale rivers running through the skin of his arms.

Eri holds on tight and tells herself to never let go because if she lets go she's scared he'll crumble under the darkness that seems to follow him like his shadow.

"You're like me." She prays that he understands what she means when she grips his arm tightly between her hands, and when she whispers the words to herself like a broken record. 


When he thinks she's not looking; he cracks.


When there are sirens screaming in her ears and the lights are flashing red and blue she panics. There's a man holding her and keeping her away from Izuku. Preventing her from reaching out with her fingers. The man is restraining her, pulling her away from Izuku whose trapped with the man who smells like smoke and spits fire as blue as ice. 

Everything spills out coming from her mouth like an endless ocean as she screams out all her frustration and hatred for the world. This world that's left scars running deeper than the darkest abyss, and pain that never seems to fade. This world that gave her Izuku and is now taking him away.

An inky black pool opens up behind him as the unfamiliar man and lizard-human drag Izuku away from her. All Eri can do is watch the lights reflect off the thousands of scars on his arms and bounce off his thin cheeks. Izuku's whole body slumps his limbs going slack like all the fight has been burned out of him. It makes her heart fall between her feet. Everything that Izuku has given her; the sunsets, the sunrises, the grass tickling her feet, the blue sky- all come spilling out over the seams of her eyes. Clawing their way past her tongue and out into the world as a vicious scream that makes her lungs as hollow as her heart.

Izuku's eyes are shut closed like he's tired. Just tired enough to fall asleep right then and there but Eri doesn't want him to. She wants him to open his eyes and look at her and reach forward. But he doesn't. He remains limp, the exhaustion that's become so obvious now as he's pulled away and swallowed by the inky black nothingness. When she finally breaks free from the grip around her and scrambles across the road he's already gone. But she doesn't dare leave even when the adults are telling her that she needs to go, that she needs to be taken care of, she doesn't leave. 

Her tongue is caught between her teeth, her cheeks burned hot with tears, her knees burned from where she's scrapped them and the pebbles under her skin bleed but she still refuses to leave. Even when they have to haul her off from the ground and take her to a man who says she's hurt; she still refuses and tries to fight her way back. She doesn't want to leave! She doesn't want Izuku to wake up and find she's not there!

Izuku promised her he would come back.

So she'll do what she's always done when he leaves. 

She'll wait- counting the seconds it takes for him to leave, and the minutes it takes for him to come back (even if the minutes turn into days).  Her fingers splayed forward as she tries to reach out for him like the stars she did every night. 

He always comes back. Even if he's always shaking like a leaf when he does, and his eyes are staring right past her- he comes back. He's going to come back, and Eri will be right there waiting for him again just like she did in the warehouse. 

(And somewhere in the back of her mind there's a voice that says "Overhaul was right, she was cursed." and Izuku isn't there to tell her not to believe it.)


When he thinks she's not looking; he cracks.