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2:32 am

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Izuku wishes he didn’t recognize the figure standing in his doorway.

The boy before him looks held together by threads. Chest heaving, wracked by the effort of taking a breath. Black tracksuit torn to shreds, revealing stripes of blood and gashes. Pools of red and scabby black trace through messy hair. Eyes nearly closed, barely slits, two prayers away from unconsciousness. He’s hunched over, no energy to even stand up straight. A tremor courses through his limbs. Shaking fingers clutch the remains of a black face mask, fractured into shards. He attempts to steady himself, grabbing the grey capture weapon wound around his neck. He forces his head upwards in an effort to meet Izuku in the eyes.

He sways, pitches forward, and loses his balance. Catching him, Izuku lets him lean into his shoulder, blood sinking into the white fabric of his t-shirt. “What the hell happened, Hitoshi?” he asks softly.

Hitoshi groans quietly in response, too exhausted to shape his sounds into words.

Izuku has no idea what to make of this. Thank goodness he happened to be home. His mom was out for the night, staying over with friends. She had offered to take him with her, but he refused, saying he wanted to make the most of the few days he had off before the interim training camp started to catch up on his studies. He hadn’t expected his boyfriend to drop by, much less beaten half to hell.

“I should call Aizawa,” Izuku says, guiding the stumbling boy into the apartment. He glances at the clock hanging on the wall. It’s well past two in the morning.

“No!” Hitoshi says suddenly, a fist clutching at Izuku’s t-shirt. “I-I… can’t let him find out.”

Izuku gives the battered boy a concerned frown. He’s starting to get some ideas on what may have happened. None of them are good. “At the very least, we should call a doctor or Recovery Girl…” he says, kicking the door shut with his foot.

“No…” Hitoshi groans, weaker this time, energy draining by the minute. “No one from UA.”

Izuku guides him down the hall towards the sitting room. He notices beads of sweat lacing Hitoshi’s hairline. Even through the layers between them, Izuku can tell he’s too hot. He’s burning up.

The cuts lacing across his arms and chest are a concern too. Whatever made them tore straight through the fabric of his tracksuit, leaving it practically in tatters. Through the rips, Izuku can tell the wounds are still pretty raw. Some are even still bleeding. This looks bad, but as much as he wants to call for help, something tells him Hitoshi will never forgive him if he does.

Izuku sighs, conflicted. “At the very least, let’s get you cleaned up.”

He slings one of the taller boy’s arms over his shoulder, taking on most of his weight and leading him down the hallway to the bathroom. He taps the door open with his foot, guiding Hitoshi gently inside. Flicking the light on with an elbow, he leans his boyfriend against the wall and tries to meet his eyes, but they’re too unfocused, as if he were watching something that isn’t there. “Can you tell me what happened?” Izuku pleads. “So I know how to treat you?”

Hitoshi mutters something, his hoarse voice barely a whisper. “Quirk…”

“Quirk what? Whose quirk? What kind of quirk?”

But that’s all Izuku manages to decipher from Hitoshi’s mumbling before he slumps forward again, sliding down the wall and collapsing into a puddle of himself, his head knocking against his knees.

Izuku crouches down and attempts to find his boyfriend’s eyes again, but they’re completely closed. He’s barely conscious. Izuku starts to fret. He isn’t sure what to do. He still has no idea what happened to Hitoshi. What if he’d been hit by some kind of quirk? Without knowing what kind or what the effects were, Izuku could end up causing more damage than good.

He looks at the gashes raking Hitoshi’s torso again. Hopefully it wouldn’t hurt to at least try and clean his wounds.

“I’m gonna start up a bath, okay?” Izuku says, carefully laying Hitoshi down on the thick bathroom rug as he stood up and went over to the bath. He fiddled with the nobs, hands shaking, taking deep breaths to calm himself as he worked. Plugging the drain and sticking a hand under the spot, he tests the water to make sure it’s a good, tepid temperature. He knows from first aid training that lukewarm water worked best for treating a fever. Cold water and ice cube baths could be dangerous.

After making sure the water was right, he heads back over to the boy sprawled out on the rug. Hitoshi’s eyes are slits, and he’s shivering slightly, arms wrapped around himself, one hand still clutching the remains of his voice changer mask. He definitely has a fever.

Izuku crouches down next to him again and gently uncurls his fingers from around the shattered remains of the mask, taking and setting them on the edge of the sink. Fresh lacerations cross Hitoshi’s hands and fingers. He’d been clutching the mask so hard he cut himself. Not that Izuku is surprised. It’s an expensive piece of hero support gear, and as simple as it would be to repair, Hitoshi would be in big trouble if he completely lost it, especially over an unsanctioned mission (if that’s what this was). Not to mention all that unrelenting pressure Hitoshi puts on himself. Even now that he was a fully fledged member of the hero course, he feels like he’s one wrong move away from getting sent back to general studies.

Izuku frowns, furrowing his brow at the thought. Pressing a hand to his boyfriend’s shivering back, he wonders if whatever happened tonight had anything to do with that irrational pressure.

“Okay, I’m going to get you undressed now,” he says to Hitoshi, dragging him carefully to sit upright. After making careful work of the capture weapon slung around his neck, Izuku unzips the tracksuit and slides it off, careful not to disturb the scabbed gashes too much, followed by Hitoshi’s t-shirt. This proves to be a slightly greater struggle: it’s hard to communicate to the delirious boy that he needs to raise his arms. Eventually, the message gets through, and Izuku slides off the t-shirt as well. Now that his torso is fully exposed, Izuku can finally get a good look at the injuries slashing across his chest and arms.

It’s a lot worse than he thought.

The cuts are fairly deep, though at the very least it doesn’t look as if they’ve affected much more than the skin. As he’d feared, some of them are still bleeding, without scabs, fresh and red. And worst of all: a thin, spidery web of inky red lines blossom outward from some of the gashes. They look almost like roots, or capillaries, and whatever it is, it might be the reason why some of the cuts haven’t started to scab over yet.

For the millionth time that night, Izuku feels the urge to call for someone. Once again, he stops himself. If Hitoshi had been out on a mission of some kind, unapproved by Aizawa or UA, there’s a chance he could be in real trouble. It might even jeopardize his spot in the hero course. Spin his worst fears into reality.

Izuku takes a deep breath and promises himself if he can’t get the strange red lines to disappear, he’ll call for backup. He leans his temple against Hitoshi’s, cupping his flushed, fever-stained cheek in his hand. Until then, he’ll do his best to help his boyfriend on his own.

Breaking away from the brief embrace, Izuku slides off the rest of Hitoshi’s clothes and helps him stand, ambling awkwardly over to the bath. Quickly assessing the easiest way to perform their next maneuver, Izuku picks Hitoshi up bridal style and swings his legs over the side of the bath and into the water.

“Is it too hot?” Izuku asks.

Hitoshi mutters something unintelligible in response, his head lolling against the wall. Izuku’s heart lurches in his chest at how incoherent Hitoshi is. Whatever did this to him, Izuku secretly hopes they’re somewhere dark and alone, suffering every bit as much. Hopefully more.

Testing the water once more with his fingers, Izuku looks at the scabby trails of blood snaking their way through Hitoshi’s thick, tufted hair. He’ll start there.

Izuku tilts Hitoshi’s head back until his hair is submerged in the water, fanning out in all directions and leaving tendrils of red as the blood washes out. Keeping one hand under his boyfriend’s head, Izuku runs his free hand through the violet strands, trying to rinse away as much of the sullied crimson as he can. He has to admit, if it weren’t for the blood and delirium, this would almost be peaceful. Izuku always loved to play with Hitoshi’s silky soft hair, and running his fingers through the strands under the warm water is so soothing.

He keeps going for a few more minutes, combing his fingers through until he thinks he’s gotten most of the blood cleaned away. Moving gently, he runs through one last time, checking to see if he accidentally opened any of the scabs. Satisfied, he pulls Hitoshi up out of the water into a seated position. For the first time since coming into the bathroom, Hitoshi’s eyes flutter open, finding purchase in reality. He tilts his head slightly, craning to look at Izuku.

The freckled boy gives him a faint smile. “How are you feeling?” he asks softly.

Hitoshi isn’t quite ready for words, though. The haze is still too thick for him to puncture. His eyes flicker closed again, and his head falls back. Izuku sticks out a hand and catches it before it thumps against the wall.

Izuku sighs. He seems to be doing better at least. Propping Hitoshi up against the side of the bathtub, Izuku reaches for a wash rag hanging on a towel rack near the sink. He runs it through fresh hot water from the faucet, wringing it out and bringing it back over to the boy in the bath. Gathering Hitoshi in his arms, he runs the wash rag over the gashes on his boyfriend’s chest and shoulders, carefully scrubbing away the accumulated grime. He puts a hand on Hitoshi’s forehead. It feels slightly cooler than before. He hopes to all hell the fever is going down.

As Izuku continues to clean the wounds on Hitoshi’s torso, he can’t help but admire his boyfriend’s form. He’s filled out over their first couple years at UA, muscles taut and wiry, shoulders broad. But that’s not even what Izuku adores most. It’s hard for him to put to words, but it has less to do with the actual, physical shape of his body and more to do with the intent that molded it. Izuku knows from experience how difficult it is to start with practically nothing and work your way up: all the anguish it takes. The kind of spirit it requires. He’s reminded of it every time he looks at Hitoshi, and he wells up with pride and love.

Izuku shakes his head slightly, telling himself to snap out of it. Now is not the time to get distracted over daydreams.

Or maybe just a little. He lets the hand guiding the wash rag linger for a moment over Hitoshi’s collarbone, tracing over its edge back and forth, coming to rest on his boyfriend’s shoulder and giving it a light squeeze. Shifting slightly, he lets Hitoshi’s head fall back until it’s resting in the crook of his neck, damp hair soaking into the shoulder of his t-shirt. He feels the ghosts of Hitoshi’s erratic, shallow breaths brush against his cheek as he continues to guide the rag across his chest, cleaning the last of the gashes. The strange, lacey red lines tracing across his skin are still there, but Izuku could swear they were getting smaller.

Just as he moves the rag underneath his boyfriend’s pectorals, Hitoshi’s eyes snap open again. Izuku glances down, finally managing to make contact through the haze. Again, lovesick idiot that he is, Izuku’s first thought isn’t of relief, but of how beautiful a shade of violet his boyfriend’s eyes are, like luminescent amethyst.

“How are you feeling?” Izuku asks, trying to recover.

“...better,” Hitoshi replies faintly, eyes still flickering. “Warm.”

“Do you mind explaining what happened?”

Hitoshi shifts in the water, and Izuku helps him adjust to a more upright position. “I… was out.”

“Out doing what?”

“Just… out.” His voice still barely reaches above a whisper.

Izuku is losing patience. “You’re going to have to do better than that, considering your entire upper body is all but sliced to ribbons.”

“Okay…” Hitoshi says, head veering dangerously to the side. Izuku reaches out a hand to catch it. Hitoshi cracks an odd smile at the touch, leaning into Izuku’s hand. Clearly, he’s still half delirious. “I was listening to… police scanners.”

“Police scanners? For what?”

“To practice…”

“Practice what?”

“I dunno… hero stuff,” Hitoshi says, eyes half closed again, leaning into Izuku’s hand. “I’m still not… good enough. Need to get better.”

Izuku is starting to piece things together. His heart throbs in his chest. “What do you mean, Hitoshi? You’re one of the best in the class, even after starting out a year behind.”

“Not good… enough,” Hitoshi insists, tipping forward. Izuku leans over the side of the bath and catches him, pulling him to his chest. He feels tears soak into the front of his t-shirt.

Izuku’s own eyes start to sting in response. How many times will it take until he convinces this boy of his own strength? “Hitoshi…”

They hang there for a moment, suspended in the soft, yellow light of the bathroom lamp and the warmth emanating from the bathwater, gathered in each other’s arms. Finally, after his shoulders stop shaking, Hitoshi finds the strength to pull away. They look at each other, examining the other’s face for warning signs.

Eventually, Izuku is forced to break the silence. “Hitoshi, please… tell me everything that happened. I promise I won’t scold you. I just need to know.”

Hitoshi swallows, a glimmer of light slowly making its way back into his red, tear-stained eyes. “I was listening to police scanners for villain attacks,” he starts, voice still hoarse. “I’ve been doing it for most of interim. Usually I can get by without incident. It’s mostly just simple robbery or holdup stuff, minor thugs that don’t have a lot of experience. But tonight… I met up with an actual, experienced villain. Someone with a plan, and a wicked transformation quirk. Before I knew it, he morphed into this big thing with claws and slashed me across the chest. Must’ve had some kind of weak poison on them too.”

Izuku’s eyes flash in concern.

Hitoshi holds up a shaky hand. “Don’t worry, I feel a lot better now. I don’t think it’s lethal or long-lasting.”

“Still,” Izuku says. “We’re definitely taking you to a hospital later.”

“Fine,” Hitoshi concedes, mouth pressed into a thin, firm line. “Just not one with any UA contacts. I can’t let anyone find out what I’ve been doing.”

“Because what you’ve been doing is stupid,” Izuku retorts.

“You promised no scolding.”

Izuku grins, letting a little mischief well up in the wake of his relief. “Calling you stupid isn’t scolding. It’s just stating a fact.”

Hitoshi smiles weakly in return.

“Just promise me you won’t keep doing it,” Izuku continues. “You don’t have anything to prove, Hitoshi. You’re already well on your way to becoming an awesome hero. One of the best. Not THE best, because that’s gonna be me, obviously. But one of them.”

Hitoshi splashes him with the bathwater, making Izuku wince and put his arms up, laughing.

“But in all seriousness, please stop,” Izuku repeats, face solemn once again. “You scared me pretty bad tonight, showing up at my door covered in blood at two in the morning. You’re also pretty lucky my mom wasn’t home, because that would’ve flat out given her a heart attack.”

Hitoshi is silent. Izuku can’t tell if it’s a repentant silence or not, at least not until the violet haired boy opens his mouth again. “You’re right. I was an idiot.”

“And?”

“And I’m sorry,” Hitoshi says, relenting. “I promise I’ll stop listening to the scanners.”

Izuku softens. “Thank you. Now can we please take you to a hospital? I want to make sure that poison isn’t something more serious.”

Hitoshi sighs. “Fine.” He runs a hand through the water. “But can I get five more minutes? It’s actually kind of nice in here.”

“Okay,” Izuku says, smiling. In all honesty, he’s just glad Hitoshi seems so much better now. He’ll work on getting him to quit his bad habits another day. For now, looking at his boyfriend’s playful smile, he has other things on his mind.

Shifting to sit on the edge of the bathtub, Izuku swings his legs over the sides, letting his feet dip into the warm water. He leans over and hoists Hitoshi onto his lap, using a touch of his superstrength to render his boyfriend nearly weightless. He gathers Hitoshi to his chest, pulling him closer until their lips meet.

Five minutes pass, then ten, and they’re still locked together, lost in each other’s warmth.