He tried not to let it get to him. He really did.
Hearing your own name really shouldn’t make you feel like a lead weight was on your chest. It shouldn’t feel like an anchor.
Hanazawa Teruki much preferred his given name to his family name. If he befriended someone, he immediately offered the use of his given name.
Call me Teruki-kun. Call me Teruki. Call me Teru. Call me Teru-chan.
Something in him craved the familiarity.
He wanted to be separate from...them. His parents—if they could even be called that—were not a part of his life. They hadn’t been for a long time. He was almost fifteen now, he didn’t need them anymore. He’d been taking care of himself since they left him here, alone.
They never called, never wrote. Just left him with funds to keep himself alive.
He knew that he had scared them, that Claw had scared them, but being effectively abandoned by your parents before even starting middle school had scared him.
How could an eleven-year-old care for himself? Sustain himself? Oh, Teruki had—he'd learned. He knew to avoid strangers and how to cook for himself. He learned the subjects in his classes and how to use his power to his advantage. He used it to be popular, to make people love him, even if it was the vapid adoration of his peers instead of the love he craved so much but never found.
When Kageyama Shigeo came into his life that cursed, blessed day it changed so many things for Teruki. This boy was so unassuming, yet so powerful.
Teruki has nearly killed Shigeo in his blind arrogance and rage. How could anyone else be like Teruki? If that were true—if there were others like him—then why would Claw not leave him alone?
If he were not of the utmost importance, then why didn’t Claw give up.
Had they given up, would his parents have stayed? Would he be loved?
But Shigeo had forgiven him, trusted him, and even cared for him. But he still called Teruki “Hanazawa”.
Teruki had insisted once that Shigeo could call him by his given name. Shigeo seemed to have not gotten the memo.
Perhaps he was trying to be respectful. Shigeo was always one to be kind to others, maybe he thought he was being kind to Teru by being formal.
One day, it got to the point where Teru couldn’t take it anymore.
It was the week of his fifteenth birthday. He hadn’t heard a single word from anyone in his family. No parents, no grandparents, nothing. By the time his birthday came, he expected nothing. A ding on his phone perked his ears and he checked it. At first, a twinge of hope filled his heart, he saw the name “Hanazawa” and hoped for the first time in years his parents were at least acknowledging his existence.
Instead, he got a message on SNS from an aunt he never talked to about needing extra lives in some stupid game.
He got so angry he threw his phone.
He went over to the Kageyama’s house to play video games on his birthday. He, Shigeo, and Ritsu were all hanging out together. The batteries ran out in Shigeo’s controller.
“Hanazawa-kun, could you hand me the batteries? They are in the table near you.” Shigeo asked kindly.
Teruki felt his heart rate spike uncomfortably in his chest. “Sure. Here.” He levitated the batteries out of the table and into Shigeo’s hands, dropped his own controller, and ran out of the room.
Teruki ran to the bathroom and closed the door. He didn’t lock it, part of him hoped he was being followed. Shigeo didn’t always pick up on social cues easily, but even he could tell something was wrong with Teruki.
Teruki had held it back too long. His eyes filled with tears and he couldn’t stop them. He curled next to the tub and let himself sob.
He heard a light tapping at the door.
“Hanazawa-Kun, are you ok?” Shigeo’s kind tone almost made his cursed name sound nice, though it still stung to hear.
Teruki wouldn’t lie. He knew he couldn’t hide from his friend.
“No. I’m not.” He admitted, his voice was trembling.
“May I come in?” Shigeo asked.
“Uh-huh,” Teruki answered quietly.
The door creaked open and Teruki looked up at Shigeo with a tear-stained face. Shigeo walked over to his friend—he gathered some tissue and sat on the edge of the tub next to Teruki. He handed the tissue to Teruki.
Shigeo looked at Teruki, his typically neutral expression betrayed by a tiny frown and his thin brows knitting behind his straight fringe. He was concerned.
“Do you want to talk about it, Hanazawa-kun?”
Teruki’s lips pressed into a hard line, trying to stifle himself from crying.
He took a breath and nodded.
“Shigeo-kun,” He started slowly, tears still breaking up his voice. “Would you...would you please call me Teruki?”
Shigeo looked a bit confused at the direction this conversation was starting.
“Of course, Teruki-kun.”
Hearing his first and best friend call him by his given name felt like a splash of freshwater after being in a desert for so long.
“It’s just that...I don’t really like being called Hanazawa. My family is...not like yours.” Teruki spoke quietly. He’d regained a bit of his composure.
Shigeo listened intently.
“Your mom and dad, the way they treat you and brother-kun—they love you. They care for you, they are there for you. You must be so proud….”He sniffed, but he wasn’t actively crying anymore.
“But my parents, my whole family, they...they’re scared of me. They left me here alone...I haven’t even heard their voices in almost two years. The fact is, when I’m called by my family name, it does nothing but remind me of the family that doesn’t want me.” Teruki admitted.
Shigeo put his hand on Teruki’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Teruki. I didn’t know…”
Teruki patted Shigeo’s hand. “It’s all right. You couldn’t have known. Normally it doesn’t get to me this bad. I’ve just had a rough couple of days.”
Shigeo nodded, a small smile on his lips.
“Teruki, you…” He looked away and then back at his friend. “You can be a part of our family...if you want,” Shigeo offered softly.
Teruki leaned his head close to the hand resting on his shoulder. Shigeo’s kind words were too much for him, the dam was breaking again. He didn’t deserve this kindness.
“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” Teruki said, tears welling in his eyes and spilling over.
Shigeo gently brushed his fingers through Teruki’s hair. The simple affectionate gesture made Teruki start crying harder. Shigeo quickly withdrew his hand.
“Is something wrong?” He asked, alarmed by Teruki’s sobs.
Teruki shook his head. “Nothing. Just happy.” He said through his tears.
“Oh, Ok,” Shigeo said, relieved he hadn't upset his friend. He got Teruki some more tissue.
Teruki wiped his face.
He felt as if a weight had been removed from his chest.
He stood up and looked in the mirror. His face was red from crying and his eyes were still watery. He ran some cool water and splashed it on his face. Shigeo handed him a towel.
He dried off his face and smile at his reflection.
“Let’s go back and finish our game,” Teruki said eagerly, an even brighter smile on his face.
They both left the bathroom and went back into the living room.
Ritsu was still in there, he had paused the game and was on his phone. He looked up when they came into the room. “There you are. I was beginning to worry about you guys. Is everything ok?” Ritsu asked.
“It is now. Sorry about leaving so quickly.” Teruki said.
Ritsu shrugged. “It’s all right, everyone has bad days, Teruki-san. Do you want to keep playing?”
“Yeah, sure. Let’s finish this level. And then maybe we can watch a movie when we’re done?” Teruki offered.
“Sure thing, birthday boy.” Ritsu smiled at Teruki.
Teruki continued playing with the Kageyama brothers. Once they finally finished the level they had been stuck on—Only after Ritsu had to Google the solution to a puzzle—they turned off the game and started a movie.
The three boys sat comfortably next to each other on the couch and watched the movie.
It was the closest Teruki had felt to having a family in as long as he could remember. He thought of Shigeo’s words—his offer to be considered a part of their family.
He could hear Mr. and Mrs. Kageyama in the kitchen, the smell of a home-cooked meal filling the house.
He and the brothers were laughing and talking about the movie they were watching.
The very atmosphere was warm and soft and so very kind—nothing at all like his cold and empty apartment.
For the first time Teruki could remember, he was happy and he was welcome.
This felt like family. This felt like home.